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Title: Lives of the English Poets : Prior, Congreve, Blackmore, Pope
Author: Johnson, Samuel
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1891 Cassell and Company edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

                       CASSELL’S NATIONAL LIBRARY.

                                * * * * *

                                  OF THE
                              ENGLISH POETS

                   Prior   Congreve   Blackmore   Pope

                          SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D.

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                       CASSELL & COMPANY. LIMITED:
                     _LONDON_, _PARIS_ & _MELBOURNE_.


WHEN, at the age of sixty-eight, Johnson was writing these “Lives of the
English Poets,” he had caused omissions to be made from the poems of
Rochester, and was asked whether he would allow the printers to give all
the verse of Prior.  Boswell quoted a censure by Lord Hailes of “those
impure tales which will be the eternal opprobrium of their ingenious
author.”  Johnson replied, “Sir, Lord Hailes has forgot.  There is
nothing in Prior that will excite to lewdness;” and when Boswell further
urged, he put his questionings aside, and added, “No, sir, Prior is a
lady’s book.  No lady is ashamed to have it standing in her library.”
Johnson distinguished strongly, as every wise man does, between offence
against convention, and offence against morality.

In Congreve’s plays he recognised the wit but condemned the morals, and
in the case of Blackmore the regard for the religious purpose of
Blackmore’s poem on “The Creation” gave to Johnson, as to Addison, an
undue sense of its literary value.

With his “Life of Pope,” which occupies more than two-thirds of this
volume, Johnson took especial pains.  “He wrote it,” says Boswell, “‘_con
amore_,’ both from the early possession which that writer had taken of
his mind, and from the pleasure which he must have felt in for ever
silencing all attempts to lessen his poetical fame. . . . I remember once
to have heard Johnson say, ‘Sir, a thousand years may elapse before there
shall appear another man with a power of versification equal to that of

Pope’s laurel, since Johnson’s days, has flourished, without showing a
dead bough, for all the frosts of hostile criticism.

                                                                     H. M.


MATTHEW PRIOR is one of those that have burst out from an obscure
original to great eminence.  He was born July 21, 1664, according to
some, at Wimborne, in Dorsetshire, of I know not what parents; others say
that he was the son of a joiner of London: he was perhaps willing enough
to leave his birth unsettled, in hope, like Don Quixote, that the
historian of his actions might find him some illustrious alliance.  He is
supposed to have fallen, by his father’s death, into the hands of his
uncle, a vintner near Charing Cross, who sent him for some time to Dr.
Busby, at Westminster; but, not intending to give him any education
beyond that of the school, took him, when he was well advanced in
literature, to his own house, where the Earl of Dorset, celebrated for
patronage of genius, found him by chance, as Burnet relates, reading
Horace, and was so well pleased with his proficiency, that he undertook
the care and cost of his academical education.  He entered his name in
St. John’s College, at Cambridge, in 1682, in his eighteenth year; and it
may be reasonably supposed that he was distinguished among his
contemporaries.  He became a Bachelor, as is usual, in four years, and
two years afterwards wrote the poem on the Deity, which stands first in
his volume.

It is the established practice of that College to send every year to the
Earl of Exeter some poems upon sacred subjects, in acknowledgment of a
benefaction enjoyed by them from the bounty of his ancestor.  On this
occasion were those verses written, which, though nothing is said of
their success, seem to have recommended him to some notice; for his
praise of the countess’s music, and his lines on the famous picture of
Seneca, afford reason for imagining that he was more or less conversant
with that family.

The same year he published “The City Mouse and Country Mouse,” to
ridicule Dryden’s “Hind and Panther,” in conjunction with Mr. Montague.
There is a story of great pain suffered, and of tears shed, on this
occasion by Dryden, who thought it hard that “an old man should be so
treated by those to whom he had always been civil.”  By tales like these
is the envy raised by superior abilities every day gratified.  When they
are attacked every one hopes to see them humbled; what is hoped is
readily believed, and what is believed is confidently told.  Dryden had
been more accustomed to hostilities than that such enemies should break
his quiet; and, if we can suppose him vexed, it would be hard to deny him
sense enough to conceal his uneasiness.

“The City Mouse and Country Mouse” procured its authors more solid
advantages than the pleasure of fretting Dryden, for they were both
speedily preferred.  Montague, indeed, obtained the first notice with
some degree of discontent, as it seems, in Prior, who probably knew that
his own part of the performance was the best.  He had not, however, much
reason to complain, for he came to London and obtained such notice that
(in 1691) he was sent to the Congress at the Hague as secretary to the
embassy.  In this assembly of princes and nobles, to which Europe has
perhaps scarcely seen anything equal, was formed the grand alliance
against Louis, which at last did not produce effects proportionate so the
magnificence of the transaction.

The conduct of Prior, in this splendid initiation into public business,
was so pleasing to King William, that he made him one of the gentlemen of
his bedchamber; and he is supposed to have passed some of the next years
in the quiet cultivation of literature and poetry.

The death of Queen Mary (in 1695) produced a subject for all the
writers—perhaps no funeral was ever so poetically attended.  Dryden,
indeed, as a man discountenanced and deprived, was silent; but scarcely
any other maker of verses omitted to bring his tribute of tuneful sorrow.
An emulation of elegy was universal.  Mary’s praise was not confined to
the English language, but fills a great part of the _Musæ Anglicanæ_.

Prior, who was both a poet and a courtier, was too diligent to miss this
opportunity of respect.  He wrote a long ode, which was presented to the
king, by whom it was not likely to be ever read.  In two years he was
secretary to another embassy at the Treaty of Ryswick (in 1697), and next
year had the same office at the court of France, where he is said to have
been considered with great distinction.  As he was one day surveying the
apartments at Versailles, being shown the “Victories of Louis,” painted
by Le Brun, and asked whether the King of England’s palace had any such
decorations: “The monuments of my master’s actions,” said he, “are to be
seen everywhere but in his own house.”

The pictures of Le Brun are not only in themselves sufficiently
ostentatious, but were explained by inscriptions so arrogant, that
Boileau and Racine thought it necessary to make them more simple.  He was
in the following year at Leo with the king, from whom, after a long
audience, he carried orders to England, and upon his arrival became Under
Secretary of State in the Earl of Jersey’s office, a post which he did
not retain long, because Jersey was removed, but he was soon made
Commissioner of Trade.

This year (1700) produced one of his longest and most splendid
compositions, the “Carmen Seculare,” in which he exhausts all his powers
of celebration.  I mean not to accuse him of flattery; he probably
thought all that he writ, and retained as much veracity as can be
properly exacted from a poet professedly encomiastic.  King William
supplied copious materials for either verse or prose.  His whole life had
been action, and none ever denied him the resplendent qualities of steady
resolution and personal courage.  He was really in Prior’s mind what he
represents him in his verses; he considered him as a hero, and was
accustomed to say that he praised others in compliance with the fashion,
but that in celebrating King William he followed his inclination.  To
Prior, gratitude would dictate praise, which reason would not refuse.

Among the advantages to arise from the future years of William’s reign,
he mentions a Society for Useful Arts, and among them:—

   “Some that with care true eloquence shall teach,
   And to just idioms fix our doubtful speech;
   That from our writers distant realms may know
      The thanks we to our monarchs owe,
   And schools profess our tongue through every land
   That has invoked his aid, or blessed his hand.”

Tickell, in his “Prospect of Peace,” has the same hope of a new academy:—

   “In happy chains our daring language bound,
   Shall sport no more in arbitrary sound.”

Whether the similitude of those passages, which exhibit the same thought
on the same occasion, proceeded from accident or imitation, is not easy
to determine.  Tickell might have been impressed with his expectation by
Swift’s “Proposal for Ascertaining the English Language,” then lately

In the Parliament that met in 1701 he was chosen representative of East
Grinstead.  Perhaps it was about this time that he changed his party, for
he voted for the impeachment of those lords who had persuaded the king to
the Partition Treaty, a treaty in which he himself had been ministerially

A great part of Queen Anne’s reign was a time of war, in which there was
little employment for negotiators, and Prior had, therefore, leisure to
make or to polish verses.  When the Battle of Blenheim called forth all
the verse-men, Prior, among the rest, took care to show his delight in
the increasing honour of his country by an epistle to Boileau.  He
published, soon afterwards, a volume of poems, with the encomiastic
character of his deceased patron, the Earl of Dorset.  It began with the
College exercise, and ended with the “Nutbrown Maid.”

The Battle of Ramillies soon afterwards (in 1706) excited him to another
effort of poetry.  On this occasion he had fewer or less formidable
rivals, and it would be not easy to name any other composition produced
by that event which is now remembered.

Everything has its day.  Through the reigns of William and Anne no
prosperous event passed undignified by poetry.  In the last war, when
France was disgraced and overpowered in every quarter of the globe, when
Spain, coming to her assistance, only shared her calamities, and the name
of an Englishman was reverenced through Europe, no poet was heard amidst
the general acclamation; the fame of our counsellors and heroes was
entrusted to the _Gazetteer_.  The nation in time grew weary of the war,
and the queen grew weary of her ministers.  The war was burdensome, and
the ministers were insolent.  Harley and his friends began to hope that
they might, by driving the Whigs from court and from power, gratify at
once the queen and the people.  There was now a call for writers, who
might convey intelligence of past abuses, and show the waste of public
money, the unreasonable conduct of the allies, the avarice of generals,
the tyranny of minions, and the general danger of approaching ruin.  For
this purpose a paper called the _Examiner_ was periodically published,
written, as it happened, by any wit of the party, and sometimes, as is
said, by Mrs. Manley.  Some are owned by Swift; and one, in ridicule of
Garth’s verses to Godolphin upon the loss of his place, was written by
Prior, and answered by Addison, who appears to have known the author
either by conjecture or intelligence.

The Tories, who were now in power, were in haste to end the war, and
Prior, being recalled (1710) to his former employment of making treaties,
was sent (July, 1711) privately to Paris with propositions of peace.  He
was remembered at the French court; and, returning in about a month,
brought with him the Abbé Gaultier and M. Mesnager, a minister from
France, invested with full powers.  This transaction not being avowed,
Mackay, the master of the Dover packet-boat, either zealously or
officiously, seized Prior and his associates at Canterbury.  It is easily
supposed they were soon released.

The negotiation was begun at Prior’s house, where the queen’s ministers
met Mesnager (September 20, 1711), and entered privately upon the great
business.  The importance of Prior appears from the mention made of him
by St. John in his letter to the queen:—

“My Lord Treasurer moved, and all my Lords were of the same opinion, that
Mr. Prior should be added to those who are empowered to sign; the reason
for which is because he, having personally treated with Monsieur de
Torcy, is the best witness we can produce of the sense in which the
general preliminary engagements are entered into; besides which, as he is
the best versed in matters of trade of all your Majesty’s servants who
have been trusted in this secret, if you shall think fit to employ him in
the future treaty of commerce, it will be of consequence that he has been
a party concerned in concluding that convention, which must be the rule
of this treaty.”

The assembly of this important night was in some degree clandestine, the
design of treaty not being yet openly declared and when the Whigs
returned to power was aggravated to a charge of high treason; though, as
Prior remarks in his imperfect answer to the Report of the Committee of
Secrecy, no treaty ever was made without private interviews and
preliminary discussions.

My business is not the history of the peace, but the life of Prior.  The
conferences began at Utrecht on the 1st of January (1711–12), and the
English plenipotentiaries arrived on the 15th.  The ministers of the
different potentates conferred and conferred; but the peace advanced so
slowly that speedier methods were found necessary, and Bolingbroke was
sent to Paris to adjust differences with less formality.  Prior either
accompanied him or followed him, and after his departure had the
appointments and authority of an ambassador, though no public character.
By some mistake of the queen’s orders the court of France had been
disgusted, and Bolingbroke says in his letter, “Dear Mat,—Hide the
nakedness of thy country, and give the best turn thy fertile brain will
furnish thee with to the blunders of thy countrymen, who are not much
better politicians than the French are poets.”

Soon after, the Duke of Shrewsbury went on a formal embassy to Paris.  It
is related by Boyer that the intention was to have joined Prior in the
commission, but that Shrewsbury refused to be associated with a man so
meanly born.  Prior therefore continued to act without a title till the
duke returned next year to England, and then he assumed the style and
dignity of ambassador.  But while he continued in appearance a private
man, he was treated with confidence by Louis, who sent him with a letter
to the queen, written in favour of the Elector of Bavaria.  “I shall
expect,” says he, “with impatience, the return of Mr. Prior, whose
conduct is very agreeable to me.”  And while the Duke of Shrewsbury was
still at Paris, Bolingbroke wrote to Prior thus:—“Monsieur de Torcy has a
confidence in you; make use of it, once for all, upon this occasion, and
convince him thoroughly that we must give a different turn to our
Parliament and our people according to their resolution at this crisis.”

Prior’s public dignity and splendour commenced in August, 1713, and
continued till the August following; but I am afraid that, according to
the usual fate of greatness, it was attended with some perplexities and
mortifications.  He had not all that is customarily given to ambassadors:
he hints to the queen in an imperfect poem that he had no service of
plate; and it appeared by the debts which he contracted that his
remittances were not punctually made.

On the 1st of August, 1714, ensued the downfall of the Tories and the
degradation of Prior.  He was recalled, but was not able to return, being
detained by the debts which he had found it necessary to contract, and
which were not discharged before March, though his old friend Montague
was now at the head of the Treasury.  He returned, then, as soon as he
could, and was welcomed on the 25th of March by a warrant, but was,
however, suffered to live in his own house, under the custody of the
messenger, till he was examined before a committee of the Privy Council,
of which Mr. Walpole was chairman, and Lord Coningsby, Mr. Stanhope, and
Mr. Lechmere were the principal interrogators, who, in this examination,
of which there is printed an account not unentertaining, behaved with the
boisterousness of men elated by recent authority.  They are represented
as asking questions sometimes vague, sometimes insidious, and writing
answers different from those which they received.  Prior, however, seems
to have been overpowered by their turbulence; for he confesses that he
signed what, if he had ever come before a legal judicature, he should
have contradicted or explained away.  The oath was administered by
Boscawen, a Middlesex justice, who at last was going to write his
attestation on the wrong side of the paper.  They were very industrious
to find some charge against Oxford, and asked Prior, with great
earnestness, who was present when the preliminary articles were talked of
or signed at his house?  He told them that either the Earl of Oxford or
the Duke of Shrewsbury was absent, but he could not remember which, an
answer which perplexed them, because it supplied no accusation against
either.  “Could anything be more absurd,” says he, “or more inhuman, than
to propose to me a question, by the answering of which I might, according
to them, prove myself a traitor?  And notwithstanding their solemn
promise that nothing which I should say should hurt myself, I had no
reason to trust them, for they violated that promise about five hours
after.  However, I owned I was there present.  Whether this was wisely
done or no I leave to my friends to determine.”  When he had signed the
paper, he was told by Walpole that the committee were not satisfied with
his behaviour, nor could give such an account of it to the Commons as
might merit favour; and that they now thought a stricter confinement
necessary than to his own house.  “Here,” says he, “Boscawen played the
moralist, and Coningsby the Christian, but both very awkwardly.”  The
messenger, in whose custody he was to be placed, was then called, and
very indecently asked by Coningsby “if his house was secured by bars and
bolts.”  The messenger answered, “No,” with astonishment.  At which
Coningsby very angrily said, “Sir, you must secure this prisoner; it is
for the safety of the nation: if he escape, you shall answer for it.”

They had already printed their report; and in this examination were
endeavouring to find proofs.

He continued thus confined for some time; and Mr. Walpole (June 10, 1715)
moved for an impeachment against him.  What made him so acrimonious does
not appear; he was by nature no thirster for blood.  Prior was a week
after committed to close custody, with orders that “no person should be
admitted to see him without leave from the Speaker.”  When, two years
after, an Act of Grace was passed, he was excepted, and continued still
in custody, which he had made less tedious by writing his “Alma.”  He
was, however, soon after discharged.  He had now his liberty, but he had
nothing else.  Whatever the profit of his employments might have been, he
had always spent it; and at the age of fifty-three was, with all his
abilities, in danger of penury, having yet no solid revenue but from the
fellowship of his college, which, when in his exaltation he was censured
for retaining it, he said he could live upon at last.  Being, however,
generally known and esteemed, he was encouraged to add other poems to
those which he had printed, and to publish them by subscription.  The
expedient succeeded by the industry of many friends, who circulated the
proposals, and the care of some who, it is said, withheld the money from
him lest he should squander it.  The price of the volume was two guineas;
the whole collection was four thousand; to which Lord Harley, the son of
the Earl of Oxford, to whom he had invariably adhered, added an equal sum
for the purchase of Down Hall, which Prior was to enjoy during life, and
Harley after his decease.  He had now, what wits and philosophers have
often wished, the power of passing the day in contemplative tranquillity.
But it seems that busy men seldom live long in a state of quiet.  It is
not unlikely that his health declined, he complains of deafness; “for,”
says he, “I took little care of my ears while I was not sure if my head
was my own.”

Of any occurrences of his remaining life I have found no account.  In a
letter to Swift, “I have,” says he, “treated Lady Harriet, at Cambridge
(a Fellow of a College treat!) and spoke verses to her in a gown and cap!
What, the plenipotentiary, so far concerned in the damned peace at
Utrecht; the man that makes up half the volume of terse prose, that makes
up the report of the committee, speaking verses!  _Sic est_, _homo sum_.”

He died at Wimpole, a seat of the Earl of Oxford, on the 18th of
September, 1721, and was buried in Westminster; where on a monument, for
which, as the “last piece of human vanity,” he left five hundred pounds,
is engraven this epitaph:—

                      Sui Temporis Historiam meditanti,
                           Paulatim obrepens Febris
                      Operi simul et Vitæ filum abrupit,
                     Sept. 18.  An. Dom. 1721.  Ætat. 57.
                           Vir Eximius Serenissimis
                        Regi GULIELMO Reginæque MARIÆ
                         In Congressione Fœderatorum
                          Hagæ anno 1690 celebrata,
                        Deinde Magnæ Britanniæ Legatis
                                   Tum iis,
                  Qui anno 1697 Pacem RYSWICKI confecerunt,
                                   Tum iis,
              Qui apud Gallos annie proximis Legationem obierunt
                      Eodem etiani anno 1657 in Hiberniâ
                    Necnon in utroque Honorabili consessu
                 Qui anno 1700 ordinandis Commercii negotiis,
                 Quique anno 1711 dirigendis Portorii rebus,
                              Postremo ab ANNA,
                         Felicissimæ memoriæ Reginâ,
                        Ad LUDOVICUM XIV. Galliæ Regem
                               Missus anno 1711
                             De Pace stabiliendâ
                           (Pace etiam num durante
                 Diuque ut boni jam omnes sperant duraturâ),
                         Cum sunmâ potestate Legatus;
                            MATTHÆS PRIOR Armiger
                   Hos omnes, quibus cumulates est, Titulos
                   Humanitatis, Ingenii, Ereditionis laude
                  Cui enim nascenti faciles arriserant Mesæ.
                   Hunc Puerum Schola hîc Regia perpolivit;
                      Jevenem in Collegio S’ti Johannis
                   Cantabrigia optimis Scientiis instruxit;
                      Virum denique auxit, et perfecit,
                   Multa cum viris Principibus censuetudo;
                          Ita natus, ita institutus,
                     A Vatam Choro avelli numquam potuit,
                  Sed solebat sæpe rerum civilium gravitatem
                     Amœniorum Literarum Studiis condire:
                       Et cum omne adeo Poeticës genus
                          Haud infeliciter tentaret,
                 Tum in Fabellis concinne lepideque texendis
                                Mirus Artifex
                            Neminem habuit parem.
                      Hæc liberalis animi oblectamenta:
                     Quam nullo illi labore constiterint,
                 Facile ii perspexêre, quibus usus est Amici;
                   Apud quos Urbanitatem et Leporum plenus
                    Cum ad rem, quæcunque forte inciderat,
                       Aptè varie copiosèque alluderet,
                  Interea nihil quæsitum, nihil vi expressum
                          Sed omnia ultro effluere,
                   Et quasi jugi è foote affatim exuberare,
                       Ita suos tandem dubios reliquit,
                    Essetne in Scriptis, Poeta Elegantior,
                       An in Convictu, Comes Jocundior.

Of Prior, eminent as he was, both by his abilities and station, very few
memorials have been left by his contemporaries; the account, therefore,
must now be destitute of his private character and familiar practices.
He lived at a time when the rage of party detected all which it was any
man’s interest to hide; and, as little ill is heard of Prior, it is
certain that not much was known.  He was not afraid of provoking censure;
for when he forsook the Whigs, under whose patronage he first entered the
world, he became a Tory so ardent and determinate, that he did not
willingly consort with men of different opinions.  He was one of the
sixteen Tories who met weekly, and agreed to address each other by the
title of _Brother_; and seems to have adhered, not only by concurrence of
political designs, but by peculiar affection, to the Earl of Oxford and
his family.  With how much confidence he was trusted has been already

He was, however, in Pope’s opinion, fit only to make verses, and less
qualified for business than Addison himself.  This was surely said
without consideration.  Addison, exalted to a high place, was forced into
degradation by the sense of his own incapacity; Prior, who was employed
by men very capable of estimating his value, having been secretary to one
embassy, had, when great abilities were again wanted, the same office
another time; and was, after so much experience of his own knowledge and
dexterity, at last sent to transact a negotiation in the highest degree
arduous and important, for which he was qualified, among other
requisites, in the opinion of Bolingbroke, by his influence upon the
French minister, and by skill in questions of commerce above other men.

Of his behaviour in the lighter parts of life, it is too late to get much
intelligence.  One of his answers to a boastful Frenchman has been
related; and to an impertinent he made another equally proper.  During
his embassy he sat at the opera by a man who, in his rapture, accompanied
with his own voice the principal singer.

Prior fell to railing at the performer with all the terms of reproach
that he could collect, till the Frenchman, ceasing from his song, began
to expostulate with him for his harsh censure of a man who was
confessedly the ornament of the stage.  “I know all that,” says the
ambassador, “mais il chante si haut, que je ne sçaurois vous entendre.”

In a gay French company, where every one sang a little song or stanza, of
which the burden was “Bannissons la Mélancolie,” when it came to his turn
to sing, after the performance of a young lady that sat next him, he
produced these extemporary lines:—

   “Mais cette voix, et ces beaux yeux,
   Font Cupidon trop dangereux,
   Et je suis triste quand je crie
   Bannissons la Mélancolie.”

Tradition represents him as willing to descend from the dignity of the
poet and statesman to the low delights of mean company.  His Chloe
probably was sometimes ideal: but the woman with whom he cohabited was a
despicable drab of the lowest species.  One of his wenches, perhaps
Chloe, while he was absent from his house, stole his plate and ran away,
as was related by a woman who had been his servant.  Of his propensity to
sordid converse, I have seen an account so seriously ridiculous, that it
seems to deserve insertion.

“I have been assured that Prior, after having spent the evening with
Oxford, Bolingbroke, Pope, and Swift, would go and smoke a pipe and drink
a bottle of ale with a common soldier and his wife in Long Acre before he
went to bed, not from any remains of the lowness of his original, as one
said, but I suppose that his faculties—

   “‘—strained to the height,
   In that celestial colloquy sublime,
   Dazzled and spent, sunk down, and sought repair.’”

Poor Prior; why was he so _strained_, and in such _want of repair_, after
a conversation with men not, in the opinion of the world, much wiser than
himself?  But such are the conceits of speculatists, who _strain_ their
_faculties_ to find in a mine what lies upon the surface.  His opinions,
so far as the means of judging are left us, seem to have been right; but
his life was, it seems, irregular, negligent, and sensual.

                                * * * * *

PRIOR has written with great variety, and his variety has made him
popular.  He has tried all styles, from the grotesque to the solemn, and
has not so failed in any as to incur derision or disgrace.  His works may
be distinctly considered as comprising Tales, Love Verses, Occasional
Poems, “Alma,” and “Solomon.”

His tales have obtained general approbation, being written with great
familiarity and great sprightliness; the language is easy, but seldom
gross, and the numbers smooth, without appearance of care.  Of these
tales there are only four: “The Ladle,” which is introduced by a preface,
neither necessary nor pleasing, neither grave nor merry.  “Paulo
Purganti,” which has likewise a preface, but of more value than the tale.
“Hans Carvel,” not over-decent; and “Protogenes and Apelles,” an old
story mingled, by an affectation not disagreeable, with modern images.
“The Young Gentleman in Love” has hardly a just claim to the title of a
tale.  I know not whether he be the original author of any tale which he
has given us.  The adventure of Hans Carvel has passed through many
successions of merry wits, for it is to be found in Ariosto’s “Satires,”
and is perhaps yet older.  But the merit of such stories is the art of
telling them.

In his amorous effusions he is less happy; for they are not dictated by
nature or by passion, and have neither gallantry nor tenderness.  They
have the coldness of Cowley, without his wit, the dull exercises of a
skilful versifier, resolved at all adventures to write something about
Chloe, and trying to be amorous by dint of study.  His fictions,
therefore, are mythological.  Venus, after the example of the Greek
epigram, asks when she was seen _naked and bathing_.  Then Cupid is
_mistaken_; then Cupid is _disarmed_; then he loses his darts to
Ganymede; then Jupiter sends him a summons by Mercury.  Then Chloe goes
a-hunting with an _ivory quiver graceful at her side_; Diana mistakes her
for one of her nymphs, and Cupid laughs at the blunder.  All this is
surely despicable; and even when he tries to act the lover without the
help of gods or goddesses, his thoughts are unaffecting or remote.  He
talks not “like a man of this world.”

The greatest of all his amorous essays is “Henry and Emma,” a dull and
tedious dialogue, which excites neither esteem for the man nor tenderness
for the woman.  The example of Emma, who resolves to follow an outlawed
murderer wherever fear and guilt shall drive him, deserves no imitation;
and the experiment by which Henry tries the lady’s constancy is such as
must end either in infamy to her or in disappointment to himself.

His occasional poems necessarily lost part of their value, as their
occasions, being less remembered, raised less emotion, Some of them,
however, are preserved by their inherent excellence.  The burlesque of
Boileau’s ode on Namur has in some parts such airiness and levity as will
always procure it readers, even among those who cannot compare it with
the original.  The epistle to Boileau is not so happy.  The “Poems to the
King,” are now perused only by young students, who read merely that they
may learn to write; and of the “Carmen Seculare,” I cannot but suspect
that I might praise or censure it by caprice without danger of detection;
for who can be supposed to have laboured through it?  Yet the time has
been when this neglected work was so popular that it was translated into
Latin by no common master.

His poem on the Battle of Ramillies is necessarily tedious by the form of
the stanza.  An uniform mass of ten lines thirty-five times repeated,
inconsequential and slightly connected, must weary both the ear and the
understanding.  His imitation of Spenser, which consists principally in
_I ween_ and _I weet_, without exclusion of later modes of speech, makes
his poem neither ancient nor modern.  His mention of Mars and Bellona,
and his comparison of Marlborough to the eagle that bears the thunder of
Jupiter, are all puerile and unaffecting; and yet more despicable is the
long tale told by Louis in his despair of Brute and Troynovante, and the
teeth of Cadmus, with his similes of the raven and eagle and wolf and
lion.  By the help of such easy fictions and vulgar topics, without
acquaintance with life, and without knowledge of art or nature, a poem of
any length, cold and lifeless like this, may be easily written on any

In his epilogues to Phædra and to Lucius he is very happily facetious;
but in the prologue before the queen the pedant has found his way with
Minerva, Perseus, and Andromeda.

His epigrams and lighter pieces are, like those of others, sometimes
elegant, sometimes trifling, and sometimes dull; among the best are the
“Chamelion” and the epitaph on John and Joan.

Scarcely any one of our poets has written so much and translated so
little: the version of Callimachus is sufficiently licentious; the
paraphrase on St. Paul’s Exhortation to Charity is eminently beautiful.

“Alma” is written in professed imitation of “Hudibras,” and has at least
one accidental resemblance: “Hudibras” wants a plan because it is left
imperfect; “Alma” is imperfect because it seems never to have had a plan.
Prior appears not to have proposed to himself any drift or design, but to
have written the casual dictates of the present moment.

What Horace said when he imitated Lucilius, might be said of Butler by
Prior; his numbers were not smooth nor neat.  Prior excelled him in
versification; but he was, like Horace, _inventore minor_; he had not
Butler’s exuberance of matter and variety of illustration.  The spangles
of wit which he could afford he knew how to polish; but he wanted the
bullion of his master.  Butler pours out a negligent profusion, certain
of the weight, but careless of the stamp.  Prior has comparatively
little, but with that little he makes a fine show.  “Alma” has many
admirers, and was the only piece among Prior’s works of which Pope said
that he should wish to be the author.

“Solomon” is the work to which he entrusted the protection of his name,
and which he expected succeeding ages to regard with veneration.  His
affection was natural; it had undoubtedly been written with great labour;
and who is willing to think that he has been labouring in vain?  He had
infused into it much knowledge and much thought; had often polished it to
elegance, often dignified it with splendour, and sometimes heightened it
to sublimity: he perceived in it many excellences, and did not discover
that it wanted that without which all others are of small avail—the power
of engaging attention and alluring curiosity.

Tediousness is the most fatal of all faults; negligence or errors are
single and local, but tediousness pervades the whole; other faults are
censured and forgotten, but the power of tediousness propagates itself.
He that is weary the first hour is more weary the second, as bodies
forced into motion, contrary to their tendency, pass more and more slowly
through every successive interval of space.  Unhappily this pernicious
failure is that which an author is least able to discover.  We are seldom
tiresome to ourselves; and the act of composition fills and delights the
mind with change of language and succession of images.  Every couplet,
when produced, is new, and novelty is the great source of pleasure.
Perhaps no man ever thought a line superfluous when he first wrote it, or
contracted his work till his ebullitions of invention had subsided.  And
even if he should control his desire of immediate renown, and keep his
work _nine years_ unpublished, he will be still the author, and still in
danger of deceiving himself: and if he consults his friends he will
probably find men who have more kindness than judgment, or more fear to
offend than desire to instruct.  The tediousness of this poem proceeds
not from the uniformity of the subject, for it is sufficiently
diversified, but from the continued tenor of the narration; in which
Solomon relates the successive vicissitudes of his own mind without the
intervention of any other speaker or the mention of any other agent,
unless it be Abra; the reader is only to learn what he thought, and to be
told that he thought wrong.  The event of every experiment is foreseen,
and therefore the process is not much regarded.  Yet the work is far from
deserving to be neglected.  He that shall peruse it will be able to mark
many passages to which he may recur for instruction or delight; many from
which the poet may learn to write and the philosopher to reason.

If Prior’s poetry be generally considered, his praise will be that of
correctness and industry, rather than of compass of comprehension or
activity of fancy.  He never made any effort of invention: his greater
pieces are only tissues of common thoughts; and his smaller, which
consist of light images or single conceits, are not always his own.  I
have traced him among the French epigrammatists, and have been informed
that he poached for prey among obscure authors.  The “Thief and
Cordelier” is, I suppose, generally considered as an original production,
with how much justice this epigram may tell, which was written by
Georgius Sabinus, a poet now little known or read, though once the friend
of Luther and Melancthon:—

                      “De _Sacerdote Furem consolante_.

   “Quidam sacrificus furem comitatus euntem
      Huc ubi dat sontes carnificina neci.
   Ne sis mœstus, ait; summi conviva Tonantis
      Jam cum coelitibus (si modo credis) eris.
   Ille gemens, si vera mihi solatia præbes,
      Hospes apud superos sis meus oro, refert.
   Sacrificus contra; mihi non convivia fas est
      Ducere, jejunas hac edo luce nihil.”

What he has valuable he owes to his diligence and his judgment.  His
diligence has justly placed him amongst the most correct of the English
poets; and he was one of the first that resolutely endeavoured at
correctness.  He never sacrifices accuracy to haste, nor indulges himself
in contemptuous negligence, or impatient idleness; he has no careless
lines, or entangled sentiments; his words are nicely selected, and his
thoughts fully expanded.  If this part of his character suffers an
abatement, it must be from the disproportion of his rhymes, which have
not always sufficient consonance, and from the admission of broken lines
into his “Solomon;” but perhaps he thought, like Cowley, that hemistichs
ought to be admitted into heroic poetry.

He had apparently such rectitude of judgment as secured him from
everything that approached to the ridiculous or absurd; but as law
operates in civil agency, not to the excitement of virtue, but the
repression of wickedness, so judgment in the operations of intellect can
hinder faults, but not produce excellence.  Prior is never low, nor very
often sublime.  It is said by Longinus of Euripides, that he forces
himself sometimes into grandeur by violence of effort, as the lion
kindles his fury by the lashes of his own tail.  Whatever Prior obtains
above mediocrity seems the effort of struggle and of toil.  He has many
vigorous, but few happy lines; he has everything by purchase, and nothing
by gift; he had no _nightly visitations_ of the Muse, no infusions of
sentiment or felicities of fancy.  His diction, however, is more his own
than of any among the successors of Dryden; he borrows no lucky turns, or
commodious modes of language, from his predecessors.  His phrases are
original, but they are sometimes harsh; as he inherited no elegances,
none has he bequeathed.  His expression has every mark of laborious
study, the line seldom seems to have been formed at once; the words did
not come till they were called, and were then put by constraint into
their places, where they do their duty, but do it sullenly.  In his
greater compositions there may be found more rigid stateliness than
graceful dignity.

Of versification he was not negligent.  What he received from Dryden he
did not lose; neither did he increase the difficulty of writing by
unnecessary severity, but uses triplets and alexandrines without scruple.
In his preface to “Solomon” he proposes some improvements by extending
the sense from one couplet to another with variety of pauses.  This he
has attempted, but without success; his interrupted lines are unpleasing,
and his sense, as less distinct, is less striking.  He has altered the
stanza of Spenser as a house is altered by building another in its place
of a different form.  With how little resemblance he has formed his new
stanza to that of his master these specimens will show:—


      “She flying fast from Heaven’s fated face,
   And from the world that her discovered wide,
   Fled to the wasteful wilderness space,
   From living eyes her open shame to hide,
   And lurked in rocks and caves long unespied.
   But that fair crew of knights, and Una fair,
   Did in that castle afterwards abide,
   To rest themselves, and weary powers repair,
   Where store they found of all that dainty was and rare?”


      “To the close rock the frightened raven flies,
   Soon as the rising eagle cuts the air;
   The shaggy wolf unseen and trembling lies,
   When the hoarse roar proclaims the lion near.
   Ill-starred did we our forts and lines forsake,
   To dare our British foes to open fight:
   Our conquest we by stratagem should make;
   Our triumph had been founded in our flight.
   ’Tis ours by craft and by surprise to gain;
   ’Tis theirs to meet in arms, and battle in the plain.”

By this new structure of his lines he has avoided difficulties; nor am I
sure that he has lost any of the power of pleasing, but he no longer
imitates Spencer.  Some of his poems are written without regularity of
measures; for, when he commenced poet, he had not recovered from our
Pindaric infatuation; but he probably lived to be convinced that the
essence of verse is order and consonance.  His numbers are such as mere
diligence may attain; they seldom offend the ear, and seldom soothe it;
they commonly want airiness, lightness, and facility.  What is smooth is
not soft.  His verses always roll, but they seldom flow.

A survey of the life and writings of Prior may exemplify a sentence which
he doubtless understood well when he read Horace at his uncle’s, “The
vessel long retains the scent which it first receives.”  In his private
relaxation he revived the tavern, and in his amorous pedantry he
exhibited the college.  But on higher occasions and nobler subjects, when
habit was overpowered by the necessity of reflection, he wanted not
wisdom as a statesman, or elegance as a poet.


WILLIAM CONGREVE descended from a family in Staffordshire of so great
antiquity, that it claims a place among the few that extend their hue
beyond the Norman Conquest, and was the son of William Congreve, second
son of Richard Congreve, of Congreve and Stratton.  He visited, once at
least, the residence of his ancestors; and, I believe, more places than
one are still shown in groves and gardens, where he is related to have
written his _Old Bachelor_.

Neither the time nor place of his birth is certainly known.  If the
inscription upon his monument be true, he was born in 1672.  For the
place, it was said by himself that he owed his nativity to England, and
by everybody else that he was born in Ireland.  Southern mentioned him
with sharp censure as a man that meanly disowned his native country.  The
biographers assigned his nativity to Bardsa, near Leeds, in Yorkshire,
from the account given by himself, as they suppose, to Jacob.  To doubt
whether a man of eminence has told the truth about his own birth is, in
appearance, to be very deficient in candour; yet nobody can live long
without knowing that falsehoods of convenience or vanity, falsehoods from
which no evil immediately visible ensues, except the general degradation
of human testimony, are very lightly uttered, and once uttered are
sullenly supported.  Boileau, who desired to be thought a rigorous and
steady moralist, having told a pretty lie to Louis XIV., continued it
afterwards by false dates; thinking himself obliged _in honour_, says his
admirer, to maintain what, when he said it, was so well received.
[Congreve was baptised at Bardsey, February 10, 1670.]

Wherever Congreve was born, he was educated first at Kilkenny, and
afterwards at Dublin, his father having some military employment that
stationed him in Ireland; but after having passed through the usual
preparatory studies, as may be reasonably supposed, with great celerity
and success, his father thought it proper to assign him a profession, by
which something might be gotten, and about the time of the Revolution
sent him, at the age of sixteen, to study law in the Middle Temple, where
he lived for several years, but with very little attention to statutes or
reports.  His disposition to become an author appeared very early, as he
very early felt that force of imagination, and possessed that copiousness
of sentiment, by which intellectual pleasure can be given.  His first
performance was a novel called “Incognita; or, Love and Duty Reconciled;”
it is praised by the biographers, who quote some part of the preface,
that is, indeed, for such a time of life, uncommonly judicious.  I would
rather praise it than read it.

His first dramatic labour was _The Old Bachelor_, of which he says, in
his defence against Collier, “That comedy was written, as several know,
some years before it was acted.  When I wrote it I had little thoughts of
the stage; but did it to amuse myself in a slow recovery from a fit of
sickness.  Afterwards, through my indiscretion it was seen, and in some
little time more it was acted; and I, through the remainder of my
indiscretion suffered myself to be drawn into the prosecution of a
difficult and thankless study, and to be involved in a perpetual war with
knaves and fools.”

There seems to be a strange affectation in authors of appearing to have
done everything by chance.  _The Old Bachelor_ was written for amusement
in the languor of convalescence.  Yet it is apparently composed with
great elaborateness of dialogue, and incessant ambition of wit.  The age
of the writer considered, it is indeed a very wonderful performance; for,
whenever written, it was acted (1693) when he was not more than
twenty-one years old; and was then recommended by Mr. Dryden, Mr.
Southern, and Mr. Maynwaring.  Dryden said that he never had seen such a
first play; but they found it deficient in some things necessary to the
success of its exhibition, and by their greater experience fitted it for
the stage.  Southern used to relate of one comedy, probably of this, that
when Congreve read it to the players he pronounced it so wretchedly, that
they had almost rejected it; but they were afterwards so well persuaded
of its excellence that, for half a year before it was acted, the manager
allowed its author the privilege of the house.

Few plays have ever been so beneficial to the writer, for it procured him
the patronage of Halifax, who immediately made him one of the
commissioners for licensing coaches, and soon after gave him a place in
the Pipe-office, and another in the Customs, of six hundred pounds a
year.  Congreve’s conversation must surely have been at least equally
pleasing with his writings.

Such a comedy, written at such an age, requires some consideration.  As
the lighter species of dramatic poetry professes the imitation of common
life, of real manners, and daily incidents, it apparently presupposes a
familiar knowledge of many characters, and exact observation of the
passing world; the difficulty, therefore, is to conceive how this
knowledge can be obtained by a boy.

But if _The Old Bachelor_ be more nearly examined, it will be found to be
one of those comedies which may be made by a mind vigorous and acute, and
furnished with comic characters by the perusal of other poets, without
much actual commerce with mankind.  The dialogue is one constant
reciprocation of conceits or clash of wit, in which nothing flows
necessarily from the occasion, or is dictated by nature.  The characters,
both of men and women, are either fictitious and artificial, as those of
Heartwell and the ladies, or easy and common, as Wittol, a tame idiot;
Bluff, a swaggering coward; and Fondlewife, a jealous Puritan; and the
catastrophe arises from a mistake, not very probably produced, by
marrying a woman in a mask.  Yet this gay comedy, when all these
deductions are made, will still remain the work of very powerful and
fertile faculties; the dialogue is quick and sparkling, the incidents
such as seize the attention, and the wit so exuberant that it
“o’er-informs its tenement.”

Next year he gave another specimen of his abilities in _The Double
Dealer_, which was not received with equal kindness.  He writes to his
patron the Lord Halifax a dedication, in which he endeavours to reconcile
the reader to that which found few friends among the audience.  These
apologies are always useless: _de gestibus non est disputandem_.  Men may
be convinced, but they cannot be pleased, against their will.  But though
taste is obstinate, it is very variable, and time often prevails when
arguments have failed.  Queen Mary conferred upon both those plays the
honour of her presence; and when she died soon after, Congreve testified
his gratitude by a despicable effusion of elegiac pastoral, a composition
in which all is unnatural and yet nothing is new.

In another year (1695) his prolific pen produced _Love for Love_, a
comedy of nearer alliance to life, and exhibiting more real manners, than
either of the former.  The character of Foresight was then common.
Dryden calculated nativities; both Cromwell and King William had their
lucky days; and Shaftesbury himself, though he had no religion, was said
to regard predictions.  The Sailor is not accounted very natural, but he
is very pleasant.  With this play was opened the New Theatre, under the
direction of Betterton, the tragedian, where he exhibited two years
afterwards (1687) _The Mourning Bride_, a tragedy, so written as to show
him sufficiently qualified for either kind of dramatic poetry.  In this
play, of which, when he afterwards revised it, he reduced the
versification to greater regularity; there is more bustle than sentiment;
the plot is busy and intricate, and the events take hold on the
attention; but, except a very few passages, we are rather amused with
noise and perplexed with stratagem, than entertained with any true
delineation of natural characters.  This, however, was received with more
benevolence than any other of his works, and still continues to be acted
and applauded.

But whatever objections may be made either to his comic or tragic
excellence, they are lost at once in the blaze of admiration, when it is
remembered that he had produced these four plays before he had passed his
twenty-fifth year, before other men, even such as are some time to shine
in eminence, have passed their probation of literature, or presume to
hope for any other notice than such as is bestowed on diligence and
inquiry.  Among all the efforts of early genius, which literary history
records, I doubt whether any one can be produced that more surpasses the
common limits of nature than the plays of Congreve.

About this time began the long-continued controversy between Collier and
the poets.  In the reign of Charles I. the Puritans had raised a violent
clamour against the drama, which they considered as an entertainment not
lawful to Christians, an opinion held by them in common with the Church
of Rome; and Prynne published “Histriomastix,” a huge volume in which
stage-plays were censured.  The outrages and crimes of the Puritans
brought afterwards their whole system of doctrine into disrepute, and
from the Restoration the poets and players were left at quiet; for to
have molested them would have had the appearance of tendency to
puritanical malignity.  This danger, however, was worn away by time, and
Collier, a fierce and implacable non-juror, knew that an attack upon the
theatre would never make him suspected for a Puritan; he therefore (1698)
published “A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English
Stage,” I believe with no other motive than religious zeal and honest
indignation.  He was formed for a controvertist, with sufficient
learning, with diction vehement and pointed, though often vulgar and
incorrect, with unconquerable pertinacity, with wit in the highest degree
and sarcastic, and with all those powers exalted and invigorated by just
confidence in his cause.  Thus qualified and thus incited, he walked out
to battle, and assailed at once most of the living writers, from Dryden
to Durfey.  His onset was violent; those passages, which, while they
stood single, had passed with little notice, when they were accumulated
and exposed together, excited horror.  The wise and the pious caught the
alarm, and the nation wondered why it had so long suffered irreligion and
licentiousness to be openly taught at the public charge.

Nothing now remained for the poets but to resist or fly.  Dryden’s
conscience or his prudence, angry as he was, withheld him from the
conflict.  Congreve and Vanbrugh attempted answers.  Congreve, a very
young man, elated with success, and impatient of censure, assumed an air
of confidence and security.  His chief art of controversy is to retort
upon his adversary his own words: he is very angry, and hoping to conquer
Collier with his own weapons, allows himself in the use of every term of
contumely and contempt, but he has the sword without the arm of
Scanderbeg; he has his antagonist’s coarseness but not his strength.
Collier replied, for contest was his delight.  “He was not to be frighted
from his purpose or his prey.”

The cause of Congreve was not tenable; whatever glosses he might use for
the defence or palliation of single passages, the general tenour and
tendency of his plays must always be condemned.  It is acknowledged, with
universal conviction, that the perusal of his works will make no man
better, and that their ultimate effect is to represent pleasure in
alliance with vice, and to relax those obligations by which life ought to
be regulated.

The stage found other advocates, and the dispute was protracted through
ten years: but at last comedy grew more modest, and Collier lived to see
the reformation of the theatre.

Of the powers by which this important victory was achieved, a quotation
from _Love for Love_, and the remark upon it, may afford a specimen:—

_Sir Samps_.  “Sampson’s a very good name; for your Sampsons were strong
dogs from the beginning.”

_Angel_.  “Have a care—if you remember, the strongest Sampson of your
name pulled an old house over his head at last.”

“Here you have the sacred history burlesqued, and Sampson once more
brought into the house of Dagon, to make sport for the Philistines!”

Congreve’s last play was _The Way of The World_, which, though, as he
hints in him dedication it was written with great labour and much
thought, was received with so little favour, that being in a high degree
offended and disgusted, he resolved to commit his quiet and his fame no
more to the caprices of an audience.

From this time his life ceased to be public; he lived for himself and his
friends, and among his friends was able to name every man of his time
whom wit and elegance had raised to reputation.  It may be therefore
reasonably supposed that his manners were polite, and his conversation
pleasing.  He seems not to have taken much pleasure in writing, as he
contributed nothing to the _Spectator_, and only one paper to the
_Tatler_, though published by men with whom he might be supposed willing
to associate: and though he lived many years after the publication of his
“Miscellaneous Poems,” yet he added nothing to them, but lived on in
literary indolence, engaged in no controversy, contending with no rival,
neither soliciting flattery by public commendations, nor provoking enmity
by malignant criticism, but passing his time among the great and
splendid, in the placid enjoyment of his fame and fortune.

Having owed his fortune to Halifax, he continued, always of his patron’s
party, but, as it seems, without violence or acrimony, and his firmness
was naturally esteemed, as his abilities were reverenced.  His security
therefore was never violated; and when, upon the extrusion of the Whigs,
some intercession was used lest Congreve should be displaced, the Earl of
Oxford made this answer:—

   “Non obtusa adeo gestamus pectora Pœni,
   Nec tam aversus equos Tyriâ sol jungit ab urbe.”

He that was thus honoured by the adverse party might naturally expect to
be advanced when his friends returned to power, and he was accordingly
made secretary for the island of Jamaica, a place, I suppose without
trust or care, but which, with his post in the Customs, is said to have
afforded him twelve hundred pounds a year.  His honours were yet far
greater than his profits.  Every writer mentioned him with respect, and
among other testimonies to his merit, Steele made him the patron of his
“Miscellany,” and Pope inscribed to him his translations of the “Iliad.”
But he treated the muses with ingratitude; for, having long conversed
familiarly with the great, he wished to be considered rather as a man of
fashion than of wit; and, when he received a visit from Voltaire,
disgusted him by the despicable foppery of desiring to be considered not
as an author but a gentleman; to which the Frenchman replied, “that, if
he had been only a gentleman, he should not have come to visit him.”

In his retirement he may be supposed to have applied himself to books,
for he discovers more literature than the poets have commonly attained.
But his studies were in his later days obstructed by cataracts in his
eyes, which at last terminated in blindness.  This melancholy state was
aggravated by the gout, for which he sought relief by a journey to Bath:
but, being overturned in his chariot, complained from that time of a pain
in his side, and died at his house in Surrey Street in the Strand,
January 29, 1728–9.  Having lain in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, he
was buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument is erected to his
memory by Henrietta Duchess of Marlborough, to whom, for reasons either
not known or not mentioned, he bequeathed a legacy of about ten thousand
pounds, the accumulation of attentive parsimony, which, though to her
superfluous and useless, might have given great assistance to the ancient
family from which he descended, at that time, by the imprudence of his
relation, reduced to difficulties and distress.

                                * * * * *

CONGREVE has merit of the highest kind; he is an original writer, who
borrowed neither the models of his plot nor the manner of his dialogue.
Of his plays I cannot speak distinctly, for since I inspected them many
years have passed, but what remains upon my memory is, that his
characters are commonly fictitious and artificial, with very little of
nature, and not much of life.  He formed a peculiar idea of comic
excellence, which he supposed to consist in gay remarks and unexpected
answers; but that which he endeavoured, he seldom failed of performing.
His scenes exhibit not much of humour, imagery, or passion: his
personages are a kind of intellectual gladiators; every sentence is to
ward or strike; the contest of smartness is never intermitted; his wit is
a meteor playing to and fro with alternate coruscations.  His comedies
have, therefore, in some degree, the operation of tragedies, they
surprise rather than divert, and raise admiration oftener than merriment.
But they are the works of a mind replete with images, and quick in

Of his miscellaneous poetry I cannot say anything very favourable.  The
powers of Congreve seem to desert him when he leaves the stage, as Antæus
was no longer strong than when he could touch the ground.  It cannot be
observed without wonder, that a mind so vigorous and fertile in dramatic
compositions should on any other occasion discover nothing but impotence
and poverty.  He has in these little pieces neither elevation of fancy,
selection of language, nor skill in versification: yet, if I were
required to select from the whole mass of English poetry the most
poetical paragraph, I know not what I could prefer to an exclamation in
the “Mourning Bride”:—


       It was a fancied noise; for all is hushed.


       It bore the accent of a human voice.


       It was thy fear, or else some transient wind
    Whistling through hollows of this vaulted isle:
    We’ll listen—




       No, all is hushed and still as death.—’Tis dreadful!
    How reverend is the face of this tall pile,
    Whose ancient pillars rear their marble heads,
    To bear aloft its arched and ponderous roof,
    By its own weight made steadfast and immovable,
    Looking tranquillity!  It strikes an awe
    And terror on my aching sight; the tombs
    And monumental caves of death look cold,
    And shoot a chillness to my trembling heart.
    Give use thy hand, and let me hear thy voice;
    Nay, quickly speak to me, and let me hear
    Thy voice—my own affrights me with its echoes.

He who reads these lines enjoys for a moment the powers of a poet; he
feels what he remembers to have felt before, but he feels it with great
increase of sensibility; he recognises a familiar image, but meets it
again amplified and expanded, embellished with beauty and enlarged with
majesty.  Yet could the author, who appears here to have enjoyed the
confidence of Nature, lament the death of Queen Mary in lines like

   “The rocks are cleft, and new-descending rills
   Furrow the brows of all the impending hills.
   The water-gods to floods their rivulets turn,
   And each, with streaming eyes, supplies his wanting urn.
   The fauns forsake the woods, the nymphs the grove,
   And round the plain in sad distractions rove:
   In prickly brakes their tender limbs they tear,
   And leave on thorns their locks of golden hair.
   With their sharp nails, themselves the satyrs wound,
   And tug their shaggy beards, and bite with grief the ground.
   Lo Pan himself, beneath a blasted oak,
   Dejected lies, his pipe in pieces broke
   See Pales weeping too in wild despair,
   And to the piercing winds her bosses bare.
   And see yon fading myrtle, where appears
   The Queen of Love, all bathed in flowing tears;
   See how she wrings her hands, and beats her breast,
   And tears her useless girdle from her waist:
   Hear the sad murmurs of her sighing doves!
   For grief they sigh, forgetful of their loves.”

And many years after he gave no proof that time had improved his wisdom
or his wit, for, on the death of the Marquis of Blandford, this was his

   “And now the winds, which had so long been still,
   Began the swelling air with sighs to fill;
   The water-nymphs, who motionless remained
   Like images of ice, while she complained,
   Now loosed their streams; as when descending rains
   Roll the steep torrents headlong o’er the plains.
   The prone creation who so long had gazed
   Charmed with her cries, and at her griefs amazed,
   Began to roar and howl with horrid yell,
   Dismal to hear, and terrible to tell!
   Nothing but groans and sighs were heard around,
   And echo multiplied each mournful sound.”

In both these funeral poems, when he has _yelled_ out many _syllables_ of
senseless _dolour_, he dismisses his reader with senseless consolation.
From the grave of Pastora rises a light that forms a star, and where
Amaryllis wept for Amyntas from every tear sprung up a violet.  But
William is his hero, and of William he will sing:—

   “The hovering winds on downy wings shall wait around,
   And catch, and waft to foreign lands, the flying sound.”

It cannot but be proper to show what they shall have to catch and carry:—

   “’Twas now, when flowery lawns the prospect made,
   And flowing brooks beneath a forest shade,
   A lowing heifer, loveliest of the herd,
   Stood feeding by; while two fierce bulls prepared
   Their arméd heads for light, by fate of war to prove
   The victor worthy of the fair one’s love;
   Unthought presage of what met next my view;
   For soon the shady scene withdrew.
   And now, for woods, and fields, and springing flowers,
   Behold a town arise, bulwarked with walls and lofty towers;
   Two rival armies all the plain o’erspread,
   Each in battalia ranged, and shining arms arrayed
   With eagle eyes beholding both from far,
   Namur, the price and mistress of the war.”

The “Birth of the Muse” is a miserable fiction.  One good line it has
which was borrowed from Dryden.  The concluding verses are these:—

   “This said, no more remained.  The ethereal host
   Again impatient crowd the crystal coast.
   The father now, within his spacious hands,
   Encompassed all the mingled mass of seas and lands;
   And, having heaved aloft the ponderous sphere,
   He launched the world to float in ambient air.”

Of his irregular poems, that to Mrs. Arabella Hunt seems to be the best;
his Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, however, had some lines which Pope had in
his mind when he wrote his own.  His imitations of Horace are feebly
paraphrastical, and the additions which he makes are of little value.  He
sometimes retains what were more properly omitted, as when he talks of
_vervain_ and _gums_ to propitiate Venus.

Of his Translations, the “Satire of Juvenal” was written very early, and
may therefore be forgiven, though it had not the massiness and vigour of
the original.  In all his versions strength and sprightliness are
wanting; his “Hymn to Venus,” from Homer, is perhaps the best.  His lines
are weakened with expletives, and his rhymes are frequently imperfect.
His petty poems are seldom worth the cost of criticism; sometimes the
thoughts are false and sometimes common.  In his verses on Lady Gethin,
the latter part is in imitation of Dryden’s ode on Mrs. Killigrew; and
“Doris,” that has been so lavishly flattered by Steele, has indeed some
lively stanzas, but the expression might be mended, and the most striking
part of the character had been already shown in “Love for Love.”  His
“Art of Pleasing” is founded on a vulgar, but perhaps impracticable
principle, and the staleness of the sense is not concealed by any novelty
of illustration or elegance of diction.  This tissue of poetry, from
which he seems to have hoped a lasting name, is totally neglected, and
known only as it is appended to his plays.

While comedy or while tragedy is regarded, his plays are likely to be
read; but, except what relates to the stage, I know not that he has ever
written a stanza that is sung, or a couplet that is quoted.  The general
character of his “Miscellanies” is that they show little wit and little
virtue.  Yet to him it must be confessed that we are indebted for the
connection of a national error, and for the cure of our Pindaric madness.
He first taught the English writers that Pindar’s odes were regular; and
though certainly he had not the lire requisite for the higher species of
lyric poetry, he has shown us that enthusiasm has its rules, and that in
mere confusion there is neither grace nor greatness.


SIR RICHARD BLACKMORE is one of those men whose writings have attracted
much notice, but of whose life and manners very little has been
communicated, and whose lot it has been to be much oftener mentioned by
enemies than by friends.  He was the son of Robert Blackmore, of Corsham
in Wiltshire, styled by Wood _Gentleman_, and supposed to have been an
attorney, having been for some time educated in a country school, he was
at thirteen sent to Westminster, and in 1668 was entered at Edmund Hall
in Oxford, where he took the degree of MA. June 8, 1676, and resided
thirteen years, a much longer time than is usual to spend at the
university, and which he seems to have passed with very little attention
to the business of the place; for, in his poems, the ancient names of
nations or places, which he often introduces, are pronounced by chance.
He afterwards travelled.  At Padua he was made doctor of physic, and,
after having wandered about a year and a half on the Continent, returned

In some part of his life, it is not known when, his indigence compelled
him to teach a school, a humiliation with which, though it certainly
lasted but a little while, his enemies did not forget to reproach him,
when he became conspicuous enough to excite malevolence; and let it be
remembered for his honour, that to have been once a schoolmaster is the
only reproach which all the perspicacity of malice, animated by wit, has
ever fixed upon his private life.

When he first engaged in the study of physic, he inquired, as he says, of
Dr. Sydenham, what authors he should read and was directed by Sydenham to
“Don Quixote”: “which” said he, “is a very good book; I read it still.”
The perverseness of mankind makes it often mischievous to men of eminence
to give way to merriment; the idle and the illiterate will long shelter
themselves under this foolish apophthegm.  Whether he rested satisfied
with this direction, or sought for better, he commenced physician, and
obtained high eminence and extensive practice.  He became Fellow of the
College of Physicians, April 12, 1687, being one of the thirty which, by
the new charter of King James, were added to the former fellows.  His
residence was in Cheapside, and his friends were chiefly in the City.  In
the early part of Blackmore’s time a citizen was a term of reproach; and
his place of abode was another topic, to which his adversaries had
recourse in the penury of scandal.

Blackmore, therefore, was made a poet not by necessity but inclination,
and wrote not for a livelihood but for fame; or, if he may tell his own
motives, for a nobler purpose, to engage poetry in the cause of virtue.

I believe it is peculiar to him that his first public work was an heroic
poem.  He was not known as a maker of verses till he published (in 1695)
“Prince Arthur,” in ten books, written, as he relates, “by such catches
and starts, and in such occasional uncertain hours as his profession
afforded, and for the greatest part in coffee-houses, or in passing up
and down the streets.”  For the latter part of this apology he was
accused of writing “to the rumbling of his chariot wheels.”  He had read,
he says, “but little poetry throughout his whole life; and for fifteen
years before had not written a hundred verses except one copy of Latin
verses in praise of a friend’s book.”  He thinks, and with some reason,
that from such a performance perfection cannot be expected; but he finds
another reason for the severity of his censurers, which he expresses in
language such as Cheapside easily furnished.  “I am not free of the
Poet’s Company, having never kissed the governor’s hands: mine is
therefore not so much as a permission poem, but a downright interloper.
Those gentlemen, who carry on their poetical trade in a joint stock,
would certainly do what they could to sink and ruin an unlicensed
adventurer, notwithstanding I disturbed none of their factories, nor
imported any goods they have ever dealt in.”  He had lived in the City
till he had learned its note.

That “Prince Arthur” found many readers is certain; for in two years it
had three editions, a very uncommon instance of favourable reception, at
a time when literary curiosity was yet confined to particular classes of
the nation.  Such success naturally raised animosity; and Dennis attacked
it by a formal criticism, more tedious and disgusting than the work which
he condemns.  To this censure may be opposed the approbation of Locke,
and the admiration of Molyneux, which are found in their printed
“Letters.”  Molyneux is particularly delighted with the song of Mopas,
which is therefore subjoined to this narrative.

It is remarked by Pope, that “what raises the hero, often sinks the man.”
Of Blackmore is may be said that, as the poet sinks, the man rises; the
animadversions of Dennis, insolent and contemptuous as they were, raised
in him no implacable resentment; he and his critic were afterwards
friends; and in one of his latter works he praises Dennis “as equal to
Boileau in poetry, and superior to him in critical abilities.”  He seems
to have been more delighted with praise than pained by censure, and
instead of slackening, quickened his career.  Having in two years
produced ten books of “Prince Arthur,” in two years more (1697) he sent
into the world “King Arthur” in twelve.  The provocation was now doubled,
and the resentment of wits and critics may be supposed to have increased
in proportion.  He found, however, advantages more than equivalent to all
their outrages.  He was this year made one of the physicians in ordinary
to King William, and advanced by him to the honour of knighthood, with
the present of a gold chaise and medal.  The malignity of the wits
attributed his knighthood to his new poem, but King William was not very
studious of poetry; and Blackmore perhaps had other merit, for he says in
his dedication to “Alfred,” that “he had a greater part in the succession
of the house of Hanover than ever he had boasted.”

What Blackmore could contribute to the Succession, or what he imagined
himself to have contributed, cannot now be known.  That he had been of
considerable use, I doubt not but he believed, for I hold him to have
been very honest; but he might easily make a false estimate of his own
importance.  Those whom their virtue restrains from deceiving others, are
often disposed by their vanity to deceive themselves.  Whether he
promoted the Succession or not, he at least approved it, and adhered
invariably to his principles and party through his whole life.

His ardour of poetry still continued; and not long after (1700) he
published a “Paraphrase on the Book of Job, and other parts of the
Scripture.”  This performance Dryden, who pursued him with great
malignity, lived long enough to ridicule in a Prologue.

The wits easily confederated against him, as Dryden, whose favour they
almost all courted, was his professed adversary.  He had, besides, given
them reason for resentment, as, in his preface to “Prince Arthur,” he had
said of the dramatic writers almost all that was alleged afterwards by
Collier; but Blackmore’s censure was cold and general, Collier’s was
personal and ardent; Blackmore taught his reader to dislike what Collier
incited him to abhor.

In his preface to “King Arthur” he endeavoured to gain at least one
friend, and propitiated Congreve by higher praise of his “Mourning Bride”
than it has obtained from any other critic.

The same year he published a “Satire on Wit,” a proclamation of defiance
which united the poets almost all against him, and which brought upon him
lampoons and ridicule from every side.  This he doubtless foresaw, and
evidently despised; nor should his dignity of mind be without its praise,
had he not paid the homage to greatness which he denied to genius, and
degraded himself by conferring that authority over the national taste,
which he takes from the poets, upon men of high rank and wide influence,
but of less wit and not greater virtue.

Here is again discovered the inhabitant of Cheapside, whose head cannot
keep his poetry unmingled with trade.  To hinder that intellectual
bankruptcy which he affects to fear he will erect a “Bank for Wit.”  In
this poem he justly censured Dryden’s impurities, but praised his powers,
though in a subsequent edition he retained the satire, and omitted the
praise.  What was his reason, I know not; Dryden was then no longer in
his way.  His head still teemed with heroic poetry; and (1705) he
published “Eliza,” in ten books.  I am afraid that the world was now
weary of contending about Blackmore’s heroes, for I do not remember that
by any author, serious or comical, I have found “Eliza” either praised or

She “dropped,” as it seems, “dead-born from the press.”  It is never
mentioned, and was never seen by me till I borrowed it for the present
occasion.  Jacob says “it is corrected and revised from another
impression,” but the labour of revision was thrown away.

From this time he turned some of his thoughts to the celebration of
living characters, and wrote a poem on the Kit-Cat Club, and “Advice to
the Poets how to celebrate the Duke of Marlborough” but on occasion of
another year of success, thinking himself qualified to give more
instruction, he again wrote a poem of “Advice to a Weaver of Tapestry.”
Steele was then publishing the _Tatler_, and, looking round him for
something at which he might laugh, unluckily alighted on Sir Richard’s
work, and treated it with such contempt that, as Fenton observes, he put
an end to that species of writers that gave advice to painters.

Not long after (1712) he published “Creation,” a philosophical poem,
which has been, by my recommendation, inserted in the late collection.
Whoever judges of this by any other of Blackmore’s performances will do
it injury.  The praise given it by Addison (_Spectator_, 339) is too well
known to be transcribed; but some notice is due to the testimony of
Dennis, who calls it a “philosophical poem, which has equalled that of
‘Lucretius’ in the beauty of its versification, and infinitely surpassed
it in the solidity and strength of its reasoning.”

Why an author surpasses himself it is natural to inquire.  I have heard
from Mr. Draper, an eminent bookseller, an account received by him from
Ambrose Philips, “That Blackmore, as he proceeded in this poem, laid his
manuscript from time to time before a club of wits with whom he
associated, and that every man contributed, as he could, either
improvement or correction; so that,” said Philips, “there are perhaps
nowhere in the book thirty lines together that now stand as they were
originally written.”

The relation of Philips, I suppose, was true; but when all reasonable,
all credible allowance is made for this friendly revision, the author
will still retain an ample dividend of praise; for to him must always be
assigned the plan of the work, the distribution of its parts, the choice
of topics, the train of argument, and, what is yet more, the general
predominance of philosophical judgment and poetical spirit.  Correction
seldom effects more than the suppression of faults: a happy line, or a
single elegance, may perhaps be added; but of a large work, the general
character must always remain.  The original constitution can be very
little helped by local remedies; inherent and radical dulness will never
be much invigorated by intrinsic animation.  This poem, if he had written
nothing else, would have transmitted him to posterity among the first
favourites of the English muse; but to make verses was his transcendent
pleasure, and, as he was not deterred by censure, he was not satiated
with praise.  He deviated, however, sometimes into other tracks of
literature, and condescended to entertain his readers with plain prose.
When the _Spectator_ stopped, he considered the polite world as destitute
of entertainment, and in concert with Mr. Hughes, who wrote every third
paper, published three times a week the “Lay Monastery,” founded on the
supposition that some literary men, whose characters are described, had
retired to a house in the country to enjoy philosophical leisure, and
resolved to instruct the public by communicating their disquisitions and
amusements.  Whether any real persons were concealed under fictitious
names is not known.  The hero of the club is one Mr. Johnson, such a
constellation of excellence, that his character shall not be suppressed,
though there is no great genius in the design nor skill in the

“The first I shall name is Mr. Johnson, a gentleman that owes to nature
excellent faculties and an elevated genius, and to industry and
application many acquired accomplishments.  His taste is distinguishing,
just, and delicate; his judgment clear, and his reason strong,
accompanied with an imagination full of spirit, of great compass, and
stored with refined ideas.  He is a critic of the first rank and, what is
his peculiar ornament, he is delivered from the ostentation, malevolence,
and supercilious temper, that so often blemish men of that character.
His remarks result from the nature and reason of things, and are formed
by a judgment free and unbiassed by the authority of those who have
lazily followed each other in the same beaten track of thinking, and are
arrived only at the reputation of acute grammarians and commentators; men
who have been copying one another many hundred years without any
improvement, or, if they have ventured farther, have only applied in a
mechanical manner the rules of ancient critics to modern writings, and
with great labour discovered nothing but their own want of judgment and
capacity.  As Mr. Johnson penetrates to the bottom of his subject, by
which means his observations are solid and natural, as well as delicate,
so his design is always to bring to light something useful and
ornamental; whence his character is the reverse to theirs, who have
eminent abilities in insignificant knowledge, and a great felicity in
finding out trifles.  He is no less industrious to search out the merit
of an author, than sagacious in discerning his errors and defects, and
takes more pleasure in commending the beauties than exposing the
blemishes of a laudable writing.  Like Horace, in a long work he can bear
some deformities, and justly lay them on the imperfection of human
nature, which is incapable of faultless productions.  When an excellent
drama appears in public, and by its intrinsic worth attracts a general
applause, he is not stung with envy and spleen; nor does he express a
savage nature in fastening upon the celebrated author, dwelling upon his
imaginary defects, and passing over his conspicuous excellences.  He
treats all writers upon the same impartial foot, and is not, like the
little critics, taken up entirely in finding out only the beauties of the
ancient and nothing but the errors of the modern writers.  Never did any
one express more kindness and good-nature to young and unfinished
authors, he promotes their interests, protects their reputation,
extenuates their faults, and sets off their virtues, and by his candour
guards them from the severity of his judgment.  He is not like those dry
critics who are morose because they cannot write themselves, but is
himself master of a good vein in poetry; and though he does not often
employ it, yet he has sometimes entertained his friends with his
unpublished performances.”

The rest of the lay monks seem to be but feeble mortals an comparison
with the gigantic Johnson, who yet, with all his abilities and the help
of the fraternity, could drive the publication but to forty papers, which
were afterwards collected into a volume, and called in the title “A
Sequel to the _Spectators_.”

Some years afterwards (1716 and 1717) he published two volumes of essays
in prose, which can be commended only as they are written for the highest
and noblest purpose—the promotion of religion.  Blackmore’s prose is not
the prose of a poet, for it is languid, sluggish, and lifeless; his
diction is neither daring nor exact, his flow neither rapid nor easy, and
his periods neither smooth nest strong.  His account of _wit_ will show
with how little clearness he is content to think, and how little his
thoughts are recommended by his language.

“As to its efficient cause, _wit_ owes its production to an extraordinary
and peculiar temperament in the constitution of the possessor of it, in
which is found a concurrence of regular and exalted ferments, and an
affluence of animal spirits, refined and rectified to a great degree of
purity; whence, being endowed with vivacity, brightness, and celerity, as
well in their reflections as direct motions, they become proper
instruments for the sprightly operations of the mind, by which means the
imagination can with great facility range the wide field of Nature,
contemplate an infinite variety of objects, and, by observing the
similitude and disagreement of their several qualities, single out and
abstract, and then suit and unite, those ideas which will best serve its
purpose.  Hence beautiful allusions, surprising metaphors, and admirable
sentiments, are always ready at hand; and while the fancy is full of
images, collected from innumerable objects, and their different
qualities, relations, and habitudes, it can at pleasure dress a common
notion in a strange but becoming garb, by which, as before observed, the
same thought will appear a new one, to the great delight and wonder of
the hearer.  What we call _genius_ results from this particular happy
complexion in the first formation of the person that enjoys it, and is
Nature’s gift, but diversified by various specific characters and
limitations, as its active fire is blended and allayed by different
proportions of phlegm, or reduced and regulated by the contrast of
opposite ferments.  Therefore, as there happens in the composition of
facetious genius a greater or less, though still an inferior, degree of
judgment and prudence, one man of wit will be varied and distinguished
from another.”

In these essays he took little care to propitiate the wits, for he scorns
to avert their malice at the expense of virtue or of truth.

“Several, in their books, have many sarcastical and spiteful strokes at
religion in general; while others make themselves pleasant with the
principles of the Christian.  Of the last kind this age has seen a most
audacious example in the book entitled ‘A Tale of a Tub.’  Had this
writing been published in a pagan or popish nation, who are justly
impatient of all indignity offered to the established religion of their
country, no doubt but the author would have received the punishment he
deserved.  But the fate of this impious buffoon is very different, for in
a Protestant kingdom, zealous of their civil and religious immunities, he
has not only escaped affronts and the effects of public resentment, but
has been caressed and patronised by persons of great figure, and of all
denominations.  Violent party-men, who differed in all things besides,
agreed in their turn to show particular respect and friendship to this
insolent derider of the worship of his country, till at last the reputed
writer is not only gone off with impunity, but triumphs in his dignity
and preferment.  I do not know that any inquiry or search was ever made
after this writing, or that any reward was ever offered for the discovery
of the author, or that the infamous book was ever condemned to be burnt
in public.  Whether this proceeds from the excessive esteem and love that
men in power, during the late reign, had for wit, or their defect of zeal
and concern for the Christian religion will be determined best by those
who are best acquainted with their character.”

In another place he speaks with becoming abhorrence of a _godless author_
who has burlesqued a Psalm.  This author was supposed to be Pope, who
published a reward for any one that would produce the coiner of the
accusation, but never denied it, and was afterwards the perpetual and
incessant enemy of Blackmore.

One of his essays is upon the spleen, which is treated by him so much to
his own satisfaction, that he has published the same thoughts in the same
words; first, in the “Lay Monastery,” then in the “Essay,” and then in
the “Preface to a Medical Treatise on the Spleen.”  One passage, which I
have found already twice, I will here exhibit, because I think it better
imagined and better expressed than could be expected from the common
tenor of his prose:—

    “—As the several combinations of splenetic madness and folly produce
    an infinite variety of irregular under-standing, so the amicable
    accommodation and alliance between several virtues and vices produce
    an equal diversity in the dispositions and manners of mankind; whence
    it comes to pass, that as many monstrous and absurd productions are
    found in the moral as in the intellectual world.  How surprising is
    it to observe among the least culpable men, some whose minds are
    attracted by heaven and earth with a seeming equal force; some who
    are proud of humility; others who are censorious and uncharitable,
    yet self-denying and devout; some who join contempt of the world with
    sordid avarice; and others, who preserve a great degree of piety with
    ill-nature and ungoverned passions.  Nor are instances of this
    inconsistent mixture less frequent among bad men, where we often with
    admiration see persons at once generous and unjust, impious lovers of
    their country, and flagitious heroes, good-natured sharpers, immoral
    men of honour, and libertines who will sooner die than change their
    religion; and though it is true that repugnant coalitions of so high
    a degree are found but in a part of mankind, yet none of the whole
    mass, either good or bad, are entirely exempted from some absurd

He about this time (August 22, 1716) became one of the elects of the
College of Physicians, and was soon after (October 1) chosen Censor.  He
seems to have arrived late, whatever was the reason, at his medical

Having succeeded so well in his book on Creation, by which he established
the great principle of all religion, he thought his undertaking
imperfect, unless he likewise enforced the truth of Revelation, and for
that purpose added another poem on “Redemption.”  He had likewise written
before his “Creation” three books on the Nature of Man.

The lovers of musical devotion have always wished for a more happy
metrical version than they have yet obtained of the Book of Psalms.  This
wish the piety of Blackmore led him to gratify, and he produced (1721) “A
New Version of the Psalms of David fitted to the Tunes used in Churches,”
which being recommended by the archbishops and many bishops, obtained a
license for its admission into public worship; but no admission has it
yet obtained, nor has it any right to come where Brady and Tate have got
possession.  Blackmore’s name must be added to those of many others who,
by the same attempt, have obtained only the praise of meaning well.

He was not yet deterred from heroic poetry.  There was another monarch of
this island (for he did not fetch his heroes from foreign countries) whom
he considered as worthy the epic muse, and he dignified “Alfred” (1723)
with twelve books.  But the opinion of the nation was now settled; a hero
introduced by Blackmore was not likely to find either respect or
kindness; “Alfred” took his place by “Eliza” in silence and darkness.
Benevolence was ashamed to favour, and malice was weary of insulting.  Of
his four epic poems, the first had such reputation and popularity as
enraged the critics; the second was at least known enough to be
ridiculed; the two last had neither friends nor enemies.

Contempt is a kind of gangrene, which, if it seizes one part of a
character, corrupts all the rest by degrees.  Blackmore being despised as
a poet, was in time neglected as a physician; his practice, which was
once invidiously great, forsook him in the latter part of his life, but
being by nature, or by principle, averse from idleness, he employed his
unwelcome leisure in writing books on physic, and teaching others to cure
those whom he could himself cure no longer.  I know not whether I can
enumerate all the treatises by which he has endeavoured to diffuse the
art of healing, for there is scarcely any distemper of dreadful name
which he has not taught the reader how to oppose.  He has written on the
small-pox, with a vehement invective against inoculation; on consumption,
the spleen, the gout, the rheumatism, the king’s evil, the dropsy, the
jaundice, the stone, the diabetes, and the plague.  Of those books, if I
had read them, it could nor be expected that I should be able to give a
critical account.  I have been told that there is something in them of
vexation and discontent, discovered by a perpetual attempt to degrade
physic from its sublimity, and to represent it as attainable without much
previous or concomitant learning.  By the transient glances which I have
thrown upon them I have observed an affected contempt of the ancients,
and a supercilious derision of transmitted knowledge.  Of this indecent
arrogance the following quotation from his preface to the “Treatise on
the Small-pox” will afford a specimen, in which, when the reader finds
what I fear is true, that, when he was censuring Hippocrates, he did not
know the difference between _aphorism_ and _apophthegm_, he will not pay
much regard to his determinations concerning ancient learning.

    “As for this book of aphorisms, it is like my Lord Bacon’s of the
    same title, a book of jests, or a grave collection of trite and
    trifling observations; of which, though many are true and certain,
    yet they signify nothing, and may afford diversion, but no
    instruction, most of them being much inferior to the sayings of the
    wise men of Greece, which yet are so low and mean, that we are
    entertained every day with more valuable sentiments at the table
    conversation of ingenious and learned men.”

I am unwilling, however, to leave him in total disgrace, and will
therefore quote from another preface a passage less reprehensible.

    “Some gentlemen have been disingenuous and unjust to me, by wresting
    and forcing my meaning, in the preface to another book, as if I
    condemned and exposed all learning, though they knew I declared that
    I greatly honoured and esteemed all men of superior literature and
    erudition, and that I only undervalued false or superficial learning,
    that signifies nothing for the service of mankind; and that as to
    physic, I expressly affirmed that learning must be joined with native
    genius to make a physician of the first rank; but if those talents
    are separated, I asserted, and do still insist, that a man of native
    sagacity and diligence will prove a more able and useful practiser
    than a heavy notional scholar, encumbered with a heap of confused

He was not only a poet and a physician, but produced likewise a work of a
different kind, “A True and Impartial History of the Conspiracy against
King William of Glorious Memory in the Year 1695.”  This I have never
seen, but suppose it is at least compiled with integrity.  He engaged
likewise in theological controversy, and wrote two books against the
Arians: “Just Prejudices against the Arian Hypothesis,” and “Modern
Arians Unmasked.”  Another of his works is “Natural Theology; or, Moral
Duties considered apart from Positive; with some Observations on the
Desirableness and Necessity of a Supernatural Revelation.”  This was the
last book that he published.  He left behind him “The Accomplished
Preacher; or, an Essay upon Divine Eloquence,” which was printed after
his death by Mr. White of Nayland, in Essex, the minister who attended
his death-bed, and testified the fervent piety of his last hours.  He
died on the 8th of October, 1729.

                                * * * * *

Blackmore, by the unremitted enmity of the wits, whom he provoked more by
his virtue than his dulness, has been exposed to worse treatment than he
deserved.  His name was so long used to point every epigram upon dull
writers, that it became at last a byword of contempt but it deserves
observation, that malignity takes hold only of his writings, and that his
life passed without reproach, even when his boldness of reprehension
naturally turned upon him many eyes desirous to espy faults which many
tongues would have made haste to publish.  But those who could not blame,
could, at least, forbear to praise, and therefore of his private life and
domestic character there are no memorials.

As an author, he may justly claim the honours of magnanimity.  The
incessant attacks of his enemies, whether serious or merry, are never
discovered to have disturbed his quiet, or to have lessened his
confidence in himself: they neither awed him to silence nor to caution:
they neither provoked him to petulance, nor depressed him to complaint.
While the distributors of literary fame were endeavouring to depreciate
and degrade him, he either despised or defied them, wrote on as he had
written before, and never turned aside to quiet them by civility, or
repress them by confutation.  He depended with great security on his own
powers, and perhaps was for that reason less diligent in perusing books.
His literature was, I think, but small.  What he knew of antiquity, I
suspect him to have gathered from modern compilers; but, though he could
not boast of much critical knowledge, his mind was stored with general
principles, and he left minute researches to those whom he considered as
little minds.  With this disposition he wrote most of his poems.  Having
formed a magnificent design, he was careless of particular and
subordinate elegances; he studied no niceties of versification; he waited
for no felicities of fancy, but caught his first thoughts in the first
words in which they were presented; nor does it appear that he saw beyond
his own performances, or had ever elevated his was to that ideal
perfection which every genius born to excel is condemned always to
pursue, and never overtake.  In the first suggestions of his imagination
he acquiesced; he thought them good, and did not seek for better.  His
works may be read a long time without the occurrence of a single line
that stands prominent from the rest.  The poem on “Creation” has,
however, the appearance of more circumspection; it wants neither harmony
of numbers, accuracy of thought, nor elegance of diction.  It has either
been written with great care, or, what cannot be imagined of so long a
work, with such felicity as made care less necessary.  Its two
constituent parts are ratiocination and description.  To reason in verse
is allowed to be difficult; but Blackmore not only reasons in verse, but
very often reasons poetically; and finds the art of uniting ornament with
strength and ease with closeness.  This is a skill which Pope might have
condescended to learn from him, when he needed it so much in his “Moral

In his descriptions both of life and nature, the poet and the philosopher
happily co-operate; truth is recommended by elegance, and elegance
sustained by truth.  In the structure and order of the poem, not only the
greater parts are properly consecutive, but the didactic and illustrative
paragraphs are so happily mingled, that labour is relieved by pleasure,
and the attention is led on through a long succession of varied
excellence to the original position, the fundamental principle of wisdom
and of virtue.

As the heroic poems of Blackmore are now little read, it is thought
proper to insert, as a specimen from “Prince Arthur,” the song of Mopas
mentioned by Molyneux:—

      “But that which Arthur with most pleasure heard
   Were noble strains, by Mopas sung the bard,
   Who to his harp in lofty verse began,
   And through the secret maze of Nature ran.
   He the Great Spirit sung, that all things filled,
   That the tumultuous waves of Chaos stilled;
   Whose nod disposed the jarring seeds to peace,
   And made the wars of hostile Atoms cease.
   All Beings, we in fruitful Nature find,
   Proceeded from the Great Eternal mind:
   Streams of his unexhausted spring of power,
   And, cherished with his influence, endure.
   He spread the pure cerulean fields on high,
   And arched the chambers of the vaulted sky,
   Which he, to suit their glory with their height,
   Adorned with globes, that reel, as drunk with light.
   His hand directed all the tuneful spheres,
   He turned their orbs, and polished all the stars.
   He filled the Sun’s vast lamp with golden light:
   And bid the silver Moon adorn the night.
   He spread the airy Ocean without shores,
   Where birds are wafted with their feathered oars.
   Then sung the bard how the light vapours rise
   From the warm earth, and cloud the smiling skies;
   He sung how some, chilled in their airy flight,
   Fall scattered down in pearly dew by night;
   How some, raised higher, sit in secret steams
   On the reflected points of bounding beams,
   Till, chilled with cold, they shade th’ ethereal plain,
   Then on the thirsty earth descend in rain;
   How some, whose parts a slight contexture show,
   Sink hovering through the air in fleecy snow;
   How part is spun in silken threads, and clings
   Entangled in the grass is gluey strings;
   How others stamp to stones, with rushing sound
   Fall from their crystal quarries to the ground;
   How some are laid in trains, that kindled fly,
   In harmless fires by night, about the sky;
   How some in winds blow with impetuous force,
   And carry ruin where they bend their course,
   While some conspire to form a gentle breeze,
   To fan the air, and play among the trees;
   How some, enraged, grow turbulent and loud,
   Pent in the bowels of a frowning cloud,
   That cracks, as if the axis of the world
   Was broke, and Heaven’s bright towers were downwards hurled.
   He sung how earth’s wide ball, at Jove’s command,
   Did in the midst on airy columns stand;
   And how the soul of plants, in prison held,
   And bound with sluggish fetters, lies concealed,
   Till with the spring’s warm beams, almost released
   From the dull weight, with which it lay opprest,
   Its vigour spreads, and makes the teeming earth
   Heave up, and labour with the sprouting birth:
   The active spirit freedom seeks in vain,
   It only works and twists a stronger chain;
   Urging its prison’s sides to break a way,
   It makes that wider, where ’tis forced to stay:
   Till, having formed its living house, it rears
   Its head, and in a tender plant appears.
   Hence springs the oak, the beauty of the grove,
   Whose stately trunk fierce storms can scarcely move.
   Hence grows the cedar, hence the swelling vine
   Does round the elm its purple clusters twine.
   Hence painted flowers the smiling gardens bless,
   Both with their fragrant scent and gaudy dress.
   Hence the white lily in full beauty grows,
   Hence the blue violet and blushing rose.
   He sung how sunbeams brood upon the earth,
   And in the glebe hatch such a numerous birth;
   Which way the genial warmth in Summer storms
   Turns putrid vapours to a bed of worms;
   How rain, transformed by this prolific power,
   Falls from the clouds an animated shower.
   He sung the embryo’s growth within the womb,
   And how the parts their various shapes assume.
   With what rare art the wondrous structure’s wrought,
   From one crude mass to such perfection brought;
   That no part useless, none misplaced we see,
   None are forgot, and more would monstrous be.”


ALEXANDER POPE was born in London, May 22, 1688, of parents whose rank or
station was never ascertained: we are informed that they were of “gentle
blood;” that his father was of a family of which the Earl of Downe was
the head, and that his mother was the daughter of William Turner,
Esquire, of York, who had likewise three sons, one of whom had the honour
of being killed, and the other of dying, in the service of Charles the
First; the third was made a general officer in Spain, from whom the
sister inherited what sequestrations and forfeitures had left in the
family.  This, and this only, is told by Pope, who is more willing, as I
have heard observed, to show what his father was not, than what he was.
It is allowed that he grew rich by trade; but whether in a shop or on the
Exchange was never discovered till Mr. Tyers told, on the authority of
Mrs. Racket, that he was a linendraper in the Strand.  Both parents were

Pope was from his birth of a constitution tender and delicate, but is
said to have shown remarkable gentleness and sweetness of disposition.
The weakness of his body continued through his life, but the mildness of
his mind perhaps ended with his childhood.  His voice when he was young
was so pleasing, that he was called in fondness “The Little Nightingale.”

Being not sent early to school, he was taught to read by an aunt; and,
when he was seven or eight years old, became a lover of books.  He first
learned to write by imitating printed books, a species of penmanship in
which he retained great excellence through his whole life, though his
ordinary hand was not elegant.  When he was about eight he was placed in
Hampshire, under Taverner, a Romish priest, who, by a method very rarely
practised, taught him the Greek and Latin rudiments together.  He was now
first regularly initiated in poetry by the perusal of “Ogilby’s Homer”
and “Sandys’ Ovid.”  Ogilby’s assistance he never repaid with any praise;
but of Sandys he declared, in his notes to the “Iliad,” that English
poetry owed much of its beauty to his translations.  Sandys very rarely
attempted original composition.

From the care of Taverner, under whom his proficiency was considerable,
he was removed to a school at Twyford, near Winchester, and again to
another school about Hyde Park Corner, from which he used sometimes to
stroll to the play-hones, and was so delighted with theatrical
exhibitions, that he formed a kind of play from “Ogilby’s Iliad,” with
some verses of his own intermixed, which he persuaded his schoolfellows
to act, with the addition of his master’s gardener, who personated Ajax.

At the two last schools he used to represent himself as having lost part
of what Taverner had taught him, and on his master at Twyford he had
already exercised his poetry in a lampoon.  Yet under those masters he
translated more than a fourth part of the “Metamorphoses.”  If he kept
the same proportion in his other exercises, it cannot be thought that his
loss was great.  He tells of himself, in his poems, that “he lisped in
numbers;” and used to say that he could not remember the time when he
began to make verses.  In the style of fiction, it might have been said
of him, as of Pindar, that when he lay in his cradle “the bees swarmed
about his mouth.”

About the time of the Revolution his father, who was undoubtedly
disappointed by the sudden blast of Popish prosperity, quitted his trade,
and retired to Binfield, in Windsor Forest, with about twenty thousand
pounds, for which, being conscientiously determined not to entrust it to
the Government, he found no better use than that of locking it up in a
chest, and taking from it what his expenses required; and his life was
long enough to consume a great part of it before his son came to the

To Binfield Pope was called by his father when he was about twelve years
old, and there he had for a few months the assistance of one Deane,
another priest, of whom he learned only to construe a little of “Tully’s
Offices.”  How Mr. Deane could spend with a boy who had translated so
much of “Ovid” some months over a small part of “Tully’s Offices,” it is
now vain to inquire.  Of a youth so successfully employed, and so
conspicuously improved, a minute account must be naturally desired; but
curiosity must be contented with confused, imperfect, and sometimes
improbable intelligence.  Pope, finding little advantage from external
help, resolved thenceforward to direct himself, and at twelve formed a
plan of study, which he completed with little other incitement than the
desire of excellence.  His primary and principal purpose was to be a
poet, with which his father accidentally concurred by proposing subjects
and obliging him to correct his performances by many revisals, after
which the old gentleman, when he was satisfied, would say, “These are
good rhymes.”  In his perusal of the English poets he soon distinguished
the versification of Dryden, which he considered as the model to be
studied, and was impressed with such veneration for his instructor, that
he persuaded some friends to take him to the coffee-house which Dryden
frequented, and pleased himself with having seen him.

Dryden died May 1, 1701, some days before Pope was twelve; so early must
he therefore have felt the power of harmony, and the zeal of genius.  Who
does not wish that Dryden could have known the value of the homage that
was paid him, and foreseen the greatness of his young admirer?

The earliest of Pope’s productions is his “Ode on Solitude,” written
before he was twelve, in which there is nothing more than other forward
boys have attained, and which is not equal to Cowley’s performance at the
same age.  His time was now wholly spent in reading and writing.  As he
read the classics he amused himself with translating them, and at
fourteen made a version of the first book of the “Thebais,” which, with
some revision, he afterwards published.  He must have been at this time,
if he had no help, a considerable proficient in the Latin tongue.

By Dryden’s fables, which had then been not long published, and were much
in the hands of poetical readers, he was tempted to try his own skill in
giving Chaucer a more fashionable appearance, and put “January and May”
and the “Prologue of the Wife of Bath” into modern English.  He
translated likewise the Epistle of “Sappho to Phaon” from Ovid, to
complete the version, which was before imperfect, and wrote some other
small pieces, which he afterwards printed.  He sometimes imitated the
English poets, and professed to have written at fourteen his poem upon
“Silence,” after Rochester’s “Nothing.”  He had now formed his
versification, and the smoothness of his numbers surpassed his original;
but this is a small part of his praise; he discovers such acquaintance
both with human life and public affairs as is not easily conceived to
have been attainable by a boy of fourteen in Windsor Forest.

Next year he was desirous of opening to himself new sources of knowledge,
by making himself acquainted with modern languages, and removed for a
time to London, that he might study French and Italian, which, as he
desired nothing more than to read them, were by diligent application soon
despatched.  Of Italian learning he does not appear to have ever made
much use in his subsequent studies.  He then returned to Binfield, and
delighted himself with his own poetry.  He tried all styles, and many
subjects.  He wrote a comedy, a tragedy, an epic poem, with panegyrics on
all the princes of Europe; and, as he confesses, “thought himself the
greatest genius that ever was.”  Self-confidence is the first requisite
to great undertakings.  He, indeed, who forms his opinion of himself in
solitude, without knowing the powers of other men, is very liable to
error; but it was the felicity of Pope to rate himself at his real value.
Most of his puerile productions were, by his maturer judgment, afterwards
destroyed.  “Alcander,” the epic poem, was burnt by the persuasion of
Atterbury.  The tragedy was founded on the legend of St. Genevieve.  Of
the comedy there is no account.  Concerning his studies, it is related
that he translated “Tully on Old Age,” and that, besides his books of
poetry and criticisms, he read “Temple’s Essays” and “Locke on Human
Understanding.”  His reading, though his favourite authors are not known,
appears to have been sufficiently extensive and multifarious, for his
early pieces show with sufficient evidence his knowledge of books.  He
that is pleased with himself easily imagines that he shall please others.
Sir William Trumbull, who had been Ambassador at Constantinople, and
Secretary of State, when he retired from business, fixed his residence in
the neighbourhood of Binfield.  Pope, not yet sixteen, was introduced to
the statesman of sixty, and so distinguished himself that their
interviews ended in friendship and correspondence.  Pope was, through his
whole life, ambitious of splendid acquaintance; and he seems to have
wanted neither diligence nor success in attracting the notice of the
great, for, from his first entrance into the world, and his entrance was
very early, he was admitted to familiarity with those whose rank or
station made them most conspicuous.

From the age of sixteen the life of Pope, as an author, may be properly
computed.  He now wrote his pastorals, which were shown to the poets and
critics of that time.  As they well deserved, they were read with
admiration, and many praises were bestowed upon them and upon the
preface, which is both elegant and learned in a high degree; they were,
however, not published till five years afterwards.

Cowley, Milton, and Pope are distinguished among the English poets by the
early exertion of their powers, but the works of Cowley alone were
published in his childhood, and, therefore, of him only can it be certain
that his puerile performances received no improvement from his maturer

At this time began his acquaintance with Wycherley, a man who seems to
have had among his contemporaries his full share of reputation, to have
been esteemed without virtue, and caressed without good humour.  Pope was
proud of his notice.  Wycherley wrote verses in his praise, which he was
charged by Dennis with writing to himself, and they agreed for a while to
flatter one another.  It is pleasant to remark how soon Pope learned the
cant of an author, and began to treat critics with contempt, though he
had yet suffered nothing from them.  But the fondness of Wycherley was
too violent to last.  His esteem of Pope was such that he submitted some
poems to his revision, and when Pope, perhaps proud of such confidence,
was sufficiently bold in his criticisms, and liberal in his alterations,
the old scribbler was angry to see his pages defaced, and felt more pain
from the detection than content from the amendment of his faults.  They
parted, but Pope always considered him with kindness, and visited him a
little time before he died.  Another of his early correspondents was Mr.
Cromwell, of whom I have learned nothing particular, but that he used to
ride a-hunting in a tie-wig.  He was fond, and perhaps vain, of amusing
himself with poetry and criticism, and sometimes sent his performances to
Pope, who did not forbear such remarks as were now and then unwelcome.
Pope, in his turn, put the juvenile version of “Statius” into his hands
for correction.  Their correspondence afforded the public its first
knowledge of Pope’s epistolary powers, for his letters were given by
Cromwell to one Mrs. Thomas, and she many years afterwards sold them to
Curll, who inserted them in a volume of his “Miscellanies.”

Walsh, a name yet preserved among the minor poets, was one of his first
encouragers.  His regard was gained by the pastorals, and from him Pope
received the counsel from which he seems to have regulated his studies.
Walsh advised him to correctness, which, as he told him, the English
poets had hitherto neglected, and which, therefore, was left to him as a
basis of fame; and, being delighted with rural poems, recommended to him
to write a pastoral comedy, like those which are read so eagerly in
Italy, a design which Pope probably did not approve, as he did not follow

Pope had now declared himself a poet, and, thinking himself entitled to
poetical conversation, began at seventeen to frequent Will’s, a
coffee-house on the north side of Russell Street, in Covent Garden, where
the wits of that time used to assemble, and where Dryden had, when he
lived, been accustomed to preside.  During this period of his life he was
indefatigably diligent and insatiably curious, wanting health for violent
and money for expensive pleasures, and having excited in himself very
strong desires of intellectual eminence, he spent much of his time over
his books; but he read only to store his mind with facts and images,
seizing all that his authors presented with undistinguishing voracity,
and with an appetite for knowledge too eager to be nice.  In a mind like
his, however, all the faculties were at once involuntarily improving.
Judgment is forced upon us by experience.  He that reads many books must
compare one opinion or one style with another; and, when he compares,
must necessarily distinguish, reject, and prefer.  But the account given
by himself of his studies was, that from fourteen to twenty he read only
for amusement, from twenty to twenty-seven for improvement and
instruction; that in the first part of his time he desired only to know,
and in the second he endeavoured to judge.

The Pastorals, which had been for some time handed about among poets and
critics, were at last printed (1709) in Tonson’s “Miscellany,” in a
volume which began with the Pastorals of Philips, and ended with those of
Pope.  The same year was written the “Essay on Criticism,” a work which
displays such extent of comprehension, such nicety of distinction, such
acquaintance with mankind, and such knowledge both of ancient and modern
learning, as are not often attained by the maturest age and longest
experience.  It was published about two years afterwards, and, being
praised by Addison in the _Spectator_, with sufficient liberality, met
with so much favour as enraged Dennis, “who,” he says, “found himself
attacked, without any manner of provocation on his side, and attacked in
his person instead of his writings, by one who was wholly a stranger to
him, at a time when all the world knew he was persecuted by fortune; and
not only saw that this was attempted in a clandestine manner, with the
utmost falsehood and calumny, but found that all this was done by a
little, affected hypocrite, who had nothing in his mouth at the same time
but truth, candour, friendship, good-nature, humanity, and magnanimity.”
How the attack was clandestine is not easily perceived, nor how his
person is depreciated; but he seems to have known something of Pope’s
character, in whom may be discovered an appetite to talk too frequently
of his own virtues.  The pamphlet is such as rage might be expected to
dictate.  He supposes himself to be asked two questions; whether the
essay will succeed, and who or what is the author.

Its success he admits to be secured by the false opinions then prevalent;
the author he concludes to be “young and raw.”

    “First, because he discovers a sufficiency beyond his little ability,
    and hath rashly undertaken a task infinitely above his force.
    Secondly, while this little author struts and affects the dictatorian
    air, he plainly shows that at the same time he is under the rod: and,
    while he pretends to give laws to others, is a pedantic slave to
    authority and opinion.  Thirdly, he hath, like schoolboys, borrowed
    both from living and dead.  Fourthly, he knows not his own mind, and
    frequently contradicts himself.  Fifthly, he is almost perpetually in
    the wrong.”

All these positions he attempts to prove by quotations and remarks; but
his desire to do mischief is greater than his power.  He has, however,
justly criticised some passages in these lines:—

   “There are whom Heaven has blessed with store of wit,
   Yet want as much again to manage it:
   For wit and judgment ever are at strife—”

It is apparent that wit has two meanings, and that what is wanted, though
called wit, is truly judgment.  So far Dennis is undoubtedly right: but
not content with argument, he will have a little mirth, and triumphs over
the first couplet in terms too elegant to be forgotten.  “By the way,
what rare numbers are here!  Would not one swear that this youngster had
espoused some antiquated muse, who had sued out a divorce on account of
impotence, from some superannuated sinner; and, having been p—d by her
former spouse, has got the gout in her decrepit age, which makes her
hobble so damnably?”  This was the man who would reform a nation sinking
into barbarity.

In another place Pope himself allowed that Dennis had detected one of
those blunders which are called “bulls.”  The first edition had this

   “What is this wit—
   Where wanted scorned; and envied where acquired?”

“How,” says the critic, “can wit be scorned where it is not?  Is not this
a figure frequently employed in Hibernian land!  The person that wants
this wit may indeed be scorned, but the scorn shows the honour which the
contemner has for wit.”  Of this remark Pope made the proper use, by
correcting the passage.

I have preserved, I think, all that is reasonable in Dennis’s criticism;
it remains that justice be done to his delicacy.  “For his acquaintance,”
says Dennis, “he names Mr. Walsh, who had by no means the qualification
which this author reckons absolutely necessary to a critic, it being very
certain that he was, like this essayer a very indifferent poet; he loved
to be well dressed; and I remember a little young gentleman whom Mr.
Walsh used to take into his company as a double foil to his person and
capacity.  Inquire between Sunning Hill and Oakingham, for a young,
short, equal, gentleman, the very bow of the God of Love, and tell me
whether he be a proper author to make personal reflections?  He may extol
the ancients, but he has reason to thank the gods that he was born a
modern; for had he been born of Grecian parents, and his father
consequently had by law had the absolute disposal of him, his life had
been no longer than that of one of his poems, the life of half a day.
Let the person of a gentleman of his parts be never so contemptible, his
inward man is ten times more ridiculous; it being impossible that his
outward form, though it be that of downright monkey, should differ so
much from human shape as his unthinking, immaterial part does from human
understanding.”  Thus began the hostility between Pope and Dennis, which,
though it was suspended for a short time, never was appeased.  Pope
seems, at first, to have attacked him wantonly; but though he always
professed to despise him, he discovers, by mentioning him very often,
that he felt his force or his venom.

Of this essay, Pope declared that he did not expect the sale to be quick,
because “not one gentleman in sixty, even of liberal education, could
understand it.”  The gentleman, and the education of that time, seem to
have been of a lower character than they are of this.  He mentioned a
thousand copies as a numerous impression.

Dennis was not his only censurer; the zealous Papists thought the monks
treated with too much contempt, and Erasmus too studiously praised; but
to these objections he had not much regard.

The “Essay,” has been translated into French by Hamilton, author of the
“Comte de Grammont,” whose version was never printed, by Robotham,
secretary to the king for Hanover, and by Resnel; and commented by Dr.
Warburton, who has discovered in it such order and connection as was not
perceived by Addison, nor, as it is said, intended by the author.

Almost every poem, consisting of precepts, is so far arbitrary and
immethodical, that many of the paragraphs may change places with no
apparent inconvenience; for of two or more positions, depending upon some
remote and general principle, there is seldom any cogent reason why one
should precede the other.  But for the order in which they stand,
whatever it be, a little ingenuity may easily give a reason.  “It is
possible,” says Hooker, “that, by long circumduction, from any one truth
all truth may be inferred.”  Of all homogeneous truths, at least of all
truths respecting the same general end, in whatever series they may be
produced, a concatenation by intermediate ideas may be formed, such as,
when it is once shown, shall appear natural; but if this order be
reversed, another mode of connection equally spacious may be found or
made.  Aristotle is praised for naming fortitude first of the cardinal
virtues, as that without which no other virtue can steadily be practised;
but he might, with equal propriety, have placed prudence and justice
before it; since without prudence fortitude is mad; without justice, it
is mischievous.  As the end of method is perspicuity, that series is
sufficiently regular that avoids obscurity; and where there is no
obscurity, it will not be difficult to discover method.

In the _Spectator_ was published the “Messiah,” which he first submitted
to the perusal of Steele, and corrected in compliance with his
criticisms.  It is reasonable to infer from his “Letters” that the verses
on the “Unfortunate Lady” were written about the time when his “Essay”
was published.  The lady’s name and adventures I have sought with
fruitless inquiry.  I can therefore tell no more than I have learned from
Mr. Ruffhead, who writes with the confidence of one who could trust his
information.  She was a woman of eminent rank and large fortune, the ward
of an uncle, who, having given her a proper education, expected, like
other guardians, that she should make at least an equal match; and such
he proposed to her, but found it rejected in favour of a young gentleman
of inferior condition.  Having discovered the correspondence between the
two lovers, and finding the young lady determined to abide by her own
choice, he supposed that separation might do what can rarely be done by
arguments, and sent her into a foreign country, where she was obliged to
converse only with those from whom her uncle had nothing to fear.  Her
lover took care to repeat his vows; but his letters were intercepted and
carried to her guardian, who directed her to be watched with still
greater vigilance, till of this restraint she grow so impatient that she
bribed a woman servant to procure her a sword, which she directed to her

From this account, given with evident intention to raise the lady’s
character, it does not appear that she had any claim to praise nor much
to compassion.  She seems to have been impatient, violent, and
ungovernable.  Her uncle’s power could not have lasted long; the hour of
liberty and choice would have come in time.  But her desires were too hot
for delay, and she liked self-murder better than suspense.  Nor is it
discovered that the uncle, whoever he was, is with much justice delivered
to posterity as “a false guardian.”  He seems to have done only that for
which a guardian is appointed; he endeavoured to direct his niece till
she should be able to direct herself.  Poetry has not often been worse
employed than in dignifying the amorous fiery of a raving girl.

Not long after he wrote the “Rape of the Lock,” the most airy, the most
ingenious, and the most delightful off all his compositions, occasioned
by a frolic of gallantry, rather too familiar, in which Lord Petre cut
off a lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor’s hair.  This, whether stealth or
violence, was so much resented that the commerce of the two families,
before very friendly, was interrupted.  Mr. Caryl, a gentleman who, being
secretary to King James’s queen, had followed his mistress into France,
and who, being the author of _Sir Solomon Single_, a comedy, and some
translations, was entitled to the notice of a wit, solicited Pope to
endeavour a reconciliation by a ludicrous poem which might bring both the
parties to a better temper.  In compliance with Caryl’s request, though
his name was for a long time marked only by the first and last letter,
“C—l,” a poem of two cantos, was written (1711), as is said, in a
fortnight, and sent to the offended lady, who liked it well enough to
show it; and, with the usual process of literary transactions, the
author, dreading a surreptitious edition, was forced to publish it.

The event is said to have been such as was desired, the pacification and
diversion of all to whom it related, except Sir George Brown, who
complained with some bitterness that, in the character of Sir Plume, he
was made to talk nonsense.  Whether all this be true I have some doubt;
for at Paris, a few years ago, a niece of Mrs. Fermor, who presided in an
English convent, mentioned Pope’s work with very little gratitude, rather
as an insult than an honour; and she may be supposed to have inherited
the opinion of her family.  At its first appearance at was termed by
Addison “merum sal.”  Pope, however, saw that it was capable of
improvement; and, having luckily contrived to borrow his machinery from
the Rosicrucians, imparted the scheme with which his head was teeming to
Addison, who told him that his work, as it stood, was “a delicious little
thing,” and gave him no encouragement to retouch it.

This has been too hastily considered as an instance of Addison’s
jealousy, for, as he could not guess the conduct of the new design, or
the possibilities of pleasure comprised in a fiction of which there had
been no examples, he might very reasonably and kindly persuade the author
to acquiesce in his own prosperity, and forbear an attempt which he
considered as an unnecessary hazard.  Addison’s counsel was happily
rejected.  Pope foresaw the future efflorescence of imagery then budding
in his mind, and resolved to spare no art or industry of cultivation.
The soft luxuriance of his fancy was already shooting, and all the gay
varieties of diction were ready at his hand to colour and embellish it.
His attempt was justified by its success.  The “Rape of the Lock” stands
forward, in the classes of literature, as the most exquisite example of
ludicrous poetry.  Berkeley congratulated him upon the display of powers
more truly poetical than he had shown before with elegance of description
and justness of precepts he had now exhibited boundless fertility of
invention.  He always considered the intermixture of the machinery with
the action as his most successful exertion of poetical art.  He, indeed,
could never afterwards produce anything of such unexampled excellence.
Those performances, which strike with wonder, are combinations of skilful
genius with happy casualty; and it is not likely that any felicity, like
the discovery of a new race of preternatural agents, should happen twice
to the same man.  Of this poem the author was, I think, allowed to enjoy
the praise for a long time without disturbance.  Many years afterwards
Dennis published some remarks upon it with very little force and with no
effect; for the opinion of the public was already settled, and it was no
longer at the mercy of criticism.

About this time he published the “Temple of Fame,” which, as he tells
Steele in their correspondence, he had written two years before—that is,
when he was only twenty-two years old, an early time of life for so much
learning and so much observation as that work exhibits.  On this poem
Dennis afterwards published some remarks, of which the most reasonable is
that some of the lines represent motion as exhibited by sculpture.

Of the Epistle from “Eloisa to Abelard,” I do not know the date.  His
first inclination to attempt a composition of that tender kind arose, as
Mr. Savage told me, from his perusal of Prior’s “Nut-brown Maid.”  How
much he has surpassed Prior’s work it is not necessary to mention, when
perhaps it may be said, with justice, that he has excelled every
composition of the same kind.  The mixture of religious hope and
resignation gives an elevation and dignity to disappointed love, which
images merely natural cannot bestow.  The gloom of a convent strikes the
imagination with far greater force than the solitude of a grove.  This
piece was, however, not much his favourite in his later years, though I
never heard upon what principle he slighted it.

In the next year (1713) he published “Windsor Forest,” of which part was,
as he relates, written at sixteen, about the same time as his Pastorals,
and the latter part was added afterwards.  Where the addition begins we
are not told.  The lines relating to the peace confess their own date.
It is dedicated to Lord Lansdowne, who was then in high reputation and
influence among the Tories; and it is said that the conclusion of the
poem gave great pain to Addison, both as a poet and a politician.
Reports like this are often spread with boldness very disproportionate to
their evidence.  Why should Addison receive any particular disturbance
from the last lines of “Windsor Forest”?  If contrariety of opinion could
poison a politician, he could not live a day; and, as a poet, he must
have felt Pope’s force of genius much more from many other parts of his
works.  The pain that Addison might feel it is not likely that he would
confess; and it is certain that he so well suppressed his discontent that
Pope now thought himself his favourite, for, having been consulted in the
revisal of “Cato” he introduced it by a prologue; and, when Dennis
published his remarks, undertook, not indeed to vindicate, but to revenge
his friend, by a “Narrative of the Frenzy of John Dennis.”

There is reason to believe that Addison gave no encouragement to this
disingenuous hostility, for, says Pope, in a letter to him, “indeed your
opinion, that ’tis entirely to be neglected, would be my own in my own
case; but I felt more warmth here than I did when I first saw his book
against myself (though, indeed, in two minutes it made me heartily
merry).”  Addison was not a man on whom such cant of sensibility could
make much impression.  He left the pamphlet to itself, having disowned it
to Dennis, and perhaps did not think Pope to have deserved much by his

This year was printed in the _Guardian_ the ironical comparison between
the pastorals of Philips and Pope, a composition of artifice, criticism,
and literature, to which nothing equal will easily be found.  The
superiority of Pope is so ingeniously dissembled, and the feeble lines of
Philips so skilfully preferred, that Steele, being deceived, was
unwilling to print the paper, lest Pope should be offended.  Addison
immediately saw the writer’s design, and, as it seems, had malice enough
to conceal his discovery, and to permit a publication which, by making
his friend Philips ridiculous, made him for ever an enemy to Pope.

It appears that about this time Pope had a strong inclination to unite
the art of painting with that of poetry, and put himself under the
tuition of Jervas.  He was near-sighted, and therefore not formed by
nature for a painter; he tried, however, how far he could advance, and
sometimes persuaded his friends to sit.  A picture of Betterton, supposed
to be drawn by him, was in the possession of Lord Mansfield.  If this was
taken from the life, he must have begun to paint earlier, for Betterton
was now dead.  Pope’s ambition of this new art produced some encomiastic
verses to Jervas, which certainly show his power as a poet; but I have
been told that they betray his ignorance of painting.  He appears to have
regarded Betterton with kindness and esteem, and after his death
published, under his name, a version into modern English of Chaucer’s
Prologues and one of his Tales, which, as was related by Mr. Harte, were
believed to have been the performance of Pope himself by Fenton, who made
him a gay offer of five pounds if he would show them in the hand of

The next year (1713) produced a bolder attempt, by which profit was
sought as well as praise.  The poems which he had hitherto written,
however they might have diffused his name, had made very little addition
to his fortune.  The allowance which his father made him, though,
proportioned to what he had, it might be liberal, could not be large; his
religion hindered him from the occupation of any civil employment; and he
complained that he wanted even money to buy books.  He therefore resolved
to try how far the favour of the public extended by soliciting a
subscription to a version of the “Iliad,” with large notes.  To print by
subscription was, for some time, a practice peculiar to the English.  The
first considerable work for which this expedient was employed is said to
have been Dryden’s “Virgil,” and it had been tried again with great
success when the _Tatlers_ were collected into volumes.

There was reason to believe that Pope’s attempt would be successful.  He
was in the full bloom of reputation and was personally known to almost
all whom dignity of employment or splendour of reputation had made
eminent; he conversed indifferently with both parties, and never
disturbed the public with his political opinions; and it might be
naturally expected, as each faction then boasted its literary zeal, that
the great men, who on other occasions practised all the violence of
opposition, would emulate each other in their encouragement of a poet who
delighted all, and by whom none had been offended.  With these hopes, he
offered an English “Iliad” to subscribers, in six volumes in quarto, for
six guineas, a sum according to the value of money at that time by no
means inconsiderable, and greater than I believe to have been ever asked
before.  His proposal, however, was very favourably received, and the
patrons of literature were busy to recommend his undertaking and promote
his interest.  Lord Oxford, indeed, lamented that such a genius should be
wasted upon a work not original, but proposed no means by which he might
live without it.  Addison recommended caution and moderation, and advised
him not to be content with the praise of half the nation when he might be
universally favoured.

The greatness of the design, the popularity of the author, and the
attention of the literary world, naturally raised such expectations of
the future sale, that the booksellers made their offers with great
eagerness; but the highest bidder was Bernard Lintot, who became
proprietor on condition of supplying, at his own expense, all the copies
which were to be delivered to subscribers, or presented to friends, and
paying two hundred pounds for every volume.

Of the quartos it was, I believe, stipulated that none should be printed
but for the author, that the subscription might not be depreciated; but
Lintot impressed the same pages upon a small folio, and paper perhaps a
little thinner, and sold exactly at half the price, for half a guinea
each volume, books so little inferior to the quartos that, by fraud of
trade, those folios being afterwards shortened by cutting away the top
and bottom, were sold as copies printed for the subscribers.

Lintot printed two hundred and fifty on royal paper in folio for two
guineas a volume; of the small folio, having printed seventeen hundred
and fifty copies of the first volume, he reduced the number in the other
volumes to a thousand.  It is unpleasant to relate that the bookseller,
after all his hopes and all his liberality, was, by a very unjust and
illegal action, defrauded of his profit.  An edition of the English
“Iliad” was printed in Holland in duodecimo, and imported clandestinely
for the gratification of those who were impatient to read what they could
not yet afford to buy.  This fraud could only be counteracted by an
edition equally cheap and more commodious; and Lintot was compelled to
contract his folio at once into a duodecimo, and lose the advantage of an
intermediate gradation.  The notes which in the Dutch copies were placed
at the end of each book as they had been in the large volumes, were now
subjoined to the text in the same page, and are therefore more easily
consulted.  Of this edition two thousand five hundred were first printed,
and five thousand a few weeks afterwards; but indeed great numbers were
necessary to produce considerable profit.

Pope, having now emitted his proposals, and engaged not only his own
reputation but in some degree that of his friends who patronised his
subscription, began to be frightened at his own undertaking, and finding
himself at first embarrassed with difficulties which retarded and
oppressed him, he was for a time timorous and uneasy, had his nights
disturbed by dreams of long journeys through unknown ways, and wished, as
he said, “that somebody would hang him.”  This misery, however, was not
of long continuance; he grew by degrees more acquainted with Homer’s
images and expressions, and practice increased his facility of
versification.  In a short time he represents himself as despatching
regularly fifty verses a day, which would show him by an easy
computation, the termination of his labour.  His own diffidence was not
his only vexation.  He that asks a subscription soon finds that he has
enemies.  All who do not encourage him defame him.  He that wants money
would rather be thought angry than poor; and he that wishes to save his
money conceals his avarice by his malice.  Addison had hinted his
suspicion that Pope was too much a Tory; and some of the Tories suspected
his principles because he had contributed to the _Guardian_, which was
carried on by Steele.

To those who censured his politics were added enemies more dangerous, who
called in question his knowledge of Greek, and his qualifications for a
translator of “Homer.”  To these he made no public opposition, but in one
of his letters escapes from them as well as he can.  At an age like his,
for he was not more than twenty-five, with an irregular education and a
course of life of which much seems to have passed in conversation, it is
not very likely that he overflowed with Greek.  But when he felt himself
deficient he sought assistance, and what man of learning would refuse to
help him?  Minute inquiries into the force of words are less necessary in
translating Homer than other poets, because his positions are general,
and his representations natural, with very little dependence on local or
temporary customs, on those changeable scenes of artificial life, which,
by mingling original with accidental notions and crowding the mind with
images which time effaces, produces ambiguity in dictation and obscurity
in books.  To this open display of unadulterated nature it must be
ascribed that Homer has fewer passages of doubtful meaning than any other
poet either in the learned or in modern languages.  I have read of a man
who, being by his ignorance of Greek compelled to gratify his curiosity
with the Latin printed on the opposite page, declared that from the rude
simplicity of the lines literally rendered he formed nobler ideas of the
Homeric majesty than from the laboured elegance of polished versions.
Those literal translations were always at hand, and from them he could
easily obtain his author’s sense with sufficient certainty and among the
readers of Homer the number is very small of those who find much in the
Greek more than in the Latin, except the music of the numbers.

If more help was wanting he had the poetical translation of Eobanus
Hessus, an unwearied writer of Latin verses; he had the French Homers of
La Valterie and Dacier, and the English of Chapman, Hobbes, and Ogilby.
With Chapman, whose work, though now totally neglected, seems to have
been popular almost to the end of the last century, he had very frequent
consultations, and perhaps never translated any passage till he had read
his version, which he indeed has been sometimes suspected of using
instead of the original.  Notes were likewise to be provided, for the six
volumes would have been very little more than six pamphlets without them.
What the mere perusal of the text could suggest Pope wanted no assistance
to collect or methodise; but more was necessary.  Many pages were to be
filled, and learning must supply materials to wit and judgment.
Something might be gathered from Dacier, but no man loves to be indebted
to his contemporaries, and Dacier was accessible to common readers.
Eustathius was therefore necessarily consulted.  To read Eustathius, of
whose work there was then no Latin version, I suspect Pope if he had been
willing not to have been able.  Some other was therefore to be found who
had leisure as well as abilities, and he was doubtless most readily
employed who would do much work for little money.

The history of the notes has never been traced.  Broome, an his preface
to his poems, declares himself the commentator “in part upon the
‘Iliad,’” and it appears from Fenton’s letter, preserved in the Museum,
that Broome was at first engaged in consulting Eustathius; but that after
a time, whatever was the reason, he desisted.  Another man of Cambridge
was then employed, who soon grew weary of the work, and a third, that was
recommended by Thirlby, is now discovered to have been Jortin, a man
since well known to the learned world, who complained that Pope, having
accepted and approved his performance, never testified any curiosity to
see him, and who professed to have forgotten the terms on which he
worked.  The terms which Fenton uses are very mercantile: “I think at
first sight that his performance is very commendable, and have sent word
for him to finish the seventeenth book, and to send it with his demands
for his trouble.  I have here enclosed the specimen; if the rest come
before the return, I will keep them till I receive your order.”

Broome then offered his service a second time, which was probably
accepted, as they had afterwards a closer correspondence.  Parnell
contributed the “Life of Homer,” which Pope found so harsh, that he took
great pains in correcting it; and by his own diligence, with such help as
kindness or money could procure him, in somewhat more than five years he
completed his version of the “Iliad,” with the notes.  He began it in
1712, his twenty-fifth year, and concluded it in 1718, his thirtieth
year.  When we find him translating fifty lines a day, it is natural to
suppose that he would have brought his work to a more speedy conclusion.
The “Iliad,” containing less than sixteen thousand verses, might have
been despatched in less than three hundred and twenty days by fifty
verses in a day.  The notes, compiled with the assistance of his
mercenaries, could not be supposed to require more time than the text.
According to this calculation, the progress of Pope may seem to have been
slow; but the distance is commonly very great between actual performances
and speculative possibility.  It is natural to suppose, that as much as
has been done to-day may be done to-morrow; but on the morrow some
difficulty emerges, or some external impediment obstructs.

Indolence, interruption, business, and pleasure, all take their turns of
retardation; and every long work is lengthened by a thousand causes that
can, and ten thousand that cannot, be recounted.  Perhaps no extensive
and multifarious performance was ever effected within the term originally
fixed in the undertaker’s mind.  He that runs against time has an
antagonist not subject to casualties.

The encouragement given to this translation, though report seems to have
overrated it, was such as the world has not often seen.  The subscribers
were five hundred and seventy-five.  The copies, for which subscriptions
were given, were six hundred and fifty-four; and only six hundred and
sixty were printed.  For these copies Pope had nothing to pay.  He
therefore received, including the two hundred pounds a volume, five
thousand three hundred and twenty pounds, four shillings, without
deduction, as the books were supplied by Lintot.

By the success of his subscription Pope was relieved from those pecuniary
distresses with which, notwithstanding his popularity, he had hitherto
struggled.  Lord Oxford had often lamented his disqualification for
public employment, but never proposed a pension.  While the translation
of “Homer” was in its progress, Mr. Craggs, then Secretary of State,
offered to procure him a pension, which, at least during his ministry,
might be enjoyed with secrecy.  This was not accepted by Pope, who told
him, however, that, if he should be pressed with want of money, he would
send to him for occasional supplies.  Craggs was not long in power, and
was never solicited for money by Pope, who disdained to beg what he did
not want.

With the product of this subscription, which he had too much discretion
to squander, he secured his future life from want, by considerable
annuities.  The estate of the Duke of Buckingham was found to have been
charged with five hundred pounds a year, payable to Pope, which doubtless
his translation enabled him to purchase.

It cannot be unwelcome to literary curiosity, that I deduce thus minutely
the history of the English “Iliad.”  It is certainly the noblest version
of poetry which the world has ever seen, and its publication must
therefore be considered as one of the great events in the annals of
learning.  To those who have skill to estimate the excellence and
difficulty of this great work, it must be very desirable to know how it
was performed, and by what gradations it advanced to correctness.  Of
such an intellectual process the knowledge has very rarely been
attainable; but happily there remains the original copy of the “Iliad,”
which, being obtained by Bolingbroke as a curiosity, descended from him
to Mallet, and is now, by the solicitation of the late Dr. Maty,
reposited in the Museum.  Between this manuscript, which is written upon
accidental fragments of paper, and the printed edition, there must have
been an intermediate copy, that was perhaps destroyed as it returned from
the press.

From the first copy I have procured a few transcripts, and shall exhibit
first the printed lines; then, in a small print, those of the
manuscripts, with all their variations.  Those words in the small print,
which are given in italics, are cancelled in the copy, and the words
placed under them adopted in their stead:

The beginning of the first book stands thus:—

      The wrath of Peleus’ son, the direful spring
   Of all the Grecian woes, O Goddess, sing,
   That wrath which hurled to Pluto’s gloomy reign
   The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain.

      The stern Pelides’ _rage_, O Goddess, sing,
      Of all the woes _of Greece_ too fatal spring,
      That screwed with warriors dead the Phrygian plain,
      And _peopled the dark with heroes_ slain:
         filled the shady hell with chiefs untimely

   Whose limbs, unburied on the naked shore,
   Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore,
   Since great Achilles and Atrides strove;
   Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of Jove.

      Whose limbs, unburied on the hostile shore,
      Devouring dogs and greedy vultures tore,
      Since first _Atrides_ and _Achilles_ strove;
      Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of Jove.

   Declare, O Muse, in what ill-fated hour
   Sprung the fierce strife from what offended Power?
   Latona’s son a dire contagion spread,
   And heaped the camp with mountains of the dead;
   The King of Men his reverend priest defied,
   And for the King’s offence the people died.

      Declare, O Goddess, what offended Power
      Enflamed their _rage_ in that _ill-omened_ hour;
                        anger    fatal, hapless
      Phœbus himself the _dire_ debate procured,
      To avenge the wrongs his injured priest endured;
      For this the god a dire infection spread,
      And heaped the camp with millions of the dead:
      The King of men the sacred sire defied,
      And for the King’s offence the people died.

   For Chryses sought with costly gifts to gain
   His captive daughter from the Victor’s chain;
   Suppliant the venerable father stands,
   Apollo’s awful ensigns grace his hands,
   By these he begs, and, lowly bending down,
   Extends the sceptre and the laurel crown.

      For Chryses sought by _presents to regain_
                        costly gifts to gain
      His captive daughter from the Victor’s chain;
      Suppliant the venerable father stands,
      Apollo’s awful ensigns graced his hands.
      By these he begs, and, lowly bending down
      _The golden sceptre_ and the laurel crown,
      Presents the sceptre
      _For these as ensigns of his god he bare_,
      _The god who sends his golden shaft afar_;
      Then low on earth the venerable man,
      Suppliant before the brother kings began.

   He sued to all, but chief implored for grace,
   The brother kings of Atreus’ royal race;
   Ye kings and warriors, may your vows be crowned,
   And Troy’s proud walls lie level with the ground;
   May Jove restore you, when your toils are o’er,
   Safe to the pleasures of your native shore.

      To all he sued, but chief implored for grace
      The brother kings of Atreus’ royal race.
      Ye _sons of Atreus_, may your vows be crowned,
            kings and warriors
      _Your labours_, _by the gods be all your labours crowned_;
      _So may the gods your arms with conquest bless_,
      _And_ Troy’s proud walls _lie_ level with the ground;
      Till      laid
      _And crown your labours with desired success_;
      May Jove restore you when your toils are o’er
      Safe to the pleasures of your native shore.

   But, oh! relieve a wretched parent’s pain,
   And give Chryses to these arms again;
   If mercy fail, yet let my present move,
   And dread avenging Phœbus, son of Jove.

      But, oh! relieve a hapless parent’s pain,
      And give my daughter to these arms again;
      _Receive my gifts_, if mercy fails, yet let my present move,
      And fear _the god who deals his darts around_,
               avenging Phœbus, son of Jove.

   The Greeks, in shouts, their joint assent declare,
   The priest to reverence, and release the fair:
   Not so Atrides; he, with kingly pride,
   Repulsed the sacred sire, and thus replied.

      He said, the Greeks their joint assent declare,
      _The father said_, _the generous Greeks relent_,
      To accept the ransom, and restore the fair:
      _Revere the priest_, _and speak their joint assent_;
      Not so _the tyrant_; he, with kingly pride,
      Repulsed the sacred sire, and thus replied
                     [Not so the tyrant. DRYDEN.]

Of these lines, and of the whole first book, I am told that there was yet
a former copy, more varied, and more deformed with interlineations.

The beginning of the second book varies very little from the printed
page, and is therefore set down without any parallel.  The few slight
differences do not require to be elaborately displayed.

      Now pleasing sleep had sealed each mortal eye:
   Stretched in the tents the Grecian leaders lie;
   The Immortals slumbered on their thrones above,
   All but the ever-wakeful eye of Jove.
   To honour Thetis’ son he bends his care,
   And plunge the Greeks in all the woes of war.
   Then bids an empty phantom rise to sight,
   And thus _commands_ the vision of the night: directs
   Fly hence, delusive dream, and, light as air,
   To Agamemnon’s royal tent repair;
   Bid him in arms draw forth the embattled train,
   March all his legions to the dusty plain.
   _Now tell the King_ ’tis given him to destroy
   Declare even now
   The lofty _walls_ of wide-extended Troy; towers
   For now no more the gods with fate contend;
   At Juno’s suit the heavenly factions end.
   Destruction _hovers_ o’er yon devoted wall, hangs
   And nodding Ilion waits the impending fall.

Invocation to the catalogue of ships.

   Say, virgins, seated round the throne divine,
   All-knowing goddesses! immortal nine!
   Since earth’s wide regions, heaven’s unmeasured height,
   And hell’s abyss, hide nothing from your sight
   (We, wretched mortals! lost in doubts below,
   But guess by rumour, and but boast we know),
   Oh! say what heroes, fired by thirst of fame,
   Or urged by wrongs, to Troy’s destruction came!
   To count them all demands a thousand tongues,
   A throat of brass and adamantine lungs.

      Now virgin goddesses, immortal nine!
      That round Olympus’ heavenly summit shine,
      Who see through heaven and earth, and hell profound,
      And all things know, and all things can resound!
      Relate what armies sought the Trojan land,
      What nations followed, and what chiefs command;
      (For doubtful fame distracts mankind below,
      And nothing can we tell, and nothing know)
      Without your aid, to count the unnumbered train,
   A thousand mouths, a thousand tongues, were vain.

                             Book V. _v._ 1.

      But Pallas now Tydides’ soul inspires,
   Fills with her force, and warms with all her fires:
   Above the Greeks his deathless fame to raise,
   And crown her hero with distinguished praise,
   High on his helm celestial lightnings play,
   His beamy shield emits a living ray;
   The unwearied blaze incessant streams supplies,
   Like the red star that fires the autumnal skies.
      But Pallas now Tydides’ soul inspires,
   Fills with her _rage_, and warms with all her fires;
   O’er all the Greeks decrees his fame to raise,
   Above the Greeks _her warrior’s_ fame to raise,
                     his deathless
   And crown her hero with _immortal_ praise: distinguished
   _Bright from_ his beamy _crest the_ lightnings play,
      High on         helm
   From his broad buckler flashed the living ray;
   High on his helm celestial lightnings play,
   His beamy shield emits a living ray;
   The goddess with her breath the flame supplies,
   Bright as the star whose fires in autumn rise;
   Her breath divine thick streaming flames supplies,
   Bright as the star that fires the autumnal skies:
   The unwearied blaze incessant streams supplies,
   Like the red star that fires the autumnal skies.

   When fresh he rears his radiant orb to sight,
   And bathed in ocean shoots a keener light,
   Such glories Pallas on the chief bestowed,
   Such from his arms the fierce effulgence flowed;
   Onward she drives him, furious to engage,
   Where the fight burns, and where the thickest rage.

      When fresh he rears his radiant orb to sight,
      And gilds old ocean with a blaze of light,
      Bright as the star that fires the autumnal skies,
      Fresh from the deep, and gilds the seas and skies:
      Such glories Pallas on her chief bestowed,
      Such sparkling rays from his bright armour flowed,
      Such sparkling rays from his bright armour flowed,
      Onward she drives him _headlong_ to engage,
      Where the _war bleeds_, and where the _fiercest_ rage.
               fight burns         thickest

   The sons of Dares first the combat sought,
   A wealthy priest, but rich without a fault;
   In Vulcan’s fane the father’s days were led,
   The sons to toils of glorious battle bred;

      There lived a Trojan—Dares was his name,
      The priest of Vulcan, rich, yet void of blame;
      The sons of Dares first the combat sought,
      A wealthy priest, but rich without a fault.

                   _Conclusion of_ Book VIII. _v._ 687.

   As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
   O’er heaven’s clear azure spreads her sacred light,
   When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
   And not a cloud o’ercasts the solemn scene;
   Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
   And stars unnumbered gild the glowing pole:
   O’er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed,
   And tip with silver every mountain’s head:
   Then shine the vales—the rocks in prospect rise,
   A flood of glory bursts from all the skies;
   The conscious swains, rejoicing in the sight,
   Eye the blue vault, and bless the useful light.
   So many flames before proud Ilion blaze,
   And lighten glimmering Xanthus with their rays;
   The long reflections of the distant fires
   Gleam on the walls, and tremble on the spires.
   A thousand piles the dusky horrors gild,
   And shoot a shady lustre o’er the field;
   Full fifty guards each flaming pile attend,
   Whose umbered arms by fits thick flashes send;
   Loud neigh the coursers o’er their heaps of corn,
   And ardent warriors wait the rising morn.

      As when in stillness of the silent night,
      As when the moon in all her lustre bright,
      As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
      O’er Heaven’s _clear_ azure _sheds_ her _silver_ light;
                     pure         spreads sacred
      As still in air the trembling lustre stood,
      And o’er its golden border shoots a flood;
      When _no loose gale_ disturbs the deep serene,
                  not a breath
      And _no dim_ cloud o’ercasts the solemn scene;
               not a
      Around her silver throne the planets glow,
      And stars unnumbered _trembling beams bestow_;
      Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
      And stars unnumbered gild the glowing pole:
      Clear gleams of light _o’er the dark trees are seen_,
               o’er the dark trees a yellow sheds
      O’er the dark trees a yellower _green_ they shed,
      And tip with silver _all the mountain heads_
      And tip with silver every mountain’s head.
      The valleys open, and the forests rise,
      The vales appear, the rocks in prospect rise,
      Then shine the vales, the rocks in prospect rise,
      All nature stands revealed before our eyes;
      A flood of glory bursts from all the skies.
      The conscious shepherd, joyful at the sight,
      Eyes the blue vault, and numbers every light.
      The conscious swains _rejoicing at the sight_,
                  shepherds gazing with delight
      Eye the blue vault, and bless the _vivid_ light.
      So many flames before _the navy_ blaze,
                              proud Ilion
      And lighten glimmering Xanthus with their rays,
      Wide o’er the fields to Troy extend the gleams,
      And tip the distant spires with fainter beams;
      The long reflections of the distant fires
      Gild the high walls, and tremble on the spires;
      Gleam on the walls, and _tremble on the_ spires;
      A thousand fires at distant stations bright,
      Gild the dark prospect, and dispel the night.

Of these specimens every man who has cultivated poetry, or who delights
to trace the mind from the rudeness of its first conceptions to the
elegance of its last, will naturally desire a great number; but most
other readers are already tired, and I am not writing only to poets and

The “Iliad” was published volume by volume, as the translation proceeded.
The four first books appeared in 1713.  The expectation of this work was
undoubtedly high, and every man who had connected his name with criticism
or poetry was desirous of such intelligence as might enable him to talk
upon the popular topic.  Halifax, who, by having been first a poet, and
then a patron of poetry, had acquired the right of being a judge, was
willing to hear some books while they were yet unpublished.  Of this
rehearsal Pope afterwards gave the following account:—

    “The famous Lord Halifax was rather a pretender to taste than really
    possessed of it.  When I had finished the two or three first books of
    my translation of the ‘Iliad,’ that lord desired to have the pleasure
    of hearing them read at his house.  Addison, Congreve, and Garth were
    there at the reading.  In four or five places Lord Halifax stopped me
    very civilly, and with a speech each time of much the same kind, ‘I
    beg your pardon, Mr. Pope, but there is something in that passage
    that does not please me.  Be so good as to mark the place, and
    consider it a little at your leisure.  I am sure you can give it a
    little turn.’  I returned from Lord Halifax’s with Dr. Garth in his
    chariot, and as we were going along was saying to the Doctor that my
    lord had laid me under a great deal of difficulty by such loose and
    general observations; that I had been thinking over the passages
    almost ever since, and could not guess at what it was that offended
    his lordship in either of them.  Garth laughed heartily at my
    embarrassment: said I had not been long enough acquainted with Lord
    Halifax to know his way yet; that I need not puzzle myself about
    looking those places over and over when I got home.  ‘All you need
    do,’ says he, ‘is to leave them just as they are, call on Lord
    Halifax two or three months hence, thank him for his kind
    observations on those passages, and then read them to him as altered.
    I have known him much longer than you have, and will be answerable
    for the event.’  I followed his advice, waited on Lord Halifax some
    time after; said I hoped he would find his objections to those
    passages removed; read them to him exactly as they were at first; and
    his lordship was extremely pleased with them, and cried out, ‘Ay, now
    they are perfectly right; nothing can be better.’”

It is seldom that the great or the wise suspect that they are despised or
cheated.  Halifax, thinking this a lucky opportunity of securing
immortality, made some advances of favour and some overtures of advantage
to Pope, which he seems to have received with sullen coldness.  All our
knowledge of this transaction is derived from a single letter (December
1, 1714), in which Pope says, “I am obliged to you, both for the favours
you have done me and those you intend me.  I distrust neither your will
nor your memory when it is to do good; and if I ever become troublesome
or solicitous, it must not be out of expectation, but out of gratitude.
Your lordship may cause me to live agreeably in the town, or contentedly
in the country, which is really all the difference I set between an easy
fortune and a small one.  It is indeed a high strain of generosity in you
to think of making me easy all my life, only because I have been so happy
as to divert you some few hours; but, if I may have leave to add it is
because you think me no enemy to my native country, there will appear a
better reason; for I must of consequence be very much (as I sincerely am)
yours, &c.”

These voluntary offers, and this faint acceptance, ended without effect.
The patron was not accustomed to such frigid gratitude; and the poet fed
his own pride with the dignity of independence.  They probably were
suspicious of each other.  Pope would not dedicate till he saw at what
rate his praise was valued; he would be “troublesome out of gratitude,
not expectation.”  Halifax thought himself entitled to confidence, and
would give nothing unless he knew what he should receive.  Their commerce
had its beginning in hope of praise on one side and of money on the
other, and ended because Pope was less eager of money than Halifax of
praise.  It is not likely that Halifax had any personal benevolence to
Pope; it is evident that Pope looked on Halifax with scorn and hatred.

The reputation of this great work failed of gaining him a patron but it
deprived him of a friend.  Addison and he were now at the head of poetry
and criticism, and both in such a state of elevation that, like the two
rivals in the Roman State, one could no longer bear an equal, nor the
other a superior.  Of the gradual abatement of kindness between friends,
the beginning is often scarcely discernible to themselves, and the
process is continued by petty provocations, and incivilities sometimes
peevishly returned, and sometimes contemptuously neglected, which would
escape all attention but that of pride, and drop from any memory but that
of resentment.  That the quarrel of these two wits should be minutely
deduced is not to be expected from a writer to whom, as Homer says,
“nothing but rumour has reached, and who has no personal knowledge.”

Pope doubtless approached Addison, when the reputation of their wit first
brought them together, with the respect due to a man whose abilities were
acknowledged, and who, having attained that eminence to which he was
himself aspiring, had in his hands the distribution of literary fame.  He
paid court with sufficient diligence by his prologue to “Cato,” by his
abuse of Dennis, and with praise yet more direct, by his poem on the
“Dialogues on Medals,” of which the immediate publication was then
intended.  In all this there was no hypocrisy for he confessed that he
found in Addison something more pleasing than in any other man.

It may be supposed that, as Pope saw himself favoured by the world, and
more frequently compared his own powers with those of others, his
confidence increased, and his submission lessened; and that Addison felt
no delight from the advances of a young wit, who might soon contend with
him for the highest place.  Every great man, of whatever kind be his
greatness, has among his friends those who officiously or insidiously
quicken his attention to offences, heighten his disgust, and stimulate
his resentment.  Of such adherents Addison doubtless had many; and Pope
was now too high to be without them.  From the emission and reception of
the proposals for the “Iliad,” the kindness of Addison seems to have
abated.  Jervas the painter once pleased himself (August 20, 1714) with
imagining that he had re-established their friendship, and wrote to Pope
that Addison once suspected him of too close a confederacy with Swift,
but was now satisfied with his conduct.  To this Pope answered, a week
after, that his engagements to Swift were such as his services in regard
to the subscription demanded, and that the Tories never put him under the
necessity of asking leave to be grateful.  “But,” says he, “as Mr.
Addison must be the judge in what regards himself, and seems to have no
very just one in regard to me, so I must own to you I expect nothing but
civility from him.”  In the same letter he mentions Philips, as having
been busy to kindle animosity between them; but in a letter to Addison he
expresses some consciousness of behaviour, inattentively deficient in

Of Swift’s industry in promoting the subscription there remains the
testimony of Kennet, no friend to either him or Pope.

    “November 2, 1713, Dr. Swift came into the coffee-house, and had a
    bow from everybody but me, who, I confess, could not but despise him.
    When I came to the antechamber to wait, before prayers, Dr. Swift was
    the principal man of talk and business, and acted as master of
    requests.  Then he instructed a young nobleman that the _best poet in
    England_ was Mr. Pope (a papist), who had begun a translation of
    ‘Homer’ into English verse, for which _he must have them all
    subscribe_: for, says he, the author _shall not_ begin to print till
    _I have_ a thousand guineas for him.”

About this time it is likely that Steele, who was, with all his political
fury, good-natured and officious, procured an interview between these
angry rivals, which ended in aggravated malevolence.  On this occasion,
if the reports be true, Pope made his complaint with frankness and
spirit, as a man undeservedly neglected or opposed; and Addison affected
a contemptuous unconcern, and in a calm, even voice reproached Pope with
his vanity, and, telling him of the improvements which his early works
had received from his own remarks and those of Steele, said that he,
being now engaged in public business, had no longer any care for his
poetical reputation, nor had any other desire with regard to Pope than
that he should not, by too much arrogance, alienate the public.

To this Pope is said to have replied with great keenness and severity,
upbraiding Addison with perpetual dependence, and with the abuse of those
qualifications which he had obtained at the public cost, and charging him
with mean endeavours to obstruct the progress of rising merit.  The
contest rose so high that they parted at last without any interchange of

The first volume of “Homer” was (1715) in time published; and a rival
version of the first “Iliad,” for rivals the time of their appearance
inevitably made them, was immediately printed, with the name of Tickell.
It was soon perceived that, among the followers of Addison, Tickell had
the preference, and the critics and poets divided into factions.  “I,”
says Pope, “have the town, that is, the mob, on my side; but it is not
uncommon for the smaller party to supply by industry what it wants in
numbers.  I appeal to the people as my rightful judges, and, while they
are not inclined to condemn me, shall not fear the high-flyers at
Button’s.”  This opposition he immediately imputed to Addison, and
complained of it in terms sufficiently resentful to Craggs, their common

When Addison’s opinion was asked, he declared the versions to be both
good, but Tickell’s the best that had ever been written; and sometimes
said that they were both good, but that Tickell had more of “Homer.”

Pope was now sufficiently irritated; his reputation and his interest were
at hazard.  He once intended to print together the four versions of
Dryden, Maynwaring, Pope, and Tickell, that they might be readily
compared and fairly estimated.  This design seems to have been defeated
by the refusal off Tonson, who was the proprietor of the other three

Pope intended, at another time, a rigorous criticism of Tickell’s
translation, and had marked a copy, which I have seen, in all places that
appeared defective.  But while he was thus meditating defence or revenge,
his adversary sunk before him without a blow; the voice of the public was
not long divided, and the preference universally given to Pope’s
performance.  He was convinced, by adding one circumstance to another,
that the other translation was the work of Addison himself; but, if he
knew it in Addison’s lifetime, it does not appear that he told it.  He
left his illustrious antagonist to lie punished by what has been
considered as the most painful of all reflections—the remembrance of a
crime perpetrated in vain.  The other circumstances of their quarrel were
thus related by Pope:—

    “Philips seemed to have been encouraged to abuse me in coffee-houses
    and conversations, and Gildon wrote a thing about Wycherley, in which
    he had abused both me and my relations very grossly.  Lord Warwick
    himself told me one day that it was in vain for me to endeavour to be
    well with Mr. Addison; that his jealous temper would never admit of a
    settled friendship between us; and, to convince me of what he had
    said, assured me that Addison had encouraged Gildon to publish those
    scandals, and had given him ten guineas after they were published.
    The next day, while I was heated with what I had heard, I wrote a
    letter to Mr. Addison, to let him know that I was not unacquainted
    with this behaviour of his; that if I was to speak severely of him in
    return for it, it should not be in such a dirty way; that I should
    rather tell him himself fairly of his faults, and allow his good
    qualities; and that it should be something in the following manner.
    I then adjoined the first sketch of what has since been called my
    satire on Addison.  Mr Addison used me very civilly ever after.”

The verses on Addison, when they were sent to Atterbury, were considered
by him as the most excellent of Pope’s performances; and the writer was
advised, since he knew where his strength lay, not to suffer it to remain
unemployed.  This year (1715), being by the subscription enabled to live
more by choice, having persuaded his father to sell their estate at
Binfield, he purchased, I think only for his life, that house at
Twickenham to which his residence afterwards procured so much
celebration, and removed thither with his father and mother.  Here he
planted the vines and the quincunx which his verses mention; and being
under the necessity of making a subterraneous passage to a garden on the
other side of the road, he adorned it with fossil bodies, and dignified
it with the title of a grotto; a place of silence and retreat, from which
he endeavoured to persuade his friends and himself that cares and
passions could be excluded.

A grotto is not often the wish or pleasure of all Englishmen, who has
more frequent need to solicit than exclude the sun; but Pope’s excavation
was requisite as an entrance to his garden; and, as some men try to be
proud of their defects, he extracted an ornament from an inconvenience,
and vanity produced a grotto where necessity enforced a passage.  It may
be frequently remarked of the studious and speculative, that they are
proud of trifles, and that their amusements seem frivolous and childish.
Whether it be that men, conscious of great reputation, think themselves
above the reach of censure, and safe in the admission of negligent
indulgences, or that mankind expect from elevated genius a uniformity of
greatness, and watch its degradation with malicious wonder, like him who,
having followed with his eye an eagle into the clouds, should lament that
she ever descended to a perch.

While the volumes of his “Homer” were annually published, he collected
his former works (1717) into one quarto volume, to which he prefixed a
preface, written with great sprightliness and elegance, which was
afterwards reprinted, with some passages subjoined that he at first
omitted.  Other marginal additions of the same kind he made in the later
editions of his poems.  Waller remarks, that poets lose half their
praise, because the reader knows not what they have blotted.  Pope’s
voracity of fame taught him the art of obtaining the accumulated honour
both of what he had published, and of what he had suppressed.  In this
year his father died suddenly, in his seventy-fifth year, having passed
twenty-nine years in privacy.  He is not known but by the character which
his son has given him.  If the money with which he retired was all gotten
by himself, he had traded very successfully in times when sudden riches
were rarely attainable.

The publication of the “Iliad” was at last completed in 1720.  The
splendour and success of this work raised Pope many enemies that
endeavoured to depreciate his abilities.  Burnet, who was afterwards a
judge of no mean reputation, censured him in a piece called “Homerides”
before it was published.  Ducket likewise endeavoured to make him
ridiculous.  Dennis was the perpetual persecutor of all his studies.  But
whoever his critics were, their writings are lost, and the names, which
are preserved are preserved in the “Dunciad.”

In this disastrous year (1720) of national infatuation, when more riches
than Peru can boast were expected from the South Sea, when the contagion
of avarice tainted every mind, and even poets panted after wealth, Pope
was seized with the universal passion, and ventured some of his money.
The stock rose in its price, and for a while he thought himself the lord
of thousands.  But this dream of happiness did not last long, and he
seems to have waked soon enough to get clear with the loss of what he
once thought himself to have won, and perhaps not wholly of that.

Next year he published some select poems of his friend Dr. Parnell, with
a very elegant dedication to the Earl of Oxford, who, after all his
struggles and dangers, then lived in retirement, still under the frown of
a victorious faction, who could take no pleasure in hearing his praise.
He gave the same year (1721) an edition of Shakespeare.  His name was now
of so much authority that Tonson thought himself entitled, by annexing
it, to demand a subscription of six guineas for Shakespeare’s plays in
six quarto volumes.  Nor did his expectation much deceive him, for, of
seven hundred and fifty which he printed, he dispersed a great number at
the price proposed.  The reputation of that edition indeed, sunk,
afterwards so low, that one hundred and forty copies were sold at sixteen
shillings each.  On this undertaking, to which Pope was induced by a
reward of two hundred and seventeen pounds twelve shillings, he seems
never to have reflected afterwards without vexation; for Theobald a man
of heavy diligence, with very slender powers, first, in a book called
“Shakespeare Restored,” and then in a formal edition, detected his
deficiencies with all the insolence of victory; and as he was now high
enough to be feared and hated, Theobald had from others all the help that
could be supplied, by the desire of humbling a haughty character.  From
this time Pope became an enemy to editors, collators, commentators, and
verbal critics, and hoped to persuade the world that he miscarried in
this undertaking only by having a mind too great for such minute

Pope in his edition undoubtedly did many things wrong, and left many
things undone; but let him not be defrauded of his due praise.  He was
the first that knew, at least the first that told, by what helps the text
might be improved.  If he inspected the early editions negligently, he
taught others to be more accurate.  In his preface he expanded with great
skill and elegance the character which had been given of Shakespeare by
Dryden; and he drew the public attention upon his works, which, though
often mentioned, had been little read.  Soon after the appearance of the
“Iliad,” resolving not to let the general kindness cool, he published
proposals for a translation of the “Odyssey,” in five volumes, for five
guineas.  He was willing, however, now to have associates in his labour,
being either weary with toiling upon another’s thoughts, or having heard,
as Ruffhead relates, that Fenton and Broome had already begun the work,
and liking better to have them confederates than rivals.  In the patent,
instead of saying that he had “translated” the “Odyssey,” as he had said
of the “Iliad,” he says that he had “undertaken” a translation: and in
the proposals, the subscription is said to be not solely for his own use,
but for that of “two of his friends who have assisted him in his work.”

In 1723, while he was engaged in this new version, he appeared before the
Lords at the memorable trial of Bishop Atterbury, with whom he had lived
in great familiarity, and frequent correspondence.  Atterbury had
honestly recommended to him the study of the Popish controversy, in hope
of his conversion; to which Pope answered in a manner that cannot much
recommend his principles or his judgment.  In questions and projects of
learning they agree better.  He was called at the trial to give an
account of Atterbury’s domestic life and private employment, that it
might appear how little time he had left for plots.  Pope had but few
words to utter, and in those few he made several blunders.

His letters to Atterbury express the utmost esteem, tenderness, and
gratitude.  “Perhaps,” says he, “it is not only in this world that I may
have cause to remember the Bishop of Rochester.”  At their last interview
in the Tower, Atterbury presented him with a Bible.

Of the “Odyssey” Pope translated only twelve books.  The rest were the
work of Broome and Fenton: the notes were written wholly by Broome, who
was not over liberally rewarded.  The public was carefully kept ignorant
of the several shares; and an account was subjoined at the conclusion
which is now known not to be true.  The first copy of Pope’s books, with
those of Fenton, are to be seen in the Museum.  The parts of Pope are
less interlined than the “Iliad,” and the latter books of the “Iliad”
less than the former.  He grew dexterous by practice, and every sheet
enabled him to write the next with more facility.  The books of Fenton
have very few alterations by the hand of Pope.  Those of Broome have not
been found, but Pope complained, as it is reported, that he had much
trouble in correcting them.  His contract with Lintot was the same as for
the “Iliad,” except that only one hundred pounds were to be paid him for
each volume.  The number of subscribers were five hundred and
seventy-four, and of copies eight hundred and nineteen, so that his
profit, when he had paid his assistants, was still very considerable.
The work was finished in 1723; and from that time he resolved to make no
more translations.  The sale did not answer Lintot’s expectation, and he
then pretended to discover something of a fraud in Pope, and commenced or
threatened a suit in Chancery.

On the English “Odyssey” a criticism was published by Spence, at that
time Prelector of Poetry at Oxford, a man whose learning was not very
great, and whose mind was not very powerful.  His criticism, however, was
commonly just; what he thought he thought rightly, and his remarks were
recommended by his coolness and candour.  In him Pope had the first
experience of a critic without malevolence, who thought it as much his
duty to display beauties as expose faults, who censured with respect, and
praised with alacrity.  With this criticism Pope was so little offended,
that he sought the acquaintance of the writer, who lived with him from
that time in great familiarity, attended him in his last hours, and
compiled memorials of his conversation.  The regard of Pope recommended
him to the great and powerful, and he obtained very valuable preferments
in the Church.  Not long after Pope was returning home from a visit in a
friend’s coach, which, in passing a bridge, was overturned into the
water; the window’s were closed, and, being unable to force them open, he
was in danger of immediate death, when the postillion snatched him out by
breaking the glass, of which the fragments cut two of his fingers in such
a manner that he lost their use.

Voltaire, who was then in England, sent him a letter of consolation.  He
had been entertained by Pope at his table, where he talked with so much
grossness that Mrs. Pope was driven from the room.  Pope discovered, by a
trick, that he was a spy for the Court, and never considered him as a man
worthy of confidence.  He soon afterwards (1727) joined with Swift, who
was then in England, to publish three volumes of “Miscellanies,” in
which, amongst other things, he inserted the “Memoirs of a Parish Clerk,”
in ridicule of Burnet’s importance in his own history, and a “Debate upon
Black and White Horses,” written in all the formalities of a legal
process by the assistance, as is said, of Mr. Fortescue, afterwards
Master of the Rolls.  Before these “Miscellanies” is a preface signed by
Swift and Pope, but apparently written by Pope, in which he makes a
ridiculous and romantic complaint of the robberies committed upon authors
by the clandestine seizure and sale of their papers.  He tells in tragic
strains how “the cabinets of the sick and the closets of the dead have
been broken open and ransacked,” as if those violences were often
committed for papers of uncertain and accidental value which are rarely
provoked by real treasures—as if epigrams and essays were in danger where
gold and diamonds are safe.  A cat hunted for his musk is, according to
Pope’s account, but the emblem of a wit winded by booksellers.  His
complaint, however, received some attestation, for the same year the
letters written by him to Mr. Cromwell in his youth were sold by Mrs.
Thomas to Curll, who printed them.

In these “Miscellanies” was first published the “Art of Sinking in
Poetry,” which, by such a train of consequences as usually passes in
literary quarrels, gave in a short time, according to Pope’s account,
occasion to the “Dunciad.”

In the following year (1728) he began to put Atterbury’s advice in
practice, and showed his satirical powers by publishing the “Dunciad,”
one of his greatest and most elaborate performances, in which he
endeavoured to sink into contempt all the writers by whom he had been
attacked, and some others whom he thought unable to defend themselves.
At the head of the “Dunces” he placed poor Theobald, whom he accused of
ingratitude, but whose real crime was supposed to be that of having
revised Shakespeare more happily than himself.  This satire had the
effect which he intended, by blasting the characters which it touched.
Ralph, who, unnecessarily interposing in the quarrel, got a place in a
subsequent edition, complained that for a time he was in danger of
starving, as the booksellers had no longer any confidence in his
capacity.  The prevalence of this poem was gradual and slow: the plan, if
not wholly new, was little understood by common readers.  Many of the
allusions required illustration; the names were often expressed only by
the initial and final letters, and if they had been printed at length
were such as few had known or recollected.  The subject itself had
nothing generally interesting, for whom did it concern to know that one
or another scribbler was a dunce?  If, therefore, it had been possible
for those who were attacked to conceal their pain and their resentment,
the “Dunciad” might have made its way very slowly in the world.  This,
however, was not to be expected: every man is of importance to himself,
and therefore, in his own opinion, to others; and, supposing the world
already acquainted with all his pleasures and his pains, is perhaps the
first to publish injuries or misfortunes, which had never been known
unless related by himself, and at which those that hear them will only
laugh, for no man sympathises with the sorrows of vanity.

The history of the “Dunciad” is very minutely related by Pope himself in
a dedication which he wrote to Lord Middlesex in the name of Savage.

    “I will relate the war of the ‘Dunces’ (for so it has been commonly
    called), which began in the year 1727, and ended in 1730

    “When Dr. Swift and Mr. Pope thought it proper, for reasons specified
    in the preface to their ‘Miscellanies,’ to publish such little pieces
    of theirs as had occasionally got abroad, there was added to them the
    ‘Treatise of the Bathos, or the Art of Sinking in Poetry.’  It
    happened that in one chapter of this piece the several species of bad
    poets were ranged in classes, to which were prefixed almost all the
    letters of the alphabet (the greatest part of them at random); but
    such was the number of poets eminent in that art, that some one or
    other took every letter to himself.  All fell into so violent a fury,
    that, for half a year or more, the common newspapers (in most of
    which they had some property, as being hired writers) were filled
    with the most abusive falsehoods and scurrilities they could possibly
    devise, a liberty no way to be wondered at in those people, and in
    those papers, that, for many years during the uncontrolled license of
    the Press, had aspersed almost all the great characters of the age;
    and this with impunity, their own persons and names being utterly
    secret and obscure.  This gave Mr. Pope the thought that he had now
    some opportunity of doing good by detecting and dragging into light
    these common enemies of mankind, since, to invalidate this universal
    slander, it sufficed to show what contemptible men were the authors
    of it.  He was not without hopes that, by manifesting the dulness of
    those who had only malice to recommend them, either the booksellers
    would not find their account in employing them, or the men
    themselves, when discovered, want courage to proceed in so unlawful
    an occupation.  This it was that gave birth to the ‘Dunciad,’ and he
    thought it a happiness that, by the late flood of slander on himself,
    he had acquired such a peculiar right over their names as was
    necessary to this design.

    “On the 12th of March, 1729, at St. James’s, that poem was presented
    to the king and queen (who had before been pleased to read it) by the
    Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole, and some days after the whole
    impression was taken and dispersed by several noblemen and persons of
    the first distinction.

    “It is certainly a true observation that no people are so impatient
    of censure as those who are the greatest slanderers, which was
    wonderfully exemplified on this occasion.  On the day the book was
    first vended a crowd of authors besieged the shop; entreaties,
    advices, threats of law and battery—nay, cries of treason—were all
    employed to hinder the coming out of the ‘Dunciad.’  On the other
    side, the booksellers and hawkers made as great efforts to procure
    it.  What could a few poor authors do against so great a majority as
    the public?  There was no stopping a torrent with a finger, so out it

    “Many ludicrous circumstances attended it.  The ‘Dunces’ (for by this
    name they were called) held weekly clubs, to consult of hostilities
    against the author.  One wrote a letter to a great minister, assuring
    him Mr. Pope was the greatest enemy the Government had, and another
    bought his image in clay to execute him in effigy, with which sad
    sort of satisfaction the gentlemen were a little comforted.  Some
    false editions of the book, having an owl in their frontispiece, the
    true one, to distinguish it, fixed in his stead an ass laden with
    authors.  Then another surreptitious one being printed with the same
    ass, the new edition in octavo returned for distinction to the owl
    again.  Hence arose a great contest of booksellers against
    booksellers, and advertisements against advertisements, some
    recommending the edition of the owl, and others the edition of the
    ass, by which names they came to be distinguished, to the great
    honour also of the gentlemen of the ‘Dunciad.’”

Pope appears by this narrative to have contemplated his victory over the
“Dunces” with great exultation; and such was his delight in the tumult
which he had raised, that for a while his natural sensibility was
suspended, and he read reproaches and invectives without emotion,
considering them only as the necessary effects of that pain which he
rejoiced in having given.  It cannot, however, be concealed that, by his
own confession, he was the aggressor, for nobody believes that the
letters in the “Bathos” were placed at random; and at may be discovered
that, when he thinks himself concealed, he indulges the common vanity of
common men, and triumphs in those distinctions which he affected to
despise.  He is proud that his book was presented to the king and queen
by the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole; he is proud that they had
read it before; he is proud that the edition was taken off by the
nobility and persons of the first distinction.  The edition of which he
speaks was, I believe, that which, by telling in the text the names, and
in the notes the characters, of those whom he had satirised, was made
intelligible and diverting.  The critics had now declared their
approbation of the plan, and the common reader began to like it without
fear.  Those who were strangers to petty literature, and therefore unable
to decipher initials and blanks, had now names and persons brought within
their view, and delighted in the visible effects of those shafts of
malice which they had hitherto contemplated as shot into the air.

Dennis, upon the fresh provocation now given him, renewed the enmity
which had for a time been appeased by mutual civilities, and published
remarks, which he had till then suppressed, upon the “Rape of the Lock.”
Many more grumbled in secret, or vented their resentment in the
newspapers by epigrams or invectives.  Ducket, indeed, being mentioned as
loving Burnet with “pious passion,” pretended that his moral character
was injured, and for some time declared his resolution to take vengeance
with a cudgel.  But Pope appeased him, by changing “pious passion” to
“cordial friendship,” and by a note, in which he vehemently disclaims the
malignity of the meaning imputed to the first expression.  Aaron Hill,
who was represented as diving for the prize, expostulated with Pope in a
manner so much superior to all mean solicitation, that Pope was reduced
to sneak and shuffle, sometimes to deny, and sometimes to apologies; he
first endeavours to wound, and is then afraid to own that he meant a

The “Dunciad,” in the complete edition, is addressed to Dr. Swift.  Of
the notes, part were written by Dr. Arbuthnot, and an apologetical letter
was prefixed, signed by Cleland, but supposed to have been written by

After this general war upon dulness, he seems to have indulged himself a
while in tranquillity, but his subsequent productions prove that he was
not idle.  He published (1731) a poem on “Taste,” in which he very
particularly and severely criticises the house, the furniture, the
gardens, and the entertainments of Timon, a man of great wealth and
little taste.  By Timon he was universally supposed, and by the Earl of
Burlington, to whom the poem is addressed, was privately said, to mean
the Duke of Chandos, a man perhaps too much delighted with pomp and show,
but of a temper kind and beneficent, and who had consequently the voice
of the public in his favour.  A violent outcry was, therefore, raised
against the ingratitude and treachery of Pope, who was said to have been
indebted to the patronage of Chandos for a present of a thousand pounds,
and who gained the opportunity of insulting him by the kindness of his
invitation.  The receipt of the thousand pounds Pope publicly denied; but
from the reproach which the attack on a character so amiable brought upon
him, he tried all means of escaping.  The name of Cleland was again
employed in an apology, by which no man was satisfied, and he was at last
reduced to shelter his temerity behind dissimulation, and endeavour to
make that disbelieved which he never had confidence openly to deny.  He
wrote an exculpatory letter to the duke, which was answered with great
magnanimity, as by a man who accepted his excuse without believing his
professions.  He said that to have ridiculed his taste, or his buildings,
had been an indifferent action in another man, but that in Pope, after
the reciprocal kindness that had been exchanged between them, it had been
less easily excused.

Pope, in one of his letters, complaining of the treatment which his poem
had found, “owns that such critics can intimidate him, nay almost
persuade him, to write no more, which is a compliment this age deserves.”
The man who threatens the world is always ridiculous, for the world can
easily go on without him, and in a short time will cease to miss him.  I
have heard of an idiot, who used to revenge his vexatious by lying all
night upon the bridge.  “There is nothing,” says Juvenal, “that a man
will not believe in his own favour.”  Pope had been flattered till he
thought himself one of the moving powers in the system of life.  When he
talked of laying down his pen, those who sat round him entreated and
implored; and self-love did not suffer him to suspect that they went away
and laughed.

The following year deprived him of Gay, a man whom he had known early,
and whom he seemed to love with more tenderness than any other of his
literary friends.  Pope was now forty-four years old, an age at which the
mind begins less easily to admit new confidence, and the will to grow
less flexible, and when, therefore, the departure of an old friend is
very acutely felt.  In the next year (1733) he lost his mother, not by an
unexpected death, for she had lasted to the age of ninety-three.  But she
did not die unlamented.  The filial piety of Pope was in the highest
degree amiable and exemplary.  His parents had the happiness of living
till he was at the summit of poetical reputation, till he was at ease in
his fortune, and without a rival in his fame, and found no diminution of
his respect or tenderness.  Whatever was his pride, to them he was
obedient; and whatever was his irritability, to them he was gentle.  Life
has, among its soothing and quiet comforts, few things better to give
than such a son.

One of the passages of Pope’s life, which seems to deserve some inquiry,
was a publication of “Letters” between him and many of his friends,
which, falling into the hands of Curll, a rapacious bookseller, of no
good fame, were by him printed and sold.  This volume containing some
letters from noblemen, Pope incited a prosecution against him in the
House of Lords for breach of privilege, and attended himself to stimulate
the resentment of his friends.  Curll appeared at the bar, and, knowing
himself in no great danger, spoke of Pope with very little reverence.
“He has,” said Curll, “a knack at versifying, but in prose I think myself
a match for him.”  When the orders of the House were examined, none of
them appeared to have been infringed.  Curll went away triumphant, and
Pope was left to seek some other remedy.

Curll’s account was, that one evening a man in a clergyman’s gown, but
with a lawyer’s band, brought and offered for sale a number of printed
volumes, which he found to be Pope’s epistolary correspondence; that he
asked no name, and was told none, but gave the price demanded, and
thought himself authorised to use his purchase to his own advantage.
That Curll gave a true account of the transaction it is reasonable to
believe, because no falsehood was ever detected; and when, some years
afterwards, I mentioned it to Lintot, the son of Bernard, he declared his
opinion to be, that Pope knew better than anybody else how Curll obtained
the copies, because another parcel was at the same time sent to himself,
for which no price had ever been demanded, as he made known his
resolution not to pay a porter, and consequently not to deal with a
nameless agent.  Such care had been taken to make them public, that they
were sent at once to two booksellers; to Curll, who was likely to seize
them as a prey, and to Lintot, who might he expected to give Pope
information of the seeming injury.  Lintot, I believe, did nothing, and
Curll did what was expected.  That to make them public was the only
purpose may be reasonably supposed, because the numbers offered to sale
by the private messengers showed that the hope of gain could not have
been the motive of the impression.  It seems that Pope, being desirous of
printing his “Letters,” and not knowing how to do, without imputation of
vanity, what has in this country been done very rarely, contrived an
appearance of compulsion, that, when he could complain that his “Letters”
were surreptitiously published, he might decently and defensively publish
them himself.

Pope’s private correspondence, thus promulgated, filled the nation with
the praises of his candour, tenderness, and benevolence, the purity of
his purposes, and the fidelity of his friendship.  There were some
letters which a very good or a wise man would wish suppressed; but, as
they had been already exposed, it was impracticable now to retract them.
From the perusal of those letters, Mr. Allen first conceived the desire
of knowing him; and with so much zeal did he cultivate the friendship
which he had newly formed, that, when Pope told his purpose of
vindicating his own property by a genuine edition, he offered to pay the
cost.  This, however, Pope did not accept; but in time solicited a
subscription for a quarto volume, which appeared (1737), I believe, with
sufficient profit.  In the preface he tells that his letters were
reposited in a friend’s library, said to be the Earl of Oxford’s, and
that the copy thence stolen was sent to the press.  The story was
doubtless received with different degrees of credit.  It may be suspected
that the preface to the “Miscellanies” was written to prepare the public
for such an incident; and, to strengthen this opinion, James Worsdale, a
painter, who was employed in clandestine negotiations, but whose voracity
was very doubtful, declared that he was the messenger who carried, by
Pope’s direction, the books to Curll.  When they were thus published and
avowed, as they had relation to recent facts, and persons either then
living or not yet forgotten, they may be supposed to have found readers;
but, as the facts were minute, and the characters being either private or
literary, were little known, or little regarded, they awaked no popular
kindness or resentment.  The book never became much the subject of
conversation.  Some read it as a contemporary history, and some perhaps
as a model of epistolary language; but those who read it did not talk of
it.  Not much therefore was added by it to fame or envy, nor do I
remember that it produced either public praise or public censure.  It
had, however, in some degree, the recommendation of novelty.  Our
language had few letters, except those of statesmen.  Howel, indeed,
about a century ago, published his “Letters,” which are commended by
Morhoff, and which alone, of his hundred volumes, continue his memory.
Loveday’s “Letters” were printed only once; those of Herbert and Suckling
are hardly known.  Mrs. Phillips’s (Orinda’s) are equally neglected.  And
those of Walsh seem written as exercises, and were never sent to any
living mistress or friend.  Pope’s epistolary excellence had an open
field; he had no English rival, living or dead.

Pope is seen in this collection as connected with the other contemporary
wits, and certainly suffers no disgrace in the comparison; but it must be
remembered that he had the power of favouring himself.  He might have
originally had publication in his mind, and have written with care, or
have afterwards selected those which he had most happily conceived or
most diligently laboured; and I know not whether there does not appear
something more studied and artificial in his productions than the rest,
except one long letter by Bolingbroke, composed with all the skill and
industry of a professed author.  It is indeed not easy to distinguish
affectation from habit; he that has once studiously formed a style,
rarely writes afterwards with complete ease.  Pope may be said to write
always with his reputation in his head; Swift, perhaps, like a man that
remembered he was writing to Pope; but Arbuthnot, like one who lets
thoughts drop from his pen as they rise into his mind.  Before these
“Letters” appeared he published the first part of what he persuaded
himself to think a system of Ethics, under the title of an “Essay on
Man,” which, if his letter to Swift (of September 14, 1723), be rightly
explained by the commentator, had been eight years under his
consideration, and of which he seems to have desired the success with
great solicitude.  He had now many open, and doubtless many secret,
enemies.  The “Dunces” were yet smarting from the war, and the
superiority which he publicly arrogated disposed the world to wish his
humiliation.  All this he knew, and against all this he provided.  His
own name, and that of his friend to whom the work is inscribed, were in
the first editions carefully suppressed; and the poem being of a new kind
was ascribed to one or another as favour determined or conjecture
wandered.  It was given, says Warburton, to every man except him only who
could write it.  Those who like only when they like the author, and who
are under the dominion of a name, condemned it, and those admired it who
are willing to scatter praise at random, which, while it is
unappropriated, excites no envy.  Those friends of Pope that were trusted
with the secret went about lavishing honours on the new-born poet, and
hinting that Pope was never so much in danger from any former rival.  To
those authors whom he had personally offended, and to those whose opinion
the world considered as decisive, and whom he suspected of envy or
malevolence, he sent his Essay as a present before publication, that they
might defeat their own enemity by praises which they could not afterwards
decently retract.  With these precautions, in 1733, was published the
first part of the “Essay on Man.”  There had been for some time a report
that Pope was busy upon a “System of Morality,” but this design was not
discovered in the new poem, which had a form and a title with which its
readers were unacquainted.  Its reception was not uniform.  Some thought
it a very imperfect piece, though not without good lines.  While the
author was unknown, some, as will always happen, favoured him as an
adventurer, and some censured him as an intruder, but all thought him
above neglect.  The sale increased, and editions were multiplied.  The
subsequent editions of the first epistle exhibited two memorable
corrections.  At first, the poet and his friend

   “Expatiate freely o’er this scene of man,
   A mighty maze _of walks without a plan_;”

for which he wrote afterwards,

   “A mighty maze, _but not without a plan_;”

for if there was no plan it was in vain to describe or to trace the maze.

The other alteration was of these lines:—

   “And spike of pride, _and in thy reason’s spite_,
   One truth is clear, whatever is, is right:”

but having afterwards discovered, or been shown, that the “truth” which
subsisted “in spite of reason” could not be very “clear,” he substituted

   “And spite of pride _in erring reason’s spite_.”

To such oversights will the most vigorous mind be liable when it is
employed at once upon argument and poetry.

The second and third epistles were published, and Pope was, I believe,
more and more suspected of writing them.  At last, in 1734, he avowed the
fourth, and claimed the honour of a moral poet.  In the conclusion it is
sufficiently acknowledged that the doctrine of the “Essay on Man” was
received from Bolingbroke, who is said to have ridiculed Pope, among
those who enjoyed his confidence, as having adopted and advanced
principles of which he did not perceive the consequence, and as blindly
propagating opinions contrary to his own.  That those communications had
been consolidated into a scheme regularly drawn, and delivered to Pope,
from whom it returned only transformed from prose to verse, has been
reported, but hardly can be true.  The essay plainly appears the fabric
of a poet; what Bolingbroke supplied could be only the first principles,
the order, illustration, and embellishments, must all be Pope’s.  These
principles it is not my business to clear from obscurity, dogmatism, or
falsehood, but they were not immediately examined.  Philosophy and poetry
have not often the same readers; and the essay abounded in splendid
amplifications and sparkling sentences, which were read and admired with
no great attention to their ultimate purpose.  Its flowers caught the
eye, which did not see what the gay foliage concealed, and for a time
flourished in the sunshine of universal approbation.  So little was any
evil tendency discovered, that, as innocence is unsuspicious, many read
it for a manual of piety.  Its reputation soon invited a translator.  It
was first turned into French prose, and afterwards by Resnel into verse.
Both translations fell into the hands of Crousaz, who first, when he had
the version in prose, wrote a general censure, and afterwards reprinted
Resnel’s version, with particular remarks upon every paragraph.

Crousaz was a professor of Switzerland, eminent for his treatise of
logic, and his “Examen de Pyrrhonisme,” and, however little known or
regarded here, was no mean antagonist.  His mind was one of those in
which philosophy and piety are happily united.  He was accustomed to
argument and disquisition, and perhaps was grown too desirous of
detecting faults, but his intentions were always right, his opinions were
solid, and his religion pure.  His incessant vigilance for the promotion
of piety disposed him to look with distrust upon all metaphysical systems
of theology, and all schemes of virtue and happiness purely rational; and
therefore it was not long before he was persuaded that the positions of
Pope, as they terminated for the most part in natural religion, were
intended to draw mankind away from revelation, and to represent the whole
course of things as a necessary concatenation of indissoluble fatality,
and it is undeniable that in many passages a religious eye may easily
discover expressions not very favourable to morals or to liberty.

About this time Warburton began to make his appearance in the first ranks
of learning.  He was a man of vigorous faculties, a mind fervid and
vehement, supplied by incessant and unlimited inquiry, with wonderful
extent and variety of knowledge, which yet had not oppressed his
imagination nor clouded his perspicacity.  To every work he brought a
memory full fraught, together with a fancy fertile of original
combinations and at once exerted the powers of the scholar, the reasoner,
and the wit.  But his knowledge was too multifarious to be always exact,
and his pursuits were too eager to be always cautions.  His abilities
gave him a haughty confidence, which he disdained to conceal or mollify,
and his impatience of opposition disposed him to treat his adversaries
with such contemptuous superiority as made his readers commonly his
enemies, and excited against the advocate the wishes of some who favoured
the cause.  He seems to have adopted the Roman Emperor’s determination,
_oderint dum metuant_; he used no allurements of gentle language, but
wished to compel rather than persuade.  His style is copious without
selection, and forcible without neatness.  He took the words that
presented themselves.  His diction is coarse and impure, and his
sentences are unmeasured.  He had in the early part of his life pleased
himself with the notice of inferior wits, and corresponded with the
enemies of Pope.  A letter was produced, when he had perhaps himself
forgotten it, in which he tells Concanen, “Dryden, I observe, borrows for
want of leisure, and Pope for want of genius, Milton out of pride, and
Addison out of modesty.”  And when Theobald published Shakespeare, in
opposition to Pope, the best notes were supplied by Warburton.  But the
time was now come when Warburton was to change his opinion, and Pope was
to find a defender in him who had contributed so much to the exaltation
of his rival.

The arrogance of Warburton excited against him every artifice of offence,
and therefore it may be supposed that his union with Pope was censured as
hypocritical inconstancy, but surely to think differently at different
times of poetical merit may be easily allowed.  Such opinions are often
admitted, and dismissed without nice examination.  Who is there that has
not found reason for changing his mind about questions of greater

Warburton, whatever was his motive, undertook, without solicitation, to
rescue Pope from the talons of Crousaz, by freeing him from the
imputation of favouring fatality or rejecting revelation; and from month
to month continued a vindication of the “Essay on Man,” in the literary
journal of that time called the “Republic of Letters.”

Pope, who probably began to doubt the tendency of his own work, was glad
that the positions, of which he perceived himself not to know the full
meaning, could by any mode of interpretation be made to mean well.  How
much he was pleased with his gratuitous defender the following letter
evidently shows:—

                                                          “April 11, 1739.

    “SIR,—I have just received from Mr. R. two more of your letters.  It
    is in the greatest hurry imaginable that I write this; but I cannot
    help thanking you in particular for your third letter, which is so
    extremely clear, short, and full, that I think Mr. Crousaz ought
    never to have another answer, and deserved not so good an one.  I can
    only say, you do him too much honour, and me too much right, so odd
    as the expression seems; for you have made my system as clear as I
    ought to have done, and could not.  It is indeed the same system as
    mine, but illustrated with a ray of your own, as they say our natural
    body is the same still when it is glorified.  I am sure I like it
    better than I did before, and so will every man else.  I know I meant
    just what you explain; but I did not explain my own meaning so well
    as you.  You understand me as well as I do myself; but you express me
    better than I could express myself.  Pray accept the sincerest
    acknowledgments.  I cannot but wish these letters were put together
    in one book, and intend (with your leave) to procure a translation of
    part at least, or of all of them, into French; but I shall not
    proceed a step without your consent and opinion,” &c.

By this fond and eager acceptance of an exculpatory comment Pope
testified that, whatever might be the seeming or real import of the
principles which he had received from Bolingbroke, he had not
intentionally attacked religion; and Bolingbroke, if he meant to make
him, without his own consent, an instrument of mischief, found him now
engaged, with his eyes open, on the side of truth.  It is known that
Bolingbroke concealed from Pope his real opinions.  He once discovered
them to Mr. Hooke, who related them again to Pope, and was told by him
that he must have mistaken the meaning of what he heard: and Bolingbroke,
when Pope’s uneasiness incited him to desire an explanation, declared
that Hooke had misunderstood him.

Bolingbroke hated Warburton, who had drawn his pupil from him; and a
little before Pope’s death they had a dispute, from which they parted
with mutual aversion.  From this time Pope lived in the closest intimacy
with his commentator, and amply rewarded his kindness and his zeal, for
he introduced him to Mr. Murray, by whose interest he became preacher at
Lincoln’s Inn, and to Mr. Allen, who gave him his niece and his estate,
and by consequence a bishopric.  When he died, he left him the property
of his works, a legacy which may be reasonably estimated at four thousand

Pope’s fondness for the “Essay on Man” appeared by his desire of its
propagation.  Dobson, who had gained reputation by his version of Prior’s
“Solomon,” was employed by him to translate it into Latin verse, and was
for that purpose some time at Twickenham; but he left his work, whatever
was the reason, unfinished; and, by Benson’s invitation, undertook the
longer task of “Paradise Lost.”  Pope then desired his friend to find a
scholar who should turn his essay into Latin prose; but no such
performance has ever appeared.

Pope lived at this time _among the great_, with that reception and
respect to which his works entitled him, and which he had not impaired by
any private misconduct or factious partiality.  Though Bolingbroke was
his friend, Walpole was not his enemy, but treated him with so much
consideration as, at his request, to solicit and obtain from the French
Minister an abbey for Mr. Southcot, whom he considered himself as obliged
to reward, by his exertion of his interest, for the benefit which he had
received from his attendance in a long illness.  It was said, that when
the Court was at Richmond, Queen Caroline had declared her intention to
visit him.  This may have been only a careless effusion, thought on no
more.  The report of such notice, however, was soon in many mouths; and,
if I do not forget or misapprehend Savage’s account, Pope, pretending to
decline what was not yet offered, left his house for a time, not, I
suppose, for any other reason than lest he should be thought to stay at
home in expectation of an honour which would not be conferred.  He was
therefore angry at Swift, who represents him as “refusing the visits of a
queen,” because he knew that what had never been offered had never been

Beside the general system of morality, supposed to be contained in the
“Essay on Man,” it was his intention to write distinct poems upon the
different duties or conditions of life, one of which is the “Epistle to
Lord Bathurst” (1733) on the “Use of Riches,” a piece on which he
declared great labour to have been bestowed.  Into this poem some hints
are historically thrown, and some known characters are introduced, with
others of which it is difficult to say how far they are real or
fictitious: but the praise of Kryle, the Man of Ross, deserves particular
examination, who, after a long and pompous enumeration of his public
works and private charities, is said to have diffused all those blessings
from five hundred a year.  Wonders are willingly told and willingly
heard.  The truth is, that Kyrle was a man of known integrity and active
benevolence, by whose solicitation the wealthy were persuaded to pay
contributions to his charitable schemes.  This influence he obtained by
an example of liberality exerted to the utmost extent of his power, and
was thus enabled to give more than he had.  This account Mr. Victor
received from the minister of the place, and I have preserved it, that
the praise of a good man, being made more credible, may be more solid.
Narrations of romantic and impracticable virtue will be read with wonder,
but that which is unattainable is recommended in vain; that good may be
endeavoured it must be shown to be possible.  This is the only piece in
which the author has given a hint of his religion, by ridiculing the
ceremony of burning the Pope, and by mentioning with some indignation the
inscription on the Monument.

When this poem was first published, the dialogue having no letters of
direction was perplexed and obscure.  Pope seems to have written with no
very distinct idea, for he calls that an “Epistle to Bathurst,” in which
Bathurst is introduced as speaking.  He afterwards (1734) inscribed to
Lord Cobham his “Characters of Men,” written with close attention to the
operations of the mind and modifications of life.  In this poem he has
endeavoured to establish and exemplify his favourite theory of the
_ruling passion_, by which he means an original direction of desire to
some particular object, an innate affection which gives all action a
determinate and invariable tendency, and operates upon the whole system
of life, either openly, cut more secretly by the intervention of some
accidental or subordinate propension.  Of any passion, thus innate and
irresistible, the existence may reasonably be doubted.  Human characters
are by no means constant; men change by change of place, of fortune, of
acquaintance.  He who is at one time a lover of pleasure, is at another a
lover of money.  Those, indeed, who attain any excellence commonly spend
life in one pursuit, for excellence is not often gained upon easier
terms.  But to the particular species of excellence men are directed, not
by an ascendant planet or predominating humour, but by the first book
which they read, some early conversation which they heard, or some
accident which excited ardour and emulation.  It must at least be allowed
that this ruling passion, antecedent to reason and observation, must have
an object independent on human contrivance, for there can be no natural
desire of artificial good.  No man, therefore, can be born, in the strict
acceptation, a lover of money, for he may be born where money does not
exist; nor can he be born in a moral sense a lover of his country, for
society politically regulated is a state contradistinguished from a state
of nature, and any attention to that coalition of interests which makes
the happiness of a country is possible only to those whom inquiry and
reflection have enabled to comprehend it.  This doctrine is in itself
pernicious as well as false; its tendency is to produce the belief of a
kind of moral predestination or over-ruling principle which cannot be
resisted.  He that admits it is prepared to comply with every desire that
caprice or opportunity shall excite, and to flatter himself that he
submits only to the lawful dominion of nature in obeying the resistless
authority of his ruling passion.

Pope has formed his theory with so little skill that in the examples by
which he illustrates and confirms it he has confounded passions,
appetites, and habits.  To the “Characters of Men” he added soon after,
in an epistle supposed to have been addressed to Martha Blount, but which
the last edition has taken from her, the “Characters of Women.”  This
poem, which was laboured with great diligence and in the author’s opinion
with great success, was neglected at its first publication, as the
commentator supposes, because the public was informed by an advertisement
that it contained no character drawn from the life, an assertion which
Pope probably did not expect nor wished to have been believed, and which
he soon gave his readers sufficient reason to distrust, by telling them
in a note that the work was imperfect because part of his subject was
vice too high to be yet exposed.  The time, however, soon came in which
it was safe to display the Duchess of Marlborough under the name of
Atossa, and her character was inserted with no great honour to the
writer’s gratitude.

He published from time to time (between 1730 and 1740) imitations of
different poems of Horace, generally with his name, and once, as was
suspected, without it.  What he was upon moral principles ashamed to own
he ought to have suppressed.  Of these pieces it is useless to settle the
dates, as they had seldom much relation to the times, and perhaps had
been long in his hands.  This mode of imitation, in which the ancients
are familiarised by adapting their sentiments to modern topics, by making
Horace say of Shakespeare what he originally said of Ennius, and
accommodating his satires on Pantolabus and Nomentanus to the flatterers
and prodigals of our own time, was first practised in the reign of
Charles the Second, by Oldham and Rochester, at least I remember no
instances more ancient.  It is a kind of middle composition between
translation and original design, which pleases when the thoughts are
unexpectedly applicable, and the parallels lucky.  It seems to have been
Pope’s favourite amusement, for he has carried it farther than any former
poet.  He published likewise a revival, in smoother numbers, of Dr.
Donne’s “Satires,” which was recommended to him by the Duke of Shrewsbury
and the Earl of Oxford.  They made no great impression on the public.
Pope seems to have known their imbecility and therefore suppressed them
while he was yet contending to rise in reputation, but ventured them when
he thought their deficiencies more likely to be imputed to Donne than to

The “Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot,” which seems to be derived in its first
design from Boileau’s Address _à son Esprit_, was published in January,
1735, about a month before the death of him to whom it is inscribed.  It
is to be regretted that either honour or pleasure should have been missed
by Arbuthnot, a man estimable for his learning, amiable for his life, and
venerable for his piety.  Arbuthnot was a man of great comprehension,
skilful in his profession, versed in the sciences, acquainted with
ancient literature, and able to animate his mass of knowledge by a bright
and active imagination; a scholar with great brilliance of wit, a wit
who, in the crowd of life, retained and discovered a noble ardour of
religious zeal.  In this poem Pope seems to reckon with the public.  He
vindicates himself from censures, and with dignity rather than arrogance
enforces his own claims to kindness and respect.  Into this poem are
interwoven several paragraphs which had been before printed, as a
fragment, and among them the satirical lines upon Addison, of which the
last couplet has been twice corrected.  It was at first—

   “Who would not smile if such a man there be?
   Who would not laugh if Addison were he?”


   “Who would not grieve if such a man there be?
   Who would not laugh if Addison were he?”

At last it is—

   “Who but must laugh if such a man there he?
   Who would not weep if Atticus were he?”

He was at this time at open war with Lord Hervey, who had distinguished
himself as a steady adherent to the ministry, and being offended with a
contemptuous answer to one of his pamphlets, had summoned Pulteney to a
duel.  Whether he or Pope made the first attack perhaps cannot now be
easily known.  He had written an invective against Pope, whom he calls,
“Hard as thy heart, and as thy birth obscure;” and hints that his father
was a hatter.  To this Pope wrote a reply in verse and prose.  The verses
are in this poem, and the prose, though it was never sent, is printed
among his letters; but to a cool reader of the present time exhibits
nothing but tedious malignity.

His last “Satires” of the general kind, were two Dialogues, named, from
the year in which they were published, “Seventeen hundred and
thirty-eight.”  In these poems many are praised and many reproached.
Pope was then entangled in the opposition, a follower of the Prince of
Wales, who dined at his house, and the friend of many who obstructed and
censured the conduct of the ministers.  His political partiality was too
plainly shown; he forgot the prudence with which he passed, in his
earlier years, uninjured and unoffending, through much more violent
conflicts of faction.  In the first Dialogue, having an opportunity of
praising Allen of Bath, he asked his leave to mention him as a man not
illustrious by any merit of his ancestors, and called him in his verses
“low-born Allen.”  Men are seldom satisfied with praise introduced or
followed by any mention of defect.  Allen seems not to have taken any
pleasure in his epithet, which was afterwards softened into “humble
Allen.”  In the second Dialogue he took some liberty with one of the
Foxes among others; which Fox in a reply to Lyttelton, took an
opportunity of repaying, by reproaching him with the friendship of a
lampooner, who scattered his ink without fear or decency, and against
whom he hoped the resentment of the Legislature would quickly be

About this time Paul Whitehead, a small poet, was summoned before the
Lords for a poem called “Manners,” together with Dodsley, his publisher.
Whitehead, who hung loose upon society, skulked and escaped, but
Dodsley’s shop and family made his appearance necessary.  He was,
however, soon dismissed, and the whole process was probably intended
rather to intimidate Pope than to punish Whitehead.

Pope never afterwards attempted to join the patriot with the poet, nor
drew his pen upon statesmen.  That he desisted from his attempts of
reformation is imputed by his commentator to his despair of prevailing
over the corruption of the time.  He was not likely to have been ever of
opinion that the dread of his satire would countervail the love of power
or of money; he pleased himself with being important and formidable, and
gratified sometimes his pride, and sometimes his resentment, till at last
he began to think he should be more safe if he were less busy.

The “Memoirs of Scriblerus,” published about this time, extend only to
the first book of a work projected in concert by Pope, Swift, and
Arbuthnot, who used to meet on the time of Queen Anne, and denominated
themselves the “Scriblerus Club.”  Their purpose was to censure the
abuses of learning by a fictitious life of an infatuated scholar.  They
were dispersed; the design was never completed, and Warburton laments its
miscarriage as an event very disastrous to polite letters.  If the whole
may be estimated by this specimen, which seems to be the production of
Arbuthnot, with a few touches perhaps by Pope, the want of more will not
be much lamented; for the follies which the writer ridicules are so
little practised that they are not known; nor can the satire be
understood but by the learned.  He raises phantoms of absurdity, and then
drives them away.  He cures diseases that were never felt.  For this
reason this joint production of three great writers has never obtained
any notice from mankind.  It has been little read, or when read has been
forgotten, as no man could be wiser, better, or merrier, by remembering
it.  The design cannot boast of much originality; for, besides its
general resemblance to “Don Quixote,” there will be found in it
particular imitations of the “History of Mr. Ouffle.”

Swift carried so much of it into Ireland as supplied him with hints for
his “Travels;” and with those the world might have been contented, though
the rest had been suppressed.

Pope had sought for images and sentiments in a region not known to have
been explored by many other of the English writers.  He had consulted the
modern writers of Latin poetry, a class of authors whom Boileau
endeavoured to bring into contempt, and who are too generally neglected.
Pope, however, was not ashamed of their acquaintance, nor ungrateful for
the advantages which he might have derived from it.  A small selection
from the Italians, who wrote in Latin, had been published at London,
about the latter end of the last century, by a man who concealed his
name, but whom his preface shows to have been qualified for his
undertaking.  This collection Pope amplified by more than half, and
(1740) published it in two volumes, but injuriously omitted his
predecessor’s preface.  To these books, which had nothing but the mere
text, no regard was paid; the authors were still neglected, and the
editor was neither praised nor censured.  He did not sink into idleness;
he had planned a work, which he considered as subsequent to his “Essay on
Man,” of which he has given this account to Dr. Swift:—

                                                          “March 25, 1736.

    “If ever I write any more Epistles in verse, one of them shall be
    addressed to you.  I have long concerted it and begun it; but I would
    make what bears your name as finished as my last work ought to be,
    that is to say, more finished than any of the rest.  The subject is
    large, and will divide into four Epistles, which naturally follow the
    ‘Essay on Man,’ viz: 1.  Of the Extent and Limits of Human Reason and
    Science.  2. A view of the useful and therefore attainable, and of
    the unuseful and therefore unattainable Arts.  3. Of the Nature,
    Ends, Application, and Use, of different Capacities.  4. Of the Use
    of Learning, of the Science, of the World, and of Wit.  It will
    conclude with a satire against the misapplication of all these,
    exemplified by Pictures, Characters, and Examples.”

This work in its full extent—being now afflicted with an asthma, and
finding the powers of life gradually declining—he had no longer courage
to undertake; but, from the materials which he had provided, he added, at
Warburton’s request, another book to the “Dunciad,” of which the design
is to ridicule such studies as are either hopeless or useless, as either
pursue what is unattainable, or what, if it be attained, is of no use.
When this book was printed (1742) the laurel had been for some time upon
the head of Cibber, a man whom it cannot be supposed that Pope could
regard with much kindness or esteem, though in one of the imitations of
Horace he has liberally enough praised the “Careless Husband.”  In the
“Dunciad,” among other worthless scribblers, he had mentioned Cibber,
who, in his “Apology,” complains of the great Poet’s unkindness as more
injurious, “because,” says he, “I never have offended him.”

It might have been expected that Pope should have been in some degree
mollified by this submissive gentleness, but no such consequence
appeared.  Though he condescended to commend Cibber once, he mentioned
him afterwards contemptuously in one of his satires, and again in his
“Epistle to Arbuthnot,” and in the fourth book of the “Dunciad” attacked
him with acrimony, to which the provocation is not easily discoverable.
Perhaps he imagined that, in ridiculing the Laureate, he satirised those
by whom the laurel had been given, and gratified that ambitious petulance
with which he affected to insult the great.  The severity of this satire
left Cibber no longer any patience.  He had confidence enough in his own
powers to believe that he could disturb the quiet of his adversary, and
doubtless did not want instigators, who, without any care about the
victory, desired to amuse themselves by looking on the contest.  He
therefore gave the town a pamphlet, in which he declares his resolution
from that time never to bear another blow without returning it, and to
tire out his adversary by perseverance if he cannot conquer him by

The incessant and unappeasable malignity of Pope he imputes to a very
distant cause.  After the _Three Hours After Marriage_ had been driven
off the stage, by the offence which the mummy and crocodile gave the
audience, while the exploded scene was yet fresh in memory, it happened
that Cibber played Bayes in the _Rehearsal_; and, as it had been usual to
enliven the part by the mention of any recent theatrical transactions, he
said, that he once thought to have introduced his lovers disguised in a
mummy and a crocodile.  “This,” says he, “was received with loud claps,
which indicated contempt for the play.”  Pope, who was behind the scenes,
meeting him as he left the stage, attacked him, as he says, with all the
virulence of a “wit out of his senses;” to which he replied, “that he
would take no other notice of what was said by so particular a man, than
to declare, that as often as he played that part he would repeat the same
provocation.”  He shows his opinion to be that Pope was one of the
authors of the play which he so zealously defended, and adds an idle
story of Pope’s behaviour at a tavern.

The pamphlet was written with little power of thought or language, and,
if suffered to remain without notice, would have been very soon
forgotten.  Pope had now been enough acquainted with human life to know,
if his passion had not been too powerful for his understanding, that,
from a contention like his with Cibber, the world seeks nothing but
diversion, which is given at the expense of the higher character.  When
Cibber lampooned Pope, curiosity was excited.  What Pope would say of
Cibber nobody inquired, but in hope that Pope’s asperity might betray his
pain and lessen his dignity.  He should therefore have suffered the
pamphlet to flutter and die, without confessing that it stung him.  The
dishonour of being shown as Cibber’s antagonist could never be
compensated by the victory.  Cibber had nothing to lose.  When Pope had
exhausted all his malignity upon him, he would rise in the esteem both of
his friends and his enemies.  Silence only could have made him
despicable; the blow which did not appear to be felt would have been
struck in vain.  But Pope’s irascibility prevailed, and he resolved to
tell the whole English world that he was at war with Cibber; and, to show
that he thought him to common adversary, he prepared no common vengeance.
He published a new edition of the “Dunciad,” in which he degraded
Theobald from his painful pre-eminence, and enthroned Cibber in his
stead.  Unhappily the two heroes were of opposite characters, and Pope
was unwilling to lose what he had already written.  He has therefore
depraved his poem by giving to Cibber the old books, the old pedantry,
and the sluggish pertinacity of Theobald.

Pope was ignorant enough of his own interest to make another change, and
introduced Osborne contending for a prize among the booksellers.  Osborne
was a man entirely destitute of shame, without sense of any disgrace but
that of poverty.  He told me, when he was doing that which raised Pope’s
resentment, that he should be put into the “Dunciad;” but he had the fate
of Cassandra.  I gave no credit to his prediction, till in time I saw it
accomplished.  The shafts of satire were directed equally in vain against
Cibber and Osborne; being repelled by the impenetrable impudence of one,
and deadened by the impassive dulness of the other.  Pope confessed his
own pain by his anger; but he gave no pain to those who had provoked him.
He was able to hurt none but himself; by transferring the same ridicule
from one to another, he reduced himself to the insignificance of his own
magpie, who from his cage calls cuckold at a venture.

Cibber, according to his engagement, repaid the “Dunciad” with another
pamphlet, which, Pope said, “would be as good as a dose of hartshorn to
him;” but his tongue and his heart were at variance.  I have heard Mr.
Richardson relate that he attended his father the painter on a visit,
when one of Cibber’s pamphlets came into the hands of Pope, who said,
“These things are my diversion.”  They sat by him while he perused it,
and saw his features writhing with anguish: and young Richardson said to
his father, when they returned, that he hoped to be preserved from such
diversion as had been that day the lot of Pope.  From this time, finding
his diseases more oppressive, and his vital powers gradually declining,
he no longer strained his faculties with any original composition, nor
proposed any other employment for his remaining life than the revisal and
correction of his former works, in which he received advice and
assistance from Warburton, whom he appears to have trusted and honoured
in the highest degree.  He laid aside his Epic Poem, perhaps without much
loss to mankind; for his hero was Brutus the Trojan, who, according to a
ridiculous fiction, established a colony in Britain.  The subject,
therefore, was of the fabulous age; the actors were a race upon whom
imagination has been exhausted, and attention wearied, and to whom the
mind will not easily be recalled, when it is invited in blank verse,
which Pope had adopted with great imprudence, and, I think, without due
consideration of the nature of our language.  The sketch is, at least in
part, preserved by Ruffhead, by which it appears that Pope was
thoughtless enough to model the names of his heroes with terminations not
consistent with the time or country in which he places them.  He lingered
through the next year, but perceived himself, as he expresses it, “going
down the hill.”  He had for at least five years been afflicted with an
asthma, and other disorders, which his physicians were unable to relieve.
Towards the end of his life he consulted Dr. Thomson, a man who had, by
large promises, and free censures of the common practice of physic,
forced himself up into sudden reputation.  Thomson declared his distemper
to be a dropsy, and evacuated part of the water by tincture of jalap, but
confessed that his belly did not subside.  Thomson had many enemies, and
Pope was persuaded to dismiss him.

While he was yet capable of amusement and conversation, as he was one day
sitting in the air with Lord Bolingbroke and Lord Marchmont, he saw his
favourite Martha Blount at the bottom of the terrace, and asked Lord
Bolingbroke to go and hand her up.  Bolingbroke, not liking his errand,
crossed his legs and sat still; but Lord Marchmont, who was younger and
less captious, waited on the lady, who, when he came to her, asked,
“What, is he not dead yet?”  She is said to have neglected him with
shameful unkindness, in the latter time of his decay; yet, of the little
which he had to leave she had a very great part.  Their acquaintance
began early; the life of each was pictured on the other’s mind; their
conversation therefore was endearing, for when they met, there was an
immediate coalition of congenial notions.  Perhaps he considered her
unwillingness to approach the chamber of sickness as female weakness, or
human frailty; perhaps he was conscious to himself of peevishness and
impatience, or, though he was offended by her inattention, might yet
consider her merit as overbalancing her fault; and if he had suffered his
heart to be alienated from her, he could have found nothing that might
fill her place; he could have only shrunk within himself.  It was too
late to transfer his confidence or fondness.

In May, 1744, his death was approaching.  On the 6th he was all day
delirious, which he mentioned for days afterwards as a sufficient
humiliation of the vanity of man; he afterwards complained of seeing
things as through a curtain, and in false colours, and one day, its the
presence of Dodsley, asked what arm it was that came from the wall.  He
said that his greatest inconvenience was inability to think.  Bolingbroke
sometimes wept over him in this state of helpless decay; and being told
by Spence, that Pope, at the intermission of his deliriousness, was
always saying something kind either of his present or absent friends, and
that his humanity seemed to have survived his understanding, answered,
“It has so.”  And added, “I never in my life knew a man that had so
tender a heart for his particular friends, or more general friendship for
mankind.”  At another time he said, “I have known Pope these thirty
years, and value myself more in his friendship than—”  His grief then
suppressed his voice.

Pope expressed undoubting confidence of a future state.  Being asked by
his friend Mr. Hooke, a papist, whether he would not die like his father
and mother, and whether a priest should not be called, he answered, “I do
not think it essential, but it will be very right; and I thank you for
putting me in mind of it.”  In the morning, after the priest had given
him the last sacraments, he said “There is nothing that is meritorious
but virtue and friendship; and indeed friendship itself is only a part of
virtue.”  He died in the evening of the 30th day of May 1744, so
placidly, that the attendants did not discern the exact time of his
expiration.  He was buried at Twickenham, near his father and mother,
where a monument has been erected to him by his commentator, the Bishop
of Gloucester.

He left the care of his papers to his executors; first to Lord
Bolingbroke, and, if he should not be living, to the Earl of Marchmont,
undoubtedly expecting them to be proud of the trust, and eager to extend
his fame.  But let no man dream of influence beyond his life.  After a
decent time Dodsley, the bookseller, went to solicit preference as the
publisher, and was told that the parcel had not been yet inspected; and,
whatever was the reason, the world has been disappointed of what was
“reserved for the next age.”  He lost, indeed, the favour of Bolingbroke
by a kind of posthumous offence.  The political pamphlet called “The
Patriot King” had been put into his hands that he might procure the
impression of a very few copies, to be distributed, according to the
author’s direction, among his friends, and Pope assured him that no more
had been printed than were allowed; but, soon after his death, the
printer brought and resigned a complete edition of fifteen hundred
copies, which Pope had ordered him to print and retain in secret.  He
kept, as was observed, his engagement to Pope better than Pope had kept
it to his friend; and nothing was known of the transaction till, upon the
death of his employer, he thought himself obliged to deliver the books to
the right owner, who, with great indignation, made a fire in his yard,
and delivered the whole impression to the flames.

Hitherto nothing had been done which was not naturally dictated by
resentment of violated faith; resentment more acrimonious, as the
violator had been more loved or more trusted.  But here the anger might
have stopped; the injury was private, and there was little danger from
the example.  Bolingbroke, however, was not yet satisfied.  His thirst of
vengeance excited him to blast the memory of the man over whom he had
wept in his last struggles; and he employed Mallet, another friend of
Pope, to tell the tale to the public, with all its aggravations.
Warburton, whose heart was warm with his legacy and tender by the recent
separation, thought it proper for him to interpose, and undertook, not
indeed to vindicate the action, for breach of trust has always something
criminal, but to extenuate it by an apology.  Having advanced what cannot
be denied, that moral obliquity is made more or less excusable by the
motives that produce it, he inquires what evil purpose could have induced
Pope to break his promise.  He could not delight his vanity by usurping
the work, which, though not sold in shops, had been shown to a number
more than sufficient to preserve the author’s claim; he could not gratify
his avarice, for he could not sell his plunder till Bolingbroke was dead;
and even then, if the copy was left to another, his fraud would be
defeated, and if left to himself would be useless.

Warburton therefore supposes, with great appearance of reason, that the
irregularity of his conduct proceeded wholly from his zeal for
Bolingbroke, who might perhaps have destroyed the pamphlet, which Pope
thought it his duty to preserve, even without its author’s approbation.
To this apology an answer was written in “A letter to the most impudent
man living.”  He brought some reproach upon his own memory by the
petulant and contemptuous mention made in his will of Mr. Allen and an
affected repayment of his benefactions.  Mrs. Blount, as the known friend
and favourite of Pope, had been invited to the house of Allen, where she
comported herself with such indecent arrogance that she parted from Mrs.
Allen in a state of irreconcilable dislike, and the door was for ever
barred against her.  This exclusion she resented with so much bitterness
as to refuse any legacy from Pope unless he left the world with a
disavowal of obligation to Allen.  Having been long under her dominion,
now tottering in the decline of life, and unable to resist the violence
of her temper, or perhaps, with the prejudice of a lover, persuaded that
she had suffered improper treatment, he complied with her demand, and
polluted his will with female resentment.  Allen accepted the legacy,
which he gave to the hospital at Bath, observing that Pope was always a
bad accountant, and that if to £150 he had put a cipher more he had come
nearer to the truth.

The person of Pope is well known not to have been formed by the nicest
model.  He has, in his account of the “Little Club,” compared himself to
a spider, and by another is described as protuberant behind and before.
He is said to have been beautiful in his infancy, but he was of a
constitution originally feeble and weak; and, as bodies of a tender frame
are easily distorted, his deformity was probably in part the effect of
his application.  His stature was so low, that to bring him to a level
with common tables, it was necessary to raise his seat.  But his face was
not displeasing, and his eyes were animated and vivid.  By natural
deformity, or accidental distortion, his vital functions were so much
disordered, that his life was “a long disease.”  His most frequent
assailant was the headache, which he used to relieve by inhaling the
steam of coffee, which he very frequently required.

Most of what can be told concerning his petty peculiarities was
communicated by a female domestic of the Earl of Oxford, who knew him
perhaps after the middle of life.  He was then so weak as to stand in
perpetual need of female attendance; extremely sensible of cold, so that
he wore a kind of fur doublet, under a shirt of a very coarse warm linen
with fine sleeves.  When he rose, he was invested in bodice made of stiff
canvas, being scarcely able to hold himself erect till they were laced,
and he then put on a flannel waistcoat.  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.  His hair
had fallen almost all away, and he used to dine sometimes with Lord
Oxford, privately, in a velvet cap.  His dress of ceremony was black,
with a tie-wig, and a little sword.  The indulgence and accommodation
which his sickness required, had taught him all the unpleasing and
unsocial qualities of a valetudinary man.  He expected that everything
should give way to his ease or humour, as a child, whose parents will not
hear her cry, has an unresisted dominion in the nursery.

    “C’est que l’enfant toujours est homme,
    C’est que l’homme est toujours enfant.”

When he wanted to sleep he “nodded in company,” and once slumbered at his
own table while the Prince of Wales was talking of poetry.

The reputation which his friendship gave procured him many invitations,
but he was a very troublesome inmate.  He brought no servant, and had so
many wants, that a numerous attendance was scarcely able to supply them.
Wherever he was, he left no room for another, because he exacted the
attention, and employed the activity of the whole family.  His errands
were so frequent and frivolous, that the footmen in time avoided and
neglected him, and the Earl of Oxford discharged some of his servants for
their resolute refusal of his messages.  The maids, when they had
neglected their business, alleged that they had been employed by Mr.
Pope.  One of his constant demands was of coffee in the night, and to the
woman that waited on him in his chamber he was very burthensome.  But he
was careful to recompense her want of sleep, and Lord Oxford’s servant
declared, that in the house where her business was to answer his call,
she would not ask for wages.  He had another fault, easily incident to
those who, suffering much pain, think themselves entitled to what
pleasures they can snatch.  He was too indulgent to his appetite: he
loved meat highly seasoned and of strong taste; and, at the intervals of
the table, amused himself with biscuits and dry conserves.  If he sat
down to a variety of dishes, he would oppress his stomach with repletion;
and though he seemed angry when a dram was offered him, did not forbear
to drink it.  His friends, who knew the avenues to his heart, pampered
him with presents of luxury, which he did not suffer to stand neglected.
The death of great men is not always proportioned to the lustre of their
lives.  Hannibal, says Juvenal, did not perish by the javelin or the
sword, the slaughters of Cannæ were revenged by a ring.  The death of
Pope was imputed by some of his friends to a silver saucepan, in which it
was his delight to eat potted lampreys.  That he loved too well to eat is
certain; but that his sensuality shortened his life will not be hastily
concluded, when it is remembered that a conformation so irregular lasted
six-and-fifty years, notwithstanding such pertinacious diligence of study
and meditation.  In all his intercourse with mankind he had great delight
in artifice, and endeavoured to attain all his purposes by indirect and
unsuspected methods.  “He hardly drank tea without a stratagem.”  If at
the house of friends he wanted any accommodation, he was not willing to
ask for it in plain terms, but would mention it remotely as something
convenient; though when it was procured, he soon made it appear for whose
sake it had been recommended.  Thus he teased Lord Orrery till he
obtained a screen.  He practised his arts on such small occasions, that
Lady Bolingbroke used to say, in a French phrase, that “he played the
politician about cabbages and turnips.”  His unjustifiable impression of
the “Patriot King,” as it can be attributed to no particular motive, must
have proceeded from his general habit of secrecy and cunning; he caught
an opportunity of a sly trick, and pleased himself with the thought of
outwitting Bolingbroke.  In familiar or convivial conversation, it does
not appear that he excelled.  He may be said to have resembled Dryden, as
being not one that was distinguished by vivacity in company.  It is
remarkable that, so near his time, so much should be known of what he has
written, and so little of what he has said: traditional memory retains no
sallies of raillery, nor sentences of observation: nothing either pointed
or solid, either wise or merry.  One apophthegm only stands upon record.
When an objection, raised against his inscription for Shakespeare, was
defended by the authority of Patrick, he replied, _horresco referens_,
that he “would allow the publisher of a dictionary to know the meaning of
a single word, but not of two words put together.”

He was fretful and easily displeased, and allowed himself to be
capriciously resentful.  He would sometimes leave Lord Oxford silently,
no one could tell why, and was to be courted back by more letters and
messages than the footmen were willing to carry.  The table was indeed
infested by Lady Mary Wortley, who was the friend of Lady Oxford, and
who, knowing his peevishness, could by no entreaties be restrained from
contradicting him, till their disputes were sharpened to such asperity,
that one or the other quitted the house.  He sometimes condescended to be
jocular with servants or inferiors; but by no merriment, either of others
or his own, was he ever seen excited to laughter.

Of his domestic character, frugality was a part eminently remarkable.
Having determined not to be dependent, he determined not to be in want,
and therefore wisely and magnanimously rejected all temptations to
expense unsuitable to his fortune.  This general care must be universally
approved; but it sometimes appeared in petty artifices of parsimony, such
as the practice of writing his compositions on the back of letters, as
may be seen in the remaining copy of the “Iliad,” by which perhaps in
five years five shillings were saved; or in a niggardly reception of his
friends, and scantiness of entertainment, as, when he had two guests in
his house, he would set at supper a single pint upon the table; and
having himself taken two small glasses, would retire, and say,
“Gentlemen.  I leave you to your wine.”  Yet he tells his friends that
“he has a heart for all, a house for all, and whatever they may think, a
fortune for all.”  He sometimes, however, made a splendid dinner, and is
said to have wanted no part of the skill or elegance which such
performances require.  That this magnificence should be often displayed,
that obstinate prudence with which he conducted his affairs would not
permit; for his revenue, certain and casual, amounted only to about eight
hundred pounds a year, of which, however, he declares himself able to
assign one hundred to charity.  Of this fortune, which, as it arose from
public approbation, was very honourably obtained, his imagination seems
to have been too full: it would be hard to find a man so well entitled to
notice by his wit, that ever delighted so much in talking of his money.
In his Letters and in his poems, his garden and his grotto, his quincunx
and his vines, or some hints of his opulence, are always to be found.
The great topic of his ridicule is poverty; the crimes with which he
reproaches his antagonists are their debts, their habitation in the Mint,
and their want of a dinner.  He seems to be of an opinion not very
uncommon in the world, that to want money is to want everything.  Next to
the pleasure of contemplating his possessions, seems to be that of
enumerating the men of high rank with whom he was acquainted, and whose
notice he loudly proclaims not to have been obtained by any practices of
meanness or servility; a boast which was never denied to be true, and to
which very few poets have ever aspired.  Pope never set genius to sale;
he never flattered those whom he did not love, nor praised those whom he
did not esteem.  Savage, however, remarked that he began a little to
relax his dignity when he wrote a distich for “his Highness’s dog.”

His admiration of the great seems to have increased in the advance of
life.  He passed over peers and statesmen to inscribe his “Iliad” to
Congreve, with a magnanimity of which the praise had been complete, had
his friend’s virtue been equal to his wit.  Why he was chosen for so
great an honour, it is not now possible to know; there is no trace in
literary history of any particular intimacy between them.  The name of
Congreve appears in the Letters among those of his other friends, but
without any observable distinction or consequence.  To his latter works,
however, he took care to annex names dignified with titles, but was not
very happy in his choice; for, except Lord Bathurst, none of his noble
friends were such as that a good man would wish to have his intimacy with
them known to posterity; he can derive little honour from the notice of
Cobham, Burlington, or Bolingbroke.

Of his social qualities, if an estimate be made from his Letters, an
opinion too favourable cannot easily be formed; they exhibit a perpetual
and unclouded effulgence of general benevolence, and particular fondness.
There is nothing but liberality, gratitude, constancy, and tenderness.
It has been so long said as to be commonly believed, that the true
characters of men may be found in their letters, and that he who writes
to his friend lays his heart open before him.  But the truth is that such
were the simple friendships of the Golden Age, and are now the
friendships only of children.  Very few can boast of hearts which they
dare lay open to themselves, and of which, by whatever accident exposed,
they do not shun a distinct and continued view; and, certainly, who we
hide from ourselves we do not show to our friend.  There is, indeed, no
transaction which offers strange temptations to fallacy and
sophistication than epistolary intercourse.  In the eagerness of
conversation the first emotions of the mind often burst out before they
are considered; in the tumult of business, interest and passion have
their genuine effect; but a friendly letter is a calm and deliberate
performance in the cool of leisure, in the stillness of solitude, and
surely no man sits down to depreciate by design his own character.

Friendship has no tendency to secure veracity; for by whom can a man so
much wish to be thought better than he is, as by him whose kindness he
desires to gain or keep?  Even in writing to the world there is less
constraint; the author is not confronted with his reader, and takes his
chance of approbation among the different dispositions of mankind; but a
letter is addressed to a single mind, of which the prejudices and
partialities are known; and must therefore please, if not by favouring
them, by forbearing to oppose them.  To charge those favourable
representations, which men give of their own minds, with the guilt of
hypocritical falsehood, would show more severity than knowledge.  The
writer commonly believes himself.  Almost every man’s thoughts, while
they are general, are right; and most hearts are pure while temptation is
away.  It is easy to awaken generous sentiments in privacy; to despise
death when there is no danger; to glow with benevolence when there is
nothing to be given.  While such ideas are formed they are felt; and
self-love does not suspect the gleam of virtue to be the meteor of fancy.

If the Letters of Pope are considered merely as compositions, they seem
to be premeditated and artificial.  It is one thing to write because
there is something which the mind wishes to discharge, and another to
solicit the imagination because ceremony or vanity requires something to
be written.  Pope confesses his early Letters to be vitiated with
_affectation and ambition_: to know whether he disentangled himself from
these perverters of epistolary integrity, his book and his life must be
set in comparison.  One of his favourite topics is contempt of his own
poetry.  For this, if it had been real, he would deserve no commendation;
and in this he was certainly not sincere, for his high value of himself
was sufficiently observed; and of what could he be proud but of his
poetry?  He writes, he says, when “he has just nothing else to do;” yet
Swift complains that he was never at leisure for conversation, because he
“had always some poetical scheme in his head.”  It was punctually
required that his writing-box should be set upon his bed before he rose;
and Lord Oxford’s domestic related that, in the dreadful winter of Forty,
she was called from her bed by him four times in one night, to supply him
with paper, lest he should lose a thought.  He pretends insensibility to
censure and criticism, though it was observed by all who knew him that
every pamphlet disturbed his quiet, and that his extreme irritability
laid him open to perpetual vexation; but he wished to despise his
critics, and therefore hoped that he did despise them.  As he happened to
live in two reigns when the court paid little attention to poetry, he
nursed in his mind a foolish disesteem of kings, and proclaims that “he
never sees courts.”  Yet a little regard shown him by the Prince of Wales
melted his obduracy; and he had not much to say when he was asked by his
Royal Highness, “How he could love a prince while he disliked kings?”

He very frequently professes contempt of the world, and represents
himself as looking on mankind, sometimes with gay indifference, as on
emmets of a hillock, below his serious attention; and sometimes with
gloomy indignation, as on monsters more worthy of hatred than pity.
These were dispositions apparently counterfeited.  How could he despise
those whom he lived by pleasing, and on whose approbation his esteem of
himself was superstructed?  Why should he hate those to whose favour he
owed his honour and his ease?  Of things that terminate in human life,
the world is the proper judge: to despise its sentence, if it were
possible, is not just; and if it were just, is not possible.  Pope was
far enough from this unreasonable temper; he was sufficiently _a fool to
fame_, and his fault was that he pretended to neglect it.  His levity and
his sullenness were only in his letters; he passed through common life,
sometimes vexed, and sometimes pleased, with the natural emotions of
common men.  His scorn of the great is repeated too often to be real; no
man thinks much of that which he despises; and as falsehood is always in
danger of inconsistency, he makes it his boast at another time that he
lives among them.  It is evident that his own importance swells often in
his mind.  He is afraid of writing, lest the clerks of the post-office
should know his secrets; he has many enemies; he considers himself as
surrounded by universal jealousy: “After many deaths, and many
dispersions, two or three of us,” says he, “may still be brought
together, not to plot, but to divert ourselves, and the world too, if it
pleases;” and they can live together, and “show what friends wits may be,
in spite of all the fools in the world.”  All this while it was likely
that the clerks did not know his hand; he certainly had no more enemies
than a public character like his inevitably excites; and with what degree
of friendship the wits might live, very few were so much fools as ever to
inquire.  Some part of this pretended discontent he learned from Swift,
and expresses it, I think, most frequently in his correspondence with
him.  Swift’s resentment was unreasonable, but it was sincere; Pope’s was
the mere mimicry of his friend, a fictitious part which he began to play
before it became him.  When he was only twenty-five years old, he related
that “a glut of study and retirement had thrown him on the world,” and
that there was danger lest “a glut of the world should throw him back
upon study and retirement.”  To this Swift answered with great propriety,
that Pope had not yet acted or suffered enough in the world to have
become weary of it.  And, indeed, it must have been some very powerful
reason that can drive back to solitude him who has once enjoyed the
pleasures of society.

In the Letters both of Swift and Pope there appears such narrowness of
mind as makes them insensible of any excellence that has not some
affinity with their own, and confines their esteem and approbation to so
small a number, that whoever should form his opinion of their age from
their representation, would suppose them to have lived amidst ignorance
and barbarity, unable to find among their contemporaries either virtue or
intelligence, and persecuted by those that could not understand them.

When Pope murmurs at the world, when he professes contempt of fame, when
he speaks of riches and poverty, of success and disappointment, with
negligent indifference, he certainly does not express his habitual and
settled resentments, but either wilfully disguises his own character, or,
what is more likely, invests himself with temporary qualities, and
sallies out in the colours of the present moment.  His hopes and fears,
his joys and sorrows, acted strongly upon his mind, and if he differed
from others it was not by carelessness; he was irritable and resentful;
his malignity to Philips, whom he had first made ridiculous and then
hated for being angry continued too long.  Of his vain desire to make
Bentley contemptible I never heard any adequate reason.  He was sometimes
wanton in his attacks, and before Chandos, Lady Wortley, and Hill, was
mean in his retreat.  The virtues which seem to have had most of his
affection were liberality and fidelity of friendship, in which it does
not appear that he was other than he describes himself.  His fortune did
not suffer his character to be splendid and conspicuous, but he assisted
Dodsley with a hundred pounds that he might open a shop, and of the
subscription of forty pounds a year that he raised for Savage twenty were
paid by himself.  He was accused of loving money, but his love was
eagerness to gain, not solicitude to keep it.  In the duties of
friendship he was zealous and constant; his early maturity of mind
commonly united him with men older than himself, and therefore, without
attaining any considerable length of life, he saw many companions of his
youth sink into the grave; but it does not appear that he lost a single
friend by coldness or by injury; those who loved him once continued their
kindness.  His ungrateful mention of Allen in his will was the effect of
his adherence to one whom he had known much longer, and whom he naturally
loved with greater fondness.  His violation of the trust reposed in him
by Bolingbroke could have no motive inconsistent with the warmest
affection; he either thought the action so near to indifferent that he
forgot it, or so laudable that he expected his friend to approve it.  It
was reported with such confidence as almost to enforce belief, that in
the papers entrusted to his executors was found a defamatory Life of
Swift, which he had prepared as an instrument of vengeance, to be used if
any provocation should be ever given.  About this I inquired of the Earl
of Marchmont, who assured me that no such piece was among his remains.

The religion in which he lived and died was that of the Church of Rome,
to which, in his correspondence with Racine, he professes himself a
sincere adherent.  That he was not scrupulously pious in some part of his
life is known by many idle and indecent applications of sentences taken
from the Scriptures, a mode of merriment which a good man dreads for its
profaneness, and a witty man disdains for its easiness and vulgarity.
But to whatever levities he has been betrayed, it does not appear that
his principles were ever corrupted, or that he ever lost his belief of
revelation.  The positions which he transmitted from Bolingbroke he seems
not to have understood, and was pleased with an interpretation that made
them orthodox.

A man of such exalted superiority and so little moderation would
naturally have all his delinquencies observed and aggravated; those who
could not deny that he was excellent would rejoice to find that he was
not perfect.  Perhaps it may be imputed to the unwillingness with which
the same man is allowed to possess many advantages, that his learning has
been depreciated.  He certainly was in his early life a man of great
literary curiosity, and when he wrote his “Essay on Criticism,” had, for
his age, a very wide acquaintance with books.  When he entered into the
living world it seems to have happened to him, as to many others, that he
was less attentive to dead masters; he studied in the academy of
Paracelsus, and made the universe his favourite volume.  He gathered his
notions fresh from reality, not from the copies of authors, but the
originals of Nature.  Yet there is no reason to believe that literature
ever lost his esteem; he always professed to love reading, and Dobson,
who spent some time at his house translating his “Essay on Man,” when I
asked him what learning he found him to possess, answered, “More than I
expected.”  His frequent references to history, his allusions to various
kinds of knowledge, and his images selected from art and nature, with his
observations on the operations of the mind and the modes of life, show an
intelligence perpetually on the wing, excursive, vigorous, and diligent,
eager to pursue knowledge, and attentive to retain it.  From this
curiosity arose the desire of travelling, to which he alludes in his
verses to Jervas, and which, though he never found an opportunity to
gratify it, did not leave him till his life declined.

Of his intellectual character, the constituent and fundamental principle
was good sense, a prompt and intuitive perception of consonance and
propriety.  He saw immediately of his own conceptions what was to be
chosen and what to be rejected, and, in the works of others, what was to
be shunned and what was to be copied.  But good sense alone is a sedate
and quiescent quality, which manages its possessions well, but does not
increase them; it collects few materials for its own operations, and
preserves safety, but never gains supremacy.  Pope had likewise genius; a
mind active, ambitious, and adventurous, always investigating, always
aspiring; in its widest searches still longing to go forward, in its
highest flights still wishing to be higher, always imagining some thing
greater than it knows, always endeavouring more than it can do.  To
assist these powers he is said to have had great strength and exactness
of memory.  That which he had heard or read was not easily lost, and he
had before him not only what his own meditations suggested, but what he
had found in other writers that might be accommodated to his present
purpose.  These benefits of Nature he improved by incessant and unwearied
diligence; he had recourse to every source of intelligence, and lost no
opportunity of information; he consulted the living as well as the dead;
he read his compositions to his friends, and was never content with
mediocrity when excellence could be attained.  He considered poetry as
the business of his life, and however he might seem to lament his
occupation he followed it with constancy; to make verses was his first
labour, and to mend them was his last.  From his attention to poetry he
was never diverted.  If conversation offered anything that could be
improved, he committed it to paper; if a thought, or perhaps an
expression, more happy than was common, rose to his mind, he was careful
to write it; an independent distich was preserved for an opportunity of
insertion, and some little fragments have been found containing lines, or
parts of lines, to be wrought upon at some other time.  He was one of
those few whose labour is their pleasure; he was never elevated to
negligence nor wearied to impatience; he never passed a fault unamended
by indifference, nor quitted it by despair.  He laboured his works first
to gain reputation, and afterwards to keep it.

Of composition there are different methods.  Some employ at once memory
and invention, and, with little intermediate use of the pen, form and
polish large masses by continued meditation, and write their productions
only when, in their own opinion, they have completed them.  It is related
of Virgil that his custom was to pour out a great number of verses in the
morning, and pass the day in retrenching exuberances and correcting
inaccuracies.  The method of Pope, as may be collected from his
translation, was to write his first thoughts in his first words, and
gradually to amplify, decorate, rectify, and refine them.  With such
faculties and such dispositions he excelled every other writer in
poetical prudence; he wrote in such a manner as might expose him to few
hazards.  He used almost always the same fabric of verse, and, indeed, by
those few essays which he made of any other, he did not enlarge his
reputation.  Of this uniformity the certain consequence was readiness and
dexterity.  By perpetual practice language had, in his mind, a
systematical arrangement; having always the same use for words, he had
words so selected and combined as to be ready at his call.  This increase
of facility he confessed himself to have perceived in the progress of his
translation.  But what was yet of more importance, his effusions were
always voluntary, and his subjects chosen by himself.  His independence
secured him from drudging at a task, and labouring upon a barren topic;
he never exchanged praise for money, nor opened a shop of condolence or
congratulation.  His poems, therefore, were scarcely ever temporary.  He
suffered coronations and royal marriages to pass without a song, and
derived no opportunities from recent events, nor any popularity from the
accidental disposition of his readers.  He was never reduced to the
necessity of soliciting the sun to shine upon a birthday, of calling the
graces and virtues to a wedding, or of saying what multitudes have said
before him.  When he could produce nothing new he was at liberty to be

His publications were for the same reason never hasty.  He is said to
have sent nothing to the press till it had lain two years under his
inspection: it is at least certain that he ventured nothing without nice
examination.  He suffered the tumult of imagination to subside, and the
novelties of invention to grow familiar.  He knew that the mind is always
enamoured of its own productions, and did not trust his first fondness.
He consulted his friends, and listened with great willingness to
criticism; and, what was of more importance, he consulted himself, and
let nothing pass against his own judgment.  He professed to have learned
his poetry from Dryden, whom, whenever an opportunity was presented, he
praised through his whole life with unvaried liberality; and perhaps his
character may receive some illustration if he be compared with his

Integrity of understanding and nicety of discernment were not allotted in
a less proportion to Dryden than to Pope.  The rectitude of Dryden’s mind
was sufficiently shown by the dismission of his poetical prejudices, and
the rejection of unnatural thoughts and rugged numbers.  But Dryden never
desired to apply all the judgment that he had.  He wrote, and professed
to write, merely for the people; and when he pleased others, he contented
himself.  He spent no time in struggles to rouse latent powers; he never
attempted to make that better which was already good, nor often to mend
what he must have known to be faulty.  He wrote, as he tells us, with
very little consideration; when occasion or necessity called upon him, he
poured out what the present moment happened to supply, and, when once it
had passed the press, ejected it from his mind; for, when he had no
pecuniary interest, he had no further solicitude.

Pope was not content to satisfy; he desired to excel, and therefore
always endeavoured to do his best; he did not court the candour, but
dared the judgment of his reader, and, expecting no indulgence from
others, he showed none to himself.  He examined lines and words with
minute and punctilious observation, and retouched every part with
indefatigable diligence, till he had left nothing to be forgiven.  For
this reason he kept his pieces very long in his hands, while he
considered and reconsidered them.  The only poems which can be supposed
to have been written with such regard to the times as might hasten their
publication, were the two satires of “Thirty-eight;” of which Dodsley
told me that they were brought to him by the author, that they might be
fairly copied.  “Almost every line,” he said, “was then written twice
over; I gave him a clean transcript, which he sent some time afterwards
to me for the press, with almost every line written twice over a second
time.”  His declaration, that his care for his works ceased at their
publication, was not strictly true.  His parental attention never
abandoned them; what he found amiss in the first edition, he silently
corrected in those that followed.  He appears to have revised the
“Iliad,” and freed it from some of its imperfections; and the “Essay on
Criticism” received many improvements after its first appearance.  It
will seldom be found that he altered without adding clearness, elegance,
or vigour.  Pope had perhaps the judgment of Dryden; but Dryden certainly
wanted the diligence of Pope.

In acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose
education was more scholastic, and who before he became an author had
been allowed more time for study, with better means of information.  His
mind has a larger range, and he collects his images and illustrations
from a more extensive circumference of science.  Dryden knew more of man
in his general nature, and Pope in his local manners.  The notions of
Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation, and those of Pope by
minute attention.  There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and
more certainty in that of Pope.  Poetry was not the sole praise of
either; for both excelled likewise in prose; but Pope did not borrow his
prose from his predecessor.  The style of Dryden is capricious and
varied; that of Pope is cautious and uniform.  Dryden observes the
motions of his own mind; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of
composition.  Dryden is sometimes vehement and rapid; Pope is always
smooth, uniform, and gentle.  Dryden’s page is a natural field, rising
into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abundant
vegetation; Pope’s is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled
by the roller.

Of genius, that power which constitutes a poet; that quality without
which judgment is cold, and knowledge is inert; that energy which
collects, combines, amplifies, and animates; the superiority must, with
some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden.  It is not to be inferred that of
this poetical vigour Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more; for
every other writer since Milton must give place to Pope; and even of
Dryden it must be said that, if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not
better poems.  Dryden’s performances were always hasty, either excited by
some external occasion, or extorted by domestic necessity; he composed
without consideration, and published without correction.  What his mind
could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought,
and all that he gave.  The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to
condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to accumulate all
that study might produce or chance might supply.  If the flights of
Dryden therefore are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing.  If of
Dryden’s fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope’s the heat is more regular
and constant.  Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls
below it.  Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with
perpetual delight.  This parallel will, I hope, when it is well
considered, be found just; and if the reader should suspect me, as I
suspect myself, of some partial fondness for the memory of Dryden, let
him not too hastily condemn me; for meditation and inquiry may, perhaps,
show him the reasonableness of my determination.

The Works of Pope are now to be distinctly examined, not so much with
attention to slight faults or petty beauties, as to the general character
and effect of each performance.

It seems natural for a young poet to initiate himself by pastorals,
which, not professing to imitate real life, require no experience; and,
exhibiting only the simple operation of unmingled passions, admit no
subtle reasoning or deep inquiry.  Pope’s pastorals are not, however,
composed but with close thought; they have reference to the times of the
day, the seasons of the year, and the periods of human life.  The last,
that which turns the attention upon age and death, was the author’s
favourite.  To tell of disappointment and misery, to thicken the darkness
of futurity and perplex the labyrinth of uncertainty, has been always a
delicious employment of the poets.  His preference was probably just.  I
wish, however, that his fondness had not overlooked a line in which the
Zephyrs are made to lament in silence.  To charge these pastorals with
wane of invention, is to require what was never intended.  The imitations
are so ambitiously frequent, that the writer evidently means rather to
show his literature than his wit.  It is surely sufficient for an author
of sixteen, not only to be able to copy the poems of antiquity with
judicious selection, but to have obtained sufficient power of language,
and skill in metre, to exhibit a series of versification which had in
English poetry no precedent, nor has since had an imitation.

The design of “Windsor Forest” is evidently derived from “Cooper’s Hill,”
with some attention to Waller’s poem on “The Park;” but Pope cannot be
denied to excel his masters in variety and elegance, and the art of
interchanging description, narrative, and morality.  The objection made
by Dennis is the want of plan, of a regular subordination of parts
terminating in the principal and original design.  There is this want in
most descriptive poems, because as the scenes, which they must exhibit
successively, are all subsisting at the same time, the order in which
they are shown must by necessity be arbitrary, and more is not to be
expected from the last part than from the first.  The attention,
therefore, which cannot be detained by suspense, must be excited by
diversity, such as this poem offers to its reader.  But the desire of
diversity may be too much indulged; the parts of “Windsor Forest” which
deserve least praise are those which were added to enliven the stillness
of the scene—the appearance of Father Thames, and the transformation of
Lodona.  Addison had in his “Campaign” derided the rivers that “rise from
their oozy beds” to tell stories of heroes; and it is therefore strange
that Pope should adopt a fiction not only unnatural, but lately censured.
The story of Lodona is told with sweetness; but a new metamorphosis is a
ready and puerile expedient; nothing is easier than to tell how a flower
was once a blooming virgin, or a rock an obdurate tyrant.

The “Temple of Fame” has, as Steele warmly declared, a “thousand
beauties.”  Every part is splendid; there is great luxuriance of
ornaments; the original vision of Chaucer was never denied to be much
improved; the allegory is very skilfully continued, the imagery is
properly selected, and learnedly displayed; yet, with all this
comprehension of excellence, as its scene is laid in remote ages, and its
sentiments, if the concluding paragraph be excepted, have little relation
to general manners or common life, it never obtained much notice, but is
turned silently over, and seldom quoted or mentioned with either praise
or blame.

That the “Messiah” excels the “Pollio” is no great praise, if it be
considered from what original the improvements are derived.

The “Verses on the Unfortunate Lady” have drawn much attention by the
illaudable singularity of treating suicide with respect; and they must be
allowed to be written in some parts with vigorous animation, and in
others with gentle tenderness; nor has Pope produced any poem in which
the sense predominates more over the diction.  But the tale is not
skilfully told; it is not easy to discover the character of either the
lady or her guardian.  History relates that she was about to disparage
herself by a marriage with an inferior; Pope praises her for the dignity
of ambition, and yet condemns the uncle to detestation for his pride; the
ambitious love of a niece may be opposed by the interest, malice, or envy
of an uncle, but never by his pride.  On such an occasion a poet may be
allowed to be obscure, but inconsistency never can be right.

The “Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day” was undertaken at the desire of Steele:
in this the author is generally confessed to have miscarried, yet he has
miscarried only as compared with Dryden; for he has far outgone other
competitors.  Dryden’s plan is better chosen; history will always take
stronger hold of the attention than fable: the passions excited by Dryden
are the pleasures and pains of real life, the scene of Pope is laid in
imaginary existence; Pope is read with calm acquiescence, Dryden with
turbulent delight; Pope hangs upon the ear, and Dryden finds the passes
of the mind.  Both the odes want the essential constituent of metrical
compositions, the stated recurrence of settled numbers.  It may be
alleged that Pindar is said by Horace to have written _numeris lege
solutis_; but as no such lax performances have been transmitted to us,
the meaning of that expression cannot be fixed; and perhaps the like
return might properly be made to a modern Pindarist as Mr. Cobb received
from Bentley, who, when he found his criticisms upon a Greek exercise,
which Cobb had presented, refuted one after another by Pindar’s
authority, cried out at last, “Pindar was a bold fellow, but thou art an
impudent one.”

If Pope’s ode be particularly inspected, it will be found that the first
stanza consists of sounds well chosen indeed, but only sounds.  The
second consists of hyperbolical commonplaces, easily to be found, and
perhaps without much difficulty to be as well expressed.  In the third,
however, there are numbers, images, harmony, and rigour, not unworthy the
antagonist of Dryden.  Had all been like this—but every part cannot be
the best.  The next stanzas place and detain us in the dark and dismal
regions of mythology, where neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow
can be found: the poet, however, faithfully attends us; we have all that
can be performed by elegance of diction or sweetness of versification;
but what can form avail without better matter?  The last stanza recurs
again to commonplaces.  The conclusion is too evidently modelled by that
of Dryden; and it may be remarked that both end with the same fault; the
comparison of each is literal on one side and metaphorical on the other.
Poets do not always express their own thoughts: Pope, with all this
labour in the praise of music, was ignorant of its principles and
insensible of its effects.

One of his greatest, though of his earliest works, is the “Essay on
Criticism,” which, if he had written nothing else, would have placed him
among the first critics and the first poets, as it exhibits every mode of
excellence that can embellish or dignify didactic composition, selection
of matter, novelty of arrangement, justness of precept, splendour of
illustration, and propriety of digression.  I know not whether it be
pleasing to consider that he produced this piece at twenty, and never
afterwards excelled it: he that delights himself with observing that such
powers may be soon attained, cannot but grieve to think that life was
ever after at a stand.

To mention the particular beauties of the essay would be unprofitably
tedious: but I cannot forbear to observe that the comparison of a
student’s progress in the sciences with the journey of a traveller in the
Alps is perhaps the best that English poetry can show.  A simile, to be
perfect, must both illustrate and ennoble the subject; must show it to
the understanding in a clearer view, and display it to the fancy with
greater dignity; but either of these qualities may be sufficient to
recommend it.  In didactic poetry, of which the great purpose is
instruction, a simile may be praised which illustrates, though it does
not ennoble; in heroics, that may be admitted which ennobles, though it
does not illustrate.  That it may be complete, it is required to exhibit,
independently of its references, a pleasing image; for a simile is said
to be a short episode.  To this antiquity was so attentive, that
circumstances were sometimes added, which, having no parallels, served
only to fill the imagination, and produced what Perrault ludicrously
called “comparisons with a long tail.”  In their similes the greatest
writers have sometimes failed; the ship-race, compared with the
chariot-race, is neither illustrated nor aggrandised; land and water make
all the difference: when Apollo, running after Daphne, is likened to a
greyhound chasing a hare, there is nothing gained; the ideas of pursuit
and flight are too plain to be made plainer; and a god and the daughter
of a god are not represented much to their advantage by a hare and dog.
The simile of the Alps has no useless parts, yet affords a striking
picture by itself; it makes the foregoing position better understood, and
enables it to take faster hold on the attention; it assists the
apprehension and elevates the fancy.  Let me likewise dwell a little on
the celebrated paragraph in which it is directed that “the sound should
seem an echo to the sense;” a precept which Pope is allowed to have
observed beyond any other English poet.

This notion of representative metre, and the desire of discovering
frequent adaptations of the sound to the sense, have produced, in my
opinion, many wild conceits and imaginary beauties.  All that can furnish
this representation are the sounds of the words considered singly and the
time in which they are pronounced.  Every language has some words framed
to exhibit the noises which they express, as _thump_, _rattle_, _growl_,
_hiss_.  These, however, are but few, and the poet cannot make them more,
nor can they be of any use but when sound is to be mentioned.  The time
of pronunciation was in the dactylic measures of the learned languages
capable of considerable variety; but that variety could be accommodated
only to motion or duration, and different degrees of motion were perhaps
expressed by verses rapid or slow, without much attention of the writer,
when the image had full possession of his fancy: but our language having
little flexibility, our verses can differ very little in their cadence.
The fancied resemblances, I fear, arise sometimes merely from the
ambiguity of words; there is supposed to be some relation between a
_soft_ line and _soft_ couch, or between _heard_ syllables and _hard_
fortune.  Motion, however, may be in some sort exemplified; and yet it
may be suspected that in such resemblances the mind often governs the
ear, and the sounds are estimated by their meaning.  One of their most
successful attempts has been to describe the labour of Sisyphus:—

   “With many a weary step, and many a groan,
   Up a high hill he heaves a huge round stone;
   The huge round stone, resulting with a bound,
   Thunders impetuous down, and smokes along the ground.”

Who does not perceive the stone to move slowly upward, and roll violently
back?  But set the same numbers to another sense:—

   “While many a merry tale, and many a song,
   Cheered the rough road, we wished the rough road long.
   The rough road, then, returning in a round,
   Mocked our impatient steps, for all was fairy ground.”

We have now surely lost much of the delay and much of the rapidity.  But,
to show how little the greatest master of numbers can fix the principles
of representative harmony, it will be sufficient to remark that the poet
who tells us that—

   “When Ajax strives some rock’s vast weight to throw,
   The line too labours, and the words move slow:
   Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
   Flies o’er th’ unbending corn, and skims along the main;”

when he had enjoyed for about thirty years the praise of Camilla’s
lightness of foot, he tried another experiment upon _sound_ and _time_,
and produced this memorable triplet:—

   “Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join
   The varying verse, the full resounding line,
   The long majestic march, and energy divine.”

Here are the swiftness of the rapid race, and the march of slow-paced
majesty, exhibited by the same poet in the same sequence of syllables,
except that the exact prosodist will find the line of _swiftness_ by one
time longer than that of _tardiness_.  Beauties of this kind are commonly
fancied, and, when real, are technical and nugatory, not to be rejected
and not to be solicited.

To the praises which have been accumulated on the “Rape of the Look” by
readers of every class, from the critic to the waiting-maid, it is
difficult to make any addition.  Of that which is universally allowed to
be the most attractive of all ludicrous compositions, let it rather be
now inquired from what sources the power of pleasing is derived.

Dr. Warburton, who excelled in critical perspicacity, has remarked that
the preternatural agents are very happily adapted to the purposes of the
poem.  The heathen deities can no longer gain attention; we should have
turned away from a contest between Venus and Diana.  The employment of
allegorical persons always excites conviction of its own absurdity; they
may produce effects, but cannot conduct actions; when the phantom is put
in motion it dissolves; thus _Discord_ may raise a mutiny, but _Discord_
cannot conduct a march nor besiege a town.  Pope brought in view a new
race of beings, with powers and passions proportionate to their
operation.  The Sylphs and Gnomes act at the toilet and the tea-table
what more terrific and more powerful phantoms perform on the stormy ocean
or the field of battle: they give their proper help and do their proper
mischief.  Pope is said, by an objector, not to have been the inventor of
this petty notion, a charge which might with more justice have been
brought against the author of the “Iliad,” who doubtless adopted the
religious system of his country; for what is there but the names of his
agents which Pope has not invented?  Has he not assigned them characters
and operations never heard of before?  Has he not, at least, given them
their first poetical existence?  If this is not sufficient to denominate
his work original, nothing original ever can be written.

In this work are exhibited in a very high degree the two most engaging
powers of an author.  New things are made familiar, and familiar things
are made new.  A race of aërial people never heard of before is presented
to us in a manner so clear and easy that the reader seeks for no further
information, but immediately mingles with his new acquaintance, adopts
their interests, and attends their pursuits, loves a Sylph, and detests a
Gnome.  That familiar things are made new every paragraph will prove.
The subject of the poem is an event below the common incidents of common
life; nothing real is introduced that is not seen so often as to be no
longer regarded; yet the whole detail of a female day is here brought
before us, invested with so much art of decoration that, though nothing
is disguised, everything is striking, and we feel all the appetite of
curiosity for that from which we have a thousand times turned
fastidiously away.

The purpose of the poet is, as he tells us, to laugh at “the little
unguarded follies of the female sex.”  It is therefore without justice
that Dennis charges the “Rape of the Lock” with the want of a moral, and
for that reason sets it below the “Lutrin,” which exposes the pride and
discord of the clergy.  Perhaps neither Pope nor Boileau has made the
world much better than he found it; but if they had both succeeded, it
were easy to tell who would have deserved most from public gratitude.
The freaks, and humours, and spleen, and vanity of women as they embroil
families in discord, and fill houses with disquiet, do more to obstruct
the happiness of life in a year than the ambition of the clergy in many
centuries.  It has been well observed that the misery of man proceeds not
from any single crush of overwhelming evil, but from small vexatious
continually repeated.  It is remarked by Dennis, likewise, that the
machinery is superfluous; that, by all the bustle of preternatural
operation, the main event is neither hastened nor retarded.  To this
charge an efficacious answer is not easily made.  The Sylphs cannot be
said to help or oppose; and it must be allowed to imply some want of art
that their power has not been sufficiently intermingled with the action.
Other parts may likewise be charged with want of connection—the game at
_ombre_ might be spared; but if the lady had lost her hair while she was
intent upon her cards it might have been inferred that those who are too
fond of play will be in danger of neglecting more important interests.
Those, perhaps, are faults, but what are such faults to so much

The Epistle of “Eloise to Abelard” is one of the most happy productions
of human wit; the subject is so judiciously chosen that it would be
difficult in turning over the annals of the world to find another which
so many circumstances concur to recommend.  We regularly interest
ourselves most in the fortune of those who most deserve our notice.
Abelard and Eloise were conspicuous in their days for eminence of merit.
The heart naturally loves truth.  The adventures and misfortunes of this
illustrious pair are known from undisputed history.  Their fate does not
leave the mind in hopeless dejection, for they both found quiet and
consolation in retirement and piety.  So new and so affecting is their
story that it supersedes invention, and imagination ranges at full
liberty without straggling into scenes of fable.  The story thus
skilfully adopted has been diligently improved.  Pope has left nothing
behind him which seems more the effect of studious perseverance and
laborious revisal.  Here is particularly observable the _curiosa
felicitas_, a fruitful soil and careful cultivation.  Here is no
crudeness of sense nor asperity of language.  The sources from which
sentiments which have so much vigour and efficacy have been drawn are
shown to be the mystic writers by the learned author of the “Essays on
the Life and Writings of Pope,” a book which teaches how the brow of
Criticism may be smoothed, and how she may be enabled, with all her
severity, to attract and to delight.

The train of my disquisition has now conducted me to that poetical
wonder, the translation of the “Iliad,” a performance which no age or
nation can pretend to equal.  To the Greeks translation was almost
unknown; it was totally unknown to the inhabitants of Greece.  They had
no recourse to the barbarians for poetical beauties, but sought for
everything in Homer, where, indeed, there is but little which they might
not find.  The Italians have been very diligent translators, but I can
hear of no version, unless, perhaps, Anguillara’s “Ovid” may be excepted,
which is read with eagerness.  The “Iliad” of Salvini every reader may
discover to be punctiliously exact; but it seems to be the work of a
linguist skilfully pedantic; and his countrymen, the proper judges of its
power to please, reject it with disgust.  Their predecessors, the Romans,
have left some specimens of translation behind them, and that employment
must have had some credit in which Tully and Germanicus engaged; but
unless we suppose, what is perhaps true, that the plays of Terence were
versions of Menander, nothing translated seems ever to have risen to high
reputation.  The French in the meridian hour of their learning were very
laudably industrious to enrich their own language with the wisdom of the
ancients; but found themselves reduced by whatever necessity to turn the
Greek and Roman poetry into prose.  Whoever could read an author could
translate him.  From such rivals little can be feared.

The chief help of Pope in this audacious undertaking was drawn from the
versions of Dryden.  Virgil had borrowed much of his imagery from Homer;
and part of the debt was now paid by his translator.  Pope searched the
pages of Dryden for happy combinations of heroic diction, but it will not
be denied that he added much to what he found.  He cultivated our
language with so much diligence and art, that he has left in his “Homer”
a treasure of poetical elegances to posterity.  His version may be said
to have tuned the English tongue; for since its appearance no writer,
however deficient in other powers, has wanted melody.  Such a series of
lines, so elaborately corrected, and so sweetly modulated, took
possession of the public ear; the vulgar was enamoured of the poem, and
the learned wondered at the translation.  But in the most general
applause discordant voices will always be heard.  It has been objected by
some who wish to be numbered among the sons of learning that Pope’s
version of Homer is not Homerical; that it exhibits no resemblance of the
original and characteristic manner of the Father of Poetry, as it wants
his artless grandeur, his unaffected majesty.  This cannot be totally
denied; but it must be remembered that _necessitas quod cogit defendit_;
that may be lawfully done which cannot be forborne.  Time and place will
always enforce regard.  In estimating this translation, consideration
must be had of the nature of our language, the form of our metre, and,
above all, of the change which two thousand years have made in the modes
of life and the habits of thought.  Virgil wrote in a language of the
same general fabric with that of Homer, in verses of the same measure,
and in an age nearer to Homer’s time by eighteen hundred years; yet he
found even then the state of the world so much altered, and the demand
for elegance so much increased, that mere nature would be endured no
longer; and, perhaps, in the multitude of borrowed passages, very few can
be shown which he has not embellished.

There is a time when nations, emerging from barbarity, and falling into
regular subordination, gain leisure to grow wise, and feel the shame of
ignorance and the craving pain of unsatisfied curiosity.  To this hunger
of the mind plain sense is grateful; that which fills the void removes
uneasiness, and to be free from pain for a while is pleasure; but
repletion generates fastidiousness; a saturated intellect soon becomes
luxurious, and knowledge finds no willing reception till it is
recommended by artificial diction.  Thus it will be found, in the
progress of learning, that in all nations the first writers are simple,
and that every age improves in elegance.  One refinement always makes way
for another; and what was expedient to Virgil was necessary to Pope.  I
suppose many readers of the English “Iliad,” when they have been touched
with some unexpected beauty of the lighter kind, have tried to enjoy it
in the original, where, alas! it was not to be found.  Homer doubtless
owes to his translator many Ovidian graces not exactly suitable to his
character; but to have added can be no great crime, if nothing be taken
away.  Elegance is surely to be desired, if it be not gained at the
expense of dignity.  A hero would wish to be loved, as well as to be
reverenced.  To a thousand cavils one answer is sufficient; the purpose
of a writer is to be read, and the criticism which would destroy the
power of pleasing must be blown aside.  Pope wrote for his own age and
his own nation: he knew that it was necessary to colour the images and
point the sentiments of his author; he therefore made him graceful, but
lost him some of his sublimity.  The copious notes with which the version
is accompanied, and by which it is recommended to many readers, though
they were undoubtedly written to swell the volumes, ought not to pass
without praise: commentaries which attract the reader by the pleasure of
perusal have not often appeared; the notes of others are read to clear
difficulties; those of Pope to vary entertainment.  It has, however, been
objected, with sufficient reason, that there is in the commentary too
much of unseasonable levity and affected gaiety; that too many appeals
are made to the ladies, and the ease which is so carefully preserved is
sometimes the ease of a trifler.  Every art has its terms, and every kind
of instruction its proper style; the gravity of common critics may be
tedious, but is less despicable than childish merriment.

Of the “Odyssey” nothing remains to be observed; the same general praise
may be given to both translations, and a particular examination of either
would require a large volume.  The notes were written by Broome, who
endeavoured, not unsuccessfully, to imitate his master.

Of the “Dunciad” the hint is confessedly taken from Dryden’s “Mac
Flecknoe;” but the plan is so enlarged and diversified as justly to claim
the praise of an original, and affords the best specimen that has yet
appeared of personal satire ludicrously pompous.  That the design was
moral, whatever the author might tell either his readers or himself, I am
not convinced.  The first motive was the desire of revenging the contempt
with which Theobald had treated his Shakspeare, and regaining the honour
which he had lost, by crushing his opponent.  Theobald was not of bulk
enough to fill a poem, and therefore it was necessary to find other
enemies with other names, at whose expense he might divert the public.

In this design there was petulance and malignity enough; but I cannot
think it very criminal.  An author places himself uncalled before the
tribunal of criticism, and solicits fame at the hazard of disgrace.
Dulness or deformity are not culpable in themselves, but may be very
justly reproached when they pretend to the honour of wit or the influence
of beauty.  If bad writers were to pass without reprehension, what should
restrain them? _impune diem consumpserit ingens Telephus_; and upon bad
writers only will censure have much effect.  The satire which brought
Theobald and Moore into contempt dropped impotent from Bentley, like the
javelin of Priam.  All truth is valuable, and satirical criticism may be
considered as useful when it rectifies error and improves judgment; he
that refines the public taste is a public benefactor.  The beauties of
this poem are well known; its chief fault is the grossness of its images.
Pope and Swift 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.  But even this fault, offensive as it is, may
be forgiven for the excellence of other passages; such as the formation
and dissolution of Moore, the account of the Traveller, the misfortune of
the Florist, and the crowded thoughts and stately numbers which dignify
the concluding paragraph.  The alterations which have been made in the
“Dunciad,” not always for the better, require that it should be
published, as in the present collection, with all its variations.

The “Essay on Man” was a work of great labour and long consideration, but
certainly not the happiest of Pope’s performances.  The subject is
perhaps not very proper for poetry; and the poet was not sufficiently
master of his subject; metaphysical morality was to him a new study; he
was proud of his acquisitions, and, supposing himself master of great
secrets, was in haste to teach what he had not learned.  Thus he tells
us, in the first Epistle, that from the nature of the Supreme Being may
be deduced an order of beings such as mankind, because infinite
excellence can do only what is best.  He finds out that these beings must
be “somewhere;” and that “all the question is, whether man be in a wrong
place.”  Surely if, according to the poet’s Leibnitzian reasoning, we may
infer that man ought to be, only because he is, we may allow that his
place is the right place, because he has it.  Supreme Wisdom is not less
infallible in disposing than in creating.  But what is meant by
_somewhere_, and _place_, and _wrong piece_, it had been in vain to ask
Pope, who probably had never asked himself.

Having exalted himself into the chair of wisdom, he tells us much that
every man knows, and much that he does not know himself; that we see but
little, and that the order of the universe is beyond our comprehension;
an opinion not very uncommon; and that there is a chain of subordinate
beings “from infinite to nothing,” of which himself and his readers are
equally ignorant.  But he gives us one comfort, which without his help he
supposes unattainable, in the position “that though we are fools, yet God
is wise.”

This essay affords an egregious instance of the predominance of genius,
the dazzling splendour of imagery, and the seductive powers of eloquence.
Never was penury of knowledge and vulgarity of sentiment so happily
disguised.  The reader feels his mind full, though he learns nothing;
and, when he meets it in its new array, no longer knows the talk of his
mother and his nurse.  When these wonder-working sounds sink into sense,
and the doctrine of the essay, disrobed of its ornaments, is left to the
powers of its naked excellence, what shall we discover?  That we are, in
comparison with our Creator, very weak and ignorant; that we do not
uphold the chain of existence; and that we could not make one another
with more skill than we are made.  We may learn yet more that the arts of
human life were copied from the instinctive operations of other animals;
that if the world be made for man, it may be said that man was made for
geese.  To these profound principles of natural knowledge are added some
moral instructions equally new; that self-interest, well understood, will
produce social concord; that men are mutual gainers by mutual benefits;
that evil is sometimes balanced by good; that human advantages are
unstable and fallacious, of uncertain duration and doubtful effect; that
our true honour is not to have a great part, but to act it well; that
virtue only is our own; and that happiness is always in our power.
Surely a man of no very comprehensive search may venture to say that he
has heard all this before; but it was never till now recommended by such
a blaze of embellishments, or such sweetness of melody.  The vigorous
contraction of some thoughts, the luxuriant amplification of others, the
incidental illustrations, and sometimes the dignity, sometimes the
softness of the verses, enchain philosophy, suspend criticism, and
oppress judgment by overpowering pleasure.  This is true of many
paragraphs; yet, if I had undertaken to exemplify Pope’s felicity of
composition before a rigid critic, I should not select the “Essay on
Man;” for it contains more lines unsuccessfully laboured, more harshness
of diction, and more thoughts imperfectly expressed, more levity without
elegance, and more heaviness without strength, than will easily be found
in all his other works.

The “Characters of Men and Women” are the product of diligent speculation
upon human life; much labour has been bestowed upon them, and Pope very
seldom laboured in vain.  That his excellence may be properly estimated,
I recommend a comparison of his “Characters of Women” with Boileau’s
Satire; it will then be seen with how much more perspicacity female
nature is investigated, and female excellence selected; and he surely is
no mean writer to whom Boileau should be found inferior.  The “Characters
of Men,” however, are written with more, if not with deeper, thought, and
exhibit many passages exquisitely beautiful.  The “Gem and the Flower”
will not easily be equalled.  In the women’s part are some defects; the
character of Atossa is not so neatly finished as that of Clodio, and some
of the female characters may be found, perhaps, more frequently among
men; what is said of Philomede was true of Prior.

In the Epistles to Lord Bathurst and Lord Burlington, Dr. Warburton has
endeavoured to find a train of thought which was never in the writer’s
head, and, to support his hypothesis, has printed that first which was
published last.  In one the most valuable passage is perhaps the Elegy on
Good Sense, and the other the end of the Duke of Buckingham.

The Epistle to Arbuthnot, now arbitrarily called the “Prologue to the
Satires,” is a performance consisting, as it seems, of many fragments
wrought into one design, which, by this union of scattered beauties,
contains more striking paragraphs than could probably have been brought
together into an occasional work.  As there is no stronger motive to
exertion than self-defence, no part has more elegance, spirit, or
dignity, than the poet’s vindication of his own character.  The meanest
passage is the satire upon Sporus.

Of the two poems which derived their names from the year, and which are
called the “Epilogue to the Satires,” it was very justly remarked by
Savage that the second was in the whole more strongly conceived, and more
equally supported, but that it had no single passages equal to the
contention in the first for the dignity of Vice and the celebration of
the triumph of Corruption.

The “Imitations of Horace” seem to have been written as relaxations of
his genius.  This employment became his favourite by its facility; the
plan was ready to his hand, and nothing was required but to accommodate
as he could the sentiments of an old author to recent facts or familiar
images; but what is easy is seldom excellent.  Such imitations cannot
give pleasure to common readers; the man of learning may be sometimes
surprised and delighted by an unexpected parallel, but the comparison
requires knowledge of the original, which will likewise often detect
strained applications.  Between Roman images and English manners there
will be an irreconcilable dissimilitude, and the works will be generally
uncouth and parti-coloured, neither original nor translated, neither
ancient nor modern.

Pope had, in proportions very nicely adjusted to each other, all the
qualities that constitute genius.  He had _intention_, by which new
trains of events are formed and new scenes of imagery displayed, as in
the “Rape of the Lock,” and by which extrinsic and adventitious
embellishments and illustrations are connected with a known subject, as
in the “Essay on Criticism.”  He had _imagination_, which strongly
impresses on the writer’s mind, and enables him to convey to the reader
the various forms of nature, incidents of life, and energies of passion,
as in his “Eloisa,” “Windsor Forest,” and “Ethic Epistles.”  He had
_judgment_, which selects from life or Nature what the present purpose
requires, and by separating the essence of things from its concomitants,
often makes the representation more powerful than the reality; and he had
colours of language always before him, ready to decorate his matter with
every grace of elegant expression, as when he accommodates his diction to
the wonderful multiplicity of Homer’s sentiments and descriptions.

Poetical expression includes sound as well as meaning.  “Music,” says
Dryden, “is inarticulate poetry;” among the excellences of Pope,
therefore, must be mentioned the melody of his metre.  By perusing the
works of Dryden, he discovered the most perfect fabric of English verse,
and habituated himself to that only which he found the best; in
consequence of which restraint his poetry has been censured as too
uniformly musical, and as glutting the ear with unvaried sweetness.  I
suspect this objection to be the cant of those who judge by principles
rather than perception, and who would even themselves have less pleasure
in his works if he had tried to relieve attention by studied discords, or
affected to break his lines and vary his pauses.  But though he was thus
careful of his versification, he did not oppress his powers with
superfluous rigour.  He seems to have thought with Boileau that the
practice of writing might be refined till the difficulty should
overbalance the advantage.  The construction of the language is not
always strictly grammatical; with those rhymes which prescription had
conjoined he contented himself, without regard to Swift’s remonstrances,
though there was no striking consonance, nor was he very careful to vary
his terminations or to refuse admission, at a small distance, to the same
rhymes.  To Swift’s edict for the exclusion of alexandrines and triplets
he paid little regard; he admitted them, but, in the opinion of Fenton,
too rarely; he uses them more liberally in his translation than his
poems.  He has a few double rhymes, and always, I think, unsuccessfully,
except once in the “Rape of the Lock.”  Expletives he very early ejected
from his verses, but he now and then admits an epithet rather commodious
than important.  Each of the six first lines of the “Iliad” might lose
two syllables with very little diminution of the meaning, and sometimes,
after all his art and labour, one verse seems to be made for the sake of
another.  In his latter productions the diction is sometimes vitiated by
French idioms, with which Bolingbroke had perhaps infected him.

I have been told that the couplet by which he declared his own ear to be
most gratified was this:—

   “Lo, where Mæotis sleeps, and hardly flows
   The freezing Tanais through a waste of snows.”

But the reason of this preference I cannot discover.

It is remarked by Watts that there is scarcely a happy combination of
words, or a phrase poetically elegant in the English language, which Pope
has not inserted into his version of Homer.  How he obtained possession
of so many beauties of speech it were desirable to know.  That he gleaned
from authors, obscure as well as eminent, what he thought brilliant or
useful, and preserved it all in a regular collection, is not unlikely.
When, in his last years, Hall’s “Satires” were shown him, he wished that
he had seen them sooner.  New sentiments and new images others may
produce; but to attempt any further improvement of versification will be
dangerous.  Art and diligence have now done their best, and what shall be
added will be the effort of tedious toil and needless curiosity.  After
all this, it is surely superfluous to answer the question that has once
been asked, Whether Pope was a poet, otherwise than by asking in return,
If Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found?  To circumscribe
poetry by a definition will only show the narrowness of the definer,
though a definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made.
Let us look round upon the present time and back upon the past; let us
inquire to whom the voice of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry;
let their productions be examined, and their claims stated, and the
pretensions of Pope will be no more disputed.  Had he given the world
only his version, the name of poet must have been allowed him: if the
writer of the “Iliad” were to class his successors he would assign a very
high place to his translator, without requiring any other evidence of

The following letter, of which the original is in the hands of Lord
Hardwicke, was communicated to me by the kindness of Mr. Jodrell:—

         “_To_ MR. BRIDGES, _at the Bishop of London’s_, _at Fulham_.

    “SIR,—The favour of your letter, with your remarks, can never be
    enough acknowledged, and the speed with which you discharged so
    troublesome a task doubles the obligation.

    “I must own you have pleased me very much by the commendations so ill
    bestowed upon me; but I assure you, much more by the frankness of
    your censure, which I ought to take the more kindly of the two, as it
    is more advantage to a scribbler to be improved in his judgment than
    to be smoothed in his vanity.  The greater part of those deviations
    from the Greek which you have observed I was led into by Chapman and
    Hobbes; who are, it seems, as much celebrated for their knowledge of
    the original as they are decried for the badness of their
    translations.  Chapman pretends to have restored the genuine sense of
    the author from the mistakes of all former explainers in several
    hundred places; and the Cambridge editors of the large Homer, in
    Greek and Latin, attributed so much to Hobbes, that they confess they
    have corrected the old Latin interpretation very often by his
    version.  For my part, I generally took the author’s meaning to be as
    you have explained it; yet their authority, joined to the knowledge
    of my own imperfectness in the language, overruled me.  However, sir,
    you may be confident, I think you in the right, because you happen to
    be of my opinion; for men (let them say what they will) never approve
    any other’s sense but as it squares with their own.  But you have
    made me much more proud of and positive in my judgment, since it is
    strengthened by yours.  I think your criticisms which regard the
    expression very just, and shall make my profit of them; to give you
    some proof that I am in earnest, I will alter three verses on your
    bare objection, though I have Mr. Dryden’s example for each of them.
    And this, I hope, you will account no small piece of obedience, from
    one who values the authority of one true poet above that of twenty
    critics or commentators.  But, though I speak thus of commentators, I
    will continue to read carefully all I can procure, to make up that
    way for my own want of critical understanding in the original
    beauties of Homer.  Though the greatest of them are certainly those
    of invention and design, which are not at all confined to the
    language; for the distinguishing excellences of Homer are (by the
    consent of the best critics of all nations), first in the manners
    (which include all the speeches, as being no other than the
    representations of each person’s manners by his words): and then in
    that rapture and fire, which carries you away with him, with that
    wonderful force, that no man who has a true poetical spirit is master
    of himself while he reads him.  Homer makes you interested and
    concerned before you are aware, all at once, where Virgil does it by
    soft degrees.  This, I believe, is what a translator of Homer ought
    principally to imitate; and it is very hard for any translator to
    come up to it, because the chief reason why all translations fall
    short of their originals is, that the very constraint they are
    obliged to renders them heavy and dispirited.

    “The great beauty of Homer’s language, as I take it, consists in that
    noble simplicity which runs through all his works (and yet his
    diction, contrary to what one would imagine consistent with
    simplicity, is at the same time very copious).  I don’t know how I
    have run into this pedantry in a letter, but I find I have said too
    much, as well as spoken too inconsiderately; what farther thoughts I
    have upon this subject I shall be glad to communicate to you (for my
    own improvement) when we meet, which is a happiness I very earnestly
    desire, as I do likewise some opportunity of proving how much I think
    myself obliged to your friendship, and how truly I am, sir,

                                       “Your most faithful humble servant,

                                                                “A. POPE.”

The criticism upon Pope’s Epitaphs, which was printed in “The Universal
Visitor,” is placed here, being too minute and particular to be inserted
in the Life.

Every art is best taught by example.  Nothing contributes more to the
cultivation of propriety than remarks on the works of those who have most
excelled.  I shall therefore endeavour at this _visit_ to entertain the
young students in poetry with an examination of Pope’s Epitaphs.

To define an epitaph is useless; every one knows that it is an
inscription on a tomb.  An epitaph, therefore, implies no particular
character of writing, but may be composed in verse or prose.  It is,
indeed, commonly panegyrical, because we are seldom distinguished with a
stone but by our friends; but it has no rule to restrain or mollify it
except this, that it ought not to be longer than common beholders may be
expected to have leisure and patience to peruse.


  _On_ CHARLES _Earl of_ DORSET, _in the church of Wythyham in Sussex_.

      Dorset, the grace of courts, the Muse’s pride,
   Patron of arts, and judge of nature, died.
   The scourge of pride, though sanctified or great,
   Of fops in learning, and of knaves in state;
   Yet soft in nature, though severe his lay,
   His anger moral, and his wisdom gay.
   Blest satirist! who touched the means so true,
   As showed Vice had his hate and pity too.
   Blest courtier! who could king and country please,
   Yet sacred kept his friendship and his ease.
   Blest peer! his great forefathers’ every grace
   Reflecting, and reflected on his race;
   Where other Buckhursts, other Dorsets shine,
   And patriots still, or pests, deck the line.

The first distich of this epitaph contains a kind of information which
few would want, that the man for whom the tomb was erected _died_.  There
are indeed some qualities worthy of the praise ascribed to the dead, but
none that were likely to exempt him from the lot of man, or incline us
much to wonder that he should die.  What is meant by “judge of nature” is
not easy to say.  Nature is not the object of human judgment; for it is
in vain to judge where we cannot alter.  If by nature is meant what is
commonly called _nature_ by the critics, a just representation of things
really existing, and actions really performed, nature cannot be properly
opposed to _art_; nature being, in this sense, only the best effect of

                            The scourge of pride—

Of this couplet the second line is not what is intended, an illustration
of the former.  _Pride_ in the _Great_, is indeed well enough connected
with knaves in state, though _knaves_ is a word rather too ludicrous and
light; but the mention of _sanctified_ pride will not lead the thoughts
to _fops in learning_, but rather to some species of tyranny or
oppression, something more gloomy and more formidable than foppery.

                             Yet soft his nature—

This is a high compliment, but was not first bestowed on Dorset by Pope.
The next verse is extremely beautiful.

                               Blest satirist!—

In this distich is another line of which Pope was not the author.  I do
not mean to blame these imitations with much harshness; in long
performances they are scarcely to be avoided, and in shorter they may be
indulged, because the train of the composition may naturally involve
them, or the scantiness of the subject allow little choice.  However,
what is borrowed is not to be enjoyed as our own, and it is the business
of critical justice to give every bird of the Muses his proper feather.

                               Blest courtier!—

Whether a courtier can properly be commended for keeping his _ease
sacred_, may perhaps be disputable.  To please king and country without
sacrificing friendship to any change of times was a very uncommon
instance of prudence or felicity, and deserved to be kept separate from
so poor a commendation as care of his ease.  I wish our poets would
attend a little more accurately to the use of the word _sacred_, which
surely should never be applied in a serious composition, but where some
reference may be made to a higher Being, or where some duty is exacted or
implied.  A man may keep his friendship sacred, because promises of
friendship are very awful ties; but methinks he cannot, but in a
burlesque sense, be said to keep his ease _sacred_.

                                 Blest peer!—

The blessing ascribed to the _peer_ has no connection with his peerage;
they might happen to any other man whose posterity were likely to be

I know not whether this epitaph be worthy either of the writer or the man


 _On Sir_ WILLIAM TRUMBULL, _one of the principal Secretaries of State to
   King_ WILLIAM III., _who_, _having resigned his place_, _died in his
           retirement at Easthamstead_, _in Berkshire_, _1716_.

      A pleasing form, a firm, yet cautious mind,
   Sincere, though prudent; constant, yet resigned;
   Honour unchanged, a principle profest.
   Fixed to one side, but moderate to the rest;
   An honest courtier, yet a patriot too,
   Just to his prince, and to his country true;
   Filled with the sense of age, the fire of youth,
   A scorn of wrangling, yet a zeal for truth;
   A generous faith, from superstition free;
   A love to peace, and hate of tyranny;
   Such this man was; who new from earth removed
   At length enjoys that liberty he loved.

In this epitaph, as in many others, there appears at the first view a
fault which I think scarcely any beauty can compensate.  The name is
omitted.  The end of an epitaph is to convey some account of the dead;
and to what purpose is anything told of him whose name is concealed?  An
epitaph, and a history of a nameless hero, are equally absurd, since the
virtues and qualities so recounted in either are scattered at the mercy
of fortune to be appropriated by guess.  The name, it is true, may be
read upon the stone; but what obligation has it to the poet, whose verses
wander over the earth and leave their subject behind them, and who is
forced, like an unskilful painter, to make his purpose known by
adventitious help?  This epitaph is wholly without elevation, and
contains nothing striking or particular; but the poet is not to be blamed
for the defect of his subject.  He said perhaps the best that could be
said.  There are, however, some defects which were not made necessary by
the character in which he was employed.  There is no opposition between
an _honest courtier_ and a _patriot_; for an _honest_, _courtier_ cannot
but be a _patriot_.  It was unsuitable to the nicety required in short
compositions to close his verse with the word _too_; every rhyme should
be a word of emphasis: nor can this rule be safely neglected, except
where the length of the poem makes slight inaccuracies excusable, or
allows room for beauties sufficient to overpower the effects of petty

At the beginning of the seventh line the word _filled_ is weak and
prosaic, having no particular adaptation to any of the words that follow
it.  The thought in the last line is impertinent, having no connection
with the foregoing character, nor with the condition of the man
described.  Had the epitaph been written on the poor conspirator who died
lately in prison, after a confinement of more than forty years, without
any crime proved against him, the sentiment had been just and pathetical;
but why should Trumbull be congratulated upon his liberty who had never
known restraint?


_On the Hon._ SIMON HARCOURT, _only son of the Lord Chancellor_ HARCOURT,
       _at the Church of Stanton-Harcourt in Oxfordshire_, _1720_.

      To this sad shrine, whoe’er thou art, draw near,
   Here lies the friend most loved, the son most dear;
   Who ne’er knew joy, but friendship might divide,
   Or gave his father grief but when he died.
      How vain is reason, eloquence how weak!
   If Pope must tell what Harcourt cannot speak.
   Oh let thy once-loved friend inscribe thy stone,
   And with a father’s sorrows mix his own!

This epitaph is principally remarkable for the artful introduction of the
name, which is inserted with a peculiar felicity, to which chance must
concur with genius, which no man can hope to attain twice, and which
cannot be copied but with servile imitation.  I cannot but wish that, of
this inscription, the two last lines had been omitted, as they take away
from the energy what they do not add to the sense.


            _On_ JAMES CRAGGS, _Esq._, _in Westminster Abbey_.

                              JACOBVS CRAGS,
                        ET CONSILIIS SANCTIORIBVS,
                      VIXIT TITLIS ET INVIDIA MAJOR
                         ANNOS HEV PAVCOS, XXXV.
                          OB. FEB. XVI.  MDCCXX.

      Statesman, yet friend to truth; of soul sincere,
   In action faithful, and in honour clear!
   Who broke no premise, served no private end,
   Who gained no title, and who lost no friend;
   Ennobled by himself, by all approved,
   Praised, wept, and honoured by the Muse he loved.

The lines on Craggs were not originally intended for an epitaph; and
therefore some faults are to be imputed to the violence with which they
are torn from the poems that first contained them.  We may, however,
observe some defects.  There is a redundancy of words in the first
couplet: it is superfluous to tell of him, who was _sincere_, _true_, and
_faithful_, that he was _in honour clear_.  There seems to be an
opposition intended in the fourth line, which is not very obvious: where
is the relation between the two positions, that he _gained no title_ and
_lest no friend_?

It may be proper here to remark the absurdity of joining in the same
inscription Latin and English or verse and prose.  If either language be
preferable to the other, let that only be used; for no reason can be
given why part of the information should be given in one tongue, and part
in another on a tomb, more than in any other place, or any other
occasion; and to tell all that can be conveniently told in verse, and
then to call in the help of prose, has always the appearance of a very
artless expedient, or of an attempt unaccomplished.  Such an epitaph
resembles the conversation of a foreigner, who tells part of his meaning
by words, and conveys part by signs.


             _Intended for Mr._ ROWE, _in Westminster Abbey_.

      Thy reliques, Rowe, to this fair urn we trust,
   And sacred, place by Dryden’s awful dust;
   Beneath a rude and nameless stone he lies,
   To which thy tomb shall guide inquiring eyes.
   Peace to thy gentle shade, and endless rest!
   Blest in thy genius, in thy love too blest;
   One grateful women to thy fame supplies
   What a whole thankless land to his denies.

Of this inscription the chief fault is that it belongs less to Rowe, for
whom it was written, than to Dryden, who was buried near him; and indeed
gives very little information concerning either.

To wish _peace to thy shade_ is too mythological to be admitted into a
Christian temple: the ancient worship has infected almost all our other
compositions, and might therefore be contented to spare our epitaphs.
Let fiction, at least, cease with life, and let us be serious over the


         _On Mrs._ CORBET, _who died of a Cancer in her Breast_.

      Here rests a woman, good without pretence,
   Blest with plain reason, and with sober sense;
   No conquest she, but o’er herself, desired;
   No arts essayed, but not to be admired.
   Passion and pride were to her soul unknown,
   Convinced that Virtue only is our own.
   So unaffected, so composed a mind,
   So firm, yet soft, so strong, yet so refined,
   Heaven, as its purest gold, by tortures tried;
   The saint sustained it, but the woman died.

I have always considered this as the most valuable of all Pope’s
epitaphs; the subject of it is a character not discriminated by any
shining or eminent peculiarities; yet that which really makes, though not
the splendour, the felicity of life, and that which every wise man will
choose for his final and lasting companion in the languor of age, in the
quiet of privacy, when he departs weary and disgusted from the
ostentatious, the volatile, and the vain.  Of such a character, which the
dull overlook and the gay despise, it was fit that the value should be
made known and the dignity established.  Domestic virtue, as it is
exerted without great occasions, or conspicuous consequences, in an even
unnoted tenor, required the genius of Pope to display it in such a manner
as might attract regard and enforce reverence.  Who can forbear to lament
that this amiable woman has no name in the verses?  If the particular
lines of this inscription be examined, it will appear less faulty than
the rest.  There is scarce one line taken from commonplaces, unless it be
that in which _only Virtue_ is said to be _our own_.  I once heard a lady
of great beauty and excellence object to the fourth line that it
contained an unnatural and incredible panegyric.  Of this let the ladies


  _On the Monument of the Hon._ ROBERT DIGBY, _and of his Sister_ MARY,
 _erected by their Father the Lord_ DIGBY _in the church of Sherborne in
                            Dorsetshire_, 1727

      Go! fair example of untainted youth,
   Of modest wisdom, and pacific truth:
   Composed in sufferings, and in joy sedate,
   Good without noise, without pretension great
   Just of thy word, in every thought sincere,
   Who knew no wish but what the world might hear:
   Of softest manners, unaffected mind,
   Lover of peace, and friend of human kind:
   Go, live! for heaven’s eternal year is thine,
   Go, and exalt thy mortal to divine.
      And thou, blest maid! attendant on his doom.
   Pensive hast followed to the silent tomb,
   Steered the same course to the same quiet shore,
   Not parted long, and now to part no more!
   Go, then, where only bliss sincere is known!
   Go, where to love and to enjoy are one!
      Yet take these tears, Mortality’s relief,
   And, till we share your joys, forgive our grief:
   These little rites a stone, a verse receive.
   ’Tis all a father, all a friend can give!

This epitaph contains of the brother only a general indiscriminate
character, and of the sister tells nothing but that she died.  The
difficulty in writing epitaphs is to give a particular and appropriate
praise.  This, however, is not always to be performed, whatever be the
diligence or ability of the writer; for the greater part of mankind _have
no character at all_, have little that distinguishes them from others,
equally good or bad, and therefore nothing can be said of them which may
not be applied with equal propriety to a thousand more.  It is indeed no
great panegyric that there is enclosed in this tomb one who was born in
one year, and died in another; yet many useful and amiable lives have
been spent which yet leave little materials for any other memorial.
These are however not the proper subjects of poetry; and whenever
friendship, or any other motive, obliges a poet to write on such
subjects, he must be forgiven if he sometimes wanders in generalities,
and utters the same praises over different tombs.

The scantiness of human praises can scarcely be made more apparent than
by remarking how often Pope has, in the few epitaphs which he composed,
found it necessary to borrow from himself.  The fourteen epitaphs which
he has written comprise about a hundred and forty lines, in which there
are more repetitions than will easily be found in all the rest of his
works.  In the eight lines which make the character of Digby there is
scarce any thought or word which may not be found in the other epitaphs.
The ninth line, which is far the strongest and most elegant, is borrowed
from Dryden.  The conclusion is the same with that on Harcourt, but is
here more elegant and better connected.


         _On Sir_ GODFREY KNELLER, _in Westminster Abbey_, 1723.

      Kneller, by Heaven, and not a master, taught,
   Whose art was Nature, and whose pictures thought;
   Now for two ages, having snatched from fate
   Whate’er was beauteous, or whate’er was great,
   Lies crowned with Princes, honours, Poets, lays,
   Due to his merit, and brave thirst of praise.
      Living, great Nature feared he might outvie
   Her works; and dying, fears herself may die.

Of this epitaph the first couplet is good, the second not bad, the third
is deformed with a broken metaphor, the word crowned not being applicable
to the honours or the lays, and the fourth is not only borrowed from the
epitaph on Raphael, but of a very harsh construction.


        _On General_ HENRY WITHERS, _in Westminster Abbey_, 1729.

      Here, Withers, rest! thou bravest, gentlest mind,
   Thy country’s friend, but more of human kind.
   O born to arms!  O worth in youth approved!
   O soft humanity in age beloved!
   For thee the hardy veteran drops a tear,
   And the gay courtier feels the sigh sincere
      Withers, adieu! yet not will thee remove
   Thy martial spirit, or thy social love!
   Amidst corruption, luxury, and rage,
   Still leave some ancient virtues to our age:
   Nor let us say (those English glories gone)
   The last true Briton lies beneath this stone.

The epitaph on Withers affords another instance of commonplaces, though
somewhat diversified by mingled qualities, and the peculiarity of a
profession.  The second couplet is abrupt, general, and unpleasing;
exclamation seldom succeeds in our language; and, I think, it may be
observed that the particle O! used at the beginning of a sentence, always
offends.  The third couplet is more happy; the value expressed for him,
by different sorts of men, raises him to esteem; there is yet something
of the common cant of superficial satirists, who suppose that the
insincerity of a courtier destroys all his sensations, and that he is
equally a dissembler to the living and the dead.  At the third couplet I
should wish the epitaph to close, but that I should be unwilling to lose
the two next lines, which yet are dearly bought if they cannot be
retained without the four that follow them.


      _On Mr._ ELIJAH FENTON, _at Easthamstead in Berkshire_, 1730.

      This modest stone, what few vain marbles can,
   May truly say, Here lies an honest man:
   A poet, blest beyond the poet’s fate,
   Whom Heaven kept sacred from the Proud and Great:
   Foe to loud praise, and friend to learned ease,
   Content with science in the vale of peace.
   Calmly he looked on either life, and here
   Saw nothing to regret or there to fear;
   From Nature’s temperate feast rose satisfied,
   Thanked Heaven that he lived, and that he died.

The first couplet of this epitaph is borrowed from Crashaw.  The four
next lines contain a species of praise peculiar, original, and just.
Here, therefore, the inscription should have ended, the latter part
containing nothing but what is common to every man who is wise and good.
The character of Fenton was so amiable, that I cannot forbear to wish for
some poet or biographer to display it more fully for the advantage of
posterity.  If he did not stand in the first rank of genius, he may claim
a place in the second; and, whatever criticism may object to his
writings, censure could find very little to blame in his life.


               _On Mr._ GAY, _in Westminster Abbey_, 1732.

      Of manners gentle, of affections mild;
   In wit, a muse; simplicity, a child:
   With native humour tempering virtuous rage,
   Formed to delight at once and lash the age:
   Above temptation, in a low estate,
   And uncorrupted, ev’n among the Great:
   A safe companion and an easy friend,
   Unbiased through life, lamented in thy end,
   These are thy honours! not that here thy bust
   Is mixed with heroes, or with kings thy dust;
   But that the worthy and the Good shall say,
   Striking their pensive bosoms—Here lies GAY.

As Gay was the favourite of our author this epitaph was probably written
with an uncommon degree of attention, yet it is not more successfully
executed than the rest, for it will not always happen that the success of
a poet is proportionate to his labour.  The same observation may be
extended to all works of imagination, which are often influenced by
causes wholly out of the performer’s power, by hints of which he
perceives not the origin, by sudden elevations of mind which he cannot
produce in himself, and which sometimes rise when he expects them least.
The two parts of the first line are only echoes of each other; _gentle
manners_ and _mild affections_, if they mean anything, must mean the

That Gay was a _man in wit_ is a very frigid commendation; to have the
wit of a man is not much for a poet.  The _wit of man_ and the
_simplicity of a child_ make a poor and vulgar contrast, and raise no
ideas of excellence, either intellectual or moral.

In the next couplet _rage_ is less properly introduced after the mention
of _mildness_ and _gentleness_, which are made the constituents of his
character; for a man so _mild_ and _gentle_ to _temper_ his _rage_ was
not difficult.  The next line is inharmonious in its sound, and mean in
its conception; the opposition is obvious, and the word _lash_ used
absolutely, and without any modification, is gross and improper.  To be
_above temptation_ in poverty and _free from corruption among the Great_
is indeed such a peculiarity as deserved notice.  But to be a _safe
companion_ is a praise merely negative, arising not from possession of
virtue but the absence of vice, and that one of the most odious.

As little can be added to his character by asserting that he was
_lamented in his end_.  Every man that dies is, at least by the writer of
his epitaph, supposed to be lamented, and therefore this general
lamentation does no honour to Gay.

The first eight lines have no grammar; the adjectives are without any
substantive, and the epithets without a subject.  The thought in the last
line, that Gay is buried in the bosoms of the _worthy_ and _good_, who
are distinguished only to lengthen the line, is so dark that few
understand it, and so harsh, when it is explained, that still fewer


         _Intended for Sir_ ISAAC NEWTON, _in Westminster Abbey_.

                             ISAACUS NEWTONIUS:
                               Quem Immortalem
                   Testantur, _Tempus_, _Natura_, _Cœlum_:
                        Mortalem hoc marmor fatetur.
                Nature, and Nature’s laws, lay hid in night:
               God said, _Let Newton be_!  And all was light.

On this epitaph, short as it is, the faults seem not to be very few.  Why
part should be Latin and part English it is not easy to discover.  In the
Latin the opposition of _Immortalis_ and _Mortalis_ is a mere sound, or a
mere quibble; he is not _immortal_ in any sense contrary to that in which
he is _mortal_.  In the verses the thought is obvious, and the words
_night_ and _light_ are too nearly allied.


_On_ EDMUND _Duke of_ BUCKINGHAM, _who died in the 19th Year of his Age_,

      If modest youth, with cool reflection crowned,
   And every opening virtue blooming round,
   Could save a parent’s justest pride from fate,
   Or add one patriot to a sinking state;
   This weeping marble had not asked thy tear,
   Or sadly told how many hopes lie here!
   The living virtue now had shone approved,
   The senate heard him, and his country loved.
   Yet softer honours, and less noisy fame,
   Attend the shade of gentle Buckingham:
   In whom a race, for courage famed and art,
   Ends in the milder merit of the heart;
   And, chiefs or sages long to Britain given,
   Pays the last tribute of a saint to heaven.

This epitaph Mr. Warburton prefers to the rest, but I know not for what
reason.  To _crown_ with _reflection_ is surely a mode of speech
approaching to nonsense.  _Opening virtues blooming round_ is something
like tautology; the six following lines are poor and prosaic.  _Art_ is
in another couplet used for _arts_, that a rhyme may be had to _heart_.
The six last lines are the best, but not excellent.

The rest of his sepulchral performances hardly deserve the notice of
criticism.  The contemptible dialogue between He and She should have been
suppressed for the author’s sake.

In his last epitaph on himself, in which he attempts to be jocular upon
one of the few things that make wise men serious, he confounds the living
man with the dead:

   “Under this stone, or under this sill,
   Or under this turf, &c.”

When a man is once buried, the question, under what he is buried, is
easily decided.  He forgot that though he wrote the epitaph in a state of
uncertainty, yet it could not be laid over him till his grave was made.
Such is the folly of wit when it is ill employed.

The world has but little new, even this wretchedness seems to have been
borrowed from the following tuneless lines:—

   “Ludovici Areosti humantur ossa
   Sub hoc marmore, vel sub hac humo, seu
   Sub quicquid voluit benignus hæres
   Siv hærede benignior comes, seu
   Opportunius incidens Viator:
   Nam scire haud potuit futura, sed nec
   Tanti erat vacuum sibi cadaver
   Ut utnam cuperet parere vivens,
   Vivens ista tamen sibi paravit.
   Quæ inscribi voluit suo sepulchro
   Olim siquod haberetis sepulchrum.”

Surely Ariosto did not venture to expect that his trifle would have ever
had such an illustrious imitator.

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