« ZurückWeiter »
ticular but that he used to ride a hunting in a tye-ywritings, by one who was wholly a stranger to him, wig. He was fond, and perhaps vain, of amusing at a time when all the world knew he was persehimself with poetry and criticism: and sometimes cuted by fortune; and not only saw that this was sent his performances to Pope, who did not forbear attempted in a clandestine manner, with the utmost such remarks as were now and then unwelcome. falsehood and calumny, but found that all this was Pope, in his turn, put the juvenile version of 'Sta- done by a little affected hypocrite, who had nothing tius' into bis hands for correction.
in his mouth at the same time but truth, candour, Their correspondence afforded the public its first friendship, good-nature, humanity, and magnaniknowledge of Pope's epistolary powers; for his mity.” Letters were given by Cromwell to one Mrs. How the attack was clandestine is not easily perThomas; and she many years afterwards sold them ceived, nor how his person is depreciated; but he to Curll, who inserted them in a volume of his seems to have known something of Pope's characMiscellanies,
ter, in whom may be discovered an appetite to talk Walsh, a name yet preserved among the minor too frequently of his own virtues. poets, was one of his first encouragers. His regard The pamphlet is such as rage might be expected kas gained by the Pastorals,' and from him Pope to dictate. He supposes himself to be asked two received the counsel from which he seems to have questions; whether the Essay will succeed? and regulated his studies. Walsh advised him to cor- who or what is the author? rectness, which, as he told him, the English poets Its success he admits to be secured by the false had hitherto neglected, and which therefore was opinions then prevalent; the author he concludes to left to him as a basis of fame; and being delighted be“ “young and raw." with rural poems, recommended to him to write a “First, because he discovers a sufficiency bepastoral comedy, like those which are read so yond his last ability, and hath rashly undertaken a eagerly in Italy; a design which Pope probably did task infinitely above his force. Secondly, while this not approve, as he did not follow it.
little author struts, and affects the dictatorian air, Pope had now declared himself a poet; and he plainly shows, that at the same time he is unthinking himself entitled to poetical conversation, der the rod: and, while he pretends to give laws to began at seventeen to frequent Will's, a coffee others, is a pedantic slave to authority and opinion. house on the north side of Russel-street, in Covent- Thirdly, he hath, like school-boys, borrowed both garden, where the wits of that time used to assem- from living and dead. Fourthly, he knows not his ble, and where Dryden had, when he lived, been own mind, and frequently contradicts himself. accustomed to preside.
Fifthly, he is almost perpetually in the wrong." During this period of his life he was indefatiga- All these positions he attempts to prove by quobly diligent, and insatiably curious: wanting health tations and remarks; but his desire to do mischief for violent, and money for expensive pleasures, and is greater than his power. He has, however, baring excited in himself very strong desires of justly criticised some passages in these lines: intellectual eminence, he spent much of his time
There are whom Heaven has bless'd with store of wit, over his books; but be read only to store his mind
Yet wants as much again to manage it; with facts and images, seizing all that his authors For Wit and Judgment ever are at strife presented with undistinguishing voracity, and with an appetite for knowledge too eager to be nice. In
It is apparent that wit has two meanings, and that a mind like his, however, all the faculties were at
what is wanted, though called wit, is truly judg. once involuntarily improving. Judgment is forced
So far Dennis is undoubtedly right; but not upon us by experience. He that reads many books
content with argument, he will have a little mirth; must compare one opinion or one style with ano
and triumphs over the first couplet in terms too ther; and when he compares, must necessarily dis elegant to be forgotten. “By the way, what rare tinguish, reject, and prefer. But the account given numbers are here! Would not one swear that this by himself of his studies was, that from fourteen to youngster had espoused some antiquated Muse, who twenty he read only for amusement, from twenty to
bad sued out a divorce on account of impotence twenty-seven for improvement and instruction; that from some superannuated sinner; and, having been in the first part of this time he desired only to p-xed by her former spouse, has got the gout in know, and in the second he endeavoured to judge. her decrepit age, which makes her hobble so
The Pastorals,' which had been for some time damnably?” This was the man who would reform handed about among poets and critics, were at last a nation sinking into barbarity. printed (1709) in Tonson's Miscellany,' in a
In another place Pope himself allowed that Denvolume which began with the Pastorals of Phillips, called “bulls." The first edition had this line,
nis had detected one of those blunders which are and ended with those of Pope.
The same year was written the · Essay on Criticism;' a work which displays such extent of com
Where wanted scorn'l: and envied where acquired? prehension, such nicety of distinction, such ac- “How,” says the critic, “can wit be scorned quaintance with mankind, and such knowledge both where it is not? Is not this a figure frequently of ancient and modern learning, as are not often at-employed in Hibernian land? The person that tained by the maturest age and longest experience. wants this wit may indeed be scorned, but the It was published about two years afterwards; and, scorn shows the honour which the contemner has being praised by Addison in the “Spectator' with for wit.” Of this remark Pope made the proper sufficient liberality, met with so much favour assuse, by correcting the passage. enraged Dennis, “who,” he says, “found himself I have preserved, I think, all that is reasonable attacked, without any manner of provocation on his in Denis's criticism; it remains that justice he dono side, and attacked in his person, instead of his to his delicacy
“For his acquaintance," say's
What is this wit
Dennis, "he names Mr. Walsh, who had by nobut he might with equal propriety, have placed means the qualifications which this author reckons Prudence and Justice before it, since without Pronecessary to a critic, it being very certain that he dence, Fortitude is mad; without Justice, it is miswas,
like this Essayer, a very indifferent poet; hechievous. loved to be well dressed; and I remember a young As the end of method is perspicuity, that series little gentleman whom Mr. Walsh used to take is sufficiently regular that avoids obscurity; and into his company, as a double foil to his person and where there is no obscurity, it will not be difficult capacity. Inquire, between Sunning-hill and Oak- to discover method. ingham, for a young, short, squab gentleman, the In the Spectator' was published the “Messiah,' very Bow of the God of Love, and tell me whether which he first submitted to the perusal of Steele, he be a proper author to make personal reflections?- and corrected in compliance with his criticisms. He may extol the ancients, but he has reason to It is reasonable to infer, from his Letters, that thank the gods that he was born a modern; for had his verses on the · Unfortunate Lady' were written he been born of Grecian parents, and his father about the time when his “Essay' was published. consequently had by law had the absolute disposal The lady's name and adventures I have sought of him, his life had been no longer than that of one with fruitless inquiry.* of his poems, the life of half a day.-Let the per- I can therefore tell no more than I have learned son of a gentleman of his parts be never so con- from Mr. Ruffhead, who writes with the confidence temptible, his inward man is ten times more ridicu- of one who could trust his information. She was a lous; it being impossible that his outward form, woman of eminent rank and large fortune, the ward though it be that of downright monkey, should dif- of an uncle, who, having given her a proper educafer so much from human shape, as his unthinking, tion, expected, like other guardians, that she immaterial part, does from human understanding." should make at least an equal match; and such he Thus began the hostility between Pope and Den- proposed to her, but found it rejected in favour of a nis, which, though it was suspended for a short young gentleman of inferior condition. time, never was appeased. Pope seems, at first, Having discovered the correspondence between to have attacked him wantonly; but though he al- the two lovers, and finding the young lady deterways professed to despise him, he discovers, by mined to abide by her own choice, he supposed mentioning him very often, that he felt his force or that separation might do what can rarely be donc his venom.
| by argument, and sent her into a foreign country, of this "Essay,' Pope declared, that he did not where she was obliged to converse only with those expect the sale to be quick, because “not one gen- from whom her uncle had nothing to fear. tleman in sixty, even of a liberal education, could Her lover took care to repeat his vows; but his understand it.” The gentlemen, and the educa- letters were intercepted and carried to her guartion, of that time, seem to have been of a lower dian, who directed her to be watched with still character than they are of this. He mentioned a greater vigilance, till of this restraint she grew so thousand copies as a numerous impression. impatient, that she bribed a woman serrant to pro
Dennis was not his only censurer: the zealous cure her a sword, which she directed to her heart. Papists thought the monks treated with too much From this account, given with evident intention contempt, and Erasmus too studiously praised; but to raise the lady's character, it does not appear that to these objections he had not much regard. she had any claim to praise, nor much to compas
The · Essay' has been translated into French by sion. She seems to have been impatient, violent, Hamilton, author of the Comte de Grammont,' and ungovernable. Her uncle's power could not whose version was never printed; by Robotham, have lasted long; the hour of liberty and choice secretary to the King for Hanover, and by Resnel; would have come in time. But her desires were and commented by Dr. Warburton, who has dis- too hot for delay, and she liked self-murder better covered in it such order and connexion as was not than suspense. perceived by Addison, nor, as is said, intended by Nor is it discovered that the uncle, whoever he the author.
was, is with much justice delivered to posterity as Almost every poem, consisting of precepts, is so " a false guardian;" he seems to have done only far arbitrary and immethodical, that many of the that for which a guardian is appointed; he endeaparagraphs may change places with no apparent in-voured to direct his niece till she should be able to convenience; for of two or more positions, depend - direct herself. Poetry has not often been worse ing upon some remote and general principle, there employed than in dignifying the amorous fury of a is seldom any cogent reason why one should pre-raving girl. cede the other. But for the order in which they Not long after, he wrote the “Rape of the Lock,' stand, whatever it be, a little ingenuity may easily the most airy, the most ingenious, and the most degive a reason. "It is possible,” says Hooker, lightful of all his compositions, occasioned by a " that, by long circumduction, from any one truth frolic of gallantry, rather too familiar, in which all truth may be inferred.” Of all homogeneous Lord Petre cut off a lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor's truths, at least of all truths respecting the same hair. This, whether stealth or violence, was so general end, in whatever series they may be pro- much resented, that the commerce of the two faduced, a concatenation by intermediate ideas may milies, before very friendly, was interrupted. Mr. be formed, such as, when it is once shown, shall Caryl, a gentleman who, being secretary to King appear natural; but if this order be reversed, ano- James's queen, had followed his mistress into ther mode of connexion cqually specious may be France, and who, being the author of “Sir Solomon formd or made. Aristotle is praised for naming Single,' a comedy, and some translations, was eu. Fortitude first of the cardinal virtues, as that without which no other virtue can steadily be practised; * Consult, however, Gent. Mag. vol. ii. p.311.
titled to the notice of a Wit, solicited Pope to en- About this time he published the “Temple of deavour a reconciliation by a ludicrous poem, which Fame,' which, as he tells Steele in their corresmight bring both parties to a better temper. In pondence, he had written two years before; that compliance with Caryl's request, though his name is, when he was only twenty-two years old, an was for a long time marked only by the first and early time of life for so much learning, and so much last letter C-), a poem of two cantos was writ- observation as that work exhibits. ten (1711,) as is said, in a fortnight, and sent to On this poem Dennis afterwards published some the offended lady, who liked it well enough to remarks, of which the most reasonable is, that show it; and, with the usual process of literary some of the lines represent Motion as exhibited by transactions, the author dreading a surreptitious Sculpture. edition, was forced to publish it.
Of the Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard,' I do not The event is said to have been such as was de- know the date. His first inclination to attempt a sired, the pacification and diversion of all to whom composition of the tender kind arose, as Mr. Savage it related, except Sir George Brown, who com- told me, from his perusal of Prior’s ‘Nut-brown plained with some bitterness, that in the character Maid.' How much he has surpassed Prior's work of Sir Plume, he was made to talk nonsense. it is not necessary to mention, when perhaps it Whether all this be true I have some doubt; for at may be said with justice, that he excelled every Paris, a few years ago, a niece of Mrs. Fermor, composition of the same kind. The mixture of rewho presided in an English Convent, mentioned ligious hope and resignation gives an elevation and Pope's work with very little gratitude, rather as dignity to disappointed love, which images merely an insult than an honour; and she may be supposed natural cannot bestow. The gloom of a convent to have inherited the opinion of her family. strikes the imagination with far greater force than
At its first appearance it was termed by Addison the solitude of a grove. “merum sal.” Pope, however, saw that it was This piece was, however, not much his favourite capable of improvement; and, having luckily con- in his latter years, though I never heard upon what trived to borrow his machinery from the Rosicru- principle he slighted it. cians, imparted the scheme with which his head In the next year (1713) he published "Windsor was teeming to Addison, who told him that his Forest:' of which part was, as he relates, written work, as it stood, was “a delicious little thing,” at sixteen, about the same time as his Pastorals; and gave him no encouragement to retouch it. and the latter part was added afterwards; where
This has been too hastily considered as an in- the addition begins, we are not told. The lines stance of Addison's jealousy; for, as he could not relating to the Peace confess their own date. It is guess the conduct of the new design, or the possi- dedicated to Lord Lansdowne, who was then in bilities of pleasure comprised in a fiction of which high reputation and influence among the Tories; there had been no examples, he might very rea- and it is said, that the conclusion of the poem gave sonably and kindly persuade the author to acqui- great pain to Addison, both as a poet and a poliesce in his own prosperity, and forbear an attempt tician. Reports like this are often spread with which he considered as an unnecessary hazard. boldness very disproportionate to their evidence.
Addison's counsel was happily rejected. Pope Why should Addison receive any particular disforesaw the future efflorescence of imagery then turbance from the last lines of Windsor Forest?' budding in his mind, and resolved to spare no art, If contrariety of opinion could poison a politician, he or industry of cultivation. The soft luxuriance of would not live a day; and as a poet, he must have his fancy was already shooting, and all the gay va- felt Pope's force of genius much more from many rieties of diction were ready at his hand to colour other parts of his works. and embellish it.
The pain that Addison might feel it is not likely His attempt was justified by its success. The that he would confess; and it is certain that he so well Rape of the Lock' stands forward, in the classes suppressed his discontent, that Pope now thought of literature, as the most exquisite example of lu- himself his favourite: for, having been consulted in dicrous poetry. Berkeley congratulated him upon the revisal of 'Cato,' he introduced it by a Prothe display of powers more truly poetical than he logue; and, when Dennis published his Remarks, had shown before: with elegance of description undertook, not indeed to vindicate, but to revenge and justness of precepts, he had now exhibited his friend, by a “Narrative of the Frenzy of John boundless fertility of invention.
Of this poem the author was, I think, allowed to He left the pamphlet to itself, having disowned it
lliterature, to which nothing equal will easily be
found. The superiority of Pope is so ingeniously/guineas; a sum, according to the value of money at dissembled, and the feeble lines of Phillips so skil- that time, by no means inconsiderable, and greater fully preferred, that Steele, being deceived, was than I believe to have been ever asked before. His unwilling to print the paper, lest Pope should be proposal, however, was very favourably received; offended. Addison immediately saw the writer's and the patrons of literature were busy to recomdesign; and, it seems, had malice enough to conceal mend his undertaking, and promote his interest. his discovery, and to permit a publication, which, Lord Oxford, indeed, lamented that such a genius by making his friend Phillips ridiculous, made him should be wasted upon a work not original; but for ever an enemy to Pope.
proposed no means by which he might live without It appears that about this time Pope had a strong it. Addison recommended caution and moderation, inclination to unite the art of Painting with that of and advised him not to be content with the praise Poetry, and put himself under the tuition of Jer- of half the nation, when he might be universally vas. He was near-sighted, and therefore not form- favoured. ed by nature for a painter: he tried, however, how The greatness of the design, the popularity of far he could advance, and sometimes persuaded his the author, and the attention of the literary world, friends to sit. A picture of Betterton, supposed to naturally raised such expectations of the future be drawn by him, was in the possession of Lord sale, that the booksellers made their offers with Mansfield:* if this was taken from life, he must great eagerness; but the highest bidder was Berhave begun to paint earlier; for Betterton was now nard Lintot, who became proprietor on condition dead. Pope's ambition of this new art produced of supplying at his own expense, all the copies some encomiastic verses to Jervas, which certainly which were to be delivered to subscribers, or preshow his power as a poet; but I have been told that sented to friends, and paying two hundred pounds they betray his ignorance of painting.
for every volume. He appears to have regarded Betterton with Of the Quartos it was, I believe, stipulated, that kindness and esteem; and after his death published, none should be printed but for the author, that the under his name, a version into modern English of subscription might not be depreciated; but Lintot Chaucer's Prologues, and one of his Tales, which, impressed the same pages upon a small Folio, and as was related by Mr. Harte, were believed to paper perhaps a little thinner; and sold exactly at have been the performance of Pope himself by half the price, for half a guinea each volume, books Fenton, who made him a gay offer of five pounds, so little inferior to the Quartos, that by a fraud of if he would show them in the hand of Betterton. trade, those Folios, being afterwards shortened by
The next year (1713) produced a bolder attempt, cutting away the top and bottom, were sold as by which profit was sought as well as praise. The copies printed for the subscribers. poems which he had hitherto written, however Lintot printed two hundred and fifty on royal pathey might have diffused his name, had made very per in Folio, for two guineas a volume; of the small little addition to his fortune. The allowance which Folio, having printed seventeen hundred and fifty his father made him, though proportioned to what copies of the first volume, he reduced the number he had, it might be liberal, could not be large; his in the other volumes to a thousand. religion hindered him from the occupation of any It is unpleasant to relate, that the bookseller, afcivil employment; and he complained that he want- ter all his hopes and all his liberality, was, by a ed even money to buy books.f He therefore re- very unjust and illegal action, defraudeu of his profit. solved to try how far the favour of the public ex- An edition of the English “Iliad,' was printed in tended, by soliciting a subscription to a version of Holland in Duodecimo, and imported clandestinely the ‘lliad,' with large notes.
for the gratification of those who were impatient to To print by subscription was, for some time, a read what they could not yet afford to buy. This practice peculiar to the English. The first con- fraud could only be counteracted by an edition siderable work, for which this expedient was em- equally cheap and more commodious; and Lintot ployed, is said to have been Dryden's “Virgil;'+ was compelled to contract his folio at once into a and it had been tried with great success when the duodecimo, and lose the advantage of an interme• Tatlers' were collected into volumes.
diate gradation. The notes, which in the Dutch There was reason to believe that Pope's at- copies were placed at the end of each book, as they tempt would be successful. He was in the full had been in the large volumes, were now subbloom of reputation, and was personally known to joined to the text in the same page, and are therealmost all whom dignity of employment or splen- fore more easily consulted. Of this edition two thoudour of reputation had made eminent; he conversed sand five hundred were first printed, and five thouindifferently with both parties, and never disturbed sand a few weeks afterwards: but indeed great numthe public with his political opinions; and it might bers were necessary to produce considerable profit. naturally be expected, as each faction then boasted Pope, having now emitted his proposals, and enits literary zeal, that the great men, who on other gaged not only his own reputation, but in some occasions practiced all the violence of opposition, degree that of his friends who patronized his subwould emulate each other in their encouragement scription, began to be frighted at his own under. of a poet who delighted all, and by whom none had taking; and finding himself at first embarrassed been offended.
with difficulties, which retarded and oppressed him, With those hopes, he offered an English 'Iliad' he was for a time timorous and uneasy, had his to subscribers, in six volumes in quarto, for six nights disturbed by dreams of long journeys through * It is still at Caen Wood.
unknown ways, and wished, as he said, “that
† Spence. Milton's ' Paradise Lost' had been published with great somebody would hang him.""* success by subscription in folio, 160€, under the patronago of Mr. (afterwards Lord) Somers.
This misery, however, was not of long continu-to collect or methodize; but more was necessary; ance; he grew by degrees more acquainted with many pages were to be filled, and learning must Homer's images and expression, and practice in- supply materials to wit and judgment. Something creased his facility of versification. In a short time might be gathered from Dacier; but no man loves to he represents himself as despatching regularly fifty be indebted to his contemporaries, and Dacier was verses a day, which would show him by an easy accessible to common readers. Eustathius was computation the termination of his labour. therefore necessarily consulted. To read Eusta
His own ditfidence was not his only vexation. thius, of whose work there was then no Latin verHe that asks subscriptions soon finds that he hassion, I suspect Pope, if he had been willing, not to enemies. All who do not encourage him, defame have been able; some other was therefore to be him. He that wants money will rather be thought found, who had leisure as well as abilities; and he angry than poor and he that wishes to save his was doubtless most readily employed who would money, conceals his avarice by his malice. Addi- do much work for little money. sou had hinted his suspicion that Pope was too much The history of the notes has never been traced. a Tory; and some of the Tories suspected his prin- Broome, in his preface to his poems, declares himciples, because he had contributed to the Guar- self the commentator “ in part upon the Iliadl;” and dian,' which was carried on by Steele.
it appears from Fenton's letter, preserved in the To those who censured his politics were added British Museum, that Broome was at first engaged enemies get more dangerous, who called in ques- in consulting Eustathius; but that after a time, tion his knowledge of Greek, and his qualifications whatever was the reason, he desisted; another man for a translator of Homer. To these he made no of Cambridge was then employed, who soon grew public opposition; but in one of his Letters escapes weary of the work; and a third, that was recomfrom them as well as he can. At an age like his, mended by Thirlby, is now discovered to have for he was not more than twenty-five, with an been Jortin, a man since well known to the learned irregular education, and a course of life of which world, who complained that Pope, having accepted much seems to have passed in conversation, it is and approved his performance, never testified any not very likely that he overflowed with Greek. curiosity to see him, and who professed to have forBut when he felt himself deficient he sought assist- gotten the terms on which he worked. The terms unce; and what man of learning would refuse to help which Fenton uses are very mercantile: “I think kim? Minute inquiries into the force of words are at first sight that his performance is very commendless necessary in translating Homer than other able, and have sent word for him to finish the 17th poets, because his positions are general, and his book, and to send it with his demands for his trourepresentations natural, with very little dependence ble. I have here enclosed the specimen; if the rest ca local or temporary customs, on those changeable come before the return, I will keep them till I rescenes of artificial life, which, by mingling original ceive your order.” with accidental notions, and crowding the mind Broome then offered his service a second time, with images which time effaces, produces ambi- which was probably accepted, as they had afterguity in diction, and obscurity in books. To this wards a closer correspondence. Parnell contributed opea display of unadulterated nature it must be the Life of Homer, which Pope found so harsh, that zseribed, that Homer has fewer passages of doubtful he took great pains in correcting it; and by his own meaning than any other poet, either in the learned diligence, with such help as kindness or money or in modern languages. I have read of a man, who could procure him, in somewhat more than five being, by his ignorance of Greck, compelled to years he completed his version of the “Iliad,' with gratify his curiosity with the Latin printed on the the potes. He began it in 1712, his twenty-fifth opposite page, declared that, from the rude sim-year; and concluded it in 1718, his thirtieth year. plicity of the lines literally rendered, he formed When we find him translating fifty lines a day, nobler ideas of the Homeric majesty, than from the it is natural to suppose that he would have brought laboured elegance of polished versions.
his work to a more speedy conclusion. The • Niad,' Those literal translations were always at hand, containing less than sixteen thousand verses, might and from them he could easily obtain his author's have been despatched in less than three hundred sense with sufficient certainty; and among the read- and twenty days by fifty verses in a day. The ers of Homer, the number is very small of those notes, compiled with the assistance of his mercewho find much in the Greek more than in the naries, could not be supposed to require more time Latin, except the music of the numbers.
than the text. If more help was wanting, he had the poetical According to this calculation, the progress of Pope translation of Eobanus Hessus,' an unwearied wri- may seem to have been slow; but the distance is ter of Latin verses; he had the French Homers of commonly very great between actual performances La Valtiere and Dacier, and the English of Chap- and speculative possibility. It is natural to suppose, man, Hobbes, and Ogilby. With Chapman, whose that as much as has been done to-day may be done work, though now totally neglected, seems to have to-morrow; but on the morrow some dificulty cmerbeen popular almost to the end of the last century, ges, or some external impediment obstructs. Inhe had very frequent consultations, and perhaps dolence, interruption, business, and pleasure, all bever translated any passage till he had read his take their turns of retardation; and every long work version, which indeed he has been sometimes sus- is lengthened by a thousand causes that can, and pected of using instead of the original.
ten thousand that cannot, be recounted. Perhaps Notes were likewise to be provided: for the six no extensive and multifarious performance was ever volumes would have been very little more than six offected within the term originally fixed in the un. pamphlets without them. What the mere perusal dertaker's mind. He that runs against Time has of the text could suggest, Pope wanted no assistancelan antagonist not subject to casualties.