That praises are
without reason
lavished upon the DEAD
and that the honors due
only to excellence
are paid to ANTIQUITY,
is a complaint
likely always to be continued by those, who,
being able to add nothing to truth,
hope for eminence from the heresies of PARADOX;
or those, who,
being forced by disappointment
upon consolatory expedients,
are willing to hope from posterity
what the PRESENT AGE refuses,
and flatter themselves
that the regard which is YET DENIED BY ENVY,
will at last be bestowed by TIME.

like every other quality
that attracts the notice of mankind,
has undoubtedly
votaries that REVERENCE it,
not from reason,
but from PREJUDICE.
Some seem to admire indiscriminately
whatever has been long preserved,
without considering that TIME has sometimes cooperated
with CHANCE;
all perhaps are more willing
to honor PAST than PRESENT
and the mind contemplates GENIUS
through the shades of AGE,
as the eye surveys the sun
through artificial opacity.


The great contention of criticism
is to find
the faults of the moderns,
and the beauties of the ancients.


While an author is yet living
we estimate his powers
by his WORST performance,
and when he is dead,
we rate them by
his BEST.

To works, however,
of which the EXCELLENCE
is not Absolute and Definite,
but gradual and COMPARATIVE;
to works not raised upon
principles Demonstrative and Scientific,
but appealing wholly to
Observations and Experience,
no other test can be applied than
LENGTH of duration
and CONTINUANCE of esteem.


What mankind have
long possessed
they have often
examined and compared;
and if they
persist to value the possession,
it is because
frequent comparisons have
confirmed opinion
in its favor.


As among the works of nature
no man can properly call
a river deep,
or a mountain high,
without the knowledge of
many mountains, and many rivers,
so in the productions of GENIUS,
nothing can be styled excellent
till it has been compared with
other works of the same kind.


immediately displays its power,
and works
tentative and experimental
must be estimated by their proportion
to the general and collective
ability of man,
as it is discovered
in a long succession of ENDEAVORS.

Of the first building that was raised,
it might with certainty
be determined that it was round or square;
but whether it was
spacious or lofty
must have been referred to

The Pythagorean scale of numbers was at once
discovered to be perfect;
but the poems of Homer
we yet know
to transcend the common limits
of human intelligence,
but by remarking,
that nation after nation,
and century after century,
has been able to do little more
than transpose his incidents,
new-name his characters,
and paraphrase his sentiments.

The reverence due to
writings that have
arises therefore not from any
credulous confidence
in the superior wisdom of past ages,
or gloomy persuasion
of the degeneracy of mankind,
but is the consequence of
acknowledged and indubitable positions,
that what has been
has been
and what is most considered
is best

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