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vulnerable! Mr. Roscoe thinks that such charges brought against Pope are unfounded, and tend to degrade the poet in the eyes of the public and materially to diminish the influence which his writings are otherwise calculated to produce. The writings of Pope are safe from all controversial blight. A hundred years have attested this truth; and there would be an end to literary inquiry if such a dogma were erected into a general rule of action. We may dismiss Mr. Roscoe's fears, and allow them to roll off in mist, with Dennis's thunder, while we look calmly at the facts of the case.
Pope has given two accounts of this surreptitious publication. The first is a statement drawn up at the time, and printed without his name, entitled, “A True Narrative of the Method by which Mr. Pope's Letters have been published.” The second is contained in the preface to the genuine edition of his correspondence in 1737. In both of these we are informed that after the publication of the Cronwell correspondence in 1727, the poet recalled from his friends the letters which he had written to different correspondents, of many of which he had kept no copies.
He was sorry (says the preface) to find the number so great, but immediately lessened it by burning three parts in four of them : the rest he spared, not in any preference of their style or writing but merely as they preserved the memory of some friendships which will ever be dear to him, or set in a true light some matters of fact from which the scribblers of the times had taken occasion to asperse either bis friends or himself. He therefore laid by the originals, together with those of his correspondents, and caused a copy to be taken to deposit in the library of a noble friend.
The “True Narrative” states the case somewhat differently.
Some of his friends advised him to print a collection himself, to prevent a worse ; but this he would by no means agree to. However, as some of the letters served to revive several past scenes of friendship, and others to clear the truth of facts in which he had been misrepresented by the common scribblers, he was induced to preserve a few of his own letters as well as of his friends. These, as I have been told, he inserted in two books, some
CURLL INTENDS PUBLISHING A LIFE OF POPE.
originals, other copies, with a few notes and extracts here and there added. In the same books be caused to be copied some small pieces in verse and prose, either of his own or his correspondents', which, though not finished enough for the public, were such as the partiality of any friend would be sorry to be deprived of. To this purpose an amanuensis or two were employed by Mr. Pope, when the books were in the country, and by the Earl of Oxford when they were in town.
It will be observed that there is a discrepancy between these statements, though the similarity in expression is decisive as to their common authorship, of which there is also other proof. In the Preface, Pope states that the manuscript in Lord Oxford's library was simply a copy from the originals ; while in the True Narrative he represents it as composed partly of originals and partly of copies. The charge against Curll is that he published letters plundered from these MSS. whether original or copied—and here begins the first scene in the literary plot or drama, which, like the Chorus in the ancient theatres, we proceed to unfold.
It appears that in 1733 Curll, having an intention of publishing a life of Pope, solicited information by an advertisement in the newspapers ; and on the 11th of October he received a communication signed P. T., which professed to be written by a person who had been well acquainted with Pope's father, and with himself, in his early days. This P. T. gives the following account of the elder Pope :
It is certain, some late pamphlets are not fair in respect to his father, who was of the younger branch of a family in good repute in Ireland, and related to the Lords Downe, formerly of the same name. He was (as he hath told me himself, and he was very different from his son, a modest and plain honest man) a posthumous son, and left little provided for, his elder brother having what small estate there was, who afterwards studied and died at Oxford. He was put to a merchant in Flanders, and acquired a moderate fortune by merchandize, which he quitted at the Revolution in very good circumstances, and retired to Windsor Forest, where he purchased a small estate, and took great delight in husbandry and gardens. His mother was one of seventeen children of W. Turnor, Esq., formerly of Burfit Hall in the
Riding of Yorkshire. Two of her brothers were killed in the civil wars. This is a true account of Mr. Pope's family and parentage. Of his manners I cannot give so good an one ; yet as I would not wrong any man, both ought to be true; and if such be your design, I may serve you in it, not entering into any thing in anywise libellous. You may please to direct an answer in the Daily Advertiser this day se'nnight, in these terms-E. C. hath received a letter, and will comply with P. T.
This is the exact account which Pope himself gave of his family in a note on the Epistle to Arbuthnot, published the following year, but which has not been supported by any other testimony, and which his cousin, Mr. Pottinger, disbelieved. Curll complied with the request of P. T., and received from him a second letter dated Nov. 15, in which he states, “ apropos to Pope's life," that there had fallen into his hands a large collection of the poet's letters from the former part of his days to the year
They will make a four or five shilling book, yet I expect no more than what will barely pay a transcriber, that the originals may be preserved in mine or your hands to vouch the truth of them. I am of opinion these alone will contain his whole history, if you add to them what you formerly printed of those to Henry Cromwell, Esq. But you must put out an advertisement, for otherwise I shall not be justified to some people who have influence and on whom I have some dependence.
One would have expected to find Curll eagerly availing himself of the offer of the richest private correspondence that ever came within reach of his grasping hand; but he says that as P. T. did not call on him hé allowed the matter to lie dormant for nearly two years strictly, from November, 1733, to March, 1735. At the latter period, on arranging some papers, he turned up the copy of the advertisement sent by P. T., and he sent it to Pope, with a letter soliciting a meeting that they might“ close all differences," and mentioning that he had some other papers in the hands of P. T. relating to the poet's family, which he would show him if he desired a sight of them. He also stated that as the letters to Mr. Cromwell were out of
NEGOTIATES FOR POPE'S LETTERS.
print he intended to print them“ very beautifully in an octavo volume.” Pope replied by an advertisement in three different journals, certifying that Mr. P. having never had, nor intending ever to have, any correspondenee with E. C., gives his evidence in this manner: that he knows no such person as P. T., that he thinks no man has any such collection; that he believes the whole to be a forgery, and shall not trouble himself at all about it.” This professed indifference of the poet concerning a matter on which he felt so keenly, is in itself a suspicious circumstance. P. T. then writes to Curll, stating that he had seen Mr. Pope's advertisement, and complaining that Curll had betrayed him to “Squire Pope.” But both of them, he said, would soon be convinced that it was no forgery; “ for," he adds,“ since you would not comply with my proposal to advertise, I have printed them at my own expense, being advised that I could safely do so. I would still give you the preference if you will pay the paper and print, and allow me handsomely for the copy."" He demanded £3 a score for the printed books, and that the sum of £75 should be paid down. He also appointed a meeting with Curll at the Rose Tavern, when he said a person would attend and show him the printed sheets. On the day named for the meeting Curll received another letter from P. T., countermanding the interview, as he was afraid that Mr. Pope would send some of his Twickenham bravos to assault him; “But how Mr. Pope was to know of this meeting,” said Curll, was the cream of the jest.” The dauntless Curll sent word that he commiserated his fears, but that for his own part he did not dread any assassination from Mr. Pope, even though it were a poetical one!
A new actor was now brought upon the stage. On the 7th of May a “short squat man" wearing a clergyman's gown, with a large lawn barrister's band on his neck-a grotesque mixture of clerical and legal costume-came to Curll's house about ten o'clock at night. He showed him a copy of the book in sheets, almost finished, and about a dozen of the original letters, and promised that he should have the whole at their next meeting. This pseudo-parson called himself Smythe, and said he was a cousin of P. T. Several letters passed between the parties, in which Curll was particularly urged to advertise the volume. In one of these communications P. T. states that he obtained the letters from an old gentleman whom he thus describes :
He is no man of quality, but conversant with many, and happening to be concerned with a noble Lord (a friend of Mr. Pope's) in handing to the press his letters to Wycherley, he got some copies over and above. This incident first put into his head the thought of collecting more, and afterwards finding you did not comply in printing his advertisement, he went on with it by himself. Found Cromwell's answers in the same Lord's possession with many others, which he printed as near as possible to correspond with the letter and paper, &c.
At length Curll obtained fifty copies of the book, though wanting titles and prefaces. These were promised, along with the original MSS., by the two negotiators, and Curll, on the faith of what he had obtained and what was promised, issued an advertisement in his usual lofty style :
This day are published, and most beautifully printed, price five shillings, Mr. POPE'S LITERARY CORRESPONDENCE for Thirty Years; from 1704 to 1734. Being a Collection of Letters, regularly digested, written to him by the Right Honourable the late Earl of Halifax, Earl of Burlington, Secretary Craggs, Sir William Trumbull, Honorable J. C., General * * Honourable Robert Digby, Esq., Honourable Edward Blount, Esq., Mr. Addison, Mr. Congreve, Mr. Wycherley, Mr. Walsh, Mr. Steele, Mr. Gay, Mr. Jervas, Dr. Arbuthnot, Dean Berkeley, Dean Parnelle, &c. Also letters from Mr. Pope to Mrs. Arabella Fermor, and many other ladies. With the respective answers of each correspondent. Printed for E. Curll, in Rose Street, Covent Garden, and sold by all booksellers. N.B. The
1 Johnson states that “ James Worsdale, a painter, who was employed in clandestine negotiations, but whose veracity was very doubtful, declared that he was the messenger who carried, by Pope's directions, the books to Curll.” Worsdale was also a dramatic and song writer. Mrs. Pilkingtona kindred genius—in her memoirs claims the credit of having furnished Worsdale with some of the pieces which he published as his own. He is described by another of his contemporaries as a very droll fellow, and Master-painter to the Board of Ordnance. Savage was probably “P. T.”