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The austerity and gloom of the monastery, the hair-shirt and nightly vigil, offer contrasts to splendid vice, and strike the imagination while they minister to penitence and remorse. Sir Walter Scott predicted that Byron would ultimately repose in the Roman Catholic faith. Wharton contributed largely to the True Briton, a periodical edited by Arnall (one of the characters in the Dunciad), and spoke often with good effect in the House of Lords. His speech on the South Sea question had an effect not anticipated; it threw Earl Stanhope into one of those "tempestuous sallies of passion," which Walpole says were common to him, and, in answering it, the earl burst a blood-vessel, and died. Wharton's speech in defence of Atterbury, was also one of his greatest efforts. "His Grace, then in opposition to the Court, went to Chelsea the day before the last debate on that prelate's affair, where, acting contrition, he professed being determined to work out his pardon at Court, by speaking against the bishop, in order to which he begged some hints. The minister (Walpole) was deceived, and went through the whole cause with him, pointing out where the strength of the argument lay, and where its weakness. The duke was very thankful, returned to town, passed the night in drinking, and, without going to bed, went to the House of Lords, where he spoke for the bishop, recapitulating in the most masterly manner, and answering all that had been urged against him." Young dedicated his tragedy of Revenge to Wharton, in a style of fulsome adulation, and the duke is said to have presented the poet with £2000 for his poem of the Universal Passion, remarking that it was the best bargain he had ever made in his life, for the poem was fairly worth £4000. He also gave Young, as an appropriate lamp for a tragic author, a human skull, in which he had fixed a candle. It must have been by this light, that Young afterwards composed his Night Thoughts!
Ver. 246. Odious! in woollen! 't would a saint provoke,
Narcissa was Mrs. Oldfield, a celebrated actress, who died October 23, 1730 aged 47. Pope, in his Sober Advice from Horace, says of her, and these are almost the only lines that can, with decency, be quoted from that poem,
"And all the Court in tears, and half the town,
She lived some years with the wit and politician Arthur Mainwaring, who, by his will, 1712, appointed her his executrix. She had a son by Mainwaring, and another by General Churchill, and to these she left her estate. Mrs. Oldfield was buried in Westminster Abbey, between the monuments to Craggs
and Congreve, the corpse being decorated with "a Brussels lace head-dress, a Holland shift with tucker and double ruffles of the same lace, and a pair of new kid gloves." Her companion "Betty" or Mrs. Saunders, a humble actress, attended her constantly, and performed these last offices which vanity prompted. A statute was passed in the 30th of Charles II., and not repealed till the 54th of George III., which imposed a penalty of five pounds upon every burial where any material but woollen was used. From notices inserted in that valuable periodical, Notes and Queries, it appears that the penalty was often enforced. It may give some idea of the rate of payment of actresses in the time of Mrs. Oldfield, to mention that her salary was long £200 a-year certain, and a benefit clear of all charges. When the theatre was in prosperity, Cibber says, they advanced her salary to three hundred guineas per annum, with her usual benefit, which, upon an average for several years, at least doubled that sum.
OF THE CHARACTERS OF WOMEN.
[The lady to whom this Epistle is addressed, was the poet's cherished friend, Martha Blount, who had then arrived at the sober age of forty-five. Her poet was two years older. Prefixed to the first edition of the poem in 1735 was the following
"The author being very sensible how particular a tenderness is due to the female sex, and, at the same time, how little they show to each other, declares, upon his honour, that no one character is drawn from the life in this Epistle. It would otherwise be most improperly inscribed to a lady who, of all the women he knows, is the last that would be entertained at the expense of another."
The Epistle was rather coldly received by the public-probably because the author had thus disclaimed all personal allusions. Parts of it had also been published before in the Miscellanies by Pope and Swift, a circumstance which his censors of the Dunciad did not fail to notice. The author of A Letter to Mr. Pope, &c., 1735, asks, "How dare you impose upon the public at this rate? 'Tis sly, if not dishonest; 'tis a sign of an avaricious temper, and shows want of invention. You have sold them already three or four times." In another edition, published the same year, Pope inserted a note calculated to pique the curiosity of his readers, in which it was stated, that the want of connexion in the piece was caused by "the omission of certain examples and illustrations of the maxims laid down, which may put the reader in mind of what the author has said in his Imitation of Horace :
"Publish the present age; but, where the text
Is vice too high, reserve it for the next!'"
Accordingly the characters of Philomedé, Atossa, and Chloe, were addedthough not published till after Pope's death-in the edition which, with the assistance of Warburton, he had prepared for the press. The Epistle was thus extended from 200 to 292 lines, the additions forming the most striking and brilliant passages in the poem.]
so true as what you once let fall: "Most women have no characters at all."
Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear,
And best distinguish'd by black, brown, or fair.
In Magdalen's loose hair and lifted eye,
With simpering angels, palms, and harps divine;1
Come, then, the colours and the ground prepare!
With Sappho fragrant at an evening mask :4
1 Attitudes in which several ladies affected to be drawn, and sometimes
one lady in them all. The poet's politeness and complaisance to the sex is observable in this instance, amongst others, that whereas in the characters of men he has sometimes made use of real names, in the characters of women, always fictitious.
2 [This passage may have been suggested or heightened by recollection of the following lines-pointed out by Wakefield-in Cowley's Davideis:
"This he with starry vapours spangles all,
Took in their prime, ere they grow ripe and fall:
Of a new rainbow ere it fret or fade,
The choicest part took out, the scarf is made."]
3 Instances of contrarieties, given even from such characters as are most strongly marked, and seemingly therefore most consistent: as, I., in the affected, ver. 21, &c.
4 [In the first edition :
"As Flavia's diamonds with her dirty smock;
Or Flavia's self in glue (her rising task)
And issuing flagrant to an evening mask."
The word flagrant, though it occurs in all the early editions, must be a mis
So morning insects, that in muck begun,
The frail one's advocate, the weak one's friend.
Sudden, she storms! she raves! You tip the wink,
All eyes may see from what the change arose,
All eyes may see-a pimple on her nose.
Sighs for the shades-" How charming is a park!"
All bathed in tears-" Oh odious, odious trees!"
'Tis to their changes half their charms we owe;
To make a wash, would hardly stew a child;
And made a widow happy, for a whim.
Why then declare good-nature is her scorn,
print for fragrant. The substitution of Sappho for Flavia, is supposed to glance at Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (whose negligence in dress is often coarsely alluded to by Pope and Walpole), but it may have arisen simply from a desire on the part of Pope to avoid the repetition of the name of Flavia, applied to two different characters in the same poem. See verse 87.]
5 Contrarieties in the soft-natured.
6 Contrarieties in the cunning and artful.
7 In the whimsical.