Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

that I had turned them, INCREDIBLE as it may appear, into the VERY OPPOSITE qualities. It is on this part of his charges I wish the readers, particularly Mr. Gifford, to keep their attention fixed; not on the garrulous inanity of the critic, but on the DARING FALSEHOOD. of the man!

As in the potentiality of his critical character he has spoken with apparent affected loftiness of the situation of men secluded from the world, who are distempered by a literary hypocondrianism ;it may be surely justified, divesting this lordly critic of the cloud through which he utters his voice, to ask him, who and WHAT is he? in what literary and transcendently cultivated society does he move, remote from the sphere of provincial and ruraleditors ? This, however, is no part of my defence; but when I think, not of the nanners of educated superiority he has shown, but of the utter defiance of truth he has manifested, two lines from his favorite and much injured poet rush irresistibly into

[ocr errors]

my mind :

[ocr errors]

« Honest and rough, your first son is a Squire,

“ The next a tradesman meek, and MUCH A LIAR." If a person, in the line of life spoken of in the second verse, joins the pursuits of literature and elegant acquirements to a respectable business, he is to be honored. It is very different, if, having attained some literary distinction, whether before or afterwards, he at once places himself in the chair of ARISTARCHUS, or rather in ihat of the ancient critic “ Midás."

In this case it is necessary for ourselves also, to show some sense of what is due to our character and station. Giving bim, however, all the advantage, I shall only, reverting to the second line of this couplet, confess, that, in my opinion, it contains as harsh and unjust a satirical censure as ever the poet of his heart had written, because it fell, without exception, on a large, unoffending, moral, and highly respectable class of men. Of that

expression in the line, which describes men of this description, as " meek," I believe, Sir, your bitterest enemies will acquit you. Yet, mistake me not! I am willing to believe your basty overweening conceit, your intemperate and headlong zeal, not wilful wickedness, misled you.

I am most willing to hope and believe, that “SOLITARY AT TENTION BEING STRANGELY GIVEN TO MAGNIFY BY ITS INTENSITY," as you justly observe, made you in this instance, (" INCRÉ DIBLE AS IT MAY APPBAR," as you justiy observe again,) rashly advance that which is equally remote from manners, decency, charity, or TRUTH.

I scorn to press you farther. A literary friend, speaking of you,

[ocr errors]

a

informed me you were a

BITTER and POWERFUL ANTAGONIST!” How bitter you may be, I reck not: how

powerful you are, when met by a little discussion and plain truth, I have shown. You will be less an oracle, if this vindication is seen, even in the little senate,” to which you may have givenī laws, in a “provincial” town. May you live to gain that knowledge which your poet so elegantly characterises :

“ Know then thyself," before you judge others thus rashly. May you also receive some benefit from this lesson. Your pen will not be less “ POWERFUL,and

your life will be more consistent and happy: In this hope, and leaving to your serious consideration what selfdefence, not unkindness, has compelled me to say, I hasten to the conclusion of this part of my defence.

But before I finish I must advert for a moment to the last part of this criticism.

After a long intermission, in which my name seems almost forgotten, and even when the critic, with singular complacency had just exclaimed:

Singula dum taciti circumvectemur amore,in the Elysium of his delighted imagination, when he had “babbled for a long hour," not of “green fields,but of Pope, Spence, Lady Montague, Dean Lockier, Squire Chute, &c., my unfortunate name again comes across his imagination, when I was in hopes, amidst his delicious reveries, he had forgot me; and before he can finally dismiss the subject, yea! before he "limps away,(which expression I have taken from himself,), though he cannot “ bite,he turns to have a last growl, for thus he growletli at the conclusion ::

“ The last Editor of Churchill informs us, that this poet once designed a systematic attack on Pope's personal and poetical character, which, that nothing so desirable should be lost, has been FULLY reserved for the skill and care of Mr. Bowles.” As this “ systematic attack”

was fully reserved for the skill and care of Mr. Bowles, I would just beg the reader to compare what has been said of the prominent defects of Pope's character by Dr. Johnson.

Let us see what Johnson, upon the same subject of Pope's failings, has said; for one would suppose, by the systematic attack being FULLY REŠErven for the “skill and care of Mr. Bowles;" no one had, before Mr. Bowles, spoken of the infirmities of his

For he prefers, doubtless, as he said Pope did,“ in-door nature !!! |

a

[ocr errors]

7

1

character, much less in language more strong, than I have done: and, be it remenbered, it was hardly necessary to describe -me as a morbid hypocondriac, on whose imagination, with “sinister influence," all the “ dunces" operated, when there was enough found in one, who was "NO DUNCE," to justify more than I have ever said. , As Johnson was certainly “NO DUNCE," nor had his imagination warped by brooding, till he was half mad, over dunces, let us ask, what “ sinister influence operatedon his mind, when he thus writes of Pope's MEANNESS and duplicity.

“ Aaron Hill expostulated with Pope in a manier so much superior to all mean solicitation, that Pope was induced to SNEAK and sħUFFLE, sometimes to deny, and sometimes to apologise ; he first endeavours to ward, and then is afraid to own that he meant a blow.”—Life of Pope.

Ingratitude and dissimulation.

“ From the reproach which the attack on a character so amiable brought on him (Chandos) he tried all means of escaping. Cleland was again employed in an apology, by which no one was satisfied, and he was at last obliged to shelter his temerity under dissimulation." --Johnson's Life of Pope.

Love of flattery.

Pope had been flattered till he thought himself one of the moving powers of the system of life.”—Johoson’s Life of Pope.

Professions at variance with his feelings.

"Cibbes replied to the Dunciad with another pamphlet, which Pope said would be as good as a dose of hartshorn to him; but HIS TONGUE and HIS HEART were at VARIANCE!”

When one of Cibber's pamphlets came into the hands of Pope, he said,

These things are my diversion.” They sat by whilst he was reading, and saw his features writh with anguish.

I might mention what Johnson says of his " parsimony,&c.; but I forbear, as I only wish the reader to perceive that, if I have taken a false view of Pope's character, I ought not to bear the blame alone. In truth, I have softened the inost glaring lines of character rather than heightened them; for what I gave called “ prudence," Dr. Johnson calls “parsimony;" what I have called ' . evasion,” he has called “ SNEAKING and SHUFFLING :" nor has 'he ever sought to trace to their origin, as an excuse for those less amiable parts of Pope's character, and those infirmities, which appeared to me, and which I have so stated, to have sprung from that “selflove,” which grew unavoidably out of moral causes and physical

The word “hypocrisy" I have only applied in one instance, relating to the art, with which, as it appears incontrovertible to me, he got his letters to be published.

2

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

infirmities; and, there deserving a sigh rather than a stigma, even from a critic less sentimental than myself.

If I have cleared myself, in any degree, to the satisfaction of the wise and good, the impartial and unprejudiced, I would wish to part friends even with my anonymous critic: I owe him no illwill. The charges which are advanced now would probably have been advanced some other time, when there would be none to answer them.

I shall have a much pleasanter path to pursue, when, in the next Pamphleteer, I take a more extended survey of Pope's poetical character, which I have never denied to be the “ greatest in his order," although his order was not the greatest in poetry. If the path be pleasanter, I have no doubt the grounds 1 shall give for iny unshaken belief in the invariable principles of Poetry will be satisfactory. In taking leave of the critic, whose course I thought myself bound thus far to pursue, I must confess that I can hardly believe myself entirely free from blame, when others have read my Life with some of these impressions. A warmth of feeling against every thing connected with disingenousness or duplicity, induced me to use, though I was not conscious of this, expressions too warm for the occasion, and given reason to inagine, that when I conceived I spoke what truth required, I was actuated by different feelings.

In conclusion, I beg to assure my severe annotator, I feel as little ill-will towards him, as I ever felt towards the great poet, whose life and poetry he defends; and if he has a particle of that charity and candor, for the want of which, in the Life of Pope, he arraigns me, the hope may not be in vain, that if we never agree in the Invariable Principles of Poetry, we may agree in that which is of more consequence-CHRISTIAN forbearance, having both of us derived some improvement from the investigation of each other's faults.

Bremhill, Oct. 14th, 1820.

* The Observations on Poetic Character, and the Vindication of the Invariable Principles of Poetry, will appear in the next Pamphleteer.

The haste with which the preceding article was written, in order to be in time for the publication of the Pamphleteer, this month, the author hopes will be considered as an excuse for any

inaccuracies, or any expressions that might be thought harsh.

1

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »