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TO THE MEMBERS OF THE
YORKSHIRE UNION OF MECHANICS INSTITUTES,
BEFORE A BRANCH OF WHICH
THESE LECTURES WERE READ,
THEY ARE NOW RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED,
BY THEIR ASSOCIATE AND WELL-WISHER,
ON THE POETRY OF POPE.
I have undertaken to read a paper on “The Poetry of Pope.” My hearers, however, will be sorely disappointed, and my own purpose will have been singularly misconstrued, if any expectation should exist that I am about to bring any fresh matter or information to the subject with which I am about to deal. Such means of illustration, I trust, may be amply supplied by Mr. Croker, who has announced a new edition of Pope,-a task for which both his ability and his long habits of research appear well to qualify him. As little is it within either my purpose or my power to present you with any novelty of view, or originality of theory, either upon poetry in general, or the poetry of Pope in particular. The task that I have ventured, perhaps rashly, to impose upon myself, has a much more simple, and, I am willing to hope, less personal aim.
It is briefly this. It has seemed to me for a very long time, I should say from about the period of my own early youth, that the character and reputation of Pope, as a poet, had sunk, in general cotemporary estimation, considerably below their previous, and their proper level. I felt ruffled at this, as an injustice to an author whom my childhood had been taught to admire, and whom the verdict of my maturer reason approved. I lamented this, because I thought that the extent of this depreciation on the one side, and of the preferences which it necessarily produced on the other, must have a tendency to mislead the public taste, and to misdirect the powers of our rising minstrels.
I allow myself the satisfaction of thinking that there are already manifest some symptoms of that re-action, which, whenever real merit or essential truth is concerned, will always ensue upon unmerited depression. I remember, too, that it gave me quite a refreshing sensation to find, during my travels in the United States of America, that among some of the most literary and cultivated portions of that great community, (although I would not more implicitly trust to young America than I would to Young England upon this point,) the reverence for Pope still partook largely of the sounder original faith of the parent land. I fear, however, that there is still enough of heresy extant among us, to justify one, who considers himself a true worshipper, who almost bows to the claim of this form of Popish infallibility, in making such efforts as may be within his power to win back any doubtful or hesitating votary to the abandoned shrine.
The attitude, then, in which I appear before you on the present occasion, is this. I look on myself as a counsel, self-constituted it is true, but for whose sincerity the absence of any fee may be considered as a sufficient guarantee ; and here, then, in the short space which can be allowed by this Court for the business of the defence, I consider myself bound to put before you such pleas as I
may think best calculated to get a verdict from you on my side of the case.