Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

geous to his family than to the public, better for this age than for posterity, and more pernicious by bad precedents than by real grievances. During his time trade has flourished, liberty declined, and learning gone to ruin. As I am a man I love him as I am a scholar, I hate him; as I am a Briton, I calmly wish his fall. And were I a member of either house, I would give my vote for removing him from St. James's; but should be glad to see him retire to Houghton-Hall, to pass the remainder of his days in ease and pleasure.

N. B. This Effay, in the edition of 1760, was inserted by way of note to the Effay “On Politics as a Science,” after the words in the text, “ by the violence of their factions,” as follows:


“ What our author's opinion was of the famous minister here pointed at, may be learned from that Essay, printed in the former editions under the title of A Character of Sir Robert Walpole. It was as follow :





if they

“ The author is pleased to find, that after animosities are laid; and calumny has ceased, the whole nation almost have returned to the fame moderate sentiments with regard to this great man ; are not rather become more favourable to him, by a very natural transition, from one extreme to another. The author would not oppose these huЕe


mane sentiments towards the dead, though he cannot forbear observing, that the not paying more of our public debts was, as hinted in this character, a great, and the only great, error in that long administration.”

[merged small][ocr errors]

Letter from Mr. Hume to the Authors of the Cri

tical Review, respecting Mr. Wilkie's Epigoniad, 2d edit.; referred to by him in his Letter to Dr. Adam Smith, of 12 April, 1759.

[By perusing the following article, the reader will perceive, that how subject foever we, the Reviewers, may be to oversights and errors, we are not so hardened in critical pride and infolence, but that, upon conviction, we can retract our censures, and provided we be candidly rebuked, kiss the rod of correction with great humility. ]



April, 1759. The great advantages which result from literary journals have recommended the use of them all over Europe ; but as nothing is free from abuse, it must be confessed, that some inconveniencies have also attended these undertakings. The works of the learned multiply in such a surprising manner, that a journalist, in order to give an account to the public of all new performances, is obliged to peEe 2


ruse a small library every month; and as it is impossible for him to bestow equal attention on every piece which he criticizes, he may readily be surprised into mistakes, and give to a book such a character as, on a more careful perusal, he would willingly retract. Even performances of the greatest merit are not secure against this injury, and, perhaps, are sometimes the most exposed to it.” An author of genius scorns the vulgar arts of catching applause; he pays no court to the great; gives no adulation to those celebrated for learning ; takes no care to provide himself of partizans, or proneurs, as the French call them; and by that means his work steals unobserved into the world ; and it is fome time before the public, and even men of penetration, are sensible of its merit.

We take up the book with prepossession, peruse it carelessly, are feebly affected by its beauties, and lay it down with neglect, perhaps with disapprobation.

The public has done so much justice to the gentlemen engaged in the Critical Review as to acknowledge that no literary journal was ever carried on in this country with equal spirit and impartiality; yet I must confess that an article, published in your Review of 1757, gave me great surprise, and not a little uneasiness. It regarded a book called the Epigoniad, a poem of the epic kind, which was at that time published with great applause at Edinburgh, and of which a few copies had been sent up to London. The author of that article had surely been lying under strong prepossessions, when he

spoke spoke so negligently of a work which abounds in such fublime beauties, and could endeavour to discredit a poem, consisting of near fix thousand lines, on account of a few mistakes in expression and prosody, proceeding entirely from the author's being a Scotchman, who had never been out of his own country. As there is a new edition published of this poem,

wherein all or most of these trivial miltakes are corrected, I fatter myself that you will gladly lay hold of this opportunity of retracting your oversight, and doing justice to a performance, which may, perhaps, be regarded as one of the ornaments of our language. I appeal from your sentence, as an old woman did from a sentence pronounced by Philip of Macedon: I appeal from Philip, ill-counselled and in a hurry, to Philip welladvised, and judging with deliberation.

not but

The authority which you possess with the public makes your censure fall with weight, and I question


will be the more ready on that account to redress any injury, into which either negligence, prejudice, or mistake, may have betrayed you. As I profess myself to be an admirer of this performance, it will afford me pleasure to give you a short analysis of it, and to collect a few specimens of those great beauties in which it abounds.

The author, who appears throughout his whole work to be a great admirer and imitator of Homer, drew the subject of this poem from the fourth Iliad, where Sthenelus gives Agamemnon a short account


Ee 3

« ZurückWeiter »