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Another; Sir, It is merely in obedience to your commands, that I venture into the public; for who upon a less consideration would be of a party with such a rabble of scribblers, &c.
Now, I have two words in my own defence against this objection. First, I am far from granting the number of writers a nuisance to our nation, having strenuously maintained the contrary, in several parts of the following discourse. Secondly, I do not well understand the justice of this proceeding; because I observe many of these polite prefaces to be not only from the same hand, but from those, who are most voluminous in their several productions. Upon which, I shall tell the reader a short tale.
A mountebank, in Leicester-fields, had drawn a huge assembly about him. Among the rest, a fat unwieldy fellow, half stifled in the press, would be every fit crying out, Lord! what a filthy crowd is here ! pray, good people, give way a little. Bless me! what a devil has raked this rabble together : 2-ds, what squeezing is this ! honest friend, remove your elbow. At last a weaver, that stood next him, could hold no longer. A plague confound you (said he) for an overgrown sloven; and who, in the devil's name, I wonder, helps to make up the crowd half so much as yourself? Don't you consider with a pox, that you take up more room with that carcase, than any five here? is not the place as free for us as for you ? bring your own guts to a reasonable compass, and be d-n'd, and then I'll engage we shall have room enough for us all.
There are certain common privileges of a writer, the benefit whereof, I hope, there will be no reason to doubt; particularly, that where I am not understood, it shall be concluded, that something very useful and profound is couched underneath : and again, that whatever word or sen. tence is printed in a different character, shall be judged to contain something extraordinary either of wit or sublime.
As for the liberty I have thought fit to take of praising myself, upon some occasions or none, I am sure it will need no excuse, if a multitude of great examples be allowed sufficient authority : for it is here to be noted, that praise was originally a pension paid by the world; but the moderns, finding the trouble and charge too great in collecting it, have lately bought out the fee-simple; since which time, the right of presentation is wholly in ourselves. For this reason it is, that when an author makes his own elogy, he uses a certain form to declare and insist upon his title, which is commonly in these or the like words, “ I speak without vanity;" which I think plainly shows it to be a matter of right and justice. Now I do here once for all declare, that in every encounter of this nature through the following treatise, the form aforesaid is implied; which I mention, to save the trouble of repeating it on so many occasions.
It is a great ease to my conscience, that I have written so elaborate and useful a discourse, without one grain of satire intermixed; which is the sole point, wherein I have taken leave to dissent from the famous originals of our age and country. I have observed some satirists to use the public much at the rate, that pedants do a naughty boy, ready horsed for discipline: first, expostulate the case, then plead the necessity of the rod from great provocations, and conclude every period with a lash. Now, if I know any thing of man
kind, these gentlemen might very well spare their reproof and correction : for there is not, through all nature, another so callous and insensible a member, as the world's posteriors, whether you apply to it the toe or the birch. Besides, most of our late satirists seem to lie under a sort of mistake; that because nettles have the prerogative to sting, therefore all other weeds must do so too. I make not this comparison out of the least design to detract from these worthy writers; for it is well known among mythologists, that weeds have the pre-eminence over all other vegetables ; and therefore the first monarch of this island, whose taste and judgment were so acute and refined, did very wisely root out the roses from the collar of the order, and plant the thistles in their stead, as the nobler flower of the two. For which reason it is conjectured by profounder antiquaries, that the satirical itch, so prevalent in this part of our island, was first brought among us from beyond the Tweed. Here may it long flourish and abound: may it survive and neglect the scorn of the world, with as much ease and contempt, as the world is insensible to the lashes of it. May their own dulness, or that of their party, be no discouragement for the authors to proceed; but let them remember, it is with wits as with razors, which are never so apt to cut those they are employed on, as when they have lost their edge. Besides, those, whose teeth are too rotten to bite, are best, of all others, qualified to revenge that defect with their breath.
I am not like other men, to envy or undervalue the talents I cannot reach; for which reason I must needs bear a true honour to this large eminent sect of our British writers. And I hope this little panegyric will not be offensive to their ears, since it has the advantage of being only designed for themselves. Indeed, nature herself has taken order, that fame and honour should be purchased at a better pennyworth by satire, than by any other productions of the brain; the world being soonest provoked to praise by lashes, as men are to love. There is a problem in an ancient author, why dedications, and other bundles of flattery, run all upon stale musty topics, without the smallest tincture of any thing new ; not only to the torment and nauseating of the christian reader, but, if not suddenly prevented, to the universal spreading of that pestilent disease, the lethargy, in this island : whereas there is very little satire, which has not something in it untouched before. The defects of the former are usually imputed to the want of invention among those who are dealers in that kind; but, I think, with a great dea} of injustice; the solution being easy and natural; for the materials of panegyric, being very few in number, have been long since exhausted. For, as health is but one thing, and has been always the same, whereas diseases are by thousands, beside new and daily additions ; so, all the virtues that have been ever in mankind, are to be counted upon a few fingers; but their follies and vices are innumerable, and time adds hourly to the heap. Now the utmost a poor poet can do, is to get by heart a list of the cardinal virtues, and deal them with his utmost liberality to his hero, or his patron : he may ring the changes as far as it will go, and vary his phrase till he has talked round: but the reader quickly finds it is all pork, with a little variety of sauce. For there is no inventing terms of art beyond our ideas; and, when our ideas are exhausted, terms of art must be so too,
But though the matter for panegyric were as fruitful as the topics of satire, yet would it not be hard to find out a sufficient reason why the latter will be always better received than the first. For, this being bestowed only upon one, or a few persons at a time, is sure to raise envy, and consequently ill words from the rest, who have no share in the blessing; but satire, being levelled at all, is never resented for an offence by any, since every individual person makes bold to understand it of others, and very wisely removes his particular part of the burden upon the shoulders of the world, which are broad enough, and able to bear it. To this purpose, I have sometimes reflected upon the difference between Athens and England, with respect to the point before us.
In the Attic commonwealth, it was the privilege and birth-right of every citizen and poet to rail aloud, and in public, or to expose upon the stage, by name, any person they pleased, though of the greatest figure, whether a Creon, an Hyperbolus, an Alcibiades, or a Demosthenes : but, on the other side, the least reflecting word let fall against the people in general, was immediately caught up, and revenged upon the authors, however considerable for their quality or their merits. Whereas in England it is just the reverse of all this. Here, you may securely display your utmost rhetoric against mankind, in the face of the world ; tell them, “ That all are gone astray; that there is none that doth good, no not one; that we live in the very dregs of time; that knavery and atheism are epidemic as the pox; that honesty is fled with Astræa ;" with any other common places, equally new and eloquent, which are furnished by the splendida