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they were sent to the
Even after their publication many were retouched. He was too critical, and too jealous of his reputation, to suffer any gross verbal inaccuracies or puerilities to remain even in his specimens of youthful composition, and the lima labor was seldom misplaced.
The system of self-tuition by which Pope endeavoured to acquire the Latin and Greek was unsuited to modern languages, in which pronunciation forms so essential a part. He therefore in his fifteenth year went to London to learn French and Italian. “ We in the family,” said Mrs. Rackett, “looked upon it as a wildish sort of resolution, for as his health would not let him travel, we could not see any reason for it.” Her brother, she added, had a maddish way with him ; and a certain "Rag Smith," quoted by Spence, after being in Pope's company when he was about fourteen, pronounced the oracular opinion that the young fellow would either be a madman or make a very great poet. Like the young minstrel of Beattie,
Some deem'd him wondrous wise, and some believed him mad.
Pope never wanted the golden curb of prudence in forming literary plans and decisions on men or books; but his eager thirst for knowledge, his incessant studies, impatience, and irritability must often have made him appear wayward and capricious in the family circle, though his talents and affectionate disposition rendered him an object of all but idolatry. He did not make much progress with his French and Italian in London. Voltaire said Pope knew nothing of French, but it is evident he could read it. With Italian literature he never evinced any acquaintance; and after a few months' stay in the metropolis, the impatient poet abandoned the aid of masters, and was again alone at his studies in the Forest. His constant application at length told on his health and spirits, and medical assistance proved fruitless. His imagination, no doubt, was half the disease, and in despondency he lay down prepared to die. He sent farewells to his friends, and amongst these was
WRITES HIS PASTORALS.
one Abbé Southcote, who, on receiving Pope's valedictory communication, went immediately to consult Dr. Radcliffe, an eccentric but able physician. Radcliffe's prescription was a very simple one—the young man was to study less and ride on horseback every day. With this recipe the Father posted to Binfield; and Pope having the good sense to follow the prescribed course, speedily got well. The good Father's timely aid was not forgotten. Twenty years afterwards, the poet hearing of a vacant Abbey at Avignon, wrote immediately to Sir Robert Walpole, requesting his influence with Cardinal Fleury to obtain the appointment for Southcote. Walpole applied to his brother Horace, then British resident at the French Court, and Southcote was made abbot. The incident is a pleasing one, and honourable to all parties.
Pope in his sixteenth year was engaged on his Pastorals. Dreams of the golden age and of rural innocence, which have long since faded even from our poetry, were congenial to the young
classic student in Windsor Forest. The ideas and images he found in Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenser,
whose works,” he says, as I had leisure to study, so I hope I have not wanted care to imitate.” The versification was his chief object, and he elaborated it with such attention to the sweetness he prized in Virgil and Waller, and with such exactness and nicety in the construction of his lines, that even in advanced life, when poetry had long been his trade, he considered the Pastorals the most correct and musical of all his works. The manuscript was submitted to the perusal of his neighbour, Sir William Trumbull, who may be considered as Pope's earliest patron, though in his case patronage never degenerated into absolute dependence or servility. The paternal cell and limited fortune at. Binfield secured independence. Sir William Trumbu benevolent and accomplished man. After lo
After long public and diplomatic service, first as ambassador at the Ottoman Porte, and subsequently as Secretary of State to King William III., he retired in the year 1697 to his native
village of Easthampstead, and formed an acquaintance with the Popes at Binfield. He read the manuscript of the Pastorals in the year 1704; and notwithstanding the disparity in age and circumstances, the acquaintance between the travelled knight and the retired young poet soon ripened into a cordial intimacy. They rode out together almost daily, read their favourite classic authors together, and when absent kept up a correspondence. Sir William was the first to suggest to Pope that he should undertake a translation of the Iliad. Some years later, when Pope had been drawn into the vortex of gay and not very select society, the old statesman, with paternal anxiety, wrote to him, earnestly beseeching that he would get out of all tavern company, and fly away tanquam ex incendio.
“ What a misery is it for you to be destroyed by the foolish kindness (it is all one whether real or pretended) of those who are able to bear the poison of bad wine, and to engage you in so unequal a combat !”
One half was heard, the other lost in air.
Sir William Trumbull introduced Pope to Wycherley, the earliest of the chiefs of our prose drama, latest and best editor, Mr. Leigh Hunt, terms him, and whom the weight of sixty-four years, and a life as careless and as strangely diversified as that of any of the fine gentlemen in his comedies, had neither sobered nor depressed. He was still a wit and beau, but in ruins. As the author of the Plain Dealer, the friend of Dryden, and the once-fashionable and irresistible courtier, Wycherley had powerful attractions for young Pope. In town, he
ran after him like a dog,” and in his letters he overflowed with elaborate expressions of humility and gratitude. His first glimpses of town life and coffee-house society were opened up by this acquaintance. Wycherley, in his turn, was willing to profit by the literary talents of his new friend. “I am," said the dramatist,“ like an old rook who is ruined by gaming, and forced to live on the
says, he «
good fortune of the pushing young men whose fancies are so vigorous that they ensure their success in their adventures with the Muses.” And acting in the spirit of this self-abasing declaration, he submitted his poems to his pushing young friend for correction. Gil Blas was not then written, and Pope undertook the perilous office. At first he appears to have succeeded to the satisfaction of Wycherley, who longed to reap a fresh harvest of poetical honours. “You have,” he said, “pruned my fading laurels of some superfluous, sapless, and dead branches, to make the remainder live the longer; and thus, like your master Apollo, you are at once a poet and a physician.” The next application was of a sharper and less palatable description. Pope said he had contracted some of the pieces, " as we do sunbeams, to improve their energy and force ;” some he took quite away,
as we take branches from a tree to add to the fruit;” and others he entirely new expressed and turned more into poetry.” The somewhat mortified wit grumbled forth thanks. As to the verses, he said, “let them undergo your purgatory;" and, by way of sedative, he threw out a hope that his critic's "great, vigorous, and active mind would not be able to destroy his little, tender, and crazy carcase.” The “infallible Pope” proceeded, and letters were interchanged full of forced wit and hollow professions of great regard, till at length the young critic boldly suggested, that with regard to some of the pieces, it would be better to destroy the whole frame, and reduce them into single thoughts in prose, in the manner of Rochefoucault's maxims. This staggered Wycherley, and brought the farce of poet and critic to an end. The unfortunate manuscripts were recalled, and Pope about the
same time wrote
papers out of his
hands! There is a dash of petulance in this
closing epistle, and Mr. Leigh Hunt's summing-up is the correct one: “Of the two, Wycherley appears to have been less in the wrong,