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with singular indelicacy) applied to Lord Peterborough on the subject. His Lordship writes to her as follows:
Madam,-I was very unwilling to have my name made use of in an affair in which I have no concern, and, therefore, would not engage myself to speak to Mr. Pope; but he, coming to my house the moment you went away, I gave him as exact an account as I could of our conversation. He said to me, what I had taken the liberty to say to you, that he wondered how the town would apply these lines to any but some noted common woman; that he should be yet more surprised if you should take them to yourself. He named to me four remarkable poetesses and scribblers, Mrs. Centlivre, Mrs. Haywood, Mrs. Manly, and Mrs. Behn, ladies famous indeed in their generation, and some of them esteemed to have given very unfortunate favours to their friends, assuring me that such only were the objects of his satire. I hope this assurance will prevent your further mistake, and any consequences upon so odd a subject. I have nothing more to add.
"Your ladyship's most humble and obedient servant,
The authoresses here named were, with one exception, all dead, and pretty well forgotten. Mrs. Behn had died forty-four years before; Mrs. Centlivre ten years; and Mrs. Manly nine. Mrs. Haywood still lived; but her latter works were unexceptionable in point of morality, and the poor woman was as far as possible from being a furious and libelling Sappho. That the miserable dead poetasters could inspire either fear or anger, is an idea too ridiculous to be entertained for a moment. The Sappho of Pope must have some resemblance in power to the Delia of the same passage-the courtly, sensual, false, and even murderous Countess Deloraine.
Lady Mary and the town felt this; the cry had gone out against her, and instead of adopting the sensible advice of the gallant Peterborough, the indignant lady prepared for a furious poetical war. She gained the willing assistance of her friend, Lord Hervey, who had already smarted under the lash of Pope; and, between them, was composed that crude, coarse, undignified, but not imbecile satire, entitled, Verses Addressed to the Imitator of the First Satire of the Second Book of Horace. The opening lines refer to Pope's system of printing the text of Horace in one page, and his own imitation on the opposite page :
"In two large columns on thy motley page,
Who can believe, who view the bad, the good,
Than heretofore that Greek he did translate?
"Thine is just such an image of his pen,
"Horace can laugh, is delicate, is clear,
Whilst none thy crabbed numbers can endure;
The proper objects of satire are then defined, and Pope's enormities of course pointed out:
"Is this the thing to keep mankind in awe,
Is this the ridicule to live so long,
The deathless satire and immortal song?
But, as thou hat'st, be hated by mankind,
Mark'd on thy back, like Cain, by God's own hand,
Lady Mary knew well where the dreaded enemy was most vulnerable. The allusions to obscure birth and personal deformity-though utterly dis graceful to the noble writers of the verses-pierced most deeply, and were sure to provoke a reply. Pope, however, paused to collect his strength. He had higher game to fly at than the Dennises, Welsteds, and James Moore Smythes, and there was personal danger in attacking too fiercely even a Vice Chamberlain of the Court, and a lady who numbered so many lords as friends and relatives in her train. In this portentous calm, Lord Hervey tried a second blow. It does not appear that Lady Mary lent her aid to this new effort, and consequently it is vastly inferior to the first. It is in the form of a Letter from a Nobleman at Hampton Court to a Doctor of Divinity (Dr. Sherwin). A few lines will suffice:
"Guiltless of thought, each blockhead may compose
And Pope with justice of such lines may say,
His Lordship 'spins a thousand such a day.'
Such Pope himself might write, who ne'er could think,
He who at crambo plays with pen and ink,
And is called Poet, 'cause in rhyme he wrote
What Dacier construed, and what Homer thought."
Pope was now ready both in prose and verse. The former was a Letter to a Noble Lord, on occasion of some Libels written and propagated at Court in the Year 1732-3. The letter was shown to some friends, but not published. The poetical reply was contained in the Epistle to Arbuthnot, and included that most tremendous of all his invectives, the character of Sporus, in which Lord Hervey's appearance, character, tastes, and habits are so unmercifully, yet, in many points, so truly, satirized and delineated.
The year preceding his death, Lord Hervey published a poetical Essayan attempt at ethics-on "The Difference between Verbal and Practical Virtue, exemplified in some Instances, both Ancient and Modern." Pope is the modern instance, and he is charged with all manner of crimes-as lost to decency and honour, libelling the living, and aspersing the dead. The conclusion of this sketch is forcible and poetical:
But, was Hervey's resentment less durable or less vindictive?
Lady Mary wisely withdrew from the contest: there were poisoned arrows on both sides, but Pope's were unerring and irresistible. She went abroad in 1739. Spence and Walpole met her next year in Rome. The goodnatured Spence reported pretty favourably. "She is one of the most shining characters in the world, but shines like a comet; she is all irregularity, and always wandering; the most wise, most imprudent; loveliest, most disagreeable; best-natured, cruellest woman in the world; 'all things by turns and nothing long!"" Walpole had as strong an aversion to Lady Mary as Pope himself, being from certain family connexions biassed from his birth against her. He mentions the wandering lady's eccentricities. "Her dress, her avarice, and her impudence, must amaze any one that never heard her name. She wears a foul mob, that does not cover her greasy black locks, that hang loose, never combed or curled, an old mazarine blue wrapper, that gapes open and discovers a canvas petticoat. Her face swelled violently on one side, partly covered with a plaster, and partly with white paint, which for cheapness she has bought coarse," &c. A libellous caricature! Lady Mary did not return till she was past seventy-a worn-out wanderer, and a victim to cancer. The scene was soon closed; but she has two imperishable claims on the world's gratitude-her courageous perseverance in introducing the art of inoculation, which she had learned in Turkey, and her Letters from Abroad, so full of fine description and novel facts, of intelligence and animation.
THE SECOND SATIRE
SECOND BOOK OF HORACE.
TO MR. BETHEL.
[Hugh Bethel, Esq., to whom this Epistle is addressed, is the same gentleman alluded to by Pope in graceful and complimentary terms in his Essay on Man. He possessed landed property in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and appears to have been an amiable and excellent country gentleman. In a letter to Allen, Pope says-"I have known and esteemed him (Mr. Bethel) for every moral virtue these twenty years and more. He has all the charity, without any of the weakness of -; and, I firmly believe, never said a thing he did not think, nor did a thing he could not tell." One of the last acts of the poet's life seems to have been dictating a letter to Mr. Bethel. Little is known of the poet's friend, "blameless Bethel." They were early acquainted, for a copy of the first edition of his poems, 1717, was presented by Pope to Mr. Bethel, with a highly complimentary Latin inscription. The Gentleman's Magazine thus announces the death of Mr. Bethel :"Died at Ealing, Middlesex, on January 16th, 1748, Hugh Bethel, Esq. His estate of £2000 per annum goes to his brother, Slingsby Bethel, Esq., M.P. for London.]
WHAT, and how great, the virtue and the art
To live on little with a cheerful heart;
Hear Bethel's sermon, one not versed in schools,
Preach as I please, I doubt our curious men
By what criterion do you eat, d'ye think,
He calls for something bitter, something sour,
The robin red-breast till of late had rest,
To one that was, or would have been, a peer.
'Tis yet in vain, I own, to keep a pother
1 [Warburton says a glutton of the name of Oldfield ran through a fortune of £1500 a year in the simple luxury of good eating.]
2 A West-Indian term of gluttony; a hog roasted whole, stuffed with spice, and basted with Madeira wine.
3 A famous eating-house.
4 [Avidien was Edward Wortley Montagu; his wife, the never-forgotten and never-forgiven Lady Mary. See Additional Notes.]