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wit, or taste, or beauty, caused him to shrink equally from that shabby and boisterous crew which formed the rank and file of literature in his time: and he was as unjust to these men as they to him. The delicate little créature sickened at habits and company which were quite tolerable to robuster men: and in the famous feud between Pope and the Dunces, and without attributing any peculiar wrong to either, one can quite understand how the two parties should so hate each other. As I fancy, it was a sort of necessity that when Pope's triumph passed, Mr. Addison and his men should look rather contemptuously down on it from their balcony; so it was natural for Dennis and Tibbald, and Webster and Cibber, and the worn and hungry press-men in the crowd below, to howl at him and assail him. And Pope was more savage to Grubstreet, than Grub-street was to Pope. The thong with which he lashed them was dreadful; he fired upon
that howling crew such shafts of flame, and poison, he slew and wounded so fiercely, that in reading the “Dunciad” and the prose lampoons of Pope, one feels disposed to side against the ruthless little tyrant, at least to pity those wretched folks upon whom he was so unmerciful. It was Pope, and Swift to aid him, who established among us the Grub-street tradition. He revels in base descriptions of poor men's want; he gloats over poor Dennis's garret, and flannel nightcap, and red 'stockings; he gives instructions how to find Curls's authors, the historian at the tallow-chandler's under the blind arch in Petty France, the two translators in bed together, the poet in the cock-loft in Budge Row, whose landlady keeps the ladder. It was Pope, I fear, who contributed, more than any man
who ever lived, to depreciate the literary calling. It was not an unprosperous one before that time, as we have seen; at least there were great prizes in the profession which had made Addison a minister, and Prior an ambassador, and Steele a commissioner, and Swift all but a bishop. The profession of letters was ruined by that libel of the “Dunciad.” If authors were wretched and
poor before, if some of them lived in haylofts, of which their landladies kept the ladders, at least nobody came to disturb them in their straw; if three of them had but one coat between them, the two remained invisible in the garret, the third, at any rate, appeared decently at the coffee-house, and paid his twopence like a gentleman. It was Pope that dragged into light all this poverty and meanness, and held up those wretched shifts and rags to public ridicule. It was Pope that has made generations of the reading world (delighted with the mischief, as who would not be that reads it?) believe that author and wretch, author and rags, author and dirt, author and drink, gin, cow-heel, tripe, poverty, duns, bailiffs, squalling children, and clamorous land-ladies, were always associated together. The condition of authorship began to fall from the days of the “Dunciad:” and I believe in my heart that much of that obloquy which has since pursued our calling was occasioned by Pope's libels and wicked wit. Everybody read those. Everybody was familiarised with the idea of the poor devil, the author. The manner is so captivating, that young authors practise it, and begin their career with satire. It is so easy to write, and so pleasant to read! to fire a shot that makes a giant wince, perhaps; and fancy one's self his conqueror. It is easy to shoot
but not as Pope did the shafts The English Humourists.
of his satire rise sublimely: no poet's verse ever mounted higher than that wonderful flight with which the “Dunciad” concludes: *
she comes! the sable throne behold!
In these astonishing lines Pope reaches, I think,
* "He (Johnson) repeated to us, in his forcible melothe concluding lines of the 'Dunciad.""
BosWELL. ** “Mr. Langton informed me that he once related to Johnson (on the authority of Spence), that Pope himself admired these lines so much that when he repeated them his voice faltered. “And well it might, Sir,' said Johnson, for they are noble lines.' J. BOSWELL, junior.
to the very greatest height which his sublime art has attained, and shows himself the equal of all poets of all times. It is the brightest ardour, the loftiest assertion of truth, the most generous wisdom, illustrated by the noblest poetic figure, and spoken in words the aptest, grandest, and most harmonious. It is heroic courage-speaking: a splendid declaration of righteous wrath and war. It is the gage flung down, and the silver trumpet ringing defiance to falsehood and tyranny deceit, dulness, superstition. It is Truth, the champion, shining and intrepid, and fronting the great world-tyrant with armies of slaves at his back. It is a wonderful and victorious single combat, in that great battle, which has always been waging since society began.
In speaking of a work of consummate art one does not try to show what it actually is, for that were vain; but what it is like, and what are the sensations produced in the mind of him who views it. And in considering Pope's admirable career, I am forced into similitudes drawn from other courage and greatness, and into comparing him with those who achieved triumphs in actual war.
I think of the works of young Pope as I do of the actions of young Bonaparte or young Nelson. In their common life you will find frailties and meannesses, as great as the vices and follies of the meanest men. But in the presence of the great occasion, the great soul flashes out, and conquers transcendent. In thinking of the splendour of Pope's young victories, of his merit, unequalled as his renown, I hail and salute the achieving genius, and do homage to the pen of a hero.
LECTURE THE FIFTH.
HOGARTH, SMOLLETT, AND FIELDING,
I SUPPOSE as long as novels last and authors aim at interesting their public, there must always be in the story a virtuous and gallant hero, a wicked monster his opposite, and a pretty girl who finds a champion; bravery and virtue conquer beauty: and vice, after seeming to triumph through a certain number of pages, is sure to be discomfited in the last volume, when justice overtakes him and honest folks come by their
There never was perhaps a greatly popular story but this simple plot was carried through it: mere satirie wit is addressed to a class of readers and thinkers quite different to those simple souls who laugh and weep over the novel. I fancy very few ladies indeed, for instance, could be brought to like "Gulliver" heartily, and (putting the coarseness and difference of manners out of the question) to relish the wonderful satire of "Jonathan Wild.” In that strange apologue, the author takes for a hero the greatest rascal, coward, traitor, tyrant, hypocrite, that his wit and experience, both large in this matter, could enable him to devise or depict; he accompanies this villain through all the actions of his life, with a grinning deference and a wonderful mock respect: and doesn't leave him, till he is dangling at the gallows, when the satirist makes him a low bow and wishes the scoundrel good day.