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gnomon of his countenance. The mirth of the commons grew so very outrageous, that it found work for our friend of the quorum, who, by the help of his amanuensis, took down all their names and their crimes, with a design to produce his manuscript at the next quarter sessions, &c. &c. &c.'
I shall subjoin to the foregoing piece of a letter the following copy of verses translated from an Italian poet, who was the Cleveland of his age, and had multitudes of admirers. The subject is an accident that happened under the reign of pope Leo, when a fire-work, that had been prepared upon the castle of St. Angelo, began to play before its time, being kindled by a flash of lightning. The author hath written his poem in the same kind of style as that I have already exemplified in prose. Every line in it is a riddle, and the reader must be forced to consider it twice or thrice, before he will know that the Cynic's tenement is a tub, and Bacchus's cast-coat a hogshead, &c.
* ( 'Twas night, and heaven, a Cyclops all the day,
* The following copy of verses is a translation from the Latin in Strada's Prolusiones Academicæ, &c. and an imitation originally of the style and manner of Camillo Querno, surnamed the Arch-poet. His character and his writings were equally singular; he was poet and buffoon to Leo. X., and the common butt of that facetous pontiff and his courriers. See Stradæ Prolusiones, Oxon. 1745, p. 244 ; and Bayle's Dictionary, art. Leo. X,
The pile, still big with undiscover'd shows, The Tuscan pile, did last its freight disclose, Where the proud tops of Rome's new Ætna rise, Whence giants sally, and invade the skies.
Whilst now the multitude expect the time,
"The clouds envelop'd heav'n from human sight,
“Tall groves of trees the Hadrian tower surround,
Unwillingly they fall, and dropping down,
• With joy, great sir, we view'd this pompous show,
N° 618. WEDNESDAY, NOV. 10, 1714.
Neque enim concludere versum
Hor. 1 Sat. iv. 40.
you some remarks
MR. SPECTATOR, You having, in your two last Spectators, given the town a couple of remarkable letters in
different styles, I take this opportunity to offer to
upon the epistolary way of writing in verse. This is a species of poetry by itself : and has not so much as been hinted at in any of the Arts of Poetry that have ever fallen into my hands; neither has it in any age, or any nation, been so much cultivated as the other several kinds of
poesy. A man of genius may, if he pleases, write letters in verse upon all manner of subjects that are capable of being embellished with wit and language, and may render them new and agreeable by giving the proper turn to them. But, in speaking at present
of epistolary poetry, I would be understood to mean only such writings in this kind as have been in use amongst the ancients, and have been copied from them by some moderns. These may be reduced into two classes: in the one I shall range love-letters, letters of friendship, and letters upon mournful occasions; in the other I shall place such epistles in verse as may properly be called familiar, critical, and moral; to which may be added letters of mirth and humour. Ovid for the first, and Horace for the latter, are the best originals we have left.
• He, that is ambitious of succeeding in the Ovidian way, should first examine his heart well, and feel whether his passions (especially those of the gentler kind) play easy; since it is not his wit, but the delicacy and tenderness of his sentiments, that will affect his readers. His versification likewise should be soft, and all his numbers flowing and querulous.
The qualifications requisite for writing epistles, after the model given us by Horace, are of a quite different nature. He that would excel in this kind must have a good fund of strong masculine sense : to this there must be joined a thorough knowledge of mankind, together with an insight into the business and the prevailing humours of the age.
Our author must have his mind well-seasoned with the finest precepts of morality, and be filled with nice reflections
the bright and dark sides of human life; he must be a master of refined raillery, and understand the delicacies as well as the absurdities of conversation. He must have a lively turn of wit, with an easy and concise manner of expression; every thing he says must be in a free and disengaged
He must be guilty of nothing that betrays the air of a recluse, but appear a man of the world
throughout. His illustrations, his comparisons, and the greatest part of his images, must be drawn from common life. Strokes of satire and criticism, as well as panegyric, judiciously thrown in (and as it were by the bye), give a wonderful life and ornament to compositions of this kind. But let our poet, while he writes epistles, though never so familiar, still remember that he writes in verse, and must for that reason have a more than ordinary care not to fall into prose, and a vulgar diction, excepting where the nature and humour of the thing do necessarily require it. In this point Horace hath been thought by some critics to be sometimes careless, as well as too negligent‘of his versification ; of which he seems to have been sensible himself.
• All I have to add is, that both these manners of writing may be made as entertaining, in their way, as any other species of poetry, if undertaken by persons duly qualified; and the latter sort may be managed so as to become in a peculiar manner instructive. I am, &c.'
I shall add an observation or two to the remarks of my ingenious correspondent; and, in the first place, take notice, that subjects of the most sublime nature are often treated in the epistolary way with advantage, as in the famous epistle of Horace to Augustus. The poet surprises us with his pomp, and seems rather betrayed into his subject than to have aimed at it by design. He appears, like the visit of a king incognito, with a mixture of familiarity and grandeur. În works of this kind, when the dignity of the subject hurries the poet into descriptions and sentiments seemingly unpremeditated, by a sort of inspiration, it is usual for him to recollect himself, and fall back gracefully into the natural style of a letter.