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FIRST PUBLICATION OF THIS EPISTLE.
This paper is a sort of bill of complaint, begun many years since, and drawn up by snatches, as the several occasions offered : I had no thoughts of publishing it, till it pleased some persons of rank and fortune (the authors of "Verses to the Imitator of Horace,' and of an · Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity from a Nobleman at Hampton-court') to attack, in a very extraordinary manner, not only my writings, of which, being public, the public is judge, but my person, morals, and family, whereof, to those who know me not, a truer information may be requisite. Being divided between the necessity to say something of myself, and my own laziness to undertake so awkward a task, I thought it the shortest way to put the last hand to this Epistle: if it have any thing pleasing, it will be that by which I am most desirous to please, the truth and the sentiment; and if any thing offensive, it will be only to those I am least sorry to offend, the vicious or the ungenerous.
Many will know their own pictures in it, there being not a circumstance but what is true; but I have for the most part spared their names, and they may escape being laughed at, if they please.
I would have some of them know, it was owing to the request of the learned and candid friend to whom it is in
scribed, that I make not as free use of theirs as they have done of mine : however, I shall have this advantage and honor on my side; that whereas, by their proceeding, any abuse may be directed at any man, no injury can possibly be done by mine; since a nameless character can never be found out, but by its truth and likeness.—Pope.
PROLOGUE TO THE SATIRES.
P. Shut, shut the door, good John ! fatigued I
1 Shut, shut the door, good John. John Searle, Pope's footman, to whom he left a legacy. Searle's wife was still living in 1783, at the age of ninety; and remembered many circumstances of her master.
Arbuthnot, who had the perilous honor of this dedication, was perhaps the most unexceptionable of the poet's circle. Without any share of the political violences, public errors, or personal follies of the Swifts, the Bolingbrokes, or the Gays, he had talents, knowlege, and wit, unsurpassed by any of them. An eminent physician, he was distinguished in abstract science, and not less in the learning of antiquity: his • Treatise on Ancient Coins, Weights, and Measures' has not yet been superseded. But he had the higher merit of being a christian on conviction. Though living in an age when infidelity was the boast of every pretender to intellectual superiority, he disdained the shallow honors of fashion; and in the presence of the highest names of unbelief, gave a manly testimony to the truth he loved.
Fire in each eye and papers in each hand, 5 They rave, recite, and madden round the land. What walls can guard me, or what shades can
hide? They pierce my thickets, through my grot they
glide; By land, by water, they renew the charge, 9 They stop the chariot, and they board the barge. No place is sacred, not the church is free, Ev'n Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me: Then from the Mint walks forth the man of
rhyme, Happy! to catch me just at dinner-time.
Is there a parson much bemused in beer, 15 A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer, A clerk, foredoom'd his father's soul to cross, Who pens a stanza, when he should engross? Is there, who, lock'd from ink and paper, scrawls With desperate charcoal round his darken'd walls? All fly to Twit'nam, and in humble strain 21 Apply to me to keep them mad or vain. Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws, Imputes to me and my damn'd works the cause : Poor Cornus sees his frantic wife elope, And curses wit, and poetry, and Pope.
13 Then from the Mint. A place in Southwark, which af. forded a species of sanctuary against arrest. It was the usual residence of insolvents, and a fortiori of poets.
20 With desperate charcoal. Bowles conceives this idea to be due to Boileau's charbonner les murailles ;' but we may vindicate Pope's originality : walls have been scribbled on with charcoal as well in England as in France :—the art is general.
23 Arthur. Arthur Moore, Esq. is Warburton's elucidation.
Friend to my life, (which did not you prolong, The world had wanted many an idle song) What drop or nostrum can this plague remove? Or which must end me, a fool's wrath or love? 30 A dire dilemma! either way I'm sped; If foes, they write, if friends, they read me
dead. Seized and tied down to judge, how wretched I! Who can't be silent, and who will not lie: To laugh, were want of goodness and of grace ; 35 And to be grave, exceeds all power of face. I sit with sad civility, I read With honest anguish and an aching head ; And drop at last, but in unwilling ears, This saving counsel,— Keep your piece nine years.'
40 Nine years! cries he, who high in Drury-lane, Lulld by soft zephyrs through the broken pane, Rhymes ere he wakes, and prints before Term
ends, Obliged by hunger and request of friends : 44 • The piece, you think, is incorrect? why, take it; I'm all submission; what you'd have it, make it.'
Three things another's modest wishes bound, My friendship, and a prologue, and ten pound.
40 Keep your piece nine years. The Horatian precept; and probably the true receipt for poetry, that, like his own, turns on refinements of phrase ; but useless to the nobler poetry that turns on force of mind. Warton overlooks the true source of the precept, and tells us of Boileau's employing eleven years in his short satire of L'Equivoque;' and of Patru's taking four years to correct the first paragraph of his translation of the Oratio pro Archia ;' the last absurdity of a pedant.