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lanies. Encouraged by the praise of a versification whose harmony captivated the general ear, he next ventured to print his • Essay on Criticism,' in 1711. But the young author had not yet acquired fortitude enough to face the world in his own person ; and the poem appeared anonymously. The sale was slow; a circumstance, which might be variously attributed to the subject, the style, or to its appearance without an author's name: but its merits were conspicuous, and none might more securely wait for fame.
Yet Pope was soon to experience the natural consequences of seeing too keenly, and picturing too forcibly, the poetic sins of his day: some of his descriptions were applied to living writers; and their revenge was active, if their retaliation was contemptible. Dennis, a man who had made abuse his trade, flamed out into sudden indignation at discovering that he could be ridiculed in turn. It is said, that taking up the poem in Lintot's shop, he read on with increasing wrath, until reaching the couplet,
Some have at first for wits, then poets pass’d,
he flung down the volume, exclaiming, with an oath, · He means me!' Unaware of the folly of adapting the satire to his own person, he pro
ceeded to retort without delay. • Reflections critical and satirical, on a late Rhapsody called an Essay on Criticism,' speedily came forth; and Dennis showed at least that he was a master of scurrility. He pours out his indignation without lingering in preliminaries :- I found myself attacked,' said he, without any manner of provocation on my side, and attacked in my person instead of my writings, by one totally a stranger to me, at a time when all the world knew I was persecuted by fortune ; and this not only in a clandestine manner, with the utmost falsehood and calumny; but I found that all this was done by a little affected hypocrite, who had nothing in his mouth at the time, but truth, candor, friendship, good nature, humanity, and magnanimity.' .
He then discusses the chances that the Essay may succeed, and asks, what is the author ? He pronounces him to be young and raw ;' first, because he discovers a sufficiency beyond his best ability, and has rashly undertaken a task infinitely above his force: secondly, while this little author struts, and affects the dictatorial air, he plainly shows that he is under the rod : thirdly, he has, like schoolboys, borrowed from both the dead and the living: fourthly, he knows not his own mind : fifthly, he is almost perpetually in the wrong :' but the passages in which he struck
the blows, most heavily dealt, and perhaps most angrily suffered, were those in which he reflected on the poet's personal appearance. “I remember,' says · Dennis, • a little young gentleman, whom Mr. Walsh used to take into his company, as a double foil to his person and his capacity. Inquire between Sunning-hill and Oakingham for a young, short, squab gentleman, the very bow of the god of love, and tell me whether he is a proper author to make personal reflections. He may extol the ancients, but he has reason to thank Heaven that he was born a modern; for if he had been born of Grecian parents, his life had been no longer than that of one of his poems, the life of half a day. But let the person of a gentleman of his parts be never so contemptible, his inward man is ten times more ridiculous; it being impossible that his outward form, though that of a downright monkey, should differ so much from the human shape, as his unthinking, immaterial part does from the human understanding. This was the fierceness of an intemperate mind, strongly irritated : but it must be acknowleged that he had been first insulted.
Pope was still diligently employed : his versification was already formed, he had acquired confidence in his own powers, and he now fearlessly ranged the field of human life for subjects. About 1712, he gave striking proof of his rapid advance, in the • Rape of the Lock,' whose origin he thus detailed :*_ The stealing of a lock of Miss Belle Fermor's hair by lord Petre 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.f 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 conversation is from Spence. The date usually given, 1711, seems to be erroneous.
+ Spence's accuracy here failed him : the publisher was Lintot.
The original adviser of the poem was a Mr. Caryll, a man of high life, having been secretary to the queen of James II.; or, if this be not sufficient literary distinction, recorded as the author of a dead comedy, and some forgotten translations in · Dryden's Miscellanies.'
The • Rape of the Lock’ is said to have been written in a fortnight. But the calculations of poets must generally be taken with a reserve. The author might have sketched the plan and completed the principal characters: but he, whose principle it was, to give the last ornament that labor could give, to bring out every latent beauty of thought by toil, and to pride himself even more on the exquisiteness of the workmanship than the value of the material, cannot be supposed to have sent forth a poem polished into universal lustre, with a rapidity which he never equalled in more practised days. In his Iliad, where his matter lay before him, while he had acquired all the ease of versification that can be given by habit, he regarded “fifty lines a good day's work’ in their roughest condition.
Another era of Pope's life was marked by his introduction to Addison. This was effected through Steele, a man of wit, learning, and knowlege of life; yet whose intercourse with either Pope or Addison shows only with what closeness