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The Complete Poetical Works of Alexander Pope. Cambridge Edition, ed. Henry W. Boynton (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1903).
This collection includes Pope’s poems, translations of Ovid and Homer, An Essay on Criticism, The Rape of the Lock, An Essay on Man, and his Moral Essays.
The text is in the public domain.
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An attempt has been here made for the first time to include all of Pope’s poetical work within the limits of a single volume; and to print the poems in an approximately chronological order. It has been often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to determine the exact date of a given poem; and the known order of composition has been modified so far as to permit a method of grouping the shorter poems which has been followed in other volumes of his series. Only the twelve books of the Odyssey which were Pope’s own work are here included, and all of the notes to Homer are omitted. Most of Pope’s own notes to the poems have been retained, except in the case of certain notes on The Dunciad, which are so voluminous or so trivial as to find no proper place within the necessary limits of this edition.
The allusions to Pope’s contemporaries are so numerous, particularly in the Satires, the Moral Essays, and The Dunciad, that it has seemed advisable to rid the main body of notes of such names as are of especial importance, or are frequently mentioned. The Glossary of Names will, it is hoped, prove useful in obviating the necessity of cross-reference.
The text is the result of collation, but is based upon that of the standard Croker-Elwin-Courthope edition. As to the details of capitalization and abbreviation, a uniform though necessarily somewhat arbitrary usage has been adopted. The study of facsimiles has shown that the poet himself employed capitals quite without method. They are here used only in cases of personification or of especially important substantives. As a result of his religious preservation of the decasyllabic form of pentameter, Pope employed marks of abbreviation so profusely as often to produce a page distressing to the modern eye, and not really helpful to the modern ear. Many editors have therefore abandoned these marks altogether; in this edition they have been retained wherever they did not appear likely to prove a stumbling-block to the present generation.
The usual indexes have been furnished, and a brief bibliographical note, which, while it does not pretend to exhaustiveness, may be of aid to the general reader.
H. W. B.
Alexander Pope was born in London, May 21, 1688. We cannot be sure of anything better than respectability in his ancestry, though late in life he himself claimed kinship with the Earls of Downe. His paternal grandfather is supposed to have been a clergyman of the Church of England. His mother, Edith Turner, came of a family of small gentry and landowners in Yorkshire. Alexander Pope, senior, was a successful linen merchant in London; so successful that he found it possible to retire early from business, and to buy a small estate at Binfield, on the edge of Windsor forest. To this estate, in Pope’s twelfth year, the family removed from Kensington, and here they lived for sixteen years. In 1716 they removed to Chiswick, where a year later the father died. Soon afterwards Pope, then a man of note, leased the estate at Twickenham, on which he was to live till his death, in 1744.
The circumstances of Pope’s early life were in many ways peculiar. One of the main reasons for the choice of Binfield was that a number of Roman Catholic families lived in that neighborhood. They formed a little set sufficiently agreeable for social purposes, though not offering much intellectual stimulus to such a mind as Pope’s very early showed itself to be. But if to be a Roman Catholic in England then meant to move in a narrow social circle, it carried with it also more serious limitations. It debarred from public school and university; so that beyond the inferior instruction afforded by the small Catholic schools which he attended till his twelfth year, Pope had no formal education. Two or three facts recorded of this school experience are worthy of mention: that he was taught the rudiments of Latin and Greek together, according to the Jesuit method; that he left one school in consequence of a flogging which he had earned by satirizing the head master; and that at about the age of ten he built a tragedy on the basis of Ogilvy’s translation of Homer. At twelve he had at least learned the rudiments of Greek, and could read Latin fluently, if not correctly. So far as his failings in scholarship are concerned, Pope’s lack of formal education has probably been made too much of. He had no bent for accurate scholarship, nor was breadth and accuracy of scholarship an accomplishment of that age. Addison, whose literary career was preceded by a long period of university residence, knew very little of Greek literature, and had a by no means wide acquaintance with the literature of Rome. Yet scholarship in those days meant classical learning.
Pope might no doubt have profited by the discipline of a regular academic career. He needed, as Mr. Courthope says, ‘training in thought rather than in taste, which he had by nature.’ But such a mind as his is not likely to submit itself readily to rigid processes of thought. It is impossible not to see, at least, that the boy Pope knew how to read, if not how to study; and that what Latin and Greek he read was approached as literature,—a method more common then than now, it is probable. ‘When I had done with my priests,’ he wrote to Spence, ‘I took to reading by myself, for which I had a very great eagerness and enthusiasm, especially for poetry; and in a very few years I had dipped into a great number of English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek poets. This I did without any design but that of pleasing myself, and got the language by hunting after the stories in the several authors I read: rather than read the books to get the language.’ Virgil and Statius were his favorite Latin poets at this time, as is attested not only by the Pastorals and the early translations of the Thebais, but by the innumerable reminiscences, or ‘imitations,’ as Pope called them, which may be traced in his later work. In the meantime, as a more important result of his having to rely so much upon his own resources, his creative power was beginning to manifest itself with singular maturity. At twelve he wrote couplets which were long afterwards inserted without change in the Essay on Criticism, and even in The Dunciad. The Pastorals, composed at sixteen, though conventional in conception and not seldom mechanical in execution, contain passages in the poet’s ripest manner. With the Essay on Criticism, published five years later, Pope reached his full power. Such development as is to be found in his later work is the result of an increase in mental breadth and satirical force. His style was already formed.
Whatever may have been the importance, for good and ill, of Pope’s early method of education, a far more potent factor in determining the conduct of his life and the nature of his work lay in his bodily limitations. The tradition that in his childhood he was physically normal is made dubious by the reported fact that his father was also small and crooked, though organically sound. At all events, the Pope whom the world knew was anything but normal,—stunted to dwarfishness, thin to emaciation, crooked and feeble, so that he had to wear stays and padding, and all his life subject to severe bodily pain. Pope’s relations with other men were seriously affected by this condition. Masculine society in eighteenth-century England had little place for weaklings. The late hours and heavy drinking of London were as little possible for the delicate constitution of Pope as the hard riding and heavy drinking of the country gentlemen with whom he was thrown at Binfield. In a letter from Binfield in 1710 Pope writes: ‘I assure you I am looked upon in the neighborhood for a very sober and well-disposed person, no great hunter, indeed, but a great esteemer of the noble sport, and only unhappy in my want of constitution for that and drinking.’ It is a misconception of Pope’s character to suppose him lacking in a natural robustness of temper to which only his physical limitations denied outlet. Before reaching manhood he had been given more than one rude lesson in discretion. At one time over-confinement to his books had so much reduced his vitality as to convince him that he had not long to live. A fortunate chance put his case into the hands of a famous London physician, who prescribed a strict diet, little study, and much horseback riding. Pope followed the advice, recovered, and thereafter, for the most part, took excellent care of himself; it was the price which he had to pay for living. One unfortunate result was that he was thrown back upon the companionship of women, always petted, always deferred to, always nursed. Such conditions naturally developed the acid cleverness, the nervous brilliancy of the poet Pope; and it is matter of great wonder that from such conditions anything stronger should survive; that there is, when all is said, so much virility and restraint in the best of his work.
The Pastorals, Pope’s first considerable poetical achievement, were according to the poet written in 1704, at the age of sixteen. They were, like all modern pastorals, conventional; but they contain some genuine poetry, and are wonderful exercises in versification. Their diction is often artificial to the point of absurdity, but now and then possesses a stately grace, as in the famous lines:—
Pope had probably been encouraged to write the Pastorals by Sir William Trumbull, to whom the first of them is inscribed. Trumbull was a man of Oxford training, who after a distinguished diplomatic career had come to end his life upon his estate near Binfield, and who had been drawn to the deformed boy by the discovery of their common taste for the classics. For some time before the publication of the Pastorals the manuscript was being circulated privately among such men of established literary reputation as Garth, Walsh, Congreve, and Wycherley, and such patrons of letters as George Granville, Halifax, and Somers. To Walsh in particular Pope afterward expressed his obligation. ‘He used to encourage me much,’ we read in a letter to Spence, written long after, ‘and used to tell me there was one way left of excelling: for though we had several great poets, we never had any one great poet that was correct; and he desired me to make that my study and aim.’ The dictum has become famous, but though Walsh probably meant, by ‘correctness,’ justice of taste as well as measured accuracy of poetic style, his over-praise of the Pastorals leads us to think that form was the main thing in his mind. If Pope’s statement of the date at which the Pastorals were written is reliable, however (and we must keep in mind from the outset the fact that, as Mr. Courthope says, Pope in mature life ‘systematically antedated his compositions in order to obtain credit for precocity’), he did not become acquainted with Walsh until some time after they were written. The critic’s advice, therefore, amounted simply to an encouragement in pursuing the method which Pope had already adopted: in employing a more rigid metrical scheme than any previous poet, even Sandys or Dryden, had attempted. The bookseller Jacob Tonson was shown the manuscript, and offered to publish it; and in 1709 it appeared in Tonson’s Sixth Miscellany.
Through Walsh Pope became acquainted with Wycherley, who introduced the young poet to literary society in London; that is, to the society of the London coffee-houses. The character of the older resorts had already begun to change. Even Will’s had ceased to be the purely literary club of Dryden’s day. It was natural that the age of Anne, in which increasing public honors were paid to literary men, should have been also an age in which literary men took an increasing interest in politics. At about the time when Pope first came up to London, Whig and Tory were beginning to edge away from each other; and though Will’s for a time remained a sort of neutral ground, the old hearty interchange of thought and companionship was no longer possible. Part-political, part-literary clubs, like the Kitcat, the October Club, and the Scriblerus Club, sapped the strength of the older and freer institution; and its doom was sealed when in 1712 Addison established at Button’s a resort for literary Whigs.
During his first years of London experience, Pope probably knew Richard Steele more intimately than any one else. They had met at Will’s, and through Steele Pope had been presented to Addison, and had later become a frequenter of Button’s. It was Steele who urged Pope to write the Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day, who got his Messiah published in The Spectator and printed various short papers of his in The Guardian. Another Whig friend was Jervas the painter, a pupil of Kneller, but an artist of no very considerable achievement. The poet at one time had some lessons in painting from him, and always held him in esteem. So far Pope allowed himself to associate with the Whigs; but he had no intention of taking rank as a Whig partisan. If he wrote prose for Whig journals, it was in honor of the Tory government that the conclusion was added to Windsor Forest in 1713. To Swift’s admiration for this poem, Pope owed the beginning of his life-long friendship with the Dean; but it was a friendship which committed him no more to Toryism than Addison’s had to Whiggery. ‘As old Dryden said before me,’ he wrote in 1713, ‘it is not the violent I desire to please; and in very truth, I believe they will all find me, at long run, a mere Papist.’ One amusing fact about Pope’s early experience at Button’s is that he is known to have commended the verses of Addison’s satellites, Budgell and Tickell and Philips, whom later he was to attack so bitterly. The first cause of offence was not long in coming; and an offence sown in the mind of Pope was certain to grow very fast and to live very long. The story of Pope’s falling out with Addison and his friends is the story of the first of a long series of personal enmities which embittered Pope’s life, and, it is too clear, impoverished his work.
The Pastorals were published by Tonson at the end of a volume which opened with some exercises in the same kind of verse by Ambrose Philips. Pope was disposed to commend the work of Philips, even going so far as to say that ‘there were no better eclogues in the language.’ His ardor was somewhat cooled when The Spectator, in a paper which was unmistakably Addison’s, printed an extended comparison of his work and Philips’s, considerably to the advantage of the latter; and was converted into a cold rage by the fact that presently the position taken by The Spectator was expanded in five papers in The Guardian. The subtlety and ingenuity of Pope’s method of retort was an interesting indication of the disingenuousness which became a settled quality of his prose writing. Whatever his poetry may not have been, it was certainly downright; but his method of getting it before the public, of annotating it, and of reinforcing its thought, was habitually circuitous and not seldom dishonest. Pope promptly wrote a sixth paper to The Guardian, ostensibly keeping to Tickell’s argument, but really speaking in irony from beginning to end, picking out the weakest points in Philips’s style and matter, and damning them by fulsome praise. Steele, it is said, was so far deceived as to print the paper in good faith. Pope’s revenge among the wits was complete; but he never forgot a score by paying it. In the Satires and The Dunciad, poor namby-pamby Philips comes up again and again for a punishment to which, in recompense, he now owes his fame.
Pope’s attitude toward Addison is a more serious matter to the critic. Up to the year 1714 Pope, whatever irritation he may have felt toward Addison, had chosen to ‘take it out of’ the followers of the great man rather than out of the great man himself. The insertion of the Tory passage in Windsor Forest might have been taken as a direct challenge to the Whig champion, whose famous celebration of the Whig victory at Blenheim had been so popular. That his relations with Addison were not affected by it is shown by his supplying a prologue for Cato, which was produced within a month of the publication of Windsor Forest. Cato itself was to supply the real bone of contention. It was attacked by the veteran critic John Dennis, against whose strictures Pope undertook to take up the cudgels, in an anonymous Narrative of Dr. Robert Norris on the Frenzy of J. D. It is uncertain whether Addison suspected that Pope was its author, and that his championship was inspired by the desire for personal revenge for Dennis’s treatment of the Essay on Criticism; but he disclaimed responsibility for the rejoinder in a letter written for him to the publisher by Steele. The result was a resentment which bore its final fruit in the lines on Atticus in the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot. Addison, it must be noticed, had warmly praised the Essay on Criticism (1711), and the simpler version of The Rape of the Lock, published a year later; but the publication of Tickell’s version of the first book of the Iliad simultaneously with Pope’s first volume, and Addison’s preference of the weaker version, does not leave the latter quite free from suspicion of parti pris.
Whatever may have been the rights of the difficulty between Addison and Pope, there is no doubt that in one point, evidently a mere point of judgment, Addison was wrong. After pronouncing the first version of The Rape of the Lock, published in 1712, ‘a delicious little thing, and merum sal,’ he advised against Pope’s plan for expanding it. Without the additions which the author made, in spite of this advice, it would hardly stand, as it now does, an acknowledged masterpiece in its kind. Despite the apparently local and temporary nature of its theme, the poem attracted much greater attention when, in 1714, it appeared in the new form. The poem affords the purest expression of Pope’s genius: his imagination applied without strain to a theme with which it was exactly fitted to cope, his satirical power exercised without the goad of personal rancor, and his light and elegant versification unhampered by the fancied necessity for weightiness. Nothing more just has been said about the poem than this by Hazlitt (On Dryden and Pope): ‘It is the most exquisite specimen of filigree work ever invented. It is as admirable in proportion as it is made of nothing:—
It is made of gauze and silver spangles. The most glittering appearance is given to everything,—to paste, pomatum, billet-doux, and patches. Airs, languid airs, breathe around; the atmosphere is perfumed with affectation. A toilette is described with the solemnity of an altar raised to the Goddess of Vanity, and the history of a silver bodkin is given with all the pomp of heraldry. No pains are spared, no profusion of ornaments, no splendor of poetic diction, to set off the meanest things. The balance between the concealed irony and the assumed gravity is as nicely trimmed as the balance of power in Europe. The little is made great, and the great little. You hardly know whether to laugh or weep. It is the triumph of insignificance, the apotheosis of foppery and folly. It is the perfection of the mock-heroic.’
If The Rape of the Lock was Pope’s masterpiece in the field of impersonal satire, the Essay on Criticism, which belongs to the same period of the poet’s life, was his masterpiece in the realm of poetic generalization. It was, according to the account of the poet, composed in 1709 and published in 1711. The present editor is inclined to think that justice has never been done to this extraordinary work, either as a product of precocity, or in its own right. It is, in his opinion, not only a manual of criticism, to which the practitioner may apply for sound guidance upon almost any given point, but an exhaustive satire upon false methods of criticism. It is a compendious rule of criticism which works both ways; hardly less rigorous than Aristotle, hardly less catholic than Sainte-Beuve. It does not, as has been alleged, constitute a mere helter-skelter summary of critical platitudes: there is hardly a predicament in modern criticism from which it does not suggest an adequate means of extrication. At all events, it represented, as Mr. Courthope says, the ‘first attempt to trace for English readers the just boundaries of taste.’
The Essay on Criticism was not, like The Rape of the Lock, devoid of the note of personal enmity which was to mark so much of the poet’s later work. John Dennis had probably employed his slashing method in reviewing the Pastorals, and in the Essay Pope took occasion for revenge in the lines on Appius, which unmistakably applied to the author of Appius and Virginia; and which after Dennis’s rejoinder were to be followed up by the attacks in the Satires and The Dunciad.
With the accession of the house of Hanover in 1714 the literary situation in London was considerably modified. The common ground upon which Whigs and Tories had, with diminishing success, continued to associate, was taken from under their feet. Politics became the first issue, and literature was relegated to a subordinate position. Fortunately the list of subscribers to Pope’s translation of the Iliad had been made up before the death of Anne. During the few years in which the process of public readjustment absorbed the attention of London, Pope was hard at work upon the most exacting task he had yet undertaken.
The removal of the family from Binfield to Chiswick was made by Pope’s desire. He was now not only a famous author, but a man of fashion; and on both accounts he wished to be nearer London. In leaving the coffee-house society—of which, in truth, he had never been a full member—he had found entrance into ‘aristocratic circles;’ and we hear much in his letters from this time on of the noblemen whose hospitality he accepted, while standing clear of their direct patronage. At Chiswick he found more society and less leisure. Many times during the next few years he accuses himself of laziness, but it does not appear that his mild junketings with the nobilities gave him more relaxation from the toil of his Homer translation than he needed. The first books of the Iliad were published in 1715, and the last books of the Odyssey in 1723. The cripple and man of the world who could do that in the intervals of his house parties and his sieges of physical pain was certainly producing his full share of work.
The Iliad was hailed with applause on all sides, and handsomely paid for. It was in one way a task for which the translator would appear to have been quite unfitted. The Rape of the Lock had proved him the mouthpiece of a conventional and sophisticated age; and conventionality and sophistication are not qualities to go naturally with Homer. The elegance of Pope’s verse becomes at times a mincing neatness, and his fashionable poetic diction in the mouths of Hector and Achilles rings thin and metallic. But though Pope inevitably missed the simplicity and the hearty surge and swing of Homer, he did manage to retain something of his vigor; and his Iliad is still the classic English version. Only half of the Odyssey translation which followed was really the work of Pope, and even his own part was deficient in the spirit which had marked the first translation. It had indeed been undertaken from a very different motive: he could not hope to add greatly to the credit which his Iliad had gained for him, but the cash might readily be increased. The translator actually received nearly £9000 for both translations—a small fortune in those days. Pope’s relations with his collaborators in the affair of the Odyssey are to be noticed, though they have perhaps been too much dwelt upon by the commentators. The facts are briefly these: Fenton translated four books and Broome eight. Both were Cambridge men of parts, Fenton the more brilliant and Broome the more thorough. The latter furnished also all the notes. Pope paid them a very small price for their labor, though not less than they had bargained for, and gave them very little credit for it. Moreover, when he found that there was some stir against him for advertising an Odyssey which was to be his only in part, he induced Broome to write a postscript note claiming only three books for his own share and two for Fenton’s, and insisting that whatever merit they might have was due to Pope’s minute revision.
Before attempting the Odyssey, Pope was unfortunately led to prepare an edition of Shakespeare, which showed some ingenuity in textual emendation. Phrases were, however, too frequently altered as ‘vulgar,’ and metres as ‘incorrect.’ The work was on the whole so mediocre as fairly to lay itself open to the strictures of Theobald, who was consequently made the original hero of The Dunciad. In 1718 the poet leased the estate at Twickenham, and set to work upon the improvements which became a hobby. He had planned to build a town house, but was fortunately dissuaded. The laying out of the tiny five acres of grounds is now a matter of history: the paths, the wilderness, the quincunx, the obelisk to his mother’s memory, above all the grotto,—they are more like actors than stage properties in the quiet drama of Pope’s later years.
His work after the completion of the Homer translation was almost entirely restricted to satire. Even the Moral Essays are largely satirical, for Pope’s didacticism was always tinged with laughter. It was too seldom a kindly laughter. His capacity for personal hatred was suffered not only to remain, but to grow upon him; until it became at length one of the ruling motives of his literary life. His first conception of The Dunciad was formed as early as 1720. Sometime within the five years following he seems to have broached his project for wholesale revenge to Swift, who, oddly enough, dissuaded him: ‘Take care the bad poets do not outwit you,’ he wrote, ‘as they have the good ones in every age, whom they have provoked to transmit their names to posterity. Mævius is as well known as Virgil, and Gildon will be as well known as you if his name gets into your verses.’ Thereto Pope dutifully assents: ‘I am much happier for finding our judgments jump in the notion that all scribblers should be passed by in silence. . . . So let Gildon and Philips rest in peace.’ It is not many years later that we find Swift encouraging Pope to go on with The Dunciad, and Pope accepting the advice with an even better grace than in the former instance. The first judgment of both authors was of course the right one. The Dunciad, with all its cleverness, remains the record of a strife between persons whom we do not now care about. It has no determinable significance beyond that; it lacks the didactic soundness of his Essay on Criticism, and the graceful lightness of The Rape of the Lock. Only in a few detached passages in the Moral Essays and Satires, indeed, did he ever succeed in approaching either of these qualities.
‘Pope’s writings,’ says Mr. Courthope, ‘fall naturally into two classes: those which were inspired by fancy or reflection, and those which grew from personal feeling or circumstance.’ The Moral Essays belonged to the former of these classes, the Satires to the latter. The Moral Essays, and more particularly the Essay on Man, are the product of a materialism which marked the age, and which was set before Pope in something like systematic form by Bolingbroke. As Bolingbroke was primarily a politician, and dabbled in philosophy only because the favorite game was for a great part of his life denied him, it could not be expected that much more than shallow generalization would come out of him. At all events, his system of sophistry was all that Pope needed for a thread upon which to string his couplets. Whatever we may think of the Essay on Man now, we need not forget that so keen a critic as Voltaire once called it ‘the most beautiful, the most awful, the most sublime didactic poem that has ever been written in any language.’ Even in our day a conservative critic can say of it: ‘Form and art triumph even in the midst of error; a framework of fallacious generalization gives coherence to the epigrammatic statement of a multitude of individual truths.’
Some of the difficulty that we have found in The Dunciad is present in the Satires. They are full of personalities. As a rule, however, the persons hit off are of some account, both in themselves and as types, rather than as mere objects of private rancor. Altogether these poems contain, besides the famous portraits of contemporaries, many passages of universal application to the virtues and the shortcomings of any practical age.
With the completion of the Satires in 1738, Pope’s work was practically done. His remaining years were to be spent mainly in revising his works and correspondence; the final additions and alterations to The Dunciad being the only task of special importance which in his weakening health, and decreasing creative impulse, he was able to undertake. The range of the poet’s possible achievement was never very great; and he had now lost most of the living motives of his work. He had numbered among his acquaintances all the prominent men of the time; and not a few of them had been friends upon whom he depended for encouragement and companionship. Gay had died in 1732, Pope’s mother a year later, and Arbuthnot in 1735. Swift was meantime rapidly breaking up in mind and body, and by 1740 Pope was separated from him by a chasm as impassable as that of death. Bolingbroke remained to him, and he was to have one other friend, Warburton, upon whom he relied for advice and aid during his last years, and who became his literary executor. These, however, were friendships of the mind rather than of the heart; and there is something a little pathetic in the spectacle of the still brilliant poet’s dependence upon the chill and disappointed politician Bolingbroke and the worthy and adoring Bishop Warburton, who can hardly have been a lively companion.
Critics are now fairly well agreed as to Pope’s service to English poetry. Intellectually he was clever rather than profound, and, in consequence, though so much of his work was of the didactic type, he made few original contributions to poetic thought. A poem of Pope’s is a collection of brilliant fragments. He kept a note-book full of clever distiches set down at random; presently so many couplets are taken and classified, others are added, a title is found, and the world applauds. If we except The Rape of the Lock, and possibly the Epistle to Arbuthnot, none of his poems can be called organic in structure. The patching is neatly done, but the result is patchwork. The Essay on Man, therefore, which most of his contemporaries considered his greatest work, appears to us a mosaic of cleverly phrased platitudes and epigrams. Many of the couplets have become proverbial; the work as a whole cannot be taken seriously. ‘But the supposition is,’ says Lowell, ‘that in the Essay on Man Pope did not himself know what he was writing. He was only the condenser and epigrammatizer of Bolingbroke—a very fitting St. John for such a gospel.’ It is to another and less pretentious sort of work that we must turn to find the great versifier at his best.
The Rape of the Lock affords exactly the field in which Pope was fitted to excel. The very qualities of artificiality and sophistication which mar the Homer translations make the story of Belinda and her Baron a perfect thing of its kind. Here is the conventional society which Pope knew, and with which—however he might sneer at it—he really sympathized. The polished trivialities, the shallow gallantry, the hardly veiled coarseness of the London which Pope understood, are here to the life. Depth of emotion, of imagination, of thought, are absent, and properly so; but here are present in their purest forms the flashing wit, the ingenious fancy, the malicious innuendo, of which Pope was undoubtedly master.
In versification his merit is to have done one thing incomparably well. Not only is his latest work marked by the same wit, conciseness, and brilliancy of finish which gained the attention of his earliest critics, but it employs the same metrical form which in boyhood he had brought to a singular perfection. The heroic couplet is now pretty much out of fashion: ‘correctness’ is no longer the first quality which we demand of poetry. No doubt we are fortunate to have escaped the trammels of the rigid mode which so long restrained the flight of English verse. But however tedious and wooden Pope’s instrument may have become in later hands, however mistaken he himself may have been in emphasizing its limitations, there is no doubt that it was the instrument best suited to his hand, and that he secured by means of it a surprising variety of effect.
We have chronicled thus far a few of the facts of Pope’s life and work. Something—it cannot be very much—remains to be said of his private character. It was a character of marked contradictions, the nether side of which—the weaknesses and positive faults—has, as is common in such cases, been laid bare with sufficient pitilessness. He was, we are told, malicious, penurious, secretive, unchivalrous, underhanded, implacable. He could address Lady Mary Wortley one day with fulsome adulation, and the next—and ever after—with foul abuse. He could deliberately goad his dunces to self-betrayal by his Treatise on the Bathos, and presently flay them in The Dunciad by way of revenge. He could by circuitous means cause his letters—letters carefully edited by him—to be published, and prosecute the publisher for outraging his sensibilities. He could stoop to compassing the most minute ends of private malice by the most elaborate and leisurely methods. He played life as a game composed of a series of petty moves, and, as one of his friends said, ‘could hardly drink a cup of tea without a stratagem.’
But let us see what we might be fairly saying on the other side. If he was capable of malice, he was incapable of flattery; if he was dishonest in the little matters, he was honest in the great ones; if he held mediocrity in contempt, he had an ungrudging welcome for excellence. In later life he had encouragement for the younger generation of writers,—Johnson, Young, Thomson, and poor Savage. If he allowed a fancied injury to separate him from Addison, he had still to boast of the friendship of men like Gay, Arbuthnot, and Swift; and they had to boast of his. He nursed his mother in extreme old age with anxious devotion, and mourned her death with unaffected grief. In his best satirical mood, the best in English verse, he did not hesitate to arraign the highest as well as the lowest; not even Swift could be so fearless. Such things are to be remembered of this correct versifier and merciless satirist Pope: that with only half the body, and hardly more than half the bodily experience, of a man, he had his full share of a man’s failings and a man’s virtues; and that the failings were on the whole upon a less significant plane than the virtues.
Much has been written of Pope’s attitude toward women, and much has been written of his acrid habit of mind. The relation between these facts has been, perhaps, insufficiently grasped. Pope was not by nature a celibate or a hater of women. He was, on the contrary, fond of their society, and anxious to make himself agreeable to them. His failure with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was deserved; the relation was a mere affair of gallantry, which she took good care to snuff out when the adorer’s protestations began to weary her. She was not a womanly person, and forestalled much public indignation at Pope’s subsequent abuse by adopting an equally brutal system of retort.
His failure with Martha Blount was of a very different sort, and of far greater significance. She was the younger of two daughters belonging to one of the Roman Catholic families in Pope’s Windsor Forest circle of acquaintance. With her and with her sister Teresa, Pope was for many years upon terms of the closest intimacy. They were not much alike; and though Pope made a habit of addressing them with guarded impartiality in his correspondence, it is to be seen almost from the first that his feeling for the more practical and worldly older sister was less warm than his feeling for the amiable and feminine “Patty.” Eventually, after years of friendship, the poet made a few indirect overtures to Martha in the direction of marriage; and at last ventured to express himself plainly to Teresa. To his unspeakable humiliation and grief, she treated his honest declaration as an affront to her sister, and upon precisely the painful ground of his deformity, which had for so many years kept him from speaking. Pope could not help feeling that however Martha might, if left to herself, have received his advances, it was now out of the question to pursue them. His behavior under the circumstances was full of dignity. It was impossible for the friendship to be renewed upon the old footing, but his only revenge beyond that of the necessary withdrawal from familiar intercourse was to settle a pension upon Teresa at the time, and to leave most of his property by will to Martha. We can hardly imagine Pope madly in love, but that he had a calm and steadfast affection for Martha Blount we cannot doubt. He was disposed to marry, and he would have liked to marry her. She represented the ideal of womanhood in his mind; and to her, in the heat of his most savage bouts of idol-breaking, he pauses to raise a white shaft of love and faith.
If the present editor, after a careful and well-rewarded study of the poet and the man, has any mite of interpretation to offer, it is not that Pope was a greater poet, but that he was a better man, than he is commonly painted; an unamiable man, yet not for that reason altogether unworthy of regard; a man with little meannesses carried upon his sleeve for all the world to mock at, and with the large magnanimity which could face the world alone, without advantages of birth or wealth or education or even health, and win a great victory. Such a man cannot conceivably be supposed to have stumbled upon success. Not only inspired cleverness of hand, but force of character and sanity of mind must be responsible for his work. After the lapse of nearly two centuries it should perhaps be right to indulge ourselves somewhat more sparingly in condemnation of his foibles, and to recall more willingly the sound kernel of character which is the basis of his personality. Whatever slander he may have retailed about the camp-fire, whatever foolish vanity he may have had in his uniform, Pope fought the good fight. ‘After all,’ he wrote to Bishop Atterbury, who was trying to make a Protestant of him, ‘I verily believe your Lordship and I are both of the same religion, if we were thoroughly understood by one another, and that all honest and reasonable Christians would be so, if they did but talk together every day; and had nothing to do together but to serve God and live in peace with their neighbors.’
H. W. B.
‘This was a very early production of our Author, written at about twelve years old,’ says Pope in one of his unsigned and unreliable notes. If the statement is true, it was probably written during the year 1700. It is apparently the earliest poem of Pope’s which remains to us, though according to Roscoe, ‘Dodsley, who was honoured with his intimacy, had seen several pieces of an earlier date.’
Supposed to have been written in 1700; first published from the Caryll Papers in the Athenæum, July 15, 1854.
Elkanah Settle, celebrated as Doeg in Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel, wrote Successio in honor of the incoming Brunswick dynasty. Warburton (or possibly Pope) in a note on Dunciad, I. 181, says that the poem was ‘written at fourteen years old, and soon after printed.’ A good instance of Pope’s economy of material will be found in the passage upon which that note bears: an adaptation of lines 4, 17 and 18 of this early poem. It was first published in Lintot’s Miscellanies, 1712.
Though Pope ascribes this translation to 1703, there is evidence that part of it was done as early as 1699. It was finally revised and published in 1712, but Courthope asserts that ‘it is fair to assume that the body of the composition is preserved in its original form.’
Œdipus, King of Thebes, having, by mistake, slain his father Laius, and married his mother Jocasta, put out his own eyes, and resign’d the realm to his sons Eteocles and Polynices. Being neglected by them, he makes his prayer to the Fury Tisiphone, to sow debate betwixt the brothers. They agree at last to reign singly, each a year by turns, and the first lot is obtain’d by Eteocles. Jupiter, in a council of the gods, declares his resolution of punishing the Thebans, and Argives also, by means of a marriage betwixt Polynices and one of the daughters of Adrastus King of Argos. Juno opposes, but to no effect; and Mercury is sent on a message to the shades, to the ghost of Laius, who is to appear to Eteocles, and provoke him to break the agreement. Polynices, in the mean time, departs from Thebes by night, is overtaken by a storm, and arrives at Argos; where he meets with Tideus, who had fled from Calidon, having kill’d his brother. Adrastus entertains them, having receiv’d an oracle from Apollo that his daughters should be married to a boar and a lion, which he understands to be meant of these strangers, by whom the hides of those beasts were worn, and who arrived at the time when he kept an annual feast in honour of that god. The rise of this solemnity. He relates to his guests the loves of Phœbus and Psamathe, and the story of Chorœbus: he inquires, and is made acquainted, with their descent and quality. The sacrifice is renew’d, and the book concludes with a hymn to Apollo.
These imitations, with the exception of Silence (Lintot, 1712), were not published till 1727. Pope says, however, that they were ‘done as early as the translations, some of them at fourteen and fifteen years old.’ The Happy Life of a Country Parson must have been written later than the rest, as Pope did not know Swift till 1713.
in which was painted the story of cephalus and procris, with the motto ‘aura veni’
The Pastorals, by Pope’s account, were written at sixteen, in 1704. ‘Beyond the fact that he systematically antedated his compositions in order to obtain credit for precocity,’ says Courthope, ‘there is nothing improbable in the statement.’ They were first published in 1709, in Tonson’s Sixth Miscellany. The Discourse on Pastoral Poetry did not appear till the edition of 1717, but is here given the place which he desired for it at the head of the Pastorals: and the original footnotes, referring to critical authorities, are retained.
There are not, I believe, a greater number of any sort of verses than of those which are called Pastorals; nor a smaller than of those which are truly so. It therefore seems necessary to give some account of this kind of poem; and it is my design to comprise in this short paper the substance of those numerous dissertations that critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour. You will also find some points reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks which, I think, have escaped their observation.
The origin of Poetry is ascribed to that age which succeeded the creation of the world: and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient sort of poetry was probably pastoral. It is natural to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that solitary and sedentary life as singing; and that in their songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time; which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. And since the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the poets chose to introduce their persons, from whom it received the name of Pastoral.
A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one considered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both: the fable simple, the manners not too polite nor too rustic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, but that short and flowing: the expression humble, yet as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not florid; easy, and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions are full of the greatest simplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful.
If we would copy nature, it may be useful to take this idea along with us, that Pastoral is an image of what they call the golden age: so that we are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day really are, but as they may be conceived then to have been, when the best of men followed the employment. To carry this resemblance yet further, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be useful to that sort of life; and an air of piety to the gods should shine through the poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of antiquity; and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing: the connection should be loose, the narrations and descriptions short, and the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient that the sentences only be brief; the whole eclogue should be so too: for we cannot suppose poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.
But, with respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural, than when some knowledge in rural affairs is discovered. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shown by inference; lest, by too much study to seem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity from whence arises the delight. For what is inviting in this sort of poetry proceeds not so much from the idea of that business, as of the tranquillity of a country life.
We must therefore use some illusion to render a pastoral delightful; and this consists in exposing the best side only of a shepherd’s life, and in concealing its miseries. Nor is it enough to introduce shepherds discoursing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the subject; that it contain some particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every eclogue. Besides, in each of them a designed scene or prospect is to be presented to our view, which should likewise have its variety. This variety is obtained, in a great degree, by frequent comparisons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digressions, but those short; sometimes by insisting a little on circumstances; and, lastly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleasing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they should be the smoothest, the most easy and flowing imaginable.
It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of Pastoral. And since the instructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they must of necessity be derived from those in whom it is acknowledged so to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undisputed authors of Pastoral) that the critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.
Theocritus excels all others in nature and simplicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely pastoral; but he is not so exact in his persons, having introduced reapers and fishermen as well as shepherds. He is apt to be too long in his descriptions, of which that of the cup in the first pastoral is a remarkable instance. In the manners he seems a little defective, for his swains are sometimes abusive and immodest, and perhaps too much inclining to rusticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But it is enough that all others learned their excellences from him, and that his dialect alone has a secret charm in it, which no other could ever attain.
Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his original; and, in all points where judgment is principally concerned, he is much superior to his master. Though some of his subjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only seem to be such, they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger to. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls short of him in nothing but simplicity and propriety of style; the first of which, perhaps, was the fault of his age, and the last of his language.
Among the moderns their success has been greatest who have most endeavoured to make these ancients their pattern. The most considerable genius appears in the famous Tasso, and our Spenser. Tasso, in his Aminta, has as far excelled all the pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has outdone the epic poets of his country. But as this piece seems to have been the original of a new sort of poem, the pastoral comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the ancients. Spenser’s Calendar, in Mr. Dryden’s opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever since the time of Virgil. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in some few points: his eclogues are somewhat too long, if we compare them with the ancients; he is sometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a pastoral style, as the Mantuan had done before him; he has employed the lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old poets; his stanza is not still the same, nor always well chosen. This last may be the reason his expression is sometimes not concise enough; for the tetrastic has obliged him to extend his sense to the length of four lines, which would have been more closely confined in the couplet.
In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; though, notwithstanding all the care he has taken, he is certainly inferior in his dialect: for the Doric had its beauty and propriety in the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greatest persons: whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenser were either entirely obsolete, or spoken only by people of the lowest condition. As there is a difference betwixt simplicity and rusticity, so the expression of simple thoughts should be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a calendar to his eclogues is very beautiful; since by this, besides the general moral of innocence and simplicity, which is common to other authors of Pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human life to the several seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and aspects. Yet the scrupulous division of his pastorals into months has obliged him either to repeat the same description, in other words, for three months together, or, when it was exhausted before, entirely to omit it; whence it comes to pass that some of his eclogues (as the sixth, eighth, and tenth for example) have nothing but their titles to distinguish them. The reason is evident, because the year has not that variety in it to furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every season.
Of the following eclogues I shall only say, that these four comprehend all the subjects which the critics upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for Pastoral; that they have as much variety of description, in respect of the several seasons, as Spenser’s; that, in order to add to this variety, the several times of the day are observed, the rural employments in each season or time of day, and the rural scenes or places proper to such employments, not without some regard to the several ages of man, and the different passions proper to each age.
But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some good old authors; whose works, as I had leisure to study, so, I hope, I have not wanted care to imitate.
Virg.Ecl. vi. 10-12.
‘This poem,’ says Pope, ‘was written at two different times: the first part of it, which relates to the country, in 1704, at the same time with the Pastorals; the latter part was not added till the year 1713, in which it was published.’ The first 289 lines belong to the earlier date. The rest of the poem, with its celebration of the Peace of Utrecht, was added at the instance of Lord Lansdown, the Granville of the opening lines. The aim was obviously that Pope should do for the peaceful triumph of Utrecht what Addison had done for Marlborough’s victory at Blenheim in 1704. It is printed here because the conclusion was an afterthought, and in spite of it the poem as a whole ‘substantially belongs,’ as Courthope remarks, ‘to the Pastoral period.’ Pope ranked it among his ‘juvenile poems.’
Pope says that this ‘translation’ was done at sixteen or seventeen years of age. It was first published, with the Pastorals, in 1709, in Tonson’s sixth Miscellany. Eventually Pope grouped the Chaucer imitations with Eloisa to Abelard, the translations from Ovid and Statius and the brief Imitations of English Poets. To this collection be prefixed this Advertisement:—
‘The following Translations were selected from many others done by the Author in his youth; for the most part indeed but a sort of Exercises, while he was improving himself in the Languages, and carried by his early bent to Poetry to perform them rather in Verse than Prose. Mr. Dryden’s Fables came out about that time, which occasioned the Translations from Chaucer. They were first separately printed in Miscellanies by J. Tonson and B. Lintot, and afterwards collected in the Quarto Edition of 1717. The Imitations of English Authors, which are added at the end, were done as early, some of them at fourteen or fifteen years old; but having also got into Miscellanies, we have put them here together to complete this Juvenile Volume.’
Not published until 1714, but naturally classified with January and May, and not improbably the product of the same period.
Pope asserted that this poem was composed in 1711. Its date of publication is indicated by a letter from Pope to Martha Blount, written in 1714, in which he speaks of it as ‘just out.’ Eventually it was classed by the poet as a ‘juvenile poem’ among the earlier translations and imitations. This Advertisement was prefixed:—
The hint of the following piece was taken from Chaucer’s House of Fame. The design is in a manner entirely altered; the descriptions and most of the particular thoughts my own: yet I could not suffer it to be printed without this acknowledgment. The reader who would compare this with Chaucer, may begin with his third Book of Fame, there being nothing in the two first books that answers to their title.
Written, according to Pope, in 1707. First published in Tonson’s Ovid, 1712.
This, the first mature original work of the author, was written in 1709, when Pope was in his twentieth year. It was not published till 1711.
Introduction. That it is as great a fault to judge ill as to write ill, and a more dangerous one to the public. That a true Taste is as rare to be found as a true Genius. That most men are born with some Taste, but spoiled by false education. The multitude of Critics, and causes of them. That we are to study our own Taste, and know the limits of it. Nature the best guide of judgment. Improved by Art and rules, which are but methodized Nature. Rules derived from the practice of the ancient poets. That therefore the ancients are necessary to be studied by a Critic, particularly Homer and Virgil. Of licenses, and the use of them by the ancients. Reverence due to the ancients, and praise of them.
Causes hindering a true judgment. Pride. Imperfect learning. Judging by parts, and not by the whole. Critics in wit, language, versification only. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire. Partiality—too much love to a sect—to the ancients or moderns. Prejudice or prevention. Singularity. Inconstancy. Party spirit. Envy. Against envy, and in praise of good-nature. When severity is chiefly to be used by critics.
Rules for the conduct and manners in a Critic. Candour. Modesty. Good breeding. Sincerity and freedom of advice. When one’s counsel is to be restrained. Character of an incorrigible poet. And of an impertinent critic. Character of a good critic. The history of criticism, and characters of the best critics; Aristotle. Horace. Dionysius. Petronius. Quintilian. Longinus. Of the decay of Criticism, and its revival. Erasmus. Vida. Boileau. Lord Roscommon, &c. Conclusion.
This ode was written at the suggestion of Richard Steele, in 1708. It was recast in 1730 in briefer form so that it might be set to music; and the first four stanzas were considerably changed.
Written in 1709 and sent in a letter to Henry Cromwell in 1711.
‘Egbert Sanger,’ says Warton, ‘served his apprenticeship with Jacob Tonson, and succeeded Bernard Lintot in his shop at Middle Temple Gate, Fleet Street. Lintot printed Ozell’s translation of Perrault’s Characters, and Sanger his translation of Boileau’s Lutrin, recommended by Rowe, in 1709.’
Katharine Tofts was an English opera singer popular in London between 1703 and 1709.
To Teresa Blount. First published in Lintot’s Miscellany, in 1712. See note.
This Ode was written, we find [in 1712], at the desire of Steele; and our Poet, in a letter to him on that occasion, says,—‘You have it, as Cowley calls it, just warm from the brain; it came to me the first moment I waked this morning; yet you ’ll see, it was not so absolutely inspiration, but that I had in my head, not only the verses of Hadrian, but the fine fragment of Sappho.’ It is possible, however, that our Author might have had another composition in his head, besides those he here refers to: for there is a close and surprising resemblance between this Ode of Pope, and one of an obscure and forgotten rhymer of the age of Charles the Second, Thomas Flatman. (Warton). Pope’s version of the Adriani morientis ad Animam was written at about this date, and sent to Steele for publication in The Spectator. It ran as follows:—
Charles Jervas was an early and firm friend of Pope’s, and, himself an indifferent painter, at one time gave Pope some instruction in painting. Dryden’s translation of Fresnoy appears to have been a hasty and perfunctory piece of work. The poem was first published in 1712.
‘The four verses,’ says Ward, ‘are apparently Canto IV. vv. 59-62. The Countess of Winchilsea, a poetess whom Rowe hailed as inspired by ‘more than Delphic ardour,’ replied by some pretty lines, where she declares that “disarmed with so genteel an air,” she gives over the contest.’
It was long rumored that this poem was literally founded on fact: that the unfortunate lady was a maiden with whom Pope was in love, and from whom he was separated. The fact seems to be that the poem’s only basis in truth lay in Pope’s sympathy for an unhappy married woman about whom he wrote to Caryll in 1712. The verses were not published till 1717, but were probably written several years earlier.
Written, according to Courthope, in 1712.
In reading several passages of the prophet Isaiah, which foretell the coming of Christ, and the felicities attending it, I could not but observe a remarkable parity between many of the thoughts and those in the Pollio of Virgil. This will not seem surprising, when we reflect that the Eclogue was taken from a Sibylline prophecy on the same subject. One may judge that Virgil did not copy it line by line, but selected such ideas as best agreed with the nature of Pastoral Poetry, and disposed them in that manner which served most to beautify his piece. I have endeavoured the same in this imitation of him, though without admitting any thing of my own; since it was written with this particular view, that the reader, by comparing the several thoughts, might see how far the images and descriptions of the Prophet are superior to those of the Poet. But as I fear I have prejudiced them by my management, I shall subjoin the passages of Isaiah, and those of Virgil, under the same disadvantage of a literal translation.
Mart. Epig. xii. 84.
‘It appears by this motto,’ says Pope, in a footnote supplied for Warburton’s edition, ‘that the following poem was written or published at the lady’s request. But there are some other circumstances not unworthy relating. Mr. Caryll (a gentleman who was secretary to Queen Mary, wife of James II., whose fortunes he followed into France, author of the comedy of Sir Solomon Single, and of several translations in Dryden’s Miscellanies) originally proposed it to him in a view of putting an end, by this piece of ridicule, to a quarrel that was risen between two noble families, those of Lord Petre and Mrs. Fermor, on the trifling occasion of his having cut off a lock of her hair. The author sent it to the lady, with whom he was acquainted; and she took it so well as to give about copies of it. That first sketch (we learn from one of his letters) was written in less than a fortnight, in 1711, in two cantos only, and it was so printed first, in a Miscellany of Bern. Lintot’s, without the name of the author. But it was received so well that he made it more considerable the next year by the addition of the machinery of the Sylphs, and extended it to five cantos.’
It will be in vain to deny that I have some regard for this piece, since I dedicate it to you. Yet you may bear me witness it was intended only to divert a few young ladies, who have good sense and good humour enough to laugh not only at their sex’s little unguarded follies, but at their own. But as it was communicated with the air of a secret, it soon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been offer’d to a bookseller, you had the good-nature for my sake, to consent to the publication of one more correct: this I was forced to, before I had executed half my design, for the Machinery was entirely wanting to complete it.
The Machinery, Madam, is a term invented by the critics, to signify that part which the Deities, Angels, or Dæmons, are made to act in a poem: for the ancient poets are in one respect like many modern ladies; let an action be never so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the utmost importance. These Machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation, the Rosicrucian doctrine of Spirits.
I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a lady; but it is so much the concern of a poet to have his works understood, and particularly by your sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or three difficult terms. The Rosicrucians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book called La Comte de Gabalis, which, both in its title and size, is so like a novel, that many of the fair sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these gentlemen, the four elements are inhabited by Spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes, or Dæmons of earth, delight in mischief; but the Sylphs, whose habitation is in the air, are the best-conditioned creatures imaginable; for, they say, any mortal may enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true adepts,—an inviolate preservation of chastity.
As to the following cantos, all the passages of them are as fabulous as the Vision at the beginning, or the Transformation at the end (except the loss of your hair, which I always mention with reverence). The human persons are as fictitious as the airy ones; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in beauty.
If this poem had as many graces as there are in your person or in your mind, yet I could never hope it should pass thro’ the world half so uncensured as you have done. But let its fortune be what it will, mine is happy enough, to have given me this occasion of assuring you that I am, with the truest esteem, Madam,
This prologue was written in 1713, after Addison had given Pope two of the main causes which led to their estrangement; and itself led the way for the third. Addison’s faint praise of the Pastorals, and disagreement with Pope as to the advisability of revising The Rape of the Lock, had not as yet led to their estrangement. But when not long after the presentation of Cato, Pope ventured to become its champion against the attacks of John Dennis, Addison’s quiet disclaimer of responsibility for his anonymous defender cut Pope to the quick.
Nicholas Rowe’s play was acted at Drury Lane in February, 1714. Mrs. Oldfield played the leading part, but Pope’s Epilogue was not used.
These verses were first published in 1714. There is no actual proof that they are Pope’s, but as his editors have always retained them, they are here given.
In illustration Mitford refers to Pope’s letter to Lord Bathurst of September 13, 1732, where ‘Mr. L.’ is spoken of as ‘more inclined to admire God in his greater works, the tall timber.’ (Ward.) Proof is lacking that these lines belong to Pope. They were printed by E. Curll in 1714.
This was first printed in 1727 in the Miscellanies of Pope and Swift, but was probably written in 1715. Macer is supposed to be Ambrose Philips. The ‘borrow’d Play’ of the eighth line would then have been The Distrest Mother, adapted by Philips from Racine.
This was written shortly after the coronation of George I. ‘Zephalinda’ was a fanciful name employed by Teresa Blount in correspondence.
Referred to in a letter from Trumbull to Pope dated January, 1716. The epigram imitated is the twenty-third of the tenth book.
See the fourth elegy of Tibullus, lines 55, 56. In the course of his high-flown correspondence with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, after her departure for the East, Pope often suggests the possibility of his travelling to meet her. ‘But if my fate be such,’ he says on the occasion which brought forth this couplet, ‘that this body of mine (which is as ill matched to my mind as any wife to her husband) be left behind in the journey, let the epitaph of Tibullus be set over it!’
This mock pastoral was one of three which made up the original volume of Town Eclogues, published anonymously in 1716. Three more appeared in a later edition. It is now known that only the Basset-Table is Pope’s, the rest being the work of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
cardelia, smilinda, lovet
TO THE TUNE OF ‘TO ALL YOU LADIES NOW AT LAND,’ ETC.
This lively ballad, written in 1717, belongs to the period of Pope’s intimacy with court society. The three ladies here addressed were attached to the court of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Mrs. Pulteney was a daughter of one John Gumley, who had made a fortune by a glass manufactory.
‘Tom’ D’Urfey was a writer of popular farces under the Restoration. Through Addison’s influence his play The Plotting Sisters was revived for his benefit; and the present prologue was possibly written for that occasion. It was first published in 1727.
Three Hours after Marriage was a dull and unsuccessful farce produced in January, 1717, at the Drury Lane Theatre. Though it was attributed to the joint authorship of Pope, Gay, and Arbuthnot, direct proof is lacking not only of Pope’s share in the play, but of his authorship of the Prologue. Of the latter fact, at least, we have, however, indirect evidence in Pope’s resentment of the ridicule cast by Cibber, in a topical impromptu, upon the play; the incident which first roused Pope’s enmity for Cibber, which resulted in his eventually displacing Theobald as the central figure in The Dunciad.
The Rev. Aaron Thompson, of Queen’s College, Oxon., translated the Chronicle of Geoffrey of Monmouth. He submitted the translation to Pope, 1717, who gave him the following lines, being a translation of a Prayer of Brutus. (Carruthers.)
While there is no absolute date to be given for this or the following poem, both evidently belong to the period of Pope’s somewhat fanciful attachment for Lady Mary.
The origin of this famous poem seems to have lain jointly in Pope’s perception of the poetic availability of the Héloise-Abelard legend, and in his somewhat factitious grief in his separation from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. They met in 1715, became friends, and in 1716 Lady Mary left England. In a letter of June, 1717, Pope commends the poem to her consideration, with a suggestion of the personal applicability of the concluding lines to his own suffering under the existing circumstance of their separation.
Abelard and Eloisa flourished in the twelfth century; they were two of the most distinguished persons of their age in Learning and Beauty, but for nothing more famous than for their unfortunate passion. After a long course of calamities, they retired each to a several convent, and consecrated the remainder of their days to Religion. It was many years after this separation that a letter of Abelard’s to a friend, which contained the history of his misfortune, fell into the hands of Eloisa. This, awakening all her tenderness, occasioned those celebrated letters (out of which the following is partly extracted), which give so lively a picture of the struggles of Grace and Nature, Virtue and Passion.
Pope himself became seriously involved in the South Sea speculations, and while he does not appear to have been a heavy loser in the end, his unwise action for friends, notably for Lady Mary Wortley seems to have gotten him into some difficulties. This was of course written before the bursting of the bubble; presumably in 1720.
Craggs was made Secretary of War in 1717, when Addison was Secretary of State. He succeeded Addison in 1720, and died in the following year. He was an intimate friend and correspondent of Pope’s after 1711.
Probably Craggs, who was in office at the time when Pope established himself at Twickenham. (Ward.)
Written early in 1722.
These drawings were made for the adornment of Pope’s house at Twickenham.
Brutus, says Pope, was a play ‘altered from Shakespeare by the Duke of Buckingham, at whose desire these choruses were composed to supply as many wanting in his play.’ Marcus Brutus was one of two plays (the other retaining Shakespeare’s title) manufactured by John Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, out of Julius Cæsar. Both were published in 1722. Pope’s choruses stand after the first and second acts of Brutus. The plays have no literary merit.
Written to Martha Blount in 1723. Lines 5-10 were elsewhere adapted for a versified celebration of his own birthday, and for an epitaph on a suicide!
Mary Howe was appointed Maid of Honour to Queen Caroline, in 1720. ‘Lepell’ was another Maid of Honour, referred to in The Challenge.
Catharine Howard, one of Queen Caroline’s waiting-women; afterward Countess of Suffolk and mistress to George II. Her identification as the Chloe of Moral Essays, II., makes it easier to believe Walpole’s statement that this lady once reprieved a condemned criminal that ‘an experiment might be made on his ears for her benefit.’
Though speculation has connected several other persons with this poem, it is probably still another hit at the luckless Ambrose Philips. It, with the three following poems, was first published in the Miscellanies, 1727.
This refers to the translation undertaken by Sir Samuel Garth, which aimed to complete Dryden’s translation of Ovid, avoiding the rigidness of Sandys’ method. The enterprise was begun in 1718, when these verses were probably written.
Imitated from a Latin couplet on Joannes Mirandula:—
First applied by Pope to Francis Chartres, but published in this form in 1727.
This ‘Ode’ and the three following poems, were written by Pope after reading Gulliver’s Travels, and first published in the Miscellanies of Pope and Swift, in 1727.
The captain, some time after his return, being retired to Mr. Sympson’s in the country, Mrs. Gulliver, apprehending from his late behaviour some estrangement of his affections, writes him the following expostulatory, soothing, and tenderly complaining epistle.
The public astonished Pope by taking this burlesque seriously, and praising it as poetry.
These lines were enclosed in a letter to Bolingbroke, dated September 3, 1740.
Lady Frances Shirley was daughter of Earl Ferrers, a neighbor of Pope’s at Twickenham.
The Lord Treasurer Middlesex’s house at Chelsea, after passing to the Duke of Beaufort, was called Beaufort House. It was afterwards sold to Sir Hans Sloane. When the house was taken down in 1740, its gateway, built by Inigo Jones, was given by Sir Hans Sloane to the Earl of Burlington, who removed it with the greatest care to his garden at Chiswick, where it may be still seen. (Ward.)
Southern was invited to dine on his birthday with Lord Orrery, who had prepared the entertainment, of which the bill of fare is here set down.
Explained by Carruthers to refer to the large sums of money given in charity on account of the severity of the weather about the year 1740.
‘I shall here,’ says Dr. Warton, ‘present the reader with a valuable literary curiosity, a Fragment of an unpublished Satire of Pope, entitled, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty; communicated to me by the kindness of the learned and worthy Dr. Wilson, formerly fellow and librarian of Trinity College, Dublin; who speaks of the Fragment in the following terms:—
‘ “This poem I transcribed from a rough draft in Pope’s own hand. He left many blanks for fear of the Argus eye of those who, if they cannot find, can fabricate treason; yet, spite of his precaution, it fell into the hands of his enemies. To the hieroglyphics there are direct allusions, I think, in some of the notes on the Dunciad. It was lent me by a grandson of Lord Chetwynd, an intimate friend of the famous Lord Bolingbroke, who gratified his curiosity by a boxful of the rubbish and sweepings of Pope’s study, whose executor he was, in conjunction with Lord Marchmont.” ’
with wit that must
Sent in an undated letter to Martha Blount.
Un jour, dit un auteur, etc.
Swift set up a plain monument to his grandfather, and also presented a cup to the church of Goodrich, or Gotheridge (in Herefordshire). He sent a pencilled elevation of the monument (a simple tablet) to Mrs. Howard, who returned it with the following lines, inscribed on the drawing by Pope. The paper is endorsed, in Swift’s hand: ‘Model of a monument for my grandfather, with Pope’s roguery.’ (Scott’s Life of Swift.)
It is not known who the Bishop was. The ‘lying Dean’ refers to Dr. Alured Clarke, who preached a fulsome sermon upon the Queen’s death.
First printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1735.
This Journal was established in January, 1730, and carried on for eight years by Pope and his friends, in answer to the attacks provoked by the Dunciad. It corresponds in some measure to the Xenien of Goethe and Schiller. Only such pieces are here inserted as bear Pope’s distinguishing signature A.; several others are probably his. (Ward.)
Occasioned by seeing some sheets of Dr. Bentley’s edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost.
The sting of this epigram was for Cibber, then Poet Laureate.
His saltem accumulem donis, et fungar inani Munere!
Virg. [Æn. vii. 885.]
Who, having resigned his Place, died in his retirement at Easthamsted, in Berkshire, 1716.
At the Church of Stanton-Harcourt, Oxfordshire, 1720.
His only daughter having expired in his arms immediately after she arrived in France to see him.
John Hughes and Sarah Drew. See Pope’s letter to Lady Mary written in September, 1718.
The subject is supposed to be John Gay.
The first two epistles of the Essay on Man were written in 1732, the third in the year following, and the fourth in 1734, when the complete Essay was published as we have it.
Having proposed to write some pieces on Human Life and Manners, such as, to use my Lord Bacon’s expression, ‘come home to men’s business and bosoms,’ I thought it more satisfactory to begin with considering Man in the abstract, his nature and his state: since to prove any moral duty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perfection or imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is necessary first to know what condition and relation it is placed in, and what is the proper end and purpose of its being.
The science of Human Nature is, like all other sciences, reduced to a few clear points: there are not many certain truths in this world. It is therefore in the anatomy of the mind, as in that of the body; more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by studying too much such finer nerves and vessels, the conformations and uses of which will for ever escape our observation. The disputes are all upon these last; and, I will venture to say, they have less sharpened the wits than the hearts of men against each other, and have diminished the practice more than advanced the theory of morality. If I could flatter myself that this Essay has any merit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines seemingly opposite, in passing over terms utterly unintelligible and in forming a temperate, yet not inconsistent, and a short, yet not imperfect, system of ethics.
This I might have done in prose; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts, so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards: the other may seem odd, but it is true: I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions depends on their conciseness. I was unable to treat this part of my subject more in detail without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically without sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, or breaking the chain of reasoning. If any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing above my capacity.
What is now published is only to be considered as a general Map of Man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connexion, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow; consequently these epistles in their progress (if I have health and leisure to make any progress) will be less dry, and more susceptible of poetical ornament. I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage: to deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects, may be a task more agreeable.
Of Man in the abstract. I. That we can judge only with regard to our own system, being ignorant of the relations of systems and things, verse 17, etc. II. That Man is not to be deemed imperfect, but a being suited to his place and rank in the creation, agreeable to the general order of things, and conformable to ends and relations to him unknown, verse 35, etc. III. That it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future state, that all his happiness in the present depends, verse 77, etc. IV. The pride of aiming at more knowledge, and pretending to more perfection, the cause of Man’s error and misery. The impiety of putting himself in the place of God, and judging of the fitness or unfitness, perfection or imperfection, justice or injustice, of his dispensations, verse 113, etc. V. The absurdity of conceiting himself the final cause of the creation, or expecting that perfection in the moral world which is not in the natural, verse 131, etc. VI. The unreasonableness of his complaints against Providence, while, on the one hand, he demands the perfections of the angels, and, on the other, the bodily qualifications of the brutes; though to possess any of the sensitive faculties in a higher degree would render him miserable, verse 173, etc. VII. That throughout the whole visible world a universal order and gradation in the sensual and mental faculties is observed, which causes a subordination of creature to creature, and of all creatures to man. The gradations of Sense, Instinct, Thought, Reflection, Reason: that Reason alone countervails all the other faculties, verse 207, etc. VIII. How much further this order and subordination of living creatures may extend above and below us; were any part of which broken, not that part only, but the whole connected creation must be destroyed, verse 213, etc. IX. The extravagance, madness, and pride of such a desire, verse 209, etc. X. The consequence of all, the absolute submission due to Providence, both as to our present and future state, verse 281, etc., to the end.
I. The business of Man not to pry into God, but to study himself. His middle nature; his powers and frailties, verses 1 to 19. The limits of his capacity, verse 19, etc. II. The two principles of Man, Self-love and Reason, both necessary. Self-love the stronger, and why. Their end the same, verse 81, etc. III. The Passions, and their use. The predominant passion, and its force. Its necessity, in directing men to different purposes. Its providential use, in fixing our principle, and ascertaining our virtue, verse 93, etc. IV. Virtue and Vice joined in our mixed nature; the limits near, yet the things separate and evident: what is the office of Reason, verse 203, etc. V. How odious Vice in itself, and how we deceive ourselves into it, verse 217, etc. VI. That, however, the ends of Providence, and general goods, are answered in our passions and imperfections. How usefully these are distributed to all orders of men: how useful they are to Society; and to individuals; in every state, and every age of life, verse 238, etc., to the end.
I. The whole Universe one system of Society. Nothing made wholly for itself, nor yet wholly for another. The happiness of animals mutual, verse 7, etc. II. Reason or Instinct operates alike to the good of each individual. Reason or Instinct operates also to Society in all animals, verse 49, etc. III. How far Society carried by Instinct;—how much farther by reason, verse 109, etc. IV. Of that which is called the state of nature. Reason instructed by Instinct in the invention of arts;—and in the forms of Society, verse 144, etc. V. Origin of political societies;—origin of Monarchy;—patriarchal government, verse 199, etc. VI. Origin of true Religion and Government, from the same principle of Love;—origin of Superstition and Tyranny, from the same principle of Fear. The influence of Self-love operating to the social and public good. Restoration of true Religion and Government on their first principle. Mixed government. Various forms of each, and the true end of all, verse 215, etc.
I. False notions of Happiness, philosophical and popular, answered, from verses 19 to 26. II. It is the end of all men, and attainable by all. God intends Happiness to be equal; and, to be so, it must be social, since all particular Happiness depends on general, and since he governs by general, and since he governs by general, not particular laws. As it is necessary for order, and the peace and welfare of Society, that external goods should be unequal, Happiness is not made to consist in these. But notwithstanding that inequality, the balance of Happiness among mankind is kept even by Providence, by the two passions of Hope and Fear, verse 29, etc. III. What the Happiness of individuals is, as far as is consistent with the constitution of this world; and that the good man has here the advantage. The error of imputing to virtue what are only the calamities of Nature, or of Fortune, verse 77, etc. IV. The folly of expecting that God should alter his general laws in favour of particulars, verse 123, etc. V. That we are not judges who are good; but that whoever they are, they must be happiest, verse 131, etc. VI. That external goods are not the proper rewards, but often inconsistent with, or destructive of Virtue. That even these can make no man happy without Virtue:—instanced in Riches; Honours; Nobility; Greatness; Fame; Superior Talents, with pictures of human infelicity in men possessed of them all, verse 149, etc. VII. That Virtue only constitutes a Happiness, whose object is universal, and whose prospect eternal. That the perfection of Virtue and Happiness consists in a conformity to the Order of Providence here, and a resignation to it here and hereafter, verse 327, etc.
The present order of the Moral Essays is very different from that of their original publication. The fifth epistle (to Addison) was written in 1715, and published five years later in Tickell’s edition of Addison’s works. The fourth epistle (to the Earl of Burlington) was published in 1731, under the title Of Taste. The third epistle (to Lord Bathurst) was published in 1732, and followed in 1733 by the first epistle (to Lord Cobham). The second epistle (to a Lady) was published in 1735. The whole series appeared in their present order, under the direction of Warburton, after Pope’s death.
Though it is doubtful how far it suggests Pope’s primary intention, Warburton’s Advertisement is here printed because Pope undoubtedly wished it, with its flattering implication of his philosophical breadth, to be accepted as a true statement of a plan which was plainly broader than its execution.
The Essay on Man was intended to be comprised in four books:—
The first of which the author has given us under that title in four epistles.
The second was to have consisted of the same number: 1. Of the extent and limits of human reason. 2. Of those arts and sciences, and of the parts of them, which are useful, and therefore attainable; together with those which are unuseful, and therefore unattainable. 3. Of the nature, ends, use, and application of the different capacities of men. 4. Of the use of learning; of the science of the world; and of wit; concluding with a satire against the misapplication of them, illustrated by pictures, characters, and examples.
The third book regarded civil regimen, or the science of politics; in which the several forms of a republic were to be examined and explained; together with the several modes of religious worship, as far forth as they affect society: between which the author always supposed there was the most interesting relation and closest connection. So that this part would have treated of civil and religious society in their full extent.
The fourth and last book concerned private ethics, or practical morality, considered in all the circumstances, orders, professions, and stations of human life.
The scheme of all this had been maturely digested, and communicated to Lord Bolingbroke, Dr. Swift, and one or two more; and was intended for the only work of his riper years; but was, partly through ill health, partly through discouragements from the depravity of the times; and partly on prudential and other considerations, interrupted, postponed, and lastly, in a manner, laid aside.
But as this was the author’s favourite work, which more exactly reflected the image of his strong capacious mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the disjecta membra poetœ that now remain, it may not be amiss to be a little more particular concerning each of these projected books.
The first, as it treats of man in the abstract, and considers him in general under every one of his relations, becomes the foundation, and furnishes out the subjects of the three following: so that—
The second book was to take up again the first and second epistles of the first book, and to treat of man in his intellectual capacity at large, as has been explained above. Of this only a small part of the conclusion (which, as we said, was to have contained a satire against the misapplication of wit and learning) may be found in the fourth book of the Dunciad; and up and down, occasionally, in the other three.
The third book, in like manner, was to reassume the subject of the third epistle of the first, which treats of man in his social, political, and religious capacity. But this part the poet afterwards conceived might be best executed in an epic poem, as the action would make it more animated, and the fable less invidious; in which all the great principles of true and false governments and religions should be chiefly delivered in feigned examples.
The fourth and last book was to pursue the subject of the fourth epistle of the first, and to treat of ethics, or practical morality; and would have consisted of many members, of which the four following epistles are detached portions; the two first, on the characters of men and women, being the introductory part of this concluding book.
of the knowledge and characters of men
I. That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to consider Man in the abstract; Books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own Experience singly. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself. Difficulties arising from our own Passions, Fancies, Faculties, &c. The shortness of Life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the Principles of action in men to observe by. Our own Principle of action often hid from ourselves. Some few Characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsustent. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest. Nothing constant and certain but God and Nature. No judging of the Motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary Motives, and the same Motives influencing contrary actions. II. Yet to form Characters we can only take the strongest actions of a man’s life, and try to make them agree: the utter uncertainty of this, from Nature itself, and from Policy. Characters given according to the rank of men of the world; and some reason for it. Education alters the Nature, or at least the Character, of many. Actions, Passions, Opinions, Manners, Humours, or Principles, all subject to change. No judging by Nature. III. It only remains to find (if we can) his Ruling Passion: that will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind. Examples of the strength of the Ruling Passion, and its continuation to the last breath.
That the particular Characters of women are not so strongly marked as those of men, seldom so fixed, and still more inconsistent with themselves. Instances of contrarieties given, even from such Characters as are more strongly marked, and seemingly, therefore, most consistent: as, 1. In the affected. 2. In the soft-natured. 3. In the cunning and artful. 4. In the whimsical. 5. In the lewd and vicious. 6. In the witty and refined. 7. In the stupid and simple. The former part having shown that the particular characters of women are more various than those of men, it is nevertheless observed that the general characteristic of the sex, as to the Ruling Passion, is more uniform. This is occasioned partly by their Nature, partly by their Education, and in some degree by Necessity. What are the aims and the fate of this sex: 1. As to Power. 2. As to Pleasure. Advice for their true interest. The picture of an estimable woman, with the best kind of contrarieties.
of the use of riches
That it is known to few, most falling into one of the extremes, Avarice or Profusion. The point discussed, whether the invention of money has been more commodious or pernicious to mankind. That Riches, either to the Avaricious or the Prodigal, cannot afford happiness, scarcely necessaries. That Avarice is an absolute frenzy, without an end or purpose. Conjectures about the motives of avaricious men. That the conduct of men, with respect to Riches, can only be accounted for by the Order of Providence, which works the general good out of extremes, and brings all to its great end by perpetual revolutions. How a Miser acts upon principles which appear to him reasonable. How a Prodigal does the same. The due medium and true use of riches. The Man of Ross. The fate of the Profuse and the Covetous, in two examples; both miserable in life and in death. The story of Sir Balaam.
The vanity of Expense in people of wealth and quality. The abuse of the word Taste. That the first principle and foundation in this, as in every thing else, is Good Sense. The chief proof of it is to follow Nature, even in works of mere luxury and elegance. Instanced in Architecture and Gardening, where all must be adapted to the genius and use of the place, and the beauties not forced into it, but resulting from it. How men are disappointed in their most expensive undertakings for want of this true foundation, without which nothing can please long, if at all; and the best examples and rules will but be perverted into something burdensome and ridicculous. A description of the false taste of Magnificence; the first grand error of which is to imagine that greatness consists in the size and dimension, instead of the proportion and harmony, of the whole; and the second, either in joining together parts incoherent, or too minutely resembling, or, in the repetition of the same too frequently. A word or two of false taste in books, in music, in painting, even in preaching and prayer, and lastly in entertainments. Yet Providence is justified in giving wealth to be squandered in this manner, since it is dispersed to the poor and laborious part of mankind. [Recurring to what is laid down in the first book, ep. ii. and in the epistle preceding this.] What are the proper objects of Magnificence, and a proper field for the expense of great men. And, finally, the great and public works which become a Prince.
‘This was originally written,’ says Pope, ‘in the year 1715, when Mr. Addison intended to publish his book Of Medals; it was some time before he was Secretary of State; but not published till Mr. Tickell’s edition of his works; at which time the verses on Mr. Craggs, which conclude the poem, were added, viz., in 1720.’
Warburton connects the epistle with the preceding Essays in this ingenious way: ‘As the third epistle treated the extremes of Avarice and Profusion, and the fourth took up one particular branch of the latter, namely the vanity of expense in people of wealth and quality, and was therefore corollary to the third; so this treats of one circumstance of that vanity, as it appears in the common collections of old coins; and is therefore a corollary to the fourth.’
This was written in 1738 to correct the impression of fatalism which Warburton’s ingenious exposition had failed to remove. Pope had really as little mind for dogma as most poets; but these verses represent what, in view of the instructions of Bolingbroke, corrected by Warburton, he now believed himself to believe.
The Satires retain nearly the order of their original publication. They appeared between 1733 and 1738. It is said that Bolingbroke suggested the translation of the First Satire of the Second Book of Horace, and that the translation of the others was done somewhat at random, as Pope saw his opportunity of adapting them to his own day.
This paper is a sort of bill of complaint, begun many years since, and drawn up by snatches, as the several occasions offered. I had no thoughts of publishing it, till it pleased some Persons of Rank and Fortune (the authors of ‘Verses to the Imitator of Horace,’ and of an ‘Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity from a Nobleman at Hampton Court’) to attack, in a very extraordinary manner, not only my Writings (of which, being public, the Public is judge), but my Person, Morals, and Family; whereof, to those who know me not, a truer information may be requisite. Being divided between the necessity to say something of myself, and my own laziness to undertake so awkward a task, I thought it the shortest way to put the last hand to this epistle. If it have any thing pleasing, it will be that by which I am most desirous to please, the Truth and the Sentiment; and if any thing offensive, it will be only to those I am least sorry to offend, the vicious or the ungenerous.
Many will know their own pictures in it, there being not a circumstance but what is true; but I have, for the most part, spared their names, and they may escape being laughed at if they please.
I would have some of them know it was owing to the request of the learned and candid Friend to whom it is inscribed, that I make not as free use of theirs as they have done of mine. However, I shall have this advantage and honour on my side, that whereas, by their proceeding, any abuse may be directed at any man, no injury can possibly be done by mine, since a nameless character can never be found out but by its truth and likeness.
Ludentis speciem dabit, et torquebitur.—Hor.
The occasion of publishing these Imitations was the clamour raised on some of my Epistles. An answer from Horace was both more full and of more dignity than any I could have made in my own person; and the example of much greater freedom in so eminent a divine as Dr. Donne, seemed a proof with what indignation and contempt a Christian may treat Vice or Folly, in ever so low or ever so high a station. Both these authors were acceptable to the Princes and Ministers under whom they lived. The satires of Dr. Donne I versified at the desire of the Earl of Oxford, while he was Lord Treasurer, and of the Duke of Shrewsbury, who had been Secretary of State; neither of whom looked upon a satire on vicious courts as any reflection on those they served in. And indeed there is not in the world a greater error than that which fools are so apt to fall into, and knaves with good reason to encourage,—the mistaking a Satirist for a Libeller; whereas to a true Satirist nothing is so odious as a Libeller, for the same reason as to a man truly virtuous nothing is so hateful as a hypocrite.
Uni sequus virtuti atque ejus amicis.
This satire was first published in 1733, under the title A Dialogue between Alexander Pope of Twickenham, on the one part, and the Learned Counsel on the other.
The identification of Augustus with George II. makes it necessary to take much of this poem ironically. George II., since his accession ten years before this was written (1737), had shown absolute indifference to the literature of England. The critical portions of the satire undoubtedly present Pope’s real judgment of contemporary literature.
The reflections of Horace, and the judgments passed in his Epistle to Augustus, seemed so seasonable to the present times, that I could not help applying them to the use of my own country. The author thought them considerable enough to address them to his prince, whom he paints with all the great and good qualities of a monarch upon whom the Romans depended for the increase of an absolute Empire; but to make the poem entirely English, I was willing to add one or two of those which contribute to the happiness of a Free People, and are more consistent with the welfare of our neighbours.
This epistle will show the learned world to have fallen into two mistakes: one, that Augustus was a Patron of poets in general; whereas he not only prohibited all but the best writers to name him, but recommended that care even to the civil magistrate; Admonebat prœtores, ne paterentur nomen suum obsolefieri, &c.; the other, that this piece was only a general Discourse of Poetry; whereas it was an Apology for the Poets, in order to render Augustus more their patron. Horace here pleads the cause of his contemporaries; first, against the Taste of the town, whose humour it was to magnify the authors of the preceding age; secondly, against the Court and Nobility, who encouraged only the writers for the Theatre; and, lastly, against the Emperor himself, who had conceived them of little use to the Government. He shows (by a view of the progress of Learning, and the change of Taste among the Romans) that the introduction of the Polite Arts of Greece had given the writers of his time great advantages over their predecessors; that their Morals were much improved, and the license of those ancient poets restrained; that Satire and Comedy were become more just and useful; that whatever extravagancies were left on the stage were owing to the ill taste of the nobility; that poets, under due regulations, were in many respects useful to the State; and concludes, that it was upon them the Emperor himself must depend for his Fame with posterity.
We may further learn from this Epistle, that Horace made his court to this great Prince, by writing with a decent freedom toward him, with a just contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own character.
Ludentis speciem dabit, et torquebitur.
The paraphrases of Donne were, by Pope’s statement, done several years before their publication in 1735.
The first dialogue was originally entitled One Thousand Seven Hundred and thirty-eight, a Dialogue something like Horace. Johnson’s London is said by Boswell to have been published on the same morning of May, 1738, and in spite of its anonymity to have made more stir than Pope’s satire.
Of the following Imitations of Horace the first two are rather imitations of Swift, Horace merely supplying the text for the travesty. For (as previous editors have not failed to point out) no styles could be found less like one another than the bland and polite style of Horace and the downright, and often cynically plain, manner of Swift. With Pope the attempt to write in Swift’s style was a mere tour de force, which he could indeed carry out with success through a few lines, but not further, without relapsing into his own more elaborate manner. Swift’s marvellous precision and netteté of expression are something very different from Pope’s pointed and rhetorical elegance. The Ode to Venus, which was first published in 1737, more nearly approaches the character of a translation. (Ward.)
The first edition of The Dunciad was published in the spring of 1728, and included the first three books. In 1729 an edition with notes and other illustrative matter appeared, the original frontispiece of the owl being superseded by a vignette of a donkey bearing a pile of books upon which an owl perched. In this edition appeared the Dedication to Swift and the Letter to the Publisher. William Cleland, whose name is signed to this letter, was a real person and an acquaintance of Pope’s, but it is generally conceded that the letter is directly or indirectly the work of Pope himself. The fourth book, then called The New Dunciad, was published separately in 1742. In the complete edition of 1743, Cibber takes the place of Theobald as hero of the poem. During these fifteen years, public interest in the satire, which was undoubtedly great, was artificially stimulated by Pope. So subtle were his mystifications that the confusion into which he threw his commentators has only recently been set straight.
This poem, as it celebrateth the most grave and ancient of things, Chaos, Night, and Dulness, so is it of the most grave and ancient kind. Homer (saith Aristotle) was the first who gave the form, and (saith Horace) who adapted the measure, to heroic poesy. But even before this may be rationally presumed, from what the ancients have left written, was a piece by Homer, composed of like nature and matter with this of our poet; for of epic sort it appeareth to have been, yet of matter surely not unpleasant; witness what is reported of it by the learned Archbishop Eustathius, in Odyssey X. And accordingly Aristotle, in his Poetic, chap. iv., doth further set forth, that as the Iliad and Odyssey gave an example to Tragedy, so did this poem to Comedy its first idea.
From these authors also it should seem that the hero, or chief personage of it, was no less obscure, and his understanding and sentiments no less quaint and strange (if indeed not more so) than any of the actors of our poem. Margites was the name of this personage, whom antiquity recordeth to have been Dunce the First; and surely, from what we hear of him, not unworthy to be the root of so spreading a tree, and so numerous a posterity. The poem, therefore, celebrating him, was properly and absolutely a Dunciad; which though now unhappily lost, yet is its nature sufficiently known by the infallible tokens aforesaid. And thus it doth appear that the first Dunciad was the first epic poem, written by Homer himself, and anterior even to the Iliad or Odyssey.
Now, forasmuch as our poet hath translated those two famous works of Homer which are yet left, he did conceive it in some sort his duty to imitate that also which was lost; and was therefore induced to bestow on it the same form which Homer’s is reported to have had, namely, that of epic poem; with a title also framed after the ancient Greek manner, to wit, that of Dunciad.
Wonderful it is that so few of the moderns have been stimulated to attempt some Dunciad; since, in the opinion of the multitude, it might cost less pain and toil than an imitation of the greater epic. But possible it is also that, on due reflection, the maker might find it easier to paint a Charlemagne, a Brute, or a Godfrey, with just pomp and dignity heroic, than a Margites, a Codrus, or a Fleckno.
We shall next declare the occasion and the cause which moved our poet to this particular work. He lived in those days when (after Providence had permitted the invention of printing as a scourge for the sins of the learned) paper also became so cheap, and printers so numerous, that a deluge of authors covered the land: whereby not only the peace of the honest unwriting subject was daily molested, but unmerciful demands were made of his applause, yea, of his money, by such as would neither earn the one nor deserve the other. At the same time the license of the press was such, that it grew dangerous to refuse them either; for they would forthwith publish slanders unpunished, the authors being anonymous, and skulking under the wings of publishers, a set of men who never scrupled to vend either calumny or blasphemy, as long as the town would call for it.
Now our author, living in those times, did conceive it an endeavour well worthy an honest satirist, to dissuade the dull, and punish the wicked, the only way that was left. In that public-spirited view he laid the Plan of this poem, as the greatest service he was capable (without much hurt, or being slain) to render his dear country. First, taking things from their original, he considereth the causes creative of such authors, namely, dulness and poverty; the one born with them, the other contracted by neglect of their proper talents, through self-conceit of greater abilities. This truth he wrappeth in an allegory (as the construction of epic poesy requireth), and feigns that one of these goddesses had taken up her abode with the other, and that they jointly inspired all such writers and such works. He proceedeth to show the qualities they bestow on these authors, and the effects they produce; then the materials, or stock, with which they furnish them; and (above all) that self-opinion which causeth it to seem to themselves vastly greater than it is, and is the prime motive of their setting up in this sad and sorry merchandise. The great power of these goddesses acting in alliance (whereof as the one is the mother of industry, so is the other of plodding) was to be exemplified in some one great and remarkable action; and none could be more so than that which our poet hath chosen, viz. the restoration of the reign of Chaos and Night, by the ministry of Dulness their daughter, in the removal of her imperial seat from the city to the polite world; as the action of the Æneid is the restoration of the empire of Troy, by the removal of the race from thence to Latium. But as Homer, singing only the wrath of Achilles, yet includes in his poem the whole history of the Trojan war; in like manner, our author has drawn into this single action the whole history of Dulness and her children.
A Person must next be fixed upon to support this action. This phantom, in the poet’s mind, must have a name. He finds it to be—; and he becomes of course the hero of the poem.
The Fable being thus, according to the best example, one and entire, as contained in the proposition; the machinery is a continued chain of allegories, setting forth the whole power, ministry, and empire of Dulness, extended through her subordinate instruments, in all her various operations.
This is branched into Episodes, each of which hath its moral apart, though all conducive to the main end. The crowd assembled in the second Book demonstrates the design to be more extensive than to bad poets only, and that we may expect other episodes of the patrons, encouragers, or paymasters of such authors, as occasion shall bring them forth. And the third Book, if well considered, seemeth to embrace the whole world. Each of the games relateth to some or other vile class of writers. The first concerneth the plagiary, to whom he giveth the name of Moore; the second the libellous novelist, whom he styleth Eliza; the third, the flattering dedicator; the fourth, the bawling critic, or noisy poet; the fifth the dark and dirty party-writer; and so of the rest; assigning to each some proper name or other, such as he could find.
As for the Characters, the public hath already acknowledged how justly they are drawn. The manners are so depicted, and the sentiments so peculiar to those to whom applied, that surely to transfer them to any other or wiser personages would be exceeding difficult; and certain it is that every person concerned, being consulted apart, hath readily owned the resemblance of every portrait, his own excepted. So Mr. Cibber calls them ‘a parcel of poor wretches, so many silly flies;’ but adds, ‘our author’s wit is remarkably more bare and barren whenever it would fall foul on Cibber than upon any other person whatever.’
The Descriptions are singular, the comparisons very quaint, the narrations various, yet of one colour, the purity and chastity of diction is so preserved, that in the places most suspicious, not the words, but only the images, have been censured; and yet are those images no other than have been sanctified by ancient and classical authority (though, as was the manner of those good times, not so curiously wrapped up), yea, and commented upon by the most grave doctors and approved critics.
As it beareth the name of Epic, it is thereby subjected to such severe indispensable rules as are laid on all neoterics, a strict imitation of the ancients; insomuch that any deviation, accompanied with whatever poetic beauties, hath always been censured by the sound critic. How exact that imitation hath been in this piece, appeareth not only by its general structure, but by particular allusions infinite, many whereof have escaped both the commentator and poet himself; yea divers, by his exceeding diligence, are so altered and interwoven with the rest, that several have already been, and more will be, by the ignorant abused, as altogether and originally his own.
In a word, the whole Poem proveth itself to be the work of our author, when his faculties were in full vigour and perfection; at that exact time when years have ripened the judgment without diminishing the imagination; which, by good critics, is held to be punctually at forty: for at that season it was that Virgil finished his Georgics; and Sir Richard Blackmore, at the like age composing his Arthurs, declared the same to be the very acme and pitch of life for epic poesy; though, since, he hath altered it to sixty, the year in which he published his Alfred. True it is that the talents for criticism, namely, smartness, quick censure, vivacity of remark, certainty of asservation, indeed all but acerbity, seem rather the gifts of youth than of riper age: but it is far otherwise in poetry; witness the works of Mr. Rymer and Mr. Dennis, who, beginning with criticism, became afterwards such poets as no age hath paralleled. With good reason, therefore, did our author choose to write his Essay on that subject at twenty, and reserve for his maturer years this great and wonderful work of The Dunclad.
It will be found a true observation, though somewhat surprising, that when any scandal is vented against a man of the highest distinction and character, either in the state or literature, the public in general afford it a most quiet reception, and the larger part accept it as favourably as if it were some kindness done to themselves: whereas, if a known scoundrel or blockhead but chance to be touched upon, a whole legion is up in arms, and it becomes the common cause of all scribblers, booksellers, and printers whatsoever.
Not to search too deeply into the reason hereof, I will only observe as a fact, that every week, for these two months past, the town has been persecuted with pamphlets, advertisements, letters, and weekly essays, not only against the wit and writings, but against the character and person of Mr. Pope; and that of all those men who have received pleasure from his works (which by modest computation may be about a hundred thousand in these kingdoms of England and Ireland, not to mention Jersey, Guernsey, the Orcades, those in the New World, and foreigners who have translated him into their languages), of all this number not a man hath stood up to say one word in his defence.
The only exception is the author of the following poem, who doubtless had either a better insight into the grounds of this clamour, or a better opinion of Mr. Pope’s integrity, joined with a greater personal love for him than any other of his numerous friends and admirers.
Farther, that he was in his peculiar intimacy, appears from the knowledge he manifests of the most private authors of all the anonymous pieces against him, and from his having in this poem attacked no man living who had not before printed or published some scandal against this gentleman.
How I came possessed of it, is no concern to the reader; but it would have been a wrong to him had I detained the publication; since those names which are its chief ornaments die off daily so fast, as must render it too soon unintelligible. If it provoke the author to give us a more perfect edition, I have my end.
Who he is I cannot say, and (which is a great pity) there is certainly nothing in his style and manner of writing which can distinguish or discover him; for if it bears any resemblance to that of Mr. Pope, it is not improbable but it might be done on purpose, with a view to have it pass for his. But by the frequency of his allusions to Virgil, and a laboured (not to say affected) shortness in imitation of him, I should think him more an admirer of the Roman poet than of the Grecian, and in that not of the same taste with his friend.
I have been well informed that this work was the labour of full six years of his life, and that he wholly retired himself from all the avocations and pleasures of the world to attend diligently to its correction and perfection; and six years more he intended to bestow upon it, as it should seem by this verse of Statius, which was cited at the head of his manuscript:—
Hence also we learn the true title of the poem; which, with the same certainty as we call that of Homer the Iliad, of Virgil the Æneid, of Camöens the Lusiad, we may pronounce could have been, and can be, no other than
It is styled heroic, as being doubly so; not only with respect to its nature, which, according to the best rules of the ancients, and strictest ideas of the moderns, is critically such; but also with regard to the heroical disposition and high courage of the writer, who dared to stir up such a formidable, irritable, and implacable race of mortals.
There may arise some obscurity in chronology from the names in the poem, by the inevitable removal of some authors, and insertion of others in their niches: for, whoever will consider the unity of the whole design, will be sensible that the poem was not made for these authors, but these authors for the poem. I should judge that they were clapped in as they rose, fresh and fresh, and changed from day to day; in like manner as when the old boughs wither we thrust new ones into a chimney.
I would not have the reader too much troubled or anxious, if he cannot decipher them; since, when he shall have found them out, he will probably know no more of the persons than before.
Yet we judged it better to preserve them as they are, than to change them for fictitious names; by which the satire would only be multiplied, and applied to many instead of one. Had the hero, for instance, been called Codrus, how many would have affirmed him to have been Mr. T., Mr. E., Sir R. B.? &c., but now all that unjust scandal is saved, by calling him by a name which, by good luck, happens to be that of a real person.
It is with pleasure I hear that you have procured a correct copy of the Dunciad, which the many surreptitious ones have rendered so necessary; and it is yet with more, that I am informed it will be attended with a Commentary; a work so requisite, that I cannot think the author himself would have omitted it, had he approved of the first appearance of this poem.
Such Notes as have occurred to me I herewith send you: you will oblige me by inserting them amongst those which are, or will be, transmitted to you by others; since not only the author’s friends, but even strangers, appear engaged by humanity, to take some care of an orphan of so much genius and spirit, which its parent seems to have abandoned from the very beginning, and suffered to step into the world naked, unguarded, and unattended.
It was upon reading some of the abusive papers lately published, that my great regard to a person whose friendship I esteem as one of the chief honours of my life, and a much greater respect to truth than to him or any man living, engaged me in inquiries of which the enclosed Notes are the fruit.
I perceived that most of these authors had been (doubtless very wisely) the first aggressors. They had tried, till they were weary, what was to be got by railing at each other: nobody was either concerned or surprised if this or that scribbler was proved a dunce, but every one was curious to read what could be said to prove Mr. Pope one, and was ready to pay something for such a discovery; a stratagem which, would they fairly own it, might not only reconcile them to me, but screen them from the resentment of their lawful superiors, whom they daily abuse, only (as I charitably hope) to get that by them, which they cannot get from them.
I found this was not all: ill success in that had transported them to personal abuse, either of himself, or (what I think he could less forgive) of his friends. They had called men of virtue and honour bad men, long before he had either leisure or inclination to call them bad writers; and some of them had been such old offenders, that he had quite forgotten their persons, as well as their slanders, till they were pleased to revive them.
Now what had Mr. Pope done before to incense them? He had published those works which are in the hands of every body, in which not the least mention is made of any of them. And what has he done since? He has laughed, and written the Dunciad. What has that said of them? A very serious truth, which the public had said before, that they were dull; and what it had no sooner said, but they themselves were at great pains to procure, or even purchase, room in the prints to testify under their hands to the truth of it.
I should still have been silent, if either I had seen any inclination in my friend to be serious with such accusers, or if they had only meddled with his writings; since whoever publishes, puts himself on his trial by his country: but when his moral character was attacked, and in a manner from which neither truth nor virtue can secure the most innocent; in a manner which, though it annihilates the credit of the accusation with the just and impartial, yet aggravates very much the guilt of the accusers—I mean by authors without names—then I thought, since the danger was common to all, the concern ought to be so; and that it was an act of justice to detect the authors, not only on this account, but as many of them are the same who, for several years past, have made free with the greatest names in church and state, exposed to the world the private misfortunes of families, abused all, even to women; and whose prostituted papers (for one or other party in the unhappy divisions of their country) have insulted the fallen, the friendless, the exiled, and the dead.
Besides this, which I take to be public concern, I have already confessed I had a private one. I am one of that number who have long loved and esteemed Mr. Pope; and had often declared it was not his capacity or writings (which we ever thought the least valuable part of his character), but the honest, open, and beneficent man, that we most esteemed and loved in him. Now, if what these people say were believed, I must appear to all my friends either a fool or a knave; either imposed on myself, or imposing on them; so that I am as much interested in the confutation of these calumnies as he is himself.
I am no author, and consequently not to be suspected either of jealousy or resentment against any of the men, of whom scarce one is known to me by sight; and as for their writings, I have sought them (on this one occasion) in vain, in the closets and libraries of all my acquaintance. I had still been in the dark, if a gentleman had not procured me (I suppose from some of themselves, for they are generally much more dangerous friends than enemies) the passages I send you. I solemnly protest I have added nothing to the malice or absurdity of them; which it behoves me to declare, since the vouchers themselves will be so soon and so irrecoverably lost. You may, in some measure, prevent it, by preserving at least their titles, and discovering (as far as you can depend on the truth of your information) the names of the concealed authors.
The first objection I have heard made to the poem is, that the persons are too obscure for satire. The persons themselves, rather than allow the objection, would forgive the satire; and if one could be tempted to afford it a serious answer, were not all assassinates, popular insurrections, the insolence of the rabble without doors, and of domestics within, most wrongfully chastised, if the meanness of offenders indemnified them from punishment? On the contrary, obscurity renders them more dangerous, as less thought of: law can pronounce judgment only on open facts; morality alone can pass censure on intentions of mischief; so that for secret calumny, or the arrow flying in the dark, there is no public punishment left but what a good writer inflicts.
The next objection is, that these sort of authors are poor. That might be pleaded as an excuse at the Old Bailey for lesser crimes than defamation (for it is the case of almost all who are tried there), but sure it can be none here: for who will pretend that the robbing another of his reputation supplies the want of it in himself? I question not but such authors are poor, and heartily wish the objection were removed by any honest livelihood; but poverty is here the accident, not the subject. He who describes malice and villany to be pale and meagre, expresses not the least anger against paleness or leanness, but against malice and villany. The apothecary in Romeo and Juliet is poor; but is he therefore justified in vending poison? Not but poverty itself becomes a just subject of satire, when it is the consequence of vice, prodigality, or neglect of one’s lawful calling; for then it increases the public burden, fills the streets and highways with robbers, and the garrets with clippers, coiners, and weekly journalists.
But admitting that two or three of these offend less in their morals than in their writings; must poverty make nonsense sacred? If so, the fame of bad authors would be much better consulted than that of all the good ones in the world; and not one of a hundred had ever been called by his right name.
They mistake the whole matter: it is not charity to encourage them in the way they follow, but to get them out of it; for men are not bunglers because they are poor, but they are poor because they are bunglers.
Is it not pleasant enough to hear our authors crying out on the one hand, as if their persons and characters were too sacred for satire; and the public objecting, on the other, that they are too mean even for ridicule? But whether bread or fame be their end, it must be allowed, our author, by and in this poem, has mercifully given them a little of both.
There are two or three who, by their rank and fortune, have no benefit from the former objections, supposing them good, and these I was sorry to see in such company: but if, without any provocation, two or three gentlemen will fall upon one, in an affair wherein his interest and reputation are equally embarked, they cannot, certainly, after they have been content to print themselves his enemies, complain of being put into the number of them.
Others, I am told, pretend to have been once his friends. Surely they are their enemies who say so, since nothing can be more odious than to treat a friend as they have done. But of this I cannot persuade myself, when I consider the constant and eternal aversion of all bad writers to a good one.
Such as claim a merit from being his admirers, I would gladly ask, if it lays him under a personal obligation. At that rate, he would be the most obliged humble servant in the world. I dare swear for these in particular, he never desired them to be his admirers, nor promised in return to be theirs: that had truly been a sign he was of their acquaintance; but would not the malicious world have suspected such an approbation of some motive worse than ignorance, in the author of the Essay on Criticism? Be it as it will, the reasons of their admiration and of his contempt are equally subsisting, for his works and theirs are the very same that they were.
One, therefore, of their assertions I believe may be true, ‘that he has a contempt for their writings:’ and there is another which would probably be sooner allowed by himself than by any good judge beside, ‘that his own have found too much success with the public.’ But as it cannot consist with his modesty to claim this as a justice, it lies not on him, but entirely on the public, to defend its own judgment.
There remains, what, in my opinion, might seem a better plea for these people than any they have made use of:—If obscurity or poverty were to exempt a man from satire, much more should folly or dulness, which are still more involuntary; nay, as much so as personal deformity. But even this will not help them: deformity becomes an object of ridicule when a man sets up for being handsome; and so must dulness, when he sets up for a wit. They are not ridiculed because ridicule in itself is, or ought to be, a pleasure; but because it is just to undeceive and vindicate the honest and unpretending part of mankind from imposition; because particular interest ought to yield to general, and a great number, who are not naturally fools, ought never to be made so, in complaisance to those who are. Accordingly we find that in all ages all vain pretenders, were they ever so poor, or ever so dull, have been constantly the topics of the most candid satirists, from the Codrus of Juvenal to the Damon of Boileau.
Having mentioned Boileau, the greatest poet and most judicious critic of his age and country, admirable for his talents, and yet perhaps more admirable for his judgment in the proper application of them, I cannot help remarking the resemblance betwixt him and our author, in qualities, fame, and fortune; in the distinctions shown them by their superiors, in the general esteem of their equals, and in their extended reputation amongst foreigners; in the latter of which ours has met with the better fate, as he has had for his translators persons of the most eminent rank and abilities in their respective nations. But the resemblance holds in nothing more than in their being equally absued by the ignorant pretenders to poetry of their times; of which not the least memory will remain but in their own writings, and in the notes made upon them. What Boileau has done in almost all his poems, our author has only in this. I dare answer for him he will do it in no more; and on this principle, of attacking few but who had slandered him, he could not have done it at all, had he been confined from censuring obscure and worthless persons: for scarce any other were his enemies. However, as the parity is so remarkable, I hope it will continue to the last; and if ever he should give us an edition of this poem himself, I may see some of them treated as gently, on their repentance or better merit, as Perrault and Quinault were at last by Boileau.
In one point I must be allowed to think the character of our English poet the more amiable; he has not been a follower of fortune or success; he has lived with the great without flattery; been a friend to men in power without pensions, from whom, as he asked, so he received, no favour, but what was done him in his friends. As his satires were the more just for being delayed, so were his panegyrics; bestowed only on such persons as he had familiarly known, only for such virtues as he had long observed in them, and only at such times as others cease to praise, if not begin to calumniate them—I mean when out of power, or out of fashion. A satire, therefore, on writers so notorious for the contrary practice, became no man so well as himself; as none, it is plain, was so little in their friendships, or so much in that of those whom they had most abused; namely, the greatest and best of all parties. Let me add a further reason, that though engaged in their friendships, he never espoused their animosities; and can almost singly challenge this honour, not to have written a line of any man which, through guilt, through shame, or through fear, through variety of fortune, or change of interests, he was ever unwilling to own.
I shall conclude with remarking, what a pleasure it must be to every reader of humanity to see all along that our author, in his very laughter, is not indulging his own ill nature, but only punishing that of others. As to his poem, those alone are capable of doing it justice who, to use the words of a great writer, know how hard it is (with regard both to his subject and his manner) vetustis dare novitatem, obsoletis nitorem, obscuris lucem, fastiditis gratiam.
St. James’s, Dec. 22, 1728.
It will be sufficient to say of this edition, that the reader has here a much more correct and complete copy of the Dunciad than has hitherto appeared. I cannot answer but some mistakes may have slipt into it, but a vast number of others will be prevented by the names being now not only set at length, but justified by the authorities and reasons given. I make no doubt the author’s own motive to use real rather than feigned names, was his care to preserve the innocent from any false application; whereas, in the former editions, which had no more than the initial letters, he was made, by keys printed here, to hurt the inoffensive; and (what was worse) to abuse his friends, by an impression at Dublin.
The commentary which attends this poem was sent me from several hands, and consequently must be unequally written; yet will have one advantage over most commentaries, that it is not made upon conjectures, or at a remote distance of time: and the reader cannot but derive one pleasure from the very obscurity of the persons it treats of, that it partakes of the nature of a secret, which most people love to be let into, though the men or the things be ever so inconsiderable or trivial.
Of the persons, it was judged proper to give some account: for, since it is only in this monument that they must expect to survive (and here survive they will, as long as the English tongue shall remain such as it was in the reigns of Queen Anne and King George), it seemed but humanity to bestow a word or two upon each, just to tell what he was, what he writ, when he lived, and when he died.
If a word or two more are added upon the chief offenders, it is only as a paper pinned upon the breast to mark the enormities for which they suffered; lest the correction only should be remembered, and the crime forgotten.
In some articles it was thought sufficient barely to transcribe from Jacob, Curll, and other writers of their own rank, who were much better acquainted with them than any of the authors of this comment can pretend to be. Most of them had drawn each other’s characters on certain occasions; but the few here inserted are all that could be saved from the general destruction of such works.
Of the part of Scriblerus I need say nothing: his manner is well enough known, and approved by all but those who are too much concerned to be judges.
The imitations of the ancients are added, to gratify those who either never read, or may have forgotten them; together with some of the parodies and allusions to the most excellent of the moderns. If, from the frequency of the former, any man think the poem too much a cento, our poet will but appear to have done the same thing in jest which Boileau did in earnest, and upon which Vida, Fracastorius, and many of the most eminent Latin poets, professedly valued themselves.
We apprehend it can be deemed no injury to the author of the three first books of the Dunciad that we publish this fourth. It was found merely by accident, in taking a survey of the library of a late eminent nobleman; but in so blotted a condition, and in so many detached pieces, as plainly showed it to be not only incorrect, but unfinished. That the author of the three first books had a design to extend and complete his poem in this manner, appears from the dissertation prefixed to it, where it is said, that ‘The design is more extensive, and that we may expect other episodes to complete it;’ and, from the declaration in the argument to the third book, that ‘The accomplishment of the prophecies therein would be the theme hereafter of a greater Dunciad.’ But whether or no he be the author of this, we declare ourselves ignorant. If he be, we are no more to be blamed for the publication of it, than Tucca and Varius for that of the last six books of the Æneid, though, perhaps, inferior to the former.
If any person be possessed of a more perfect copy of this work, or of any other fragments of it, and will communicate them to the publisher, we shall make the next edition more complete: in which we also promise to insert any criticisms that shall be published (if at all to the purpose), with the names of the authors; or any letters sent us (though not to the purpose) shall yet be printed, under the title of Epistolœ obscurorum virorum; which, together with some others of the same kind, formerly laid by for that end, may make no unpleasant addition to the future impressions of this poem.
I have long had a design of giving some sort of notes on the works of this poet. Before I had the happiness of his acquaintance, I had written a commentary on his Essay on Man, and have since finished another on the Essay on Criticism. There was one already on the Dunciad, which had met with general approbation; but I still thought some additions were wanting (of a more serious kind) to the humorous notes of Scriblerus, and even to those written by Mr. Cleland, Dr. Arbuthnot, and others. I had lately the pleasure to pass some months with the author in the country, where I prevailed upon him to do what I had long desired, and favour me with his explanation of several passages in his works. It happened, that just at that juncture was published a ridiculous book against him, full of personal reflections, which furnished him with a lucky opportunity of improving this poem, by giving it the only thing it wanted, a more considerable hero. He was always sensible of its defect in that particular, and owned he had let it pass with the hero it had, purely for want of a better, not entertaining the least expectation that such a one was reserved for this post as has since obtained the laurel: but since that had happened, he could no longer deny this justice either to him or the Dunciad.
And yet I will venture to say, there was another motive which had still more weight with our author: this person was one who, from every folly (not to say vice) of which another would be ashamed, has constantly derived a vanity; and therefore was the man in the world who would least be hurt by it.
By virtue of the Authority in us vested by the Act for subjecting Poets to the power of a Licenser, we have revised this Piece; where finding the style and appellation of King to have been given to a certain Pretender, Pseudopoet, or Phantom, of the name of Tibbald; and apprehending the same may be deemed in some sort a reflection on Majesty, or at least an insult on that Legal Authority which has bestowed on another person the Crown of Poesy: we have ordered the said Pretender, Pseudopoet, or Phantom, utterly to vanish and evaporate out of this work; and do declare the said Throne of Poesy from henceforth to be abdicated and vacant, unless duly and lawfully supplied by the Laureate himself. And it is hereby enacted that no other person do presume to fill the same.
The Proposition, the Invocation, and the Inscription. Then the original of the great Empire of Dulness, and cause of the continuance thereof. The College of the Goddess in the city, with her private academy for Poets in particular; the Governors of it, and the four Cardinal Virtues. Then the poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting her, on the evening of a Lord Mayor’s day, revolving the long succession of her sons, and the glories past and to come. She fixes her eye on Bayes, to be the Instrument of that great event which is the Subject of the poem. He is described pensive among his books, giving up the Cause, and apprehending the Period of her Empire. After debating whether to betake himself to the Church, or to Gaming, or to Party-writing, he raises an altar of proper books, and (making first his solemn prayer and declaration) purposes thereon to sacrifice all his unsuccessful writings. As the pile is kindled, the Goddess, beholding the flame from her seat, flies and puts it out, by casting upon it the poem of Thulé. She forthwith reveals herself to him, transports him to her Temple, unfolds her Arts, and initiates him into her Mysteries; then announcing the death of Eusden, the Poet Laureate, anoints him, carries him to Court, and proclaims him Successor.
The King being proclaimed, the solemnity is graced with public games and sports of various kinds; not instituted by the Hero, as by Æneas in Virgil, but for greater honour by the Goddess in person (in like manner as the games Pythia, Isthmia, &c. were anciently said to be ordained by the Gods, and as Thetis herself appearing, according to Homer, Odyssey xxiv. proposed the prizes in honour of her son Achilles). Hither flock the Poets and Critics, attended, as is but just, with their Patrons and Booksellers. The Goddess is first pleased, for her disport, to propose games to the Booksellers, and setteth up the phantom of a Poet, which they contend to overtake. The Races described, with their divers accidents. Next, the game for a Poetess. Then follow the exercises for the Poets, of tickling, vociferating, diving; the first holds forth the arts and practices of Dedicators, the second of Disputants and fustian Poets, the third of profound, dark, and dirty Party-writers. Lastly, for the Critics the Goddess proposes (with great propriety) an exercise, not of their parts, but their patience, in hearing the works of two voluminous authors, the one in verse and the other in prose, deliberately read, without sleeping; the various effects of which, with the several degrees and manners of their operation, are here set forth, till the whole number, not of Critics only, but of spectators, actors, and all present, fall fast asleep; which naturally and necessarily ends the games.
After the other persons are disposed in their proper places of rest, the Goddess transports the King to her Temple, and there lays him to slumber with his head on her lap; a position of marvellous virtue, which causes all the visions of wild enthusiasts, projectors, politicians, inamoratos, castle-builders, chymists, and poets. He is immediately carried on the wings of Fancy, and led by a mad poetical Sibyl, to the Elysian shade; where, on the banks of Lethe, the souls of the dull are dipped by Bavius, before their entrance into this world. There he is met by the ghost of Settle, and by him made acquainted with the wonders of the place, and with those which he himself is destined to perform. He takes him to a Mount of Vision, from whence he shows him the past triumphs of the Empire of Dulness; then, the present; and, lastly, the future: how small a part of the world was ever conquered by Science, how soon those conquests were stopped, and these very nations again reduced to her dominion. Then distinguishing the island of Great Britain, shows by what aids, by what persons, and by what degrees, it shall be brought to her empire. Some of the persons he causes to pass in review before his eyes, describing each by his proper figure, character, and qualifications. On a sudden the scene shifts, and a vast number of miracles and prodigies appear, utterly surprising and unknown to the King himself, till they are explained to be the wonders of his own reign now commencing. On this subject Settle breaks into a congratulation, yet not unmixed with concern, that his own times were but the types of these. He prophesies how first the nation shall be overrun with Farces, Operas, and Shows; how the throne of Dulness shall be advanced over the Theatres, and set up even at Court; then how her sons shall preside in the seats of Arts and Sciences; giving a glimpse, or Pisgahsight, of the future fulness of her glory, the accomplishment whereof is the subject of the fourth and last book.
The poet being, in this book, to declare the Completion of the Prophecies mentioned at the end of the former, makes a new Invocation; as the greater poets are wont, when some high and worthy matter is to be sung. He shows the Goddess coming in her majesty to destroy Order and Science, and to substitute the Kingdom of the Dull upon earth: how she leads captive the Sciences, and silences the Muses; and what they be who succeed in their stead. All her children, by a wonderful attraction, are drawn about her; and bear along with them divers others, who promote her empire by connivance, weak resistance, or discouragement of Arts; such as Half-wits, tasteless Admirers, vain Pretenders, the Flatterers of Dunces, or the Patrons of them. All these crowd round her; one of them offering to approach her, is driven back by a rival, but she commends and encourages both. The first who speak in form are the Geniuses of the Schools, who assure her of their care to advance her cause by confining youth to words, and keeping them out of the way of real knowledge. Their address, and her gracious answer; with her charge to them and the Universities. The Universities appear by their proper deputies, and assure her that the same method is observed in the progress of Education. The speech of Aristarchus on this subject. They are driven off by a band of young Gentlemen returned from travel with their tutors; one of whom delivers to the Goddess, in a polite oration, an account of the whole conduct and fruits of their travels; presenting to her at the same time a young Nobleman perfectly accomplished. She receives him graciously, and endues him with the happy quality of Want of Shame. She sees loitering about her a number of indolent persons abandoning all business and duty, and dying with laziness: to these approaches the antiquary Annius, entreating her to make them Virtuosos, and assign them over to him; but Mummius, another antiquary, complaining of his fraudulent proceeding, she finds a method to reconcile their difference. Then enter a troop of people fantastically adorned, offering her strange and exotic Presents: among them, one stands forth, and demands justice on another who had deprived him of one of the greatest curiosities in Nature; but he justifies himself so well, that the Goddess gives them both her approbation. She recommends to them to find proper employment for the Indolents before mentioned, in the study of Butterflies, Shells, Birds-nests, Moss, &c., but with particular caution not to proceed beyond trifles, to any useful or extensive views of Nature, or of the Author of Nature. Against the last of these apprehensions, she is secured by a hearty address from the Minute Philosophers and Freethinkers, one of whom speaks in the name of the rest. The Youth thus instructed and principled, are delivered to her in a body, by the hands of Silenus; and then admitted to taste the cup of the Magus, her high priest, which causes a total oblivion of all Obligations, divine, civil, moral, or rational. To these her adepts she sends Priests, Attendants, and Comforters, of various kinds; confers on them Orders and Degrees; and then dismissing them with a speech, confirming to each his privileges, and telling what she expects from each, concludes with a Yawn of extraordinary virtue: the Progress and Effects whereof on all orders of men, and the Consummation of all, in the restoration of Night and Chaos, conclude the Poem.
Pope began the actual work of translating The Iliad in 1714. Swift not only strongly urged him to undertake the task, but by personal exertions secured for him a very large and distinguished list of subscribers. The first four books were published in 1715, and the succeeding books in 1717, 1718 and 1720.
Homer is universally allowed to have had the greatest Invention of any writer whatever. The praise of judgment Virgil has justly contested with him, and others may have their pretensions as to particular excellencies; but his invention remains yet unrivalled. Nor is it a wonder if he has ever been acknowledged the greatest of poets, who most excelled in that which is the very foundation of poetry. It is the invention that in different degrees distinguishes all great geniuses: the utmost stretch of human study, learning, and industry, which masters everything besides, can never attain to this. It furnishes Art with all her materials, and without it, judgment itself can at best but steal wisely: for Art is only like a prudent steward, that lives on managing the riches of Nature. Whatever praises may be given to works of judgment, there is not even a single beauty in them but is owing to the invention: as in the most regular gardens, however Art may carry the greatest appearance, there is not a plant or flower but is the gift of Nature. The first can only reduce the beauties of the latter into a more obvious figure, which the common eye may better take in, and is therefore more entertained with them. And perhaps the reason why most critics are inclined to prefer a judicious and methodical genius to a great and fruitful one, is, because they find it easier for themselves to pursue their observations through an uniform and bounded walk of Art, than to comprehend the vast and various extent of Nature.
Our author’s work is a wild paradise, where if we cannot see all the beauties so distinctly as in an ordered garden, it is only because the number of them is infinitely greater. It is like a copious nursery, which contains the seeds and first productions of every kind, out of which those who followed him have but selected some particular plants, each according to his fancy, to cultivate and beautify. If some things are too luxuriant, it is owing to the richness of the soil; and if others are not arrived to perfection or maturity, it is only because they are overrun and oppressed by those of a stronger nature.
It is to the strength of this amazing invention we are to attribute that unequalled fire and rapture, which is so forcible in Homer, that no man of a true poetical spirit is master of himself while he reads him. What he writes is of the most animated nature imaginable; everything moves, everything lives, and is put in action. If a council be called, or a battle fought, you are not coldly informed of what was said or done as from a third person; the reader is hurried out of himself by the force of the poet’s imagination, and turns in one place to a hearer, in another to a spectator. The course of his verses resembles that of the army he describes,
Οἱ δ’ ἀρ’ ἴσαν, ὡσεί τε πυρὶ χϑὼν πα̑σα νέμοιτο.
They pour along like a fire that sweeps the whole earth before it. It is, however, remarkable that his fancy, which is everywhere vigorous, is not discovered immediately at the beginning of his poem in its fullest splendour; it grows in the progress both upon himself and others, and becomes on fire, like a chariot-wheel, by its own rapidity. Exact disposition, just thought, correct elocution, polished numbers, may have been found in a thousand; but this poetical fire, this vivida vis animi, in a very few. Even in works where all those are imperfect or neglected, this can overpower criticism, and make us admire even while we disapprove. Nay, where this appears, though attended with absurdities, it brightens all the rubbish about it, till we see nothing but its own splendour. This fire is discerned in Virgil, but discerned as through a glass, reflected from Homer, more shining than fierce, but everywhere equal and constant: in Lucan and Statius, it bursts out in sudden, short, and interrupted flashes: in Milton, it glows like a furnace kept up to an uncommon ardour by the force of art: in Shakespeare, it strik