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the Freeholders' Catechism, It cannot rain but it pours, &c. abound in strokes of the most exquisite humour. It is known that he gave numberless hints to Swift, and Pope, and Gay, of some of the most striking parts of their works. He was so neglectful of his writings, that his children tore his manuscripts, and made paperkites of them. Few letters in the English language are so interesting, and contain such marks of Christian resignation * and calmness of mind, as one that he wrote to Swift a little before his death, and is inserted in the 3d vol. of Letters, page 157. He frequently, and ably, and warmly, in many conversations, defended the cause of revelation against the attacks of BOLINGBROKE and CHESTERFIELD.
*"I make it my last request (says Arbuthnot in his last lefter to Pope) that you will continue that noble disdain and ab. horrence of vice, which you seem naturally endued with ; but still with a due regard to your own safety; and study more to reform than chastise; though the one cannot be effected with out the other.” Letters, vol. viii. p. 290. The words are remarkable, and cannot fail of raising many reflections in the mind of the reader. Pope, in his answer, says, “ To reform, and not to chastise, is impossible; and the best precepts, as well as the best laws, would prove of small use, if there were no examples to enforce them.” This is not a sufficient and solid defence of personal satire.
The strokes of satire in many parts of this epistle, have such an extraordinary energy and poignancy, that our author's want of temper has been much censured ; and I know not whether it will be a sufficient justification to say, that these malevolent scribblers, however impotent and insignificant, attacked his person, morals, and family. If Boileau ridicules and rallies vile writers, with more seeming pleasantry and good-humour, yet we ought to recollect, that Boileau was the aggressor, and had received no previous abuse, when he fell upon Cotin de Pure, Quinault, St. Amand Colletet, Chapelain, and Theophyle. It was on this account that the Duke de Montausier, a man of rigid virtue, so much condemned Boileau, that it was with great difficulty he was brought to read his works, and be reconciled to him. The authors that Pope proscribed, were, in truth, so mean and contemptible, that Swift said, “ Give me a shilling, and I will insure you that posterity shall never know you had a single enemy, excepting those whose memory you haye preserved.”
Laissez mourir un fat dans son obscurite.
Le Jonas inconnu seche dans la poussiere.
POILEAU, Satire ix. v. 83.
This is exquisitely pleasant; and expressed with that purity and force, both of thought and diction, that happy Horatian mixture of jest and earnest, that contribute to place Despreaux at the head of modern classics.f I think it must be confessed, that he has caught the manner of Horace more successfully than POPE. It is observable that Boileau, when he first began to
* Quinaut did not deserve to be so severely satirized. See his Atys, Armide, and Alceste.
4 His generosity was equal to his genius. PATRU was reduced to great extremities, and compelled to sell his very valuable library. He not only gave PATRU a larger sum for his books than he could get of any body else, but added to the conditions of the sale, that he should continue to use his library as long as he lived.
write, copied JUVENAL, whose violent, downright, declamatory species of satire, is far more easy to be imitated, than the oblique, indirect, delicate touches, of Horace. The judgment of L. Gy. RALDUS concerning Juvenal, seems to be judicious and well-founded. “ If
think my opinion worth regarding, I would say, that the satires of Juvenal ought never to be read till our taste is fixed and confirmed, and we are thoroughly tinctured with a knowledge of the Latin language ; and I mention this my opinion more freely, because I perceive many masters use a contrary method.” Dial. iy,
2. Is there a Parson much be-mus'd in beer,
A maudlin Poetess, a rhyming Peer,
Who pens a stanza when he should engross ?
Before this epistle was published, Dr. Young addressed two epistles to our author, in the
year 1730, concerning the authors of the age ; in which are many passages that bear a great resemblance to many of Pope's; though Pope has heightened, improved, and condensed the hints and sentiments of Young.
Shall we not censure all the motley train,
of all the stuff on earth.*
3. Seiz'd and ty'd down to judge, how wretched I!t
* Epistle on the authors of the age, page 5, 1730.
+ Ver. 33.