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Yet shun their fault, who scandalously nice,
LEARN then what Morals Critics ought to show,
560 For 'tis but half a judge's task, to know.
Ver. 560. Learn then, &c.] We enter now on the third part, the Morals of the Critic; included in CANDOUR, Modesty, and GOOD-BREEDING. This third and last part is in two divisions. In the first of which [from ver. 559 to 631.] our author inculcates these morals by precepi: In the second, (from ver. 630 to the end] by example. His first precept (from ver. 561 to 566.] recommends CANDOUR, for its use to the Critic, and to the writer criticised.
2. The second [from ver. 565 to 572.] recommends Modesty, which manifests itself in these four signs; 1. Silence where it doubts, Be silent always, when you
your sense ; 2. A seeming diffidence where it knows,
And speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence; 3. A free confession of error where wrong,
with pleasure own your errors past ; 4. And a constant review and scrutiny even of those opinions which it still thinks right,
And make each day a Critique on the last. 3. The third (from ver. 571 to 584.] recommends GoodBREEDING, which will not force truth dogmatically upon men, as ignorant of it, but gently insinuates it to them, as not sufficiently attentive to it. But as men of breeding are apt to fall into two extremes, he prudently cautions against them. The one is a backwardness in communicating their knowledge, out of a false delicacy, and for fear of being thought pedants : The other, and much
'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning, join;
Be silent always, when you doubt your sense ;
'Tis not enough your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do; Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown propos’d as things forgot. 575 Without good-breeding truth is disapprov'd; That only makes superior sense belov'd.
Be niggards of advice on no pretence: For the worst avarice is that of sense. With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust, Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.
COMMENTARY. more common extreme, is a mean complaisance, which those who are worthy of your advice do not need, to make it acceptable; for such can best bear reproof in particular points, who best deserve commendation in general.
NOTES. Ver. 570. your errors past,] “ Et ipsa emendatio habet finem; sunt enim qui ad omnia scripta, tanquam vitiosa redeunt; et quasi nihil fas sit rectum esse quod primum est, melius existiment quidquid est aliud ; idque faciunt quoties librum in manus resumpserint; similes medicis, etiam integra secantibus. Accidit itaque ut cicatricosa sint, et exanguia, et curâ pejora. Sit aliquando quod placeat; aut certè quod sufficiat; ut plus poliat lima, non exterat."-Quintil. lib. 10.
Fear not the anger of the wise to raise ;
'Twere well might critics still this freedom take, But Appius reddens at each word you speak, 585
Ver. 584. 'Twere well might critics, &c.) The Poet having thus recommended in his general rules of conduct for the JUDGMENT, these three critical Virtues to the Heart ; shews next (from ver. 583 to 631.] upon what three sorts of Writers these virtues, together with the advice conveyed under them, would be thrown away; and which is worse, be repaid with obloquy and scorn. These are the false Critic, the dull Man of Quality, and the bad Poet; each of which species of incorrigible writers he hath very exactly painted. But having drawn the last of them at full length, and being always attentive to the two main branches of his subject, which are, of writing and judging well, he re-assumes the character of the bad Critic, (whom he had touched upon before) to contrast him with the other; and makes the charucteristic common to both, to be a never-ceasing repetition of their own impertinence.
The Poet-still runs on in a raging vein, &c. ver. 606, &c.
Ver. 580. With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust,
Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.] Our Poet practised this excellent precept in his conduct towards Wycherley, whose pieces he corrected with equal freedom and judgment.
Warton. Ver. 582. Fear not the anger of the wise to raise ;] The freedom and unreservedness with which Boileau and Racine communicated their works to each other, is hardly to be paralleled; of which many amiable instances appear in their letters lately pubhished by a son of the latter ; particularly in the following: “ J'ai trouvé que la Trompette et les Sourds étoient trop joués, et qu'il ne falloit point trop appuyer sur votre incommodité, moins encore chercher de l'esprit sur ce sujet.” Boileau communicated to his
And stares, tremendous, with a threat’ning eye,
friend the first sketch of his Ode on the Taking Namur. It is entertaining to contemplate a rude draught by such a master; and is no less pleasing to observe the temper with which he receives the objections of Racine. « J'ai deja retouché à tout cela ; mais je ne veux point l'achever que je n'aie reçu vos remarques, qui sûrement m'élaireront encore l'esprit.”
Warton. Ver. 586. And stares, tremendous, &c.] This picture was taken to himself by John Dennis, a furious old critic by profession, who, upon no other provocation, wrote against this Essay and its author, in a manner perfectly lunatic : For, as to the mention made of him in ver. 270, he took it as a compliment, and said it was treacherously meant to cause him to overlook this abuse of his person.
What crouds of these, impenitently bold,
Such shameless Bards we have; and yet, 'tis true, There are as mad, abandon'd Critics too. The bookful blockhead ignorantly read, With loads of learned lumber in his head, With his own tongue still edifies his ears, And always list’ning to himself appears. 615 All books he reads, and all he reads assails, From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales. With him most authors steal their works, or buy ; Garth did not write his own Dispensary. Name a new play, and he's the poet's friend, 620 Nay show'd his faults—but when would poets
mend? No place so sacred from such fops is barr’d, Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's church
Ver. 619. Garth did not write, &c.] A common slander at that time in prejudice of that deserving author. Our Poet did him this justice, when that slander most prevailed ; and it is now (perhaps the sooner for this very verse) dead and forgotten.
P. Ver. 622. No place so sacred] This stroke of satire is literally taken from Boileau :
“ Gardez vous d'imiter ce rimeur furieux,
Qui de ses vains écrits lecteur harmonieux