« ZurückWeiter »
ARBUTHNOT'S LAST LETTER TO POPE.
powerful of all Pope's satirical male portraits are contained in this epistle, namely, those of Addison and Lord Hervey. The dramatic opening of the poem, and its tender and dignified conclusion, are no less striking, while lines of exquisite beauty, the most sprightly wit, and keenest satire, are interspersed throughout its pages. The interest of the piece never flags, and the poet preserves to its close the character of an elevated and injured satirist. Parts of the poem had been written many years before; part was published in the Miscellanies, and much was altered and corrected, but the labour is not visible; the various materials are worked up with so much care and skill, and are so fused by the passionate ardour of the poet, that it forms one complete, continuous, and irresistible poetical appeal.
Arbuthnot was then hastening to the grave, but he lived about a month after the publication of the Epistle. The following is his last letter to Pope ;
Hampstead, July 17, 1734. I little doubt of your kind concern for me, nor of that of the lady you mention. I have nothing to repay my friends with at present, but prayers and good wishes. I have the satisfaction to find that I am as officiously served by my friends, as he that has thousands to leave in legacies; besides the assurance of their sincerity. God Alınighty has made my bodily distress as easy as a thing of that nature can be. I have found some relief at least sometimes, from the air of this place. My nights are bad, but many poor creatures have worse.
As for you, my good friend, I think since our first acquaintance there have not been any of those little suspicions or jealousies, that often affect the sincerest friendships: I am sure, not on my side. I must be so sincere as to own, that though I could not help valuing you for those talents which the world prizes, yet they were not the foundation of my friendships; they were quite of another sort; nor shall I at present offend you by enumerating them: and I make it my last request, that you will continue that noble disdain and abhorrence of vice which you seem naturally endued with; but still with a due regard to your own safety; and study more to reform than chastise, though the one cannot be effected without the other.
Lord Bathurst I have always honoured, for every good quality that a person of bis rank ought to have: pray, give my respects and kindest
wishes to the family. My venison-stomach is gone, but I have those about me, and often with me, who will be very glad of his present. If it is left at my house, it will be transmitted safe to me.
A recovery in my case, and at my age, is impossible; the kindest wish of my friends is Euthanasia. Living or dying, I shall always be
Pope's reply, though tinctured with his usual self-complacency, is not unworthy to stand by the side of Arbuthnot's earnest and affectionate communication :
July 26, 1734. I thank you for your letter, which has all those genuine marks of a good mind by which I have ever distinguished yours, and for which I have so long loved you. Our friendship has been constant; because it was grounded on good principles, and therefore not only uninterrupted by any distrust, but by any vanity, much less any interest.
What you recommend to me with the solemnity of a last request, shall have its due weight with me. That disdain and indignation against vice, is (I thank God) the only disdain and indignation I have: it is sincere, and it will be a lasting one. But sure it is as impossible to have a just abhorrence of Vice, without hating the vicious, as to bear a true love for Virtue, without loving the good. To reform and not to chastise, I am afraid, is impossible; and that the best precepts, as well as the best laws, would prove of small use, if there were no examples to enforce them. To attack vices in the abstract, without touching persons, may be safe fighting indeed, but it is fighting with shadows. General propositions are obscure, misty, and uncertain, compared with plain, full, and home examples: precepts only apply to our reason, which in most men is but weak: examples are pictures, and strike the senses, nay, raise the passions, and call in those (the strongest and most general of all motives) to the aid of reformation. Every vicious man makes the case his own, and that is the only way by which such men can be affected, much less deterred. So that to chastise is to reform. The only sign by which I found my writings ever did any good, or had any weight, has been that they raised the anger of bad men. And my greatest comfort, and encouragement to proceed, has been to see, that those who have no shame, and no fear of anything else, have appeared touched by my satires.
As to your kind concern for my safety, I can guess what occasions it at this time. Some characters I have drawn are such, that if there be any who deserve them, it is evidently a service to mankind to point those men out; yet such as, if all the world gave them, none, I think, will own they take POPE'S VIEWS REGARDING SATIRE.
to themselves. But if they should, those of whom all the world think in such a manner, must be men I cannot fear. Such in particular as have the meanness to do mischiefs in the dark, have seldom the courage to justify them in the face of day; the talents that make a cheat or a whisperer, are not the same that qualify a man for an insulter; and as to private villany, it is not so safe to join in an assassination, as in a libel. I will consult my safety so far as I think becomes a prudent man; but not so far as to omit anything which I think becomes an honest one. As to personal attacks beyond the law, every man is liable to them. As for danger within the law, I am not guilty enough to fear any. For the good opinion of all the world, I know, it is not to be had: for that of worthy men, I hope, I shall not forfeit it: for that of the great, or those in power,
may wish I had it; but if, through misrepresentations (too common about persons in that station) I have it not, I shall be sorry, but not miserable in the want of it.
It is certain, much freer satirists than I, have enjoyed the encouragement and protection of the princes under whom they lived. Augustus and Mæcenas made Horace their companion, though he had been in arms on the side of Brutus: and, allow me to remark, it was out of the suffering party too that they favoured and distinguished Virgil. You will not suspect me of comparing myself with Virgil and Horace, nor even with another court-favourite, Boileau. I have always been too modest to imagine my panegyrics were incense worthy of a court; and that, I hope, will be thought the true reason why I have never offered any. I would only have observed, that it was under the greatest princes and best ministers, that moral satirists were most encouraged; and that then poets exercised the same jurisdiction over the follies, as historians did over the vices of men. It may also be worth considering, whether Augustus himself makes the greater figure, in the writings of the former, or of the latter? and whether Nero and Domitian do not appear as ridiculous for their false taste and affectation, in Persius and Juvenal, as odious for their bad government in Tacitus and Suetonius? In the first of these reigns it was, that Horace was protected and caressed; and in the latter that Lucan was put to death, and Juvenal banished.
I would not have said so much, but to show you my whole heart on this subject; and to convince you, I am deliberately bent to perform that request which you make your last to me, and to perform it with temper, justice, and resolution. As your approbation (being the testimony of a sound head and an honest heart) does greatly confirm me herein, I wish you may live to see the effect it may hereafter have upon me, in something more deserving of that approbation. But if it be the will of God, (which I know will also be yours,) that we must separate, I hope it will be better for you than it can be for me. You are fitter to live, or to die, than any man I know. Adien, my dear friend! and may God preserve your life easy, or make your death happy.
One other publication marked this year-an Imitation of Horace, the second satire of the second book. Lord Hervey and Lady Mary are again glanced at; indeed they were never forgotten in any of the poet's satires, published subsequent to 1732, though the desire to chastise is certainly more apparent than the desire to reform. This imitation is not one of Pope's happy efforts. Its most effective and pleasing passage is a description of the poet's life at Twickenham. Johnson indirectly censures these personal and egotistic revelations of the poet. “In his letters and in his poems, his garden and his grotto, his quincunx and his vines, or some hints of his opulence, are always to be found.” The mention of them, however, is seldom disagreeable. They present us with glimpses of a happy and successful life, spent in scenes and pursuits which it is pleasant to contemplate. The poet is bounded in his desires—content with his five acres of rented land; and we participate in his satisfaction when he looks around him and welcomes his friends :
From yon old walnut-tree a shower shall fall,
Even his enumeration of his high-born and wealthy friends is not felt to be mean or servile; for he places himself on an equality with them, and to the Prince himself he is “ follower but a friend.” It is when the poet leaves the shades of Twickenham, with its comforts and elegances, and titled visitors, to expose and satirize the poverty of other authors, that he becomes supercilious and offensive. We then see that, with all his fine perceptions and marvellous acuteness, he takes but a limited view of human life and duty, and is deficient in that spirit of true humanity that stirs the deepest feelings and accompanies the noblest intellects.
PUBLICATION OF POPE'S CORRESPONDENCE. LITERARY FRIENDS. LAST
VISIT TO LORD PETERBOROUGH. SAVAGE. ACQUAINTANCE WITH
year 1735 found the poet “neither studious nor idle, rather polishing old works than hewing out new;" in spring superintending the operations in his garden, where he was rearing the stone obelisk to the memory of his mother, and building fresh stoves and a hot-house for ananas; and in autumn renewing his visits to Oakley Bower, Stowe, and Bevis Mount, near Southampton, the seat of Lord Peterborough, which was the boundary of his excursions. But the most noticeable event of this year was the publication of Pope's Literary Correspondence by Curll, which Mr. D’Israeli has elevated into a comparison with the mystery of Junius's Letters. Johnson, Warton, Bowles, and, latterly, Mr. Macaulay, have all concluded that the poet was accessory to this publication, and for the obvious reason stated by Johnson, that “ being desirous of printing his letters, and not knowing how to do, without imputation of vanity, what has in this country been done very rarely, he contrived an appearance of compulsion; that when he could complain that his letters were surreptitiously published, he might decently and defensively publish them himself.” In other words, he stole his own letters from their secret repositories, printed them, and then raised a hue and cry against Curll, who having been fined, imprisoned, pilloried, and tossed in a blanket, was in