Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

what a rate I valued your life, till you were upon the point of dying. If Mrs. Teresa and you will but fall sick every season, I shall certainly die for you. Seriously, I value you both so much, that I esteem others much the less for your sakes: you have robbed me of the pleasure of esteeming a thousand fine qualities in them, by showing me so many in a superior degree in yourselves. There are but two things in the world which can make you indifferent to me, which I believe you are not capable of ; I mean, ill-nature and malice. I have seen enough of you not to resent any frailty you could have, and nothing less than a vice can make me like you less. I expect you shculd discover, by my common conduct towards you both, that this is true; and that therefore you should pardon a thousand things in me for that disposition.

He sends Martha an account of Blenheim, the magnificent

seat of the Duke of Marlborough; but he does injustice to the architecture of Vanbrugh, who in all his works attended, as Sir Joshua Reynolds observes, to “painter-like effects.” 'The house is a stupendous pile, perhaps too low for its massive proportions ; but

the general apVNBUGH.

pearance is strik

ing and princely, and, viewed in connection with the gardens, the water, the pleasure grounds, and the park—a gorgeous verdant amphitheatre of twelve miles—Blenheim is a national trophy well worthy to be presented by England to her then greatest military hero :

[graphic]
[blocks in formation]

I will not describe Blenheim in particular, not to forestall your expectations before you see it: only take a short account, which, I will hazard my little credit, is no unjust one. I never saw so great a thing with so much littleness in it: I think the architect built it entirely in complaisance to the taste of its owners; for it is the most inhospitable thing imaginable, and the most selfish: it has, like their own hearts, no room for strangers, and no reception for any person of superior quality to themselves. There are but just two apartments, for the master and mistress, below; and but two apartments above (very much inferior to them) in the whole house. When you look upon the outside, you'd think it large enough for a prince; when you see the inside, it is too little for a subject, and has not conveniency to lodge a common family. It is a house of entries and passages: among which there are three vistaş through the whole, very uselessly handsome There is what might have been a fine gallery, but spoiled by two arches towards the end of it, which take away the sight of several of the windows. There are two ordinary staircases instead of one great one. The best things within the house are the hall, which is indeed noble and well-proportioned; and the cellars and offices underground, which are the most commodious, and the best contrived of the whole. At the top of the building are several cupolas and little turrets, that have but an ill effect, and make the building look at once finical and heavy. What seems of the best taste, is that front towards the gardens, which is not yet loaded with these turrets. The two sides of the building are entirely spoiled by two monstrous bow-windows, which stand just in the middle, instead of doors: and, as if it were fatal, that some trifling littleness should everywhere destroy the grandeur, there are in the chief front two semicircles of a lower structure than the rest, that cut off the angles, and look as if they were purposely designed to hide a loftier and nobler piece of building, the top of which appears above them. In a word, the whole is a most expensive absurdity; and the Duke of Shrewsbury gave a true character of it, when he said, it was a great quarry of stones above ground.

We paid a visit to the spring where Rosamond bathed herself: on a hill, where remains only a piece of a wall of the old palace of Henry II. We toasted her shade in the cold water, not without a thought or two, scarce so cold as the liquor we drank it in.

On the 10th of March, 1717, Pope executed a deed, by which he settled upon Teresa Blount, an annuity of forty pounds a-year for six years, on condition that she should not be married during that term. Whence this unnatural restriction ? If his views were directed to a matrimonial connection, there would seem to have been no “just cause or

impediment” why it should not have taken place. The Homer subscription had materially benefited the fortunes of the poet: Teresa's father was dead, and her brother had succeeded as heir to the estate of Maple-Durham : she was in all respects free to choose, and she had arrived at the age of twenty-nine. No result, however, followed. Within eight months of the date of this bond, the poet's father died, and he addressed to Marthanot to Teresa—a brief note, written on a small scrap of paper, announcing the event in words which seem to breathe the quintessence of grief and love :

My poor father died last night. Believe, since I don't forget you this moment, I never shall.

A. POPE. Yet at this period—for some time before and long after. wards—Pope was addressing letters to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, couched in language of the most ardent affection!

Martha Blount continued his confidante to the last. Teresa's name disappears from the correspondence, and she was not remembered in his will. He took much trouble in the management of Martha's pecuniary affairs, introduced her into the houses of his noble and distinguished friends, and was constant in his correspondence with her wherever he went. She is represented as having been cold, haughty, and imperious, without any redeeming qualities of extraordinary talent or devotedness to Pope 22 But the poet's confidence was never abated. The force of habit was added to the ties of affection; his infirmities rendered female attentions and kindness peculiarly soothing and gratifying ; and he may have clung to her, as Byron in vivid and pathetic expressions remarks, “in the desolation of his latter days,

22 Warburton, the Allens of Prior Park, Lady Hervey and Mrs. Howard (Lady Suffolk), were of this opinion. Martha was a troublesome visitor among her friends. On the other hand, she conciliated the regard of many persons in high life, and of some Catholic clergymen, who knew and esteemed her till her death.

[merged small][ocr errors]

not knowing whither to turn, as he drew towards his premature old age, childless and lonely-like the needle, which, approaching within a certain distance of the pole, becomes helpless and useless, and, ceasing to tremble, rusts.”

No attachment, however tender, could withdraw Pope from his poetry, and we have now to follow his literary career.

My poor father aged

last night
Believe, since I
forget you this moment,

San never shall

A Pope

FAC SIMILE OF POPE'S HANDWRITING.

CHAPTER II.

FROM POPE'S FIRST APPEARANCE AS AN AUTHOR TO THE PUBLICATION

OF THE FIRST VOLUME OF THE ILIAD IN 1715. RIVALRY BE-
TWEEN TICKELL AND POPE, AND QUARREL WITH ADDISON.

In 1709, Pope, by the publication of his Pastorals, took his place among the poets of the English Augustan age. The age was Augustan only in the patronage it extended to authors, which, for extent and liberality, was unexampled in this country. Addison, Steele, Congreve, Prior, Gay, Rowe, Tickell, Ambrose Philips, and poets humbler even than the humblest of these, held public offices, or enjoyed the patronage of the great, and lived in comparative opulence. Swift was shut out of a bishopric by the supposed irreligion of his character—an opinion carefully instilled into the mind of Queen Anne—and by the daring irreverence and dangerous wit of the Tale of a Tub; but the deanery of St. Patrick's was no very poor or inglorious provision. Pope's religion disqualified him for government employment, and it is to his honour that he adhered to it with undeviating fidelity, and was proof against both obloquy and temptation. A pension, however, was offered him by Halifax, and offers of money were made by Addison and Craggs, all of which he declined. He relied on literature and on his limited patrimony, and the patronage extended to his Homer justified his choice, at the same time that it displayed the taste and munificence of the age.

The Pastorals were read in manuscript by most of the eminent men of that period—by Halifax, Somers, George Granville (Lord Lansdowne), Garth, Congreve, and others.

« ZurückWeiter »