1728 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

William Broome to Elijah Fenton, 3 May 1728; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 8:146-48.



May 3, [1728].

My DEAR FRIEND FENTON, — You guess right. I am now dignified with the style of Doctor, and as I do not find that it has made me one jot more wise or learned, I assure you it shall not make me one jot more proud. I affected not the title. As obscure as it is I was contented with my own name, having done nothing to disgrace it. But my friends told me they could ask with a better grace for a doctor, than a common clergyman, so I submitted, and the more willingly because it is no burthen to carry a feather. I really look upon the doctorate with a very indifferent eye, at best but as a bauble hung about me, to grace my second childhood of old age, as the like tinsel is made use of to please babies. If it really be of any service to me with regard to preferment, you have as much reason to be glad of it as myself, and I bless God I am a doctor. It will then give me an opportunity of enjoying my friend Mr. Fenton as a sharer of it. I invite you to the participation of it, and the greatest pleasure I shall receive from it will be your dividing it with me. Our tempers suit very well, and it would be a sin for me to abound and you want.

Utrunque nostrum, incredibili modo,
Consentit astrum.

We will then walk hand in hand down the declivity of life to the land where only I can forget you.

You ask me if I correspond with Mr. Pope. I do not. He has used me ill, he is ungrateful. He has now raised a spirit against him which he will not easily conjure down. He now keeps his muse as wizards are said to keep tame devils, only to send them abroad to plague their neighbours. I often resemble him to an hedgehog; he wraps himself up in his down, lies snug and warm, and sets his bristles out against all mankind. Sure he is fond of being hated. I wonder he is not thrashed: but his littleness is his protection; no man shoots a wren. He should rather be whipped; and it was pleasant enough in Mr. Ambrose Philips to hang up a rod at Button's in terrorem, which scared away the little bard.

I have seen Mr. Gay's mock opera. Johnny is a good-natured inoffensive man. I doubt not, therefore, but those lines against courts and ministers are drawn, at least aggravated, by Mr. Pope, who delights to paint every man in the worst colours. He wounds from behind Gay, and like Teucer in Homer, puts Gay in the head of the battle, and shoots his arrows lurking under the shield of Ajax.

Pray write very soon, dear Fenton, to him who is yours invariably.