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instances. His revenue was about eight hundred pounds a year.
As to his religious opinions, though he would not publicly renounce the tenets of his family, from the fear of being reckoned an interested convert, yet he had too clear and solid an understanding, not to discern the gross absurdities, and glaring impieties of Popish superstition ; and once owned to Dr. Warburton, that he was convinced the Church of Rome had all the marks and signs of that Antichristian Power and Apostacy, so strongly painted and predicted in the New Testament. Which opinion Dr. Warburton himself was so zealous in establishing, that he founded a Lecture for Sermons to be annually preached at Lincoln's Inn Chapel, on this very subject; persuaded, like his excellent friend Dr. Balguy, that “Popery is indeed nothing better than a refined species of Paganism; and that, so far as this extends, the Gospel has failed of its genuine effect, and left men as it found them, Polytheists and Idolaters.” The approaching destruction of the Church of Rome, especially in a neighbouring kingdom, was thus remarkably foretold by the King of Prussia, 1777 : “Le Pape et les moines finiront sans doute ; leur chute ne sera pas l'ouvrage de la raison ; mais ils périront à mesure que les Finances des grandes potentates se dérangeront. En France, quand on aura epuisé tous les expédiens pour avoir des espèces, on sera forcé de seculariser des Abbayes et des Convens. Cet example sera imité, et le nombre des Cuculati reduit à peu de chose.”
Through the whole course of his life, Pope was
firmly and unvariably convinced of the Being of a God, a Providence, and the Immortality of the Soul. Though perhaps, when he was writing under the guidance of Bolingbroke, he entertained some unhappy and ill-founded doubts concerning the truth of the Christian Dispensation.
I Am inclined to think that both the writers of books, and the readers of them, are generally not a little unreasonable in their expectations. The first seem to fancy the world must approve whatever they produce, and the latter imagine that authors are obliged to please them at any rate. Methinks, as on the one hand, no single man is born with a right of controlling the opinions of all the rest; so on the other, the world has no title to demand, that the whole care and time of any particular person should be sacrificed to its entertainment. Therefore I cannot but believe that writers, and readers are under
| The clearness, the closeness, and the elegance of style with which this preface is written, render it one of the best pieces of prose in our language. It abounds in strong good sense, and profound knowledge of life. It is written with such simplicity that scarcely a single metaphor is to be found in it. Atterbury was so delighted with it, that he tells our Author he had read it over twice with pleasure, and desired him not to balance a moment about printing it; “ always provided there is nothing said there that you may have occasion to unsay hereafter.” These words are remarkable. This preface far excels those of Pelisson, Vaugelas, and D’Ablancourt, of which the French boast so highly. May. I be allowed just to add, that the finest prefaces ever written, were, perhaps, that of Thuanus to his History, of Calvin to his Institutes, and of Casaubon to his Polybius.
equal obligations, for as much fame, or pleasure, as each affords the other.
Every one acknowledges, it would be a wild notion to expect perfection in any work of man: and yet one would think the contrary was taken for granted, by the judgment commonly passed upon Poems. A Critic supposes he has done his part, if he proves a writer to have failed in an expression, or erred in any particular point: and can it then be wondered at, if the Poets in general seem resolved not to own themselves in any error? For as long as one side will make no allowances, the other will be brought to no acknowledgments.
I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides is illplaced; Poetry and Criticism being by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who read there.
Yet sure, upon the whole, a bad Author deserves better usage than a bad Critic: for a Writer's endeavour, for the most part, is to please his Readers, and he fails merely through the misfortune of an ill judgment; but such a Critic's is to put them out of humour; a design he could never go upon without both that and an ill temper.
I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the fault of bad Poets. What we call a Genius, is hard to
* In the former editions it was thus-For as long as one side despises a well-meant endeavour, the other will not be satisfied with a moderate approbation. But the Author altered it, as these words were rather a consequence from the conclusion he would draw, than the conclusion itself, which he has now inserted. W.
be distinguished by a man himself, from a strong inclination : and if his genius be ever so great, he cannot at first discover any other way, than by giving way to that prevalent propensity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken. The only method he has is to make the experiment by writing, and appealing to the judgment of others: now if he happens to write ill (which is certainly no sin in itself), he is immediately made an object of ridicule. I wish we had the humanity to reflect that even the worst authors might, in their endeavour to please us, deserve something at our hands. We have no cause to quarrel with them but for their obstinacy in persisting to write; and this too may admit of alleviating circumstances. Their particular friends may be either ignorant, or insincere; and the rest of the world in general is too well-bred to shock them with a truth, which generally their Booksellers are the first that inform them of. This happens not till they have spent too much of their time to apply to any profession which might better fit their talents; and till such talents as they have are so far discredited as to be but of small service to them. For (what is the hardest case imaginable) 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 season 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 information, but it is imagined he is a vain young creature given up to the ambition of fame; when perhaps the