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When I read Monsieur de Voltaire ’s Essay on the epic poetrv of ali the European tiations front Homer doivn to Milton (i) and found it fíUed with so many contemptuous reflections on the language and works of the ItaUans, I thought the author should rather ha\e written it in his own language, than have dishonoured that of England hy making it the conveyance of his impertinence.
I could not without astonishment obsen’e that an author so excellent in his own language could utter so many absurdities in English; that a man so circumspect and judicious when he writes upon history, which is not his peculiar province, should be guilt>’ of so many gross errors when he treats of poetry, which is his true and naturai element.
It could not indeed be expected that he should perfectly understand Italian; yet he is perhaps acquainted with Latin and therefore might have read above fífty of our authors, who attained to purity little inferior to that of Virg^ himself. And if he hath read them, how could he imagine, that they who wrote so well in a dead language should fili their works with miserable witticism, quibbles and conceits in their own, as he falsely assures us? I know not by what claim he presumes to despise a nation that singly hath done more to re-establish reason on her throne than ali the rest of the world together, and which, if four ages of literature be reckoned’^), hath had two, and those two the brightest, for her own share.
(i) London, printed by Samuel Jaltasson, 1727.
(2) Mr. Voltaire, in his Siècle de Louis U grand, reckons up four ages of