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friend Dr. Parnell, with a very elegant Dedication to the Earl of Oxford; who, after all his struggles and dangers, then lived in retirement, still under the frown of a victorious faction, who could take no pleasure in hearing his praise.
He gave the same year (1721) an edition of
Shakspeare." His name was now of so much authority, thatTonson thought himself entitled, hy annexing it, to demand a subscription of sixguineas for Shakspeare's plays in six quarto volumes; nor did his expectation much deceive him; for, of seven hundred and fifty which he printed, he dispersed a great number at the price proposed. The reputation of that edition, indeed, sunk afterwards so low, that one hundred and forty copies were sold at sixteen shillings each.
On this undertaking, to which Pope was induced by a reward of two hundred and seventeen pounds twelve shillings, he seems never to have reflected afterwards without vexation; for Theobald, a man of heavy diligence, with very slender powers, first, in a book called " Shakspeare Restored," and then in a formal edition, detected his deficiencies with all the insolence of victory; and as he was now high enough to be feared and hated, Theobald had from others all the help that could be supplied, by the desire of humbling a haughty character.
From this time Pope became an enemy to editors, collaters, commentators, and verbal critics $ and hoped to persuade the world, that he miscarried in this undertaking only by having a mind too great for such minute employment.
Pope in his edition undoubtedly did many things wrong, and left many things undone; but let him not be defrauded of his due praise. He was the first that knew, at least the first that told, by what helps the text might be improved. If he inspected the early editions negligently, he taught others to be more accurate. In his Preface, he expanded with great skill and elegance the character which had been given of Shakspeaie by Dryden; and he drew the public attention upon his works, which, though often mentioned, had been little read.
Soon after the appearance of the " Iliad," resolving not to let the general kindness cool, he published proposals for a translation of the " Odyssey," in five volumes, for five guineas. He was willing, however,now to have associates in his labour, being either weary with toiling upon another's thoughts, or having heard, as Ruffhead relates, that Fenton and Broome had already begun the work, and liking better to have them confederates than rivals.
In the patent, instead of saying that he had "translated" the "Odyssey," as he had said of the "Iliad," he says, that he had " undertaken" a translation; and in the proposals, the subscription is said to be not solely for his own use, but for that of f two of his friends who have assisted him in this "work."
In 1723, while he was engaged in this new version, he appeared before the Lords at the memorable trial of Bishop Atterbury, with whom he had lived in great familiarity, and frequent correspondence. Atterbury had honestly recommended to him the study of the Popish controversy, in hope of his conversion; to which Pope answered in a manner that cannot much recommend his principles, or his judgment. In questions and projects of learning, they agreed better. He was called at the trial to give an account of Atterbury's domestic life and private employment, that it might appear how little time he had left for plots. Pope had but few words to utter, and in those few he made' several blunders.
His Letters to Atterbury express the utmost esteem, tenderness, and gratitude: "perhaps," says he, "it is not only in this world that I may have "cause to remember the Bishop of Rochester." At their last interview in the Tower, Atterbury presented him with a Bible.
Of the " Odyssey" Pope translated only twelve books; the rest were the work of Broome and Fenton: the notes were written wholly by Broome, who was not over-liberally rewarded. The public was carefully kept ignorant of the several shares; an account was subjoined at the conclusion, which is now known not to be true.
The first copy of Pope's books, with those of Fenton, are to be seen in the Museum. The parts of Pope are less interlined than the "Iliad;" and the latter books of the " Iliad" less than the former. He grew dexterous by practice, and every sheet enabled him to write the next with more facility. The books of Fenton have very few alterations by the hand of Pope. Those of Broome have not been found; but Pope complained, as it is reported, that he had much trouble in correcting them.
His contract with Lintot was the same as for the "Iliad," except that only one hundred pounds were to be paid him for each volume. The number of subscribers were five hundred and seventyfour, and of copies eight hundred and nineteen; so that his profit, when he had paid his assistants, was still very considerable. The work was finished in 1725; and from that time he resolved to make no more translations.
The sale did not answer Lintot's expectation; and he then pretended to discover something of fraud in Pope, and commenced or threatened a suit in Chancery.
On the English " Odyssey" a criticism was published by Spence, at that time Prelector of poetry at Oxford; a man whose learning was not very great, and whose mind was not very powerful. His criticism, however, was commonly just; what he thought, he thought rightly; and his remarks were recommended by his coolness and candor. In him Pope had the first experience of a critic 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 acquaintance 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 postillion snatched him 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 a 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 said, 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 romantic complaint of the robberies committed upon authors by the clandestine seizure and sale of their papers. He tells in tragic strains, how "the cabinets of the sick and "the closets of the dead have been broken 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