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great measure, of that * grace, which is known to confer value upon trifles; and in an equal, perhaps, in a greater, degree, deficient in that species of † connected series of composition, from which even ordinary subjects derive dignity and weight. I cannot, however, persuade myself that I have always missed what I have constantly aimed at; and it is in consequence of this presumption that I have thought that I might gratify my own feelings, without bringing disgrace upon one, who has long been the object of my respect, my esteem, and, let me add, of my affection.
Such presumption may, I admit, and that without any forced construction, be taken as proof of my vanity; but, without attempting to deny that
vanity may have some share in the degree of confidence, that I have expressed, I shall endeavour, and not without hopes of success, to shew that it has another, and a less questionable, foundation.
Pope advises us, in order to become acquainted with our defects, to make use of every friend, and every foe. foe. I resorted to neither, but to the dispassionate decision of one, who, a perfect stranger to me, had no motives for prejudice or partiality. I was, however, no stranger to his character. I was well acquainted with the rectitude of his understanding, the purity of his taste, and the uncompromising integrity and independence of his judgment. I submitted certain extracts from MES SOUVENIRS to his perusal, determined to make no appeal from the sentence, which he might pronounce. Had it been unfavourable to my hopes, it would have been decisive of my conduct, and you should never have heard of this work. Its publication, therefore, is sufficient to intimate that the answer corresponded with my wishes, rather than my hopes. I suppress the letter, not because I imagine
that the writer would hesitate to maintain in public, what he communicated in private; his well-known character is a sufficient guarantee against any apprehension of that kind; but its insertion would be certainly considered as one of those little stratagems, by which self-love seeks to gratify itself at second-hand. I must, however, mention his name, lest illiberal minds might suppose that I introduced some factitious character. That of SIR WILLIAM SMITH will supersede all pretence for suspicion.
You will find in this little work the members, I fear you will call them the disjecta membra, of Poets, Orators, Historians, and Philosophers, both ancient and modern; and, although I have put them together with as much regard to regularity and symmetry, as I was capable of, that "solution of continuity," to make use of a surgical term, which ever attends such patchwork, will betray the plagiarist, even to an eye much less experienced than yours. In truth, such was the title, that I had at first prefixed to the poem, and I have substituted another, principally
in deference to the taste and judgment of a friend, who did not consider the former as quite appropriate. My literary thefts are, however, avowed; and, if the reader be of opinion that the sterling bullion of my originals has been greatly debased by the alloy necessarily employed in the process of transfusion, he will have the consolation, at least, of finding the fine and unadulterated gold in the very same page. Thus his bane and antidote will be both before him. I have not, indeed, mentioned the names of my authors; writers, who quote from memory, are liable to forget, or mistake, the sources from which they draw. But it would be an insult to those, who evince their intimate acquaintance with the classics of Greece and Rome, by a thorough contempt of them, in comparison with modern and contemporary productions, to suppose, for a moment, that their knowledge will not supply my deficiency, in this particular.
I cannot help thinking, however, that such a preference involves something very like a contradiction
in terms. You will often hear our critics say, that such a poet, or such an orator, especially if he be of their party, or of their acquaintance, has equalled, or even surpassed, any thing to be found in the ancient languages; but when you ask them, seriously, whether they consider Mr. A. or Mr. B. as superior, in point of genius, to HOMER or DEMOSTHENES, they seldom venture to go so far. And yet they must go every step of that way, or their assertion goes absolutely for nothing; for, if Mr. A. or Mr. B. have surpassed, or even equalled, either Homer or Demosthenes, they must be, in point of natural genius, vastly superior to either of these celebrated ancients. I prove it thus:
The superiority of the Greek and Latin languages, but especially of the former, over any modern idiom, is denied by none, except by such, as do not understand a syllable of either. Some of these, however extraordinary it may appear, are extremely dogmatical upon this subject. Baron Bielfield, for instance, one of that constellation of geniuses, that