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However pleasant and useful it may be to live sometimes with the laughers, we must not greatly rely on them for accuracy of statement; for if they can but produce a lively representation, they are not always nicely scrupulous concerning truth. The greater part of Dryden's Prefaces are prefixed to his plays, which were sold at the stated price of all other plays, and did not produce to the author any additional emolument in consequence of a prefatory appendage : nor would his Virgil, I believe, have brought him one shilling the less, though it had been given to the world without
instructions, and found his readers made suddenly too skilful to be easily satisfied." The word relates seems to refer to some passage in Swift's printed works; but I have in vain sought for any such observation in his very mis. cellaneous volumes. That Dryden regretted the success of his instructions, not in any of his printed pieces, but in conversation with Swift, was certainly Dr. Johnson's notion, by his adding—" who conversed with Dryden.”In the Preface, however, to ALBION AND ALBANIUS, vol. ii. p. 162, we have a sentiment somewhat similar ; for he says, he will not lay down the rules for writing an Opera, lest he should thus " set up some little judges, who, not understanding thoroughly, would be sure to fall upon the faults, and not to acknowledge any of the beauties; an hard measure, which I have often found from false criticks.” Again, in the Preface to EDIPUS :
" But we have given you more than was necessary for a Preface; and, for aught we know, may gain no more by our instructions than that politick nation is like to do, who have taught their enemies to fight so long, that at last they are in a condition to invade them.”
either Preface or Dedication of any kind. The origin of all this malignity was, Swift's having submitted to Dryden, for his perusal and judgment, (probably about the year 1692,) a parcel of Pindarick Odes, which the old bard returned some time afterwards, saying, “ Cousin Swift, you will never be a poet.' Three of these Odes have since been published,' and are such miserable perform
s Deane Swift's Essay on the Life of Swift, p. 117; and Johnson, in his Life of Dryden. He probably communicated this anecdote to his amanuensis, Shiels, who introduced it (from authentick information ) in the account -of Swift, inserted in Cibber's LIVES OF THE Poets, previous to the appearance of Deane Swift's Essay
"An Ode to Sir William Temple, written in 1689; an Ode to King William, on his going to Ireland; and an Ode to the Athenian Society, written in 1691. The first and last of these Odes are inserted in the common editions of Swift's works; but the second long remained sheltered in Dunton's ATHENIAN ORACLE, (selected from a larger work, and published in three volumes, 8vo.) from which it has been reprinted in a book entitled LITERARY Relicks, by G. M. Berkeley, Esq. 8vo. 1789.
It is curious to observe the different aspects under which celebrated men appear at different periods of their lives. John Dunton, the original projector of the Athenian Society, in his LIFE AND ERROURS, 8vo. 1705, giving a list of the authors of that day, with whom he had dealings, thus characterizes the celebrated writer of these Odes:
" Mr. Swift, a country gentleman, sent an Ode to the Athenian Society, which, being an ingenious poem, was prefixed to the fifth Supplement of the ATHENIAN MERCURY."
ances, that they fully justify the judgment which Dryden then formed of his kinsman, I may add, that it is not surprising that Dryden's declaration, -while he was struggling with want and oppressed by sickness,--that “ he thanked God that he possessed his soul in patience,” should be sneered at by him, the greater part of whose life was embittered by disappointed ambition, and who has himself told us, that in the grave alone he expected freedom from the exacerbations of anger and disgust, which for a long series of years had lacerated his bosom.
A more heavy charge than this of Swift has been made against our author's Dedications in general.
Of dramatick immorality," says Dr. Johnson, “he did not want examples among his predecessors, or companions among his contemporaries; but in the meanness and servility of hyperbolical adulation, I know not whether, since the days in which the Roman Emperours were deified, he has been ever cqualled, except by Afra Behn in an address to Eleanor Gwyn. When once he has undertaken the task of praise, he no longer retains shame in himself, nor supposes it in his patron. As many odoriferous bodies are observed to diffuse perfumes from year to year, without sensible diminution of bulk or weight, he appears never to have impoverished his mint of flattery by his expences, however lavish. He had all the forms of excellence, intellectual and moral, combined in his mind, with endless variation; and when he had scattered on the hero of the day the golden shower of wit and virtue, he had ready for him whom he wished to court on the morrow, new wit and virtue with another stamp. Of this kind of meanness he never seems to decline the practice, or lament the necessity : he considers the great as entitled to encomiastick homage, and brings praise rather as a tribute than a gift, more delighted with the fertility of his invention than mortified by the prostitution of his judgment.”
In this animated passage, that noble spirit of independence for which this great writer was all his life distinguished, is eminently conspicuous. Actuated by these sentiments, he never dedicated any work, except the Plan of his Dictionary, which was addressed to Lord Chesterfield. But the matter has been stated far more unfavourably for Dryden, than the history of the period during which he wrote will justify. The encomiastick language which is sometimes found in his Dedications, was the vice of the time, not of the man. The
? Butler, with his usual vivacity, thus accounts for the first introduction of Dedications of books :
“ A modern critick (he observes) censures in gross, and condemns all, without examining particulars.-If they will not confess and accușe themselves, he will rack them, until they do. He is a Committee man in the com. monwealth of letters, and as great a tyrant ; so is not bound to proceed but by his own rules, which he will not endure to be disputed. He has been an apocryphal scribbler himself; bu his writings wanting authority, he
Dedication of almost every other author of the last age was equally loaded with flattery, and sometimes far surpassed any of Dryden's in extravagance of praise : nor was any kind of disgrace annexed to this exercise of men's talents; the contest among the whole tribe of writers of every description, however humble or however eminent, being, who should go furthest in panegyrick, in the most graceful way, and with the happiest turns of expression. Butler, as the late Mr. Burke several
grew discontent, and turned apostate, and thence becomes so severe to those of his own profession. He never commends any thing but in opposition to something else that he would undervalue; and commonly sides with the weakest, which is generous any where but in judging. He is worse than an Index Expurgatorius ; for he blots out all, and, when he cannot find a fault, makes one. He demurs to all writers, and when he is over-rubed, will run into contempt. He is always bringing writs of errour, like a pettifogger, and reversing of judgments, though the case be never so plain. He is a mountebank, that is always quacking of the infirm and diseased parts of books, to shew his skill; but has nothing at all to do with the sound. He is a very ungentle reader; for he reads sentence on all authors that have the unhappiness to come before him ; and therefore pedants, that stand in fear of him, always appeal from him beforehand, by the name of Momus and Zoilus ; complain sorely of his extrajudicial proceedings, and protest against him as corrupt, and his judgment void and of none effect; and put themselves into the protection of some powerful Patron, who, like a knight-errant, is to encounter with the magician, and free them from his enchantments." GENUINE REMAINS, ii. 307. 8vo. 1759.