« ZurückWeiter »
acquaintance, adopts their interests, and attends their pursuits; loves a Sylph, and detests a Gnome.
"That familiar things are made new, every paragraph will prove. The subject of the poem is an event below the common incidents of common life; nothing real is introduced that is not seen so often as to be no longer regarded; yet the whole detail of a female-day is here brought before us, invested with so much art of decoration that, though nothing is disguised, every thing is striking, and we feel all the appetite of curiosity for that from which we have a thousand times turned fastidiously away.
"The purpose of the poet is, as he tells us, to laugh at' the little unguarded follies of the female sex.' It is therefore without justice that Dennis charges the ' Rape of the Lock' with the want of a moral, and for that reason sets it below the ' Lutrin,' which exposes the pride and discord of the clergy. Perhaps neither Pope nor Boileau has made the world much better than he found it; but, if they had both succeeded, it were easy to tell who would have deserved most from public gratitude. The freaks, and humours, and spleen, and vanity, of women, as they embroil fami
lies in discord, and fill houses with disquiet, do more to obstruct the happiness of life in a year than the ambition of the clergy in many centuries.b It has been well observed, that the misery of man proceeds not from any single crush of overwhelming evil, but from small vexations continually repeated.
"It is remarked by Dennis likewise, that the machinery is superfluous; that, by all the bustle of preternatural operation, the main event is neither hastened nor retarded. To this charge an efficacious answer is not easily made. The sylphs cannot be said to help or to oppose; and it must be allowed to imply some want of art, that their power has not been sufficiently intermingled with the action.
•> Perhaps the reverse of this might with more truth be asserted; but we are generally little concerned about the evils which seem at too great a distance to affect us.
Other parts may likewise be charged with want of connection; the game at ombre might be spared: but, if the lady had lost her hair while she was intent upon her cards, it might have been inferred that those who are too fond of play will be in danger of neglecting more important interests. Those perhaps are faults; but what are such faults to such excellence!"
To these observations, from the pen of a critic who may be accused of having exercised no small degree of severity in judging some of the writings of Pope, we shall only add (what we hope will not be thought an exaggerated eulogium) that no work contains such delicate, and, at the same time, such forcible strokes of wit, free from coarseness and ribaldry, which
are too often mistaken for wit; that it is not only superior to every other heroi-comical poem, but has also been justly styled the best satire extant.
As many of the notes upon the Rape of the Lock, in a late edition of Pope's works, answer no purpose but that of refuting each other, and thereby perplexing the reader, we shall retain only in this such as come from the pen of Pope, which were chiefly intended to mark the differences between the first and subsequent editions.