1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gilbert West

Elizabeth Montagu to Joseph Warton, 17 September 1782; Wooll, Biographical Memoirs of Joseph Warton (1806) 396-97.



Critics that demand an ignorant submission, and implicit faith in their infallibility of judgment, or the councils of learned academics, passing decrees as arbitrary, could never establish a rational devotion to the Muses, or mark those boundaries which are rather guides than restraints. By the candour and impartiality with which you examine and decide on the merits of the ancient and moderns [in the Essay on Pope], we are all informed and instructed; and I will confess I feel myself inexpressibly delighted with the praises you give to the instructor of my early youth, Dr. Young, and the friends of my maturer age, Lord Lyttleton and Mr. West. Having ever considered the friendship of these excellent persons as the greatest honour of my life, and endeavouring hourly to set before me their precepts, and their examples, I could not but be highly gratified by seeing you place a guard of laurel round their tombs, which will secure them from any mischievous impressions envy may attempt to make. I do not love the wolf and the tiger, who assail the living passenger; but most of all beasts I abhore the vampire, who violates the tomb, profanes the sepulchre, and sucks the blood of sleeping men — cowardly, cruel, ungenerous monster! You and your Brother are critics of another disposition; too superior to be jealous, too good to be severe, you give encouragement to living authors, protection to the memories of those of former times, and instead of destroying monuments, you bestow them.