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Shall change thy Voice, thy Tone, and in their stead, Shall make thee talk his gibberish--for bread;
part of the Poem, they will perceive that I entertain a high respect for legitimate criticism. I kneel at its tribunal, and seek no appeai from its recsions. So far from depreciating the art, I wish to see it more honoured than it is. It is a noble and a useful art; and the Office of the true Critic is an high and important Office. But it so happens, that no two things are more distinct than Criticism, and those Traders who now-adays style themselves Critics; it is certainly possible to cherish a very profound respect for the former; and at the same time to think but meanly of the latter ; just as a man may venerate the laws of his country, without being obliged to transfer that veneration to every country Petifogger. Neither are the Re. marks I have made, the ebullitions of private pique, or the effect of any disappointment in authorship; as the Critics have never yet had occasion to write a siogle line for or against me. But of this I am persuaded; that it is not authors, but critics, who disgrace their own art, by making a Trade of it: That they lower themselves by becoming the tools of Eslablishments, Sects, Parties, and Prejudices, is so ,notorious, that there is not a Man of them, except those gentlemen who write in Mr. Cumberland's Review, who is not ashamed to put his
to his own performances. For every thing anonymous, and for anonymous Crilicism in particular, I ever shall avow the most insuperable con empt. Bui (say the Critics) Truth is Truth, and not the more or the Jess so, for having a name attached to it; and if our remaks are not founded on Truth, they must fall. Admitteri. But unfortunately the public are not generally in possession of the Works you criticize; many know of their publication, only through you; and many more are waiting the decision of your impartial tribunal, before they venture to purchase. Now, it
Thy piteous cries, thy tortures, tears, and pains, Shall but promote this pilfering Vagrant's gains;
so happens, that no Book is so good, but that some weak and defective passages may be found in it; as for instance, Milton's Puns on Gunpowder, in his battle of the A gels. If the Book is to be cried down, these passages are of course advanced, enlarged upon, and made the most conspicuous. But there is no Book so bad, but that some favourable passages may
be found in it; if the Book is to be extoiled, these are of course adduced as the specimens.
Now Critics 'would be ashamed of this juggling and chicanery, this cup and ball Criticism, if it were the universal practice to sign their Names.
Again-I do affirm that what is said about a Book is not of so much consequence, as by whom it is said. This single cire cumstance makes all the difference; and if knowo, would often convert what was censure, into praise; and what was praise, into censure. For instance, it might come out that some private enemy of the Author had said i, or that the Author had said it himself. Or that a Sectarian had been reviewing a Doctor of Divivity, or a Doctor of Divinity a Sectarian; or that the remarks came from one whose eyes were not bliuded by partiality, or by prejudice, but by ignorance. Or it might appear that one Author who had written budly upon a subject, had been reviewing another, who had written better upon the same; or that the Criticisms of Mr. A. had bien inserted, because his necessities obliged him to drudge for a Pub. I isher, at a guinea per sheet less than Mr. B. These, and a thousand other things, are necessary to be known, but which anonymous criticism prevents our knowing; before we permit our judgment to be guided by the Critics, with respect to those Authors, with whom we have no acquaintance, but through the introduction of their remarks and observations. I request my Readers to reflect a little on the above positions.
By worse than Gipsey*- hands disguised, defiled, I shall not know again my kidnapped Child.
But to return to my anonymous Friends. Mr. A, B, C, or D, educated nobody knows where, and qualified for his office, nobody knows how, scribbles a little essay, containing his prie vate opinion of the merits, or demerits of some unfortunate Au. thor. Now it is obvious that this little essay, value about three half pence, and written by an obscure individual, as for instance, myself, would produce no effect at all upon the public opinion, or public taste. It might circulate to the amount of one or two hundred copies, in that little circle or atmosphere of notoriety which every man, more or less, concentrates around himself. But the Author of this little essay procures its inser. tion in some Review, the Editors of which perceive it has a lite tle vivacity, and that it contains nothing that runs counter to those principles on which their publication is conducted. Now mark the mighty change; stitched up with some other similar attempts; ornamented with covers of blue Paper, and dignified with the Royal Title of We, and the Critics, our meta. morphosed little three-half-penny Essay becomes at once the organ that regulates the taste and opinion of a vast reading and reflecting population; and opens, or shuts the purses of thousands of his Majesty's Subjects, who voluntarily submit to a Capitation Tax in this shape, who, in any other form would resist it to the uite most. When we consider the effect pro duced by these pull cations, and the flimsy materials of which most of them are cinposed, can we help exclaiming, “An quidquam stultius qui in quos singulos contemnas, eos aliquid putare esse universos ” “Can any thing be more ridiculous, than to think that those are of consequence when united, whom as Individuals we despise ?"
That there are some Gentlemen of very respectable talents,
Now Critics ! for a space, farewell,-to write
live. When once the helmet's on, 'tis then too late With foes to parley, thundering at the gate! Before the trumpets † sound, 'tis wise to weigh With steady hand, the dangers of the fray; 'Tis done ;-your keenest shafts, nor foulest breath, Shall wound my peace, nor frighten me to death;
engaged in this department of Literature, is evident, from the manner in which some of the Articles are reviewed. Surely the names of those Gentlemen who could write such articles, would not only be an honour to any critical publication, but would also be the means of exciting an additional curiosity in the public, and of awakening a greater degree of attention to their remarks.
* In this comparison of the Gipsey, some more points of resemblance might be adduced; but I leave them to the ima. gination of my Readers. I have heard of an Author who read nearly a whole Article in one of the Reviews, without discovering that he was reading an account of his own Work. “Where ignorance is bliss 'tis fully to be wise;" and in this happy state, he would have remained, had not a solitary quotation, in the last page, let him into the secret; namely, that he had been enjoying a laugh at his own expense.
+ Tecum prius ergo voluta Hæc animo, ante tubas ; galeatum sero duelli Pænitet."
Though White, * your poisoned arrows from his
breast, In mute forgiveness drew,-then sunk to rest! At those who court the combat hurl the dart, t But spare the bruised reed, the broken heart. Then do your worst, exert your utmost rage, Twist, mangle, rack for blemishes, my page, And when you've finished, and are quite aground, Ten that you've missed, I'll shew, for one you've
* See Remains of Henry Kirke White. + On attempting to recollect any thing that might fairly be adduced, in favour of anonymous criticism, the whole seems reducible to this. The feelings of Mr. Nobody, the Critic, are of much more consequence than the feelings of Mr. Somebody, the Author : therefore the Critic must be allowed to fight in close and safe quarters; because it takes many years of hard study and close application to make a Critic! Whereas, a few hours of light reading are quite sufficient to constitute an Au. thor. Again - Those Reviews, the writers of which are unknoun, may venture to be more spirited, cutting, and sarcase tic; herefo:e they sell better ; because all men rejoice to see an Author humbled; and none are more pleased to see this than Bro her Authors. But whatever Spirit there may be ia anonymous Reviews, it appears to me to be as easy to be brave at the risk and hazard of an Editor, (since he is the only osten. sible person,) as it is to be generous at another man's expense. But I sha! ever think that is the most spirited Publication, the writers of wh ch disdain to shoot their arrows, like the Indian, from some secure and secret lurking place; but who come forward boldly vith Nisus, and exclaim, "Adsum qui feci." “Here I am, who did it.”