Guardian 40 [On Philips's Pastorals.]

The Guardian No. 40 (27 April 1713).

Alexander Pope

Writing under cover of anonymity, Alexander Pope sends up Ambrose Philips' pastorals and the praise he had received in the recent Guardian essays on pastoral. In contrast to those, Guardian No. 40 implicitly takes the Ancients' side in favor of Virgilian pastoral. By means of selective quotation Pope, in effect, tars Spenser with Philips's brush.

While Pope's authorship was soon suspected in some quarters, as late as the nineteenth century the essay was sometimes attributed to Richard Steele, as the earlier Guardian essays on pastoral, now attributed to Tickell, were attributed to Joseph Addison. For example, a contribution to the Pope-friendly Grub-Street Journal, 19 May 1737, misses the irony and wonders that a writer who could praise the lines on "Rager and Cicely" could find fault with Tasso. This confusion over authorship resulted in an unintentionally funny forgery, an "Original Letter from Mr. Pope to Mr. Gay" in which "Mr. Pope" laboriously picks apart the arguments in Guardian No. 40; see the Court Magazine 1 (October 1762) 645-51. John Gay is now thought to have had a hand in Pope's essay.

Alexander Pope to John Caryll: "I wholly agree with you in your opinion of the Guardian in general, only I must do Mr. Steele the justice to assure you those he writes himself are equal to any he has wrote. The grand difference is caused by the want of Mr. Addison's assistance, who writes as seldom as I do, — once a month or so. By the way, that on Tom Durfey was his, as the receipt for an epic poem was your servant's" 23 June 1713; Correspondence, ed. Whitwell Elwin (1871) 1:189.

William Warburton: "These grounds [for Philips's threatening to chastise Pope] were Mr. Pope's writing the ironical comparison between his own and Philips's pastorals in the Guardian. It was taken for a serious criticism by Steele (who received it from an unknown hand), and, indeed, by all at Button's except Mr. Addison, who saw into the joke immediately, and the next time he met Mr. Pope, he told him into what a ridiculous position he had put his friends, who had declared their dislike of having Philips so extolled at the expense of another of the club, which was the language Steele had before held with Mr. Pope when he first received the papers" 1751; Pope, Correspondence, ed. Whitwell Elwin (1871) 1:210n.

Samuel Johnson: "With this inauguration of Philips [in the Guardian], his rival Pope was not much delighted; he therefore drew a comparison of Philips's performance with his own, in which, with an unexampled and unequalled artifice of irony, though he has himself always the advantage, he gives the preference to Philips. The design of aggrandising himself he disguised with such dexterity that, though Addison discovered it, Steele was deceived, and was afraid of displeasing Pope by publishing his paper. Published, however, it was, and from that time Pope and Philips lived in a perpetual reciprocation of malevolence" "Life of Philips" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 3:319.

John Nichols: "The great reputation [Philips] gained by his pastorals was the occasion of Mr. Pope's writing the 40th number of the Guardian, on the merits of Philips and himself; where he represented himself as the best versifier, and Philips as the better Arcadian. The enemies of Pope exulted, to see him placed below Philips in a species of poetry upon which he was supposed to value himself; but were much mortified to find that Pope himself was the real author of the paper, and that the whole criticism was irony" Select Collection of Poems (1780-82) 4:296-97.

Hannah More to Mr. Pepys: "The Guardian I was so anxious to know your opinion about is the fortieth of the first volume. I have some reason to think I am in the wrong, as I have all the world against me: but the whole criticism appears to me a burlesque. That a writer of so pure a taste could be in earnest when he talks of the elegance of Diggon Davy, and exalts all that trash of Phillips's, whose simplicity is silliness, I cannot bring myself to believe. But when he says that 'Hobbinol" and 'Lobbin' are names agreeable to the delicacy of an English ear, 'j'y perds mon Latin'" 4 August 1783; in Memoirs of Hannah More (1835) 1:173.

Joseph Warton: "The secret grounds of Philips's malignity to Pope, are said to be the ridicule and laughter he met with from all the Hanover Club, of which he was secretary, for mistaking the incomparable ironical paper in the Guardian, No. 40. which was written by Pope, for a serious criticism on pastoral poetry. The learned Heyne also mistook this irony, as appears by p. 202, v. 1 of his Virgil" note to Pope's "Epistle to Arbuthnot" in Works, ed. Warton (1797) 4:29n.

Joseph Cooper Walker to the Gentleman's Magazine: "For the next edition of the Guardian take this anecdote: When the 'Comparison between the Pastorals of Pope and Phillips' appeared, Phillips was secretary to Primate Boulter, and then in Ireland. Dining one day with the officers of the Prerogative Court, the 'Comparison' became the subject of conversation, and Phillips said he knew it was written by Pope, adding, 'I wonder why the little crooked bastard should attack me, who never offended him either in word or deed.' This I had from a gentleman who was present. Phillips resided in Bolton-street, Addison on Arbor-hill. The houses of both are still standing" 20 August 1790; in Nichols, Illustrations (1817-58) 7:713.

William Lisle Bowles: "After the publication of his Pastorals, he was piqued that Philips, who professed to write more from English country life than from what Pope calls the 'Golden Age,' should be compared as a pastoral writer with himself. The Pastorals of Philips were printed in the year 1709, in the same volume of Miscellanies which contained those of Pope. Both were warmly commended by Addison in the Spectator; but the praise given to the English rustic was 'wormwood,' to the shepherd of the 'Golden Age;' and he gratified his spleen by an ironical comparison, three years afterwards, in the Guardian. Not satisfied with the disingenuous and unmanly hostility, he encouraged Gay, who had gained his friendship by the dedication of 'Rural Sports,' to write the Eclogues in ridicule of Philips, called the 'Shepherd's Week.' Philips, mortified and offended, it is said, hung up a rod at Button's Coffee-house, to chastise, 'horresco referens,' his rival Arcadian!" Works of Pope (1806) 1:xxviii-ix.

Edmund Gosse: "Pope had also been imitating Spenser in the production of pastorals, and to him it was an overwhelming misfortune that, although his eclogues were written three years sooner than Philips', he could not secure a precedence in publication. Pope succeeded in throwing ridicule on his predecessor in a most ingenious and, indeed, impudent way and his own pastorals were greatly admired. For modern readers they have, however, no attraction, save that of their quick and flowing numbers. In avoiding anachronisms, Pope did not succeed in approaching nature; he is more chilly and faultless than Ambrose Philips, but not one whit more genuinely bucolic" Complete Works of Spenser, ed. Grosart (1882-84) 3:xlii-iii.

William Minto: "The papers in the Guardian were really a cover attack on Pope. What were the circumstances? Pope's Windsor Forest, a pastoral, appeared in the beginning of March. It contained a eulogy of the Peace of Utrecht, the great achievement of the Tory Ministry, to which Steele and Addison and the Whig coterie were far from friendly. A few weeks afterward appeared a series of papers on Pastoral Poetry, in which Pope was studiously ignored, and a feeble poetaster, his rival in that kind of poetry, extravagantly lauded. I should call that mean and underhand, and Pope's method of retaliation strikes me as simply highly ingenious and amusing, and not unfair" Literature of the Georgian Era (1894) 30-31.

E. K. Chambers: "It must be admitted that Steele's mistake is perfectly intelligible. Not only had Pope, after the way of Defoe in his Shortest Way with the Dissenters, so overdone the irony as to obscure the point, but also the poetic superiority which he intended the passages quoted from his own pastorals to show over those taken from Philips, is by no means as manifest as he thought. However, the paper duly appeared in the Guardian for April 27, 1713, and Philips at least was at no loss as to the purport of it. His reply was effective, although it passed the limits of literary warfare. He hung up a birch in the coffee-room at Button's, and threatened to use it upon his 'rival Arcadian' if he dared to set foot in that popular resort" English Pastorals (1906) xlv.

W. J. Courthope: "As often happens where literary coteries are concerned, Philips began to be praised at the expense of Pope. The former was a leading member of the Whig Club at Button's, and his political friends were inclined to discover wonderful qualities in his poetry. Addison began with a puffing allusion in the Spectator. 'We see,' he says, 'he has given a new life, and a more natural beauty to this way of writing, by substituting in the place of those antiquated fables the superstitious mythology which prevails among the shepherds mythology which prevails among the shepherds of our own country.' In course of time this thoroughly undeserved panegyric was expanded, in five papers of The Guardian, by a writer who demonstrated that there had only been four true masters of pastoral poetry in above two thousands years: 'Theocritus, who left his dominions to Virgil; Virgil, who left his to his son, Spenser; and Spenser, who was succeeded by his eldest born, Philips.' Pope, who was not mentioned, was annoyed, and resolved to expose the falseness of the criticism by a trick equally witty and dexterous. He wrote a sixth paper, in the same exaggerated vein of flattery, contrasting Philips with Pope, the professed imitator of the Classics. This he sent anonymously to Steele, as editor of The Guardian; and the latter is said to have been completely deceived by the irony, and to have only printed the paper after first showing it to Pope, who professed his indifference to the criticism" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 5:159-60.

Harko Gerrit De Maar: "Pope's famous revenge on Tickell and Ambrose Philips is one of the stock anecdotes of literary history. Pope sent to The Guardian an essay which is pretended to have been written by the same hand as the other essays. All the worst passages of Philips are quoted by the side of Pope's best lines, after which, Philips is absurdly praised. As an example of Philips' 'beautiful rusticity' and 'simplicity of diction', Pope quotes: 'O woeful day! O day of woe, quoth he, | An woeful I, who live the day to see.' Pope on the other hand is accused of 'deviating into downright poetry'" History of Modern English Romanticism (1924) 105.

I designed to have troubled the Reader with no farther Discourses of Pastorals, but being informed that I am taxed of Partiality in not mentioning an Author, whose Eclogues are published in the same Volume with Mr. Philips's; I shall employ this Paper in Observations upon him, written in the free Spirit of Criticism, and without Apprehension of offending that Gentleman, whose Character it is, that he takes the greatest Care of his Works before they are published, and has the least Concern for them afterwards.

I have laid it down as the first Rule of Pastoral, that its Idea should be taken from the Manners of the Golden Age, and the Moral form'd upon the Representation of Innocence; 'tis therefore plain that any Deviations from that Design degrade a Poem from being true Pastoral. In this View it will appear that Virgil can only have two of his Eclogues allowed to be such: His First and Ninth must be rejected, because they describe the Ravages of Armies, and Oppressions of the Innocent; Corydon's Criminal Passion for Alexis throws out the Second; the Calumny and Railing in the Third are not proper to that State of Concord; the Eighth represents unlawful Ways of procuring Love by Inchantments, and introduces a Shepherd whom an inviting Precipice tempts to Self-Murder. As to the Fourth, Sixth, and Tenth, they are given up by Heinsius, Salmasius, Rapin, and the Criticks in general. They likewise observe that but eleven of all the Idyllia of Theocritus are to be admitted as Pastorals; and even out of that Number the greater Part will be excluded for one or other of the Reasons abovementioned. So that when I remark'd in a former Paper, that Virgil's Eclogues, taken all together, are rather Select Poems than Pastorals; I might have said the same thing, with no less Truth, of Theocritus. The Reason of this I take to be yet unobserved by the Criticks, viz. They never meant them all for Pastorals. Which it is plain Philips hath done, and in that Particular excelled both Theocritus and Virgil.

As Simplicity is the distinguishing Characteristick of Pastoral, Virgil hath been thought guilty of too Courtly a Stile; his Language is perfectly pure, and he often forgets he is among Peasants. I have frequently wonder'd that since he was so conversant in the Writings of Ennius, he had not imitated the Rusticity of the Doric, as well, by the help of the old obsolete Roman Language, as Philips hath by the antiquated English: For Example, might he not have said Quoi instead of Cui; Quoijum for Cujum; volt for vult, &c. as well as our Modern hath Welladay for Alas, Whilome for of Old, make mock for deride, and witless Younglings for simple Lambs, &c. by which Means he had attained as much of the Air of Theocritus, as Philips hath of Spencer.

Mr. Pope hath fallen into the same Error with Virgil. His Clowns do not converse in all the Simplicity proper to the Country: His Names are borrow'd from Theocritus and Virgil, which are improper to the Scene of his Pastorals. He introduces Daphnis, Alexis and Thyrsis on British Plains, as Virgil had done before him on the Mantuan; whereas Philips, who hath the strictest Regard to Propriety, makes choice of Names peculiar to the Country, and more agreeable to a Reader of Delicacy; such as Hobbinol, Lobbin, Cuddy, and Colin Clout.

So easie as Pastoral Writing may seem, (in the Simplicity we have described it) yet it requires great Reading, both of the Ancients and Moderns, to be a Master of it. Philips hath given us manifest Proofs of his Knowledge of Books; it must be confessed his Competitor hath imitated some single Thoughts of the Ancients well enough, if we consider he had not the Happiness of an University Education; but he hath dispersed them, here and there, without that Order and Method which Mr. Philips observes, whose whole third Pastoral is an Instance how well he hath studied the fifth of Virgil, and how judiciously reduced Virgil's Thoughts to the Standard of Pastoral; as his Contention of Colin Clout and the Nightingale shows with what Exactness he hath imitated Strada.

When I remarked it as a principal Fault to introduce Fruits and Flowers of a Foreign Growth, in Descriptions where the Scene lies in our Country, I did not design that Observation should extend also to Animals, or the Sensitive Life; for Philips hath with great Judgement described Wolves in England in his first Pastoral. Nor would I have a Poet slavishly confine himself (as Mr. Pope hath done) to one particular Season of the Year, one certain time of the Day, and one unbroken Scene in each Eclogue. 'Tis plain Spencer neglected this Pedantry, who in his Pastoral of November mentions the mournful Song of the Nightingale:

Sad Philomel her Song in Tears doth steep.

And Mr. Philips, by a Poetical Creation, hath raised up finer Beds of Flowers than the most industrious Gardiner; his Roses, Lillies and Daffadils blow in the same Season.

But the better to discover the Merits of our two Contemporary Pastoral Writers, I shall endeavour to draw a Parallel of them, by setting several of their particular Thoughts in the same light, whereby it will he oblivious how much Philips hath the Advantage. With what Simplicity he introduces two Shepherds singing alternately.

Come, Rosalind, O come, for without thee
What Pleasure can the Country have for me:
Come, Rosalind, O come; my brinded Kine,
My snowy Sheep, my Farm, and all is thine.

Come, Rosalind, O come; here shady Bowers
Here are cool Fountains, and here springing Flow'rs.
Come, Rosalind; Here ever let us stay,
And sweetly wast, our live-long Time away.

Our other Pastoral Writer, in expressing the same Thought, deviates into downright Poetry.

In Spring the Fields, in Autumn Hills I love,
At Morn the Plains, at Noon the shady Grove,
But Delia always; forc'd from Delia's Sight,
Nor Plains at Morn, nor Groves at Noon delight.

Sylvia's like Autumn ripe, yet mild as May,
More bright than Noon, yet fresh as early Day;
Ev'n Spring displeases, when she shines not here.
But blest with her, 'tis Spring throughout the Year.

In the first of these Authors, two Shepherds thus innocently describe the Behaviour of their Mistresses.

As Marian bath'd, by chance I passed by,
She blush'd, and at me cast a side-long Eye:
Then swift beneath the Crystal Wave she try'd
Her beauteous Form, but all in vain, to hide.

As I to cool me bath'd one sultry Day,
Fond Lydia lurking in the Sedges lay,
The Wanton laugh'd, and seem'd in Haste to fly;
Yet often stopp'd, and often turn'd her Eye.

The other Modern (who it must be confessed hath a knack of Versifying) hath it as follows.

Me gentle Delia beckons from the Plain,
Then, hid in Shades, eludes her eager Swain;
But feigns a Laugh, to see me search around,
And by that Laugh the willing Fair is found.

The sprightly Sylvia trips along the Green,
She runs, but hopes she does not run unseen;
While a kind Glance at her Pursuer flyes,
How much at Variance are her Feet and Eyes!

There is nothing the Writers of this kind of Poetry are fonder of, than Descriptions of Pastoral Presents. Philips says thus of a Sheep-hook.

Of Season'd Elm; where Studs of Brass appear,
To speak the Giver's Name, the Month and Year.
The Hook of polish'd Steel, the Handle turn'd,
And richly by the Graver's Skill adorn'd.

The other of a Bowl embossed with Figures.

—where wanton Ivy twines,
And swelling Clusters bend the curling Vines;
Four Figures rising from the Work appear,
The various Seasons of the rolling Year;
And what is That which hinds the radiant Sky,
Where twelve bright Signs in beauteous Order lie.

The Simplicity of the Swain in this Place, who forgets the Name of the Zodiack is no ill Imitation of Virgil; but how much more plainly and unaffectedly would Philips have dressed this Thought in his Doric?

And what That hight, which girds the Welkin sheen,
Where twelve gay Signs in meet array are seen.

If the Reader would indulge his Curiosity any farther in the Comparison of Particulars, he may read the first Pastoral of Philips with the second of his Contemporary, and the fourth and sixth of the former, with the fourth and first of the latter; where several Parallel Places will occur to every one.

Having now shown some Parts, in which these two Writers may be compared, it is a Justice I owe to Mr. Philips, to discover those in which no Man can compare with him. First, That beautiful Rusticity, of which I shall only produce two Instances, out of a hundred not yet quoted.

O woful Day! O Day of Woe, quoth he,
And woful I, who live the Day to see!

That Simplicity of Diction, the Melancholy Flowing of the Numbers, the Solemnity of the Sound, and the easie Turn of the Words, in this Dirge (to make use of our Author's Expression) are extreamly Elegant.

In another of his Pastorals, a Shepherd utters a Dirge not much inferior to the former, in the following Lines.

Ah me the while! ah me! the luckless Day,
Ah luckless Lad! the rather might I say;
Ah silly I! more silly than my Sheep,
Which on the flowry Plains I once did keep.

How he still Charms the Ear with these artful Repetitions of the Epithets; and how significant is the last Verse! I defy the most common Reader to repeat them, without feeling some Motions of Compassion.

In the next Place I shall rank his Proverbs, in which I formerly observed he excells: For Example,

A rolling Stone is ever hare of Moss;
And, to their Cost, green Years old Proverbs cross.

—He that late lyes down, as late will rise,
And, Sluggard-like, till Noon day snoaring lyes.

Against Ill-Luck all cunning Fore-sight fails;
Whether we sleep or wake it nought avails.
—Nor fear, from upright Sentence, Wrong.

Lastly, His Elegant Dialect, which alone might prove him the eldest Born of Spencer, and our only true Arcadian; I should think it proper for the several Writers of Pastoral, to confine themselves to their several Counties. Spencer seems to have been of this Opinion: for he hath laid the Scene of one of his Pastorals in Wales, where with all the Simplicity natural to that Part of our Island, one Shepherd bids the other Good-morrow in an unusual and elegant Manner.

Diggon Davy, I bid hur God-day:
Or Diggon hur is, or I mis-say.

Diggon answers,

Hur was hur while it was Day-light;
But now hur is a most wretched Wight, &c.

But the most beautiful Example of this kind that I ever met with, is in a very valuable Piece, which I chanced to find among some old Manuscripts, entituled, A Pastoral Ballad; which I think, for its Nature and Simplicity, may (notwithstanding the Modesty of the Title) be allowed a Perfect Pastoral: It is composed in the Somersetshire Dialect, and the Names such as are proper to the Country People. It may be observed, as a further Beauty of this Pastoral, the Words Nymph, Dryad, Naiad, Fawn, Cupid, or Satyr, are not once mentioned through the whole. I shall make no Apology for Inserting some few Lines of this excellent Piece. Cicily breaks thus into the Subject, as she is going a Milking;

Rager go vetch tha Kee, or else tha Zun,
Will quite be go, be yore c' have half a don.

Thou shouldst not ax ma tweece, but I've a be
To dreave our Bull to Bull tha Parson's Kee.

It is to be observed, that this whole Dialogue is formed upon the Passion of Jealousie; and his mentioning the Parson's Kine naturally revives the Jealousie of the Shepherdess Cicily, which she expresses as follows:

Ah Rager, Rager, chez was zore avraid
Ween in yond yield you kiss'd tha Parsons Maid:
Is this the Love that once to me you zed,
When from tha Wake thou brought'st me Gingerbread?

Cicily thou charg'st me false, — I'll zwear to thee,
The Parson's Maid is still a Maid for me.

In which Answer of his are express'd at once that Spirit of Religion, and that Innocence of the Golden Age, so necessary to be observed by all Writers of Pastoral.

At the Conclusion of this Piece, the Author reconciles the Lovers, and ends the Eclogue the most Simply in the World.

So Rager parted vor to vetch tha Kee,
And vor her Bucket in went Cicily.

I am loath to show my Fondness for Antiquity so far as to prefer this Ancient British Author to our present English Writers of Pastoral; but I cannot avoid making this obvious Remark, that both Spencer and Philips have hit into the same Road with this old West Country Bard of ours.

After all that hath been said, I hope none can think it any Injustice to Mr. Pope, that I forbore to mention him as a Pastoral Writer, since upon the whole, he is of the same Class with Moschus and Bion, whom we have excluded that Rank; and of whose Eclogues, as well as some of Virgil's, it may be said, that according to the Description we have given of this sort of Poetry, they are by no means Pastorals, but something Better.