1757 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Richard Hurd, in Letter to Mr. Mason on the Marks of Imitation (1757) 44.



His fine genius taught him to seize every beauty, and his wonderful judgment, to avoid ev'ry defect or impropriety, in his author. And this distinction is very material to our passing a right judgment on the merit of Imitators. It is commonly said, that their imitations fall short of their original. And they will do so, whatever the Genius of the Imitator be, if they are formed only on a general resemblance of the thought imitated. For an Inventor comprehends his own idea more distinctly and fully, and of course expresses his purpose better, than a casual Imitator. But the case is different, when a good writer studies the passages from which he borrows. For then he not only copies, but improves on the first idea; and thus there will frequently (as in the case of Pope) be greater merit in the Copyist, than the original.