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THE HISTORY OF POETRY.

IN A LETTER TO A FRIEND

SIR, In obedience to your commands, I here send you the following short essay toward a History of Poetry in England and Ireland. At first it was a science we only began to CHAW SIR. A hundred years after, we attempted to translate out of the Psalms, but could not our STERN-HOLD.

In queen Elizabeth's reign, I thiuk, there was but one DI-SPENSER of good verses; for his patron, though a great man, IS HID NIGH by the length of time. Yet, a little before her death, we attempted to deal in tragedy, and began to SHAKE SPEARS ; which was pursued under king James the First by three great poets, in one of them many a line so strong, that you might make a BEAM ONT; the second, indeed, gives us sometimes

but FLAT CHEER, and the third is Ben ding a little to stiffness.

Jo the reign of king Charles the First, there was a new succession of poets; one of them, though seldom read, I am very fond of; he has so much salt in his compositions, that you would think he had been used to SUCK-LING: as to his friend the author of Gondibert, I'D AVE AN AUNT write better. I say nothing against your favourite, though some censure him for writing too COOLY; but he had a rival whose happier genius made him stand like a WALL OR a pillar against censure.

* This has been printed as the Dean's, and is likely to be genuine. See the letters to lord Pembroke, & in a future page of this volume. N.

VOL. XXIV.

During the usurpation, we fell into burlesque; and I think whoever reads Hudibras, cannot BUT LEER. I have cot one more, who travestied Virgil, though not equal to the former.

After the Restoration, poets became very numerous: the chief, whose fame is louder than a MILL-TONE, 'must never be forgot. And here I must observe, that poets in those days loved retirement so much, that sometimes they lived in dens. One of them in a DRY-DEN: another called his den his village,

or DEN-HAM; and I am informed that the sorry fellow, who is now laureat, affects to USB-DENS still : but, to return from this digression, we were then famous for tragedy and comedy; the author of Venice Preserved is seldom o’T AWAY; yet he who wrote the Rival Queens, before he lost his senses, sometimes talked MAD-LEE. Another, who was of this kingdom, went into England, because it is more SOUTHERN; and he wrote tolerably well. I say nothing of the Satirist, with his OLD-DAM' verses. As for comedy, the Plain Dealer, WICH BARLY came into credit, is allowed on all hands an excellent piece: he had a dull contemporary; who sometimes showed humour ; but his colouring was bad, and he could not shADE-WELL. Sir George, in my opinion, outdid them all, and was sharp at BITHER-EDGE. The duke is also excellent, who took a BOOK IN GAME, and turned into, ridicule, under the name of The Rehearsal. It · is, indeed, no wonder to find poetry thrive under the reign of that prince; when, by one of his great favourites, who was likewise an excellent poet, there was a DORB-SET open for all men of wit. Perbaps.you WILL-MUTT'er, that I have left out the earl of Rochester; but. I peyer was one of his admirers. Upon the revolutioni, poetry seemed to declinë; however, I shall · PRY" O'R 'as many poets as I can

remember. Mr. Montague affected to be a patron of wit, and his house was the poets HALL-I-FAX for several years, which one of them used to STEP-NIGH every day. Another of them, who was my old acquaintance, succeeded well in comedy, but failed when he began to con GRAVE subjects. The rest came in a ROW.

The author of the Dispensary had written nothing else valuable, and therefore is too small in the GARTH. But may not a man be allowed to ADD IS OWN friend to the number? I mean, the author of Cato.

To mention those who are now alive, would be endless; I will therefore only venture to lay down one maxim, that a good poet, if he designs to TICKLE the world, must be Gay and YouNG; but, if he proposes to give us rational pleasure, he must be as grave as a POPE.

I am, sir,

Yours, &c.

THE

PRESENT STATE

OF/

WIT.

IN A LETTER TO A FRIEND IN THE COUNTRY.

TIRST PRINTED IN MAY 1711.

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