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L E T T E R
Mr. MA SO N;
MARKS of IMITATION.
COMME en cueillant une
fold by R. DODSLEY in Pall-mall, J. BEECROFT and
: Dear Sir,
tiality for me, can you, in earnest, think mę capable of fulfilling the first of these conditions ; Or, if I were, do you imagine that, at this time o' day, I can have the leisure to perform the other? My younger years, indeed, have been spent in turning over those authors which young men are most fond of; and aimongst these I will not disown that the Poets of antient and modern fame have had their full share in my affection. But You, who love me so well, would not with me to pass more of my life in these Aowery regions; which tho' You may yet wander in without offence, and the rather as you wander in them with so pure a mind and to so moral a purpose, there seems no decent pretence for me to loiter in them any longer.
Yet in saying this I would not be thought to asfume that severe character ; which, tho' sometimes the garb of reason, is oftener, I believe, the mask of dullness, or of something worse. No, I am too sensible to the charms, nay to the uses of your profeffion, to affect a contempt for it. The great Roman said well, Haec ftudia adolescentiam alunt; feneEtutem obleEtant. We make a full meal of them in our youth. And no philosophy requires so perfect a mortification as that we should wholly abstain from them in our riper years. But should we reverse the observation ;, and take this light food not as the refreshment only, but as the proper nourishment of Age; such a name, as Cicero's, I am afraid, would be wanting, and not easily found, to justify the practice.
Let us own then, on a greater authority than His, “ That every thing is beautiful in it's season." The Spring hath it's buds and blossoms : But, as the year runs on, You are not displeas’d, perhaps, to see them fall off; And would certainly be disappointed not to find them, in due time, succeeded by those mellow hangings, the poet somewhere speaks of.
I could alledge still graver reasons. But I would only say, in one word, that your friend has had his share in these amusements. I may recollect with pleasure, but must never live over again
Pieriosque dies, et amantes carmina fomnos. Yet something, you infift, is to be done; and, if it amount to no more than a specimen or flight sketch, such as my memory, or the few notes I have by me, would furnish, the design, you think, is not totally to be relinquished.
I understand the danger of gratifying you on these terms. Yet, whatever it be, I have no power to excuse myself from any attempt, by which, you tell me at least, I may be able to gratify you. I will do my beit, then, to draw together such observations, as I have sometimes thought, in reading the poets, most material for the certain discovery of Imitations. And I address them to you, not only as You are the properest judge of the subject ; You, who understand so well in what manner the Poets are us'd to imitate each other, and who yourself fo finely imitate the beft of them; But as I would give You this small