Imágenes de página

and metaphors as the verses, it would appear to have been written about the same time, thus indirectly corroborating Pope's statement, prefixed to the Dunciad, that the character was written in Addison's lifetime, and, as he hinted, in consequence of Addison's supposed connection with Tickell's Translation. But the date of the letter to Craggs proves that Pope's story, as reported by Warburton, is untrue in its most essential particulars. The poet evidently wishes to insist on the authenticity of the information which he received, by showing that it came from Addison's own stepson. Now Addison was not married to the Countess of Warwick till the 2nd August, 1716; and at that date Pope could not have had any cause to complain of Addison's jealousy, for in the Freeholder of May 7, 1716, the latter had praised his Translation in warm terms. Even if we suppose the information to have been given by Lord Warwick before his mother's marriage, Wycherley did not die till Dec., 1715, so that Gildou could not have received his ten guineas before that date. Yet in July of that year, when Pope wrote to Craggs, he evidently possessed some proofs of Addison's jealousy, which had thrown him into “great heat;

so that the verses, written at least six months later, and carefully built up on the language of this letter, can hardly have been the product, as he asks us to believe, of sudden impulse.

Supposing, however, that the published letter to Craggs was never really written to that statesman ? The latter had been dead fifteen years when the surreptitious volume of Pope's correspondence was published, and it is difficult to see how the poet can have recovered the letter. Again, Craggs was one of Addison's most intimate friends, which makes it highly improbable that Pope would have denounced the latter to him so unreservedly. On the other hand, if the letter was written purposely for publication in the volume of correspondence, the poet's motive is clear. He ran no risk of detection, as Craggs was dead ; while his nice calculation anticipated that the public, struck with the resemblance between the language of the Character of Atticus and that of the letter, would believe them both to have been written about the same time, and would find in the fact a confirmation of the story of the quarrel which he had himself circulated.

It is indeed not very difficult to conjecture with some confidence the process by which Pope's fable was constructed. The verses on Addison were in all probability writto.), as Pope says, during the lifetime of the former. In 1711 the poet had been attacked by Dennis for his Essay on Criticism. Of the pamphlet on Wycherley by Gildon, in which Pope says that he and his family were scurrilously abused, I can find no trace, though, if it ever existed, it is curious that the poet should not have preserved it in the collection of libels on himself, which he caused to be bound, and which are

now in my keeping. But in the New Rehearsal, published in 1714, Gildon had attacked Pope under the name of “Sawney Dapper,' and had accused him of having written himself the panegyrical verses which were prefixed with Wycherley's name to his Pastorals. In 1715 Pope suspected Addison of having prompted Tickell to undertake the rival translation of the Iliad. Feeling sore at what he conceived to be a conspiracy against his reputation, he joined Addison's name with those of Gildon and Dennis, in the first draft of the Satire, as it appears in Appendix VI. of this volume. But we may

be sure that he never sent the verses to Addison. Had he done so, and had the lines produced in Addison's mind the effect which Pope insinuates, they would doubtless have been preserved by the former among his papers. But no trace of them was found there, any more than of the letters which Pope published in his correspondence as having been addressed to Addison.

It is not wonderful that nothing should have been heard of the Satire till 1722. Addison's position and popularity would have suggested to a man so cautious as Pope the danger of showing them even in the circle of his own acquaintance. He may, however, have taken an intimate friend like Lord Burlington into his confidence, and he perhaps read the lines to Lady M. W. Montagu, knowing, in 1716, that she was about to leave England for Constantinople. In 1722 the reasons for reticence no longer existed. He sent the verses to Atterbury, who showed them to others; they were read with eagerness, and in 1723 were printed with an answer by Markland. The report naturally spread that they had been written since Addison's death; and Pope, though he had written the Satire only in retaliation for injuries which he believed to have been done him, now found himself charged with having wantonly attacked a great man who was no longer able to defend himself. All his self-love, all his old resentment against Addison, being thus aroused, his first thought henceforth was how to exalt his own character, even at the expense of his rival's. We see how early the story of the quarrel which he afterwards circulated began to take shape in his mind. The Longleat MS. of the verses (see note to ver. 156) cannot have been written later than 1724; and already Gildon's “meaner quill ” of the original lines is transformed into “ venal quill,” with evident reference to the “ ten guineas" of Warburton's narrative (see note to ver. 156). This is the first stage of the fiction, which reaches its climax in the recomposition of the letters originally sent to Caryll, and in the tale of the character written off in " “great heat after Lord Warwick's disclosures, and forwarded openly to Addison.

The satire having been printed by Curll in the same volume with the Letters to Cromwell, Pope had an opportunity of charging the bookseller with having published it surreptitiously; and at the same time, as there was no longer any reason for

[ocr errors]

keeping it from the world, he inserted it in his Miscellany of 1727 under the title of Fragment of a Satire. It was, however, now preceded by the lines in disparagement of critics and commentators, which were aimed especially at Bentley and Theobald, the former of whom had offended Pope by his depreciation of the Translation of the Iliad, and the latter by his remarks on the poet's edition of Shakespeare. It is possible that the character of Bufo was written at some period previous to the appearance of the Verses to the Imitator of Horace; it belongs to the same class as the portraits of “Umbra,” “Macer," and " Atticus," and may, like the two former, have been originally one of several satirical portraits painted in accordance with Atterbury's recommendation. The only other portion of the Epistle which we know to have been written long before its publication was the pathetic concluding paragraph. This was sent by Pope in a letter to Aaron Hill, dated 3rd September, 1731. It may, therefore, be said that the “snatches” written “ as the several occasions offered,” are comprised in vv. 151-214, 231-248, and 406–419; that is to say, out of a composition of 419 lines, only 96 were certainly written before 1733; and these might be removed without radically interfering with the construction of the poem.

How very far from the truth was Pope's statement that he only put “the last hand to this Epistle" after the publication of the Verses to the Imitator of Horace, may be inferred from the fact that the remaining 323 lines were evidently written as an answer to those Verses. The internal evidence of the composition itself is conclusive on this point. It is much less a “ bill of complaint" than an apology in the shape of an autobiography into which the preexisting fragments are dexterously woven. The first portion-i.e., all the lines preceding v. 157—is obviously a connected work, and the occasion of its composition is ascertained by the interrupted sentence “ Still Sappho-" (v. 101) in allusion to Lady W. M. Montagu, who had been grossly satirised as Sappho in the first Imitation of Horace, and was supposed by Pope to be one of the authors of the retaliatory Verses. The allusion to the elopement of Lady Walpole (see note to v. 25) shows that the opening of the poem was written as late as 1734. As to the latter part, which takes up the autobiographical thread that had of course been dropped in the portions of the Epistle relating to the small critics, to Atticus, and to Bufo, it is evident from the reference to the epitaph on Gay, that it could not have been composed before March 31, 1733, at which date Pope was corresponding with Swift about the final form which the memorial lines on their friend were to assume on the monument. The remainder of the Epistle comprises the assertion of the moral motives of the poet's satire, the character of Sporus, and the account of Pope's family'; two of these three passages being an answer to the line, “Hard as thy heart and as thy birth obscure,” in the Verses to the Imitator of Horace; and the third being the poet's crushing rejoinder to Lord Hervey as the reputed author of that poem.

Characteristic as the disingenuousness of the Advertisement is, it is not more characteristic than the art with which the pre-existing and disconnected fragments are pieced into the main design. It was necessary to suit the protesting form in which the satire on Addison first appeared, “If meagre Gildon draw his venal quill,” &c., to the autobiographical character of the Epistle to Arbuthnot. The poet therefore altered the passage by starting a paragraph in narrative form, “Soft were my numbers," and making the subsequent lines historical, “ Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill.” Instead of the line in the Miscellany, “How would they swear not Congreve's self was safe," he reads :

And swear not Addison himself was safe, thus delicately preparing the mind of the reader for the transition to the character of Atticus, which in the Miscellany had appeared with the initial and final letters A-n.

Equal skill is shown in leading the autobiography up to the character of Bufo; and nothing can seem more natural and appropriate than the affecting address to Arbuthnot at the conclusion of the Epistle, although the verses were originally written on a quite different occasion, and to a different person. It is to be observed that Pope's statement in the Advertisement, as to his method of composition in the Epistle, was necessary by way of apology for the concluding paragraph, since Mrs. Pope had died before the poem was published. The “callidæ juncturæ" by which the poet combined his old and new materials would alone suffice to prove him a great master of his art, but the quality of the whole Epistle is of extraordinary excellence. Johnson is probably right in tracing the idea to Boileau's address, “A son Esprit”; but admirable as that satire is, we have only to compare it with Pope's to see how far the latter excels his French predecessor in all poetical gifts and graces. The sustained dramatic power, the variety of the detail, the richness of the imagery, the elevation of the sentiment, the force of the invective, contrasting so exquisitely with the pathetic ropose of the conclusion, all combine to place the Epistle beyond the reach of rivalry in this kind of writing.

The Epistle was registered at Stationers' Hall, 2nd Jan., 1734-5, under the title “An Epistle from Mr. Pope to Dr. Arbuthnot;” the owner of the copyright being Lawton Gilliver.

« AnteriorContinuar »