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the ancients had over us, was, that they knew all the secret history of a composure: what was the occasion of such a discourse or poem, whom such a sentence aimed at, what person lay disguised in such a character: for by this means they could see their author in a variety of lights, and receive several different entertainments from the same passage. We, on the contrary, can only please ourselves with the wit or good sense of a writer, as it stands stripped of all those accidental circumstances that at first helped to set it off: we have him but in a single view, and only discover such essential standing beauties as no time or years can possibly deface.

I do not question but Homer, who in the diversity of his characters has far excelled all other heroic poets, had an eye on some real persons who were then living, in most of them. The description of Thersites is so spiteful and particular, that I cannot but think it one of his own or his country's enemies in disguise, as on the contrary his Nestor looks like the figure of some ancient and venerable patriot: an effeminate fop, perhaps, of those times lies hid in Paris, and a crafty statesman in Ulysses: Patroclus may be a compliment on a celebrated friend, and Agamemnon the description of a majestic prince. Ajax, Hector, and Achilles, are all of them valiant, but in so different a manner as perhaps has characterized the different kinds of heroism that Homer had observed in some of his great contemporaries. Thus far we learn from the poet's life, that he endeavoured to gain favour and patronage by his verse; and it is very probable he thought of this method of ingratiating himself with particular persons, as he has made the drift of the whole poem a compliment on his country in general.

And to show us that this is not a bare conjecture only, we are told in the account that is left us of Homer, that he inserted the very names of some of his contemporaries. Tychius and Mentor in particular are very neatly celebrated in him. The first of these was an honest cobbler, who had been very kind and serviceable to the poet, and is therefore advanced in his poem to be Ajax's shield-maker. The other was a great man in Ithica, who for his patronage and wisdom has gained a very honourable post in the Odyssey, where he accompanies his great countryman in his travels, and gains such a reputation for his prudence, that Minerva took his shape upon her when she made herself visible. Themius was the name of Homer's schoolmaster; but the poet has certainly drawn his own character under, when he sets him forth as a favourite of Apollo, that was deprived of his sight, and used to sing the noble exploits of the Grecians.

Virgil too may well be supposed to give several hints in his poem, which we are not able to take, and to have lain many by-designs and under-plots, which are too remote for us to look into distinctly at so great a distance: but as for the characters of such as lived in his own time, I have not so much to say of him as Homer. He is indeed very barren in this part of his poem, and has but little varied the manners of the principal persons in it. His Æneas is a compound of valour and piety, Achates calls himself his friend, but takes no occasion of showing himself 30; Mnesteus, Sergestus, Gyas, and Cloanthus, are all of them men of the same stamp and character:

-Fortemq; Gyan fortemq; Cloanthum.

Besides, Virgil was so very nice and delicate a

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writer, that probably he might not think his compliment to Augustus so great, or so artfully concealed, if he had scattered his praises more promiscuously, and made his court to others in the same poem. Had he entertained any such design, Agrippa must in justice have challenged the second place, and if Agrippa's representative had been admitted, Æneas would have had very little to do; which would not have redounded much to the honour of his emperor. If, therefore, Virgil has shadowed any great persons besides Augustus in his characters, they are to be found only in the meaner actors of his poem, among the disputers for a petty victory in the fifth book, and perhaps in some few other places. I shall only mention Iopas the philosophical musician at Dido's banquet, where I cannot but fancy some celebrated master complimented, for methinks the epithet Crinitus is so wholly foreign to the purpose, that it perfectly points at some particular person; who, perhaps (to pursue a wandering guess), was one of the Grecian performers then in Rome; for besides that they were the best musicians and philosophers, the termination of the name belongs to their language, and the epithet is the same [Kaρnkoμówτes] that Homer gives to his countrymen in general.

Now that we may have a right notion of the pleasure we have lost on this account, let us only consider the different entertainment we of the present age meet with in Mr. Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel, from what an English reader will find a hundred years hence, when the figures of the persons concerned are not so lively and fresh in the minds of posterity. Nothing can be more delightful than to see two characters facing each other all along and running parallel through the whole piece, to compare

feature with feature, to find out the nice resemblance in every touch, and to see where the copy fails, and where it comes up to the original. The reader cannot but be pleased to have an acquaintance thus rising by degrees in his imagination; for whilst the mind is busy in applying every particular, and adjusting the several parts of the description, it is not a little delighted with its discoveries, and feels something like the satisfaction of an author from his own composure.

What is here said of Homer and Virgil holds very strong in the ancient satirists and authors of dialogues, but especially of comedies. What could we have made of Aristophanes's Clouds, had he not told us on whom the ridicule turned; and we have good reason to believe we should have relished it more than we do, had we known the design of each character, and the secret intimations in every line. Histories themselves often come down to us defective on this account, where the writers are not full enough to give us a perfect notion of occurrences; for the tradition, which at first was a comment on the story, is now quite lost, and the writing only preserved for the information of posterity.

I might be very tedious on this head, but I shall only mention another author who, I believe, received no small advantage from this consideration, and that is Theophrastus, who probably has shown us several of his contemporaries in the representation of his passions and vices; for we may observe in most of his characters something foreign to his subject, and some other folly or infirmity mixing itself with the principal argument of his discourse. His eye seems to have been so attentively fixed on the person in whom the vanity reigned, that other circumstances

of his behaviour, besides those he was to describe, insinuated themselves unawares, and crept insensibly into the character. It was hard for him to extract a single folly out of the whole mass without leaving a little mixture in the separation so that his particular vice appears something discoloured in the description, and his discourse, like a glass set to catch the image of any single object, gives us a lively resemblance of what we look for; but at the same time returns a little shadowy landscape of the parts that lie about it.

And, as the ancients enjoyed no small privilege above us, in knowing the persons hinted at in several of their authors; so they received a great advantage in seeing often the pictures and images that are frequently described in many of their poets. When Phidias had carved out his Jupiter, and the spectators stood astonished at so awful and majestic a figure, he surprised them more by telling them it was a copy and, to make his words true, showed them the original, in that magnificent description of Jupiter towards the latter end of the first Iliad. The comparing both together probably discovered secret graces in each of them, and gave new beauty to their performances: thus in Virgil's first Æneid, where we see the representation of Rage bound up, and chained in the temple of Janus :

-Furor impius intus

Sæva sedens super arma, et centum vinctus ahenis
Post tergum nodis, fremit horridus ore cruento.

Though we are much pleased with so wonderful a description, how must the pleasure double on those who could compare the poet and the statuary together, and see which had put most horror and dis

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