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When mellowing years their full perfection give,
I have quoted these beautiful lines at length, as I believe nothing was ever more happily expressed on the art of painting; a subject of which Pope always speaks con amove. Of all poets whatever, Milton has spoken most feelingly of music, and Pope of painting. The reader may, however, compare the following passage of Pryden on the same subject:
More cannot be by mortal art express'd.
If Pope has so much excelled in speaking in the properest terms of this art, it may, perhaps, L 3 be
* Ver. 484. t Dryden to Kneller,
be ascribed to his having practised it ;* the same may be said of Milton with respect to music. It may, perhaps, be wondered at, that a proficiency in these arts is not now frequently found in the same person. I cannot at present recollect any painters that were good poets; except Salvator Rosa, and Charles Ve^mander, of Mulbrac, in Flanders, whose comedies are much esteemed. But the satires of the former contain no strokes of that fervid and wild imagination so visible in his landscapes.
32. If wit so much from ign'rance undergo.f
The inconveniences that attend wit are well enumerated in this excellent passage. Poets, who imagine they are known and admired, are frequently mortified and humbled. Boileau going one day to receive his pension, and the treasurer reading these words in his order, "The pension we have granted to Boileau, on account, of the
* Lord Mansfield has in his possession a great curiosity; a head of Eetterton, painted by Pope,
t Ver. 508.
satisfaction his works have given us," asked him of what kind were his works: "Of Masonry, (replied the poet;) I am a Builder." Racine always reckoned the praises of the ignorant among the chief sources of chagrin; and used to relate, that an old magistrate, who had never been at a play, was carried one day to his Androjnaque. This magistrate was very attentive to the tragedy, to which was added the Plaideurs; and going out of the theatre, he said to the aiithor, "I am extremely pleased, Sir, with your Andromaque; I am only amazed that it ends so gaily; J' avois d' abord eu quelque envie de pleurer, mais la vue des petits chiens m' a fait rire.
33. Now they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown,
If Ave can credit the reports of the arts used by Addison to suppress the rising merit of Pope, it must give us pain to reflect, to Avhat mean artifices envy and malignity will compel a gentleman, and a genius, to descend. It is asserted
L 4 that
t' , ■ ,
* Ver. 514,
that Addison discouraged Pope from inserting the machinery in the Rape of the Lock; that he privately insinuated, that Pope was a Tory and a Jacobite, and had a hand in writing the Examiners; that Addison himself translated the first hook of Homer, published under Tickel's name; and that he secretly encouraged Gildon to abuse Pope in a virulent pamphlet, for which Addison paid Gildon ten guineas. This usage supposed, extorted from Pope the famous character of Atticus, which is perhaps one of the finest pieces of satire extant. It is said, that when Racine read his tragedy of Alexander to Corneille, the latter gave him many general commendations, but advised him to apply his genius, as not being adapted to the drama, to some other species of poetry. Corneille, one would hope, was incapable of a mean jealousy; and if he gave this advice, thought it really proper to be given.
3\, When love was all an easy monarch's care;
* Ver. 556'.
<^The dissolute reign of Charles II. justly deserved the satirical proscription in this passage. Under the notion of laughing at the absurd austerities of the Puritans, it became the mode to run into the contrary extreme, and to ridicule real religion and unaffected virtue. The king, during his exile, had seen and admired the splendor of the court of Louis XIV. and endeavoured to introduce the same luxury into the English court. The common opinion, that this was the Augustan age in England, is excessively false. A just taste was by no means yet formed. What was called Sheer Wit, was alone studied and applauded. Rochester, it is said, had no idea that there could be a better poet than Cowley. The king was perpetually quoting HudiBras. The neglect of such a poem as the Paradise Lost, will for ever remain a monument of the bad taste that prevailed. It may be added, that the progress of philological learning, and of what is called the belles lettres, was, perhaps, obstructed by the institution of the Royal Society, which turned the thoughts of men of genius to physical enquiries/^Our style in prose was but beginning to be" polished; although the diction of Hobbes is sufficiently pure; which