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Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light,
These born to judge, as well as those to write.
Let such teach others who themselves excel,
And censure freely, who have written well.



Longinus had taste in an eminent degree ; therefore, this quality, which all true Critics have in common, our Author makes his distinguishing character ;

“ Thec, bold Longinus ! all the Nine inspire,

And bless their Critic with a Poet's fire.” i. e. with taste, or genius.

Ver. 15. Let such teach others, &c.] But it is not enough that the Critic hath these natural endowments of judgment and taste, to entitle him to exercise his Art; he should, as our author shows us (from ver. 14 to 19), in order to give a further test of his qualification, have put them successfully into use. And this on two accounts : 1. Because the office of a critic is an exercise of authority. 2. Because he being naturally as partial to his judgment as the Poet is to his Wit, his partiality would have nothing to correct it, as that of the person judged hath by the very terms. Therefore some test is necessary ; and the best, and most unexceptionable, is his having written well himself; an approved remedy against critical partiality; and the surest means of so maturing the Judgment as to reap with glory what Longinus calls “ the last and most perfect fruits of much study and experience.” Η ΓΑΡ ΤΩΝ ΛΟΓΩΝ ΚΡΙΣΙΣ ΠΟΛΛΗΣ ΕΣΤΙ ΠΕΙΡΑΣ TEAEYTAION ENITENNHMA.-Warburton.


language, worthy our attention, for little can be gathered from Webbe and Puttenham, was Sir Philip Sydney’s Defence of Poesie. Spenser is said to have written a critical discourse, called The Poet ; the loss of which, considering the exquisite taste and extensive learning of Spenser, is much to be regretted. Next came Daniel's Apology; then Ben Jonson's Discoveries, the Preface to Gondibert, and Hobbes's Letter to D'Avenant, the Preface and notes of Cowley (whose prose style, by the way, is admirable), Temple’s Essays, Dryden's Essay on Dramatic Poetry, and his various Prefaces and Prologues, Rhymer's Preface to Rapin, and Letter on Tragedy, and Dennis's Reformation of Poetry, and the Essays of Roscommon and Buckingham. These were the critical pieces that preceded our Author's Essay, which was published without his name, May, 1711, about the same time with Fenton's Epistle to Southerne ; and did not, as Lewis the bookseller told me, sell at first, till our Author sent copies, as presents, to several eminent persons.—Warton.

Ver. 15. Let such teach others] Qui scribit artificiose, ab aliis commode scripta facile intelligere poterit.” Cic. ad Herenn. lib. iv.

“ De pictore, sculptore, fictore, nisi artifex, judicare non potest.” Pliny.-P.

It is remarked by Dryden, I think, that none but a poet is qualified to judge of a poet. The maxim is however contradicted by experience. But although such as have actually performed nothing in the art itself, may not, on that account, be totally disqualified to judge with accuracy of any piece of workmanship, yet, perhaps, a judgment will come with more authority and force from an artist himself. Hence the connoisseurs highly prize the treatise of Rubens concerning the Imitation of Antique Statues, the Art of Painting by Lionardo da Vinci, and the Lives of the Painters by Vasari. As, for the same reasons, Rameau's Dissertation on The Thorough Bass ; and the Introduction to a Good Taste in Music, by the

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Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
But are not Critics to their judgment too?

Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind:



Ver. 19. Yet if we look, fc.) But the Author having been thus free with the fundamental quality of Criticism, Judgment, so as to charge it with inconstancy and partiality, and to be often warped by custom and affection ; that he may not be misunderstood, he next explains [from ver. 18 to 36] the nature of Judgment, and the accidents occasioning those miscarriages


excellent, but neglected, Geminiani, demand a particular regard. The prefaces of Dryden would be equally valuable, if he did not so frequently contradict himself

, and advance opinions diametrically opposite to each other. Some of Corneille's discourses on his own tragedies are admirably just. And one of the best pieces of modern criticism, The Academy's Observations on the Cid, was, we know, the work of persons who had themselves written well. And our Author's own excellent preface to his translation of the Iliad, one of the best pieces of prose in the English language, is an example how well poets are qualified to be critics.Warton.

To these may be added Burney's History and Criticisms on Music ; and Sir Joshua Reynolds's excellent Discourses on Painting.-Bowles.

The maxim recommended in the text, and enforced in the notes, is but of questionable authority. Poets and Painters must appeal to the world at large, and the world has a right to decide on their productions. Wretched indeed would be their fate, if their merits were to be decided only by their rivals. It is on the general opinion of persons of taste and judgment that their individual estimation must ultimately rest, and if the public were excluded from judging, poets might write and painters paint for each other. Every painter and every writer has a style or manner of his own, by which his productions are characterized, and which he conceives to be preferable to all the rest. This he naturally and unavoidably applies to judge of the productions of others, which be approves or condemns according as they approach to, or recede from, his own standard. Rubens must judge like Rubens, Lionardo like Lionardo, and Vasari like Vasari. Pope has been aware of, and has endeavoured to obviate this remark in the following lines :

Authors are partial to their wit 'tis true ;

But are not critics to their judgment too ?”. To which it may be answered, that the Critic or Connoisseur, who is conversant with the style of different artists or writers, forms in his mind an idea of general excellence, which enables him to give a more impartial, and perhaps a more correct opinion, than a professor in any particular department. Accordingly, experience has shown, that the most eminent critics in literature or in art, are not found among professed poets or artists -witness Aristotle, Longinus, the elder and younger Pliny,

Quintilian, Fr. Junius, Borghini, Malvasia, Winckelman, ‘De Piles, Dů Bos, Lanzi, and numerous writers of our own country. The instances referred to by Warton are mostly practical treatises on art, not on the principles of taste. If we would promote these studies, we must diffuse the spirit of criticism as widely as possible, and give to the Professors a Public, which alone can properly appreciate and fully remunerate their labours.

Ver. 20. Most have the seeds) “ Omnes tacito quodam sensu, sine ullâ

Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light,
The lines, tho' touch'd but faintly, are drawn right;
But as the slightest sketch, if justly trac’d,
Is by ill-colouring but the more disgrac'd,
So by false learning is good sense defac'd :

Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools,
And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.
In search of wit these lose their common sense,
And then turn Critics in their own defence :
Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write,

30 Or with a Rival's, or an Eunuch's spite. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing side.


before objected to it. He owns, that the seeds of Judgment are indeed sown in the minds of most men, but by ill culture, as it springs up, it generally runs wild : either on the one hand, by FALSE LEARNING, which pedants call Philology; and by FALSE REASONING, which Philosophers call school-learning : or, on the other, by false wir, which is not regulated by sense ; and hy FALSE POLITENESS, which is solely regulated by the fashion. Both these sorts, who have their judgment thus doubly depraved, the poet observes, are naturally turned to censure and abuse ; only with this difference, that the learned Dunce always affects to be on the reasoning, and the unlearned Fool on the laughing side.- And thus, at the same time, our author

proves the truth of his introductory observation, that the number of bad Critics is vastly superior to that of bad Poets.


arte aut ratione, quæ sint in artibus ac rationibus, recta et prava dijudicant.” Cic. de Orat. lib. iii.-P.

Ver. 25. So by false learning] “ Plus sine doctrinâ prudentia, quam sine prudentiâ valet doctrina.” Quint.-P.

Ver. 28. In search of wit these lose their common sense,] This observation is extremely just. Search of Wit is not only the occasion, but the efficient cause of the loss of common sense. For Wit consisting in chusing out, and setting together such Ideas from whose assemblage pleasant pictures may be drawn on the Fancy; the Judgment, through an habitual search of Wit, Joses, by degrees, its faculty of seeing the true relation of things ; in which consists the exercise of common sense.Warburton.

Ver. 32. All fools] The sentiment is just. And if Hobbes's account of


Between ver. 25 and 26 were these lines, since omitted by the author :

Many are spoild by that pedantic throng,
Who with great pains teach youth to reason wrong.
Tutors, like Virtuosos, oft inclined
By strange transfusion to improve the mind,
Draw off the sense we have, to pour in new ;

Which yet, with all their skill, they ne'er could do.-P.


If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spite,
There are, who judge still worse than he can write. 35

Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past,
Turn'd Critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last.
Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
Those half-learnd witlings, num'rous in our isle, 40
As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile;
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's so equivocal :


Ver. 36. Some have at first for Wits, &c.] The poet having enumerated, in this account of the nature of Judgment and its various depravations, the several sorts of bad critics, and ranked them into two general classes ; as the first sort, namely, the men spoiled by false learning, are but few in comparison of the other, and likewise come less within his main view (which is poetical Criticism) but keep grovelling at the bottom amongst words and syllables, he thought it enough for his purpose here, just to have mentioned them, proposing to do them right hereafter. But the men spoiled by false taste are innumerable ; and these are his proper concern : he therefore (from ver. 35 to 46) subdivides them again into the two classes of the volatile and heavy: he describes, in few words, the quick progression of the one through Criticism, from false wit, to plain folly, where they end ; and the fixed station of the other, between the confines of both ; who under the name of Witlings, have neither end nor measure. A kind of half-formed creature from the equivocal generation of vivacity and dulness, like those on the banks of Nile, from heat and mud.

NOTES. laughter be true, that it arises from a silly pride, we see the reason of it. The expression too is fine ; it alludes to the condition of idiots aud natural fools, who are observed to be ever on the grin.-Warburton.

Ver. 38. Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,] These lines, and those preceding and following them, are excellently satirical ; and are, I think, the first we find in Pope's works, that give an indication of that species of poetry to which his talent was most powerfully bent. The simile of the mule heightens the satire, and is new ; as is the application of the insects of the Nile. Pope never shines so brightly as when he is proscribing bad authors.

“ The Nile (says Fenton on Waller) has been as fruitful of English similes as the sun ; from both which it would be as severe to restrain a young poet, as forbidding the use of fire and water was esteemed among the Romans.”—Warton.

Ver. 43. Their generation's so equivocal :] It is sufficient that a principle of philosophy has been generally received, whether it be true or false, to justify a poet's use of it to set off his wit. But to recommend his argument, he should be cautious how he uses any but the true. For falsehood, when it is set too near the truth, will tarnish what it should brighten up. Besides, the analogy between natural and moral truth makes the principle of true philosophy the fittest for this use. Our poet has been pretty careful in observing this rule.-Warburton.

To tell 'em would an hundred tongues require,
Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire. 45

who seek to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a Critic's noble name,
Be sure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, taste, and learning go;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,

50 And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.

Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
And wisely curb’d proud man's pretending wit.
As on the land while here the ocean gains,
In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains;

55 Thus in the Soul while memory prevails, The solid pow'r of understanding fails ;


Ver. 46. But you who seek, &c.] Our Author having thus far, by way of INTRODUCTION, explained the nature, use, and abuse of Criticism, in a figurative description of the qualities and characters of Critics, proceeds now to deliver the precepts of the art. The first of which [from ver. 45 to 68] is, that he who sets up for a Critic should previously examine his own strength, and see how far he is qualified for the exercise of his profession. He puts him in a way to make this discovery, in that admirable direction given ver. 51.

AND MARK THAT POINT WHERE SENSE AND DULNESS MEET. He had shown above, that Judgment, without Taste or Genius, is equally incapable of making a Critic or a Poet. In whatsoever subject then the Critic's Taste no longer accompanies his Judgment, there he may be assured he is going out of his depth. This our Author finely calls,

that point where sense and dulness nieet. And immediately adds the reason of his precept; the Author of Nature having so constituted the mental faculties, that one of them can never greatly excel, but at the expense of another. From this state of co-ordination in the mental faculties, and the influence and effects they have upon one another, the poet draws this CONSEQUENCE, that no one genius can EXCEL in more than one art or science. The consequence shows the necessity of the precept, just as the premises, from which the consequence is drawn, show the reasonableness of it.-Warburton.


Ver. 51. And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.] Besides the peculiar sense explained above in the comment, the words have still a more general meaning, and caution us against going on, when our ideas begin to grow obscure ; as we are then most apt to do ; though that obscurity be an admonition that we should leave off, for it arises, either from our small acquaintance with the subject, or the incomprehensibility of its nature. In which circumstances a genius will always write as badly as a dunce. An observation well worth the attention of all profound writers.Warburton.

Ver. 56. Thus in the Soul] The beauty of imagery in these lines should

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