Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors]

Perhaps I may allow, the dean

Had too much satire in his vein,

And seemed determined not to starve it,
Because no age could more deserve it.
Vice, if it e'er can be abashed,
Must be or ridiculed or lashed.
If you sent it, who's to blame?

He neither knew you, nor your name:
Should vice expect to 'scape rebuke,
Because its owner is a duke?
His friendships, still to few confined,
Were always of the middling kind;
No fools of rank or mongrel breed,
Who fain would pass for lords indeed,
Where titles give no right or power,
And peerage is a withered flower.
He would have deemed it a disgrace,
If such a wretch had known his face.
He never thought an honour done him,
Because a peer was proud to own him;
Would rather lip aside, and choose
To talk with wits in dirty shoes;
And scorn the tools with stars and garters,
So often seen caressing Charteris.
He kept with princes due decorum,
Yet never stood in awe before 'em.
He followed David's lesson just;
In princes never put his trust:
And, would you make him truly sour,
Provoke him with a slave in power.'
· Alas, poor dean! his only scope
Was to be held a misanthrope.
This into general odium drew him,

Which, if he liked, much good may't do him.
His zeal was not to lash our crimes,
But discontent against the times:
For, had we made him timely offers
To raise his post, or fill his coffers,
Perhaps he might have truckled down,
Like other brethren of his gown.
For party he would scarce have bled:
say no more--because he's dead.
What writings has he left behind?

I

I hear they're of a different kind:

A few in verse; but most in prose:
Some high-flown pamphlets, I suppose :
All scribbled in the worst of times,
To palliate his friend Oxford's crimes;
To praise Queen Anne, nay more, defend

her,

As never favouring the Pretender:
Or libels yet concealed from sight,
Against the court, to show his spite :
Perhaps his travels, part the third;
A lie at every second word-
Offensive to a loyal ear:

But not one sermon, you may swear.'
As for his works in verse or prose,

I own myself no judge of those.

Nor can I tell what critics thought 'em ;
But this I know, all people bought 'em,
As with a moral view designed,
To please, and to reform mankind:
And, if he often missed his aim,
The world must own it to their shame,
The praise is his, and theirs the blame.
He gave the little wealth he had
To build a house for fools and mad;
To show, by one satiric touch,
No nation wanted it so much.

That kingdom he hath left his debtor;
I wish it soon may have a better.

And, since you dread no further lashes, Methinks you may forgive his ashes.'

The Grand Question Debated:

Whether Hamilton's Bawn should be turned into a Barrack or a Malt-house. 1729.*

Thus spoke to my lady the knight1 full of care:
Let me have your advice in a weighty affair.
This Hamilton's Bawn, whilst it sticks on my hand,
I lose by the house what I get by the land;
But how to dispose of it to the best bidder,
For a barrack or malt-house, we now must consider.
First, let me suppose I make it a malt-house,
Here I have computed the profit will fall to us;
There's nine hundred pounds for labour and grain,
I increase it to twelve, so three hundred remain;
A handsome addition for wine and good cheer.
Three dishes a day, and three hogsheads a year:
With a dozen large vessels my vault shall be stored;
No little scrub joint shall come on my board:
And you and the dean no more shall combine
To stint me at night to one bottle of wine;
Nor shall I, for his humour, permit you to purloin
A stone and a quarter of beef from my sirloin.
If I make it a barrack, the crown is my tenant;
My dear, I have pondered again and again on't:
In poundage and drawbacks I lose half my rent,
Whatever they give me I must be content,
Or join with the court in every debate;
And rather than that I would lose my estate.

Thus ended the knight: thus began his meek wife;

It must and shall be a barrack, my life.

I'm grown a mere mopus; no company comes,
But a rabble of tenants and rusty dull rums.3
With parsons what lady can keep herself clean!
I'm all over daubed when I sit by the dean.
But if you will give us a barrack, my dear,
The captain, I'm sure, will always come here;
I then shall not value his deanship a straw,
For the captain, I warrant, will keep him in awe;
Or should he pretend to be brisk and alert,
Will tell him that chaplains should not be so pert;
That men of his coat should be minding their prayers,
And not among ladies to give themselves airs.

Thus argued my lady, but argued in vain ;
The knight his opinion resolved to maintain.

But Hannah, who listened to all that was past, And could not endure so vulgar a taste, As soon as her ladyship called to be drest, Cried, Madam, why, surely my master's possest. Sir Arthur the maltster! how fine it will sound! I'd rather the bawn were sunk under ground. But, madam, I guessed there would never come good, When I saw him so often with Darby and Wood.5 And now my dream's out; for I was a-dreamed That I saw a huge rat; O dear, how I screamed ! And after, methought, I had lost my new shoes; And Molly she said I should hear some ill news.

* Swift spent almost a whole year (1728-9) at Gosford, in the north of Ireland, the seat of Sir Arthur Acheson, assisting Sir Arthur in his agricultural improvements, and lecturing, as usual, the lady of the manor upon the improvement of her health by walking, and her mind by reading. The circumstance of Sir Arthur letting a ruinous building called Hamilton's Bawn to the crown for a barrack, gave rise to one of the dean's most lively pieces of fugitive humour.-Scott's Life of Swift. A bawn is strictly a place near a house enclosed with mud or stone walls to keep the cattle.

1 Sir Arthur Acheson, an intimate friend of the poet. Sir Arthur was ancestor of the present Earl of Gosford.

A large old house belonging to Sir Arthur, two miles from his residence.

3 A cant word in Ireland for a poor country clergyman. My lady's waiting-maid,

5 Two of Sir Arthur's managers.

Dear madam, had you but the spirit to tease,
You might have a barrack whenever you please:
And, madam, I always believed you so stout,
That for twenty denials you would not give out.
If I had a husband like him, I purtest,
"Till he gave me my will, I would give him no rest;
But, madam, I beg you contrive and invent,
And worry him out, 'till he gives his consent.

Dear madam, whene'er of a barrack I think,
An I were to be hanged I can't sleep a wink:
For if a new crotchet comes into my brain,
I can't get it out, though I'd never so fain.
I fancy already a barrack contrived,

At Hamilton's Bawn, and the troop is arrived;
Of this, to be sure, Sir Arthur has warning,
And waits on the captain betimes the next morning.
Now see when they meet how their honours behave,
Noble captain, your servant-Sir Arthur, your slave;
You honour me much-the honour is mine-
'Twas a sad rainy night-but the morning is fine.
Pray how does my lady?-my wife's at your service.
I think I have seen her picture by Jervis.

To shorten my tale (for I hate a long story),
The captain at dinner appears in his glory;
The dean and the doctor have humbled their pride,
For the captain's intreated to sit by your side;
And, because he's their betters, you carve for him
first,

[ocr errors]

The parsons for envy are ready to burst;
The servants amazed are scarce ever able
To keep off their eyes, as they wait at the table;
And Molly and I have thrust in our nose
To peep at the captain in all his fine clothes;
Dear madam, be sure he's a fine spoken man,
Do but hear on the clergy how glib his tongue ran;
'And madam,' says he, if such dinners you give,
You'll never want parsons as long as you live;
I ne'er knew a parson without a good nose,
But the devil's as welcome wherever he goes;
G-d—me, they bid us reform and repent,
But, z-s, by their looks they never keep lent;
Mister curate, for all your grave looks, I'm afraid
You cast a sheep's eye on her ladyship's maid ;
I wish she would lend you her pretty white hand

Good morrow, good captain-I'll wait on you down-In mending your cassock, and smoothing your band;
You shan't stir a foot-you'll think me a clown-
For all the world, captain, not half an inch
You must be obeyed-your servant, Sir Arthur;
My humble respects to my lady unknown-
I hope you will use my house as your own.

(For the dean was so shabby, and looked like a ninny farther-That the captain supposed he was curate to Jenny)." Whenever you see a cassock and gown,

Go bring me my smock, and leave off your prate,
Thou hast certainly gotten a cup in thy pate.'
Pray madam, be quiet: what was it I said?
You had like to have put it quite out of my head.
Next day, to be sure, the captain will come
At the head of his troop, with trumpet and drum;
Now, madam, observe how he marches in state;
The man with the kettle-drum enters the gate;
Dub, dub, adub, dub. The trumpeters follow,
Tantara, tantara, while all the boys hollow.
See now comes the captain all daubed with gold
lace;

O, la! the sweet gentleman, look in his face;
And see how he rides like a lord of the land,
With the fine flaming sword that he holds in his hand;
And his horse, the dear creter, it prances and rears,
With ribbons in knots at its tail and its ears;
At last comes the troop, by the word of command,
Drawn up in our court, when the captain cries, Stand.
Your ladyship lifts up the sash to be seen
(For sure I had dizened you out like a queen),
The captain, to show he is proud of the favour,
Looks up to your window, and cocks up his beaver.
(His beaver is cocked; pray, madam, mark that,
For a captain of horse never takes off his hat;
Because he has never a hand that is idle,

A hundred to one but it covers a clown;
Observe how a parson comes into a room,
G-d-me, he hobbles as bad as my groom;
A scholar, when just from his college broke loose,
Can hardly tell how to cry bo to a goose;
Your Noveds, and Bluturks, and Omurs, and stuff,
By G-, they don't signify this pinch of snuff.
To give a young gentleman right education,
The army's the only good school of the nation;
My schoolmaster called me a dunce and a fool,
But at cuffs I was always the cock of the school;
I never could take to my book for the blood o' me,
And the puppy confessed he expected no good o' me.
He caught me one morning coquetting his wife,
But he mauled me; I ne'er was so mauled in my life;
So I took to the road, and what's very odd,
The first man I robbed was a parson by G—.
Now, madam, you'll think it a strange thing to say,
But the sight of a book makes me sick to this day.

Never since I was born did I hear so much wit,
And, madam, I laughed till I thought I should split.
So then you looked scornful, and snift at the dean,
As who should say, Now, am I skinny and lean 13
But he durst not so much as once open his lips,
And the doctor was plaguily down in the hips.

Thus merciless Hannah ran on in her talk,
Till she heard the dean call, Will your ladyship walk!
Her ladyship answers, I'm just coming down.

For the right holds the sword, and the left holds the Then turning to Hannah and forcing a frown,
bridle);

Then flourishes thrice his sword in the air,
As a compliment due to a lady so fair;
(How I tremble to think of the blood it hath spilt !)
Then he lowers down the point, and kisses the hilt.
Your ladyship smiles, and thus you begin:
Pray captain, be pleased to alight and walk in.
The captain salutes you with congee profound,
And your ladyship curtsies half way to the ground.
Kit, run to your master, and bid him come to us.
I'm sure he'll be proud of the honour you do us;
And, captain, you'll do us the favour to stay,
And take a short dinner here with us to-day;
You're heartily welcome; but as for good cheer,
You come in the very worst time of the year.
If I had expected so worthy a guest-
Lord, madam! your ladyship sure is in jest ;
You banter me, madam, the kingdom must grant-
You officers, captain, are so complaisant.

Hist, hussy, I think I hear somebody coming'-
No, madam, 'tis only Sir Arthur a-humming.

Although it was plain in her heart she was glad,
Cried, Hussy, why sure the wench is gone mad;
How could these chimeras get into your brains?
Come hither, and take this old gown for your pains.
But the dean, if this secret should come to his ears,
Will never have done with his jibes and his jeers.
For your life not a word of the matter, I charge ye;
Give me but a barrack, a fig for the clergy.'

ALEXANDER POPE.

United with Swift in friendship and in fame, but possessing far higher powers as a poet, and more refined taste as a satirist, was ALEXANDER POPE, born in London May 22, 1688. His father, a linen draper, having acquired an independent fortune, retired to Binfield, in Windsor Forest. He was a Roman Catholic, and the young poet was partly

1 Dr Jenny, a clergyman in the neighbourhood.

2 Ovids, Plutarchs, Homers. 8 Nicknames for my lady.

educated by the family priest. He was afterwards sent to a Catholic seminary at Twyford, near Win

A. Pope

chester, where he lampooned his teacher, was severely punished, and afterwards taken home by his parents. He educated himself, and attended no school after his twelfth year! The whole of his early life was that of a severe student. He was a poet in his infancy.

machinery of the poem, founded upon the Rosicrucian theory, that the elements are inhabited by spirits, which they called sylphs, gnomes, nymphs, and salamanders, was added at the suggestion of Dr Garth and some of his friends. Sylphs had been previously mentioned as invisible attendants on the fair, and the idea is shadowed out in Shakspeare's 'Ariel,' and the amusements of the fairies in the 'Midsummer Night's Dream.' But Pope has blended the most delicate satire with the most lively fancy, and produced the finest and most brilliant mock-heroic poem in the world. It is,' says Johnson, the most airy, the most ingenious, and the most delightful of all Pope's compositions.' The Temple of Fame and the Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady, were next published; and in 1713 appeared his Windsor Forest which was chiefly written so early as 1704. The latter was evidently founded on Denham's 'Cooper's Hill,' which it far excels. Pope was, properly speaking, no mere descriptive poet. He made the picturesque subservient to views of historical events, or to sketches of life and morals. But most of the Windsor Forest' being composed in his earlier years, amidst the shades of those noble woods which he selected for the theme of his verse, there is in this poem a greater display of sympathy with external nature and rural objects than in any of his other works. The lawns and glades of the forest, the russet plains, and blue hills, and even the purple dyes' of the wild heath,' had struck his young imagination. His account of the dying pheasant is a finished picture

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

See! from the brake the whirring pheasant springs,
And mounts exulting on triumphant wings:
Short is his joy, he feels the fiery wound,
Flutters in blood, and panting beats the ground.
Ah! what avail his glossy varying dyes,
His purple crest and scarlet-circled eyes;
The vivid green his shining plumes unfold,
His painted wings, and breast that flames with gold!
Another fine painting of external nature, as pic-
turesque as any to be found in the purely descrip-
tive poets, is the winter piece in the Temple of
Fame-

So Zembla's rocks (the beauteous work of frost)
Rise white in air, and glitter o'er the coast;
Pale suns, unfelt, at distance roll away,
And on the impassive ice the lightnings play;
External snows the growing mass supply,
Till the bright mountains prop the incumbent sky:
As Atlas fixed, each hoary pile appears,
The gathered winter of a thousand years.

As yet a child, and all unknown to fame, I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came. The writings of Dryden became the more particular object of his admiration, and he prevailed upon a friend to introduce him to Will's coffeehouse, which Dryden then frequented, that he might have the gratification of seeing an author whom he so enthusiastically admired. Pope was then not more than twelve years of age. He wrote, but afterwards destroyed, various dramatic pieces, and at the age of sixteen composed his Pastorals, and his imitations of Chaucer. He soon became acquainted with most of the eminent persons of the day both in politics and literature. In 1711 appeared his Essay on Criticism, unquestionPope now commenced his translation of the Iliad. ably the finest piece of argumentative and reasoning At first the gigantic task oppressed him with its poetry in the English language. The work is said difficulty, but he grew more familiar with Homer's to have been composed two years before publication, images and expressions, and in a short time was when Pope was only twenty-one. The ripeness of able to despatch fifty verses a-day. Great part of judgment which it displays is truly marvellous. the manuscript was written upon the backs and Addison commended the Essay' warmly in the covers of letters, evincing that it was not withSpectator, and it instantly rose into great popu-out reason he was called paper-sparing Pope. The larity. The style of Pope was now formed and com- poet obtained a clear sum of £5320, 4s. by this plete. His versification was that of his master, translation: his exclamationDryden, but he gave the heroic couplet a peculiar terseness, correctness, and melody. The essay was shortly afterwards followed by the Rape of the Lock. The stealing of a lock of hair from a beauty of the day, Miss Arabella Fermor, by her lover, Lord Petre, was taken seriously, and caused an estrangement between the families, and Pope wrote his poem to make a jest of the affair, and laugh them together again. In this he did not succeed, but he added greatly to his reputation by the effort. The

And thanks to Homer, since I live and thrive,
Indebted to no prince or peer alive-

was, however, scarcely just, if we consider that this
large sum was in fact a benevolence' from the upper
classes of society, good-naturedly designed to reward
his literary merit. The fame of Pope was not advanced
in an equal degree with his fortune by his labours
as a translator. The fatal facility' of his rhyme,
the additional false ornaments which he imparted

to the ancient Greek, and his departure from the nice discrimination of character and speech which prevails in Homer, are faults now universally admitted. Cowper (though he failed himself in Homer) justly remarks, that the Iliad and Odyssey in Pope's hands have no more the air of antiquity than if he had himself invented them.' The success of the Iliad led to the translation of the Odyssey; but Pope called in his friends Broome and Fenton as assistants. These two coadjutors translated twelve books, and the notes were compiled by Broome. Fenton received £300, and Broome £500, while Pope had £2885, 5s. The Homeric labours occupied a period of twelve years-from 1713 to 1725. The improvement of his pecuniary resources enabled the poet to remove from the shades of Windsor Forest to a rituation nearer the metropolis. He purchased a lease of a house and grounds at Twickenham, to

which he removed with his father and mother, and where he continued to reside during the remainder of his life. This classic spot, which Pope delighted to improve, and where he was visited by ministers of state, wits, poets, and beauties, is now greatly defaced. Whilst on a visit to Oxford in 1716, Pope

* Pope's house was not large, but sufficiently commodious for the wants of an English gentleman whose friends visited himself rather than his dwelling, and who were superior to the necessity of stately ceremonials. On one side it fronted to the road, which it closely adjoined; on the other, to a narrow 1.wn sloping to the Thames. A piece of pleasure-ground, including a garden, was cut off by the public road; an awkward and unpoetical arrangement, which the proprietor did his best to improve. After the poet's death, the villa was purchased by Sir William Stanhope, and subsequently by Lord Mendip, who carefully preserved everything connected with it; but, being in 1807 sold to the Baroness Ilowe, it was by that lady taken down, that a larger house might be built near its site. Now (1843), the place is the property of Young, Esq.; the second house has been enlarged into two, and further alterations are contemplated. The grounds have suffered a complete change since Pope's time, and a monument which he erected to his mother on a hillock at their further extremity has been removed. The only certain remnants of the poet's mansion are the vaults upon which it was built, three in number, the central one being connected with a tunnel, which, passing under the road, gives admission to the rear grounds, while the

commenced, and probably finished, the most highly poetical and passionate of his works, the Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard. The delicacy of the poet in veiling over the circumstances of the story, and at the same time preserving the ardour of Eloisa's passion, the beauty of his imagery and descriptions, the exquisite melody of his versification, rising and falling like the tones of an Eolian harp, as he successively portrays the tumults of guilty love, the deepest penitence, and the highest devotional rapture, have never been surpassed. If less genial tastes and a love of satire withdrew Pope from those fountain-springs of the Muse, it was obviously from no want of power in the poet to display the richest hues of imagination, or the finest impulses of the human mind. The next literary undertaking of our author was an edition of Shakspeare, in which he attempted, with but indifferent success, to establish the text of the mighty poet, and explain his obscurities. In 1733, he published his Essay on Man, being part of a course of moral philosophy in verse which he projected. The Essay' is now read, not for its philosophy, but for its poetry. Its metaphysical distinctions are neglected for those splendid passages and striking incidents which irradiate the poem. In lines like the following, he speaks with a mingled sweetness and dignity superior to his great master Dryden :

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest.
The soul, uneasy and confined, from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind;
His soul, proud science never taught to stray
Far as the solar walk or milky way;

Yet simple nature to his hope has given
Behind the cloud-topped hill a humbler heaven;
Some safer world in depth of woods embraced,
Some happier island in the watery waste,
Where slaves once more their native land behold,
No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold.
To be, contents his natural desire,

He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire;
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
His faithful dog shall bear him company.
Good, Pleasure, Ease, Content, whate'er thy name;
Oh Happiness! our being's end and aim,
That something still which prompts the eternal sigh,
For which we bear to live, or dare to die,
Which, still so near us, yet beyond us lies,
O'erlooked, seen double, by the fool, and wise!
Plant of celestial seed! if dropped below,
Fair opening to some court's propitious shine,
Say, in what mortal soil thou deign'st to grow?
Or deep with diamonds in the flaming mine?
Twined with the wreaths Parnassian laurels yield,
Or reaped in iron harvests of the field?

[graphic]

side ones are of the character of grottos, paved with square bricks, and stuck over with shells It is curious to find over the central stone of the entrance into the left of these grottos, a large ammonite, and over the other, the piece of hardened clay in which its cast was left. Pope must have regarded these merely as curiosities, or lusus naturæ, little dreaming of the wonderful tale of the early condition of our globe which they assist in telling. A short narrow piazza in front of the grottos is probably the evening colonnade' of the lines on the absence of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The taste with which Pope laid out his grounds at Twickenham (five acres in all), had a marked effect on English landscape gardening. The Prince of Wales took the design of his garden from the poet's; and Kent, the improver and embellisher of pleasure grounds, received his best lessons from Pope. He aided materially in banishing the stiff formal Dutch style.

Where grows where grows it not? If vain our toil, The anticipated approach of the Pretender led the We ought to blame the culture, not the soil. Fixed to no spot is Happiness sincere ; 'Tis nowhere to be found, or everywhere; 'Tis never to be bought, but always free,

And fled from monarchs, ST JOHN! dwells with thee.
Ask of the learned the way! The learned are blind;
This bids to serve, and that to shun mankind;
Some place the bliss in action, some in case;
Those call it pleasure, and contentment these;
Some sunk to beasts, find pleasure end in pain;
Some swelled to gods, confess even virtue vain;
Or indolent, to each extreme they fall,
To trust in everything, or doubt of all.

Pope's future labours were chiefly confined to satire. In 1727 he published, in conjunction with his friend Swift, three volumes of Miscellanies, in prose and verse, which drew down upon the authors a torrent of invective. lampoons, and libels, and ultimately led to the Dunciad, by Pope. This elaborate and splendid satire displays the fertile invention of the poet, the variety of his illustration, and the unrivalled force and facility of his diction; but it is now read with a feeling more allied to pity than admiration-pity that one so highly gifted should have allowed himself to descend to things so mean, and devote the end of a great literary life to the infliction of retributary pain on every humble aspirant in the world of letters. I have often wondered,' says Cowper, that the same poet who wrote the Dunciad" should have written these

lines

[ocr errors]

That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.

Alas for Pope, if the mercy he showed to others was the measure of the mercy he received.' Sir Walter Scott has justly remarked, that Pope must have suffered the most from these wretched contentions. It is known that his temper was ultimately much changed for the worse. Misfortunes were also now gathering round him. Swift was fast verging on insanity, and was lost to the world; Atterbury and Gay died in 1732; and next year his venerable mother, whose declining years he had watched with affectionate solicitude, also expired. Between the years 1733 and 1740, Pope published his inimitable Epistles, Satires, and Moral Essays, addressed to his friends Bolingbroke, Bathurst, Arbuthnot, &c., and containing the most noble and generous sentiments, mixed up with withering invective and the fiercest denunciations. In 1742 he added a fourth book to the Dunciad,' displaying the final advent of the goddess to destroy order and science, and to substitute the kingdom of the dull upon earth. The point of his individual satire, and the richness and boldness of his general design, attest the undiminished powers and intense feeling of the poet. Next year Pope prepared a new edition of the four books of the Dunciad,' and elevated Colley Cibber to the situation of hero of the poem. This unenviable honour had previously been enjoyed by Theobald, a tasteless critic and commentator on Shakspeare; but in thus yielding to his personal dislike of Cibber, Pope injured the force of his satire. The laureate, as Warton justly remarks, with a great stock of levity, vanity, and affectation, had sense, and wit, and humour; and the author of the "Careless Husband" was by no means a proper king of the dunces.' Cibber was all vivacity and conceit-the very reverse of personified dulness,

Sinking from thought to thought, a vast profound. Political events came in the rear of this accumulated and vehement satire to agitate the last days of Pope.

government to issue a proclamation prohibiting every Roman Catholic from appearing within ten miles of London. The poet complied with the proclamation; and he was soon afterwards too ill to be in town. This additional proclamation from the Highest of all Powers,' as he terms his sickness, he submitted to without murmuring. A constant state of excitement, added to a life of ceaseless study and contemplation, operating on a frame naturally delicate and deformed from birth, had completely exhausted the powers of Pope. He complained of his inability to think; yet, a short time before his death, he said, I am so certain of the soul's being immortal, that seem to feel it within me as it were by intuition.' Another of his dying remarks was, There is nothing that is meritorious but virtue and friendship; and, indeed, friendship itself is only a part of virtue.' He died at Twickenham on the 30th of May, 1744.

The character and genius of Pope have given rise to abundance of comment and speculation. The occasional fierceness and petulance of his satire cannot be justified, even by the coarse attacks of his opponents, and must be ascribed to his extreme sensibility, to over-indulged vanity, and to a hasty and irritable temper. His sickly constitution debarring him from active pursuits, he placed too high a value on mere literary fame, and was deficient in the manly virtues of sincerity and candour. At the same time he was a public benefactor, by stigmatising the vices of the great, and lashing the absurd pretenders to taste and literature. He was a fond and steady friend; and in all our literary biography, there is nothing finer than his constant undeviating affection and reverence for his venerable parents. Me let the tender office long engage, To rock the cradle of reposing age; With lenient arts extend a mother's breath, Make languor smile, and smooth the bed of death; Explore the thought, explain the asking eye, And keep at least one parent from the sky.

Prologue to the Satires.

As a poet, it would be absurd to rank Pope with the greatest masters of the lyre; with the universality of Shakspeare, or the sublimity of Milton. He was undoubtedly more the poet of artificial life and manners than the poet of nature. He was a nice observer and an accurate describer of the phenomena of the mind, and of the varying shades and gradations of vice and virtue, wisdom and folly. He was too fond of point and antithesis, but the polish of the weapon was equalled by its keenness. Let us look,' says Campbell, 'to the spirit that points his antithesis, and to the rapid precision of his thoughts, and we shall forgive him for being too antithetic and sententious.' His wit, fancy, and good sense, are as remarkable as his satire. His elegance has never been surpassed, or perhaps equalled: it is a combination of intellect, imagination, and taste, under the direction of an independent spirit and refined moral feeling. If he had studied more in the school of nature and of Shakspeare, and less in the school of Horace and Boileau; if he had cherished the frame and spirit in which he composed the Elegy' and the Eloisa,' and forgot his too exclusive devotion to that which inspired the Dunciad,' the world would have hallowed his memory with a still more affectionate and permanent interest than even that which waits on him as one of our most brilliant and accomplished English poets.

.

Mr Campbell in his 'Specimens' has given an eloquent estimate of the general powers of Pope, with reference to his position as a poet:-That Pope was neither so insensible to the beauties of nature, o

« ForrigeFortsæt »