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men are not witty ; because they are not every where
Censura de poetis.- Nothing in our age, I have observed, is more preposterous than the running judgments upon poetry and poets; when we shall hear those things commended, and cried up for the best writings, which a man would scarce vouchsafe to wrap any wholesome drug in; he would never light his tobacco with them. And those men almost named for miracles, who yet are so vile, that if a man should go about to examine and correct them, he must make all they have done but one blot. Their good is so entangled with their bad, as forcibly one must draw on the other's death with it. A sponge dipt in ink will do all :
Comitetur Punica librum
Et paulò post,
litura una litura potest.
LXX. Cestius.- Cicero.- Heath.— Taylor.- Spenser.Yet their vices have not hurt them : nay, a great many they have profited; for they have been loved for nothing else.
else. And this false opinion grows strong against the best men; if once it take root with the ignorant. Cestius, in his time, was preferred to Cicero, so far as the ignorant durst. They learned him without book, and had him often in their mouths: but a man cannot imagine that thing so foolish, or rude, but will find, and enjoy an admirer ; at least a reader, or spectator. The puppets are seen now in despight of the players : Heath's epigrams, and the Skuller's poems have their applause. There are never wanting, that dare prefer the worst preachers, the worst pleaders, the worst poets; not that the better have left to write, or speak better, but that they that hear them judge worse; Non illi pejus dicunt, sed hi corruptius judicant. Nay, if it were put to the question of the water-rhymer's works, against Spenser's, I doubt not but they would find more suffrages; because the most favour common vices, out of a prerogative the vulgar have to lose their judgments, and like that which is naught.
Poetry, in this latter age, hath proved but a mean mistress to such as have wholly addicted themselves to her, or given their names up to her family. They who have but saluted her on the by, and now and then tendered their visits, she hath done much for, and advanced in the way of their own professions (both the law and the gospel) beyond all they could
• Mart. lib. iv. epig. 10.
have hoped or done for themselves, without her
Indeed the multitude commend writers, as they do
multitude; only they differ in clothes, not in judgment or understanding
De Shakspeare nostrat.-Augustus in Hat.--I remember, the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakspeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, Would he had blotted a thousand. Which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who chose that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most faulted; and to justify mine own candour: for I loved the man, and do honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was indeed) honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent phantasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions; wherein he flowed with that facility,
that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped : Sufflaminandus erat, as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power, would the rule of it had been so too. Many times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter : as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him, “Cæsar thou dost me wrong.'
He replied, “ Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause," and such like ; which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his vices with his virtues. There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.
Ingeniorum discrimina. Not. 1. - In the difference of wits, I have observed there are many notes : and it is a little maistry to know them; to discern what every nature, every disposition will bear : for, before we sow our land, we should plough it. There are no fewer forms of minds, than of bodies amongst us. The variety is incredible, and therefore we must search. Some are fit to make divines, some poets, some lawyers, some physicians : some to be sent to the plough, and trades.
There is no doctrine will do good, where nature is wanting. Some wits are swelling and high; others low and still : some hot and fiery, others cold and dull; one must have a bridle, the other a spur.
Not. 2. There be some that are forward and bold; and these will do every little thing easily; I mean that is hard-by and next them, which they will utter unretarded without any shamefastness. These never perform much, but quickly. They are what they are, on the sudden ; they shew presently like grain, that scattered on the top of the ground, shoots up, but takes no root; has a yellow blade, but the ear empty. They are wits of good promise at first, but
there is an ingenistitium :P they stand still at sixteen,
Not. 3.—You have others, that labour only to
Not. 4.-Others, that in composition are nothing,
These men err not by chance, but knowingly and willingly; they are like men that affect a fashion by themselves, have some singularity in a ruff, cloak, or hat-band; or their beards specially cut to provoke beholders, and set a mark upon themselves. They would be reprehended, while they are looked on. And this vice, one that is authority with the rest, loving, delivers over to them to be imitated; so that oft-times the faults which he fell into, the others seek for : this is the danger, when vice becomes a precedent.
Not. 5.-Others there are that have no composition at all; but a kind of tuning and rhyming fall, in what they write. It runs and slides, and only makes a sound.' Women's poets they are called, as you have women's tailors;
They write a verse as smooth, as soft as cream;
In which there is no torrent, nor scarce stream. You may sound these wits, and find the depth of them with your middle finger. They are creambowl, or but puddle-deep. P A Wit-stand.
9 Martial. lib. xi. epig. 91.