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grossly inconsistent. We hear them treat this divine art as “ empty sound, meaning nothing;” and only fit to be the play-thing of children, and love-sick girls ! Poor wretches, that glory in the filth and darkness of their own miry cells !
If, indeed, it can he proved, that there is no sincerity in him who deals in high-wrought sentiments; if he utter what he does not feel, and with an intention to deceive, the case is of a widely-different stamp. And even should there be no intention to deceive, they will betray to well-qualified judges their want of nature. There is in what flows from the heart, a sort of indescribable attraction, which produces instantaneous sympathy in the intelligent.
It may, however, be admitted, that there is a distinction of no small importance between those to whom lofty conceptions are within the capacity, and only occasional; and those to whom they are habitual. This may arise from temper, accidental circumstances, and other complex causes. It will not affect the sincerity of the utterers; but the degree of reliance on the probability of more frequent approach to concurrence of action.
If these opinions are calculated to offend many, let. them recollect, that they have drawn the stigma on themselves by the narrowness and illiberality of their own judgments.
Feb. 20, 1809.
On the Inadequacy of Cotemporary Envy and Preju
dice to the final Suppression or Injury of a wellfounded Fame,
If a literary man be not content with his reputation, till he has secured the applause of all the best judges among his cotemporaries, he must descend to his grave in a state of mortification and depression. Envy and prejudice, springing from rivalry, will too often insinuate themselves into the best minds, and taint the most correct or candid judgments. Departed Geniuses, who now stand on the same shelf in equal reputation, treated each other, while living, with mutual contempt or hatred. This is well known to have been the case with the two leaders of modern romance in this country, Fielding and Richardson.
Time settles all these differences; and these little passions are forgot in the tomb. Bishop Burnet spoke of the inimitable author of HENRY AND EMMA,
one Prior!” and Swift treated the Bishop with the most scornful raillery; yet Burnet, and Prior, and Swift, all at length hold their proper place in the temple of Fame, unaffected by each other's injustice, The Bishop also, I think, spoke of Dryden as a com pound of vice and impurity. Yet, has this calumny tended to sink the poet's reputation an aton? I do not defend such illiberal conduct; nor do I deny that it may lower a doubtful fame beyond recovery. But real merits will penetrate the temporary veil, as the sun bursts through clouds. What now avail all the de. grading expressions which passed between Warbur
ton and Lowth ? Both now shine with undiminished lustre in their respective ranks of literature. How utterly have passed away the consequences of the secret enmity between Pope and Addison ! The slighting opinion expressed by Gray, of Akenside's " Pleasures of Imagination," is now of as little iniport to its credit, as the genue movement of the passing breeze to the oak, whose branches scarcely bend to its current.
Johnson's hostility to Gray, could never diminish his popularity while living; nor cloud the glory of his muse when dead.
Darwin's affected contempt of Cowper, only recoiled upon himself. How it takes from the nobleness of a great mind, to be thus stained by these petty and disgraceful passions! What strange narrowness, to fear that there may not be space enough for all! And that excellence must be confined to one model! The truth is, that every varied merit in some degree increases the public relish for its opposite, by the contrast which it affords. So that even in a selfish view, envy and jealousy have no just foundation.
Let no writer then despair, because there are many of deserved credit, whose approbation he cannot secure; nay, whose sneers and censures he cannot overcome. Their depreciation cannot finally injure him, if his claims stand upon a solid basis, and their applause, could he have it, would be vainly bestowed, if not really his due.
Temporary fame is, no doubt, often the result of accident, or whim, or intrigue. But it is as shortlived, as it is unsound. It blows the possessor up into the air, only to have the mortification of the
207 fall. When it is the consequence of his own manoeuvres, he is entitled to no pity; if it originate from extrinsic circumstances, his humiliation, severe as it must be, is not without a claim to syaipathy.
There are men who pnsh themselves into notice by the extent of their personal acquaintance; by little acts of literary officiousness; and by a familiarity with all the common modes, and all the artifices by which books may be circulated. But the effect ceases with the cause; and they are remembered only as long as these exertions continue to operate. Johnson, if I recollect, makes an observation of this kind with regard to the fame of David Mallet.
If there be short roads to the temple of Fame, the temple to which they lead is not the true one. The real road is long and laborious; and he who surmounts it, must incur many weary days, and many selfdenials.
When a reputation is thus acquired, all the private motives which have obstructed its progress for a season will die away, and be no more felt. Malice and rivalry “ war not with the dead."
But whatever be the effect of them on the object 10 whom they are directed, let no one think the indulgence of these passions innocent. They are unamiable, illiberal, and unworthy of a great or a good mind. The charge against Addison, of hidden ill-will to Pope, is, if true (and be it remembered, that the proofs of it are not decisive*), a sad stain on his character. The ' operation of these feelings on the judgment, is indeed often so insensible, as to elude the detection of him
See Dr. Warton's Pope, IV. 30. 34.
whom they influence. But impartial posterity will perceive it, and pronounce with truth upon his prejudices. His unjust attempts at depreciation, will fall
his own head, and cause regret at the contemplation of the mingled infirmities of him, whom they wish only to admire.
How little effectual have been the rude and boisterous attempts of Ritson, to sink the fame of the Historian of English Poetry! But they have deeply sullied his own credit; and the estimation, not only of his moral, but his intellectual qualities. Yet even from him, these sad instances of his malignant temper, and perverted judgment, cannot withdraw the acknowledgement of the merits which he really possessed. To his persevering industry, and the vast' stores of minute and accurate discovery which flowed from it, the public are willing to concede, at least, its due share of praise !
In every department of exertion, it is melancholy, and even disgusting, 'to observe how few can bear "a brother near the throne.”
If there be any, who can feel envy or jealousy of a being so obscure as I am, let them lay it aside. It will be of no use to the purposes they desire. If I have no well-grounded pretensions to notice, I shall soon be forgotten without the aid of their efforts ; if the perseverance from boyhood to the age of forty-six in literary pursuits, have given me any claims, however slight, to public favour, that claim cannot be taken away, or even shaken, by them! But the memory of their offence will long haunt their own con. sciences, after it has ceased to reach me!
Feb, 20, 1809.