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NUMB. I. TUESDAY, March 20, 1750.
Cur tamen boc libeat potius decurrere campo,
Why to expatiate in this beaten field,
HE difficulty of the firft addrefs on any new occafion, is felt by every man in his tranfactions with the world, and confeffed by the settled and regular forms of falutation which neceffity has introduced into all languages. Judgment was wearied with the perplexity of being forced upon choice, where there was no motive to preference; and it was found convenient that fome easy method of introduction fhould be eftablifhed, which, if it wanted the allurement of novelty, might enjoy. the fecurity of prescription.
Perhaps few authors have prefented themfelves before the publick, without wifhing that fuch ceremonial modes of entrance had been anciently eftablished, as might have freed them from thofe dangers which the defire of pleafing is certain to produce, and precluded the vain expedients of foftening cenfure by apologies, or roufing attention by abruptness.
* Mr. ELPHINSTON, to whom the author of thefe Papers is indebted for many elegant tranflations of the mottos which are inferted from the Edinburgh edition, now keeps an academy for young gentlemen, at Kensington
The epick writers have found the proemial part of the poem fuch an addition to their undertaking, that they have almoft unanimously adopted the first lines of Homer, and the reader needs only be informed of the subject to know in what manner the poem will begin.
But this folemn repetition is hitherto the peculiar diftinction of heroick poetry; it has never been legally extended to the lower orders of literature, but feems to be confidered as an hereditary privilege, to be enjoyed only by thofe who claim it from their alliance to the genius of Homer.
The rules which the injudicious ufe of this prerogative fuggefted to Horace, may indeed be applied to the direction of candidates for inferior fame; it may be proper for all to remember, that they ought not to raise expectation which it is not in their power to fatisfy, and that it is more pleafing to fee smoke brightening into flame, than flame finking into fmoke.
This precept has been long received both from regard to the authority of Horace and its conformity to the general opinion of the world, yet there have been always fome, that thought it no deviation from modefty to recommend their own labours, and imagined themfelves entitled by indifputable merit to an exemption from general reftraints, and to elevations not allowed in common life. They, perhaps, believed that when, like Thucydides, they bequeathed to mankind lμa is deì, an estate for ever, it was an additional favour to inform them of its value.
It may, indeed, be no lefs dangerous to claim, on certain occafions, too little than too much. There is fomething captivating in fpirit and intrepidity, to which we often yield, as to a refiftless power; nor can he reasonably expect the confidence of others, who too apparently distrusts himself.