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"ing-hook he employed to lop off every useless "branch."
Thus far Madam Dacier differs in her opinion from Mr. Pope concerning Homer; but these remarks, which we have just quoted, partake not at all of the nature of criticism; they are mere assertion. Pope had declared Homer to abound with irregular beauties. Dacier has contradicted him, and asserted, that all hi; beauties are regular, but no reason is assigned by either of these mighty geniuses in support of their opinions, and the reader is left in the dark as to the real truth. If he h to be guided by the authority of a name only, no doubt the argument will preponderate in favour of our countryman. The French lady then proceeds to answer some observations which Mr. Pope made upon her Remarks on the Iliad, which she performs with a warmth that generally attends writers of her sex. Mr. Pope, however, paid more regard to this fair antagonist than any other critic upon his works. He confessed, that he had received great helps from her, and only thought she had (through a prodigious and almost superstitious fondness for Homer) endeavoured to make him appear oithout any fault or weakness, and stamp a perfection on his works which is no where to be found. He wrote her a very obliging letter, in which he confesaed himself exceedingly sorry that he ever should have displeased so excellent a wit; and she, on the other hand, with a goodness and frankness peculiar to her, protested to forgive it; so that there remained
no animosities between those two great admirers and translators of Homer.
Mr. Pope, by his successful translation of the Iliad, as we have before remarked, drew upon him the envy and raillery of a whole tribe of writers. Though he did not esteem any particular man amongst his enemies of consequence enough to provoke an answer, yet, when they were considered collectively, they offered excellent materials for a general satire. This satire he planned and executed with so extraordinary a mastery, that it is by far the most complete poem of our Author's; it discovers more invention, and a higher effort of genius, than any other production of his. The hint was taken from Mr. Dry dens Mac Flecknoe; but, as it is more general, so it is more pleasing. The Dunciad is so universally read, that we reckon it superfluous to give any further account of it here; and it would be an unpleasing task to trace all the provocations and resentments which were mutually discovered upon this occasion. Mr. Pope was of opinion that, next to praising good writers, there was a merit in exposing bad ones; though it does not hold infallibly true, that each person stigmatized as a dunce was genuinely so. Something must be allowed to personal resentment: Mr. Pope was a man of keen passions; he felt an injury strongly, retained a long remembrance of it, and could very pungently repay it. Some of the gentlemen, however, who had been more severely lashed than the rest, meditated a re\enge which redounds but little to their honour. They either intended to chastise him corporally, or gave it out that they had real y done so, in order to bring shame upon Mr. Pope; which, if true, could only bring shame upon themselves.
While Mr. Pope enjoyed any liisure from severer applications to study, his friends were continually soliciting him to turn his thoughts towards something that might be of lasting use to the world, and engage no more in a war with dunces, who were now effectually humbled. Our great dramatic poet Shakespeare had passed through several hands; some of whom were very reasonably judged not to have understood any part of him tolerably, much less were capable to correct or revise him.
The friends of Mr. Pope, therefore, strongly importuned him to undertake the whole of Shakespeare's plays, and, if possible, by comparing all the different copies now to be procured, restore him to his ancient purity; to which our Poet made this modest reply,—That, not having attempted any thing in the drama, it might in him be deemed too much presumption. Towhichhewas answered,—Thatthisdid not require great knowledge of the foundation and disposition of the drama, as that must stand as it was, and Shakespeare himself had not always paid strict regard to the rules of it; but this was to clear the scenes from the rubbish with which ignorant editors had filled them.
His proper business in this work was to tender the text so clear as to be generally understood, to free it from obscurities, and sometimes gross absurdities, which now seem to appear in it, and to explain doubtful and difficult passages, of which there are great numbers. This, however, was an arduous province, and how Mr. Pope has acquitted himself in it has been differently determined: it is certain he never valued himself upon that performance, nor was it a task in the least adapted to his genius: for it seldom happens that a man of lively parts can undergo the servile drudgery of collecting passages, in which more industry and labour are necessary than persons of quick penetration generally have to bestow.
It has been the opinion of some critics that Mr. Pope's talents were not adapted for the drama, otherwise we cannot well account for his neglecting the most gainful way of writing which poetry affords, especially as his reputation was so high that, without much ceremony or mortification, he might have had any piece of his brought upon the stage. Mr. Pope was attentive to his own interest, and if he had not either been conscious of his inability in that province, or too timid to wish the popular approbation, he would certainly have attempted the drama. Neither was he esteemed a very competent judge of what plays were proper or improper for representation. He wrote several letters to the manager of Drurylane theatre, in favour of Thomson's Agamemnons which, notwithstanding his approbation, Thomson's friends were obliged to mutilate and shorten; and, after all, it proved a heavy play; though it was ge
nerally allowed to have been one of the best acted plays that had appeared for some years.
He was certainly concerned in the comedy which was published in Mr. Gay's name, called 'Three Hours after Marriage,' as well as Dr. Arbuthnot. This illustrious triumvirate, though men of the most various parts, and extensive understanding, yet were not able, it seems, to please the people, though the principal parls were supported by the best actors in . that way on the stage. Dr. Arbuthnot and Mr. Pope were, no doubt, solicitous to conceal their concern in it; but by a letter which Mr. Gay wrote to Pope, published in Ayre's Memoirs, it appears evident, (if Ayre's authority may be depended on) that they both assisted in the composition.
"Dear Pope, "Too late I see and confess myself mistaken in re"lation to the comedy; yet I do not think, had I "followed your advice, and only introduced the "mummy, that the absence of the croc( dile had "saved it. I can't help laughing myself (though the "vulgar do not consider it was designed to look ridi"culous), to think how the poor monster and mum"my were dashed at their reception; and, when the "cry was loudest, I thought that, if the thing had "been written by another, I should have deemed the "Town in some measure mistaken. And, as to your "apprehension that this may do us future injury, do "not think of it: the Doctor has a more valuable 3