1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Thomas Campbell, in Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1845) 375.



The faults of Pope's private character have been industriously exposed by his latest editor and biographer [W. L. Bowles], a gentleman whose talents and virtuous indignation were worthy of a better employment. In the moral portrait of Pope which he has drawn, all the agreeable traits of tender and faithful attachment in his nature have been thrown into the shade, while his deformities are brought out in the strongest, and sometimes exaggerated colours.

The story of his publishing a character of the Duchess of Marlborough, after having received a bribe to suppress it, rests on the sole authority of Horace Walpole: but Dr. J. Warton, in relating it, adds a circumstance which contradicts the statement itself. The duchess's imputed character appeared in 1746, two years after Pope's death; Pope, therefore, could not have himself published it; and it is exceedingly improbable that the bribe ever existed. Pope was a steady and fond friend. We shall be told, perhaps, of his treachery to Bolingbroke, in publishing the Patriot King. An examination of this business was given by the late Earl of Marchmont to a gentleman still living, (1820,) the Honourable George Rose, which is worth attending to. The Earl of Marchmont's account of it, first published by Mr. A. Chalmers, in the Biographical Dictionary, is the following.

"The essay on the Patriot King was undertaken at the pressing instance of Lord Cornbury, very warmly supported by the earnest entreaties of Lord Marchmont, with which Lord Bolingbroke at length complied. When it was written it was shown to the two lords and one other confidential friend, who were so much pleased with it that they did not cease their importunities to have it published, till his lordship, after much hesitation, consented to print it, with a positive determination, however, against a publication at that time; assigning as his reason, that the work was not finished in such a way as he wished it to be before it went into the world. Conformably to that determination some copies of the essay were printed, which were distributed to Lord Cornbury, Lord Marchmont, Sir W. Wyndham, Mr. Lyttleton, Mr. Pope, and Lord Chesterfield. Mr. Pope put his copy into the hands of Mr. Allen, of Prior Park, near Bath, stating to him the injunction of Lord Bolingbroke; but that gentleman was so captivated with it as to press Mr. Pope to allow him to print a small impression at his own expence, using such caution as should effectually prevent a single copy getting into the possession of any one till the consent of the author should be obtained. Under a solemn engagement to that effect, Mr. Pope very reluctantly consented: the edition was then printed, packed up, and deposited in a separate warehouse, of which Mr. Pope had the key. On the circumstance being made known to Lord Bolingbroke, who was then a guest in his own house at Battersea with Lord Marchmont, to whom he had lent it for two or three years his lordship was in great indignation, to appease which, Lord Marchmont sent Mr. Grenenkop, (a German gentleman who had travelled with him, and was afterward in the household of Lord Chesterfield, when lord lieutenant of Ireland,) to bring out the whole edition of which a bonfire was instantly made on the terrace of Battersea."