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qualities of our author; and every man soonest displays his radical excellencies. If his predominant talent be warmth and vigor of imagination, it will break out in fanciful and luxuriant descriptions, the colouring of which will, perhaps, be too rich and glowing. If his chief force lies in the understanding rather than in the imagination, it will soon appear by solid and manly observations on life or learning, expressed in a more chaste and subdued style. The former will frequently be hurried into obscurity or turgidity, and a false grandeur of diction; the latter will seldom hazard a figure, whose usage is not already established, or an image beyond common life; will always be perspicuous, if not elevated; will never disgust, if not transport, his readers; will avoid the grosser faults, if not arrive at the greater beauties, of composition. The "eloquentiae genus," for which he will be distinguished, will not be the "plenum et erectum, et audax, et praecelsum," but the "pressum, et mite, et limatum."* In the earliest letters of Pope to Wycherly, to Walsh, and Cromwell, we HS find
* Quintil. 1. xi. c. 1.
find many admirable and acute judgments of men and books, and an intimate acquaintance not only with some of the best Greek and Roman, particularly the latter, but the most celebrated of the French and Italian classics.
Du Bos* fixes the period of time at which, generally speaking, the poets and the painters have arrived at as high a pitch of perfection as their geniuses will permit, to be the age of thirty years, or a few years more or less. Virgil was near thirty when he composed his first Eclogue. Horace was a grown man when he began to be talked of at Rome as a poet, having been formerly engaged in a busy military life. Racine was about the same age when his Andromache, which may be regarded as his first good tragedy, was played. Corneille was more than thirty when his Cid appeared. Despreaux was full thirty when he published his satires, such as we now have them. Moliere was full forty when he wrote the first of those comedies on which his reputation is founded. But to excel in this species
* Sect. x. 2.
cies of composition, it was not sufficient for Moliere to be only a great poet; it was rather necessary for him to gain a thorough knowledge of men and the world, which is seldom attained so early in life; but without which, the best poet .would be able to write but very indifferent comedies. Congreve, however, was but nineteen when he wrote his Old Bachelor. Raphael was about thirty years old when he displayed the beauty and sublimity of his genius in the Vatican; for it is there we behold the first of his works that are worthy the great name he at present so deservedly possesses. When Shakespear wrote his Lear, Milton his Paradise Lost, Spenser his Fairy Queen, and Dry den his Music Ode, they had all exceeded the middle age of man.
From this short review it appears, that few poets ripened so early as Pope; who seems literally and strictly to have fulfilled the precept of Horace in each of its circumstances;
Multa tulit, fecitque Puer.
He was laborious and indefatigable in his pursuits of learning;
H 3 — Sudavit — Sudavit et alsit.
And, above all, what is of the greatest consequence in preserving each faculty of the mind in due vigour,
Abstintiit Venere et vino.*
These are the two temptations to which a youth* ful bard is principally subject, and into whose snares he generally falls. If the imagination be lively, the passions will be strong. - True genius seldom resides in a cold and phlegmatic constitution* The same temperament, and the same sensibility, that makes a poet or a painter, wilt be apt to make a man a lover and a debauchee. Pope was happily secured from these common failings, the bane of so many others, by the weakness and delicacy of his body, and the bad state of his health. The sensual vices were too violent for so tender a frame; he never deviated into a course of intemperance and dissipation. May I add, that even his bodily make was of use to him as a writer; for one, who was acquainted with the heart of man, and the secret springs of
our our actions, has observed with great penetration, "* It is good to consider deformity, not as 3 signe, which is more deceivable, but as a cause, which seldom faileth of the effect. Whosoever hath any thing fixed in his person, that doth induce contempt, hath also a perpetual spur in himself, to rescue and deliver himself from scorne." I do not think it improbable, that this circumstance might animate our poet to double his diligence to make himself distinguished: and hope I shall not be accused, by those who have a knowledge of human nature, of assigning his desire of excellence to a motive too mean and sordid, as well as too weak and inefficacious, to operate such an effect
What crops of wit and honesty appear,
From spleen, from obstinacy, hate, or fear!
See anger, zeal, and fortitude, supply,
Ev'n Avarice, prudence; Sloth, philosophy;
Nor virtue male or female can we name,
But what will grow on pride, or grow on shame.f
* Bacon's Essays, xliv.