ALEXANDER POPE, the most elegant and popular of all English poets, was born in Lombard-street, London, May 22, 1688, where his father, a linen-draper, had acquired a property of £20,000. His mother was daughter of William Turner, esq. of York, two of whose sons died in the service of Charles I. and a third became a general officer in Spain, and from this last Mrs. Pope is said to have inherited what sequestrations and forfeitures had left in the family. Both his parents were Roman catholics. He was from his birth of a constitution tender and delicate; but is said to have shewn remarkable gentleness and sweetness of disposition. The weakness of his body continued throughout life, and was so great that he constantly wore stays; but the mildness of his mind, says Johnson, perhaps ended with his childhood. His voice, when he was young, was so pleasing, that he was called in fondness "the little Nightingale."
He was taught to read by an aunt who was particularly fond of him, and to write by copying printed books, which he did all his life with great skill and dexterity, although his ordinary hand was far from elegant. At the age of eight he was placed under the care of Taverner, a Romish priest, who taught him the rudiments of the Greek and Latin languages at the same time, a method very rarely practised. Having improved considerably under Taverner, he was sent to a celebrated seminary of catholics at Twyford, near Winchester; but in consequence of his writing a lampoon on his master, one of his first efforts in poetry, he was again removed to a school kept near Hyde-park-corner. His master's name here is not mentioned by any of his biographers, but it was probably John Bromley, who was curate of St. Giles's in the fields in the beginning of James II.'s reign, soon after became a decided catholic, and losing his employment at the revolution, taught a school with good reputation. Dodd was informed that Pope was one of his pupils. Before his removal to this last place he had been much a reader of Ogilby's Homer, and Sandys' Ovid, and frequently spoke, in the latter part of his life, of the exquisite pleasure which the perusal of these two writers gave him. He now had an opportunity of visiting the playhouse, and became so delighted with theatrical exhibitions, that he formed a kind of lay from the chief events of the Iliad as related by Ogilby, with some verses of his own intermixed. He persuaded a few of the upper boys to act in this piece; the master's gardener represented the character of Ajax; and the actors were dressed after the. pictures of his favourite Ogilby, which, indeed were designed and engraved by artists of note.
In 1700, when he had attained his twelfth year, he retired with his father to Binfield near Oakingham; and for some time was under the care of another priest named Dean, but with so little advantage, that the youth determined to study on a plan of his own, reading all such books as he could procure, but with a decided preference, even at this early age, to poetical works. It does not appear that any of the learned professions were pointed out to him , or that his father attempted in any way to direct his studies. "He was," says Dr. Warton, "invariably and solely a poet, from the beginning of his life to the end." Of the poets which he read, Dryden soon became his favourite and model; and we are told that he entreated a friend to carry him to Button's coffeehouse which Dryden frequented, that he might gratify himself with the bare sight of a man whom he so much admired, and of whom he continued to speak well throughout life.
How early Pope began to write cannot be ascertained: some think the "Ode to Solitude," written at twelve years of age, was his earliest production; but Dodsley, who lived in intimacy with him, had seen pieces of a still earlier date. At fourteen, he employed himself in some of those translations and imitations which appear in the first volume of his works; and still zealous in the prosecution of his poetical studies, he appears at this time ambitious to exhibit specimens of every kind of poetry. He wrote a comedy, a tragedy, and an epic poem, with panegyrics on all the princes of Europe; and, as he confesses, "thought himself the greatest genius that ever was." Most, however, of these puerile productions he afterwards destroyed. At sixteen he wrote his "Pastorals," which laid the foundation of lasting hostility between Philips and himself, but were the means of introducing him to the acquaintance and friendship of Sir William Trumbull, who had formerly been much in public life, as a statesman, and was then retired within a short distance of Binfield. Trumbull, who was pleased to find in his neighbourhood a youth of such abilities and taste as young Pope, circulated his "Pastorals" among his friends, and introduced him to Wycherley and Walsh, and the wits of that time. They were not however published until 1709, and then only in Tonson's Miscellany. Of their poetical merit, it seems now agreed that their chief excellence lies in correctness and melody of versification, and that the discourse prefixed to them, although much of it is borrowed from Rapin and other authors, is elegantly and elaborately written. From this time the life of Pope, as an author, may be computed, and having now declared himself a candidate for fame, and entitled to mix with his brethren, he began at the age of seventeen to frequent the places where they used to assemble. This was done without much interruption to his studies, his own account of which was, that from fourteen to twenty he read only for amusement, from twenty to twenty-seven for improvement and instruction: that in the first part of his time he desired only to know, and in the second he endeavoured to judge. His next performance greatly increased his reputation: this was the "Essay on Criticism," written in 1709, and published in 1711, which Dr. Johnson has characterized, as displaying "such extent of comprehension, such nicety of distinction, such acquaintance with mankind, and such knowledge both of ancient and modern learning, as are not often attained by the maturest age and longest experience." It found its way, however, rather slowly into the world; but when the author had sent copies to Lord Lansdowne, the Duke of Buckingham, and other great men, it began to he called for. It was in this "Essay" he made his attack on Dennis, which provoked those hostilities between them that never were completely appeased. Dennis's reply was sufficiently coarse, but he appears to have been the first who discovered that leading characteristic of Pope, his propensity to talk too frequently of his own virtues, and that sometimes when they were least visible to others.
The "Messiah" appeared first in the Spectator, 1712, with a warm recommendation by Steele, and raised the highest expectations of what the author was capable of performing; but he was not so happy in his "Ode on St. Cecilia's Day." This was followed by the beautiful little ode, "The Dying Christian to his Soul," written at Steele's desire, to be set to music. In this he owns his obligations to the verses of Adrian, and the fragment of Sappho, but says nothing of Flatman, whose ode he not only imitated, but copied some lines of it verbatim. The very pathetic "Elegy to the memory of an unfortunate Lady" was probably written about this time, but who the lady was remains a matter of conjecture. One story, in a note appended to Dr. Johnson's life of Pope, is, that her name was Withinbury, or Winbury; that she was in love with Pope, and would have married him; that her guardian, though she was deformed in person, looking upon such a match as beneath her, sent her to a convent, &c. where she committed suicide; but all this has been contradicted, and nothing substituted in its room much more worthy of belief.
In the same year, 1711, he produced the "Rape of the Lock," a poem which at once placed him higher than any modern writer, and exceeded every thing of the kind that had appeared in the republic of letters. It was occasioned by a frolic of gallantry, in which Lord Petre cut off a favourite lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor's hair, and this familiarity being so much resented as to occasion a serious rupture between the two families, Mr. Caryl, a friend to both, desired Pope to write something that might bring them into better humour. Two cantos were accordingly produced in a fortnight, and published in one of Lintot's Miscellanies; and finding these received with universal applause, he next year enlarged the poem to five cantos: and by the addition of the machinery of the Sylphs, placed the "Rape of the Lock" above all other mock heroic poems whatever.
It appears by a letter to Steele, dated Nov. 16, 1712, that he then first communicated to him "The Temple of Fame," though he had written it two years before. The descriptive powers of Pope, Warton thinks are much more visible and strong in this poem, than in the "Windsor Forest" which followed it in the order of publication, although the first part was published in 1704. The last of his separate publications which appeared about this time was the "Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard," in which it has been justly said that he excelled every composition of the same kind. Its poetical merit, however, great as it is, is scarcely sufficient to make the reader forget the inherent indelicacy of the story, or its pernicious tendency.
Having amply established his fame by so many excellent, and by two incomparable, poems, the "Rape of the Lock" and the "Eloisa," he now meditated what Warton, somewhat incautiously, calls "a higher effort," his translation of Homer. A higher effort it certainly was not than the poems just mentioned, but we may allow it was "something that might improve and advance his fortune as well as his fame." A clamour was raised at the time that he had not sufficient learning for such an undertaking; and Dr. Johnson says, that considering his irregular education, and course of life, it is not very likely that he overflowed with Greek; but this, it is known, he supplied by the aid of his friends, or by scholars employed, of whom he had no personal knowledge, as the celebrated Dr. Jortin, who, when a soph at Cambridge, made extracts from Eustathius for his notes. This translation Pope proposed to publish by subscription, in six vols. 4to. at the price of six guineas, and his list of subscribers soon amounted to 575, who engaged for 654. copies. The greatness of the design, and popularity of the author, and the attention of the literary world, naturally raised such expectations of the future sale, that the booksellers made their offers with great eagerness: but the highest bidder was Bernard Lintot, who became proprietor, on condition of supplying, at his own expence, all the copies which were to be delivered to subscribers, or presented to friends, and paying £200 for every volume, so that Pope obtained, on the whole, the sum of £5320 4s. This money he partly laid out in annuities, particularly one of £200 a year, or as some say £500 from the Duke of Buckingham, and partly in the purchase of a house at Twickenham, to which he now removed, having persuaded his father to sell his little property at Binfield.
The publication of the first volume of the "Iliad" was attended by a circumstance which interrupted the friendship that had long subsisted between Pope and Addison. This was the appearance of a translation of the first book of the Iliad under the name of Tickell, which Pope had reason to think, and confidently asserted, was the work of Addison himself, and not of Tickell. In the collection of Pope's letters, in Johnson's life, and in the notes to Addison's life in the "Biographia Britannica," written by Mr. Justice Blackstone, are many particulars of this unhappy quarrel, the real cause of which is not very clear. Every candid reader will wish that a charge of disingenuity against so amiable a man as Addison, could be clearly refuted, and Blackstone has made considerable progress in this. Pope's biographers seem to think that much cannot be learned from the evidence of style, and that this translation of the first book of the Iliad is more likely to have been written by Tickell than by Addison. With his usual frankness and good nature, Steele once endeavoured to reconcile Pope and Addison; but, in the interview he procured, they so bitterly upbraided each other with envy, arrogance, and ingratitude, that they parted with increased aversion and ill-will. Pope was chiefly irritated at the calm and contemptuous, unconcern with which Addison affected to address him in this conversation, and his mind had been alienated from him long before, owing to a notion that Addison was jealous of his fame. Of Tickell's translation no more appeared than this first book; and if we may be permitted to add one to the many conjectures already offered on this subject, we should say that probably no more was intended, and that this specimen was published rather to alarm Pope's vanity than to hurt his interest or his fame.
During the publication of the Iliad, Pope found leisure to gratify his favourite passion of laying out grounds, which he displayed with great taste and judgment at his newly purchased house at Twickenham. This spot was visited and admired by the first men of this country, and frequently by Frederick, prince of Wales, who contributed some ornamental articles; and for nearly a century it continued to be an object of curiosity; but in 1807 the house was entirely pulled down, and the grounds, from the many alterations they have undergone, can no longer be associated with the taste and skill of Pope. Herein 1717 his father died, after having lived to spend the greater part of the £20,000 which he acquired in trade, but which, being disaffected to government, he would not trust in any of its funds, and therefore he went on consuming the principal. His son celebrated him with equal elegance, tenderness, and gratitude, in the "Epistle to Arbuthuot." The year before he had published in folio a collection of all his poems, with that sensible preface which now usually stands at the head of his works.
In 1720, the publication of the "Iliad" was completed, and in 1721 he acted as editor of the poems of his friend Parnell, to which he prefixed the fine epistle to Lord Oxford. Pope loved money, and in 1720 had been one of the adventurers in the South-Sea scheme, but from this he escaped without being a very great loser; the same motive, though his remuneration did not much exceed £200, induced him to become editor of Shakspeare, for which he was totally unfit. Tonson wished to have a good name prefixed to his edition, and Pope's was then the first among living poets. His labours were attacked by Theobald, first in his "Shakspeare Restored," and afterwards in his own edition, to which Warburton contributed many remarks. Pope was much mortified by this failure, but is said to have recovered his tranquility by reflecting that he had a mind too great for the petty employments of collators, commentators, and verbal critics. It was on this occasion that Mallet obtained Pope's friendship by addressing to him an epistle on "Verbal Criticism." What sort of friend Mallet proved at last, we have already mentioned in our account of him.
Soon after this Pope issued proposals for a translation of the "Odyssey;" but of this he performed only twelve books, namely the third, fifth, seventh, ninth, tenth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, seventeenth, twenty-first, twenty-second, and twenty-fourth. The rest were translated by Fenton and Broome, and Pope is said to have given the former three hundred, and the latter five hundred pounds for their assistance; but as the number of subscribers equalled that of the Iliad, his own profits must have been very considerable. About this time he was full of grief and anxiety, on account of the impeachment of his friend bishop Atterbury, for whom he seems to have felt the greatest affection and regard; and being summoned before the Lords at the trial, to give some account of Atterbury's domestic life and employments, not being used to speak in a large assembly, he made several blunders in the few words he had to utter. It is remarkable that the day which deprived him of Atterbury, restored to him another friend, Bolingbroke, who continued in habits of intimacy with him during the whole of his life.
In 1727, Swift, who had long corresponded with him, coming to England, joined with Pope in publishing in 4 vols. 8vo, their miscellanies in prose and verse. To these Pope wrote a preface, complaining, among other instances, of the ill usage he had received from booksellers, and of the liberty one of them (Curll) had taken in this same year to publish his juvenile letters, purchased from, a Mrs. Thomas, a mistress of his correspondent Mr. Cromwell. Pope had been intimate with this lady in his young days, but was now so seriously hurt at the publication of his letters, although he knew that she did it from distress, that he took a severe revenge in a poem called "Corinna," and in the "Dunciad," which appeared in the following year. The object of this celebrated satire was to crush all his adversaries in a mass, by one strong and decisive blow. His own account of this attempt is very minutely related by Pope himself, in a dedication which he wrote to Lord Middlesex, under the name of Savage the poet, who assisted Pope in finding out many particulars of these adversaries. If we may credit this narrative, Pope contemplated his victory over Dunces with great exultation; and such, says Dr. Johnson, was his delight in the tumult 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. He would not however have long indulged this reflection, if all the persons he classed among the Dunces had possessed the spirit which animated some of them. Ducket demanded and obtained satisfaction for a scandalous imputation on his moral character; and Aaron Hill 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." There are likewise some names introduced in this poem with disrespect which could receive no injury from such an attack. His placing the learned Bentley among dunces, could have occurred to Pope only in the moment of his maddest revenge: Bentley had spoken truth of the translation of the Iliad: he said it was "a fine poem, but not Homer." This, which has ever since been the opinion of the learned world, was not to be refuted by the contemptuous lines in which Bentley is mentioned in the "Dunciad." On the other hand, the real Dunces, who are the majority in this poem, were beneath the notice of a man who now enjoyed higher fame than any poetical contemporary, and greater popularity, and greater favour with men of rank. But it appears to have been Pope's opinion that insignificance should be no protection, that even neutrality should not be safe, and that whoever did not worship the deity he had set up, should be punished. Accordingly we find in this poem contemptuous allusions to persons who had given no open provocation, and were nowise concerned in the author's literary contests. The "Dunciad" indeed seems intended as a general receptacle for all his resentments, just or unjust; and we find that in subsequent editions he altered, arranged, or added to his stock, as he found, or thought he found new occasion; and the hero of the "Dunciad," who was at first Theobald, became at last Cibber.
The "Dunciad" first appeared in 1729; and two years after, Pope produced his "Epistle to Richard Earl of Burlington, occasioned by his publishing Palladio's designs of the Baths, Arches, Theatres, &c. of ancient Rome, &c." Of the merit of this highly-finished poem, there is no difference of opinion; but it gave rise to an attack on Pope's private character which was not easily repelled: Dr. Warton says, "The gang of scribblers immediately rose up together, and accused him of malevolence and ingratitude, in having ridiculed the house, gardens, chapel, and dinners, of the Duke of Chandos at Canons (who had lately, as they affirmed, been his benefactor) under the name of Timon. He peremptorily and positively denied the charge, and wrote an exculpatory letter to the Duke, with the asseverations of which letter, as the last Duke of Chandos told me, his ancestor was not perfectly satisfied." It was not therefore the "gang of scribblers" who brought this accusation, but all the family and connections of the Duke of Chandos, and no defence has yet been advanced which can induce any impartial reader to think the accusation unjust. What seems to have injured Pope most at the time was, that the excuses he offered were of the same shuffling kind which be employed in the case of Aaron Hill, and which, wherever employed, have the effect of doubling the guilt of the convict. This was one of the circumstances which induce us to think that Pope greatly injured his personal character by the indiscriminate attacks in his "Dunciad," and by the opinion he seems to have taken up that no man was out of his reach.
In 1732, Pope published his epistle "On the use of Riches," addressed to Lord Bathurst, which he has treated in so masterly a way, as to have almost exhausted the subject. His observation of human life and manners was indeed most extensive, and his delineations most exact and perfect. It is very hazardous to come after him in any subject of ethics which he has handled. Between this year and 1734, he published the four parts of his celebrated "Essay on Man," the only work from his pen which equally engaged the attention of the moral, the theological, and the poetical world. He appears himself to have had some fears respecting it, for it appeared without his name, and yet it is wonderful that the style and manner did not betray him. When discovered it was still read as an excellent poem, abounding in splendid and striking sentiments of religion and virtue, until Crousaz endeavoured to prove, and not unsuccessfully, that it contained tenets more favourable to natural than to revealed religion. Crousaz was answered by a writer who a considerable time before had produced and read a dissertation against the doctrines of the Essay on Man," but now appeared as their vigorous defender. This was the learned and justly celebrated Warburton, who wrote a series of papers in the monthly journals called "The Republic of Letters" and "The Works of the Learned," which were afterwards collected into a volume. Pope was so delighted with this vindication, that he eagerly sought the acquaintance of Warburton, and told him he Understood his opinions better than he did himself; which may be true, if, as commonly understood, Bolingbroke furnished those subtle principles by which Pope at first, and his readers afterwards, were deceived. The consequences of this acquaintance to Warburton were indeed momentous, for Pope introduced him to Murray, afterwards the celebrated Lord Mansfield, by whose interest he became preacher at Lincoln's Inn; and to Mr. Allen, "who gave him his niece and his estate, and by consequence a bishopric;" and when he died he left him the property of his works.
Few pieces, in Warton's opinion, can be found that, for depth of thought and penetration into the human mind and heart, excel the Epistle to lord Cobham, which Pope published in 1733, and which produced from his lordship two very sensible letters on the subjects and characters introduced in that epistle. In the same year appeared the first of our author's Imitations of Horace, and in 1734, the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, which was considerably altered. It was first called "A Prologue to the Satires," and then "A Dialogue." Pope did not always write with a decided preference of form or manner, for his admirable poem on "The Use of Riches" he called an epistle to lord Bathurst, although that nobleman is introduced as speaking, and speaking so insignificantly, that, as Warton informs us, he never mentioned the poem without disgust. Pope's affectionate mention of his mother in this Epistle to Arbuthnot must always be quoted to his honour. Of all his moral qualities, filial affection was most predominant. He then, in 1735, produced the Epistle on the "Characters of Women," in an advertisement to which he asserted that no one character was drawn from life. Pope had already lost some credit with the public for veracity, and this assertion certainly was not believed, nor perhaps did he wish it to he believed, for in a note he informed his readers that the work was imperfect, because part of his subject was "Vice too high" to be yet exposed. This is supposed to allude to the character of the first duchess of Marlborough under the name of Atossa, which was inserted after her death, in a subsequent edition, although Pope received £1000 from her to suppress it. This is said to rest on the sole authority of the late Horace Walpole, lord Orford; but if told by him as we find it in Warton's and Bowles's editions of Pope's works, it confutes itself. The fact as they relate it is, that Pope received £1000 from the duchess, promising on these terms to suppress the character, and that he took the money and then published it. But Pope could not have published it, for it did not appear, according to Warton's account, until 1746, two years after his death! It might then probably have been found among Mr. Pope's MSS. and inserted without any great blame by those who knew nothing of the bargain with the duchess, if there was even such a bargain.
In 1736 and 1737 be published more of his Imitations of Horace, all with his name, except the one entitled, "Sober Advice from Horace to the young Gentlemen about town," which he was ashamed to acknowledge although he suffered Dodsley to publish it as his own in a 12mo edition, in the last mentioned year appeared an edition of his "Letters" published in 4to by a large subscription. His friend Mr. Allen of Bath had such an opinion of Pope that he advised this publication, from which, he said, "a perfect system of morals might be extracted," and offered to be at the cost of a publication of them. Pope preferred the patronage of the public, but yet wanted some apology for publishing his own letters. Dr. Johnson relates where he found that, in the following words:
"One of the passages of Pope's life, which seems to deserve some inquiry, was a publication of Letters between him and his friends, which falling into the bands of Curll, a rapacious bookseller of no good fame, were by him printed and sold. This volume containing some letters from noblemen, Pope incited a prosecution against him in the House of Lords for breach of privilege, and attended himself to stimulate the resentment of his friends. Curll appeared at the bar, and knowing himself in no danger, spoke of Pope with very little reverence. 'He had,' said Curll, 'a knack of versifying, but in prose I think myself a match for him.' When the orders of the house were examined, none of them appeared to have been infringed: Curll went away triumphant, and Pope was left to seek some other remedy.
"Curll's account was, that one evening a man in a clergyman's gown, but with a lawyer's band, brought and offered to sale a number of printed volumes, which he found to be Pope's epistolary correspondence: that he asked no name, and was told none, but gave the price demanded, and thought himself authorized to use his purchase to his own advantage. — That Curll gave a true account of the transaction it is reasonable to believe, because no falsehood was ever yet detected; and when, some years afterwards, I mentioned it to Lintot, the son of Bernard, he declared his opinion to be, that Pope knew better than any body else how Curll obtained the copies, because another parcel was at the same time sent to himself, for which no price had ever been demanded, as he made known his resolution not to pay a porter, and consequently not to ideal with a nameless agent.
"Such care had been taken to make them public, that they were sent at once to two booksellers; to Curll, who was likely to seize them as a prey; and to Lintot, who might be expected to give Pope information of the seeming injury. Lintot, I believe, did nothing; and Curll did what was expected. That to make them public was the only purpose, may be reasonably supposed, because the numbers offered to sale by the private messenger, shewed that hope of gain could not have been the motive of the impression.
"It seems that Pope, being desirous of printing his letters, and not knowing how to do, without imputation of vanity, what has in this country been done very rarely, contrived an appearance of compulsion: that, when he could complain that his letters were surreptitiously published, he might decently and defensively publish them himself."
Such was the artifice, which, however, was soon detected, for no man could for a moment doubt that the letters were conveyed to Curll by Pope himself, that he might have a pretence for an edition, which, being avowed by himself, would obtain the preference over every other. Could a doubt remain, it must be removed by the notes and information respecting these letters in Mr. Bowles's edition of his works. As to the letters themselves, Warton says "they are all overcrowded with professions of integrity and disinterestedness, with trite reflections on contentment an, retirement; a disdain of greatness and courts; a contempt of fame; and an affected strain of common-place morality." Affectation indeed pervades the greater part of the correspondence, and those objects are mentioned with the greatest disdain, which were the objects of their highest ambition.
Returning to his more original publications, Pope now issued those two dialogues which were named, from the year in which they appeared, "Seventeen hundred and thirty eight," and are among the bitterest of satires. Every species of sarcasm and mode of style are here alternately employed; ridicule, reasoning, irony, mirth, seriousness, lamentation, laughter, familiar imagery, and high poetical painting. Although many persons in power were highly provoked, he does not appear to have been very directly menaced with a prosecution; but Paul Whitehead, who about this time wrote his "Manners," and his publisher Dodsley, were called to an account, which was supposed to have been intended rather to intimidate Pope, than to punish Whitehead, and Pope appears to have taken the hint; for he discontinued a Third Dialogue, which he had begun, and never afterwards attempted to join the patriot with the poet. He had been led into this by his connection with the prince of Wales and the opposition, but he could not have long been of service to them. Had they come into office, he must have been either silent, or offensive, for he was both a jacobite and a papist. Dr. Johnson says very justly that he was entangled in the opposition now, and had forgot the prudence with which he passed, in his earlier years, uninjured and unoffending, through much more violent conflicts of faction.
Ceasing therefore from politics, for which he was so unfit, he amused himself, in 1740, in republishing "Selecta Carmina Italorum," taken, without acknowledgement, from the collection called "Anthologia," 1684, 12mo, attributed to Atterbury, falsely, as Warton asserts, but justly according to every other opinion. The work however is more imperfect than it would have been had he consulted other collections of the kind. His last performance shewed either that his own judgment was impaired, or that he yielded too easily to that of Warburton, who now advised him to write the fourth book of the "Dunciad;" and in 1743 he betrayed a yet greater want of judgment by printing a new edition of the Dunciad, in which he placed Cibber in the room of Theobald, forgetting how opposite their characters were. He had before this introduced Cibber with contemptuous mention in his satires, and Cibber resented both insults in two pamphlets which gave Pope more uneasiness than he was willing to allow.
The time was now approaching, however, in which all his contests were to end. About the beginning of 1744 his health and strength began visibly to decline. Besides his constant head-achs, and severe rheumatic pains, he had been afflicted, for five years, with an asthma, which was suspected to be occasioned by a dropsy of the breast. In the month of May he became dangerously ill, and on the sixth was all day delirious, which he mentioned four days afterwards as a sufficient humiliation of the vanity of man; be afterwards complained of seeing things as through a curtain, and in false colours, and one day asked whit arm it was that came out from the wall. He said that his greatest inconvenience was inability to think. Bolingbroke sometimes wept over him in this state of helpless decay: and being told by Spence, that Pope, at the intermission of his deliriousness, was always saying something kind either of his present or absent friends, and that his humanity seemed to have survived his understanding, answered, "It has so:" and added, "I never in my life knew a man that had so tender a heart for his particular friends, or more general friendship for mankind." At another time he said, "I have known Pope these thirty years, and value myself more in his friendship than" — his grief then suppressed his voice. Pope expressed undoubting confidence of a future state. Being asked by his friend Mr. Hooke, a papist, whether he would not die like his father and mother, and whether a priest should not be called; he answered, "I do not think it is essential, but it will be very right: and I thank you for putting me in mind of it." In the morning, after the priest had done his office, he said, "There is nothing that is meritorious but virtue and friendship, and indeed friendship itself is only a part of virtue." He died in the evening of May 30, 1744, go placidly, that the attendants did not discern the exact time of his expiration. He was buried at Twickenham, near his father and mother, where a monument was afterwards erected to him by Warburton.
Some idea of Pope's character may be derived from the preceding particulars, and more may be learned from his biographers Ruffhead, Johnson, Warton, and Bowles. Many circumstances, however, still want explanation, although upon the whole we cannot be said to be ignorant of the temper and character of a man whose publications and quarrels form a great part of the literary history of the first half of the eighteenth century, and of which some notice has been taken by every journalist, every critic, and every biographer, from his own to the present times. A large volume might be filled with even a moderate account of Pope's contests, and less than such a volume perhaps would not be satisfactory.
We, have already copied an expression of Dr. Warton's, that Pope was invariably and solely a poet from the beginning of his life to the end; and we may add from the same elegant critic, that his whole life, and every hour of it, in sickness and, in health, was devoted with unremitting diligence, to cultivate that one art in which he had determined to excel, and in which he did excel. It is not our intention, however, to expatiate on his merits as a poet. What has been advanced by Dr. Johnson and Dr. Warton must supersede all other efforts; but we may be permitted to regret that, he added so little to the dignity of the literary character, and that his passions were vulgar and vulgarly expressed. Never had the "genus irritabile" a more faithful representative. With abundant professions of philosophy, benevolence, and friendship, he thought no display of petty revenge, and no discharge of acrimony, beneath him; and was continually endeavouring to promote his interest by quackish stratagems and idle artifices, often so poorly disguised as to expose him to immediate contempt; and all this at a time when he was confessedly at the head of the poetical list, and when his wealth was so great that he was mean enough to upbraid his adversaries for their want of it. "It would be hard," says Johnson, "to find a man so well entitled to notice by his wit, that ever delighted so much in talking of his money. In his letters and in his poems, his gardens and his grotto, his quincunx and his vines, or some hints of his opulence, are always to be found. The great topic of his ridicule is poverty; the crimes with which he reproaches his antagonists are, their debts, their habitation in the Mint, and their want of a dinner."
In constitution he was constantly a valetudinarian. His person was deformed, and he was so feeble as not to be able to dress or undress himself without assistance. Such a state of body generally produces, a certain degree of irritability and peevishness, which must naturally be greatly exasperated by a life of literary warfare. This was surely not the proper life for a man who, in his private habits was capricious and offensive, and who expected that every thing should give way to his humour. He was thus provoking contradictions, and risking mortifications, from which he might have been free, if he could have lived on his own, ample treasures of genius and fame.
But if Pope created enemies, he also conciliated friends, and had a pleasure in enumerating the men of high rank with whom he was acquainted, and to gain whose favour he practised no meanness or servility. It is indeed allowed that he never flattered those whom he did not love, or praised those whom he did not esteem. And as, from his infirmities and his capricious habits, he must have been a very disagreeable guest, his frequent reception in the houses and at the tables of men of high rank is a proof that there was much in his character to admire or esteem, and a presumption that some of the failings which have been reported of him may have been exaggerated by his enemies. "A man," says his ablest biographer, "of such exalted superiority, and so little moderation, would naturally have all his delinquencies observed and aggravated: and those who could not deny that he was excellent, would rejoice to find that he was not perfect." Unfortunately some of those imperfections were too obvious for concealment. Pope was, among other instances, with all his defects of person, a man of gallantry, and besides his presumptuous and ridiculous love for lady Mary Wortley Montague, carried on an intercourse with the Misses Blount, which certainly was not of the Platonic kind. From the account given by Mr. Bowles, in his recent Life of Pope, and the new Letters published in Mr. Bowles' edition of his works, no great obscurity now rests on the nature of that connection.
This transient notice of the Misses Blount leads to a remark that he was not always fortunate in his friendships. Martha Blount, to whom he was most attached, deserted him in his last illness; and Bolingbroke, whom we have seen weeping over the dying bard, and pouring out the effusions of the warmest affection for the friend he was about to lose, soon employed the hireling Mallet to blacken Pope's character in the very article for which he thought him most estimable, the purity and honour of his friendships. We have already noticed this affair in our account of Mallet, (vol. XXI. p. 195,) and shall now only briefly say, that, on Pope's death, it was disclosed to Lord Bolingbroke by Mallet, who had his information from a printer, that Pope had printed an edition of the Essay on a "Patriot King." But, as there has been much misconception and misrepresentation respecting this affair, we are happy to be able, in this place, to state the circumstances attending it on unquestionable authority, that of gentleman to whom the following particulars were more than once related by the late earl of Marchmont, and who, besides the obliging communication of them, has conferred the additional favour of permitting us to use his name, the RIGHT HON. GEORGE ROSE.
"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 shewn 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 William Wyndham, Mr. Lyttelton, Mr. Pope, and lord Chesterfield; one only having been reserved. 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 expense, 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. Grevenkop (a German gentleman who had travelled with him, and was afterwards 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 at Battersea."
This plain unvarnished tale, our readers will probably think, tends very much to strengthen the vindication which Warburton offered for his deceased friend, although he was ignorant of the concern Allen had in the matter; but it will be difficult to find an excuse for Bolingbroke, who, forgetting the honourable mention of him in Pope's will, a thing quite incompatible with any hostile intention towards him, could employ such a man as Mallet to blast the memory of Pope by telling a tale of "breach of faith," with every malicious aggravation, and artfully concealing what he must have known, since lord Marchmont knew it, the share Allen had in the edition of the Patriot King.
Of the editions of Pope's works, it is unnecessary to mention any other than those of Warburton, and Johnson (the poems only), Warton, and the recent one by Mr. Bowles, which contains many additional letters and documents illustrative of Pope's character and connections.