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The observation arises naturally in any one who casts his eye upon this last mentioned author, where he will find the criticisms placed in the latter end of his book, that is, after the finest odes and satires in the Latin tongue.
A modern, whose name I shall not mention, because I would not make a silly paper sell, was born a critic and an examiner, and, like one of the race of the serpent's teeth, came into the world with a sword in his hand. His works put me in mind of the story that is told of a German monk, who was taking a catalogue of a friend's library, and meeting with a Hebrew book in it, entered it under the title of, ' A book that has the beginning where the end should be.' This author, in the last of his crudities, has amassed together a heap of quotations, to prove that Horace and Virgil were both of them modester men than my. self, and if his works were to live as long as mine, they might possibly give posterity a notion, that Isaac Bickerstaffe was a very conceited old fellow, and as vain a man as either Tully or Sir Francis Bacon. Had this serious writer fallen upon me only, I could have overlooked it; but to see Cicero abused, is, I must confess, what I cannot bear. The censure he passes upon this great man runs thus : 'The itch of being very abusive, is almost inseparable from vain-glory. Tully has these two faults in so high a degree, that nothing but his being the best writer in the world can make amends for them.' The scurrilous wretch goes on to say
I am as bad as Tully. His words are these: 'And yet the Tatler, in his paper of September 26, has outdone him in both. He speaks of himself with more arrogance, and with more insolence of others.' I am afraid, by his discourse, this gentleman has no more read Plutarch than he has Tully. If he had, he would have observed a passage in that historian, wherein he has with great delicacy distinguished between two passions which are usually complicated in human nature, and which an
ordinary writer would not have thought of separating. Not having my Greek spectacles by me, I shall quote the passage word for word as I find it translated to my hand. Nevertheless though he was intemperately fond of his own praise, yet he was very free from envying others, and most liberally profuse in commending both the ancients and his contemporaries, as is to be understood by his writings; and many of those sayings are still recorded, as that concerning Aristotle, " That he was a river of flowing gold.' Of Plato's dialogue, 'That if Jupiter were to speak, he would discourse as he did.' Theophrastus he was wont to call his peculiar delight; and being asked which of Demosthenes his orations he liked best ? He answered, “ The longest.'
And as for eminent men of his own time, either for eloquence or philosophy, there was not one of them whom he did not, by writing or speaking favourably of, render more illustrious.'
Thus the critic tells us, that Cicero was excessively vainglorious and abusive; Plutarch, that he was vain, but not abusive. Let the reader believe which of them he pleases.
After this he complains to the world that I call him names; and that in my passion I said, 'He was a flea, a louse, an owl, a bat, a small wit, a scribbler, and a nibbler.' When he has thus bespoken his reader's pity, he falls into that admirable vein of mirth, which I shall set down at length, it being an exquisite piece of raillery, and written in great gaiety of heart. After this list of names, (viz. flea, louse, owl, bat, &c.) I was surprised to hear him say, that he has hitherto kept his temper pretty well; I wonder how he will write when he has lost his temper? I suppose, as he now is very angry and unmannerly, he will then be exceeding courteous and good-humoured. If I can outlive this raillery, I shall be able to bear any thing.
There is a method of criticism made use of by this author, (for I shall take care how I call him a scribbler again) which
may turn into ridicule any work that was ever written, wherein there is a variety of thoughts: this the reader will observe in the following words; He (meaning me) is so intent upon being something extraordinary, that he scarce knows what he would be; and is as fruitful in his similes as a brother of his whom I lately took notice of. In the compass of a few lines he compares himself to a fox, to Daniel Burgess, to the Knight of the Red Cross, to an oak with ivy about it, and to a great man with an equipage.' I think myself as much honoured by being joined in this part of his paper with the gentleman whom he here calls my brother, as I am in the beginning of it, by being mentioned with Horace and Virgil. It is very
hard that a man cannot publish ten papers without stealing from himself; but to show you that this is only a knack of writing, and that the author is got into a certain road of criticism, I shall set down his remarks on the works of the gentleman whom he here glances upon, as they stand on his 6th paper, and desire the reader to compare them with the foregoing pas
sage upon mine.
In thirty lines his patron is a river, the Primum Nobile, a Pilot, a Victim, the Sun, any Thing, and Nothing. He bestows increase, conceals his source, makes the machine move, teaches to steer, expiates our offences, raises vapours, and looks larger as he sets.'
What poem can be safe from this sort of criticism? I think I was never in my life so much offended as at a
whom I once met with in a coffee-house : he had in his hand one of the miscel. lanies, and was reading the following short copy of verses, which
* Dr. Garth, v. Examiner, No. 6, and Tatler, No. 78.-N.
b V. Tatler, No. 66, and note, p. 352 of Nichols's edition, and Tatler, No. 229, and note vol. vi. p. 112.-N.
e Dr. Garth.-N.
without flattery to the author,' is (I think) as beautiful in its kind as any one in the English tongue.
Flavia the least and slightest toy,
When this coxcomb had done reading them, 'Hey-day! (says he) what instrument is this that Flavia employs in such a manner as is not to be told, or safely seen? In ten lines it is a toy, a Cupid's bow, a fan, and an engine in love. It has wanton motions, it wounds, it cools, and inflames.'
Such criticisms make a man of sense sick, and a fool merry.
The next paragraph of the paper we are talking of, falls upon somebody whom I am at a loss to guess at: but I find the whole invective turns upon a man who it seems) has been imprisoned for debt. Whoever he was, I most heartily pity him; but at the same time must put the Examiner in mind, that notwithstanding he is a critic, he still ought to remember he is a Christian. Poverty was never thought a proper subject for ridicule; and I do not remember that I ever met with a satire upon a beggar.
As for those little retortings of my own expressions, of being dull by design, witty in October, shining, excelling, and so forth; they are the common cavils of every witling, who has no other method of showing his parts, but by little variations and repetitions of the man's words whom he attacks.
| The author. Dr. Atterbury, and as was commonly believed in honor of Mrs. Anne Oldfield.-G.
- Another copy-Yet she with graceful air and mien.-X.
6 V. Tatler, No. 9, vol. i. p. 95, (Nichols.) Notes No. 229, note p 110.-N.
But the truth of it is, the paper before me, not only in this particular, but in its very essence, is like Ovid's echo:
-Quæ nec reticere loquenti,
I should not have deserved the character of a Censor, had I not animadverted upon the above-mentioned author by a gentle chastisement: but I know my reader will not pardon me, unless I declare, that nothing of this nature for the future (unless it be written with some wit) shall divert me from my care of the public."
No. 240. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1710.
ad populum phaleras.
From my own Apartment, October 20. I do not remember that in any of my lucubrations I have touched upon that useful science of physic, notwithstanding I have declared myself more than once a professor of it. I have indeed joined the study of astrology with it, because I never knew a physician recommend himself to the public who had not
IV. letter of Cato Junior. Tatler No. 195.-G.
* The caustic severity of this, and the preceding paper, is the more felt for being conveyed in all the softness of good-humour.---To possess extraordinary talents for personal ridicule, and to be shy of appearing in this dazzling character, is, I think, a praise peculiar to Virgil, and Mr. Addison. It is but from two or three lines in the Roman poet, and from two or three occasional papers, in the large and miscellaneous works of our author, that either is known to have been the keenest satyrist of his time; Horace, and Swift, not excepted.