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given the world only his version the name of poet must have been allowed him; if the writer of the Iliad were to class his successors he would assign a very high place to his translator, without requiring any other evidence of genius'.
THE following Letter, of which the original is in the hands of Lord Hardwicke, was communicated to me by the kindness of Mr. Jodrell 2:
'To Mr. BRIDGES, at the Bishop of London's at Fulham 3. 'SIR,
The favour of your Letter with your Remarks can never be enough acknowledged, and the speed with which you discharged so troublesome a task doubles the obligation.
'I must own you have pleased me very much by the commendations so ill bestowed upon me, but, I assure you, much more by the frankness of your censure, which I ought to take the more kindly of the two, as it is more advantageous to a scribbler to be improved in his judgement than to be soothed in his vanity. The greater part of those deviations from the Greek, which you have observed, I was led into by Chapman and Hobbes; who are (it seems) as much celebrated for their knowledge of the original, as they are decryed for the badness of their translations. Chapman pretends to have restored the genuine sense of the author, from the mistakes of all former explainers, in several hundred places; and the Cambridge editors of the large Homer, in Greek and Latin, attributed so much to Hobbes, that they confess they have corrected the old Latin interpretation very often by his version. For my part, I generally took the author's meaning to be as you have explained it; yet their authority, joined to the knowledge of my
of the term," he could not now read him.' Tennyson's Life, ii. 69. See also Byron's Works, 1851, ix. 89.
In the proof-sheet the sentence ended, he would assign no humble seat to his translator.'
2 See Boswell's Johnson, iv. 437; John. Letters, ii. 133.
3 The Rev. Ralph Bridges, a nephew of Sir William Trumbull [ante, POPE, 23], and Domestic Chaplain to Compton, Bishop of London.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 4. The letter was written in 1708, soon after Pope had sent Trumbull a translation of some 'pieces of Homer.' lb. pp. 3, II. Ante, POPE, 85.
own imperfectness in the language, over-ruled me. Sir, you may be confident I think you in the right, because you happen to be of my opinion (for men, let them say what they will, never approve any other's sense, but as it squares with their own): but you have made me much more proud of and positive in my judgement, since it is strengthened by yours. I think your criticisms which regard the expression very just and shall make my profit of them: to give you some proof that I am in earnest, I will alter three verses on your bare objection, though I have Mr. Dryden's example for each of them'. And this, I hope, you will account no small piece of obedience from one who values the authority of one true poet above that of twenty criticks or commentators. But though I speak thus of commentators I will continue to read carefully all I can procure, to make up that way for my own want of critical understanding in the original beauties of Homer. Though the greatest of them are certainly those of the Invention and Design, which are not at all confined to the language; for the distinguishing excellences of Homer are (by the consent of the best criticks of all nations) first in the manners (which include all the speeches, as being no other than the representations of each person's manners by his words); and then in that rapture and fire, which carries you away with him with that wonderful force that no man who has a true poetical spirit is master of himself while he reads him, Homer makes you interested and concerned before you are aware, all at once, whereas Virgil does it by soft degrees. This, I believe, is what a translator of Homer ought principally to imitate; and it is very hard for any translator to come up to it, because the chief reason why all translations fall short of their originals is that the very constraint they are obliged to renders them heavy and dispirited.
'The great beauty of Homer's language, as I take it, consists in that noble simplicity, which runs through all his works (and yet his diction, contrary to what one would imagine consistent with simplicity, is at the same time very copious). I don't know how I have run into this pedantry in a Letter, but I find I have said too much, as well as spoken too inconsiderately. What farther thoughts I have upon this subject I shall be glad to communicate to you (for my own improvement) when we meet, which is a happiness I very earnestly desire, as I do likewise some opportunity of proving how much I think myself obliged to your friendship, and how truly I am, Sir,
'Your most faithful, humble servant,
'Dryden had translated 'the first Iliad as a specimen of a version of the whole.' Ante, DRYDEN, 151.
2 Ante, POPE, 26, 127.
3 Ante, DRYDEN, 304.
The criticism upon Pope's Epitaphs, which was printed in The Visitor, is placed here, being too minute and particular to be inserted in the Life'.
EVERY art is best taught by example. Nothing contributes more to the cultivation of propriety than remarks on the works of those who have most excelled. I shall therefore endeavour at this visit to entertain the young students in poetry, with an examination of Pope's Epitaphs.
386 To define an epitaph is useless; every one knows that it is an inscription on a tomb3. An epitaph, therefore, implies no particular character of writing, but may be composed in verse or prose. It is indeed commonly panegyrical, because we are seldom distinguished with a stone but by our friends; but it has no rule to restrain or modify it, except this, that it ought not to be longer than common beholders may be expected to have leisure and patience to peruse.
On CHARLES Earl of DORSET 5, in the Church of Wythyham
'Dorset, the grace of courts, the Muses' pride,
Blest peer! his great forefather's' ev'ry grace
The first distich of this epitaph contains a kind of information 388 which few would want, that the man for whom the tomb was erected 'died.' There are indeed some qualities worthy of praise ascribed to the dead, but none that were likely to exempt him from the lot of man, or incline us much to wonder that he should die. What is meant by 'judge of nature' is not easy to say. Nature is not the object of human judgement; for it is vain to judge where we cannot alter. If by nature is meant, what is commonly called nature by the criticks, a just representation of things really existing and actions really performed, nature cannot be properly opposed to art; nature being, in this sense, only the best effect of art.
The scourge of pride
Of this couplet the second line is not, what is intended, an illustration of the former. Pride in the Great is indeed well enough connected with knaves in state, though knaves is a word rather too ludicrous and light; but the mention of sanctified pride will not lead the thoughts to 'fops in learning,' but rather to some species of tyranny or oppression, something more gloomy and more formidable than foppery.
'Forefathers ev'ry grace,' in The Universal Visiter, p. 208, in the reprint in The Idler, and in the editions of Warburton and Warton. 'Forefathers' ev'ry grace,' in Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), iv. 382. Forefather's,' as in the text, is, I believe, the correct reading, the reference being to Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, first Earl of Dorset. 'He was,' said Pope, 'the best English poet between Chaucer's and Spenser's time. His tragedy of Gorboduc is written in a much purer style than Shakespeare's was in several of his first plays.' Spence's
Anec. p. 21. Spence reprinted it in 1736. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), ix. 67. See also DRYDEN,
Horace Walpole (Works, i. 330) describes him as 'the patriarch of
a race of genius and wit.' See also
Horace Walpole wrote of the grandson of the subject of the epitaph, Charles Sackville, second Duke of Dorset:-'He possessed the hereditary talent of his family; and, though a poet of no eminence, had a genteel style in his verses that spoke the man of quality, without subjecting him to the ridicule that has been so justly lavished on what were formerly called poems by a person of honour.' Walpole's Works, i. 460.
From Richard Sackville, greatuncle of the first Earl, Shelley was descended. Collins's Peerage, ed. 1756, i. 708, and Burke's Peerage, &c., under SHELLEY.
Yet soft his nature
This is a high compliment, but was not first bestowed on Dorset by Pope'. The next verse is extremely beautiful.
Blest satyrist !2
In this distich is another line of which Pope was not the author. I do not mean to blame these imitations with much harshness; in long performances they are scarcely to be avoided, and in shorter they may be indulged, because the train of the composition may naturally involve them, or the scantiness of the subject allow little choice. However, what is borrowed is not to be enjoyed as our own, and it is the business of critical justice to give every bird of the Muses his proper feather.
Blest courtier !—
Whether a courtier can properly be commended for keeping his ease sacred, may perhaps be disputable. To please king3 and country, without sacrificing friendship to any change of times, was a very uncommon instance of prudence or felicity, and deserved to be kept separate from so poor a commendation as care of his ease. I wish our poets would attend a little more accurately to the use of the word sacred, which surely should never be applied in a serious composition but where some reference may be made to a higher Being, or where some duty is exacted or implied. A man may keep his friendship sacred, because promises of friendships are very awful ties; but methinks he cannot, but in a burlesque sense, be said to keep his ease sacred.
The blessing ascribed to the peer has no connection with his peerage they might happen to any other man, whose ancestors were remembered, or whose posterity were likely to be regarded. I know not whether this epitaph be worthy either of the writer or of the man entombed.