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INTIMACY WITH CROMWELL DECLINES.
though coarse enjoyment in those rural gatherings and merry nights in the olden time.
Pope said to Spence that his letters to Cromwell were written with a design that does not appear: they were not written in sober sadness. To Aaron Hill he said they were written with unguarded friendliness and freedom. remark contradicts the other; and it is impossible to trace any occult motive in these harmless companionable epistles. There is some trifling criticism on the part of Cromwell, and some rather unwarrantable levity on the part of Pope, but much kindliness and respect on both sides. The result, however, was unsatisfactory. After three years of intercourse, oral and epistolary, Cromwell was silent for a twelvemonth. Pope's jocularities and sarcasms had chafed the temper of the old pedantic beau, who began to perceive that the sickly retired lad in the Forest was becoming a decidedly formidable personage.
The correspondence accordingly dropped, and the intercourse was not renewed excepting on one unpleasant occasion. Long after this time, in 1727, Mrs. Thomas, or “Sappho,” falling into distressed circumstances, sold to Edmund Curll, the publisher, the original letters of Pope to Cromwell, which she had obtained from the latter. “ All persons of taste and judgment,” she said, "would be pleased with so agreeable an amusement. Mr. Cromwell could not be angry, since it was but justice to his merit to publish the solemn and private professions of love, gratitude, and veneration, made him by so celebrated an author ; and, sincerely, Mr. Pope ought not to resent the publication, since the early pregnancy of his genius was no dishonour to his character. And yet (she adds) had either of you been asked, common modesty would have obliged you to refuse what you would not be displeased with if done without your knowledge”—a shrewd observation, which
tated an epic poem, exclaimed, “ He write an epic, who never saw a mountain !” He might have said the same of Pope, who contenu plated an epic with Brutus for its hero.
evinces Sappho's knowledge of both the parties concerned. Cromwell, she said, had made her a free gift of the letters, to do what she liked with them. This he denied, though faintly, but he appears to have been vexed and annoyed by his own indiscretion in putting the correspondence into the hands of this pretieuse. He addressed Pope in the following penitential style :
The great value she expresses for all you write, and her passion for having them, I believe, was what prevailed upon me to let her keep them. By the interval of twelve years at least, from her possession to the time of printing them, 'tis manifest that I had not the least ground to apprehend such a design : but as people in great straits bring forth their hoards of old gold and most valued jewels ; so Sappho had recourse to her hid treasure of letters, and played off not only yours to me, but all those to herself (as the lady's last stake) into the press.—As for me, I hope, when you shall coolly consider the many thousand instances of our being deluded by the females, since that great original of Adam by Eve, you will have a more favourable thought of the undesigning error of
Your faithful friend, &c. This must have been about the last instance of female delusion that Mr. Cromwell had to encounter, for he died in the following year, 1728. He was then in London, in the parish of St. Giles in the Fields. He had made his will eleven years before, leaving his estate of Beesby to a second cousin, the Rev. Henry Greene, and forty pounds a year to his “faithful and ancient” servant, Mrs. Isabel Perez—the “ Lady Isabella” of Pope's letters. There is no mention of Pope in the will, and Sappho was also neglected by her Phaon. Mr. Henry Greene was enjoined not to part with the valuable picture of the testator's “ dear father;" and Cromwell directed that his body should be decently interred, suitable to his birth, in the parish church of St. Clement Danes, “which church,” he adds, “I have most frequented.” The old wit, then, had some grace. Dr. Johnson eulogised one of his acquaintances as good and pious; for though he had not been in the inside of a church for many years, he never passed a church without pulling off his hat, which showed that he had good
THE BLOUNTS OF MAPLE-DURHAM.
principles. Beau Cromwell was better in his practice, if not in his principles, than Johnson's good and pious man.
We have seen the keen relish with which Pope entered into society and courted the correspondence of the town wits and coffee-house critics. In the country, however, he was not destitute of other attractions than his books and verses. Early in life an attachment was formed which continued throughout the whole of his future existence, and exercised considerable influence on his happiness and social position. Among the Catholic families at that time resident in Berks and Oxfordshire—as Englefield of White Knights, Tattershall of Finchampstead, Perkins of Ufton, Sir George Browne of Keddington, Stonor of Stonor Park, Fermor of Tusmore, &c.—was that of Blount of Maple-Durham, in Ox ordshire, on the border of the Thames, near Reading. The families of Le Blount were of great antiquity, and could trace their descent from two brothers who accompanied Wiliam the Norman to England. Sir John Blount, in the reigi of Edward III., was married to Isolda Mountjoy, and from this union is descended the family of Blount of Sodington, conspicuous in history, partly as Lords Mountjoy, (Charles Blount, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth, will occur to the recollection of most readers,) and is now represented by Sir Edward Blount. Sir John Blount had a son who narried Sancha de Ayala of the house of Castile, and from him descended the Blounts of Oxfordshire. Sir Walter Blount of history and of Shakspeare, who fell at the battle of Shrewsbury, was of this family. In the following century Sir Michael Blount, Lieutenant of the Tower, purchased the manor of Maple-Durham, and erected the large and venerable mansion which still remains in the possession of his descendants. It was subjected to an assault during the civil war (when it was courageously defended in aid of the royal cause by Sir Charles Blount), but it continues in the most perfect state, with its fine avenue of elms and slicious lawn, and forms one of our best specimens of Elizabethan architecture, unspoiled by innovation.
In the time of Pope's youth this ancient and distinguished royalist family was represented by Mr. Lister Blount, who had one son, Michael, his successor, and two dauglters, Teresa and Martha Blount-names which will for ever be associated with that of Pope, as Stella and Vanessa are with the name and history of Swift. Happily the Pope connection was less painfully interesting and less tragical in its results than that of Swift, but in both cases a mystery was preserved which still baffles investigation. Swift, cold and stern, had no syinpathy with “ killing eyes or bleedng hearts."
His conduct might have made him styled
But he proved a step-father-crushing the hopes he lad excited—the only hopes that blossomed in that desert of existence—and ultimately breaking the hearts of the very beings whom he loved most on earth. Pope was more
TERESA AND MARTHA BLOUNT.
susceptible; there was passion enough at the commencement of his intercourse with the sisters; but he dallied with both, as if unable to make a choice; and the one whom he ultimately rejected, or was rejected by, he bound to celibacy for a term of six years, by which time his affections were finally and irrevocably centred in her sister. His personal infirmities probably prevented marriage, but the union of the “friendly glow” and “softer flame” in their correspondence-with their quarrels, reconciliations, and blended interests in money matters—is altogether inexplicable. Pope, in a letter to Teresa, gives a fanciful description of the commencement of their acquaintance :
Bath, 1714. You are to understand, madam, that my passion, for your fair self, and your sister, has been divided with the most wonderful regularity in the world. Even from my infancy, I have been in love with one after the other of you, week by week, and my journey to Bath fell out in the three hundred seventy-sixth week of the reign of my sovereign lady Sylvia [Martha in the original]. At the present writing hereof it is the three hundred eighty-ninth week of the reign of your most serene majesty, in whose service I was listed some weeks before I beheld your sister. This information will account for my writing to either of you hereafter, as either shall happen to be queen-regent at that time.
On applying the vulgar touchstone of arithmetic to this poetical declaration, we find that the intimacy must have begun in the year 1707, when Teresa and Pope were in their nineteenth year, and Martha was seventeen.
19 Teresa (who was baptized Teresa Maria) was born at Paris October 15, 1688. Martha was born June 15, 1690. They were partly educated at a ladies' school at Hammersmith, and were afterwards placed at an establishment in Paris in the Rue Boulanger. By the will of Lister Blount, the father, dated May 15, 1710 (he died 25th June of the same year), it was directed that if his son Michael should die without issue, Martha was to inherit Maple-Durham, and her eldest sister Teresa, being born an alien, was to have a sum of £12,000. The French education of the young ladies imparted a certain polish and vivacity to their manners, and Teresa is described as a person of remarkable talents. Some of Pope's letters are addressed “ Aux Mademoiselles, Mademoiselles de