« ZurückWeiter »
Dunciad, Bentley, Theobald, Dennis, and Cooke. When Mallet's tragedy of Mustapha was brought on the stage, Pope appeared at the theatre on the first night of its representation. All the chiefs in opposition to the Court were present, for the play was said to glance at the king and Sir Robert Walpole in the characters of Solyman the Magnificent and Rustan his vizier. The play, as Davies tells us in his Life of Garrick, was acted with great applause; and at its close Pope went behind the scenes, where he had not been for some years. “He expressed himself to be well pleased with the entertainment, and particularly addressed himself to Quin, who was greatly flattered with the distinction paid him by so great a man; and when Pope's servant brought his master's scarlet cloak, Quin insisted upon the honour of putting it on him.”'.5
In Young, as a moral and satirical poet, Pope had no contemptible rival. His satires are little inferior to those of the great master, and contain many happy epigrammatic sketches of fashionable follies and of living persons. Though written in the style of Pope, they were published prior to the Moral Essays or Imitations of Horace ; and Young's ridicule of false taste in ostentatious building, bibliomania, tulip-fancying, &c., in all probability suggested the more energetic and severe delineations of his illustrious contemporary. Though all his life a courtier and placehunter, Young is said to have been remarkable for frequent absence of mind, of which Pope relates an amusing instance:
My supper was as singular as my dinner. It was with a great Poet and Ode-maker (that is, a great poet out of his wits, or out of his way). He came to me very hungry, not for want of a dinner (for that I should make no jest of) but, having forgot to dine. He fell most furiously on the broil'd relics of a shoulder of mutton, commonly call’d a blade-bone ; he professed he never tasted so exquisite a thing ! begged me to tell him what joint it was, wondering he had never heard the name of this joint, or seen it at other tables ; and desired to know how he might direct his butcher to
5 Davies's Life of Garrick, vol. ii. p. 36.
cut out the same for the future ? and yet this man, so ignorant in modern butchery, has cut up half an hundred heroes, and five or six miserable lovers, in every tragedy he has written.
We have mentioned Pope's visit to Bevis Mount, the seat of Lord Peterborough. The military success, versatile character, and romantic adventures of this singular nobleman, seem to have powerfully struck the poet's fancy. His brilliant capture of Barcelona, and his driving the Duke of Anjou and the French army out of Spain, with a force little more than a third of that of the enemy, with other instances of bravery and military genius, partake of the character of romance, and well merited what they received, the applause of foreign countries and his own. But Peterborough was also a wit, a successful versifier, a politician, and a man of gallantry. His verses on Mrs. Howard are superior to those of Pope on the same lady; and in his sixty-fifth year he carried on a sentimental flirtation with her in the style of a youth of twenty. So extravagantly encomiastic and metaphysical were the earl's letters, that the lady seems to have despaired of rivalling him, and she called in Gay to assist her in concocting suitable replies. A month previous to Pope's visit, Peterborough wrote to Mrs. Howard, “I want to make an appointment with you, Mr. Pope, and a few friends more, to meet upon the summit of my Bevis hill, and thence, after a speech and a tender farewell, I shall take my leap towards the clouds (as Julian expresses it) to mix amongst the stars ; but I make my bargain for a very fine day." Pope came, but he found his friend in too debilitated a state for this elevated exploit. He was confined to his couch, dying, but still meditating a voyage to Lisbon, which he actually attempted, but did not live to complete. The poet thus describes to Martha Blount his last interview with this singular nobleman :
Tuesday, Aag. 25, 1735. MADAM,— I found my Lord Peterborough on his couch, where he gave me an account of the excessive sufferings he had passed through, with a weak voice, but spirited. He talked of nothing but the great amendment of his condition, and of finishing the buildings and gardens for his best friend to enjoy after him ; that he had one care more, when he went into France, which was, to give a true account to posterity of some parts of history in Queen Anne's reign, which Burnet had scandalously represented ; and of some others, to justify her against the imputation of intending to bring in the Pretender, which (to his knowledge) neither her ministers, Oxford and Bolingbroke, nor she, had any design to do. He next told me, he had ended his domestic affairs, through such difficulties from the law, that gave him as much torment of mind, as his distemper had done of body, to do right to the person to whom he had obligations beyond expression : that he had found it necessary not only to declare his marriage to all his relations, but (since
6 Lord Peterborough married Mrs. Anastasia Robinson, a celebrated singer, of whom Dr. Burney has given a very interesting account in his History of Music. The marriage was long kept secret, and, we learn from this Letter, divulged only about this time. His Lordship did not survive this interview with his old correspondent many weeks. He persisted in
the person who had married them was dead) to re-marry her in the church at Bristol, before witnesses. The warmth with which he spoke on these subjects, made me think him much recovered, as well as his talking of his
going to Lisbon, but died on the passage, Oct. 15. He was born about the year 1658, and was in his seventy-seventh year when he died. At the time of his connection with Mrs. Robinson, he must have been considerably beyond his prime. She survived him fifteen years, residing in an exalted station, partly at Bevis-Mount, near Southampton (whence Mr. Pope's interesting Letter is dated), and partly at Fulham, or perhaps at PeterboroughHouse on Parson's Green (Lysons' Environs of London, vol. i.). The only Life extant of Lord Peterborough is that by Dr. Birch, which accompanies the Earl's portrait in Houbraken's Heads. He had written his own Memoirs, which his Lady destroyed, from a regard to his reputation. Tradition says, that in these Memoirs he confessed his having committed three capital crimes before he was twenty years of age. Such Memoirs may be spared.Bowles. A life of Peterborough has recently (1853) been written by the author of “Hochelaga,” who thus describes his hero's announcement of his marriage :-" The tardy act of justice was at length performed in a thoroughly characteristic manner. He appointed a day for all his nearest relations to meet him at the apartments over the gateway in St. James's Palace : those rooms belonged to Mr. Poyntz, who had married his niece, and who at that time was tutor to Prince William, afterwards Duke of Cumberland. Anastasia was also appointed to be there at the same time, but had not the least notion of the scene which her eccentric husband had prepared. When all were assembled, Peterborough addressed them with an animation worthy of his best days, and with deep feeling, worthier than he had ever known before. He described a lady who had been gifted by Heaven with every virtue and every endearing quality which woman could possess ; of rare talents and accomplishments, of exemplary patience, of enduring affection, and of spotless purity. He described how he owed to her the best and happiest hours of his life ; how her society had been his chiefest blessing in health, and how her tender care had been his dearest comfort in suffering and sorrow. He confessed how his heart through life had done her the justice that his weak vanity had refused ; how he had loved her, and her alone, with true and abiding attachment. While he spoke, the dying man's voice at times rose with energy, at times trembled with the deepest pathos ; and, as he concluded, he took Anastasia by the hand, and led her forth among the survivors of his haughty race as the woman whom he had attempted to describe, who had been for long years ‘his best friend,' the wife of his bosom. The strangeness and suddenness of the announcement instantly overcame her ; she fainted in the midst of the company, and was carried away insensible.”
present state as a heaven to what was past. I lay in the next room to him, where I found he was awake, and calling for help most hours of the night, sometimes crying out for pain. In the morning he got up at nine, and was carried into his garden in a chair : he fainted away twice there. He fell, about twelve, into a violent pang, which made his limbs all shake, and his teeth chatter; and for some time he lay cold as death. His wound was dressed (which is done constantly four times a day), and he grew gay, and sat at dinner with ten people. After this he was again in torment for a quarter of an hour ; and as soon as the pang was over, was carried again into the garden to the workmen, talked again of his history, and declaimed with great spirit against the meanness of the present great men and ministers, and the decay of public spirit and honour. It is impossible to conceive how much his heart is above his condition : he is dying every other hour, and obstinate to do whatever he has a mind to. He has concerted no measures beforehand for his journey, but to get a yacht in which he will set sail, but no place fixed on to reside at, nor has determined what place to land at, or provided any accommodation for his going on land. He talks of getting towards Lyons, but undoubtedly he can never travel but to the seashore. I pity the poor woman who is to share in all he suffers, and who can in no one thing persuade him to spare himself. I think he must be lost in this attempt, and attempt it he will.
He has with him, day after day, not only all his relations, but every creature of the town of Southampton that pleases. He lies on his couch, and receives them, though he says little. When his pains come, he desires them to walk out, but invites them to stay and dine or sup, &c. Sir Wilfred Lawson and his Lady, Mrs. Mordaunt and Colonel Mordaunt, are here : to-morrow come Mr. Poyntz, &c., for two days only, and they all go away together. He says he will go at the month's end, if he is alive. I believe I shall get home on Wednesday night. I hope Lady Suffolk will not go sooner for Stowe, and, if not, I'll go with her willingly. Nothing can be more affecting and melancholy to me than what I see here : yet he takes my visit so kindly, that I should have lost ore great pleasure, had I not come. I have nothing more to say, as I have nothing in my mind but this present object, which indeed is extraordinary. This man was never born to die like other men, any more than to live like them.
I am ever yours, &c. In writing to his learned counsel, Fortescue, August 23, 1735, the poet asks, “When shall you and I sit by a fireside without a brief or a poem in our hands, and yet not idle, not thoughtless, but as serious, and more so, than any business ought to make us, except the great business—that of enjoying a reasonable being, and regarding its end?