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T Am inclined to think that both the writers of 1 books, and the readers of them, are generally not a little unreasonable in their expectations. The first seem to fancy that the world must approve whatever they produce, and the latter to imagine that authors are obliged to please them at any rate. Methinks, as on the one hand, no single man is born with a right of controuling the opinions of all the reft ; fo on the other, the world has no title to demand, that the whole care and time of any particular person should be sacrificed to its entertainment. Therefore I cannot but believe that writers and readers are under equal obligations, for as much fame, or pleasure, as each affords the other.
Every one acknowledges, it would be a wild no. tion to expect perfection in any work of man: and yet one would think the contrary was taken for granted, by the judgment commonly paft upon Poems. A Critic supposes he has done his part, if he proves a writer to have failed in an expression, or erred in any particular point: and can it then be wondered at, if the Poets in general seem resolved not to own themselves in any error? For as long
as one fide will make no allowances, the other will be brought to no acknowledgments a.
I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides is illplaced ; Poetry and Criticism being by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who read there.
Yet fure upon the whole, a bad Author deserves better usage than a bad Critic: for a Writer's endeavour, for the most part, is to please his Readers, and he fails merely through the misfortune of an ill judgment; but such a Critic's is to put them out of humour ; a design he could never go upon without both that and an ill temper.
I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the fault of bad Poets. What we call a Genius, is hard to be distinguished by a man hiinself, from a strong inclination : and if his genius be ever so great, he cannot at first discover it any other way, than by giving way to that prevalent propensity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken. The only method he has, is to make the experiment by writing, and appealing to the judgment of others : now if he happens to write ill (which is
a In the former editions it was thus--For as long as one side despises a well meant endeavour, the other will not be satisfied with a moderate approbation. But the Author altered it, as these words were rather a consequence from the conclufion he would draw, than the conclusion itself, which he has sow inserted.