1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

William Hazlitt, in Select British Poets (1824); Works, ed. Howe (1932) 9:239.



POPE is at the head of the second class of poets, viz. the describers of artificial life and manners. His works are a delightful, never-failing fund of good sense and refined taste. He had high invention and fancy of the comic kind, as in the Rape of the Lock; wit, as in the Dunciad and Satires; no humour; some beautiful descriptions, as in the Windsor Forest; some exquisite delineations of character (those of Addison and Villiers are master-pieces); he is a model of elegance everywhere, but more particularly in his eulogies and friendly epistles; his ease is the effect of labour; he has no pretentions to sublimity, but sometimes displays an indignant moral feeling akin to it; his pathos is playful and tender, as in his Epistles to Arbuthnot and Jervas, or rises into power by the help of rhetoric, as in the Eloisa, and Elegy on the Death of an Unfortunate Lady; his style is polished and almost faultless in its kind; his versification tires by uniform smoothness and harmony. He has been called "the most sensible of the poets:" but the proofs of his sense are to be looked for in his single observations and hints, as in the Essay on Criticism and Moral Epistles, and not in the larger didactic reasonings of the Essay on Man, which is full of verbiage and bombast.