1843 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Edward Quillinan to Henry Crabb Robinson, 25 August 1843; Robinson, Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence (1870; 1872) 2:243-44.



I will not enter upon the comparative moral worth of Pope and Addison. It is the very comparison by Mr. Macaulay at this time of day — the begging of so ugly a question — the lifting of the skirts of one of his literary fathers — that I object to, — that I should consider even odious, if my tender heart could, egg-like, be boiled hard.... Pope, sir, taught me to read Montaigne, at an age when I found much of the matter far more more difficult to my comprehension than its antiquated vehicle. (By-the-by, that need not deter any Englishman from making intimate acquaintance with him, while there exists so capital a translation as Cotton's, with copious notes.) Pope also taught me to read Chaucer and the Fairy Queen, not in his indecent juvenile imitations, which I was unacquainted with in my youth, and would gladly cut out now. All this, which I know is utterly unimportant to any one but myself, I inflict upon your notice, that you may, in some slight measure, understand why I ought to hate Macaulay, or any flippant, flashy, clever fellow who demeans his abilities to the services of the Dunces in their war against Pope.