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Silent and soft, as saints removed to heaven,
All tears are wiped for ever from all eyes;
No cheek is known to blush, no heart to throb,
P. Good Heaven forbid, that I should blast their glory, 105
"Let nauseous Selkirk shake his empty head
Through six Courts more, when six have wish'd him dead."
This lord was very skilful in all the forms of the House, in which he discharged himself with great gravity.
[Charles, Earl of Selkirk, died in March, 1739. Lord Hervey, in a poetical Epistle to the Queen, 1736, speaks very unceremoniously of the old courtier :
* Lord Hervey's Memoirs, vol. ii.
In a sort of Court interlude or drama, drawn up for the amusement of the queen, the scene being laid in her Majesty's drawing-room, Lord Hervey introduces old Selkirk as one of the dramatis persone. The dialogue confirms Pope's remarks as to the earl's knowledge of Court forms :—
'Queen (to the Duke of Argyll). Where have you been, my lord? One has not had the pleasure to see you a great while, and one always misses you.
"Duke of Argyll. I have been in Oxfordshire, madam; and so long, that I was asking my father here, Lord Selkirk, how to behave : I know nobody that knows the ways of a Court so well, nor that has known them so long.
"Lord Selkirk. By G-, my lord, I know nobody knows them better than the Duke of Argyll.
Duke of Argyll. All I know, father, is as your pupil; but I told you I was grown a country gentleman.
"Lord Selkirk. You often tell me things I do not believe.
'Queen (laughing). Ha, ha, ha! You are always so good together, and
my Lord Selkirk is so lively."*
The second courtier in Pope's verse was Lord Delaware.]
Have I, in silent wonder, seen such things
Shall Ward draw contracts with a statesman's skill?
To pay their debts, or keep their faith, like kings?
20 [In the first edition, "Who starves a mother." Lady Mary Wortley Montagu had £500 a year for supporting her sister, the Countess of Mar, when suffering from mental alienation, and is said to have treated the countess harshly. The "debt" is an allusion to the affair of M. Rurcmonde. See Dunciad and Life of Pope.]
21 Two players: look for them in the Dunciad.
22 [The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Wake, was said to have secreted the will of King George I.]
28 Author of an impious foolish book called The Oracles of Reason, who, being in love with a near kinswoman of his, and rejected, gave himself a stab in the arm, as pretending to kill himself; of the consequence of which he really died.
[This is not correct. Blount shot himself with a pistol. After the death of his wife, he had proposed marriage to her sister; she declined on religious grounds, and continuing inflexible, the unhappy man committed suicide. He was the younger son of Sir Henry Blount, of Hertfordshire; the lady who was the cause of the catastrophe was a daughter of Sir T. Tyrrel, of Shotover, Oxfordshire. Mr. Charles Blount was a man of learning and amiable character, but of infidel opinions. His miscellaneous works were published in 1695, by Charles Gildon, so often mentioned in the Dunciad. We have the volumes now before us, and it appears that Gildon vindicated the death of Mr. Blount, and shared in his unbelief.]
24 Author of another book of the same stamp, called, A Philosophical Discourse on Death, being a defence of suicide. He was a nobleman of Piedmont, banished from his country for his impieties, and lived in the utmost misery, yet feared to practise his own precepts. This unhappy man at last died a penitent.
But shall a printer, weary of his life,25
25 A fact that happened in London a few years past. The unhappy man left behind him a paper justifying his actions by the reasonings of some of these authors.
[This case is reported in the Gentleman's Magazine, for April, 1732. The man, Richard Smith, and his wife, were in the King's Bench. They were found hanging in their room, and their infant child shot through the head in its cradle. In one of the letters which Smith left to be delivered after his death, there is a curious touch of feeling, "If you can find," he says, "any chap (buyer) for my dog and ancient cat, it would be kind."]
26 A spirituous liquor, the exorbitant use of which had almost destroyed the lowest rank of the people, till it was restrained by an Act of Parliament, in 1736.
27 [Dr. James Foster, a minister of the sect called Independents, and afterwards a Baptist. He was long a popular preacher in London, and author of sermons and theological treatises which fill four volumes. He died in 1758. According to Bolingbroke, Dr. Foster was author of the pointed remark that where mystery begins religion ends, a saying exactly suited to that peer, and not unwelcome to the poet.]
28 [The Quaker's wife was a Mrs. Drummond, one of the notabilities of her day. Spence describes his going to the meeting with her: "No whining when she spoke, and scarce any action; very good language, particularly full of metaphors, but pretty and well-managed ones."]
29 A poor bishopric in Wales, as poorly supplied.
[It was then supplied by Dr. John Harris, whose son, Dr. George Harris, became a distinguished lawyer, and writer on civil law.]
30 [In the first edition it was, "low-born Allen" and "humble Foster." Pope wrote to Mr. Allen, that he had found him possessed of humility, and, in justice to his own conscience, he would change the epithet in the poem from low-born to humble. As Mr. Allen was a man of fortune, and Mayor of Bath, he was probably not much flattered by either epithet.]
Dwell in a monk, or light upon a king,
See, all our nobles begging to be slaves!
Yet may this verse (if such a verse remain)
"Like some old veteran, grey in arms,
And mark'd with many a seamy scar."]
31 [Warton thought this passage the noblest in all Pope's works, without any exception whatever-"A group of allegorical personages, worthy the pencil of Rubens, and described in expressions worthy of Virgil." The personification of England's Genius is certainly grand, and picturesque. Cowper has remembered it in two or three passages of the Task, and Burns echoes it in his description of Edinburgh Castle :