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And each true Briton is to Ben so civil,
Though justly Greece her eldest sons admires,
If time improve our wits as well as wine,
“Who lasts a century can have no flaw, I hold that wit a classic, good in law.”
Suppose he wants a year, will you compound ?
“We shall not quarrel for a year or two; By courtesy of England' he may do.”
Then, by the rule that made the horse-tail bare, I pluck out year by year, as hair by hair,“
1 The Devil Tavern, where Ben
Poets of different magnitude advance, Jonson held his Poetical Club.
In humble confidence of song and dance.
Ballons and tumblers please, though POPE. Ben Jonson presided over the Apollo Club at the “Devil," which was next door to Child's Bank in 3 Courtesy of England is restricted Fleet Street. The tavern was pulled in law to the single case of not disdown when the Bank premises were turbing the husband in the enjoyextended in 1788.
ment, for his life, of his wife's estate ? This is a stroke at the contempo. after her death. Pope applies it rary rage for spectacular and acro- loosely to the case of not disturbing batic exhibitions of all kinds upon the claim of a poet to rank as a the stage in the place of legitimate classic where a prescriptive title of a drama. Sedley notes the beginning full century could not be made out. — of the new taste after Dryden's dis. Pattison. appearance from the stage :
4 The allusion in Horace is to the
And melt down ancients like a heap of snow,
you, to measure merits, look in Stowe,
Shakespeare (whom you and every play-house bill
fallacy called Sorites, and is said to refer to the sophism of Eubulides of Miletus, the question being how many hairs could be pulled out of a man's head before he could be said to be made bald.
1 The old chronicler. He is mentioned again in the Versification of Donne, Sat. iv. 131.
2 Shakespeare and Ben Jonson may truly be said not to have thought of this Immortality, the one in many pieces composed in haste for the stage; the other in his latter works in general, which Dryden called his dotages. — POPE. 3 This must mean
“ seemed as little to heed the life to come which is part of every poet's creed." The criticism is not just. Jonson worked to the last with painful art, and his Ode to Himself, after the failure of the New Inn, is a bitter philippic against the bad taste of the public :
If they love loes and leave the lusty wine.
* Abraham Cowley (1618-1667), who, in his own age, enjoyed a greater reputation than perhaps any poet of the seventeenth century. He was the head of the “metaphysical" school of poetry, which had in Pope's time gone completely out of fashion.
5 “ Wit, abstracted from its effects on the hearer, may be more rigorously and philosophically considered as a kind of discordia concors ; a bination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike. Of wit thus defined they” (the metaphysical school) “have inore than enough. The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together; nature and art are ransacked for illustrations, comparisons, and allusions; their learning instructs, and their subtlety surprises : but the reader commonly thinks his improvement dearly bought, and, though he sometimes admires, is seldom pleased.”-JOHNSON, Life of Cowley.
Say that thou pour'st them wheat,
And they will acorns eat ;
On such as have no taste !
Whose appetites are dead !
6 Cowley's Epic is called the Davideis.
7 Which has much more merit
“Yet surely, surely, these were famous men ! What boy but hears the sayings of old Ben ? In all debates where critics bear a part," Not one but nods, and talks of Jonson's art," Of Shakespeare's nature, and of Cowley's wit; How Beaumont's judgment checked what Fletcher writ; How Shadwell hasty, Wycherley was slow;' But, for the passions, Southern sure and Rowe.' These, only these, support the crowded stage, From eldest Heywood down to Cibber's age.
than his Epic, but very unlike the character as well as numbers of Pindar.- POPE.
Dryden continued Cowley's Pindaric style, but it had no doubt lapsed in Pope's time, and even when revived by Gray and Collins, with more inspiration, it was coldly received.
1 The poet has here put the bald cant of women and boys into extreme fine verse, This is in strict imitation of his original, where the same impertinent and gratuitous criticism is admirably ridiculed. POPE.
? Compare Dunciad, ii. 223.
3 There is no trustworthy account of the origin of the literary partnership of Beaumont and Fletcher. It was no uncommon thing for managers in the Elizabethan period to employ more than one poet on a play. Thus no less than five poets were engaged in the production of a lost play called Two Harpies. It is, however, probable that the co-operation of Beaumont and Fletcher was the result rather of private friendship than stage convenience.
4 Nothing was less true than this particular. But the whole paragraph has a mixture of irony, and must not altogether be taken for Horace's own judgment, only the common chat of the pretenders to criticism : in some
things right, in others wrong, as he tells us in his answer, Interdum vulgus rectum videt; est ubi peccat.-PUPE.
The criticism on Wycherley and Shadwell was made by Rochester, in his Allusion to the Tenth Satire of the First Book of Horace : Of all our modern wits none seem to me Once to have touched upon true comerly, But hasty Shadwell and slow Wycherley.
Pope said to Spence: "Lord Rochester's character of Wycherley is quite wrong. He was far from being slow in general, and in particular wrote the Plain Dealer in three weeks." - Anecdotes, p. 200.
5 Thomas Southern, best known by his play of Oroonoko, born 1660, died 1746. See Pope's lines to him, On his Birthday, 1742.
Nicholas Rowe, born 1673, died 1718. His best known tragedies are The Fair Penitent, Jane Shore, and Lady Jane Grey. Johnson says of him: “He seldom moves either pity or terror ; but he often elevates the sentiments ; he seldom pierres the breast, but he always delights the ear, and often improves the understanding."
6 John Heywood may be called the father of the English stage. His Interludes form the connecting link between the “moralities" and the regular drama. Compare Dunciad, i. 98.
All this may be ; the people's voice is odd,
1 The “vox populi," as far as it is plimentary ; but the poet could be the verdict of a mere passing majority, candid if he chose. Congreve's need be nothing inore than the voice opinion was less favourable. He of fashion ; but from the decision says : “Cibber has produced a play, of the world, -quod semper, quod consisting of fine gentlemen and fine ubique, quod ab omnibus, – there is conversation together, which the no appeal. “Securus judicat orbis ter
ridiculous town for the most part rarum." Pope, however, seems here to likes ; but there are some that know mean no more than that the judgment better.” of the people is partly right and * In the folio Pope inserted a partly wrong.
note : “Particularly in the Shep? A piece of very low humour, one herd's Calendar, where he imitates of the first printed plays in English, the unequal measures as well as the and therefore much valued by some language of Chaucer." Spenser antiquaries. — POPE.
seems really to have thought that the It is said to have been written by language had become corrupted since Still, Bishop of Bath and Wells. the time of Chaucer, whom he calls The oldest extant edition of the play “the well of English undefiled.” is dated 1575.
5 Alluding to the hexameters, 3 The public never “denied the pentameters, and Sapphics, in his Careless Husband praise.” The play
a considerwas always popular, and retained the able tendency to this “pestilent stage throughout the last century. heresy" (as the late Lord Derby Cibber tells us in his Apology that called it) in Elizabeth's times. he wrote the first two acts in 1703, Spenser himself addressed some very and then laid the play aside in lame English hexameters to Gabriel despair of being able to find a Lady Harvey. Betty Modish. Afterwards, having
6 " Milton's Paradise Lost is addiscovered Mrs. Oldfield's genius, he mirable ; but am I therefore bound finished the piece and assigned the
to maintain that there are no flats part to her. In his letter to Pope, among his elevations, when 'tis evihe seems to doubt whether Pope's dent he creeps along sometimes for line was intended to be really com
above an hundred lines together?"
In quibbles, angel and archangel join,
But for the wits of either Charles's days,
DRYDEN, Preface to Translations from Theocritus, Lucretius, and Horace.
1 The quibbles passing between angel and archangel probably refer to the jests of Satan and Belial in the battle of the Angels, Paradise Lost, Book 6, 609-628. The “school divi. nity” ,of the First Person of the Trinity is most pronounced in the Third Book of Paradise Lost.
* This may be either understood as a metaphor from a hedger's bill-hook, or, as Warburton takes it, of the brackets in which Bentley used to enclose the lines which he considered spurious. Pope himself applies the word "hook" in this
to Bentley's critical method, in note to Dunciad, iv. 194. Probably he intended both meanings. Compare Epistle to Arbuthnot, ver. 164.
3 Alluding to Lord Hervey's affected depreciation of classical education in his Letter to a Doctor of Divinity: All that I learned from Dr. Friend at
school, By Gradus, Lexicon, or Grammar-rule, Has quite deserted this poor John-Trot
ead, And left plain native English in its stead.
See Pope's remarks on these lines in his Letter to a Noble Lord.
4 Thomas Sprat, Bishop of Rochester, born 1636, died 1713. He was the chief friend of Cowley, and Pope, according to Spence, called him a
Thomas Carew, born about 1589, died in 1639. Pope said of him to Spence : “ Carew (a bad Waller), Waller himself, and Lord Lansdowne, are all of one school; as Sir John Suckling, Sir John Mennis, and Pryor are of another.” It is hard to say what he meant by this subtle classification. Carew had certainly on the whole more in cominon with Sir John Suckling than with Waller, who was obviously the first of the fathers of the eighteenth-century style. Carew, on the other hand, was of Ben Jonson's line. The ground on which all the poets enumerated met in common was “conceit," the bane of seventeenth century verse.
Sir Charles Sedley, father of Catharine Sedley, Duchess of Dorset, a wit and courtier in Charles II.'s reign. He was born in 1639, and died in 1701. His verse is of the fashionable amatory description peculiar to that period, and is praised by his friend Rochester in a characteristic manner :
Sedley has that prevailing gentle art