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Discourses on Satire and Epic Poetry by John Dryden

Part 4 out of 4

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this last office:-

"Extremum hunc, Arethusa; . . .
. . . neget quis carmina Gallo?"

Neither am I to forget the noble present which was made me by
Gilbert Dolben, Esq., the worthy son of the late Archbishop of York,
who (when I began this work) enriched me with all the several
editions of Virgil and all the commentaries of those editions in
Latin, amongst which I could not but prefer the Dauphin's as the
last, the shortest, and the most judicious. Fabrini I had also sent
me from Italy, but either he understands Virgil very imperfectly or
I have no knowledge of my author.

Being invited by that worthy gentleman, Sir William Bowyer, to
Denham Court, I translated the first Georgic at his house and the
greatest part of the last AEneid. A more friendly entertainment no
man ever found. No wonder, therefore, if both these versions
surpass the rest; and own the satisfaction I received in his
converse, with whom I had the honour to be bred in Cambridge, and in
the same college. The seventh AEneid was made English at Burghley,
the magnificent abode of the Earl of Exeter. In a village belonging
to his family I was born, and under his roof I endeavoured to make
that AEneid appear in English with as much lustre as I could, though
my author has not given the finishing strokes either to it or to the
eleventh, as I perhaps could prove in both if I durst presume to
criticise my master.

By a letter from William Walsh, Esq., of Abberley (who has so long
honoured me with his friendship, and who, without flattery, is the
best critic of our nation), I have been informed that his Grace the
Duke of Shrewsbury has procured a printed copy of the Pastorals,
Georgics, and six first AEneids from my bookseller, and has read
them in the country together with my friend. This noble person
(having been pleased to give them a commendation which I presume not
to insert) has made me vain enough to boast of so great a favour,
and to think I have succeeded beyond my hopes; the character of his
excellent judgment, the acuteness of his wit, and his general
knowledge of good letters, being known as well to all the world as
the sweetness of his disposition, his humanity, his easiness of
access, and desire of obliging those who stand in need of his
protection are known to all who have approached him, and to me in
particular, who have formerly had the honour of his conversation.
Whoever has given the world the translation of part of the third
Georgic (which he calls "The Power of Love") has put me to
sufficient pains to make my own not inferior to his; as my Lord
Roscommon's "Silenus" had formerly given me the same trouble. The
most ingenious Mr. Addison, of Oxford, has also been as troublesome
to me as the other two, and on the same account; after his bees my
latter swarm is scarcely worth the hiving. Mr. Cowley's praise of a
country life is excellent, but it is rather an imitation of Virgil
than a version. That I have recovered in some measure the health
which I had lost by too much application to this work, is owing
(next to God's mercy) to the skill and care of Dr. Guibbons and Dr.
Hobbs (the two ornaments of their profession), whom I can only pay
by this acknowledgment. The whole faculty has always been ready to
oblige me, and the only one of them who endeavoured to defame me had
it not in his power. I desire pardon from my readers for saying so
much in relation to myself which concerns not them; and with my
acknowledgments to all my subscribers, have only to add that the few
notes which follow are par maniere d'acquit, because I had obliged
myself by articles to do somewhat of that kind. These scattering
observations are rather guesses at my author's meaning in some
passages than proofs that so he meant. The unlearned may have
recourse to any poetical dictionary in English for the names of
persons, places, or fables, which the learned need not, but that
little which I say is either new or necessary, and the first of
these qualifications never fails to invite a reader, if not to
please him.

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