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I ne'er with wits or witlings pass'd my days,
Proud as Apollo on his forked hill,
Ver. 232. Bufo] If Pope did not write the severe character of Addison after he was dead, this, which is intended for Lord Halifax, was written after the death of that nobleman, from whom Pope once expected preferment.
Bowles. Ver. 232. Sate full-blown Bufo, &c.] To whomsoever the character of Bufo may be supposed to refer, it cannot be to Lord Halifax, who died in 1715, when Pope was a very young man, and before he had published his Homer; whereas the person alluded to must have been living in Pope's more advanced years, when he had been berhymed so long, and was “
'grown sick of fops and poetry and prate." To this it may be added, that it is not likely, if Pope had intended to stigmatize Lord Halifax under the name of Bufo, twenty years after his death, he would in a still later Poem (the Epilogue to his Satires) have mentioned him not only with respect, but affection, and perpetuated his name with those of his most distinguished friends—0. Epilogue to the Satires, Dial. ii. ver. 71. To degrade under a feigned name the character of a person from whose favour and friendship he openly aspires to derive honour, would be an absurdity of which Pope certainly was never guilty.--v. Life of Pope, in the present edit. chap. iii.
Ver. 232. Puff'd by ev'ry quill;] By Addison, in his Account of Poets; by Steele, in a dedication to the Spectator; by Tickell, to his Homer. The ridicule on the Hind and Panther was the best of Halifax's compositions.
His library (where busts of poets dead 235
Ver. 236. a true Pindar stood without a head] Ridicules the affectation of antiquaries, who frequently exhibit the headless trunks and terms of Statues, for Plato, Homer, Pindar, &c. Vide Fulv. Ursin., &c.
Pope. Ver. 245. Dryden alone] Our poet, with true gratitude, has seized every opportunity of shewing his reverence for his great master, Dryden ; whom Swift as constantly depreciated and maligned. “I do affirm," says he severely, but with exquisite irony indeed, in the dedication of the Tale of a Tub to Prince Posterity, upon
the word of a sincere man, that there is now actually in being a certain poet, called John Dryden, whose translation of Virgil was lately printed in a large folio, well bound, and, if diligent search were made, for aught I know, is yet to be seen.” And he attacks him again in the Battle of Books. I remember to have heard
say, that Mr. Elijah Fenton, who was his intimate friend, and had been his master, informed him, that Dryden, upon seeing some of Swift's earliest verses, said to him, “ Young man, you will never be a poet :” and that this was the cause of Swift's
rooted VARIATIONS. After Ver. 234 in the MS.
To bards reciting he vouchsafed a nod,
But still the Great have kindness in reserve;
rooted aversion to Dryden, mentioned above. Baucis and Philemon was so much and so often altered, at the instigation of Addison, who mentioned this circumstance to my father at Magdalen College, that not above eight lines remain as they originally stood.
Warton. Ver. 248. help'd to bury] Mr. Dryden, after having lived in exigencies, had a magnificent funeral bestowed upon him by the contribution of several persons of quality.
Pope. Ver. 248. help'd to starve.] Alluding to the subscription that was made for his funeral. Garth spoke an oration over him. His necessities obliged him to produce (besides many other poetical pieces) twenty-seven plays in twenty-five years. He got 25l. for the copy, and 701. for his benefits generally. Dramatic poetry was certainly not his talent. His plays, a very few passages excepted, are insufferably unnatural. It is remarkable that he did not scruple to confess, that he could not relish the pathos and simplicity of Euripides. When he published his Fables,- Tonson agreed to give him two hundred and sixty-eight pounds for ten thousand verses. And, to complete the full number of lines stipulated for, he gave the bookseller the epistle to his cousin, and the celebrated Music Ode. “ Old Jacob Tonson used to say, that Dryden was a little jealous of rivals. He would compliment Crown when a play of his failed, but was very cold to him if he met with success. He sometimes used to say that Crown had some genius : but then he added always, that his father and Crown's mother were very well acquainted.” Mr. Pope to Mr. Spence.
Bless'd be the Great, for those they take away, 255 And those they left me; for they left me Gay;
Ver. 256. left me Gay;] The sweetness and simplicity of Gay's temper and manners much endeared him to all his acquaintance, and made them always speak of him with particular fondness and attachment. Trivia appears to be the best of his poems, in which are many strokes of genuine humour, and pictures of London-life, which are now become curious, because our manners, as well as our dresses, have been so much altered and changed within a few years. His Fables, the most popular of all his works, have the fault of many modern fable-writers the ascribing to the different animals and objects introduced, speeches and actions inconsistent with their several natures. Let every man of letters, who wishes for patronage, read D'Alembert's Essay on living with the Great, before he enters the house of a patron; and let him always remember the fate of Racine, who having drawn up, at Madame Maintenon's secret request, a memorial that strongly painted the distresses of the French nation, the weight of their taxes, and the expenses of the court, she could not resist the importunity of Lewis XIV., but shewed him her friend's paper, against whom the king immediately conceived a violent indignation, because a poet should dare to busy himself with politics. Racine had the weakness to take this anger so much to heart, that it brought on a low fever, which hastened his death. The Duchess of Queensberry would not so have betrayed her poetical friend Gay.
Warton. Ver. 256. GAY;] Warton says, Spence informed him that Addison accused himself on his death-bed to Gay, of having injured him. This, no doubt, came from Pope ; but the real cause of Gay's being neglected at Court, appears in Coxe's Walpole. He expected preferment through the interest of Mrs. Howard, mistress to George II., afterwards countess of Suffolk. As this point is so curious, and so clearly ascertained, I beg to quote the words of that interesting and able historian :
“ Swift was convinced that the minister had prevented the bounty of Queen Caroline from being shewn to the author of the Hare and many Friends; and he observes, alluding to it in a copy of verses addressed to Gay :
Left me to see neglected genius bloom,
Oh let me live my own, and die so too, (To live and die is all I have to do :)
“ Fain would I think our female friend sincere,
Till Bob, the poet's foe, possess'd her ear," &c. In another place, Swift asserts that it was principally owing to the dedication prefixed to the Pastorals, in honour of Bolingbroke, and to some expressions in his fables, which displeased the Court. He repeats this accusation in his letters and works, and had even the rudeness to hint it to Sir Robert Walpole himself, when he dined with him at Chelsea. Gay was of the same opinion ; and in the second part of his fables, which were not printed till after his death, is full of sarcastic and splenetic allusions to the minister. But as Walpole was neither of a jealous nor vindictive disposition, there is no reason to give credit to the aspersions of his enemies, and to suppose that he used his influence over
Caroline for the purpose of injuring Gay, particularly when another, and a more natural motive of her conduct may be suggested.
In fact, Gay was the innocent cause of his own disgrace; for he thought that Mrs. Howard was all-powerful at Court, and that he, whom Swift humorously calls one of her led captains, should rise by her recommendation. Pope also, in a letter to Swift, alluding to Mrs. Howard, says : Gay puts his whole trust in that Lady whom I described to
you take to be an allegorical creature of fancy. And Gay thus expresses himself to Swift: “ Mrs. Howard has declared herself very strongly, both to the king and queen, as my protector.” But in these words, they unconsciously declare the cause of his disfavour. The queen's jealousy of the interference and credit of the mistress obstructed his promotion; and his own indiscretion afterwards, destroyed every hope. Soon after this disappointment, he produced the Beggars' Opera; and both his conversation and writings were so full of invectives against the Court, that all expectations of further notice from the queen were obviously relinquished.” Coxe's Memoirs. Bowles.
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