Pope


Thomas De Quincey

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Biographical Essays, by Thomas De Quincey

Pope.

Alexander Lexander Pope, the most brilliant of all wits who have at any period applied themselves to the poetic treatment of human manners, to the selecting from the play of human character what is picturesque, or the arresting what is fugitive, was born in the city of London on the 21st1 day of May, in the memorable year 1688; about six months, therefore, before the landing of the Prince of Orange, and the opening of that great revolution which gave the final ratification to all previous revolutions of that tempestuous century. By the “city” of London the reader is to understand us as speaking with technical accuracy of that district, which lies within the ancient walls and the jurisdiction of the lord mayor. The parents of Pope, there is good reason to think, were of “gentle blood,” which is the expression of the poet himself when describing them in verse. His mother was so undoubtedly; and her illustrious son, in speaking of her to Lord Harvey, at a time when any exaggeration was open to an easy refutation, and writing in a spirit most likely to provoke it, does not scruple to say, with a tone of dignified haughtiness not unbecoming the situation of a filial champion on behalf of an insulted mother, that by birth and descent she was not below that young lady, (one of the two beautiful Miss Lepels,) whom his lordship had selected from all the choir of court beauties as the future mother of his children. Of Pope’s extraction and immediate lineage for a space of two generations we know enough. Beyond that we know little. Of this little a part is dubious; and what we are disposed to receive as not dubious, rests chiefly on his own authority. In the prologue to his Satires, having occasion to notice the lampooners of the times, who had represented his father as “a mechanic, a hatter, a farmer, nay a bankrupt,” he feels himself called upon to state the truth about his parents; and naturally much more so at a time when the low scurrilities of these obscure libellers had been adopted, accredited, and diffused by persons so distinguished in all points of personal accomplishment and rank as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Lord Harvey: “hard as thy heart“ was one of the lines in their joint pasquinade, ” hard as thy heart, and as thy birth obscure.“ Accordingly he makes the following formal statement: “Mr. Pope’s father was of a gentleman’s family in Oxfordshire, the head of which was the Earl of Downe. His mother was the daughter of William Turner, Esq., of York. She had three brothers, one of whom was killed; another died in the service of King Charles [meaning Charles I.]; the eldest, following his fortunes, and becoming a general officer in Spain, left her what estate remained after the sequestrations and forfeitures of her family.” The sequestrations here spoken of were those inflicted by the commissioners for the parliament; and usually they levied a fifth, or even two fifths, according to the apparent delinquency of the parties. But in such cases two great differences arose in the treatment of the royalists; first, that the report was colored according to the interest which a man possessed, or other private means for biassing the commissioners; secondly, that often, when money could not be raised on mortgage to meet the sequestration, it became necessary to sell a family estate suddenly, and therefore in those times at great loss; so that a nominal fifth might be depressed by favor to a tenth, or raised by the necessity of selling to a half. And hence might arise the small dowry of Mrs. Pope, notwithstanding the family estate in Yorkshire had centred in her person. But, by the way, we see from the fact of the eldest brother having sought service in Spain, that Mrs. Pope was a Papist; not, like her husband, by conversion, but by hereditary faith. This account, as publicly thrown out in the way of challenge by Pope, was, however, sneered at by a certain Mr. Pottinger of those days, who, together with his absurd name, has been safely transmitted to posterity in connection with this single feat of having contradicted Alexander Pope. We read in a diary published by the Microcosm,” Met a large hat, with a man under it. “And so, here, we cannot so properly say that Mr. Pottinger brings down the contradiction to our times, as that the contradiction brings down Mr. Pottinger.” Cousin Pope, “said Pottinger,” had made himself out a fine pedigree, but he wondered where he got it. “And he then goes on to plead in abatement of Pope’s pretensions,” that an old maiden aunt, equally related,” (that is, standing in the same relation to himself and to the poet,) “a great genealogist, who was always talking of her family, never mentioned this circumstance.” And again we are told, from another quarter, that the Earl of Guildford, after express investigation of this matter, “was sure that,” amongst the descendants of the Earls of Downe, “there was none of the name of Pope.” How it was that Lord Guildford came to have any connection with the affair, is not stated by the biographers of Pope; but we have ascertained that, by marriage with a female descendant from the Earls of Downe, he had come into possession of their English estates.

Finally, though it is rather for the honor of the Earls of Downe than of Pope to make out the connection, we must observe that Lord Guildford’s testimony, if ever given at all, is simply negative; he had found no proofs of the connection, but he had not found any proofs to destroy it; whilst, on the other hand, it ought to be mentioned, though unaccountably overlooked by all previous biographers, that one of Pope’s anonymous enemies, who hated him personally, but was apparently master of his family history, and too honorable to belie his own convictions, expressly affirms of his own authority, and without reference to any claim put forward by Pope, that he was descended from a junior branch of the Downe family. Which testimony has a double value; first, as corroborating the probability of Pope’s statement viewed in the light of a fact; and, secondly, as corroborating that same statement viewed in the light of a current story, true or false, and not as a disingenuous fiction put forward by Pope to confute Lord Harvey.

It is probable to us, that the Popes, who had been originally transplanted from England to Ireland, had in the person of some cadet been retransplanted to England; and that having in that way been disconnected from all personal recognition, and all local memorials of the capital house, by this sort of postliminium, the junior branch had ceased to cherish the honor of a descent which was now divided from all direct advantage. At all events, the researches of Pope’s biographers have not been able to trace him farther back in the paternal line than to his grandfather; and he (which is odd enough, considering the popery of his descendants) was a clergyman of the established church in Hampshire. This grandfather had two sons. Of the eldest nothing is recorded beyond the three facts, that he went to Oxford, that he died there, and that he spent the family estate. 2 The younger son, whose name was Alexander, had been sent when young, in some commercial character, to Lisbon; 3 and there it was, in that centre of bigotry, that he became a sincere and most disinterested Catholic. He returned to England; married a Catholic young widow; and became the father of a second Alexander Pope, ultra Sauromatas notus et Antipodes.

By his own account to Spence, Pope learned “very early to read;” and writing he taught himself “by copying, from printed books;” all which seems to argue, that, as an only child, with an indolent father and a most indulgent mother, he was not molested with much schooling in his infancy. Only one adventure is recorded of his childhood, viz., that he was attacked by a cow, thrown down, and wounded in the throat.

Pope escaped this disagreeable kind of vaccination without serious injury, and was not farther tormented by cows or schoolmasters until he was about eight years old, when the family priest, that is, we presume, the confessor of his parents, taught him, agreeably to the Jesuit system, the rudiments of Greek and Latin concurrently. This priest was named Banister; and his name is frequently employed, together with other fictitious names, by way of signature to the notes in the Dunciad, an artifice which was adopted for the sake of giving a characteristic variety to the notes, according to the tone required for the illustration of the text. From his tuition Pope was at length dismissed to a Catholic school at Twyford, near Winchester. The selection of a school in this neighborhood, though certainly the choice of a Catholic family was much limited, points apparently to the old Hampshire connection of his father. Here an incident occurred which most powerfully illustrates the original and constitutional determination to satire of this irritable poet. He knew himself so accurately, that in after times, half by way of boast, half of confession, he says,

“But touch me, and no Minister so sore:

Whoe’er offends, at some unlucky time

Slides into verse and hitches in a rhyme,

Sacred to ridicule his whole life long,

And the sad burthen of some merry song.”

Already, it seems, in childhood he had the same irresistible instinct, victorious over the strongest sense of personal danger. He wrote a bitter satire upon the presiding pedagogue, was brutally punished for this youthful indiscretion, and indignantly removed by his parents from the school. Mr. Roscoe speaks of Pope’s personal experience as necessarily unfavorable to public schools; but in reality he knew nothing of public schools. All the establishments for Papists were narrow, and suited to their political depression; and his parents were too sincerely anxious for their son’s religious principles to risk the contagion of Protestant association by sending him elsewhere.

From the scene 4 of his disgrace and illiberal punishment, he passed, according to the received accounts, under the tuition of several other masters in rapid succession. But it is the less necessary to trouble the reader with their names, as Pope himself assures us, that he learned nothing from any of them. To Banister he had been indebted for such trivial elements of a schoolboy’s learning as he possessed at all, excepting those which he had taught himself. And upon himself it was, and his own admirable faculties, that he was now finally thrown for the rest of his education, at an age so immature that many boys are then first entering their academic career. Pope is supposed to have been scarcely twelve years old when he assumed the office of self-tuition, and bade farewell for ever to schools and tutors.

Such a phenomenon is at any rate striking. It is the more so, under the circumstances which attended the plan, and under the results which justified its execution. It seems, as regards the plan, hardly less strange that prudent parents should have acquiesced in a scheme of so much peril to his intellectual interests, than that the son, as regards the execution, should have justified their confidence by his final success. More especially this confidence surprises us in the father. A doating mother might shut her eyes to all remote evils in the present gratification to her affections; but Pope’s father was a man of sense and principle; he must have weighed the risks besetting a boy left to his own intellectual guidance; and to these risks he would allow the more weight from his own conscious defect of scholarship and inability to guide or even to accompany his son’s studies. He could neither direct the proper choice of studies; nor in any one study taken separately could he suggest the proper choice of books.

The case we apprehend to have been this. Alexander Pope, the elder, was a man of philosophical desires and unambitious character. Quiet and seclusion and innocence of life,—these were what he affected for himself; and that which had been found available for his own happiness, he might reasonably wish for his son. The two hinges upon which his plans may be supposed to have turned, were, first, the political degradation of his sect; and, secondly, the fact that his son was an only child. Had he been a Protestant, or had he, though a Papist, been burthened with a large family of children, he would doubtless have pursued a different course. But to him, and, as he sincerely hoped, to his son, the strife after civil honors was sternly barred. Apostasy only could lay it open. And, as the sentiments of honor and duty in this point fell in with the vices of his temperament, high principle concurring with his constitutional love of ease, we need not wonder that he should early retire from commerce with a very moderate competence, or that he should suppose the same fortune sufficient for one who was to stand in the same position. This son was from his birth deformed. That made it probable that he might not marry. If he should, and happened to have children, a small family would find an adequate provision in the patrimonial funds; and a large one at the worst could only throw him upon the same commercial exertions to which he had been obliged himself. The Roman Catholics, indeed, were just then situated as our modern Quakers are. Law to the one, as conscience to the other, closed all modes of active employment except that of commercial industry. Either his son, therefore, would be a rustic recluse, or, like himself, he would be a merchant.

With such prospects, what need of an elaborate education? And where was such an education to be sought? At the petty establishments of the suffering Catholics, the instruction, as he had found experimentally, was poor. At the great national establishments his son would be a degraded person; one who was permanently repelled from every arena of honor, and sometimes, as in cases of public danger, was banished from the capital, deprived of his house, left defenceless against common ruffians, and rendered liable to the control of every village magistrate. To one in these circumstances solitude was the wisest position, and the best qualification, for that was an education that would furnish aids to solitary thought. No need for brilliant accomplishments to him who must never display them; forensic arts, pulpit erudition, senatorial eloquence, academical accomplishments—these would be lost to one against whom the courts, the pulpit, the senate, the universities, were closed. Nay, by possibility worse than lost; they might prove so many snares or positive bribes to apostasy. Plain English, therefore, and the high thinking of his compatriot authors, might prove the best provision for the mind of an English Papist destined to seclusion.

Such are the considerations under which we read and interpret the conduct of Pope’s parents; and they lead us to regard as wise and conscientious a scheme which, under ordinary circumstances, would have been pitiably foolish. And be it remembered, that to these considerations, derived exclusively from the civil circumstances of the family, were superadded others derived from the astonishing prematurity of the individual. That boy who could write at twelve years of age the beautiful and touching stanzas on Solitude, might well be trusted with the superintendence of his own studies. And the stripling of sixteen, who could so far transcend in good sense the accomplished statesmen or men of the world with whom he afterwards corresponded, might challenge confidence for such a choice of books as would best promote the development of his own faculties.

In reality, one so finely endowed as Alexander Pope, could not easily lose his way in the most extensive or ill-digested library. And though he tells Atterbury, that at one time he abused his opportunities by reading controversial divinity, we may be sure that his own native activities, and the elasticity of his mind, would speedily recoil into a just equilibrium of study, under wider and happier opportunities. Reading, indeed, for a person like Pope, is rather valuable as a means of exciting his own energies, and of feeding his own sensibilities, than for any direct acquisitions of knowledge, or for any trains of systematic research. All men are destined to devour much rubbish between the cradle and the grave; and doubtless the man who is wisest in the choice of his books, will have read many a page before he dies that a thoughtful review would pronounce worthless. This is the fate of all men. But the reading of Pope, as a general result or measure of his judicious choice, is best justified in his writings. They show him well furnished with whatsoever he wanted for matter or for embellishment, for argument or illustration, for example and model, or for direct and explicit imitation.

Possibly, as we have already suggested, within the range of English literature Pope might have found all that he wanted. But variety the widest has its uses; and, for the extension of his influence with the polished classes amongst whom he lived, he did wisely to add other languages; and a question has thus arisen with regard to the extent of Pope’s attainments as a self-taught linguist. A man, or even a boy, of great originality, may happen to succeed best, in working his own native mines of thought, by his unassisted energies. Here it is granted that a tutor, a guide, or even a companion, may be dispensed with, and even beneficially. But in the case of foreign languages, in attaining this machinery of literature, though anomalies even here do arise, and men there are, like Joseph Scaliger, who form their own dictionaries and grammars in the mere process of reading an unknown language, by far the major part of students will lose their time by rejecting the aid of tutors. As there has been much difference of opinion with regard to Pope’s skill in languages, we shall briefly collate and bring into one focus the stray notices.

As to the French, Voltaire, who knew Pope personally, declared that he “could hardly read it, and spoke not one syllable of the language.” But perhaps Voltaire might dislike Pope? On the contrary, he was acquainted with his works, and admired them to the very level of their merits. Speaking of him after death to Frederick of Prussia, he prefers him to Horace and Boileau, asserting that, by comparison with them,

“Pope approfondit ce qu’ils ont effleura.

D’un esprit plus hardi, d’un pas plus assure,

Il porta le flambeau dans l’abeme de l’otre;

Et l’homme avec lui seul apprit a se connoetre.

L’art quelquefois frivole, et quelquefois divine,

L’art des vers est dans Pope utile au genre humain.”

This is not a wise account of Pope, for it does not abstract the characteristic feature of his power; but it is a very kind one. And of course Voltaire could not have meant any unkindness in denying his knowledge of French. But he was certainly wrong. Pope, in his presence, would decline to speak or to read a language of which the pronunciation was confessedly beyond him. Or, if he did, the impression left would be still worse. In fact, no man ever will pronounce or talk a language which he does not use, for some part of every day, in the real intercourse of life. But that Pope read French of an ordinary cast with fluency enough, is evident from the extensive use which he made of Madame Dacier’s labors on the Iliad, and still more of La Valterie’s prose translation of the Iliad. Already in the year 1718, and long before his personal knowledge of Voltaire, Pope had shown his accurate acquaintance with some voluminous French authors, in a way which, we suspect, was equally surprising and offensive to his noble correspondent. The Duke of Buckingham 5 had addressed to Pope a letter, containing some account of the controversy about Homer, which had then been recently carried on in France between La Motte and Madame Dacier. This account was delivered with an air of teaching, which was very little in harmony with its excessive shallowness. Pope, who sustained the part of pupil in this interlude, replied in a manner that exhibited a knowledge of the parties concerned in the controversy much superior to that of the duke. In particular, he characterized the excellent notes upon Horace of M. Dacier, the husband, in very just terms, as distinguished from those of his conceited and half-learned wife; and the whole reply of Pope seems very much as though he had been playing off a mystification on his grace. Undoubtedly the pompous duke felt that he had caught a Tartar. Now M. Dacier’s Horace, which, with the text, fills nine volumes, Pope could not have read except in French; for they are not even yet translated into English. Besides, Pope read critically the French translations of his own Essay on Man, Essay on Criticism, Rape of the Lock, &c. He spoke of them as a critic; and it was at no time a fault of Pope’s to make false pretensions. All readers of Pope’s Satires must also recollect numerous proofs, that he had read Boileau with so much feeling of his peculiar merit, that he has appropriated and naturalized in English some of his best passages. Voltaire was, therefore, certainly wrong.

Of Italian literature, meantime, Pope knew little or nothing; and simply because he knew nothing of the language. Tasso, indeed, he admired; and, which is singular, more than Ariosto. But we believe that he had read him only in English; and it is certain that he could not take up an Italian author, either in prose or verse, for the unaffected amusement of his leisure.

Greek, we all know has been denied to Pope, ever since he translated Homer, and chiefly in consequence of that translation. This seems at first sight unfair, because criticism has not succeeded in fixing upon Pope any errors of ignorance. His deviations from Homer were uniformly the result of imperfect sympathy with the naked simplicity of the antique, and therefore wilful deviations, not (like those of his more pretending competitors, Addison and Tickell) pure blunders of misapprehension. But yet it is not inconsistent with this concession to Pope’s merits, that we must avow our belief in his thorough ignorance of Greek when he first commenced his task. And to us it seems astonishing that nobody should have adverted to that fact as a sufficient solution, and in fact the only plausible solution, of Pope’s excessive depression of spirits in the earliest stage of his labors. This depression, after he had once pledged himself to his subscribers for the fulfilment of his task, arose from, and could have arisen from nothing else than, his conscious ignorance of Greek in connection with the solemn responsibilities he had assumed in the face of a great nation. Nay, even countries as presumptuously disdainful of tramontane literature as Italy took an interest in this memorable undertaking. Bishop Berkeley found Salvini reading it at Florence; and Madame Dacier even, who read little but Greek, and certainly no English until then, condescended to study it. Pope’s dejection, therefore, or rather agitation (for it impressed by sympathy a tumultuous character upon his dreams, which lasted for years after the cause had ceased to operate) was perfectly natural under the explanation we have given, but not otherwise. And how did he surmount this unhappy self-distrust? Paradoxical as it may sound, we will venture to say, that, with the innumerable aids for interpreting Homer which even then existed, a man sufficiently acquainted with Latin might make a translation even critically exact. This Pope was not long in discovering. Other alleviations of his labor concurred, and in a ratio daily increasing.

The same formulae were continually recurring, such as,

“But him answering, thus addressed the swift-footed Achilles;“

Or,

“But him sternly beholding, thus spoke Agamemnon the king

of men.“

Then, again, universally the Homeric Greek, from many causes, is easy; and especially from these two:

1 st, The simplicity of the thought, which never gathers into those perplexed knots of rhetorical condensation, which we find in the dramatic poets of a higher civilization.

2 dly, From the constant hounds set to the expansion of the thought by the form of the metre; an advantage of verse which makes the poets so much easier to a beginner in the German language than the illimitable weavers of prose. The line or the stanza reins up the poet tightly to his theme, and will not suffer him to expatiate. Gradually, therefore, Pope came to read the Homeric Greek, but never accurately; nor did he ever read Eustathius without aid from Latin. As to any knowledge of the Attic Greek, of the Greek of the dramatists, the Greek of Plato, the Greek of Demosthenes, Pope neither had it nor affected to have it. Indeed it was no foible of Pope’s, as we will repeat, to make claims which he had not, or even to dwell ostentatiously upon those which he had. And with respect to Greek in particular, there is a manuscript letter in existence from Pope to a Mr. Bridges at Falham, which, speaking of the original Homer, distinctly records the knowledge which he had of his own “imperfectness in the language.” Chapman, a most spirited translator of Homer, probably had no very critical skill in Greek; and Hobbes was, beyond all question, as poor a Grecian as he was a doggerel translator; yet in this letter Pope professes his willing submission to the “authority” of Chapman and Hobbes, as superior to his own.

Finally, in Latin Pope was a “considerable proficient,” even by the cautious testimony of Dr. Johnson; and in this language only the doctor was an accomplished critic. If Pope had really the proficiency here ascribed to him, he must have had it already in his boyish years; for the translation from Statius, which is the principal monument of his skill, was executed before he was fourteen. We have taken the trouble to throw a hasty glance over it; and whilst we readily admit the extraordinary talent which it shows, as do all the juvenile essays of Pope, we cannot allow that it argues any accurate skill in Latin. The word Malea, as we have seen noticed by some editor, he makes Malea; which in itself, as the name was not of common occurrence, would not have been an error worth noticing; but, taken in connection with the certainty that Pope had the original line before him—

“Arripit ex templo Maleae de valle resurgens,”

when not merely the scanning theoretically, but the whole rhythm is practically, to the most obtuse ear, would be annihilated by Pope’s false quantity, is a blunder which serves to show his utter ignorance of prosody. But, even as a version of the sense, with every allowance for a poet’s license of compression and expansion, Pope’s translation is defective, and argues an occasional inability to construe the text. For instance, at the council summoned by Jupiter, it is said that he at his first entrance seats himself upon his starry throne, but not so the inferior gods;

“Nec protinus ausi

Coelicolae, veniam donee pater ipse sedendi

Tranquilla jubet esse manu.”

In which passage there is a slight obscurity, from the ellipsis of the word sedere, or sese locare; but the meaning is evidently that the other gods did not presume to sit down protinus, that is, in immediate succession to Jupiter, and interpreting his example as a tacit license to do so, until, by a gentle wave of his hand, the supreme father signifies his express permission to take their seats. But Pope, manifestly unable to extract any sense from the passage, translates thus:

“At Jove’s assent the deities around

In solemn slate the consistory crown’d;”

where at once the whole picturesque solemnity of the celestial ritual melts into the vaguest generalities. Again, at v. 178, ruptaeque vices is translated,” and all the ties of nature broke; “but by vices is indicated the alternate reign of the two brothers, as ratified by mutual oaths, and subsequently violated by Eteocles. Other mistakes might be cited, which seem to prove that Pope, like most self-taught linguists, was a very imperfect one. 6 Pope, in short, never rose to such a point in classical literature as to read either Greek or Latin authors without effort, and for his private amusement.

The result, therefore, of Pope’s self-tuition appears to us, considered in the light of an attempt to acquire certain accomplishments of knowledge, a most complete failure. As a linguist, he read no language with ease; none with pleasure to himself; and none with so much accuracy as could have carried him through the most popular author with a general independence on interpreters. But, considered with a view to his particular faculties and slumbering originality of power, which required perhaps the stimulation of accident to arouse them effectually, we are very much disposed to think that the very failure of his education as an artificial training was a great advantage finally for inclining his mind to throw itself, by way of indemnification, upon its native powers. Had he attained, as with better tuition he would have attained, distinguished excellence as a scholar, or as a student of science, the chances are many that he would have settled down into such studies as thousands could pursue not less successfully than he; whilst as it was, the very dissatisfaction which he could not but feel with his slender attainments, must have given him a strong motive for cultivating those impulses of original power which he felt continually stirring within him, and which were vivified into trials of competition as often as any distinguished excellence was introduced to his knowledge.

Pope’s father, at the time of his birth, lived in Lombard Street; 7 a street still familiar to the public eye, from its adjacency to some of the chief metropolitan establishments, and to the English ear possessing a degree of historical importance; first, as the residence of those Lombards, or Milanese, who affiliated our infant commerce to the matron splendors of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean; next, as the central resort of thrme jewellers, or “goldsmiths,” as they were styled, who performed all the functions of modern bankers from the period of the parliamentary war to the rise of the Bank of England, that is, for six years after the birth of Pope; and, lastly, as the seat, until lately, of that vast Post Office, through which, for so long a period, has passed the correspondence of all nations and languages, upon a scale unknown to any other country. In this street Alexander Pope the elder had a house, and a warehouse, we presume, annexed, in which he conducted the wholesale business of a linen merchant. As soon as he had made a moderate fortune he retired from business, first to Kensington, and afterwards to Binfield, in Windsor Forest. The period of this migration is not assigned by any writer. It is probable that a prudent man would not adopt it with any prospect of having more children. But this chance might be considered as already extinguished at the birth of Pope; for though his father had then only attained his forty-fourth year, Mrs. Pope had completed her forty-eighth. It is probable, from the interval of seven days which is said to have elapsed between Pope’s punishment and his removal from the school, that his parents were then living at such a distance from him as to prevent his ready communication with them, else we may be sure that Mrs. Pope would have flown on the wings of love and wrath to the rescue of her darling. Supposing, therefore, as we do suppose, that Mr. Bromley’s school in London was the scene of his disgrace, it would appear on this argument that his parents were then living in Windsor Forest. And this hypothesis falls in with another anecdote in Pope’s life, which we know partly upon his own authority. He tells Wycherley that he had seen Dryden, and barely seen him. Virgilium vidi tantum. This is presumed to have been in Will’s Coffee-house, whither any person in search of Dryden would of course resort; and it must have been before Pope was twelve years old, for Dryden died in 1700. Now there is a letter of Sir Charles Wogan’s, stating that he first took Pope to Will’s; and his words are, “from our forest.” Consequently, at that period, when he had not completed his twelfth year, Pope was already living in the forest.

From this period, and so long as the genial spirits of youth lasted, Pope’s life must have been one dream of pleasure. He tells Lord Harvey that his mother did not spoil him; but that was no doubt because there was no room for wilfulness or waywardness on either side, when all was one placid scene of parental obedience and gentle filial authority. We feel persuaded that, if not in words, in spirit and inclination, they would, in any notes they might have occasion to write, subscribe themselves “your dutiful parents.” And of what consequence in whose hands were the reins which were never needed? Every reader must be pleased to know that these idolizing parents lived to see their son at the very summit of his public elevation; even his father lived two years and a half after the publication of his Homer had commenced, and when his fortune was made; and his mother lived for nearly eighteen years more. What a felicity for her, how rare and how perfect, to find that he, who to her maternal eyes was naturally the most perfect of human beings, and the idol of her heart, had already been the idol of the nation before he had completed his youth. She had also another blessing not always commanded by the most devoted love; many sons there are who think it essential to manliness that they should treat their mother’s doating anxiety with levity, or even ridicule. But Pope, who was the model of a good son, never swerved in words, manners, or conduct, from the most respectful tenderness, or intermitted the piety of his attentions. And so far did he carry this regard for his mother’s comfort, that, well knowing how she lived upon his presence or by his image, he denied himself for many years all excursions which could not be fully accomplished within the revolution of a week. And to this cause, combined with the excessive length of his mother’s life, must be ascribed the fact that Pope never went abroad; not to Italy with Thomson or with Berkeley, or any of his diplomatic friends; not to Ireland, where his presence would have been hailed as a national honor; not even to France, on a visit to his admiring and admired friend Lord Bolingbroke. For as to the fear of sea-sickness, that did not arise until a late period of his life; and at any period would not have operated to prevent his crossing from Dover to Calais. It is possible that, in his earlier and more sanguine years, all the perfection of his filial love may not have availed to prevent him from now and then breathing a secret murmur at confinement so constant. But it is certain that, long before he passed the meridian of his life, Pope had come to view this confinement with far other thoughts. Experience had then taught him, that to no man is the privilege granted of possessing more than one or two friends who are such in extremity. By that time he had come to view his mother’s death with fear and anguish. She, he knew by many a sign, would have been happy to lay down her life for his sake; but for others, even those who were the most friendly and the most constant in their attentions, he felt but too certainly that his death, or his heavy affliction, might cost them a few sighs, but would not materially disturb their peace of mind. “It is but in a very narrow circle,” says he, in a confidential letter, “that friendship walks in this world, and I care not to tread out of it more than I needs must; knowing well it is but to two or three, (if quite so many,) that any man’s welfare or memory can be of consequence.” After such acknowledgments, we are not surprised to find him writing thus of his mother, and his fearful struggles to fight off the shock of his mother’s death, at a time when it was rapidly approaching. After having said of a friend’s death, “the subject is beyond writing upon, beyond cure or ease by reason or reflection, beyond all but one thought, that it is the will of God,” he goes on thus, “So will the death of my mother be, which now I tremble at, now resign to, now bring close to me, now set farther off; every day alters, turns me about, confuses my whole frame of mind.” There is no pleasure, he adds, which the world can give “equivalent to countervail either the death of one I have so long lived with, or of one I have so long lived for.” How will he comfort himself after her death? “I have nothing left but to turn my thoughts to one comfort, the last we usually think of, though the only one we should in wisdom depend upon. I sit in her room, and she is always present before me but when I sleep. I wonder I am so well. I have shed many tears; but now I weep at nothing.”

A man, therefore, happier than Pope in his domestic relations cannot easily have lived. It is true these relations were circumscribed; had they been wider, they could not have been so happy. But Pope was equally fortunate in his social relations. What, indeed, most of all surprises us, is the courteous, flattering, and even brilliant reception which Pope found from his earliest boyhood amongst the most accomplished men of the world. Wits, courtiers, statesmen, grandees the most dignified, and men of fashion the most brilliant, all alike treated him not only with pointed kindness, but with a respect that seemed to acknowledge him as their intellectual superior. Without rank, high birth, fortune, without even a literary name, and in defiance of a deformed person, Pope, whilst yet only sixteen years of age, was caressed, and even honored; and all this with no one recommendation but simply the knowledge of his dedication to letters, and the premature expectations which he raised of future excellence. Sir William Trumbull, a veteran statesman, who had held the highest stations, both diplomatic and ministerial, made him his daily companion. Wycherley, the old roue of the town, a second-rate wit, but not the less jealous on that account, showed the utmost deference to one whom, as a man of fashion, he must have regarded with contempt, and between whom and himself there were nearly “fifty good years of fair and foul weather.” Cromwell, 8 a fox-hunting country gentleman, but uniting with that character the pretensions of a wit, and affecting also the reputation of a rake, cultivated his regard with zeal and conscious inferiority. Nay, which never in any other instance happened to the most fortunate poet, his very inaugural essays in verse were treated, not as prelusive efforts of auspicious promise, but as finished works of art, entitled to take their station amongst the literature of the land; and in the most worthless of all his poems, Walsh, an established authority, and whom Dryden pronounced the ablest critic of the age, found proofs of equality with Virgil.

The literary correspondence with these gentlemen is interesting, as a model of what once passed for fine letter-writing. Every nerve was strained to outdo each other in carving all thoughts into a fillagree work of rhetoric; and the amoebaean contest was like that between two village cocks from neighboring farms endeavoring to overcrow each other. To us, in this age of purer and more masculine taste, the whole scene takes the ludicrous air of old and young fops dancing a minuet with each other, practising the most elaborate grimaces, sinkings and risings the most awful, bows the most overshadowing, until plain walking, running, or the motions of natural dancing, are thought too insipid for endurance. In this instance the taste had perhaps really been borrowed from France, though often enough we impute to France what is the native growth of all minds placed in similar circumstances. Madame de Sevigne’s Letters were really models of grace. But Balzac, whose letters, however, are not without interest, had in some measure formed himself upon the truly magnificent rhetoric of Pliny and Seneca. Pope and his correspondents, meantime, degraded the dignity of rhetoric, by applying it to trivial commonplaces of compliment; whereas Seneca applied it to the grandest themes which life or contemplation can supply. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, on first coming amongst the wits of the day, naturally adopted their style. She found this sort of euphuism established; and it was not for a very young woman to oppose it. But her masculine understanding and powerful good sense, shaken free, besides, from all local follies by travels and extensive commerce with the world, first threw off these glittering chains of affectation.

Dean Swift, by the very constitution of his mind, plain, sinewy, nervous, and courting only the strength that allies itself with homeliness, was always indisposed to this mode of correspondence. And, finally, Pope himself, as his earlier friends died off, and his own understanding acquired strength, laid it aside altogether. One reason doubtless was, that he found it too fatiguing; since in this way of letter-writing he was put to as much expense of wit in amusing an individual correspondent, as would for an equal extent have sufficed to delight the whole world. A funambulist may harass his muscles and risk his neck on the tight-rope, but hardly to entertain his own family. Pope, however, had another reason for declining this showy system of fencing; and strange it is that he had not discovered this reason from the very first. As life advanced, it happened unavoidably that real business advanced; the careless condition of youth prompted no topics, or at least prescribed none, but such as were agreeable to the taste, and allowed of an ornamental coloring. But when downright business occurred, exchequer bills to be sold, meetings to be arranged, negotiations confided, difficulties to be explained, here and there by possibility a jest or two might be scattered, a witty allusion thrown in, or a sentiment interwoven; but for the main body of the case, it neither could receive any ornamental treatment, nor if, by any effort of ingenuity, it had, could it look otherwise than silly and unreasonable:

“Ornari les a ipsa negat, contenta doceri.”

Pope’s idleness, therefore, on the one hand, concurring with good sense and the necessities of business on the other, drove him to quit his gay rhetoric in letter-writing. But there are passages surviving in his correspondence which indicate, that, after all, had leisure and the coarse perplexities of life permitted it, he still looked with partiality upon his youthful style, and cherished it as a first love. But in this harsh world, as the course of true love, so that of rhetoric, never did run smooth; and thus it happened that, with a lingering farewell, he felt himself forced to bid it adieu. Strange that any man should think his own sincere and confidential overflowings of thought and feeling upon books, men, and public affairs, less valuable in a literary view than the legerdemain of throwing up bubbles into the air for the sake of watching their prismatic hues, like an Indian juggler with his cups and balls. We of this age, who have formed our notions of epistolary excellence from the chastity of Gray’s, the brilliancy of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s during her later life, and the mingled good sense and fine feeling of Cowper’s, value only those letters of Pope which he himself thought of inferior value. And even with regard to these, we may say that there is a great mistake made; the best of those later letters between Pope and Swift, &c., are not in themselves at all superior to the letters of sensible and accomplished women, such as leave every town in the island by every post. Their chief interest is a derivative one; we are pleased with any letter, good or bad, which relates to men of such eminent talent; and sometimes the subjects discussed have a separate interest for themselves. But as to the quality of the discussion, apart from the person discussing and the thing discussed, so trivial is the value of these letters in a large proportion, that we cannot but wonder at the preposterous value which was set upon them by the writers. 9 Pope especially ought not to have his ethereal works loaded by the mass of trivial prose which is usually attached to them.

This correspondence, meantime, with the wits of the time, though one mode by which, in the absence of reviews, the reputation of an author was spread, did not perhaps serve the interests of Pope so effectually as the poems which in this way he circulated in those classes of English society whose favor he chiefly courted. One of his friends, the truly kind and accomplished Sir William Trumbull, served him in that way, and perhaps in another eventually even more important. The library of Pope’s father was composed exclusively of polemical divinity, a proof, by the way, that he was not a blind convert to the Roman Catholic faith; or, if he was so originally, had reviewed the grounds of it, and adhered to it after strenuous study. In this dearth of books at his own home, and until he was able to influence his father in buying more extensively, Pope had benefited by the loans of his friends; amongst whom it is probable that Sir William, as one of the best scholars of the whole, might assist him most. He certainly offered him the most touching compliment, as it was also the wisest and most paternal counsel, when he besought him, as one goddess-born, to quit the convivial society of deep-drinkers:

“Heu, fuge nate dea, teque his, ait, eripe malis.”

With these aids from friends of rank, and his way thus laid open to public favor, in the year 1709 Pope first came forward upon the stage of literature. The same year which terminated his legal minority introduced him to the public. Miscellanies in those days were almost periodical repositories of fugitive verse. Tonson happened at this time to be publishing one of some extent, the sixth volume of which offered a sort of ambush to the young aspirant of Windsor Forest, from which he might watch the public feeling. The volume was opened by Mr. Ambrose Philips, in the character of pastoral poet; and in the same character, but stationed at the end of the volume, and thus covered by his bucolic leader, as a soldier to the rear by the file in advance, appeared Pope; so that he might win a little public notice, without too much seeming to challenge it. This half-clandestine emersion upon the stage of authorship, and his furtive position, are both mentioned by Pope as accidents, but as accidents in which he rejoiced, and not improbably accidents which Tonson had arranged with a view to his satisfaction.

It must appear strange that Pope at twenty-one should choose to come forward for the first time with a work composed at sixteen. A difference of five years at that stage of life is of more effect than of twenty at a later; and his own expanding judgment could hardly fail to inform him, that his Pastorals were by far the worst of his works. In reality, let us not deny, that had Pope never written any thing else, his name would not have been known as a name even of promise, but would probably have been redeemed from oblivion by some satirist or writer of a Dunciad. Were a man to meet with such a nondescript monster as the following, viz.,” Love out of Mount Mlna by Whirlwind“he would suppose himself reading the Racing Calendar. Yet this hybrid creature is one of the many zoological monsters to whom the Pastorals introduce us:

“I know thee. love! on foreign mountains born.

Wolves gave thee suck, and savage tigers fed.

Thou wert from Aetna’s burning entrails torn.

Got by fierce whirlwinds, and in thunder born.”

But the very names “Damon” and “Strephon,” “Phillis” and “Delia,” are rank with childishness. Arcadian life is, at the best, a feeble conception, and rests upon the false principle of crowding together all the luscious sweets of rural life, undignified by the danger which attends pastoral life in our climate, and unrelieved by shades, either moral or physical. And the Arcadia of Pope’s age was the spurious Arcadia of the opera theatre, and, what is worse, of the French opera.

The hostilities which followed between these rival wooers of the pastoral muse are well known. Pope, irritated at what he conceived the partiality shown to Philips in the Guardian, pursued the review ironically; and, whilst affecting to load his antagonist with praises, draws into pointed relief some of his most flagrant faults. The result, however, we cannot believe. That all the wits, except Addison, were duped by the irony, is quite impossible. Could any man of sense mistake for praise the remark, that Philips had imitated “every line of Strada; “that he had introduced wolves into England, and proved himself the first of gardeners by making his flowers “blow all in the same season.” Or, suppose those passages unnoticed, could the broad sneer escape him, where Pope taxes the other writer (viz., himself) with having deviated” into downright poetry; “or the outrageous ridicule of Philip’s style, as setting up for the ideal type of the pastoral style, the quotation from Gay, beginning,

“Rager, go vetch tha kee, or else tha zun

Will quite bego before ch’ ‘avs half a don!”

Philips is said to have resented this treatment by threats of personal chastisement to Pope, and even hanging up a rod at Button’s coffee-house. We may be certain that Philips never disgraced himself by such ignoble conduct. If the public indeed were universally duped by the paper, what motive had Philips for resentment? Or, in any case, what plea had he for attacking Pope, who had not come forward as the author of the essay? But, from Pope’s confidential account of the matter, we know that Philips saw him daily, and never offered him “any indecorum;” though, for some cause or other, Pope pursued Philips with virulence through life.

In the year 1711, Pope published his Essay on Criticism, which some people have very unreasonably fancied his best performance; and in the same year his Rape of the Lock, the most exquisite monument of playful fancy that universal literature offers. It wanted, however, as yet, the principle of its vitality, in wanting the machinery of sylphs and gnomes, with which addition it was first published in 1714.

In the year 1712, Pope appeared again before the public as the author of the Temple of Fame, and the Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady. Much speculation has arisen on the question concerning the name of this lady, and the more interesting question concerning the nature of the persecutions and misfortunes which she suffered. Pope appears purposely to decline answering the questions of his friends upon that point; at least the questions have reached us, and the answers have not. Joseph Warton supposed himself to have ascertained four facts about her: that her name was Wainsbury; that she was deformed in person; that she retired into a convent from some circumstances connected with an attachment to a young man of inferior rank; and that she killed herself, not by a sword, as the poet insinuates, but by a halter. As to the latter statement, it may very possibly be true; such a change would be a very slight exercise of the poet’s privileges. As to the rest, there are scarcely grounds enough for an opinion. Pope certainly speaks of her under the name of Mrs. (i. e. Miss) W—, which at least argues a poetical exaggeration in describing her as a being “that once had titles, honor, wealth, and fame;” and he may as much have exaggerated her pretensions to beauty. It is indeed noticeable, that he speaks simply of her decent limbs, which, in any English use of the word, does not imply much enthusiasm of praise. She appears to have been the niece of a Lady A—; and Mr. Craggs, afterwards secretary of state, wrote to Lady A—on her behalf, and otherwise took an interest in her fate. As to her being a relative of the Duke of Buckingham’s, that rests upon a mere conjectural interpretation applied to a letter of that nobleman’s. But all things about this unhappy lady are as yet enveloped in mystery. And not the least part of the mystery is a letter of Pope’s to a Mr. C—, bearing date 1732, that is, just twenty years after the publication of the poem, in which Pope, in a manly tone, justifies himself for his estrangement, and presses against his unknown correspondent the very blame which he had applied generally to the kinsman of the poor victim in 1712. Now, unless there is some mistake in the date, how are we to explain this gentleman’s long lethargy, and his sudden sensibility to Pope’s anathema, with which the world had resounded for twenty years?

Pope had now established his reputation with the public as the legitimate successor and heir to the poetical supremacy of Dryden. His Rape of the Lock was unrivalled in ancient or modern literature, and the time had now arrived when, instead of seeking to extend his fame, he might count upon a pretty general support in applying what he had already established to the promotion of his own interest. Accordingly, in the autumn of 1713, he formed a final resolution of undertaking a new translation of the Iliad. It must be observed, that already in 1709, concurrently with his Pastorals, he had published specimens of such a translation; and these had been communicated to his friends some time before. In particular, Sir William Trumbull, on the 9th of April, 1708, urged upon Pope a complete translation of both Iliad and Odyssey. Defective skill in the Greek language, exaggeration of the difficulties, and the timidity of a writer as yet unknown, and not quite twenty years old, restrained Pope for five years and more. What he had practised as a sort of bravura, for a single effort of display, he recoiled from as a daily task to be pursued through much toil, and a considerable section of his life. However, he dallied with the purpose, starting difficulties in the temper of one who wishes to hear them undervalued; until at length Sir Richard Steele determined him to the undertaking, a fact overlooked by the biographers, but which is ascertained by Ayre’s account of that interview between Pope and Addison, probably in 1716, which sealed the rupture between them. In the autumn of 1713, he made his design known amongst his friends. Accordingly, on the 21st of October, we have Lord Lansdown’s letter, expressing his great pleasure at the communication; on the 26th, we have Addison’s letter encouraging him to the task; and in November of the same year occurs the amusing scene so graphically described by Bishop Kennet, when Dean Swift presided in the conversation, and, amongst other indications of his conscious authority, “instructed a young nobleman, that the best poet in England was Mr. Pope, 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 until I have a thousand guineas for him.”

If this were the extent of what Swift anticipated from the work, he fell miserably below the result. But, perhaps, he spoke only of a cautionary arrha or earnest. As this was unquestionably the greatest literary labor, as to profit, ever executed, not excepting the most lucrative of Sir Walter Scott’s, if due allowance be made for the altered value of money, and if we consider the Odyssey as forming part of the labor, it may be right to state the particulars of Pope’s contract with Lintot.

The number of subscribers to the Iliad was 575, and the number of copies subscribed for was 654. The work was to be printed in six quarto volumes; and the subscription was a guinea a volume. Consequently by the subscription Pope obtained six times 654 guineas, or 4218L. 6s., (for the guinea then passed for 21s. 6d.); and for the copyright of each volume Lintot offered 200L, consequently 1200L for the whole six; so that from the Iliad the profit exactly amounted to 5310L. 16s. Of the Odyssey, 574 copies were subscribed for. It was to be printed in five quarto volumes, and the subscription was a guinea a volume. Consequently by the subscription Pope obtained five times 574 guineas, or 3085L. 5s.; and for the copyright Lintot offered 600L. The total sum received, therefore, by Pope, on account of the Odyssey, was 3685L. 5s. But in this instance he had two coadjutors, Broome and Fenton; between them they translated twelve books, leaving twelve to Pope. The notes also were compiled by Broome; but the Postscript to the notes was written by Pope. Fenton received 300L, Broome 500L. Such at least is Warton’s account, and more probable than that of Ruffhead, who not only varies the proportions, but increases the whole sum given to the assistants by 100L. Thus far we had followed the guidance of mere probabilities, as they lie upon the face of the transaction. But we have since detected a written statement of Pope’s, unaccountably overlooked by the biographers, and serving of itself to show how negligently they have read the works of their illustrious subject. The statement is entitled to the fullest attention and confidence, not being a hasty or casual notice of the transaction, but pointedly shaped to meet a calumnious rumor against Pope in his character of paymaster; as if he who had found so much liberality from publishers in his own person, were niggardly or unjust as soon as he assumed those relations to others. Broome, it was alleged, had expressed himself dissatisfied with Pope’s remuneration. Perhaps he had. For he would be likely to frame his estimate for his own services from the scale of Pope’s reputed gains; and those gains would, at any rate, be enormously exaggerated, as uniformly happens where there is a basis of the marvellous to begin with. And, secondly, it would be natural enough to assume the previous result from the Iliad as a fair standard for computation; but in this, as we know, all parties found themselves disappointed, and Broome had the less right to murmur at this, since the arrangement with himself as chief journeyman in the job was one main cause of the disappointment. There was also another reason why Broome should be less satisfied than Fenton. Verse for verse, any one thousand lines of a translation so purely mechanical might stand against any other thousand; and so far the equation of claims was easy. A book-keeper, with a pen behind his ear, and Cocker’s Golden Rule open before him, could do full justice to Mr. Broome as a poet every Saturday night. But Broome had a separate account current for pure prose against Pope. One he had in conjunction with Fenton for verses delivered on the premises at so much per hundred, on which there could be no demur, except as to the allowance for tare and tret as a discount in favor of Pope. But the prose account, the account for notes, requiring very various degrees of reading and research, allowed of no such easy equation. There it was, we conceive, that Broome’s discontent arose. Pope, however, declares, that he had given him 500L, thus confirming the proportions of Warton against Ruffhead, (that is, in effect, Warburton,) and some other advantages which were not in money, nor deductions at all from his own money profits, but which may have been worth so much money to Broome, as to give some colorable truth to Ruffhead’s allegation of an additional 100L. In direct money, it remains certain that Fenton had three, and Broome five hundred pounds. It follows, therefore, that for the Iliad and Odyssey jointly he received a sum of 8996L. 1s., and paid for assistance 800L, which leaves to himself a clear sum of 8196L. 1s. And, in fact, his profits ought to be calculated without deduction, since it was his own choice, from indolence, to purchase assistance.

The Iliad was commenced about October, 1713. In the summer of the following year he was so far advanced as to begin making arrangements with Lintot for the printing; and the first two books, in manuscript, were put into the hands of Lord Halifax. In June, 1715, between the 10th and 28th, the subscribers received their copies of the first volume; and in July Lintot began to publish that volume generally. Some readers will inquire, who paid for the printing and paper, &c.? All this expense fell upon Lintot, for whom Pope was superfluously anxious. The sagacious bookseller understood what he was about; and, when a pirated edition was published in Holland, he counteracted the injury by printing a cheap edition, of which 7500 copies were sold in a few weeks; an extraordinary proof of the extended interest in literature. The second, third, and fourth volumes of the Iliad, each containing, like the first, four books, were published successively in 1716, 1717, 1718; and in 1720, Pope completed the work by publishing the fifth volume, containing five books, and the sixth, containing the last three, with the requisite supplementary apparatus.

The Odyssey was commenced in 1723, (not 1722, as Mr. Roscoe virtually asserts at p. 259,) and the publication of it was finished in 1725. The sale, however, was much inferior to that of the Iliad; for which more reasons than one might be assigned. But there can be no doubt that Pope himself depreciated the work, by his undignified arrangements for working by subordinate hands. Such a process may answer in sculpture, because there a quantity of rough-hewing occurs, which can no more be improved by committing it to a Phidias, than a common shop-bill could be improved in its arithmetic by Sir Isaac Newton. But in literature such arrangements are degrading; and, above all, in a work which was but too much exposed already to the presumption of being a mere effort of mechanic skill, or (as Curll said to the House of Lords)” a knack; “it was deliberately helping forward that idea to let off parts of the labor. Only think of Milton letting off by contract to the lowest offer, and to be delivered by such a day, (for which good security to be found,) six books of Paradise Lost. It is true, the great dramatic authors were often collaborateurs, but their case was essentially different. The loss, however, fell not upon Pope, but upon Lintot, who, on this occasion, was out of temper, and talked rather broadly of prosecution. But that was out of the question. Pope had acted indiscreetly, but nothing could be alleged against his honor; for he had expressly warned the public, that he did not, as in the other case, profess to translate, but to undertake 10 a translation of the Odyssey. Lintot, however, was no loser absolutely, though he might be so in relation to his expectations; on the contrary, he grew rich, bought land, and became sheriff of the county in which his estates lay.

We have pursued the Homeric labors uninterruptedly from their commencement in 1713, till their final termination in 1725, a period of twelve years or nearly; because this was the task to which Pope owed the dignity, if not the comforts, of his life, since it was this which enabled him to decline a pension from all administrations, and even from his friend Craggs, the secretary, to decline the express offer of 300L per annum. Indeed Pope is always proud to own his obligations to Homer. In the interval, however, between the Iliad and the Odyssey, Pope listened to proposals made by Jacob Tonson, that he should revise an edition of Shakspeare. For this, which was in fact the first attempt at establishing the text of the mighty poet, Pope obtained but little money, and still less reputation. He received, according to tradition, only 217L. 12s. for his trouble of collation, which must have been considerable, and some other trifling editorial labor. And the opinion of all judges, from the first so unfavorable as to have depreciated the money-value of the book enormously, perhaps from a prepossession of the public mind against the fitness of Pope for executing the dull labors of revision, has ever since pronounced this work the very worst edition in existence. For the edition we have little to plead; but for the editor it is but just to make three apologies. In the first place, he wrote a brilliant preface, which, although (like other works of the same class) too much occupied in displaying his own ability, and too often, for the sake of an effective antithesis, doing deep injustice to Shakspeare, yet undoubtedly, as a whole, extended his fame, by giving the sanction and countersign of a great wit to the national admiration. Secondly, as Dr. Johnson admits, Pope’s failure pointed out the right road to his successors. Thirdly, even in this failure it is but fair to say, that in a graduated scale of merit, as distributed amongst the long succession of editors through that century, Pope holds a rank proportionable to his age. For the year 1720, he is no otherwise below Theobald, Hanmer, Capell, Warburton, or even Johnson, than as they are successively below each other, and all of them as to accuracy below Steevens, as he again was below Malone and Read.

The gains from Shakspeare would hardly counterbalance the loss which Pope sustained this year from the South Sea Bubble. One thing, by the way, is still unaccountably neglected by writers on this question. How it was that the great Mississippi Bubble, during the Orleans regency in Paris, should have happened to coincide with that of London. If this were accident, how marvellous that the same insanity should possess the two great capitals of Christendom in the same year? If, again, it were not accident, but due to some common cause, why is not that cause explained? Pope to his nearest friends never stated the amount of his loss. The biographers report that at one time his stock was worth from twenty to thirty thousand pounds. But that is quite impossible. It is true, that as the stock rose at one time a thousand per cent., this would not imply on Pope’s part an original purchase beyond twenty-five hundred pounds or thereabouts. But Pope has furnished an argument against that, which we shall improve. He quotes, more than once, as applicable to his own case, the old proverbial riddle of Hesiod, ——— ——— ———, the half is more than the whole. What did he mean by that? We understand it thus: That between the selling and buying, the variations had been such as to sink his shares to one half of the price they had once reached, but, even at that depreciation, to leave him richer on selling out than he had been at first. But the half of 25,000 would be a far larger sum than Pope could have ventured to risk upon a fund confessedly liable to daily fluctuation. 3000 English pounds would be the utmost he could risk; in which case the half of 25,000 pounds would have left him so very much richer, that he would have proclaimed his good fortune as an evidence of his skill and prudence. Yet, on the contrary, he wished his friends to understand at times that he had lost. But his friends forgot to ask one important question: Was the word loss to be understood in relation to the imaginary and nominal wealth which he once possessed, or in relation to the absolute sum invested in the South Sea fund? The truth is, Pope practised on this, as on other occasions, a little finessing, which is the chief foible in his character. His object was, that, according to circumstances, he might vindicate his own freedom from the common mania, in case his enemies should take that handle for attacking him; or might have it in his power to plead poverty, and to account for it, in case he should ever accept that pension which had been so often tendered but never sternly rejected.

In 1723 Pope lost one of his dearest friends, Bishop Atterbury, by banishment; a sentence most justly incurred, and mercifully mitigated by the hostile Whig government. On the bishop’s trial a circumstance occurred to Pope which flagrantly corroborated his own belief in his natural disqualification for public life. He was summoned as an evidence on his friend’s behalf. He had but a dozen words to say, simply explaining the general tenor of his lordship’s behavior at Bromley, and yet, under this trivial task, though supported by the enthusiasm of his friendship, he broke down. Lord Bolingbroke, returning from exile, met the bishop at the sea-side; upon which it was wittily remarked that they were “exchanged.” Lord Bolingbroke supplied to Pope the place, or perhaps more than supplied the place, of the friend he had lost; for Bolingbroke was a free-thinker, and so far more entertaining to Pope, even whilst partially dissenting, than Atterbury, whose clerical profession laid him under restraints of decorum, and latterly, there is reason to think, of conscience.

In 1725, on closing the Odyssey, Pope announces his intention to Swift of quitting the labors of a translator, and thenceforwards applying himself to original composition. This resolution led to the Essay on Man, which appeared soon afterwards; and, with the exception of two labors, which occupied Pope in the interval between 1726 and 1729, the rest of his life may properly be described as dedicated to the further extension of that Essay. The two works which he interposed were a collection of the fugitive papers, whether prose or verse, which he and Dean Swift had scattered amongst their friends at different periods of life. The avowed motive for this publication, and, in fact, the secret motive, as disclosed in Pope’s confidential letters, was to make it impossible thenceforwards for piratical publishers like Curll. Both Pope and Swift dreaded the malice of Curll in case they should die before him. It was one of Curll’s regular artifices to publish a heap of trash on the death of any eminent man, under the title of his Remains; and in allusion to that practice, it was that Arbuthnot most wittily called Curll “one of the new terrors of death.” By publishing all, Pope would have disarmed Curll beforehand; and that was in fact the purpose; and that plea only could be offered by two grave authors, one forty, the other sixty years old, for reprinting jeux d’esprit that never had any other apology than the youth of their authors. Yet, strange to say, after all, some were omitted; and the omission of one opened the door to Curll as well as that of a score. Let Curll have once inserted the narrow end of the wedge, he would soon have driven it home.

This Miscellany, however, in three volumes, (published in 1727, but afterwards increased by a fourth in 1732,) though in itself a trifling work, had one vast consequence. It drew after it swarms of libels and lampoons, levelled almost exclusively at Pope, although the cipher of the joint authors stood entwined upon the title-page. These libels in their turn produced a second reaction; and, by stimulating Pope to effectual anger, eventually drew forth, for the everlasting admiration of posterity, the very greatest of Pope’s works; a monument of satirical power the greatest which man has produced, not excepting the MacFleckno of Dryden, namely, the immortal Dunciad.

In October of the year 1727, this poem, in its original form, was completed. Many editions, not spurious altogether, nor surreptitious, but with some connivance, not yet explained, from Pope, were printed in Dublin and in London. But the first quarto and acknowledged edition was published in London early in “1728–9,” as the editors choose to write it, that is, (without perplexing the reader,) in 1729. On March 12 of which year it was presented by the prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, to the king and queen at St. James’s.

Like a hornet, who is said to leave his sting in the wound, and afterwards to languish away, Pope felt so greatly exhausted by the efforts connected with the Dunciad, (which are far greater, in fact, than all his Homeric labors put together,) that he prepared his friends to expect for the future only an indolent companion and a hermit. Events rapidly succeeded which tended to strengthen the impression he had conceived of his own decay, and certainly to increase his disgust with the world. In 1732 died his friend Atterbury; and on December the 7th of the same year Gay, the most unpretending of all the wits whom he knew, and the one with whom he had at one time been domesticated, expired, after an illness of three days, which Dr. Arbuthnot declares to have been “the most precipitate” he ever knew. But in fact Gay had long been decaying, from the ignoble vice of too much and too luxurious eating. Six months after this loss, which greatly affected Pope, came the last deadly wound which this life could inflict, in the death of his mother. She had for some time been in her dotage, and recognized no face but that of her son, so that her death was not unexpected; but that circumstance did not soften the blow of separation to Pope. She died on the 7th of June, 1733, being then ninety-three years old. Three days after, writing to Richardson the painter, for the purpose of urging him to come down and take her portrait before the coffin was closed, he says, “I thank God, her death was as easy as her life was innocent; and as it cost her not a groan, nor even a sigh, there is yet upon her countenance such an expression of tranquillity,” that “it would afford the finest image of a saint expired that ever painting drew. Adieu, may you die as happily.” The funeral took place on the 11th; Pope then quitted the house, unable to support the silence of her chamber, and did not return for months, nor in fact ever reconciled himself to the sight of her vacant apartment.

Swift also he had virtually lost for ever. In April, 1727, this unhappy man had visited Pope for the last time. During this visit occurred the death of George I. Great expectations arose from that event amongst the Tories, in which, of course,’ Swift shared. It was reckoned upon as a thing of course that Walpole would be dismissed. But this bright gleam of hope proved as treacherous as all before; and the anguish of this final disappointment perhaps it was which brought on a violent attack of Swift’s constitutional malady. On the last of August he quitted Pope’s house abruptly, concealed himself in London, and finally quitted it, as stealthily as he had before quitted Twickenham, for Ireland, never more to return. He left a most affectionate letter for Pope; but his affliction, and his gloomy anticipations of insanity, were too oppressive to allow of his seeking a personal interview.

Pope might now describe himself pretty nearly as ultimus suorum; and if he would have friends in future, he must seek them, as he complains bitterly, almost amongst strangers and another generation. This sense of desolation may account for the acrimony which too much disfigures his writings henceforward. Between 1732 and 1740, he was chiefly engaged in satires, which uniformly speak a high moral tone in the midst of personal invective; or in poems directly philosophical, which almost as uniformly speak the bitter tone of satire in the midst of dispassionate ethics. His Essay on Man was but one link in a general course which he had projected of moral philosophy, here and there pursuing his themes into the fields of metaphysics, but no farther in either field of morals or metaphysics than he could make compatible with a poetical treatment. These works, however, naturally entangled him in feuds of various complexions with people of very various pretensions; and to admirers of Pope so fervent as we profess ourselves, it is painful to acknowledge that the dignity of his latter years, and the becoming tranquillity of increasing age, are sadly disturbed by the petulance and the tone of irritation which, alike to those in the wrong and in the right, inevitably besiege all personal disputes. He was agitated, besides, by a piratical publication of his correspondence. This emanated of course from the den of Curll, the universal robber and “blatant beast” of those days; and, besides the injury offered to his feelings by exposing some youthful sallies which he wished to have suppressed, it drew upon him a far more disgraceful imputation, most assuredly unfounded, but accredited by Dr. Johnson, and consequently in full currency to this day, of having acted collusively with Curll, or at least through Curll, for the publication of what he wished the world to see, but could not else have devised any decent pretext for exhibiting. The disturbance of his mind on this occasion led to a circular request, dispersed amongst his friends, that they would return his letters. All complied except Swift. He only delayed, and in fact shuffled. But it is easy to read in his evasions, and Pope, in spite of his vexation, read the same tale, viz., that, in consequence of his recurring attacks and increasing misery, he was himself the victim of artifices amongst those who surrounded him. What Pope apprehended happened.

The letters were all published in Dublin and in London, the originals being then only returned when they had done their work of exposure.

Such a tenor of life, so constantly fretted by petty wrongs, or by leaden insults, to which only the celebrity of their object lent force or wings, allowed little opportunity to Pope for recalling his powers from angry themes, and converging them upon others of more catholic philosophy. To the last he continued to conceal vipers beneath his flowers; or rather, speaking proportionately to the case, he continued to sheath amongst the gleaming but innocuous lightnings of his departing splendors, the thunderbolts which blasted for ever. His last appearance was his greatest. In 1742 he published the fourth book of the Dunciad; to which it has with much reason been objected, that it stands in no obvious relation to the other three, but which, taken as a separate whole, is by far the most brilliant and the weightiest of his works. Pope was aware of the hiatus between this last book and the rest, on which account he sometimes called it the greater Dunciad; and it would have been easy for him, with a shallow Warburtonian ingenuity, to invent links that might have satisfied a mere verbal sense of connection. But he disdained this puerile expedient. The fact was, and could not be disguised from any penetrating eye, that the poem was not a pursuit of the former subjects; it had arisen spontaneously at various times, by looking at the same general theme of dulness (which, in Pope’s sense, includes all aberrations of the intellect, nay, even any defective equilibrium amongst the faculties) under a different angle of observation, and from a different centre. In this closing book, not only bad authors, as in the other three, but all abuses of science or antiquarian knowledge, or connoisseurship in the arts, are attacked. Virtuosi, medalists, butterfly-hunters, florists, erring metaphysicians, &c., are all pierced through and through as with the shafts of Apollo. But the imperfect plan of the work as to its internal economy, no less than its exterior relations, is evident in many places; and in particular the whole catastrophe of the poem, if it can be so called, is linked to the rest by a most insufficient incident. To give a closing grandeur to his work, Pope had conceived the idea of representing the earth as lying universally under the incubation of one mighty spirit of dulness; a sort of millennium, as we may call it, for ignorance, error, and stupidity. This would take leave of the reader with effect; but how was it to be introduced? at what era? under what exciting cause? As to the eras, Pope could not settle that; unless it were a future era, the description of it could not be delivered as a prophecy; and, not being prophetic, it would want much of its grandeur. Yet, as a part of futurity, how is it connected with our present times? Do they and their pursuits lead to it as a possibility, or as a contingency upon certain habits which we have it in our power to eradicate, (in which case this vision of dulness has a practical warning,) or is it a mere necessity, one amongst the many changes attached to the cycles of human destiny, or which chance brings round with the revolutions of its wheel? All this Pope could not determine; but the exciting cause he has determined, and it is preposterously below the effect. The goddess of dulness yawns; and her yawn, which, after all, should rather express the fact and state of universal dulness than its cause, produces a change over all nations tantamount to a long eclipse. Meantime, with all its defects of plan, the poem, as to execution, is superior to all which Pope has done; the composition is much superior to that of the Essay on Man, and more profoundly poetic. The parodies drawn from Milton, as also in the former books, have a beauty and effect which cannot be expressed; and, if a young lady wished to cull for her album a passage from all Pope’s writings, which, without a trace of irritation or acrimony, should yet present an exquisite gem of independent beauty, she could not find another passage equal to the little story of the florist and the butterfly-hunter. They plead their cause separately before the throne of dulness; the florist telling how he had reared a superb carnation, which, in honor of the queen, he called Caroline, when his enemy, pursuing a butterfly which settled on the carnation, in securing his own object, had destroyed that of the plaintiff. The defendant replies with equal beauty; and it may certainly be affirmed, that, for brilliancy of coloring and the art of poetical narration, the tale is not surpassed by any in the language.

This was the last effort of Pope worthy of separate notice. He was now decaying rapidly, and sensible of his own decay. His complaint was a dropsy of the chest, and he knew it to be incurable. Under these circumstances, his behavior was admirably philosophical. He employed himself in revising and burnishing all his later works, as those upon which he wisely relied for his reputation with future generations. In this task he was assisted by Dr. Warburton, a new literary friend, who had introduced himself to the favorable notice of Pope about four years before, by a defence of the Essay on Man, which Crousaz had attacked, but in general indirectly and ineffectually, by attacking it through the blunders of a very faulty translation. This poem, however, still labors, to religious readers, under two capital defects. If man, according to Pope, is now so admirably placed in the universal system of things, that evil only could result from any change, then it seems to follow, either that a fall of man is inadmissible; or at least, that, by placing him in his true centre, it had been a blessing universally. The other objection lies in this, that if all is right already, and in this earthly station, then one argument for a future state, as the scene in which evil is to be redressed, seems weakened or undermined.

As the weakness of Pope increased, his nearest friends, Lord Bolingbroke, and a few others, gathered around him. The last scenes were passed almost with ease and tranquillity. He dined in company two days before he died: and on the very day preceding his death he took an airing on Blackheath. A few mornings before he died, he was found very early in his library writing on the immortality of the soul. This was an effort of delirium; and he suffered otherwise from this affection of the brain, and from inability to think in his closing hours. But his humanity and goodness, it was remarked, had survived his intellectual faculties. He died on the 30th of May, 1744; and so quietly, that the attendants could not distinguish the exact moment of his dissolution.

We had prepared an account of Pope’s quarrels, in which we had shown that, generally, he was not the aggressor; and often was atrociously ill used before he retorted. This service to Pope’s memory we had judged important, because it is upon these quarrels chiefly that the erroneous opinion has built itself of Pope’s fretfulness and irritability. And this unamiable feature of his nature, together with a proneness to petty manoeuvring, are the main foibles that malice has been able to charge upon Pope’s moral character. Yet, with no better foundation for their malignity than these doubtful propensities, of which the first perhaps was a constitutional defect, a defect of his temperament rather than his will, and the second has been much exaggerated, many writers have taken upon themselves to treat Pope as a man, if not absolutely unprincipled and without moral sensibility, yet as mean, little-minded, indirect, splenetic, vindictive, and morose. Now the difference between ourselves and these writers is fundamental. They fancy that in Pope’s character a basis of ignoble qualities was here and there slightly relieved by a few shining spots; we, on the contrary, believe that in Pope lay a disposition radically noble and generous, clouded and overshadowed by superficial foibles, or, to adopt the distinction of Shakspeare, they see nothing but “dust a little gilt,” and we “gold a little dusted.” A very rapid glance we will throw over the general outline of his character.

As a friend, it is noticed emphatically by Martha Blount and other contemporaries, who must have had the best means of judging, that no man was so warm-hearted, or so much sacrificed himself for others, as Pope; and in fact many of his quarrels grew out of this trait in his character. For once that he levelled his spear in his own quarrel, at least twice he did so on behalf of his insulted parents or his friends. Pope was also noticeable for the duration of his friendships; 11 some dropped him,—but he never any throughout his life. And let it be remembered, that amongst Pope’s friends were the men of most eminent talents in those days; so that envy at least, or jealousy of rival power, was assuredly no foible of his. In that respect how different from Addison, whose petty manoeuvring against Pope proceeded entirely from malignant jealousy. That Addison was more in the wrong even than has generally been supposed, and Pope more thoroughly innocent as well as more generous, we have the means at a proper opportunity of showing decisively. As a son, we need not insist on Pope’s preeminent goodness. Dean Swift, who had lived for months together at Twickenham, declares that he had not only never witnessed, but had never heard of anything like it. As a Christian, Pope appears in a truly estimable light. He found himself a Roman Catholic by accident of birth; so was his mother; but his father was so upon personal conviction and conversion, yet not without extensive study of the questions at issue. It would have laid open the road to preferment, and preferment was otherwise abundantly before him, if Pope would have gone over to the Protestant faith. And in his conscience he found no obstacle to that change; he was a philosophical Christian, intolerant of nothing but intolerance, a bigot only against bigots. But he remained true to his baptismal profession, partly on a general principle of honor in adhering to a distressed and dishonored party, but chiefly out of reverence and affection to his mother. In his relation to women, Pope was amiable and gentlemanly; and accordingly was the object of affectionate regard and admiration to many of the most accomplished in that sex. This we mention especially because we would wish to express our full assent to the manly scorn with which Mr. Roscoe repels the libellous insinuations against Pope and Miss Martha Blount. A more innocent connection we do not believe ever existed. As an author, Warburton has recorded that no man ever displayed more candor or more docility to criticisms offered in a friendly spirit. Finally, we sum up all in saying, that Pope retained to the last a true and diffusive benignity; that this was the quality which survived all others, notwithstanding the bitter trial which his benignity must have stood through life, and the excitement to a spiteful reaction of feeling which was continually pressed upon him by the scorn and insult which his deformity drew upon him from the unworthy.

But the moral character of Pope is of secondary interest. We are concerned with it only as connected with his great intellectual power. There are three errors which seem current upon this subject. First, that Pope drew his impulses from French literature; secondly, that he was a poet of inferior rank; thirdly, that his merit lies in superior “correctness.” With respect to the first notion, it has prevailed by turns in every literature. One stage of society, in every nation, brings men of impassioned minds to the contemplation of manners, and of the social affections of man as exhibited in manners. With this propensity cooperates, no doubt, some degree of despondency when looking at the great models of the literature who have usually preoccupied the grander passions, and displayed their movements in the earlier periods of literature. Now it happens that the French, from an extraordinary defect in the higher qualities of passion, have attracted the notice of foreign nations chiefly to that field of their literature, in which the taste and the unimpassioned understanding preside. But in all nations such literature is a natural growth of the mind, and would arise equally if the French literature had never existed. The wits of Queen Anne’s reign, or even of Charles II.‘s, were not French by their taste or their imitation. Butler and Dryden were surely not French; and of Milton we need not speak; as little was Pope French, either by his institution or by his models. Boileau he certainly admired too much; and, for the sake of a poor parallelism with a passage about Greece in Horace, he has falsified history in the most ludicrous manner, without a shadow of countenance from facts, in order to make out that we, like the Romans, received laws of taste from those whom we had conquered. But these are insulated cases and accidents, not to insist on his known and most profound admiration, often expressed, for both Chaucer, and Shakspeare, and Milton. Secondly, that Pope is to be classed as an inferior poet, has arisen purely from a confusion between the departments of poetry which he cultivated and the merit of his culture. The first place must undoubtedly be given for ever,—it cannot be refused,—to the impassioned movements of the tragic, and to the majestic movements of the epic muse. We cannot alter the relations of things out of favor to an individual. But in his own department, whether higher or lower, that man is supreme who has not yet been surpassed; and such a man is Pope. As to the final notion, first started by Walsh, and propagated by Warton, it is the most absurd of all the three; it is not from superior correctness that Pope is esteemed more correct, but because the compass and sweep of his performances lies more within the range of ordinary judgments. Many questions that have been raised upon Milton or Shakspeare, questions relating to so subtile a subject as the flux and reflux of human passion, lie far above the region of ordinary capacities; and the indeterminateness or even carelessness of the judgment is transferred by a common confusion to its objects. But waiving this, let us ask, what is meant by “correctness?” Correctness in what? In developing the thought? In connecting it, or effecting the transitions? In the use of words? In the grammar? In the metre? Under every one of these limitations of the idea, we maintain that Pope is not distinguished by correctness; nay, that, as compared with Shakspeare, he is eminently incorrect. Produce us from any drama of Shakspeare one of those leading passages that all men have by heart, and show us any eminent defect in the very sinews of the thought. It is impossible; defects there may be, but they will always be found irrelevant to the main central thought, or to its expression. Now turn to Pope; the first striking passage which offers itself to our memory, is the famous character of Addison, ending thus:

“Who would not laugh, if such a man there be,

Who but must weep if Atticus were he?”

Why must we laugh? Because we find a grotesque assembly of noble and ignoble qualities. Very well; but why then must we weep? Because this assemblage is found actually existing in an eminent man of genius. Well, that is a good reason for weeping; we weep for the degradation of human nature. But then revolves the question, why must we laugh? Because, if the belonging to a man of genius were a sufficient reason for weeping, so much we know from the very first. The very first line says, “Peace to all such. But were there one whose fires true genius kindles and fair fame inspires.” Thus falls to the ground the whole antithesis of this famous character. We are to change our mood from laughter to tears upon a sudden discovery that the character belonged to a man of genius; and this we had already known from the beginning. Match us this prodigious oversight in Shakspeare. Again, take the Essay on Criticism. It is a collection of independent maxims, tied together into a fasciculus by the printer, but having no natural order or logical dependency; generally so vague as to mean nothing. Like the general rules of justice, &c., in ethics, to which every man assents; but when the question comes about any practical case, is it just? The opinions fly asunder far as the poles. And, what is remarkable, many of the rules are violated by no man so often as by Pope, and by Pope nowhere so often as in this very poem. As a single instance, he proscribes monosyllabic lines; and in no English poem of any pretensions are there so many lines of that class as in this. We have counted above a score, and the last line of all is monosyllabic.

Not, therefore, for superior correctness, but for qualities the very same as belong to his most distinguished brethren, is Pope to be considered a great poet; for impassioned thinking, powerful description, pathetic reflection, brilliant narration. His characteristic difference is simply that he carried these powers into a different field, and moved chiefly amongst the social paths of men, and viewed their characters as operating through their manners. And our obligations to him arise chiefly on this ground, that having already, in the persons of earlier poets, carried off the palm in all the grander trials of intellectual strength, for the majesty of the epopee and the impassioned vehemence of the tragic drama, to Pope we owe it that we can now claim an equal preeminence in the sportive and aerial graces of the mock heroic and satiric muse; that in the Dunciad we possess a peculiar form of satire, in which (according to a plan unattempted by any other nation) we see alternately her festive smile and her gloomiest scowl; that the grave good sense of the nation has here found its brightest mirror; and, finally, that through Pope the cycle of our poetry is perfected and made orbicular, that from that day we might claim the laurel equally, whether for dignity or grace.

1 Dr. Johnson, however, and Joseph Warton, for reasons not stated, have placed his birth on the 22d. To this statement, as opposed to that which comes from the personal friends of Pope, little attention is due. Ruffhead and Spence, upon such questions, must always be of higher authority than Johnson and Warton, and a fortiori than Bowles. But it ought not to be concealed, though hitherto unnoticed by any person, that some doubt after all remains whether any of the biographers is right. An anonymous writer, contemporary with Pope, and evidently familiar with his personal history, declares that he was born on the 8th of June; and he connects it with an event that, having a public and a partisan interest, (the birth of that Prince of Wales, who was known twenty-seven years afterwards as the Pretender,) would serve to check his own recollections, and give them a collateral voucher. It is true he wrote for an ill-natured purpose; but no purpose whatever could have been promoted by falsifying this particular date. What is still more noticeable, however, Pope himself puts a most emphatic negative upon all these statements. In a pathetic letter to a friend, when his attention could not have been wandering, for he is expressly insisting upon a sentiment which will find an echo in many a human heart, viz., that a birthday, though from habit usually celebrated as a festal day, too often is secretly a memorial of disappointment, and an anniversary of sorrowful meaning, he speaks of the very day on which he is then writing as his own birthday; and indeed what else could give any propriety to the passage? Now the date of this letter is January 1, 1733. Surely Pope knew his own birthday better than those who have adopted a random rumor without investigation.

But, whilst we are upon this subject, we must caution the readers of Pope against too much reliance upon the chronological accuracy of his editors. All are scandalously careless; and generally they are faithless. Many allusions are left unnoticed, which a very little research would have illustrated; many facts are omitted, even yet recoverable, which are essential to the just appreciation of Pope’s satirical blows; and dates are constantly misstated. Mr. Roscoe is the most careful of Pope’s editors; but even he is often wrong. For instance, he has taken the trouble to write a note upon Pope’s humorous report to Lord Burlington of his Oxford journey on horseback with Lintot; and this note involves a sheer impossibility. The letter is undated, except as to the month; and Mr. Roscoe directs the reader to supply 1714 as the true date, which is a gross anachronism. For a ludicrous anecdote is there put into Lintot’s mouth, representing some angry critic, who had been turning over Pope’s Homer, with frequent pshaws, as having been propitiated, by Mr. Lintot’s dinner, into a gentler feeling towards Pope, and, finally, by the mere effect of good cheer, without an effort on the publisher’s part, as coming to a confession, that what he ate and what he had been reading were equally excellent. But in the year 1714, no part of Pope’s Homer was printed; June, 1715, was the month in which even the subscribers first received the four earliest books of the Iliad; and the public generally not until July. This we notice by way of specimen; in itself, or as an error of mere negligence, it would be of little importance; but it is a case to which Mr. Roscoe has expressly applied his own conjectural skill, and solicited the attention of his reader. We may judge, therefore, of his accuracy in other cases which he did not think worthy of examination.

There is another instance, presenting itself in every page, of ignorance concurring with laziness, on the part of all Pope’s editors, and with the effect not so properly of misleading as of perplexing the general reader. Until Lord Macclesfield’s bill for altering the style in the very middle of the eighteenth century, six years, therefore, after the death of Pope, there was a custom, arising from the collision between the civil and ecclesiastical year, of dating the whole period that lies between December 31st and March 25th, (both days exclusively,) as belonging indifferently to the past or the current year. This peculiarity had nothing to do with the old and new style, but was, we believe, redressed by the same act of Parliament. Now in Pope’s time it was absolutely necessary that a man should use this double date, because else he was liable to be seriously misunderstood. For instance, it was then always said that Charles I had suffered on the 30th of January 1648/9, and why? Because, had the historian fixed the date to what it really was, 1649, in that case all those (a very numerous class) who supposed the year 1649 to commence on Ladyday, or March 25, would have understood him to mean that this event happened in what we now call 1650, for not until 1650 was there any January which they would have acknowledged as belonging to 1649, since they added to the year 1648 all the days from January 1 to March 24. On the other hand, if he had said simply that Charles suffered in 1648, he would have been truly understood by the class we have just mentioned; but by another class, who began the year from the 1st of January, he would have been understood to mean what we now mean by the year 1648. There would have been a sheer difference, not of one, as the reader might think at first sight, but of two entire years in the chronology of the two parties; which difference, and all possibility of doubt, is met and remedied by the fractional date 1648/1649 for that date says in effect it was 1648 to you who do not open the new year till Ladyday; it was 1649 to you who open it from January 1. Thus much to explain the real sense of the case, and it follows from this explanation, that no part of the year ever can have the fractional or double date except the interval from January 1 to March 24 inclusively. And hence arises a practical inference, viz, that the very same reason, and no other, which formerly enjoined the use of the compound or fractional date, viz, the prevention of a capital ambiguity or dilemma, now enjoins its omission. For in our day, when the double opening of the year is abolished, what sense is there in perplexing a reader by using a fraction which offers him a choice without directing him how to choose? In fact, it is the denominator of the fraction, if one may so style the lower figure, which expresses to a modern eye the true year. Yet the editors of Pope, as well as many other writers, have confused their readers by this double date; and why? Simply because they were confused themselves. (period omitted in original; but there is a double space following, suggesting one should have been there) Many errors in literature of large extent have arisen from this confusion. Thus it was said properly enough in the contemporary accounts, for instance, in Lord Monmouth’s Memoirs that Queen Elizabeth died on the last day of the year 1602, for she died on the 24th of March, and by a careful writer this event would have been dated as March 24, 1602/1603. But many writers, misled by the phrase above cited, have asserted that James I. was proclaimed on the 1st of January, 1603. Heber, Bishop of Calcutta, again, has ruined the entire chronology of the Life of Jeremy Taylor, and unconsciously vitiated the facts, by not understanding this fractional date. Mr Roscoe even too often leaves his readers to collect the true year as they can. Thus, e. g. at p. 509, of his Life, he quotes from Pope’s letter to Warburton, in great vexation for the surreptitious publication of his letters in Ireland, under date of February 4, 174–0/1. But why not have printed it intelligibly as 1741? Incidents there are in most men’s lives, which are susceptible of a totally different moral value, according as the are dated in one year or another That might be a kind and honorable liberality in 1740, which would be a fraud upon creditors in 1741. Exile to a distance of ten miles from London in January, 1744 might argue, that a man was a turbulent citizen, and suspected of treason, whilst the same exile in January, 1745, would simply argue that, as a Papist, he had been included amongst his whole body in a general measure of precaution to meet the public dangers of that year. This explanation we have thought it right to make both for its extensive application to all editions of Pope, and on account of the serious blunders which have arisen from the case when ill understood, and because, in a work upon education, written jointly by Messrs Lant Carpenter and Shephard though generally men of ability and learning, this whole point is erroneously explained.

2 It is apparently with allusion to this part of his history, which he would often have heard from the lips of his own father, that Pope glances at his uncle’s memory somewhat disrespectfully in his prose letter to Lord Harvey.

3 Some accounts, however, say to Flanders, in which case, perhaps, Antwerp or Brussels would have the honor of his conversion.

4 This however was not Twyford, according to an anonymous pamphleteer of the times but a Catholic seminary in Devonshire Street that is, in the Bloomsbury district of London, and the same author asserts, that the scene of his disgrace as indeed seems probable beforehand, was not the first but the last of his arenas as a schoolboy Which indeed was first, and which last, is very unimportant; but with a view to another point, which is not without interest, namely, as to the motive of Pope for so bitter a lampoon as we must suppose it to have been, as well as with regard to the topics which he used to season it, this anonymous letter throws the only light which has been offered; and strange it is, that no biographer of Pope should have hunted upon the traces indicated by him. Any solution of Pope’s virulence, and of the master’s bitter retaliation, even as a solution, is so far entitled to attention; apart from which the mere straightforwardness of this man’s story, and its minute circumstantiality, weigh greatly in its favor. To our thinking, he unfolds the whole affair in the simple explanation, nowhere else to be found, that the master of the school, the mean avenger of a childish insult by a bestial punishment, was a Mr. Bromley, one of James II.‘s Popish apostates; whilst the particular statements which he makes with respect to himself and the young Duke of Norfolk of 1700, as two schoolfellows of Pope at that time and place, together with his voluntary promise to come forward in person, and verify his account if it should happen to be challenged,—are all, we repeat, so many presumptions in favor of his veracity. “Mr. Alexander Pope,” says he, “before he had been four months at this school, or was able to construe Tully’s Offices, employed his muse in satirizing his master. It was a libel of at least one hundred verses, which (a fellow-student having given information of it) was found in his pocket; and the young satirist was soundly whipped, and kept a prisoner to his room for seven days; whereupon his father fetched him away, and I have been told he never went to school more.” This Bromley, it has been ascertained, was the son of a country gentleman in Worcestershire, and must have had considerable prospects at one time, since it appears that he had been a gentleman-commoner at Christ’s Church, Oxford. There is an error in the punctuation of the letter we have just quoted, which affects the sense in a way very important to the question before us. Bromley is described as “one of King James’s converts in Oxford, some years after that prince’s abdication;” but, if this were really so, he must have been a conscientious convert. The latter clause should be connected with what follows:” Some years after that prince’s abdication he kept a little seminary; “that is, when his mercenary views in quitting his religion were effectually defeated, when the Boyne had sealed his despair, he humbled himself into a petty schoolmaster. These facts are interesting, because they suggest at once the motive for the merciless punishment inflicted upon Pope. His own father was a Papist like Bromley, but a sincere and honest Papist, who had borne double taxes, legal stigmas, and public hatred for conscience’ sake. His contempt was habitually pointed at those who tampered with religion for interested purposes. His son inherited these upright feelings. And we may easily guess what would be the bitter sting of any satire he would write on Bromley. Such a topic was too true to be forgiven, and too keenly barbed by Bromley’s conscience. By the way, this writer, like ourselves, reads in this juvenile adventure a prefiguration of Pope’s satirical destiny.

5 That is, Sheffield, and, legally speaking, of Buckingham shire. For he would not take the title of Buckingham, under a fear that there was lurking somewhere or other a claim to that title amongst the connections of the Villiers family. He was a pompous grandee, who lived in uneasy splendor, and, as a writer, most extravagantly overrated; accordingly, he is now forgotten. Such was his vanity, and his ridiculous mania for allying himself with royalty, that he first of all had the presumption to court the Princess (afterwards Queen) Anne. Being rejected, he then offered himself to the illegitimate daughter of James II., by the daughter of Sir Charles Sedley. She was as ostentatious as himself, and accepted him.

6 Meantime, the felicities of this translation are at times perfectly astonishing; and it would be scarcely possible to express more nervously or amply the words,

—“jurisque secundi

Ambitus impatiens, et summo dulcius unum

Stare loco,”——

than this child of fourteen has done in the following couplet, which, most judiciously, by reversing the two clauses, gains the power of fusing them into connection.

“And impotent desire to reign alone,

That scorns the dull reversion of a throne.”

But the passage for which beyond all others we must make room, is a series of eight lines, corresponding to six in the original; and this for two reasons: First, Because Dr. Joseph Warton has deliberately asserted, that in our whole literature, “we have scarcely eight more beautiful lines than these;” and though few readers will subscribe to so sweeping a judgment, yet certainly these must be wonderful lines for a boy, which could challenge such commendation from an experienced polyhistor of infinite reading. Secondly, Because the lines contain a night-scene. Now it must be well known to many readers, that the famous night scene in the Iliad, so familiar to every schoolboy, has been made the subject, for the last thirty years, of severe, and, in many respects, of just criticisms. This description will therefore have a double interest by comparison, whilst, whatever may be thought of either taken separately for itself, considered as a translation, this which we now quote is as true to Statius as the other is undoubtedly faithless to Homer

Jamque per emeriti surgens confima Phoebi

Titanis, late mundo subvecta silenti

Rorifera gelidum tenuaverat aera biga

Jam pecudes volucresque tacent. jam somnus avaris

Inserpit curis, pronusque per aera nutat,

Grata laboratae referens oblivia vitae

Theb I 336–341.

“’Twas now the time when Phoebus yields to night,

And rising Cynthia sheds her silver light,

Wide o’er the world in solemn pomp she drew

Her airy chariot hung with pearly dew

All birds and beasts he hush’d. Sleep steals away

The wild desires of men and toils of day,

And brings, descending through the silent air,

A sweet forgetfulness of human care.”

7 One writer of that age says, in Cheapside, but probably this difference arose from contemplating Lombard Street as a prolongation of Cheapside.

8 Dr Johnson said, that all he could discover about Mr Cromwell, was the fact of his going a hunting in a tie wig, but Gay has added another fact to Dr Johnson’s, by calling him “Honest hatless Cromwell with red breeches” This epithet has puzzled the commentators, but its import is obvious enough Cromwell, as we learn from more than one person, was anxious to be considered a fine gentleman, and devoted to women. Now it was long the custom in that age for such persons, when walking with ladies, to carry their hats in their hand. Louis XV. used to ride by the side of Madame de Pompadour hat in hand.

9 It is strange indeed to find, not only that Pope had so frequently kept rough copies of his own letters, and that he thought so well of them as to repeat the same letter to different persons, as in the case of the two lovers killed by lightning, or even to two sisters, Martha and Therese Blount (who were sure to communicate their letters,) but that even Swift had retained copies of his.

10 The word undertake had not yet lost the meaning of Shakspeare’s age, in which it was understood to describe those cases where, the labor being of a miscellaneous kind, some person in chief offered to overlook and conduct the whole, whether with or without personal labor. The modern undertaker, limited to the care of funerals, was then but one of numerous cases to which the term was applied.

11 We may illustrate this feature in the behavior of Pope to Savage. When all else forsook him, when all beside pleaded the insults of Savage for withdrawing their subscriptions, Pope sent his in advance. And when Savage had insulted him also, arrogantly commanding him never “to presume to interfere or meddle in his affairs,” dignity and self-respect made Pope obedient to these orders, except when there was an occasion of serving Savage. On his second visit to Bristol (when he returned from Glamorganshire,) Savage had been thrown into the jail of the city. One person only interested himself for this hopeless profligate, and was causing an inquiry to be made about his debts at the time Savage died. So much Dr. Johnson admits; but he forgets to mention the name of this long suffering friend. It was Pope. Meantime, let us not be supposed to believe the lying legend of Savage; he was doubtless no son of Lady Macclesfield’s, but an impostor, who would not be sent to the tread-mill.

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