« ZurückWeiter »
HIS FIRM BELIEF IN THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL. 297
He was persuaded to desist, and the paper on which he had been engaged was found to be an Essay on the Immortality of the Soul, according to a theory of his own, in which he spoke of those material things which tend to strengthen and support the soul's immortality, and of those which weaken and destroy it.8 Bolingbroke was of a different stamp-all his views were material ; and when Cheselden, the surgeon, remarked, “There is no hope for him (Pope) here; our only hope for him must be- Bolingbroke broke in with “ Pshaw !—we can only reason from what is ; we can reason on actualities, but not on possibilities." He was a stranger to the “ still small voice” which had at length reached the dying ear of Pope.
On the 27th the poet quoted two of his own verses on his whole life having been divided between carelessness and care; the passage occurring in his Imitation of Horace, addressed to Colonel Cotterell :
I, who at some times spend, at others spare,
The same day he requested to be brought to the table where his friends were sitting at dinner. His dying appearance was remarked by all present, and Miss Anne Arbuthnot (with a touch of her father's spirit) exclaimed, “Lord have mercy upon us ! this is quite an Egyptian feast!” Next day Pope sat in his garden in a sedan chair for three hours. This was his last survey of a scene in which he had taken so much interest and delight—a scene then in the flush of
8 It appears from Spence that in this Essay, or rather memorandum, Pope said something about generous wines helping the immortality of the soul; whereas spirituous liquors served only to mortalize it. This extraordinary idea must be ascribed to temporary delirium—the wandering of the mind; but it probably glances at the poet's habit of dram-drinking, which seems to have grown upon him, and the ill effects of which he must have been conscious of.
May beauty, and consecrated by poetry, taste, and friendship.' How he thought of the past cannot be told ; in his case death seems to have been divested of all bitterness and terror; but of the future, looking round him on the fertile promise of the year and the returning glory of summer, animated strongly as he was by “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life,” he must have felt the sentiment so finely expressed by a later poet:
Shall I be left forgotten in the dust,
And man's majestic beauty bloom again Bright through th' eternal year of Love's triumphant reign. The day preceding his death Pope took an airing in Bushy Park. Hooke, the Roman historian, a zealous Catholic, though attached to the mysticism and quietism of Fenelon, now approached the poet, asking him whether he would not die as his father and mother had done, and whether he should not send for a priest ? Pope said, "I do not suppose that is essential, but it will look right; and I heartily thank you for putting me in mind of it.” The priest who discharged the last office came out from the dying man, as Hooke said, penetrated to the last degree with the state of mind in which he found his penitent, resigned, and wrapt up in the love of God and man.10 Warton adds, that such was the fervour of the poet's de
9 Dugald Stewart mentions among the trivial yet interesting incidents which marked the last weeks of Robertson the historian's life, his daily visits to the fruit-trees in his garden, which were then in blossom, and the smile with which he contrasted the interest he took in their progress with the event which was to happen before their maturity.
10 Warton relates that the priest had scarcely departed from Pope's house, when Bolingbroke, coming over from Battersea, few into a great fit of passion and indignation on the occasion of his being called in.
votion, that he exerted all his strength to throw himself out of bed that he might receive the last sacrament kneeling on the floor. This is akin to the expiring devotion of Roscommon, whose last words, uttered with great energy, were two lines of his own version of the Dies Iræ
My God, my Father, and my Friend,
Do not forsake me in my end ! Recollection of the death-bed of his parents, as well as visions of immortality, had at that moment fired the glazing eye” of Pope, and inspired him with pious and penitential fervour. He said afterwards, “ there is nothing that is meritorious but virtue and friendship, and, indeed, friendship itself is but a part of virtue.” Hooke whispered this to Bolingbroke at table, and the peer answered, “Why, to be sure, that is the whole duty of man.” We shall see how soon and how signally Bolingbroke forgot this paramount duty.
Pope died on the evening of Wednesday, the 30th of May, 1744, so easily and imperceptibly, that his attendants did not know the exact time of his departure. He had exactly completed fifty-six years and nine days—a term of life not short, as Johnson has remarked, when we remember his irregular conformation, and his diligence of study and meditation. His life was one long disease, but the mind triumphed over every material obstruction. In his will the poet had directed that he should be buried near his parents in Twickenham Church, and that his remains should be carried to the grave by six of the poorest men of the parish, to each of whom he ordered a suit of mourning. He was interred on Tuesday, the 5th of June, and a stone in the middle aisle of the Church, inscribed with the letter P marks the spot.
Among the numerous verses, epitaphs, and criticisms called forth by Pope's death, were some lines by his old victim and antagonist, Colley Cibber. To quote Cibber's verses on any occasion is to show his weak side, but the reader may be interested by observing the feeling with which the Laureate approached a subject fraught to him with so many recollections.
Our pious praise on tombstones runs so high,
That not his errors can his fame destroy. Walpole extracts some better lines from one of the papers of the day, the greatest part of which, he said, expressed Pope's true character—and such seems to have been the opinion of most of his contemporaries :-
Here lies, who died, as most folks die, in hope,
His never-dying strains shall tell the rest. There was one conspicuous person who regarded the death of Pope with a peculiar interest. This was Sarah the old Duchess of Marlborough. Before the remains of DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH'S INQUIRIES.
Pope were committed to the grave Sarah was eager in her inquiries after his unpublished papers.
She was then in her eightyfourth year, and in a few more months she was destined to follow Pope tothe tomb;11 but even at this advanced age she retained not only
a few of those sallies of wit which fourscore
could not fail to produce in so fantastic an understanding,”:12 but all her restlessness, her worldly management, and active curiosity regarding living characters and passing events. Afraid of Pope, she had courted his society, and begged of Lord Marchmont to keep him her friend. The poet had studied her closely, and had delineated her character under the name of Atossa, in that famous satire which now forms part of his epistle on the Characters of Women. He communicated the lines both to the Duchess of Marlborough and the Duchess of Buckingham, pretending to each that it was levelled at the other. “The Buckingham,"
“ The Buckingham,” says Walpole, “ believed him: the Marlborough had more sense, and knew herself, and gave him a thousand pounds to suppress it, and yet he left the copy behind.” Warton advanced the same
11 She died October 18, 1744. See Notes to Moral Essays, Ep. II. in this edition.
DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH.