Isaac Watts


IX. When a person feels any thing of this invidious humour working in him, he may by the following con sideration attempt the correction of it. Let him think with himself how many are the beauties of such an author whom he censures, in comparison of his blem ishes, and remember that it is a much more honourable and good-natured thing to find out peculiar beauties than faults; true and undisguised candour is a much more amiable and divine talent than accusation. Let of sovereignty and dictatorship, to exalt and almost deify all the pagan ancients, and cast his scorn upon all the moderns, especially if they do but savour of miracles and the gospel; it is fit the admirers of this author should know, that nature and these ancients are not the same, though some writers always unite them. Reason and nature never made these ancient heathens their standard, either of art or genius, of writing or heroism. Sir Richard Steele, in his little essay, called the Christian Hero, has shown our Saviour and St. Paul in a more glorious and transcendent light than a Virgil or Homer could do for their Achilles, Ulysses, or jEneas: and I am persuaded, if Moses and David had not been inspired writers, these very men would have ranked them at least with Herodotus and Horace, if not given them the superior place. But where an author has many beauties consistent with virtue, piety, and truth, let not little critics exalt themselves, and shower down their ill nature upon him without bounds or measure; but rather stretch their own powers of soul till they write a treatise superior to that which they condemn. This is the noblest and surest manner of suppressing what they censure. A little wit, or a little learning, with a good degree of vanity and ill nature, will teach a man to pour out whole pages of remark and reproach upon one real or fancied mistake of a great and good author: and this may be dressed up by the same talents, and made enter taining enough to the world, which loves reproach and scandal: but if the remarker would but once make this attempt, and try to outshine the author by writing a better book on the same subject, he would soon be convinced of his own insufficiency, and perhaps might learn to judge more justly and favourably of the performance of other men. A cobbler or a shoemaker may find some little fault with the latchet of a shoe that an Apelles had painted, and perhaps with justice too, when the whole figure and portraiture is such as none but Apelles could paint. Every poor low genius may cavil at what the richest and the noblest hath performed; but it is a sign of envy and malice, added to the littleness and poverty of genius, when such a cavil becomes a sufficient reason to pronounce at once against a bright author, and a whole valuable treatise.

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