1825 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Bryan Waller Procter, in "English Poetry" Edinburgh Review 42 (April 1825) 61-62.



POPE was a fit successor for the chair of Dryden. He had the same good sense, the same stinging sarcasm; the same hatred of what is base or mean, with something more of refinement, and a clearer moral view than can perhaps be ascribed to his predecessor. Each, however, belonged to his age, and illustrated it finely. Dryden would have been out of place at the court of Queen Anne, and Pope could not easily have reconciled himself to the coarse gallants and lascivious wits of the Restoration. The one had a strong arm and a fearless spirit, and struck down whole squadrons of rogues and politicians, with all the indignation of a moralist, and the rancour of a partisan. The other shot his sharp arrows at the heart of the proud man and the knave, the timeserver, and the hypocrite, (whether hidden in an alias or covered with lawn) — he spared neither rank, nor sex, nor age, so it were impudent and profligate — but wisely thought, that if a reformation in morals was to be effected, it must be effected by example, — not of the poor, but of the high born and opulent. This led him amongst the aristocracy of his time; and he whipped the gilded follies and humble sins of the wealthy, with as much good will and more honesty shall the magistrates of our time exercise their summary justice upon the petty offenders who sell cabbages and beef upon the Sabbath. Pope, in a word, was a first-rate writer of the same genius as Dryden, and upon the whole his equal. His poems contain passages of great pathos, of piercing satire, and of admirably turned compliment; and his "Rape of the Lock" has never yet been equalled.