« PreviousContinue »
to have the occafion of referring to them frequently in the notes, and making rhetorical flourishes on their author, who profeffing to imitate Lucian, had fo imperfectly ftudied that great original, and fo little profited by his excellent Dialogue of Lexiphanes, and his admirable Essay on the beft manner of writing history.
With fuch views, and with fuch expectations, I immediately had recourfe to your Dialogues. But it was not long before I found myself greatly dif appointed, and disappointed in a most agreeable manner. Instead of being able to fhow them, pardon the freedom of the expreffion, as a fort of scarecrow or beacon, a warning for others to avoid their faults; I perceived they were a model of imitation, a pattern for all to follow; and was foon made. fenfible, I muft content myself with becoming a diftant and humble imitator of an author, whom, but a few hours
hours before, I thought to have made the object of my criticisms.
But if this were a fmall mortification, it was foon followed by a much more fenfible pleasure. If I could not expose your Lordship's writings as a warning to others, I found I could do what was much more for my purpose, support my own opinion by their great and unqueftioned authority. The paffage I have in view, is fo appofite to the subject in hand, and coincides fo entirely with my own fentiments, that I cannot refift the temptation of quoting it, notwithstanding it may be thought fomewhat improper in an address to your Lordship. It is in the Dialogue between Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger, where the uncle fays to the nephew ;
"Your eloquence had, I think, "the fame fault as your manners: it was generally too affected. You profeffed to make Cicero your guide
"and pattern. But when one reads his "Panegyrick upon Julius Cæfar, and
your's upon Trajan, the firft feems the tt genuine language of truth and nature, "raised and dignified with all the majefty "of the most fublime Oratory: the lat
ter appears the harangue of a florid "Rhetorician more defirous to fine, and to set off his own wit, than to extol "the great man whofe virtues he was praifing."
The other makes the following anfwer:
"I will not queftion your judgment, "either of my life or my writings. "They might both have been better, tr if I had not been too folicitous to ren
"der them perfect. It is perhaps, fome "excufe for the affectation of my ftile,. "that it was the fashion of the age in "which I wrote. Even the eloquence of σε Tacitus, however nervous and sublime,
was not unaffected. Mine, indeed,
66. was more diffuse, and the ornaments
of it were more tawdry; but his laboured concifenefs, the conftant glow of his Diction, and pointed brilliancy of
his fentences, were no lefs unnatural. "One principal caufe of this, I fuppofe to have been, that as we despaired of
excelling the two great mafters of
Oratory, Cicero and Livy, in their ec own manner, we took up another, "which, to many, appeared more shining, "and gave our compofitions a more ori"ginal air. But it is mortifying to me, to fay much on this fubject. Permit me therefore, to refume the contemplation "of that on which our converfation "turned before.".
And here I am forry the nature of the fubject, which is the famous erup
tion of Vefuvius,
Pliny loft his life,
wherein the Elder
prevented your proceeding any farther. It might, indeed, be a mortifying theme to the Panegy→
rift of Trajan, but furely it could not be fo to the noble author of the Perfian Letters, who had in them fhewn fo fine a tafte, and given so many illuftrious examples of the natural and fimple style. I regretted then, and my Lord, I ftill do regret you had not made it the fubject of an entire Dialogue. It is well worthy of your mafterly pen; and befides, you might have rendered it needless for an unknown, and what much worse, an inferior hand to undertake it.
And yet I doubt, whether, upon second thoughts, your Lordship's manner be fo well fuited to the adverfaries you would have to cope withal. believe me, as there is not in nature a vainer, a more felf-fufficient and conceited, fo there cannot be a more unfeeling animal than a veteran LexiHis fenfations are naturally fo dull and obtufe, that I queftion much