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CURLL IS BROUGHT BEFORE THE HOUSE OF LORDS. 233
original Manuscripts (of which affidavit is made) may be seen at Mr. Curll's house, by all who desire it.
Not a single manuscript apparently had been delivered. On the same day that the advertisement appeared, Smythe sent for Curll to the Standard tavern, in Leicester Fields, and while they were there two porters arrived with five bundles of books on a horse, which Smythe said had come by water. The books were ordered to Curll's house, and his wife took them in, while he himself settled accounts with his mysterious negotiator. He gave him 101. in cash, a bill for 15l. payable in a month, and a conditional note for 51. For these Smythe granted a receipt in full for three hundred copies, but Curll afterwards asserted that he received only two hundred and forty, and those imperfect. A new turn was now given to the affair, and one which was doubtless predicted by the negotiators from the beginning. Curll's advertisement was a direct infringement of a rule of the House of Lords, which prohibited the publication of any peer's letters without his consent. Pope had drawn attention to the advertisement by offering a reward of twenty guineas to R. S. and P. T. if they would come forward and discover the affair, and double the sum if they proved that they acted under the direction of any other person. The result was that the Earl of Jersey brought the matter before the House of Lords, the books were seized, and Curll and Wilford, printer of the Postboy (the paper containing the advertisement) were ordered to attend. In this extremity P. T. wrote to encourage Curll, and advised him how to answer the lords. He was instructed to say that he got the letters from different hands, some of which he paid for; that he printed them as he had before done Mr. Cromwell's, without Mr. Pope's ever gainsaying it; and that as to the originals he could show many, and the rest he would have very speedily. “In short,” said R. Smythe, “ if you absolutely conceal all that has passed between P. T., and me and you, you win the old gentleman
for ever. For his whole heart is set upon publishing the letters, not so much for this volume, as in ordine ad to much more important correspondence that will follow, viz., with Swift, late Lord Ox-d, Bishop Rochester, and Lord Bol.” The parson with the barrister's band was certainly well acquainted with the names of Pope's correspondents, and he writes them as the poet himself usually wrote them, by initials or contractions. Curll, however, was not allured by the bait. He told the lords the whole story; and one of the books being examined it was found that, contrary to the advertisement, there was not a single letter of any peer in it, and consequently that the rules of the House of Lords had not been violated. The bundles of books were then re-delivered, the lords declaring, as Curll states, that they had been made Pope's tools! The now-triumphant Curll addressed their lordships in a letter of thanks, which was proportionally magnificent in style, though intended at the same time to serve as an advertisement:
Rose Street, Covent Garden, May 22, 1735. To the most Noble and Right Honourable the Peers of Great Britain. My Lords,—This day se’nnight I was in the same jeopardy as Mr. Dryden's Hind :
"Doomed to death, though fated not to die.”
But, till the hour of my death, I shall, with the most grateful acknowledgements always remember both the justice and honour your Lordships have done me on this occasion.
Prevarication, my Lords, is a noted finesse of the Society of Jesus ; Mr. Pope says in one of his letters, that an evasion is a lie guarded, but in another to Mr. Wycherley, he thus writes, pp. 24, 25 :-“I am sorry you told the great man whom you met in the Court of Requests, that your papers were in my hands ; no man alive shall ever know any such thing from me, and I give you this warning besides, that though yourself should say I had any way assisted you, I am resolved notwithstanding to deny it.” An excellent proof this of the modesty of Alexander Pope, of Twickenbam, Esqre.
Now, my lords, to matter of fact. I shall this week publish a new edition of Mr. Pope's Literary Correspondence, &c., wherein the letters to Mr. Jervas, Mr. Digby, Mr. Blount, and Dr. Arbuthnot (which were wanting
POPE ADVERTISES AN EDITION OF HIS LETTERS.
in all the copies seized by your Lordships' order) shall be by me delivered gratis. And as I am resolved to detect, if possible, the contrivers of this gross imposition upon your Lordships, I will, by way of Supplement, print all the letters I have received from E. P., P. T., and R. S. with some other correspondences, which, as Mr. Bayes says, shall both elevate and surprise the public.
I have engraven a new plate of Mr. Pope's head from Mr. Jervas's painting; and likewise intend to hang him up in effigy for a sign to all spectators of his falsehood and my own veracity, which I will always maintain under the Scots motto :
Nemo me impune lacessit.
The negotiators anticipated this threat of publishing the correspondence. They sent the whole, as is alleged, to Cooper, the publisher, and from these documents the “True Narrative " purported to be drawn up. This document concludes with an important "N. B."
We are informed that notwithstanding the pretences of Edmund Curll, the original letters of Mr. Pope, with the postmarks upon them, remain still in the books from whence they were copied, and that so many omissions and interpolations have been made in this publication, as to render it impossible for Mr. P. to own them in the condition they appear.
The remedy was at hand. Next month (July 15) Pope inserted a notice in the London Gazette :
Whereas several booksellers have printed several surreptitious and incorrect editions of letters as mine, some of which are not so, and others interpolated, and whereas there are daily advertisements of second and third volumes of more such letters, particularly my correspondence with the late Bishop of Rochester, I think myself under a necessity to publish such of the said letters as are genuine, with the addition of some others of a nature less insignificant, epecially those which passed between the said bishop and myself, or were in any way relating to him, which shall be printed with all convenient speed.
Subscription papers for a guinea volume were issued, but the poet was inclined, in the mean time, to benefit by the surreptitious editions. In a letter to his legal friend, Fortescue, Pope mentions that Curll had served a process upon Cooper, “the publisher," he adds, “ of the letters which I told you I connived at." Cooper's edition was a reprint of Curll's. Johnson also mentions that some of the printed letters were offered to Lintot, and Curll speaks of others to whom liberty to print was given by the poet.
But the original letters, with the postmarks, being still entire, and the surreptitious edition of Curll disfigured by omissions and interpolations, we turn to the genuine edition of 1737, for a faithful copy. We have also other materials to assist in forming a judgment on this point, as the original letters to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and to Teresa and Martha Blount, still exist, and several of them have been printed from the manuscripts. The result is, that Pope's edition of the letters, which had been printed by Curll, is the same as Curll's, and that this common version differs essentially from the original! There are innumerable small alterations and omissions, the same in both. “One letter to Miss Blount” as Mr. Bowles has remarked, “is absolutely re-written and compounded, with a newly-composed beginning, two letters being tacked together, and the letter so carefully and elaborately compounded, is found totidem verbis in the surreptitious edition as in Pope's own." Again -"In the surreptitious edition, as in Pope's authentic edition, the names of the ladies to whom the letters were addressed are all concealed. It is only known that letter twenty (Warburton's common edition) was addressed to Lady Mary, by its being printed in her works. Is it possible that if the letter had been furnished by the hand of any one who had gained access to the original, no name would have been found ?" Pope having subsequently quarrelled with Lady Mary, and bitterly satirized her in his poetry, had a motive for concealing her name in his printed correspondence, where she was represented as the object of his idolatrous admiration; but P. T. and R. S. had no such motive. Their interest lay directly the other way; for the
IDENTITY OF POPE'S AND CURLL'S EDITIONS.
name of a person so conspicuous for rank, talents, and beauty, would have lent attraction to their volume. Nor would Lord Oxford have cared to read such epistles to ladies, without knowing to which of his female friends or acquaintances they were addressed, and Lady Mary was a special favourite with the Countess of Oxford. In the preface to the genuine edition, Pope disclaims being held accountable for passages in the surreptitious copy, which, he says, no man of common sense would have published himself. This can only apply to the Cromwell correspondence, which was given to the press by Mrs. Thomas, and over which he had no control. There are some indecent levities and some trifling letters in this collection, which Pope properly suppressed, and he made some omissions in the letters to Gay and others, but there is no doubt of the genuineness of the suppressed passages :
while the correspondence with Walsh, Trumbull, Steele, Addison, Blount, and Jervas are identical in both editions. The foot-notes are the same in both. Most of these
unnecessary to Lord Oxford or to Pope himself, but they were useful to general readers. The arrangement of the letters is also similar. In Curll, one letter is misplaced; in Pope it occupies the same position; but in the table of contents in