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TO THE FIRST BOOK.
IT was my intention to have made some farther observations on the TITLE of this Poem, in the first note. But as the half sheet containing it went to press during my absence from Tiverton, it is, in my own opinion, more imperfect than any other part. of the Poem; and I have to lament some insertions, and some omissions. The anecdote, for instance, of Dr. Johnson ought to have appeared, not in the poetry, but, (if any where) in the. note. Alas!" Quid me dempta juvat spinis de pluribus una ?” On my return, the whole impression of the first half sheet was taken off; so that I had only time to regret, what it was too late to remedy. What I meant to have said on the subject of my Title, I shall offer here. Candid Judges will not pronounce the Title to have been il! chosen, until they have seen the whole of the Work. At present, the first Book only is before them. They will, also, admit the difficulty of writing a long Poem on any one particular vice, without some digressions; these, most readers will pardon, should they be found to rise not unnaturally out of the subject; "ex re nata." My first Book is very near three thousand lines; quite enough, if good for any
thing; a great deal too much if good for nothing. Therefore, I must request my readers to suspend their sentence on the incongruity of the Title, until the whole Work is before them. They may then, if they think proper, re-christen it what they please. It was my fixed determination to give the Poem a single title. And I must presume that no one term can be found in the language, to suit the general tenor of the work so well as HYPOCRISY. There may be parts to which that term does not quite apply.-When we see a likeness, we exclaim, 'that is the portrait of such a man ;' and it is not the less so, because the picture may have trees and cattle in it. Even panegyric has been considered, by some, as a digression, in a satirical poem; however, it is a digression in which all the Satirists have indulged,and to me, it has proved the most grateful part of my task. Nor should it be forgotten, that the praise of the good, is often the severest, always the safest, censure on the bad. It also enables the Poet to heighten (the effect, by a contrast, as necessary to the painting of the pen, as light and shade to that of the pencil.
Egotism I think as unpleasant to the writer, as tiresome to the reader. Nevertheless I shall offer a few remarks on myself, which will not be wholly unacceptable, if what I have al ready written has excited any interest in my readers; if it has not, it matters little what I write. In the first place, it would have been more prudent in me to have concealed my namebecause no one is sufficiently perfect to take upon himself the avowed office of a Censor-because young men, and young authors, in particular, ought to be very careful not to make enemies; in as much as fame is an empty breath, but revenge an active principle; and because nothing is so strong, but that which is weak may injure it. Pope himself never ventured on satire, until he had established his fortune and his fame. And Juvenal, the Sampson of his tribe, blushed not to own his appre hensions from the power of Nero;
"Pone Tigellinum, tædâ lucebis in illå
Quá stantes ardent, qui fixo gutture fumant."
And from this motive, in his very outset, he announces his intention of exposing the vices principally of those whose bodies the Earth had covered.
“Quorum Flaminiâ tegitur Cinis, atque Latinâ.” Concealment also enables an author, either to escape the hiss es, or eventually to come forward, to receive the plaudits of his audience. Moreover on the principle of "ignotum pro magnifico," a degree of mysterious, nay awful importance is attached to a spirited publication, whose author is unknown. Busy conjecture has ample scope allowed her; the sleepless eye of suspicion glances around; -"Nec conspicit usquam
Could Belshazzar be cited to appear, he would confess that the hand which wrote upon the wall, derived its most appalling terrors from its want of a body. I have watched the progress of one or two anonymous works, which it appeared afterwards were written by obscure individuals. I have heard them ascribed to some one having authority; and have been told in a whisper that they proceeded from one as formidable from his power, as respectable from his rank; qualified for his high office by native genius, and acquired erudition; well kerned in years, ripe in judgement, and rich in experience, that fruit of slowest growth, and costliest cultivation.
The very obscurity which enshrouds an anonymous work, awakens our attention; because it increases the difficulty of fully discovering that very object which it magnifies. The sun appears larger through a mist, and the shadow is usually greater than the substance. If I am not deceived, the "Magni nominis Umbra" contributed more to the popularity of Junius, than the name of any individual, however esteemed, of a Fox, or a Chatham. Perhaps few things have issued from the Press which excited at the time, a greater sensation than the notes
to the Pursuits of Literature. To so respectable a reception they were fully entitled, both from their matter and their style, of which it could not be said "materiem superabat opus." But their imposing solemnity excited less attention, and their authoritative egotism more disgust, the moment the author was known. The last advantage 1 shall enumerate, though not the least, is this; Even witling Scribblers, pedantic Coxcombs, and disappointed Poetasters, a formidable Phalanx, can bear, to praise an anonymous publication; because Mr. Any-body is Mr. Nobody, and he happens to be the only gentleman whom brother-authors will admit to be as wise as themselves. Under the above circumstances, and many more, which the Critics,, who fully appreciate the blessings of sleeping in a sound skin, might inform us of, the question unavoidably obtrudes itself.How came I to pursue a contrary course? I have a short an◄ swer-In despite of all these prudent considerations I have affixed my name, "Adsum qui feci," because for every thing anonymous, except Charity, I have a rooted contempt, and insuperable aversion.
Of what is before them, the public will judge :"Fugit irrevocabile verbum."
On what is to follow, they are not so competent to decide. I have promised two more books; they are already in a state of forwardness, and my portfolio reports progress. The main subject will be more closely followed up than in the first book. But in what manner I have treated it, and in what points of view I have considered it, it is quite impossible for any one to predict. Suffice it to say, that Hypocrisy is not confined to the church. It is a copious subject, a fruitful theme; a tree of tallest growth, whose ambitious head aspires even unto Heaven; of deepest root, whose ramifications penetrate through the most secret caverns of the earth, even unto Tartarus; She extends her branches over seas and over continents; and with their broad and ample foliage she overshadows the nations.