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arise to sing their misfortune, are languid and flat, and diminish the pathos of the foregoing sentiments. They might stand, it should seem,N for the conclusion of almost any story, were we i not informed, that they were added by the Poet iu allusion to his own case, and the state of his own j « mind. For I am well informed, that what deter- . ^ mined him in the choice of the subject of this ^Af epistle, was the retreat of that lady into a nun-tv; iiery, whose death he had lately so pathetically lamented in a foregoing Elegy, and for whom he had conceived a violent passion. She was first beloved by a nobleman,* an intimate friend of Pope, and, on his deserting her, retired into France; when, before she had made her last vows in the convent to which she had retreated, she put an end to her unfortunate life. The recollection of this circumstance will add a beauty and a pathos to many passages in the poem, and / will confirm the doctrine delivered above, con^y/ ceming the choice of subject.

This Epistle is, on the whole, one of the most highly finished, and certainly the most in- V/


• The Duke of Buckingham—Sheffield.


^teresting, of the pieces of our author; and^ogether with the Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, is the only instance of the Pathetic Pope has given us. I think one may venture to remark, that the reputation of Pope, as a Poet, among posterity, will he principally owing to his Windsor Forest, his Rape Of The Lock, and his Eloisa To Abelard; whilst the facts and characters alluded to and exposed in his later writings, will be forgotten and unknown, and their poignancy and propriety little relished. For Wit and Satire are transitory and perishable, but Nature and Passion are eternal.^




J? EW disquisitions are more amusing, or perhaps more instructive, than those which relate to the rise and gradual increase of literature in any kingdom: And among the various species of literature, the origin and progress of poetry, however shallow reasoners may despise it, is a subject of no small utility. For the manners and customs, the different ways of thinking and of living, the favourite passions, pursuits, and pleasures, of men, appear in no writings so strongly marked, as in the works of the poets in their respective ages; so that in these compositions, the historian, the moralist, the politician, and the philosopher, may each of them meet with abundant matter for reflection and observa




Poetry made its first appearance in Britain, as perhaps in most other countries, in the form of chronicles, intended to perpetuate the deeds both of civil and military heroes, but mostly the latter. Of this species is the chronicle of Robert of Glocester; and of this species also was the song, or ode, of Roland, which William the Conqueror, and his followers, sung at their landing in this kingdom from Normandy. The mention of which event will naturally remind us of the check it gave to the native strains of the old British poetry, by an introduction of foreign manners, customs, images, and language. These ancient strains were, however, sufficiently harsh, dry, and uncouth. And it was to the Italians we owed any thing that could be called poetry: from whom Chaucer, imitated by Pope in this vision, copied largely, as they are said to have done from the Bards of Provence; and to which Italians he is perpetually owning his obligations, particularly to Boccace and Petrarch. But Petrarch had great advantages, which Chaucer w anted, not only in the friendship and advice of Boccace, but still more in having found such a predecessor as Dante. In the year 1359, Boccace

sent sent to Petrarch a copy of Dante, whom he called his father, written with his own hand. And it is remarkable, that he accompanied his present with an apology for sending this poem to Petrarch, who, it seems, was jealous of Dante, and in the answer speaks coldly of his merits. This circumstance, unobserved by the generality of writers, and even by Fontanini, Crescembini, and Muratori, is brought forward, and related at large, in the third volume, page 507, of the very entertaining Memoirs of the Life of Petrarch. In the year 1363, Boccace, driven from Florence by the plague, visited Petrarch at Venice, and carried with him Leontius Pilatus, of Thessalonica, a man of genius, but of haughty, rough, and brutal manners: from this singular man, who perished in a voyage from Constantinople to Venice, 1365, Petrarch received a Latin translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. Muratori, in his 1. book, Delia Perfetta Poesia, p. 18, relates, that a very few years after the death of Dante, 1321, a most curious work on the Italian poetry was written by a M. A. di Tempo, of which he had seen a manuscript in the great library at Milan, of the year 1332, and of which this is

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