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WRITTEN IN MDCCXXXVIII.
Fr. 'Tis all a libel-Paxton (Sir) will say.
P. Not yet, my friend ! to-morrow, 'faith, it may; And for that very cause I print to-day. How should I fret to mangle every line, In reverence to the sins of Thirty-nine ! 5 Vice with such giant strides comes on amain, Invention strives to be before in vain;
Ver. 1. 'Tis all a libel] The liberty of the press was about this time thought to be in danger; and Milton's noble and nervous discourse on this subject, intitled, Areopagitica, was reprinted in an octavo pamphlet, with a preface written by Thomson, the poet. “If we think to regulate printing," says Milton, " thereby to rectify manners, we must regulate all recreations and pastimes, all that is delightful to man.
No music must be heard, no song be set or sung, but what is grave and Doric. He who is made judge to sit upon the birth or death of books, whether they may be wafted into this world or not, had need to be a man above the common measure, both studious, learned, and judicious."
Warton. Ver. 1. Parton] Late solicitor to the Treasury. Warburton.
Feign what I will, and paint it e'er so strong,
F. Yet none but you by name the guilty lash; 10
dice! Come on then, Satire! general, unconfined, Spread thy broad wing, and souse on all the kind. Ye statesmen, priests, of one religion all! Ye tradesmen, vile, in army, court, or hall ! Ye reverend atheists! F. Scandal! name them!
Who? P. Why that's the thing you bid me not to do.
Ver. 8. Feign what I will, &c.] The Poet has here introduced an oblique apology for himself with great art. You attack personal characters, say his enemies. No, replies he, I paint merely from my intention; and then, to prevent a likeness, I aggravate the features. But alas ! the growth of vice is so monstrously sudden, that it rises up to a resemblance before I can get from the press.
Warburton. Ver. 11. Even Guthry] The Ordinary of Newgate, who publishes the Memoirs of the Malefactors, and is often prevailed upon to be so tender of their reputation, as to set down no more than the initials of their name.
Pope. Ver. 13. How, Sirnot damn the sharper, but the dice?] It is pity that the liveliness of the reply cannot excuse the bad reasoning: the dice, though they rhyme to vice, can never stand for it; which his argument requires they should do. For dice are only the instruments of fraud ; but the question is not, whether the instrument, but whether the act committed by it, should be exposed, instead of the person.
Who starved a sister, who forswore a debt, 20
F. You do.
Ver. 21. the town's inquiring yet.] So true is Swift's observation on personal satire: "I have long observed, that twenty miles from London nobody understands hints, initial letters, or town-facts and passages; and in a few years not even those who live in London.” See verse 258 below, for two asterisks, not filled up or known,
Warton. Ver. 22. F. You mean—P. I don't.] The same friend is here again introduced making such remonstrances as before. And several parts of the dialogue here are more rapid and short, and approach nearer to common conversation, than any lines he had ever before written; and are examples of that style mentioned by Horace:
-parcentis viribus, atque Extenuantis eas consultó."
Warton. Ver. 24. The bribing statesman) Corruption was the universal cry at this period, and it had been repeated so long, that people began to think the removal of Sir Robert Walpole would introduce a sort of happiness into the political world, like that of the “millennium;"
No taxes, no corruption, no bribery. Dodington, who was upon terms of the greatest kindness and intimacy with the Walpoles, to secure his election at Portsmouth, had no scruple in making Sir Robert Walpole (to whom he had before addressed his poetical Epistle, as to the Saviour of the Nation) the burden of his song, in the following ballad, which, in the MS. he says, was made in his road to Portsmouth, with a view to the election there, 1741.
P. I fain would please you, if I knew with what; Tell me, which knave is lawful game, which not? Must great offenders, once escaped the crown, Like royal harts, be never more run down? Admit your law to spare the knight requires, 30 As beasts of nature may we hunt the squires ?
Stanzas, 1740, on the road to Portsmouth.
The seroile and corrupt, be friends to BoB. Bowles. Ver. 29. Like royal harts, &c.] Alluding to the old game laws; when our Kings spent all the time they could spare from human slaughter, in woods and forests.
Warburton. Ver. 31. As beasts of nature may we hunt the squires ?] The ex. pression is rough, like the subject, but without reflection : for if beasts of nature, then not beasts of their own making; a fault too frequently objected to country squires. However, the Latin is nobler; Feræ naturæ, things uncivilized, and free. Feræ, as the critics say, being from the Hebrew, Pere, Asinus silvestris.
Suppose I censure—you know what I mean-
F. A dean, Sir? No: his fortune is not made; You hurt a man that's rising in the trade. 35
P. If not the tradesman who set up to-day, Much less the 'prentice who to-morrow may. Down, down, proud satire! though a realm be
spoild, Arraign no mightier thief than wretched Wild; Or, if a court or country's made a job,
40 Go drench a pickpocket, and join the mob.
But, Sir, I beg you (for the love of vice!) The matter's weighty, pray consider twice; Have you less pity for the needy cheat, The poor and friendless villain, than the great? 45 Alas! the small discredit of a bribe Scarce hurts the lawyer, but undoes the scribe. Then better sure it charity becomes To tax directors who (thank God) have plums; Still better, ministers; or if the thing
50 May pinch even there—why, lay it on a king.
Ver. 35. You hurt a man] In a former edition there was the. following note on this line: "For as the reasonable De la Bruyère observes, Qui ne sait être une Erasme, doit penser à être Evêque.” Dr. Warburton omitted it after he got a seat on the Bench.
Warton. Ver. 39. wretched Wild ;] Jonathan Wild, a famous thief, and thief-impeacher, who was at last caught in his own train, and hanged.
Pope. Ver. 51. why, lay it on a king.] Warburton says: “ He is serious in the foregoing subjects of satire, but ironical here; and