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without offering him a pension, as the Earl of Halifax and Mr. Secretary Craggs afterwards did, though Mr. Pope declined it.
The reputation of Mr. Pope gaining every day upon the world, he was caressed, flattered, and railed at, according as he was feared, or loved, by different persons. Mr. Wycherley was among the first authors of established reputation who contributed to advance his fame, and with whom he for some time lived in the most unreserved intimacy. This poet, in his old age, conceived a design of publishing his poems; and as he was but a very imperfect master of numbers, he intrusted his manuscripts to Mr. Pope, and submitted them to his correction. The freedom which our young bard was under a necessity to use, in order to polish and refine what was in the original rough, unharmonious, and indelicate, proved disgustful to the old gentleman, then near seventy, who, perhaps, was a little ashamed that a boy at sixteen should so severely correct his works. Letters of dissatisfaction were written by Mr. Wycherley, and at last he informed him, in few words, that he was going out of town, without mentioning to what place, and did not expect to hear from him till he came back. This cold indifference extorted from Mr. Pope a protestation, that nothing should induce him ever to write to him again. Notwithstanding this peevish behaviour of Mr. Wycher^ ley, occasioned by jealousy and infirmities, Mr. Pope preserved a constant respect and reverence for him, while he lived, and, after his death, lamented hint. In a letter to Edward Blount, Esq. written immediate! v upon the death of this poet, he has there related someanecdotes of Wycherley, which we shall here insert.
"I know of nothing that will be so interestin? to "you at present, as some circumstances of the last act "of that eminent comic poet, and our friend, Wy« "cherley. 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 of the "order of time in which they are to be taken. The 1* old man then lay down, satisfied in the conscience "of having, by this one act, paid his just debts, oblig"ed a woman, who, he was told, had merit, and "shewn an heroic resentment of the ill usage of his "next 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 comfort himself, as well as "he could, with the miserable remains of a mor-ga"ged estate. I saw our friend twice aferthis 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 move likely) much
"ashamed of marrying. The evening before he ex"pired, 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 consenting to it, he told her, '' My dear, it is only "this, that you will never marry an old man again." "I cannot help remarking, that sickness, which often "destroys both wit and wisdom, yet seldom has power "to remove that talent we call humour: Mr. Wy"cherley shewed 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 Unfortunate 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 favourite 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 tutelage 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 persons of quality, seconded by the solicitations of her uncle. Her guardian, being surprised at this behaviour, set spies upon her, to find out Volume I. B
the real cause of her indifference. Her correspondence with her lover was soon discovered, tnd, 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 justly calls her, put an end to her own life, having bribed a maidservant 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 hiin 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 me"thodical regularity which would have been requi"site 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