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No. 253. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20.
Indignor quicquam reprehendi, non quia crasse
Hor 1 Ep. Il. 76.
There is nothing which more denotes a great mind, than the abhorrence of envy and detraction. This passion reigns more among bad poets, than among any other set of men.
As there are none more ambitious of fame, than those who are conversant in poetry, it is very natural for such as have not succeeded in it, to depreciate the works of those who have. For since they cannot raise themselves to the reputation of their fellow-writers, they must endeavour to sink it to their own pitch, if they would still keep themselves upon a level with them.
The greatest wits that ever were produced in one age, lived together in so good an understanding, and celebrated one another with so much generosity, that each of them receives an additional lustre from his contemporaries, and is more famous for having lived with men of so extraordinary a genius, than if he had himself been the sole wonder of the age. I need not tell that I here point at the reign of Augustus, and I believe he will
be of my opinion, that neither Virgil nor Horace would have gained so great a reputation in the world, had they not been the friends and admirers of each other. Indeed all the great writers of that age, for whom singly we have so great an esteem, stand up together as vouchers for one another's reputation. But at the same time that Virgil was celebrated by Gallus, Propertius, Horace, Varius, Tucca, and Ovid, we know that Bavius and Mævius were his declared foes and calumniators.
In our own country a man seldom sets up for a poet, without attacking the reputation of all his brothers in the art. The ignorance of the moderns, the scribblers of the age, the decay of poetry, are the topics of detraction, with which he makes his entrance into the world : but how much more noble is the fame that is built on candour and ingenuity, according to those beautiful lines of Sir John Denham, in his poem on Fletcher's works !
But whither am I stray'd! I need not raise
Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred slain. I am sorry to find that an author, who is very justly esteemed among the best judges, has admitted some strokes of this nature
I mean . The Art of Criticism,' which was * Some strokes of this nature. If, by strokes of this nature, he meant strokes of personal detraction, it is certain that we now perceive no such strokes in the Art of Criticism. But, I suppose, that some general reflec. lions in that poem were understood, at the time of its publication, to be particular and personal; or, the candour and gentleness of Mr. Addison's temper, might take offence at general satire, when expressed with a certain force.-H.
And yet some of Addison's commentators, and Hurd among them, love to find out personal allusions in many of his own writings; and Steele ex pressly tells us, that he has more than once taken upon himself the blame which would have fallen upon Addison, if all the papers in the Tatler, &c., had been assigned to their real author. V. vol. i. p. 274.-G.
into a very