As the reasonable De La Bruyere observes, "Qui ne sait étre un ERASME, doit penser à étre un EVEQUE."

POPE'S WORKS, vol. IV. p. 321. with the Commentaries and Notes of Mr. WARBURTON.


..... a most clear, elegant, and deci­sive Work of Criticism, which could not, indeed, derive Authority from the greatest Name, but to which the Note: This Book is ascribed, and I think with great Proba­bility, to the very learned and ingenious Author, to whom the Public is indebted for the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Be the Writer who he will, the Reader will say with me, that the Work is, [...]. Tracts by Warburton and a Warburtonian, Page 192. greatest Name might, with Propriety, have been affixed.


THE Allegorical Interpretation which the Bishop of Glocester has given of the Sixth Book of the Aeneid, seems to have been very favourably received by the Public. Many writers, both at home and abroad, have mentioned it with approbation, or at least with esteem; and I have more than once heard it alledged, in the conversation of scholars, as an ingenious improvement on the plain and obvious sense of Virgil. As such, it is not undeserving of the notice of a candid critic; nor can the enquiry be void of enter­tainment, whilst Virgil is our constant theme. [Page 2] Whatever may be the fortune of the chace, we are sure it will lead us through pleasant prospects and a fine country.

That I may escape the imputation as well as the danger of misrepresenting his Lordship's Hypothesis, I shall expose it in his own words. ‘The purpose of this Discourse is to shew that Aeneas's adventure to the INFERNAL SHADES, is no other than a figurative description of his INITIATION INTO THE MYSTERIES; and particularly a very exact one of the SPECTA­CLES of the ELEUSINIAN1.’ This gene­ral notion is supported with singular ingenuity, dressed up with an easy yet pompous display of Learning, and delivered in a style much fitter for the Hierophant of Eleusis, than for a Mo­dern Critic, who is observing a remote object through the medium of a glimmering and doubtful light: ‘Ibant obscuri, solâ sub nocte, per umbram.’

His Lordship naturally enough pursues two different methods which unite, as he apprehends, in the same conclusion. From general prin­ciples peculiar to himself, he infers the pro­priety [Page 3] and even necessity of such a Description of the Mysteries; and from a comparison of particular circumstances he labours to prove that Virgil has actually introduced it into the Aeneid. Each of these methods shall be consi­dered separately.

As the learned Prelate's Opinions branch themselves out into luxuriant Systems, it is not easy to resume them in a few words. I shall, however, attempt to give a short idea of those general principles, which occupy, I know not how, so great a share of the Divine Legation of Moses demonstrated.

‘The whole System of Paganism, of which the Mysteries were an essential part, was instituted by the Antient Lawgivers for the support and benefit of Society. The my­steries themselves were a School of Morality and Religion, in which the vanity of Po­lytheism2, and the Unity of the First Cause, were revealed to the Initiated. Virgil, who intended his immortal Poem for a Re­public in action, as those of Plato and [Page 4] Tully were in precept, could not avoid dis­playing this first and noblest art of Govern­ment. His perfect Law-giver must be initiated, as the antient Founders of States had been before him; and as Augustus him­self was many ages afterwards.’

What a crowd of natural reflections must occur to an unblassed mind! Was the civil ma­gistrate the mover of the whole machine; the sole contriver, or at least the sole support of Religion? Were antient laws ALWAYS designed for the benefit of the people, and NEVER for the private interest of the Lawgiver? Could the first fathers of rude societies instruct their new­made subjects in philosophy as well as in agri­culture? Did they all agree, in Britain as in Egypt, in Persia as in Greece, to found these secret schools on the same common principle; which subsisted near eighteen hundred years at Eleusis 3 in its primaeval purity? Can these things be? Yes, replies the learned prelate; they are: ‘Egypt was the mysterious mother of Religion and Policy; and the arts of Egypt were diffused with her colonies over the antient World. Inachus carried the My­steries [Page 5] into Greece, Zoroaster into Persia4 &c. &c.’—I retire from so wide a field, in which it would be easy for me to lose both myself and my adversary. THE ANTIENT WORLD, EIGHTEEN CENTURIES, and FOUR HUN­DRED AUTHORS GENUINE AND APOCRYPHAL5 [Page 6] would, under tolerable management, furnish some volumes of controversy; and since I have perused the two thousand and fourteen pages of the unfinished Legation, I have less inclina­tion than ever to spin out volumes of laborious trifles.

I shall, however, venture to point out a fact, not very agreeable to the favourite notion, that Paganism was entirely the Religion of the ma­gistrate. The Oracles were not less antient, nor less venerable than the Mysteries. Every diffi­culty, religious or civil, was submitted to the decision of those infallible tribunals. During several ages no war could be undertaken, no colony founded, without the sanction of the Delphic Oracle; the first and most celebrated amongst several hundred others6. Here then we might expect to perceive the directing hand of the magistrate. Yet when we study their history with attention, instead of the Alli­ance between Church and State, we can only discover the antient Alliance between the [Page 7] Avarice of the Priest and the Credulity of the People.

For my own part, I am very apt to consi­der the Mysteries in the same light as the Oracles. An intimate connection subsisted be­tween them7: Both were preceded and ac­companied with fasts, sacrifices, and lustra­tions; with mystic sights and preternatural sounds: But the most essential preparation for the ASPIRANT, was a general confession of his past life, which was exacted of him by the Priest. In return for this implicit confidence, the Hiero­phant conferred on the Initiated a sacred cha­racter; and promised them a peculiar place of happiness in the Elysian fields, whilst the souls of the Profane (however virtuous they had been) were wallowing in the mire8. Nor did the Priests of the Mysteries neglect to re­commend to the brethren a spirit of friendship, and the love of virtue; so pleasing even to the most corrupt minds, and so requisite to render any society respectable in its own eyes. Of all [Page 8] these religious societies, that of Eleusis was the most illustrious. From being peculiar to the inhabitants of Attica, it became at last common to the whole Pagan world. Indeed, I should suspect that it was much indebted to the genius of the Athenian writers, who bestowed fame and dignity on whatever had the least connection with their country; nor am I surprised that Cicero and Atticus, who were both initiated, should express themselves with enthusiasm, when they speak of the sacred rites of their beloved Athens.

But our curiosity is yet unsatisfied; we would press forwards into the sanctuary; and are eager to learn, WHAT was the SECRET which was reveal­ed to the Initiated, and to them alone. Many of the Profane, possessed of leisure and ingenuity, haved tried to guess, what has been so religiously concealed. The SECRET of each is curious and philosophical; for as soon as we attempt this Enquiry, the honour of the Mysteries becomes our own9. I too could frame an hypothesis, [Page 9] as plausible perhaps, and as uncertain as any of theirs, did I not feel myself checked by the apprehension of discovering what never exist­ed10. I admire the discretion of the Initi­ated; but the best security for discretion is, the vanity of concealing that we have nothing to reveal.

The examples of great men, when they cannot serve as models, may serve as warnings to us. I should be very sorry to have discovered, that an ATHEISTICAL HISTORY1 was used in [Page 10] the celebration of the Mysteries, to prove the Unity of the First Cause, and that an ANTIENT HYMN2 was sung, for the edification of the devout Athenians, which was most probably A MODERN FORGERY of some Jewish or Christian Impostor. Had I delivered THESE TWO DIS­COVERIES, with an air of Confidence and Tri­umph, I should be still more mortified.

After all, as I am not apt to give the name of Demonstration to what is mere conjecture, his Lordship may take advantage of my Scep­ticism, and still affirm, that his favourite Myste­ries were Schools of Theism, instituted by the Lawgiver. Yet unless Aeneas is the Lawgiver of Virgil's Republic, he has no more business with the Mysteries of Athens, than with the laws of Sparta. We will, therefore, reflect a mo­ment on the true nature and plan of the Aeneid.

An Epic Fable must be important as well as interesting: Great actions, great virtues, and [Page 11] great distresses, are the peculiar province of Heroic Poetry. This rule seems to have been dictated by nature and experience, and is very different from those chains in which Genius has been bound by artificial Criticism. The im­portance I speak of, is not indeed always de­pendant on the rank or names of the Personages. Columbus, exploring a new world with three sloops and ninety sailors, is a Hero worthy of the Epic Muse; yet our imagination would be much more strongly affected by the image of a virtuous Prince saved from the ruins of his country, and conducting his faithful followers through unknown seas and through hostile lands. Such is the Hero of the Aeneid. But his pecu­liar situation suggested other beauties to the Poet, who had an opportunity of adorning his subject with whatever was most pleasing in Gre­cian fable, or most illustrious in Roman his­tory. Aeneas had fought under the walls of Ilium; and conducted to the Banks of the Tyber a Colony from which Rome claimed her origin.

The character of the Hero is expressed by one of his friends in a few words; and, tho' drawn by a friend, does not seem to be flattered:

Rex erat Aeneas nobis; quo justior alter,
Nec pietate fecit, nec bello major & armis3.

[Page 12] These three virtues, of JUSTICE, of PIETY, and of VALOR, are finely supported throughout the Poem4.

1. I shall here mention one instance of the Hero's justice, which has been less noticed than its singularity seems to deserve.

After Evander had entertained his Guests, with a sublime simplicity, he lamented, that his age and want of power made him a very useless Ally. However, he points out auxiliaries and a cause worthy of a Hero. The Etruscans, tired out with the repeated tyrannies of Mezentius, had driven that monarch from his throne, and reduced him to implore the protection of Tur­nus. Unsatisfied with freedom, the Etruscans called loudly for revenge; and, in the Poet's opinion, revenge was justice.

Ergo omnis furiis surrexit Etruria justis:
Regem ad supplicum praesenti Marte repos­cunt5.

Aeneas, with the approbation of Gods and men, accepts the command of these brave rebels, and [Page 13] punishes the Tyrant with the death he so well deserved. The conduct of Aeneas and the Etruscans may, in point of justice, seem doubt­ful to many; the sentiments of the Poet cannot appear equivocal to any one. Milton himself, I mean the Milton of the Commonwealth, could not have asserted with more energy the daring pretensions of the people, to punish as well as to resist a Tyrant. Such opinions, published by a writer, whom we are taught to consider as the creature of Augustus, have a right to surprize us; yet they are strongly expressive of the tem­per of the times; the Republic was subverted, but the minds of the Romans were still Re­publican.

2. Aeneas's piety has been more generally confessed than admired. St. Evremond laughs at it, as unsuitable to his own temper. The Bishop of Gloucester defends it, as agreeable to his own System of the Lawgiver's Religion. The French wit was too superficial, the English scholar too profound, to attend to the plain nar­ration of the Poet, and the peculiar circum­stances of antient Heroes. WE believe from faith and reason: THEY believed from the re­port of their senses. Aeneas had seen the Gre­cian Divinities overturning the foundations of fated Troy. He was personally acquainted with his mother Venus, and with his persecutor Juno. Mercury, who commanded him to leave Car­thage, [Page 14] was as present to his eyes as Dido, who strove to detain him. Such a knowledge of Religion, founded on sense and experience, must insinuate itself into every instant of our lives, and determine every action. All this is, in­deed, fiction; but it is fiction in which we chuse to acquiesce, and which we justly consider as the charm of Poetry. If we allow, that Aeneas lived in an intimate commerce with superior Be­ings, we must likewise allow, his love or his fear, his confidence or his gratitude, towards those Beings, to display themselves on every proper occasion. Far from thinking Aeneas too pious, I am sometimes surprized at his want of faith. Forgetful of the Fates, which had so often and so clearly pointed out the de­stined shores of Latium, he deliberates, whether he shall not sit down quietly in the fields of Si­cily. An apparition of his father is necessary to divert him from this impious and ungene­rous design.

3. A Hero's valor will not bear the rude breath of suspicion; yet has the courage of Aeneas suffered from an unguarded expression of the Poet:

Extemplo Aeneae solvuntur frigore membra

On every other occasion, the Trojan chief is [Page 15] daring without rashness, and prudent without timidity. In that dreadful night, when Troy was delivered up to her hostile Gods, he per­formed every duty of a Soldier, a Patriot, and a Son.

Moriamur & in media arma ruamus.
Una salus victis, nullam sperare salutem7.

Iliaci cineres, & flamma extrema meorum,
Testor, in occasu vestro, nec tela, nec ullas
Vitavisse vices Danaûm; &, si fata fuissent
Ut caderem, meruisse manu8.

To quote other proofs of the same nature, would be to copy the six last books of the Aeneid. I cannot, however, forbear mentioning the calm and superior intrepidity of the Hero, when, after the perfidy of the Rutuli, and his wound, he rushed again to the field, and restored Vic­tory by his presence alone.

Ipse neque aversos dignatur sternere morti;
Nec pede congressos aequo, nec tela ferentes
Insequitur: solum densa in caligine Turnum
Vestigat lustrans, solum in certamina poscit9.

At length, indignant that his victim has escap­ed him, his contempt gives way to fury:

Jam tandem invadit medios, & Marte secundo
Terribilis, saevam nullo discrimine caedem
Suscitat, irarumque omnes effundit habenas10.

[Page 16] The Heroic character of Aeneas has been un­derstood and admired by every attentive reader. But to discover the LAWGIVER in Aeneas, and A SYSTEM OF POLITICS in the Aeneid, required the CRITICAL TELESCOPE 1 of the great W [...]n. The naked eye of common sense cannot reach so far. I revolve in my memory the harmonious sense of Virgil: Virgil seems as ignorant as myself of his political character. I return to the less pleasing pages of the Lega­tion: So far from condescending to proofs, the Author of the Legation is even sparing of con­jectures.

‘Many political instructions may be drawn from the Aeneid.’ And from what book which treats of MAN, and the adventures of human life, may they not be drawn? His Lordship's Chymistry (did his Hypothesis re­quire [Page 17] it) would extract a SYSTEM OF POLICY from the ARABIAN NIGHTS ENTERTAINMENTS.

‘A System of Policy delivered in the exam­ple of a great prince, must shew him in every public occurrence of life. Hence, Aeneas was of necessity to be found voyaging, with Ulysses, and fighting, with Achilles2.’

There is another public occurrence, at least as much in the character of a LAWGIVER, as either voyaging or fighting; I mean, GIVING LAWS. Except in a single line3, Aeneas never appears in that occupation. In Sicily, he compliments Acestes with the honour of giving laws to the colony, which he himself had founded.

Interea Aeneas urbem designat aratro,
Sortiturque domos: hoc, Ilium, & haec loca, Trojae
Esse jubet; gaudet regno Trojanus Acestes,
Indicitque forum, & patribus dat jura vocatis4.

In the solemn treaty, which is to fix the fate of his posterity, he disclaims any design of inno­vating the laws of Latium. On the contrary, he only demands a hospitable seat for his Gods and his Trojans; and professes to leave the whole authority to king Latinus.

Non ego, nec Teucris Italos parere jubebo,
Nec mihi regna peto: paribus se legibus ambae
[Page 18]Invictae gentes aeterna in foedera mittant.
Sacra Deosque dabo: socer arma Latinus habeto,
Imperium solemne socer: mihi moenia Teucri
Constituent, urbique dabit Lavinia nomen5.

‘But after all, is not the fable of the Aeneid the establishment of an empire?’ Yes, in one sense, I grant it is. Aeneas had many ex­ternal difficulties to struggle with. When the Latins were defeated, Turnus slain, and Juno appeased, these difficulties were removed. The Hero's labor was over, the Lawgiver's com­menced from that moment; and, as if Virgil had a design against the Bishop's System, at that very moment the Aeneid ends. Virgil, who corrected with judgment, and felt with enthu­siasm, thought perhaps, that the sober arts of peace could never interest a reader, whose mind had been so long agitated with scenes of dis­tress and slaughter. He might perhaps say, like the Sylla of Montesquieu, ‘J'aime à rem­porter des victoires, à fonder ou détruire des états, à faire des ligues, à punir un usurpateur; mais, pour ces minces détails de governe­ment, où les Génies médiocres ont tant d'a­vantages, cette lente exécution des loix, cette discipline d'une milice tranquille, mon ame ne sçauroit s'en occuper6.’

[Page 19] Had Virgil designed to compose a POLITICAL INSTITUTE, the Example of Fenelon, his elegant Imitator, may give us some notion of the man­ner in which he would have proceeded. The preceptor of the Duke of Burgundy professedly designed to educate a prince for the happiness of the people. Every incident in his pleasing Ro­mance is subservient to that great end. The Goddess of Wisdom, in a human shape, con­ducts her pupil thro' a varied series of instructive adventures; and every adventure is a lesson or a warning for Telemachus. The pride of Sesostris, the tyranny of Pygmalion, the perfidy of Adras­tus, and the imprudence of Idomeneus, are dis­played in their true light. The innocence of the inhabitants of Boetica, the commerce of Tyre, and the wise laws of Crete and Salentum, in­structed the prince of the various means by which a people may be made happy. From the Tele­machus of Fenelon, I could pass with pleasure to the Cyropoedia of Xenophon. But I should be led too far from my subject, were I to attempt to lay open the true nature and design of that philosophical history. We must return from Fe­nelon and Xenophon to the Bishop of Glocester.

His Lordship props the legislative character of Aeneas with an additional support: ‘Augustus, who was shadowed in the person of Aeneas, was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries7. [Page 20] Ergo, &c. This doctrine of types and sha­dows, though true in general, has on this, as well as on graver occasions, produced a great abuse of reason, or at least of reasoning. To confine myself to Virgil, I shall only say, that he was too judicious to compliment the Emperor, at the expence of good sense and probability. Every age has its manners; and the poet must suit his Hero to the Age, and not the Age to his Hero. It is easy to give instances of this truth. Marc Antony, when defeated and besieged in Alexandria, challenged his competitor to decide their quarrel by a single combat. This was re­jected by Augustus with contempt and derision, as the last effort of a desperate man8; and the world applauded the prudence of Augustus, who preferred the part of a General to that of a Gla­diator. The temper and good sense of Virgil must have made him view things in the same light; yet, when Virgil introduces Aeneas in similar circumstances, he gives him a quite dif­ferent conduct. The Hero wishes to spare the innocent people, provokes Turnus to a single combat, and, even after the perfidy and last de­feat of the Rutuli, is still ready to risk his per­son and victory, against the unhappy life and desperate fortunes of his Rival. The laws of Honor are different in different Ages; and a be­haviour [Page 21] which in Augustus was decent, would have covered Aeneas with infamy.

We may apply this observation to the very case of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Augustus was initiated into them, at a time when Eleusis was become the COMMON TEMPLE OF THE UNI­VERSE. The Trojan Hero could not with the smallest propriety set him that example; as the Trojan Hero lived in an age when those rites were confined to the natives of Greece, and even of Attica9.

I have now wandered through the scientific maze in which the Bishop of Gloucester has concealed his first and general argument. It appears (when resumed) to amount to this irre­fragable demonstration, ‘THAT IF THE MYSTE­RIES WERE INSTITUTED BY LEGISLATORS (which they probably were not) AENEAS (who was no Legislator) MUST OF COURSE BE INI­TIATED INTO THEM BY THE POET.’

And here I shall mention a collateral reason assigned by his Lordship, which might engage Virgil to introduce a description of the Myste­ries: the PRACTICE OF OTHER POETS. This proof is so exceedingly brittle, that I fear to handle it; and shall report it faithfully in the words of our ingenious Critic10.

[Page 22] ‘Had the old Poem under the name of Or­pheus been now extant, it would perhaps have shewn us, that no more was meant than Or­pheus's Initiation; and that the hint of this Sixth Book was taken from thence.’

As nothing now remains of that old Poem, except the title, it is not altogether so easy to guess what it would or would not have shewn us.

‘But farther, it was customary for the poets of the Augustan age to exercise themselves on the subject of the Mysteries, as appears from Cicero, who desires Atticus, then at Athens, and initiated, to send to Chilius, a poet of eminence, an account of the Eleusinian My­steries; in order, as it would seem, to insert them into some poem he was then writing.’

The Eleusinian Mysteries are not mentioned in the original Passage. Cicero using the obscure brevity of familiar Letters, desires that Atticus would send their friend Chilius, ΕΥΜΟΛΠΙΔΩΝ ΠΑΤΡΙΑ1, which may signify twenty different things, relative either to the worship of Ceres in particular, or to the Athenian Institutions in ge­neral; but which can hardly be applied to the Eleusinian Mysteries2.

[Page 23] ‘Thus it appears that both the antient and modern poets afforded Virgil a pattern for this famous episode.’

How does this appear? From an old Poem, of whose contents the Critic is totally ignorant, and from an obscure passage, the meaning of which he has most probably mistaken.

Instead of conjecturing what Virgil might or ought to do, it would seem far more natural to examine what he has done. The Bishop of Glou­cester attempts to prove, that the Descent to Hell is properly an Initiation; since the Sixth Book of the Aeneid really contains the secret Doctrine as well as the Ceremonies of the Eleusinian Mysteries.

What was this SECRET DOCTRINE? As I pro­fess my ignorance, we must consult the Oracle. ‘The secret Doctrine of the Mysteries revealed to the Initiated, that JUPITER ... AND THE WHOLE RABBLE OF LICENTIOUS DEITIES, [Page 24] WERE ONLY DEAD MORTALS3.’ Is any thing like this laid open in the Sixth Book of Virgil? Not the remotest hint of it can be dis­covered throughout the whole Book; and thus, to use his Lordship's own words, SOMETHING (I had almost written EVERY THING) is still wanting "to complete the IDENTIFICATION4.

Notwithstanding this disappointment, which is cautiously concealed from the reader, the learned Bishop still courses round the Elysian Fields in quest of a Secret. Once he is so lucky as to find Aeneas talking with the Poet Musaeus, whom tradition has reckoned among the founders of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Critic listens to their conversation; but, alas! Aeneas is only enquiring, in what part of the garden he may find his Father's shade; to which Musaeus returns a very polite answer. Anchises himself is our last hope. As that venerable shade explains to his son some mysterious doctrines, concerning the Uni­versal Mind and the Transmigration of Souls, his Lordship is pleased to assure us, that these are THE HIDDEN DOCTRINES OF PERFECTION re­vealed only to the Initiated. Let us for a mo­ment lay aside Hypothesis, and read Virgil.

It is observable, that the three great Poets of Rome were all addicted to the Epicurean philo­sophy; a System, however, the least suited to a Poet; since it banishes all the genial and active [Page 25] Powers of Nature, to substitute in their room a dreary void, blind atoms, and indolent Gods. A Description of the Infernal Shades was incompa­tible with the ideas of a Philosopher, whose dis­ciples boasted, that he had rescued the captive World from the Tyranny of Religion, and the Fear of a Future State. These ideas, Virgil was obliged to reject: But he does still more; he abandons not only the CHANCE of Epicurus, but even these Gods, whom he so nobly employs in the rest of his Poem, that he may offer to the Reader's imagination a far more specious and splendid sett of Ideas.

Principio coelum, ac terras, camposque liquentes,
Lucentemque globum Lunae, Titaniaque astra
Spiritus intus alit, totamque infusa per artus
Mens agitat molem, & magno se corpore miscet5.

The more we examine these lines, the more we shall feel the sublime Poetry of them. But they have likewise an air of Philosophy and even of Religion, which goes off on a nearer approach. The mind which is INFUSED6 into the several parts of Matter, and which MINGLES ITSELF with the mighty mass, scarce retains any Property of a Spiritual Substance; and bears too near an [Page 26] affinity to the Principles, which the impious Spi­noza revived rather than invented.

I am not insensible, that we should be slow to suspect, and still slower to condemn. The po­verty of human language, and the obscurity of human ideas, makes it difficult to speak worthily of THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE. Our most reli­gious Poets, in striving to express the presence and energy of the Deity, in every part of the Uni­verse, deviate unwarily into images, which are scarcely distinguished from Materialism. Thus our Ethic Poet:

All are but parts of one stupendous Whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul7;

and several passages of Thomson require a like favourable construction. But these writers de­serve that favour, by the sublime manner in which they celebrate the great Father of the Universe, and by those effusions of love and gratitude, which are inconsistent with the Materialist's Sy­stem. Virgil has no such claim to our indul­gence. THE MIND of the UNIVERSE is rather a Metaphysical than a Theological Being. His intellectual qualities are faintly distinguished from the Powers of Matter, and his moral At­tributes, the source of all religious worship, form no part of Virgil's creed.

[Page 27] Yet is this creed approved8 by our Ortho­dox Prelate, as free from any mixture of Spino­zism. I congratulate his Lordship, on his in­dulgent and moderate temper. His Brethren (I mean those of former times) had much sharper eyes for spying out a latent Heresy. Yet I can­not easily persuade myself, that Virgil's notions were ever the creed of a religious Society, like that of the Mysteries. Luckily, indeed, I have no occasion to persuade myself of it; unless I should prefer his Lordship's mere authority to the voice of Antiquity, which assures me, that this System was either invented or imported into Greece by Pythagoras; from the writings of whose disciples Virgil might so very naturally borrow it.

Anchises then proceeds to inform his son, that the souls both of men and of animals were of celestial origin, and (as I understand him) parts of the Universal Mind; but that by their union with earthly bodies they contracted such impuri­ties as even Death could not purge away. Many expiations, continues the venerable shade, are re­quisite, before the soul, restored to its original Simplicity, is capable of a place in Elysium. The far greater part are obliged to revisit the upper world, in other characters and in other bodies; and thus by gradual steps to reascend towards their first perfection.

[Page 28] This moral Transmigration was undoubtedly taught in the Mysteries. As the Bishop asserts this from the best authority, we are surprized at a sort of diffidence, unusual to his Lordship, when he advances things from his own intuitive knowledge. In one place, this Transmigration is part of the hidden Doctrine of Perfection9; in another, it is one of those principles, which were promiscuously communicated to all10. The truth seems to be, that his Lordship was afraid to rank among the secrets of the Myste­ries, what was professed and believed by so many Nations and Philosophers. The pre-existence of the human soul is a very natural idea; and from that idea speculations and fables of its successive revolution through various bodies will arise. From Japan to Egypt, the Transmigration has been part of the popular and religious creed1. Pythagoras2 and Plato3 have endeavoured to demonstrate the truth of it, by facts, as well as by arguments.

Of all these visions (which should have been confined to the Poets) none is more pleasing and sublime, than that which Virgil has invented. Aeneas sees before him his posterity, the Heroes of antient Rome; a long series of airy forms [Page 29] ‘Demanding life, impatient for the skies,’ and prepared to assume, with their new bodies, the little passions and transient glories of their destined lives.

Having 4 thus revealed the secret Doctrine of the Mysteries, the learned Prelate examines the Ceremonies. With the assistance of Meur­sius5, he pours out a torrent of Erudition to convince us, that the scenes thro' which Aeneas passed in his descent to the Shades, were the same as were represented to the Aspirants in the Celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries. From thence, his Lordship draws his great conclusion, That the Descent is no more than an emblem of the Hero's Initiation.

A staunch Polemic will feed a dispute, by dwelling on every accessary circumstance, whilst a candid Critic will confine himself to the more essential points of it. I shall, therefore, readily allow, what I believe may in general be true, that the Mysteries exhibited a theatrical repre­sentation of all that was believed or imagined of the lower world; that the Aspirant was con­ducted through the mimic scenes of Erebus, Tar­tarus, and Elysium; and that a warm Enthu­siast, in describing these awful Spectacles, might express himself as if he had actually visited the [Page 30] infernal Regions6. All this I can allow, and yet allow nothing to the Bishop of Gloucester's Hypothesis. It is not surprising that the COPY was like the ORIGINAL; but it still remains un­determined, WHETHER VIRGIL INTENDED TO DESCRIBE THE ORIGINAL OR THE COPY.

Lear and Garrick, when on the stage, are the same; nor is it possible to distinguish the Player from the Monarch. In the Green-room, or after the representation, we easily perceive, what the warmth of fancy and the justness of imitation had concealed from us. In the same manner it is from extrinsical circumstances, that we may expect the discovery of Virgil's Allegory. Every one of those circumstances persuades me, that Virgil described a real, not a mimic world, and that the Scene lay in the Infernal Shades, and not in the Temple of Ceres.

The singularity of the Cumoean Shores must be present to every traveller who has once seen them. To a superstitious mind, the thin crust, vast cavities, sulphureous steams, poisonous ex­halations, and fiery torrents, may seem to trace out the narrow Confine of the two Worlds. The lake Avernus was the chief object of reli­gious horror; the black Woods which surround­ed it, when Virgil first came to Naples, were perfectly suited to feed the superstition of the People7. It was generally believed, that this [Page 31] deadly flood was the entrance of Hell8; and an Oracle was once established on its banks, which pretended, by magic rites, to call up the departed Spirits9. Aeneas, who revolved a more daring enterprise, addresses himself to the Priestess of those dark Regions. Their conver­sation may perhaps inform us, whether an Ini­tiation, or a descent to the Shades, was the ob­ject of this enterprize. She endeavours to deter the Hero, by setting before him all the dangers of his rash undertaking:

Facilis descensus Averni:
Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis;
Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est10.

These particulars are absolutely irreconcileable with the idea of Initiation, but perfectly agree­able to that of a real descent. That every step, and every instant, may lead us to the grave is a melancholy truth. The Mysteries were only open at stated times, a few days at most in the course of a year. The mimic descent of the Mysteries was laborious and dangerous, the re­turn to light easy and certain. In real death, this order is inverted:

Pauci, quos aequus amavit
Jupiter, aut ardens evexit ad aethera virtus,
Diis geniti, potuere1.

[Page 32] These Heroes, as we learn from the speech of Aeneas, were Hercules, Orpheus, Castor and Pollux, Theseus, and Pirithous. Of all these, Antiquity believed, that before their death they had seen the habitations of the dead; nor, in­deed, will any of the circumstances tally with a supposed Initiation. The adventure of Eury­dice, the alternate life of the brothers, and the forcible intrusion of Alcides, Theseus, and Piri­thous, would mock the endeavours of the most subtle Critic, who should try to melt them down into his favourite Mysteries. The exploits of Her­cules, who triumphed over the King of Terrors,

Tartareum ille manu custodem in vincla petivit,
Ipsius à solio regis traxitque trementem2,

was a wild imagination of the Greeks3. But it was the duty of antient Poets, to adopt and embellish these popular Traditions; and it is the interest of every man of taste, to acquiesce in THEIR POETICAL FICTIONS.

After this, we may leave ingenious men to search out what, or whether any thing, gave rise to those idle stories. Diodorus Siculus represents Pluto as a kind of undertaker, who made great improvements in the useful art of funerals4. Some have sought for the Poetic Hell in the mines of Epirus5, and others in the Mysteries [Page 33] of Egypt. As this last notion was published in French6, six years before it was invented in English7, the learned author of the D. L. has been severely treated by some ungenerous Ad­versaries8. Appearances, it must be con­fessed, wear a very suspicious aspect: But what are appearances, when weighed against his Lord­ship's declaration, ‘That this is a point of ho­nor in which he is particularly delicate; and that he may venture to boast, that he believes no Author was ever more averse to take to himself what belonged to another9?’ Be­sides, he has enriched this mysterious discovery with many collateral arguments, which would for ever have escaped all inferior Critics. In the case of Hercules, for instance, he demonstrates, that the Initiation and the descent to the Shades were the same thing, because an Antient has [Page 34] affirmed that they were different10; and that Alcides was initiated at Eleusis, before he set out for Taenarus, in order to descend to the In­fernal Regions.

There is, however, a single circumstance, in the narration of Virgil, which has justly sur­prized Critics, unacquainted with any, but the obvious sense of the Poet; I mean the IVORY GATE. The Bishop of Glocester seizes this, as the secret mark of Allegory, and becomes elo­quent in the exultation of Triumph1. I could, however, represent to him, that in a work which was deprived of the Author's last revision, Vir­gil might too hastily employ what Homer had invented, and at last unwarily slide into an Epi­curean idea2. Let this be as it may, an ob­scure expression is a weak basis for an elaborate System; and whatever his Lordship may chuse to do, I had much rather reproach my favourite Poet with want of care in one line, than with want of taste throughout a whole Book3.

[Page 35] Virgil has borrowed, as usual, from Homer, his Episode of the Infernal Shades, and, as usual, has infinitely improved what the Grecian had in­vented. If, among a profusion of beauties, I durst venture to point out the most striking beauties of the Sixth Book, I should perhaps ob­serve, 1. That after accompanying the Hero through the silent realms of Night and Chaos, we see with astonishment and pleasure a new Cre­ation bursting upon us; 2. That we examine, with a delight which springs from the love of Virtue, the just empire of Minos; in which the apparent irregularities of the present System are corrected; where the Patriot who died for his Country is happy, and the Tyrant who oppressed it is miserable. 3. As we interest ourselves in the Hero's fortunes, we share his feelings: The melancholy Palinurus, the wretched Deiphobus, the indignant Dido; the Grecian Kings, who tremble at his presence, and the venerable An­chises, who embraces his pious son, and displays to his sight the future glories of his race; all these objects affects us with a variety of pleasing sensations.

Let us for a moment obey the mandate of our great Critic, and consider these awful scenes as a mimic shew, exhibited in the Temple of Ceres, by the contrivance of the Priest, or, if he pleases, of the Legislator. Whatever was ani­mated (I appeal to every reader of taste), what­ever [Page 36] ever was terrible, or whatever was pathetic, eva­porates into lifeless Allegory:

tenuem sine viribus umbram.
Dat inania verba,
Dat sine mente sonum, gressusque effingit euntis.

The end of Philosophy is Truth; the end of Poetry is Pleasure. I willingly adopt any inter­pretation which adds new beauties to the Origi­nal; I assist in persuading myself, that it is just; and could almost shew the same indulgence to the Critic's as to the Poet's fiction. But should a grave Doctor lay out fourscore pages, in ex­plaining away the sense and spirit of Virgil, I should have every inducement to believe, that Virgil's soul was very different from the Doctor's.

I have almost exhausted my own, and proba­bly my reader's patience, whilst I have obse­quiously waited on his Lordship, through the several stages of an intricate Hypothesis. He must now permit me to alledge two very simple reasons, which persuade me, that Virgil has not revealed the Secret of the Eleusinian Mysteries; the first is HIS IGNORANCE, and the second HIS DISCRETION.

I. As his Lordship has not made the smallest attempt to prove that Virgil was himself ini­tiated, [Page 37] it is plain that he supposed it, as a thing of course. Had he any right to suppose it? By no means: That ceremony might naturally enough finish the education of a young Athe­nian; but a Barbarian, a Roman, would most probably pass through life without directing his devotion to the foreign rites of Eleusis.

The Philosophical sentiments of Virgil were still more unlikely to inspire him with that kind of devotion. It is well known that he was a de­termined Epicurean4; and a very natural An­tipathy subsisted between the Epicureans and the Managers of the Mysteries. The Celebration opened with a solemn excommunication of those Atheistical Philosophers, who were commanded to retire, and to leave that holy place for pious Believers5; the zeal of the people was ready to enforce this admonition. I will not deny, that curiosity might sometimes tempt an Epicurean to pry into these secret rites; and that gratitude, fear, or other motives, might engage the Athe­nians to admit so irreligious an Aspirant. Atti­cus was initiated at Eleusis; but Atticus was the Friend and Benefactor of Athens6. These extraordinary exceptions may be proved, but must not be supposed.

[Page 38] Nay, more; I am strongly inclined to think that Virgil was never out of Italy till the last year of his life. I am sensible, that it is not easy to prove a negative proposition, more especially when the materials of our knowledge are so very few and so very defective7; and yet by glanc­ing our eye over the several periods of Virgil's life, we may perhaps attain a sort of probability, which ought to have some weight, since nothing can be thrown into the opposite scale.

Altho' Virgil's father was hardly of a lower rank than Horace's, yet the peculiar character of the latter afforded his fon a much superior edu­cation: Virgil did not enjoy the same opportu­nities, of observing mankind on the great The­atre of Rome, or of pursuing Philosophy, in her favourite shades of the Academy.

Adjecêre bonae paulò plus artis Athenae:
Scilicet ut possem curvo dignoscere rectum,
Atque inter silvas Academi quaerere verum8.

[Page 39] The sphere of Virgil's education did not extend beyond Mantua, Cremona, Milan and Naples9.

After the accidents of civil war had introduc­ed Virgil to the knowledge of the Great, he passed a few years at Rome, in a state of depen­dance, the JUVENUM NOBILIUM CLIENS10. It was during that time that he composed his Eclogues, the hasty productions of a Muse ca­pable of far greater things1.

By the liberality of Augustus and his cour­tiers, Virgil soon became possessed of an affluent fortune2. He composed the Georgics and the Aeneid, in his elegant Villas of Campania and Sicily; and seldom quitted those pleasing retreats even to come to Rome3.

After he had finished the Aeneid, he resolved on a journey into Greece and Asia, to employ three years in revising and perfecting that Poem, and to devote the remainder of his life to the study of Philosophy4. He was at Athens, with Augustus, in the summer of AVC 735; and whilst Augustus was at Athens, the Eleusi­nian Mysteries were celebrated5. It is not [Page 40] impossible, that Virgil might then be initiated, as well as the Indian Philosopher6; but the Aeneid could receive no improvement from his newly-acquired knowledge. He was taken ill at Megara. The journey encreased his disorder, and he expired at Brundusium, the twenty-se­cond of September of the same year 7357.

Should it then appear probable, that Virgil had no opportunity of learning the SECRET of the Mysteries, it will be something more than probable, that he has not revealed what he ne­ver knew.

His Lordship will perhaps tell me, that Vir­gil might be initiated into the Eleusinian Myste­ries, without making a Journey to Athens: since those Mysteries had been brought to Rome long before8. Here indeed I should be apt to sus­pect some mistake, or, at least, a want of preci­sion in his Lordship's Ideas; as Salmasius9 and Casaubon10, men tolerably versed in An­tiquity, assure me, that indeed some Grecian Ceremonies of Ceres had been practised at Rome [Page 41] from the earliest Ages; but that the Mysteries of Eleusis were never introduced into that Ca­pital, either by the Emperor Hadrian, or by any other: And I am the more induced to be­lieve, that these rites were not imported in Vir­gil's time, as the accurate Suetonius speaks of an unsuccessful attempt for that purpose, made by the Emperor Claudius, above threescore years after Virgil's death1.

II. None but the Initiated COULD reveal the secret of the Mysteries; and THE INITIATED COULD NOT REVEAL IT, WITHOUT VIOLATING THE LAWS, AS WELL OF HONORAS OF RELIGION. I sincerely acquit the Bishop of Glocester of any design; yet so unfortunate is his System, that it represents a most virtuous and elegant Poet, as equally devoid of taste, and of common honesty.

His Lordship acknowledges, that the Initiated were bound to Secrecy by the most solemn obli­gations2; that Virgil was conscious of the imputed impiety of his design; that at Athens he never durst have ventured on it; that even at Rome such a discovery was esteemed not only IMPIOUS but INFAMOUS: and yet his Lord­ship maintains, that after the compliment of a formal Apology,

Sit mihi fas, audita loqui3.

[Page 42] Virgil lays open the whole SECRET of the My­steries under the thin Veil of an Allegory, which could deceive none but the most careless readers4.

An Apology! an Allegory! Such artifices might perhaps have saved him from the sen­tence of the Areopagus, had some zealous or in­terested Priest denounced him to that court, as guilty of publishing A BLASPHEMOUS POEM. But the Laws of Honor are more rigid, and yet more liberal, than those of Civil Tribunals. Sense, not words, is considered; and Guilt is aggravated, not protected, by artful Evasions. Virgil would still have incurred the severe cen­sure of a Contemporary, who was himself a man of very little Religion.

Vetabo, qui Cereris sacrum
Vulgârit arcanae, sub iisdem
Sit trabibus, fragilemque mecum
Solvat phaselum5.

Nor can I easily persuade myself, that the inge­nuous mind of Virgil could have deserved this Excommunication.

These lines belong to an Ode of Horace, which has every merit, except that of order. That Death in our Country's cause is pleasant and honourable; that Virtue does not depend on the caprice of a popular Election; and that [Page 43] the Mysteries of Ceres ought not to be disclosed, are ideas which have no apparent connection. The beautiful disorder of Lyric Poetry, is the usual Apology made by Professed Critics on these occasions:

Son style impetueux, souvent marche au hazard;
Chez elle, un beau desordre est un effet de l' art6.

An insufficient Apology for the few, who dare judge from their own feelings. I shall not deny, that the irregular notes of an untutored Muse have sometimes delighted me. We can very seldom be displeased with the unconstrained workings of Nature. But the Liberty of an Out­law is very different from that of a Savage. It is a mighty disagreeable sight, to observe a Ly­ric Writer of Taste and Reflection striving to forget the Laws of Composition, disjointing the order of his Ideas, and working himself up into artificial Madness, ‘Ut cum Ratione insaniat.’ I had once succeeded (as I thought) in remov­ing this defect, by the help of an Hypothesis which connected the several parts of Horace's Ode with each other. My Ideas appeared (I mean to myself) most ingeniously conceived. I read the Ode once more, and burnt my Hypo­thesis. But to return to our principal subject.

[Page 44] The Date of this Ode may be of use to us; and the date may be fixed with tolerable cer­tainty, from the mention of the PARTHIANS, who are described as the enemies against whom a brave youth should signalize his valor.

Parthos feroces
Vexet eques metuendus hastâ, &c.

Those who are used to the LABOURED HAPPINESS of all Horace's expressions7 will readily al­low, that if the Parthians are mentioned rather than the Britons or Cantabrians, the Gauls or the Dalmatians, it could be only at a time when a PARTHIAN WAR engaged the public atten­tion. This reflection confines us between the years of Rome 729 and 735. Of these six years, that of 734 has a superior claim to the Compo­sition of the Ode.

Julius Caesar was prevented by death from revenging the defeat of Crassus8. This glo­rious task, unsuccessfully attempted by Marc Antony9, seemed to be reserved for the pru­dence [Page 45] and felicity of Augustus; who became sole master of the Roman World in the year 724; but it was not till the year 729, that, having changed the civil administration, and pacified the Western provinces, he had leisure to turn his Views towards the East. From that time, Horace, in compliance with the Public wish, began to animate both Prince and People to revenge the manes of Crassus10. The cautious Policy of Augustus, still averse to war, was at length roused in the year 734, by some disturbances in Armenia. He passed over into Asia, and sent the young Tiberius with an army beyond the Euphrates. Every appearance pro­mised a glorious war. But the Parthian mon­arch, Phrahates, alarmed at the approach of the Roman Legions, and diffident of the fidelity of his subjects, diverted the storm, by a timely and humble submission:

Jus, imperiumque Phraates
Caesaris accepit gentibus minor1.

Caesar returned in Triumph to Rome, with the Parthian Hostages, and the Roman ensigns, which had been taken from Crassus.

[Page 46] These busy scenes, which engage the attention of Contemporaries, are far less interesting to po­sterity, than the silent labours, or even amuse­ments of a man of Genius.

Caesar dum magnus ad altum
Fulminat Euphraten bello, victorque volentes
Per Populos dat jura, viamque adfectat Olympo.
Illo Virgilium me tempore dulcis alebat
Parthenope, studiis florentem, ignobilis otî.

Whilst Caesar humbled the Parthians, Virgil was composing the Aeneid. It is well known, that this noble Poem occupied the Author, with­out being able to satisfy him, during the twelve last years of his life, from the year 723 to the year 7352. The public expectation was soon raised, and the modest Virgil was sometimes ob­bliged to gratify the impatient curiosity of his friends. Soon after the death of young Mar­cellus3, he recited the second, fourth, and SIXTH books of the Aeneid, in the presence of Augustus and Octavia4. He even sometimes read parts of his work to more numerous com­panies; with a desire of obtaining their judg­ment, rather than their applause. In this man­ner, Propertius seems to have heard the SHIELD OF AENEAS, and from that specimen he ventures [Page 47] to foretell the approaching birth of a Poem, which will surpass the Iliad.

Actia Virgilium Custodis litora Phoebi,
Caesaris & fortes dicere posse rates
Qui nunc Aeneae Trojani suscitat Arma
Jactaque Lavinis moenia litoribus.
Cedite Romani scriptores, cedite Graii,
Nescio quid majus nascitur Iliade5.

As a friend and as a Critic, Horace was entitled to all Virgil's confidence, and was probably ac­quainted with the whole progress of the Aeneid, from the first rude sketch, which Virgil drew up in Prose, to that harmonious Poetry, which the author alone thought unworthy of posterity.

To resume my Idea, which depended on this long deduction of Circumstances; when Horace composed the second ode of his third Book, the Aeneid, and particularly the Sixth Book, were already known to the Public. The detestation of the Wretch who reveals the Mysteries of Ce­res, though expressed in general terms, must be applied by all Rome to the author of the Sixth Book of the Aeneid. Can we seriously suppose, THAT HORACE WOULD HAVE BRANDED WITH SUCH WANT ON IN FAMY, ONE OF THE MEN IN THE WORLD WHOM HE LOVED AND HONOURED THE MOST6?

[Page 48] Nothing remains to say, except that Horace was himself ignorant of his friend's allegorical meaning, which the Bishop of Glocester has since revealed to the World. It may be so; yet, for my own part, I should be very well sa­tisfied with understanding Virgil no better than Horace did.

It is perhaps some such foolish fondness for Antiquity, which inclines me to doubt, whether the BISHOP OF GLOCESTER has really united the severe sense of ARISTOTLE with the sublime imagination of LONGINUS. Yet a judicious Critic, (who is now, I believe, ARCHDEACON OF GLOCESTER) assures the Public, that his Patron's mere amusements have done much more than the joint labours of the two Gre­cians. I shall conclude these observations with a remarkable passage from the Archdeacon's Dedication7: ‘It was not enough, in YOUR ENLARGED VIEW OF THINGS, to restore either of these models (ARISTOTLE or LON­GINUS) to their original splendor. They were both to be revived; or rather A NEW ORI­GINAL PLAN OF CRITICISM to be struck out, WHICH SHOULD UNITE THE VIRTUES OF EACH OF THEM. This Experiment was made on the two greatest of our own Poets [Page 49] (Shakespeare and Pope), and by reflecting all the LIGHTS OF THE IMAGINATION ON THE SEVEREST REASON, every thing was affected which the warmest admirer of antient art could promise himself from such a union. BUT YOU WENT FARTHER: By joining to these powers A PERFECT INSIGHT INTO HU­MAN NATURE; and so ennobling the exercise of literary, by the justest moral censure, YOU HAVE NOW AT LENGTH ADVANCED CRITI­CISM TO ITS FULL GLORY?’


I WAS not ignorant, that, several years since, the Rev. Dr. Jortin had favoured the Public, with a DISSERTATION ON THE STATE OF THE DEAD, AS DESCRIBED BY HO­MER AND VIRGIL1: But the Book is now grown so scarce, that I was not able to procure a sight of it till after these Papers had been already sent to the press. I found Dr. Jortin's performance, as I expected, moderate, learned, and critical. Among a variety of ingenious observations, there are two or three which are very closely connected with my present subject.

I had passed over in silence one argument of the Bishop of Glocester, or rather of Scarron and the Bishop of Glocester; since the former found the Remark, and the latter furnished the Inference. ‘Discite justitiam moniti, & non temnere Divos,’ cries the unfortunate Phlegyas. In the midst of his torments, he preaches Justice and Piety, [Page 52] like Ixion in Pindar. A very useful piece of advice, says the French Buffoon, for those who were already damned to all Eternity:

Cette sentence est bonne & belle:
Mais en enfer, de quoi sert elle?

From this judicious piece of Criticism his Lordship argues, that Phlegyas was preaching not to the Dead, but to the Living; and that Virgil is only describing the Mimic Tartarus, which was exhibited at Eleusis for the instruc­tion of the Initiated.

I shall transcribe one or two of the reasons, which Dr. Jortin condescends to oppose to Scar­ron's Criticism.

To preach to the Damned, says he, is la­bour in vain. And what if it is? It might be part of his punishment, to exhort himself and others, when exhortations were too late. This admonition, as far as it relates to him­self and his companions in misery, is to be looked upon not so much as an admonition to amend, but as a bitter sarcasm, and re­proaching of past iniquities.

It is labour in vain. But in the poetical system, it seems to have been the occupa­tion of the Damned to labour in vain, to catch at meat and drink that fled from them, &c.

[Page 53] His instruction, like that of Ixion in Pindar, might be for the use of the living. You will say, how can that be? Surely no­thing is more easy and intelligible. The Muses hear him—The Muses reveal it to the Poet, and the inspired Poet reveals it to mankind. And so much for Phlegyas and Monsieur Scarron.

It is prettily observed by Dr. Jortin, ‘That Virgil, after having shone out with full splen­dor through the Sixth Book, sets at last in a cloud.’ The IVORY GATE puzzles every Commentator, and grieves every lover of Virgil: Yet it affords no advantages to the Bishop of Glocester. The objection presses as hard on the notion of an Initiation, as on that of a real Descent to the Shades. ‘The troublesome conclusion still remains as it was; and from the manner in which the Hero is dismissed after the Ceremonies, we learn, that in those Initiations, the Machinery, and the whole Shew, was (in the Poet's opinion) a repre­sentation of things, which had no truth or reality.’

Altera candenti perfecta nitens elephanto:
Sed FALSA ad coelum mittunt INSOMNIA manes.

‘Dreams in general, may be called vain and deceitful, somnia vana, or somnia falsa, if you will, as they are opposed to the real [Page 54] objects, which present themselves to us when we are awake. But when false dreams are opposed to true ones, there the Epithet falsa has another meaning. True dreams represent what is real, and shew what is true; false dreams represent things, which are not, or which are not true. Thus Homer and Vir­gil, and many other poets, and indeed the nature of the thing, distinguish them.’

Dr. Jortin, though with reluctance, acqui­esces in the common opinion, that by six un­lucky lines, Virgil is destroying the beautiful System, which it had cost him eight hundred to raise. He explains too this preposterous conduct, by the usual expedient of the Poet's Epicureism. I only differ from him in attri­buting to haste and indiscretion, what he consi­ders as the result of design.

Another reason, both new and ingenious, is assigned by Dr. Jortin, for Virgil explaining away his Hero's descent into an idle dream. ‘All communication with the Dead, the in­fernal powers, &c. belonged to the Art Magic, and Magic was held in abomina­tion by the Romans.’ Yet if it was held in ABOMINATION, it was supposed to be real. A writer would not have made his court to James the first, by representing the stories of Witch­craft as the Phantoms of an over-heated Ima­gination.

[Page 55] Whilst I am writing, a sudden thought oc­curs to me, which, rude and imperfect as it is, I shall venture to throw out to the Public. It is this. After Virgil, in imitation of Homer, had described the two Gates of Sleep, the Horn and the Ivory, he again takes up the first in a different sense: ‘QUA VERIS FACILIS DATUR EXITUS UMBRIS.’ The TRUE SHADES, VERAE UMBRAE, were those airy forms which were continually sent to animate new bodies, such light and almost immaterial Natures as could without difficulty pass through a thin transparent substance. In this new sense, Aeneas and the Sybill, who were still incum­bered with a load of flesh, could not pretend to the prerogative of TRUE SHADES. In their passage over Styx, they had almost sunk Cha­ron's boat.

Gemuit sub pondere cymba
Sutilis, & multam accepit rimosa paludem.

Some other Expedient was requisite for their return; and since the Horn Gate would not af­ford them an easy dismission, the other passage, which was adorned with polished Ivory, was the only one that remained either for them, or for the Poet.

By this explanation, we save Virgil's judgement and religion, though I must own, at the [Page 56] expence of an uncommon harshness and am­biguity of expression. Let it only be remem­bered, that those, who, in desperate cases, con­jecture with modesty, have a right to be heard with indulgence.


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