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thing should make a man a sure title to his own writings but the stupidity of them! that the works of Dryden should meet with less encouragement than those of his own Fleck ton, or Blackmore! that Tillotson and St. George, Tom Cautab and Temple, should be set on an equal foot! This is the reason why this very paper has been so long delayed; and, while the most impudent and scandalous libels are publicly vended by the pirates, this innocent work is forced to steal abroad as if it were a libel.
"Our present writers are by these wretches reduced to the same condition Virgil was, when the centurion seized on his estate. But I don't doubt but I can fix upon the Maecenas of the present age, that will retrieve them from it. But, whatever effect this piracy may have upon us, it contributed very much to the advantage of mr. Philips: it helped him to a reputation which he neither desired nor expected, and to the honour of being put upon a work of which he did not think himself capable; but the event shewed his modesty. And it was reasonable to hope, that he, who could raise mean subjects so high, should still be more elevated on greater themes; that he that could draw such noble ideas from a shilling, could not fail upon such a subject as the duke of Marlborough, which is capable of heightening even the most low and trifling genius. And, indeed, most of the great works which have been produced in the world have been owing less to the poet than the patron. Men of the greatest genius are sometimes lazy, and want a spur; often modest, and dare not venture in public; they certainly know their faults in the worst things; and even their best things they are not fond of, because the idea of what they ought to be is far above what they are. This induced me to believe that Virgil desired his works might be burnt, had not the same Augustus, that desired him to write them, preserved them from destruction. A scribbling beau may imagine a poet may be induced to write, by the very pleasure he finds in writing; but that is seldom, when people are necessitated to it. I have known men row, and use very hard labour, for diversion, which if they had been tied to, they would have thought hemselves very unhappy.
"But to return to Blenheim, that work so much admired by some, and censured by others. I have often wished he had wrote it in Latin, that he might be out of the reach of the empty critic, who could have as little understood his meaning in that language as they do his beauties in his own.
"False critics have been the plague of all ages; Milton himself, in a very polite court, has been compared to the rumbling of a wheel-barrow: he had been on the wrong side, and therefore could not be a good poet. And this, perhaps, may be mr. Philips's case.
"But I take generally the ignorance of his readers to be the occasion of their dislike. People that have formed their taste upon the French writers can have no relish for Philips; they admire points and turns, and consequently have no judgment of what is great and majestic; he must look little in their eyes, when he soars so high as to be almost out of their view. I cannot therefore allow any admirer of the French to be a judge of Blenheim, nor any who takes Bouhours for a complete critic. He generally judges of the ancients by the moderns, and not the moderns by the ancients; he takes those passages of their own authors to be really sublime which come the nearest to it; he often calls that a noble and a great thought which is only a pretty and a fine one; and has more instances of the sublime out of Ovid De Tristibus, than he has out of all Virgil.
"I shall allow, therefore, only those to be judges of Philips, who make the ancients, and particularly Virgil, their standard.
"But, before I enter on this subject, I shall consider what is particular in the style of Philips, and examine what ought to be the style of heroic poetry; and next inquire how far he is come up to that style.
"His style is particular, because he lays aside rhyme, and writes in blank verse, and uses old words, and frequently postpones the adjective to the substantive, and the substantive to the verb; and leaves out little particles, a and the; her and his; and uses frequent appositions. Now let us examine, whether these alterations of style be conformable to the true sublime."
WILLIAM WALSH, the son of Joseph Walsh, esq. o Abberley, in Worcestershire, was born in 1663, as appears from the account of Wood, who relates, that at the age of fifteen he became, in 1678, a gentleman commoner of Wadham college.
He left the university without a degree, and pursued his studies in London and at home; that he studied, in whatever place, is apparent from the effect, for he became, in mr. Dryden's opinion, the best critic in the nation.
He was not, however, merely a critic or a scholar, but a man of fashion, and, as Dennis remarks, ostentatiously splendid in his dress. He was likewise a member of parliament and a courtier; knight of the shire for his native county in several parliments; in another the representative of Richmond in Yorkshire; and gentleman of the horse to queen Anne, under the duke of Somerset.
Some of his verses shew him to have been a zealous friend to the revolution; but his political ardour did not abate his reverence or kindness for Dryden, to whom he gave a dissertation on Virgil's pastorals, in which, however studied, he discovers some ignorance of the laws of French versification.
In 1705, he began to correspond with mr. Pope, in whom he discovered very early the power of poetry. Their letters are written upon the pastoral comedy of the Italians, and those pastorals which Pope was then preparing to publish.
The kindnesses which are first experienced are seldom forgotten. Pope always retained a grateful memory of Walsh's notice, and mentioned him in one of his latter pieces among those that had encouraged his juvenile stu dies:
Granville the polite,
And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write.
In his essay on criticism he had given him more splendid praise; and, in the opinion of his learned commentator, sacrificed a little of his judgment to his gratitude.
The time of his death I have not learned. It must have happened between 1707, when he wrote to Pope, and 1711, when Pope praised him in his essay. The epitaph makes him forty-six years old: if Wood's account be right, he died in 1709.
He is known more by his familiarity with greater men than by any thing done or written by himself.
His works are not numerous. In prose he wrote Eugenia, a defence of women; which Dryden honoured with a preface.
Esculapius, or the hospital of fools, published after his death.
A collection of letters and poems, amourous and gallant, was published in the volumes called Dryden's miscellany, and some other occasional pieces.
To his poems and letters is prefixed a very judicious preface upon epistolary composition and amorous poetry.
In his Golden age restored, there was something of humour, while the facts were recent; but it now strikes no longer. In his imitation of Horace, the first stanzas are happily turned; and in all his writings there are pleasing passages. He has, however, more elegance than vigour, and seldom rises higher than to be pretty.
Or the great poet whose life I am about to delineate, the curiosity which his reputation must excite will require a display more ample than can now be given. His contemporaries, however they reverenced his genius, left his life unwritten; and nothing therefore can be known beyond what casual mention and uncertain tradition have supplied.
JOHN DRYDEN was born August 9, 1631, at Aldwinkle near Oundle, the son of Erasmus Dryden of Titchmersh; who was the third son of sir Erasmus Dryden, baronet, of Canons Ashby. All these places are in Northamptonshire; but the original stock of the family was in the county of Huntingdon.
He is reported, by his last biographer, Derrick, to have inherited from his father an estate of two hundred a year, and to have been bred, as was said, an anabaptist. For either of these particulars no authority is given. Such a fortune ought to have secured him from that poverty which seems always to have oppressed him; or, if he had wasted it, to have made him ashamed of publishing his necessities. But, though he had many enemies, who undoubtedly examined his life with a scrutiny sufficiently malicious, I do not remember that he is ever charged with waste of his patrimony. He was indeed sometimes reproached for his first religion. I am therefore inclined to believe that Derrick's intelligence was partly true, and partly erroneous.
From Westminster school, where he was instructed as one of the king's scholars by dr. Busby, whom he long after continued to reverence, he was, in 1650, elected to one of the Westminster scholarships at Cambridge.
Of his school performances has appeared only a poem on the death of lord Hastings, composed with great ambition of such conceits as, notwithstanding the reformation begun by Waller and Denham, the example of Cowley still kept in reputation. Lord Hastings died of the smallpox; and his