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deavoured to persuade his friends and himself that cares and passions could be excluded.
A grotto is not often the wish or pleasure of an Englishman, who has more frequent need to solicit than exclude the sun, but Pope's excavation was requisite as an entrance to his garden, and, as some men try to be proud of their defects, he extracted an ornament from an inconvenience, and vanity produced a grotto where necessity forced a passage. It may be frequently remarked of the studious and speculative, that they are proud of trifics, and that their amusements seem frivolous and childish ; whether it be that men conscious of great reputation think themselves above the reach of censure, and safe in the admission of negligent indulgences, or that mankind expect from elevated genius an uniformity of greatness, and watch iis degradation with malicious wonder, like him who, having followed with his eye an eagle into the clouds, should lament that she ever descended to a perch.
While the volumes of his “Homer” were annually published, he collected his former works (1717) into one quarto volume, to which he prefixed a Preface, written with great sprightliness and elegance, which was afterwards reprinted, with some passages subjoined that he at first omitted; other marginal additions of the same kind he made in the later editions of his poems. Waller remarks, that poets lose half their praise, because the reader knows not what they have blotted. Pope's voracity of fame taught him the art of obtaining the accumulated honour both of what he had published, and of what he had suppressed.
In this year his father died suddenly, in his seventy-fifth year, having passed twenty-nine years in privacy. He is not known but by the character which his son has given himn. If the money with which he retired was all gotien by himself, he had traded very successfully in times when sudden riches were rarely attainable. The publication of the “Iliad” was at last completed in 1720.
The splendor and success of this work raised Pope many enemies, that endeavoured to depreciate his abilities. Burnet, who was afterwards a judge of ino mean reputation, censured him in a piece called “ Homerides” before it was published. Ducket likewise endeavoured to make him ridiculous. Dennis was the perpetual persecutor of all his studies. But, whoever his criticks were, their writings are lost; and the names which are preserved, are preserved in the “ Dunciad.”
In this disastrous year (1920) of national infatuation, when more riches than Peru can boast were expected from the South Sea, when the contagion of avarice tainted every mind, and even poets panted after wealth, Pope was seized with the universal passion, and ventured some of his money. The stock rose in its price, and for a while he thought himself the Lord of thousands. But this dream of happiness did not last long; and he seems to have
waked soon enough to get clear with the loss of what he once thought himself to have won, and perhaps not wholly of that.
Next year he published some select poems of his friend Dr. Parnell, with a very elegant Dedication to the Earl of Oxford ; who, after all his struggles and dangers, then lived in retirement, still under the frown of a victorious faction, who could take no pleasure in hearing his praise.
He gave the same year (1721) an edition of “ Shakspeare.” His name was now of so much authority, that Tonson thought himself entitled, by annexing it, to demand a subscription of six guineas for Shakspeare's plays in six quarto volumes ; nor did his expectation much deceive him ; for of seven hundred and fifty which he printed, he dispersed a great number at the price proposed. The reputation of that edition indeed sunk afterwards so low, that one hundred and forty copies were sold at sixteen shillings each.
On this undertaking, to which Pope was induced by a reward of two hundred and seventeen pounds twelve shillings, he seems never to have reflected afterwards without vexation ; for Theobald, a man of heavy diligence, with very slender powers, first, in a book called “ Shakespeare Restored,” and then in a formal edition, detected his deficiencies with all the insolence of victory; and as he was now high enough to be feared and hated, Theobald had from others all the help that could be supplied, by the desire of humbling a haughty character.
From this time Pope became an enemy to editors, collaters, commentators, and verbal criticks; and hoped to persuade the world, that he miscaried in this undertaking only by having a mind too great for such minute employment.
Pope in his edition undoubtedly did many things wrong, and left many things undone ; but let him not be defrauded of his due praise. He was the •first that knew, at least the first that told, by what helps the text might be improved. If he inspected the early editions negligently, he taught others to be more accurate. In his Preface he expanded with grea: skill and elegance the character which had been given of Shakspeare by Dryden; and he drew the public attention upon his works, which, though often mentioned, had been little read.
Soon after the appearance of the “Iliad,” resolving not to let the general kindness cool, he published proposals for a translation of the “ Odyssey,” in five volumes, for five guineas. He was willing, however, now to have associates in his labour, being either weary with toiling upon another's thoughts, or having heard, as Ruffhead relates, thar Fenton and Broome had already begun the work, and liking better to have them confederates than rivals.
In the patent, instead of saying that he had a translated" the “ Odyssey,” as he had said of the “Iliad,” he says that he had “ undertaken” a translation: and in the proposals, the subscription is said to be not solely for his
his greatest and most elaborate performances, in which he endeavoured to sink into contempt all the writers by whom he had been attacked, and some others whom he thought unable to defend themselves.
At the head of the Dunces he placed poor Theobald, whom he accused of ingratitude ; but whose real crinie was supposed to be that of having revised “ Shakspeare” more happily than himself. This satire had the effect which he intended, by blasting the characters which it touched. Ralph, wła unnecessarily interposing in the quarrel, got a place in a subsequent edition, complained that for a time he was in danger of starving, as the booksellers had no longer any confidence in his capacity.
The prevalence of this poem was gradual and slow: the plan, if nu: wholly new, was little understood by common readers. Many of the allusions required illustration ; the names were often expressed only by the inicial and final letters, and, if they had been printed at length, were such as fer had known or recollected. The subject itself had nothing generally interest ing, for whom did it concern to know that one or another scribbler #2 a dunce ? If therefore it had been possible for those who were attacked :o conceal their pain and their resentment, the “ Dunciad” might have made its way very slowly in the world.
This, however, was not to be expected : every man is of importance to himself, and therefore, in his own opinion, to others; and supposing the world already acquainted with all his pleasures and his pains, is perhaps the first to publish injuries or misfortunes, which had never been knosa unless related by himseif, and at which those that hear them will only laugh, for no man sympathises with the sorrows of vanity.
The history of the “ Dunciad" is very minutely related by Pope himself, in a Dedication which he wrote to Lord Middlesex in the name of Savage,
“ I will relate the war of the 'Dunces' for so it has been commonly called, which began in the year 1727, and ended in 1730.
"When Dr. Swift and Mr. Pope thought it proper, for reasons specified " in the Preface to their Miscellanies, to publish such little pieces of theirs " as had casually got aboard, there was added to them the Treatise of the
Bathos, or the Art of Sinking in Poetry.' It happened that in one “ chapter of this piece the several pieces of bad poets were ranged in classes 6610 which were prefixed almost all the letters of the alphabet (the greatest « part of them at random); but such was the number of poets eminent in that
art, that some one or other took every leiter to himself: all fell into so “ violent a fury, that, for half a year or more, the common newspapers (in « most of which they had some property, as being hired writers) were “ filled with the most abusive falsehoods and scurrilities they could “ possibly devise ; a liberty no way to be wondered at in those people, and “in those papers, that for many years, during the uncontrouled licence
“ of the press, had aspersed almost all the great characters of the age; and. “ this with impunity, their own persons and names being utterly secret and « obscure.
“ This gave Mr. Pope the thought, that he had now some opportunity of doing good, by detecting and dragging into light these common enemies “of mankind; since, to invalidate this universal slander, it sufficed to shew "what contemptible men were the authors of it. He was not without * hopes, that, by manifesting the dullness of those who had only malice to "s recommend them, either the booksellers would not find their account in if employing them, or the men themselves, when discovered, want courage “ to proceed in so unlawful an occupation. This it was that gave birth to "the Dunciad;' and he thought it an happiness, that, by the late flood "of slander on himself, he had acquired such a peculiar right over their
names as was necessary to this design. “On the 12th of March, 1729, at St. James's, that poem was presented to the King and Queen (who had before been pleased to read it) by the right honourable Sir Robert Walpole; and some days after the whole "impression was taken and dispersed by several noblenien and persons of " the first distinction.
“It is certainly a true observation, that no people are so impatient of "censuie as those who are the greatest slanderers, which was wonderfully
exemplified on this occasion. On the day the book was first vended, a “ crowd of authors besieged the shop; intreaties, advices, threats of law "and battery, nay cries of treason, were all employed to hinder the com
ing out of the Dunciad:' on the other side the booksellers and hawkers "made as great efforts to procure it. What could a few poor authors do
against so great a majority as the publick? There was no stopping a tore "rent with a finger: so out it came.
“ Many ludicrous circumstances attended it. The Dunces' (for by this name they were called) held weekly clubs, to consult of hostilities against " the author : one wrote a Letter to a great minister, assuring him Mr. " Pope was the greatest enemy the government had ; and another bought " his image in clay, to execute him in effigy; with which sad sort of satis“ faction the gentlemen were a little comforted.
“Some false editions of the book having an owl in their frontispiece, the
true one, to distinguish it, fixed in its stead an ass laden with authors. " Then 'anorher surreptitious one being printed with the saine ass, the new "edition in octavo returned for distinction to the owl again. Hence arose " a great contest of booksellers against booksellers, and advertisements
against advertisements; some recommending the edition of the owl, and "others the edition of the ass; by which names they came to be distinguished, to the great honour also of the gentlemen of the Dunciad'.” Pope appears by this narrative to have contemplated his victory over the
« Dunces” with great exultation; and such was his delight in the tumult which he had raised, that for a while his natural sensibility was suspended, and he read reproaches and invectives without emotion, considering them only as the necessary effects of that pain which he rejoiced in having given.
It cannot however be concealed that, by his own confession, he was the aggressor; for nobody believes that the letters in the “ Bathos" were placed at random; and it inay be discovered that, when he thinks himself concealed, he'indulges the common vanity of common men, and triumphs in those distinctions which he had affected to despise. He is proud that his book was pesented to the King and Queen by the right honourable Sir Robert Walpole; he is proud that they had read it before ; he is proud that the edition was taken off by the nobility and persons of the first distinction.
The edition of which he speaks was, I believe, that which, by telling in the text the names, and in the notes the characters, of those whom he had satirised, was made intelligible and diverting. The criticks had now
declared their approbation of the plan, and the common reader began to like it without fear; those who were strangers to petty literature, and therefore unable to decypher initials and blanks, had now names and persons brought within their view; and delighted in the visible effects of those shafts of malice, which they had hitherto contemplated, as shot into the air.
Dennis, upon the fresh provocation now given him, renewed the enmity, which had for a time been appeased by mutual civilities; and published remarks, which he had till then suppressed, upon the “ Rape of the Lock: Many more grumbled in secret, or vented their resentment in the newspapers by epigrams or invectives.
Ducket, indeed, being mentioned as loving Burnet with “ pious passion," pretended that his moral character was injured, and for some time declarèd his resolution to take vengeance with a cudgel. But Pope appeased him, by changing “ pious passion” to “cordial friendship;" and by a note, in which he vehemently disclaims the malignity of meaning imputed to the first expression.
Aaron Hill, who was represented as diving for the prize, expostulated with Pope in a manner so much superior to all mean solicitation, that Pope was reduced to sneak and shuffle, sometimes to deny, and sometimes to apologize ; he first endeavours to wound, and is then afraid to own that he meant a blow.
The “ Dunciad,” in the complete edition, is addressed to Dr. Swift: of the notes, part were written by Dr. Arbuthnot; and an apologetical Letter was prefixed, signed by Cieland, but supposed to have been written by Pope.
After this general war upon Dulness, he seems to have indulged himself awhile in tranquillity; but his subsequent productions prove that he was not idle. He published (1731) a poem on “ Taste,” in which he very particularly and severely criticises the house, the furniture, the gardens, and the entertainments of Timon, a man of great wealth and little taste. By Timon