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“ spouse, 'has got the gout in her decrepit age, which “ makes her hobble so damnably.” This was the man who would reform a nation sinking into barbarity.
In another plaee Pope himself allowed that Dennis had detected one of those blunders which are called bulls. The first edition had this line :
What is this wit
Where wanted, scorn'd; and envied where acquir'd ? “ How,” says the critick, “ can wit be scorn'd where it “is not? Is not this a figure frequently employed in * Hibernian land? The person that wants this wit “ nay indeed be scorned, but the scorn fhews the ho
nour which the contemner has for wit.” Of this remark Pope made the proper use, by correcting the passage.
I have preserved, I think, all that is reasonable in Dennis's criticism; it remains that justice be done to his delicacy. “ For his acquaintance (says Dennis) he “ names Mr. Walsh, who had by no means the qualifi
cation which this author reckons absolutely necessary “ to a critick, it being very certain that he
like “ this Essayer, a very indifferent poet; he loved to be “ well-dressed; and I remember a little young gentle“ whom Mr. Walsh used to take into his company, “ as a double foil to his person and capacity.--Enquire “ between Sunninghill and Oakingham for a young, short, “ squab gentleman, the very bow of the God of Love, “ and tell me whether he be a proper author to make “ personal reflections ?-He may extol the antients, « but he has reason to thank the gods that he was born " a modern ; for had he been born of Grecian parents, " and his father consequently had by law had the ab"! soluţe disposal of him, his life had been no longer
« than that of one of his poems, the life of half a day. “ –Let the person of a gentleman of his parts be ne“ yer so contemptible, his inward man is ten times “ more ridiculous; it being impossible that his out“ ward form, though it be that of downright monkey, “ should differ so much from human shape, as his un“ thinking immaterial part does from human under. “ standing.” Thus began the hoftility between Pope and Dennis, which, though it was suspended for a short time, riever was appeased. Pope seems, at first, to have attacked him wantonly; but though he always profeffed to despise him, he discovers, by mentioning him very often, that he felt his force or his venom.
Of this Essay Pope declared that he did not expect the sale to be quick, because not one gentleman in fixty, even of liberal education, could understand it. The gentlemen, and the education of that time, seem to have been of a lower character than they are of this. He mentioned a thousand copies as a numerous impression.
Dennis was not his only censurer ; the zealous papists thought the monks treated with too much contempt, and Erasmus too studiously praised; but to these objections he had not much regard.
The Esay has been translated into French by Hamilton, author of the Comte de Grammont, whose verfion was never printed, by Robot han, secretary to the King for Hanover, and by Refnel; and commented by Dr. Warburton, who has discovered in it such order and connection as was not perceived by Addison, nor, as is said, intended by the author.
Almost every poem, consisting of precepts, is so far arbitrary and immethodical, that many of the paragraphs may change places with no apparent inconveni
ence ; for of two or more positions, depending upon some remote and general principle, there is seldom any cogent reason why one should precede the other. But for the order in which they stand, whatever it be, a lictle ingenuity may easily give a reason. It is possible, says Hooker, that by long circumduction, from any one truth all truth may be inferred. Of all homogeneous truths, at least of all truths respecting the same general end, in whatever series they may be produced, a concatenation by intermediate ideas may be formed, such as, when it is once shewn, shall appear natural ; but if this order be reversed, another mode of connection equally specious may be found or made. Aristotle is praised for naming Fortitude first of the cardinal virtues, as that without which no other virtue can steadily be practised; but he might, with equal propriety, have placed Prudence and Justice before it, since without Prudence Fortitude is mad; without Justice, it is mifchievous.
As the end of method is perspicuity, that series is sufficiently regular that avoids obscurity; and where there is no obscurity, it will not be difficult to discover method.
In the Spectator was published the Meffiab, which he first submitted to the perufal of Steele, and corrected in compliance with his criticisms.
It is reasonable to infer, from his Letters, that the verses on the Unfortunate Lady were written about the time when his Esay was published. The Lady's name and adventures I have fought with fruitless enquiry.
I can therefore tell no more than I have learned from Mr. Ruffhead, who writes with the confidence of one who could trust his information. She was a woman of
eminent rank and large fortune, the ward of an unkle, who, having given her a proper education, expected like other guardians that she should make at least an equal match ; and such he proposed to her, but found it rejected in fayour of a young gentleman of inferior condition.
Having discovered the correspondence between the two lovers, and finding the young lady determined to abide by her own choice, he supposed that separation might do what can rarely be done by arguments, and sent her into a foreign country, where she was obliged to converse only with those from whom her unkle had nothing to fear.
Her lover took care to repeat his vows ; but his letters were intercepted and carried to her guardian, who directed her to be watched with still greater vigilance; till of this restraint she grew so impatient, that the bribed a woman-servant to procure her a sword, which The direcled to her heart.
From this account, given with evident intention to raise the Lady's character, it does not appear that the had any claim to praise, nor much to compassion. She seems to have been impatient, violent, and ungovernable. Her unkle's power could not have lasted long; the hour of liberty and choice would have come in time. But her desires were too hot for delay, and the liked self-murder better than suspence.
Nor is it discovered that the unkle, whoever he was, is with much justice delivered to posterity as a false Guardian; he seems to have done only that for which a guardian is appointed; he endeavoured to direct his niece till she should be able to dieret herself. Poetry has not often been worse employed than in dignifying the amorous fury of a raving girl.
Not long after, he wrote the Rape of the Lock, the most airy, the most ingenious, and the most delightful of all his compositions, occasioned by a frolick of gallantry, rather too familiar, in which Lord Petre cut off a lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor's hair. This, whether stealth or violence, was so much resented, that the commerce of the two families, before very friendly, was interrupted. Mr. Caryl, a gentleman who, being secretary to King James's Queen, had followed his Mistress into France, and who being the author of Sir Solomon Single, a comedy, and some translations, was entitled to the notice of a Wit, solicited Pope to endeavour a reconciliation by a ludicrous poem, which might bring both the parties to a better temper. In compliance with Caryl's request, though his name was for a long time marked only by the first and last letter, C-1, a poem of two cantos was written (1711), as is faid, in a fortnight, and sent to the offended Lady, who liked it well enough to shew it; and, with the usual process of literary transactions, the author, dreading a surreptitious edition, was forced to publish it.
The event is said to have been such as was desired ; the pacification and diversion of all to whom it related, except Sir George Brown, who complained with fome bitterness that, in the character of Sir Plume, he was made to talk nonsense. Whether all this be true, I have some doubt; for at Paris, a few years ago, a niece of Mrs. Fermor, who presided in an English Convent, mentioned Pope's work with very little gratitude, rather as an insult than an honour ; and she may be supposed to have inherited the opinion of her family.
At its first appearance it was termed by Addison merum fal. Pope, however, saw that it was capable of