ページの画像
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

The Tliad was published volume by volume, as the translation proceeded ; the four first books'appeared in 1715. The expectation of this work was undoubtedly high, and every man who had connected his name with criticism, or poetry, was desirous of such intelligence as might enable him to talk

upon

the

poo pular topick. Halifax, who, by having been first a poet, and then a patron of poetry, had acquired the right of being a judge, was willing to hear some books while they were yet unpublished. Of this rehearsal Pope afterwards gave the following account *.

“ The famous Lord Halifax was rather a pretender “to taste than really possessed of it.-When I had “ finished the two or three first books of my translation “ of the Iliad, that Lord desired to have the pleasure " of hearing them read at his house-Addison, Con

greve, and Garth, were there at the reading. In “ four or five places, Lord Halifax stopt me very “civilly, and with a speech each time, much of the “ same kind, 'I beg your pardon, Mr. Pope ; but “there is something in that passage that does not « quite please me. Be so good as to mark the place, " and consider it a little at your leisure. I am sure

you can give it a little turn.'-I returned from Lord “ Halifax's with Dr. Garth, in his chariot; and, as “we were going along, was saying to the Doctor, “that my Lord had laid me under a good deal of dif“ficulty by such loose and general observations; that “I had been thinking over the passages almost ever “ fince, and could not guess at what it was that of“ fended his Lordship in either of them. Garth " laughed heartily at my embarrassinent ; said, I had

* Spence.

D 3

[ocr errors]

o not

got home.

“ not been long enough acquainted with Lord Halifax " to know his way yet ; that I need not puzzle myself “ about looking those places over and over, when I

• All you need do (says he) is to leave “ them just as they are; call on Lord Halifax two or “ three months hence, thank him for his kind obser“vations on those passages, and then read them to him

as altered. I have known himn much longer than

you have, and will be answerable for the event. “ I followed his advice; waited on Lord Halifax some « time after; faid, I hoped he would find his ob“jections to those paslages removed ; read them to “himn exactly as they were at first: and his Lordship

was extremely pleased with them, and cryed out, Ay, now they are perfe&tly right : nothing can be better."

It is seldom that the great or the wife suspect that they are despised or cheated. Halifax, thinking this a lucky opportunity of securing immortality, made some advances of favour and fome overtures of advantage to Pope, which he seems to have received with fullen coldness. All our knowledge of this transaction is derived from a single Letter (Dec. 1, 1714), in which Pope says, “I am obliged to you, both for “ the favours you have done ine, and those you in

I distrust neither your will nor your memory, when it is to do good; and if I ever become “ troublesome or solicitous, it must not be out of ex“ pectation, but out of gratitude. Your Lordship

may cause me to live agrecably in the town, or con

tentedly in the country, which is really all the dif“ ference I set between an easy fortune and a small

It is indeed a high strain of generosity in you to think of making me easy all my life, only be

66 tend me.

Onc.

66 cause

a caufe I have been so happy as to divert you some he few hours: but, if I may have leave to add it is be" cause you think me no enemy to my native country, “ there will appear a better reason; for I must of

consequence be very much (as I sincerely am)

$6

yours &c.

These yoluntary offers, and this faint acceptance, ended without effect. The patron was not accustomed. to such frigid gratitude, and the poet fed his own pride with the dignity of independence. They probably were suspicious of each other. Pope would not dedicate till he saw at what rate his praise was valued; he would be troublesome out of gratitude, not expectation, Halifax thought himself entitled to confidence; and would give nothing, unless he knew what he should receive. Their commerce had its beginning in hope of praise on one side, and of money on the other, and ended because Pope was less eager of money than Halifax of praise. It is not likely that Halifax had any personal benevolence to Pope; it is evident that Pepe looked on Halifax with scorn and hatred.

The reputation of this great work failed of gaining him a patron; but it deprived him of a friend. Addison and he were now at the head of poetry and criti

. cism; and both in such a state of elevation, that, like the two rivals in the Roman state, one could no longer bear an equal, nor the other a superior. Of the gradual abatement of kindness between friends, the beginning is often scarcely discernible by themselves, and the process is continued by peity provocations, and incivi: lities sometimes peevishly returned, and sometimes contemptuously neglected, which would escape all attention but that of pride, and drop from any memory D 4

but

but that of resentment. That the quarrel of those two wits should be minutely deduced, is not to be expected from a writer to whom, as Homer says, nothing but rue mour bas reached, and who has no personal knowledge.

Pope doubtless approached Addison, when the re: putation of their wit first brought them together, with the respect due to a man whose abilities were acknowledged, and who, having attained that eminence to which he was himself aspiring, had in his hands the distribution of literary fame. He paid court with sufficient diligence by his Prologue to Cato, by his abuse of Dennis, and with praise yet more direct, by his poem on the Dialogues on Medals, of which the im, mediate publication was then intended. In all this there was no hypocrisy; for he confessed that he found in Addison something more pleasing than in any other

man.

1

It may be supposed, that as Pope saw himself fa. voured by the world, and more frequently compared his own powers with those of others, his confidence increased, and his submission lefsened; and that Addison felt no delight from the advances of a young wit, who might soon contend with hiin for the highest place, Every great man, of whatever kind be his greatness, has

among his friends those who officiously, or insiduously, quicken his attention to offences, heighten his disgust, and stimulate his resentment. Of such adhe. rents Addison doubtless had many, and Pope was now too high to be without them.

From the emission and reception of the Proposals for the Iliad, the kindness of Addison seems to have abated. Jervas the painter once pleased himself (Aug. 20, 1714) with imagining that he had re-established their friend

fhip; and wrote to Pope that Addison once suspected him of too close a confederacy with Swift, but was now satisfied with his conduct. To this Pope answered, a week after, that his engagements to Swift were such as his services in regard to the subscription demanded, and that the Tories never put him under the necessity of asking leave to be grateful. But, says he, as Mr. Addison must be the judge in what regards himself, and seems to have no very just one in regard to me, so I must own to you I expe&t nothing but civility from bim. In the same Letter he mentions Philips, as having been busy to kindle animosity between them; but, in a Letter to Addison, he expresses fome consciousness of behaviour, inattentively deficient in respect.

Of Swift's industry in promoting the subscription there remains the testimony of Kennet, no friend to either him or Pope.

“ Nov, 2,1713, Dr. Swift came into the coffee-house, band had a bow from every body but me, who, I con“ fess, could not but despise him. When I came to “ the antichamber to wait, before prayers, Dr. Swift

was the principal man of talk and business, and acted $ as master of requests.—Then he instructed a young “ nobleman that the best Poet in England was Mr. Pope " (a papist), who had begun a translation of Homer into " English verse, for which he must bave them all subfcribe; for, says he, the author shall not begin to print so eill I have a thousand guineas for him.”

About this time it is likely that Steele, who was, with all his political fury, good-natured and officious, procured an interview between these angry rivals, which ended in aggravated malevolence. On this occafton, if the reports be true, Pope made his complaint with

frankness

« 前へ次へ »