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Augustus was of a nature too vindicative to have contented himself with so small a revenge, or so unsafe to himself, as that of simple banishment, and would certainly have secured his crimes from publick notice by the death of him who was witness to them. Neither have histories given us any sight into such an action of this Emperor: nor would he, (the greatest politician of his time,) in all probability, have managed his crimes with so little secrecy, as not to shun the observation of any man. It seems more probable, that Ovid was either the confident of some other passion, or that he had stumbled by some inadvertency upon the privacies of Livia, and seen her in a bath : for the words sine veste Dianam, agree better with Livia who had the fame of chastity, than with either of the Julias, who were both noted of incontinency, The first verscs which were made by him in his youth, and recited publickly, according to the custom, were, as he himself assures us, to Corinna: his banishment happened not until the age of fifty; from which it may be deduced, with probability enough, that the love of Corinna did not occasion it: nay he tells us plainly, that his offence was that of errour only, not of wickedness; and in the
words above quoted, ut renovem tud vulnera, Cæsar,) strongly militate against this solution of the mysterious cause of his disgrace.
$ Julia, the daughter of Augustus, by his second wife, Scribonia ; and Julia, his grand-daughter, the daughter of the former Julia and her second husband, Marcus Agrippa, to whom she was married A. U. C.733.
9 same paper of verses also, that the cause was notoriously known at Rome, * though it be left so obscure to afterages.
But to leave conjectures on a subject so incertain, and to write somewhat more authentick of this poet. That he frequented the court of Augustus, and was well received in it, is most undoubted: all his poems bear the character of a court, and appear to be written, as the French call it, cavalierement. Add to this, that the titles of many of his clegics, and more of his letters in his banishment, are addressed to persons well known to us, even at this distance, to have been considerable in that court.
Nor was his acquaintance less with the famous poets of his agc, than with the noblemen and ladies. He tells you himself in a particular account of his own life, that Macer, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, and many others of them, were his familiar friends, and that some of them communicated their writings to him ; but that he had only seen Virgil. 9
If the imitation of nature be the business of a poet, I know no author who can justly be compared with ours, especially in the description of the passions. And to prove this, I shall need no other judges than the generality of his readers; for all *.“ Causa meæ cunctis nimium quoque nota ruinæ
“ Indicio non est testificanda meo. 9 Trist. I. iv. Eleg. 10.
Ovid was born in the year of Rome, 711, and consequently in 735, when Virgil died, was twenty-four years old.
passions being inborn with us, we are almost equally judges, when we are concerned in the representation of them. Now I will appeal to any man who has read this poet, whether he finds not the natural emotion of the same passion in himself, which the poet describes in his feigned persons ? His thoughts, which are the pictures and results of those passions, are generally such as naturally arise from those disorderly motions of our spirits. Yet, not to speak too partially in his behalf, I will confess that the copiousness of his wit was such, that he often writ too pointedly for his subject, and made his
persons speak more eloquently than the violence of their passion would admit: so that he is frequently witty out of scason ; leaving the imitation of nature, and the cooler dictates of his judgment, for the false applause of fancy. Yet he seems to have found out this imperfection in his riper age; for why else should he complain that his Metamorphoses was left unfinished ? Nothing sure can be added to the wit of that poem, or of the rest : but many things ought to have been retrenched; which I suppose would have been the business of his age, if his misfortunes had not come too fast
But take him uncorrected as he is transmitted to us, and it must be acknowledged, in spite of his Dutch friends, the commentators, even of Julius Scaliger himself, that Seneca's censure will stand good against him ; nescivit quod bene cessit relinquere : he never knew how to give over when he had done well ; but continually vary
ing the same sense an hundred ways, and taking up in another place what he had more than enough inculcated before, he sometimes cloys his readers, instead of satisfying them; and gives occasion to his translators, who dare not cover him, to blush at the nakedness of their father.
This then is the allay of Ovid's writing, which is sufficiently recompensed by his other excellencies : nay this very fault is not without its beauties; for the most severe censor cannot but be pleased with the prodigality of his wit, though at the same time he could have wished that the master of it had been a better manager. Every thing which he does, becomes him ; and if sometimes he appears too gay, yet there is a secret gracefulness of youth, which accompanies his writings, though the staidness and sobriety of age be wanting. In the most material part, which is the conduct, it is certain that he seldom has miscarried; for if his elegics be compared with those of Tibullus and Propertius, his contemporaries,' it will be found that those poets seldom designed before they writ ; and though the language of Tibullus be more polished, and the learning of Propertius, especially in his fourth book, more set
Ovid, as has already been mentioned, was born A. U. C. 711, and died in the fourth year of Tiberius, January the 1st, 771, on the same day with Livy. Tibullus was born, A. U. C. 691, and died in the year of Rome, 734, a year before Virgil. Propertius was born, A. U.C.705, and died in the same year with Horace, 746.
out to ostentation, yet their common practice was to look no further before them than the next line; whence it will inevitably follow, that they can drive to no certain point, but ramble from one subject to another, and conclude with somewhat which is not of a piece with their beginning :
Purpureus latè qui splendeat, unus et alter
Assuitur pannus,-as Horace says; though the verses are golden, they are but patched into the garment. But our poet has always the goal in his eye, which directs him in his race; some beautiful design, which he first establishes, and then contrives the means which will naturally conduct him to his end. This will be evident to judicious readers in this work of his Epistles, of which somewhat, at least in gencral, will be expected.
The title of them in our late editions is EPISTOLÆ HEROIDUM, the Letters of the HEROINES. But Heinsius has judged more truly, that the inscription of our author was barely, Epistles; which he concludes from his cited verses, where Ovid asserts this work as his own invention, and not borrowed from the Greeks, whom, as the masters of their learning, the Romans usually did imitate. But it appears not from their writers, that any of the Grecians ever touched upon this way, which our poet thesefore justly has vindicated to himself. I quarrel not at the word Heroidum, because it is used by Ovid in his Art of Love:
Jupiter ad veteres supplex Heroidas ibat.