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And St. John's self, great Dryden's friends before,
Soft were my numbers; who could take offence,
146 Not from the Burnets, &c. Pope's propensity to sarcasm naturally involved him in conflict. Those obscure writers were generally men laboring for their bread, and with neither time nor talents to court a war with a writer of his acknowleged severity. But if they dared not attack, and were unable to defend, they could bitterly retaliate : they thenceforth painfully occupied his thoughts; and the · Dunciad' itself is scarcely more a monument of his powers than of their revenge.
151 Yet then did Gildon. Gildon was born at the village of Gillingham, near Shaftesbury, in Dorsetshire. He was sent to Douay, to the English college of secular priests there, to be made a priest; but came to London, spent his property, and endeavored to repair his fortune by writing abusive pamphlets.-Pope.
153 Yet then did Dennis rave. Dennis was to Pope, what Freron was to Voltaire, the perpetual object of hostility, evidently not unmingled with a sense of his powers to sting. Dennis himself was an example of the utter uselessness of learning, talents, and fortune, to an irritable temper. A successful dramatist, he quarrelled with the stage ; a forcible political writer, he became hazardous to his party; and beginning the world with a competent income left to him by a relative, his carelessness melted it away, until his last refuge from poverty was an obscure place in the Customs. A large portion of his misfortunes arose from the bitterness of his criticism, the more offensive from its general truth, and its total disregard of the position of the writer whom he assailed. He attacked Addison's Cató,' when the author and the play were at the height of popular favor, and attacked it with a strength of criticism which made the offence irreparable. On Pope he retorted with alternate scorn and fury; and thus stored up for himself all the wrath of vindictive poetry. But if his folly laid him open to assault, his vigor never sbrank from the contest, nor his sarcasm failed to give deadly blows. Pope's • Narrative of the Frenzy of John Dennis' is an evidence of the pain which those blows could inflict; and he must have felt when Dennis died, in 1733, that if he had lost his most contemptible rival, he was not less relieved from his most formidable enemy.
If want provoked, or madness made them print,
Did some more sober critic come abroad;
164 Slashing Bentley. Pope's known disgust to Bentley is said to have arisen from a remark on his translation of Homer, that 'the verses were good verses; but the work was not Homer, but Spondanus.' A more probable and a more justifiable source of this disgust is to be found in the insolent language of Bentley on all subjects of criticism. His sense of superiority was unrestrainable ; and between an arrogant value for his personal attainments, and an angry contempt for those of all others, he contrived to sow his path with thorns to the end of his life. Involved in literary quarrel when he was not involved in law, and often involved in both at the same time, he gives equally to scholars and men of the world an example of the necessity of moderation. As a classical com
Each wight who reads not, and but scans and spells,
165 Each word-catcher that lives on syllables, Ev'n such small critics some regard may claim, Preserved in Milton's or in Shakspeare's name. Pretty! in amber to observe the forms Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms! 170 The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare, But wonder how the devil they got there. Were others
I excused them too : Well might they rage; I gave them but their
due. A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find; 175 But each man's secret standard in his mind, That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness, This, who can gratify? for who can guess ? The bard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown, Who turns a Persian tale for half a crown, 180 Just writes to make his barrenness appear, And strains, from hard-bound brains, eight lines prose run mad :
a year ;
mentator, Bentley possessed a high rank in his day; but his unfortunate edition of Milton shows how deplorably a critic may overrate his own powers, and how total an absence of true taste is compatible with classical fame.
Bentley's Milton was long a matter of burlesque. Bowles gives the following epigram by Pope, on this extraordinary performance :
Did Milton's prose, O Charles ! thy death defend ?
The murderous critic has avenged thy murder, 180 A Persian tale. Ambrose Philips translated a book called the Persian Tales.'-Pope.
He, who still wanting, though he lives on theft, Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left; And he, who now to sense, now nonsense leaning,
185 Means not, but blunders round about a meaning; And he, whose fustian's so sublimely bad, It is not poetry, but All these, my modest satire bade translate, And own’d that nine such poets made a Tate. 190 How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and
chafe; And swear, not Addison himself was safe! Peace to all such! But were there one whose
fires True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires ; Bless'd with each talent and each art to please; 195 And born to write, converse, and live with ease : Should such a man, too fond to rule alone, Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
192 Not Addison himself was safe. The true nature of Pope's quarrel with Addison has been disputed : but we have at least the fact, that a quarrel existed, and we have also from Warburton the statement which Pope desired to be considered as true. Pope charges him severally with having urged the writers of the Examiners to attack him as a tory and jacobite; with having jealously advised him against introducing the sylphid machinery into the · Rape of the Lock;' and with having attempted to thwart the translation of the • Iliad,' by publishing, under the name of Tickell, a translation of the first book from bis own pen. Such are the quarrels of the sons of fame. It is clear, that the first charge is without proof, the second is trifling, and the third might be alike negligence, ambition, or enmity. The character, · Peace to all such,' was sent separately to Addison, in the wrath of the time, and afterwards inserted in the satire : it has always been regarded as one of the finest specimens of the writer's sarcasm, equally elegant, easy, and keen.
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
221 No more than thou, great George! a birth-day
song. I ne'er with wits or witlings pass'd my days, To spread about the itch of verse and praise ; Nor like a puppy daggled through the town, 225 To fetch and carry sing-song up and down; Nor at rehearsals sweat, and mouth'd, and
cried, With handkerchief and orange at my side;