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experience of a critick without malevolence, who thought it as much his duty to display beauties as expose faults; who censured with respect, and
praised with alacrity. . With this criticism Pope was so little offended, that he sought the ac· quaintance of the writer, who lived with him from that time in great familiarity, attended him in his last hours, and compiled memorials of his conversation. The regard of Pope recommended him to the great and powerful; and he obtained very valuable preferments in the Church.
Not long after, Pope was returning home from a visit in a friend's coach which, in passing a bridge, was overturned into the water; the windows were closed, and being unable to force them open; he was in danger of immediate death, when the postilion snatched them out by breaking the glass, of which the fragments cut two of his fingers in such a manner, that he lost their use. "
Voltaire, who was then in England, sent him a letter of consolation. He had been entertained by Pope at his table, where he talked with so much grossness, that Mr. Pope was driven from the room. Pope discovered, by à trick, that he was a spy for the Court, and never considered him as a man worthy of confidence..
He soon afterwards (1727) joined with Swift, who was then in England, to publish three volumes of Miscellanies, in which amongst other things he inserted the “ Memoirs of a Parish Clerk,” in ridicule of Burnet's importance in his own History, and a “ Debate upon Black and White Horses," written in all the formalities of a legal process by the assistance, as is saidt, den of Mr. Fortescue, afterwards Master of the Rolls. Before these Miscellanies is a preface signed by Swift and Pope, but apparently written by Pope; in which he makes a ridiculous and romantick complaint of the robberies committed upon authors by the clandestine seizure and sale of their papers. He tells, in tragick strains, how “ the cabinets of the Sick and ihe closets of the Dead have “ been broke open and ransacked ;" as if those violences were often committed for papers of uncertain and accidental value, which are rarely provoked by real treasures; as if epigrams and essays were in danger where gold and diamonds are safe. A cat, hunted for his inusk, is, according to Pope's account, but the emblem of a wit winded by bookselleis.
His complaint, however, received some attestation ; for the same year the 'Letters written by him to Mr. Cromwell, in his youth, were sold by Mrs. Thomas to Curll, who printed them."
In these Miscellanies was first published the Art of sinking in Poetry," which, by such a train of consequences as usually passes in literary quarrels, gave in a short time, according to Pope's account, occasion to the “: Dunciad." ;
In the following year (1728) he began to put Atterbury's advice in practice; and shewed his satirical powers by publishing the “ Dunciad," one of
his greatest and most elaborate performances, in which he endeavoured to sink into contempt all the writers, by whom he had been attacked, and some others whom he thought unable to defend themselves.
At the head of the Dunces he placed poor Theobald, whom he accused of ingratitude ; but whose real crine was supposed to be that of having revised « Shakspeare” more happily than himself. This satire had the effect which he intended, by blasting the characters which it touched. Ralph, who, unnecessarily interposing in the quarrel, got a place in a subsequent edition, complained that for a time he was in danger of starving, as the booksellers had no longer any confidence in his capacity.
The prevalence of this poem was gradual and slow: the plan, if not wholly new, was little understood by common readers. Many of the allusions required illustration ; the names were often expressed only by the initial and final letters, and, if they had been printed at length, were such as few had known or recollected. The subject itself had nothing generally interesting, for whom did it concern to know that one or another scribbler was a dunce ? If therefore it had been possible for those who were attacked to conceal their pain and their resentment, the “ Dunciad" might have made its way very slowly in the world.
This, however, was not to be expected : every man is of importance to himself, and therefore, in his own opinion, to others; and supposing the world already acquainted with all his pleasures and his pains, is perhaps the first to publish injuries or misfortunes, which had never been known unless related by himself, and at which those that hear them will only laugh; for no man sympathises with the sorrows of vanity.
The history of the “ Dunciad” is very minutely, related by Pope himself, in a Dedication which he wrote to Lord Middlesex in the name of Savage.
“I will relate the war of the 'Dunces' for so it has been commonly called), which began in the year 1727, and ended in 1730.1 ,
66 When Dr. Swist and Mr. Pope thought it proper, for reasons specified « in the Preface to their Miscellanies, to publish such little pieces of theirs " as had casually got aboard, there was added to them the Treatise of the « Bathos,' or the Art of Sinking in Poetry. It happened that in one « chapter of this piece the several pieces of bad poets were ranged in classes - to which were prefixed almost all the letters of the alphabet (the greatest e part of them at random); but such was the number of poets eminent in that “art, that some one or other took every letter to himself: all fell into so “ violent a fury, that, for half a year or more, the common newspapers (in e most of which they had some property, as being hired writers) were “ filled with the most abusive falsehoods and scurrilities they could “ possibly devise; a liberty no way to be wondered at in those people, and " in those papers, that for many years, during the uncontrouled licence
' sic of “ of the press, had aspersed almost all the great characters of the age; and “ this with impunity, their own persons and names being utterly secret and " obscure.
“ This gave Mr. Pope the thought, that he had now sume opportunity of “ doing good, by detecting and dragging into light these common enemies " of mankind; since, to invalidate this universal slander, it sufficed to shew . “ what contemptible men were the authors of it. He was not without “ hopes, that, by manifesting the dullness of those who had only malice to “ recommend them, either the booksellers would not find their account in “ employing them, or the men themselves, when discovered, want courage “ to proceed in so unlawful an occupation. This it was that gave birth to “ the Dunciad ;' and he thought it an happiness, that, by the late flood " of slander on himself, he had.'acquired such a peculiar right over their “ names as was necessary to this design. :
“ On the 12th of March, 1729, at St. James's, that poem was presented " to the King and Queen (who had before been pleased to read it)" by the “ right honourable Sir Robert Walpole; and some days after the whole “ impression was taken and dispersed by several noblenien and persons of « the first distinction.
“It is certainly a true observation, that no people are so impatient of “ censure as those who are the greatest slanderers, which was wonderfully “ exemplified on this occasion. On the day the book was first vended,' a “ crowd of authors besieged the shop; intreaties, advices, threats of law “ and battery, nay cries of treason, were all employed to hinder the com“ing out of the Dunciad:' on the other side the booksellers and hawkers “ made as great efforts to procure it. What could a few.poor authors do " against so great a majority as the publick? There was no stopping a tor“ rent with a finger: so out it came. .
“ Many ludicrous circumstances attended it. The Dunces' (for by this “ name they were called) held weekly clubs, to consult of hostilities against “ the author : one wrote a Letter to a great minister, assuring him Mr. " Pope was the greatest enemy the government had; and another bought « his image in clay, to execute him in effigy; with which sad sort of satis“ faction the gentlemen were a little comforted.
“Some false editions of the book having an owl in their frontispiece, the “ true one, to distinguish it, fixed in its stead an ass laden with authors. “ Then another surreptitious one being printed with the same ass, the new “ edition in octavo returned for distinction to the owl again. Hence arose " a great contest of booksellers against booksellers, and advertisements « against advertisements; some recommending the edition of the owl, and " others the edition of the ass; by which names they came to be distin“ guished, to the great honour also of the gentlemen of the “Dunciad'."
Pope appears by this narrative to have contemplated his victory over the Vol. I.
“ Dunces" with great exultation; and such was his delight in the tumult which he had raised, that for a while his natural sensibility was suspended, and he read reproaches, and invectives without emotion, considering them only as the necessary effects of that pain which he rejoiced in having given.
It cannot however be concealed that, by his own confession, he was the aggressor; for nobody believes that the letters in the “ Bathos" were placed at random; and it may be discovered that, when he thinks hinıself concealed, he indulges the common vanity of common men, and triumphs in those distinctions which he had affected to despise. He is proud that his book was pesented to the King and Queen by the right honourable Sir Robert Walpole; he is proud that they had read it before; he is proud that the edition was taken off by the nobility and persons of the first distinction.
The edition of which he speaks was, I believe, that which, by telling in the text the names, and in the notes the characters, of those whom he had satirised, was made intelligible and diverting. The criticks had now declared their approbation of the plan, and the common reader began to like it without fear; those who were strangers to petty literature, and therefore unable to decypher initials and blanks, had now names, and persons brought within their view; and delighted in the visible effects of those shafts of malice, which they had hitherto contemplated, as shot into the air. .
Dennis, upon the fresh provocation now given him, renewed the enmity, which had for a time been appeased by mutual civilities; and published remarks, which he had till then suppressed, upon the · Rape of the Lock,' Many more grumbled in secret, or vented their resentment in the newspapers by epigrams or invectives.
Ducket, indeed, being mentioned as loving Burnet with a pious passion,” pretended that his moral character was injured, and for some time declared his resolution to take vengeance with a cudgel. But Pope appeased him, by changing “ pious passion” to “cordial friendship ;” and by a note, in which he vehemently disclaims the malignity of meaning imputed to the first expression.
Aaron Hill, who was represented as diving for the prize, expostulated with Pope in a manner so much superior to all mean solicitation, that Pope was reduced to sneak and shuffle, sometimes to deny, and sometimes to - apologize ; hę first endeavours to wound, and is then afraid to own that he
meant a blow. · The “ Dunciad,” in the complete edition, is addressed to Dr. Swift: of the notes, part were written by Dr. Arbuthnot; and an apologetical Letter was prefixed, signed by Cleland, but supposed to have been written by Pope.
After this general war upon Dulness, he seems to have indulged himself awhile in tranquillity; but his subsequent productions prove that he was not idle. He published (1731) a poem on “ Taste," in which he very particularly and severely criticises the house, the furniture, the gardens, and the entertainments of Timon, a man of great wealth and little taste.By Timon
he he was universally supposed, and by the Earl of Burlington to whom the poem is addressed, was privately said to mean the Duke of Chandos; a man perhaps too much delighted with pomp and show, but of a temper kind and beneficent, and who had consequently the voice of the public in his favour. ,
A violent outcry was therefore raised against the ingratitude and treachery of Pope, who was said to have been indebted to the patronage of Chandos for a present of a thousand pounds, and who gained the opportunity of insulting him by the kindness of his invitation.
The receipt of the thousand pounds Pope publickly denied; but from the reproach which the attack on a character so amiable brought upon him, he tried all means of escaping. The name of Cleland was again employed in an apology, by which no man was satisfied ; and he was at last reduced to shelter his temerity behind dissimulation, and endeavour to make that disbelieved which he never had confidence openly ro deny. He wrote an exculpatory letter to the Duke, which was answered with great magnanimity, as by a man who accepted his excuse without believing his professions. He said, that to have ridiculed his taste, or his buildings, had been an indifferent action in another man; but that in Pope, aftor the reciprocal kindness that had been exchanged between them, it had been less easily excused.
Pope, in one of his Letters, complaining of the treatment which his poem had found, "owns that such criticks can intimidate him, nay almost “ persuade him to write no more, which is a compliment this age deserves." The man who threatens the world is always ridiculous; for the world can easily go on without hiin, and in a short time will cease to miss him. I have heard of an idiot, who used to revenge his vexations by lying all night upon the bridge. " There is ncthing," says Juvenal, “ that a man will not be" lieve in his own favour.” Pope had been flattered till he thought himself one of the moving powers in the system of life. When he talked of laying down his pen, those who sat round him intreated and implored; and
self-love did not suffer him to suspect that they went away and laughed. • The following year deprived him of Gay, a man whom he had known
early, and whom he seemed to love with more tenderness than any other of his literary friends. Pope was now forty-four years old; an age at which the mind begins less easily to admit new confidence, and the will to grow jess flexible, and when therefore the departure of an old friend is very acutely felt.
In the next year he lost his mother, not by an unexpected death, for she had lasted to the age of ninety-three; but she did not die unlamented. The filial piety of Pope was in the highest degree amiable and exemplary ; his parents had the happiness of living till he was at the summit of poetical reputation, till he was at ease in his fortune, and without a rival in his fame, and found no diminution of his respect or tenderness. Whatever was his pride, to them he was obedient; and whatever was his irritability, to them he was 3 Y 2