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only for amusement, from twenty to twenty-feven for improvement and inftruction; that in the first part of this time he defired only to know, and in the fecond he endeavoured to judge.
The three great writers of pastoral dialogue, which Mr. Pope in fome measure seems to imitate, are Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenfer. Mr. Pope is of opinion that Theocritus excels all others in nature and fimplicity.
That Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines on his original; and in all points, in which judgment has the principal part, is much fuperior to his master.
That among the moderns, their fuccefs has been greatest who have most endeavoured to make these Ancients their pattern. The most confiderable genius appears in the famous Taffo, and our Spenfer. Taffo, in his Aminta, has far excelled all the paftoral writers, as in his Gierufalemme he has outdone the epic poets of his own country. But as this piece seems to have been the original of a new fort of poem, the paftoral comedy, in Italy, it cannot fo well be confidered as a copy of the Ancients. Spenfer's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever fince the time of Virgil; but this he said before Mr. Pope's Paftorals appeared.
Mr. Walth pronounces on our Shepherd's Boy (as Mr. Pope called himself) the following judgment, in a letter to Mr. Wycherley.
"The verses are very tender and easy. The Au"thor feems to have a particular genius for this kind "of poetry, and a judgment that much exceeds the
years you told me he was of. It is no flattery at all "to fay, that Virgil had written nothing fo good at "his age. I fhall take it as a favour if you will bring me acquainted with him; and if he will give him"felf the trouble any morning to call at my house, "I fhall be very glad to read the verfes with him, and give
"give him my opinion of the particulars more largely than I can well do in this letter."
Thus early was Mr. Pope introduced to the acquaintance of men of genius, and fo improved every advantage, that he made a more rapid progrefs towards a confummation in famé than any of our English poHis Meffiah, his Windfor Foreft, (the firft part of which was written at the fame time with his Paltorals,) and his Effay on Criticism in 1709, were highly received.
In 1712 he wrote the "Rape of the Lock," occafioned by a frolic of gallantry, rather too familiar, in which Lord Petre cut off a lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor's hair. This, whether by stealth or violence, was fo much refented, that the commerce of the two families, before very friendly, was interrupted.
The Rape of the Lock" ftands forward in the claffes of literature, as the most exquisite example of ludicrous poetry. Berkeley congratulated him upon the difplay of powers more truly poetical than he had fhewn before; with elegance of defcription and juftnefs of precepts, he had now exhibited boundless fertility of invention.
This poem established his poetical character in fuch a manner, that he was called upon by the public voice to enrich our language with the tranflation of the "Iliad," which he began at twenty-five, and executed in five years. This was published for his own benefit, by fubfcription, the only kind of reward which he received for his writings, which do honour to our age and country.
By the fuccefs of his subscription Pope was relieved from those pecuniary diftreffes with which, notwithftanding his popularity, he had hitherto ftruggled. Lord Oxford had often lamented his disqualification for public employment, but never propofed a penfion. While the tranflation of "Homer" was in its progrefs, Mr. Craggs, then fecretary of state, offered to
procure him a penfion, which, at least during his ministry, might be enjoyed with fecrecy. This was not accepted by Pope, who told him, however, that if he fhould be preffed with want of money, he would fend to him for occafional fupplies. Craggs was not long in power, and was never folicited for money by Pope, who difdained to beg what he did not want. With the product of this fubfcription, which he had too much difcretion to fquander, he fecured his future life fiom want, by codable annuities. The eftate of the Duke of Buckingham was found to have been charged with five hundred pounds a year, payable to Pope, which doubtlefs his tranflation enabled him to purchase.
The original copy of the "Iliad" was obtained by Lord Bolingbroke as a curiofity, from whom it defcended to Mr. Mallet, and is now, by the folicitation of the late Dr. Maty, depofited in the British Museum. Between this manufcript, which is written upon accidental fragments of paper, and the printed edition, there must have been an intermediate copy, which was probably destroyed as it returned from the prefs.
The reputation of Mr. Pope gaining every day upon the world, he was careffed, flattered, and railed at, according as he was feared or loved by different perfons. Mr. Wycherley was among the firft authors of eftablished reputation who contributed to advance his fame, and with whom he for fome time lived in the moft unreferved intimacy. This poet, in his old age, conceived a defign of publishing his poems; and as he was but a very imperfect master of numbers, he intrufted his manufcripts to Mr. Pope, and fubmitted them to his correction. The freedom which our young bard was under a neceffity to ufe, in order to polish and refine what was in the original rough, unharmonious, and indelicate, proved difguftful to the old gentleman, then near feventy, who, perhaps, was a little
afhamed that one fo young fhould fo feverely correct his works. Letters of diffatisfaction were written by Mr. Wycherley, and at laft he informed him, in a few words, that he was going out of town, without mentioning to what place, and did not expect to hear from him till he came back. This cold indifference extorted from Mr. Pope a proteftation, that nothing fhould induce him ever to write to him again. Notwithstanding this peevith behaviour of Mr. Wycherley, occafioned by jealoufy and infirmities, Mr. Pope preferved a conftant refpect and reverence for him while he lived, and after his death lamented him. In a letter to Edward Blount, Efq. written immediately on the death of this poet, he has there related fome anecdotes of Wycherley, which we shall here insert.
"I know of nothing that will be fo interefting to 86 you at prefent as fome circumftances of the laft act "of that eminent comic poet, and our friend, Wy"cherley. He had often told me, as I doubt not he "did all his acquaintance, that he would marry as "foon as his life was defpaired of: accordingly, a few "days before his death, he underwent the ceremony, "and joined together those two facraments, which "wife men fay fhould be the laft we receive; for, if
you obferve, matrimony is placed after extreme "unction in our catechifm, as a kind of hint of the "order of time in which they are to be taken. The "old man then lay down, fatisfied in the confcience "of having, by this one act, paid his just debts, and "obliged a woman who, he was told, had merit, and "fhown an heroic refentment of the ill ufage of his "next heir. Some hundred prounds which he had "with the lady discharged those debts; a jointure of "four hundred a-year made her a recompence; and "the nephew he left to comfort himself, as well as he could, with the miferable remains of a mortgaged
"eftate. I faw our friend twice after this was done, "lefs peevish in his sickness than he used to be in his "health, neither much afraid of dying, nor (which "in him had been more likely) much afhamed of "marrying. The evening before he expired he called "his young wife to the bed-fide, and earnestly en"treated her not to deny him one requeft, the latt he "fhould ever make: upon her affurance of confenting "to it, he told her, "My dear, it is only this, that you will never marry an old man again.` I cannot "help remarking, that sickness, which often destroys "both wit and wisdom, yet feldom has power to remove that talent we call humour: Mr. Wycherley " fhewed this even in this last compliment; though I "think his request a little hard; for why should he "bar her from doubling her jointure on the fame caly
One of the most affecting and tender compofitions of Mr Pope is his "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfor tunate Lady," built on a true ftory. We are informed in the Life of Pope, for which Curl obtained a patent, that this young lady was a particular favourite of the Poet, though it is not afcertained whether he himself was the perfon from whom fhe was removed. This young lady was of very high birth, poffeffed an opulent fortune, and under the tuterage of an uncle, who gave her an education fuitable to her titles and pretenfions. She was efteemed a match for the greatest peer in the realm, but in her early years the fuffered her heart to be engaged by a young gentleman, and, in confequence of this attachment, rejected offers made to her by perfons of quality, feconded by the folicitations of her uncle. Her guardian, being surprised at this behaviour, fet fpies upon her, to find out the real caufe of her indifference. Her correfpondence with her lover was foon difcovered, and when urged upon that topic, fhe had too much truth and honour to deny it. The uncle, finding that he would make no efforts to dif