1729
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Essay in Defense of Piscatory Eclogue, in Piscatory Eclogues.

Piscatory Eclogues: an Essay to introduce new Rules, and new Characters, into Pastoral. To which is prefix'd, a Discourse in Defence of this Undertaking. With Practical and Philosophical Notes.

Rev. Moses Browne


Edmund Spenser receives a couple of brief mentions; Moses Browne's principal purpose is to defend his new manner of piscatory with its inclusion of natural history — georgic material tends to dominate eighteenth-century pastoral in all its varieties. Piscatory verse had been long disused, and had been ridiculed it in the Guardian essays on pastoral thought to be written by Joseph Addison. The original publication was anonymous. Not seen.

The real object of Moses Browne's imitation is not Sannazaro or Phineas Fletcher, but Isaac Walton's Compleat Angler, a piscatory in prose. Browne was apparently an autodidact; while nothing is seems to be known of his early life, he worked as a pen-cutter, a very humble occupation indeed. Perhaps the lack of education accounts for the fact that in the first edition Browne mistakenly identifies Phineas Fletcher as the subject of Milton's Lycidas. In the first edition in the preface is signed "Immerito" after Edmund Spenser.

W. Davenport Adams: "Moses Browne, clergyman and poet (b. 1703, d. 1787), wrote Poems on Various Subjects (1739); and Angling Sports, in Nine Piscatorial Eclogues (1773)" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 101.

Herbert E. Cory: "Browne, despite the choking dust and the mildew which his valiant or docile reader encounters in pulling him off the shelves of a twentieth century library, was a live figure in his day. His Piscatory Eclogues (1729) went through a number of editions in answer to a demand which seems to have remained unabated to the end of the century. Gay had not ruined the artificial pastorals for the Augustans. They were actively cultivated, as I have said, even within the portals of the nineteenth century. And in Browne's Essay in Defence of Piscatory Eclogue scoffers like Gay and Swift were scorned.... 'Clownish and low expressions, quaint obsolete phrases, on the one hand, though they cover a false and improper sentiment; and on the other, laboured turns of wit and amorous extravagancies, appear to be mistook by some, for its distinguishing graces.' The last sentence is doubtless a hit at Gay, whose enmity he defies by his defence of Philips" "Critics of Edmund Spenser" UCPMP (1911) 140-41.

Henry Marion Hall: "The introductory essay is an attempt to show that fishermen's activities are legitimate material for pastoral poetry. He takes exception to the view of critics who make Theocritus, Virgil, and Tasso the only writers of real pastorals, declaring that to these names should be added Spenser, John Fletcher, William Browne, Philips, Congreve, 'with many others.' He declares that the true spirit of pastoral is greatly misunderstood, and that clownish or low phrases, obsolete expressions, labored turns of wit, and amorous extravagances do not make good bucolics. He then shows that in the works acknowledged masters of pastoral song, Theocritus, Virgil, Tasso, and Spenser, there are frequent divergencies from the matter of strict bucolics, such, for instance, as the heroic pieces among the Sicilian idylls, and he recalls the saying of Sanazzaro that the pastoral is really a species of epic" Idylls of Fishermen (1944) 166-67.

An 1805 edition of Browne's Poems appears in the sale catalogue of Wordsworth's library; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 9:64.




Some Critics make a very nice Comparison between the Success of Heroic and Pastoral Poetry; they allow scarcely more than three have attempted either Sort to Advantage, notwithstanding there have been numerous Performers, in both Kinds, in several Ages, of different Abilities, and acknowledged Merit. There does not appear to me any Evidence of Reason or Facts (as is pretended) to support this fanciful Distinction: For besides THEOCRITUS, VIRGIL, AND TASSO, the Three pitch'd upon to have truly understood Pastoral, our SPENCER, MILTON, CONGREVE, (and I ask pardon if I am mistaken in adding Mr. PHILIPS too) deserve as much Praise, perhaps, for what they have given us of this Kind, as any who preceded them. Indeed the Nature of Pastoral is either not so well consider'd or understood, as from the innocent Beauty of the Subject one might reasonably expect it should. Clownish and low Expressions, tho' they cover a false and improper Sentiment, labour'd Turns of Wit, amorous Extravagances, &c. seem to be mistook by some for its distinguishing Graces. Nor is this at all to be wonder'd at; considering the Difference between the new and old World, he must have no ordinary Capacity, who, bred up in all the Forms and Delicacies of a Court, or tumultuous Luxuries of a City, can descend to the humble, quiet Plains, and there take a Survey of all that was naturally pleasing in those earliest, happiest Ages, without any Mixture of those ill Habits of the present: The Want of this singular Turn of Mind has occasioned many to despise this elegant Poem, imagining it an Entertainment unfit for their polite Education, while the Heroic has carry'd away their Esteem. It is not my Business to enquire into the Merits of Pastoral, but if we may judge of its Value by its Scarcity, it will bear as high Estimation as Epic Poetry, and in the Reverence which is due to Antiquity it will take place of it. It is so old, Grammarians are at a Loss to find out its Original, probably of as long standing as the World. And here will arise a considerable Argument in its Favour, that tho' it was the earliest and most universal Species of Poetry, the Parent of the Dramatic and Epic, and successively of all other Kinds; yet it arrived not to its Perfection till after them. HOMER had finished his Iliad before THEOCRITUS began his Idylliums; nay, there is that remarkable Affinity between 'em, that the Genius which is most capable of one is most peculiarly happy at attempting the other, and is naturally led to prosecute both: The same Breath which tunes the Shepherd's Reed can give full Harmony to the Warrior's Trumpet; THEOCRITUS himself is as signalized for his Hercules, or Castor, as he is for his Goat-herd, or Cyclops. VIRGIL, TASSO, AND SPENCER have discovered the same Abilities with like Success, and the Difference seems so nicely suspended, that it is hard to tell whether it is more difficult to hit the Majesty and Purity of Epic Poems, or the plain, simple Manners of Pastoral. Affectation in one is as hardly to be avoided, as Rusticity, or false Refinement, in the other. SINCERUS, I remember, (to bring the Comparison nearer) makes Pastoral a Species of Epic Poetry, which he says alters its Name according to the different Modes and Forms of its Imitation; as when we represent the Actions of great and illustrious Men, it is then Heroic Poetry, when of Shepherds and rural Characters, Pastoral. But what Reason can be given more effectually in Behalf of Pastoral, than the slow Progress of its Improvement? Slight inferior Structures we see brought to Perfection in an Age, or less; this requir'd many. For tho' we read of the Pastorals of DIOMUS, DAPHNIS, HIMERAEUS, the pretended Inventors of Bucolicks, yet they were either lost, or of little Esteem in THEOCRITUS'S Time; otherwise, according to the modish authorized Plagiarism in use, he would have inserted them into his Idylliums, that they might have been more effectually preserved, which was the intent of that Practice; but we find the Case directly contrary: For in an Epigram which he has prefix'd to his Poems, he assures us, that he never made use of any Verse that was not perfectly of his own composing. I think THEOCRITUS will be allow'd to be the first who established Pastoral upon any regular Foundation; the Idylliums of MOSCHUS and BION, by some attributed to him, being compos'd afterward, and not capable of a Comparison. But how happen'd it that from the Reign of PTOLOMY to that of AUGUSTUS, a Period of near three hundred Years, it lay wholly unattempted? VIRGIL was the first, according to his own Relation, who brought it into Italy:

Prima Syracuso dignata est ludere versu
Nostra.—

What occasion'd this strange Vacation? Was it from any Defect in the Subject? On the contrary, could there be any thing more simply delighting? It had the Golden Age for its Pattern, a Time describ'd with so many beautiful Advantages by the Poets, distinguish'd for the Leisure, Innocence, and Tranquillity of its Inhabitants, the agreeable Shades and Retirements Nature every where afforded them, and all that would admit of the largest Scope for poetical Ornament, that one must conclude, nothing but the Difficulty of writing Pastorals could dissuade Men from the Attempt: This, like other notable Atchievements, being obliged to wait, till Time, and the slow Advances of Nature, should raise up some peculiar Genius equal to the Undertaking.

If I have now recover'd any Esteem for this venerable, abus'd Remain of Antiquity, I shall yet, I fear, find it no ordinary Task to persuade some into an Opinion which seems to contradict its establish'd Rules. The Characters of Shepherds have been hitherto held the only universal Subjects of Pastoral. Hence the Commentators, SERVIUS on the Bucolics, and HEINSIUS, in his Scholia upon THEOCRITUS, allow but seven of VIRGIL'S Eclogues, and ten of the Idylliums, to be purely Pastoral. Meerly in respect to Names, we will confine it to the Persons of Shepherds only; but under this comprehensive Title are included Husband-men, Vine-dressers, Fishers, &c. as I will endeavour to make appear from the Nature of its Rules, and from the Practice of THEOCRITUS and VIRGIL themselves. RAPIN, in his discourse on Pastorals, has followed the general Humour; but he changes his Opinion so often, affirms and contradicts a Thing in the same Breath, and gives himself such Liberty of Conjecture, that his Arguments upon these Accounts will carry less Authority against me. We will take his own Definition of Pastoral: "Pastoral is the Imitation of the Action of a Shepherd, or one taken under that Character." And a little before; "There may be reckoned two Sorts of Imitation; one peculiar to Heroes, which makes the Heroic; the other to Rusticks and Shepherds, and that constitutes the Pastoral." So that he here allows it to consist of other rural Characters beside Shepherds; nay, he goes on to assert, that there is nothing so high and lofty to which it may not successfully aspire; insomuch that it may sometimes admit of Gods and Heroes, so they are manag'd with Judgment, and shrouded under the Persons of Shepherds. And further he seems to make of my Side, where he is of Opinion, that it may contain more Kinds of Subjects than VIRGIL has made use of; but he runs so fast away from the Mark, that one must be forc'd to take him at all Advantages to keep pace with him. If the Persons of Rusticks, as well as Shepherds, constitute the Eclogue, Why does he disallow those Idylliums of THEOCRITUS a Propriety, which have such very Persons for their Subjects? As particularly the Reapers, the two Fishers, both which Pieces, for their singular Simplicity of Sentiments, as well as Characters, are peculiarly beautiful and regular. If it may extend to high and lofty Matters, What room has he to exclude the twenty-ninth Idyllium, where HERCULES relates to PHYLEUS how he had kill'd the Nemean Lyon? The King AUGEAS, and his Son, are both represented by the Poet as Shepherds, and found by the Hero tending their Flocks: Or why is VIRGIL'S Pollio objected to, which contains so natural and fine a Representation of the Golden Age? If it may contain more Kinds of Subjects than VIRGIL has practis'd, may not Anglers, Fowlers, and other rural Employments, whose Leisure, Solitude, and innocent Manners, make them strictly conformable to the Rules of Eclogue, be reasonably and beautifully introduced? Who can have greater Leisure, or be led into more agreeable Contemplations than an Angler, peacefully seated on the shady Banks of a River at his quiet Recreation, attentively considering the gliding Streams, mingled Groves, Hills, and open Plains, the various Landscapes around him? Our French Critic has but one poor Objection to make against Use of such Characters, their Solitude, he says, will not admit of a Song. I agree with him; the Labour, Fatigue, and little Leisure of some Country Employments may unqualify them for such Amusements; but he has, upon another Occasion, attributed the first Rise of Pastorals to the extream Leisure and Solitude which attended a Shepherd's Life, which if requir'd in Pastoral Characters, is no where more remarkable than in those we are insisting for. It is easy to account why Shepherds have obtain'd the only Place in Pastoral; the Intent of this Poem was to imitate the envied Innocence of the primitive World; now as the Inhabitants in general were Shepherds, or employ'd in rustick Affairs, and since the Pastoral ow'd its Original to their Invention, succeeding Ages, willing to preserve the Memory of its Authors, limited it to their Persons only. But if their Practice was to be consider'd as a Rule, why did they not chuse their Shepherds of a more elevated Rank than the plain ordinary Natives of Sicily? PAN, APOLLO, or MERCURY, who were all of this Profession, wou'd have been better Names, and sung with more becoming Grace than DAMAETAS or CORYDON. But I shall wave this till I come to speak a little of the Language of Pastoral. The wretched Grammarians, from whom R. has taken his Division of THEOCRITUS, would be hard put to it to prove the Purity of all those ten Idylliums, by their Rules, which they have set apart as finish'd Pastorals, or excuse themselves for some they have rejected. What Title has the second, the Inchantment, to the genuine Class, into which it has got Admittance? The Speaker there is more likely to be taken for a Woman of Quality, than an humble Inhabitant of the Plain.

—ANAXO, EUBUL'S Daughter, neatly drest,
Begg'd me to go and see DIANA'S Feast.
—With her's my Nurse did all her Prayers unite.
—So forc'd, and finely drest in Pomp and State,
I went—

And again;

No Signs of Life did thro' my Limbs appear,

But I grew stiff, stiff as this Gold I wear.

There is no mention made throughout the whole Idyllium, of any thing that may be apply'd to the Character of a Shepherdess: Her Lover, whom she there conjures, is a Wrestler, a Town-ranger, a Debauchee: If this is Pastoral, even by their own narrow Rules, LUCIAN'S Dialogues, and HORACE'S Canidid may put in for a Title. I suppose because VIRGIL had an Eye to this, in his eighth Eclogue, they concluded it must pass unquestion'd; but he was sensible how far he had occasion to differ from his Master's Model in the Imitation; ALPHESIBAEUS makes a better Pastoral Figure than SAMAETHA. I would know too what it is that entitle the seventh Idyllium to a classical Right, more than some others of its Fellows that are put out of the number. SMICHIDAS, EUMENES, and AMINTAS, are invited out of the Town, an improper Residence for Swains, to celebrate the Cerealia, Rites attended by Husbandmen; and not the Palilia, the Festival of Shepherds; on the Way they meet the Goat-herd Lycidas, who inquires

What urgent Business makes thee leave the Town?

One would think, after this, he should hardly be a Keeper of Flocks; or if he was, as he seems to confess farther, a Herdsman, that he was exercis'd in Affairs of Husbandry too:

O may she often fill the fruitful Plain,
And may I tread the Reeks, and fix the Fan?

Here are Persons evidently brought in against their Rule, and others rejected, in all respects conformable to it; as in the twentieth Idyllium, particularly, of the slighted Shepherd, who I think is not us'd more uncivilly by his City Mistress, than he is by the Commentators. POLYPHEMUS, in the eleventh Idyllium, has other Work to do beside minding his Flocks. He upbraidingly bids himself

Go wreath thy Baskets, cut the tender Boughs.
Go mind thy Harvest Work, &c.

But VIRGIL abundantly mingles his Characters; they are Shepherds, Vine-dressers, Planters, all together. Let any Man read the Complaint of MELIBOEUS, and judge if he is not perfectly a Husbandman; he laments that he should plant and sow his Fields to be possess'd by others; that he had grafted his Pears, and pruned his Vines for Strangers. — The Passion of CORYDON is diverted by applying himself anew to the same rural Vocations; and in his seventh Eclogue he introduces himself mending his Fences, and binding his Myrtle Trees: But in the Tenth the whole Country is brought in, a general Rendezvous of Shepherds, Neatherds, SILVANUS, PAN, APOLLO, and all the rural Deities. So that from the Authority both of THEOCRITUS and VIRGIL'S Practice, be the Manners of the Speakers but adapted to the Simplicity of the Golden Age, let them have but Leisure for the Muses, and the Country for their Retirement, and whether they are Shepherds, Herdsmen, Anglers, Fishers, Fowlers, it is equally indifferent. Nature is a large Field for Contemplation, and the Observations which present themselves from Floods, Hills, Woods, Valleys, and Plains, and their various Orders of Inhabitants, may furnish the pastoral Poet with familiar and beautiful Ideas. There wants nothing but a leading Genius, rich in a happy Fancy, correct Judgment, and a well digested Choice of new and agreeable Subjects, to give us a Set of Pastorals more regular and pleasing, than any modern Age, however, can parallel. For there is not any Poem whose Nature and Design are more grossly mistaken than this, as it is ordinarily understood and practis'd. Its Characters are not more confin'd than they are ridiculous; you are not excus'd that your Persons are perfectly Shepherds, they must be Shepherds in Love, all Flame! and Rapture! or you fail in your Attempt. Let it be ever so inconvenient for you, this is your Rule, it is the leading Inclination; Love governs our other Passions, and seems to be inseparable from all our Undertakings:

Omnia vincit Amor, & nos cedamus Amori,

is a more general Rule in all Kinds of Poetry, than the most necessary Precept of ARISTOTLE, or HORACE. This which makes the Sublime in Epics, the Tender in Tragedy, the Genteel in Comedy, and the Humourous in Lyrics, gives also the finishing Grace to Pastoral. All the Shepherds have to do, is to meet under the shady Myrtle, quarrel, pipe, and sing Catches about their Sweet-hearts. And upon this Mr. DRYDEN very judiciously reproves our common Eclogue-Writers; for except the Words Sheep, and Flocks, here and there inconsistently mingled, one might mistake their Poems for the courtly Epistles of OVID, or the furious Passions of SAPHO, rather than imagine them the pastoral Courtship of AMINTAS or STREPHON: Their Shepherds express their Desires in a very different Manner from those in Arcadia. 'Tis true, Solitude is a great Motive to Love; but cannot it discreetly take up a Part of our Cares and Time, without engrossing all? We are obliged to the Italians and French for the eternal Phylissing. Methinks a Shepherd describing the Pleasures of the Country, and his own innocent, happy Condition; an Angler singing of Rivers, the Breed, Haunts, and Nature of Fish, or a Fowler at his pleasant, artful Recreation, sitting under a green Shade, watching his Nets, and chaunting a rural Song concerning his feathery Subjects (admitting a few Heats of Love between) might be so manag'd and adapted to Eclogue, as to acquire general Esteem, as well for their easy, instructive Philosophy, as their entertaining Variety. It might be imagin'd that Angling, an Exercise so gentle, and such a Friend to Contemplation, should need no Arguments to recommend it to the Regard and Practice of a wise and thinking Man; it seems so free from the Hazards and Fatigues of most other Recreations, and those ill Habits and Disorders which many of them breed in Mind and Body, that one would think it was the innocent Diversion of the infant World, and the fittest, and most commendable Subject for pastoral Poetry to be employ'd in. It has had Charms to captivate the most Illustrious as well as the most contrary Minds. ANTONY and CLEOPATRA are both reported to have delighted in it, amid all their Luxury and Grandeur; and the sober CICERO, in his learned Retirement. Of our own Nation, that famous Dr. NOWEL, Dean of St. Paul's, in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth; Mr. PHINEAS FLETCHER (who himself wrote Piscatory Eclogues; Dr. DONNE, Sir FRANCIS BACON, Sir HENRY WOTTON, Men of extraordinary Reputation and Rank, have done the same; the latter of which us'd to say, that it was an Employment for his leisure Hours, which were not then idly spent; for Angling was, after tedious Study, a Rest to his Mind, a Cheerer of his Spirits, a Diverter of Sadness, a Calmer of unquiet Thoughts, a Moderator of Passions, a Procurer of Contentedness, and that it begot Habits of Peace and Patience with those who profess'd and practis'd it. I would here recommend an ingenious Discourse, The Compleat Angler, a Treatise compos'd long ago by the experienc'd Mr. Isaac Walton on that Art. Whoever reads the elaborate Apology, curious Instructions, natural Descriptions, the pleasant, moral, and learned Digressions of that engaging Author, will return fully possess'd with a Love to the Subject; it will insinuate frequently into his Reading; a thousand unwearied Times. I found by the Dialogues of his Anglers, how properly such Characters would suit with the innocent and humble Rules of Eclogue; and they may have this Advantage, that the Phrase need not be so low and clownish as the Legislators of Pastoral require in their Swains. I profess I see no Reason in their Rule; if the Sentiment be suitable, decent, and humble, many not he Expression be choice and elegant, pure as the Language will admit, which is somewhat agreeable to RAPIN, without rising to an Error? It may shine of the Polish, and yet not glitter with Gold. If Pastoral Diction were regulated by the Manners and Conversations of the Golden Age, we should have both more refin'd than any we are acquainted with; we rather draw our Shepherds contemptible Figures of the rude, undisciplined Rusticks of our own Times, than imitate them from the ancient Pastors, Kings, and Gods. We may see what Capacities they were enriched with, by the Writings of MOSES, HESIOD, and DAVID, who were all Shepherds; by the extensive Knowledge they were furnish'd with, and by the many great Discoveries they have made of Sciences and Arts which are justly ascrib'd to them. It was a Chaldean Shepherd that first made known to the Egyptians (from whence the Greeks learnt it) the Mystery of the Creation. They were Shepherds who first invented and taught Mankind the Use of Tillage and Husbandry, the Rudiments of Music, of Mathematics, and Astronomy. We should not therefore, with all these high Endowments, imagine it is deviating from their Characters to make 'em Civil and Ingenious, and for fear of drawing 'em Courtiers make them Savages; the Golden Mean is to be observed, and if I have, in some Places, made my Swains a little too well bred for the Country, it was because I thought my Subject was not straitened, nor my Speakers limited to all the slavish Forms which Pastoral Critics usually require. I have been cautious, however, not to soar out of my Reach; and, as ingenious BOILEAU expresses it,

Amid the Eclogue make the Trumpet sound,

We find that attending too strictly to low and coarse Manners and Language has mislead THEOCRITUS, MANTUAN, and even VIRGIL himself, as is most apparent in his Account of SILENUS'S Song,

Ille canit: pulsae referunt ad sidera valles.

Perhaps a Strain too high for the groveling Followers of MACROBIUS, VALLA, VOSSIUS, &c. to imitate. There is a Distinction to be made (at least sometimes) between the Discourse of Shepherds, and the Poet speaking in his own Character, which is the Case here. Tho' VIRGIL is, in a great many Things, like other bright Originals, more to be wonder'd at than copy'd after, his Name will excuse several bold Liberties, which in another might not escape without severe Reprehension. I presume I shall fall under no Suspicion of meriting this Penance, by any unauthoriz'd Freedoms I have taken. The most partial Admirer of Shepherds in Pastorals cannot be displeas'd to find their Swains angling by a clear Stream, or fowling in a remote Shade, any more than they would be to encounter them mending their Fences, or pruning their Vines. Fishers, indeed, following their laborious Employments on the Main, cannot be so properly reduced to their Taste, nor are these the most elegant Subjects. If they can be lawfully us'd in Eclogue, it must be but sparingly done, and then manag'd with Caution and Art, or they will appear with no manner of Advantage. I have made choice of 'em once, and that chiefly because the manifest View of my Undertaking was to try how a Mixture of Characters, and a designed Variety of Subjects would become this Poem; nor have I more than one Eclogue with Fowlers, all the rest are taken up with Shepherds and Anglers; though I am perfectly well satisfy'd of the Propriety and Scope of that Argument, and should certainly have attempted something more upon it here, if I had not reserved that Subject for another Work, which I had then partly begun, but have long since laid aside, my Genius having for a considerable Time past been led into quite a different Turn of Writing. I am flatter'd to believe my Endeavours would meet with a more favourable Acceptance, if SANAZARIUS had never wrote his Sea-Eclogues; the Exercise of Fishing appears so contemptible in him, that any one who writes on the same Subject afterwards, will probably be accounted, if not a dull Imitator, yet a very barren Original. His Oysters and Crayfish are serv'd perpetually over, without any Change between, and you may crack your Teeth before you get at his Entertainment. His Water-Swains differ in no respect from our simple ones on Land, only that he turns them to Sea in an old tatter'd Boat, and so leaves them to seek their Fortunes. Rocks, Waves, and desert Shores are their insensible Retinue. How unlike the Attendants upon MILTON'S pastoral pipe!

Rough Satyrs danc'd, and Fawns, with cloven Heel,
From the glad Sound, would not be absent long,
And old Damoetas lov'd to hear our Song.
LYCIDAS.

I might here conclude, yet shall not be excus'd, perhaps, if I don't enlarge a little farther, in relation to some Parts of the ensuing Work, which, it may be thought, require a Defence. I leave little Particulars, which may probably be objected against, and will only regard what seems most open to Censure. The Fifth and Seventh Eclogues exceed the Length which is usual to Pastoral; yet LYCIDAS falls but a few lines short of mine, and some of Mr. CONGREVE'S, I believe, exceed it: It might be urg'd, that the same Error has been objected to in THEOCRITUS, neither has VIRGIL escap'd, in those first Pastorals, which he compos'd at Mantua. I have said somewhat the more, because I have been told, that these two Eclogues of mine, viz. COLIN'S Despair, and the Strife, and I might add the Second Eclogue, the Nocturnal, have a Pretence to some little Merit above their Fellows. As to the first of them, I own I had Ambition to be the only Poet who had hitherto ever attempted any thing in that new Manner since MILTON. It has a long Time been Matter of Wonder to me, that among so many Admirers and Imitators of that great Man, none have taken notice of this incomparable Poem, so perfectly Original, which I can never read, for my own Part, without the same Veneration and Partiality which is paid to the most accomplish'd Works of Antiquity. The Narration in the Seventh Eclogue must be defended by the same Practice in the 20th and some other Idyllium of THEOCRITUS, as well as in VIRGIL'S Silenus: But if modern Precedents may be alleged, I shall more properly refer to a well known Pastoral by Mr. PHILIPS, which he has beautifully imitated from STRADA'S Nightingale. It may be requisite I should offer something in favour of the Notes, which I have subjoined to several Places of the Book. It may be objected, perhaps, beside the common Charge of Pedantry and Redundancy, that all Notes suppose one or other of these two Things, either that the Reader is ignorant, and wants Information, or the Author obscure, and under a Necessity of explaining himself; and so the Writer has only his Choice left, in the Dilemma, which he will please to declare himself Clown, or Fool.

I have been careful to avoid, as much as possible, each of these Exceptions:

First, By never using any Note by way of Illustration of one Name or Circumstance in Poetical Mythology, Chronology, History, &c. (which is the Business of Dictionaries, and has been the usual Fault of Annotators) except where I have inserted some pertinent and private Remarks from Natural, and a very few from Geographical History (as in the Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh Eclogues more particularly) which I hope, in their Places, will not be judged superfluous or unentertaining.

Secondly, By endeavouring to express the Poetical Sense so clear and full, as that the Note annexed should convey no additional Light, (another frequent Error) but only serve as an Authority on my Side, where I apprehend the Singularity or Novelty of the Passage might be called into Dispute. These brief Particulars may serve, once for all, as my Reasons for this Practice in other Parts of the following Volume.

Add besides, that they do not every where present themselves, and then generally contain some necessary and less known Precepts in Angling, or new (if not sometimes curious) Observations in Philosophy. There remains nothing now, but that I submit my Endeavours to the Consideration of the Candid and Ingenious, having the Pleasure to believe, from a Reflection on the Peculiarity and Delicacy of my Subject, that I shall have few, if any, others for my Readers.


[(1739) 1-25]