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expense of his better feelings, it does not follow that he would have been base enough to take a bribe. In fact, all that we know of Pope, is inconsistent with this feature of the charge against bim. He was economical and “paper-sparing” to be sure, but he was by no means avaricious of wealth, and rejected many opportunities of making money, when the mode by which it was to be obtained implied the slightest interference with his personal independence*. He was also extremely liberal and even lavish in his pecuniary favors to persons in distress, and by a judicious management of his small means contrived to do more good than many who were equally well disposed and who had double his advantages. On this point, therefore, the probabilities are strongly against Bolingbroke and Walpole. Pope labored the character of Atossa with extraordinary care, and was so gratified by his success, that his “ ruling passion” alone, independent of any nobler or more prudent motive, would have made him reject at
* He twice refused a pension, and Spence tells us, on the authority of Warburton and others, that “Pope never flattered any body for money in the whole course of his writings. Alderman Barber had a great inclination to have a stroke in his commendation inserted in some part of Pope's writings. He did not want money and he wanted fame. He would probably have given four or five thousand pounds to have been gratified in his desire, and gave Mr. Pope to understand so much; but Mr. Pope would never comply with such a baseness.” We also find in Spence's Anecdotes that “ Pope was offered a very considerable sum by the Duchess of Marlborough if he would insert a good character of the Duke, and he absolutely refused it.” The knowledge of these offers of payment for praise might possibly have suggested, however unreasonably, the invention of the scandal respecting a supposed offer for the suppression of a satire, and the Poet's acceptance of it. Pope had also in his lifetime been accused of receiving a thousand pounds from the Duke of Chandos, and ungratefully returning the kindness with a satire on his patron. The receipt of the money he indignantly denied. He also may be said to have denied by anticipa. tion the charge now considered when he proudly asserted that if he was a good poet, there was one thing upon which he valued himself and which was rare amongst good poets--a perfect independence. “I have never,” he said, “fattered any man, nor ever received anything of any man for my verses,” The old Duchess of Marlborough herself, who left many legacies to her friends, might have remembered the poet in her will if he had treated her with more attention and respect.
once the offer of a thousand pounds to suppress it. Hazlitt said, that Moore ought not to have published Lalla Rookh, which he thought was a public disappointment, for three thousand pounds, “ for his fame was worth more than that.” If Moore's reputation has so high a pecuniary value, Pope's was certainly not inferior even in that respect, and he ought and would not, have suppressed a master-piece of satire for her Grace's bribe, however he might have been influenced by other considerations. If he bartered his poetical fame for gold he would not have taken less to suppress than Moore took to publish. The former had quite as lofty an opinion of his own genius as the latter can entertain of his. But it is worse than idle to talk in this mercantile manner about poetical productions, and I do not mean, in alluding to Hazlitt's remark, to imply any agreement with his opinion respecting the merits of Lalla Rookh. The public generally were at least as much delighted with it as they expected to be. But to return to the point in question. Considering then that Pope valued poetical fame more than money, and was peculiarly punctilious on the score of his personal independence, and remarkably prudent and far-sighted on most worldly occasions, we may fairly conclude, even as a matter of mere policy, he would have rejected the supposed bribe, and not have placed himself in the power of so garrulous, violent and fickle a woman as the Duchess of Marlborough. It is pretty evident that Pope must be brought in guilty of ingratitude towards her grace, but not on account of a pecuniary favor, which forms the darker feature of the charge. Perhaps even ingratitude is too strong a term to be used in this case, for the old lady on the whole probably gave him a good deal more annoyance than pleasure with her wavering humours, and was as much indebted to Pope as Pope was to her. But even if we must eventually admit that the Poet's conduct was not wholly irreproachable, it may be easily shown that his accusers have not proved him to be so truly corrupt and contemptible as their stories would imply. On a hasty perusal of the letters of Bolingbroke (who was described by the poet himself as his “Guide, Philosopher and Friend") I confess, I was not a little startled. I began to think Horace Walpole might be right after all, and Campbell, Roscoe and Bowles in a pleasing error. For a moment the case seemed decided. On a second consideration, however, I feel by no means disposed to place implicit confidence in the testimony of Bolingbroke, though coincident with that of Walpole. I shall explain some of those particulars which in addition to what has been already advanced, make me question the veracity of these two writers. In the first place then they were neither of them disinterested witnesses. On the contrary, Bolingbroke was actuated by what Johnson emphatically calls his "thirst of vengeance," and Horace Walpole was jealous of erery author in existence, and was never on very cordial terms with Pope, though some little compliments may have passed between them. It was Walpole*, who said of Addison that “he died drunk ;” and for the pleasure of saying something new and
In the letter of Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, published by Lord Dover in 1833, Walpole tells his correspondent that Pope had suppressed in his edition of the Patriot King, a panegyric on Lord Lyttleton; and that he gives this fact on the authority of Lord Chesterfield and Lord Lyttleton, “the latter of whom went to Bolingbroke to ask how he had forfeited his good opinion.” To show what Walpole's spiteful tittle-tattle is worth, we have only to turn to a letter of Bolingbroke's to Hugh Earl of Marchmont in the Marchmont Papers, wherein he clearly states that the panegyric on Lyttleton was omitted, at that nobleman's own request. Bolingbroke's words are :- The publication you mention” (the Patriot King) " has brought no trouble upon me, though it has given occasion to many libels against me. They are of the lowest form, and seem to be held in the contempt they deserve. There I leave them, nor suffer a nest of hornets to disturb the quiet of my retreat. If these letters of mine come to your hands, your Lordship will find that I have left out all that was said of our friend Lyttleton in one of them. He desired it might be so, and I had the double mortis fication of concealing the good I had said of one friend and of revealing the turpitude of another.” Lord Dover in a note to one of Walpole's letters asserts very erroneously, that Bolingbroke discovered what Pope had done during his (Pope's) life time, and never forgave him for it. Bolingbroke might have known it before Pope's death, but if so we may conclude that he had no objection to it then, as he was not the man to smother his passions.
surprising, and the gratification of his literary envy, he was not very scrupulous in adhering to the truth, when retailing his anecdotes of men of letters. The world would never have believed the story of the Atossa bribe on his authority alone, and even Bolingbroke's support will not save it from the eventual incredu. lity of mankind. It would have been as well, however, if the Editor of the Marchmont Papers had been discreet enough to omit the two letters, for they will leave a stain somewhere, and if we save Pope, Bolingbroke must be sacrificed. Lord Bolingbroke was during the life of the Poet, one of the most faithful and affectionate friends, and he wept over him in his helpless state of decay, with a passion almost feminine. It is, indeed, melancholy to reflect upon what trivial chances the warmest human friendship may be wrecked, and how suddenly its flame may be extinguished. Pope was scarcely cold in his grave before the man who had loved and mourned him like a brother, became inspired with an implacable hatred, and endeavoured to blast his memory with the malice of a demon. It appears, that on discovering that Pope had left his printed works to Warburton, whom Bolingbroke hated almost to madness, the latter was so stung with anger and jealousy, that he experienced a sudden revulsion of feeling, and thought only how he might revenge himself on the dead poet, as well as the living Churchman. Warburton had gained the affections of Pope by his subtle defence of The Essay on Man, and the poet's orthodoxy, which was more than questioned on account of the arguments and illustrations which Bolingbroke had insidiously contrived should be introduced into the poem. The theologian, though he defended the poem in public, seems to have opened the poet's eyes to the nature of the philosophy into which Bolingbroke had inveigled him, and Pope made several subsequent alterations in accordance with the views of Warburton. This was of course gall and wormwood to the philosophical Lord, and the theologian added fuel to his passion,
by making various manuscript strictures of a very free and ungentle nature, on a copy of Bolingbroke’s “ Letters on the Study and Use of History." These strictures Pope shewed to Bolingbroke, who received them, it is said, with irrepressible indignation. Pope, however, passionately loved Bolingbroke to the last*, and must have little expected, that his leaving him only his MSS., and assigning his printed works to Warburton, as his Editor, would have kindled such fierce and unrelenting anger, and stirred up such deadly strife. To give some reasonable colour to his enmity towards his deceased friend, Bolingbroke pretended to be enraged at a breach of trust on the part of Pope. The circumstances attending this transaction, were as follows:
Lord Bolingbroke's political tract of The Patriot King had been put into the hands of Pope, that he might procure the impression of a few copies, to be distributed amongst his Lordship's friends ; which was accordingly done ; but after the death of Pope, it appeared, that a much greater number (amounting it is said, to 1,500) had been taken off and left in the hands of the printer, who after Pope's death delivered them up to his Lordship.
Pope, indeed, idolized him : when in company with him, he appeared with all the deference and submission of an affectionate scholar. He used to speak of bim as a being of a superior order, that had condescended to visit this lower world; in particular, when the last comet appeared, and approached near the earth, he told some vi nis acquaintance, it was sent only to convey Lord Bolingbroke HoME AGAIN; just as a stage-coach stops at your door to take up a passenger. A graceful person, a flow of nervous eloquence, a vivid imagination, were the lot of this accomplished nobleman; but his ambitious views being frustrated in the early part of his life, his disappointments embittered his temper, and he seems to have been disgusted with all religions, and all governments. I have been informed from an eye-witness of one of his last interviews with Pope, who was then given over by the physicians, that Bolingbroke, standing behind Pope's chair, looked earnestly down upon him, and repeated several times, interrupted with sobs, “0, great God, what is man! I never knew a person that had so tender a heart for his particular friends, or a warmer benevolence for all mankind.” It is to be hoped that Bolingbroke profited by those remarkable words that Pope spoke in his last illness to the same gentleman who communicated the foregoing anecdote ; " I am so certain of the soul's being immortal, that I seem even to feel it within me, as it were by intuition.”-Warton.