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215 smoking: hot from the press.
220 George: George II, king of England at this time. His indifference to literature was notorious.
228 Bufo: the picture of a proud but grudging patron of letters which follows was first meant for Bubb Doddington, a courtier and patron of letters at the time the poem was written. In order to connect it more closely with the time of which he was writing, Pope added 11. 243–246, which pointed to Charles Montague, Earl of Halifax. Halifax was himself a poet and affected to be a great patron of poetry, but his enemies accused him of only giving his clients good words and good dinners.” Pope tells an amusing story of Montague's comments on his translation of the Iliad (Spence, Anecdotes, p. 134). But Halifax subscribed for ten copies of the translation, so that Pope, at least, could not complain of his lack of generosity. — Castalian state: the kingdom
232 His name was coupled with that of Horace as a poet and critic.
234 Pindar without a head: some headless statue which Bufo insisted was a genuine classic figure of Pindar, the famous Greek lyric poet.
237 his seat: his country seat.
243 Dryden died in 1700. He had been poor and obliged to work hard for a living in his last years, but hardly had to starve. Halifax offered to pay the expenses of his funeral and contribute five hundred pounds for a monument, and Pope not unreasonably suggests that some of this bounty might have been bestowed on Dryden in his lifetime.
249 When a politician wants a writer to put in a day's work in defending him. Walpole, for example, who cared nothing for poetry, spent large sums in retaining writers to defend him in the journals and pamphlets of the day.
254 John Gay, the author of some very entertaining verses, was an intimate friend of Pope. On account of some supposed satirical allusions his opera Polly was refused a license, and when his friends, the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry (see l. 260) solicited subscriptions for it in the palace, they were driven from the court. Gay died in 1732, and Pope wrote an epitaph for his tomb in Westminster Abbey. It is to this that he alludes in l. 258.
274 Balbus is said to mean the Earl of Kinnoul, at one time an acquaintance of Pope and Swift.
278 Sir William Yonge, a Whig politician whom Pope disliked.
He seems to have written occasional verses. Bubo is Bubb Doddington (see note on l. 230).
297–298 In the Fourth Moral Essay, published in 1731 as an Epistle to the Earl of Burlington, Pope had given a satirical description of a nobleman's house and grounds, adorned and laid out at vast expense, but in bad taste. Certain features of this description were taken from Canons, the splendid country place of the Duke of Chandos, and the duke was at once identified by a scandal-loving public with the Timon of the poem. In the description Pope speaks of the silver bell which calls worshipers to Timon's chapel, and of the soft Dean preaching there “who never mentions Hell to ears polite.” In this passage of the Epistle to Arbuthnot he is protesting against the people who swore that they could identify the bell and the Dean as belonging to the chapel at Canons.
303 Sporus: a favorite of Nero, used here for Lord Hervey. See introduction to this poem, p. 128.
304 ass's milk: Hervey was obliged by bad health to keep a strict diet, and a cup of ass's milk was his daily drink.
308 painted child: Hervey was accustomed to paint his face like a
317–319 Pope is thinking of Milton's striking description of Satan * squat like a toad ” by the ear of the sleeping Eve (Paradise Lost, IV, 800). In this passage “Eve” refers to Queen Caroline with whom Hervey was on intimate terms. It is said that he used to have a seat in the queen's hunting chaise“ where he sat close behind her perched at her ear.”
322 now master up, now miss: Pope borrowed this telling phrase from a pamphlet against Hervey written by Pulteney, a political opponent, in which the former is called a pretty little master-miss."
326 the board: the Council board where Hervey sat as member of the Privy Council.
328–329 An allusion to the old pictures of the serpent in Eden with a snake's body and a woman's, or angel's, face.
330 parts: talents, natural gifts.
338-339 An allusion to Pope's abandoning the imaginative topics to his early poems, as the Pastorals and The Rape of the Lock, and turning to didactic verse as in the Essay on Man, and the Moral Epistles.
347 An allusion to a story circulated, in an abusive pamphlet called A Pop upon Pope, that the poet had been whipped for his satire and that he had cried like a child.
349 Dull and scandalous poems printed under Pope's name, or attributed to him by his enemies.
351 the pictur'd shape: Pope was especially hurt by the caricatures which exaggerated his personal deformity.
353 A friend in exile: probably Bishop Atterbury, then in exile for his Jacobite opinions.
354-355 Another reference to Hervey who was suspected of poisoning the mind of the King against Pope.
361 Japhet: Japhet Crooke, a notorious forger of the time. He died in prison in 1734, after having had his nose slit and ears cropped for his crimes; see below, l. 365.
363 Knight of the post: a slang term for a professional witness ready to swear to anything for money. A knight of the shire, on the other hand, is the representative of a county in the House of Commons.
367 bit: tricked, taken in, a piece of Queen Anne slang. The allusion is probably to the way in which Lady Mary Wortley Montague allowed Pope to make love to her and then laughed at him.
369 friend to his distress: in 1733, when old Dennis was in great poverty, a play was performed for his benefit, for which Pope obligingly wrote a prologue.
371 Colley Cibber, actor and poet laureate. Pope speaks as if it were an act of condescension for him to have drunk with Cibber. Moore: James Moore Smythe (see note on 1. 23), whom Pope used to meet at the house of the Blounts. He wrote a comedy, The Rival Modes, in which he introduced six lines that Pope had written. Pope apparently had given him leave to do so, and then retracted his permission. But Moore used them without the permission and an undignified quarrel arose as to the true authorship of the passage.
373 Welsted, a hack writer of the day, had falsely charged Pope with being responsible for the death of the lady who is celebrated in Pope's Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady.
374-375 There is an allusion here that has never been fully explained. Possibly the passage refers to Teresa Blount whom Pope suspected of having circulated slanderous reports concerning his relations with her sister.
876-377 Suffered Budgell to attribute to his (Pope's) pen the slanderous gossip of the Grub Street Journal, a paper to which Pope did, as a matter of fact, contribute and let him (Budgell) write anything he pleased except his (Pope's) will. Budgell, a distant cousin of Addison's,
fell into bad habits after his friend's death. He was strongly suspected of having forged a will by which Dr. Tindal of Oxford left him a considerable sum of money. He finally drowned himself in the Thames.
378 the two Curlls: Curll, the bookseller, and Lord Hervey whom Pope here couples with him because of Hervey's vulgar abuse of Pope's personal deformities and obscure parentage.
380 Yet why: Why should they abuse Pope's inoffensive parents? Compare the following lines.
383 Moore's own mother was suspected of loose conduct.
386-388 Of gentle blood ... each parent: Pope asserted, perhaps incorrectly, that his father belonged to a gentleman's family, the head of which was the Earl of Downe. His mother was the daughter of a Yorkshire gentleman, who lost two sons in the service of Charles I (cf. 1. 386).
389 Bestia: probably the elder Horace Walpole, who was in receipt of a handsome pension.
391 An allusion to Addison's unhappy marriage with the Countess of Warwick.
393 The good man: Pope's father, who as a devout Roman Catholic refused to take the oath of allegiance (cf. 1. 395), or risk the equivocations sanctioned by the “schoolmen,” i.e. the Catholic casuists of the day (1. 398).
404 Friend: Arbuthnot, to whom the epistle is addressed.
405–411 The first draft of these appeared in a letter to Aaron Hill, September 3, 1731, where Pope speaks of having sent them “the other day to a particular friend,” perhaps the poet Thomson. Mrs. Pope, who was very old and feeble, was of course alive when they were first written, but died more than a year before the passage appeared in its revised form in this Epistle.
412 An allusion to the promise contained in the fifth commandment.
415 served a Queen: Arbuthnot had been Queen Anne's doctor, but was driven out of his rooms in the palace after her death.
416 that blessing: long life for Arbuthnot. It was, in fact, denied, for he died a month or so after the appearance of the Epistle.
ODE ON SOLITUDE
Pope says that this delightful little poem was written
the early age of twelve. It first appeared in a letter to his friend, Henry Cromwell, dated July 17, 1709. There are several variations between this first form and that in which it was finally published, and it is probable that Pope thought enough of his boyish production to subject it to repeated revision. Its spirit is characteristic of a side of Pope's nature that is often forgotten. He was, indeed, the poet of the society of his day, urban, cultured, and pleasure-loving; but to the end of his days he retained a love for the quiet charm of country life which he had come to feel in his boyhood at Binfield, and for which he early withdrew from the whirl and dissipations of London to the groves and the grotto of his villa at Twickenham.
THE DESCENT OF DULLNESS
In the fourth book of the Dunciad, Pope abandons the satire on the pretenders to literary fame which had run through the earlier books, and flies at higher game.
He represents the Goddess Dullness as “coming in her majesty to destroy Order and Science, and to substitute the Kingdom of the Dull upon earth.” He attacks the pedantry and formalism of university education in his day, the dissipation and false taste of the traveled gentry, the foolish pretensions to learning of collectors and virtuosi, and the daringly irreverent speculations of freethinkers and infidels. At the close of the book he represents the Goddess as dismissing her worshipers with a speech which she concludes with yawn of extraordinary virtue.” Under its influence “ all nature nods,” and pulpits, colleges, and Parliament succumb. The poem closes with the magnificent description of the descent of Dullness and her final conquest of art, philosophy, and religion. It is said that Pope himself admired these lines so much that he could not repeat them without his voice faltering with emotion. “And well it might, sir,” said Dr. Johnson when this anecdote was repeated to him, “for they are noble lines.” And Thackeray in his lecture on Pope in The English Humorists says: “In these astonishing lines Pope reaches, I think, to the very greatest height which his sublime art has attained, and shows himself the equal of all poets of all times. It is the brightest ardor, the loftiest assertion of truth, the most generous wisdom, illustrated by the noblest poetic figure, and spoken in words the aptest, grandest, and most harmonious.”