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The fierce hostilities of Dennis against Pope, began from some passages in this Essay, which this redoubted critic applied to himself, and never forgave; but pursued our Author, through life, in bitter invectives against every work he gradually published. Old Mr. Lewis, the bookseller in Russel-ftreet, who printed the first edition of this Essay in quarto, without Pope's name, informed me, that it lay many days in his shop, unnoticed and unread; and that, piqued with this neglect, the Author came one day, and packed up and directed twenty copies to several great men; among whom he could recollect none but Lord Lansdowne and the Duke of Buckingham; and that in consequence of these presents, and his name being known, the book began to be called for. This Effay, it is said, was first written in prose, according to the precept of Vida, in his first book, and the practice of Racine, who was accustomed to draw out in plain prose, not only the subject of each of the five acts, but of every scene and every speech, that he might see the conduct and coherence of the whole at one view, and would then say, “ My Tragedy is « finished.”
The Mesrah appeared first in the Spectator, 1712, with a warm recommendation by Steele. Nothing can be added to the just and universal approbation with which it was received and read. It raised the highest expectations of what the Author was capable of performing.
He was not so happy in his Ode* on St. Cecilia's Day; which, in respect both of subject and execution, is fo manifestly inferior to that unrivalled one of his master, Dryden ; but which, Dr. Johnson, by a strange perversity of judgment, pronounces to contain nothing equal to the first bombast stanza of his Ode on Kil. legrew. Pope's Ode, many years after it was written, was set to music by Dr. Greene, as were the two Choruffes to the tragedy of Brutus, by Bononcini, part of which were written by the Duke of Buckingham. Mr. Galliard set to music the Chorus of Julius Cæfar, entirely written by His Grace. This appears from a letter now before mę, from Mr, Galliard to Mr. Duncombe. ·
It was at Steele's desiret that he wrote that beautiful little Ode, The Dying Christian to his Soul, to be set to music. But it was not quite candid and open
in our Author to tell Steele, that he would fee he had not only the verses of Adrian, but the fine
* Irregular Odes, of which this is one, seem now to be universally exploded : Dr. Brown has, however, remarked, “ that the return of the same measure, in the Strophe, Antistrophe, and Epode, of the ancient Greek Ode, was the natural consequenee of its union with the Dance. But this union being irrecoverably lost, the unvaried measure of the Ode becomes, at beit, an unmeaning thing; and indeed is an abfurd one, as it deprives the Poet of that variety of measure, which often gives a great energy to the composition, by the incidental and sudden intervention of an abrupt or lengthened versification."
+ In general, our Author's subjects, which is a happy circumstance for a poet, were chosen by himself.
fragment of Sappho in his head; and totally to fuppress the name of Flatman, whose Ode he not only imitated, but copied some lines of it verbatim.
If we knew the history of that most unfortunate Lady, who is the subject of the sweet and pathetic Elegy, and could relate it at large, it might give us an opportunity of enlivening these Memoirs, with what the Life of a retired Poet muft unavoidably want, fome interesting event. No such does the Life of our Author afford, who was in no public station nor employment, as were Milton, Prior, and Addison; and who spent most of his time among his books. All that can now be learnt of this Lady, is to be found in the notes on this Elegy; and is therefore not repeated in this place. A very different scene, and a Lady in another fort of situation, appeared, in his next poem, where all was gaiety and gallantry. Lord Petre, in a frolic, carried rather beyond the bounds of delicacy and good-breeding, having cut off a favourite lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor's hair, his rudeness, as it was called, was resented, and occafioned a serious rupture betwixt the two families. Mr. Caryl, a friend to both parties, desired Mr. Pope to write a piece of raillery on this inviting subject, which might appease their resentment. The Rape of the Lock, therefore, that most delicious poem, in which SATIRE wears the ceftus of Venus, was produced in a fortnight, and appeared, 1711, in only two cantos, in a Miscellany of Lintot. Finding it received with just and universal applause, he in the next year enlarged it into five cantos; and, by the happiest art and judgment imaginable, enriched it with the beautiful machinery of the Sylphs, a set of invisible beings whom he accidentally saw mentioned, as constant attendants, and as interested agents, in the affairs of the Ladies, not only in the Comte de Gabalis, but also in some of Madame de Sevigné's Letters. Into what a mass of exquisite poetry has he raised and expanded so flight a hint! and placed the Rape of the Lock, by this happy insertion and addition, above all other Mock Heroic Poems whatever ! Addison, to whom he communicated his intention of introducing this new species of machinery, did not certainly conceive the felicity and the propriety with which it would be executed; and, for that reason, and not from envy and jealousy, may be candidly supposed to have diffuaded him from the attempt. It would have been as unfortunate for him to have followed the advice of Addison on this occasion, as it would have been for La Fontaine and Boileau to have listened to Patru, when he persuaded the one not to attempt to write his Fables, and the other his Art of Poetry. Dennis, fome years after, attacked this invulnerable composition, with equal impotence and ill-nature, endeavouring to fhew that the intertexture of the machinery was superfluous. It is remarkable that he had introduced guardian spirits as attendants on the favourites of Heaven, in his Temple of Fame, as he informs Steele in a letter on this subject; which fpirits he afterwards judiciously omitted. It appears by this letter to Steele, dated November 16, 1712, that he first communicated to him at that time, The Temple of Fame, though he had written it two years before. Steele afsures him, it contained “ a thousand thou. « sand beauties ;” many of which are specified in the notes of this edition, and therefore need not be here repeated. The descriptive powers of Pope are much more visible and strong in this poem, than in the next that is to be mentioned in the order of time; the Windfor Fores*; the first part of which was written, indeed, 1704, but the whole was not finished and published till 1713: a poem evidently written in imitation of Cooper's Hill, and as evidently superior to it. Denham is a writer that has been extolled far beyond his merits. Nothing can be colder and more prosaïc, for instance, than the manner in which he has spoken of the distant prospect of London and St. Paul's, and also of Edward the Third ; both fine subjects for poetry. The Claremont of Garth was also another imitation of Cooper's Hill, and unworthy the Author of the Dispensary; it contains an unnatural mixture of wit, pleasantry, and satire, with rural defcription. But Thomson has carried descriptive poetry