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THE FAIRY QUEEN
Of Spenser's Imitations of Himself.
COMMENTATORS of less taste than learning, of less discernment than ostentation, have taken infinite pains to point out, and compare those passages which their respective authors have imitated from others. This disquisition, if executed with a judicious moderation, and extended no further than to those passages which are distinguished with certain induibitable characters, and internal
evidences of transcription or imitation, must prove an instructive and entertaining research. It tends to regulate our ideas of the peculiar merit of any writer, by shewing what degree of genuine invention he possesses, and how far he has improved the materials of another by his own art and manner of application. In the mean time, it naturally gratifies every reader's inquisitive disposition. But where even the most apparent traces of likeness are found, how seldom can we determine with truth and justice, as the most sensible and ingenious of modern critics has finely proved, that an imitation was intended *? How commonly in this case, to use the precise and significant expressions of that delicate writer, do we mistake resemblances for thefts ? As this then is a business which does not always proceed on sure principles, often affording the amuse
* See a Discourse on Poetical Imitation, by Mr. Hurd.