Epic Bad Taste

Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son (180):

In this disposition of mind, judge whether I can read all Homer through ‘tout de suite’. I admire its beauties; but, to tell you the truth, when he slumbers, I sleep. Virgil, I confess, is all sense, and therefore I like him better than his model; but he is often languid, especially in his five or six last books, during which I am obliged to take a good deal of snuff. Besides, I profess myself an ally of Turnus against the pious AEneas, who, like many ‘soi-disant’ pious people, does the most flagrant injustice and violence in order to execute what they impudently call the will of Heaven. But what will you say, when I tell you truly, that I cannot possibly read our countryman Milton through? I acknowledge him to have some most sublime passages, some prodigious flashes of light; but then you must acknowledge that light is often followed by darkness visible, to use his own expression. Besides, not having the honor to be acquainted with any of the parties in this poem, except the Man and the Woman, the characters and speeches of a dozen or two of angels and of as many devils, are as much above my reach as my entertainment. Keep this secret for me: for if it should be known, I should be abused by every tasteless pedant, and every solid divine in England.

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