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share in the admiration of posterity. Both good and bad writers may receive great satisfaction from the prospects of futurity; as, in after-ages, the former will be remembered, and the latter forgotten.
Among all sets of authors, there are none who draw upon themselves more displeasure, than those who deal in political matters, which indeed is very often too justly incurred, considering that spirit of rancour and virulence with which works of this nature generally abound. These are not only regarded as authors, but as partisans, and are sure to exasperate at least one half of their readers. Other writers offend only the stupid or jealous among their countrymen; but these, let their cause be never so just, must expect to irritate a supernumerary party of the selfinterested, prejudiced, and ambitious. They may, however, comfort themselves with considering, that if they gain any unjust reproach from one side, they generally acquire more praise than they deserve from the other; and that writings of this kind, if conducted with candour and impartiality, have a more particular tendency to the good of their country, and of the present age, than any other compositions whatsoever.
To consider an author farther, as the subject of obloquy and detraction. We may observe with what pleasure a work is received by the invidious part of mankind, in which a writer falls short of himself, and does not answer the character which he has acquired by his former productions. It is a fine simile in one of Mr. Congreve's prologues, which compares a writer to a buttering gamester, that stakes all his winnings upon every cast : so that if he loses the last throw, he is sure to be undone. It would be
The other form, never so, seems to have a secret reference to an opposition conceived in the writer's or speaker's mind, but not explicitly declared, as, if we should complete the sentence, thus—let their cause be [not bad, but] ever so just; i. e. how-soever just.
- Never so.
well for all authors, if, like that gentleman, they knew when to give over, and to desist from any farther pursuits after fame, whilst they are in the full possession of it. On the other hand, there is not a more melancholy object in the learned world, than a man who has written himself down. As the public is more disposed to censure than to praise, his readers will ridicule him for his last works, when they have forgot to applaud those which preceded them. In this case, where a man has lost his spirit by old age and infirmity, one could wish that his friends and relations would keep him from the use of pen, ink, and paper, if he is not to be reclaimed by any other methods.
The author, indeed, often grows old before the man, especially if he treats on subjects of invention, or such as arise from reflections upon human nature; for, in this case, neither his own strength of mind, nor those parts of life which are commonly unobserved, will furnish him with sufficient materials to be at the same time both pleasing and voluminous. We find, even in the outward dress of poetry, that men, who write much without taking breath, very often return to the same phrases and forms of expression, as well as to the same manner of thinking Authors, who have thus drawn off the spirit of their thoughts, should lie still for some time, till their minds have gathered fresh strength, and by reading, reflection, and conversation, laid in a new stock of elegancies, sentiments, and images of nature. The soil, that is worn with too frequent culture, must lie fallow for a while, till it has recruited its exhausted salts, and again enriched itself by the ventilations of the air, the dews of heaven, and the kindly influences of the sun.
b Mr. Congrere was a fashionable writer in his time; and Mr. Addison, who had a friendship with him, speaks of him, as every body else did. Ho had, indeed, a great deal of wit; but a man must have a furious passion for it, or very little taste, that can read his comedies, on which his reputa. tion was founded, with pleasure, or even patience.
For my own part, notwithstanding this general malevolence towards those who communicate their thoughts in print, I cannot but look with a friendly regard on such as do it, provided there is no tendency in their writings to vice and profaneness. If the thoughts of such authors have nothing in them, they, at least, do no harm, and shew an honest industry, and a good intention in the composer. If they teach me any thing I did not know before, I cannot but look upon myself as obliged to the writer, and consider him as my particular benefactor, if he conveys to me one of the greatest gifts that is in the power of man to bestow, an improvement of my understanding, an innocent amusement, or an incentive to some moral virtue. Were not men of abilities thus communicative, their wisdom would be in a great measure useless, and their experience uninstructive. There would be no business in solitude, nor proper relaxations in business. By these assistances, the retired man lives in the world, if not above it; passion is composed; thought hindered from being barren · and the mind from preying upon itself. That esteem, indeed, which is paid to good writers by their posterity, sufficiently shews the merit of persons who are thus employed. Who does not now more admire Cicero as an author, than as a consul of Rome ? and does not oftener talk of the celebrated writers of our own country who lived in former ages, than of any other particular persons among their contemporaries and fellow-subjects.
When I consider myself as a British freeholder, I am in a particular manner pleased with the labours of those who have improved our language with the translation of old Latin and Greek authors; and by that means let us into the knowledge of what passed in the famous governments of Greece and Rome. We have already most of their historians in our own tongue: and, what is still more for the honour of our language, it has been taught to express with elegance the greatest of their poets
in each nation. The illiterate among our countrymen may learn to judge, from Dryden's Virgil, of the most perfect epic performance: and those parts of Homer, which have already been published by Mr. Pope," give us reason to think that the Iliad will appear in English with as little disadvantage to that immortal poem.
There is another author, whom I have long wished to see well translated into English, as this work is filled with a spirit of liberty, and more directly tends to raise sentiments of honour and virtue in his reader, than any of the poetical writings of antiquity. I mean the Pharsalia of Lucan. This is the only author of consideration among the Latin poets, who was not explained for the use of the Dauphin, for a very obvious
reason; because the whole Pharsalia would have been no less than a satire upon the French form of government. The translation of this author is now in the hands of Mr. Rowe, who has already given the world some admirable specimens of it; and not only kept up the fire of the original, but delivered the sentiments with greater perspicuity, and in a finer turn of phrase and verse.
As undertakings of so difficult a nature require the greatest encouragements, one cannot but rejoice to see those general subscriptions which have been made to them; especially since, if the two works last mentioned are not finished by those masterly hands which are now employed in them, we may despair of seeing them attempted by others.
* For a comment on this panegyric on Mr. Pope's translation of the Illiad, see the life of Bishop Warburton, prefixed to the new edition of his works in quarto.
→ He speaks like a friend, of Mr. Rowe, and, like a whig, of Lucan; but, as a critic, we know what his opinion was of the Latin poet, and of his friends undertaking, when he celebrates the translator for delivering the sentiments of his original, with greater perspicuity, and in a finer turn of phrase and verse.
No. 41. FRIDAY, MAY 11.
Perniciem veniens in ævum.-IIOE.
As the care of our national commerce redounds more to the riches and prosperity of the public, than any other act of government, it is pity that we do not see the state of it marked out in every particular reign with greater distinction and accuracy, than what is usual among our English historians. We may however observe, in general, that the best and wisest of our monarchs have not been less industrious to extend their trade, than their dominions; as it manifestly turns in a much higher degree to the welfare of the people, if not to the glory of the sovereign.
The first of our kings who carried our commerce, and consequently our navigation to a very great height, was Edward the third. This victorious prince, by his many excellent laws for the encouragement of trade, enabled his subjects to support him in his many glorious wars upon the continent, and turned the scale so much in favour of our English merchandise, that, by a balance of trade taken in his time, the exported commodities amounted to two hundred and ninety-four thousand pounds, and the imported but to thirty-eight thousand.
Those of his successors, under whose regulations our trade flourished most, were Henry the seventh, and Queen Elizabeth. As the first of these was, for his great wisdom, very often styled the English Solomon, he followed the example of that wise king in nothing more, than by advancing the traffic of his people. By this means he reconciled to him the minds of his subjects, strengthened himself in their affections, improved very much the navigation of the kingdom, and repelled the frequent attempts of his enemics.