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the reputation of a man generally depends upon the first steps he makes in the world, and people will establish their opinion of us, from what we do at that feason when we have least judgment to direct us.
On the other hand, a good Poet no sooner communicates his works with the same desire of infor, mation, but it is imagined he is a vain young creature given up to the ambition of fame; when perhaps the poor man is all the wliile trembling with the fear of being ridiculous. If he is made to hope he may please the world, he falls under very unlucky circumstances : for, from the moment he prints, he must expect to hear no more truth, than if he were a Prince, or a Beauty. If he has not very good sense (and indeed there are twenty men of wit, for one man of sense) his living thus in a course of Aattery may put him in no small danger of becoming a Coxcoinb: if he has, he will contequently have so much diffidence as not to reap any great fatisfaction from his praise; fince, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be distinguished from flattery, and if in his abfence, it is hard to be certain of it. Were he sure to be commended by the best and most knowing, he is as sure of being envied by the worst and most ignorant, which are the majority; for it is with a fine Genius as with a fine fafhion, all those are displeased at it who are not able to follow it: and it is to be feared that esteem will seldom do any man so much good, as ill-will does him harm. Then there is a third class of people who make the largest part of mankind, those of ordinary or indifferent capacities; and these (to a man) will hate, or suspect hiin: a hundred honest Gentlemen will dread him as a Wit, and a hundred innocent Women as a Satirist. In a word, whatever be his fate in Poetry, it is ten to one but he must give up all the reasonable aims of life for it. There are indeed some advantages accruing from a Genius to
Poetry, and they are all I can think of : 'the agreeable power of self-amusement when a man is idle or alone; the privilege of being admitted into the best company; and the freedom of saying as many careless things as other people, without being so severely remarked upon.
I believe, if any one, early in his life, hould contemplate the dangerous fate of authors, he would scarce be of their number on any consideration. The life of a Wit is a warfare upon earth; and the present spirit of the learned world is fuch, that to attempt to serve it (any way) one must have the conftancy of a martyr, and a resolution to suffer for its fake. I could with people would believe what I am pretty certain they will not, that I have been much less concerned about Fame than I durft declare till this occasion, when methinks I should find more credit than I could heretofore: fince my writings have had their fate already, and it is too late to think of prepofleffing the reader in their favour. I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has never been prepared for these Trifles by Prefaces, byaffed by recommendations, dazled with the names of great patrons, wheedled with fine reasons and pretences, or troubled with excuses. I confess it was want of consideration that made me an author; I writ because it amused me; I corrected because it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write ; and I published because I was told I might please such as it was a credit to please. To what degree I have done this I am really ignorant; I had too much fondnefs for my productions to judge of them at first, and too much judgment to be pleated with them at last. But I have reason to think they can have no reputation which will continue long, or which deserves to do fo: for they have always fallen short not only of what I read of others, but even of my own Ideas of Poetry.
IE If any one thould imagine I am not in earnest, I defire him to reflect, that the Ancients (to say the least of them) had as much Genius as we and that to take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail to produce more compleat pieces. They constantly apply'd themselves not only to that art, but to that single branch of an art, to which their talent was most powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives to correct and finish their works for posterity. If we can pretend to have used the same industry, let us expect the same immortality : Thu' if we took the same care, we should still lie under a farther misfortune: they writ in languages that became universal and everlasting, while ours are extremely limited both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundation for our pride ! when the utmost we can hope, is but to be read in one Inand, and to be thrown aside at the end of one Age.
All that is left us is to recommend our productions by the imitation of the Ancients: and it will be found true, that, in every age, the highest character for sense and learning has been obtained by those who have been most indebted to them. For, to say truth, whatever is very good sense, must have been common sense in all times; and what we call Learning, is but the knowledge of the sense of our predeceffors. Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own, because they resemble the Ancients, may as well say our faces are not our own, because they are like our Fathers : And indeed it is very unreasonable, that people should expect us to be Scho. lars, and yet be angry to find us fo.
I fairly confess that I have served myself all I could by reading; that I made use of the judgment of authors dead and living; that I omitted no means in my power to be informed of my errors, both by my friends and enemies : But the true reason these pieces are not more correct, is owing to the confideration
how short a time they, and I, have to live: One may be ashamed to consume half one's days in bringing sense and rhyme together; and what Critic can be so unreasonable, as not to leave a man time enough for any more serious employment, or more. agreeable amusement ?
The only plea I shall use for the favour of the public, is, that I have as great a respect for it, as most authors have for themselves ; and that I have facrificed much of my own self-love for its fake, in preventing not only many mean things from seeing the light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would not be like those Authors, who forgive themfelves some particular lines for the sake of a whole Poem, and vice versa a whole Poem for the fake of some particular lines. I believe no one qualification is fo likely to make a good writer, as the power of rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this (if any thing) that can give me a chance to be one. For what I have published, I can oply hope to be pardoned; but for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On this account the world is under fome obligation to me, and owes me the justice in return, to look upon ng verses as mine that are not inserted in this collection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to own what are really so, but to avoid the imputation of so many dull and immoral things, as partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I must farther acquit myself of the presumption of having lent my name to recommend any Miscellanies, or Works of other men; a thing I never thought becoming a person who has hardly credit enough to answer for his own.
In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altogether uncertain, whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead.
If Timre shall make it the former, may these Poems (as long as they last) remain as a testimony, that their Author never made his talents subservient to the mean and unworthy ends of Party or Selfinterest; the gratification of public prejudices, or private passions, the flattery of the undeserving, or the insult of the unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be considered that 'tis what no man can do without good sense, a quality that not only renders one capable of being a good writer, but a good
And if I have made any acquisition in the opinion of any one under the notion of the former, let it be continued to me under no other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more solemn fuperal of my Remains, I desire it may be known that I die in charity, and in my senses; without any murmurs against the justice of this age, or any mad appeals to posterity. I declare I Ihall think the world in the right, and quietly submit to every truth which time shall discover to the prejudice of these writings; not so much as wishing so irrational a thing, as that every body should be deceived merely
credit. However, I defire it may then be consider’d, That there are very few things in this collection which were not written under the
of five and twenty : so that my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in Executions) a case of compassion. That I was never so concern’d about my works as to vindicate them in print, believing if any thing was good it would defend itself, and what was bad could never be defended. That I used no artifice to raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, brib'd no living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary with ill language; or when I could not attack a Rival's works, encouraged reports against his Morals. To conclude, if this volume perith, let it serve as a
for my credit