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O fhall not trouble the Reader
with any long Difcourse before
the following Sheets, thinking 21 it sufficient to inform him of o the - Cause of my Writing
them, the Method I have follow'd, and the Authors I have consulted in this Undertaking.. . · The Love, Value and Honour I have always had for an Art fo antiert, so illustrious, and lo ufèfirl, as that of PO'ERTY, furnili'i the Motive to my Labour. · For I had 10g seen with Regret the Alurance of Pretenders to it, and the Abuses that from almost a total Ignorance of it, had brought it into a negiect with neft, and into a Contempt with Miny," while the Erglish World, that knew little of the Antients, judged of the à 4
Excellence of Poetry by the rude Draughts of the general Scriblers of the Age, and finding nothing great, nothing wonderful in these, unjustly conclude that the Art it self is but a meer Trifle below a serious Thought, which has drawn Dissuasives from our Study of it, from so great and judicious a Person as Mr. Lock in his Discourse of Education. So different was his Opinion from that of Petroniis Arbiter, who advises all those who intend to apply their Minds to any thing great, to employ their first Approaches to Letters in the Study of Verle. But Mr. Lock chiefly considering the Education of an English Gentleman, justly suppos'd, that his Pupils Application to Poetical Writers, would scarce ever light up that Fire, which should warm the Heart to great A&ions, and the embracing of Virtues useful to the Public.
But if Mr. Lock had been to write of this Art, and confider'd it as it was handed down to us from Homer, Virgil, Pindar, Hurace, Sophocles, Euripides, and the like, he would with Milton, as great a Man as himself in all kind of Literature, have recommerded the Poets to the Study of his Pupil, as that admirable Poet does in his Discourse of Education to Mr. Hartlıb; but Milton's Notion of Poetry, was not what will fit
people, nat the bil Initteith the lie 18
our common Authors, as will be plain from his Words, which I shall quote before I have done this Preface.
To remove therefore this Ignorance of our Writers and Readers of Poesy, which has debas'd the Honour of this Mother of all Learning, was the Cause of my
Undertaking, by giving our Englih World · those Rules, by the Observation of which,
Homer, Virgil, and the rest of the Antients gain'd immortal Reputation.
On the other side, I knew very well that it was a Matter of no small difficulty to reason People, out of Follies establish'd by Custom; and that the generál Run of a roisy Party, was against all Instructions in this Kind, which they branded with the unpapular Name of Criticism, which by the Ignorant Writers in Vogue, has been misrepresented as an ill-natur’d Thing; and that too many Learned Men in several Languages, by a jejune way of handling this Art, had incumber'd its Maxims with Abundance of hard Terms, which not being obvious to to every Reader, render'd their Discoveries however valuable, rot lo inviting as to engage the Perusal of those who stood most in need of them.
Monsieur Fontennelle's Book of the Plurality of Worlds, so much prais'd by Sir William
Kindly, was againn general Run of
Temple in his Essays, and plac'd by him in the next Form to the Antients, made me think of another Method than had hitherto generally been follow'd by the Critical Writers. For he has brought the three Systems of Astronomy by a pleasing and familiar Dress to the Capacity of a Lady, who had not any Learning, and nothing but good Senfe to direct her.
I have endeavor'd in the following Sheets, to come as near his Method as the Difference of my Subject from his would bear; where I was upon Generals, as the defence of Poetry, and the necessity of the Rules, I hope I have thown this; but being in other Parts oblig'd to fpeak of the particular Rules of every sort of Poetry, all I could do was to deliver them as plainly, and as difencumber'd from Term's of Art as I possibly cou'd, and I think through the whole I have made use of no Word which is not familiar ro every Capacity, that knows any thing of the World. In the last Diáloglie indeed, where I was oblig'd to speak of the several Poetical Feet of the Greek and Latin Verse, there was no avoiding putting their proper Names, but I have taken care so to explain them, that every one, may be Master of what I advance.
I ain far from aiming to impose what I deliver as all my own. I write the Complete Art of Poetry, and therefore am under a neceffity to give the Rules convey'd down to us, which have been establish'd these two Thousand Years and upwards. All I pretend to, is, that I hope I have done this in a plain and easy Manner, so as not to tire my Reader, and yet give him a full Inftrucion in the Art. And this leads me to the Authors I have consulted. Whatever I found of use to my Design in Aristotle (chicfly) in Horace, Dionyfius of Halicarnafns, Boileau, Rapin, Dat cier, Gerard Vollins's Poetical Institutions, the late Duke of Buckingham's Rehearsal, Mr. Rimer, the present Duke of Buckinghamshire's. moft excellent Efay on Puetry, Mr. Dennis, or any other I have made bold with ; so that my Reader will have the Satisfaction of great and illuftrious Inftru&ors, when he perufes my Book.
Having gone through the three Heads proposed by me for this Preface, I find I am oblig'd to add something more on Account of another Book in our Tongue, which at first View may seem to be of the same Nature, ard that is Mr. Busshe's Art of English Poetry, with a Colle&tion, &c. But I had no Thoughts of interfering with him, and indeed I do not;'we propose quite different