S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
As fables took their birth in the very infancy of learning, they never flourished more than when learning was at its greatest height. To justify this assertion, I shall put my reader in mind of Horace, the greatest wit and critic in the Augustan age, and of Boileau, the most correct poet among the moderns; not to mention La Fontaine, who by this way of writing is come more into vogue than any other author of our times.
No two men who have handled the same subject differ so completely, both in character and style, as Horace and Juvenal: to the latter may be applied what Seneca said of Cato, that he gained as complete a triumph over the vices of his country as Scipio did over the enemies of it. Had Juvenal lived in the days of Horace, he would have written much better, because much bolder; but had Horace lived in the time of Juvenal, he would not have dared to have written satire at all: in attacking the false friends of his country he would have manifested the same pusillanimity which he himself informs us he discovered when he, on one occasion, ventured to attack her real foes.
Horace makes an awkward figure in his vain attempt to unite his real character of sycophant with the assumed one of the satirist. He sometimes attempts to preach down vice, without virtue, sometimes to laugh it down, without wit. His object was to be patronized by a court,without meanness, if possible, but, at all events, to be patronized. He served the times more, perhaps, than the times served him, and instead of forming the manners of his superiors, he himself was, in great measure, formed by them.
Horace, in his first and second book of odes, was still rising, but came not to his meridian till the third. After which his judgment was an over-poise to his imagination. He grew too cautious to be bold enough, for he descended in his fourth by slow progress.
As for the elegant writer of whom I am talking [Horace], his excellencies are to be observed as they relate to the different concerns of his life; and he is always to be looked upon as a lover, a courtier, or a man of wit. His admirable Odes have numberless instances of his merit in each of these characters. His Epistles and Satires are full of proper notices for the conduct of life in a court; and what we call good breeding is most agreeably intermixed with his morality. His addresses to the persons who favoured him are so inimitably engaging, that Augustus complained of him for so seldom writing to him, and asked him, whether he was afraid posterity should read their names together? Now, for the generality of men to spend much time in such writings is as pleasant a folly as any he ridicules. Whatever the crowd of scholars may pretend, if their way of life, or their own imaginations, do not lead them to a taste of him, they may read, may write, fifty volumes upon him, and be just as they were when they began.