1770 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Oliver Goldsmith, in Life of Parnell (1770); Works, ed. Cunningham (1854) 4:143.



The translation [by Thomas Parnell] of a part of The Rape of the Lock into monkish verse, serves to show what a master Parnell was of the Latin: a copy of verses made in this manner is one of the most difficult trifles that can possibly be imagined. I am assured that it was written upon the following occasion. Before The Rape of the Lock was yet completed, Pope was reading it to his friend Swift, who sat very attentively, while Parnell, who happened to be in the house, went in and out, without seeming to take any notice. However, he was very diligently employed in listening, and was able, from the strength of his memory, to bring away the whole description of the Toilet pretty exactly. This he versified in the manner now published in his works; and the next day, when Pope was reading the poem to some friends, Parnell insisted that he had stolen that part of the description from an old monkish manuscript. An old paper with the Latin verses was soon brought forth, and it was not till after some time that Pope was delivered from the confusion which it at first produced.