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man that walks through Edinburgh streets in a morning; who is indeed as careful as he can, to watch dili gently, and spy out the filth in his way: not that he is curious to obferve the colour and complexion of the ordure, or take its dimensions, much lefs to be paddling in, or tasting it; but only with a design to come out as cleanly as he may. Thefe men feem, though very erroneously, to have understood the appellation of critic in a literal sense; that one principal part of his office was to praise and acquit; and that a critic, who fets up to read only for an occafion of cenfure and reproof, is a creature as barbarous, as a judge, who fhould take up a refolution to hang all men that came before him upon a trial.
Again, by the word critic have been meant the restorers of ancient learning from the worms, and graves, and duft of manufcripts.
Now, the races of those two have been, for fome ages, utterly extinct; and befides, to difcourfe any farther of them, would not be at all to my purpose.
The third, and nobleft fort is that of the TRUE CRITIC, whofe original is the most ancient of all. Every true critic is a hero born, defcending in a direct line from a celeftial ftem by Momus and Hybris, who begat Zoilus, who begat Tigellius, who begat Etca. tera the elder, who begat Bentley, and Rymer, and Wotton, and Perrault, and Dennis, who begat Etcatera the younger.
And these are the critics from whom the commonwealth of learning has, in all ages, received fuch immense benefits, that the gratitude of their admirers placed their origin in heaven, among those of Hercules, Thefeus, Perfeus, and other great defervers of mankind. But heroic virtue itself hath not been exempt from the obloquy of evil tongues. For it hath been objected, that thofe ancient heroes, famous for their combating fo many giants, and dragons, and robbers, were in their own perfons a greater nuisance to mankind, than any of thofe monsters they fubdued; and therefore, to render their obligations more complete, when all other vermin were destroyed, should in confcience have concluded with the fame juftice upon themfelves; as Hereules most gene
roufly did; and hath, upon that score, procured to himfelf more temples and votaries, than the beft of his fellows. For these reasons, I fuppofe, it is, why fome have conceived, it would be very expedient for the public good of learning, that every true critic, as foon as he had finished his task affigned, fhould immediately deliver himself up to ratfbane, or hemp, or from fome convenient altitude; and that no man's pretenfions to fo illuftrious a character fhould by any means be received, before that operation were performed.
Now, from this heavenly defcent of criticifm, and the clofe analogy it bears to heroic virtue, it is eafy to affign the proper employment of a true ancient genuine critic; which is, to travel through this vaft world of writings; to purfue and hunt thofe monftrous faults bred within them; to drag out the lurking errors, like Cacus from his den, to multiply them like Hydra's heads; and rake them together like Augeas's dung: or elfe drive away a fort of dangerous fowl, who have a perverfe inclination to plunder the best branches of the tree of knowledge, like thofe Stymphalian birds that eat up the fruit.
These reasonings will furnish us with an adequate de finition of a true critic; that he is a difcoverer and collector of writers faults; which may be farther put beyond difpute by the following demonftration: That whoever will examine the writings in all kinds, wherewith this ancient sect has honoured the world, shall immediately find, from the whole thread and tenor of them, that the ideas of the authors have been altogether converfant and taken up with the faults, and blemishes, and oversights, and mistakes of other writers; and, let the fubject treated on be whatever it will, their imaginations are fo entirely poffeffed and replete with the defects of other pens, that the very quinteffence of what is bad does of necessity diftil into their own; by which means the whole appears to be nothing else but an abstract of the criticisms themselves have made..
Having thus briefly confidered the original and office of a critic, as the word is understood in its most noble and univerfal acceptation; I proceed to refute the objections of those who argue from the Gilence and pretermiffion
termiffion of authors; by which they pretend to prove, that the very art of criticism, as now exercifed, and by me explained, is wholly modern; and confequently, that the critics of Great Britain and France have no title to an original fo ancient and illuftrious as I have deduced. Now, if I can clearly make out, on the contrary, that the most ancient writers have particularly described both the perfon and the office of a true critic, agreeable to the definition laid down by me; their grand objection, from the filence of authors, will fall to the ground.
I confefs to have for a long time borne a part in this general error; from which I fhould never have acquitted myfelf, but through the affiftance of our noble moderns; whofe most edifying volumes I turn indefatigably over night and day, for the improvement of my mind, and the good of my country. Thefe have with unwearied pains made many useful fearches into the weak fides of the ancients, and given us a comprehenfive lift of them. Befides, they have proved beyond contradiction, that the very finest things delivered of old, have been long fince invented, and brought to light by much later pens 95 and that the nobleft difcoveries thofe ancients ever made of art or nature, have all been produced by the tranfcending genius of the prefent age. Which clearly fhews, how little merit thofe ancients can justly pretend to; and takes off that blind admiration paid them by men in a corner, who have the unhappiness of conversing too little with prefent things. "Reflecting maturely upon all this, and taking in the whole compafs of human nature, I eafily concluded, that these ancients, highly fenfible of their many imperfections, must needs have endeavoured, from fome paffages in their works, to obviate, foften, or divert the cenforious reader, by satire or panegyric upon the true critics, in imitation of their masters the moderns. Now, in the common places of both these t, I was plentifully inftructed, by a long course of useful ftudy in prefaces and prologues and therefore immediately refolved to try what I could difcover of either, by a diligent perufal of the most ancient writers, and efpe
* See Wotton of ancient and modern learning.
cially those who treated of the earliest times. Here I found, to my great furprife, that although they all entered, upon occafion, into particular defcriptions of the true critic, according as they were governed by their fears or their hopes; yet whatever they touched of that kind, was with abundance of caution, adventuring no farther than mythology and hieroglyphic. This, I fuppofe gave ground to fuperficial readers, for urging the filence of authors against the antiquity of the true critic; though the types are fo appofite, and the application fo neceffary and natural, that it is not eafy to conceive, how any reader of a modern eye and taste could overlook them. I fhall venture, from a great number, to produce a few, which, I am very confident, will put this queftion beyond difpute.
It well deferves confidering, that these ancient wri ters, in treating ænigmatically upon the fubject, have generally fixed upon the very fame hieroglyph; varying only the ftory, according to their affections, or their wit. For, firft, Paufanias is of opinion, that the perfection of writing correct was entirely owing to the inftitution of critics. And that he can poffibly mean no other than the true critic, is, I think, manifeft enough from the following defcription. He fays, they were a race of men who delighted to nibble at the fuperfluities and excrefcencies of books; which the learned at length obferving, took warning of their own accord to lop the luxuriant, the rotten, the dead, the fapless, and the overgrown branch-es from their works. But now, all this be cunningly fhades under the following allegory: That the Nauplians in Argos learned the art of pruning their vines, by obferving, that when an ASS had browsed upon one of them, it thrived the better, and bore fairer fruit. But Herodotus †, holding the very fame hieroglyph, fpeaks much plainer, and almoft in terminis. He hath been fo bold as to tax the true critics of ignorance and malice; telling us openly, for I think nothing can be plainer, that in the western part of Libya there were ASSES with horns. Upon which relation Ctefias ‡ yet refines, men-
+ Lib. 4.
Vide excerpta ex eo apud Photium.
tioning the very fame animal about India; adding, that whereas all other ASSES wanted a gall, thefe horned ones were fo redundant in that part, that their fles was not to be eaten, because of its extreme bitterness.
Now, the reason why thofe ancient writers treated this fubject only by types and figures, was, because they durft not make open attacks against a party fo potent and terrible, as the critics of thofe ages were; whose very voice was fo dreadful, that a legion of authors would tremble, and drop their pens at the found: for fo Herodotus tells us exprefsly in another place *, how a vaft army of Scythians was put to flight in a panic terror by the braying of an ASS. From hence it is conjectured by certain profound philologers, that the great awe and reverence paid to a true critic by the writers of Britain, have been derived to us from thofe our Scythian anceftors. In fhort, this dread was fo univerfal, that, in procefs of time, thofe authors who had a mind to publish their fentiments more freely, in defcribing the true critics of their feveral ages, were forced to leave off the use of the former hieroglyph, as too nearly approaching the prototype; and invented other terms inftead thereof, that were more cautious and mystical. So Diodorus t, fpeaking to the fame purpose, ventures no farther than to say, that, in the mountains of Helicon, there grows a certain weed, which bears a flower of fo damned a fcent, as to poifon thofe who offer to fmell it. Lucretius gives exactly the fame relation :
Eft etiam in magnis Heliconis montibus arbos,
Floris o lore hominem tetro confueta necare ‡. Lib. 6.
But Ctefias, whom we lately quoted, hath been a great deal bolder. He had been used with much severity by the true critics of his own age, and therefore could not forbear to leave behind him, at lealt, one deep mark of his vengeance against the whole tribe. His meaning is fo near the furface, that I wonder how it poffibly came to be overlocked by those who deny the
* Lib. 4.
Near Helicon, and round the learned hill,
Grow trees, whofe bloffoms with their odour kill.