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Rank of Men; or had he called our excellent Weekly Writers by the fame Name wich they openly bestow on the greatest Men in the Ministry, and out of the Ministry, for which they are all unpunished, and most rewarded: In any of these Cafes, indeed, I might have judged him too prefumptuous, add perhaps have trembled for his Rashness.
I could not but hope better for this small and modeft Epistle, which attaks no one Vice whatsoever ; which deals only in Folly, and not Folly in general, but a single Species of it ; that only Branch, for the opposite Excellency to which, the Noble Lord to whom it is written must necessarily be celebrated. I fancied it might escape Cenfure, especially seeing how tenderly these Follies are treated, and really less accused, than Apologized for.
Yet hence the Poor are cloath'd, the Hungry fed,
Is this such a Crime, that to impute it to a Man must be a grievous Offence? 'Tis an Innocent Folly, and much more Beneficent than the Want of it ; for Ill Taste employs more hands, and diffuses Expence more than a Good one. Is it a Moral Defect ? No, it is but a Natural one ; a Want of Tafte. It is what the best good Man living may be liable to: The worthiest Peer may live exemplarily in an ill-favour'd House, and the best reputed Citizen be pleased with a vile Garden, I thought (I say) the Author had the common Liberty to observe a Defect, and to compliment a Friend for a Quality that distinguishes him:
which I know not how any Quality should do, if we were not to remark that it was wanting in others.
But, they say, the Satire is Personal. I thought it could not be fo, because all it's Reflexions are on Things. His Reflexions are not on the Man, but his House, Garden, &c. Nay, he respects (as one may fay) the Perfons of the Gladiator, Amphitheatre, the Nile and the Triton: He is only forry to see them (as he might be to see any of his Friends) ridiculous, by being in the wrong Place, and in bad Company. Some fancy, that to say a Thing is Personal, is the same as to say it is Unjust, not considering, that nothing can be Just that, is not Personal. I am afraid that “all such Writings and Discourses as touch no «. Man, will mend no Man.". The Good-Natured, indeed, are apt to be alarmed at any thing like Satire; and the Guilty readily concur with the Weak for a plain Reason, because the Vicious look upon Folly as their Frontier:
Jam proximus ardet UcalegonNo wonder those who know Ridicule belongs to them, find an inward Consolation in removing it from themselves as far as they can ; and it is never so far, as when they can get it fixed on the beft Characters. No wonder those who are Food for Satirists, should rail at them as Creatures of Prey ; every Beast born for our Use would be ready to call a Man so.
I know no Remedy, unless people in our Age would as little frequent the Theatres, as they begin to do the Churches; unless Comedy were forsaken, Satire filent, and every man left to do what seems
good in his own Eyes, as if there were no King, no Priest, no Poet in Israel.
But I find myself obliged to touch a Point, on which I must be more serious ; it well deserves I should : I mean the malicious Application of the Character of Timon, which I will boldly fay, they would impute to the Person the most different in the World from a Man-hater, and the Person whose Taste and Encouragement of IVit have often been shewn in the rightest Place. The Author of that Epistle must certainly think so, if he has the fame Opinion of his own Merit as Authors generally have ; for he has been favoured by this very Person.
Why, in God's Name, muft a Portrait, apparently collected from twenty different Men, be applied to one only? Has it his Eye? No, it is very unlike. Has it his Nofe or Mouth? No, they are totally differing. What then, I beseech you? Why, it has the Mole on his Chin. Very well ; but must the Picture therefore be his, and has no other man that Blemish ?
Could there be a more molancholy Instance how much the Taste of the Publick is vitiated, and turns the most falutary and seasonable Phyfic into Poison, than if amidst the Blaze of a thousand bright qualities in a Great Man, they should only remark there is a Shadow about him, as what Eminence is without? I am confident the Author was incapable of imputing any such to One, whose whole Life (to use his own Expression in Print of him) is a continued Series, of good and generous Actions.
I know no man who would be more concerned, if he gave the least Pain or Offence to any innocent Person; and none who would be less concerned, if the Satire were challenged by any one
at whom he would really aim it. If ever that happens, I dare engage he will own it, with all the Freedom of one whose Cenfures are just, and who fets his Name to them.
To the Earl of Burlington.
MARCH 7, 1731. My LORD,
HE Clamour rais'd about my Epistle to you,
could not give me so much pain, as I receiv'd pleasure in seeing the general Zeal of the world in the cause of a great Man who is Beneficent, and the particular Warmth of your Lordship in that of a private Man who is innocent.
It was not the Poem that deserv'd this from you; for as I had the Honour to be your Friend, I cou'd not treat you quite like a Poet: but fure the Writer deserv'd more Candor, even from those who knew him not, than to promote a Report, which in regard to that Noble Person was Impertinent ; in regard to me, Villainous. Yet I had no great cause to wonder, that a Character belonging to twenty shou'd be applied to one ; fince, by that mcans, nineteen wou'd escape the Ridicule.
I was too well content with my Knowledge of that Noble Person's Opinion in this Affair, to trouble the Public about it. But since Malice and Mistake are so long a dying, I have taken the op: portunity of a third Edition to declare His Belief
, not only of My Innocence, but of Their Malignity, of the former of which my own heart is as confcious, as I fear some of theirs must be of the latter, His Humanity feels a Concern for the Injury
done to Me, while his Greatness of Mind can bear with Indifference the Insult offer'd to Himself. *
However, my Lord, I own, that Critics of this Sort can intimidate me, nay half incline me to write no more : That wou'd be making the Town a Compliment which I think it deserves; and which fome, I am sure, wou'd take very kindly. This way of Satire is dangerous, as long as Slander rais’d by Fools of the loweft Rank can find any countenance from those of a higher. Even from the Conduct shewn on this occasion, I have learnt there are some who wou'd rather bę wicked than ridiculous; and therefore it may be safer to attack Vices than Follies. I will therefore leave my Betters in the quiet Poffeffion of their Idols, their Groves, and their High-Places; and change my Subject from their Pride to their Meanness, from their Vanities, to their Miseries : And as the only certain way to avoid Misconstructions, to leffen Offence, and not to multiply ill-nature Applications, I may probably, in my next, make use of Real Names and not of Fictitious Ones. +
I am, my Lord,
* Alludes to the Letter the Duke of Cha-- wrote to Mr Pope on this occasion, a Copy of which, together with Mr Pope's to his Grace, we hope to procure for the next Volume.
+ This he did in his next Piece, which was the Epiftle to the Lord Bathurt of the Use of Riches,