1726 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

William Broome to Alexander Pope, 2 January 1726; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 8:110-11.



STURSTON, Jan 2, 172[6]

DEAR MR. POPE. — "Jamque opus exegi." Huzza! I have finished the notes to the Odyssesy. What a pile of useless commentators stand before me. Begone to the pastry-cook's or jakes! What a brave fellow am I, author of four and twenty books of notes. Hercules is nobody; he cleansed by one, I four-and-twenty Augean stables. Methinks I am like Hannibal at the top of all the Alps, at the head of legions of critics, and look back with pleasure upon the dirty and difficult ways I have passed, and now come pouring down with my volumes upon poor England! But alas! there is an index still behind. I an Hannibal! I an Hercules! I am rather Jack the Giant-killer, who, when he had eat the whole body of the ox, the tail hung out of his mouth. Well! "dubit deus his quoque finem." By this time I suppose you think me distracted, and expect to hear soon that I am admitted among the exalted genii of Bedlam.

The lazy Mr. Fenton has obeyed your commands, and wrote for the notes in a huge long letter of at least three lines. I am now in hopes he will not lose the use of writing and speaking. I will tell you a true story: when he was with me at Sturston he often fished; this gave him an opportunity of sitting still, and being silent; but he left it off because the fish bit. He could not bear the fatigue of pulling up the rod and baiting the hook.

Mr. Southerne wants an epilogue, and will oblige me to write it. I am sorry he brings his play on the stage. His bays are withered with extreme age. From what I heard of it with you at St. Clement Cottrell's, it cannot bear water, and the lead of my epilogue fastened to the tail of it will add to its alacrity in sinking. Mr. Southerne's fire is abated, and no wonder, when philosophers tell us that the warmth and glory of the sun abates by age. It requires some skill to know when to leave off writing.

N.B. Let Mr. Fenton and you take notice that I write this epilogue upon this express condition, that it shall not be spoken, if Mr. Southerne can procure one by another hand; if not, I will do myself the honour to attend the old bard, and hold up the train of his comedy in Drury.

Dear sir, I sincerely assure you that the chief satisfaction I have in the conclusion of the Odyssey arises from the certainty that my name will be read with yours by posterity. This will be a lamp that will cast a glory over my *** and adorn it when I am no longer [living].