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racter also, and be more virtuous than any of them.”
Et s'il n'étoit rempli que d'hommes vertueux,
12. In this one passion man can strength enjoy,
As fits give vigour just when they destroy.*
The strength and continuance of what our author calls the ruling passion, is strongly exemplified in Eight characters ; namely, the Polis TICIAN, the DEBAUCHEE, the Glutton, the OECONOMIST, the Coquer, the Courtier, the Miser, and the PATRIOT. Of these characters, the most lively, because the most dramatic, are the fifth and seventh. There is true humour also in the circumstance of the frugal crone who blows out one of the consecrated tapers in order to prevent its wasting. Shall I venture to insert another example or two? An old usurer, lying in his last agonies, was presented by the priest with the crucifix. He opened his eyes a moment before he expired, attentively gazed on it, and K4
* Ver. 221.
cried out, “ These jewels are counterfeit, I cannot lend more than ten pistoles upon so wretched a pledge.” To reform the language of his country was the ruling passion of Malherbe. The priest who attended him in his last moments, asked him if he was not affected with the description he gave him of the joys of heaven?
By no means, (answered the incorrigible bard;) I desire to hear no more of them, if
you cannot describe them in a purer style." Both these stories would have shone under the hands of POPE.
This doctrine of our author may be farther illustrated by the following passage of Bacon: “ It is no less worthy to observe, how little alteration, in good spirits, the approaches of death make; for they appear to be the same men till the last instant. Augustus Cæsar died in a compliment; Livia, conjugii nostri memor, vive et vale. Tiberius in dissimulation; as Tacitus saith of him : Jam Tiberium vires et corpus, non dissimulatio deserebant. Vespasian, in a jest ; Ut puto Deus fio. Galba with a sentence; Feri, si ex re sit populi Romani ; holding forth his neck.
Septimius Severus, in dispatch ; Adeste, si quid mihi restat agendum.”*
This epistle concludes with a stroke of art worthy admiration.
The poet suddenly stops the vein of ridicule with which he was flowing, and addresses his friend in a most delicate com. pliment, concealed under the appearance of satire.
And you ! brave Cobham, to the latest breath,
13. Narcissa's nature, tolerably mild,
To make a wash, would hardly stew a child;
The epistle on the characters of women, from whence this truly witty character is taken, is highly finished, and full of the most delicate
* Bacon's Essays. Essay ii. which were much read by Pope.
t Epist. ii. v. 53.
satire. Bolingbroke, a judge of the subject, thought it the master-piece of Pope. But the bitterness of the satire is not always concealed in a laugh. The characters are lively, though un
I scarcely remember one of them in our comic writers of the best order. The ridicule is heightened by many such strokes of humour, carried even to the borders of extravagance, as that in the second line, here quoted. The female foibles have been the subject of, perhaps, more wit, in every language, than any other topic that can be named. The sixth satire of Juvenal, though detestable for its obscenity, is undoubtedly the most witty of all his sixteen; and is curious for the picture it exhibits of the private lives of the Roman ladies. POPE confines himself to paint those inconsistencies of conduct, to which a volatile fancy is thought to incline the sex. And this he exemplifies in the contrarieties that may be discovered in the characters of the AFFECTED, the SOFT-NATURED, the WHIMSICAL, the LEWD and VICIOUS, the WITTY and REFINED. In this comprehensive view is, perhaps, included each species of female folly and absurdity, which is the proper object of
ridicule. If this Epistle yields, in any respect, to the tenth satire of Boileau on the same subject, it is in the delicacy and variety of the transitions, by which the French writer passes from one character to another, always connecting each with the foregoing It was a common saying of Boileau, speaking of La Bruyere, that one of the most difficult parts of composition was the art of transition. That we may see how happily Pope has caught the manner of Boileau, let us survey one of his portraits : it shall be that of his learned lady.
Qui s'offrira d'abord ? c'est cette Scavante,
* Which last line is a little gross and offensive: as it inust be confessed are some of Pope. There is not a single stroke