POPE, who was born in London, spent nearly the whole of his life between Binfield, in Windsor Forest, and Twickenham. They were his only two constant residences; the time which he passed in London, he passed but as a visitor, or lodger. Town poet, or poet of society, as he seems, he was inseparably attached to the country, though it was the country of an easily accessible vicinity to town, and itself pretty thickly inhabited by people of rank and intelligence. From the time that his father purchased the property at Binfield, with the exception of a short time at school at Twyford, near Winchester, and at another school in Mary-le-bone, which was removed while he was there to near Hyde Park Corner, Pope never quitted Binfield as a residence, till he bought Twickenham. He went soon after his twelfth year from school, and he continued to reside at Binfield till 1716, when he was twenty-eight years of age; and singularly enough, he lived at Twickenham twenty-eight years more, dying in May 1744, at the age of fifty-six.
As is the case of many other people, who, with all their philosophy, are not content to rest their claims to distinction on their own virtues and achievements, there was an attempt on the part of Pope to hang his family on an aristocratic peg; and, as was to be expected in the case of a man who did not spare his enemies and who wrote Dunciads, there was as stout an attempt to pull this peg out. In his epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, he makes this claim for his parentage:—
Of gentle blood, part shed in honour's cause,
Whilst yet in Britain honour had applause,
Each parent sprang.
And in a note to that epistle we are further informed, "that Mr. Pope's father was a gentleman of family in Oxfordshire, the head of which was the Earl of Downe, whose sole heiress married the Earl of Lindsay. His mother was the daughter of William Turnor, of York, &c." In reply to this, Warton tells us, that when Pope published this note, a relation of his own, a Mr. Pottinger, observed that his cousin, Pope, had made himself out a fine pedigree, but he wondered where he got it; that he had never heard anything himself of their being related to the Earls of Downe; and, what was more, he had an old maiden aunt, equally related, a great genealogist, who was always talking of her family, but never mentioned this circumstance, on which she certainly would not have been silent, had she known anything of it. That the Earl of Guildford had examined the pedigree and descents of the Downe family, for any such relationship; and that at the Heralds' Office, this pedigree, which Pope had made out for himself, was considered to be as much fabricated as Mr. Ireland's descent from Shakspeare.
This was one of Pope's weaknesses. No man did more than he did in his day, to free literature from the long degradation of servile, fulsome dependence on patrons. He created a property for himself by his own literary exertions, and set a splendid example to literary men of independence. He showed them, that they might be free, honourable, and even wealthy, by their own means. He had the pride to place himself on equal terms with lords, when they were intellectual, but he scorned to flatter them. It was a pride worthy of a literary man, and it was well that when he departed from this just feeling, and would fain set up a claim to rank with them on their own terms of family and descent — a proceeding which undermined his true and unassailable principle of the dignity of genius, — that he should receive a due reprimand from the hands of his enemies. The moment that he abandoned in any degree the patent of God, the long and luminous descent of genius from heaven, — a patent far above all other patents, a descent far higher than all other descents, — it was a fitting retribution, that the pigmies of the Dunciad should fling it in his face that his father was a mechanic, a hatter, or a cobbler, as it appears, from his reply to Lord Hervey and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, that they did; who themselves had thus addressed him in print:—
—None thy crabbed numbers can endure,
Hard as thy heart, and as thy birth obscure.
The simple fact was, that Pope's grandfather, the highest they could trace the family, was a clergyman in Hampshire. The second son was Alexander, the father of the poet. This Alexander was intended for mercantile offices, and was sent out to reside in a family in Lisbon, where he embraced catholicism, and transmitted that faith to his son. He afterwards settled in Lombard-street, in London, as a linen-merchant, where Pope was born; and, acquiring an independence, retired first to Kensington, and afterwards to Binfield, where he purchased a house, and about twenty acres of land. This was pedigree enough for a poet, who needs none. In a truer tone, he pronounces the genuine honours of both his parents and himself in these words;—"A mother, on whom I never was obliged so far to reflect as to say she spoiled me; and a father, who never found himself obliged to say that he disapproved my conduct. In a word, I think it enough that my parents, such as they were, never cost me a blush; and that their son, such as he is, never cost them a tear."
Improving on this in his prologue to his Satires, he disclaims any adventitious distinctions for his parents whatever, and draws a beautiful character of his father:—
Born to no pride, inheriting no strife,
Nor marrying discord in a noble wife;
Stranger to civil and religious rage,
The good man walked innoxious through his age;
No courts he saw, no suits would ever try,
Nor dared an oath, nor hazarded a lie.
Unlearned, he knew no schoolman's subtle art,
No language but the language of the heart;
By nature honest, by experience wise,
Healthy by temperance and by exercise;
His life, though long, to sickness passed unknown,
His death was instant, and without a groan.
From these parents, however, Pope inherited a feeble and crooked frame. This circumstance, added to his being the only child of his father, led to his domestic education and habits. When eight years old he was placed under the tuition of the family priest. From him he passed to the schools mentioned, and at the early age of twelve returned home. This, he says, was all the instruction he received, He continued, however, to educate himself; and as Milton had done in Buckinghamshire, so he at Binfield and in the shades of Windsor Forest, pursued steadily his studies, both of books and nature. One of his earliest favourite books was Homer; and at Twyford school he wrote a satire on the master, for which he was severely castigated. Both these facts indicated his future character and pursuits. At Binfield he not only went on strenuously with the study of Latin, Greek, and French, but he commenced author. At twelve, he wrote his Ode to Solitude; a subject with which his situation made him well acquainted. Pope was one of the very rare instances of a genius which was at once precocious and enduring. But the secret of this was, that he did not exhaust his young powers out of mere puerile vanity, but went on reading all the best authors, English, French, Italian, Greek, and Latin, and wrote rather to imitate and practise different styles. To his sedulous practice of all kinds of styles, as those of Spenser, Waller, Cowley, Rochester, Dorset, but especially Chaucer and Dryden, may be attributed that great mastery of language, and that exquisite harmony of versification, in which he has never yet been excelled.
A great advantage to him in these pursuits was the friendship of Sir William Trumbull, who was not only an excellent scholar, but a man of great taste, and had seen the world. Sir William had been ambassador to the Ottoman Porte, and afterwards one of the secretaries of William III; he had now retired to East Hamstead, his native place, near Binfield, where he soon found out the promise of Pope, and became his guide and friend so long as he lived. Sir William introduced him to Wycherly, then an old man; Wycherley introduced him to Walsh; and the literary connexions of the young poet spread so rapidly, that at seventeen he was an avowed poet, and frequented Will's coffee-house, which was on the north side of Russell-street, in Covent-garden, where the wits of the time used to assemble; and where Dryden had, when he lived, been accustomed to preside. But even while giving his evenings to society of the highest kind here, he was, during the day, pursuing his studies in town, and particularly prosecuting, under good masters, his knowledge of French and Italian. Neither, freely as he had written, had he rushed so very prematurely into print; it was not till 1709, when he was twenty-one, that he published his Pastorals, including some verses of Homer and Chaucer, in Jacob Tonson's Miscellany. This miscellany seemed to be the great periodical of the time; but the same year in which Pope's contributions appeared in it, brought forth the Tatler, which was succeeded by the Guardian and Spectator.
In 1711, Pope published his Essay on Criticism: this was soon followed by the Rape of the Lock; and Pope, still only twenty-three, was at once on the pinnacle of popularity. In 1715, or at the age of twenty-seven, he had already proceeded boldly with his grand enterprise, the translation of the Iliad of Homer, and had issued the first volume of it. This great work, however, had been preceded by the Windsor Forest, in 1712, and other detached poems, as his Ode on St. Cecilia's Day, in 1713; his Temple of Fame, in 1714; and his Key to the Lock, in 1715. Long before his Homer was out, he numbered amongst his acquaintance and friends every great and distinguished name of the time — Swift, Bolingbroke, Gay, Addison, Steele, Congreve, Mr. Secretary Craggs, Lord Halifax, Prior, Mallet, Arbuthnot, Parnell, Lord Oxford, Garth, Rowe, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, etc. All this Pope had accomplished by the age of twenty-seven, and while at Binfield. Binfield will, therefore, always remain a place of lively interest to the lovers of our national literature, and especially to the admirers of the polished, acute, logical, and moral intellect of Pope.
Binfield lies near Wokingham, and about two miles north of Caesar's camp, a pleasant village, surrounded with handsome houses, and in the midst of the tract called the Royal Hunt. The house in which Pope's father, and Pope too, resided, till he went to Twickenham, is a small neat brick house, on the side of the London road. Within about half a mile of this house, and within a retired part of the forest, on the edge of a common, is the spot where, it is said, Pope used to compose many of his verses; on a large tree are inscribed in capital letters the words, "Here Pope sung:" this sentence used to be annually refreshed at the expense of a lady of Wokingham. There used also to be a seat under this tree, but that has long disappeared; the fact is, however, that tradition likes to fix on some particular spot, and especially some tree, as a particular object of a poet's attachment; it is a palpable affair, and satisfies the ordinary mind: but Pope, no doubt, especially when planning and working out his poem of Windsor Forest, used to ramble all through these scenes, and they may all be considered as associated with his memory and genius.
Of the town life of Pope we find but few traces, considering the well-known times, and the personages amongst whom he moved. Where his settled lodgings were I find no exact mention; he was sometimes at friends' houses, or at that of Jervas, the painter, which was probably near St. James's Park; as when Mr. Blount writes to Pope, in 1716, endeavouring to persuade him to make a journey to the continent with him, he exhorts him to leave "laziness and the elms of St. James's Park." Now, this summer Jervas was on a visit to Swift in Ireland, and during his absence Pope made use of his house as his town sojourn; it was exactly at the crisis of Pope's removal from Binfield to Twickenham, and no doubt was a great convenience to him till his own house was fully ready for him. His description of this house, in a letter to Jervas, will be well remembered by the readers of his letters: — "As to your inquiry about your house, when I came within the walls, they put me in mind of those of Carthage, where you find, like the wandering Trojan — 'Animum pictura pascit inani;' for the spacious mansion, like a Turkish caravansera, entertains the vagabonds with bare lodgings. I rule the family very ill, keep bad hours, and lend out your pictures about the town. See what it is to have a poet in your house. Frank, indeed, does all he can in such circumstances; for, considering he has a wild beast in it, he constantly keeps the door chained: every time it is opened, the links rattle, the rusty hinges roar. The house seems so sensible that you are all its support, that it is ready to drop in your absence; but I still trust myself under its roof, as depending that Providence will preserve so many Raphaels, Titians, and Guidos as are lodged in your cabinet. Surely the sins of one poet can hardly be so heavy, as to bring an old house over the heads of so many painters. In a word, your house is falling; but what of that? I am only a lodger!"
This was mere pleasant badinage. During Jervas's absence Pope made a journey on horseback to Oxford, a place he was fond of visiting; and his account of his journey, and mode of passing his time there, given in a letter to Martha Blount, is a pleasant near peep into his life. "Nothing could have more of that melancholy which once used to please me than my last day's journey; for, after having passed through my favourite woods in the forest, with a thousand reveries of past pleasures, I rode over hanging hills, whose tops were edged with groves, and whose feet watered with winding rivers, listening to the falls of cataracts below, and the murmuring of the winds above. The gloomy verdure of Stonor succeeded to these, and then the shades of the evening overtook me: the moon rose in the clearest sky I ever saw, by whose solemn light I passed on slowly without company, or any interruption to the range of my thoughts. About a mile before I reached Oxford, all the bells rang out in different notes; the clocks of every college answered one another, and sounded forth, some in deeper, some in softer tones, that it was eleven at night. All this was no ill preparation to the life I have since led among these old walls, memorable galleries, stone porticos, students' walks, and solitary scenes of the University. I wanted nothing but a black gown and a salary to be as mere a bookworm as any there. I conformed myself to college hours, was rolled up in books, lay in the most dusky parts of the University, and was as dead to the world as any hermit of the desert. If anything was alive or awake in me it was a little vanity, such as even those good men used to entertain, when the monks of their own order extolled their piety and abstraction; for I found myself received with a sort of respect which the idle part of mankind, the learned, pay to their own species; who are as considerable here as the busy, the gay, and the ambitious are in your world. Indeed, I was treated in such a manner, that I could not but sometimes ask myself in my mind, what college I was founder of, or what library I had built. Methinks, I do very ill to return to the world again; to leave the only place where I make a figure; and from seeing myself seated with dignity in the most conspicuous shelves of a library, put myself into the abject posture of lying at a lady's feet in St. James's Square."
There is a good deal of the poetical and picturesque in this account, as in another, of a ride to Oxford about two years before, there is of the picturesque and ludicrous. Pope and his cotemporaries, Swift, Addison, and Steele, have made immortal the triad of great publishers of their day — Tonson, Lintot, and Curll. Curll issued to the light a stolen volume of Pope's letters, to the poet's astonishment; and, on Pope's very natural anger, with very bibliopolical coolness, replied that Mr. Pope ought to be very much obliged to him for making them known, for they did him so munch credit. Jacob Tonson was the John Murray of his day; he turned out the most splendid editions of standard works, and was moreover the secretary of the great political Whig, or Kit-cat club, of which the dukes of Somerset, Richmond, Grafton, Devonshire, and Marlborough; the earls of Dorset, Sunderland, Manchester, Wharton, and Kingston; lords Halifax and Somers; Sir Richard Steele, Addison, Congreve, Garth, Mainwaring, Pulteney, and many other distinguished men, were members. These, such was the munificence of the great bibliopole, he employed Sir Godfrey Kneller to paint for him, of a size to admit of representing the heads, and which has since been called the kit-cat size. Munificent, however, as he was, Lintot soon out-bid him for Pope's Homer, and made his fortune by it.
Of Lintot's active schemes to turn a penny, the ride just mentioned to Oxford affords a curious example. Pope had borrowed a horse of Lord Burlington, and set out alone. He had most likely mentioned his going in Lintot's shop, for he had but just entered Windsor Forest, when who should come trotting up behind at a smart rate but Bernard Lintot. Pope had an instant feeling of Lintot's design, and in a letter to Lord Burlington gave a humorous and characteristic account of the singular conversation which took place between them. Pope had observed that Lintot, who was more accustomed to get astride of authors than of horses, sat uneasily in his saddle, for which he expressed some solicitude, when Lintot proposed that, as they had the day before them, it would be pleasant to sit awhile under the woods. When they had alighted, "See here," said Lintot, "what a mighty pretty Horace I have in my pocket! What if you amused yourself in turning an ode till we mount again? Lord! if you pleased, what a clever miscellany you might make at leisure hours." "Perhaps I may," said Pope, "if we ride on; the motion is an aid to my fancy; a round trot very much awakens my spirits; then jog on apace, and I'll think as hard as I can." Silence ensued for a full hour, after which Lintot stopped short, and broke out — "Well, sir, how far have you gone?" — "Seven miles," answered Pope. "Zounds! sir," exclaimed Lintot, "I thought you had done seven stanzas. Oldsworth in a ramble round Wimbledon Hill would translate a whole ode in this time. I'll say that for Oldsworth, though I lost by his Timothys, he translates an ode of Horace the quickest of any man in England. I remember Dr. King would write verses in a tavern, three hours after he could not speak; and there is Sir Richard, in that rumbling old chariot of his, between Fleet-street and St. Giles's Pound, shall make you half a Job." Pope jogged on to Oxford, and dropped Lintot as soon as he could.
We may imagine Pope, during his occasional visits to London, looking in at Lintot's to see what was coming out new, or spending a morning with Swift at his lodgings; with Bolingbroke; or with Gay, at the Duke of Queensbury's; with Lord Burlington, or Lord Halifax; and in the evening meeting in full conclave all the wits and philosophers of the time, at Will's coffee-house, or at Button's, to which the company which used to meet at Will's had been transferred by the influence of Addison. This was also called the Hanover club, because the members adhered to the Whig principles and the house of Hanover. But Pope was equally welcome at the Tory club, which had been constituted by his great friends, Bolingbroke and Harley, on the downfal of the Whigs at the peace of Utrecht, in opposition to the Kit-cat club, and where these noblemen, their great champion Swift, Sir William Wyndham, Lord Bathurst, Dr. Arbuthnot, and other men of note of that party assembled. This was called the October club, from the month in which the great alteration in the ministry took place. Later, when the dissensions arose between Harley and Bolingbroke, a more exclusively literary club was formed, of which Swift, Gay, Parnell, and Arbuthnot were members. This was the Scriblerus club, amidst whose convivialities originated the History of Martinus Scriblerus; the Discourse on the Bathos, and Gulliver's Travels.
At all these places, Pope, who having friends of all parties would not commit himself to any political party, was always welcome, though the casual influence of party did not fail to take its effect, and do the work of estrangement amongst many of the leading spirits of the time. Pope always professed to hold Whig principles, but in fact there was little distinction of political principle at that period, the chief difference was the difference of mere party. To the nation and its interests it was of little consequence what leader was in power.
Amid all the convivialities, the excitements of wine, wit, and conversation, which so many meetings of celebrated men opened to Pope, he began to find himself growing dissipated, and his health suffering. His wise old friend, Sir William Trumbull, warned him of his danger with an affectionate earnestness, and it is supposed with due effect. "I now come," said he, "to what is of vast moment, I mean the preservation of your health, and beg of you earnestly to get out of all tavern company, and fly away "tanquam ex incendio." What a misery it is for you to be destroyed by the foolish kindness — it is all one, real or pretended — of those who are able to bear the poison of bad wine, and to engage you in so unequal a combat. As to Homer, by all I can learn, your business is done; therefore come away, and take a little time to breathe in the country. I beg now for my own sake, and much more for yours. Methinks Mr. — has said to you more than once — "Hue! fuge, nati dea, teque his, ait, eripe flammis." Pope felt the justice of this call, and obeyed. It was not, however, without a lingering and reverted look, as a letter of his to Jervas testifies. "I cannot express how I long to renew our old intercourse and conversation; our morning conference in bed in the same room, our evening walks in the Park, our amusing voyages on the water, our philosophical suppers, our lectures, our dissertations, our gravities, our fooleries, or what not."
It appears that not merely Jervas, Parnell, Garth, Rowe, and others of like respectable character, were his companions in the amusements referred to, but that unfortunately for him he had fallen into the company of the dissolute Earl of Warwick, Addison's son-in-law, and of Colley Cibber; who, availing themselves of his vivacity, laid a deliberate plan to engage him in an affair derogatory to his reputation. But he cut wisely these connexions, and London, with a valediction to be found in his verses written in the character of a philosophical rake:—
Dear, damned, distracting town, farewell;
Thy fools no more I'll tease, &c.
To drink and droll be Rowe allowed
Till the third watchman toll;
Let Jervas gratis paint, and Froude
Save threepence and his soul.
Farewell Arbuthnot's raillery
On every learned sot;
And Garth, the best good Christian he,
Although he knows it not.
Lintot, farewell! thy bard must go:
Farewell, unhappy Tonson!
Heaven gives thee for thy loss of Rowe,
Lean Philips and fat Johnson.
Why should I stay? both parties rage;
My vixen mistress squalls;
The wits in envious feuds engage,
And Homer — damn him — calls.
Here, then, ends Pope's town life, or that part of his life when he gave himself most up to it. We now accompany him to his new and his last residence, his beloved Twickenham, or Twitenham, as he used to write it.
It seems that Pope did not purchase the freehold of the house and grounds at Twickenham, but only a long lease. He took his father and mother along with him. His father died there the year after, but his mother continued to live till 1733, when she died at the great age of ninety-three. For twenty years she had the singular satisfaction of seeing her son the first poet of his age; caressed by the greatest men of the time, courted by princes, and feared by all the base. No parents ever found a more tender and dutiful son. With him they shared in honour the ease and distinction he had acquired. They were the cherished objects of his home. Swift paid him no false compliment when he said, in condoling with him on his mother's death, — "You are the most dutiful son I have ever known or heard of, which is a felicity not happening to one in a million."
The property at Twickenham is properly described by Roscoe, as lying on both sides of the highway, rendering it necessary for him to cross the road to arrive at the higher and more ornamental part of his gardens. In order to obviate this inconvenience, he had recourse to the expedient of excavating a passage under the road from one part of his grounds to the other, a fact to which he alludes in these lines:—
Know all the toil the heavy world can heap
Rolls o'er my grotto, nor disturbs my sleep.
The lower part of these grounds, in which his house stood, constituted, in fact, only the sloping hank of the river, by much the smaller portion of his territory. The passage, therefore, was very necessary to that far greater part, which was his wilderness, shrubbery, forest, and everything, where he chiefly planted and worked. This passage he formed into a grotto, having a front of rude stone-work opposite to the river, and decorated within with spars, ores, and shells. Of this place he has himself left this description.
"I have put the last hand to my works of this kind, in happily finishing the subterranean way and grotto. I found there a spring of the clearest water, which falls in a perpetual rill, that echoes through the cavern night and day. From the river Thames you see through my arch, up a walk of the wilderness, to a kind of open temple wholly composed of shells in the rustic manner; and from that distance under the temple, you look down through a sloping arcade of trees, and see the sails on the river passing suddenly and vanishing, as through a perspective glass. When you shut the door of this grotto, it becomes on the instant, from a luminous room, a camera obscura, on the walls of which all the objects of the river, hills, woods, and boats, are forming a moving picture, in their visible radiations; and when you have a mind to light it less, it affords you a very different scene. It is finished with shells, interspersed with looking-glass in regular forms, and in the ceiling is a star of the same material, at which when a lamp of an orbicular figure of thin alabaster is hung in the middle, a thousand pointed rays glitter, and are reflected over the place. There are connected to this grotto, by a narrow passage, two porches, one towards the river, of smooth stones, full of light and open; the other towards the garden, shadowed with trees, rough with shells, flints, and iron ore. The bottom is paved with simple pebbles, as is also the adjoining walk up the wilderness to the temple, in the natural taste, agreeing not ill with the little dripping murmur, and the aquatic idea of the whole place. It wants nothing to complete it but a good statue with an inscription, like that beautiful antique one which you know I am so fond of. You will think I have been very poetical in this description; but it is pretty near the truth."
To this prose description Pope added this one in verse
Thou who shalt stop, where Thames' translucent wave
Shines a broad mirror through the shadowy cave;
Where lingering drops from mineral roofs distil,
And pointed crystals break the sparkling rill;
Unpolished gems no ray on pride bestow,
And latent metals innocently glow;
Approach great Nature studiously behold,
And eye the mine without a wish for gold.
Approach; but awful! Lo! the Egerian grot,
Where, nobly pensive, St. John sat and thought;
Where British sighs from dying Wyndham stole,
And the bright flame was shot through Marchmont's soul.
Let such, such only, tread this sacred floor,
Who dare to love their country, and be poor.
But it was not merely in forming this grotto that Pope employed himself; it was in building and extending his house, which was in a Roman style, with columns, arcades, and porticos. The designs and elevations of these buildings may be seen by his own hand in the British Museum, drawn in his usual way on backs of letters. The following passage, in a letter to Mr. Digby, will he sufficient to give us his idea of both his Thamesward garden and his house in a summer view: — "No ideas you could form in the winter could make you imagine what Twickenham is in this warm summer. Our river glitters beneath the unclouded sun, at the same time that its banks retain the verdure of showers; our gardens are offering their first nosegays; our trees, like new acquaintance brought happily together, are stretching their arms to meet each other, and growing nearer and nearer every hour. The birds are paying their thanksgiving songs for the new habitations I have made them. My building rises high enough to attract the eye and curiosity of the passenger from the river, where, upon beholding a mixture of beauty and ruin, he inquires, What house is falling, or what church is rising? So little taste have our common Tritons for Vitruvius; whatever delight the poetical gods of the river may take in reflecting on their streams, my Tuscan porticos, or Ionic pilasters."
Pope's architecture, like his poetry, has been the subject of much and vehement dispute. On the one hand, his grottos and his buildings have been vituperated as most tasteless and childish; on the other, applauded as beautiful and romantic. Into neither of these disputes need we enter. In both poetry and architecture a bolder spirit and a better taste have prevailed since Pope's time. With all his foibles and defects, Pope was a great poet of the critical and didactic kind, and his house and place had their peculiar beauties. He was himself half inclined to suspect the correctness of his fancy in such matters, and often rallies himself on his gimcracks and crotchets in both verse and prose. Thus, in his first epistle of his first book of Horace, addressed to Bolingbroke:—
But when no prelate's lawn with haircloth lined
Is half so incoherent as my mind;
When — each opinion with the next at strife,
An ebb and flow of follies all my life—
I plant, root up; I build, and then confound;
Turn round to square, and square again to round;
You never change one muscle of your face;
You think this madness but a common case.
Pope's building madness, however, had method in it. Unlike the great romancer and builder of our time, he never allowed such things to bring him into debt. He kept his mind at ease by such prudence; and soothed and animated it under circumstances of continued evil, by working amongst his trees and grottos and vines, and at his labours of poetry and translation. At the period succeeding the rebellion of 1715, when that event had implicated and scattered so many of his highest and most powerful friends, here he was labouring away at his Homer with a progress which astonished every one. Removed at once from the dissipations and distractions of London, and from the agreeable interruptions of such society, he found leisure and health enough here to give him vigour for exertions astonishing for so weak a frame. The tastes he indulged here, if they were not faultless according to our notions, were healthy and they endured. To the end of his life he preserved his strong attachment to his house and grounds. In 1736, writing to Swift, he says: — "I wish you had any motive to see this kingdom. I could keep you, for I am rich; that is, I have more room than I want. I can afford room for myself and two servants. I have indeed room enough; nothing but myself at home. The kind and hearty housewife is dead! The agreeable and instructive neighbour is gone! Yet my house is enlarged, and the gardens extend and flourish, as knowing nothing of the guests they have lost. I have more fruit trees and kitchen garden than you have any thought of, nay, I have melons and pine-apples of my own growth. I am as much a better gardener, as I am a worse poet, than when you saw me; but gardening is more akin to philosophy, for Tully says, 'Agricultura proxima sapientiae.'" And towards the end of the same year he says, in a letter to Ralph Allen, — "I am now as busy planting for myself as I was lately in planting for another; and I thank God for every wet day and for every fog that gives me the head-ache, but prospers my works. They will indeed outlive me, but I am pleased to think my trees will afford fruit and shade to others, when I shall want them no more. And it is no sort of grief to me that those others will not be things of my own poor body; but it is enough that they are creatures of the same species, and made by the same hand that made me."
In 1743, the last year of his life, he was still inspired by the same tastes, and occupied in the same pursuits. "I have lived," says he, March 24th, 1743, "much by myself of late, partly through ill health, and partly to amuse myself with little improvements in my gardens and house, to which, possibly, I shall, if I live, be much more confined."
Of the mode of Pope's life here we have, from the letters of himself and his friends, a pretty tolerable notion. He was near enough town to make occasional visits to it, and his friends there near enough to visit him. His friends and acquaintances were every, distinguished man and woman of the time, whether literary characters or statesmen. The greater part of them may be set down as his guests here, at one period or another. He delighted to have his most intimate friends near him, and some one or more of them with him. Bishops Atterbury and Warburton, the Duke and Duchess of Queensbury, Gay's great patrons; Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, Lady Suffolk, Lord and Lady Hervey, Lords Bathurst, Halifax, Oxford, Bolingbroke, Burlington, Lady Scudamore, the Countess of Winchilsea, Lord Chancellor Harcourt, and his son Sir Simon Harcourt, the Duke of Chandos, Lords Carlton, Peterborough, and Lansdowne, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Addison, Steele, Swift, Parnell, Gay, Rowe, and all the literary men of the age. What an array of those who wrote, and of those who admired letters, were the, frequenters of Twickenham. In fact, in a letter to Swift, in 1736, Pope says, "I was the other day recollecting twenty-seven great ministers, or men of wit and learning, who are all dead, and all of my acquaintance within twenty years past."
But Pope loved to get those he most delighted to converse with, to reside near him. Bolingbroke settled at Dawley, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu at Twickenham itself. The latter remarkable woman was a little too near. All the world is familiar with Pope's intense admiration of her, his having her picture drawn by Sir Godfrey Kneller, to gaze on every day, his worship of her, and their quarrel, which knew no reconciliation.
But Pope's attachments were, for the most part, strong and enduring. Except in the case of the flattered, spoiled, and satirical Lady Mary, there is scarcely a friend of Pope's who was not a friend for life. With the Blounts, the Allens, "And honest, hatless Cromwell, with red breeches," — people who could confer no distinction, but had qualities worth loving, he maintained the most steady friendship to the last. On Martha Blount, the woman who above all others he most loved, he has conferred an immortality as enduring as his own.
But his three most intimate friends, after all, were Swift, Bolingbroke, and Gay. These congenial souls were here much, often, and for long times together. With Pope they not only entered into literary plans, read together, wrote together, and joked and feasted together, but with him they worked at his grotto and in his garden. They helped him to construct his quincunx; to plant, to sort spars and stones, and to fix them in the wall. Lord Peterborough, who had run so victorious a career in Spain, did not disdain to lay on a helping hand.
He whose lightnings pierced the Iberian lines,
Now forms my quincunx and now ranks my vines.
Even the querulous dean, even the proud Bolingbroke, as well as the easy and good-humoured Gay, zealously partook of the rural as well as the philosophical labours of Pope at Twickenham. Swift made two extraordinarily long sojourns here, one of five months; and though he took an abrupt leave at length, it was not, as Johnson would biliously represent it, because they could not live together, or had abated their mutual regard, but because they were both completely out of health, and the dean especially, afflicted with the nervous irritability which proved the forerunner of insanity. It was necessary for him to get home, where he could as little bear any society, in that morbid condition. Gay dead, Bolingbroke obliged to live abroad, Swift sunk into a hypochondriac, the latter end of Pope's life was melancholy, and Twickenham a comparative solitude. He had, however, the cordially cheering attentions of Martha Blount; and Warburton, whose advancement in the church was the work of his friendship, came in to supply the places of the old companions gone.
Such was the home of Pope: there is still another portion of his life of which we get most picturesque glimpses, I mean into his haunts. Occasionally we find him at Bath for his health, but more frequently making a summer sojourn of a few weeks or months at the houses of some of his friends in the country. At one time he is at Dawley, with Bolingbroke, where they are lying and reading between two haycocks; at another at Prior Park, near Bath, at the Allens', where an odd kind of stiffness grew up between the Allens and Miss Blount and himself, that was never cleared up, but blew away, and left them as good friends as before. Then he is at Oakley Bower, Lord Bathurst's seat at Cirencester. In 1716, he writes to Martha and Teresa Blount — that was in his young and Homeric days — "I am with Lord Bathurst at my bower, in whose groves we had yesterday a dry walk of three hours. It is the place that of all others I fancy, and I am not yet out of humour with it, though I have had it some months; it does not cease to be agreeable to me so late in the season (October); the very dying of the leaves adds a variety of colours that is not unpleasant. I look upon it as upon a beauty I once loved, whom I should preserve a respect for in her decay; and as we should look upon a friend, with remembrance how he pleased us once, though now declined from his gay and flourishing condition.
"I write an hour or two every morning, then ride out a hunting upon the downs, eat heartily, talk tender sentiments with Lord B., or draw plans for houses and gardens, open avenues, cut glades, plant firs, contrive water-works, all very fine and beautiful in our own imagination. At night we play at commerce, and play pretty high. I do more. I bet too; for I am really rich, and must throw away my money, if no deserving friend will use it. I like this course of life so well, that I am resolved to stay here till I hear of somebody's being in town that is worth coming after."
In another letter to these sisters, he gives us a curious peep at court life. "First, then, I went by water to Hampton Court, unattended by all but by my own virtues, which were not of so modest a nature as to keep themselves or me concealed; for I met the prince with all his ladies on horseback, coming from hunting. Mrs. B— and Mrs. L—" (Mary Bellenden and Mary Lepell, maids of honour to the queen) "took me into protection, contrary to the laws against harbouring papists, and gave me a dinner, with something I liked better, an opportunity of conversing with Mrs. H—" (Mrs. Howard, afterwards Countess of Suffolk.) "We all agreed that the life of a maid of honour was of all things the most miserable; and wished that every woman that envied it, had a specimen of it. To eat Westphalia ham in a morning, ride over hedges and ditches on borrowed hacks, come home in the heat of the day with a fever, and — what is worse a hundred times — with a red mark in the forehead from an uneasy hat: all this may qualify them to make excellent wives for fox-hunters, and bear abundance of ruddy-complexioned children. As soon as they can wipe off the sweat of the day, they must simper an hour, and catch cold in the princess's apartment; from thence, as Shakspeare has it, — 'to dinner, with what appetite they may;' — and after that, till midnight, walk, work, or think, which they please. I can easily believe no lone house in Wales, with a mountain and a rookery, is more contemplative than this court; and, as a proof of it, I need only tell you, Mrs. L— (Mary Lepell) walked with me three or four hours by moonlight, and we met no creature of any quality but the king, who gave audience to the vice-chamberlain, all alone, under the garden wall.
"In short, I heard of no ball, assembly, basset-table, or any place where two or three were gathered together, except Madam Kilmansegg's, to which I had the honour to be invited, and the grace to stay away.
"I was heartily tired, and posted to — park, (q. Bushy?) there we had an excellent discourse of quackery; Dr. S— was mentioned with honour. Lady — walked a whole hour abroad without dying after it, at least in the time I staid, though she seemed to be fainting, and had convulsive motions several times in her head. I arrived in the forest by Tuesday at noon."
At another time we find him at Orchard Wyndham, the seat of Sir William Wyndham, in Somersetshire. "The reception we met with," says he, " and the little excursions we made, were every way agreeable. I think the country abounds with beautiful prospects Sir William Wyndham is at present amusing himself with some real improvements, and a great many visionary castles. We are often entertained with sea-views, and sea-fish; and were at some places in the neighbourhood, amongst which I was mightily pleased with Dunster Castle, near Minehead. It stands upon a great eminence, and hath a prospect of that town, with an extensive view of the Bristol Channel, in which are seen two small islands called the Steep Holms and Flat Holms, and on the other side we could plainly distinguish the divisions of the fields on the Welsh coast. All this journey I performed on horseback." To how many readers will this fine scene here mentioned be familiar!
But another visit of Pope's, to Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire, an old mansion of Lord Harcourt's, who lent it to him for the summer, has furnished us with a description which, though somewhat long, we must take in full. So much delighted was pope with it, that he has described it twice; once to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and once to the Duke of Buckingham. The following account is made complete by a careful comparison of both these letters; but may be supposed to be addressed to Lady Mary.
"I am fourscore miles from London; and the place is such as I would not, quit for the town, if I did not value you more than, nay, everybody else there; and you will be convinced how little the town has engaged my affections in your absence from it, when you know what a place this is which I prefer to it. I shall therefore describe it to you at large, as the true picture of a genuine ancient country seat.
"You must expect nothing regular in my description of a house which seems to be built before rules were in fashion. The whole is so disjointed, and the parts so detached from each other, and yet so joining again, one cannot tell how, that in a poetical fit, you could imagine it had been a village in Amphion's time, when twenty cottages had taken a dance together, were all out, and stood still in amazement ever since.
"You must excuse me if I say nothing of the front; indeed I do not know which it is. A stranger would be grievously disappointed who should think to get into this house the right way. One would reasonably expect, after the entry through the porch, to be let into the hail: but alas! nothing less! you find yourself in a brewhouse. From the parlour you think to step into the drawing room, but, upon opening the iron-nailed door, you are convinced, by a flight of birds about your ears, and a cloud of dust in your eyes, that it is the pigeon-house. On each side of our porch are two chimneys, that wear their greens on the outside, which would do as well within; for whenever we make a fire we let the smoke out of the windows. Over the parlour window hangs a sloping balcony, which time has turned to a very convenient penthouse. The top is crowned with a very venerable tower, so like that of the church just by, that the jackdaws build in it as if it were the true steeple.
"The great hall is high and spacious, flanked on one side with a very long table, a true image of ancient hospitality. The walls are all over ornamented with monstrous horns of animals, about twenty broken pikes, ten or a dozen blunderbusses, and a rusty matchlock musquet or two, which we were informed had served in the civil wars. There is one vast arched window, beautifully darkened with divers scutcheons of painted glass. There seems to be a great propriety in this old manner of blazoning upon glass, ancient families, like ancient windows, in the course of generations being seldom free from cracks. One shining pane, in particular, bears date 1286, which alone preserves the memory of a knight whose iron armour has long since perished with rust, and whose alabaster nose has mouldered from his monument. The youthful face of Dame Elinor, in another piece, owes more to that single pane than to all the glasses she ever consulted in her life. Who can say, after this, that glass is frail, when it is not half so perishable as human beauty or glory? And yet I cannot but sigh to think that the most authentic record of so ancient a family should be at the mercy of every boy who flings a stone! In this hall, in former days, have dined gartered knights and courtly dames, with ushers, sewers, and seneschals, and yet it was but the other night that an owl flew in hither, and mistook it for a barn.
"This hall lets you, up and down over a very high threshold, into the great parlour. It is furnished with historical tapestry, whose marginal fringes do confess the moisture of the air. The other contents of this room are a broken-bellied virginal, a couple of crippled velvet chairs, with two or three mouldered pictures of mouldy ancestors, who look as dismally as if they came fresh from hell with all their brimstone about them. These are carefully set at the further corner, for the windows being everywhere broken, make it so convenient a place to dry poppies and mustard seed in, that the room is appropriated to that purpose.
"Next to this parlour lies, as I said before, the pigeon-house; by the side of which runs an entry that leads, on one hand and on the other, into a bed-chamber, a buttery, and a small hole called the chaplain's study. Then follow the brewhouse, a little green and gilt parlour, and the great stairs, under which is the dairy. A little further on the right, the servants' hall; and, by the side of it, up six steps, the old lady's closet for her private devotions, which has a lattice into the said hall, that, while she said her prayers, she might cast an eye on the men and maids. There are, upon the ground floor, in all twenty-six apartments, hard to be distinguished by particular names; amongst which I must not forget a chamber that has in it a huge antiquity of timber, which seems to have been either a bedstead or a cyder-press.
"The kitchen is built in form of the Rotunda, being one vast vault to the top of the house, where one aperture serves to let out the smoke and let in light. By the blackness of the walls, the circular fires, vast cauldrons, yawning mouths of ovens and furnaces, you would think it either the forge of Vulcan, the cave of Polyphemus, or the temple of Moloch. The horror of this place has made such an impression on the country people, that they believe the witches keep their sabbath here, and that once a year the devil treats them with infernal venison, a roasted tiger stuffed with tenpenny nails.
"Above stairs we have a number of rooms: you never pass out of one into another but by the ascent and descent of two or three stairs. Our best room is very long and low, of the exact proportions of a bandbox. In most of these rooms there are hangings of the finest work in the world, that is to say, those which Arachne spins from her own bowels. Were it not for this only furniture, the whole would be a miserable scene of naked walls, flawed ceilings, broken windows, and rusty locks. Its roof is so decayed, that after a favourable shower we may, with God's blessing, expect a crop of mushrooms between the chinks of the floors.
"All the doors are as little and low as those to the cabins of packet-boats; and the rooms have, for many years, had no other inhabitants than certain rats, whose very age renders them worthy of this venerable mansion, for the very rats of this ancient seat are grey. Since these have not yet quitted it, we hope at least that this house may stand during the small remnant of days these poor animals have to live, who are too infirm to remove to another. They have still a small subsistence left them, in the few remaining books of the library.
"We had never seen half what I have described, but for an old, starched, grey-headed steward, who is as much an antiquity as any in the place, and looks like an old family picture walked out of its frame. He failed not, as we passed from room to room, to entertain us with several relations of the family; but his observations were particularly curious when he came to the cellar. He showed where stood the triple rows of butts of sack, and where now ranged the bottles of tent for toasts in a morning. He pointed to the stands that supported the iron-hooped hogsheads of strong beer: then, stepping to a corner, he lugged out the tattered fragments of an unframed picture. 'This,' says he, with tears in his eyes, 'was poor Sir Thomas, once master of all this drink. He had two sons, poor young masters! who never arrived to the age of this beer; they both fell ill in this very cellar, and never went out upon their own legs.' He could not pass by a heap of broken bottles without taking up a piece, to show us the arms of the family upon it. He then led us up the tower by dark, winding, stone steps, which landed us into several little rooms, one above another. One of these was nailed up; and our guide whispered to us a secret occasion of it. It seems the course of this noble blood was a little interrupted, about two centuries ago, by a freak of the Lady Frances with a neighbouring priest; since which the room has been nailed up and branded as the Adultery Chamber. The ghost of Lady Frances is supposed to walk there, and some prying maids of the family report that they have seen a lady in a farthingale through the keyhole; but this matter is hushed up, and the servants are forbid to talk of it.
"I must needs have tired you by this long description; but what engaged me in it was, a generous principle to preserve the memory of that which must itself soon fall into dust; nay, perhaps, part of it, before this letter reaches your hands. Indeed I owe this old house the same gratitude that we do to an old friend, who harbours us in his declining condition, — nay, even in his last extremities. I have found this an excellent place for retirement and study, where no one who passes by can dream there is one inhabitant; and even any body that could visit me does not venture under my roof. You will not wonder that I have translated a great deal of Homer in this retreat; any one that sees it will own that I could not have chosen a fitter or more likely place to converse with the dead."
No one, after reading this, can doubt that Pope possessed that rare talent of painting in words which Thomson called so truly "the portrait painting of Nature," and which, in a letter to Doddington, from Italy, he justly laments as so rare a faculty. "There are scarcely any to be met with who have given a landscape of the country through which they travelled, — seen thus with the mind's eye; though that is the first thing which strikes, and what all readers of travels demand." "We must lament," says Warton, "that we have no more letters of Bishop Berkeley, who, we see by this before us (from Naples), possessed the uncommon talent of describing places in the most lively and graphical manner, a talent in which he has only been equalled or excelled by Gray, in many of those lively and interesting letters published by Mason; those especially written during his travels." The want continues to the present hour; the want of the art of bringing the things you speak of livingly before the reader. It is this want, which can only be supplied by the same principles of study in the writer as in the painter, which first suggested to me the necessity of "Visits to Remarkable Places." No one could have made such visits more effectual than Pope. This is a merit for which he yet has received little or no praise; and yet no talent is rarer, and few more delightful. In his letters, especially those addressed to his two lovely, charming, and life-long friends, Martha and Teresa Blount, such living portraitures of places abound. His description of Sir Walter Raleigh's old mansion and gardens at Sherbourne is a masterpiece of the kind. You are now at Letcombe, in Berkshire, with Swift, where the author of Gulliver used to run up a hull every morning before breakfast; now at Bevis Mount, near Southampton, with his friend Lord Peterborough, the conqueror of Spain and in his journeys to Bath or to Lord Cobham's at Stowe, you peep in at a number of country houses, and rich peeps they are. Bath and London society is sketched with great vivacity and gusto; but such sketches are more common than these peeps into aristocratic country life. Thus you have him rolling along slowly from Cobham towards Bath, drawn by the very horse on which Lord Derwentwater rode in the Rebellion, but then employed by Lord Cobham in rolling the garden. He looks in at Lord Deloraine's on the Downs. He lies one night at Rowsham, the seat of Colonel Cotterell, near Oxford; "the prettiest place for waterfalls, jets, ponds enclosed with beautiful scenes of green and hanging wood, ever seen." Then at Mr. Howe's in Gloucester-Shire, "as fine a thing of another kind; where Nature has done everything, and luckily, for the master has ten children." Then he calls at Sir William Codrington's, at Durhams, eight miles from Bath, where he thus describes his entertainment: — "My reception there will be matter for a letter to Mr. Bethel. It was perfectly in his spirit. All his sisters, in the first place, insisted that I should take physic preparatory to the waters, and truly I made use of the time, place, and persons to that end. My Lady Cox, the first night I lay there, mixed my electuary; Lady Codrington pounded sulphur; Mrs. Bridget Bethel ordered broth; Lady Ccx mounted first up stairs with the physic in a gallipot; Lady Codrington next, with the vial of oil; Mrs. Bridget third with pills; the fourth sister with spoons and tea-cups. It would have rejoiced the ghost of Dr. Woodward to have beheld this procession." But two years before his death, he was again at Stowe, when he says, "All the mornings we breakfast and dispute; after dinner and at night, music and harmony; in the garden fishing; no politics, and no cards, nor novel reading. This agrees exactly with me, for the want of cards sends us early to bed."
This was the way he describes spending the latter part of his life: — "Lord Bathurst is still my constant friend, but his country seat is now always in Gloucestershire, not in this neighbourhood. Mr. Pulteney has no country seat; and in town I see him seldom. In the summer, I generally ramble for a month to Lord Cobham's, or to Bath, or elsewhere."
Such were the homes and haunts of Pope. In his life one thing is very striking. How much the literary men of the time and the nobility associated, — how little they do now. Are our nobility grown less literary, or our authors less aristocratic? It may be said that authors now are more independent, and cannot flatter aristocracy. But no man was more independent, and proud of his independence, than Pope. But I leave this question to wind up this article with a glance at Twickenham as it is.
Pope was anxious that some of his friends should have the lease of his house and grounds, and prevent their being pulled to pieces; but it was never done. Since his day they have gone through various hands. His house has long been pulled down; his willow has fallen down in utter decay; his quincunx has been destroyed. Two new tenements, having the appearance of one house, with a portico opening into the highway, have for some years been built at the farther extremity of Pope's grounds next to the Thames. The house itself was stripped, immediately after his death, of all mementos of him by the operation of his own will. To Lord Bolingbroke he left his own copy of his Translation of Homer, and his other works. To Lord Marchmont, other books, with the portrait of Bolingbroke by Richardson. To Lord Bathurst, the three statues of the Hercules of Farnese, the Venus de Medici, and the Apollo in chiaro oscuro, by Kneller. To Mr. Murray, the marble head of Homer, by Bernini; and Sir Isaac Newton, by Guelfi. To Dr. Arbuthnot, another picture of Bolingbroke. He left to Lord Littleton the busts in marble of Shakspeare, Spenser, and Milton, presented to him by the Prince of Wales. His library went amongst his friends; the pictures of his mother, father, and aunts, to his sister-in-law, Mrs. Rackett. Of that of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, by Kneller, there is no mention; but all the furniture of his grotto, with the urns for his garden, given by the Prince of Wales, he left to Martha Blount. Thus flew abroad those precious relics, then; and what changes in the place itself! A new house is at this moment arising on a part of the Thames bank: so that there are actually three tenements on the spot, and it is cut up and divided accordingly. With all this havoc there are still, however, more traces of Pope left than might have been expected. The Thames is there, — nothing can remove or cut up that. The scene across the river is woody, rich, and agreeable as ever. The sloping bank from the road to the river, once Pope's garden, is a pretty garden still. There is even at the end nearest to London a conservatory still standing, which has all the characteristics of another age, and probably was Pope's. It has Tuscan columns, and large panes of glass fit for sash windows. But a fine fantastic sort of Swiss villa is rapidly rising, called by the people about Elizabethan. It has deep, depending eaves, full of wooden ornament, and a lofty tower. It is the property of a Mr. Young, a wholesale tea-dealer. Around were lying heaps of lime and other building materials, when I visited it a few weeks ago, and troops of work-people were busily employed where the lords, ladies, and literati of George II.'s reign resorted.
The subterranean passage, or grotto, still runs under the road, spite of Bowles telling us that all these things were pulled down and done away with. It is secured by iron gates at each end, and far more of the original spar and shell-work remains than you could have believed. Near the opening facing the Thames, under some ivied rock-work, stands the figure of a nun in stone, which no doubt has been placed there by some occupant subsequent to Pope.
On the opposite side of the road, there is a field of some half-dozen acres, still bearing traces of its former character. This was Pope's larger garden and wilderness, where he used to plant and replant, contrive and recontrive, pull down and build up, to his heart's content. Around it still are traces of shrubberies, and over all are scattered many of those trees, which upwards of a hundred years ago, Pope said he was busy planting for posterity. They are now stupendous in size — Spanish chesnuts, elms, and cedars. No doubt many of them have been felled, but what remain are lofty and magnificent trees. The walks and shrubberies are to a great extent annihilated; the centre of the field was planted with potatoes. In the midst of a clump of old laurels, near the road, there is a remains of a large tree, hewn out into the shape of a seat, not unlike a watchman's box, which is said to have been Pope's, but is doubtful. At the top of the grounds is another grotto, that which was erected by Sir William Stanhope, who purchased the estate, or the lease of it, at Pope's death. This grotto seems to have formed the passage to still further grounds; for we are informed that Sir William Stanhope, not only built two wings to Pope's house, but extended his grounds. There was placed over the entrance of this grotto a bust of Pope in white marble, and on a white marble slab the following inscription:—
The humble roof, the garden's scanty line;
Ill spoke the genius of a bard divine:
But fancy now displays a fairer scope,
And Stanhope's plans unfold the soul of Pope. — Clare.
These vaunting lines, which represent the addition of another grotto and another field as unfolding the soul of Pope, and Sir William Stanhope as somebody capable of far greater things than the poet himself; still remain, the monument of the writer's and the erector's folly. The bust, of course, is gone. The grotto is lined with spars; pieces of basalt, perhaps the very joints of the Giant's Causeway sent to Pope by Sir Hans Sloane in 1742, but two years before Pope's death; some huge pieces of glazed and striped jars of pottery; and masses of stalactites and of stone worn by the action of the waters, evidently brought from some cavernous shore, or bed of a torrent, perhaps from a great distance, and no doubt at a great expense. As this, however, was the work of Sir William Stanhope, and not of Pope, the whole possesses little interest. Every trace of the temple of which Pope speaks, as being in full view from his grotto, is annihilated; and if the small obelisk, having a funeral urn on each side, said to have been placed in a retired part of the grounds, remain, it escaped my observation. It had this inscription in memory of his mother,—
Lord Mendip, who married Sir William Stanhope's daughter, is said to have been particularly anxious to retain every trace of Pope. Yet in his care to maintain, he must have very much altered. He stuccoed the house, and adorned it, says a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, in an elegant style. He enclosed the lawn, and propped with uncommon care the far-famed weeping willow, supposed to be the parent stock of the willows in Twickenham Park. Yes, Pope is said to have been the introducer of the weeping willow into England; — that seeing some twigs around the wrapping of an article of virtu sent to Lady Sylvius from abroad, he planted these, saying they might belong to some kind of tree yet unknown in England. From one of these sprung Pope's willow, and from Pope's willow thousands. Slips of his tree were anxiously sought after; they were even transmitted to distant climes; and in 1789, the Empress of Russia had some planted in her garden at Petersburgh. Notwithstanding every care, old age overcame this willow, and in spite of all props, it perished, and fell to the ground in 1801.
On the decease of Lord Mendip, in 1802, the property was sold to Sir John Briscoe, Bart; after whose death it was again sold to the Baroness Howe. This lady and her husband, Sir J. Waller Wathen, with a tasteless Vandalism, levelled the house of Pope to the ground; extirpated ruthlessly almost every possible trace of him in the gardens, and erected that house already mentioned at the extremity of Pope's property, now occupied as two tenements. This house of the unpoetical Lady Howe was also erected on the site of an elegant little villa, belonging to Hudson, the painter, the master of Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Such are the revolutions which have passed over Pope's villa and its grounds. Where he, and such celebrated gardeners as Swift, Bolingbroke, and Gay laboured, I found potatoes, black with the disease of 1846, growing. The giant trees planted by his hands, which still lift aloft their noble heads, we know not how long may escape some fresh change. The whole of the larger garden of Pope in which they grow, bears the evidences of neglect on its face. Laurels grow wild under the lofty hedges. The stones of Stanhope's grotto lie scattered about; and vast quantities of the deadly nightshade, as if undisturbed for years, displayed to my notice its dark purple and burnished berries of death.
The remains of Pope rest, with those of his parents, in Twickenham church. In the middle aisle, the sexton shows you a P in one of the stones, which marks the place of their interment. To see the monuments to their memory, you must ascend into the north gallery, where at the east end, on the wall, you see a tablet, with a Latin inscription, which was placed there by Pope in honour of his parents; and on the side wall of the gallery nearest the west is a tablet of gray marble, in a pyramidal form, with a medallion profile of the poet. This was placed here by Bishop Warburton, and bears the following inscription:—
ALEXANDRO POPE. M. H. Gulielmus Episcopus, Glocestriensis,
Amicitiae causa fac: cur: 1761. Poeta loquitur.
FOR ONE WHO WOULD NOT BE BURIED IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY.
Heroes and kings, your distance keep;
In peace let one poor poet sleep,
Who never flattered folks like you:
Let Horace blush, and Virgil too.
By one of those acts which neither science nor curiosity can excuse, the skull of Pope is now in the private collection of a phrenologist. The manner in which it was obtained is said to have been this. On some occasion of alteration in the church, or burial of some one in the same spot, the coffin of Pope was disinterred, and opened to see the state of the remains; that by a bribe to the sexton of the time, possession of the skull was obtained for a night, and another skull returned instead of it. I have heard that fifty pounds were paid to manage and carry through this transaction. Be that as it may, the skull of Pope figures in a private museum.