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io Edward Blount, Esq. written inmediately upon the death of this poet, he has there related some anecdotes of Wycherley, which we shall here insert.
I know of nothing that will be so interesting to you at present as some circumstances of the last act of that eminent comic poet, and our friend, Wycherley. He had often told me, as I doubt not he did all his acquaintance, that he would marry as soon as his life was despaired of; accordingly, a few days before his death he underwent the ceremony, and joined together those two sacraments, which wise men say should be the last we receive; for, if you observe, matrimony is placed after extreme unction in our catechism, as a kind of hint as to the order of time in which they are to be taken. The old man then lay down satisfied in the conscience of having, by this one act, paid his just debts, obliged a woman who, he was told, had merit, and shown an heroic resent, ment of the ill usage of his nest heir. Some hundred pounds which he had with the lady discharged those debts; a jointure of four hundred a year made her a recompense; and the nephew he left to com. fort himself, as well as he could, with the miserable remains of a mortgaged estate. I saw our friend twice after this was done, less peevish in his sickness than he used to be in his health, neither much afraid of dying, nor (which in him had been more likely) much ashamed of marrying. The evening before he expired he called his young wife to the bed-side, and earnestly entreated her not to deny him one request, the last he should ever make: upon her assurance of of consenting to it, he told her, “My dear, it is only this, that you will never marry an old man again.' 1 cannot help remarking, that sickness, which often destroys both wit and wisdom, yet seldom has power to remove that talent we call humour : Mr. Wycher
ley showed this even in this last compliment, though I think his request a little hard ; for why should he bar her from doubling her jointure on the same easy terms."
One of the most affecting and tender compositions of Mr. Pope, is his Elegy to the Memory of an Un. fortunate Lady, built on a true story. We are informed in the Life of Pope, for which Curl obtained a patent, that this young lady was a particular fa. vourite of the poet, though it is not ascertained whether he himself was the person from whom she was removed. This young lady was of very high birth, possessed an opulent fortune, and under the tutorage of an uncle, who gave her an education suitable to her titles and pretensions. She was esteemed a match for the greatest peer in the realm, but in her early years she suffered her heart to be engaged by a young gentleman, and in consequence of this attachment, rejected offers made to her by per. sons of quality, seconded by the solicitations of her uncle. Her guardian, being surprised at this beha. viour, set spies upon her, to find out the real cause of her indifference. Her correspondence with her lover was soon discovered, and, when urged upon that topic, she had too much truth and honour to deny it. The uncle finding that she would make no efforts to disengage her affection, after a little time forced her abroad, where she was received with a ceremony due to her quality, but restricted from the conversation of every one but the spies of this severe guardian, so that it was impossible for her lover even to have a letter delivered into her hands. She languished in this place a considerable time, bore an infinite deal of sickness, and was overwhelmed with the profoundest sorrow. Nature being wearied out with continual distress, and being driven at last to despair, the unfortunate lady, as Mr. Pope jastly calls her, put an end to her own life, having
bribed a maid ervant to procure her a sword. She was found upon the ground weltering in her blood The severity of the laws of the place, where this fair unfortunate perished, denied her Christian burial, and she was interred without solemnity, or even any attendants to perform the last offices of the dead, except some young people of the neighbourhood, who saw her put into common ground, and strewed the grave with flowers.
The poet, in the Elegy, takes occasion to mingle with the tears of sorrow, just reproaches upon her cruel uncle, who drove her to this violation.
But thou, false guardian of a charge too good,
The conclusion of this elegy is irresistibly affecting.
So peaceful rests, without a stone, a name
No poem of our author's more deservedly obtained him reputation than his Essay on Criticism. Mr. Addison in his Spectator, No. 253, has celebrated it with such profuse terms of admiration, that it is really astonishing to find the same man endeavouring afterwards to diminish that fame he had contributed to raise so high.
“ The Art of Criticism,” says he, “which was published some months ago, is a master-piece in its kind The observations follow one another, like those in Horace's Art of Poetry, without that methodical re
gularity which would have been requisite in a prose writer. They are some of them uncommon, but such as the reader must assent to when he sees them explained with that elegance and perspicuity with which they are delivered. As for those which are the most known and the most received, they are placed in so beautiful a light, and illustrated with such apt allusions, that they have in them all the graces of novelty, and make the reader, who was before acquainted with them, still more convinced of their truth and solidity. And here give me leave to mention what Monsieur Boileau has so well enlarged upon in the Preface to his Works, that wit and fine writing do not consist so much in advancing things that are new, as in giving things that are known an agreeable turn. It is impossible for us who live in the latter ages of the world, to make observations in criticism, morality, or any art and science, which have not been touched upon by others. We have little else left us but to represent the common sense of mankind in more strong, more beautiful, or more uncommon lights. If a reader examines Horace's Art of Poetry, he will find but few precepts in it which he may not meet with in Aristotle, and which were not commonly known by all the poets of the Augustan age. His way of expressing and applying them, not his invention of them, is what we are chiefly to admire.
“Longinus, in his Reflections, has given us the same kind of sublime which he observes in the seve. ral passages which occasioned them. I cannot but take notice that our English author has, after the same manner, exemplified several of his precepts in the very precepts themselves.” He then produces some instances of a particular kind of beauty in the -numbers, and concludes with saying, “ That we have three poems in our tongue of the same nature, and each a master-piece in its kind ; the Essay on Trans
ated Verse, the Essay on the Art of Poetry, and the Essay on Criticism."
In the lives of Addison and Tickell, some gencral nints concerning the quarrel have been thrown out, which subsisted between our poet and the former of these gentlemen; here it will not be improper to give a more particular account of it.
The author of Mist's Journal positively asserts, " That Mr. Addison raised Pope from obscurity, obtained him the acquaintance and friendship of the whole body of our nobility, and transferred his powerful influence with those great men to this rising bard, who frequently levied, by that means, unusual contributions on the public. No sooner was his body lifeless, but this author, reviving his resentment, libelled the memory of his departed friend, and, what was still more heinous, made the scandal public.”
When this charge of ingratitude and dishonour was published against Mr. Pope, to acquit himself of it he called upon any nobleman whose friendship, or any one gentleman whose subscription, Mr. Addison had procured to our author, to stand forth and declare it, that truth might appear. But the whole libel was proved a malicious story by many persons of distinction, who several years before Mr. Addison's decease, approved those verses denominated a libel, but which were, it is said, a friendly rebuke, sent privately, in our author's own hand, to Mr. Addison himself, and never made public till by Curll, in his Miscellanies, 12mo. 1727. The lines, indeed, are elegantly satirical, and, in the opinion of many un. prejudiced judges, who had opportunities of knowing the character of Mr. Addison, are no ill representation of him. Speaking of the poetical triflers of the times, who had declared against him, he makes : sudden transition to Addison :