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To J. GAI, Efq;
Dec. 16, 1731.
Am astonished at the Complaints occa
fion'd by a late Epistle to the Earl of Burlington; and I should be afflicted were there the least just Ground for 'em. Had the Writer attack'd Vice, at a Time when it is not only tolerated but triumphant, and so far from being concealed as a Defeet, that it is proclaimed with Ostentation as a Merit ; I should have been apprehensive of the Consequence : Had he satirized Gamesters of a hundred thousand pounds Fortune, acquired by such Methods as are in daily practice, and almost universally encouraged : Had he overwarmly defended the Religion of his Country, against such Books as come from every Press, are publickly vended in every Shop, and greedily bought by almost every Rank of Men; or had, he called our excellent Weekly Writers by the fame Names which 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 Cases, indeed, I might have judged him too presumptuous, and perhaps have treinbled for his Rashness.
I could not but hope better for this small and modest Epistle, which attacks 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 oppo-fice Excellency to which, the Noble Lord to whom it is written must necessarily be celebrated.' I fancied it might escape Censure, especially seeing how tenderly these Follies are treated, and really less accused, than Apologized for,
Yet hence the Poor are cloath'd, the Hungry fede:
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 is 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 Taste. 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 v!
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 its Reflexions are on Things. His Reflexions are noc on the Man, but his House, Garden, &c. Nay, he respects (as one may say) the Perfons of the Gladiator, Amphitheatre, the Nile and the Triton: He is only sorry to seę. chem (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. Iam afraid that “ all such Writing and Discoura « fes as touch no Man, will mend no Man," 1. 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 :
-fam proximus ardet Ucalegon
No wonder those who know Ridicule beson longs 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 bift Characters. No wonder those who are Food for Satiriits, should rail at them as Creatures of Prey i 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; unlefs 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 Ifrael.
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 Chara&ter of Timon, which I will boldly say, they would impute to the Person the most different in the World from a Man-hater, and the Person whose Taste and Encouragement of Wit have often been shewn in the rightest Place. The Author of that Epistle must certainly think so, if he has the same Opinion of his own Merit as Authors generally have ; for he has been favoured by this very Person.
Why, in God's Name, must 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 Nole
* or Month? 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 Blenith?
Could there be a more melancholy Instance how much the Taste of the Publick is
vitiated, and turns the most salutary and + seasonable Physick 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
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 juft, and who fets his Name to them.