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thrown wholly on his own resources. He naturally worked the harder with his pen to earn his livelihood.
His chief productions of these latter years are his translations and his fables. No man was better fitted than he to render the Latin classics into English verse. Juvenal, Persius, selections from Ovid, and the complete works of Virgil kept him engaged until 1697. His work was the success that was to be expected. His translation of Virgil is still the standard.
In 1700 he published Fables, Ancient and Modern. These were tales from Chaucer and Boccaccio paraphrased in modern English. The success of this book was immediate. Theodore and Honoria, paraphrased from Boccaccio, has been assigned a high place in poetry.
With this triumph Dryden's career closed. On May 1, 1700, only a few months after the publication of the fables, he died. With appropriate ceremony he was buried in Westminster Abbey near the graves of Chaucer and Cowley.
In poetry, Dryden was preëminent as a satirist, and it is by his poetry that he ranks to-day as the greatest man of letters of the Restoration period. In his plays, notable as they are, he is matched by a number of his contemporaries; in his odes and occasional poems he is far excelled by the poets of the Romantic movement, but in his satires he is without a rival in English literature. His perfection of versification, its variety now vigorous and epigrammatic and again easy and flowing; his attitude of studied and polished contempt, not bursting with an assumed righteous indignation like the classical Romans, but marked with the cool scorn of a superior to his inferior; his careful identification of individual and type, thus losing nothing of the personal bite and force and gaining much of dignity and perpetual interest; his mastery of invective; his manipulation of argument - these qualities raise Absalom and Achitophel and MacFlecknoe into a class by themselves.
ALEXANDER POPE ALEXANDER POPE was born May 21, 1688, the year of the bloodless revolution that placed William of Orange on the English throne. His father, Alexander Pope, was a prosperous linen merchant of London, and, in religion, a stanch Catholic. His mother, Edith Turner, was one of the seventeen children of a Yorkshire gentleman. The child inherited from his parents, who were forty-six years old at his birth, the double curse of a deformed body and a feeble constitution. Throughout his whole life his career was marked by the morbid sensitiveness to praise or blame and by the nervous irritability of temper that so often accompany physical weaknesses or peculiarities.
Pope's youth and education were strongly affected by his family's religious faith. Catholics were at the time forbidden public worship, were barred from public office, and were socially handicapped. As a child of Catholic parents, Pope could not have the benefits of the great schools of England. Eton, Westminster, and the like were closed to him, and the universities likewise. He was taught for a while by a priest, for a while in a small private school in London; but from a very early age he educated himself by omnivorous reading, lightly in philosophy, theology, and the languages, deeply in literature and poetry.
His ambition to be a man of letters, a poet, was fully formed at a very early age, and developed with no deviations through his whole life. His ultimate triumph was an example of the power of intellect over physical, political, and social obstacles. He rose to be the acknowledged poet of England, the man whose work was the dominating influence in his time.
The period was really a period of prose. The clear, easy style begun by Dryden flowered in Addison's essays, Swift's satires, Fielding's stories, Gibbon's history, and Burke's speeches. The poetry, in comparison with that of great inspirational ages, seems prosaic. It was witty, . clever, ornate, correct, but lacked the enthusiastic fire of the Elizabethan age or the high moral spirit of the Miltonic. The tendency in poetry was toward the didactic and satirical verse rather than the lyrical, the epic, or the dramatic.
Pope's earliest work worth attention was written and published when he was in his teens. These “Pastorals,” modeled upon Theocritus and Virgil according to the fast-dying fashion of the time, hardly deserve attention except for the evidence they bear as to their author's precocity. They comply with the poetic conventions and refer to nymphs, and swains, Daphnis, Damon, Sylvia, Delia, Colin, Daphne, etc., but they are artificial forms, cold and uninteresting.
Of far greater importance were the Essay on Criticism, written in 1709 and published two years later, and the Rape of the Lock, written and published in 1711 and 1712. By these two poems Pope gained at a stroke a commanding place among the poets of his time. The Essay on Criticism, was applauded by his contemporaries as a masterpiece. They marveled at the wisdom, taste, and metrical skill of the new poet, as exhibited in this review of the art of poetry as set forth in Horace, Boileau, and the classicists of the 18th century. An unusual number of its lines and phrases have, by their perfection of expression, become a part of our store of aphorisms, as "To err is human, to forgive divine,” “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," etc.
The second of these early works stands far higher in our estimation to-day. The Rape of the Lock is unique in our literature. It is a trifle, to be sure, based on a quarrel between a maid of honor and a courtier who, without permission snipped off a lock of her hair, but the incident is so exquisitely handled, the treatment is so polished, witty, and vivacious that its popularity has persisted. In his long mock-heroic poem, Pope satirizes the court life of the time, revealing the mannerisms of society and giving to us of a later age a lively picture of the card-playing, tea-drinking, dresses, parties, and other frivolities which occupied the days of the society beaux and belles.
One other publication of this early period of Pope's development deserves mention. The Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady and Eloisa to Abelard, which both appeared in 1717, remain Pope's chief poems of a sentimental type. They are technically perfect, with that same perfection which is one of the most marked characteristics of all of Pope's poetry, and are vivid in their portrayal of pathetic situations. They never, however, rise from pathos to tragedy; it seems as though the artist in Pope overcame the emotional inspiration, for we always seem to discern beneath the cleverly treated situations the moving finger of the author.
Pope's prominence gained by these poems brought him into immediate contact with some of the chief figures of his age. Still a young man — he was less than thirty upon the publication of Eloisa to Abelard - he had every prospect of a long, successful, and happy career, but his acutely sensitive nature prevented. His personal history from the first days of his literary renown is a wearisome and disgusting succession of petty squabbles and intrigues. Much can be excused the morbidly irritable cripple, but his character can never be wholly cleared from the meannesses, the vanities, the personal spites and fits of ill-temper, the unworthy jealousies that stain his relations with his fellow authors. He alienated his friends and gave weapons to his enemies by his quarrel with the easy-natured Addison, by his attacks upon the poet Dennis, by his abnormal sensitiveness to well-intentioned criticism, by his shameless falsehoods and subterfuges where he saw an opportunity to increase his reputation for brilliancy or precocity, by his inadequate acknowledgment of the assistance of his collaborators in the translation of the Odyssey, by his conspiracy to have his correspondence published and his subsequent attacks upon the publisher. During all the years of his literary supremacy the sordid record of his weaknesses and littlenesses runs parallel.
In the flush of his early success, Pope was encouraged to undertake the great task of rendering Homer into English verse. His friends helped along the subscription list. He took his task with great seriousness and put his best effort into it. The project must have been suggested about 1713 and the last volume of the Odyssey appeared in 1726, so that for a dozen years he gave his time undividedly to his work. His success was immediate. Johnson calls the rendering "the noblest version of poetry the world has ever seen," and succeeding critics have acknowledged the force and liveliness of its style. The pecuniary reward which Pope received was enormous,
estimated to have been about nine thousand pounds. Being by nature a parsimonious man, he was by this single work established for life in an independent financial position.
Pope was now at the very pinnacle of his fame. Johnson, deriving his information from a “domestic of the Earl of Oxford, who knew him perhaps after the middle of life,” thus describes his person and habits: “His stature was so low, that, to bring him to a level with common tables, it was necessary to raise his seat. But his face was not displeasing, and his eyes were animated and vivid. By natural deformity, or accidental distortion, his vital functions were so much disordered that his life was a ‘long disease.' ... He was then so weak as to stand in perpetual need, of female attendance; extremely sensible of cold, so that he wore a kind of fur doublet, under a shirt of very coarse warm linen with fine sleeves. When he rose, he was invested in bodice made of stiff canvas, being scarcely able to hold himself erect till they were laced, and he then put on a flannel waistcoat. One side was contracted. His legs were so slender, that he enlarged their bulk with three pairs of stockings, which were drawn on and off by the maid; for he was not able to dress or undress himself, and neither went to bed nor rose without help.”
Shortly after the publication of the last volume of his Homer, Pope entered the ranks of English satirists with his Dunciad (the epic of the Dunces). This poem may have had its inception in a little group of wits comprising Swift, Atterbury, Gay, Parnell, and Pope who formed the Scriblerus Club and planned a monumental satirical work upon stupidity paraded as learning. The club never had any definite organization and, of course, never accomplished its huge purpose: Pope's Dunciad is but a small contribution inspired by the original design; Swift's Gulliter's Travels was another, the greatest issue of the Scriblerians.
The Dunciad is a venomous satire upon those of his contemporaries who had antagonized him or failed to appreciate his genius. It is redeemed from oblivion to-day by the pungency, force, and brilliancy of his lines. Though we cannot but regret that a man of such ability should use it in such an unworthy way, we are again and again compelled to admire the courage and force with which he attacks the enemies of genius.
In his Essay on Man, written between 1730 and 1734 at the instigation and encouragement of the famous ex-statesman, Bolingbroke, Pope laid himself open to comparison with Milton. His effort was to
vindicate the ways of God to man, —
to put before his readers a harmonious view of the universe. Pope suffers from the comparison he has courted. Milton clothed his justification of the universe in concrete figures and lent life to his poem: Pope, obtaining a logical framework perhaps from Bolingbroke, in prosaic verse elucidates general views of man's relation to the universe, of the nature and state of man with respect to himself as an individual, of the nature and state of man with respect to society, and of the nature and state of man with respect to happiness.
As is the case with his other works, this poem won immediate recognition and renown. Abroad, Voltaire warmly eulogized Pope's philosophy. At home, the poem was accepted widely as the last word in contemporary thought. To-day, we read the Essay for the many purple patches, the exquisitely perfect phrases, lines, or couplets that seem the final expression of certain universal ideas; as,
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen. Of Pope's philosophy, except as it is an embodiment of the feelings and ideas of his time, we take no account.
The poems now known as Moral Essays were written at different periods of Pope's life, one as early as 1715, and seem to have been intended to be a part of a very long poem. The Essay on
Man was to be the first book; other books were to treat of knowledge, of government, and of morality, and the concluding book was to contain epistles upon the cardinal virtues. As they stand at present, the Moral Essays are mere fragments.
Of greater importance during these latter years were Pope's Satires. Encouraged by a chance remark of Bolingbroke, that the first satire of the second book of Horace would suit the poet's style, Pope translated it, published it (1733), and achieved immediate success. He followed this with other imitations of Horace between 1734 and 1738.
The Satires really show Pope at his best. “The best way of learning to enjoy Pope," says Leslie Stephen, “is to get by heart the Epistle to Arbuthnot. That epistle is ... his Apologia. In its some four hundred lines he has managed to compress more of his feelings and thoughts than would fill an autobiography." These satires, especially the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot which is their prologue, do in truth have Pope's usual technical excellence combined with an internal unity which many, indeed most, of his poems lack. Horace and Pope had so much in common that the English poet succeeded beyond others in adopting the former's style. His own sympathies and antipathies warm and vivify the concrete illustrations he introduces. Illusive as some of the references are, they become endowed with interest once they are connected with known experiences in Pope's own life.
Pope's last years were spent at his little villa in Twickenham. Upon the death of his father in 1718, he had acquired this little villa on the Thames, with its grounds of about five acres in extent. The picture of his life there is interesting, illustrating as it does the character and habits of the man. With him was his mother, to whom he was tenderly devoted, and, after about 1730, Martha (“Patty') Blount, long a dearly loved friend. He took an unusual interest in landscape gardening and spent much time in developing his miniature estate according to the artificial tastes of the period. His obelisks, little pseudo-Grecian teraples, and fantastic grottoes have aroused the patronizing merriment of critics ever since.
Early in 1744 his feeble body began to show unmistakable signs of the final failure. His friends attended him faithfully; Bolingbroke, Hooke, Spence, Warburton, and the faithful “Patty” Blount waited upon him anxiously. Even on his deathbed he retained the abnormal self-consciousness which had been his through life. “Here I am, like Socrates, d spensing my morality amongst my friends just as I am dying,” he said, and, when the suggestion was made that a priest be sent for, “I do not suppose that is essential, but it will look right.” On May 30, 1744, he died. On account of his profession of the Roman Catholic faith, he could not be accorded the honor he deserved of a place in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. In deference to his own wish he was buried in a vault in Twickenham Church near a monument erected to his parents.
It is the fashion to-day to rank Collins above his contemporary, Thomas Gray, as the great. est lyric poet of the middle of the eighteenth century. The neglect which he suffered while he was alive is thus atoned by his posthumous fame. The Persian Eclogues gained no recognition at their birth, and the Odes but little, so we swing the pendulum far the other way and by some what of overpraise contemn with the importance of discoverers the lack of taste and discernment of our forefathers.
William Collins was born on Christmas Day, 1721, in the town of Chichester. His family was of some local importance, his father, a wealthy hatter, being mayor of the town. After studying at the prebendal school in Chichester, Collins was entered, in January, 1733, at Winchester College. Even at this early age he began to compose verse, actually publishing at the age of thirteen a sixpenny pamphlet on The Royal Nuptials. No copy of this youthful production has been preserved. In his seventeenth year, 1738, he composed the Persian Eclogues (later entitled Oriental Eclogues), but did not publish them until later. In the mean time (1739)
he contributed to The Gentleman's Magazine some verses (To a Lady Weeping) which excited the admiration of Dr. Johnson.
In 1740 he was admitted as a commoner at Queen's College, Oxford, but in 1741 he entered Magdalen College as a demy, i.e., as a student receiving a certain allowance from the college funds for the prosecution of his studies. During the first years of his college career (1742) his Persian Eclogues were published, a small volume of four poems containing about three hundred lines, but they attracted little attention at the time. “In his maturer years," records his friend Joseph Warton, “he was accustomed to speak very contemptuously of them, calling them his Irish Eclogues, and saying they had not in them one spark of Orientalism. ... He was greatly mortified that they found more readers and admirers than his Odes.” They are correct according to the metrical standard of the type, but impress us as being somewhat tame and artificial. His fame at the present day does not rest on these.
In November, 1743, he received his bachelor's degree at Oxford, and shortly afterwards published his Epistle to Sir Thomas Hanmer on his Edition of Shakespeare, being a short review of the progress of poetry from nation to nation, and praising Shakespeare as the greatest of world poets. In 1744 he left Oxford for good. His career there is commonly said to have been marked by "genius and indolence,” but his indolence is hardly consistent with his thorough knowledge of the classics and his acquaintance with French, Italian, and Spanish. We know of his affectionate intimacy with the Warton brothers during his college years and of his friendship with Gilbert White. The last-named says: “As he brought with him, for so the whole turn of his conversation discovered, too high an opinion of his school acquisitions, and a sovereign contempt for all academic studies and discipline, he never looked with any complacency on his situation in the university, but was always complaining of the dulness of a college life.” Probably, like many other youths, his time was less occupied with the work in the curriculum than with reading and study more to his taste outside.
He gravitated naturally to London, where in the center of literary life he might reasonably anticipate success. He was young, ambitious, energetic, his head filled with large plans, as for example a History of the Revival of Learning, a tragedy or two, a version of Aristotle's Poetics. He had a small patrimony for his support. Unhappily with his precocious abilities were combined irresolution and a tendency toward dissipation. Of his great projects, none was finished; of the few that were actually begun, none proceeded beyond the stage where a few notes were made. Johnson, who met Collins about this time, records his impressions of the young poet: “His appearance was decent and manly; his knowledge considerable, his views extensive, his conversation elegant, and his disposition cheerful. ... He had employed his mind chiefly upon works of fiction, and subjects of fancy; and by indulging some peculiar habits of thought, was eminently delighted with those flights of imagination which pass the bounds of nature, and to which the mind is reconciled only by a passive acquiescence in popular traditions. He loved fairies, genii, giants, and monsters; he delighted to rove through the meanders of enchantment, to gaze on the magnificence of golden palaces, to repose by the waterfalls of elysian gardens.”
Johnson records that during these early years in London, “he wrote now and then odes and other poems, and did something, however little.” Apparently his mind was incapable of bending continuous energy to longer compositions than these odes. They remain to-day, these “odes and other poems,” the work that has gained him a lasting fame as a lyrist. They appeared December 12, 1746, and won for themselves no general recognition at the time. Tradition records his bitter disappointment at what seemed to be his failure. He burned the unsold copies and threw himself into dissipation and excesses. His ambition disappeared, his indolence and irresolution increased upon him, his strength was undermined. He was raised beyond the danger of poverty by a bequest of two thousand pounds in the will of his uncle, Colonel Martyn, who died in 1749. He left London and returned to live in Chichester with his sister. Only a few other poems issued from his pen — his Elegy on Thompson and Dirge in Cymbeline in 1749 and the Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands in 1750. He gradually sank into a hopeless state of nervous depression which at times passed into acute insanity.