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Title: The Age of Pope - (1700-1744)
Author: Dennis, John, 1825-1911
Language: English
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_Crown 8vo, 5s. net each._

THE AGE OF ALFRED (664-1154). By F. J. SNELL, M.A.

THE AGE OF CHAUCER (1346-1400). By F. J. SNELL, M.A. With an
    Introduction by Professor HALES. _3rd Edition, revised._

THE AGE OF TRANSITION (1400-1580). By F. J. SNELL, M.A. 2 vols. Vol. I.
    The Poets. Vol. II. The Dramatists and Prose Writers. With an
    Introduction by Professor HALES. _3rd Edition._

    With an Introduction by Professor HALES. 2 vols. Vol. I. Poetry and
    Prose. Vol. II. The Drama. _8th Edition, revised._

THE AGE OF MILTON (1632-1660). By the Rev. J. H. B. MASTERMAN, M.A. With
    Introduction, etc., by J. BASS MULLINGER, M.A. _8th Edition,

THE AGE OF DRYDEN (1660-1700). By R. GARNETT, C.B., LL.D. _8th Edition._

THE AGE OF POPE (1700-1748). By JOHN DENNIS. _11th Edition._

THE AGE OF JOHNSON (1748-1798). By THOMAS SECCOMBE. _7th Edition,

THE AGE OF WORDSWORTH (1698-1832) By Professor C. H. HERFORD, Litt.D.
    _12th Edition._

THE AGE OF TENNYSON (1830-1870). By Professor HUGH WALKER. _9th





















First Published, 1894.

Reprinted, 1896, 1899, 1901, 1906, 1908, 1909,
           1913, 1917, 1918, 1921.


The _Age of Pope_ is designed to form one of a series of Handbooks,
edited by Professor Hales, which it is hoped will be of service to
students who love literature for its own sake, instead of regarding it
merely as a branch of knowledge required by examiners. The period
covered by this volume, which has had the great advantage of Professor
Hales's personal care and revision, may be described roughly as lying
between 1700, the year in which Dryden died, and 1744, the date of
Pope's death.

I believe that no work of the class will be of real value which gives
what may be called literary statistics, and has nothing more to offer.
Historical facts and figures have their uses, and are, indeed,
indispensable; but it is possible to gain the most accurate knowledge of
a literary period and to be totally unimpressed by the influences which
a love of literature inspires. The first object of a guide is to give
accurate information; his second and larger object is to direct the
reader's steps through a country exhaustless in variety and interest. If
once a passion be awakened for the study of our noble literature the
student will learn to reject what is meretricious, and will turn
instinctively to what is worthiest. In the pursuit he may leave his
guide far behind him; but none the less will he be grateful to the
pioneer who started him on his travels.

If the _Age of Pope_ proves of help in this way the wishes of the writer
will be satisfied. It has been my endeavour in all cases to acknowledge
the debt I owe to the authors who have made this period their study; but
it is possible that a familiar acquaintance with their writings may have
led me occasionally to mistake the matter thus assimilated for original
criticism. If, therefore--to quote the phrase of Pope's enemy and my
namesake--I have sometimes borrowed another man's 'thunder,' the fault
of having 'made a sinner of my memory' may prove the reader's gain, and
will, I hope, be forgiven.

J. D.

_August, 1894_.



INTRODUCTION                                                          1

                          PART I. THE POETS.


  I. ALEXANDER POPE                                                  27

     THOMSON                                                         65

     MALLET--SCOTTISH SONG-WRITERS                                   96

                      PART II. THE PROSE WRITERS.

 IV. JOSEPH ADDISON--SIR RICHARD STEELE                             125

  V. JONATHAN SWIFT--JOHN ARBUTHNOT                                 151


     LAW--JOSEPH BUTLER--WILLIAM WARBURTON                          207

INDEX OF MINOR POETS AND PROSE WRITERS                              242

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE                                                 249

ALPHABETICAL LIST OF WRITERS                                        253

INDEX                                                               255




The death of John Dryden, on the first of May, 1700, closed a period of
no small significance in the history of English literature. His faults
were many, both as a man and as a poet, but he belongs to the race of
the giants, and the impress of greatness is stamped upon his works. No
student of Dryden can fail to mark the force and sweep of an intellect
impatient of restraint. His 'long-resounding march' reminds us of a
turbulent river that overflows its banks, and if order and perfection of
art are sometimes wanting in his verse, there is never the lack of
power. Unfortunately many of the best years of his life were devoted to
a craft in which he was working against the grain. His dramas, with one
or two noble exceptions, are comparative failures, and in them he too

    'Profaned the God-given strength, and marred the lofty line.'

In two prominent respects his influence on his successors is of no
slight significance. As a satirist Pope acknowledged the master he was
unable to excel, and so did many of the eighteenth century versemen, who
appear to have looked upon satire as the beginning and the end of
poetry. Moreover Dryden may be regarded, without much exaggeration, as
the father of modern prose. Nothing can be more lucid than his style,
which is at once bright and strong, idiomatic and direct. He knows
precisely what he has to say, and says it in the simplest words. It is
the form and not the substance of Dryden's prose to which attention is
drawn here. There is a splendour of imagery, a largeness of thought, and
a grasp of language in the prose of Hooker, of Jeremy Taylor, and of
Milton which is beyond the reach of Dryden, but he has the merit of
using a simple form of English free from prolonged periods and classical
constructions, and fitted therefore for common use. The wealthy baggage
of the prose Elizabethans and their immediate successors was too
cumbersome for ordinary travel; Dryden's riches are less massive, but
they can be easily carried, and are always ready for service.

In these respects he is the literary herald of a century which, in the
earlier half at least, is remarkable in the use it makes of our mother
tongue for the exercise of common sense. The Revolution of 1688 produced
a change in English politics scarcely more remarkable than the change
that took place a little later in English literature and is to be seen
in the poets and wits who are known familiarly as the Queen Anne men. It
will be obvious to the most superficial student that the gulf which
separates the literary period, closing with the death of Milton in 1674,
from the first half of the eighteenth century, is infinitely wider than
that which divides us from the splendid band of poets and prose writers
who made the first twenty years of the present century so famous. There
is, for example, scarcely more than fifty years between the publication
of Herrick's _Hesperides_ and of Addison's _Campaign_, between the _Holy
Living_ of Taylor and the _Tatler_ of Steele, and less than fifty years
between _Samson Agonistes_, which Bishop Atterbury asked Pope to polish,
and the poems of Prior. Yet in that short space not only is the form of
verse changed but also the spirit.

Speaking broadly, and allowing for exceptions, the literary merits of
the Queen Anne time are due to invention, fancy, and wit, to a genius
for satire exhibited in verse and prose, to a regard for correctness of
form and to the sensitive avoidance of extremes. The poets of the period
are for the most part without enthusiasm, without passion, and without
the 'fine madness' which, as Drayton says, should possess a poet's
brain. Wit takes precedence of imagination, nature is concealed by
artifice, and the delight afforded by these writers is not due to
imaginative sensibility. Not even in the consummate genius of Pope is
there aught of the magical charm which fascinates us in a Wordsworth and
a Keats, in a Coleridge and a Shelley. The prose of the age, masterly
though it be, stands also on a comparatively low level. There is much in
it to attract, but little to inspire.

The difference between the Elizabethan and Jacobean authors, and the
authors of the Queen Anne period cannot be accounted for by any single
cause. The student will observe that while the inspiration is less, the
technical skill is greater. There are passages in Addison which no
seventeenth century author could have written; there are couplets in
Pope beyond the reach of Cowley, and that even Dryden could not rival.
In these respects the eighteenth century was indebted to the growing
influence of French literature, to which the taste of Charles II. had in
some degree contributed. One notable expression of this taste may be
seen in the tragedies in rhyme that were for a time in vogue, of which
the plots were borrowed from French romances. These colossal fictions,
stupendous in length and heroic in style, delighted the young English
ladies of the seventeenth century, and were not out of favour in the
eighteenth, for Pope gave a copy of the _Grand Cyrus_ to Martha Blount.

The return, as in Addison's _Cato_, to the classical unities, so
faithfully preserved in the French drama, was another indication of an
influence from which our literature has never been wholly free. That
importations so alien to the spirit of English poetry should tend to the
degeneration of the national drama was inevitable. For a time, however,
the study of French models, both in the drama and in other departments
of literature, may have been productive of benefit. Frenchmen knew
before we did, how to say what they wanted to say in a lucid style.
Dryden, who was open to every kind of influence, bad as well as good,
caught a little of their fine tact and consummate workmanship without
lessening his own originality; so also did Pope, who, if he was
considerably indebted to Boileau, infinitely excelled him. That, in M.
Taine's judgment, would have been no great difficulty. 'In Boileau,' he
writes, 'there are, as a rule, two kinds of verse, as was said by a man
of wit (M. Guillaume Guizot); most of which seem to be those of a sharp
school-boy in the third class; the rest those of a good school-boy in
the upper division.' And Mr. Swinburne, who holds a similar opinion of
the famous French critic's merit, observes, that while Pope is the
finest, Boileau is 'the dullest craftsman of their age and school.'[1]

With the author of the _Lutrin_ Addison, unlike Pope, was personally
acquainted. Boileau praised his Latin verses, and although his range was
limited, like that of all critics lacking imagination, Addison, then a
comparatively youthful scholar, was no doubt flattered by his
compliments and learnt some lessons in his school. Prior, who acquired a
mastery of the language, was also sensitive to French influence, and
shows how it affected him by irony and satire. It would be difficult to
estimate with any measure of accuracy the effect of French literature on
the Queen Anne authors. There is no question that they were considerably
attracted by it, but its sway was, I think, never strong enough to
produce mere imitative art. While the most illustrious of these men
acknowledged some measure of fealty to our 'sweet enemy France,' they
were not enslaved by her, and French literature was but one of several
influences which affected the literary character of the age. If
Englishmen owed a debt to France the obligation was reciprocal. Voltaire
affords a prominent illustration of the power wielded by our literature.
He imitated Addison, he imitated, or caught suggestions from Swift, he
borrowed largely from Vanbrugh, and although, in his judgment of English
authors, he made many critical blunders, they were due to a want of
taste rather than to a want of knowledge.

A striking contrast will be seen between the position of literary men in
the reign of Queen Anne and under her Hanoverian successors. Literature
was not thriving in the healthiest of ways in the earlier period, but
from the commercial point of view it was singularly prosperous. Through
its means men like Addison and Prior rose to some of the highest offices
in the service of their country. Tickell became Under-Secretary of
State. Steele held three or four official posts, and if he did not
prosper like some men of less mark, had no one but himself to blame.
Rowe, the author of the _Fair Penitent_, was for three years of Anne's
reign Under-Secretary, and John Hughes, the friend of Addison, who is
poet enough to have had his story told by Johnson, had 'a situation of
great profit' as Secretary to the Commissions of the Peace. Prizes of
greater or less value fell to some men whose abilities were not more
than respectable, but under Walpole and the monarch whom he served
literature was disregarded, and the Minister was content to make use of
hireling writers for whatever dirty work he required; spending in this
way, it is said, £50,000 in ten years.

It was far better in the long run for men of letters to be free from the
servility of patronage, but there was a wearisome time, as Johnson and
Goldsmith knew to their cost, during which authors lost their freedom in
another way, and became the slaves of the booksellers. It is pleasant to
observe that the last noteworthy act of patronage in the century was one
that did honour to the patron without lessening the dignity and
independence of the recipient. Literature owes much to the noblest of
political philosophers for discovering and fostering the genius of one
of the most original of English poets, and every reader of Crabbe will
do honour to the generous friendship of Edmund Burke.


The lowest stage in our national history was reached in the Restoration
period. The idealists, who had aimed at marks it was not given to man to
reach, were superseded by men with no ideal, whether in politics or
religion. The extreme rigidity in morals enjoined by State authority in
Cromwell's days, when theological pedantry discovered sin in what had
hitherto been regarded as innocent, led, among the unsaintly mass of
the people, to a hypocrisy even more corrupting than open vice, and the
advent of the most publicly dissolute of English kings opened the
floodgates of iniquity. The unbridled vice of the time is displayed in
the Restoration dramatists, in the Grammont memoirs, in the diary of
Pepys, and also in that of the admirable John Evelyn, 'faithful among
the faithless.' Charles II. was considered good-natured because his
manners, unlike those of his father, were sociable, and unrestrained by
Court etiquette. Londoners liked a monarch who fed ducks in St. James's
Park before breakfast; but an easy temper did not prevent the king from
sanctioning the most unjust and cruel laws, and it allowed him to sell
Dunkirk and basely to accept a pension from France. The corruption of
the age pervaded politics as well as society, and the self-sacrificing
spirit which is the salt of a nation's life seemed for the time extinct
among public men.

When Dutch men-of-war appeared at the Nore the confusion was great, but
there were few resources and few signs of energy in the men to whom the
people looked for guidance. A man conversant with affairs expressed to
Pepys his opinion that nothing could be done with 'a lazy Prince, no
Council, no money, no reputation at home or abroad,' and Pepys also
gives the damning statement which is in harmony with all we know of the
king, that he 'took ten times more care and pains in making friends
between my Lady Castlemaine and Mrs. Stewart, when they have fallen out,
than ever he did to save his kingdom.'

There was nothing in the brief reign of James, a reign for ever made
infamous by the atrocious cruelty of Jeffreys, that calls for comment
here, but the Revolution, despite the undoubted advantages it brought
with it, among which must be mentioned the abolition of the censorship
of the press, brought also an element of discord and of political
degradation. The change was a good one for the country, but it caused a
large number of influential men to renounce on oath opinions which they
secretly held, and it led, as every reader of history knows, to an
unparalleled amount of double-dealing on the part of statesmen, which
began with the accession of William and Mary and did not end until the
last hopes of the Jacobites were defeated in 1746. The loss of principle
among statesmen, and the bitterness of faction, which seemed to increase
in proportion as the patriotic spirit declined, had a baleful influence
on the latter days of the seventeenth century and on the entire period
covered by the age of Pope. The low tone of the age is to be seen in the
almost universal corruption which prevailed, in the scandalous
tergiversation of Bolingbroke, and in the contempt for political
principle openly avowed by Walpole, who, as Mr. Lecky observes, 'was
altogether incapable of appreciating as an element of political
calculation the force which moral sentiments exercise upon mankind.'[2]

The enthusiasm and strong passions of the first half of the seventeenth
century, which had been crushed by the Restoration, were exchanged for a
state of apathy that led to self-seeking in politics and to scepticism
in religion. There was a strong profession of morality in words, but in
conduct the most open immorality prevailed. Virtue was commended in the
bulk of the churches, while Christianity, which gives a new life and aim
to virtue, was practically ignored, and the principles of the Deists,
whose opinions occupied much attention at the time, were scarcely more
alien to the Christian revelation than the views often advocated in the
national pulpits. The religion of Christ seems to have been regarded as
little more than a useful kind of cement which held society together.
The good sense advocated so constantly by Pope in poetry was also
considered the principal requisite in the pulpit, and the careful
avoidance of religious emotion in the earlier years of the century led
to the fervid and too often ill-regulated enthusiasm that prevailed in
the days of Whitefield and Wesley. At the same time there appears to
have been no lack of religious controversy. 'The Church in danger' was a
strong cry then, as it is still. The enormous excitement caused in 1709
by Sacheverell's sermon in St. Paul's Cathedral advocating passive
obedience, denouncing toleration, and aspersing the Revolution
settlement, forms a striking chapter in the reign of Queen Anne.
Extraordinary interest was also felt in the Bangorian controversy raised
by Bishop Hoadly, who, in a sermon preached before the king (1717), took
a latitudinarian view of episcopal authority, and objected to the entire
system of the High Church party.

Queen Caroline, whose keen intellect was allied to a coarseness which
makes her a representative of the age, was considerably attracted by
theological discussion. She obtained a bishopric for Berkeley,
recommended Walpole to read Butler's _Analogy_, which was at one time
her daily companion at the breakfast-table, and made the preferment of
its author one of her last requests to the king. She liked well to
reason with Dr. Samuel Clarke, 'of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and
Fate,' and wished to make him Archbishop of Canterbury, but was told
that he was not sufficiently orthodox. Theology was not disregarded
under the first and second Georges; it was only religion that had fallen
into disrepute. The law itself was calculated to excite contempt for the
most solemn of religious services. 'I was early,' Swift writes to
Stella, 'with the Secretary (Bolingbroke), but he was gone to his
devotions and to receive the sacrament. Several rakes did the same. It
was not for piety, but for employment, according to Act of Parliament.'

A glance at some additional features in the social condition of the age
will enable us to understand better the character of its literature.


It is a platitude to say that authors are as much affected as other men
by the atmosphere which they breathe. Now and then a consummate man of
genius seems to stand so much above his age as for all high purposes of
art to be untouched by it. Like Milton as a poet, though not as a prose
writer, his 'soul is like a star and dwells apart;' but in general,
imaginative writers, are intensely affected by the society from which
they draw many of their intellectual resources. In the so-called
'Augustan age'[3] this influence would have been felt more strongly than
in ours, since the range of men of letters was generally restricted to
what was called the Town. They wrote for the critics in the
coffee-houses, for the noblemen from whom they expected patronage, and
for the political party they were pledged to support.

England during the first half of the eighteenth century was in many
respects uncivilized. London was at that time separated from the country
by roads that were often impassable and always dangerous. Travellers had
to protect themselves as they best could from the attacks of highwaymen,
who infested every thoroughfare leading from the metropolis, while the
narrow area of the city was guarded by watchmen scarcely better fitted
for its protection than Dogberry and Verges. Readers of the _Spectator_
will remember how when Sir Roger de Coverley went to the play, his
servants 'provided themselves with good oaken plants' to protect their
master from the Mohocks, a set of dissolute young men, who, for sheer
amusement, inflicted the most terrible punishments on their victims.
Swift tells Stella how he came home early from his walk in the Park to
avoid 'a race of rakes that play the devil about this town every night,
and slit people's noses,' and he adds, as if party were at the root of
every mischief in the country, that they were all Whigs. 'Who has not
trembled at the Mohock's name?' is Gay's exclamation in his _Trivia_;
and in that curious poem he also warns the citizens not to venture
across Lincoln's Inn Fields in the evening. Colley Cibber's brazen-faced
daughter, Mrs. Charke, in the _Narrative_ of her life, describes also
with sufficient precision the dangers of London after dark.

The infliction of personal injury was not confined to the desperadoes of
the streets. Men of letters were in danger of chastisement from the
poets or politicians whom they criticised or vilified. De Foe often
mentions attempts upon his person. Pope, too, was threatened with a rod
by Ambrose Philips, which was hung up for his chastisement in Button's
Coffee-house; and at a later period, when his satires had stirred up a
nest of hornets, the poet was in the habit of carrying pistols, and
taking a large dog for his companion when walking out at Twickenham.

Weddings within the liberties of the Fleet by sham clergymen, or
clergymen confined for debt, were the source of numberless evils. Every
kind of deception was practised, and the victims once in the clutches of
their reverend captors had to pay heavily for the illegal ceremony.
Ladies were trepanned into matrimony, and Smollett in his _History_
observes, that the Fleet parsons encouraged every kind of villainy. It
is astonishing that so great an evil in the heart of London should have
been allowed to exist so long, and it was not until the Marriage Act of
Lord Hardwicke in 1753, which required the publication of banns, that
the Fleet marriages ceased. On the day before the Act came into
operation three hundred marriages are said to have taken place.[4]

Marriages of a more lawful kind were generally conducted on business
principles. Young women were expected to accept the husband selected for
them by their parents or guardians, and the main object considered was
to gain a good settlement. It was for this that Mary Granville, who is
better known as Mrs. Delany, was sacrificed at seventeen to a gouty old
man of sixty, and when he died she was expected to marry again with the
same object in view. Mrs. Delany detested, with good cause, the
commercial estimate of matrimony. Writing, in 1739, to Lady
Throckmorton, she says, 'Miss Campbell is to be married to-morrow to my
Lord Bruce. Her father can give her no fortune; she is very pretty,
modest, well-behaved, and just eighteen, has two thousand a year
jointure, and four hundred pin-money; _they say_ he is cross, covetous,
and threescore years old, and this unsuitable match is the _admiration
of the old and the envy of the young_! For my part I _pity her_, for if
she has any notion of social pleasures that arise from true esteem and
sensible conversation, how miserable must she be.'[5]

Girls dowered with beauty or with fortune were not always suffered to
marry in this humdrum fashion. Abduction was by no means an imaginary
peril. Mrs. Delany tells the story of a lady in Ireland, from whom she
received the relation, who was entrapped in her uncle's house, carried
off by four men in masks, and treated in the most brutal manner. And in
1711 the Duke of Newcastle, having become acquainted with a design for
carrying off his daughter by force, was compelled to ask for a guard of

Duelling, against which Steele, De Foe, and Fielding inveighed with
courage and good sense, was a danger to which every gentleman was liable
who wore a sword. Bullies were ready to provoke a quarrel, the slightest
cause of offence was magnified into an affair of honour, and the lives
of several of the most distinguished men of the century were imperilled
in this way. 'A gentleman,' Lord Chesterfield writes, 'is every man who,
with a tolerable suit of clothes, a sword by his side, and a watch and
snuffbox in his pockets, asserts himself to be a gentleman, swears with
energy that he will be treated as such, and that he will cut the throat
of any man who presumes to say the contrary.'

The foolish and evil custom died out slowly in this kingdom. Even a
great moralist like Dr. Johnson had something to say in its defence, and
Sir Walter Scott, who might well have laughed to scorn any imputation of
cowardice, was prepared to accept a challenge in his old age for a
statement he had made in his _Life of Napoleon_.

Ladies had a different but equally doubtful mode of asserting their
gentility. On one occasion the Duchess of Marlborough called on a lawyer
without leaving her name. 'I could not make out who she was,' said the
clerk afterwards, 'but she swore so dreadfully that she must be a lady
of quality.'

There was a fashion which our wits followed at this time that was not
of English growth, namely, the tone of gallantry in which they addressed
ladies, no matter whether single or married. Their compliments seemed
like downright love-making, and that frequently of a coarse kind, but
such expressions meant nothing, and were understood to be a mere
exercise of skill. Pope used them in writing to Judith Cowper, whom he
professes to worship as much as any female saint in heaven; and in much
ampler measure when addressing Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, but neither
lady would have taken this amatory politeness seriously. Thus he writes
after an evening spent in Lady Mary's society: 'Books have lost their
effect upon me; and I was convinced since I saw you, that there is
something more powerful than philosophy, and since I heard you, that
there is one alive wiser than all the sages.' He tells her that he hates
all other women for her sake; that none but her guardian angels can have
her more constantly in mind; and that the sun has more reason to be
proud of raising her spirits 'than of raising all the plants and
ripening all the minerals in the earth.' He will fly to her in Italy at
the least notice and 'from thence,' he adds, 'how far you might draw me
and I might run after you, I no more know than the spouse in the song of

This was the foible of an age in which women were addressed as though
they were totally devoid of understanding; and Pope, as might have been
expected, carried the folly to excess.

Against another French custom Addison protests in the _Spectator_,
namely, that of women of rank receiving gentlemen visitors in their
bedrooms. He objects also to other foreign habits introduced by
'travelled ladies,' and fears that the peace, however much to be
desired, may cause the importation of a number of French fopperies. But
the proneness to follow the lead of France in matters of fashion is a
folly not confined to the belles and beaux of the last century.

If a chivalric regard for women be an indication of high civilization,
that sign is but faintly visible in the reigns of Anne and of the first
Georges. Sir Richard Steele paid a noble tribute to Lady Elizabeth
Hastings when he said that to know her was a liberal education, but his
contemporaries usually treat women as pretty triflers, better fitted to
amuse men than to elevate them. Young takes this view in his _Satires_:

    'Ladies supreme among amusements reign;
    By nature born to soothe and entertain.
    Their prudence in a share of folly lies;
    Why will they be so weak as to be wise?'

and Chesterfield, writing to his son, treats women with similar
contempt.... 'A man of sense,' he says, 'only trifles with them, plays
with them, humours and flatters them as he does with a sprightly,
forward child; but he neither consults them about, nor trusts them with,
serious matters, though he often makes them believe that he does both,
which is the thing in the world that they are proud of.... No flattery
is either too high or too low for them. They will greedily swallow the
highest and gratefully accept of the lowest.'

Nearly twenty years passed, and then Chesterfield wrote in the same
contemptuous way of women in a letter to his godson, a 'dear little boy'
of ten.

'In company every woman is every man's superior, and must be addressed
with respect, nay, more, with flattery, and you need not fear making it
too strong ... it will be greedily swallowed.'

Even Addison, while trying to instruct the 'Fair Sex' as he likes to
call them, apparently regarded its members as an inferior order of
beings. He delights to dwell upon their foibles, on their dress, and on
the thousand little artifices practised by the flirt and the coquette.
Here is the view the Queen Anne moralist takes of the 'female world' he
was so eager to improve:

'I have often thought there has not been sufficient pains in finding out
proper employments and diversions for the fair ones. Their amusements
seem contrived for them, rather as they are women, than as they are
reasonable creatures; and are more adapted to the sex than to the
species. The toilet is their great scene of business, and the right
adjustment of their hair the principal employment of their lives. The
sorting of a suit of ribands is considered a very good morning's work;
and if they make an excursion to a mercer's or a toy-shop, so great a
fatigue makes them unfit for anything else all the day after. Their more
serious occupations are sewing and embroidery, and their greatest
drudgery the preparations of jellies and sweetmeats. This I say is the
state of ordinary women; though I know there are multitudes of those
that move in an exalted sphere of knowledge and virtue, that join all
the beauties of the mind to the ornaments of dress, and inspire a kind
of awe and respect as well as of love into their male beholders.'

The qualification made at the end of this description does not greatly
lessen the significance of the earlier portion, which is Addison's
picture, as he is careful to tell us of 'ordinary women.' Much must be
allowed for the exaggeration of a humourist, but the frivolity of women
is a theme upon which Addison harps continually. Indeed, were it not for
this weakness in the 'feminine world' half his vocation as a moralist in
the _Spectator_ would be gone, and if the general estimate in his Essays
of the women with whom he was acquainted be to any extent a correct one,
the derogatory language used by men of letters, and especially by
Swift, Prior, Pope, and Chesterfield may be almost forgiven.

It was the aim of Addison and Steele to represent, and in some degree to
caricature, the follies of fashionable life in the Town. That life had
also its vices, which, if less unblushingly displayed than under the
'merry Monarch,' were visible enough. 'In the eighteenth century,' says
Victor Hugo, in his epigrammatic way, 'the wife bolts out her husband.
She shuts herself up in Eden with Satan. Adam is left outside.'

Drunkenness was a habit familiar to the fine gentlemen of the town and
to men occupying the highest position in the State. Harley went more
than once into the queen's presence in a half-intoxicated condition;
Carteret when Secretary of State, if Horace Walpole may be credited, was
never sober; Bolingbroke, who practised every vice, is said to have been
a 'four-bottle man;' and Swift found it perilous to dine with Ministers
on account of the wine which circulated at their tables. 'Prince
Eugene,' he writes, 'dines with the Secretary to-day with about seven or
eight general officers or foreign Ministers. They will be all drunk I am
sure.' Pope's frail body could not tolerate excess, and he is said to
have hastened his end by good living. His friend Fenton 'died of a great
chair and two bottles of port a day.' Parnell, who seems to have been in
many respects a man of high character, is said to have shortened his
life by intemperance; and Gay, who was cossetted like a favourite lapdog
by the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, died from indolence and good

It may be questioned whether there is a single Wit of the age who did
not love port too well, like Addison and Fenton, or suffer from
'carnivoracity' like Arbuthnot. Every section of English society was
infected with the 'devil drunkenness,' and the passion for gin created
by the encouragement of home distilleries produced a state of crime,
misery, and disease in London and in the country which excited public
attention. 'Small as is the place,' writes Mr. Lecky, 'which this fact
occupies in English history, it was probably, if we consider all the
consequences that have flowed from it, the most momentous in that of the
eighteenth century--incomparably more so than any event in the purely
political or military annals of the country.'[6]

The cruelty of the age is seen in a contempt for the feelings of others,
in the brutal punishments inflicted, in the amusements then popular, and
in a general contempt for human suffering. Public executions were so
frequent that they were disregarded; and criminals of any note, like Dr.
Dodd, were exhibited in their cells for the gaolers' benefit prior to
execution; mad people in Bedlam, chained in their cells, also formed one
of the sights of London. As late as 1735 men were pressed to death who
refused to plead on a capital charge; and women were publicly flogged,
and were also burnt at the stake by a law that was not repealed until
1794. Of the heads on Temple Bar, daily exposed to Johnson's eyes in his
beloved Fleet Street, we are reminded by an apposite quotation of
Goldsmith; and Samuel Rogers, the banker-poet, who died as recently as
1855, remembered having seen one there in his childhood. The public
exhibition of offenders in the pillory was not calculated to refine the
manners of the people. It afforded a cruel entertainment to the mob, who
may be said to have baited these poor victims as they were accustomed to
bait bulls and bears. Every kind of offensive missile was thrown at
them, and sometimes the strokes proved deadly.

Men who could thus torture a human being were not likely to abstain
from cruelty to the lower animals. The poets indeed protested then, as
poets had done before, and always have done since, against the unmanly
treatment of the dumb fellow-creatures committed to our care, but their
voices were little heeded, and even the Prince of Wales visited
Hockley-in-the-Hole, in disguise, to witness the torturing of bulls.
'The gladiatorian and other sanguinary sports,' says the author of the
_Characteristics_, 'which we allow our people, discover sufficiently our
national taste. And the baitings and slaughters of so many sorts of
creatures, tame as well as wild, for diversion merely, may witness the
extraordinary inclination we have for amphitheatrical spectacles.'[7]

The majesty of the law was maintained by disembowelling traitors, by
cutting off the ears, or branding the cheeks of political offenders, and
by the penalties inflicted on Roman Catholics, and on Protestant
dissenters. Men who deemed themselves honourable gained power through
bribery and intrigue. It was through a king's mistress and a heavy bribe
that Bolingbroke was enabled to return from exile; Chesterfield
intrigued against Newcastle with the Duchess of Yarmouth; and clergymen
eager for promotion had no scruple in paying court to women who had lost
their virtue.

Never, unless perhaps during the Civil War, was the spirit of party more
rampant in the country. Patriotism was a virtue more talked about than
felt, and in the cause of faction private characters were assailed and
libels circulated through the press. Addison, who did more than any
other writer to humanize his age, saw the evil of the time and struck a
blow at it with his inimitable humour. The _Spectator_ discovers, on his
journey to Sir Roger de Coverley's house, that the knight's Toryism
grew with the miles that separated him from London:

'In all our journey from London to his house we did not so much as bait
at a Whig inn; or if by chance the coachman stopped at a wrong place,
one of Sir Roger's servants would ride up to his master full speed, and
whisper to him that the master of the house was against such an one in
the last election. This often betrayed us into hard beds and bad cheer;
for we were not so inquisitive about the inn as the innkeeper; and
provided our landlord's principles were sound did not take any notice of
the staleness of his provisions. This I found still the more
inconvenient, because the better the host was, the worse generally were
his accommodations; the fellow knowing very well that those who were his
friends would take up with coarse diet and hard lodging. For these
reasons, all the while I was upon the road, I dreaded entering into an
house of anyone that Sir Roger had applauded for an honest man.'[8]

Against the party zeal of female politicians Addison indulges frequently
in humorous sallies. He assures them that it gives an ill-natured cast
to the eye, and flushes the cheeks worse than brandy. Party rage, he
says, is a male vice, and is altogether repugnant 'to the softness, the
modesty, and those other endearing qualities which are natural to the
fair sex.'

'When I have seen a pretty mouth uttering calumnies and invectives, what
would I not have given to have stopt it? how have I been troubled to see
some of the finest features in the world grow pale and tremble with
party rage. Camilla is one of the greatest beauties in the British
nation, and yet values herself more upon being the virago of one party
than upon being the toast of both. The dear creature about a week ago
encountered the fierce and beautiful Penthesilea across a tea-table; but
in the height of her anger, as her hand chanced to shake with the
earnestness of the dispute, she scalded her fingers, and spilt a dish of
tea upon her petticoat. Had not this accident broke off the debate,
nobody knows where it would have ended.'

The coffee-houses in which men aired their wit and discussed the news of
the day were wholly dominated by party. 'A Whig,' says De Foe, 'will no
more go to the Cocoa Tree or Ozinda's than a Tory will be seen at the
coffee-house of St. James's.' Swift declared that the Whig and Tory
animosity infected even the dogs and cats. It was inevitable that it
should also infect literature. Books were seldom judged on their merits,
the praise or blame being generally awarded according to the political
principles of their authors. An impartial literary journal did not exist
in the days when Addison 'gave his little senate laws' at Button's, and
perhaps it does not exist now, but if critical injustice be done in our
day it is rarely owing to political causes.

One of the most prominent vices of the time was gambling, which was
largely encouraged by the public lotteries, and practised by all classes
of the people. This evil was exhibited on a national scale by the
establishment of the South Sea Company, which exploded in 1720, after
creating a madness for speculation never known before or since. Even men
who like Sir Robert Walpole kept their heads, and saw that the bubble
would soon burst, invested in stock. Pope had his share in the
speculation, and might, had he 'realized' in time, have been the 'lord
of thousands;' in the end, however, he was a gainer, though not to a
large extent. His friend Gay was less fortunate. He won £20,000, kept
the stock too long and was reduced to beggary. The South Sea Bubble and
the Mississippi scheme of Law which burst in the same year and ruined
tens of thousands of French families, afford illustrations on a gigantic
scale of the prevailing passion for speculation and for gambling.

'The Duke of Devonshire lost an estate at a game of basset. The fine
intellect of Chesterfield was thoroughly enslaved by the vice. At Bath,
which was then the centre of English fashion, it reigned supreme; and
the physicians even recommended it to their patients as a form of
distraction. In the green-rooms of the theatres, as Mrs. Bellamy assures
us, thousands were often lost and won in a single night. Among
fashionable ladies the passion was quite as strong as among men, and the
professor of whist and quadrille became a regular attendant at their
levees. Miss Pelham, the daughter of the prime minister, was one of the
most notorious gamblers of her time, and Lady Cowper speaks in her
_Diary_ of sittings at Court, of which the lowest stake was 200 guineas.
The public lotteries contributed very powerfully to diffuse the taste
for gambling among all classes.'[9]

One of the most powerful exponents of the dark side of the century is
Hogarth, who makes some of its worst features live before our eyes. So
also do the novels of Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett. Differing as
their works do in character, they have the common merit of presenting in
indelible lines a picture of the time in its social aspects. It may have
been, as Stuart Mill asserts, an age of strong men, but it was an age of
coarse vices, an age wanting in the refinements and graces of life; an
age of cruel punishments, cruel sports, and of a political corruption
extending through all the departments of the State.

But it would be a narrow view of the age to dwell wholly on its gloomier
features, which are always the easiest to detect. If the period under
consideration had prominent vices, it had also distinguished merits.
Under Queen Anne and her immediate successors, home-keeping Englishmen
had more space to breathe in than they have now, and trade was not
demoralized by excessive competition. No attempt was made to separate
class from class, and population was not large enough to make the battle
of life almost hopeless in the lowest section of the community. If there
was less refinement than among ourselves, there was far less of nervous
susceptibility, and the country was free from the half-educated class of
men and women who know enough to make them dissatisfied, without
attaining to the larger knowledge which yields wisdom and content. To
say that the age was better than our own would be to deny a thousand
signs of material and intellectual progress, but it had fewer dangers to
contend with, and if there was far less of wealth in the country the
people were probably more satisfied with their lot.[10]

To glance at the century as a whole does not fall within my province,
but I may be permitted to observe that in the course of it science and
invention made rapid strides; that under the inspiring sway of Handel
the power of music was felt as it was never felt before; that in the
latter half of the period the Novel, destined to be one of the noblest
fruits of our imaginative literature, attained a robust life in the
hands of Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett; and that, with Reynolds and
Gainsborough, with Romney and Wilson, a glorious school of landscape and
portrait painters arose, which is still the pride of England. It will
be remembered, too, that many of the great charitable institutions which
make our own age illustrious, had their birth in the last. The military
genius of England was displayed in Marlborough and in Clive, her mercy
in John Howard, her spirit of enterprise in Cook, her self-sacrifice in
Wesley and Whitefield, her statesmanship in Walpole, in Chatham, and in
William Pitt. In oratory as everyone knows, the eighteenth century was
surpassingly great, and never before or since has the country produced a
political philosopher of the calibre of Burke. What England reaped in
literature during the period of which Pope has been selected as the most
striking figure, it will be my endeavour to show in the course of these


[1] M. Sainte-Beuve, the greatest of French critics, frankly
acknowledges his indebtedness to Boileau, whom he styles Louis the
Fourteenth's 'Contrôleur Général du Parnasse.' 'S'il m'est permis de
parler pour moi-même,' he writes, 'Boileau est un des hommes qui m'ont
le plus occupé depuis que je fais de la critique, et avec qui j'ai le
plus vécu en idée.'--_Causeries du Lundi_, tome sixième, p. 495.

[2] Lecky's _England_, vol. i. p. 373.

[3] The epithet is used in the Preface to the First Edition of Waller's
_Posthumous Poems_, which Mr. Gosse believes was written by Atterbury,
and he considers that this is the original occurrence of the
phrase.--_From Shakespeare to Pope_, p. 248.

[4] Messrs. Besant and Rice's novel, _The Chaplain of the Fleet_, gives
a vivid picture of the life led in the Fleet, and also of the period.

[5] _Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Delany_, vol. ii. p. 55.

[6] Lecky's _England_, vol. i. p. 479.

[7] Shaftesbury's _Characteristics_, vol. i. p. 270.

[8] _Spectator_, No. 126.

[9] Lecky's _England_, vol. i. p. 522.

[10] According to Hallam the thirty years which followed the Treaty of
Utrecht 'was the most prosperous season that England had ever
experienced.'--_Const. Hist._ ii. 464.





It is not unreasonable to call the period we are considering 'the Age of
Pope.' He is the representative poet of his century. Its literary merits
and defects are alike conspicuous in his verse, and he stands
immeasurably above the numerous versifiers who may be said to belong to
his school. Savage Landor has observed that there is no such thing as a
school of poetry, and this is true in the sense that the essence of this
divine art cannot be transmitted, but the form of the art may be, and
Pope's style of workmanship made it readily imitable by accomplished
craftsmen. Although he affected to call poetry an idle trade he devoted
his whole life to its pursuit, and there are few instances in literature
in which genius and unwearied labour have been so successfully united.
It is to Pope's credit, that, with everything against him in the race of
life, he attained the goal for which he started in his youth. The means
he employed to reach it were frequently perverse and discreditable, but
the courage with which he overcame the obstacles in his path commands
our admiration.

[Sidenote: Alexander Pope (1688-1744).]

Alexander Pope was born in London on May 21st, 1688. He was the only son
of his father, a merchant or tradesman, and a Roman Catholic at a time
when the members of that church were proscribed by law. The boy was a
cripple from his birth, and suffered from great bodily weakness both in
youth and manhood. Looking back upon his life in after years he called
it a 'long disease.' The elder Pope seems to have retired from business
soon after his son's birth, and at Binfield, nine miles from Windsor,
twenty-seven years of the poet's life were spent. As a 'papist' Pope was
excluded from the Universities and from every public career, but even
under happier circumstances his health would have condemned him to a
secluded life. He gained some instruction from the family priest, and
also went for a short time to school, but for the most part he was
self-educated, and studied so severely that at seventeen his life was
probably saved by the sound advice of Dr. Radcliffe to read less and to
ride on horseback every day. The rhyming faculty was very early
developed, and to use his own phrase he 'lisped in numbers.' As a boy he
felt the magic of Spenser, whose enchanting sweetness and boundless
wealth of imagination have been now for three hundred years a joy to
every lover of poetry. Something, too, he learned from Waller and from
Sandys, both of whom, but especially the former, had been of service in
giving smoothness to the iambic distich, in which all of Pope's best
poems are written. Dryden, however, whom when a little boy he saw at
Will's coffee-house--'_Virgilium tantum vidi_' records the memorable
day--was the poet whose influence he felt most powerfully. Like Gray
several years later, he declared that he learnt versification wholly
from his works. From 'knowing Walsh,' the best critic in the nation in
Dryden's opinion, the youthful Pope received much friendly counsel; and
he had another wise friend in Sir William Trumbull, formerly Secretary
of State, who recognized his genius, and gave him as warm a friendship
as an old man can offer to a young one. The dissolute Restoration
dramatist, Wycherley, was also his temporary companion. The old man, if
Pope's story be true, asked him to correct his poems, which are indeed
beyond correction, as the youthful critic appears to have hinted, and
the two parted company.

The _Pastorals_, written, according to Pope's assertion, at the age of
sixteen, were published in 1709, and won an amount of praise
incomprehensible in the present day. Mr. Leslie Stephen has happily
appraised their value in calling them 'mere school-boy exercises.' Not
thus, however, were they regarded by the poet, or by the critics of his
age, yet neither he nor they could have divined the rapid progress of
his fame, and that in about six years' time he would be regarded as the
greatest of living poets. The _Essay on Criticism_, written, it appears,
in 1709, was published two years later, and received the highest honour
a poem could then have. It was praised by Addison in the _Spectator_ as
'a very fine poem,' and 'a masterpiece in its kind.' The 'kind,'
suggested by the _Ars Poetica_ of Horace, and the _Art Poétique_ of
Boileau--translated with Dryden's help by Sir William Soame--suited the
current taste for criticism and argument in rhyme, which had led
Roscommon to write an _Essay on Translated Verse_, and Sheffield an
_Essay on Poetry_. The _Essay on Criticism_ is a marvellous production
for a young man who had scarcely passed his maturity when it was
published. To have written lines and couplets that live still in the
language and are on everyone's lips is an achievement of which any poet
might be proud, and there are at least twenty such lines or couplets in
the poem.

In 1713 _Windsor Forest_ appeared. Through the most susceptible years of
life the poet had lived in the country, but Nature and Pope were not
destined to become friends; he looked at her 'through the spectacles of
books' and his description of natural objects is invariably of the
conventional type. Although never a resident in London he was unable in
the exercise of his art to breathe any atmosphere save that of the town,
and might have said, in the words of Lessing to his friend Kleist, 'When
you go to the country I go to the coffee-house.'[11]

The use, or as it would be more correct to say the abuse, of classical
mythology in the description of rural scenes had the sanction of great
names, and Pope was not likely to reject what Spenser and Milton had
sanctioned. Gods and goddesses therefore play a conspicuous part in his
description of the Forest. The following lines afford a fair
illustration of the style throughout, and the sole merit of the poem is
the smoothness of versification in which Pope excelled.

    'Not proud Olympus yields a nobler sight,
    Though gods assembled grace his towering height,
    Than what more humble mountains offer here,
    When in their blessings all those gods appear.
    See Pan with flocks, with fruits Pomona crowned,
    Here blushing Flora paints th' enamelled ground,
    Here Ceres' gifts in waving prospect stand,
    And nodding tempt the joyful reaper's hand;
    Rich Industry sits smiling on the plains,
    And peace and plenty tell a Stuart reigns.

Pope, who was never known to laugh, was a great wit, but his sense of
humour was small, and the descent from these deities to Queen Anne
savours not a little of bathos.

In 1712 Pope had published _The Rape of the Lock_, which Addison justly
praised as 'a delicious little thing.' At the same time he advised the
poet not to attempt improving it, which he proposed to do, and Pope most
unreasonably attributed this advice to jealousy. In 1714 the delightful
poem appeared in its present form with the machinery of sylphs and
gnomes adopted from the mysteries of the Rosicrucians. Pope styles it an
heroi-comical poem, and judged in the light of a burlesque it is
conceived and executed with an art that is beyond praise. Lord Petre, a
Roman Catholic peer, had cut off a lock of Miss Arabella Fermor's hair,
much to the indignation of her family and possibly of the young lady
also. Pope wrote the poem to remove the discord caused by the fatal
shears, but its publication, and two or three offensive allusions it
contained, only served to add to Miss Fermor's annoyance. 'The
celebrated lady herself,' the poet wrote, 'is offended, and which is
stranger, not at herself but me. Is not this enough to make a writer
never be tender of another's character or fame?' But Pope, whose praise
of women is too often a libel upon them, was not as tender as he ought
to have been of the lady's reputation.

The offence felt by the heroine of the poem is now unheeded; the dainty
art exhibited is a permanent delight, and our language can boast no more
perfect specimen of the poetical burlesque than the _Rape of the Lock_.
The machinery of the sylphs is managed with perfect skill, and nothing
can be more admirable than the charge delivered by Ariel to the sylphs
to guard Belinda from an apprehended but unknown danger. The concluding
lines shall be quoted:

    'Whatever spirit, careless of his charge,
    His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large,
    Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins,
    Be stopped in vials, or transfixed with pins;
    Or plunged in lakes of bitter washes lie,
    Or wedged, whole ages, in a bodkin's eye;
    Gums and pomatums shall his flight restrain,
    While clogged he beats his silken wings in vain;
    Or alum styptics, with contracting power,
    Shrink his thin essence like a rivelled flower;
    Or, as Ixion fixed, the wretch shall feel
    The giddy motion of the whirling mill,
    In fumes of burning chocolate shall glow,
    And tremble at the sea that froths below!'

Another striking portion of the poem is the description of the Spanish
game of Ombre, imitated from Vida's _Scacchia Ludus_. 'Vida's poem,'
says Mr. Elwin, 'is a triumph of ingenuity, when the intricacy of chess
is considered, and the difficulty of expressing the moves in a dead
language. Yet the original is eclipsed by Pope's more consummate

Many famous passages illustrative of Pope's art might be extracted from
this poem, but it will suffice to give the portrait of Belinda:

    'On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore,
    Which Jews might kiss and infidels adore;
    Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose,
    Quick as her eyes and as unfixed as those;
    Favours to none, to all she smiles extends,
    Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
    Bright as the sun her eyes the gazers strike,
    And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
    Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride,
    Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide:
    If to her share some female errors fall,
    Look on her face and you'll forget them all.'

The _Temple of Fame_, a liberal paraphrase of Chaucer's _House of Fame_,
followed in 1715, and despite the praise of Steele, who declared that it
had a thousand beauties, and of Dr. Johnson, who observes that every
part is splendid, must be pronounced one of Pope's least attractive
pieces. Two poems of the emotional and sentimental class, _Eloisa to
Abelard_ and the _Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady_ (1717),
are more worthy of attention. Nowhere, probably, in the language are
finer specimens to be met with of rhetorical pathos, but poets like
Burns, Cowper, Wordsworth, and Tennyson can touch the heart more deeply
by a phrase or couplet than Pope is able to do by his elaborate
representations of passion. The reader is not likely to be affected by
the following response of Eloisa to an invitation from the spirit world:

    'I come, I come! prepare your roseate bowers,
    Celestial palms and ever-blooming flowers.
    Thither, where sinners may have rest, I go,
    Where flames refined in breasts seraphic glow;
    Thou, Abelard! the last sad office pay,
    And smooth my passage to the realms of day;
    See my lips tremble and my eye-balls roll,
    Suck my last breath and catch my flying soul!
    Ah no--in sacred vestments may'st thou stand,
    The hallowed taper trembling in thy hand,
    Present the Cross before my lifted eye,
    Teach me at once and learn of me to die.'

The music or the fervour of the poem delighted Porson, famous for his
Greek and his potations, and whether drunk or sober he would recite, or
rather sing it, from the beginning to the end. The felicity of the
versification is incontestable, but at the same time artifice is more
visible than nature throughout the Epistle, and this is true also of
_The Elegy_, a composition in which Pope's method of treating mournful
topics is excellently displayed. The opening lines are suggested by Ben
Jonson's _Elegy on the Marchioness of Winchester_, a lady whose death
was also lamented by Milton. These we shall not quote, but take in
preference a passage which is perhaps as graceful an expression of
poetical rhetoric as can be found in Pope's verse.

    'By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed,
    By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed,
    By foreign hands thy humble grave adorned,
    By strangers honoured, and by strangers mourned!
    What though no friends in sable weeds appear,
    Grieve for an hour, perhaps, then mourn a year,
    And bear about the mockery of woe,
    To midnight dances and the public show?
    What though no weeping Loves thy ashes grace,
    Nor polished marble emulate thy face?
    What though no sacred earth allow thee room,
    Nor hallowed dirge be muttered o'er thy tomb?
    Yet shall thy grave with rising flowers be drest,
    And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast;
    There shall the morn her earliest tears bestow,
    There the first roses of the year shall blow;
    While angels with their silver wings o'ershade
    The ground, now sacred by thy reliques made.'

For some years Pope had been brooding over and slowly labouring at a
task which was destined to add greatly to his fame and also to his

In 1708 his early friend, Sir William Trumbull, had advised him to
translate the _Iliad_, and five years later the poet, following the
custom of the age, invited subscriptions to the work, which was to
appear in six volumes at the price of six guineas. About this time
Swift, who by the aid of his powerful pen was assisting Harley and St.
John to rule the country, made Pope's acquaintance, and ultimately
became perhaps the most faithful of his friends. Swift, who was able to
help everybody but himself, zealously promoted the poet's scheme, and
was heard to say at the coffee-houses that 'the best poet in England Mr.
Pope a Papist' had begun a translation of Homer which he should not
print till he had a thousand guineas for him.

He was not satisfied with this service, but introduced the poet to St.
John, Atterbury, and Harley. The first volume of Pope's _Homer_ appeared
in 1715, and in the same year Addison's friend Tickell published his
version of the first book of the _Iliad_. Pope affected to believe that
this was done at Addison's instigation.

Already, as we have said, there had been a misunderstanding between the
two famous wits, and Pope, whose irritable temperament led him into many
quarrels and created a host of enemies, ceased from this time to regard
Addison as a friend. Probably neither of them can be exempted from
blame, and we can well believe that Addison, whose supremacy had
formerly been uncontested, could not without some jealousy 'bear a
brother near the throne,' but the chief interest of the estrangement to
the literary student is the famous satire written at a later date, in
which Addison appears under the character of Atticus.[13] It is
necessary to add here that the whole story of the quarrel comes to us
from Pope, who is never to be trusted, either in prose or verse, when he
wishes to excuse himself at the expense of a rival.

Pope had no cause for discontent at his position; not even the strife of
parties stood in the way of his _Homer_, which was praised alike by Whig
and Tory, and brought the translator a fortune. It has been calculated
that the entire version of the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_, the payments for
which covered eleven years, yielded Pope a clear profit of about £9,000,
and it is said to have made at the same time the fortune of his
publisher. Pope, I believe, was the first poet who, without the aid of
patronage or of the stage, was able to live in comfort from the sale of
his works.

He knew how to value money, but fame was dearer to him than wealth, and
of both he had now enough to satisfy his ambition. Posterity has not
endorsed the general verdict of his contemporaries on his famous
translation. He had to encounter indeed some severe comments, and
Richard Bentley, the greatest classical scholar then living, must have
vexed the sensitive poet when he told him that his version was a pretty
poem but he must not call it Homer. By this criticism, however, as
Matthew Arnold has observed, the work is judged in spite of all its
power and attractiveness. Pope wants Homer's simplicity and directness,
and his artifices of style are utterly alien to the Homeric spirit. Dr.
Johnson quotes the judgment of critics who say that Pope's _Homer_
'exhibits no resemblance of the original and characteristic manner of
the Father of Poetry, as it wants his awful simplicity, his artless
grandeur, his unaffected majesty,' and observes that this cannot be
totally denied. He argues, however, that even in Virgil's time the
demand for elegance had been so much increased that mere nature could be
endured no longer, that every age improves in elegance, that if some
Ovidian graces are, alas! not to be found in the English _Iliad_ 'to
have added can be no great crime if nothing be taken away.' Johnson was
not aware that to add 'poetical elegances' to the words and thoughts of
a great poet is to destroy much of the beauty of his verse and many of
its most striking characteristics. As well might he say that the beauty
of a lovely woman can be enhanced by a profusion of trinkets, or that a
Greek statue would be more worthy of admiration if it were elegantly
dressed. Dr. Johnson says, with perfect truth, that Pope wrote for his
own age, and it may be added that he exhibits extraordinary art in
ministering to the taste of the age; yet it is hardly too much to affirm
that in the exercise of his craft as a translator he is continually
false to nature and therefore false to Homer.

On the other hand his _Iliad_ if read as a story runs so smoothly, that
the reader, and especially the young reader, is carried through the
narrative without any sense of fatigue. It is not a little praise to say
that it is a poem which every school-boy will read with pleasure, and in
which every critical reader who is content to surrender his judgment for
awhile, will find pleasure also. Mr. Courthope in his elaborate and
masterly _Life of Pope_, which gives the coping stone to an exhaustive
edition of the poet's works, praises a fine passage from the _Iliad_,
which in his judgment attains perhaps the highest level of which the
heroic couplet is capable, and 'I do not believe,' he adds, 'that any
Englishman of taste and imagination can read the lines without feeling
that if Pope had produced nothing but his translation of Homer, he would
be entitled to the praise of a great original poet.'

Pope's editor could not perhaps have selected a better illustration of
his best manner than this speech of Sarpedon to Glaucus, which is
parodied in the _Rape of the Lock_. The concluding lines shall be

    'Could all our care elude the gloomy grave,
    Which claims no less the fearful than the brave,
    For lust of fame I should not vainly dare
    In fighting fields, nor urge the soul to war,
    But since, alas! ignoble age must come,
    Disease, and death's inexorable doom;
    The life which others pay let us bestow,
    And give to fame what we to nature owe;
    Brave though we fall, and honoured if we live,
    Or let us glory gain, or glory give.'

We may add that neither its false glitter nor Pope's inability--shared
in great measure with every translator--to catch the spirit of the
original, can conceal the sustained power of this brilliant work. Its
merit is the more wonderful since the poet's knowledge of Greek was
extremely meagre, and he is said to have been constantly indebted to
earlier translations. Gibbon said that his _Homer_ had every merit
except that of faithfulness to the original; and Pope, could he have
heard it, might well have been satisfied with the verdict of Gray, a
great scholar as well as a great poet, that no other version would ever
equal his.

All that has been hitherto said with regard to Pope and Homer relates to
his version of the _Iliad_. On that he expended his best powers, and on
that it is evident he bestowed infinite pains. The _Odyssey_, one of the
most beautiful stories in the world, appears to have been taken up with
a weary pen, and in putting it into English he sought the assistance of
Broome and Fenton, two minor poets and Cambridge scholars. They
translated twelve books out of the twenty-four, and so skilfully did
they catch Pope's style that it is almost impossible to discern any
difference between his work and theirs. The literary partnership led to
one of Pope's discreditable manoeuvres, in which, strange to say, he
was assisted by Broome, whom he induced to set his name to a falsehood.
Pope as we have said, translated twelve books, while eight were allotted
to Broome and four to Fenton. Yet he led Broome, unknown to his
colleague, to ascribe only three books to himself and two to Fenton, and
at the same time the poet, who confessed that he could 'equivocate
pretty genteely,' stated the amount he had paid for Broome's eight books
as if it had been paid for three. The story is disgraceful both to Pope
and Broome, and why the latter should have practised such a deception is
unaccountable. He was a beneficed clergyman and a man of wealth, so that
he could not have lied for money even if Pope had been willing to bribe
him. Fenton was indignant, as he well might be, but he was too lazy or
too good-natured to expose the fraud. Broome had his deserts later on,
but Pope, who ridiculed him in the _Dunciad_, and in his _Treatise on
the Bathos_, was the last man in the world entitled to render them.

The partnership in poetry which produced the _Odyssey_ was not a great
literary success, and most readers will prefer the version of Cowper,
whose blank verse, though out of harmony with the rapid movement of the
_Iliad_ is not unfitted for the quieter beauties of the _Odyssey_.

In 1721, prior to the publication of his version, the poet had agreed to
edit an edition of Shakespeare, a task as difficult as any which a man
of letters can undertake. Pope was not qualified to achieve it. He was
comparatively ignorant of Elizabethan literature, the dry labours of an
editor were not to his taste, and he lacked true sympathy with the
genius of the poet. Failure was therefore inevitable, and Theobald, who
has some solid merits as a commentator, found it easy to discern and to
expose the errors of Pope. For doing so he was afterwards 'hitched' into
the _Dunciad_, and made in the first instance its hero. The
"Shakespeare" was published in 1725 in six volumes quarto. 'Its chief
claim,' Mr. Courthope writes, 'to interest at the present day, is that
it forms the immediate starting-point for the long succession of Pope's
satires.... The vexation caused to the poet by the undoubted justice of
many of Theobald's strictures procured for the latter the unwelcome
honour of being recognized as the King of the Dunces, and coupled with
Bentley's disparaging mention of the Translation of the _Iliad_ provoked
the many contemptuous allusions to verbal criticism in Pope's later

A striking peculiarity of Pope's art may be mentioned here. He was able
only to play on one instrument, the heroic couplet. When he attempted
any other form of verse the result, if not total failure, was
mediocrity. It was a daring act of Pope to suggest by his _Ode on St.
Cecilia's Day_, a comparison with the _Alexander's Feast_ of Dryden. The
performance is perfunctory rather than spontaneous, and the few lyrical
efforts he attempted in addition, show no ear for music. The voice of
song with which even the minor poets of the Elizabethan age were gifted
was silent in England, though not in Scotland, during the first half of
the eighteenth century, or if a faint note is occasionally heard, as in
the lyrics of Gay, it is without the grace and joyous freedom of the
earlier singers. Not that the lyrical form was wanting; many minor
versifiers, like Hughes, Sheffield, Granville, and Somerville, wrote
what they called songs, but unfortunately without an ear for singing.

In this short summary and criticism of a poet's literary life it would
be out of place to insert many biographical details, were it not that,
in the case of Pope, the student who knows little or nothing of the man
will fail to understand his poetry. A distinguished critic has said that
the more we know of Pope's age the better shall we understand Pope. With
equal truth it may be said that a familiarity with the poet's personal
character is essential to an adequate appreciation of his genius. His
friendships, his enmities, his mode of life at Twickenham, the entangled
tale of his correspondence, his intrigues in the pursuit of fame, his
constitutional infirmities, the personal character of his satires, these
are a few of the prominent topics with which a student of the poet must
make himself conversant. It may be well, therefore, to give the history
in brief outline, and we have now reached the crisis in his fortunes
which will conveniently enable us to do so.

In 1716 Pope's family had removed from Binfield to Chiswick. A year
later he lost his father, to whose memory he has left a filial tribute,
and shortly afterwards he bought the small estate of five acres at
Twickenham with which his name is so intimately associated. Before
reaching the age of thirty Pope was regarded as the first of living
poets. His income more than sufficed for all his wants. At Twickenham
the great in intellect, and the great by birth, met around his table; he
was welcomed by the highest society in the land, and although proud of
his intimacy with the nobility, 'unplaced, unpensioned,' he was 'no
man's heir or slave,' and jealously preserved his independence. 'Pope,'
says Johnson, 'never set genius to sale, he never flattered those whom
he did not love, or praised those whom he did not esteem,' and he was,
we may add, in this respect a striking contrast to Dryden, who lavished
his flatteries wholesale.

With a mother to whom he was tenderly attached, with troops of friends,
with an undisputed supremacy in the world of letters, and with a
vocation that was the joy of his heart,--if possessions like these can
confer happiness, Pope should have been a happy man.

But his 'crazy carcass,' as the painter Jervas called it, was united to
the most suspicious and irritable of temperaments, and the fine wine of
his poetry was rarely free from bitterness in the cup. Pope could be a
warm friend, but was not always a faithful one, and even women whose
friendship he had enjoyed suffered from the venom of his satire. He was
not a man to rise above his age, and it would be charitable to ascribe a
portion of his grossness to it. Voltaire is said by his loose talk to
have driven Pope's good old mother from the table at Twickenham;
Walpole's language not only in his home at Houghton, but at Court, was
insufferably coarse; and Pope wrote to ladies in language that must
have disgusted modest women even in his free-speaking day. His foul
lines on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, to whom he had formerly written in a
most ridiculous strain of gallantry, and to whom he is said to have made
love,[15] cannot easily be characterized in moderate language. Lady Mary
had little delicacy herself, but the poet, who thought himself a
gentleman, had no excuse for abusing her. Excuses indeed are not easily
to be offered for Pope's moral defalcations. His life was a series of
petty intrigues, trickeries, and deceptions. He could not, it has been
said,--the conceit is borrowed from Young's _Satires_--'take his tea
without a stratagem,' and knew how to utter the loftiest sentiments
while acting the most contemptible of parts.

The long and intricate deceptions which he practised to secure the
publication of his letters, while so manipulating them as to enhance his
credit, were suspected to some extent in his own age, and have been
painfully laid bare in ours. It is an amazing story, which may be read
at large in Mr. Dilke's _Papers of a Critic_, or in the elaborate
narrative of Mr. Elwin in the first volume of his edition of _Pope_. It
will be there seen how the poet compiled fictitious letters, suppressed
passages, altered dates, manufactured letters out of other letters, and
secretly enabled the infamous bookseller Curll to publish his
correspondence surreptitiously in order that he might have the excuse
for printing it himself in a more carefully prepared form. The worst
feature of the miserable story is the poet's conduct with regard to
Swift, his oldest and most faithful friend. On this subject the writer
may be allowed to quote what he has said elsewhere.

'Years before, Swift, who cared little for literary reputation, and
never resorted to any artifice to promote it, had suspected Pope of a
desire to make literary capital out of their correspondence, and the
poet had excused himself according to his wonted fashion. After the
publication by Curll, he begged Swift to return him his letters lest
they should fall into the bookseller's hands. The Dean replied, no doubt
to Pope's infinite chagrin, that they were safe in his keeping, as he
had given strict orders in his will that his executors should burn every
letter he might leave behind him. Afterwards he promised that Pope
should eventually have them but declined giving them up during his
lifetime. Hereupon Pope changed his tactics and begged that he might
have the letters to print. The publication by Curll of two letters
(probably another _ruse_ of Pope's) formed an additional ground for
urging his request. All his efforts were unavailing until he obtained
the assistance of Lord Orrery, to whom Swift was at length induced to
deliver up the letters. There was a hiatus in the correspondence and
Pope took advantage of this and of a blunder made by Swift, whose memory
at the time was not to be trusted, to hint, what he dared not directly
assert, that the bulk of the collection remained with the Dean, and that
Swift's own letters had been returned to him. We have now irresistible
proof that the Dublin edition of the letters was taken from an
impression sent from England and sent by Pope. Nor was this all. The
poet acted with still greater meanness, for he had the audacity to
deplore the sad vanity of Swift in permitting the publication of his
correspondence, and to declare that "no decay of body is half so

That he had many fine qualities in spite of the littlenesses which mar
his character one would be loath to doubt. Among his nobler traits was
an ardent passion for literature, a courage which enabled him to face
innumerable obstacles--'Pope,' says Mr. Swinburne, 'was as bold as a
lion'--and a constant devotion to his parents, especially to his mother,
who lived to a great age. There are no sincerer words in his letters
than those which relate to Mrs. Pope. 'It is my mother only,' he once
wrote, regretting his inability to leave home, 'that robs me of half the
pleasure of my life, and that gives me the greatest at the same time,'
and the lines expressing his affection for her are familiar to most
readers. Truly does Johnson say that 'life has among its soothing and
quiet comforts few things better to give than such a son.'

Among his lady friends the dearest was Martha Blount, the younger of two
beautiful sisters, of whom Gay sang as 'the fair-haired Martha and
Teresa brown.' They came of an old Roman Catholic family residing at
Mapledurham, and were little more than girls when Pope first knew them.
With the elder sister he quarrelled, but Martha was faithful to him for
life, and when he was dying it is said that her coming in 'gave a new
turn of spirits or a temporary strength to him.' Swift, as we have said,
was one of the warmest of Pope's friends, and his letters to the poet
are by far the most attractive portion of the published correspondence.
He visited him at Twickenham more than once, and on one occasion spent
some months under his roof. Bolingbroke, his 'guide, philosopher, and
friend,' who for a time lived near to him at Dawley, was a frequent
guest, so also, in the days of their intimacy, was Lady Mary, who had a
house at Twickenham. Thomson the poet, too, lived not far off, and was
visited by his brother bard, whom Thomson's barber describes as 'a
strange, ill-formed, little figure of a man,' but he adds, 'I have
heard him and Quin and Patterson[17] talk so together that I could have
listened to them for ever.' Arbuthnot, one of the finest wits and best
men of his time, who, as Swift said, could do everything but walk, was
also a faithful friend of Pope; so was Gay, and so was Bishop Atterbury,
who, as the poet said, first taught him to think "as becomes a
reasonable creature."

James Craggs, who had been formerly Secretary of State, and was on the
warmest terms of intimacy with the poet, resided for some time near his
friend in order to enjoy the pleasure of his society. When in office he
proposed to pay him a pension of £300 a year out of the secret service
money, but Pope declined the offer. Statesmen and men of active pursuits
cultivated the society of the poetical recluse, and Pope, whose
compliments are monuments more enduring than marble, has recorded their
visits to Twickenham:

    'There, my retreat the best companions grace,
    Chiefs out of war, and statesmen out of place,
    There St. John mingles with my friendly bowl,
    The feast of reason and the flow of soul,
    And he whose lightning pierced the Iberian lines[18]
    Now forms my quincunx and now ranks my vines.'

Among Pope's associates was the 'blameless Bethel,'

           '---- who always speaks his thought,
    And always thinks the very thing he ought,'

and Berkeley who had 'every virtue under heaven,' and Lord Bathurst who
was unspoiled by wealth and joined

    'With splendour, charity; with plenty, health;'

and 'humble Allen' who

    'Did good by stealth and blushed to find it fame;'

and many another friend who lives in his verse and is secure of the
immortality a poet can confer.

The five volumes which contain the letters between Pope and his friends
exhibit an interesting picture of the times and of the writers. The
poet's own letters, as may be supposed from the thought he bestowed on
them, are full of artifice, and composed with the most elaborate care.
Every sentence is elaborately turned, and the ease and naturalness which
give a charm to the letters of Cowper and of Southey are not to be found
in Pope. His epistles are weighted with compliments and with professions
of the most exalted morality. 'He laboured them,' says Horace Walpole,
'as much as the _Essay on Man_, and as they were written to everybody
they do not look as if they had been written to anybody.' Pope said
once, what he did not mean, that he could not write agreeable letters.
This was true; his letters are, as Charles Fox said, 'very bad,' but
some of Pope's friends write admirably, and if there is much that can be
skipped without loss in the correspondence, there is much which no
student of the period can afford to neglect. 'There has accumulated,'
says Mark Pattison, 'round Pope's poems a mass of biographical anecdote
such as surrounds the writings of no other English author,' and not a
little knowledge of this kind is to be gleaned from his correspondence.

In the years spent at Twickenham Pope produced his most characteristic
work. It is as a satirist that he, with one exception, excels all
English poets, and Pope's careful workmanship often makes his satirical
touches more attractive than Dryden's.

'To attack vices in the abstract,' he said to Arbuthnot, 'without
touching persons, may be safe fighting indeed, but it is fighting with
shadows;' and Pope, under the plea of a detestation of vice, generally
betrayed his contempt or hatred of the men whom he assailed. No doubt
the critics and Grub Street hacks of the day gave him provocation. Pope,
however, was frequently the first to take the field, and so eager was he
to meet his foes that it would seem as if he enjoyed the conflict. Yet
there were times when he felt acutely the assaults made upon him. 'These
things are my diversion,' he once said, with a ghastly smile, and it was
observed that he writhed in agony like a man undergoing an operation.
The attacks made with these paper bullets, not only on the side of Grub
Street but on his own, show very vividly the coarseness of London
society. Courtesy was disregarded by men who claimed to be wits and
scholars. Pope held, perhaps, a higher place in literature in his own
day than Lord Tennyson has held in ours, for the best beloved of
Laureates had noble rivals and friends who came near to him in fame,
while Pope, until the publication of Thomson's _Seasons_, in 1730, stood
alone in poetical reputation. Yet he was reviled in the language of
Billingsgate, and had no scruple in using that language himself. Late in
life Pope collected the libels made upon him and bound them in four
volumes, but he omitted to mention the provocation which gave rise to
many of them. Eusden, Colley Cibber, Dennis, Theobald, Blackmore, Smyth,
and Lord Hervey are among the prominent criminals placed in Pope's
pillory, and the student of the age may find an idle entertainment in
tracking the poet's thorny course, while he gives an unenviable
notoriety to names of which the larger number were 'born to be forgot.'

In 1725 Swift had written to Pope advising him not to immortalize the
names of bad poets by putting them in his verse, and Pope replied to
this advice by saying, 'I am much the happier for finding (a better
thing than our wits) our judgments jump in the notion that all
scribblers should be passed by in silence.' How entirely his inclination
got the better of his judgment was seen three years later in the
_Dunciad_. The first three books of this famous satire were published in
1728. It is generally regarded as Pope's masterpiece, but the accuracy
of such an estimate is doubtful. So heavily weighted is the poem with
notes, prefaces, and introductions that the text appears to be smothered
by them. It was Pope's aim to mystify his readers, and in this he has
succeeded, for the mystifications of the poem even confound the
commentators. The personalities of the satire excited a keen interest,
and much amusement to readers who were not included in Pope's black list
of dunces. At the same time it roused a number of authors to fury, as it
well might. His satire is often unjust, and he includes among the dunces
men wholly undeserving of the name, who had had the misfortune to offend
him. To place a great scholar like Bentley, an eloquent and earnest
preacher like Whitefield, and a man of genius like Defoe among the
dunces was to stultify himself, and if Pope in his spite against
Theobald found some justification for giving the commentator
pre-eminence for dulness in three books of the _Dunciad_, his anger got
the better of his wit when in Book IV. he dethroned Theobald to exalt
Colley Cibber. For Cibber, with a thousand faults, so far from being
dull had a buoyancy of heart and a sprightliness of intellect wholly out
of harmony with the character he is made to assume.

That he might have some excuse for his dashing assaults in the
_Dunciad_, Pope had published in the third volume of the _Miscellanies_,
of which he and Swift, Arbuthnot and Gay were the joint authors, an
_Essay on Bathos_ in which several writers of the day were sneered at.
The assault provoked the counter-attack for which Pope was looking, and
he then produced the satire which was already prepared for the press. In
its publication the poet, as usual, made use of trickery and deception.
At first he issued an imperfect edition with initial letters instead of
names, but on seeing his way to act more openly, the poem appeared in a
large edition with names and notes.

'In order to lessen the danger of prosecution for libel,' Mr. Courthope
writes, 'he prevailed on three peers, with whom he was on the most
intimate terms, the good-natured Lord Bathurst, the easy-going Earl of
Oxford, and the magnificent Earl of Burlington, to act as his nominal
publishers; and it was through them that copies of the enlarged edition
were at first distributed, the booksellers not being allowed to sell any
in their shops. The King and Queen were each presented with a copy by
the hands of Sir R. Walpole. In this manner, as the report quickly
spread that the poem was the property of rich and powerful noblemen,
there was a natural disinclination on the part of the dunces to take
legal proceedings, and the prestige of the _Dunciad_ being thus fairly
established, the booksellers were allowed to proceed with the sale in
regular course.'[19]

The _Dunciad_ owes its merit to the literary felicities with which its
pages abound. The theme is a mean one. Pope, from his social eminence at
Twickenham, looks with scorn on the authors who write for bread, and
with malignity on the authors whom he regarded as his enemies. There
is, for the most part, little elevation in his method of treatment, and
we can almost fancy that we see a cruel joy in the poet's face as he
impales the victims of his wrath. Some portions of the _Dunciad_ are
tainted with the imagery which, to quote the strong phrase of Mr.
Churton Collins, often makes Swift as offensive as a polecat,[20] and
there is no part of it which can be read with unmixed pleasure, if we
except the noble lines which conclude the satire. Those lines may be
almost said to redeem the faults of the poem, and they prove
incontestably, if such proof be needed, Pope's claim to a place among
the poets.

    'In vain, in vain,--the all-composing Hour
    Resistless falls; the Muse obeys the Power.
    She comes! she comes! the sable Throne behold,
    Of Night primæval and of Chaos old!
    Before her Fancy's gilded clouds decay,
    And all its varying rainbows die away.
    Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
    The meteor drops, and in a flash expires,
    As one by one at dread Medea's strain,
    The sickening stars fade off the etherial plain;
    As Argus' eyes by Hermes' wand opprest,
    Closed one by one to everlasting rest;
    Thus at her felt approach and secret might,
    Art after Art goes out, and all is Night.
    See skulking Truth to her old cavern fled,
    Mountains of Casuistry heaped o'er her head!
    Philosophy that leaned on Heaven before,
    Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more;
    Physic of Metaphysic begs defence,
    And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense!
    See Mystery to Mathematics fly!
    In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.
    Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,
    And unawares Morality expires.
    Nor public Flame, nor private, dares to shine;
    Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!
    Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restored;
    Light dies before thy uncreating word;
    Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
    And universal Darkness buries All.'

The publication of the _Dunciad_ showed Pope where his main strength as
a poet lay. That the writers he had attacked, in many instances without
provocation, should resent the ungrateful notoriety conferred upon them
was inevitable. In self-defence, and to add to the provocation already
given, he started a paper called the _Grub Street Journal_, which
existed for eight years--Pope, who had no scruple in 'hazarding a lie,'
denying all the time that he had any connection with it.

His next work of significance, _The Essay on Man_, a professedly
philosophical poem by an author who knew little of philosophy, was
published in four epistles, in 1733-4. Bolingbroke's brilliant,
versatile, and shallow intellect had strongly impressed Swift, and had
also fascinated Pope. It has been commonly supposed that the _Essay_
owes its existence to his suggestion and guidance. The poet believed in
his philosophy, and had the loftiest estimate of his genius. In the last
and perhaps finest passage of the poem he calls Bolingbroke the 'master
of the poet and the song,' and draws a picture of the ambitious
statesman as beautiful as it is false. In Mark Pattison's Introduction
to _The Essay on Man_,[21] which every student of Pope will read, he
objects to the notion that the poet took the scheme of his work from
Bolingbroke, observing that both derived their views from a common

'Everywhere, in the pulpit, in the coffee-houses, in every pamphlet,
argument on the origin of evil, on the goodness of God, and the
constitution of the world was rife. Into the prevailing topic of polite
conversation Bolingbroke, who returned from exile in 1723, was drawn by
the bent of his native genius. Pope followed the example and impulse of
his friend's more powerful mind. Thus much there was of special
suggestion. But the arguments or topics of the poem are to be traced to
books in much vogue at the time; to Shaftesbury's _Characteristics_
(1711), King on the _Origin of Evil_ (1702), and particularly to
Leibnitz, _Essais de Théodicée_ (1710).'

In admitting that Pope followed the impulse of a more powerful mind, Mr.
Pattison asserts as much perhaps as can be known with certainty as to
Bolingbroke's influence, but it is reasonable to believe that the close
intercourse of the two men did immensely sway the more impressionable,
and, so far as philosophy is concerned, the more ignorant of the two.
Mr. Pattison also overlooks the fact that Pope confessed to Warburton
that he had never read a line of Leibnitz in his life. That the poet
acknowledges his large debt to Bolingbroke, and that Bolingbroke
confesses it was due, is all that can be declared with certainty. That
which makes the _Essay_ worthy the reading is the fruit, not of the
argument but of the poetry, and for that Pope trusted to his own genius.

His attempt to 'vindicate the ways of God to man' is confused and
contradictory, and no modern reader, perplexed with the mystery of
existence, is likely to gain aid from Pope. Nominally a Roman Catholic,
and in reality a deist, apart from poetry he does not seem to have had
strong convictions on any subject, and was content to be swayed by the
opinions current in society. In undertaking to write an ethical work
like the _Essay_ his ambition was greater than his strength, yet if
Pope's philosophy does not 'find' us, to use Coleridge's phrase, it did
appeal to a large number of minds in his own day, and had not lost its
popularity at a later period. The poem has been frequently translated
into French, into Italian, and into German; it was pronounced by
Voltaire to be the most useful and sublime didactic poem ever written in
any language; it was admired by Kant and quoted in his lectures; and it
received high praise from the Scotch philosopher, Dugald Stewart. The
charm of poetical expression is lost or nearly lost in translations, and
while the sense may be retained the aroma of the verse is gone. The
popularity of the _Essay_ abroad is therefore not easily to be accounted
for, unless we accept the theory that the shallow creed on which it is
based suited an age less earnest than our own.[22]

Pope has no strong convictions in this poem, but he has many moods. On
one page he is a pantheist, on another he says what he probably did not
mean, that God inspires men to do evil, and on a third that 'all our
knowledge is ourselves to know.' Nowhere in the argument does Pope seem
to have a firm standing, and De Quincey is not far wrong in saying that
it is 'the realization of anarchy.'

Read the poem for its poetical merits and you will forget its defects.
Pope was a superficial teacher, but direct teaching is not the end of
poetry. _The Essay on Man_ is not a poem which can be read and re-read
with ever-growing delight, but there are passages in it of as fine an
order as any that he has composed on more familiar subjects. Pope was,
as Sir William Hamilton said, a curious reader, and the ideas versified
in the poem may be traced to a variety of sources. Students who wish to
follow this track will find all the help they need in Mr. Pattison's
instructive notes, and in the comments attached to the poem in Elwin and
Courthope's edition. In his Introduction Mr. Pattison observes that 'the
subject of the _Essay on Man_ is not, considered in itself, one unfit
for poetry. Had Pope had a genius for philosophy there was no reason why
he should not have selected a philosophical subject. Didactic poetry is
a mistake if not a contradiction in terms. But poetry is not necessarily
didactic because its subject is philosophical.'

It is always difficult to define the themes suitable for poetry. Many
theories have been formed as to the scope of the art, and poets have
been amply instructed by critics as to what they ought to do, and what
they should avoid doing. The theories may appear sound, the arguments
convincing, until a great poet arises and knocks them on the head. In a
sense every poet of the highest order is also a philosopher and a
prophet who sees into 'the life of things.' Whether a philosophical
subject can be fitly represented in the imaginative light of poetry is a
matter for discussion rather than for decision. In the case of Pope,
however, it will be evident to all studious readers that he was
incapable of the continuous thought needed for the argument of the

'Anything like sustained reasoning,' says Mr. Leslie Stephen,' was
beyond his reach. Pope felt and thought by shocks and electric
flashes.... The defect was aggravated or caused by the physical
infirmities which put sustained intellectual labour out of the

Crousaz, a Swiss pastor and professor, who appears to have competed with
Berkeley for a prize and won it, attacked Pope's _Essay_ for its want of
orthodoxy, and his work was translated into English. The poet became
alarmed, but had the good fortune to find a champion in Warburton, who
for the rest of his life did Pope much service, not always of a
reputable kind. We shall have more to say of him later on, and it will
suffice to observe here that Warburton, who through Pope's friendship
obtained a good wife, a fortune, and a bishopric, was not a man of high
character. His sole object was to advance in life, and he succeeded.

The _Moral Essays_ as they are called, and the _Imitations from Horace_
are the final and crowning efforts of the poet's genius. They contain
his finest workmanship as a satirist, and will be read, I think, with
more pleasure than the _Dunciad_, despite Mr. Ruskin's judgment of that
poem as 'the most absolutely chiselled and monumental work "exacted" in
our country.'[24] It is impossible to concur in this estimate. The
imagery of the poem serves only to disgust, and the spiteful attacks
made in it on forgotten men want the largeness of purpose that lifts
satire above what is of temporary interest, making it a lesson for all

Pope's venom, and the personal animosities which give the sharpest
sting, and in some instances a zest, to his verse, are also amply
displayed in the _Moral Essays_ and in the _Imitations_, but the scope
is wider in these poems, and the subjects allow of more versatile
treatment. They should be read with the help of notes, a help generally
needed for satirical poetry, but it should be remembered always that
editorial judgments are to be received with discretion and not servilely
followed. There is perhaps no danger more carefully to be shunned by the
student of literature than the habit of resting satisfied with opinions
at second-hand. Better a wrong estimate formed after due reading and
thought, than a right estimate gleaned from critics, without any thought
at all.

According to Warburton, who is as tricky as Pope himself when it suits
his purpose to be so, the _Essay on Man_ was intended to form four
books, in which, as part of the general design, the _Moral Essays_ would
have been included, as well as Book IV. of the _Dunciad_, but to have
welded these _Essays_, which were published separately, into one
continuous poem would neither have suited Pope's genius nor the
character of the poems; and how the last book of the _Dunciad_ could
have been included in such an _olla podrida_ it is difficult to
conceive. The poet was fond of projects, and this, happily for his
readers, remained one. The dates of the four _Essays_, which are really
Epistles, and appeared in folio pamphlets, run over several years, but
were afterwards re-arranged by Pope. That to Lord Burlington, _Of the
Use of Riches_ (Epistle IV.), was published in 1731, under the title,
_Of False Taste_; that to Lord Bathurst, _Of the Use of Riches_ (Epistle
III), in 1732; the epistle to Lord Cobham (Epistle I.), _Of the
Knowledge and Characters of Men_, bears the date of 1733; and that To a
Lady (Epistle II.), _Of the Characters of Women_, in 1735. Pope wrote
other Epistles, some at a much earlier period of his career, which
follow the _Moral Essays_ but are not connected with them. Of these one
is addressed to Addison, two are to Martha Blount, for whom the second
of the _Moral Essays_ was written; one to the painter Jervas, originally
printed in 1717; while another, a few lines only in length, was
addressed to Craggs when Secretary of State. Space will not allow of
examining each of the _Essays_ minutely, but there are portions of them
which call for comment.

The first _Moral Essay_, _Of the Knowledge and Characters of Men_, in
which Pope enlarges on his theory of a ruling passion, affords a
significant example of his incapacity for sustaining an argument, since
Warburton, to use his own words, entirely changed and reversed the order
and disposition of the several parts to make the composition more
coherent. That he has succeeded is doubtful, that he should have
ventured upon such a task shows where Pope's weakness lay as a
philosophical poet. It is the least interesting of the _Essays_, but is
not without lines that none but Pope could have written. _The Characters
of Women_, the subject of the second _Essay_, was not one which the
satirist could treat with justice. He saw little in the sex save their
foibles, and the lines with which it opens show the spirit that animates
the poem:

    'Nothing so true as what you once let fall;
    "Most women have no character at all,"
    Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear,
    And best distinguished by black, brown, or fair.'

The satire contains one of Pope's offensive allusions to Lady Mary, and
the celebrated portrait drawn from two notable women, the Duchess of
Buckingham and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, from the latter of whom
the poet, at one time, despite his unquestionable love of independence,
received £1,000. The story, like many another in the career of Pope, is
wrapt in mystery.

Pope took great pains with the Epistle _Of the Use of Riches_. It was
altered from the original conception by the advice of Warburton, who
cared more for the argument of a poem than for its poetry. The thought
and purpose of the _Essay_ are defective, notwithstanding Warburton's
effort to clear them, but these defects are of slight moment when
compared with the brilliant passages with which the poem is studded.
Among them is the famous description of the Duke of Buckingham's
death-bed which should be compared with Dryden's equally famous lines
on the same nobleman's character.

    'In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half-hung,
    The floors of plaster, and the walls of dung,
    On once a flock-heel, but repaired with straw,
    With tape-tied curtains never meant to draw,
    The George and Garter dangling from that bed
    Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
    Great Villiers lies--alas! how changed from him,
    That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim!
    Gallant and gay, in Cliveden's proud alcove,
    The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
    Or just as gay at council, in a ring
    Of mimic statesmen and their merry King.
    No wit to flatter left of all his store!
    No fool to laugh at, which he valued more.
    There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
    And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends.'

There is also a covert attack in this Epistle upon the moneyed interest
represented by Walpole, and on the political corruption which he
sanctioned and promoted. Yet Pope knew how to praise the great Whig
statesman for his social qualities:

    'Seen him I have, but in his happier hour
    Of social pleasure, ill exchanged for power;
    Seen him uncumbered with the venal tribe,
    Smile without art and win without a bribe.'

Epistle IV. pursues the same subject as the third, and deals mainly with
false taste in the expenditure of wealth, and with the necessity of
following 'sense, of every art the soul.' In this poem there is the
far-famed description of Timon's Villa, and by Timon Pope was accused of
representing the Duke of Chandos, whose estate at Canons he is supposed
to have held in scorn after having been, as he acknowledges,
'distinguished' by its master. That would not have deterred Pope from
producing a brilliant picture, and his equivocations did but serve to
increase suspicion. Probably he found it convenient to use some features
of what he may have seen at Canons while composing a general sketch with
no special application. The _Moral Essays_, it may be added, are not
especially moral, but they are full of fine things, and form a portion
of Pope's verse second only to the _Imitations from Horace_.

These _Imitations_ are introduced by the Prologue addressed to Dr.
Arbuthnot, a poem of more than common brilliancy, and also more than
commonly venomous. Nowhere, perhaps, is there in Pope's works so
powerful and bitter an attack as the twenty-five lines in the Prologue
devoted to the vivisection of Lord Hervey, which we are forced to admire
while feeling their malevolence; nowhere is there a more consummate
piece of satire than the twenty-two lines that contain the poet's
masterpiece, the character of Atticus; and nowhere, I may add, are there
lines more personally interesting. Portions of the poem were written
long before the date of publication, and this is Pope's excuse, a rather
lame one perhaps, for printing the character of Atticus and the lines on
his mother after the death of Addison and of Mrs. Pope.

'When I had a fever one winter in town,' Pope said to his friend Spence,
'that confined me to my room for some days, Lord Bolingbroke came to see
me, happened to take up a Horace that lay on the table, and in turning
it over dipt on the first satire of the second book. He observed how
well that would hit my case if I were to imitate it in English. After he
was gone I read it over, translated it in a morning or two, and sent it
to press in a week or fortnight after. And this was the occasion of my
imitating some other of the satires and epistles afterwards.'

Bolingbroke did his friend a better service in giving this advice than
he had done with regard to the _Essay on Man_; and the six _Imitations_,
with the Prologue and Epilogue, which are among the latest fruits of
Pope's genius as a satirist, are also the ripest.

Warburton, writing of the _Imitations of Horace_, says: 'Whoever expects
a paraphrase of Horace or a faithful copy of his genius or his manner of
writing in these _Imitations_ will be much disappointed. Our author uses
the Roman poet for little more than his canvas; and if the old design or
colouring chance to suit his purpose, it is well; if not, he employs his
own without scruple or ceremony.'

This is true. Pope makes use of Horace when it suits his convenience,
but never follows him servilely, and quits him altogether when his
design carries him another way.

It was inevitable that he should exercise this freedom, since, as
Johnson has pointed out, there will always be an irreconcilable
dissimilitude between Roman images and English manners. Moreover, the
aim of the two poets was different, Pope's main object being to express
personal enmities and to give an exalted notion of his own virtue.

In the opening lines of his First Satire Pope follows Horace pretty
closely. Both poets complain that some persons think them too severe,
and others too complaisant; both take the advice of a lawyer, Horace of
C. Trebatius Testa, who gives him the pithiest replies; and Pope of
Fortescue. Both complain that they cannot sleep, the prescription of a
wife and cowslip wine being given by the English adviser, while Testa
advises Horace to swim thrice across the Tiber and moisten his lips with
wine. Throughout the rest of the satire Pope takes only casual glances
at the Roman original, and if in the Second Satire the English poet
follows Horace in the first few verses in recommending frugality, and in
the advice to keep the middle state, and neither to lean on this side or
on that, the resemblance between the poets is seldom striking, and the
spirit which animates them is different,--Horace being classical, and
therefore open to the apprehension of all educated readers, while Pope
is in a sense provincial, and, as I have already said with reference to
the _Dunciad_, cannot be fully enjoyed or even understood without some
knowledge of the time and of the men whom he lashes in his satire. The
Sixth Epistle of the First Book of Horace, which Pope attempts to
imitate, is, as Mr. Courthope observes, 'incapable of imitation. Its
humour, no less than its philosophy, belongs entirely to the Pagan
World.' In a general sense it is also true that Horace's style, whether
of language or of thought, will not bear transplanting. Indeed, whatever
is most characteristic and most exquisite in a poet's work is precisely
the portion which cannot be clothed in a foreign dress.

'Life,' said Pope, 'when the first heats are over is all down hill,' and
with him the downward progress began at a time when most men are still
standing on the summit. Never was there a more fiery spirit in so weak a
body. He suffered frequently from headaches, which he relieved by
inhaling the steam of coffee. Unfortunately he pampered his appetite and
paid a heavy penalty for doing so. Every change of weather affected him;
and at the time when most people indulge in company, he tells Swift that
he hid himself in bed. Although he sneers at Lord Hervey for taking
asses' milk he tried that remedy himself, and he frequently needed
medical aid. In his early days he was strong enough to ride on
horseback, but in later life his weakness was so great that he was in
constant need of help. M. Taine, whose criticism of Pope needs to be
read with caution, indulges in an exaggerated description of his bodily
condition, observing that when arrived at maturity he appeared no longer
capable of existing, and styling him 'a nervous abortion.' The poet's
condition was sad enough as told by Dr. Johnson, without amplifying it
as M. Taine has done. 'One side was contracted. His legs were so slender
that he enlarged their bulk with three pairs of stockings, which were
drawn on and off by the maid; for he was not able to dress or undress
himself, and neither went to bed nor rose without help. His weakness
made it very difficult for him to be clean.' After this forlorn
description of the poet's state it is a little grotesque to read that
his dress of ceremony was black, with a tie-wig and a little sword. A
distorted body often holds a generous and untainted soul. This was not
the case with Pope, and the sympathy he stood in so large a need of
himself, was seldom given to others.

In the spring of 1744 it became evident that the end was approaching.
Three weeks before his death he distributed the _Moral Epistles_ among
his friends, saying: 'Here I am, like Socrates, dispensing my morality
amongst my friends just as I am dying.' He died peacefully on May 30th,
1744, and was buried in Twickenham Church near the monument erected to
his parents.

Pope's standing among his country's poets has been the source of much
controversy. There have been critics who deny to him the name of a poet,
while others place him in the first rank. In his own century there was
comparatively little difference of opinion with regard to his merits.
Chesterfield gave him the warmest praise; Swift, Addison, and Warburton
ranked him with the peers of song; Johnson, whose discriminative
criticism reaches perhaps its highest level in his _Life of Pope_, in
reply to the question which had been asked, even in his day, whether
Pope was a poet? asks in return, 'If Pope be not a poet, where is poetry
to be found?' and adds that 'to circumscribe poetry by a definition will
only show the narrowness of the definer, though a definition which shall
exclude Pope will not readily be made.' Joseph Warton, too, Johnson's
contemporary and friend, while preferring the Romantic School to the
Classical, allows that in that species of poetry wherein Pope excelled
he is superior to all mankind.

In our century Bowles, whose edition of his works provoked prolonged
discussion, in which Campbell, Byron, and the _Quarterly Review_ took
part, places Pope above Dryden. Byron, with more enthusiasm than
judgment, regarded him as the greatest name in our poetry; Scott, with
generous appreciation of a genius so alien to his own, called him a
'true Deacon of the craft,' and at one time proposed editing his works,
a task projected also by Mr. Ruskin, who, putting Shakespeare aside as
rather the world's than ours, holds Pope 'to be the most perfect
representative we have since Chaucer of the true English mind.' 'Matched
on his own ground,' says Mr. Swinburne, 'he never has been nor can be.'
And Mr. Lowell in the same strain observes that 'in his own province he
still stands unapproachably alone.'

What then is Pope's ground? What is this province of which he is the
sole ruler? To a considerable extent the question has been answered in
these pages, but it may be well to sum up with more definiteness what
has been already stated.

In poetry Pope takes a first place in the second order of poets. The
deficiencies which forbid his entrance into the first rank are obvious.
He cannot sing, he has no ear for the subtlest melodies of verse, he is
not a creative poet, and has few of the spirit-stirring thoughts which
the noblest poets scatter through their pages with apparent
unconsciousness. There are no depths in Pope and there are no heights;
he has neither eye for the beauties of Nature, nor ear for her
harmonies, and a primrose was no more to him than it was to Peter Bell.

These are defects indeed, but nothing is more unfair says a great French
critic than to judge notable minds solely by their defects, and in spite
of them Pope's position is so unassailable that the critic must take a
contracted view of the poet's art who questions his right to the title.

His merits are of a kind not likely to be affected by time; a lively
fancy, a power of satire almost unrivalled, and a skill in using words
so consummate that there is no poet, excepting Shakespeare, who has left
his mark upon the language so strongly. The loss to us if Pope's verse
were to become extinct cannot readily be measured. He has said in the
best words what we all know and feel, but cannot express, and has made
that classical which in weaker hands would be commonplace. His
sensibility to the claims of his art is exquisite, the adaptation of his
style to his subject shows the hand of a master, and if these are not
the highest gifts of a poet, they are gifts to which none but a poet can
lay claim.


[11] Some qualification may be made to these statements. Pope took
pleasure in landscape gardening on the English plan, as opposed to the
formality of the French and Dutch systems, and the design of the Prince
of Wales's garden is said to have been copied from the poet's at

[12] Elwin and Courthope's _Pope_, vol. ii. p. 160.

[13] See the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot.

[14] Elwin and Courthope's _Pope_, vol. v., p. 195.

[15] 'Lady Mary,' says Byron, 'was greatly to blame in that quarrel for
having encouraged Pope.... She should have remembered her own line,

    '"He comes too near who comes to be denied."'

[16] _Studies in English Literature_, p. 47.--_Stanford._

[17] Quin (1693-1766) was the famous actor, and Patterson was Thomson's
deputy in the surveyor-generalship of the Leeward Isles, and ultimately
his successor.

[18] The Earl of Peterborough, the meteor-like brilliancy of whose
actions forms one of the most striking chapters in the history of his

[19] _Life of Pope_, p. 216.

[20] 'Pope and Swift,' says Dr. Johnson, 'had an unnatural delight in
ideas physically impure, such as every other tongue utters with
unwillingness, and of which every ear shrinks from the mention.'

[21] Clarendon Press, Oxford.

[22] No doubt many distinguished foreigners who appreciated the beauty
of the poem had read it in the original.

[23] Stephen's _Pope_, p. 163.

[24] _Lectures on Art_, p. 70, Oxford.



[Sidenote: Matthew Prior (1664-1721).]

The ease with which the Queen Anne wits obtained office and rose to
posts of high trust through the pleasant art of verse-making, is
conspicuous in the career of Prior. His parents are unknown, the place
of his birth is somewhat doubtful, although he is claimed by
Wimborne-Minster, in Dorsetshire, and the first trustworthy facts
recorded of his early career are that he was a Westminster scholar when
the famous Dr. Busby, whose discipline was physical as well as mental,
presided over the school. His father died, and his mother being no
longer able to pay the school fees, Prior was placed with an uncle who
kept the Rhenish Wine Tavern in Westminster. His seat was in the bar,
and there the Earl of Dorset (1637-1705-6), a small poet, but a generous
patron of poets, found the youth reading Horace, and, pleased with his
'parts,' sent him back to Westminster, whence he went up to Cambridge as
a scholar at St. John's, the college destined a century later to receive
one of the greatest of English poets.

Charles Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax (1661-1715), the son of a
younger son of a nobleman, was also a Westminster scholar. He entered
Trinity College in 1679, and like Prior appears to have owed his good
fortune to the rhymer's craft. 'At thirty,' writes Lord Macaulay, 'he
would gladly have given all his chances in life for a comfortable
vicarage and a chaplain's scarf. At thirty-seven he was First Lord of
the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a Regent of the Kingdom.'
The literary history of the Queen Anne age has many associations with
his name. He proved a liberal patron of the wits, and of Pope among
them, by subscribing largely to his _Homer_; but the poet's memory was
stronger for imaginary injuries than for real benefits, and because
Halifax had patronized Tickell, he figures in the Prologue to the
Satires as 'full-blown Bufo, puffed by every quill.'

Prior and Montague began their rhyming career early, and a partnership
production, entitled the _Hind and Panther, transversed to the story of
the Country Mouse and the City Mouse_ (1687), a parody of Dryden's
famous poem published in the same year, brought both authors into
notice. At the age of twenty-six Prior, who had previously obtained a
fellowship, was appointed Secretary to the Embassy at the Hague. After
that he rose steadily to eminence, became Secretary of State in Ireland,
and was finally appointed Ambassador at the French Court. High office
brings its troubles, and in those days was not without its perils. In
1711 Prior was sent secretly to Paris to negotiate a peace, for which,
when the Whigs came again into power, he was imprisoned and expected to
lose his head. While in prison, where he remained for two years
(1715-1717), the poet wrote _Alma_, a humorous and speculative poem on
the relations of the soul and body, and when released published his
_Poems_ by subscription in a noble folio, said to be the largest-sized
volume in the whole range of English poetry. He gained 4,000 guineas by
the publication, and with that sum and an estate purchased for him by
Lord Harley, Prior was able to live in comfort. He died in September,
1721, in his fifty-eighth year, and was buried in Westminster Abbey,
under a monument for which he had had the vanity to pay five hundred

The peculiar merit of Prior is better understood in our day than it was
in his own. We read his poems solely for the sake of the 'lighter
pieces,' which Johnson despised. The poet thought _Solomon_ his best
work, but no one who toils through the three books which form that poem
is likely to agree with this estimate. Dulness pervades the work like an
atmosphere, but it had its admirers in the last century, and among them
was John Wesley, who, in reply to Johnson's complaint of its
tediousness, said he should as soon think of calling the Second or Sixth
Æneid tedious. In the preface to the poem Prior declares that he "had
rather be thought a good Englishman than the best poet or greatest
scholar that ever wrote," a passage which does more honour to the poet
than any in the text. A far more popular piece was _Henry and Emma_,
which even so fine a judge of poetry as Cowper called 'inimitable.'
Tastes change, let us hope for the better, and possibly none but the
greatest poets remain unaffected by time. Assuredly Prior does not, and
_Henry and Emma_ affords a striking illustration of the contrast between
the poetical spirit of Prior's age and that which influences ours. The
poem is founded on the fine ballad of the _Nut-Browne Maide_. The story,
as originally told, is homely and quaint, written without apparent
effort and told in 360 lines. Prior requires considerably more than
twice that number, and his maid and her lover, instead of using the
simple language befitting the theme, employ the conventional machinery
of the age, and bring Jove and Mars, Cupid and Venus upon the scene,
with allusions to Marlborough's victories and to 'Anna's wondrous

_Alma_, a poem written in Hudibrastic verse, which shows that Prior had
in a measure caught the vein of Butler, has some couplets familiar in
quotations. He won, too, not a little contemporary reputation for his
tales in verse, which are singularly coarse; but an age that tolerated
Mrs. Manley and read the plays and novels of Aphra Behn was not likely
to object to the grossness of Prior. Dr. Johnson would not admit that
his poems were unfit for a lady's table, and Wesley, who appears to have
been strangely oblivious to Prior's moral delinquencies, observes that
his tales are the best told of any in the English tongue. Cowper praised
him for his 'charming ease,' and this gift enabled him to write some of
the most delightful occasional verses produced in the century. There is
nothing more exquisite of its kind than his address, _To a Child of
Quality_, written when the child was five years old and the poet forty,
and one is not surprised to learn that Prior was admired by Thomas
Moore, who more than once caught his note. A reader familiar with Moore
and ignorant of Prior would without hesitation attribute the following
stanzas, from the _Answer to Chloe Jealous_, to the Irish poet:

    'The god of us versemen (you know, Child), the sun,
      How after his journeys he sets up his rest;
    If at morning o'er earth 'tis his fancy to run,
      At night he declines on his Thetis's breast.

    'So when I am wearied with wandering all day,
      To thee, my delight, in the evening I come;
    No matter what beauties I saw in my way;
      They were but my visits, but thou art my home.

    'Then finish, dear Cloe, this pastoral war,
      And let us, like Horace and Lydia, agree;
    For thou art a girl as much brighter than her
      As he was a poet sublimer than me.'

"The grammatical lapse in these last two lines," says Mr. Austin Dobson,
"perhaps calls for correction, but many readers will probably agree with
Moore (_Diary_, November, 1818), 'that it is far prettier as it is.'
'Nothing,' he says truly, 'can be more gracefully light and gallant than
this little poem.'"

It was fancy and not imagination which conceived the following lines,
but how charming is the fancy! The poem, which is given in a slightly
abridged form, is addressed


    'In the dispute whate'er I said,
      My heart was by my tongue belied;
    And in my looks you might have read
      How much I argued on your side.

    'You, far from danger as from fear,
      Might have sustained an open fight;
    For seldom your opinions err;
      Your eyes are always in the right.

    'Alas! not hoping to subdue,
      I only to the fight aspired;
    To keep the beauteous foe in view
      Was all the glory I desired.

    'But she, howe'er of victory sure,
      Contemns the wreath too long delayed;
    And, armed with more immediate power,
      Calls cruel silence to her aid.

    'Deeper to wound, she shuns the fight:
      She drops her arms, to gain the field;
    Secures her conquest by her flight;
      And triumphs, when she seems to yield.

    'So when the Parthian turned his steed,
      And from the hostile camp withdrew;
    With cruel skill the backward reed
      He sent; and as he fled, he slew.'

Wit and a ready command of verse are the characteristics of Prior's
poetry. Both of these gifts are to be seen in his lively _English
ballad on the Taking of Namur by the King of Great Britain_, in which he
travesties Boileau's _Ode sur la prise de Namur_. As an epigrammatist he
reaped his advantage from a study of Martial, and in this department of
verse Prior is often successful. If brevity be a prominent merit in an
epigram, he sometimes excels his master, as, for example, in this

    'To John I owed great obligation;
      But John unhappily thought fit
    To publish it to all the nation;
      Sure John and I are more than quit.'[25]

This is half the length of the original Latin, and what it loses in
elegance it gains in point.

It may be hoped that the next quotation is a libel on Bishop Atterbury;
if so, the lines have every merit but truth. The epigram is on the
funeral of the Duke of Buckingham, who died in 1721.

    'I have no hopes,' the duke he says, and dies;
    'In sure and certain hopes,' the prelate cries:
    Of these two learned peers, I prithee say, man,
    Who is the lying knave, the priest or layman?
    The duke he stands an infidel confest;
    'He's our dear brother,' quoth the lordly priest.
    The duke, though knave, still 'brother dear,' he cries;
    And who can say the reverend prelate lies?

Prior, it may be observed here, could say pointed things in prose as
well as in verse, and nothing can be happier than his reply to the
Frenchman's inquiry whether the King of England had anything to show in
his palace equal to the paintings at Versailles illustrating the
victories of Louis XIV: 'The monuments of my master's actions,' said the
poet, 'are to be seen everywhere except in his own house.'

It is always interesting to link poet with poet, and in relation to
Prior many readers will recall the pathetic incident related of Sir
Walter Scott when the wonderful intellect which had entranced the world
was giving indications of decay. Lockhart relates how, as they were
travelling together, a quotation from Prior led Scott to make another,
slightly altered for the occasion, and he adds:

'This seemed to put him into the train of Prior, and he repeated several
striking passages both of the _Alma_ and the _Solomon_. He was still at
this when we reached a longish hill, and he got out to walk a little. As
we climbed the ascent, he leaning heavily on my shoulder, we were met by
a couple of beggars, who were, or professed to be, old soldiers both of
Egypt and the Peninsula. One of them wanted a leg, which circumstance
alone would have opened Scott's purse-strings, though, _ex facie_, a sad
old blackguard; but the fellow had recognized his person as it happened,
and in asking an alms bade God bless him fervently by his name. The
mendicants went on their way, and we stood breathing on the knoll. Sir
Walter followed them with his eye, and planting his stick firmly on the
sod, repeated, without break or hesitation Prior's verses to the
historian Mezeray. That he applied them to himself was touchingly
obvious, and therefore I must quote them.

    '"Whate'er thy countrymen have done,
    By law and wit, by sword and gun,
      In thee is faithfully recited;
    And all the living world that view
    Thy work, give thee the praises due,
      At once instructed and delighted.

    '"Yet for the fame of all these deeds,
    What beggar in the _Invalides_,
      With lameness broke, with blindness smitten,
    Wished ever decently to die,
    To have been either Mezeray,
      Or any monarch he has written?

    '"It strange, dear author, yet it true is,
    That down from Pharamond to Louis
      All covet life, yet call it pain:
    All feel the ill, yet shun the cure;
    Can sense this paradox endure?
      Resolve me Cambray[26] or Fontaine.

    '"The man in graver tragic known
    (Though his best part long since was done),
      Still on the stage desires to tarry;
    And he who played the Harlequin,
    After the jest still loads the scene,
      Unwilling to retire, though weary."'

[Sidenote: John Gay (1685-1732).]

Gay, who enjoyed an unbroken friendship with the brotherhood of wits,
and was treated by them like a spoilt child, was born at Barnstaple in
1685, and left an orphan at the age of ten. He was educated at the free
grammar school in the town, and was afterwards, to his discontent,
apprenticed to a mercer in London. He escaped from this uncongenial
employment to be dependent on an uncle, and thus early exhibited his
life-long disposition to rely upon others for support. 'Providence,'
Swift writes, 'never designed Gay to be above two-and-twenty by his
thoughtlessness and gullibility. He has as little foresight of age,
sickness, poverty, or loss of admirers as a girl of fifteen.' His
weakness, it has been said, appealed to Swift's strength, and Swift,
Pope, and Arbuthnot were Gay's most faithful friends. They found
something in him to laugh at and to love. Ladies, too, treated him with
the kind of friendliness which has a touch of commiseration. In 1714 Gay
was appointed secretary to Lord Clarendon, a post which he owed to
Swift, but the death of Queen Anne in that year brought the Whigs into
office, and destroyed the poet's prospects. Prior to this he had been
secretary to the imperious Duchess of Monmouth. He was now left without
money or employment, and owed much to the generosity of Pope. It was
Gay's lot 'in suing long to bide,' to be always hoping, and nearly
always disappointed. 'He seems,' says his latest biographer, 'to have
begun his career under the impression that it was somebody's duty to
provide for him in the world, and this impression clung to him through
nearly the whole of a lifetime.'[27] Ten years before his death he was
eagerly looking to others for support. Writing to Swift, he says: 'I
lodge at present in Burlington House, and have received many civilities
from many great men, but very few real benefits. They wonder at each
other for not providing for me, and I wonder at them all.'

Gay's first poem of any mark was _The Shepherd's Week_ (1714), six
burlesque pastorals, a subject proposed to him by Pope, who was then
smarting from the praise Philips had received in _The Guardian_. But if
Pope meant Gay to poke his fun at Philips in _The Shepherd's Week_, he
must have been disappointed, for the poems were accepted as genuine
bucolics, and although humorously absurd, are, to say the least, more
true to rustic life than the pastorals either of Philips or of Pope.
_The Shepherd's Week_ was followed by _Trivia_ (1715), a piece suggested
by Swift's _City Shower_. It is one of Gay's most notable productions,
not as a poem, but as a vivid description of the streets of London
nearly two hundred years ago. The great reputation he obtained as the
author of _The Fables_ (1727), and still more of _The Beggar's Opera_
(1728), the idea of which was suggested to Gay by Swift, survived him
for some years. _The Fables_ were written for and dedicated to the
youthful Duke of Cumberland, who is asked to "accept the moral lay, and
in these tales mankind survey." There is skill and ingenuity in the
poems, but higher merit they cannot boast, and young readers are likely
to prefer the illustrations which generally accompany _The Fables_ to
the letterpress. Many of Gay's allusions are beyond the apprehension of
the young, and have a political flavour. _The Beggar's Opera_ was
intended as a burlesque of the Italian opera, which had been long the
laughing-stock of men of letters, and as the play was thought to have
political significance, and the character of Macheath to be a portrait
of Walpole, it was received with enthusiasm, and acted in London for
about sixty nights. So popular did the opera become, that ladies carried
about the songs on their fans.

Eight years before, Gay had published his poems by subscription, and in
those happy days for versemen had gained £1,000 by the venture. He put
the money into South Sea stock, and lost it all. For _The Beggar's
Opera_ he received about £800. It was followed by _Polly_, a play of the
same coarse character, which, for political reasons, was not allowed to
be acted. The result was that it had a large sale, and put money in
Gay's purse. Ten thousand five hundred copies are said to have been
printed in one year, and the £1,200 realized by the sale were very
wisely retained for the poet's use by the Duke of Queensberry, under
whose roof he had at length found a warm nest. To the student Gay is
chiefly interesting as the only noteworthy poet of the period, south of
the Tweed, gifted with a lyrical capacity. Two or three of his songs and
ballads, and especially _Black-Eyed Susan_, have a charm beyond the
reach of the mechanical versifier. But the art of song is at a low level
even in the hands of Gay. The lyric which the Elizabethan and Jacobean
poets loved so well, and of which the present century has produced
specimens to be matched only by Shakespeare, may be said to have been
lost to English poetry for the first half of the last century, since
neither Prior's verse, delightful though it be, nor the songs of Gay,
have enough of the poetical element to form exceptions to this

In his _Tales_ he follows Prior in grossness, while inferior to him in
art. Like the greater number of the Queen Anne poets, Gay flatters with
a free hand. In an epistle addressed to Lintot, the bookseller, he
declares that Anacreon lives once more in Sheffield, and Waller in
Granville, that Buckingham's verse will last to distant time; while Ovid
sings again in Addison, and 'Homer's _Iliad_ shines in his _Campaign_.'

One of the liveliest and most graceful of Gay's poems is addressed to
Pope 'On his having finished his translation of Homer's _Iliad_.' It is
called _A Welcome from Greece_, and describes the friends who assembled
to greet the poet on his return to England.

Three stanzas from the Epistle shall be quoted:

    'Oh, what a concourse swarms on yonder quay!
      The sky re-echoes with new shouts of joy;
    By all this show, I ween 'tis Lord Mayor's day;
      I hear the voice of trumpet and hautboy--
    No, now I see them near.--Oh, these are they
      Who come in crowds to welcome thee from Troy.
    Hail to the bard, whom long as lost we mourned
    From siege, from battle, and from storm returned!

    'What lady's that to whom he gently bends?
      Who knows not her? Ah! those are Wortley's eyes:
    How art thou honoured, numbered with her friends!
      For she distinguishes the good and wise.
    The sweet-tongued Murray near her side attends;
      Now to my heart the glance of Howard flies;
    Now Hervey, fair of face, I mark full well,
    With thee Youth's youngest daughter, sweet Lepell.

    'I see two lovely sisters hand in hand,
      The fair-haired Martha and Teresa brown;
    Madge Bellenden, the tallest of the land;
      And smiling Mary, soft and fair as down.
    Yonder I see the cheerful Duchess stand,
      For friendship, zeal, and blithesome humours known;
    Whence that loud shout in such a hearty strain?
    Why, all the Hamiltons are in her train!'

Gay's love of good living was known to all his friends. 'As the French
philosopher,' Congreve wrote, 'used to prove his existence by _cogito
ergo sum_, the greatest proof of Gay's existence is _edit ergo est_.'
For a long time his health compelled him to give up wine, and he tells
Swift that he had also left off verse-making, 'for I really think that
man must be a bold writer who trusts to wit without it.' He was
dispirited, he told Swift not long before his death, for want of a
pursuit, and found 'indolence and idleness the most tiresome things in
the world.'

Gay died in 1732 at the Duke of Queensberry's house, and Pope grieved
that one of his nearest and longest ties was broken. He was interred, to
quote Arbuthnot's words, 'as a peer of the realm,' in Westminster Abbey.
The superficial character of the poet may be seen in his couplet
transcribed upon the monument:

    'Life is a jest, and all things show it;
    I thought so once, and now I know it.'

[Sidenote: Edward Young (1684-1765).]

Gay's moderate gift of song was withheld from the famous author of the
_Night Thoughts_. Yet Young was vain enough to think that he possessed
it, and wrote a patriotic ode called _Ocean_, preceded by an elaborate
essay on lyric poetry. He also produced _Imperium Pelagi_ (1729), _A
Naval Lyric written in Imitation of Pindar's spirit_. The lyric, which
was travestied by Fielding in his _Tom Thumb_,[28] reads like a
burlesque, and badly treated though Pindar was by the versemen of the
last century, there is perhaps not one of them who mocks him more
outrageously than Young. He says that this ode is an original, and no
critic is likely to dispute the assertion.

Young was born in 1684 at Upham, near Winchester, his father, who was
afterwards Dean of Sarum, being at that time the rector of the village.
Edward was placed upon the foundation at Winchester College, and
remained there until he was eighteen. He was then sent up to New
College, and afterwards removed to Corpus. At the age of twenty-seven he
was nominated to a law fellowship at All Souls, and took his degree of
B.C.L. and his doctor's degree some years later. Characteristically
enough he began his poetical career by _An Epistle to Lord Lansdowne_
(1712), who is praised for his heavenly numbers, and is said to have
been born "to make the muse immortal." His next poem of any consequence,
_The Last Day_, written in heroic couplets, and filling three books, is
correct, or fairly so, in versification, and execrable in taste. Young,
it may be supposed, wished to produce a sense of solemnity in the
treatment of his theme, and he does so by lamenting that the very land
'where the Stuarts filled an awful throne' will in that day be
forgotten. The want of taste which so often deforms Young's verse is
also seen in the imagery he employs to illustrate the fear which even
good men may have on appearing before that 'dread tribunal.'

    'Thus the chaste bridegroom, when the priest draws nigh,
    Beholds his blessing with a trembling eye;
    Feels doubtful passions throb in every vein,
    And in his cheeks are mingled joy and pain,
    Lest still some intervening chance should rise,
    Leap forth at once, and snatch the golden prize,
    Inflame his woe, by bringing it so late,
    And stab him in the crisis of his fate.'

His next poem, _The Force of Religion, or Vanquished Love_, was
suggested by the execution of Lady Jane Grey and Lord Guildford, a
subject chosen for a tragedy by John Banks (1694), by Rowe in 1715, and
treated with considerable dramatic power in our own day by Ross Neil. In
Young's hands this fine theme becomes a rhetorical exercise without
poetry and without pathos. A few lines will suffice to show the style of
the poem. Jane and Dudley, it must be premised, are imprisoned in a
gloomy hall:

    'What can they do? They fix their mournful eyes--
    Then Guildford, thus abruptly: "I despise
    An empire lost; I fling away the crown;
    Numbers have laid that bright delusion down;
    But where's the Charles, or Dioclesian, where,
    Could quit the blooming, wedded, weeping fair?
    Oh! to dwell ever on thy lip! to stand
    In full possession of thy snowy hand!
    And thro' the unclouded crystal of thine eye
    The heavenly treasures of thy mind to spy!
    Till rapture reason happily destroys,
    And my soul wanders through immortal joys!
    Give me the world, and ask me, where's my bliss?
    I clasp thee to my breast and answer, this."'

Verse of this quality, which might be amply quoted, is of interest to
the student of literature, since in Young's day it passed current for
poetry. But in accepting his claims as a poet the faith of the age must
have been often strained.

Walpole, who despised the whole tribe of poets, and cared nothing for
literature, had by some strange chance awarded to Young a pension of
£200 a-year, whereupon in a piece called _The Instalment_, addressed to
Sir Robert, Britain is called upon to behold

    'His azure ribbon and his radiant star,'

and the poet's breast 'glows with grateful fire' as he exclaims:

    'The streams of royal bounty turned by thee
    Refresh the dry domains of poesy.
    My fortune shows, when arts are Walpole's care,
    What slender worth forbids us to despair:
    Be this thy partial smile from censure free,
    'Twas meant for merit, though it fell on me.'

Following in the steps of George Sandys, but with inferior power, and in
a less racy diction, Young performed the vain task of paraphrasing part
of the Book of Job, one of the noblest poems the world possesses, and
translated in our authorized version in language not to be surpassed for
dignity and simplicity.

In 1719 his _Busiris_ was performed. _The Revenge_, a better known
tragedy, written on the French model, followed in 1721, and kept the
stage for some time. Seven years later _The Brothers_, his third and
last tragedy, was in rehearsal, but the poet, who had lately taken holy
orders, withdrew it at the last moment. These tragedies, which are full
of sound and fury, are destitute of tragic power. _The Revenge_, in
which Zanga acts the part of an Iago, has some forcible scenes, and so,
despite much rant and fustian, has _Busiris_. Plenty of blood is shed,
of course, and the heroines of the plays die by their own hands. Tragedy
is supposed to exercise an elevating influence, but to counteract this
happy result, _Busiris_ and _The Revenge_ are followed by indecent
epilogues, in which the speakers jest at the feelings which the plays
may have excited. For _The Brothers_ Young wrote his own epilogue. It is
decent and dull. His genius was better fitted for satire than for the
drama, and _The Universal Passion_, which consists of seven satires
published in a collected form in 1728, brought him reputation and money.
The poet Crabbe was never more surprised in his life than when John
Murray (the famous 'My Murray' of Byron) gave him £3,000 for the
copyright of his poems; Young received the same sum for work
immeasurably inferior in value, and in a less legitimate way. Two
thousand pounds, it is stated, was a gift from the Duke of Grafton, who
said it was the best bargain he ever made, as the satires were worth
£4,000. Young, it will be seen, preceded Pope as a satirist. He is more
generous and humane, and has none of the venomous attacks on living
persons by which Pope added piquancy to his verse. But he is a careless
writer, and for the most part lacks the exquisite precision, the subtle
wit, the rhythmical felicity, which make the couplets of Pope so
memorable. _The Dunciad_, the _Moral Essays_, and the _Imitations_ are
read by all lovers of literature, but _The Universal Passion_ is
forgotten. Of the six satires, the two on women are the most spirited,
and may be compared with Pope's on the same subject. The different
foibles, and faults worse than foibles of the women of that day are
exhibited with a satirist's licence, and occasionally with a Pope-like
terseness. Take the following, for example:

    'There is no woman where there's no reserve,
    And 'tis on plenty your poor lovers starve.'

    'Few to good breeding make a just pretence;
    Good breeding is the blossom of good sense.'

    'A shameless woman is the worst of men.'

    'Naked in nothing should a woman be,
    But veil her very wit with modesty.'

It was not until he was nearly fifty that Young, disappointed of the
preferment he sought, took holy orders, and in 1730 accepted the college
living of Welwyn, in Herts, which he held till his death.

In the following year the poet married Lady Elizabeth Lee, a daughter of
the Earl of Lichfield, a union that lasted ten years. One son was the
offspring of this marriage. Lady Elizabeth had a daughter by a former
marriage, who was married to Mr. Temple, a son of Lord Palmerston, and
shortly before her own death she lost both daughter and son-in-law, who,
there can be little doubt, are the Philander and Narcissa of the _Night
Thoughts_, the earlier books of which were published in 1742. This once
celebrated poem, written in his old age, is the one effort of Young's
genius that has enjoyed a great popularity. It suited well an age which,
while far from moral, delighted in moral treatises and in didactic
verse. In the _Night Thoughts_ Young remembers that he is a clergyman,
and puts on his gown and bands. He puts on also his singing robes, and
shows the reader what none of his earlier poems prove, that he is in the
presence of a poet.

The _Night Thoughts_ is remarkable in its finest passages for a strong,
but sombre imagination, and for a command of his instrument that puts
Young at times nearly on a level with the greatest masters of blank
verse. On this height, however, he does not stay long. He is rich in
great thoughts, but they do not fall unconsciously, as it were, while
the poet pursues his argument. They are aphorisms uttered generally in
single lines which are apt to break the continuity of the poem and to
injure the harmony of its versification. The theme of Life, Death, and
Immortality is not a narrow one, and affords ample space for imaginative
treatment. Young's treatment of it is too often declamatory; he drops
the poet in the rhetorician and the wit. There is much of the false
sublime in the poem, and much that reveals the hollow character of the
writer. The first book is the finest, sparkling with felicitous
expressions and rising frequently to true poetry. The poetical quality
of that book, however, is lessened by the author's passion for
antithesis. The merit of the following passage, for example, is not due
to poetical inspiration:

    'How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
    How complicate, how wonderful is man!
    How passing wonder He, who made him such!
    Who centered in our make such strange extremes
    From different natures, marvellously mixed,
    Connexion exquisite of distant worlds!
    Distinguished link in being's endless chain!
    Midway from nothing to the Deity;
    A beam etherial, sullied, and absorbt!
    Though sullied and dishonoured still divine!
    Dim miniature of greatness absolute!
    An heir of glory! a frail child of dust!
    Helpless immortal! insect infinite!
    A worm! a god!--I tremble at myself,
    And in myself am lost. At home a stranger,
    Thought wanders up and down, surprised, aghast,
    And wondering at her own: How reason reels!
    O what a miracle to man is man!
    Triumphantly distressed! what joy! what dread!
    Alternately transported and alarmed!
    What can preserve my life? or what destroy?
    An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave:
    Legions of angels can't confine me there.'

The opening of the ninth and last book will give a more favourable
illustration of Young's style:

    'As when a traveller, a long day past
    In painful search of what he cannot find,
    At night's approach, content with the next cot,
    There ruminates awhile, his labour lost;
    Then cheers his heart with what his fate affords,
    And chants his sonnet to deceive the time,
    Till the due season calls him to repose;
    Thus I, long-travelled in the ways of men,
    And dancing with the rest the giddy maze
    Where Disappointment smiles at Hope's career;
    Warned by the languor of life's evening ray,
    At length have housed me in an humble shed,
    Where, future wandering banished from my thought,
    And waiting, patient, the sweet hour of rest,
    I chase the moments with a serious song.
    Song soothes our pains, and age has pains to soothe.'

While moralizing on man's mortality Young is seldom a cheerful monitor,
he dwells with too great persistence on the incidents of death and of
bodily corruption, too little on life with which we have more to do than
with death. Thus with a strange perversion he exclaims:

    'This is the desart, this the solitude,
    How populous, how vital, is the grave!
    This is creation's melancholy vault,
    The vale funereal, the sad cypress gloom,
    The land of apparitions, empty shades!
    All, all on earth is shadow, all beyond
    Is substance; the reverse is folly's creed.'

and harping on the same theme in the ninth book, says:

    'What is the world itself? Thy world--a grave.
    Where is the dust that has not been alive?
    The spade, the plough, disturb our ancestors;
    From human mould we reap our daily bread;
    The globe around earth's hollow surface shakes,
    And is the ceiling of her sleeping sons.
    O'er devastation we blind revels keep;
    Whole buried towns support the dancer's heel.'

[Sidenote: Robert Blair (1699-1746).]

On laying down the _Night Thoughts_ the student may be advised to read
Blair's _Grave_, a poem in less than 800 lines of blank verse, composed
in a fresher and more rigorous style than the far larger work of Young,
and rather moulded, as Mr. Saintsbury has observed, 'upon dramatic than
upon purely poetical models.' _The Grave_, which was written before the
publication of the _Night Thoughts_,[29] abounds with poetical
felicities, and is pregnant with suggestions that seize the imagination,
and appeal alike to the intellect and the heart. The brevity of the
piece is in its favour; there is not a line that flags.

    'Tell us, ye dead! will none of you, in pity
    To those you left behind, disclose the secret?
    Oh! that some courteous ghost would blab it out,--
    What 'tis you are and we must shortly be.
    I've heard that souls departed have sometimes
    Forewarned men of their death. 'Twas kindly done
    To knock and give the alarm. But what means
    This stinted charity? 'Tis but lame kindness
    That does its work by halves. Why might you not
    Tell us what 'tis to die? Do the strict laws
    Of your society forbid your speaking
    Upon a point so nice?--I'll ask no more:
    Sullen, like lamps in sepulchres, your shine
    Enlightens but yourselves. Well, 'tis no matter;
    A very little time will clear up all,
    And make us learn'd as you are, and as close.'

Blair, who was a Scotch clergyman, wrote also an _Elegy in Memory of
William Law_, a Professor of Moral Philosophy in Edinburgh, whose
daughter he married. He writes in a masculine and homely style. His
imagery is often more powerful than pleasing, but some of his similes
win attention by their beauty. For example:

    "Look how the fair one weeps! the conscious tears
    Stand thick as dewdrops on the bells of flowers."

Among the victims claimed by the grave is

        'The long demurring maid,
    Whose lonely unappropriated sweets
    Smiled, like yon knot of cowslips on the cliff,
    Not to be come at by the willing hand.'

And the death of a good man is pictured in this musical couplet:

    'Night dews fall not more gently to the ground
    Nor weary worn out winds expire so soft.'

Cowper, referring to the poets of his century, said that every warbler
had Pope's tune by heart. But if they had the tune by heart, many of
them did not make it a vehicle for their verse, and among these are
poets of the weight and worth of Thomson and Young, of Gray and Collins.
Poets of a minor order, too, such as Somerville, Armstrong, Glover,
Shenstone, Akenside, and John Dyer, either did not use the heroic
distich which Pope crowned with such honour, or used it in their least
significant poems.

[Sidenote: James Thomson (1700-1748).]

Thomson's influence, though less visible than Pope's, was probably as
great. It was felt by the poets who loved Nature, and had no turn for
satire. To pass to him from Prior, Gay, and Young is to leave the town
for the country. English poetry owes much to the author of _The
Seasons_, who was the first among the poets of his century to bring men
back to 'Nature, the Vicar of the Almighty Lord.' He could not, indeed,
shake off altogether the fetters of the conventional diction current in
his day, and his style is often turgid and verbose. But Thomson had, to
use a phrase of his own, 'a fine flame of imagination,' and when brought
face to face with Nature he has the inspiration of a poet who discerns
the lessons which Nature is ready to teach.

James Thomson was born at Ednam, on the banks of the Tweed, on September
11th, 1700, but his father removed to Jedburgh shortly afterwards, and
there the future poet gained his first impression of rural scenes. He
began to rhyme in boyhood, but, unlike most young poets, had the good
sense to make an annual bonfire of his youthful effusions. At the early
age of fifteen he was sent to the university at Edinburgh, his father,
who was a Presbyterian minister, wishing that his son should follow the
same vocation. But Thomson was not destined to 'wag his head in a
pulpit.' He had a friend at this time in David Mallet, a minor poet of
more prudence than principle, and when Mallet had the good fortune to
gain a tutorship in London, his companion also started for the
metropolis in search of money and fame. It was a desperate venture, and
the young poet's difficulties were increased by the loss of his letters
of introduction. Scotchmen however have always countrymen willing to
help them, and Thomson whose pedigree on the mother's side connected him
with the famous house of Home, found temporary employment as tutor to a
child of Lord Binning who belonged by marriage to the same family.
Afterwards he resided with Millan, a bookseller at Charing Cross, and
then having finished _Winter_ (1726), on which he had been at work for
some time, he sold it to the publisher for three guineas. Before long
it was read and warmly praised by Aaron Hill, then a man of mark in the
world of letters. Sir Spencer Compton, the Speaker, to whom the poem was
dedicated, gave the poet twenty guineas for the compliment; Rundle, the
Bishop of Derry, and several ladies of rank cheered him with their
praise, and Thomson's success was assured. It was the age of patrons,
and he practised without shame and without discrimination the art of
flattery. Each book of _The Seasons_ had a dedication, and the honour
was one for which some kind of payment was expected. _Summer_ appeared
in 1727 and _Spring_ in the year following. In 1729 the appearance of
_Britannia_ showed the popularity of the poet and of his theme, for
three editions were sold. It is a distinctly party poem, and contains an
attack upon Walpole--whom he had previously praised as the 'most
illustrious of patriots'--for submitting to indignities from Spain. The
British Lion roars loudly in it, but there is more of fustian in the
piece than of true patriotism. 'How dares,' the poet exclaims, 'the
proud Iberian rouse to wrath the masters of the main:'

    'Who told him that the big incumbent war
    Would not ere this have rolled his trembling ports
    In smoky ruin? and his guilty stores,
    Won by the ravage of a butchered world,
    Yet unatoned, sunk in the swallowing deep,
    Or led the glittering prize into the Thames?'

In February, 1729-30, Thomson's tragedy of _Sophonisba_, a subject
previously chosen by Marston (1606), and by Lee (1676), was acted at
Drury Lane. The play was dedicated to the queen, and on the opening
night the house was crowded, but the success of the piece was slight.
Thomson's genius was not dramatic, and while his characters declaim,
they do not act. His next play, _Agamemnon_ (1738), was not lost for
want of labour or of friends. Pope appeared in the theatre on the first
night, and was greeted with applause. The Prince and Princess of Wales
were present on another occasion, but the play did not live long. His
third attempt, _Edward and Eleanora_, was prohibited by the Lord
Chamberlain, since it was supposed to praise the Prince of Wales at the
expense of the Court. In 1740 the _Masque of Alfred_, by Thomson and
Mallet, was performed. _Tancred and Sigismunda_ followed in 1745, and
this tragedy, in which Garrick played the leading part, had at the time
a considerable measure of success. The plot is more interesting than
that of _Sophonisba_, and the characters are more life-like. Despite its
effusive sentiment, Garrick's splendid acting would, no doubt, make the
tragedy effective on the stage, but it does not add to the literary
reputation of the poet. _Coriolanus_, Thomson's last drama, was not
performed upon the stage until the year after his death.

Voltaire, who had met Thomson and liked him--the liking, indeed, seemed
to be universal--praised his tragedies for being 'elegantly writ.' 'It
may be,' he says, 'that his heroes are neither moving nor busy enough,
but taking him all in all, methinks he has the highest claim to the
greatest esteem.' The value of Voltaire's criticism of an English
dramatist is best appreciated by remembering his ignorant judgment of

Thomson's laurels were gained in another field of poetry. On the
production of _Autumn_ in 1730, _The Seasons_ in its complete form was
published by subscription in quarto. The four books, as we have already
said, appeared at different times, _Winter_ being the first in order and
_Autumn_ the latest. The Hymn with which the poem concludes may be
compared, and will not greatly suffer in the comparison, with Adam's
morning hymn in the fifth book of _Paradise Lost_, and with Coleridge's
_Hymn in the Valley of Chamouni_. Like them it is raised, to use the
poet's own words, to an 'Almighty Father.' A brief extract shall be

    'His praise, ye brooks, attune, ye trembling rills;
    And let me catch it as I muse along.
    Ye headlong torrents, rapid, and profound;
    Ye softer floods, that lead the humid maze
    Along the vale; and thou, majestic main,
    A secret world of wonders in thyself,
    Sound His stupendous praise, whose greater voice
    Or bids you roar, or bids your roarings fall.
    Soft roll your incense, herbs, and fruits, and flowers,
    In mingled clouds to Him, whose sun exalts,
    Whose breath perfumes you, and whose pencil paints.
    Ye forests bend, ye harvests wave, to Him;
    Breathe your still song into the reaper's heart,
    As home he goes beneath the joyous moon.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Great source of day! best image here below
    Of thy Creator, ever pouring wide,
    From world to world, the vital ocean round,
    On Nature write with every beam His praise.
    The thunder rolls: be hushed the prostrate world;
    While cloud to cloud returns the solemn hymn.
    Bleat out afresh, ye hills; ye mossy rocks
    Retain the sound: the broad responsive low,
    Ye valleys, raise; for the Great Shepherd reigns,
    And His unsuffering kingdom yet will come.'

Swift complains that the _Seasons_, being all descriptive, nothing is
doing, a defect inseparable from the subject. But the work has a poet's
best gift--imagination--and a poet's instinct for apprehending the charm
of what is minute in Nature, as well as of what is grand.

Thomson has been called the naturalist's poet, and Hartley Coleridge
observes that he is 'a perfect reservoir of natural images.' In his
account of what he had learnt only by report he depends sometimes on the
ignorant traditions of the country people; but in describing what he
observes with the bodily eye, and with the eye of the mind, he is
faithful to what he sees, and to what he perceives. No Dutch painter can
be more exact and accurate than Thomson in the delineation of familiar
scenes, and of animal life. In illustration of this gift, which Cowper
shares with him, a scene, not to be surpassed for truthfulness of
description, shall be quoted from _Winter_:

    'Through the hushed air the whitening shower descends,
    At first thin-wavering; till at last the flakes
    Fall broad and wide and fast, dimming the day
    With a continual flow. The cherished fields
    Put on their winter robe of purest white.
    'Tis brightness all; save where the new snow melts
    Along the mazy current. Low the woods
    Bow their hoar head; and ere the languid sun,
    Faint from the west, emits his evening ray,
    Earth's universal face, deep-hid and chill,
    Is one wild dazzling waste, that buries wide
    The works of man. Drooping, the labourer-ox
    Stands covered o'er with snow, and then demands
    The fruit of all his toil. The fowls of heaven,
    Tamed by the cruel season, crowd around
    The winnowing store, and claim the little boon
    Which Providence assigns them. One alone,
    The redbreast, sacred to the household gods,
    Wisely regardful of th' embroiling sky,
    In joyless fields and thorny thickets, leaves
    His shivering mates, and pays to trusted man
    His annual visit. Half afraid, he first
    Against the window beats; then brisk, alights
    On the warm hearth; then, hopping o'er the floor,
    Eyes all the smiling family askance,
    And pecks, and starts, and wonders where he is--
    Till more familiar grown, the table-crumbs
    Attract his slender feet. The foodless wilds
    Pour forth their brown inhabitants. The hare,
    Though timorous of heart and hard beset
    By death in various forms, dark snares, and dogs,
    And more unpitying men, the garden seeks
    Urged on by fearless want. The bleating kind
    Eye the bleak heaven, and next the glistening earth,
    With looks of dumb despair; then, sad-dispersed
    Dig for the withered herb through heaps of snow.'

Thomson loves also to paint the landscape on a broad scale, and though
his diction is sometimes too florid, he generally satisfies the
imagination, as, for instance, in the splendid description in _Summer_
of a sand-storm in the desert.

                                    'Breathed hot
    From all the boundless furnace of the sky,
    And the wide, glittering waste of burning sand,
    A suffocating wind the pilgrim smites
    With instant death. Patient of thirst and toil,
    Son of the desert! even the camel feels,
    Shot through his withered heart, the fiery blast.
    Or from the black-red ether, bursting broad,
    Sallies the sudden whirlwind. Straight the sands,
    Commoved around, in gathering eddies play;
    Nearer and nearer still they darkening come;
    Till with the general all-involving storm
    Swept up, the whole continuous wilds arise;
    And by their noonday fount dejected thrown,
    Or sunk at night in sad disastrous sleep,
    Beneath descending hills, the caravan
    Is buried deep. In Cairo's crowded streets
    The impatient merchant, wondering, waits in vain,
    And Mecca saddens at the long delay.'

The _Seasons_ was at one time, and for many years the most popular
volume of poetry in the country. It was to be found in every cottage,
and passages from the poem were familiar to every school-boy. The
appreciation of the work was more affectionate than critical, and
Thomson's faults were sometimes mistaken for beauties; but the
popularity of the _Seasons_ was a healthy sign, and the poem, a
forerunner of Cowper's _Task_, brought into vigorous life, feelings and
sympathies that had been long dormant.

Pope, who is twice mentioned in the poem, took a great interest in its
progress through the press. Thomson consulted him frequently, and
accepted many of his suggestions, while apparently retaining at all
times an independent judgment. To the familiar episode of 'the lovely
young Lavinia' the following graceful passage is said, but on very
doubtful authority to have been added by Pope.[30] The first line, given
for the sake of the context, is from Thomson's pen:

    'Thoughtless of beauty, she was Beauty's self,
    Recluse amid the close-embowering woods;
    As in the hollow breast of Apennine,
    Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
    A myrtle rises, far from human eye,
    And breathes its balmy fragrance o'er the wild;
    So flourished, blooming and unseen by all,
    The sweet Lavinia; till, at length, compelled
    By strong necessity's supreme command
    With smiling patience in her looks she went
    To glean Palemon's fields.'

Thomson had now gained the highest mark of his fame, and, like Pope, had
won it in a few years. Nearly two years of foreign travel followed, the
poet having obtained the post of governor to a son of the
Solicitor-General. The fruit of this tour was a long poem in blank verse
on _Liberty_, which probably gave him infinite labour, but his ascent
upon this occasion of what he calls 'the barren, but delightful mountain
of Parnassus,' was labour lost. It is enough to say of _Liberty_, that
it contains more than three thousand lines of unreadable blank verse.
Sinecures were the rewards of genius in Thomson's day, and he was made
Secretary of Briefs in the Court of Chancery. He took a cottage at
Richmond, within an easy walk of Pope, and the two poets met often and
lived amicably.

Thomson did not enjoy his official fortune long, for his patron died,
and though he might have kept his post had he applied to the Lord
Chancellor, in whose gift it was, he appears to have been too lazy to do
so. His friend Lyttelton in this emergency introduced him to the Prince
of Wales, who, on learning that his affairs 'were in a more poetical
posture than formerly,' gave him a pension of £100 a year. There was no
certainty in a gift of this nature, and in about ten years it was

_The Castle of Indolence_ (1748) was the latest labour of Thomson's
life, and in the judgment of many critics takes precedence of _The
Seasons_ in poetical merit. This verdict may be questioned, but the
poem, written in the Spenserian stanza, has a soothing beauty and an
enchanting felicity of expression which show the poet's genius in a new
light. It is unlike any poetry of that age, and when compared with _The
Seasons_, the verse, as Wordsworth justly says, 'is more harmonious and
the diction more pure.' All the imagery of the poem is adopted to the
vague and sleepy action of the characters represented in it. It is a
veritable poet's dream, which carries the reader in its earliest stanzas
into 'a pleasing land of drowsy-head:'

      'In lowly dale, fast by a river's side,
      With woody hill o'er hill encompassed round,
      A most enchanting wizard did abide,
      Than whom a fiend more fell is nowhere found.
      It was, I ween, a lovely spot of ground;
      And there a season atween June and May
      Half prankt with Spring, with Summer half embrowned,
      A listless climate made, where, sooth to say,
    No living wight could work, ne carèd even for play.'

There are verbal inspirations in a great poet which satisfy the ear,
capture the imagination, and live in the memory for ever. Milton's pages
are studded with them like stars; Gray has a few, Wordsworth many, and
Keats some not to be surpassed for witchery. Of such poetically
suggestive lines Thomson has his share, and although it seems unfair to
remove them from their context, the excision may be made in a few cases,
since they show not only that a new poet had appeared in an age of
prose, but a poet of a new order, whose inspiration was felt by his
successors. How poetically imaginative is Thomson's imagery of the
'meek-eyed morn, mother of dews;' of

    'Ships dim discovered dropping from the clouds;'


    'Autumn nodding o'er the yellow plain;'

of the summer wind

    'Sweeping with shadowy gust the fields of corn;'

and of the Hebrid-Isles

    'Placed far amid the melancholy main,'

a line which may have suggested the lovelier verse of Wordsworth
descriptive of the cuckoo:

    'Breaking the silence of the seas
    Among the farthest Hebrides.'

Thomson did not live long after the publication of _The Castle of
Indolence_. A cold caught upon the river led to a fever, which ended
fatally on August 27th, 1748. He had for some years been in love with a
Miss Young, the 'Amanda' of his very feeble love lyrics, and her
marriage is said to have hastened his death. Men, however, do not die
for love at the mature age of forty-nine, and as Thomson was 'more fat
than bard beseems,' and was not always temperate in his habits,
constitutional causes are more likely to have led to the poet's death
than Amanda's cruelty.

Dr. Johnson says somewhere that the further authors keep apart from each
other the better, and the literary squabbles of the last century
afforded him good ground for the remark. It is to Thomson's credit that,
like Goldsmith twenty-six years later, he died, leaving behind him many
friends and not a single enemy. His fame rests upon two poems, _The
Seasons_ and _The Castle of Indolence_, and on a song which has gained a
national reputation. Apart from _Rule Britannia_, which appeared
originally in the _Masque of Alfred_ and is spirited rather than
poetical, his attempts to write lyrical poetry resulted in failure; but
from his own niche in the Temple of Fame time is not likely to dislodge


[25] See _Martialis Epigrammata_, book v. lii.

[26] Fénelon was Archbishop of Cambray.

[27] _The Poetical Works of Gay_, edited, with Life and Notes, by John
Underhill, 2 vols.


    'I'll swim through seas; I'll ride upon the clouds;
    I'll dig the earth; I'll blow out every fire;
    I'll rave; I'll rant; I'll rise; I'll rush; I'll war;
    Fierce as the man whom smiling dolphins bore
    From the prosaic to poetic shore.
    I'll tear the scoundrel into twenty pieces.'

'The reader,' Fielding adds in a note, 'may see all the beauties of this
speech in a late ode called a _Naval Lyric_.'

[29] Written but not published. The earlier books of the _Night
Thoughts_ appeared in 1742, the _Grave_ in 1743, but in a letter dated
Feb. 25th, 1741-2, Blair in transmitting the MS. of the poem to a friend
states that the greater portion of it was composed several years before
his ordination ten years previously. Southey states that Blair's _Grave_
is the only poem he could call to mind composed in imitation of the
_Night Thoughts_, but the style as well as the date contradicts this

[30] The tradition is founded on a volume in the British Museum
containing MS. corrections supposed to be in Pope's handwriting. It is
now, however, the opinion of experts that the writing is not Pope's. If
he be the author, it is the only example of blank verse which we have
from his pen.



Sir Samuel Garth--Ambrose Philips--John Philips--Nicholas
    Rowe--Aaron Hill--Thomas Parnell--Thomas Tickell--William
    Somerville--John Dyer--William Shenstone--Mark Akenside--David
    Mallet--Scottish Song-Writers.

[Sidenote: Sir Samuel Garth (1660-1717-18).]

In Pope's day even the medical profession was influenced by party
feeling, and Samuel Garth became known as the most famous Whig
physician, but his friendships were not confined to one side, and he
appears to have been universally beloved.

Garth came of a Yorkshire family, and was born in 1660. He was admitted
a Fellow of the College of Physicians in 1693, gained a large practice,
and is said to have been very benevolent to the poor. The _Dispensary_
(1699) is a satire called forth by the opposition of the Society of
Apothecaries, to an edict of the College, and is a mock-heroic poem,
which the quarrel made so effective at the time that it passed through
several editions. The merit of achieving what the satirist intended may
therefore be granted to the _Dispensary_. Few modern readers, however,
will appreciate the welcome it received, and it is ludicrous to read in
Anderson's edition of the poet that the poem 'is only inferior in
humour, discrimination of character, and poetical ardour to the _Rape of
the Lock_.' It would be far more accurate to say that the _Dispensary_
has not a single merit in common with that poem, and but slight merit of
any kind.

The following passage upon death is the most vigorous, and is
interesting as having supplied Cowper with a line in the poem on his
Mother's Picture:[31]

    ''Tis to the vulgar Death too harsh appears,
    The ill we feel is only in our fears;
    To die is landing on some silent shore
    Where billows never break, nor tempests roar;
    Ere well we feel th' friendly stroke 'tis o'er.
    The wise through thought th' insults of death defy,
    The fools through blest insensibility.
    'Tis what the guilty fear, the pious crave;
    Sought by the wretch and vanquished by the brave.
    It eases lovers, sets the captive free,
    And though a tyrant, offers liberty.'

Addison in defending Garth in the _Whig-Examiner_ from the criticisms of
Prior in the _Examiner_, the organ of the Tory party, says he does not
question but the author 'who has endeavoured to prove that he who wrote
the _Dispensary_ was no poet, will very suddenly undertake to show that
he who gained the battle of _Blenheim_ is no general.' The comparison
was an unfortunate one. Marlborough's military reputation has grown
brighter with time, Garth's fame as a poet has long ago ceased to exist.

A literary although not a poetical interest is associated with the name
of "well-natured Garth," who, as Pope acknowledges, was one of his
earliest friends; like Arbuthnot, he lived among the wits, and as a
member of the famous Kit-cat Club he wrote verses upon the Whig beauties
toasted by its members. His name is linked with Dryden's as well as with
that of his illustrious successor. It will be remembered how, on the
death of Dryden, the poet's body lay in state in the College of
Physicians, and how, before the great procession started for
Westminster Abbey, Sir Samuel, who was then President, delivered a Latin

Garth died in January, 1717-18, and, according to Pope, was a good
Christian without knowing it. Addison, however, who visited Garth in his
last illness, told Dr. Berkeley that he rejected Christianity on the
assurance of his friend Halley that its doctrines were incomprehensible,
and the religion itself an imposture. According to another report which
comes through Pope, he actually 'died a papist.'

[Sidenote: Ambrose Philips (1671-1749).]

Ambrose Philips, who belonged, like Tickell, to Addison's 'little
senate,' was born in 1671, and educated at St. John's, Cambridge. His
_Pastorals_ were published in Tonson's _Miscellany_ (1709), and the same
volume contained the _Pastorals_ of Pope. Log-rolling was understood in
those days, and Philips's verses received warm praise in more than one
number of the _Guardian_, the writer in one place declaring that there
have been only four masters of the art in above two thousand years:
'Theocritus, who left his dominions to Virgil; Virgil, who left his to
his son Spenser; and Spenser, who was succeeded by his eldest born,

Pope's _Pastorals_ were not mentioned, and in revenge he devised the
consummate artifice of sending an anonymous paper to the _Guardian_, in
which, while appearing to praise Philips, he exalted himself. Steele
took the bait, and considering that the essay depreciated Pope would not
publish it without his permission, which was of course readily granted.
'From that time,' says Johnson, 'Pope and Philips lived in a perpetual
reciprocation of malevolence.'

Philips's tragedy, _The Distrest Mother_ (1712), a translation, or
nearly so, of Racine's _Andromaque_, was puffed in the _Spectator_. It
is the play to which Sir Roger de Coverley was taken by his friends, and
the representation supplied the good knight with an opportunity for
much humorous comment.

'When Sir Roger saw Andromache's obstinate refusal to her lover's
importunities, he whispered me in the ear that he was sure she would
never have him; to which he added with a more than ordinary vehemence,
"You cannot imagine, sir, what it is to have to do with a widow." Upon
Pyrrhus his threatening afterwards to leave her, the knight shook his
head, and muttered to himself, "Ay, do if you can." This part dwelt so
much upon my friend's imagination that at the close of the third Act, as
I was thinking of something else, he whispered in my ear, "These widows,
sir, are the most perverse creatures in the world. But pray," says he,
"you that are a critic, is this play according to your dramatic rules,
as you call them? Should your people in tragedy always talk to be
understood? Why, there is not a single sentence in this play that I do
not know the meaning of."'[32] Addison also inserted and praised in the
_Spectator_ Philips's translations from Sappho (Nos. 223, 229).

His odes to babes and children earned for him the _sobriquet_ of 'Namby
Pamby,' 'a term which has been incorporated into the English language to
designate mawkish sentiment. Namby was the infantine pronunciation of
Ambrose, and Pamby was formed by the first letter of Philips's surname
and that reduplication of sound which is natural to lisping

Between simplicity and absurdity the line is a narrow one, and Philips
stepped over it when he wrote to a child in the nursery--

    'Dimply damsel, sweetly smiling,
    All caressing, none beguiling;
    Bud of beauty, fairly blowing,
    Every charm to nature owing.'

The longest of his baby songs is addressed to the Hon. Miss Carteret, in
which he pictures the child's progress to womanhood, and anticipates her
future loveliness and maiden reign:

    'Then the taper-moulded waist
    With a span of ribbon braced;
    And the swell of either breast,
    And the wide high-vaulted chest;
    And the neck so white and round,
    Little neck with brilliants bound;
    And the store of charms which shine
    Above, in lineaments divine,
    Crowded in a narrow space
    To complete the desperate face;
    These alluring powers, and more,
    Shall enamoured youths adore;
    These and more in courtly lays
    Many an aching heart shall praise.'

The inventory of the maiden's physical charms which follows includes
veiny temples, sloping shoulders, a hazely lucid eye, and cheek of
health; but in the category the only allusion to the attractions of
intellect and heart is in a couplet foretelling her

                              'Gentleness of mind,
    Gentle from a gentle kind.'

That Philips translated _The Persian Tales_ is indelibly recorded by

    'The bard whom pilfered Pastorals renown,
    Who turns a Persian tale for half-a-crown,
    Just writes to make his barrenness appear,
    And strains from hard-bound brains eight lines a year.'

But even Pope could award praise to Philips. In a letter to Henry
Cromwell, in 1710, he observes that he was capable of writing very
nobly, 'as I guess by a small copy of his, published in the _Tatler_, on
the Danish winter;' and two years later he says to his friend Caryll:
'Mr. Philips has two lines which seem to me what the French call very
_picturesque_, that I cannot omit to you:

    'All hid in snow in bright confusion lie,
    And with one dazzling waste fatigue the eye!'

The lines, not quite accurately quoted by Pope, are from an epistle,
addressed to Lord Dorset from Copenhagen, which contains a few striking
couplets, two of which may be transcribed before bidding adieu to
Ambrose Philips:

    'The vast leviathan wants room to play,
    And spout his waters in the face of day.
    The starving wolves along the main sea prowl,
    And to the moon in icy valleys howl.'

[Sidenote: John Philips (1676-1708).]

Ambrose Philips must not be confounded with his namesake John, the
author of a clever burlesque of Milton, called _The Splendid Shilling_
(1705); of _Blenheim_ (1705), a poem which he was urged to write by the
Tories in opposition to Addison's _Campaign_; and of a poem upon _Cider_
(1706), in 'Miltonian verse,' which seems to have afforded several
suggestions to Pope in his _Windsor Forest_. It is said to display a
considerable knowledge of the subject, and in that its principal merit
consists. From _The Splendid Shilling_ a brief extract may be given:

    'So pass my days. But when nocturnal shades
    This world envelop, and th' inclement air
    Persuades men to repel benumbing frosts
    With pleasant wines, and crackling blaze of wood;
    Me, lonely sitting, nor the glimmering light
    Of make-weight candle, nor the joyous talk
    Of loving friend delights; distressed, forlorn,
    Amidst the horrors of the tedious night,
    Darkling I sigh, and feed with dismal thoughts
    My anxious mind; or sometimes mournful verse
    Indite, and sing of groves and myrtle shades,
    Or desperate lady near a purling stream,
    Or lover pendent on a willow tree.
    Meanwhile I labour with eternal drought
    And restless wish, and rave; my parched throat
    Finds no relief, nor heavy eyes repose.
    But if a slumber haply does invade
    My weary limbs, my fancy still awake,
    Thoughtful of drink, and eager, in a dream
    Tipples imaginary pots of ale
    In vain; awake I find the settled thirst
    Still gnawing, and the pleasant phantom curse.'

'Philips,' says the poet Campbell, 'had the merit of studying and
admiring Milton, but he never could imitate him without ludicrous
effect, either in jest or earnest. His _Splendid Shilling_ is the
earliest and one of the best of our parodies; but _Blenheim_ is as
completely a burlesque upon Milton as _The Splendid Shilling_, though it
was written and read with gravity, ... yet such are the fluctuations of
taste that contemporary criticism bowed with solemn admiration over his
Miltonic cadences.'

[Sidenote: Nicholas Rowe (1673-1718).]

Nicholas Rowe had the honour, if it was one in those days, of being made
Laureate on the accession of George I. His odes, epistles, and songs are
without merit, but he gained reputation as the translator of Lucan's
_Pharsalia_, of which Sir Arthur Gorges had produced a version in 1614,
and his plays entitle him to a place, though not a high one, in our
dramatic literature.

Rowe edited an edition of Shakespeare, and should have known his author,
yet in a prologue he declares that he could not draw women--an amazing
assertion echoed by Collins, who praises Fletcher for his knowledge of
the 'female mind,' and adds that 'stronger Shakespeare felt for man

The chronological list of Rowe's dramas runs as follows: _The Ambitious
Step-mother_ (1700); _Tamerlane_ (1702); _The Fair Penitent_ (1703);
_Ulysses_ (1705); _The Royal Convert_ (1707); the _Tragedy of Jane
Shore_ (1714); and the _Tragedy of Lady Jane Grey_ (1715). Measured by
his contemporary dramatists he is a distinguished playwright. His
characters do not live, but he could invent effective scenes, though in
some cases the poet's taste may be questioned.

For many years _Tamerlane_ was acted at Drury Lane on the anniversary of
King William's landing in England, and under the names of Tamerlane and
Bajazet the king is belauded at the expense of Louis XIV. _The Fair
Penitent_, a piece even more successful upon the stage, will still
please the reader, though he may question the high eulogium of Johnson,
that "scarcely any work of any poet is at once so interesting by the
fable, and so delightful by the language." Rowe has not the tragic power
which can express passion without rant, and pathos without extravagance.
In _The Fair Penitent_ Calista gives utterance to her feelings by piling
up expletives. Thus, when her husband attacks the lover who has ruined
her, she exclaims, 'Destruction! fury! sorrow! shame! and death!' and,
on another occasion, she cries out, 'Madness! confusion!' words which
give a sense of the ludicrous rather than of the tragic; and so also
does Calista's last utterance when, addressing Altamont, she says:

                    'Had I but early known
    Thy wondrous worth, thou excellent young man
    We had been happier both--now 'tis too late!'

Rowe may be regarded as the principal representative of tragedy in the
'age of Pope,' but his respectable work shows a fatal degeneration from
the 'gorgeous tragedy' of the Elizabethans.

[Sidenote: Aaron Hill (1684-1749).]

Aaron Hill, unlike Rowe, was not distinguished as a dramatist, and
succeeded only in two or three adaptations from the French. His claims
as a poet are also insignificant. He was born in London in 1684, with
expectations that were not destined to be realized, but Fortune was not
unkind to him. His uncle, Lord Paget, Ambassador at Constantinople, gave
the youth a warm welcome, supplied him with a tutor, and sent him to
travel in the East. On Lord Paget's return to England, Hill accompanied
him, and together they are said to have visited a great part of Europe.
Some time later Hill went abroad again, and was absent two or three
years. For awhile--it could not have been long--he was secretary to the
Earl of Peterborough, and at the age of twenty-six, his good star being
still in the ascendant, he married a young lady 'of great merit and
beauty, with whom he had a very handsome fortune.' Hill was then
appointed manager of Drury Lane, and he wrote a number of plays, the
very names of which are now forgotten. Few men indeed so well known in
his own day have sunk into such insignificance in ours. He wrote eight
books of a long and unfinished epic called _Gideon_, which I suppose no
one in the present century has had the hardihood to read; like Young he
wrote a poem on _The Judgment Day_, a theme attempted also, shortly
before his death, by John Philips, and that, after his kind, he produced
a Pindaric ode goes without saying. A long poem called _The Northern
Star_, a panegyric on Peter the Great, is said to have passed through
several editions. The poem does not prove Hill to be a poet, but it
shows his command of the heroic couplet. The style of the poem, which
is an indiscriminate panegyric, may be judged from the following lines:

    'Transcendent prince! how happy must thou be!
    What can'st thou look upon unblessed by thee?
    What inward peace must that calm bosom know,
    Whence conscious virtue does so strongly flow!

           *       *       *       *       *

    Such are the kings who make God's image shine,
    Nor blush to dare assert their right divine!
    No earth-born bias warps their climbing will,
    No pride their power, no avarice whets their skill.
    They poise each hope which bids the wise obey,
    And shed broad blessings from their widening sway;
    To raise the afflicted, stretch the healing hand,
    Drive crushed oppression from each rescued land,
    Bold in alternate right, or sheath or draw
    The sword of conquest, or the sword of law;
    Spare what resists not, what opposes bend,
    And govern cool, what they with warmth defend.'

Hill has the merit of having turned the tables upon Pope, who had put
him into the treatise on the _Bathos_, and then into the _Dunciad_,
where, however, the lines have more of compliment than censure, since he
is made to mount 'far off among the swans of Thames.' Irritated by a
note in the _Dunciad_, Hill replied in a long poem entitled _The
Progress of Wit, a Caveat_, which opens with the following pointed

    'Tuneful Alexis, on the Thames' fair side,
    The ladies' plaything, and the Muses' pride;
    With merit popular, with wit polite,
    Easy though vain, and elegant though light;
    Desiring, and deserving others' praise,
    Poorly accepts a fame he ne'er repays;
    Unborn to cherish, sneakingly approves,
    And wants the soul to spread the worth he loves.'

In a letter to Hill Pope complained of these lines, and had the
hypocrisy to say that he never thought any great matters of his poetical
capacity, but prided himself on the superiority of his moral life. Hill
returned a masterly and incisive reproof to this ridiculous statement,
in the course of which he says:

    'I am sorry to hear you say you never thought any great matters
    of your poetry. It is in my opinion the characteristic you are
    to hope your distinction from. To be honest is the duty of every
    plain man. Nor, since the soul of poetry is sentiment, can a
    great poet want morality. But your honesty you possess in common
    with a million who will never be remembered; whereas your poetry
    is a peculiar, that will make it impossible that you should be

He adds that if Pope had not been in the spleen when he wrote, he would
have remembered that humility is a moral virtue; and how, asks the
writer, can you know that your moral life is above that of most of the
wits 'since you tell me in the same letter that many of their names were
unknown to you?'

Aaron Hill, though he could write a sensible letter, was not a wise man.
He was 'everything by turns and nothing long.' Poetry was but one of his
accomplishments, and we are told that he cultivated it 'as a relaxation
from the study of history, criticism, geography, physic, commerce,
agriculture, war, law, chemistry, and natural philosophy, to which he
devoted the greatest part of his time.'

As a poet Hill has the facility in composition exhibited by so many of
his contemporaries, and he has occasionally a pretty turn of fancy. His
last labour was the successful adaptation of Voltaire's _Merope_ to the
English stage (1749); sixteen years before he had adapted _Zara_ with
equal success.

[Sidenote: Thomas Parnell (1679-1718).]

Among the minor poets of the period an honourable place must be given to
Parnell, who possessed the soul of a poet, but gave limited expression
to it, for it was only during the later years of a short life that he
discovered where his genius lay. The friend of Pope, Arbuthnot, and
Swift, his biography has been written by Johnson, and more discursively
by his countryman Goldsmith.

Thomas Parnell was born in Dublin, 1679, entered Trinity College at the
early age of thirteen, and in 1700 obtained the degree of Master of
Arts. Having taken orders he gained preferment in the Church, became, in
1706, Archdeacon of Clogher, and through the recommendation of Swift
obtained also a good living. Parnell was fond of society, and was
accustomed as often as possible to join the wits in London. He was a
member of the Scriblerus Club, wrote for the _Spectator_, preached
eloquent sermons, and had the ambition of a poet. But the loss of his
wife preyed upon his mind, and he is said, though I believe chiefly on
Pope's authority, to have given way to intemperance. He died suddenly at
Chester at the age of thirty-nine in 1718.

Parnell was one of the poets whose fortunes Swift did his best to
promote. Writing in 1712, he says, 'I gave Lord Bolingbroke a poem of
Parnell's. I made Parnell insert some compliments in it to his lordship.
He is extremely pleased with it, and read some parts of it to-day to
Lord Treasurer, who liked it as much. And indeed he outdoes all our
poets here a bar's length.' And a month later he writes, 'Lord
Bolingbroke likes Parnell mightily, and it is pleasant to see that one
who hardly passed for anything in Ireland, makes his way here with a
little friendly forwarding.'

_The Hermit_, the _Hymn to Contentment_, an _Allegory on Man_, and a
_Night Piece on Death_, give Parnell his title to a place among the
poets. _The Rise of Woman_, and _Health, an Eclogue_, have also much
merit, and were praised by Pope (but this was to their author) as 'two
of the most beautiful things he ever read.' The story of _The Hermit_,
written originally in Spanish, is given in _Howell's Letters_
(1645-1655), and is admirably told by Parnell, but much that he wrote,
including a series of long poems on Scripture characters, is poetically
worthless. His poems, published five years after his death, were edited
by Pope, who wisely suppressed some pieces unworthy of the poet. Then,
as now, literary scavengers were at work. In 1758 the suppressed poems
were published, and called forth the comment from Gray, 'Parnell is the
dunghill of Irish Grub Street.' To Parnell Pope was indebted for the
_Essay on Homer_ prefixed to the translation, with which he does not
seem to have been well pleased. He complained of the stiffness of the
style, and said it had cost him more pains in the correcting than the
writing of it would have done.

If Parnell's prose has the defect of stiffness, his lines glide with a
smoothness that must have satisfied the ear of Pope. The higher
harmonies of verse were unknown to him, but ease is not without a charm,
and in illustration of Parnell's gift the final lines of _A Night Piece
on Death_ shall be quoted:

    'When men my scythe and darts supply,
    How great a king of fears am I!
    They view me like the last of things,
    They make and then they draw my stings.
    Fools! if you less provoked your fears,
    No more my spectre form appears.
    Death's but a path that must be trod,
    If man would ever pass to God;
    A port of calms, a state to ease
    From the rough rage of swelling seas.
    Why then thy flowing sable stoles,
    Deep pendent cypress, mourning poles,
    Loose scarfs to fall athwart thy weeds,
    Long palls, drawn hearses, covered steeds,
    And plumes of black that as they tread,
    Nod o'er the scutcheons of the dead?
    Nor can the parted body know,
    Nor wants the soul these forms of woe;
    As men who long in prison dwell,
    With lamps that glimmer round the cell,
    Whene'er their suffering years are run,
    Spring forth to greet the glittering sun;
    Such joy, though far transcending sense,
    Have pious souls at parting hence.
    On earth and in the body placed,
    A few and evil years they waste;
    But when their chains are cast aside,
    See the glad scene unfolding wide,
    Clap the glad wing, and tower away,
    And mingle with the blaze of day.'

[Sidenote: Thomas Tickell (1686-1740).]

Tickell wished to be remembered as the friend of Addison, and with
Addison his name is indissolubly associated. The poem dedicated to the
essayist's memory is perhaps over-praised by Macaulay when he says that
it would do honour to the greatest name in our literature, but it proved
incontestibly that Tickell, as a poet, was superior to the master whom
he so loved and honoured. His reputation hangs upon this elegy, which
Fox pronounced perfect.[34] The _Prospect of Peace_, which passed
through several editions, had at one time a considerable reputation, not
assuredly for its poetry, but because it appealed to the spirit of the
time The style of the poem may be judged from these lines:--

    'Accept, great Anne, the tears their memory draws,
    Who nobly perished in their sovereign's cause;
    For thou in pity bidd'st the war give o'er,
    Mourn'st thy slain heroes, nor wilt venture more.
    Vast price of blood on each victorious day!
    (But Europe's freedom doth that price repay.)
    Lamented triumphs! when one breath must tell
    That Marlborough conquered and that Dormer fell.'

His _Colin and Lucy_ called forth high praise from Goldsmith as one of
the best ballads in our language, and Gray terms it the prettiest ballad
in the world. Three stanzas from this once famous poem shall be

    '"I hear a voice you cannot hear,
      Which says I must not stay;
    I see a hand you cannot see,
      Which beckons me away.
    By a false heart and broken vows,
      In early youth I die;
    Was I to blame because his bride
      Was thrice as rich as I?

    '"Ah, Colin, give not her thy vows,
      Vows due to me alone;
    Nor thou, fond maid, receive his kiss,
      Nor think him all thy own.
    To-morrow in the church to wed,
      Impatient, both prepare!
    But know, fond maid, and know, false man,
      That Lucy will be there!

    '"Then bear my corse, my comrades, bear,
      This bridegroom blithe to meet,
    He in his wedding trim so gay,
      I in my winding-sheet."
    She spoke, she died; her corse was borne
      The bridegroom blithe to meet,
    He in his wedding trim so gay,
      She in her winding-sheet.'

There is some fancy but no imagination in the machinery of Tickell's
long poem on _Kensington Gardens_, a title which recalls Matthew
Arnold's exquisite stanzas. But the pathetic beauty of Arnold's lines
belongs to a world of poetry wholly unlike that in which even the best
of the Queen Anne poets lived and moved.

Tickell's translation of the first book of the _Iliad_ led to the
quarrel already mentioned in the account of Pope. He wrote, also, a
rather lengthy poem on Oxford, in which there is some absurd criticism
of insignificant poetasters, and, as a matter of course, an extravagant
eulogium of Addison.

The few facts recorded of Tickell's life may be summed up in a
paragraph. He was born in 1686 at Bridekirk, in Cumberland, and entered
Queen's College, Oxford, in 1701. In 1708 he obtained his M.A. degree,
and two years later was chosen Fellow. For sixteen years Tickell held
his fellowship, but resigned it on his marriage in 1726. In a poem
addressed to the lady before marriage, he asks whether

    'By thousands sought, Clotilda, canst thou free
    Thy crowd of captives and descend to me?'

Praise which in those days would be regarded as fulsome secured the
friendship and patronage of Addison, who employed him in public affairs,
and when he became Secretary of State made Tickell Under-Secretary. To
him Addison left the charge of editing his works, which were published
by subscription, and appeared in four quarto volumes in 1721. In 1725 he
was made secretary to the Lord Justices of Ireland, 'a place of great
honour,' which he held until his death in 1740. The praise of
Wordsworth, a poet always chary of expressing approbation, has been
bestowed upon Tickell. 'I think him,' he said, 'one of the very best
writers of occasional verses.'

[Sidenote: William Somerville (1692-1742).]

Tickell had written some lines on hunting, which he published as a
fragment. His contemporary Somerville, selecting the same subject, wrote
_The Chase_ (1735), a poem in blank verse. He was born at Edston, in
Warwickshire, and was said, Dr. Johnson writes, 'to be of the first
family in his county.' He was educated at Winchester and Oxford, and had
the tastes of a scholar as well as of a country gentleman, which, among
other accomplishments, included that of hard drinking. We know little
about him, and what we do know is deplorable, for his friend Shenstone
writes that he was plagued and threatened by low wretches, and 'forced
to drink himself into pains of the body in order to get rid of the pains
of the mind.' He died in 1742, the owner of a good estate, which, owing
to a contempt for economy, he was never able to enjoy. 'I loved him for
nothing so much,' said Shenstone, 'as for his
flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of money.'

In _The Chase_ Somerville had the advantage of knowing his subject, but
knowledge is not poetry, and the interest of the poem is not due to its
poetical qualities. He deserves some credit for his skill in handling a
variety of metres as well as blank verse, in which his principal poem is
written. In an address _To Mr. Addison_, the couplet,

    'When panting Virtue her last efforts made,
    You brought your Clio to the virgin's aid,'

is praised by Johnson as one of those happy strokes which are seldom
attained. In the same poem Shakespeare and Addison are brought together
in a way that is far from happy:

    'In heaven he sings; on earth your muse supplies
    Th' important loss, and heals our weeping eyes,
    Correctly great, she melts each flinty heart
    With equal genius, but superior art.'

Praise can be too strong even for a poet's digestion, and Somerville,
who writes a great deal more nonsense in the same strain, should have
remembered that he was not addressing a fool. If the poetical adulation
of the time is to be excused, it must be on the ground that a poet had
to live by patronage and not by the public. In a pecuniary point of view
his subservience to men in high position was often successful. An almost
universal custom, it was not regarded as degrading; but the poet must
have been peculiarly constituted who was not degraded by it.

[Sidenote: John Dyer (1698(?)-1758).]

In the last century any subject was deemed suitable for poetry, and the
Welsh poet, John Dyer, who was born about 1698, found in his later life
poetical materials in _The Fleece_ (1757), a poem in four books of blank
verse. His genius for descriptive poetry and his passionate and
intelligent delight in natural objects are seen more pleasantly in
_Grongar Hill_ (published in the same year as Thomson's _Winter_), a
poem not without grammatical inaccuracies, one of which deforms the
first couplet, but full of poetical feeling. In an ease of composition
which runs into laxity he reminds us occasionally of George Wither. His
chief merit is, that while independent of Thomson, he was inspired by
the same love, and wrote with the same aim. Dyer is not content with
bare description, but likes to moralize on the landscape he surveys.
Thus, when looking on a ruined tower, the poet exclaims:

    'Yet time has seen, that lifts the low,
    And level lays the lofty brow,
    Has seen this broken pile compleat,
    Big with the vanity of state;
    But transient is the smile of fate!
    A little rule, a little sway,
    A sunbeam in a winter's day,'
    Is all the proud and mighty have
    Between the cradle and the grave.'

Dyer who is best seen in the octosyllabic metre, chose it also for _The
Country Walk_, a poem in which, notwithstanding an occasional lapse into
the conventional diction of the period, the rural pictures are drawn
from life. He takes the reader into the farm-yard and fields as he

    'I am resolved this charming day
    In the open field to stray,
    And have no roof above my head
    But that whereon the gods do tread.
    Before the yellow barn I see
    A beautiful variety
    Of strutting cocks, advancing stout,
    And flirting empty chaff about;
    Hens, ducks, and geese, and all their brood,
    And turkeys gobbling for their food;
    While rustics thrash the wealthy floor,
    And tempt all to crowd the door.

           *       *       *       *       *

    And now into the fields I go,
    Where thousand flaming flowers glow,
    And every neighbouring hedge I greet
    With honey-suckles smelling sweet;
    Now o'er the daisy meads I stray
    And meet with, as I pace my way,
    Sweetly shining on the eye
    A rivulet gliding smoothly by,
    Which shows with what an easy tide
    The moments of the happy glide.'

_An Epistle to a Friend in Town_, records his satisfaction with the
country retirement in which his days are passed. In a rather awkward
stanza he says that he is more than content, and is indeed charmed with
everything, and the lines close with the moralizing that was dear to
Dyer's heart:

    'Alas! what a folly that wealth and domain
      We heap up in sin and in sorrow!
    Immense is the toil, yet the labour how vain!
      Is not life to be over to-morrow?
    Then glide on my moments, the few that I have,
      Smooth-shaded and quiet and even;
    While gently the body descends to the grave,
      And the spirit arises to heaven.'

Dyer was an artist as well as a poet, and visited Italy, which suggested
a poem in blank verse, _The Ruins of Rome_ (1740). After his return to
England he entered into holy orders, took a wife, who is said to have
been a descendant of Shakespeare, and settled at Calthorp in
Leicestershire, which he afterwards exchanged for a living in
Lincolnshire. There is much to like in Dyer, and he has had the good
fortune to win the applause of two great poets. Gray says, in a letter
to Horace Walpole, that he had 'more of poetry in his imagination than
almost any of our number,' and Wordsworth in a sonnet, _To the Poet,
John Dyer_, writes:

    'Though hasty Fame hath many a chaplet culled
    For worthless brows, while in the pensive shade
    Of cold neglect she leaves thy head ungraced,
    Yet pure and powerful minds, hearts meek and still,
    A grateful few, shall love thy modest Lay,
    Long as the shepherd's bleating flock shall stray
    O'er naked Snowdon's wide aerial waste;
    Long as the thrush shall pipe on Grongar Hill!'

[Sidenote: William Shenstone (1714-1764).]

'The true rustic style,' Charles Lamb writes, 'I think is to be found in
Shenstone,' and he calls his _Schoolmistress_ the 'prettiest of poems.'

William Shenstone was born in 1714 at the Leasowes in Hales-Owen, a spot
upon which he afterwards expended his skill as a landscape gardener. In
1732 he went up to Pembroke College, Oxford, and remained there for some
years without taking a degree. Those years appear to have been devoted
to poetry. In 1737 Shenstone published a small volume anonymously. This
was followed by the _Judgment of Hercules_ (1741), and by the
_Schoolmistress_ (1742). In 1745 he undertook the management of his
estate, and began, to quote Dr. Johnson's quaint description, 'to point
his prospects, to diversify his surface, to entangle his walks, and to
wind his waters; which he did with such judgment and such fancy, as made
his little domain the envy of the great and the admiration of the
skilful; a place to be visited by travellers and copied by designers.'
On this estate, with its lakes and cascades, its urns and poetical
inscriptions, its hanging woods, and 'wild shaggy precipice,' Shenstone
appears to have spent all his fortune. He led the life of a dilettante,
and died unmarried at the age of fifty. His elegies and songs are dead,
and whatever vitality remains in his verse will be found in the
_Pastoral Ballad_ and the _Schoolmistress_.

The ballad written in anapæstic verse has an Arcadian grace, against
which even Johnson's robust intellect was not proof. For the following
lines he says, 'if any mind denies its sympathy it has no acquaintance
with love or nature':

    'When forced the fair nymph to forego,
      What anguish I felt in my heart!
    Yet I thought--but it might not be so--
      'Twas with pain that she saw me depart.
    She gazed as I slowly withdrew,
      My path I could hardly discern;
    So sweetly she bade me adieu,
      I thought that she bade me return.

The _Schoolmistress_, written in imitation of Spenser, has the merits of
simplicity and homely humour. The village dame is a life-like character,
and the urchins whom she is supposed to teach, and does sometimes teach
by chastisement, are cunningly portrayed.

From the verses _Written at an Inn in Henley_ three stanzas may be
quoted. The last will be already known to readers familiar with their

    'I fly from pomp, I fly from plate,
      I fly from falsehood's specious grin!
    Freedom I love, and form I hate,
      And choose my lodgings at an inn.

    'Here, waiter! take my sordid ore,
      Which lacqueys else might hope to win;
    It buys what courts have not in store,
      It buys me freedom at an inn!

    'Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round,
      Where'er his stages may have been,
    May sigh to think he still has found
      The warmest welcome at an inn.'

Unhappily this final verse, which Johnson is said to have repeated 'with
great emotion,' has lost its application. The modern traveller, instead
of being warmly welcomed at an inn, loses his identity and becomes a

[Sidenote: Mark Akenside (1721-1770).]

Akenside, who was born at Newcastle, 1721, received his education in
Edinburgh, where he was sent to prepare for the ministry among the
Dissenters. He, however, changed his mind, became a medical student, and
finally, though much disliked for his manners, gained reputation as a
physician in London. He is stated to have been excessively stiff and
formal, and a frigid stiffness marks the _Pleasures of Imagination_
(1744), a remarkable work considering the writer's age, since it is
without the faults of youth. The poem is founded on Addison's _Essays_
on the subject in the _Spectator_, and the poet also owes a considerable
debt to Shaftesbury. Akenside's blank verse has the merits of dignity
and strength. But the work is as cold as the author's manners were said
to be, and in spite of what may be called poetical power, as distinct
from a high order of inspiration, the poem leaves the reader unmoved.
Pope, who saw it in MS., said that Akenside was 'no everyday writer,'
which is a just criticism. The _Pleasures of Imagination_ has the merits
of careful workmanship and of some originality, but the interest which
it at one time excited is not likely to be revived. In 1757 Akenside
re-wrote the poem, and I believe that no critic, with the exception of
Hazlitt, regards the second attempt as an improvement on the first. His
skill in the use of classical imagery is seen to advantage in the _Hymn
to the Naiads_ (1746), and he deserves praise, too, for his
inscriptions, which are distinguished for conciseness and vigour of
style. The poet, it may be added, wrote a great number of odes that lack
all, or nearly all, the qualities which should distinguish lyrical
poetry. Not a spark of the divine fire warms or illuminates these
reputable verses, but the author states that his chief aim was to be
correct, and in that he has succeeded.

[Sidenote: David Mallet (1700-1765).]

David Mallet, a friend or acquaintance of Thomson, was contemptible as a
man and comparatively insignificant as a poet. He did a large amount of
dirty work, and appears to have made a good income by it. The base
character of the man was known to Bolingbroke, of whose basest purpose
he made him the instrument (see c. vii.). Mallet's ballad of _William
and Margaret_ (1724) is known to many readers, and so is the inferior
ballad _Edwin and Emma_, which was written many years afterwards. In
1728 he published _The Excursion_, a poem not sufficiently significant
to prevent Wordsworth from selecting the same title. In Mallet's poem on
_Verbal Criticism_ (1733), Johnson states that he paid court to Pope,
and was rewarded by a travelling tutorship gained through the poet's
influence. In 1731 his tragedy, _Eurydice_, was acted at Drury Lane. He
joined Thomson, as we have said elsewhere, in the composition of the
masque of _Alfred_, and 'almost wholly changed' the piece after
Thomson's death. _Amyntor and Theodora_, a long poem in blank verse,
appeared in 1747; _Britannia_, a masque, in 1753, and _Elvira_, a
tragedy, in 1763. Mallet, who was without qualifications for the task,
wrote a life of Lord Bacon. He is said to have obtained a pension for
inflaming the mind of the public against Admiral Byng, and thereby
hastening his execution.

In Anderson's edition of the poets, Mallet's biography is related with
more fulness than by Dr. Johnson, and, after frankly recording acts
which fully justify Macaulay's statement that Mallet's character was
infamous, the writer adds, 'his integrity in business and in life is


When the poets of England were writing satires, moral essays, and
elaborate didactic treatises, the poets of Scotland were singing, in
bird-like notes, songs of humour and of love. It is remarkable that the
Scotch, the shrewdest, hardest, and most business-like people in these
islands, should be so richly endowed with a gift shared and enjoyed by
rich and poor alike. The most exquisite of English lyrics fall, where
culture is wanting, on regardless ears; the songs of Ramsay and of
Burns, of Lady Anne Lindsay and Jane Elliot, of Hogg and Lady Nairne, of
Tannahill and Macneil, are household words in Scotland to gentle and
simple. A few of the choicest songs of Scotland are due to ladies of
rank, but the larger number have sprung from 'the huts where poor men
lie.' Ramsay was a barber and wig-maker; Burns, as all the world knows,
followed the plough; Tannahill was a weaver; Hogg a shepherd; and Robert
Nicoll the son of a small farmer, 'ruined out of house and hold.'

[Sidenote: Allan Ramsay (1686-1758).]

Allan Ramsay was, born at Leadhills, in Lanarkshire, in 1686, and was
therefore Pope's senior by two years. He has been called 'the restorer
of Scottish poetry,' and by his compilation of _The Evergreen_ (1724),
and of _The Tea-Table Miscellany_, published in the same year, he
gathered up the wealth of song scattered through the country. _The
Miscellany_ extended to four volumes, and before the poet's death had
reached twelve editions. An undying interest belongs to both
anthologies. _The Evergreen_ was the first poetry Walter Scott perused,
and in a marginal note on his copy of _The Tea-Table Miscellany_ he
writes: 'This book belonged to my grandfather, Robert Scott, and out of
it I was taught _Hardiknute_ by heart before I could read the ballad
myself. It was the first poem I ever learnt, the last I shall ever
forget.' The ballad Scott loved so well, I may say in passing, was
written as a whole or in part by Lady Wardlaw (1677-1727),[35] and
belongs therefore either to our period or to the later years of the
seventeenth century.

In 1725 Ramsay published _The Gentle Shepherd_, a pastoral that puts to
shame the numerous semi-classical and mythological poems which appeared
under that name in England. It is essentially a rural poem, in which the
action and language harmonize with what we know, or think we know, of
country manners and life. There is neither striking invention in the
plot nor much individuality in the characters, but there is poetical
harmony throughout, many pretty rustic scenes, and sufficient interest
to carry the reader pleasantly over the ground. _The Gentle Shepherd_ is
the work of a poet, and gives a higher impression of Ramsay's power than
his songs alone would warrant. His lyrical pieces, though not wholly
without the lilt and charm such verse exacts, are perhaps mainly of
service in showing the immeasurable superiority of Burns. Ramsay was a
successful poet, and not too much of a poet to be also a successful man
of business. He exchanged wig-making for bookselling, kept a shop in the
High Street of Edinburgh, and finally retired to a villa which he had
built for himself on the Castle Hill. A good-humoured, care-defying man,
he enjoyed life in an easy way, and was not disposed to repine when his
road lay down the hill. In an epistle to a friend he writes:

    'And now in years and sense grown auld,
    In ease I like my limbs to fauld,
    Debts I abhor, and plan to be
    From shackling trade and dangers free;
    That I may, loosed frae care and strife,
    With calmness view the edge of life;
    And when a full ripe age shall crave,
    Slide easily into my grave.'

Among the Scottish song-writers of the period may be mentioned Robert
Crawford (1695?-1732), whose love verses, written in a conventional
strain, are not without music; Lord Binning (1696-1732), the author of a
pretty song called _Ungrateful Nanny_; and William Hamilton of Bangour
(1704-1754), who wrote the well-known _Braes of Yarrow_. The most
charming of Scottish lyrics belong, however, to a later period of the
century than the age of Pope.

       *       *       *       *       *

The student who reads the minor poets who figured, in some cases with
much applause, during the years of Pope's ascendency, will be struck by
the almost total absence from their works of creative power. These
rhymers wrote for the age, and illustrate it, but they did not write for
all time, and a small volume would suffice to hold all their verse which
is of permanent value. Too often they imagined that by the composition
of flowing couplets they proved their title to rank with inspired poets.
They confounded the art of verse-making with the divine art of poetry,
and were not aware that the substance of their work is prose. Now and
then the digger in this mine will discover a small nugget of gold, but
for the most part the interest called forth by the poets mentioned in
the present chapter, is more historical than poetical, and the reader in
passing to the great prose writers of the age will be conscious of gain
rather than of loss.


[31] Cowper's line,

    'Where tempests never beat nor billows roar,'

is not an improvement upon Garth's. Tempests, it has been justly said,
do not beat.

[32] The _Spectator_, No. 335.

[33] Elwin and Courthope's _Pope_, vol. vii., p. 62.

[34] Edward Young tried his skill on the same theme in a poetical
epistle to Tickell, but his lines are leaden and his praise absurd.
Addison's glory was so great, he says, as a statesman and a patriot,

          'It borders on disgrace
    To say he sung the best of human race.'

[35] To Lady Wardlaw Dr. Robert Chambers attributed twenty-five ballads,
and among them several of the finest we possess, which are regarded as
ancient by every other authority. If the assumption were proved, this
lady would hold a distinguished and unique position among the poets of
the Pope period, but there is absolutely no ground for the theory so
zealously advocated by Chambers.





As essayists, the writings of Addison and of Steele are familiar to all
readers of eighteenth-century literature. Their work in other
departments may be neglected without much loss; but the student who
disregards the _Tatler_, the _Spectator_, the _Guardian_, and some of
the essay-volumes which follow in their wake, will be blind to one of
the most significant literary features of the period.

The alliance between Addison and Steele was so intimate, that to judge
of one apart from the other, would be fair to neither. It may be well,
therefore, after giving the leading facts in the lives of the two
friends, to bring them together again while considering the work they
accomplished in their literary partnership. One point, I think, will
come out clearly in this examination, namely, that while Steele might,
under very inferior conditions, have produced the _Tatler_ and
_Spectator_ without Addison, it is highly improbable that Addison, as an
essayist, would have existed without Steele.

[Sidenote: Joseph Addison (1672-1719).]

Addison lives on the reputation of his prose works, but he thought that
he was a poet, and was regarded as a poet by his contemporaries. It was
by verse that he won his earliest reputation, and it was on his Pegasus
that he rose to be Secretary of State. He was born on May 1st, 1672, at
Milston, in Wiltshire, a parish of which his father was the rector, and
was educated at the Charterhouse, where he contracted his memorable
friendship with Steele. Thence, in 1687, at the boyish age of fifteen,
he went up to Queen's College, Oxford, and in a few months, thanks to
his Latin verses, gained a scholarship at Magdalen, of which college ten
years later he became a fellow.

While at Oxford he acquired, after the fashion of the day, what Johnson
calls 'the trade of a courtier.' His Latin poem on the _Peace of
Ryswick_ was dedicated to Montague, and two years later a pension of
£300 a year, gained through Somers and Montague, enabled him to travel,
in order that by gaining a knowledge of French and Italian, he might be
fitted for the diplomatic service. Some time after his return to England
he published his _Remarks on Several Parts of Italy_ (1705), and
dedicated the volume to Swift, 'the most agreeable companion, the truest
friend, and the greatest genius of his age.'

Addison's patrons had now lost their power, and he was left to his own
exertions. His difficulties did not last long. In 1704 the battle of
Blenheim called forth several weak efforts from the poetasters, and as
the Government required verse more worthy of the occasion, the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the recommendation of Montague, now Earl
of Halifax, applied to Addison, who, in answer to the appeal, published
_The Campaign_, in 1705. The poem contains the well-known similitude of
the angel, and also an apt allusion to the great storm that had lately
destroyed fleets and devastated the country.

    'So when an angel by divine command
    With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
    Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,
    Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
    And, pleased the Almighty's orders to perform,
    Rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm.'

_The Campaign_, which has no other passage worth quoting, proved a happy
hit, and was of such service to the Ministry, that Addison found the way
to fame and fortune. He was appointed Commissioner of Appeals, and not
long after Under Secretary of State. In 1707 he accompanied his friend
and patron, Halifax, on a mission to Hanover, and two years later he was
appointed Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. In Dublin
he gained golden opinions. 'I am convinced,' Swift writes, 'that
whatever Government come over, you will find all marks of kindness from
any parliament here with respect to your employment; the Tories
contending with the Whigs which should speak best of you. In short, if
you will come over again when you are at leisure, we will raise an army
and make you king of Ireland.' When the Whig Ministry fell in 1710, and
Addison lost his appointment, he must have gained a fortune, for he was
able to purchase an estate for £10,000.

In the early years of the century the Italian opera, which had been
brought into England in the reign of William and Mary, excited the mirth
and opposition of the wits. Lord Chesterfield, who called it 'too absurd
and extravagant to mention,' said, 'Whenever I go to the opera I leave
my sense and reason at the door with my half-guinea, and deliver myself
up to my eyes and ears.' Steele, Gay, and Pope ridiculed the new-fangled
entertainment, and Colley Cibber, too, pointed his jest at these
'poetical drams, these gin-shops of the stage that intoxicate its
auditors, and dishonour their understanding with a levity for which I
want a name.' Addison, who has some lively papers on the subject in the
_Spectator_, undertook to give a faithful account of the progress of
the Italian opera on the English stage, 'for there is no question,' he
writes, 'but our great grandchildren will be very curious to know why
their forefathers used to sit together like an audience of foreigners in
their own country; and to hear whole plays acted before them in a tongue
which they did not understand.'

Before writing thus in the _Spectator_, Addison, in order to oppose the
Italian opera, by what he regarded as a more rational pastime, produced
his English opera of _Rosamond_, which was acted in 1706, and proved a
failure on the stage. The music is said to have been bad, and the poetry
is the work of a writer destitute of lyrical genius. Lord Macaulay, who
finds a merit in almost everything produced by Addison, praises 'the
smoothness with which the verses glide, and the elasticity with which
they bound,' and considers that if he 'had left heroic couplets to Pope,
and blank verse to Rowe, and had employed himself in writing airy and
spirited songs, his reputation as a poet would have stood far higher
than it now does.' The gliding movement of the verse may be admitted;
but lyric poetry demands the higher qualities of music and imaginative
treatment, and Addison's 'smoothness,' so far from being a poetical
gift, is a mechanical acquisition.

In 1713 his _Cato_, with its stately rhetoric and cold dignity, received
a very different reception. The prologue, written by Pope, is in
admirable accordance with the spirit of the play. Addison's purpose is
to exhibit a great man struggling with adversity, and Pope writes:

    'He bids your breasts with ancient ardour rise,
    And calls forth Roman drops from British eyes;
    Virtue confessed in human shape he draws,
    What Plato thought, and God-like Cato was:
    No common object to your sight displays,
    But what with pleasure Heaven itself surveys;
    A brave man struggling in the storms of fate,
    And greatly falling with a falling state!
    While Cato gives his little senate laws,
    What bosom beats not in his country's cause?'

Addison has proved that he could draw a life-like character in his
representation of Sir Roger de Coverley, but the _dramatis personæ_, who
act a part, or are supposed to act one, in _Cato_, are mere dummies,
made to express fine sentiments. There is no flesh and blood in them,
and owing to the dramatist's regard for unity of place, the play is full
of absurdities. Yet _Cato_ was received with immense applause. It was
regarded from a political aspect, and both Whig and Tory strove to turn
the drama to party account. 'The numerous and violent claps of the Whig
party,' Pope writes, 'on the one side of the theatre, were echoed back
by the Tories on the other; while the author sweated behind the scenes
with concern to find their applause proceeding more from the hand than
the head.'

In another letter he says: 'The town is so fond of it, that the orange
wenches and fruit women in the parks offer the books at the side of the
coaches, and the prologue and epilogue are cried about the streets by
the common hawkers.' It would be interesting to ascertain what there was
in the state of public affairs in the spring of 1713, which created this
enthusiasm. Swift, writing to Stella, alludes to a rehearsal of the
play, but makes no criticism upon it; and Berkeley, who was in London at
the time, and had a seat in Addison's box on the first night, is also
silent about it. In a letter written, as it happens, by Bolingbroke, on
the day that _Cato_ was produced, he indicates the signs of the time, as
they appeared to a Tory statesman: 'The prospect before us,' he writes,
'is dark and melancholy. What will happen no man is able to foretell.'

It was this sense of doubt and insecurity in the nation that gave
significance to trifles. The political atmosphere was charged with
electricity. The Tories, though in office, were far from feeling
themselves secure, and both Harley and Bolingbroke were in
correspondence with the Pretender. Atterbury, who was heart and soul
with him, had just been made a bishop, Protestant ascendancy was in
danger, the security of the country seemed to hang on the frail life of
the Queen, and the strong party spirit of the time was easily fanned
into a flame. We cannot now place ourselves in the position of the
spectators whose passions gave such popularity to _Cato_. Its mild
platitudes and rhetorical periods, its coldness and sobriety, seem ill
fitted to arouse the fervour of playgoers, but Addison, whose good luck
rarely failed him, was especially fortunate in the moment chosen for the
representation of the play. Had _Cato_ exhibited genius of the highest
order, it could not have been more successful. Cibber writes that it was
acted in London five times a week for a month to constantly crowded
houses, and when the tragedy was acted at Oxford, 'Our house,' he says,
'was in a manner invested, and entrance demanded by twelve o'clock at
noon, and before one it was not wide enough for many who came too late
for places.'[36]

_Cato_ had the good fortune to run in London for thirty-five nights, and
gained also some reputation on the continent. It is formed on the French
model, and Addison was therefore praised by Voltaire as 'the first
English writer who composed a regular tragedy.' He added that _Cato_ was
'a masterpiece.' If so, it is one of the masterpieces that has long
ceased to be read. Little could its author have surmised that his
tragedy, received with universal praise, had but a brief life to live,
while the Essays which he had already contributed to the _Tatler_ and
_Spectator_ would make his name familiar to future generations.

Addison's poetry may now be regarded as extinct, and most of the poems
he wrote are probably unknown to the present generation of readers even
by name. His Latin verses are pronounced excellent by all competent
critics, but when a man writes verses in a dead language he does so
generally to show his scholarship, and not to express his inspiration.
Latin verse is, as M. Taine says, a faded flower. Now and then, indeed,
a poem has been written with merits apart from its latinity--witness the
_Epitaphium Damonis_ of Milton--but Addison, who lacked poetic fire in
his native language, was not likely to find it in a dead tongue. His
English poems are generally dull, and sometimes, as in his earliest
poem, the _Account of the greatest English Poets_ (1694), the tameness
of the verse is matched by the ignorance of the criticism. The student
will observe how differently the theme is treated by a true poet like
Drayton in his _Epistle to Reynolds_; or, like Ben Jonson, in the many
allusions that he makes to his country's poets. Compare, too, Addison's
_Letter from Italy_ (1701) with the lovely lines on a like theme in
Goldsmith's _Traveller_, and the contrast between a verseman and a poet
is at once apparent. Addison, it may be added, is remembered for his
hymns, which may be found in most selections of sacred verse, and
deserve a place in the best of them. As the forerunner of Isaac Watts
(1674-1748) and of Charles Wesley (1708-1788), he struck upon what at
that time might, in our country, be almost called a new department of
literature; and it is remarkable that an age which so dreaded enthusiasm
should have originated verse which gives utterance to the most emotional
form of spiritual aspiration. As hymn-writers, Englishmen were more
than a century behind the best sacred poets of Germany. Luther had
taught the German people the power of hymnody, but it was during the
Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), and after its conclusion, that the spirit
of devotion found full expression in religious verse. Just before the
engagement at Leipzic, Gustavus Adolphus wrote his well-known battle
hymn, and the peace was celebrated in a noble hymn by Martin Rinkart. He
was followed by a succession of sacred singers whose devout utterances
influenced and in some degree inspired the Wesleys.

    "A verse may find him whom a sermon flies,"

says George Herbert, and the enormous power wielded by Methodism owes a
large portion of its strength to song.

Amidst much in their writings that is questionable in taste and weak in
expression, both Watts and Charles Wesley have written hymns which prove
their incontestible right to a place among the poets, and the influence
they have exerted over the English-speaking race is beyond the power of
the literary historian to estimate. The external divisions of the
Christian Church are numerous; its unity is to be seen in the Hymn Book.
'Men whose theological views contrast most strongly,' says Mr. Abbey in
his essay on _The English Sacred Poetry of the Eighteenth Century_,
'meet on common ground when they express in verse the deeper aspirations
of the heart and the voice of Christian praise.'

In 1714, on the death of the Queen, Addison was once more in office, and
held his old position of Irish Secretary. In the following year he
defended the Whig Government and Whig principles in the _Freeholder_, a
paper published twice weekly. In it he gives no niggard praise to the
Government of George I., and to the King himself, for his 'civil
virtues,' and for his martial achievements. Addison's praise disagrees,
it need scarcely be said, with the more minute and veracious description
of the King given by Thackeray, but a party politician in those days
could scarcely be a faithful chronicler. He could see what he wished to
see, but found it necessary to shut his eyes when the prospect became
unpleasant. George was a heartless libertine, but Addison observes with
great satisfaction that the women most eminent for virtue and good sense
are in his interest. 'It would be no small misfortune,' he says, 'to a
sovereign, though he had all the male part of the nation on his side, if
he did not find himself king of the most beautiful half of his subjects.
Ladies are always of great use to the party they espouse, and never fail
to win over numbers to it. Lovers, according to Sir William Petty's
computation, make at least the third part of the sensible men of the
British nation, and it has been an uncontroverted maxim in all ages,
that though a husband is sometimes a stubborn sort of a creature, a
lover is always at the devotion of his mistress. By this means it lies
in the power of every fine woman to secure at least half-a-dozen
able-bodied men to his Majesty's service. The female world are likewise
indispensably necessary in the best causes to manage the controversial
part of them, in which no man of tolerable breeding is ever able to
refute them. Arguments out of a pretty mouth are unanswerable.'

The essayist thinks it fortunate for the Whigs 'that their very enemies
acknowledge the finest women of Great Britain to be of that party;' and
in an amusing but rather absurd way he discourses to maids, wives, and
widows on the advantages of adhering to the Hanoverian Government. It is
characteristic of Addison that a political paper like the _Freeholder_
should be flavoured with the humour and badinage he found so effective
in the _Spectator_. To the ladies he appeals again and again, but not to
their reason. He gives them mirth instead of argument, and thinks it
more likely to prevail with the 'Fair Sex.' The _Freeholder_ has several
papers worthy of the author in his best moods, the best of them,
perhaps, being the 'Tory Fox-hunter,' with which, to quote Johnson's
words, 'bigotry itself must be delighted.' In the year which gave birth
to the _Freeholder_, _The Drummer_, a comedy, was acted at Drury Lane,
and ran three nights. The play was not acknowledged by Addison, neither
was it printed in Tickell's edition of his works; but Steele, who
published an edition of the play, with a dedication to Congreve, never
doubted, and there is no reason to doubt, that Addison was the author.
'The piece,' Mr. Courthope writes, 'is like _Cato_, a standing proof of
Addison's deficiency in dramatic genius. The plot is poor and trivial,
nor does the dialogue, though it shows in many passages traces of its
author's peculiar vein of humour, make amends by its brilliancy for the
tameness of the dramatic situation.'[37]

After the _Freeholder_ Addison wrote nothing of importance, unless we
except the essay published after his death _On the Evidences of
Christianity_. Of this essay it will suffice to quote the judgment of
his most distinguished eulogist. After observing that the treatise shows
the narrow limits of Addison's classical knowledge, Lord Macaulay adds:
'It is melancholy to see how helplessly he gropes his way from blunder
to blunder. He assigns as grounds for his religious belief stories as
absurd as that of the Cock Lane Ghost, and forgeries as rank as
Ireland's Vortigern; puts faith in the lie about the Thundering Legion;
is convinced that Tiberius moved the senate to admit Jesus among the
gods, and pronounces the letter of Agbarus, King of Edessa, to be a
record of great authority. Nor were these errors the effects of
superstition, for to superstition Addison was by no means prone. The
truth is, that he was writing about what he did not understand.'

In 1716, after having been made one of the Commissioners for Trades and
Colonies, he married the Countess Dowager of Warwick, with whom he had
been acquainted for some years. The marriage, according to the doubtful
authority of Pope, was not a happy one, and is said to have driven
Addison to the consolations of the tavern. He did not need them long. In
1717 Sunderland became Prime Minister, and made Addison a Secretary of
State, an appointment which he resigned eleven months afterwards; and in
1719 he died at Holland House at the age of forty-seven, leaving one
daughter as the memorial of the union. He lies, as is fitting, in the
great Abbey of which he has written so beautifully.

Tickell's noble tribute to his friend's memory belongs to the undying
poetry which neither age nor fresher forms of verse can render obsolete.
It must suffice to quote here a few lines from a poem which, despite
some conventional expressions common to the time, is worthy of its theme

    'If pensive to the rural shades I rove,
    His shape o'ertakes me in the lonely grove;
    'Twas there of Just and Good he reasoned strong,
    Cleared some great truth, or raised some serious song;
    There patient showed us the wise course to steer,
    A candid censor, and a friend severe;
    There taught us how to live; and (oh! too high
    The price for knowledge) taught us how to die.'

There are few men of literary eminence in the eighteenth century of whom
we know so little as of Addison. His own _Spectator_, who never opened
his lips but in his club, is scarcely more silent than the essayist's
biographers, so trifling are the details they have to record beyond the
bare facts of his official and literary career. Steele knew him better,
and, in spite of an unhappy estrangement at the last, probably loved him
more than anyone else, and had he written his story, as he once proposed
doing, the narrative might have been charming; but, alas for Steele's

That Addison was a shy man we know--Lord Chesterfield said he was the
most timid man he ever knew--and it speaks well for his resolution and
strength of purpose that he should have risen notwithstanding this
timidity to so high a position in public affairs. His want of oratorical
power was a drawback to his efficiency, and Sir James Macintosh was
probably right in saying that Addison as Dean of St. Patrick's, and
Swift as Secretary of State, would have been a happy stroke of fortune,
putting each into the place most fitted for him. The essayist's reserve,
while it closed his lips in general society, did not prevent him from
being one of the most fascinating of companions in the freedom of
conversation with a few intimate friends. Swift, Steele, and even Pope,
testify to Addison's irresistible charm in the select society that he
loved. Young said he could chain the attention of every hearer, and Lady
Mary Montagu declared that he was the best company in the world.

[Sidenote: Richard Steele (1672-1729).]

Richard Steele was born in Dublin, 1672, of English parents, and
educated at the Charterhouse, where, as we have said, Addison was at the
same time a pupil. In 1690 he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford,
Addison being then demy at Magdalen. Steele left college without taking
a degree, and entered the army as a cadet. After a time he obtained the
rank of captain in Lord Lucas's fusiliers, and wrote his treatise, _The
Christian Hero_ (1701), with the design, he says, 'principally to fix
upon his own mind a strong impression of virtue and religion in
opposition to a stronger propensity towards unwarrantable pleasure.'
Steele was an honest lover of the things most worthy of love, but his
frailty too often proved stronger than his virtue, and the purpose of
_The Christian Hero_ was not answered.

Jeremy Collier's _Short View of the Immorality and Profanity of the
English Stage_, published in 1698, had made, as it well might, a
powerful impression, and Steele, who was always ready to inculcate
morality on other people, wrote four comedies with a moral purpose. _The
Funeral; or Grief à-la-Mode_ was acted with success at Drury Lane in
1701, and when published passed through several editions. _The Lying
Lover_ followed two years later, and was, in the comfortable judgment of
the author, 'damned for its piety.' This was followed, in 1705, by _The
Tender Husband_, a play suggested by the _Sicilien_ of Molière, as _The
Lying Lover_ had been founded on the _Menteur_ of Corneille. Many years
later Steele's last play, _The Conscious Lovers_ (1722), completed his
performances as a dramatist. It was dedicated to the King, who is said
to have sent the author £500. The modern reader will find little worthy
of attention in the dramas of Steele. His sense of humour enlivens some
of the scenes, and is, perhaps, chiefly visible in _The Funeral_; but
for the most part dulness is in the ascendant, and the sentiment is
frequently mawkish. _The Conscious Lovers_, said Parson Adams, contains
'some things almost solemn enough for a sermon.' This may be true, but
we do not desire a sermon in a play, and Steele, who is always a lively
essayist, loses his liveliness in writing for the stage. It has been
observed by Mr. Ward that, taking a hint from Colley Cibber, he 'became
the real founder of that sentimental comedy which exercised so
pernicious an influence upon the progress of our dramatic literature.'
'It would be unjust,' he adds, 'to hold him responsible for the
feebleness of successors who were altogether deficient in the comic
power which he undoubtedly even as a dramatist exhibits; but in so far
as their aberrations were the result of his example, he must be held to
have contributed, though with the best of motives, to the decline of the
English drama.'[38] One of the prominent offenders who followed in
Steele's wake was George Lillo (1693-1739), whose highly moral
tragedies, written for the edification of playgoers, have the kind of
tragic interest which is called forth by any commonplace tale of crime
and misery. In Lillo's two most important dramas, _George Barnwell_
(1731), a play founded on the old ballad, and _The Fatal Curiosity_
(1736), there is a total absence of the elevation in character and
language which gives dignity to tragedy. His plays are like tales of
guilt arranged and amplified from the Newgate Calendar. The author wrote
with a good purpose, and the public appreciated his work, but it is not
dramatic art, and has no pretension to the name of literature.

Throughout his life Steele was at war with fortune. His hopefulness was
inexhaustible, but he learnt no lessons from experience, and escaped
from one slough to fall into another. He was as unthrifty as Goldsmith,
whom in many respects he resembles, and his warm, impulsive nature was
allied to a combativeness and jealousy which sometimes led him to
quarrel with his best friends. Of his passion for the somewhat exacting
lady whom he married,[39] and of the 400 and odd notelets addressed by
the lover-husband to his 'dear, dearest Prue,' and 'absolute Governess,'
it is enough to say here, that the story told offhand in his own words,
shows how lovable the man was in spite of the faults which he never
attempted to conceal. Only about a week before the marriage the lady had
fair warning of one probable drawback to her happiness as a wife.[40] On
the morning of August 30th, 1707, Steele advised his 'fair one' to look
up to that heaven which had made her so sweet a companion, and in the
evening of that day he wrote:


    'I have been in very good company, where your health, under the
    character of _the woman I loved best_, has been often drunk, so
    that I may say I am dead drunk for your sake, which is more than
    I _die for you_.


After marriage Steele's extravagance and impecuniosity must have proved
a severe trial to Prue. At times he would live in considerable style,
and Berkeley, who writes, in 1713, of dining with him frequently at his
house in Bloomsbury Square, praises his table, servants, and coach as
'very genteel.' At other times the family were without common
necessaries, and on one occasion there was not 'an inch of candle, a
pound of coal, or a bit of meat in the house.'

On the 12th April, 1709, Steele issued the first number of the
_Tatler_, its supposed author being the Isaac Bickerstaff, whose name,
thanks to Swift, had been 'rendered famous through all parts of Europe.'
The essays appeared every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, for the
convenience of the post, and at the outset contained political news,
which Steele, by his government appointment of Gazetteer, was enabled to
supply. After awhile, however, much to the advantage of the _Tatler_,
this news was dropped. The articles are dated from White's
Chocolate-house, from Will's Coffee-house, from the Grecian, and from
the St. James's. It is probable that the column in Defoe's _Review_,
containing _Advice from the Scandal Club_, suggested his 'Lucubrations'
to Steele. If so, it does not detract from his originality of treatment,
for Defoe's town gossip is poor stuff. Addison, who knew nothing of the
project beforehand, came, ere long, to his friend's assistance; but it
was not until about eighty numbers had appeared, that he became a
frequent contributor, and before that time Steele had made his mark.
When the essays were afterwards reprinted in four volumes, Steele, who
was never wanting in gratitude, generously acknowledged the help he had
received. 'I fared,' he says, 'like a distressed prince who calls in a
powerful neighbour to his aid. I was undone by my auxiliary. When I had
once called him in, I could not subsist without dependence on him.' The
_Tatler_ still supplies delightful entertainment, and in the almost
total absence of amusing and wholesome reading in Steele's time, must
have proved a welcome companion. Readers who are inundated by what is
called 'light literature' can with difficulty imagine the dearth
suffered in Pope's day, when the interminable romances of Calprenède, of
Mdlle. de Scuderi and her brother, and of Madame la Fayette, were the
liveliest books considered fit for a modest woman to read. A novel,
however, in ten volumes, like the _Grand Cyrus_ or _Clélie_, had one
advantage over the cheap fictions of our time, its interest was not soon

The _Tatler_ has claims upon the student's attention, apart from the
entertainment it affords. Steele, who lived from hand to mouth, and
wrote, as he lived, on the impulse of the moment, had unwittingly begun
a work destined to form an epoch in English literature. The _Essay_, as
we now understand the word, dates from the _Lucubrations of Isaac
Bickerstaff_, and Steele and Addison, who may boast a numerous progeny,
have in Charles Lamb the noblest of their sons.

On the 2nd January, 1711, Steele wrote the final number of the _Tatler_,
partly on the plea that the essays would suffice to make four volumes,
and partly because he was known to be the author, and could not, as Mr.
Steele, attack vices with the freedom of Mr. Bickerstaff. Addison, who
had done so much to assist Steele in his first venture, was as ignorant
of his intention to close the work as he was of its initiation. Two
months later _The Spectator_ appeared, and this time the friends worked
in concert. It proved a brilliantly successful partnership. The second
number, in which the characters of the club are introduced, was written
by Steele, and to him we owe the first sketch of the immortal Sir Roger
de Coverley:

'When he is in town he lives in Soho Square. It is said he keeps himself
a bachelor by reason he was crossed in love by a perverse, beautiful
widow of the next county to him. Before his disappointment, Sir Roger
was what you call a fine gentleman, had often supped with my Lord
Rochester and Sir George Etheridge, fought a duel upon his first coming
to town, and kicked bully Dawson in a public coffee-house for calling
him youngster. But being ill-used by the above-mentioned widow, he was
very serious for a year and a half; and though, his temper being
naturally jovial, he at last got over it, he grew careless of himself,
and never dressed afterwards. He continues to wear a coat and doublet of
the same cut that were in fashion at the time of his repulse, which, in
his merry humours, he tells us has been in and out twelve times since he
first wore it.... He is now in his fifty-sixth year, cheerful, gay, and
hearty, keeps a good house both in town and country; a great lover of
mankind; but there is such a mirthful cast in his behaviour, that he is
rather beloved than esteemed. His tenants grow rich, his servants look
satisfied, all the young women profess love to him, and the young men
are glad of his company. When he comes into a house he calls the
servants by their names, and talks all the way upstairs to a visit. I
must not omit that Sir Roger is a justice of the quorum; that he fills
the chair at a quarter-session with great abilities; and three months
ago gained universal applause by explaining a passage in the Game Act.'

In their daily issue, as well as afterwards in volumes, the essays had
an extensive sale. They were to be found on every breakfast-table, and
so popular did they prove, that when the imposition of a halfpenny tax
destroyed a number of periodicals, Steele found it safe to double the
price of the _Spectator_. The vivacity and humour of the paper were
visible from the beginning. 'Mr. Steele,' Swift wrote, 'seems to have
gathered new life, and to have a new fund of wit.' Of 555 papers,
Addison wrote 274 and Steele 236, while the remaining forty-five were
the work of occasional contributors. In the full tide of its success,
and without any assigned reason, the _Spectator_ was brought to a
conclusion in December, 1712, and in the following spring Steele started
the _Guardian_, which might have been as fortunate as its predecessor,
had not the editor's zeal tempted him to diverge to politics. He had
also a disagreement with his publisher, and the _Guardian_ was allowed
but a short life of 175 numbers. Of these about fifty were due to
Addison, and upwards of eighty to Steele.

Steele's political ardour was irrepressible, and a paper in the
_Guardian_ (No. 128), demanding the abolition of Dunkirk, called forth a
pamphlet from Swift, in which the weaknesses of his former friend are
sneered at and denounced with enough of truthfulness to enhance their
malice. After allowing that Steele has humour, and is no disagreeable
companion 'after the first bottle,' Swift adds, 'Being the most
imprudent man alive, he never follows the advice of his friends, but is
wholly at the mercy of fools and knaves, or hurried away by his own
caprice, by which he has committed more absurdities in economy,
friendship, love, duty, good manners, politics, religion, and writing
than ever fell to one man's share.' A little later, in anticipation of
the Queen's death, Steele published _The Crisis_ (1714), a political
pamphlet, which led to his expulsion from the House of Commons. It was
answered by one of the most masterly of Swift's pamphlets, _The Public
Spirit of the Whigs_, in which it is suggested that Steele might be
superior to other writers on the Whig side 'provided he would a little
regard the propriety and disposition of his words, consult the
grammatical part, and get some information in the subject he intends to

The reader is chiefly concerned with Steele as an essayist, and it is
unnecessary to follow his career in the House of Commons and out of it.
Yet there is one anecdote too characteristic to be omitted in the
briefest notice of his life. Lady Charlotte Finch had been attacked in
the _Examiner_ 'for knotting in St. James's Chapel during divine
service, in the immediate presence both of God and her Majesty, who were
affronted together.' Steele denounced the calumny in the _Guardian_.
Upon taking his seat as member for Stockbridge, he was attacked by the
Tories on account of _The Crisis_, which they deemed an inflammatory
libel, and defended himself in a speech which occupied three hours. When
he left the House, Lord Finch, who, like Steele, was a new member, rose
to make his maiden speech in defence of the man who had defended his
sister; a nervous feeling caused him to hesitate, and he sat down,
exclaiming, 'It is strange I cannot speak for this man, though I could
readily fight for him.' The House cheered these generous words, and Lord
Finch rising again, made an able speech. The effort was a vain one, and
Steele lost his seat. A few months later, after the death of Queen Anne,
he entered the House again as member for Boroughbridge, and having been
placed in the commission of peace for Middlesex, on presenting an
address from the county, he received the honour of knighthood.

Meanwhile he had not renounced his vocation of essayist. The _Guardian_
was followed by the _Englishman_ (1713), the _Englishman_ by the _Lover_
(1714), and the _Lover_ by the _Reader_ (1714), a journal strongly
political in character. Of this only nine numbers were issued. Then came
_Town Talk_, the _Tea Table_, _Chit-chat_, and the _Theatre_. Sir
Richard appears to have been always in a hurry to break new ground, a
foible not confined to literature. He was continually starting new
projects, and never doubted, in spite of numberless failures, that his
latest effort to make a fortune would be successful.

Notwithstanding his appointments as manager of Drury Lane and as a
Commissioner in Scotland to inquire into the Estates of Traitors,
Steele's money difficulties did not lessen as he advanced in life; worse
still, he had the misfortune to quarrel with his oldest and dearest
friend. For this he and Addison were alike to blame, and Addison dying a
few months later, there was no time for reconciliation. In 1718 Steele
had lost his wife, and some years afterwards his only remaining son.
Ultimately, broken in health and fortune, Sir Richard retired to
Carmarthen, and there, in 1729, he died.

'I was told,' says Victor, 'he retained his cheerful sweetness of temper
to the last; and would often be carried out in a summer's evening, when
the country lads and lasses were assembled at their rural sports, and
with his pencil give an order on his agent, the mercer, for a new gown
to the best dancer.'[41]

All literature worthy of the name is the expression of the writer's
life, of his aspirations, and of his ultimate aims; and since man is a
moral being, it cannot be severed from morality. To point a moral, if it
be within the scope of imaginative art, is subordinate to its main
purpose. To delight by stimulating the imagination, to give a new beauty
to existence by widening the realm of thought,--these are some of the
noblest purposes of literature; and while men and women of creative
genius are among our wisest teachers, the wisdom we gain from them comes
to us without direct enforcement. In the last century, however, authors
of good character, and authors who had no character to boast of, were
equally impressed with the necessity of adorning their pages with moral
maxims, and if this moral was not inserted in the body of the work, it
was inevitable that it should be tacked on to the end of it like a tail
to a kite. Steele in his artless way had a moral end in view, though his
method of reaching it was not always wise or even discreet. Addison had
his moral also. It pervades everything he wrote, but so artfully does
he make use of it, that the reader is not unpleasantly conscious of a
purpose. His allegories belong to an obsolete form of literature, but
one of them at least _The Vision of Mirza_, may be still read with
pleasure. His Saturday essays, which are nearly always serious in
character, are the sermons of a layman, expressed in the most lucid
style and in the purest English. His tales, like his allegories, have
lost much of their flavour, but the humorous essays, in which he depicts
the manners of the time, as well as the numbers devoted to the Spectator
Club and to Addison's beloved Sir Roger, have a perennial charm. There
is a felicity in the essayist's touch which is beyond imitation,
although a reader might give, as Johnson suggested, days and nights to
the study. The style is the man, and to write as Addison wrote it would
be necessary to reach his moral and intellectual level, to see with his
shrewd but kindly eyes, and to have his fine sense of humour. His
faults, too, must be shared by his imitator--the somewhat too delicate
refinement of a nature that never yields to impulse--the feminine
sensitiveness that is allied to jealousy. Addison, in the judgment of
his admirers, comes very near to perfection, and that is an irritating
quality in a fellow mortal. It is, if it be not paradoxical to say so,
the defect of his essays. There is nothing definite to find fault with
in them, but we feel that strength is wanting. The clear and silent
stream is a beautiful object, but after awhile it becomes monotonous,
and we long for the swift and impetuous movement of a mountain torrent.
It would be a thankless task, however, to dwell insistently on the
deficiencies of a writer who has done so much for literature, and so
much, too, for what is better than literature. We may wish that he had
more warmth in him, somewhat more of energy and passion, yet such merits
would be scarcely consonant with the graceful charm which gives to the
prose writings of Addison an unrivalled position in Pope's age, and, it
might be added, in the eighteenth century, were it not for the priceless
literary gift bestowed upon Oliver Goldsmith.

Steele's fame as a writer has been overshadowed by the more exquisite
genius of Addison, and his reputation has suffered partly from his own
frailties and partly from the contemptuous way in which he has been
treated by the panegyrists and critics of Addison. Pity is closely
allied to contempt, and Sir Richard has come to be regarded as a
scapegrace whose chief honour in life was the friendship of the
accomplished essayist. Yet it was Steele who created the form of
literature in which Addison earned his laurels, and without which he
would in the present day be utterly forgotten. Steele was the discoverer
of a new country, and if Addison took possession of its fairest portion,
it was after his friend had pointed out the path and made the way easy.
It would be very unjust, however, to treat of Steele solely as a
pioneer. His own work, though less perfect than that of Addison, a
consummate master of composition, is rich in variety and spirit, in
pathos and in knowledge of the world. Steele is often careless, but he
is never dull, and writes with a glow of enthusiasm that excites the
reader's sympathy. Truly does Mr. Dobson say that while Addison's essays
are faultless in their art and beyond the range of his friend's more
impulsive nature, 'for words which the heart finds when the head is
seeking; for phrases glowing with the white heat of a generous emotion;
for sentences which throb and tingle with manly pity or courageous
indignation, we must go to the essays of Steele.'[42]

Sir Richard's pathetic touches and artless turns of expression come
from the heart. He is the most natural of writers, but does not seem to
be aware that nature, in order to be converted into good literature,
needs a little clothing. His essays have often a looseness or negligence
of aim unpardonable in a man who can write so well. A conspicuous
illustration of this defect may be seen in No. 181 of the _Tatler_, one
of the most beautiful pieces from Steele's pen.

'The first sense of sorrow,' he writes, 'I ever knew was upon the death
of my father, at which time I was not quite five years of age; but was
rather amazed at what all the house meant, than possessed with a real
understanding why nobody was willing to play with me. I remember I went
into the room where his body lay, and my mother sat weeping alone by it.
I had my battledore in my hand, and fell a-beating the coffin and
calling "Papa," for, I know not how, I had some slight idea that he was
locked up there. My mother catched me in her arms, and transported
beyond all patience of the silent grief she was before in, she almost
smothered me in her embraces; and told me in a flood of tears, "Papa
could not hear me, and would play with me no more, for they were going
to put him under ground, whence he could never come to us again." She
was a very beautiful woman of a noble spirit, and there was a dignity in
her grief amidst all the wildness of her transport, which, methought,
struck me with an instinct of sorrow, that before I was sensible of what
it was to grieve, seized my very soul, and has made pity the weakness of
my heart ever since.'

Later on in the essay, and still looking back on the past, Steele
recalls the untimely death of the first object his eyes ever beheld with
love, and then abruptly dismissing his regrets he carelessly finishes
the paper with this characteristic passage: 'A large train of disasters
were coming on to my memory when my servant knocked at my closet door,
and interrupted me with a letter, attended with a hamper of wine of the
same sort with that which is to be put to sale on Thursday next at
Garraway's Coffee-house. Upon the receipt of it I sent for three of my
friends. We are so intimate that we can be company in whatever state of
mind we meet, and can entertain each other without expecting always to
rejoice. The wine we found to be generous and warming, but with such a
heat as moved us rather to be cheerful than frolicsome. It revived the
spirits, without firing the blood. We commended it until two of the
clock this morning, and having to-day met a little before dinner, we
found that though we drank two bottles a man, we had much more reason to
recollect than forget what had passed the night before.'

Steele, to quote Johnson's phrase, was 'the most agreeable rake that
ever trod the rounds of indulgence,' but he had many a fine quality that
does not harmonize with the character of a rake; and although he hurt
himself by his follies, he did his best to help others by his genial
wisdom. If he did not sufficiently regard his own interests, his
thoughts, as Addison said, 'teemed with projects for his country's
good.' Savage Landor, with an impulse of somewhat extravagant eulogy,
exclaimed, 'What a good critic Steele was! I doubt if he has ever been
surpassed.' This is one of the sayings that will not bear examination.
Steele had doubtless the fine perception of what is noble in art and
literature, which some men possess instinctively. He felt what was good,
but does not appear either to have reached or strengthened his
conclusions by any process of study.

As an essayist Steele is careless, rapid, emotional, and disposed to be
on the best terms with himself and with his readers. He makes them sure
that if they could have met him in his rollicking mood at Will's
Coffee-house, he would have treated them all round, even if, like
Goldsmith, he had been forced to borrow the money to do it. But he was
not always in this reckless humour. His heart was expansive in its
sympathies and tender as a woman's; his mind was open to all kindly
influences, and his essays have in them the rich blood and vivid
utterances of a man who has 'warmed both hands before the fire of life.'

Between Steele's _Guardian_ (1713) and the _Rambler_ of Johnson (1750),
a period of thirty-seven years, a swarm of periodicals testify to the
fame of Steele and Addison. The reader curious on the subject will find
in Dr. Drake's essays a minute account of the numerous essayists who
flourished, or who made an effort to live, between the close of the
eighth volume of the _Spectator_ and the beginning of the present
century. Of these a few have still a place on our shelves, but for the
most part they enjoyed a butterfly existence, and serve but to prove the
immeasurable superiority of the writers who created the English Essay.


[36] Cibber's _Apology_, p. 386.

[37] Courthope's _Addison_, p. 150.

[38] _English Dramatic Literature_, vol. ii., p. 603.

[39] 'It is a strange thing,' he writes, 'that you will not behave
yourself with the obedience people of worse features do, but that I must
be always giving you an account of every trifle and minute of my time.'

[40] Steele had been previously married to Mrs. Stretch, a widow, who
possessed an estate in the West Indies; but the lady did not long
survive the marriage.

[41] Victor's _Original Letters, Dramatic Pieces, and Poems_, vol. i.,
p. 330.

[42] _Selections from Steele_, by Austin Dobson. Introduction, p. xxx.
Clarendon Press.



The booksellers who employed the most famous man of letters then living
(1777), to write the _Lives of the Poets_, selected the authors whose
biographies were to accompany the poems they proposed to publish. They
did not know the difference between versemakers and poets; but they
probably did know what authors of the rhyming tribe were likely to prove
the most popular. Dr. Johnson, who was then in his sixty-ninth year, was
willing to write the _Lives_ to order. He added, indeed, three or four
names to the list which had been given him; but he made no protest, and
contented himself, as he told Boswell, in saying that a man was a dunce
when he thought that he was one.

Among the biographies included by Johnson in the _Lives_, appears the
illustrious name of Swift. He was far indeed from being a dunce; but
just as certainly he was not a poet, unless the title be given to him by
courtesy. On the other hand, Swift ranks among the most distinguished
prose writers of his time--many critics consider him the greatest--and
he therefore finds his natural place in the prose section of this

[Sidenote: Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).]

Swift's life is an extraordinary psychological study, but it will
suffice to state here the bare outline of his career. He was a
posthumous child, and born in Dublin of English parents, November 30th,
1667. When a year old he was kidnapped by his nurse out of pure
affection, and carried off to Whitehaven, where she remained with the
child for three years. At the age of six the boy was sent to Kilkenny
school, and there he had William Congreve (1670-1729), the future
dramatist, for a schoolfellow. Neither at school nor at Trinity College,
Dublin, which he entered as a boy of fifteen, did Swift distinguish
himself, and he left the University in disgrace. At the Revolution he
found a refuge with his mother at Leicester, and she, through a family
relationship, obtained a position for her boy in the house of Sir
William Temple (1628-1698), who was accounted a great man in his own
day, and was famous alike for statecraft and literature. By many readers
he will be best remembered as the husband of the charming Dorothy
Osborne, whose innocently sweet love-letters have not lost their
freshness in the lapse of two centuries.

There was a degree of servitude in Swift's position of secretary, which
galled his proud spirit. But Temple, so far from treating him unkindly,
introduced him to the King, and employed him in 'affairs of great
importance.' In 1694 he left Temple, went to Dublin, took holy orders,
and lived as prebend of Kilroot on £100 a year. In 1696 he resigned the
office and returned to Moor Park, where he remained until Sir William
Temple's death, in 1699. There he studied hard, ran up a steep hill
daily for exercise, and cultivated the acquaintance of Esther Johnson,
the 'Stella' destined to take a strange part in Swift's history, then a
mere girl, and a companion of Temple's sister, who lived with him after
his wife's death.

Swift began his literary career by writing Pindaric odes, one of which
led Dryden to say, and the prediction was amply verified, 'Cousin Swift,
you will never be a poet.' Probably no man of genius ever wrote worse
poetry than is to be found in these portentous efforts.

Here is one fair illustration of his flights as an ode writer, and the
reader will not ask for more:

    'Were I to form a regular thought of Fame,
      Which is perhaps, as hard to imagine right
      As to paint Echo to the sight,
    I would not draw the idea from an empty name;
      Because, alas! when we all die,
      Careless and ignorant posterity,
    Although they praise the learning and the wit,
      And though the title seems to show
    The name and man by whom the book was writ,
      Yet how shall they be brought to know
    Whether that very name was he, or you, or I?
      Less should I daub it o'er with transitory praise,
      And water-colours of these days:
    These days! where e'en th' extravagance of poetry
      Is at a loss for figures to express
    Men's folly, whimsies, and inconstancy,
      And by a faint description makes them less.
    Then tell us what is Fame, where shall we search for it?
    Look where exalted Virtue and Religion sit,
    Enthroned with heavenly Wit!
      Look where you see
      The greatest scorn of learned Vanity!
      (And then how much a nothing is mankind!
    Whose reason is weighed down by popular air.
      Who, by that, vainly talks of baffling death,
      And hopes to lengthen life by a transfusion of breath,
      Which yet whoe'er examines right will find
      To be an art as vain as bottling up of wind!)
    And when you find out these, believe true Fame is there,
      Far above all reward, yet to which all is due;
      And this, ye great unknown! is only known in you.'

It is remarkable that at the very time Swift was perpetrating these
lyrical atrocities, he was at work on the _Tale of a Tub_, which is
generally regarded as the most masterly effort of his genius. A critic
has said that Swift's poetry 'lacks one quality only--imagination,' but
verse without imagination is like a body without a soul, like a house
without windows, like a landscape-painting without atmosphere, and no
license of language will allow us to call Swift a poet. Enough that he
became a master of rhyme, and used it with extraordinary facility. Dr.
Johnson's estimate of Swift's powers in this respect is a just one:

'In the poetical works of Dr. Swift there is not much upon which the
critic can exercise his powers. They are often humorous, almost always
light, and have the qualities which recommend such compositions, ease
and gaiety. They are, for the most part, what their author intended. The
diction is correct, the numbers are smooth, and the rhymes exact. There
seldom occurs a hard-laboured expression, or a redundant epithet; all
his verses exemplify his own definition of a good style; they consist of
proper words in proper places.'

The merits with which Swift's verse is credited are, therefore, not
poetical merits, unless we accept what Schlegel calls the miserable
doctrine of Boileau, that the essence of poetry consists in diction and

The great bulk of Swift's verse is suggested by the incidents of the
hour. No subject is too trivial for his pen; but the poems which are
addressed to Stella, and others which, like _Cadenus and Vanessa_, and
_On the Death of Dr. Swift_, have a personal interest, are by far the
most attractive. We see the best side of Swift when he addresses Stella,
whether in verse or prose. The birthday rhymes he delighted to write in
her praise have the mark of sincerity, and there is true feeling in the
lines which describe her as a ministering angel in his sickness:

    'When on my sickly couch I lay,
    Impatient both of night and day,
    Lamenting in unmanly strains,
    Called every power to ease my pains;
    Then Stella ran to my relief
    With cheerful face and inward grief;
    And though by Heaven's severe decree
    She suffers hourly more than me,
    No cruel master could require
    From slaves employed for daily hire,
    What Stella, by her friendship warmed,
    With vigour and delight performed;
    My sinking spirits now supplies
    With cordials in her hands and eyes,
    Now with a soft and silent tread
    Unheard she moves about my bed.
    I see her taste each nauseous draught
    And so obligingly am caught,
    I bless the hand from whence they came,
    Nor dare distort my face for shame.'

The poem in which Swift imagines what will take place upon his death, is
full of satiric humour, combined with that vein of bitterness that is
never long absent from his writings. His humour is always allied to
sadness; his mirth often sounds like a cry of misery. In this poem he
pictures his gradual decay, and how his special friends, anticipating
the end, will show their tenderness by adding largely to his years:

    'He's older than he would be reckoned,
    And well remembers Charles the Second.
    He hardly drinks a pint of wine,
    And that I doubt is no good sign.
    His stomach too begins to fail,
    Last year we thought him strong and hale,
    But now he's quite another thing,
    I wish he may hold out till Spring.'

No enemy can match a friend, Swift adds, in portending a great

    'He'd rather choose that I should die
    Than his prediction prove a lie,
    No one foretells I shall recover,
    But all agree to give me over.'

So he dies, and the first question asked is, 'What has he left and who's
his heir?' and when these questions are answered, the Dean is blamed for
his bequests. The news spreads to London and is told at Court:

    'Kind Lady Suffolk, in the spleen,
    Runs laughing up to tell the Queen.
    The Queen so gracious, mild, and good,
    Cries, "Is he gone? 'tis time he should."'

But the loss of the Dean will cause a brief regret to his most intimate

    'Poor Pope will grieve a month; and Gay
    A week; and Arbuthnot a day.
    St. John himself will scarce forbear
    To bite his pen and drop a tear.
    The rest will give a shrug, and cry,
    "I'm sorry--but we all must die."'

Why grieve, indeed, at the death of friends, since no loss is more easy
to supply, and in a year the Dean will be forgotten, and his wit be out
of date.

    'Some country squire to Lintot goes,
    Inquires for "Swift in Verse and Prose."
    Says Lintot, "I have heard the name;
    He died a year ago." "The same."
    He searches all the shop in vain.
    "Sir, you may find them in Duck Lane,
    I sent them with a load of books
    Last Monday to the pastrycook's.
    To fancy they could live a year!
    I find you're but a stranger here.
    The Dean was famous in his time,
    And had a kind of knack at rhyme.
    His way of writing now is past,
    The town has got a better taste."'

Enough has been transcribed to show Swift's art in this poem, which is
of considerable, but not of wearisome length. Perhaps ten or twelve
pieces, in addition to those already mentioned, will repay the student's
attention. One of the worthiest is a _Rhapsody on Poetry_. _Baucis and
Philemon_, too, is a lively piece that pleased Goldsmith, and will
please every reader. It was much altered from the original draught at
Addison's suggestion; but the alterations are not improvements.[43] _The
City Shower_ is a piece of Dutch painting, reminding us of Crabbe. _Mrs.
Harris's Petition_ is an admirable bit of fooling; _Mary the Cook-Maid's
Letter_, is in its way inimitable; and so, too, is the amusing talk of
'my lady's waiting-woman' in _The Grand Question Debated_.

It is difficult, unhappily, to pursue one's way through Swift's poems,
without being repelled again and again by the filth in which it pleases
him to wade. _The Beast's Confession_, which has been reprinted in the
_Selections from Swift_ (Clarendon Press), is not obscene, like _The
Lady's Dressing-Room_, _Strephon and Chloe_, and other poems of the
class; but it has the inhumanity which deforms the description of the
Houyhnhnms. Strange to say, in private life Swift appears to have been
not only moral in conduct, but refined in conversation, and he is even
said to have rebuked Stella on one occasion for a slightly coarse
remark. His imagination was diseased, and he was himself always
apprehensive of the calamity under which he became at last 'a driveller
and a show.' 'I shall be like that tree,' he said once to the poet
Young, 'I shall die at the top.'

It has been already said that _The Tale of a Tub_ was written at Moor
Park. It appeared in 1704, and although published anonymously and never
owned, the book effectually stood in the way of Swift's high preferment
in the Church. Queen Anne declined, and not without reason, to make its
author a bishop.

It is a satire of amazing power, written by a man who takes, as Swift
took throughout life, a misanthropical view of human nature, and who
agrees with the cynical judgment of Carlyle, that men are mostly fools.
Swift, however, did not consider fools useless, but observes that they
'are as necessary for a good writer as pen, ink, and paper.' Never was
volume written which betrayed in larger characters the opinions and
disposition of its author. Swift was consistent in defending the
National Church as a political institution; but in the _Tale of a Tub_
he does so with weapons an atheist might use if he possessed the skill.
The author maintains that in his ridicule of the Church of Rome and of
Protestant dissenters, he is only displaying the abuses which deform the
Christian Church; but no defence can be urged for his wild and
irreverent method of turning subjects into ridicule which by a vast
number of people are regarded as sacred. In judging of Swift's satire
from a moral standing-point, one test, as Mr. Leslie Stephen observes,
may be supposed to guide our decision. 'Imagine the _Tale of a Tub_ to
be read by Bishop Butler and by Voltaire, who called Swift a _Rabelais
perfectionné_. Can anyone doubt that the believer would be scandalized,
and the scoffer find himself in a thoroughly congenial element? Would
not any believer shrink from the use of such weapons, even though
directed against his enemies?'[44]

Although the wit poured out with such profusion in the _Tale of a Tub_,
in so far as it offends the moral sense, fails to give pleasure, the
reader is astonished, as Swift in later life was himself, at the genius
displayed in this allegory, the argument of which may be told in a few

A man is supposed to have three sons by one wife, and all at a birth. On
his deathbed he leaves to each of them a new coat, which he says will
grow with their growth, and last as long as they live. In his will he
leaves directions, saying how the coats are to be used, and warning them
against neglecting his instructions. For some years all goes well, the
will is studied and followed, and the brothers, Peter (the Church of
Rome), Martin (the Church of England), and Jack (the Calvinist), live in
unity. How by degrees they misinterpret their father's will, how Peter
begins by adding topknots to his coat, and afterwards grows so
scandalous that his brothers resolve to leave him, and then fall out
between themselves, is told with abundant wit. A great part of the
volume consists of digressions written in Swift's most vigorous style,
and with the cynical humour in which he has no competitor.

It is always interesting to observe the influence of a work of genius on
other minds, and in connection with the _Tale of a Tub_ a story told of
his boyhood by William Cobbett is worth recording:

'I was trudging through Richmond,' he writes, 'in my blue smock-frock,
and my red garters tied under my knees, when, staring about me, my eyes
fell upon a little book in a bookseller's window, on the outside of
which was written, "_Tale of a Tub_, price threepence." The title was so
odd that my curiosity was excited.... It was something so new to my mind
that though I could not at all understand some of it, it delighted me
beyond description; and it produced what I have always considered a sort
of birth of intellect. I read on till it was dark, without any thought
of supper or bed.' Cobbett adds, that having read till he could see no
longer, he put the volume in his pocket, and 'tumbled down' by the side
of a haystack, 'where I slept till the birds in Kew Gardens awakened me
in the morning; when off I started to Kew, reading my little book.'

One of the greatest masters of prose in the language has also recorded
the impression made upon him by this wonderful book. At the age of
eighty-three Landor wrote: 'I am reading once more the work I have read
oftener than any other prose work in our language.... What a writer! Not
the most imaginative or the most simple, not Bacon or Goldsmith had the
power of saying more forcibly or completely whatever he meant to say.'
'Simplicity,' said Swift, 'is the best and truest ornament of most
things in human life;' and Landor, commenting on Swift's style, observes
that 'he never attempted to round his sentences by redundant words,
aware that from the simplest and the fewest arise the secret springs of
genuine harmony.'

The volume containing the _Tale of a Tub_ had also within its covers the
_Battle of the Books_, which was suggested by a controversy that
originated in France, and had been carried on by Sir W. Temple in
England, as to the relative merits of the Ancients and the Moderns. Out
of this, too, arose a discussion by some _savants_, with Richard Bentley
(1662-1742), the greatest scholar of the age, at their head, with regard
to the genuineness of the _Epistles of Phalaris_, a subject discussed in
Macaulay's essay on Temple in his usually brilliant style. Swift, in the
_Battle of the Books_ sides with Temple and with Charles Boyle, the
nominal editor of the _Epistles_, who, in the famous _Reply to Bentley_,
fought behind the shield of Atterbury. In a combat, which takes place in
the Homeric style, the enemies of the Ancients, Bentley and Wotton, are
slain by one lance upon the field. The mighty deed was achieved by
Boyle. 'As when a slender cook has trussed a brace of woodcocks, he with
iron skewer pierces the tender sides of both, their legs and wings close
pinioned to their ribs, so was this pair of friends transfixed, till
down they fell joined in their lives, joined in their deaths; so closely
joined, that Charon would mistake them both for one, and waft them over
Styx for half his fare.' The humour of the piece is delightful, and it
matters not a whit for the enjoyment of it, that the wrong heroes gain
the victory.

In 1708 Swift produced several pamphlets or tracts, and in one of them,
the _Argument against Abolishing Christianity_, he found ample scope for
the irony of which he was so consummate a master.

'Great wits,' he writes, 'love to be free with the highest objects; and
if they cannot be allowed a God to revile or renounce, they will speak
evil of dignities, abuse the Government, and reflect upon the ministry;
which I am sure few will deny to be of much more pernicious
consequence;' and he observes, in concluding the argument: 'Whatever
some may think of the great advantages to trade by this favourite
scheme, I do very much apprehend that in six months' time the Bank and
East India Stock may fall at least one _per cent._ And since that is
fifty times more than ever the wisdom of our age thought fit to venture
for the preservation of Christianity, there is no reason we should be at
so great a loss merely for the sake of destroying it.'

An amusing piece which appeared also at this time from Swift's pen, is
of literary interest. Under the name of Isaac Bickerstaff he predicted
the death, upon a certain day, of Partridge, a notorious astrologer and
almanac maker. When the day arrived his decease was announced, and he
was afterwards decently buried by Swift, despite a loud protest from the
poor man that he was not only alive, but well and hearty. The town took
up the joke, all the wits joined in it, and Steele, who started the
_Tatler_ in the following year (1709), found it of advantage to assume
the name of Bickerstaff, which these squibs had made so popular. Swift
loved practical jokes, and sometimes yielded to a license that bordered
on buffoonery. He was now in London, charged with a mission from the
Irish Church, and hoping for Church preferment himself. With the latter
object in view he published the _Sentiments of a Church of England Man_
(1708). Two years later, vexed at heart at being unable to gain for the
Irish clergy privileges enjoyed by their English brethren, and foiled,
too, in his ambition, Swift forsook the Whig party, which he had never
loved, and going over to the Tories, fought their battle for some years
with so masterly a pen, as to become a great power in the country.

Some time before his return to London in 1710, a weekly Tory paper had
been started by Bolingbroke and Prior called _The Examiner_, and in
opposition to it, upon September 14th in that year, Addison produced the
_Whig Examiner_ which lived a brief life of five numbers and died on the
8th of October. Three weeks later, on the 2nd November, after thirteen
numbers of the _Examiner_ had been published, Swift took up the pen, and
from that date to June 14th, 1711, every paper was from his hand. Never
before had a political journal exercised such power. In his change of
party Swift was sincere in purpose, but unscrupulous in his methods of
pursuing it, and to gain his ends told lies with a vigour that has
rarely been surpassed. He is never delicate in his treatment of
opponents, and when finer weapons would be useless, strikes with a
sledge hammer. That such a writer, a master of every method most
effective in controversy, should have been valued by the statesmen of
the day is not surprising. When he forsook the Whig camp there was no
opponent to pit against him, for neither Addison with his delicate
humour, nor Steele with his brightness and versatility, could grapple
with an enemy like this.

Swift's arrogance in these days of his power was that of a despot. He
was doing great things for ministers, and took care that they should
know it. He was proud of his self-assertion, proud of being rude. Great
men, and great ladies too, who wished for his acquaintance, had to make
the first advances. He caused Lady Burlington to burst into tears by
rudely ordering her to sing. 'She should sing or he would make her.' 'I
was at court and church to-day,' he tells Stella, 'I generally am
acquainted with about thirty in the drawing-room, and am so proud I make
all the lords come up to me.' On one occasion he sent the Lord Treasurer
into the House of Commons to call out the principal Secretary of State
in order to say that he would not dine with him if he intended to dine
late. He relates, too, how he warned St. John not to appear cold to him,
for he would not be treated like a school-boy, and if he heard or saw
anything to his disadvantage to let him know in plain words, and not to
put him in pain by the change of his behaviour, for it was what he would
hardly bear from a crowned head. 'If we let these great ministers
pretend too much,' he says, 'there will be no governing them.' And in a
letter to Pope he makes the following confession: 'All my endeavours
from a boy to distinguish myself were only for want of a great title and
fortune that I might be treated like a lord ... whether right or wrong
it is no great matter; and so the reputation of great learning does the
work of a blue ribbon, and of a coach and six horses.'

It would be out of place in this volume to dwell on Swift's feats as a
political writer; for us the most interesting fact connected with the
years 1710-14 is that during that eventful period of Swift's life, in
which he was hobnobbing with Ministers of State and doing them infinite
service by his pen, he was writing at odd moments his inimitable
_Journal to Stella_, and gaining the love which ended so tragically, of
Hester Vanhomrigh. This strange chapter in Swift's life is closely bound
up with his literary history, and must therefore be briefly noticed.

At Moor Park Swift, who was more than twenty years her senior, had seen
Esther Johnson growing up into womanhood. He had been to her as a
master, a position he always liked to assume towards women.[45] When he
settled in Ireland it was arranged that Esther and her companion, Mrs.
Dingley, should also live there. Her preceptor, in his regard for
propriety, appears never to have seen Esther apart from the useful
Dingley, and his letters are apparently addressed to both of them, but
Esther knew, as we know, that all the tenderness and affectionate humour
they contain was meant for her alone. Swift never writes as a lover, but
the kind of love he gave to 'Stella' sufficed to bind her to him for
life. If there were moments when she wished to escape from his power,
the wish was hopeless. Having once submitted to his fascination, she was
held by it to the end. Hester Vanhomrigh, who was about ten years
younger than Stella, felt the same spell, and having a far less
restrained nature than Miss Johnson, gave free expression to the passion
which devoured her. Between his two admirers, for such they were, Swift
had a difficult course to steer. To Stella he was linked by strong ties
of companionship, and to her, according to some authorities, he was
secretly married. Whether this were the case or not she had the larger
claims upon him, and if one of the twain had to be sacrificed, Vanessa
must be the victim.

In _Cadenus and Vanessa_ (1713) a poem which every student of Swift will
read, the author strove to achieve an impossibility. His aim was to
ignore the lover and to assume the character of a master to an
intelligent and favourite pupil, or of a father to a daughter. His
dignity and age, he says, forbade the thought of warmer feelings.

    'But friendship in its greatest height,
    A constant rational delight,
    On Virtue's basis fixed to last
    When love's allurements long are past,
    Which gently warms but cannot burn,
    He gladly offers in return;
    His want of passion will redeem
    With gratitude, respect, esteem;
    With that devotion we bestow
    When goddesses appear below.'

And this was Swift's method of dealing with a woman who confessed the
'inexpressible passion' she had for him, and that his 'dear image' was
always before her eyes. 'Sometimes,' she wrote, 'you strike me with that
prodigious awe, I tremble with fear; at other times a charming
compassion shines through your countenance which moves my soul.' Swift
had acted far more than indiscreetly in encouraging a friendship with
Vanessa, and when she followed him to Dublin, in the neighbourhood of
which she had some property, he knew not how to escape from the snare
his own folly had laid. To Stella he had given 'friendship and esteem,'
but, as he is careful to add, 'ne'er admitted love a guest;' the same
cold gift was offered to Vanessa, but in vain. According to a report,
the authority of which is doubtful, Miss Vanhomrigh wrote to Stella, in
1723, asking if she was Swift's wife. She replied that she was, and sent
the letter she had received to Swift. In a towering passion he rode to
Vanessa's house, threw the letter on the table, and left again without
saying a word. The blow was fatal, and Vanessa died soon afterwards,
revoking her will in Swift's favour and leaving to him the legacy of
remorse. Having told in outline this episode in Swift's story, I return
to the _Journal to Stella_, which dates from September 2nd, 1710, to
June 6th, 1713.

Little did Swift imagine that the chit-chat he was writing every day for
Esther Johnson's sake would be read and enjoyed by thousands who care
little or nothing for the party questions upon which the strenuous
efforts of his intellect were expended. The early years of the
eighteenth century contain nothing more delightful than this _Journal_.
Its gossip, its nonsense, its freshness and ease of style, the
tenderness concealed, or half-revealed, in its 'little language,' and
the illustrations it supplies incidentally of the manners of the court
and town, these are some of the charms that make us turn again and again
to its pages with ever-increasing pleasure. We enjoy Swift's egotism and
trivialities, as we enjoy the egotism of Pepys or Montaigne, and can
imagine the eagerness with which the _Letters_ were read by the lovely
woman whose destiny it was to receive everything from Swift save the
love which has its consummation in marriage. The style of the _Journal_
is not that of an author composing, but of a companion talking; and it
is all the more interesting since it reveals Swift's character under a
pleasanter aspect than any of his formal writings. We see in it what a
warm heart he had for the friends whom he had once learnt to love, and
with what zeal he exerted himself in assisting brother-authors, while
receiving little beyond empty praise from ministers himself.

In the winter of 1713-14 Swift joined the Scriblerus Club, an
association of such wits as Pope, Parnell, Arbuthnot, and Gay, and it
was about this time that his friendship with Pope began. The members
proposed writing a satire between them, and when Swift was exiled to
Dublin as Dean of St. Patrick's, he pursued indirectly the suggestion of
the Scriblerus wits by writing _Gulliver's Travels_ (1726), a book that
has made his name known throughout Europe, and in all the lands where
English literature is read. Although Swift did not hesitate to make use
of hints and descriptions which he had met with in the course of his
reading, this is one of the most original works of fiction ever written,
and one of the wittiest. Yet like almost everything that Swift wrote, it
is deformed by grossness of expression, and in the latter portion by a
malignant contempt for human nature which betrays a diseased
imagination. The stories of the Lilliputians and Brobdingnags, purified
from coarse allusions, are the delight of children; but the description
of the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos excites disgust and indignation. He said
that his object in writing the satire was to vex the world, and he has

'It cannot be denied,' says Sir Walter Scott, one of the sanest and
healthiest of imaginative writers, 'that even a moral purpose will not
justify the nakedness with which Swift has sketched this horrible
outline of mankind degraded to a bestial state; since a moralist ought
to hold with the Romans that crimes of atrocity should be exposed when
punished, but those of flagitious impurity concealed. In point of
probability, too--for there are degrees of probability, proper even to
the wildest fiction--the fourth part of _Gulliver_ is inferior to the
three others.... The mind rejects, as utterly impossible, the
supposition of a nation of horses, placed in houses which they could not
build, fed with corn which they could neither sow, reap, nor save,
possessing cows which they could not milk, depositing that milk in
vessels which they could not make, and, in short, performing a hundred
purposes of rational and social life for which their external structure
altogether unfits them.'[46]

Neither morality, nor a regard for probability are so outraged in the
story of the Lilliputians and Brobdingnags.

Having once accepted Swift's assumption of the existence of little
people not six inches high, and of a country in which the inhabitants
'appeared as tall as an ordinary spire-steeple,' the exactness and
verisimilitude of the narrative, with its minute geographical details,
make it appear so reasonable that a young reader may feel inclined to
resent the criticism of an Irish bishop who said that 'the book was full
of improbable lies, and for his part he hardly believed a word of it.'
It is curious to note that Swift, who made a strange vow in early life
'not to be fond of children, or let them come near me hardly,' should
have done more to delight them than any author of his century, with the
exception, perhaps, of Defoe. Gay and Pope wrote a joint letter to Swift
on the appearance of the _Travels_, pretending that they did not know
the author, and advising him to get the book if it had not yet reached
Ireland. 'From the highest to the lowest,' they declare, 'it is
universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery.... It has
passed Lords and Commons _nemine contradicente_, and the whole town,
men, women, and children, are quite full of it.' A book which attained
in the author's lifetime a wellnigh unprecedented popularity should
have yielded him a large profit. What it did yield we do not know, but
in a letter dated 1735, in which, perhaps, he alludes to the _Travels_,
Swift says, 'I never got a farthing for anything I writ, except once,
about eight years ago, and that by Mr. Pope's prudent management for

The injustice done to Ireland in the last century, as short-sighted as
it was cruel, is described at large in the second volume of Mr. Lecky's
_History_. Swift, who hated Ireland, felt a righteous indignation at the
misgovernment which threatened the country with ruin, and some of his
most powerful phillipics were secretly written in her defence.

In 1720 he issued a pamphlet urging the Irish to use only Irish
manufactures: 'I heard the late Archbishop of Tuam,' he writes, 'mention
a pleasant observation of somebody's, that Ireland would never be happy
till a law were made for burning everything that came from England,
except their people and their coals. I must confess, that as to the
former, I should not be sorry if they would stay at home; and for the
latter, I hope, in a little time we shall have no occasion for them

    "Non tanti mitra est, non tanti judicis ostrum--"

but I should rejoice to see a staylace from England be thought
scandalous, and become a topic for censure at visits and tea-tables.'

The pamphlet is a forcible attack on the oppression under which Ireland
laboured, and the Government answered it by prosecuting the printer.
Nine times the jury were sent back by the Chief Justice before they
consented to bring in a 'special verdict,' and ultimately the
prosecution was dropped.

Two years later the English Government granted a patent to a man of the
name of Wood to issue a new copper coinage for Ireland to an
extravagant amount, out of which, in return for bribes to the Duchess of
Kendal, it was supposed that the speculator would make a considerable
profit at Ireland's expense. The country was aroused, and Swift, by the
issue of the _Drapier's Letters_, purporting to come from a Dublin
draper, roused the passions of the people to a white heat. It was known
perfectly well from whom the _Letters_ came, but no one would betray
Swift, and when the printer was thrown into prison the jury refused to
convict. The battle was fought with vigour, Swift conquered, and the
patent was withdrawn. A brief passage from the fourth and final letter
'To the Whole People of Ireland' shall be quoted. It will be seen that
the writer is not afraid of plain speaking. After saying that the king
cannot compel the subject to take any money except it be sterling gold
or silver, he adds:

    'Now here you may see that the vile accusation of Wood and his
    accomplices, charging us with disputing the King's prerogative
    by refusing his brass, can have no place--because compelling the
    subject to take any coin which is not sterling is no part of the
    King's prerogative, and I am very confident, if it were so, we
    should be the last of his people to dispute it, as well from
    that inviolable loyalty we have always paid to his Majesty, as
    from the treatment we might in such a case justly expect from
    some, who seem to think we have neither common sense nor common
    senses. But, God be thanked, the best of them are only our
    fellow-subjects, and not our masters. One great merit I am sure
    we have which those of English birth can have no pretence
    to--that our ancestors reduced this kingdom to the obedience of
    England; for which we have been rewarded with a worse
    climate--the privilege of being governed by laws to which we do
    not consent--a ruined trade--a House of Peers without
    jurisdiction--almost an incapacity for all employments--and the
    dread of Wood's halfpence. But we are so far from disputing the
    king's prerogative in coining, that we own he has power to give
    a patent to any man for setting his royal image and
    superscription upon whatever materials he pleases, and liberty
    to the patentee to offer them in any country from England to
    Japan; only attended with one small limitation--that nobody
    alive is obliged to take them.'

With much humour, in the last paragraph of the letter, Swift undertakes
to show that Walpole is against Wood's project 'by this one invincible
argument, that he has the universal opinion of being a wise man, an able
minister, and in all his proceedings pursuing the true interest of the
King his master; and that as his integrity is above all corruption, so
is his fortune above all temptation.'

Swift's arguments in the _Drapier's Letters_ are sophistical, his
statements grossly exaggerated, and his advice sometimes shameless, as,
for instance, in recommending what is now but too well known as
'boycotting.' The end, however, was gained, and the Dean was treated
with the honours of a conqueror. On his return from England in 1726, a
guard of honour conducted him through the streets, and the city bells
sounded a joyful peal. Wherever he went he was received with something
like royal honours, and when Walpole talked of arresting him, he was
told that 10,000 soldiers would be needed to make the attempt
successful. The Dean's hatred of oppression and injustice had its
limits. He defended the Test Act, and assailed all dissenters with
ungovernable fury. It was his aim to exclude them from every kind of

In 1729, with a passion outwardly calm and in a moderate style, which
makes his amazing satire the more appalling, Swift published _A Modest
Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from
being a Burden to their Parents or Country and for making them
Beneficial to the Public_. A more hideous piece of irony was never
written; it is the fruit of an indignation that tore his heart. The
_Proposal_ is, that considering the great misery of Ireland, young
children should be used for food. 'I grant,' he says,'this food will be
somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they
have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title
to the children. 'A very worthy person, he says, considers that young
lads and maidens over twelve would supply the want of venison, but 'it
is not improbable that some scrupulous people might be apt to censure
such a practice (although, indeed, very unjustly), as a little bordering
upon cruelty; which I confess has always been with me the strongest
objection against any project, how well soever intended.' The
business-like way in which the argument is conducted throughout, adds
greatly to its force. Swift has written nothing so terrible as this
satire, and nothing that surpasses it in power.

The Dean was fretting away his life when he wrote this pamphlet. Two
years before he had paid his last visit to the country where, as he said
in a letter to Gay, he had made his friendships and left his desires. On
the death of George I. he visited England, vainly hoping to gain some
preferment there through the aid of Mrs. Howard, the mistress of George
II., and returned to 'wretched Dublin,' to lose the woman he had loved
so well and treated so strangely, and to 'die in a rage like a poisoned
rat in a hole.' After Stella's death, in 1728, Swift's burden of
misanthropy was never destined to be lightened. His rage and gloom
increased as the years moved on, and in penning his lines of savage
invective against the Irish House of Commons, the Dean had a fit and
wrote no more verse. Here is a specimen of his _sæva indignatio_:

    'Could I from the building's top
    Hear the rattling thunder drop,
    While the devil upon the roof
    (If the devil be thunder-proof)
    Should with poker fiery red
    Crack the stones and melt the lead;
    Drive them down on every skull,
    While the den of thieves is full;
    Quite destroy that harpies' nest,
    How might then our isle be blest!'

It should be observed at the same time that even in his declining days,
when his heart was heavy with bitterness, Swift indulged in practical
jokes and in the most trivial pursuits. _Vive la bagatelle_ was his cry,
but it was the cry of a man who had as deep a contempt for the wiser
pursuits of life as for its frivolities. Of the mirth that is the
natural outcome of a cheerful nature, the Dean knew nothing. His
hilarity was but a vain attempt to escape from despair. In 1740 he
writes of being very miserable, extremely deaf, and full of pain.
Sometimes he gave way to furious bursts of temper, and for several years
before the end came, he fell into a state resembling idiocy. Swift died
on October 19th, 1745, leaving his money to a hospital for lunatics,

    'And showed by one satiric touch
    No nation needed it so much.'

A brilliant writer, who has undertaken to prove the 'glaring injustice'
of the popular estimate of Swift, and by his forcible epithets has
strengthened the grounds on which that estimate is built, observes that
Swift's 'philosophy of life is ignoble, base, and false,' that 'his
impious mockery extends even to the Deity,' and that 'a large portion of
his works exhibit, and in intense activity, all the worst attributes of
our nature--revenge, spite, malignity, uncleanness.'[47]

This harsh judgment is essentially a true one; but Swift's was a
many-sided character. He was a misanthrope, with deep, though very
limited affections, a man frugal to eccentricity, with a benevolence at
once active and extensive. His powerful intellect compels our
admiration, if not our sympathy. His irony, his genius for satire and
humour, his argumentative skill, his language, which is never wanting in
strength, and is as clear as the most pellucid of mountain
streams--these gifts are of so rare an order, that Swift's place in the
literary history of his age must be always one of high eminence.
Doubtless, as a master of style, he has been sometimes over-praised. If
we regard the writer's end, it must be admitted that his language is
admirably fitted for that end. What more then, it may be asked, can be
needed? The reply is, that in composition, as in other things, there are
different orders of excellence. The kind, although perfect, may be a low
kind, and Swift's style wants the 'sweetness and light,' to quote a
phrase of his own, which distinguish our greatest prose writers. It
lacks also the elevation which inspires, and the persuasiveness that
convinces while it charms. With infinitely more vigour than Addison,
Swift, apart from his _Letters_, has none of Addison's attractiveness.
No style, perhaps, is better fitted to exhibit scorn and contempt; but
its author cannot express, because he does not possess, the sense of

Unlike Pope, Swift was a man of affairs rather than of letters. He wrote
neither for literary fame nor for money. His ambition was to be a ruler
of men, and in imperious will he was strong enough to make a second
Strafford. 'When people ask me,' said Lord Carteret, 'how I governed
Ireland, I say that I pleased Dr. Swift, "_quæsitam meritis sume
superbiam_."' As a political pamphleteer he succeeded, because he was
savagely in earnest, and had the special genius of a combatant. If
argument was against him he used satire; if satire failed he tried
invective; his armoury was full of weapons, and there was not one of
them he could not wield. He loved power, and exercised it on the
ministers who needed the services of his pen. And, as we have already
said, he dispensed his favours like a king! Swift's commanding genius
gives even to his most trivial productions a measure of vitality. The
student of our eighteenth century literature is arrested by the man and
his works, and to treat either him or them with indifference would be to
neglect a significant chapter in the history of the time.

[Sidenote: John Arbuthnot (1667-1735).]

John Arbuthnot, one of the most prominent of the Queen Anne wits, and
the warm friend of Swift and Pope, was born at Arbuthnot, near Montrose,
in 1667. He studied medicine at Aberdeen, and having taken his doctor's
degree at St. Andrews, came, after the wont of ambitious Scotchmen, to
seek his fortune in London, where in 1700 he published an _Essay on the
Usefulness of Mathematical Learning_, and having won high reputation as
a man of science, was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. A few years
later he was made Physician Extraordinary to Queen Anne; and it was not
long before he had as high a repute among men of letters as with men of
science. He suffered frequently from illness; but no pain, it has been
said, could extinguish his gaiety of mind. In the last century Hampstead
was a favourite resort of invalids. Arbuthnot had sent Gay there on one
occasion, and thither in 1734 he went himself, so ill that he 'could
neither sleep, breathe, eat, nor move.' Contrary to his expectation he
regained a little strength, and lived until the following spring. 'Pope
and I were with him,' Lord Chesterfield wrote, 'the evening before he
died, when he suffered racking pains.... He took leave of us with
tenderness, without weakness, and told us that he died not only with the
comfort, but even the devout assurance of a Christian.'

There is not one of Pope's circle who holds a more enviable position
than Arbuthnot. In strength of intellect and readiness of wit Swift only
was his equal, and in classical learning he was Swift's superior. Like
Othello, Arbuthnot was of a free and open nature, and his friends clung
to him with an affection that was almost womanly. He had the fine
impulses of Goldsmith combined with the manliness and practical sagacity
of Dr. Johnson, and Johnson recognized in this celebrated physician a
kindred spirit. 'I think Dr. Arbuthnot,' he said, 'the first man among
the wits of the age. He was the most universal genius, being an
excellent physician, a man of deep learning, and a man of much humour.'
His genius and generous qualities were amply acknowledged by his
contemporaries, Pope calls Arbuthnot 'as good a doctor as any man for
one that is ill, and a better doctor for one that is well;' Swift said
he had every virtue which could make a man amiable; Berkeley wrote of
him as a great philosopher who was reckoned the first mathematician of
the age and had the character 'of uncommon virtue and probity,' and
Chesterfield, who declared that his knowledge and 'almost inexhaustible
imagination' were at every one's service, added that 'charity,
benevolence, and a love of mankind appeared unaffectedly in all he said
and did.'

Strange to say we know little of Arbuthnot but what is to be gleaned
from the correspondence of his friends, and it is only of late years
that an attempt has been made to write the doctor's biography, and to
collect his works.[48] To edit these works satisfactorily is a difficult
and a doubtful task--several of Arbuthnot's writings having been
produced in connection with Swift, Pope, and Gay. So indifferent was he
to literary fame, that his children are said to have made kites of
papers in which he had jotted down hints that would have furnished good
matter for folios. His most famous work is _The History of John Bull_
(1713), which Macaulay considered the most humorous political satire in
the language. It was designed to help the Tory party at the expense of
the Duke of Marlborough, whose genius as a military leader was probably
equal to that of Wellington, while he fell far below the 'Great Duke' in
the virtues which form a noble character. The irony and dry humour of
the satire remind one of Swift, and, like Arbuthnot's _Art of Political
Lying_, is so much in Swift's vein throughout that M. Taine may be
excused for attributing both of these pieces to the Dean of St.

The _History of John Bull_ is not fitted to attain lasting popularity.
It will be read from curiosity and for information; but the keen
excitement, the amusement, and the irritation caused by a brilliant
satire of living men and passing events can be but vaguely imagined by
readers whose interest in the statecraft of the age is historical and
not personal. Arbuthnot, like Swift, belonged to the Tory camp, and both
did their utmost to depreciate the great General who never knew defeat,
and to promote the designs of Harley. When Arbuthnot produced his
satire, all the town laughed at the representation of Marlborough as an
old smooth-tongued attorney who loved money, and was said by his
neighbours to be hen-pecked, 'which was impossible by such a
mild-spirited woman as his wife was.' That an 'honest plain-dealing
fellow' like John Bull the Clothier, should be deceived by such wily men
of business as Lewis Baboon of France, and Lord Strutt of Spain, and
also that other tradesmen should be willing to join John and Nic Frog,
the linen-draper of Holland, in the lawsuit, provided that Bull and
Frog, or Bull alone, would bear the law charges, is made to appear
likely enough; and Scott says truly that 'it was scarce possible so
effectually to dim the lustre of Marlborough's splendid achievements as
by parodying them under the history of a suit conducted by a wily
attorney who made every advantage gained over the defendant a reason for
protracting law procedure, and enhancing the expense of his client.' In
this long lawsuit everybody is represented as gaining something except
_John Bull_, whose ready money, book debts, bonds, and mortgages go into
the lawyer's pockets. Whether the nickname of _John Bull_ originated
with Arbuthnot or was merely adopted by him is not known.

Arbuthnot was an active member of the Scriblerus Club, and wrote the
larger portion of the _Memoirs of Martin Scriblerus_ (1741), the design
of which was, as Pope said, to ridicule false tastes in learning, in the
character of a man 'that had dipped into every art and science, but
injudiciously in each.' Dr. Johnson says of this work that no man can be
wiser, better, or merrier for remembering it. Perhaps he is right; but
the _Memoirs_ contain some humorous points which, if they do not create
merriment, may yield some slight amusement. The pedant's endeavours to
make a philosopher of his child are sufficiently ludicrous. He is
delighted to find that the infant has the wart of Cicero and the very
neck of Alexander, and hopes that he may come to stammer like
Demosthenes, 'and in time arrive at many other defects of famous men.'
As the boy grows up his father invents for him a geographical suit of
clothes, and stamps his gingerbread with the letters of the Greek
alphabet, which proved so successful a mode of teaching the language,
that on the very first day the child 'ate as far as iota.' He also
taught him as a diversion 'an odd and secret manner of stealing,
according to the custom of the Lacedemonians, wherein he succeeded so
well that he practised it till the day of his death.' Martin studies
logic, philosophy, and medicine, and discovers that the seat of the soul
is not confined to one place in all persons, but resides in the stomach
of epicures, in the brain of philosophers, in the fingers of fiddlers,
and in the toes of rope-dancers. His discoveries, it may be added, are
made 'without the trivial help of experiments or observations.'


[43] _Life of Jonathan Swift_, by John Forster, vol. i., pp. 164-174.
Mr. Forster did not live to produce more than one volume of a work to
which for many years he had given 'much labour and time.'

[44] _English Men of Letters--Jonathan Swift_, by Leslie Stephen, p. 43.

[45] Mrs. Pendarves writes (1733) 'The day before we came out of town we
dined at Doctor Delany's, and met the usual company. The Dean of St.
Patrick's was there _in very good humour_, he calls himself "_my
master_," and corrects me when I speak bad English or do not pronounce
my words distinctly. I wish he lived in England, I should not only have
a great deal of entertainment from him, but improvement.'--_Life and
Correspondence of Mrs Delany_, vol. i., p. 407.

[46] _Life of Swift_, p. 299.

[47] _Jonathan Swift, a Biographical and Critical Study_, by J. Churton
Collins, p. 267.

[48] See _The Life and Works of Dr. Arbuthnot_, by George A. Aitken.
Oxford, Clarendon Press.



[Sidenote: Daniel Defoe (1661-1731).]

The most voluminous writer of his century is popularly remembered as the
author of one book, published in old age. Everybody has read _Robinson
Crusoe_, and knows the name of its author; but few readers outside the
narrow circle of literary students are aware of Defoe's exhaustless
labours as a politician, social reformer, projector, pamphleteer, and

It would be well for the author's reputation if we knew less about him
than we do. There was a time when he was regarded as a noble sufferer in
the cause of civil and religious liberty. His faults were credited to
his age while his virtues were supposed to place him on an eminence far
above the time-servers who despised him. He has been praised as a man
courageously living for great aims, who was maligned by the malice of
party, and to whose memory scant justice has been done. 'No one,' says
Henry Kingsley, 'could come up to the standard of his absolute
precision,' and his 'inexorable honesty alienated everyone.' These words
were written in 1868. Four years previously, however, the discovery of
six letters in the State Paper Office, in Defoe's own hand, had entirely
destroyed his character for inexorable honesty, and the researches of
his latest and most exhaustive biographer,[49] who regards his hero's
vices as virtues, do but serve to give greater prominence to the
baseness of his conduct. Defoe, by his own confession, was for many
years in the pay of the Government for secret services, taking shares in
Tory papers and supervising them as editor, in order to defeat the aims
of the party to which he professed to be allied, and of the proprietors
with whom he was in partnership. Thus in 1718, he writes as a plea that
his labours should be remembered: 'I am, Sir, for this service, posted
among Papists, Jacobites, and enraged High Tories--a generation who I
profess my very soul abhors; I am obliged to hear traitorous expressions
and outrageous words against his majesty's person and government, and
his most faithful servants, and smile at it all as if I approved it; I
am obliged to take all the scandalous and indeed villainous papers that
come, and keep them by me as if I would gather materials from them to
put them into the _News_; nay, I often venture to let things pass which
are a little shocking that I may not render myself suspected. Thus I bow
in the House of _Rimmon_, and must humbly recommend myself to his
lordship's protection, or I may be undone the sooner, by how much the
more faithfully I execute the commands I am under.' It would not be fair
to judge Defoe altogether by the moral standard of our own day, but the
part he played as a servant and spy of the government would have been an
act of baseness in any age, and of this he seems to have been conscious.

Daniel Foe, who about 1703 assumed the prefix of De, for no assignable
reason, was the son of a butcher and Nonconformist in Cripplegate, who
had the youth educated for the ministry. Daniel, however, preferred a
more exciting occupation, and took part in the unfortunate expedition of
the Duke of Monmouth. Escaping from that peril he began business as a
hose factor in Cornhill, and carried it on until he failed about the
year 1692. Already he had learnt to use the pen, and a loyal pamphlet
secured for him a public appointment which lasted for some years. He was
also connected with a brick manufactory at Tilbury. Meanwhile he wrote
for the press, and showed himself the possessor of a clear and masculine
style, which could be 'understanded of the people.'

In 1698 Defoe published his _Essay on Projects_, 'which perhaps,'
Benjamin Franklin says, 'gave me a turn of thinking that had an
influence on some of the principal future events of my life.'

One of the most interesting projects in the book is the proposal to form
an Academy on the French model. In 1712 Swift wrote a pamphlet (the only
piece he published with his name) entitled _A proposal for correcting,
improving, and ascertaining the English tongue_, in which he suggests
the foundation of an Academy under the protection of the Queen and her
ministers. The idea it will be seen had been anticipated fifteen years

    'The peculiar study of the Academy of France,' Defoe writes,
    'has been to refine and correct their own language, which they
    have done to that happy degree that we see it now spoken in all
    the courts of Christendom as the language allowed to be most
    universal. I had the honour once to be a member of a small
    society who seemed to offer at this noble design in England; but
    the greatness of the work and the modesty of the gentlemen
    concerned prevailed with them to desist from an enterprise which
    appeared too great for private hands to undertake. We want
    indeed a Richelieu to commence such a work, for I am persuaded
    were there such a genius in our kingdom to lead the way, there
    would not want capacities who could carry on the work to a
    glory equal to all that has gone before them. The English tongue
    is a subject not at all less worthy the labours of such a
    society than the French, and capable of a much greater
    perfection. The learned among the French will own that the
    comprehensiveness of expression is a glory in which the English
    tongue not only equals, but excels its neighbours.... It is a
    great pity that a subject so noble should not have some as noble
    to attempt it; and for a method what greater can be set before
    us than the Academy of Paris, which, to give the French their
    due, stands foremost among all the great attempts in the learned
    part of the world.'

Defoe also projected a Royal Military Academy, and an academy for women
which should have only one entrance and a large moat round it. With
these precautions, spies, he observes, would be unnecessary, since, in
his opinion, 'there needs no other care to prevent intriguing than to
keep the men effectually away.' He had the Eastern notion of guarding
women from danger by preventing the access to it, yet he could write:

    'A woman of sense and manners is the finest and most delicate
    part of God's creation; the glory of her Maker, and the great
    instance of His singular regard to man, His darling creature, to
    whom He gave the best gift either God could bestow or man
    receive. And it is the sordidest piece of folly and ingratitude
    in the world to withhold from the sex the due lustre which the
    advantages of education gives to the natural beauty of their
    minds. A woman well bred and well taught, furnished with the
    additional accomplishments of knowledge and behaviour, is a
    creature without comparison; her society is the emblem of
    sublime enjoyments; her person is angelic and her conversation
    heavenly.... She is every way suitable to the sublimest wish,
    and the man that has such a one to his portion has nothing to do
    but to rejoice in her and be thankful.'

In verse Defoe published the _True Born Englishman_ (1701), in defence
of King William and his Dutch followers:

    'William's the name that's spoke by every tongue,
    William's the darling subject of my song;
    Listen, ye virgins, to the charming sound,
    And in eternal dances hand it round.
    Your early offerings to this altar bring,
    Make him at once a lover and a king.'

The nonsense deepens as the rhyme goes on. For William every tender vow
is to be made, he is to be the first thought in the morning, and his
name will act as a charm, affrighting the infernal powers and guarding
from the terror of the night.

The poem proved very popular, and Defoe writes that had he been able to
enjoy the profit of his own labour he would have gained above £1,000. He
printed nine editions at the price of one shilling a copy, but meanwhile
twelve surreptitious editions were published and sold for a few pence, a
fraud for which he says he had no remedy but patience. Throughout his
busy life of authorship he was indeed continually victimized by pirates.

While in verse Defoe extolled the king as if he were a demi-god, he did
William good service by his pamphlets, and was in some degree admitted
into his confidence.

Up to the king's death in 1702 his course appears to have been
straightforward; after the accession of Anne he acted a less honourable
part. No fault can be found with his design that year in writing _The
Shortest Way with the Dissenters_, a piece of irony unsurpassed in that
age until the publication of Swift's _Modest Proposal_, twenty-seven
years later. The satire was at first accepted as a serious argument. The
Dissenters were alarmed, and the most bigoted of High Churchmen
delighted. Then, Defoe's aim being discovered, both parties joined in
the cry for vengeance. He was condemned to stand for three days in the
pillory, and was afterwards imprisoned in Newgate. To the 'hieroglyphic
state machine, contrived to punish Fancy in,' the undaunted man
addressed a hymn which was hawked about the streets, and the mob instead
of pelting him with offensive missiles, covered him with flowers.
'Earless on high stood unabashed Defoe,' says Pope. He was unabashed,
but he was not earless.

In Newgate he remained until 1704, when he was released by Harley. In
prison he wrote a minutely circumstantial account of the great storm
commemorated in Addison's _Campaign_. How much of Defoe's narrative is
truth and how much invention it is impossible to say. The fact that he
solemnly vouches for the accuracy of his statements inclines one to
believe that they are not to be trusted, for this was always Defoe's
_rôle_ as a writer of fiction. His first and most deliberate effort is
to impose upon his readers, and in this art he is without a rival.

While in Newgate he began his _Review_, a political journal of great
ability. The first number was published in February, 1704, and it
existed, though not in its original form, for more than nine years.

'When it is remembered that no other pen was ever employed than that of
Defoe, upon a work appearing at such frequent intervals, extending over
more than nine years, and embracing, in more than five thousand printed
pages, essays on almost every branch of human knowledge, the achievement
must be pronounced a great one, even if he had written nothing else. If
we add that between the dates of the first and last numbers of the
_Review_ he wrote and published no less than eighty other distinct
works, containing 4,727 pages, and perhaps more not now known, the
fertility of his genius must appear as astonishing as the greatness of
his capacity for labour.'[50]

Defoe was permitted to leave his prison upon condition that he should
act in the secret service of the Government, and his work was that of an
hireling writer unburdened by principle. When Harley was ejected he made
himself useful to Godolphin; when Godolphin was dismissed he went back
to Harley, and 'the spirit of the _Review_ changed abruptly.' A more
useful man for the work he had undertaken could not be found. His
dexterity, his boldness, his knowledge of men and of affairs, his
readiness as a writer, and it must be added his unscrupulousness, fitted
him admirably for services which had to be done in secret.

Much that he did openly was deserving of high praise. He was tolerant in
an intolerant age, he did his best to forward the Union of England and
Scotland, his patriotic spirit was not feigned, his words are often
weighty with wisdom, and it has been truly said, that 'his powerful
advocacy was enlisted in favour of almost every practicable scheme of
social improvement that came to the front in his time.'[51]

With equal truth the writer adds that Defoe was 'a wonderful mixture of
knave and patriot.' The knavery is seen to some extent in his method of
workmanship as a man of letters. In _A True Relation of the Apparition
of one Mrs. Veal[52] the next day after her Death to one Mrs. Bargrave
at Canterbury, 8th September, 1705_ (1706) Defoe's art of mystification
is skilfully practised.

'This relation,' he says in the Preface, 'is matter of fact, and
attended with such circumstances as may induce any reasonable man to
believe it. It was sent by a gentleman, a Justice of Peace at Maidstone,
in Kent, and a very intelligent person, to his friend in London as it is
here worded; which discourse is here attested by a very sober and
understanding gentleman, who had it from his kinswoman who lives in
Canterbury, within a few doors of the house in which the within-named
Mrs. Bargrave lives ... and who positively assured him that the whole
matter as it is related and laid down is really true, and what she
herself had in the same words, as near as may be, from Mrs. Bargrave's
own mouth.'

In addition to this circumstantial statement, the veritable appearance
of the ghostly lady is confirmed by the fact that she wore a scoured
silk gown, newly made up, which, as Mrs. Bargrave told a friend, she
felt and commended. 'Then Mrs. Watson cried out, "you have seen her
indeed, for none knew but Mrs. Veal and myself that the gown was
scoured."' The ghost came chiefly for the purpose of recommending
Drelincourt's volume, _A Christian's Defence Against the Fear of Death_,
then in its third edition. The fourth edition contained Mrs. Bargrave's
story. 'I am unable to say,' Mr. Lee writes, 'when Defoe's "Apparition"
became a necessary appendage to the book; but think, that since the
eleventh edition, to the present time, Drelincourt has never been
published without it.'

When in 1719, at the age of fifty-nine, he produced his first and
greatest work of fiction, _Robinson Crusoe_, he aimed by the constant
reiteration of commonplace details to give a matter-of-fact aspect to
the narrative, and in most of his later novels, with the exception of
_Colonel Jack_ (1722), which he allows to be in part a 'moral romance,'
Defoe boldly maintains that his relations are in every respect true to
biography and to history. To make this more probable he overloads his
pages with a number of business-like statements, and with affairs so
insignificant and sordid that only his genius can save the narrative
from being wearisome. To inculcate morality he carries his readers into
the worst dens of vice--his heroes being pickpockets, pirates, and
convicts, and his heroines depraved women of the lowest order. The
interest felt in _Captain Singleton_ (1720), in _Moll Flanders_ (1722),
in _Colonel Jack_ (1722), and in _Roxana_ (1724), is to be found in the
minute record of their shameless adventures, their miseries and vices.
When the characters reform, Defoe's occupation is gone. The atmosphere
the reader is forced to breathe in these tales is indeed so oppressive
that he will be glad to escape from it into the pure and exhilarating
air of a Shakespeare or a Scott.

A critic has asserted that as models of fictitious narrative these tales
are supreme, but it is impossible to agree with this judgment. The
highest imaginative art is not deceptive art. The fact that Lord Chatham
thought the _Memoirs of a Cavalier_[53] (1720) a true history, is not to
the credit of the work as fiction. As well, it has been said, might you
claim the highest genius for the painter, whose fruit and flowers were
so deceptively painted as to tempt birds to peck at the canvas.

Whatever interest the reader feels in Defoe's 'secondary novels,' of
which _Roxana_ is the most powerful, is due to scenes which disgust as
much as they impress. The vividness with which they are depicted is
undeniable, but one does not desire to inspect filth with a microscope.
Happily _Robinson Crusoe_, on which the author's fame rests, is a
thoroughly healthy book that still holds its place as the best, or one
of the best, volumes ever written for boys. There is genius as well as
extraordinary skill in the way this admirable story is told, but it is
not among the fictions which are read with as much pleasure in old age
as in youth. Defoe's amazing gift of invention does not compensate for
the want of a creative and elevating imagination.

_The History of the Plague in London_ (1722) stands next to _Robinson
Crusoe_ in literary merit. Had Defoe been a witness, as he pretends to
have been, of the scenes which he describes, the record could not be
more vivid. It professes to have been 'written by a citizen who
continued all the while in London,' and 'lived without Aldgate Church
and Whitechapel Bars, on the left hand or north side of the street.' In
this case, as in others, the circumstantial character of the narrative
led readers to regard it as a true history, and Dr. Mead, in his
_Discourse on the Plague_ (1744), quotes the book as an authority.

Highly characteristic of Defoe's style, and of his art as a moralist is
the _Religious Courtship_, also published in 1722. It is the fictitious
history of a family told partly in dialogue, and so written as to
attract the reader in spite of repetitions and of reflections as
praiseworthy as they are commonplace. It appeals to a class whose
attention would not be won by fine literature, and has not appealed in
vain, for the book, after passing through a large number of editions,
has not yet lost its popularity. Morally the work is unobjectionable,
though not a little narrow, and it is strange that it should have
appeared about the same time as a story so offensively coarse as _Moll

The most veracious book written by Defoe is _A Tour through the Whole
Island of Great Britain, By a Gentleman_, 1724, in three volumes. The
full title of the work is too long to quote, but it may be observed that
the promises it holds out under five headings are satisfactorily
fulfilled. The _Tour_ bears the marks of having been written with great
care and from personal observation throughout. Defoe states that before
publishing the book he had made seventeen large circuits or separate
journeys, and three general tours through the whole island. It contains
curious information as to the state of England and Scotland one hundred
and seventy years ago, and readers interested in our social progress and
the industrial life of the country will find much to interest them in
the traveller's shrewd observations and careful details. The love of
mountain and lake scenery felt by Gray more than forty years later was a
passion unknown to Defoe and to most of his contemporaries. In the
_Tour_ Westmoreland is described as the wildest, most barbarous and
frightful country of any which the author had passed over. He observes
that it is 'of no advantage to represent horror,' and the impassable
hills with their snow-covered tops 'seemed,' he says, 'to tell us all
the pleasant part of England was at an end.' The _Tour_ exhibits Defoe's
literary gift of expressing what he has to say in the clearest language.
A homely style which fulfils its purpose has a merit deserving of
recognition. For steady work upon the road the sober hackney is of more
service than the race-horse.

Defoe was a husband and father and a man of affairs, yet, like his own
Crusoe, he lived a lonely life, and in 1731, owing to some strange
circumstance of which there is no record, died a lonely death at a
lodging-house at Moorfields. He has been called the father of the
English novel, and deserves the title, although on a slighter scale
Steele and Addison preceded him as writers of fiction. As a novelist he
is without refinement, without ideality, without passion; he looks at
life from a low level, but in the narrow territory of which he is
master--the art of realistic invention--his power of insight is
incontestible. Defoe adopted a method dear in our day to some of the
least worthy of French novelists, who while aiming to copy Nature debase
her. For Nature must be interpreted by Art, since only thus can we
obtain a likeness that shall be both beautiful and true. Defoe,
nevertheless, has contributed one book of lasting value to the
literature of his country, and such a gift, in the eyes of the literary
chronicler, hides a multitude of faults.

[Sidenote: John Dennis (1657-1733-4).]

John Dennis was born in London and educated at Harrow and Caius College,
Cambridge. His relations with Pope give him a more prominent position
among men of letters than he would otherwise deserve, and mark with
unpleasing distinctness the coarse methods of literary warfare adopted
in Pope's day. The poet began the attack in his _Essay on Criticism_.
Dennis had written a tragedy called _Appius and Virginia_, and Pope, who
had a grudge against him for not admiring his _Pastorals_, showed his
spite in the following lines:

    'But Appius reddens at each word you speak,
    And stares tremendous, with a threatening eye,
    Like some fierce tyrant in old tapestry.'

It was perilous in Pope to allude to the personal defects of an
antagonist, and Dennis attacked him coarsely in return as a 'young,
squab, short gentleman, an eternal writer of amorous pastoral madrigals,
and the very bow of the god of Love.' 'He has reason,' he adds, 'to
thank the good gods that he was born a modern; for had he been born of
Grecian parents, and his father by consequence had by law the absolute
disposal of him, his life had been no longer than one of his poems--the
life of half a day.'

Dennis's pamphlet on the _Essay_ caused Pope some pain when he heard of
it, 'But it was quite over,' he told Spence, 'as soon as I came to look
into his book and found he was in such a passion.'

The critic, however, was a thorn in Pope's flesh for many a year, and
the poet showed his irritation by assaulting him in prose and verse.
Dennis was equally ready, although not equally capable of returning the
poet's blows, and when free from the impotence of anger, made several
shrewd critical thrusts which his antagonist felt keenly.

Dennis aspired to be a poet and dramatist. He wrote a bombastic poem in
blank verse called _The Monument_, sacred to the immortal memory of 'the
good, the great, the god-like, William III.'; a poem, also in blank
verse, and still more 'tremendous,' to quote his favourite word, on the
_Battle of Blenheim_, in which he frequently invokes his soul to say and
sing a thousand things far beyond his soul's reach--and a poem equally
laboured and grandiloquent, on the Battle of Ramillies, in which there
are passages that read like a burlesque of Milton. Dennis observes in
his _Grounds of Criticism in Poetry_ (1704) that 'poetry unless it
pleases, nay, and pleases to a height, is the most contemptible thing in
the world.' This is just criticism, but the writer did not recognize
that his own verse was contemptible. In this essay, which contains many
sound critical remarks and an appreciation of Milton seldom felt at that
time, he has the bad taste to quote as an illustration of the sublime, a
passage from his own paraphrase of the Te Deum:

    'Where'er at utmost stretch we cast our eyes
    Through the vast frightful spaces of the skies,
    Ev'n there we find Thy glory, there we gaze
    On Thy bright Majesty's unbounded blaze;
    Ten thousand suns prodigious globes of light
    At once in broad dimensions strike our sight;
    Millions behind, in the remoter skies,
    Appear but spangles to our wearied eyes;
    And when our wearied eyes want farther strength
    To pierce the void's immeasurable length
    Our vigorous towering thoughts still further fly,
    And still remoter flaming worlds descry;
    But even an Angel's comprehensive thought
    Cannot extend so far as Thou hast wrought;
    Our vast conceptions are by swelling, brought,
    Swallowed and lost in Infinite, to nought.'

It is significant of Dennis's judgment of his own verse that these
inflated lines follow one of the loveliest passages contained in
_Paradise Lost_. Milton describes the moon unveiling her peerless light;
and the poet-critic exhibits in juxtaposition his 'vigorous towering
thoughts' about the stars. The comparison forced upon the reader is

His tragedies, _Iphigenia_ (1704), _Liberty Asserted_ (1704), _Appius
and Virginia_ (1709), and a comedy called _A Plot and No Plot_ (1697)
were brought upon the stage. _Liberty Asserted_, which was received with
applause due to the violence of its attacks upon the French, although
called a tragedy, does not end tragically. The heroine's patriotism is
so fervid that she professes herself willing, while loving one man, to
marry another whom she does not love, if her country deems him the more

Among other poetical attempts, Dennis addressed a Pindaric Ode to
Dryden, and the great poet, with the flattery which he was always ready
to lavish on his well-wishers, called him 'one of the greatest masters'
in that kind of verse. 'You have the sublimity of sense as well as
sound,' he wrote, 'and know how far the boldness of a poet may lawfully

It may be added that Dennis on one occasion successfully opposed one of
the ablest controversialists of the age. In _The Absolute Unlawfulness
of Stage Entertainments fully demonstrated_, William Law attacked
dramatic representations, not on account of the evils at that time
associated with them, but as 'in their own nature grossly sinful.' 'To
suppose an innocent play,' Law says, 'is like supposing innocent lust,
sober rant, or harmless profaneness,' and throughout the pamphlet this
strain of fierce hostility is maintained.

'Law,' says his biographer,'measured his strength with some of the very
ablest men of his day, with men like Hoadly and Warburton, and Tindal
and Wesley; and it may safely be said that he never came forth from the
contest defeated. But, absurd as it may sound, it is perfectly true that
what neither Hoadly nor Warburton, nor Tindal, nor Wesley could do, was
done by John Dennis.... "Plays," wrote Law, "are contrary to Scripture
as the devil is to God, as the worship of images is to the second
commandment." To this Dennis gave the obvious and unanswerable retort
that "when St. Paul was at Athens, the very source of dramatic poetry,
he said a great deal publicly against the idolatry of the Athenians, but
not one word against their stage. At Corinth he said as little against
theirs. He quoted on one occasion an Athenian dramatic poet, and on
others Aratus and Epimenides. He was educated in all the learning of the
Grecians, and could not but have read their dramatic poems; and yet, so
far from speaking a word against them, he makes use of them for the
instruction and conversion of mankind."'

Dennis's pamphlet, _The Stage defended from Scripture, Reason,
Experience, and the Common Sense of Mankind for Two Thousand Years_, was
published in 1726. In his latter days he suffered from two grievous
calamities, poverty and blindness. In 1733 Vanbrugh's play, _The
Provoked Husband_, was acted for his benefit, and his old enemy Pope
wrote the prologue, of which the sarcasm is more conspicuous than the
kindness. There is a story, to which allusion is made in the _Dunciad_,
that Dennis had invented some kind of theatrical thunder, and how, being
once present at a tragedy, he fell into a great passion because his art
had been appropriated, and cried out ''Sdeath! that is _my_ thunder.'
The critic was also known to have an intense hatred of the French and of
the Pope, and these peculiarities are not forgotten in the prologue.

After saying that Dennis lay pressed by want and weakness, his doubtful
friend adds:

    'How changed from him who made the boxes groan,
    And shook the stage with thunders all his own!
    Stood up to dash each vain Pretender's hope,
    Maul the French tyrant, or pull down the Pope!
    If there's a Briton then, true bred and born,
    Who holds Dragoons and wooden shoes in scorn;
    If there's a critic of distinguished rage;
    If there's a senior who contemns this age;
    Let him to-night his just assistance lend,
    And be the Critic's, Briton's, Old Man's friend.'

Dennis got £100 by this benefit, but had little time in which to spend
it, for he died about a fortnight afterwards at the age of
seventy-seven. Upon his death Aaron Hill wrote some memorial verses, in
which he prophesies that, while the critic's frailties will be no longer

    'The rising ages shall redeem his name,
    And nations read him into lasting fame.'

It will be seen that the poets did not all treat Dennis unkindly. If
praise were substantial food, he would have had enough to sustain him
from 'glorious John' alone.

[Sidenote: Colley Cibber (1671-1757).]

Colley Cibber holds a more prominent place than Dennis in the list of
men whom Pope selected for attack. He could not have chosen one more
impervious to assault. The poet's anger excited Cibber's mirth, his
satire contributed to his content. The comedian's unbounded
self-satisfaction and good humour, his vivacity and spirits, were proof
against Pope's malice. Graceless he may have been, but a dullard the
mercurial 'King Colley' was not.

Born in 1671, he disappointed the hopes of his father, the famous
sculptor, and at the age of eighteen made his first appearance on the
stage. As actor and as dramatist, the theatre throughout his life was
Cibber's all-absorbing interest. His first play, _Love's Last Shift_
(1696), kept possession of the stage for forty years, and his best play,
_The Careless Husband_ (1704), received a like welcome. As an actor he
was also successful, and played for £50 a night, the highest sum ever
given at that time to any English player. His career was as long as it
was prosperous. 'Old Cibber plays to-night,' Horace Walpole wrote in
1741, 'and all the world will be there.'

It was only as Poet Laureate, for he could not write poetry, that Cibber
displayed his inferiority. The honour was conferred in 1730, two years
after Gay had produced the _Beggar's Opera_, when Pope was in the height
of his fame, when Thomson had published his _Seasons_ and Young _The
Universal Passion_. Pope, as a Roman Catholic, was out of the running,
but there were poets living who would have saved the office from the
disgrace brought upon it by Cibber. 'As to Cibber,' Swift wrote to Pope,
'if I had any inclination to excuse the Court, I would allege that the
Laureate's place is entirely in the Lord Chamberlain's gift; but who
makes Lord Chamberlains is another question.' The sole result of the
appointment that deserves to be recorded is an epigram by Johnson, as
just as it is severe:

    'Augustus still survives in Maro's strain,
    And Spenser's verse prolongs Eliza's reign;
    Great George's acts let tuneful Cibber sing,
    For Nature formed the Poet for the King!'

Of poetry there is no trace in the five volumes of his dramatic works;
there are few touches of nature, and little genuine wit, but these
defects are to some extent supplied by sparkling dialogue and lively
badinage. Cibber is often sentimental, and when he is sentimental he is
odious. His attempts to express strong emotion and honourable feeling
excite laughter instead of sympathy, and on this account it is difficult
to accept without some deduction Mr. Ward's favourable judgment of _The
Careless Husband_,[54] which, if it be one of the cleverest of Cibber's
dramas, is also one of the most conspicuous for this defect. Here, as
elsewhere, Cibber should have left sentiment alone. Imagine a lover
exclaiming to a relenting mistress, 'Oh, let my soul thus bending to
your power, adore this soft descending goodness!' or a man conversing in
the following strain with a wife who has discovered and forgiven his

    '_Sir Charles._ Come, I will not shock your softness by any
    untimely blush for what is past, but rather soothe you to a
    pleasure at my sense of joy for my recovered happiness to come.
    Give then to my new-born love what name you please, it cannot,
    shall not be too kind. Oh! it cannot be too soft for what my
    soul swells up with emulation to deserve. Receive me then entire
    at last, and take what yet no woman ever truly had, my conquered

    '_Lady Easy._ Oh, the soft treasure! Oh, the dear reward of
    long-desiring love--thus, thus to have you mine is something
    more than happiness, 'tis double life and madness of abounding

    '_Sir Charles._ Oh, thou engaging virtue! But I'm too slow in
    doing justice to thy love. I know thy softness will refuse me;
    but remember, I insist upon it--let thy woman be discharged this

It has been said that Cibber wrote genteel comedy because he lived in
the best society. If this assertion be true, the reader of his plays
will decide that the best society of those days was unrefined and
immoral, and that genteel comedy can be extremely vulgar. Cibber's
dramas are coarse in incident, and often offensive in suggestion. The
language is frequently gross, and even when he writes, or professes to
write, with a moral purpose, his method may justly offend a rigid
moralist. Moreover his comedy, like that of the dramatists of the
Restoration, is of a wholly artificial type. Human nature has
comparatively little place in it, and the fine ladies and gentlemen, the
fops and fools who play their parts in his scenes, belong to a world
which has no existence off the boards of the theatre.

His one work which is still read by all students of the drama, and by
many who are not students, is the _Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley
Cibber_ (1740), which Dr. Johnson, who sneered at actors, allowed to be
very entertaining. It is that, and something more, for it contains much
just and generous criticism. Cibber was the author or adapter of about
thirty plays, and in the latter vocation did not spare Shakespeare.

[Sidenote: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762).]

Letter writing, a delightful branch of literature, attained its highest
excellence in the eighteenth century. It is an art which gains most, if
the paradox may be allowed, by being artless. The carefully studied
epistle, written with a view to publication, may have its value, but it
cannot have the charm of a letter written in the familiar intercourse of
friendship. It is the correspondence prompted by the heart which reaches
the heart of the reader. The humour, the gaiety, the tenderness, and the
chatty details that make a letter attractive, should be prompted by the
feelings and events of the hour. Carefully constructed sentences and
rhetorical flourishes ring hollow; to write for effect is to write
badly, and to make a display of knowledge is to reveal an ignorance of
the art.

For letter writing, although the most natural of literary gifts, is not
wholly due to nature. It is the outcome of many qualities which need
cultivation; the soil that produces such fruit must have been carefully
tilled. In our day epistolary correspondence has been in great measure
destroyed by the penny post and by rapidity of communication. In the
last century postage was costly: and although the burden was frequently
and unjustly lightened by franks, the transmission of letters was slow
and uncertain. Letters, therefore, were seldom written unless the writer
had something definite to say, and had leisure in which to say it. Much
time was spent in the occupation, letters were carefully preserved as
family heirlooms, and thus it has come to pass that much of our
knowledge of the age, and very much of the pleasure to be gained from a
study of the period, is due to its letter writers. The list of them is a
striking one, for it includes the names of Swift and Steele, of Pope and
Gay, of Bolingbroke and Chesterfield, of Mrs. Delany and Mrs. Thrale,
and of the three gifted rivals in the art, Gray, Horace Walpole, and

In the band of authors famous for their correspondence, Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu holds a conspicuous place. Reference has been already
made to the Pope correspondence, large in bulk and large too in
interest. To this Lady Mary contributed slightly, and the greater
portion of her letters were addressed to her husband, to her sister,
Lady Mar, and to her daughter, the Countess of Bute. She was shrewd
enough to know their value: 'Keep my letters,' she wrote, 'they will be
as good as Madame de Sévigné's forty years hence;' and they are,
perhaps, as good as letters can be which are written with a sense of
their value, which Madame de Sévigné's were not. Lady Mary, who may be
said to have belonged to the wits from her infancy, for in her eighth
year she was made the toast of the Kit Kat Club, was not only a beauty,
but a woman of some learning and of the keenest intelligence. At twenty
she translated the _Encheiridion_ of Epictetus. She was a great reader
and a good critic, unless, which often happened, political prejudices
warped her judgment. She had considerable facility in rhyming, and both
with tongue and pen cultivated many enmities, the deadliest of her foes
being the poet who was at one time her most ardent admirer. The story of
Lady Mary's career, with its vicissitudes and singularities, may be read
in Lord Wharncliffe's edition of her _Life and Letters_. She is a
prominent figure in the literature of the period, and made several
passing contributions to it, but apart from a few facile and far from
decent verses her letters are the sole legacy she has left behind her
for the literary student. Some of them, and especially those addressed
to her sister the Countess of Mar, are often coarse; those to her
daughter the Countess of Bute exhibit good sense, and all abound in
lively sallies, interesting anecdotes, and the personal allusions which
give a charm to correspondence. The section containing the letters
written during her husband's embassy to Constantinople (1716-1718) is
perhaps the best known.

Among the strangest of Lady Mary's letters are those addressed to her
future husband, whom she requests to settle an annuity upon her in
order to propitiate her friends. In one of them she describes her
father's purpose to marry her as he thought fit without regarding her
inclinations, and observes that having declined to marry 'where it is
impossible to love,' she is bidden to consult her relatives: 'I told my
intention to all my nearest relations. I was surprised at their blaming
it to the greatest degree. I was told they were sorry I would ruin
myself; but if I was so unreasonable they could not blame my F. [father]
whatever he inflicted on me. I objected I did not love him. They made
answer they found no necessity of loving; if I lived well with him that
was all was required of me; and that if I considered this town I should
find very few women in love with their husbands and yet a many happy. It
was in vain to dispute with such prudent people.'

This incident is characteristic of the period, but Lady Mary's letters
to Wortley Montagu are more characteristic of the woman who had her own
views of female propriety, and of the right method of love-making. To
escape from the man she hated, she eloped with Wortley, and if, in
story-book phrase, the curiously-matched couple 'lived happily ever
afterwards,' it was probably because for more than twenty years they
lived apart.

Of the following letter, written in her old age, it has been aptly said
that 'the graceful cynicism of Horace and Pope has perhaps never been
more successfully reproduced in prose.'[55]

    'Daughter, daughter! Don't call names; You are always abusing my
    pleasures, which is what no mortal will bear. Trash, lumber and
    stuff are the titles you give to my favourite amusement. If I
    called a white staff a stick of wood, a gold key gilded brass,
    and the ensigns of illustrious orders coloured strings, this
    may be philosophically true, but would be very ill received. We
    have all our playthings; happy are they that can be contented
    with those they can obtain; those hours are spent in the wisest
    manner that can easiest shade the ills of life, and are the
    least productive of ill-consequences.... The active scenes are
    over at my age. I indulge with all the art I can my taste for
    reading. If I would confine it to valuable books, they are
    almost as rare as valuable men. I must be content with what I
    can find. As I approach a second childhood, I endeavour to enter
    into the pleasures of it. Your youngest son is perhaps at this
    very moment riding on a poker with great delight, not at all
    regretting that it is not a gold one, and much less wishing it
    an Arabian horse which he would not know how to manage. I am
    reading an idle tale, not expecting wit or truth in it, and am
    very glad it is not metaphysics to puzzle my judgment, or
    history to mislead my opinion. He fortifies his health by
    exercise; I calm my cares by oblivion. The methods may appear
    low to busy people; but if he improves his strength, and I
    forget my infirmities, we both attain very desirable ends.'

Lady Mary, it may be added, deserves to be remembered for her courage in
trying inoculation on her own children, and then introducing it into
this country. This was in 1721, seventy-eight years before Jenner
discovered a more excellent way of grappling with the small pox.

[Sidenote: Philip Dormer Stanhope Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773).]

Lord Chesterfield's position in the literature of the period is also
among the letter writers. He was emphatically a man of affairs, and as
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1745, gained a high reputation. He entered
upon his labours with the resolution to be independent of party, and
during his brief administration did all that man could do for the
benefit of the country. In his public career, Chesterfield has the
reputation of an orator who spoke 'most exquisitely well;' he was an
able diplomatist, and probably no man of the time took a wider interest
in public affairs. In a corrupt age, too, he appears to have been
politically incorruptible: 'I call corruption,' he writes, 'the taking
of a sixpence more than the just and known salary of your employment
under any pretence whatsoever.' The reform of the Calendar, in which he
was assisted by two great mathematicians, Bradley and the Earl of
Macclesfield, is also one of his honourable claims to remembrance.

On the other hand, Chesterfield, whom George II. called 'a tea-table
scoundrel,' was an inveterate gambler, he mistook vice for virtue,
practised dissimulation as an art, and studied men's weaknesses in order
that he might flatter them. One of the chief ends of man, in the Earl's
opinion, was to shine in society; we need not therefore wonder that
Johnson, with his sturdy honesty, revolted from Chesterfield's
insincerity, and we have to thank the Earl's character for, perhaps, the
noblest piece of invective in the language. If, however, he neglected
Johnson at the time when his help would have been of service, he
appreciated the society of men of letters, and took his part among the
wits of the age. 'I used,' he tells his son, 'to think myself in company
as much above me when I was with Mr. Addison and Mr. Pope as if I had
been with all the princes in Europe.'

As an essayist, although Chesterfield cannot compete with Addison or
Steele, he is far from contemptible, and his twenty-three papers in the
_World_ (1753-1756) may still be read with pleasure. His literary
reputation is based upon the _Letters_ (1774)[56] to his illegitimate
son written for the purpose of making him a fine gentleman, but the
young man had no aptitude for the part. His father offered him 'a
present of the Graces,' and he despised the gift. The _Letters_, which
Johnson denounced in language better fitted for his day than for ours,
abound in worldly sagacity and wise counsels; the best that can be said
of them from a moral point of view is that they show the extremely low
standpoint of the writer. He is honestly desirous of benefiting his son
and advancing his interest in life, and so far as morality will do this
it is earnestly inculcated. 'A real man of fashion,' he says, 'observes
decency; at least neither borrows nor affects vices; and, if he
unfortunately has any, he gratifies them with choice, delicacy and
secrecy.' He observes that an intrigue with a woman of fashion is an
amusement which a man of sense and decency may pursue with a proper
regard for his character; gallantry without debauchery being 'the
elegant pleasure of a rational being.'

Chesterfield's son, who was educated for a diplomatist, is told that the
art of pleasing is more necessary in his profession than perhaps in any
other. 'Make your court particularly, and show distinguished attentions
to such men and women as are best at Court, highest in the fashion and
in the opinion of the public; speak advantageously of them behind their
backs, in companies who you have reason to believe will tell them

The necessity for dissimulation, constantly enjoined by his father was
not forgotten by Philip Stanhope. So effectually did he conceal his
marriage that the Earl was not aware of it until after his son's death.

[Sidenote: George Lyttelton (1708-1773).]

George Lyttelton, afterwards Lord Lyttelton, has a place among the poets
in the collections of Anderson and Chalmers. Some of his best verses
were written when a school-boy at Eton, and are worthy of a clever
school-boy. The _Monody_ on his wife's death has the merit of sincere
feeling, expressed in one or two passages poetically. In 1747 he
published his _Dissertation on the Conversion of St. Paul_, 'a
treatise,' says Dr. Johnson, 'to which infidelity has never been able to
fabricate a specious answer.' He made himself conspicuous in parliament
as an opponent of Walpole, and after the fall of that minister was
appointed one of the Lords of the Treasury. In 1760 Lyttelton published
his _Dialogues of the Dead_, a volume for which he owes much to Fénelon.
This was followed a few years later by a History of Henry II. in three
volumes, upon which great labour was expended. He is said to have had
the whole history printed twice over, and many sheets four or five
times, an amusement which cost him £1,000. The work is praised by Mr. J.
R. Green as 'a full and sober account of the time.'

Lyttelton died at Hagley Park in his sixty-fourth year. Close to Hagley,
Shenstone had his little estate of the Leasowes, and the poet is said to
have cherished the absurd fancy that Lord Lyttelton was envious of its
beauty. He is now chiefly remembered as the patron of Thomson, whom he
called 'one of the best and most beloved' of his friends.

[Sidenote: Joseph Spence (1698-1768).]

Joseph Spence, a warm friend and admirer of Pope in the poet's later
life, had the happy peculiarity of keeping free from the party
animosities of the time. His course throughout was that of a gentleman,
and to him we owe the little volume of _Anecdotes_ which every student
of Pope has learnt to value. Spence had much of Boswell's curiosity and
hero-worship, but there is neither insight into character in his pages,
nor any trace of the dramatic skill which makes Boswell's narrative so
delightful. At the same time there is every indication that he strove
to give the sayings of the poet, as far as possible, in his own words.
Johnson and Warton saw the _Anecdotes_ in manuscript, but strange to
say, the collection was not published until 1820, when two separate
editions appeared simultaneously. The publication by Spence in 1727 of
_An Essay on Pope's Translation of Homer's Odyssey_ led to an
acquaintance which soon became intimate between the poet and his critic.
Apart from literature, they had more than one point of interest in
common. Like Pope, Spence was devoted to his mother, and like Pope he
had a passion for landscape gardening. His mild virtues and engaging
disposition are said to be portrayed in the _Tales of the Genii_, under
the character of Fincal the Dervise of the Groves. In 1747 he published
his _Polymetis, an Enquiry into the agreement between the Works of the
Roman Poets and the Remains of Ancient Artists_. Under the _nom de
plume_ of Sir Harry Beaumont, Spence produced a volume of _Moralities or
Essays, Letters, Fables and Translations_ (1753), and in the following
year an account of the blind poet Blacklock. For a learned tailor,
Thomas Hill by name, he also performed a similarly kind office,
comparing him in _A Parallel in the Manner of Plutarch_ with the famous
linguist Magliabecchi. Spence was made Professor of Poetry at Oxford in
1728, and held the post for ten years. His end was a sad one. He was
accidentally drowned in a canal in the garden which he had loved so


[49] _Daniel Defoe: his Life and recently discovered Writings, extending
from 1716 to 1729._ By William Lee. 3 vols.

[50] Lee's _Defoe_, vol. i., p. 85. Of Defoe's fertility and capacity
for work there cannot be a question; but the biographer's stupendous
catalogue of his publications--254 in number--contains many which are
ascribed to him solely on what Mr. Lee regards as internal evidence.

[51] _English Men of Letters--Daniel Defoe._ By William Minto. P. 170.

[52] See note on page 248.

[53] There can be no doubt, I think, despite Mr. Lee's arguments, that
the work is as much a fiction as any other historical novel. That it may
be based upon some authentic document is highly probable, although it is
not necessary to agree with his biographer, that 'to claim for Defoe the
authorship of the _Cavalier_, as a work of pure fiction, would be
equivalent to a claim of almost superhuman genius.'

[54] Ward's _History of English Dramatic Literature_, vol. ii., p. 597.

[55] _Four Centuries of English Letters_, edited and arranged by W.
Baptiste Scoones, p. 214.

[56] These _Letters_ were not published until after the earl's death,
but many of them belong, chronologically, to our period. The first
letter of the series was written in 1738.



[Sidenote: Francis Atterbury (1662-1732).]

During the first half of the eighteenth century the position held by
Bishop Atterbury was one of high eminence. Addison ranked him with the
most illustrious geniuses of his age; Pope said he was one of the
greatest men in polite learning the nation ever possessed; Doddridge
called him the glory of English orators; and Johnson said that for style
his sermons are among the best.

Unfortunately Atterbury's literary gifts, like his oratory, lack the
merit of permanence, and his sermons, more conspicuous for eloquence
than for weightiness of matter, although extremely popular at the time,
have long ceased to be read. His prominence among the Queen Anne
wits,--and he was admired by them all,--is a sufficient reason for
saying a few words about him in these pages.

He was born in 1662, and, like Prior, educated at Westminster under the
famous Dr. Busby. Thence he went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he
gained a good reputation. He undertook the tutorship of the Hon. C.
Boyle, a young man of more spirit than judgment, who had the audacity to
enter the lists with Bentley in a matter of scholarship. For this rash
deed Atterbury must be held responsible. Sir William Temple had
published a foolish but eloquently written essay in defence of the
ancient writers in comparison with the modern. In this essay he praises
warmly the _Letters of Phalaris_. Of these letters Boyle, with the help
of Atterbury and other members of Christ Church, published a new edition
to satisfy the demand caused by Temple's essay. Bentley, roused to reply
by a remark of Boyle in his preface, proved that the _Letters_ were not
only spurious but contemptible. Under his pupil's name Atterbury replied
to Bentley's _Dissertations_, and to the discussion, as the reader will
remember, Swift added wit if not argument.

For the moment Boyle's, or rather Atterbury's success, was great, for
wit and rhetoric are powerful persuasives. The authors, too, had the
Christ Church men to back them, the arch-critic having treated them with
contempt. Atterbury's share in the work, as he tells Boyle, "consisted
in writing more than half the book, in reviewing a great part of the
rest, and in transcribing the whole." His _Examination of Dr. Bentley's
Dissertations_ (1698) is a brilliant piece of work, and 'deserves the
praise,' says Macaulay, 'whatever that praise may be worth, of being the
best book ever written by any man on the wrong side of a question of
which he was profoundly ignorant.' Having taken holy orders, Atterbury
became a court preacher, and ample clerical honours fell to his share.
In 1700 he published a book entitled, _The Rights, Powers, and
Privileges of an English Convocation Stated and Vindicated_, which was
warmly applauded by High Churchmen. In 1701 he was appointed Archdeacon
of Totness, and afterwards Prebend of Exeter. He became the favourite
chaplain of Queen Anne, and when Prince George died proved the power of
his eloquence by representing 'his unassuming virtues in such high
relief that his widow could not help feeling her irreparable loss.'

Atterbury was made successively Dean of Carlisle and of Christ Church,
and in 1713 succeeded Sprat as Dean of Westminster and Bishop of
Rochester. Before making Swift's acquaintance he recommended his friend
Trelawney, Bishop of Exeter, to read the _Tale of a Tub_, a book which
is to be valued, 'in spite of its profaneness,' as 'an original in its
kind, full of wit, humour, good sense, and learning.' Atterbury's taste
for literature was not always so discriminative. He advised Pope, as has
been already stated, to 'polish' _Samson Agonistes_, declared that all
verses should have instruction at the bottom of them, and told the poet,
as though he had discovered a merit, that his poetry was 'all over
morality from the beginning to the end of it.' He ventured occasionally
into the verse-making field himself, and wrote a song to Silvia, in
which, after admitting that he had loved before as men worship strange
deities, he adds:

    'My heart, 'tis true, has often ranged,
      Like bees on gaudy flowers,
    And many a thousand loves has changed,
      Till it was fixed on yours.

    'But, Silvia, when I saw those eyes,
      'Twas soon determined there;
    Stars might as well forsake the skies,
      And vanish into air.

    'When I from this great rule do err,
      New beauties to adore,
    May I again turn wanderer,
      And never settle more.'

The close friendship between Atterbury and Pope did honour to both men,
and when Pope went to London he would 'lie at the deanery.' There,
unknown to his friend, the bishop carried on his Jacobite intrigues,
and there may still be seen, in a residence made famous by more than one
great name, a secret room in which Atterbury concealed his treasonable
correspondence. The poet did not believe that his friend was guilty, but
it has been well known since the publication of the Stuart papers, more
than forty years ago, that the splendid defence made by Atterbury at his
trial in the House of Lords was based upon a falsehood. For years the
bishop appears to have corresponded, under feigned names and by the help
of ciphers, with 'the king over the water;' but the plot which led to
his imprisonment and ultimate exile was not discovered until 1722, when
he was arrested for high treason. At his trial he called God to witness
his innocence; and when Pope took leave of him in the Tower he told the
poet he would allow him to call his sentence a just one if he should
ever find that he had dealings with the Pretender in his exile. Pope
gave evidence at his trial, and, as he told Spence, lost his
self-possession and made two or three blunders.

Atterbury was exiled in June, 1723. On reaching Calais he heard that
Bolingbroke had just arrived there on his way to England, having had a
royal pardon. 'Then I am exchanged,' he said.

The pathetic story of his banishment, and of his devoted daughter's
illness and voyage to the south of France, where after a union of a few
hours, she died in her father's arms, is full of the most touching
details, and may be read in Atterbury's correspondence. 'She is gone,'
the bishop wrote, 'and I must follow her. When I do, may my latter end
be like hers! It was my business to have taught her to die; instead of
it, she has taught me.' Like Fielding's account of his _Voyage to
Lisbon_, the letters give a picture of the time, and of travelling
discomforts and difficulties of which we, in these more fortunate days,
know nothing. The bishop, who did not long survive his daughter, died in
1732, but before the end came he defended himself admirably from the
accusation of Oldmixon, a libeller who stands in the pillory of the
_Dunciad_, that he had helped to garble Clarendon's _History_. The body
was carried to England and privately buried by the side of his daughter
in Westminster Abbey. The eloquence of Atterbury's sermons--there are
four volumes of them in print--has not secured to them a lasting place
in literature, but they are distinguished by purity of style, and have
enough of _unction_ to make them highly effective as pulpit discourses.
In book form, too, they were for a long time popular, and reached an
eighth edition about thirty years after the bishop's death. The eloquent
sermon on the death of Lady Cutts endows the lady with such an array of
virtues, that one is inclined to wonder how so many rare qualities could
have been exhibited in so brief a life:

    'She excelled in all the characters that belonged to her, and
    was in a great measure equal to all the obligations that she lay
    under. She was devout without superstition; strict, without ill
    humour; good-natured, without weakness; cheerful, without
    levity; regular, without affectation. She was to her husband the
    best of wives, the most agreeable of companions, and most
    faithful of friends; to her servants the best of mistresses; to
    her relations extremely respectful; to her inferiors very
    obliging; and by all that knew her, either nearly or at a
    distance, she was reckoned and confessed to be one of the best
    of women. And yet all this goodness and all this excellence was
    bounded within the compass of eighteen years and as many days;
    for no longer was she allowed to live among us. She was snatched
    out of the world as soon almost as she had made her appearance
    in it, like a jewel of high price just shown a little, and then
    put up again, and we were deprived of her by that time we had
    learnt to value her. But circles may be complete though small;
    the perfection of life doth not consist in the length of it.'

As a friend of literature and of men of letters, Atterbury claims the
student's recognition, and the five volumes of his correspondence
deserve to be consulted.

[Sidenote: Anthony, third Lord Shaftesbury (1671-1713).]

'I will tell you,' writes the poet Gray, 'how Lord Shaftesbury came to
be a philosopher in vogue: first, he was a lord; secondly, he was as
vain as any of his readers; thirdly, men are very prone to believe what
they do not understand; fourthly, they will believe anything at all
provided they are under no obligation to believe it; fifthly, they love
to take a new road, even when that road leads nowhere; sixthly, he was
reckoned a fine writer, and seemed always to mean more than he said.
Would you have any more reasons? An interval of above forty years has
pretty well destroyed the charm.'

One hundred and thirty-five years have gone by since Gray wrote his
estimate of Lord Shaftesbury, whose _Characteristics of Men, Manners,
Opinions, Times_ (1711) passed through several editions in the last
century. The first volume consists of: _A Letter concerning Enthusiasm_,
_An Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour_ and _Advice to an Author_;
Vol. ii. contains _An Inquiry concerning Virtue and Merit_ (1699), and
_The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody_ (1709), and Vol. iii. contains
_Miscellaneous Reflections_ and the _Judgments of Hercules_.

Shaftesbury was a Deist, and while professing to honour the Christian
faith, which he terms 'our holy religion,' exercises his wit and
casuistry and command of English to undermine it. Pope, who shows in the
_Essay on Man_ that he had read the _Characteristics_, said that to his
knowledge 'the work had done more harm to revealed religion in England
than all the works of infidelity,' a judgment which may seem
extravagant, for Shaftesbury is too vague and rhetorical greatly to
influence thoughtful readers, and too much of a 'virtuoso,' to use his
own words, for readers of another class; yet the fact that the work
passed, as we have said, through several editions, shows that the author
had a considerable public to whom he could appeal. Moreover, it is clear
that what Mr. Balfour calls 'the shallow optimism' of his creed was not
deemed so inconsiderable then as it now appears, or Berkeley would not
have deemed it necessary to controvert his arguments in the third
Dialogue of his _Alciphron_. Like Berkeley, Shaftesbury occasionally
makes use of the dialogue very effectively, but he has not the bishop's
incisiveness. His style, though often faulty, and giving one the
impression that the author is affected, and wishes to say fine things,
is at its best fresh and lucid. The reader will observe that whatever be
the topic Shaftesbury professes to discuss, his one aim is to assert his
principles as a free-thinking and free-speaking philosopher. His
inferences, his illustrations, his criticisms, and exaltation of the
'moral sense,' are all so many underhanded blows at the faith which he
never openly opposes.

Thus his essay on the _Freedom of Wit and Humour_ is chiefly written in
defence of raillery in the discussion of serious subjects, when managed
'with good breeding,' and for 'a liberty in decent language to question
everything' amongst gentlemen and friends. He regards ridicule as the
antidote to enthusiasm, believes in the harmony and perfection of
nature, and considers that evil only exists in our ignorance. Mr. Leslie
Stephen, whose impartiality in estimating an author like Shaftesbury
will not be questioned, calls him a wearisome and perplexed writer,
whose rhetoric is flimsy, but who has 'a true vigour and originality
which redeems him from contempt.'

Judged by his influence on the age Shaftesbury's place in the history of
literature and of philosophy is an important one. Seed springs up
quickly when the soil is prepared for it, and Shaftesbury by his belief
in the perfectibility of human nature through the aid of culture,
appealed, as Mandeville also did from a lower and opposite platform, to
the views current in polite society. According to Shaftesbury men have a
natural instinct for virtue, and the sense of what is beautiful enables
the virtuoso to reject what is evil and to cleave to what is good. Let a
man once see that to be wicked is to be miserable, and virtue will be
dear for its own sake apart from the fear of punishment or the hope of
reward. He found salvation for the world in a cultivated taste, but had
no gospel for the men whose tastes were not cultivated.

Voltaire sneered at the optimism of the _Essay on Man_ and of the
_Characteristics_. 'Shaftesbury,' he says, 'who made the fable
fashionable, was a very unhappy man. I have seen Bolingbroke a prey to
vexation and rage, and Pope, whom he induced to put this sorry jest into
verse, was as much to be pitied as any man I have ever known; mis-shapen
in body, dissatisfied in mind, always ill, always a burden to himself,
and harassed by a hundred enemies to his very last moment.'

[Sidenote: Bernard de Mandeville (1670?-1733).]

Bernard de Mandeville gained much notoriety by his _Fable of the Bees,
or Private Vices, Public Benefits_ (1723). The book opens with a poem in
doggrel verse called _The Grumbling Hive, or Knaves turned honest_, the
purport of which is to show that as the bees became virtuous, they
ceased to be successful. He closes with the moral that

    'To enjoy the world's conveniences,
    Be famed in war, yet live in ease,
    Without great vices is a vain
    Utopia, seated in the brain.
    Fraud, Luxury, and Pride must live,
    While we the benefits receive.'

In the prose which follows the fable, Mandeville may at least claim the
credit of being outspoken, and he does not scruple to say that modesty
is a sham and that what seems like virtue is nothing but self-love. 'I
often,' he says, 'compare the virtues of good men to your large china
jars; they make a fine show, but look into a thousand of them, and you
will find nothing in them but dust and cobwebs.'

While declaring that he is far from encouraging vice, he regards it as
essential to the well-being of society. The degradation of the race
excites his amusement, and the fact that he cannot see a way of escape
from it, causes no regret. Shaftesbury's arguments excited the mirth of
a man who believed neither in present nor future good 'Two systems,' he
says, 'cannot be more opposite than his lordship's and mine. His
notions, I confess, are generous and refined. They are a high compliment
to human kind, and capable, by the help of a little enthusiasm, of
inspiring us with the most noble sentiments concerning the dignity of
our exalted nature. What pity it is that they are not true.'

The author of the _Fable of the Bees_ writes coarsely for coarse
readers, and the arguments by which he supports his graceless theory
merit the infamy generally awarded to them.[57] The book was attacked by
Warburton and Law, and with much force and humour by Berkeley, in the
second Dialogue of _Alciphron_. But the bishop, to use a homely phrase,
does not hit the right nail on the head. Instead of arguing that virtue
and goodness are realities, while evil, being unreal and antagonistic to
man's nature, is an enemy to be fought against and conquered, Berkeley
takes a lower ground, and is content to show in his reply to Mandeville
that virtue is more profitable to a state than vice. He annihilates many
of Mandeville's arguments in a masterly style, but it was left to the
author of the _Serious Call_ to strike at the root of Mandeville's
fallacy, and to show how the seat of virtue, if I may apply Hooker's
noble words with regard to law, 'is the bosom of God, her voice the
harmony of the world; all things in heaven and earth do her homage, the
very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from
her power.'

[Sidenote: Lord Bolingbroke (1678-1751).]

The life of Henry St. John was a mass of contradictions. He was a
brilliant politician who affected to be a wise statesman, a traitor to
his country while pretending to be a patriot, an orator whose lips
distilled honied phrases which his actions belied, a man of insatiable
ambition who masked as a philosopher, a profligate without shame, a
faithless friend, and an unscrupulous opponent. Blessed with every charm
of manner, features, and voice, with a taste for literature and a large
faculty of acquisition, he was a slave to the meanest vices. A Secretary
of State at thirty-two, no man probably ever entered upon public life
with brighter prospects, and the secret of all his failures was due to
the want of character. 'Few people,' says Lord Hervey, 'ever believed
him without being deceived or trusted him without being betrayed; he was
one to whom prosperity was no advantage, and adversity no instruction.'

It is said that his genius as an orator was of a high order and this we
can believe the more readily since the style of his works is distinctly
oratorical. In speech so much depends upon voice and manner that it is
possible for a shallow thinker to be an extremely attractive speaker;
Bolingbroke's speeches have not been preserved, and we may therefore
continue, if we please, to hold with Pitt, that they are the most
desirable of all the lost fragments of literature; his writings, far
more showy than solid, do not convey a lofty impression of intellectual
power. Obvious truths and well-worn truisms are uttered in high-sounding
words, but in no department of thought can it be said that Bolingbroke
breaks new ground. Much that he wrote was for the day and died with it,
and if his more ambitious efforts, written with an eye to posterity,
cannot justly be described as unreadable, they contain comparatively
little which makes them worthy to be read.

His defence of his conduct in _A Letter to Sir William Windham_, written
in 1717, but not published until after the author's death, though
worthless as a defence, is a fine piece of special pleading in
Bolingbroke's best style. It could deceive no one acquainted with the
part played by the author before the death of Queen Anne, and afterwards
in exile, but it afforded him an opportunity for attacking his former
colleague, Oxford, with all the weapons available by an unscrupulous and
powerful assailant. He declares in this letter that he preferred exile
rather than to make common cause with the man whom he abhorred. Writing
of Oxford as a colleague in the government of the country he observes in
a skilfully turned passage:

    'The ocean which environs us is an emblem of our government; and
    the pilot and the minister are in similar circumstances. It
    seldom happens that either of them can steer a direct course,
    and they both arrive at their port by means which frequently
    seem to carry them from it. But as the work advances the conduct
    of him who leads it on with real abilities clears up, the
    appearing inconsistencies are reconciled, and when it is once
    consummated, the whole shows itself so uniform, so plain, and so
    natural, that every dabbler in politics will be apt to think he
    could have done the same. But on the other hand the man who
    proposes no such object, who substitutes artifice in the place
    of ability, who, instead of leading parties and governing
    accidents, is eternally agitated backwards and forwards by both,
    who begins every day something new, and carries nothing on to
    perfection, may impose awhile on the world: but a little sooner
    or a little later the mystery will be revealed, and nothing will
    be found to be couched under it but a thread of pitiful
    expedients, the ultimate end of which never extended farther
    than living from day to day. Which of these pictures resembles
    Oxford most you will determine.'

It has been said with somewhat daring exaggeration, that Burke never
produced anything nobler than this passage, and the writer regards the
whole composition of the _Letter to Windham_ as almost faultless.[58]

That it is Bolingbroke's masterpiece may be readily admitted, but in
this _Letter_, as elsewhere, the merits of Bolingbroke's style are those
of the popular orator who conceals repetitions, contradictory
statements, and emptiness of thought under a dazzling display of
rhetoric. That he had splendid gifts and exhibited an extraordinary
ingenuity of resource was acknowledged by friend and foe. At one time
taking a distinguished part in European affairs, at another artfully
intriguing, sometimes posing as a moralist and philosopher while a slave
to debauchery, and at other times affecting a love of retirement while a
slave to ambition--Bolingbroke acted a part which made him one of the
most conspicuous figures of the time. He knew how to fascinate men of
greater genius than he possessed, and how to guide men intellectually
his superiors. The witchcraft of his wit and the charm of his manners no
longer disturb the judgment. As a statesman Bolingbroke is now
comparatively despised, as a man of letters he is generally regarded as
a brilliant pretender, and if his name survives in the history of
literature it is chiefly due to the friendship of Pope. Unfortunately
the memory of this celebrated friendship is associated with one of the
most ignoble acts of Bolingbroke's life. When Pope lay dying,
Bolingbroke wept over his friend exclaiming, 'O great God, what is man!'
and Spence relates that upon telling his lordship how Pope whenever he
was sensible said something kindly of his friends as if his humanity
outlasted his understanding, Bolingbroke replied, '"It has so! I never
in my life knew a man that had so tender a heart for his particular
friends or a more general friendship for mankind. I have known him these
thirty years, and value myself more for that man's love than"--sinking
his head and losing himself in tears.' His sorrow was speedily changed
to anger. Pope, no doubt in admiration of his friend's genius, had
privately printed 1,500 copies of his _Patriot King_, one of
Bolingbroke's ablest but most sophistical works. The philosopher had
only allowed a few copies to be printed for his friends, and the
discovery of Pope's conduct roused his indignation. In 1749 he put a
corrected copy of the work into Mallet's hands for publication with an
advertisement in which Pope is treated with contempt. He had not the
courage to assail the memory of his friend openly, and hired an
unprincipled man to do it. The poet had acted trickily, after his wonted
habit, though in all likelihood with the design of doing Bolingbroke a
service. It was a fault to be forgiven by a friend, but Bolingbroke,
after nursing his anger for five years, gave vent to it in this
contemptible and underhand way. He died two years afterwards, and in
1754 the posthumous publication of Bolingbroke's _Philosophical
Writings_ by Mallet, aroused a storm of indignation in the country,
which his debauchery and political immorality had failed to excite.
Johnson's saying on the occasion is well-known:

'Sir, he was a scoundrel and a coward; a scoundrel for charging a
blunderbuss against religion and morality; a coward because he had not
resolution to fire it off himself, but left half-a-crown to a beggarly
Scotchman to draw the trigger after his death.'

The most noteworthy estimate of Bolingbroke's character made in our day
comes from the pen of Mr. John Morley,[59] who describes as follows his
position as a man of letters. 'He handled the great and difficult
instrument of written language with such freedom and copiousness, such
vivacity and ease, that in spite of much literary foppery and falsetto,
he ranks in all that musicians call execution, only below the three or
four highest masters of English prose. Yet of all the characters in our
history Bolingbroke must be pronounced to be most of a charlatan; of all
the writing in our literature, his is the hollowest, the flashiest, the
most insincere.' This is true. By his 'execution,' consummate though it
be, he is unable to conceal his insincerity and shallowness.
'Bolingbroke,' said Lord Shelburne, was 'all surface,' and in that
sentence his character is written.

'People seem to think,' said Carlyle, 'that a style can be put off or
put on, not like a skin, but like a coat. Is not a skin verily a product
and close kinsfellow of all that lies under it,--exact type of the
nature of the beast, not to be plucked off without flaying and death?'

Two years after the publication of the _Philosophical Writings_, Edmund
Burke, then a young man of twenty-four, published _A Vindication of
Natural Society_, in a _Letter to Lord----. By a late noble writer_, in
which Lord Bolingbroke's style is imitated, and his arguments against
revealed religion applied to exhibit 'the miseries and evils arising to
mankind from every species of Artificial Society.' So close is the
imitation of Bolingbroke's style and mode of argument in this piece of
irony, that it was for a time believed to be a genuine production, and
Mallet found it necessary to disavow it publicly.

Of Bolingbroke's Works, the _Dissertation on Parties_ appeared in 1735.
_Letters on Patriotism_, and _Idea of a Patriot King_, in 1749; _Letters
on the Study of History_, in 1752; _Letter to Sir W. Windham_, 1753, and
the _Philosophical Writings_, as already stated, in 1754.
Chronologically, therefore, he would belong to the Handbook which deals
with the latter half of the century, were it not that his most important
works were posthumous, and that Bolingbroke's intimate relations with
Pope place him among the most conspicuous figures belonging to Pope's

[Sidenote: George Berkeley (1685-1753).]

Among the men of high intellect who flourished in the age of Pope,
George Berkeley is one of the most distinguished. Born in 1685 of poor
parents, in a cottage near Dysert Castle, in Kilkenny, he went up to
Trinity College, Dublin, in 1700, and there, first as student, and
afterwards as tutor, he remained for thirteen years. In the course of
them he was ordained, and gained a fellowship. In 1709 he published his
_Essay on Vision_, and in the following year the _Principles of Human
Knowledge_, works which thus early made him famous as a philosopher, and
a puzzle to many who failed to understand his 'new principle' with
regard to the existence of matter.

In 1712 Berkeley visited England, probably for the first time, and was
introduced to the London wits. Already in these youthful days there was
in him much of that magic power which some men exercise unconsciously
and irresistibly. Swift felt the spell, called Berkeley a great
philosopher, and spoke of him to all the Ministers; while Atterbury,
upon being asked what he thought of him, exclaimed: 'So much
understanding, so much knowledge, so much innocence, and such humility,
I did not think had been the portion of any but angels till I saw this
gentleman.' An incident occurred, it is conjectured during the course of
this visit, which led to memorable results. He dined once with Swift at
Mrs. Vanhomrigh's, and met her daughter Hester. Many years later,
_Vanessa_ destroyed the will she had made in Swift's favour, and left
half of her property to Berkeley. While in London the future bishop was
warmly welcomed by Steele, and wrote several essays for him in the
_Guardian_ against the Freethinkers, and especially against Anthony
Collins (1676-1729), whose arguments in his _Discourse on Freethinking_
(1713) are ridiculed in the _Scriblerus Memoirs_. Collins, it may be
observed here, wrote a treatise several years later on the _Grounds of
the Christian Religion_ (1724) which called forth thirty-five answers.
During this visit Berkeley also published one of his most original
works, _Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous_, a book marked by that
consummate beauty of style for which he is distinguished.

In November, 1713, the Earl of Peterborough was sent on an embassage to
the King of Sicily, and on Swift's recommendation took Berkeley with him
as his chaplain and secretary. Ten months were spent on this occasion in
France and Italy. Another continental tour followed, in the course of
which Berkeley wrote to Arbuthnot of his ascent of Vesuvius, and to Pope
of his life at Naples. Five years were spent abroad, and he returned to
England to learn of the failure of the South Sea Scheme. In his _Essay
towards Preventing the Ruin of Great Britain_ (1721), the main argument
is the obvious one, that national salvation is only to be secured by
individual uprightness. He deplores 'the trifling vanity of apparel'
which we have learned from France, advocates the revival of sumptuary
laws, considers that we are 'doomed to be undone' by luxury, and by the
want of public spirit, and declares that 'neither Venice nor Paris, nor
any other town in any part of the world ever knew such an expensive
ruinous folly as our masquerade.'

In the summer of this year he was again in London, and Pope asked him to
spend a week in his 'Tusculum.' One promotion followed another until
Berkeley became Dean of Derry, with an income of from £1,500 to £2,000 a
year. He did not hold this dignified position long, having conceived the
magnificent but Utopian idea of founding a Missionary College in the
Bermudas--the 'Summer Isles' celebrated in the verse of Waller and of
Marvell--for the conversion of America.

And now Berkeley exhibited his amazing power of influencing other men.
The members of the Scriblerus Club laughed at the Dean's project, but so
powerful was his eloquence, that 'those who came to scoff remained to
subscribe.' Moreover, with Sir Robert Walpole as Prime Minister, he
actually obtained a grant from the State of £20,000 in order to carry
out the project, the king gave a charter, and to crown all, Sir Robert
put his own name down for £200 on the list of subscribers. 'The scheme,'
says Mr. Balfour, 'seems now so impracticable that we may well wonder
how any single person, let alone the representatives of a whole nation,
could be found to support it. In order that religion and learning might
flourish in America, the seeds of them were to be cast in some rocky
islets severed from America by nearly six hundred miles of stormy ocean.
In order that the inhabitants of the mainland and of the West Indian
colonies might equally benefit by the new university, it was to be
placed in such a position that neither could conveniently reach it.'[60]
Berkeley, who had recently married, left England for Rhode Island, where
he stayed for about three years and wrote _Alciphron_ (1732), in which
he attacks the freethinkers under the title of _Minute Philosophers_.
Then on learning from Walpole that the promised money 'would most
undoubtedly be paid as soon as suits public convenience' which would be
never, he returned to England, and through the Queen's influence was
made Bishop of Cloyne. In that diocese eighteen years of his life were
spent. In the course of them he published the _Querist_ (1735-1737), an
_Essay on the Social State of Ireland_ (1744), and, in the same year,
_Siris_, which contains the bishop's famous recipe for the use of tar
water followed by much philosophical disquisition. The remedy, which was
afterwards praised by the poet Dyer in _The Fleece_, became instantly
popular. 'We are now mad about the water,' Horace Walpole wrote; 'the
book contains every subject from tar water to the Trinity; however, all
the women read it, and understand it no more than if it were
intelligible.' Editions of _Siris_ followed each other in rapid
succession, and it was translated into French and German. The work is
that of an enthusiast, and it should be read not for its argument, but
for its wealth of suggestiveness, and for what Mr. Balfour calls 'a
certain quality of moral elevation and speculative diffidence alien both
to the literature and the life of the eighteenth century.' Berkeley had
himself the profoundest faith in the panacea which he advocated. 'From
my representing tar water,' he writes, 'as good for so many things,
some, perhaps, many conclude it is good for nothing. But charity
obligeth me to say what I know, and what I think, howsoever it may be
taken. Men may conjecture and object as they please, but I appeal to
time and experience.'

In his latter days Berkeley, feeling his health failing, desired to
resign his bishopric and retire to Oxford, and there--while still bishop
of Cloyne, for the king would not accept his resignation--the
philosopher, who was blest, to use Shakespeare's fine epithet, with a
'tender-hefted nature,' passed away in 1753, leaving behind him one of
the most fragrant of memories.

That Berkeley was a philosophical thinker from his earliest manhood is
evident from his _Commonplace Book_ published for the first time in the
Clarendon Press edition of his works (vol. iv., pp. 419-502).

He delighted in recondite thought as much as most young men delight in
action, and as a philosopher he is said to have commenced his studies
with Locke, whose famous _Essay_ appeared in 1690. Of Plato, too,
Berkeley was an ardent admirer, and the spirit of Plato pervades his
works. His _Essay towards a New Theory of Vision_ contains some
intimations of the famous metaphysical theory which was developed a
little later in the _Treatise on Human Knowledge_.

A good deal of foolish ridicule was excited by this book. Berkeley was
supposed to maintain the absurd paradox that sensible things do not
exist at all. The reader will remember how Dr. Johnson undertook to
refute the postulate by striking his foot against a stone, while James
Beattie (1735-1803), the poet and moral philosopher, in a volume for
which he was rewarded with a pension of £200 a year, denounced
Berkeley's philosophy as 'scandalously absurd.' 'If,' he writes, 'I
were permitted to propose one clownish question, I would fain ask ...
Where is the harm of my believing that if I were to fall down yonder
precipice and break my neck, I should be no more a man of this world? My
neck, Sir, may be an idea to you, but to me it is a reality, and a very
important one too. Where is the harm of my believing that if in this
severe weather I were to neglect to throw (what you call) the idea of a
coat over the ideas of my shoulders, the idea of cold would produce the
idea of such pain and disorder as might possibly terminate in my real
death? What great offence shall I commit against God or man, church or
state, philosophy or common sense if I continue to believe that material
food will nourish me, though the idea of it will not, that the real sun
will warm and enlighten me, though the liveliest idea of him will do
neither; and that if I would obtain here peace of mind and
self-approbation, I must not only form ideas of compassion, justice and
generosity, but also really exert those virtues in external

Beattie continues in this foolish strain to throw contempt upon a system
which he had not taken the trouble to understand, and upon one of the
sanest and noblest of English philosophers, and he does so without a
thought that the absurdity is due to his own ignorance and not to the
theory of Berkeley. The author of the _Minstrel_ was an honest man and a
respectable poet, but he prided himself too much on what he called
common sense, and failed to see that in the search after truth other and
even higher faculties may be also needed. Moreover, Berkeley, so far
from being an enemy to common sense, endeavours, as he says, to
vindicate it, although in so doing, he 'may perhaps be obliged to use
some _ambages_ and ways of speech not common.' A significant passage may
be quoted from the _Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous_ (1713)
in illustration of his method and style so far indeed as a short extract
can illustrate an argument sustained by a long course of reasoning.

    '_Phil._ As I am no sceptic with regard to the nature of things,
    so neither am I as to their existence. That a thing should be
    really perceived by my senses, and at the same time not really
    exist is to me a plain contradiction; since I cannot prescind or
    abstract even in thought, the existence of a sensible thing from
    its being perceived. Wood, stones, fire, water, flesh, iron, and
    the like things, which I name and discourse of, are things that
    I know. And I should not have known them but that I perceived
    them by my senses; and things perceived by the senses are
    immediately perceived; and things immediately perceived are
    ideas; and ideas cannot exist without the mind; their existence
    therefore consists in being perceived; when therefore they are
    actually perceived there can be no doubt of their existence....
    I might as well doubt of my own being, as of the being of those
    things I actually see and feel.

    '_Hyl._ Not so fast, _Philonous_; you say you cannot conceive
    how sensible things should exist without the mind. Do you not?

    '_Phil._ I do.

    '_Hyl._ Supposing you were annihilated, cannot you conceive it
    possible that things perceivable by sense may still exist?

    '_Phil._ I can; but then it must be in another mind. When I deny
    sensible things an existence out of the mind, I do not mean my
    mind in particular, but all minds. Now, it is plain they have an
    existence exterior to my mind; since I find them by experience
    to be independent of it. There is therefore some other mind
    wherein they exist, during the intervals between the times of my
    perceiving them; as likewise they did before my birth, and
    would do after my supposed annihilation. And as the same is true
    with regard to all other finite created spirits, it necessarily
    follows there is an _omnipresent, eternal Mind_, which knows and
    comprehends all things, and exhibits them to our view in such a
    manner, and according to such rules, as He Himself hath
    ordained, and are by us termed the _Laws of Nature_.'

    'Truth is the cry of all,' says Berkeley in the final paragraph
    of _Siris_, 'but the game of a few. Certainly, where it is the
    chief passion, it doth not give way to vulgar cares and views,
    nor is it contented with a little ardour, active perhaps to
    pursue, but not so fit to weigh and revise. He that would make a
    real progress in knowledge, must dedicate his age as well as
    youth, the latter growth as well as firstfruits at the altar of

Elsewhere in this famous treatise he writes:

    'It cannot be denied that with respect to the universe of things
    we in this mortal state are like men educated in Plato's cave,
    looking on shadows with our backs turned to the light. But
    though our light be dim and our situation bad, yet if the best
    use be made of both, perhaps something may be seen. Proclus, in
    his commentary on the theology of Plato, observes there are two
    sorts of philosophers. The one placed body first in the order of
    beings, and made the faculty of thinking depend thereupon,
    supposing that the principles of all things are corporeal; that
    body most really or principally exists, and all other things in
    a secondary sense and by virtue of that. Others making all
    corporeal things to be dependent upon soul or mind, think this
    to exist in the first place, and primary senses and the being of
    bodies to be altogether derived from, and presuppose that of the

This was Berkeley's creed, and his great aim throughout is to prove the
phenomenal nature of the things of sense, or in other words the
non-existence of independent matter. He makes, he says, not the least
question that the things we see and touch really exist, but what he does
question is the existence of matter apart from its perception to the
mind. Hobbes said that the body accounted for the mind, and that matter
was the deepest thing in the universe, while to Berkeley the only true
reality consists in what is spiritual and eternal.

'The great idealist,' says an able writer, 'certainly never denied the
existence of matter in the sense in which Johnson understood it. As the
touched, the seen, the heard, the smelled, the tasted, he admitted and
maintained its existence as readily and completely as the most
illiterate and unsophisticated of mankind,' and he adds that the
peculiar endowment for which Berkeley was distinguished 'far beyond his
predecessors and contemporaries, and far beyond almost every philosopher
who has succeeded him, was the eye he had _for facts_, and the singular
pertinacity with which he refused to be dislodged from his hold upon

Pope's age produced a few great masters of style, and among them
Berkeley holds an undisputed place. He succeeded, too, in the most
difficult department of intellectual labour, since to express abstruse
thought in language as beautiful as it is clear is the rarest of gifts.

'His works are beyond dispute the finest models of philosophic style
since Cicero. Perhaps they surpass those of the orator, in the wonderful
art by which the fullest light is thrown on the most minute and
evanescent parts of the most subtle of human conceptions.'[63]

[Sidenote: William Law (1686-1761).]

William Law was born in 1686 at King's Cliffe in Northamptonshire, and
entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, as a Sizar in 1705. He obtained a
Fellowship, and received holy orders in 1711, but having made a speech
offensive to the heads of houses, he was degraded. Law believed in the
divine right of kings, and on the death of Queen Anne, declared his
principles as a non-juror. In 1717 he published his first controversial
work, _Three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor_; Hoadly, the famous
bishop, having, in his opponent's judgment, uttered lax and
latitudinarian views with regard to the Church of which he was one of
the chief pastors. These _Letters_ have been highly praised for wit as
well as for argument, and Dean Hook, writing of the Bangorian
Controversy in his _Church Dictionary_, states that 'Law's _Letters_
have never been answered and may, indeed, be regarded as unanswerable.'
Law was also the most powerful assailant of Warburton's _Divine
Legation_, which he opposed with a burning zeal that was not always
wise. But as a controversialist he was an infinitely stronger man than
his opponent, and unlike Warburton, he never debased controversy by
scurrility, which the bishop generally found a more potent weapon than

On the publication, in 1723, of Dr. Mandeville's _Fable of the Bees_, it
was vigorously attacked by Law. In this masterly pamphlet, instead of
attempting to refute the physician by showing that virtue is more
profitable to the State than vice, and that, therefore, private vices
are not public benefits, Law takes a higher ground, and asserts that
morality is not a question of profit and loss, but of conscience.
Mandeville maintains that man is a mere animal governed by his passions;
his opponent, on the other hand, argues that man is created in the image
of God, that virtue 'is a law to which even the divine nature is
subject,' and that human nature is fitted to rise to the angels, while
Mandeville would lower it to the brutes.

John Sterling, writing to F. D. Maurice of the first section of Law's
remarks, says: 'I have never seen in our language the elementary
grounds of a rational ideal philosophy, as opposed to empiricism, stated
with nearly the same clearness, simplicity, and force,' and it was at
Sterling's suggestion that Maurice published a new edition of Law's
argument with an introductory essay (1844).

The following passage from the _Remarks on the Fable of the Bees_ will
illustrate Law's method as a polemic:

    'Deists and freethinkers are generally considered as
    unbelievers; but upon examination they will appear to be men of
    the most resigned and implicit faith in the world; they would
    believe _transubstantiation_, but that it implies a believing in
    God; for they never resign their reason, but when it is to yield
    to something that opposes salvation. For the Deist's creed has
    as many articles as the Christian's, and requires a much greater
    suspension of our reason to believe them. So that if to believe
    things upon no authority, or without any reason, be an argument
    of credulity, the freethinker will appear to be the most easy,
    credulous creature alive. In the first place, he is to believe
    almost all the same articles to be false which the Christian
    believes to be true.

    'Now, it may easily be shown that it requires stronger acts of
    faith to believe these articles to be false, than to believe
    them to be true. For, taking faith to be an assent of the mind
    to some proposition, of which we have no certain knowledge, it
    will appear that the Deist's faith is much stronger, and has
    more of credulity in it, than the Christian's. For instance, the
    Christian believes the resurrection of the dead, because he
    finds it supported by such evidence and authority as cannot
    possibly be higher, supposing the thing was true; and he does no
    more violence to his reason in believing it, than in supposing
    that God may intend to do some things, which the reason of man
    cannot conceive how they will be effected.

    'On the contrary, the Deist believes there will be no
    resurrection. And how great is his faith, for he pretends to no
    evidence or authority to support it; it is a pure naked assent
    of his mind to what he does not know to be true, and of which
    nobody has, or can give him, any full assurance. So that the
    difference between a Christian and a Deist does not consist in
    this, that the one assents to things unknown, and the other does
    not; but in this, that the Christian assents to things unknown
    on account of evidence; the other assents to things unknown
    without any evidence at all. Which shows that the Christian is
    the rational believer and the Deist the blind bigot.'

It is probable that Law, like other writers on the orthodox side, did
not sufficiently take into account the service rendered by the Deists in
arousing a spirit of inquiry. Free-thinking is right thinking, and 'it
was a result of the Deistic controversy, which went far to make up many
evils in it, that in the end it widened and enlarged Christian

The author's next and weakest work, _On the Unlawfulness of Stage
Entertainments_ (1726), is mentioned elsewhere.[65]

In the same year he published _Christian Perfection_, a profoundly
earnest but puritanically narrow work, in which our earthly life is
regarded simply as the road to another. 'There is nothing that deserves
a serious thought,' he writes, 'but how to get out of the world and make
it a right passage to our eternal state.' No man ever practised what he
preached with more sincerity and persistency than William Law, but it
can hardly be doubted that he narrowed the range of his influence by the
views he expressed with regard to culture and to all human learning. He
forgot that, without the logic, the wit, the irony, the singular force
and lucidity of style displayed in his own writings, he would have
lost the power as a religious teacher which he was so eager to exercise.

Literature _quâ_ literature Law regarded with contempt, and he is said
to have looked upon the study even of Milton as waste of time. Yet his
biographer states what seems likely enough, considering the fine
qualities of Law's own writings, that 'no author was ever a favourite
with him, unless he was a man of literary merit.'

In 1727, and probably before that date, Law held the position of tutor
to Edward Gibbon, whose famous son, the historian, in his
_Autobiography_, gives to him the high praise of having left in the
family 'the reputation of a worthy and pious man, who believed all that
he professed, and practised all that he enjoined.'

Law accompanied his pupil to Cambridge, and it is conjectured that
during this residence at the university he wrote what Gibbon justly
called his 'master work,' _A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life_
(1729), the most impressive book of its class produced in the eighteenth
century. The historian's father was a man of feeble character. He left
Cambridge without a degree, and went on his travels, the tutor meanwhile
remaining in the family house at Putney, where he seems to have gathered
round him a number of disciples.

The _Serious Call_ had an immediate and strong influence on many
thoughtful men, and Law's book stimulated in no common measure the
religious life of the country. John Wesley spoke of it as a treatise
hardly to be excelled in the English tongue 'either for beauty of
expression, or for justness and depth of thought.' Whitefield, Venn, and
Thomas Scott, the commentator, acknowledged their indebtedness to the
work, and Dr. Johnson, speaking of his youthful days, said: 'I became a
sort of lax _talker_ against religion, for I did not much _think_
against it; and this lasted till I went to Oxford, when I took up Law's
_Serious Call to a Holy Life_, expecting to find it a dull book (as such
books generally are), but I found Law quite an over-match for me; and
this was the first occasion of my thinking in earnest.' The first Lord
Lyttelton, the historian and friend of Thomson, is said to have taken up
the book one night at bed-time, and to have read it through before he
went to bed; but, perhaps, the most unimpeachable evidence in its favour
comes from the pen of Gibbon, who writes: 'Mr. Law's precepts are rigid,
but they are founded on the Gospel. His satire is sharp, but it is drawn
from the knowledge of human life, and many of his portraits are not
unworthy of the pen of La Bruyère. If he finds a spark of piety in his
reader's mind he will soon kindle it to a flame.'

Law's art as a portrait painter will be seen in the following sketch of

    '_Flavia_ would be a miracle of piety if she was but half so
    careful of her soul as she is of her body. The rising of a
    _pimple_ on her face, the sting of a gnat, will make her keep
    her room two or three days, and she thinks they are very rash
    people that do not take care of things in time. This makes her
    so over careful of her health that she never thinks she is well
    enough, and so over indulgent that she never can be really well.
    So that it costs her a great deal in sleeping draughts and
    waking draughts, in spirits for the head, in drops for the
    nerves, in cordials for the stomach, and in saffron for her tea.

    'If you visit _Flavia_ on the Sunday, you will always meet good
    company, you will know what is doing in the world, you will hear
    the last lampoon, be told who wrote it, and who is meant by
    every name that is in it. You will hear what plays were acted
    that week, which is the finest song in the opera, who was
    intolerable at the last assembly, and what games are most in
    fashion. _Flavia_ thinks they are atheists who play at cards on
    the Sunday, but she will tell you the nicety of all the games,
    what cards she held, how she played them, and the history of all
    that happened at play, as soon as she comes from church. If you
    would know who is rude and ill-natured, who is vain and foppish,
    who lives too high and who is in debt; if you would know what is
    the quarrel at a certain house, or who and who are in love; if
    you would know how late Belinda comes home at night, what
    clothes she has bought, how she loves compliments, and what a
    long story she told at such a place; if you would know how cross
    Lucius is to his wife, what ill-natured things he says to her,
    when nobody hears him; if you would know how they hate one
    another in their hearts though they appear so kind in public;
    you must visit _Flavia_ on the Sunday. But still she has so
    great a regard for the holiness of the Sunday, that she has
    turned a poor old widow out of her house as a _profane wretch_,
    for having been found once mending her clothes on the Sunday

Between the years 1733-37, owing to his acquaintance with the writings
of the famous mystic, Jacob Boehme, Law became a mystic himself. The
'blessed Jacob' as he calls him exercised an influence which colours all
his later writings and lasted till his death. In 1740 he retired to his
native village and to solitude; but after a while two wealthy and devout
ladies, one of them a widow, the other the historian's aunt, Miss Hester
Gibbon, joined him in his retreat and devoted to charitable objects
their labours and their fortunes. 'Out of a joint income of not less
than three thousand pounds a year, only about three hundred pounds were
spent upon the frugal expenses of the household and the simple personal
wants of the three inhabitants. The whole of the remainder was spent
upon the poor.'[66] Report says, let us hope it may be scandal, that
after the master's death the love of earthly vanities revived in two of
his pupils. His favourite niece had a new dress every month, and Miss
Gibbon 'appeared resplendent in yellow stockings.' This is not the place
to follow Law's self-denying career, neither are we concerned with the
volumes which contain his later views. Admirably written though they be,
these works do not belong to the field of literature. Law lived in
vigour both of mind and body to a good old age, and died in 1761.

[Sidenote: Joseph Butler (1692-1752).]

Joseph Butler, whose _Sermons_ (1726), and _Analogy of Religion Natural
and Revealed to the Constitution and Course of Nature_ (1736), are among
the highest contributions to theology produced in the last century,
called the imagination 'a forward, delusive faculty,' and he could have
boasted that it was a faculty of which no trace is to be found in his
works. Moreover, he is generally regarded as wholly destitute of style,
and in a sense this is true, for Butler is so intent upon what he has to
say that he cares little how he says it. His sense of beauty if he
possessed it, was absorbed in a supreme allegiance to truth, and his
life was that of a Christian philosopher intent upon one object. His
sermons, preached at the Rolls Chapel, which contain the germ of his
philosophy, are too closely packed with argument and too recondite in
thought to fit them for pulpit discourses. The _Analogy_, which occupied
seven years of Butler's life, is better known and more generally
interesting. 'There is,' he says, 'a much more exact correspondence
between the natural and the moral world than we are apt to take notice
of.' His aim is to show that the difficulties which meet us in
Revelation are to be found also in nature, that as our happiness or
misery in this world largely depends upon conduct, so it is reasonable
to suppose, apart from what Revelation teaches, that we are also in a
state of probation with regard to a future life. As youth is an
education for mature age, so may the whole of our earthly life be an
education for a future existence.

    'And if we were not able at all to discern how or in what way
    the present life could be our preparation for another, this
    would be no objection against the credibility of its being so.
    For we do not discern how food and sleep contribute to the
    growth of the body; nor could have any thought that they would
    before we had experience. Nor do children at all think on the
    one hand that the sports and exercises, to which they are so
    much addicted, contribute to their health and growth; nor, on
    the other, of the necessity which there is for their being
    restrained in them; nor are they capable of understanding the
    use of many parts of discipline, which, nevertheless, they must
    be made to go through in order to qualify them for the business
    of mature age. Were we not able, then, to discover in what
    respects the present life could form us for a future one, yet
    nothing would be more supposable than that it might, in some
    respects or other, from the general analogy of Providence. And
    this, for aught I see, might reasonably be said, even though we
    should not take in the consideration of God's moral government
    over the world. But, take in this consideration, and
    consequently, that the character of virtue and piety is a
    necessary qualification for the future state, and then we may
    distinctly see how and in what respects the present life may be
    a preparation for it.

Butler's style is uniform throughout, and if it have no other merit, may
be praised for honesty. It is wholly free from the artifices of the
rhetorician; if it is wanting in charm, it is never weak; if it is
sometimes obscure, it must be remembered that the author does not write
for readers who find it a trouble to think. The bishop's obscurity was
not due to negligence. 'Confusion and perplexity in writing,' he says,
'is indeed without excuse; because anyone may, if he pleases, know
whether he understands and sees through what he is about; and it is
unpardonable for a man to lay his thoughts before others when he is
conscious that he himself does not know whereabouts he is, or how the
matter before him stands. It is coming abroad in disorder, which he
ought to be dissatisfied to find himself in at home.'

Butler weighed his thoughts rather than his words in an age when many
distinguished writers were tempted to regard form as of more consequence
than substance. It must be admitted, however, that if the ideal of fine
literature be the expression of beautiful and richly suggestive thoughts
in a style elevated by the imagination, and by a sense of rhythmical
harmony, Bishop Butler's place is not among men of letters. His profound
sense of the seriousness of life limited his range; but as a thinker,
what he lost in versatility he probably gained in depth. The _Analogy_
is a striking instance of a great work wholly without imagination, while
full of the intellectual life which sustains the student's attention.
There is not a dull page in the book, or one in which the author's
meaning cannot be grasped by thoughtful readers. The work is full of
weighty sayings on the power of conscience, the rule of right which a
man has within him, the force of habit, the necessity of action in
relation to belief, and the uselessness of passive impressions. It has
been said that the defect of the eighteenth century theology 'was not in
having too much good sense, but in having nothing besides,' and the
straining after good sense, so prominent in Pope's age, affected alike,
men of letters, philosophers, and theologians. The virtue was carried to
excess and is conspicuous in Butler. He has his weaknesses both as a
philosopher and a theologian, but the reader of the _Analogy_ and of the
three sermons on Human Nature, will be conscious that he is in the
presence of a great mind.

[Sidenote: William Warburton (1698-1779).]

William Warburton, Pope's commentator, was born at Newark-upon-Trent in
1698, and died as Bishop of Gloucester in 1779. The main argument of his
principal work, _The Divine Legation of Moses_ (1738-41), is based upon
the astounding paradox that the legation of Moses must have been divine
because he never invoked the promises or threatenings of a future state.
The book is remarkable for its arrogance and lack of 'sweet
reasonableness.' It claims no attention from the student of English
literature, neither would Warburton himself were it not for his
association with Pope. Allusion has been already made to Crousaz's
hostile criticism of the _Essay on Man_ (1737) on the ground that it led
to fatalism, and was destructive of the foundations of natural religion.
Warburton, who had previously denounced the 'rank atheism' of the poem,
now endeavoured to defend it, and how effectually he did so in Pope's
judgment is seen in his grateful acknowledgment of the critic's labours.
'I know I meant just what you explain,' he wrote, 'but I did not explain
my own meaning as well as you. You understand me as well as I do myself,
but you express me better than I could express myself.'

Dr. Conyers Middleton's estimate of what Warburton had done for Pope is
more accurate: 'You have evinced the orthodoxy of Mr. Pope's
principles,' he says, 'but, like the old commentators on his _Homer_,
will be thought, perhaps, in some places to have provided a meaning for
him that he himself never dreamt of.'[67]

The poet and Warburton met for the first time in 1740, and the
bookseller, Dodsley, who was present at the interview, was astonished at
the compliments which Pope lavished on his apologist. Henceforth,
until the poet's death, Warburton, who, according to Bishop Hurd, 'found
an image of himself in his new acquaintance,' became his counsellor and
supporter, and among other achievements added, as Ricardus Aristarchus,
to the confusion of the _Dunciad_. Ultimately, as Pope's annotator, he
produced much laborious and comparatively worthless criticism, and
contrived by his immense fighting qualities as a critic and polemic to
make a considerable noise in the world. One incident in the friendship
of the poet and of the divine is worth recording. In 1741 Pope and
Warburton were at Oxford together, and while there the Vice-Chancellor
offered to confer on the poet the degree of D.C.L., and on Warburton
that of D.D. Some hesitation, however, on the part of the university
having occurred with regard to the latter, Pope wrote to his friend
saying, 'As for mine I will die before I receive one, in an art I am
ignorant of, at a place where there remains any scruple of bestowing one
on you, in a science of which you are so great a master. In short I will
be doctored with you, or not at all.'

Warburton's stupendous self-assertion concealed to some extent his heavy
style and poverty of thought. His aim was to startle by paradoxes, since
he could not convince by argument. No one could call an opponent names
in the Billingsgate style more effectively, and every man who ventured
to differ from him was either a knave or a fool. 'Warburton's stock
argument,' it has been said, 'is a threat to cudgel anyone who disputes
his opinion.' He was a laborious student, and the mass of work he
accomplished exhibits his robust energy, but he has left nothing which
lives in literature or in theology. He was, however, a man of various
acquisitions, and won, for that reason, the praise of Dr. Johnson. 'The
table is always full, sir. He brings things from the north and the
south and from every quarter. In his _Divine Legation_ you are always
entertained. He carries you round and round without carrying you forward
to the point, but then you have no wish to be carried forward.'

Bentley's more concise description of Warburton's attainments deserves
to be recorded. He was, he says, 'a man of monstrous appetite, but bad

Warburton's _Shakespeare_ appeared in 1747, his _Pope_ in 1751. It
cannot be said that either poet has cause to be grateful to his
commentator. Of his _Shakespeare_ a few words may be appropriately said
here. In this pretentious and untrustworthy edition, Warburton accuses
Theobald of plagiarism, treats him with contempt, and then uses his text
to print from. In his Preface he declares that his own Notes 'take in
the whole compass of Criticism,' and he professes to restore the poet's
genuine Text. Yet, as the editors of the _Cambridge Shakespeare_
observe, there is no trace, so far as they have discovered, 'of his
having collated for himself either the earlier Folios or any of the
Quartos.' Warburton professed to observe the severe canons of literal
criticism, and this suggested the title to Thomas Edwards of a volume in
which the critic's editorial pretensions are attacked with some humour
and much justice.[68]

We may add that Bishop Hurd, Warburton's most intimate friend, edited
his works in seven volumes (1788), and six years later, by way of
preface to a new edition, published an _Account of the Life, Writings,
and Character of the Author_.


[57] Readers who remember Mr. Browning's estimate of 'sage Mandeville'
in his _Parleyings with Certain Persons_ may deem this criticism unjust;
but the De Mandeville who speaks in that poem is the creation of the
poet's imagination, or rather he is Mr. Browning himself.

[58] _Bolingbroke: a Historical Study_, p. 133. By J. Churton Collins.

[59] _Walpole_, p. 79. By John Morley. Macmillan.

[60] _Works of George Berkeley._ Edited by George Sampson. With
introduction by the Rt. Hon. Arthur J. Balfour, M.P. Vol. i., p. xxxi
(London, 1897).

[61] _An Essay on Truth_, 2nd edit., p. 298. 1771.

[62] _Blackwood's Magazine_, June, 1842.

[63] Sir James Macintosh, _Encyclopædia Britannica_.

[64] _The English Church and its Bishops._ By Charles J. Abbey. Vol. i.,
p. 236.

[65] See p. 194.

[66] _The Life and Opinions of the Rev. William Law, M.A._ By J. H.
Overton, M.A. P. 243.

[67] Middleton's _Miscellaneous Works_, vol. i., p. 402.

[68] The first edition of Edwards's work was entitled _Supplement_ to
Mr. Warburton's edition of _Shakespeare_, 1747. The third edition (1750)
was called _The Canons of Criticism and Glossary_ by Thomas Edwards. Of
this volume seven editions were published. Edwards, who was born in
1699, died in 1757.


JOHN ARMSTRONG (1709-1779), a Scotchman by birth, practised in London as
a physician after some surgical experience in the navy. Believing any
subject suitable for poetry, he wrote in blank verse, reminding one of
Thomson, _The Art of Preserving Health_ (1744), a poem containing some
powerful passages, and many which are better fitted for a medical
treatise than for poetry. An earlier and licentious poem _The Economy of
Love_, which injured him in his profession, was 'revised and corrected
by the author' in 1768.

If bulk were a sign of merit SIR RICHARD BLACKMORE (1650-1729) would not
rank with the minor poets. He wrote several long and wearisome epics,
his best work in Dr. Johnson's judgment being _The Creation_ (1712),
which was praised by Addison in the _Spectator_ as 'one of the most
useful and noble productions in our English verse,' a judgment the
modern reader is not likely to endorse.

HENRY BROOKE (1706-1783), an Irishman, was the author of a poem entitled
_Universal Beauty_ (1735). Four years later he published _Gustavus
Vasa_, a tragedy, which was not allowed to be acted, the sentiments
being too liberal for the government. His _Fool of Quality_ (1766) a
novel in five volumes, delighted John Wesley, and in our day, Charles
Kingsley, who praises its 'broad and genial humanity.' Brooke was a
follower of William Law, whose mysticism is to be seen in the story.

WILLIAM BROOME (1689-1745) is chiefly known from his association with
Pope in the translation of the _Odyssey_, of which enough has been said
elsewhere (p. 38). His name suggested the following epigram to Henley:

    'Pope came off clean with Homer; but they say
    _Broome_ went before and kindly swept the way.'

He entered holy orders, had two livings in Suffolk and one in Norfolk,
and married a wealthy widow. His verses are mechanically correct, but
are empty of poetry.

JOHN BYROM (1691-1763), the friend and disciple of William Law, the
author of the _Serious Call_, is best remembered for his system of
shorthand. In a characteristic, copious, and not very attractive
journal, he describes, for the consolation of his fellow mortals, how he
makes resolutions and breaks them. Byrom wrote rhyme with ease and on
subjects with which poetry has nothing to do. His most successful
achievement was a pastoral, _Colin and Phoebe_, which appeared in the
_Spectator_ (Vol. viii., No. 603). It was written in honour of the
daughter of Dr. Bentley, Master of Trinity, 'not,' it has been said,
'because he wished to win her affections, but because he desired to
secure her father's interest for the Fellowship for which he was a
candidate.' The plan was successful. The one verse of Byrom's that every
one has read is the happy epigram:

    'God bless the King!--I mean the faith's defender--
    God bless (no harm in blessing!) the Pretender!
    But who Pretender is, or who is King--
    God bless us all!--that's quite another thing.'

SAMUEL CLARKE (1675-1729), a man of large attainments in science and
divinity, was the favourite theologian of Queen Caroline, who admired
his latitudinarian views, and delighted in his conversation. His works,
edited by Bishop Hoadly, were published in 1738 in four folio volumes.
In 1704 he delivered the Boyle lectures on _The Being and Attributes of
God_, and in 1705 _On Natural and Revealed Religion_. His _Scripture
Doctrine of the Trinity_ (1712) was condemned by convocation. In defence
of Sir Isaac Newton, Clarke had a controversy with Leibnitz, and having
published the correspondence dedicated it to the Queen. His sermons, Mr.
Leslie Stephen says, are 'for the most part not sermons at all, but
lectures upon metaphysics.' In Addison's judgment Clarke was one of the
most accurate, learned, and judicious writers the age had produced.

ELIJAH FENTON (1683-1730) wrote poems and _Mariamne_ a tragedy, in
which, according to his friend Broome, 'great Sophocles revives and
reappears.' It was acted with applause, and brought nearly one thousand
pounds to its author. His name is now chiefly known as having assisted
Pope in his translation of the _Odyssey_.

RICHARD GLOVER (1712-1785), the son of a London merchant, was himself a
merchant of high reputation in the city. He also 'cultivated the Muses,'
and his _Leonidas_ (1737), an elaborate poem in blank verse, preferred
by some critics of the day to _Paradise Lost_, passed through several
editions and was praised by Fielding and by Lord Chatham. Power is
visible in this epic, which displays also a large amount of knowledge,
but the salt of genius is wanting, and the poem, despite many estimable
qualities, is now forgotten. _Leonidas_ was followed by _Boadicea_
(1758), and _The Atheniad_, published after his death in 1788. Glover
was a politician as well as a verseman. His party feeling probably
inspired _Admiral Hosier's Ghost_ (1739), a ballad still remembered and
preserved in anthologies.

MATTHEW GREEN (1696-1737) is the author of _The Spleen_, an original and
brightly written poem. _The Grotto_, printed but not published in 1732,
is also marked by freshness of treatment. Green's poems, written in
octosyllabic metre, were published after his death.

JAMES HAMMOND (1710-1742) produced many forlorn elegies on a lady who
appears to have scorned him, and who lived in 'maiden meditation' for
nearly forty years after the poet's death. His love is said to have
affected his mind for a time. 'Sure Hammond has no right,' says
Shenstone, 'to the least inventive merit. I do not think that there is a
single thought in his elegies of any eminence that is not literally

NATHANIEL HOOKE (1690-1763), the author of a _Roman History_, is better
known as the editor of _An Account of the conduct of the Dowager Duchess
of Marlborough, from her first coming to Court in the year 1710, in a
letter from herself to Lord ---- in 1742_. The duchess is said to have
dictated this letter from her bed, and to have been so eager for its
completion that she insisted on Hooke's not leaving the house till he
had finished it. He was munificently rewarded for his labour by a
present of £5,000. It was Hooke, a zealous Roman Catholic, who, when
Pope was dying, asked him if he should not send for a priest, and
received the poet's hearty thanks for putting him in mind of it.

JOHN HUGHES (1677-1719) was the author of poems, an opera, a masque,
several translations, and a tragedy, _The Siege of Damascus_, which was
well received, and kept its place on the stage for some years. He died
on the first night's performance of the play. Several articles in the
_Tatler_ and _Spectator_ are from his pen. In 1715 he published an
edition of Spenser in six volumes. Hughes received warm praise from
Steele, and enjoyed also the friendship of Addison.

CONYERS MIDDLETON (1683-1750) is now chiefly known for an extravagantly
eulogistic life of _Cicero_ (1741), in which, as Macaulay observes, he
'resorted to the most disingenuous shifts, to unpardonable distortions
and suppressions of facts.' The book is written in a forcible and lively
style. A man of considerable learning, Middleton was a violent
controversialist, who liked better to attack and to defend than to dwell
in the serene atmosphere of literature or of practical divinity. He
assailed the famous Richard Bentley with such rancour that he had to
apologize and was fined £50 by the Court of King's Bench. Middleton was
a doctor of divinity, but his controversial works, while never directly
attacking the chief tenets of the religion he professed, lean far more
to the side of the Deists than to the orthodox creed, and, indeed, it
would not be uncharitable to class him among them. He appears, like
Swift, to have chiefly regarded the Christian religion as an institution
of service to the stability of the State. Of the _Miscellaneous Works_
which were published after his death in five volumes, the most elaborate
and the most provocative of disputation is _A Free Inquiry into the
Miraculous Powers which are supposed to have subsisted in the Christian
Church through several successive centuries_ (1749). Middleton was
educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1734 was elected
librarian of the University.

RICHARD SAVAGE (1698-1743), whose fate is one of the most melancholy in
the annals of versemen, lives in the admirable though neither impartial
nor wholly accurate biography of Dr. Johnson. In 1719 he produced _Love
in a Veil_, a comedy from the Spanish; and in 1723 his tragedy _Sir
Thomas Overbury_ was acted, but with little success. In the same year he
published _The Bastard_, a poem which is said to have driven his mother
out of society. _The Wanderer_, in five cantos, appeared in 1729, and
was regarded by the author as his masterpiece. It has some vigorous
lines and several descriptive passages that are not conventional. Savage
died in prison at Bristol, a city which recalls the equally painful
story of Chatterton.

LEWIS THEOBALD (1688-1744), the original hero of the _Dunciad_, was a
dramatist and translator, but is chiefly known as the author of
_Shakespeare Restored; or specimens of blunders committed or unamended
in Pope's edition of the poet_ (1726). This was followed two years later
by _Proposals for Publishing Emendations and Remarks on Shakespeare_,
and in 1733 by his edition of the dramatist in seven volumes. 'Theobald
as an editor,' say the editors of the _Cambridge Shakespeare_, 'is
incomparably superior to his predecessors and to his immediate successor
Warburton, although the latter had the advantage of working on his
materials. He was the first to recall a multitude of readings of the
first Folio unquestionably right, but unnoticed by previous editors.
Many most brilliant emendations ... are due to him.'

WILLIAM WALSH (1663-1708) has chronologically little claim to be noticed
here, for his poems were published before the beginning of the century,
but he is to be remembered as the early friend and wise counsellor of
Pope, and also as the author, I believe, of the only English sonnet
between Milton's in 1658, and Gray's, on Richard West, in 1742.

ANNE FINCH, Countess of Winchelsea (1660-1720), published a volume of
verse in 1713 under the title of _Miscellany Poems on Several Occasions,
Written by a Lady_. The book contains a _Nocturnal Reverie_, which has
some lines showing a close and faithful observation of rural sounds and
sights, as for example:

    'When the loosed horse, now as his pasture leads,
    Comes slowly grazing through the adjoining meads,
    Whose stealing pace and lengthened shade we fear,
    Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear;
    When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
    And unmolested kine rechew the cud;
    When curlews cry beneath the village walls,
    And to her straggling brood the partridge calls.'

The _Nocturnal Reverie_, however, is an exception to the general
character of Lady Winchelsea's poems, which consist chiefly of odes
(including the inevitable Pindaric), fables, songs, affectionate
addresses to her husband, poetical epistles, and a tragedy,
_Aristomenes; or the Royal Shepherd_. The _Petition for an Absolute
Retreat_ is one of the best pieces in the volume. It displays great
facility in versification, and a love of country delights.

THOMAS YALDEN (1670-1736), born in Exeter, and educated at Magdalen
College, Oxford, entered into holy orders (1711), and was appointed
lecturer of moral philosophy. 'Of his poems,' writes Dr. Johnson, 'many
are of that irregular kind which, when he formed his poetical character,
was supposed to be Pindaric.' Pindarics were indeed the bane of the age.
Every minor poet, no matter however feeble his poetical wings might be,
endeavoured to fly with Pindar. Like Gay, Yalden tried his skill as a
writer of fables.


    _Mrs. Veal's Ghost_ (see pp. 186-187). A curious discovery, made
    by Mr. G. A. Aitken (see _Nineteenth Century_, January, 1895),
    makes it certain, he thinks, that 'the whole narrative is
    literally true.' He even hopes that the receipt for scouring
    Mrs. Veal's gown may some day be found. Mr. Aitken seems to
    infer that Defoe's other tales will also turn out to be true
    histories, but Defoe avers, with all the seriousness he expends
    on Mrs. Veal, that he witnessed the great Plague of London,
    which it is needless to say he did not.


=1667.=       =Swift born.=
=1672.=       =Steele born.=
=1672.=       =Addison born.=
 1674.        Milton died.
=1688.=       =Gay born.=
=1688.=       =Pope born.=
 1688.        Bunyan died.
 1690.        Locke's _Essay Concerning Human Understanding_.
 1694.        Voltaire born.
 1699.        Racine died.
=1700.=       =Thomson born.=
=1700.=       =Dryden died.=
 1700.        Fénelon's _Télémaque_.
 1703.        John Wesley born.
 1704.        Locke died.
=1704.=       =Addison's= _Campaign_.
=1704.=       =Swift's= _Tale of a Tub_ and _Battle of the Books_.
 1707.        Fielding born.
 1709.        Johnson born.
=1709.=       =Pope's= _Pastorals_.
=1709-1711.=  _The Tatler._
=1710.=       =Berkeley's= _Principles of Human Knowledge_.
=1711.=       =Pope's= _Essay on Criticism_.
1711-1712,}   _The Spectator._
and 1714. }
 1711.        Hume born.
=1712.=       =Pope's= _Rape of the Lock_.
 1712.        Rousseau born.
=1713.=       =Addison's= _Cato_.
 1713.        Sterne born.
=1714.=       =Mandeville's= _Fable of the Bees_.
=1715.=       =Gay's= _Trivia_.
=1715-1720.=  =Pope's= _Translation of Homer's Iliad_.
 1715.        Wycherley died.
=1718.=       =Prior's= _Poems on Several Occasions_ =(folio)=.
=1719-1720.=  =Defoe's= _Robinson Crusoe_ =(first part)=.
=1719.=       =Addison died.=
=1721.=       =Prior died.=
 1721.        Smollett born.
=1723-1725.=  =Pope's= _Translation of Homer's Odyssey_.
=1724.=       =Swift's= _Drapier's Letters_.
 1724.        Kant born.
 1724.        Klopstock born.
=1725-1730.=  =Thomson's= _Seasons_.
=1725.=       =Ramsay's= _Gentle Shepherd_.
=1725.=       =Young's= _Universal Passion_.
=1726.=       =Swift's= _Gulliver's Travels_.
=1727.=       =Gay's= _Fables_.
=1728.=       =Pope's= _Dunciad_.
=1728.=       =Gay's= _Beggar's Opera_.
 1728.        Goldsmith born.
=1729.=       =Law's= _Serious Call_.
 1729.        Burke born.
 1729.        Lessing born.
=1729.=       =Steele died.=
=1731.=       =Defoe died.=
 1731.        Cowper born.
=1732-1735.=  =Pope's= _Moral Essays_.
=1732-1734.=  =Pope's= _Essay on Man_.
=1732.=       =Gay died.=
=1733-1737.=  =Pope's= _Imitations of Horace_.
=1735.=       =Pope's= _Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot_.
=1736.=       =Butler's= _Analogy of Religion_.
 1737.        Gibbon born.
=1738.=       =Hume's= _Treatise of Human Nature_.
=1740.=       =Cibber's= _Apology for his Life_.
 1740.        Richardson's _Pamela_.
 1742.        Fielding's _Joseph Andrews_.
=1742.=       =Pope's= _Dunciad_ =(fourth book added)=.
=1742.=       =Young's= _Night Thoughts_.
=1743.=       =Blair's= _Grave_.
=1744.=       =Akenside's= _Pleasures of Imagination_.
=1744.=       =Pope died.=
=1745.=       =Swift died.=
=1748.=       =Thomson died.=
 1748.        Hume's _Inquiry concerning Human Understanding_.
 1748.        Richardson's _Clarissa Harlowe_.
 1748.        Smollett's _Roderick Random_.
 1749.        Goethe born.
 1749.        Fielding's _Tom Jones_.


ADDISON, JOSEPH                         1672-1719
AKENSIDE, MARK                          1721-1770
ARBUTHNOT, JOHN                         1667-1735
ARMSTRONG, JOHN                         1709-1779
ATTERBURY, FRANCIS                      1662-1732
BENTLEY, RICHARD                        1662-1742
BERKELEY, GEORGE                        1685-1753
BINNING, LORD                           1696-1732
BLACKMORE, SIR RICHARD                  1650-1729
BLAIR, ROBERT                           1699-1746
BOLINGBROKE, LORD                       1678-1751
BOYLE, CHARLES                          1676-1731
BROOKE, HENRY                           1706-1783
BROOME, WILLIAM                         1689-1745
BUTLER, JOSEPH                          1692-1752
BYROM, JOHN                             1691-1763
CHESTERFIELD, LORD                      1694-1773
CIBBER, COLLEY                          1671-1757
CLARKE, SAMUEL                          1675-1729
COLLINS, ANTHONY                        1676-1729
CRAWFORD, ROBERT                       1695?-1732
DEFOE, DANIEL                           1661-1731
DENNIS, JOHN                          1657-1733-4
DORSET, EARL OF                       1637-1705-6
DYER, JOHN                             1698?-1758
EDWARDS, THOMAS                         1699-1757
FENTON, ELIJAH                          1683-1730
GARTH, SIR SAMUEL                    1660-1717-18
GAY, JOHN                               1685-1732
GLOVER, RICHARD                         1712-1785
GREEN, MATTHEW                          1696-1737
HAMILTON, WILLIAM (OF BANGOUR)          1704-1754
HAMMOND, JAMES                          1710-1742
HILL, AARON                             1684-1749
HOOKE, NATHANIEL                        1690-1763
HUGHES, JOHN                            1677-1719
KING, ARCHBISHOP                        1650-1729
LAW, WILLIAM                            1686-1761
LILLO, GEORGE                           1693-1739
LYTTELTON, GEORGE, LORD                 1708-1773
MALLET, DAVID                           1700-1765
MANDEVILLE, BERNARD DE                 1670?-1733
MIDDLETON, CONYERS                      1683-1750
MONTAGU, LADY MARY WORTLEY              1689-1762
PARNELL, THOMAS                         1679-1718
PHILIPS, AMBROSE                        1671-1749
PHILIPS, JOHN                           1676-1708
POPE, ALEXANDER                         1688-1744
PRIOR, MATTHEW                          1664-1721
RAMSAY, ALLAN                           1686-1758
ROWE, NICHOLAS                          1673-1718
SAVAGE, RICHARD                         1698-1743
SHAFTESBURY, LORD                       1671-1713
SHENSTONE, WILLIAM                      1714-1764
SOMERVILLE, WILLIAM                     1692-1742
SPENCE, JOSEPH                          1698-1768
STEELE, SIR RICHARD                     1672-1729
SWIFT, JONATHAN                         1667-1745
THEOBALD, LEWIS                         1688-1744
THOMSON, JAMES                          1700-1748
TICKELL, THOMAS                         1686-1740
WALSH, WILLIAM                          1663-1708
WARBURTON, WILLIAM                      1698-1779
WARDLAW, LADY                           1677-1727
WATTS, ISAAC                            1674-1748
WESLEY, CHARLES                         1708-1788
WINCHELSEA, COUNTESS OF                 1660-1720
YALDEN, THOMAS                          1670-1736
YOUNG, EDWARD                           1684-1765


Addison, Joseph, 4, 5, 15, 16, 19, 20, 35, 59, 62, 125-136, 145, 146.

_Addison, Address to Mr._, 112.

_Admiral Hosier's Ghost_, 244.

_Agamemnon_, 88.

Akenside, Mark, 117.

_Alciphron_, 216, 224.

_Alfred, Masque of_, 88, 119.

_Alma_, 67, 71.

_Ambitious Step-mother, the_, 103.

_Amyntor and Theodora_, 119.

_Analogy of Religion_, 236.

_Appius and Virginia_, 191, 193.

Arbuthnot, John, 45, 49, 175-179.

_Arbuthnot, Epistle to Dr._, 59.

Armstrong, John, 242.

_Art of Political Lying, the_, 177.

_Art of Preserving Health, the_, 242.

_Atheniad, the_, 244.

Atterbury, Bishop, 45, 70, 207-212.

Atticus, character of, 59.

Augustan Age, origin of the term, 10.

_Baucis and Philemon_, 157.

_Bangor, three Letters to the Bishop of_, 230.

Bangorian Controversy, the, 9.

_Bathos, treatise on the_, 39.

Bathurst, Lord, 46, 49.

_Battle of Blenheim, the_, 192.

_Battle of the Books, the_, 160.

_Beggar's Opera, the_, 73, 74.

Bentley, Richard, 36, 48, 160, 207, 208, 243.

_Bentley's Dissertations, Examination of_, 208.

Berkeley, Bishop, 46, 215, 221-229.

Bickerstaff, Isaac, 161;
  _Lucubrations of_ 140, 141.

Binning, Lord, 121.

_Black-eyed Susan_, 74.

Blackmore, Sir Richard, 47, 242.

Blair, Robert, 84.

_Blenheim_, 101.

Blount, Martha and Teresa, 44, 56.

_Boadicea_, 244.

Boehme, Jacob, 235.

Boileau and Pope compared, 4, 47;
  his _Art Poétique_, 29.

Bolingbroke, Lord, 8, 44, 51, 52, 59, 216-221.

Boyle, Charles, 160, 207, 208.

_Braes of Yarrow, the_, 121.

Bribery, prevalence of, 19.

_Britannia_ (Thomson's), 87;
  (Mallet's), 119.

Brooke, Henry, 242.

Broome, William, 38, 243.

_Brothers, the_, 79.

Buckingham, Duke of, 57, 70.

_Busiris_, 79.

Butler, Bishop, 236.

Byrom, John, 243.

_Cadenus and Vanessa_, 154, 165.

_Campaign, the_, 126.

_Captain Singleton_, 188.

_Careless Husband, the_, 196, 197.

Caroline, Queen, 9.

_Castle of Indolence, the_, 93.

_Cato_, 128, _et seq._

Chandos, Duke of, 57.

_Characteristics of Men, Manners, etc._, 19, 52, 212.

Charke, Mrs., _Narrative of her Life_, 11.

_Chase, the_, 112.

Chesterfield, Lord, 202-204.

_Chit-Chat_, 144.

_Christian Hero, the_, 137.

_Christianity, argument against abolishing_, 161.

_Christian Perfection_, 232.

_Christian Religion, Grounds of the_, 222.

Cibber, Colley, 48, 196-198;
  _Apology for the Life of_, 198.

_Cider_, 101.

Clarke, Dr. Samuel, 9, 243.

_Colin and Lucy_, 110.

_Colin and Phoebe_, 243.

Collier, Jeremy, 137.

Collins, Anthony, 222.

_Colonel Jack_, 187, 188.

_Conscious Lovers, the_, 137.

_Contentment, Hymn to_, 107.

_Conversion of St. Paul, Dissertation on the_, 205.

_Coriolanus_, 88.

_Country Mouse and City Mouse, the_, 66.

_Country Walk, the_, 114.

Craggs, James, 45, 56.

Crawford, Robert, 121.

_Creation, the_, 242.

_Crisis, the_, 143, 144.

_Criticism, the Essay on_, 29, 191.

_Criticism in Poetry, grounds of_, 192.

Crousaz, M., 54, 238.

Cruelty of the age, 18.

Curll, Edmund, 42.

Defoe, Daniel, 180-191.

Delany, Mrs., _Life and Correspondence of_, 12, 164.

Dennis, John, 191-196.

_Dialogues of the Dead_, 205.

_Dispensary, the_, 96.

_Distrest Mother, the_, 98.

_Divine Legation of Moses, the_, 230, 239.

Dorset, Earl of, 65.

_Drapier's Letters_, 170.

Drelincourt's _Christian's Defence, etc._, 187.

Dryden, John, death of, 1;
  and Pope, 28, 58.

_Dryden, Ode to_, 193.

_Drummer, the_, 134.

Drunkenness, prevalence of, 17.

Duelling, 13.

_Dunciad, the_, 39, 48, _et seq._, 240.

Dyer, John, 113, 224.

_Edward and Eleanora_, 88.

Edwards, Thomas, 241.

_Edwin and Emma_, 118.

_Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady_, 33.

_Eloisa to Abelard_, 33.

_Elvira_, 119.

_English Convocation, Rights, Powers and Privileges of_, 208.

_Englishman, the_, 144.

_English Poets, Account of the greatest_, 131.

_Epistle to a Friend in Town_, 114.

_Epistles of Phalaris, Dissertations on the_, 160, 208.

_Essay on Man, the_, 51, 238.

_Eurydice_, 119.

Eusden, Lawrence, 47.

_Evergreen, the_, 120.

_Examiner, the_, 162.

_Excursion, the_, 118.

_Fable of the Bees, the_, 214, 230;
  _Remarks on the_, 231.

_Fables_ (Gay's), 73.

_Fair Penitent, the_, 103.

_Fatal Curiosity, the_, 138.

Fenton, Elijah, 38, 244.

_Fleece, the_, 113, 224.

_Fool of Quality, the_, 243.

_Force of Religion, the_, 78.

_Freedom of Wit and Humour, the_, 213.

_Freeholder, the_, 132.

_Freethinking, Discourse on_, 222.

French Literature, influence of, 3, 4, 5.

French Customs, 14.

_Funeral, the_, 137.

Gambling, 21, 22.

Garth, Sir Samuel, 96.

Gay, John, 40, 49, 72-76.

_Gentle Shepherd, the_, 120.

_George Barnwell_, 138.

_Gideon_, 104.

Glover, Richard, 244.

_God, the Being and Attributes of_, 244.

Granville, George, Lord Lansdowne, 40.

_Grave, the_, 84.

Green, Matthew, 245.

_Grongar Hill_, 113.

_Grotto, the_, 244.

_Grub Street Journal, the_, 51.

_Grumbling Hive, the_, 214.

_Guardian, the_, 125, 142.

_Gulliver's Travels_, 167.

_Gustavus Vasa_, 243.

Halifax, Montague, Earl of, 65, 66.

Hamilton, William, of Bangour, 121.

Hammond, James, 245.

_Health, an Eclogue_, 108.

_Henry and Emma_, 67.

_Hermit, the_, 107.

Hervey, Lord, 47, 59, 61.

Hill, Aaron, 104-106, 195.

Hoadly, Bishop, 9, 230.

Homer, Pope's Translation of, 34, _et seq._, 206, 243, 244.
  Tickell's translation, 35, 111.

Hooke, Nathaniel, 245.

Horace, _Ars Poetica_, 29.

_Horace, Imitations from_, 55, 59, 60.

Hughes, John, 40, 245.

_Human Knowledge, Treatise on_, 221, 225.

_Hylas and Philonous, Dialogue between_, 222, 227.

_Hymn to Contentment_, 107.

_Hymn to the Naiads_, 118.

_Imperium Pelagi_, 76.

_Instalment, the_, 79.

_Iphigenia_, 193.

_Italy, Letter from_, 131.

_Italy, Remarks on Several Parts of_, 126.

_Jane Shore_, 103.

_John Bull, History of_, 177.

Johnson, Esther, 152, 164, 166, 172.

_Judgment Day, the_, 104.

_Judgment of Hercules, the_, 116.

_Kensington Gardens_, 111.

King, _on the Origin of Evil_, 52.

_Lady Jane Grey_, 103.

_Lansdowne, Epistle to Lord_, 77.

_Last Day, the_, 77.

Law, William, 194, 230-236, 243.

_Law, Elegy in Memory of William_, 85.

Leibnitz, _Essais de Théodicée_, 52.

_Leonidas_, 244.

_Liberty Asserted_, 193.

Lillo, George, 138.

_Love in a Veil_, 246.

_Lover, the_, 144.

_Love's Last Shift_, 196.

_Lying Lover, the_, 137.

Lyttelton, George, Lord, 204.

Mallet, David, 88, 118, 219, 220.

_Man, Allegory on_, 107.

Mandeville, Bernard de, 214, 230.

_Mariamne_, 244.

Marlborough, Duchess of, 13, 57.

_Marlborough, Duchess of, Account of the Conduct of_, 245.

Marriages in the Fleet, 11, 12.

_Mathematical Learning, Essay on the Usefulness of_, 175.

_Memoirs of a Cavalier_, 188.

_Merope_, 106.

Middleton, Conyers, 246.

_Modest Proposal, etc._, 172, 184.

Mohocks, the, 11.

_Moll Flanders_, 188, 190.

Montagu, Lady M. W., 14, 42, 44, 57, 198-202.

Montague, Charles, Earl of Halifax, 65, 66.

_Monument, the_, 192.

_Moral Essays, the_, 55, _et seq._

_Moralties or Essays, Letters, etc._, 206.

_Mrs. Veal, Apparition of_, 186.

_Namur, Taking of_, 70.

_Night Piece on Death_, 107, 108.

_Night Thoughts_, 76, 81.

_Northern Star, the_, 104.

_Ocean_, 76.

_Ode on St. Cecilia's day_, 40.

Opera, Italian, 127.

Oxford, Harley, Earl of, 49.

_Parallel in the Manner of Plutarch_, 206.

Parnell, Thomas, 107.

_Parties, Dissertation on_, 221.

Partridge, John, 161.

Party feeling, excess of, 19, 20.

_Pastoral Ballad_, 116.

_Pastorals_ (Pope's), 29, 191;
  (Philips'), 98.

_Patriotism, Letters on_, 221.

_Patriot King, the_, 219, 221.

Patronage of Literature, 5, 6.

_Peace of Ryswick, the_, 126.

_Persian Tales, the_, 100.

Peterborough, Earl of, 45.

_Phalaris, Dissertation on the Epistle of_, 160, 208.

Philips, Ambrose, 11, 98.

Philips, John, 101.

_Plague, History of the_, 189.

_Pleasures of Imagination, the_, 117.

_Plot and No Plot, a_, 193.

_Poetry, Rhapsody on_, 157.

_Polly_, 74.

_Polymetis_, 206.

Pope, Alexander, a representative poet, 27;
  his life, 28-64;
  and Dennis, 191, 195;
  and Cibber, 96;
  and Lady M. W. Montagu, 14, 42, 44, 57, 199;
  and Spence, 205;
  and Arbuthnot, 209.

_Pope, Epistle to_, 81.

_Pope's Translation of Homer_, Spence's Essay on, 206.

Pope, Mrs., 44, 59.

Prior, Matthew, 5, 65-72.

_Progress of Wit, the_, 105.

_Projects, Essay on_, 182.

_Prospect of Peace, the_, 109.

_Public Spirit of the Whigs, the_, 143.

_Querist, the_, 224.

Ramsay, Allan, 120.

_Rape of the Lock, the_, 31.

_Reader, the_, 144.

Religion, Condition of, 9.

_Religion, Natural and Revealed_, 244.

_Religious Courtship, the_, 189.

_Remarks on Several Parts of Italy_, 126.

_Revenge, the_, 79.

_Review, the_ (Defoe's), 185.

_Rise of Women, the_, 108.

_Robinson Crusoe_, 180, 187, 189.

_Rosamond_, 128.

Roscommon's _Essay on Translated Verse_, 29.

Rowe, Nicholas, 102.

_Roxana_, 188, 189.

_Royal Convert, the_, 103.

_Ruin of Great Britain, Essay towards Preventing the_, 223.

_Ruins of Rome, the_, 115.

_Rule Britannia_, 95.

Savage, Richard, 246.

_Schoolmistress, the_, 115, 116.

_Scriblerus, Martin, Memoirs of_, 178, 222.

_Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, the_, 244.

_Seasons, the_, 86, 87, 88-92.

_Sentiments of a Church of England Man_, 162.

_Serious Call_, 216, 233.

Shaftesbury, Lord, 19, 52, 212-215.

Shakespeare, Pope and Theobald's Editions of, 39;
  Rowe's Edition, 132;
  Warburton's Edition, 241.

Sheffield, John, Earl of, 29, 40.

Shenstone, William, 115, 205.

_Shepherd's Week, the_, 73.

_Shortest Way with Dissenters, the_, 184.

_Siege of Damascus, the_, 245.

_Siris_, 224, 228.

_Sir Thomas Overbury_, 246.

Social Condition of the time, 10.

_Social State of Ireland, Essay on the_, 224.

_Solomon_, 67, 71.

Somerville, William, 40, 112.

_Sophonisba_, 87.

South Sea Company, the, 21.

_Spectator, the_, 11, 14, 16, 19, 20, 98, 117, 125, 127, 128, 141, 142.

Spence, Joseph, 59, 205.

_Spleen, the_, 244.

_Splendid Shilling, the_, 101.

_Stage defended from Scripture, etc., the_, 194.

_Stage Entertainments, Absolute Unlawfulness of_, 194, 232.

Steele, Sir Richard, 125, 136-150.

_Stella, Journal to_, 164, 166.

_Study of History, Letters on the_, 221.

Swift, Jonathan, 34, 42, 44, 48, 49, 50, 51, 62, 151-175.

_Swift, on the Death of Dr._, 154.

_Tale of a Tub, the_, 153, 158, 209.

_Tales of the Genii_, 206.

_Tamerlane_, 103.

_Tancred and Sigismunda_, 88.

_Tatler, the_, 125, 140, 148, 162.

_Tea Table, the_, 144.

_Tea Table Miscellany, the_, 120.

Temple, Sir William, 152, 160, 208.

_Temple of Fame, the_, 33.

_Tender Husband, the_, 137.

_Theatre, the_, 144.

Theobald, Lewis, 39, 47, 48.

_Theory of Vision, Essay towards a new_, 221, 225.

Thomson, James, 44, 47, 85-95.

Tickell, Thomas, 35, 109-111, 135.

_Tour through Great Britain_, 190.

_Town Talk_, 144.

_Trivia_, 11, 73.

_True Born Englishman, the_, 184.

Trumbull, Sir William, 29, 34.

_Ulysses_, 103.

_Ungrateful Nanny_, 121.

_Universal Passion_, 80.

Vanhomrigh, Hester, 164, 222.

_Verbal Criticism_, 118.

Vida's _Scacchia Ludus_, 32.

_Vision of Mirza, the_, 146.

_Voltaire_, 5, 41.

Walpole, Sir Robert, 6, 8, 21, 41, 79.

Walsh, William, 28, 247.

_Wanderer, the_, 247.

Warburton, Bishop, 55, 56, 62, 230, 239-241.

Wardlaw, Lady, 120.

Warton, Joseph, 63.

Watts, Isaac, 131.

_Welcome from Greece, a_, 75.

Welsted, Leonard, 47.

Wesley, Charles, 131.

Wesley, John, 67.

_Whig Examiner, the_, 162.

_William and Margaret_, 118.

Winchelsea, Countess of, 247.

_Windham, Sir W., Letter to_, 217, 221.

_Windsor Forest_, 30.

Women, position of, 14, 15.

Wood's Halfpence, 169, 170.

_World, the_, 203.

Wycherley, William, 28.

Yalden, Thomas, 248.

Young, Edward, 15, 76-83.

_Zara_, 106.



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General: Corrections to punctuation have not been individually noted.

General: Bold text in the original is marked with ==. Italic text is
marked with __

Pages 57, 159: Variable hyphenation of death-bed as in the original.

Pages 222, 232, 257: Variable hyphenation of Free(-)thinking as in the

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