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Nature shall join you; time shall make it grow
Without it, proud Versailles ! thy glory falls ;
Ver. 71. Without it, proud Versailles ! &c.] To illustrate this doctrine, the Poet next shows us (from ver. 70 to 99), that without this continued support of good Sense, things even of the highest Taste, and utmost Magnificence, such as the Buildings of Versailles, the gardens of Villario, and the groves of Sabinus (which are the instances he gives), all, in a very little time, come to nothing; and no wonder : for the exercise of Taste WITHOUT Sense is, where something that is not beautiful Nature is mistaken for it, and ornamented as beautiful Nature should be ; these ornaments, therefore, being destitute of all real support, must be continually subject to change. Sometimes the owner himself will grow weary of them (as in the case of Villario), and find at last, that Nature is to be preferred before them :
Tir'd of the scene parterres and fountains yield,
He finds at last, he better likes a field.” Sometimes, again, the heir (like Sabinus's) will be changing a bad taste for a
“ One boundless green, or flourish'd carpet view's,
With all the mournful family of yews.” So that mere Taste standing exposed between the true and false, like the decent man between the rigidly virtuous and thoroughly profligate, hated and despised by both, can never long support itself : and with this, the first part of the Epistle concludes.
Ver. 69. Nature shall join you ;j I recollect no Ancient that had so just a taste as Atticns, who preferred Tully's house at Arpinum to all his other houses ; declaring a contempt of the laboured magnificence, marble pavements, artificial canals, and forced streams of the villas of Italy, compared with the natural beauties of this place. De Legibus, lib. ii.
Every reader of taste, we presume, must be acquainted with the English Garden of Mr. Mason, and with the commentary and notes upon it by Mr. Burgh.—Warton.
Ver. 70.] The seat and gardens of the Lord Viscount Cobham in Buckinghamshire.- Pope.
Ver. 71. proud Versailles !] Every instance of false taste and false magnificence is to be found at Versailles.- Warton.
Ver. 74. Lo ! COBHAM comes, and floats them with a lake :) A high compliment to the noble person on whom it is bestowed, as making him the substitute of good sense. This office, in the original plan of the Poem, was given to another man of taste, Bridgman ; who not having the sense to see that a compliment was intended him, it convinced the Poet that it did not belong to him.- Warburton. Ver. 75, 76. Or cut wide views thro' mountains to the plain, You'll wish your hill or sheller'd seat again.
Even in an ornament its place remark,
Behold Villario's ten years' toil complete;
80 The wood supports the plain, the parts unite, And strength of shade contends with strength of
This was done in Hertfordshire by a wealthy citizen, at the expense of above 50001. by which means (merely to overlook a dead plain) he let in the north wind upon his house and parterre, which were before adorned and defended by beautiful woods.- Pope.
Ver. 77. Even in an ornament] These lines are as ill-placed, and as injudicious, as the busto they were designed to censure. Pope imbibed an aversion to this excellent man from Bolingbroke, who hated Clarke, not only because he had written a book which this declamatory philosopher could not confute, but because he was a favourite of Queen Caroline.' In Pope's MSS. were two lines on Dr. Alured Clarke, Dean of Exeter, who must not be confounded with the Rector of St. James's :
“ Let Clarke tire half his days the poor's support,
But let him pass the other half at Court ;" for he was instrumental in building our two first county hospitals at Winchester and at Exeter.-Warton.
Ver. 78. set Dr. Clarke.) Dr. S. Clarke's busto placed by the Queen in the Hermitage, while the Doctor duly frequented the Court.- Pope.
But he should have added with the innocence and disinterestedness of a hermit.-Warburton.
Ver. 82. And strength of shade] After celebrating Kent as very instrumental in promoting the new and just taste in gardening, Mr. Walpole adds : “ Just as the encomiums are that I have bestowed on Kent, he was neither without assistance nor faults. Whoever would search for his faults, will find an ample crop in a very favourite work of his, the Prints for Spenser's Fairy Queen. As the drawings were exceedingly cried up by hís admirers, the blame was unjustly thrown on the engraver. His celebrated monument of Shakespeare in the Abbey was preposterous.”Warton.
Ver. 88. he better likes a field.] The late Earl of Leicester, being complimented upon the completion of his great design at Holkham, replied : " It is a melancholy thing to stand alone in one's country. I look round; not a house is to be seen but mine. I am the giant of Giant-castle, and have ate up
all my neighbours."—Warton. Whatever may be the authority on which Dr. Warton has given this
Thro' his young woods how pleas'd Sabinus stray'd, Or sat delighted in the thickening shade,
90 With annual joy the reddening shoots to greet, Or see the stretching branches long to meet ! His son's fine taste an opening vista loves, Foe to the dryads of his father's groves; One boundless green, or flourish'd carpet views, 95 With all the mournful family of yews; The thriving plants, ignoble broomsticks made, Now sweep those alleys they were born to shade.
At Timon's villa let us pass a day, Where all cry out, “What sums are thrown away!”
II. Ver. 99. At Timon's villa, 8c.] As the first part ended with exposing the works of Taste without Sense, the second begins with a description (from ver. 98 to 173) of false Magnificence WITHOUT EITHER SENSE OR Taste, in the gardens, buildings, table furniture, library, and way of living of Lord Timon ; who, in none of these, could distinguish between greatness and vastness ; between regularity and form ; between dignity and state ; nor between learning and pedantry. But what then ? says the Poet, resuming here the great principle of his philosophy (which these Moral Epistles were written to illustrate, and consequently, on which they are all regulated), though
“ Heaven visits with a taste the wealthy fool,
And needs no rod yet the punishment is confined as it ought ; and the evil is turned to the benefit of others : for
“— hence the poor are cloth’d, the hungry fed ;
Health to himself, and to his infants bread
anecdote, it is directly contradicted by the inscription placed by Lord Leicester over the entrance door of the great Hall at Holkham. “ This SEAT, ON AN OPEN BARREN Estate, WAS PLANNED, PLANTED, BUILT, DECORATED, AND INHABITED, THE MIDDLE OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY,
By Thomas Coke,
EARL OF LEICESTER." Ver. 95.] The two extremes in parterres, which are equally faulty; a boundless green, large and naked as a field, or a flourished carpet, where the greatness and nobleness of the piece is lessened by being divided into too many parts, with scrolled works and beds, of which the examples are frequent.-Pope.
Ver. 96. mournful family of yews ;] Touches upon the ill taste of those who are so fond of evergreens (particularly Yews, which are the most tonsile), as to destroy the nobler forest-trees to make way for such little ornaments as pyramids of dark green continually repeated, not unlike a funeral procession.—Pope.
Ver. 99. At Timon's villa] This description is intended to comprise 101
So proud, so grand; of that stupendous air,
the principles of a false taste of magnificence, and to exemplify what was said before, that nothing but good sense can attain it.—Pope. Ver. 99. At T'imon's villa let us pass a day,] This is the passage
which afforded the enemies of Pope an opportunity of accusing him of ingratitude to the Duke of Chandos, with whom he was said to have lived in familiarity, and, on one occasion, to have received from him a present of 5001. This report Pope publicly and indignantly contradicted in the lifetime of the Duke. See the Note on ver. 375, of the Prologue to the Satires ; to which it must be added, that in the folio edition of the works of Pope, in 1735, it is further said, that “be never had the honour to see the Duke but twice.” On this occasion Pope also wrote an explanatory letter to the Duke, who, in his answer, said, that “ he took the application which had been made of this passage as a sign of the malice of the town against himself.” That Pope was highly satisfied with the conduct of the Duke appears from the fine compliment he afterwards paid him in his Epistle on the Characters of Men :
“ Thus gracious Chandos is belov'd at sight.” Ver. 103. Greatness, with Timon,] The first edition of this Epistle was in folio, 1731. A spurious one was published in octavo, 1732, with many severe remarks by Concanen and Welsted, as was supposed ; to which was prefixed a print designed by Hogarth, in which Pope is represented standing on a builder's high stage, and white-washing the great gateway of Burlington House, and at the same time bespattering the Coach of the Duke of Chandos passing by. Hogarth suppressed this print, which is now become very valuable. It is remarkable our author never once names Hogarth, though he had so many opportunities of doing it.Warton.
Ver. 110. a labour'd quarry] In his letters he applies this expression to Blenheim ; the massy magnificence of which Sir Joshua Reynolds always defended against the common cant of its being heavy.-Warton.
Grove nods at grove, each alley has a brother,
125 And swallows roost in Nilus' dusty urn.
My Lord advances with majestic mien, Smit with the mighty pleasure, to be seen: But soft-by regular approach-not yetFirst thro' the length of yon hot terrace sweat; 130 And when up ten steep slopes you've dragg’d your
thighs, Just at his study-door he'll bless your eyes.
His study! with what authors is it stor’d? In books, not authors, curious is my Lord; To all their dated backs he turns you round; 135 These Aldus printed, those Du Suëil has bound !
Ver. 121. With here a fountain,] It is amusing to see how far our taste in gardening has spread. The present Empress of Russia writes thus to Voltaire, June 25, 1772: “ J'aime à la folie présentement les jardins à l’Anglaise, les lignes courbes, les pentes douces, les étangs en forme de lacs, les archipels en terre ferme ; et j'ai un profond mépris pour les lignes droits, les allées jumelles. Je haïs les fontaines qui donnent la torture à l'eau pour lui faire prendre un cours contraire à sa nature ; les statues sont reléguées dans les galeries, les vestibules, &c. En un mot, l’Anglomanie domine dans ma plantomanie.”—Warton.
Ver. 124.] The two statues of the Gladiator pugnans, and Gladiator moriens.—Pope.
Ver. 130.] The approaches and communication of house with garden, or one part with another, ill-judged, and inconvenient.—Pope.
Ver. 133. His study ! &c.] The false taste in books ; a satire on the vanity in collecting them, more frequent in men of fortune, than the study to understand them. Many delight chiefly in the elegance of the print, or of the binding ; some have carried it so far, as to cause the upper shelves to be filled with painted books of wood; others pique themselves so much upon books in a language they do not understand, as to exclude the most useful in one they do.—Pope.