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their several periods, and a just discern-
ment to estimate their state in them, will
hardly dispute with me, 5. that, though
“ many causes concur to produce a thorough
“ degeneracy of taste in any country; yet
“ the principal ever is, THIS ANXIOUS
“ DREAD OF IMITATION IN POLITE AND
“ CULTIVATED WRITERS.”

And, if such be the case, among the
other uses of this Essay, it may perhaps
serve for a seasonable admonition to the
poets of our time, to relinquish their vain
hopes of originality, and turn themselves to
a stricter imitation of the best models. I
fay, a seasonable admonition; for the more
polished a nation is, and the more generally
these models are understood, the greater
danger there is, as was now observed, of
running into that worst of literary faults, ..
affe&tation. But, to stimulate their endea-
vours to this practice, the judgment of the
public should first be set right; and their
readers prepared to place a juft value
upon it. In this respect too I would
willingly contribute, in some small degree,
to the service of letters. For the poet,
• Vol. III.

whose

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whose object is fame, will always - adapt himself to the humour of those who con. fer it. And till the public tafte be reduced by fober criticism to a just standard, strength of genius will only enable a writer to pervert it still further, by a too fuccessful compliance with its vicious expectations.

DISSERTATION IV. -. On the MARK's of IMITATION.

2 TO Mr. MASON. I Have said, in the discourse on POETICAL

IMITATION, “ that coincidencies of a « certain kind, and in a certain degree, can“ not fail to convict a writer of Imitation,” [2]-You are curious, my friend, to know what these coincidencies are, and have thought that an attempt to point them out would furnish an useful Supplement to what I have written on this subject. But the just execution of this design would require, befides a careful examination of the workings of the human mind, an exact scrutiny of the most original and most imitative wri. ters. And, with all your partiality for me, can you, in earnest, think me capable of fulfilling the first of these conditions; or, if I were, do you imagine that, at this time o'day, I can have the leisure to perform the other? My younger years, indeed, have : . [z] P. 115, 116. L 2

been

been spent in turning over those authors which young men are inost fond of; and among these I will not, disown that the Puets of ancient and nodern fame have had their full share in ny affection. But You, who love me so well, would not with me to pass more of my life in these flowery regions; which though You may yet wander in without offence, and the rather as you wander in them with so pure a mind and to so moral a purpose, there seems no decent pretence for me to loiter in them any longer.

Yet in saying this I would not be thought to assume that severe character; which, though sometimes the garb of reason, is oftener, I believe, the mask of dulness, or of something worse. No, I am too sensible to the charms, nay to the uses of your profession, to affect a contempt for it. The great Roman said well, Haec studia adolescentiam alunt; Sene lutem oblečtant. We make a full meal of them in our youth. And no philosophy requires so perfect a mortification as that we should wholly abstain from them in our riper years. But should we invert the observation, and take this light food not as

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the refreshment only, but' as the proper
nourishment of Age; such a name as. Cicero's,
I am afraid, would be wanting, and not ea.
fily found, to justify the practice..
· Let'us' own then, on a greater authority
than His, " That every thing is beautiful in
6 its seafon.” The Spring hath its buds
and blossoms : But, as the year runs on, You
are not displeased, perhaps, to see them fall
off; and would certainly be disappointed not:
to find them, in due time, succeeded by:
those mellow hangings the poet somewhere
speaks of.

I could alledge still graver reasons. But I would only say, in one word, that your friend has had his share in these amusements. I may recollect with pleasure, but must never live over again, .!.

! } Pieriosque dies, et amantes carmina fomnos. Yet something, you insist, is to be done; and, if it amount to no more than a specimen or Night sketch, such as my memory, or the few notes I have by me, would furnish, the design, you think, is not totally to be relina quished.

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