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pit. The pit was originally an inclosed space where dog-fights and bear-fights took place. As the bear-garden was metamorphosed into the theatre, the name 'pit' was retained for the floor of the house; admission to this was cheap, and this made it the favorite resort of the rabble. As late as twenty years ago the “pit' was common in London theatres; now it has almost disappeared, the space formerly reserved for it being occupied by what we call the parquet. the Black-joke; a popular tune of the day. From heads to ears and now from ears to eyes; ‘From plays to operas and from operas to pantomimes.' — Warburton. Old Edward's Armour. • The coronation of Henry VIII. and Queen Ann Boleyn, in which the play-houses vied with each other to represent all the pomp of a coronation. In this noble contention the armour of one of the kings of England was borrowed from the Tower to dress the champion.' Pope. Democritus, according to the legend, never went abroad without laughing at the follies of mankind; Heraclitus, without weeping at the same follies. Orcas. "The farthest northern promontory of Scotland, opposite to the Orcades.'
Pope. Quin. After the death of Betterton, in 1710, Quin and Booth became the leading actors of the day. Booth retained his popularity until his death in 1733 ; Quin lived many years after he was superseded by Garrick, whose first appearance in London, in 1742, stamped him as the greatest actor England has ever seen. Oldfield; Mrs. Oldfield, the comic actress, d. 1730. a birthday suit; suit worn at a Court-ball in honor of the King's birthday.
338-347. This fine passage excels the original, thus rendered by Conington :
But lest you think this niggard praise I fling
348-355. Or who, etc., i.e., If you do not patronize us, how can we write? the Muses mountain. See note on Lycidas, 15
Merlin's Cave. See note on Clark’ in the Epistle to Lord Burlington, line 78. Pope is fond of making fun of the Queen's choice of books. In his Imitations of Horace's Epistles, ii. 2, he writes :
Lord! how we strut through Merlin's Cave, to see
356-375. if we will recite. Poets used to recite before Augustus, never before George II. Through following his original too closely, Pope misses his point. The indifference of George II. to literature was founded upon sheer stupidity, — that stupidity against which the gods themselves, as
fight in vain. dubb'd Historians. The office of Historiographer Royal was sometimes combined with that of Poet Laureate. See note on Dryden's Epistle to Congreve, 41-48. Louis = Louis XIV. Boileau (d. 1711), the French critic whose Art of Poetry strongly influenced Pope's Essay on Criticism. Racine; see note on
376-379. Some minister of grace; a hit at Walpole, who made Cibber laureate in 1730. The phrase is from Hamlet i. 4, 39:
Angels and ministers of grace, defend us !
380-389. Charles = Charles I. Bernini (d. 1680); an Italian architect and sculptor; his best known work is the colonnade in front of St. Peter's at Roine. Nassau = William III. Kneller was court-painter to all the English sovereigns from Charles II. to George I. See first note on Pope's Epistle to Jervas. Blackmore; Sir Richard Blackmore, physician to William III., was knighted in 1697. He seems to have been a very good physician, but was certainly a very poor poet. Quarles. “The enormous popularity of Francis Quarles' Emblems and Enchiridion, a popularity which has not entirely ceased up to the present day, accounts to some extent for the very unjust ridicule which has been lavished on him by men of letters of his own and later times.
the silly antithesis of Pope, a writer who, great as he was, was almost as ignorant of literary history as his model Boileau, ought to prejudice no one, and it is strictly true that Quarles' enormous volume hides, to some extent, his merits.' — Saintsbury; History of Elizabethan Literature, 377. No Lord's anointed, but a Russian bear. There is no evidence other than Pope's to show that Jonson and Dennis ever made use of such an expression. Perhaps it is merely intended as a paraphrase of Horace's ‘Bæotum in crasso
aëre natum (... born and nurtured in Bæotian air '). Dennis; John Dennis the critic had many a literary encounter with Pope, in which the poet not seldom came out second best.
390-403. The corresponding lines in Horace recount with loyal pride the great deeds of Augustus; notice with what admirable irony Pope adapts them to the ignoble reign of George II. Maeonian = Homeric. Maeonia was the ancient name for Lydia, and according to one legend was the birth-place of Homer.
404-419. Eusden; Poet Laureate from 1718-1730. He has the honor of appearing among the city poets in the Dunciad, I. 104. Phillips; Ambrose Phillips (d. 1749) sometimes known as NambyPamby Phillips, appears several times in the Dunciad. He was a good Whig; this seems to be the only explanation of the fact that Addison and Steele considered him a good poet. Settle; Elkanah Settle (d. 1723) wrote Odes on the Lord Mayor's Day. Dryden has pilloried him in Absalom and Achitophel, ii. 412-456:
Doeg, though without knowing how or why,
Made still a blundering kind of melody; — The Third Book of the Dunciad is largely devoted to him. Bedlam; a well-known lunatic asylum in London. During the 18th Century, second-hand bookstores were numerous in the vicinity of Bedlam. Soho = · Old Soho, [which) had already begun to acquire a connection with old curiosities.' — E. and C.'s Pope
JAMES THOMSON was born at Ednam, in the county of Roxburgh, in 1700– the year of Dryden's death. He studied at the University of Edinburgh in a somewhat desultory fashion, and in 1725 went to seek his fortune in London. Thanks to influential friends and to good letters of introduction, Thomson, though sometimes pressed for money, seems to have escaped the starveling period incident to poets. In 1726 he published the Winter. Sir Spencer Compton, Speaker of the House of Commons, to whom it was dedicated, gave Thomson twenty guineas; the friendly exertions of Aaron Hill, once manager of Drury Lane Theatre, and a favorable notice by Spence in his Essay on the Odyssey, assisted to bring Thomson's work prominently before the public. The popularity which he then attained he has never lost; his occasional Latinisms, his ponderosities and his mannerisms are easily forgotten in the delight we feel in his keen observation of Nature, in his sympathy with all that is charming in. her sights and sounds, in his power of putting together a landscape and bringing it vividly before us, and in the melodious roll of his easy blank verse. The Winter was published when Pope was at the height of his fame; a greater contrast than that between him and Thomson it would be hard to imagine, or a more striking proof of the intellectual versatility of an age that could appreciate them both. In his Summer, Spring and Autumn, Thomson never quite reached the level he attained in the Winter; his Ode on Liberty and his plays are distressing performances. In the first canto of the Castle of Indolence (1746), written with a sincere love of the subject, he is at his best again; its dreamy gorgeousness reminds us of Spenser and foreshadows Keats.
Personally, Thomson was a good-natured, lazy creature, of indifferent morals, with a fondness for a lord that would have entitled him to the distinction of a long chapter in Thackeray's Book of Snobs. Before his death (1748) he had had the pleasure of seeing his character happily idealized in this flattering stanza by his friend, Lord Lyttelton:
A bard here dwelt more fat than bard beseems;
Who, void of envy, guile, and lust of gain,
Pour'd forth his unpremeditated strain;
The world forsaking with a calm disdain,
Here quaff'd, encircled with the joyous train,
Castle of Indolence, I. 68.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. LIFE AND TIMES. A conscientious and thoroughly dull Life of Thomson by Sir Harris Nicholas will be found prefixed to Little, Brown & Co.'s edition of Thomson (Boston, 1865). For further references, see Bibliography on Pope.
TEXT. - Child's, in the edition above referred to.
CRITICISM. – Johnson, in his Lives of the Poets, is almost the earliest critic of Thomson, and there have been few better.
Hazlitt, in his Thomson and Cowper (Lectures on the English Poets), has some acute remarks put in his own dogmatic way.
Christopher North, in A Few Words on Thomson, lets his sympathy run into enthusiasm, sometimes into over-praise, of a fellow-countryman. Incidentally he shows up the absurdity of Wordsworth's criticism on Thomson. North's comment on the opening of Thomson's Spring is, ‘Never had a poem a more delightful beginning. This is in amusing contrast with Hazlitt, who calls the same opening 'flimsy, round-about, unmeaning.'
Saintsbury, in the second volume of Ward's English Poets, has the best short criticism of Thomson from a modern point of view.
WINTER I-53 Capricorn. The sun enters the sign of Capricorn (Goat's Horn) on the 21st of December. The sign immediately preceding Capricorn is Sagittarius or the Archer, often represented on celestial maps by a Centaur with bow and arrow. Following Capricorn comes Aquarius, or the Water-Bearer, which the sun enters about the 21st of January. Consult your dictionary under the word · Zodiac.' the inverted year; the time of year in which there seems to be neither growth nor life in Nature, but rather decay and death. long, dark night. In the latitude of Thomson's birth-place (about 55° 30'), on December 21st, the sun sets at 3.29 P.M., and on December 22d rises at 8.31 A.M.; i.e., the night is seventeen hours long. broad. What makes the sun look broad'? Verify, from your own observation, the points in this description of the winter sun.
54-71. crop the wholesome root. This is a decided anticlimax, weakening instead of strengthening our impression of the severity of winter. Genius of the coming storm. Compare Il Penseroso 154 and Lycidas 183. Fancy; thus characterized by Milton, in the Par. Lost, v. 103-105.
of all external things
For · Imagination' see the Midsummer Night's Dream, v. 1. 14-17: