Curiosities of Literature, by Isaac Disraeli

Explanation of the Fac-Simile.

The manuscripts of Pope’s version of the Iliad and Odyssey are preserved in the British Museum in three volumes, the gift of David Mallet. They are written chiefly on the backs of letters, amongst which are several from Addison, Steele, Jervaise, Rowe, Young, Caryl, Walsh, Sir Godfrey Kneller, Fenton, Craggs, Congreve, Hughes, his mother Editha, and Lintot and Tonson the booksellers.1

From these letters no information can be gathered, which merits public communication; they relate generally to the common civilities and common affairs of life. What little could be done has already been given in the additions to Pope’s works.

It has been observed, that Pope taught himself to write, by copying printed books: of this singularity we have in this collection a remarkable instance; several parts are written in Roman and Italic characters, which for some time I mistook for print; no imitation can be more correct.

What appears on this Fac-Simile I have printed, to assist its deciphering; and I have also subjoined the passage as it was given to the public, for immediate reference. The manuscript from whence this page is taken consists of the first rude sketches; an intermediate copy having been employed for the press; so that the corrected verses of this Fac-Simile occasionally vary from those published.

This passage has been selected, because the parting of Hector and Andromache is perhaps the most pleasing episode in the Iliad, while it is confessedly one of the most finished passages.

The lover of poetry will not be a little gratified, when he contemplates the variety of epithets, the imperfect idea, the gradual embellishment, and the critical rasures which are here discovered.2 The action of Hector, in lifting his infant in his arms, occasioned Pope much trouble; and at length the printed copy has a different reading.

I must not omit noticing, that the whole is on the back of a letter franked by Addison; which cover I have given at one corner of the plate.

The parts distinguished by Italics were rejected.

Thus having spoke, the illustrious chief of Troy

Extends his eager arms to embrace his boy,

lovely

Stretched his fond arms to seize the beauteous boy;

babe

The boy clung crying to his nurse’s breast,

Scar’d at the dazzling helm and nodding crest.

each kind

With silent pleasure the fond parent smil’d,

And Hector hasten’d to relieve his child.

The glittering terrors unbound,

His radiant helmet from his brows unbrac’d,

on the ground, he

And on the ground the glittering terror plac’d,

beamy

And placed the radiant helmet on the ground,

Then seized the boy and raising him in air,

lifting

Then fondling in his arms his infant heir,

dancing

Thus to the gods addrest a father’s prayer.

glory fills

O thou, whose thunder shakes th’ ethereal throne,

deathless

And all ye other powers protect my son!

Like mine, this war, blooming youth with every virtue blest,

grace

The shield and glory of the Trojan race;

Like mine his valour, and his just renown.

Like mine his labours, to defend the crown.

Grant him, like me, to purchase just renown,

the Trojans

To guard my country, to defend the crown:

In arms like me, his country’s war to wage,

And rise the Hector of the future age!

Against his country’s foes the war to wage,

And rise the Hector of the future age!

successful

So when triumphant from the glorious toils

Of heroes slain, he bears the reeking spoils,

Whole hosts may

All Troy shall hail him, with deserv’d acclaim,

own the son

And cry, this chief transcends his father’s fame.

While pleas’d, amidst the general shouts of Troy,

His mother’s conscious heart o’erflows with joy.

fondly on her

He said, and gazing o’er his consort’s charms,

Restor’d his infant to her longing arms.

on

Soft in her fragrant breast the babe she laid,

Prest to her heart, and with a smile survey’d;

to repose

Hush’d him to rest, and with a smile survey’d.

passion

But soon the troubled pleasure mixt with rising fears,

dash’d with fear,

The tender pleasure soon, chastised by fear,

She mingled with the smile a tender tear.

The passage appears thus in the printed work. I have marked in Italics the variations.

Thus having spoke, the illustrious chief of Troy

Stretch’d his fond arms to clasp the lovely boy.

The babe clung crying to his nurse’s breast,

Scar’d at the dazzling helm and nodding crest.

With secret3 pleasure each fond parent smil’d,

And Hector hasted to relieve his child,

The glittering terrors from his brows unbound,

And placed the beaming helmet on the ground:

Then kiss’d the child, and lifting high in air,

Thus to the gods preferr’d a father’s prayer:

O thou, whose glory fills th’ ethereal throne,

And all ye deathless powers, protect my son!

Grant him like me to purchase just renown,

To guard the Trojans, to defend the crown;

Against his country’s foes the war to wage,

And rise the Hector of the future age!

So when, triumphant from successful toils,

Of heroes slain he bears the reeking spoils,

Whole hosts may hail him, with deserv’d acclaim,

And say, this chief transcends his father’s fame:

While pleas’d amidst the general shouts of Troy,

His mother’s conscious heart o’erflows with joy.

He spoke, and fondly gazing on her charms,

Restor’d the pleasing burden to her arms:

Soft on her fragrant breast the babe she laid,

Hush’d to repose, and with a smile survey’d.

The troubled pleasure soon chastis’d by fear,

She mingled with the smile a tender tear.

1 This use of what most persons would consider waste paper, obtained for the poet the designation of “paper-sparing Pope.”

2 Dr. Johnson, in noticing the MSS. of Milton, preserved at Cambridge, has made, with his usual force of language, the following observation: “Such reliques show how excellence is acquired: what we hope ever to do with ease, we may learn first to do with diligence.”

3 Silent in the MS. (observes a critical friend) is greatly superior to secret, as it appears in the printed work.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37