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THE FIRST EPISTLE
FIRST BOOK OF HORACE.
TO LORD BOLINGBROKE.
[Written in 1738, when Pope was in his forty-ninth year. Hence the allusion in the opening lines to the Sabbath of his days. Bolingbroke was then sixty, and it is curious to find the younger friend gently reproach his older philosophical associate for breaking the sacred calm of his poetic retirement. The restless peer was then in France. Unable to procure a restoration to his seat in the House of Lords, he had for ten years waged a war of pamphlets and newspaper essays against the Walpole administration, till, tired of the fruitless contest, and quarrelling with his own party, he again retired to France, and remained there from 1735 to 1742.]
ST. JOHN, whose love indulged my labours past,
Nor fond of bleeding, even in Brunswick's cause.
('Tis Reason's voice, which sometimes one can hear)
Friend Pope! be prudent, let your Muse take breath,
Lest stiff, and stately, void of fire or force,
1 [Sir Richard Blackmore, also conspicuous in the Dunciad; a good man, but a heavy, pompous, and unreadable poet. His epics were a fair subject for ridicule, but the satirist might have stopped at the grave: Blackmore had been nine years dead when this Epistle was written.]
Farewell, then, verse, and love, and every toy,
As drives the storm, at any door I knock:
And house with Montaigne now, or now with Locke;
Long, as to him who works for debt, the day,
2 [George, first-Lord Lyttelton, then Secretary to the Prince of Wales, in which capacity he was highly serviceable to Thomson, Mallet, and other men of letters. His Poems, Dialogues of the Dead, History of Henry II., and Dissertation on the Conversion of St. Paul, have given him a respectable rank in literature. It appears from Lyttelton's Correspondence, published in 1845, that he wrote his treatise on St. Paul's conversion chiefly with a view to meet the case of Thomson, who, in that sceptical age, was troubled with sceptical doubts. Lyttelton was anxious that the amiable poet should unite the faith to the heart of a Christian, "for the latter he always had." The circumstance is highly honourable to Lyttelton, and is another instance of that warmth of friendship which Thomson inspired.]
Late as it is, I put myself to school,
Be furious, envious, slothful, mad, or drunk,
'Tis the first virtue, vices to abhor:
3 [Dr. Mead's name occurs frequently in Pope. He was then physician to the king, and he kept his high position in his profession till his death. Dr. Cheselden was a skilful and popular surgeon and anatomist― "the most noted and most deserving man in the whole profession of chirurgery," as Pope, in a letter to Swift, describes him. He obtained much praise for an operation performed on a youth who had been blind from his birth: the operation was completely successful in giving sight to the youth, and an account of it which Cheselden drew up for the Philosophical Transactions is highly interesting. He was afterwards much employed as an oculist. This eminent surgeon attended Pope in his last illness. His own death took place in 1754.]
Here Wisdom calls: "Seek Virtue first, be bold!
Barnard in spirit, sense, and truth abounds;6
4 [An allusion to the Low Church opinions then prevalent at the Court at St. James's, and patronized by Queen Caroline.]
5 [The Exchequer tallies. Payments used to be made into the Exchequer in coin by weight and tale (counting), and the sums engrossed upon parchment. Hence the office of Clerk of the Pells (pellis, a skin), who engrossed the bill upon parchment, and the Clerk of the Pipe, who tossed it down through a pipe or funnel to the court below. See the system described in Knight's London. The whole of this cumbrous machinery has been swept away.]
6 [Sir John Barnard, whom Chatham styled "the great commoner," was at this time Lord Mayor of London. He had been knighted some years before on occasion of presenting a congratulatory address from the city to her Majesty at Kensington. He represented the city in Parliament for forty years, and was an able, independent member. He had strenuously opposed Walpole's Excise Bill, and was mainly instrumental in defeating that minister; whence probably the warmth of Pope's eulogium. In 1749 Sir John became the father of the city, and his brother merchants erected a statue of him in the Royal Exchange. The death of this patriotic citizen took place in 1764, when he had attained to the age of seventy-nine. Sir John was a native of Reading in Berkshire, and was the son of Quaker parents. At the age of nineteen, as the result of study of the Scriptures, he renounced Quakerism, and was received into the church by Dr. Compton, Bishop of London.]
7 [Warton remarks, "It cannot now be discovered to whom these names belong-so soon does satire become unintelligible. The same may be said of verse 112." In the first edition the names are "Bestia and Bug." The latter may have meant Lord Hervey (the "bug with gilded wings" in the Prologue to the Satires) and Dorimant may stand for that venal but goodhumoured politician, Bubb Dodington. The circumstances and character in each case will apply. "D" was probably Delaval, the first lord of that
Yet every child another song will sing,
And say, to which shall our applause belong,
Or what was spoke at Cressy or Poitiers?
Or he, who bids thee face with steady view
Should chance to make the well-dressed rabble stare;
8 [Augustus Schutz, "the elder of two sons of Baron Schutz, a German, who came over with George I., and settled his family in England. Augustus had been Equerry to George II., when Prince, and became Master of the Robes and Privy Purse to the king, with whom he was in great personal favour."-Note by Mr. Croker in Lord Hervey's Memoirs. Schutz seems to have been acquainted both with Pope and Martha Blount-no doubt through Mrs. Howard. Lord Hervey speaks of him as a dull courtier, and Pope's mention of him is to the same effect. He died in 1757.]