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THE RAPE OF THE LOCK.
An HEROI-COMICAL POEM.
Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos,
Printed for BERNARD LINToTT. 1712. 8vo.
This is the title-page of the original Rape of the Lock, in two cantos, which appeared anonymously in Lintot's Miscellany. The poem begins on * 353 of ; volume, and the previous piece ends at p. 320. What purported to be a second edition of the Miscellany came out in 1714, but except that the gap between p. 320 and p. 353 had been filled up, and that the Essay on Criticism is inserted at the end of the book, the work is merely a reissue, with a new title-page, of the first edition, and the Rape of the Lock, like the rest, is the old impression of 1712. Even the primitive “Table of Contents” was retained, though it omits the additional pieces, which were chiefly poems by Pope. His contributions to the Miscellany are, however, enumerated on the title-page of the second edition.
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK.
Written by Mr. Pope.
A tonso est hoc nomen adepta capillo.—Ovid.
London : Printed for BERNARD LINToTT, at the Cross Keys in Fleet Street. 1714. 8vo.
The first enlarged edition. A second and third edition followed in the same
ear. After the Rape of the Lock had been included in the quarto of 1717, it was still printed in a separate form, and a “fifth edition corrected” was published by Lintot in 1718. He also inserted the work in the four editions of his Miscellanies, which appeared in the twelve years from 1720 to 1732. Lintot paid Pope £7 on March 21, 1712, for the Rape of the Lock in its first form, and gave £15 for the enlarged poem on February 20, 1714.
THE first sketch of this poem was written in less than a fortnight's time in 1711, in two cantos, and so printed in a Miscellany, without the name of the author. The machines were not inserted till a year after, when he published it, and annexed the dedication.—PoPE, 1736. The stealing of Miss Belle Fermor's hair was taken too seriously, and caused an estrangement between the two families, though they had lived so long in great friendship before. A common acquaintance, and well-wisher to both, desired me to write a poem to make a jest of it, and laugh them together again. It was with this view that I wrote the Rape of the Lock, which was well received, and had its effect in the two families. Nobody but Sir George Brown was angry, and he was a good deal so, and for a long time. He could not bear that Sir Plume should talk nothing but nonsense. Copies of the poem got about, and it was like to be printed, on which I published the first draught of it (without the machinery) in a Miscellany of Tonson's. The machinery was added afterwards to make it look a little more considerable, and the scheme of adding it was much liked and approved of by several of my friends, and particularly by Dr. Garth, who, as he was one of the best natured men in the world, was very fond of it. The making the machinery, and what was published before, hit so well together is, I think, one of the greatest proofs of judgment of anything I ever did.—PoPE in SPENCE. It appears by the motto “Nolueram,” etc., that the following poem was written or published at the lady's request. But there are some further circumstances not unworthy relating. Mr. Caryll (a gentleman who was secretary to Queen Mary, wife of James II., whose fortunes he followed into France, author of the comedy of Sir Solomon Single, and of several translations in Dryden's Miscellanies) originally proposed the subject to him, in a view of putting an end, by this piece of ridicule, to a quarrel that was risen between two noble families, those of Lord Petre and of Mrs. Fermor, on the trifling occasion of his having cut off a lock of her hair. The author sent it to the lady, with whom he was acquainted ; and she took it so well as to give about copies of it. That first sketch, we learn from one of his letters, was written in less than a fortnight, in 1711, in two cantos only, and it was so printed ; first, in a Miscellany of Bern. Lintot's, without the name of the author. But it was received so well, that he made it more considerable the next year by the addition of the machinery of the sylphs, and extended it to five cantos. We shall give the reader the pleasure of seeing in what manner these additions were inserted, so as to seem not to be added, but to grow out of the poem. See Notes, Cant. I. ver. 9, etc. This insertion he always esteemed, and justly, the greatest effort of his skill and art as a poet.—WARBURTON. I hope it will not be thought an exaggerated panegyric to say that the Rape of the Lock is the best satire extant ; that it contains the truest and liveliest picture of modern life ; and that the subject is of a more elegant nature, as well as more artfully conducted than that of any other heroi-comic poem. If some of the most candid among the French critics begin to acknowledge that they have produced nothing, in point of sublimity and majesty, equal to the Paradise Lost, we may also venture to affirm that in point of delicacy, elegance, and fine-turned raillery, on which they have so much valued themselves, they have produced nothing equal to the Rape of the Lock. It is in this composition Pope principally appears a poet, in which he has displayed more imagination than in all his other works taken together. It should, however, be remembered, that he was not the first former and creator of those beautiful machines, the sylphs, on which his claim to imagination is chiefly founded. He found them existing ready to his hand ; but has, indeed, employed them with singular judgment and artifice.— WARTON. The Rape of the Lock is the most airy, the most ingenious, and the most delightful of all Pope's compositions. At its first appearance it was termed by Addison “merum sal.” Pope, however, saw that it was capable of improvement; and having luckily contrived to borrow his machinery from the Rosicrucians, imparted the scheme, with which his head was teeming, to Addison, who told him that his work, as it stood, was “a delicious little thing,” and gave him no encouragement to retouch it. This has been too hastily considered as an instance of Addison's jealousy; for as he could not guess the conduct of the new design, or the possibilities of pleasure comprised in a fiction of which there had been no examples, he might very reasonably and kindly persuade the author to acquiesce in his own prosperity, and forbear an attempt which he considered as an unnecessary hazard. Addison's counsel was happily rejected. Pope foresaw the future efflorescence of imagery then budding in his mind, and resolved to spare no art or industry of cultivation. The soft luxuriance of his fancy was already shooting, and all the gay varieties of diction were ready at his hand to colour and embellish it. His attempt was justified by its success. The Rape of the Lock stands forward, in the classes of literature. as the most exquisite example of ludicrous poetry. Berkeley congratulated him upon the display of powers more truly poetical than he had shown before. With elegance of description and justness of precepts he had now exhibited boundless fertility of invention. He always considered the intermixture of the machinery with the action as his most successful exertion of poetical art. He indeed could never afterwards produce anything of such unexampled excellence. Those performances which strike with wonder are combinations of skilful genius with happy casualty; and it is not likely that any felicity, like the discovery of a new race of preternatural agents, should happen twice to the same Inan. Of this poem the author was, I think, allowed to enjoy the praise for a long time without disturbance. Many years afterwards Dennis published some remarks upon it with very little force and with no effect ; for the opinion of the public was already settled, and it was no longer at the mercy of criticism." To the praises which have been accumulated on the Rape of the Lock by readers of every class, from the critic to the waiting-maid, it is difficult to make any addition. Of that which is universally allowed to be the most attractive of all ludicrous compositions, let it rather be now inquired from what sources the power of pleasing is derived. Dr. Warburton, who excelled in critical perspicacity, has remarked that the preternatural agents are very happily adapted to the purposes of the poem. The heathen deities can no longer gain attention : we should have turned away from a contest between Venus and Diana. The employment of allegorical persons always excites conviction of its own absurdity; they may produce effects, but cannot conduct actions: when the phantom is put in motion it dissolves. Thus Discord may raise a mutiny, but Discord cannot conduct a march, nor besiege a town. Pope brought in view a new race of beings, with powers and passions proportionate to their operation. The sylphs and gnomes act at the toilet and the teatable, what more terrific and more powerful phantoms perform on the stormy ocean or the field of battle ; they give their proper help
* Dennis's Remarks on the Rape of the Lock were written in 1714, and published in 1728. “To cure the little gentleman of his wretched conceitedness, by giving him a view of his ignorance, his folly, and his natural impotence,” Dennis, in 1717, brought out a critical pamphlet on three of his works, and kept back the exposure of the Rape of the Lock “in terrorem, which had so good an effect, that the author endeavoured for a time to counterfeit humility, and a sincere repentance, but no sooner did he believe that time had caused these things to be forgot, than he relapsed into ten times the folly and the madness that ever he had shown before.” The fresh provocation was the Dunciad, and the treatise on the Profound, and poor Dennis printed his awe-inspiring Remarks on the Rape of the Lock, to give “the little gentleman” another lesson in humility.