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tory,” our chief aim was to excite some generous Mecenas to favour the world with a new edition of a poem which we had long since beheld with no small concern, buried, as it were, by some unaccountable fatality, into an almost total oblivion; whilst others of that kind, none of them superior, many vastly inferior to it, rode, unjustly, as we thought, triumphant over his silent grave. And it is with great satisfaction that we have seen our endeavours so happily crowned in the edition you soon after gave of it at Edinburgh, in your learned and judicious vindication of your excellent author, and more particularly by the just deference which your learned and pious convocation has been pleased to pay to that admirable version.
We have had since then, the pleasure to see your worthy example followed here, in the several beautiful editions of the honourable Mr. Auditor Benson, with his critical notes upon the work.
It was, indeed, the farthest from our thoughts, to enter into the merit of the controversy between your two great poets, Johnston and Buchanan ; neither were we so partial to either as not to see, that each had their shades as well as lights; so that, if the latter has been more happy in the choice and variety of his metre, it is as plain, that he has given his poetic genius such an unlimited scope, as has in many cases quite disfigured the peculiar and inimitable beauty, simplicity, and energy of the original, which the former, by a more close and judicious version, has constantly, and surprisingly displayed. Something like this we ventured to hint in our note upon these two noble versions; to have said more, would have been inconsistent with our designed brevity.
We have likewise since seen what your opponent has writ in praise of the one, and derogation of the other, and think you have sufficiently confuted him, and with respect to us, he has been so far from giving us any cause to retract what we had formerly said, that it has administered an occasion to us of vindicating it, as we have lately done by some critical notes on your excellent Johnston, which we communicated soon after to Mr. A. B. who was pleased to give them a place in his last edition of him, and which we doubt not you have seen long ago. How they have been relished among you we know not, but with us they have been thought sufficient to prove what we have advanced, as well as to direct the attentive reader to discover new instances of your author's exactness and elegance, in every page, if not almost in
line. We gratefully accept of the books, and kind compliments you were pleased to transmit to us by Mr. Strahan, and had long since returned you our thanks, but for the many avocations which the great work you know us to be engaged in doth of necessity bring upon us; obliging us, or some at least of our society, to make from time to time an excursion to one or other of our two learned universities, and consulting them upon the best method of carrying on this work to the greatest advantage to the public. This has been some considerable part of our employment for these twelve months past; and we flatter ourselves, that we have, with their assistance and approbation, made such considerable improvements on our original plan, as will scarcely fail of being acceptable to the learned world. They will shortly appear in print, to convince the world that we have not been idle, though this sixth volume is like to appear somewhat later in the year than was usual with our former ones. We shall take the liberty to transmit some copies of our new plan to you as soon as they are printed. All we have left to wish with respect to your excellent countryman and his version is, that it may always meet with such powerful and impartial advocates, and that it may be as much esteemed by all candid judges, as it is by,
The AUTHORS of the “ Universal History.”
A Letter from the learned Mr. Robert Ainsworth,
Author of the Latin and English Dictionary, to Mr. Lauder.
LEARNED AND WORTHY SIR, THESE wait on you to thank you for the honour you have done a person, equally unknown as undeserving, in your valuable present, which I did not receive till several weeks after it was sent: and since I received it, my eyes have been so bad, and my hand so unstable, that I have been forced to defer my duty, as desirous to thank you with my own hand. I congratulate to your nation the just honour ascribed to it by its neighbours and more distant countries, in having bred two such excellent poets as your Buchanan and Johnston, whom to name is to commend; but am concerned for their honour at home, who being committed together, seem to me both to suffer a diminution, whilst justice is done to neither. But at the same time I highly approve your nation's piety in bringing into your schools sacred instead of profane poesy, and heartily wish that ours, and all Christian governments, would follow your example herein. If a mixture of utile dulci be the best composition in poetry, (which is too evident to need the judgment of the nicest critic in the art) surely the utile so transcendently excels in the sacred hymns, that a Christian must deny his name that doth not acknowledge it: and if the dulce seem not equally to excel, it must be from a vitiated taste of those who read them in the original, and in others at second-hand from translations. For the manner of writing in the East and West are widely distant, and which to a paraphrast must render his task exceeding difficult, as requiring a perfect knowledge in two languages, wherein the idioms and graces of speech, caused by the diversity of their religion, laws, customs, &c. are as remote as the inhabitants, wherein notwithstanding your poets have succeeded to admiration.
Your main contest seems to me, when stript of persons, whether the easy or sublime in poesy be preferable ; if so,
Non opis est nostræ tantam componere litem : nor think I it in your case material to be decided. Both these have their particular excellencies and graces, and youth ought to be taught wherein (which the matter ought chiefly to determine) the one hath place, and where the other. Now since the hymns of David, Moses, and other divine poets intermixt with them, (infinitely excelling those of Callimachus, Alcæus, Sappho, Anacreon, and all others) abound in both these virtues, and both your poets are acknowledged to be very happy in paraphrasing them, it is my opinion both of them, without giving the least preference to either, should be read alternately in your schools, as the tutor shall direct. Pardon, learned Sir, this scribble to my age and weakness, both which are very great, and command me wherein I may serve you, as,
Learned Sir, Your obliged, thankful, and obedient Servant, Spitalfields, Sept. 1741. ROBERT AINSWORTH.
A Letter from the Authors of the “ Universal History” to
Mr. Auditor Benson.
It is with no small pleasure that we see Dr. Johnston's translation of the Psalms revived in so elegant a manner, and adorned with such a just and learned display of its inimitable beauties. As we flatter ourselves that the character we gave it in our first volume of the “Universal History,” did in some measure contribute to it, we hope, that in justice to that great poet, you will permit us to cast the following mites into your treasury of critical notes on his noble version. We always thought the palm by far this author's due, as upon many other accounts,