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“Neque sermonibus vulgi dederis te, nec in præmiis humanis spem posueris rerum tuarum ; suis te oportet illecebris ipsa virtus trahat ad verum decus. Quid de te ali loquantur, ipsi videant, sed loquentur tamen."-CICERO.
“THE ' Epistle to Arbuthnot,'now arbitrarily called the 'Prologue to the Satires,' is a performance consisting, as it seems, of many fragments wrought into one design, which by this union of scattered beauties, contains more striking paragraphs than could probably have been brought together into an occasional work. As there is no stronger motive to exertion than self-defence, no part has more elegance, spirit, or dignity, than the poet's vindication of his own character. The meanest passage is the satire upon Sporus.”— JOHNSON.
The Advertisement prefixed to this Epistle is a curious example of Pope's disingenuousness, as the poem itself is a monument of his art. He wishes the reader to believe that the design had been conceived many years before the Epistle was published; that it was executed
by snatches ;” and that it was in effect finished when the Verses to the Imitator of Horace made their appearance; when it seemed to him that, in self-defence, it would be “the shortest way to put the last hand to this Epistle.” Thus he raised in the public mind an idea of his forbearance under provocation, of his moral superiority to his enemies, and of his love of virtue. The truth of the matter is that certain portions of the poem were written, as Pope says, “many years' before 1733, but these might have been omitted without in any way affecting its main design ; while the general idea of the Epistle was conceived, and the greater part of it was written, as a direct answer to the Verses to the Imitator of Horace. This will appear very clearly on an examination of the dates of the previously published fragments, and of the circumstances under which they appeared.
The first lines of the Epistle which were printed were those containing the character of Atticus, or, as it was originally, of Addison. Of the publication of this fragment, Curll (defending himself from the charge made in the notes to the Dunciad, that the character was never made public till by Curll in his Miscellanies, 12mo, 1727 ") gives the following account: “Pope's Libel upon Mr. Addison was first published by Mr. John Markland, of St. Peter's College, in Cambridge, with an answer thereto in a Pamphlet entitled Cythereia : 'or Poems upon Love and Intrigue, &c., Svo. Printed for T. Payne in Stationers' Court, Ludgate Street, 1723.” In 1727 Curll reprinted the character in a new edition of the Court Poems, and also at the end of Pope's Letters to Cromwell.
1 As to the origin of the second title, sce Appendix V.
It is not easy to decide the date at which these verses were written. The first mention of them is found in a letter from Bishop Atterbury to the poet, dated 26th Feby. 1721-2, in which the writer asks for “a complete copy of the verses on Mr. Addison.” “No such piece of your writing,” he says, “ has ever been sought after so much. It has pleased every man without exception to whom it has been read. Since you now therefore know where your real strength lies, I hope you will not suffer that talent to lie unemployed.” From these expressions we should judge that the lines had been recently composed, and the bent of Pope's genius for personal satire thus discovered. The poet, however, gives a different account of the composition.
“About this time (1715),” writes Warburton, whose narrative is in substantial agreement with the story told by Spence on Pope's own authority, “Mr. Addison's son-in-law, the Earl of Warwick, told Mr. Pope that it was vain to think of 'being well with his father, who was naturally a jealous man; that Mr. Pope's talents in poetry had hurt him; and to such a degree that he had underhand encouraged Gildon to write a thing about Wycherley, in which he had scurrilously abused Mr. Pope and his family; and for this service he had given Gildon ten guineas after the pamphlet was printed. The very next day, Mr. Pope in great heat wrote Mr. Addison a letter, whereịn he told him he was no stranger to his behaviour, which, however, he should not imitate ; but that what he thought faulty in him he would tell him fairly to his face, and what deserved praise he would not deny him to the world : and, as a proof of this disposition towards him, he had sent him the enclosed: which was the charactor first published separately, and afterwards inserted in this place of the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot. This plain dealing had no ill effect. Mr. Addison treated Mr. Pope with civility, and, as Mr. Pope believed with justice, from this time to his death, which happened about three years after.”
If this were all the evidence on the question we possessed, and if Pope had nothing to gain or lose by his representations, we might accept his history of the satire on Addison without hesitation, though the openness of his dealing with the person whom he attacked would, in that case, stand in striking contrast to his shifty conduct on other, and more or less similar, occasions. But it must be remembered that his story is intended to be a refutation of what he called “the great falsehood which some of the libels reported, that this character was written after the gentleman's death;" it therefore requires to be corroborated. Now the direct confirmatory evidence that the lines on Atticus were written during Addison's lifetime comes from two quarters, Lady M. W. Montagu and Lord Oxford. The former, who was certainly not likely to have testified voluntarily in Pope's favour, is quoted by Spence (Anecdotes, p. 337) as having said, apparently in reply to a question which the latter had asked her, “ Yes, that Satire was written in Addison's lifetime." Lord Oxford, in the Bodleian folio, has the following MS. note to ver. 209 of the Epistle to Arbuthnot: “The assertion of some anonymous authors that Mr. Pope writ this character after the gentleman's death was utterly untrue : it having been sent him several years before, and then shown to Mr. Secretary Craggs and the present Earl of Burlington, who approved our author's conduct on an occasion which he had too much regard for that gentleman's memory willingly to make public. By what accident it came into print he never could learn, but all he can now do is to omit the name." Lady Mary's statement, baldly reported by Spence, and unsupported by any explanation, cannot count for much ; and it is to be observed that she says nothing about the verses having been sent to Addison. Lord Oxford's note seems to be merely an amplification of a note which Pope himself inserted in an Appendix to the quarto volume of 1735, without giving any reference to the Earl of Burlington.' With regard to what is said about the substitution of the name “Atticus" for that of Addison, we know that Pope preserved the initial and final letters of Addison's name in the"Fragment of a Satire,” which he published in the Miscellanies in 1727, after the verses had been separately printed. The single point in Pope's story, which both Lady Mary and Lord Oxford confirm, is that the verses were written during Addison's lifetime.
There remains the indirect evidence of the letter to Craggs of 15th July, 1715. In this letter Pope writes to Craggs to complain of the “ little senate of Cato," and to insinuate that Tickell had commenced his translation of Homer for the purpose of gratifying the ambition of “one man, a great Turk in poetry, who can never bear a brother on the throne.” These expressions seem very intelligible when they are compared with Pope's protestations of friendship in his published letters to Addison, which, as we know now, were never written to Addison, but were constructed out of the returned letters of Caryll, and readdressed, obviously for the purpose of giving the public a favourable impression of Pope's conduct in the dispute about the rival translations of the Iliad. The letter to Craggs may therefore be either genuine or concocted. Let us first assume it to have been genuine. In that case it seems to confirm Pope's story in two points : in the first place it shows signs of the "great heat” in which the poet says he wrote the verses after what Lord Warwick told him; in the second place, containing as it does the same phrases
1 He had, however, stated in the Testimonies of Authors prefixed to the Dunciad, that he was authorised to give the Earl's name, as one of those who had seen the verses before Addison's death. He also asserts in the same place that the verses were sent privately to Addison ; but the passage is so worded as not necessarily to make Lord Burlington a witness to the truth of this statement.