« PreviousContinue »
upon it, though very much and very kindly pressed by the King to remain in his service." 6
Truly Kitty had realised the poet's prediction. She had―
"Obtained the chariot for a day,
And set the world on fire!"
For "Johnny Gay" the rupture was the most fortunate thing that could have happened. His subscription list swelled up instantly. Old Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, sent a hundred pounds for one copy; others contributed handsomely; and the City of London, and the people of England, took the part of the poet. "For writing in the cause of virtue, and against the fashionable vices," said Gay, "I am looked upon as the most obnoxious person almost in England!" And all this about "Polly," a dramatic piece which contains neither virtue, satire, wit, nor poetry! In fact, it is about the most vapid and tiresome of all Gay's productions. Arbuthnot, in a letter to Swift, ridicules the Gay combustion in his own happy and inimitable grave style. "The inoffensive John Gay," he says, "is now become one of the obstructions to the peace of Europe. He has got several turned out of their places; the greatest ornament of the Court banished from it for his sake; another great lady [Mrs. Howard] in danger of being chassée likewise; about seven or eight duchesses pushing forward, like the ancient circumcelliones in the Church, who shall suffer martyrdom on his account first. He is the darling of the City. If he should travel about the country, he would have hecatombs of roasted oxen sacrificed to him. Since he became so conspicuous Will Pulteney hangs his head, to see himself so much outdone in the career of glory. I hope he will get a good deal of money by printing his play; but I really believe he would get more by showing his person: and I can assure you, this is the identical John Gay, whom you formerly knew, and lodged with in Whitehall two years ago."
The important and kind-hearted John Gay, of course overflowed with gratitude to the Duchess, to whom he said he owed his life and fortune. He begged Swift to think of her with respect, and in particular never more to despise a fork with three prongs, or to eat from the point of his knife! In this matter the Duchess was peculiarly touchy and sensitive, usually screaming out when she saw her guests lift food with a knife, and begging them not to cut their throats. Swift urged the best excuse for this solecism at table. In all poor houses, especially those of poets, the forks are only bidential, “upon which account a knife was absolutely necessary at Mr. Pope's, where it was morally impossible with a bidential fork to convey a morsel of beef, with the incumbrance of mustard and turnips, into your mouth at once."
Exactly eighteen years after penning her Court disclaimer, the Duchess of Queensberry found her way back to Court. Her eccentricities increased; she continued to wear the same style of dress that she had worn in her youth-would sometimes affect the peasant costume, with apron in front, and pincushion dangling outside from her waist-and was more often laughed at than admired. In truth, her eccentricities, though relieved or veiled by
6 Memoirs of the Reign of George II., by John Lord Hervey.
beauty, and by lively powers of conversation, were always tinged with insanity. She had when a girl been under restraint for outbreaks of this kind, and her son, Lord Drumlanrig, after exhibiting unequivocal proofs of mental alienation, committed suicide. The Duchess died in 1777, and the good Duke her husband, the year afterwards.
DR. STEPHEN HALES.
Ver. 198. From honest Mahomet, or plain Parson Hale.] Mahomet was servant to George I., and was said to be the son of a Turkish bassa, whom the King took at the siege of Buda.
"Plain Parson Hale" (whose name has been deprived of a letter by the inexorable laws of rhyme) was Dr. Stephen Hales, Rector of Teddington, near Twickenham, and one of the witnesses to Pope's will. Dr. Hales was Clerk of the Closet to the Princess of Wales. He refused further Church preferment, that he might devote himself to those studies in experimental philosophy, to which he was so strongly attached. He was author of two scientific works, Vegetable Statics, and Statical Essays; and, among his numerous discoveries and inventions, was one of national importance-a ventilator for clearing ships and prisons of foul air. Dr. Hales seems to have been a simple benevolent man, delighting in his quiet village and pastoral duties. He rebuilt the tower of Teddington Church, and at a ripe old age he was interred beside it, dying in 1761, in his eighty-fourth year. Pope had a sincere regard for his amiable and scientific neighbour, but, according to
Spence, he looked with horror on some of his experiments. "I shall be very glad to see Dr. Hales, and always love to see him, he is so worthy and good a man. Yes, he is a very good man; only I'm sorry he has his hands so much imbrued in blood. What, he cuts up rats? Ay, and dogs too! [with what emphasis and concern he spoke it!] Indeed he commits most of those barbarities, with the thought of being of use to man! but how do we know that we have a right to kill creatures that we are so little above as dogs, for our curiosity, or even for some use to us? I used to carry it too far; I thought they had reason as well as we. So they have to be sure: all our disputes about that are only disputes about words. Man has reason enough only to know what is necessary for him to know, and dogs have just that too. . But then they must have souls, too, as unperishable as ours!' And what harm would that be to us?" This is what Dr. Johnson would have called wild talk. The question as to the reasoning power in dogs is solved by the obvious and prosaic fact, that they can only be trained up to a certain point, and have no progressive advancement.
ALLEN, LORD BATHURST.
OF THE USE OF RICHES.
That it is known to few, most falling into one of the extremes, avarice or profusion, ver. 1, &c. The point discussed, whether the invention of money has been more commodious or pernicious to mankind, ver. 21 to 77. That riches, either to the avaricious or the prodigal, cannot afford happiness, scarcely necessaries, ver. 89 to 160. That avarice is an absolute frenzy, without an end or purpose, ver. 113, &c. 152. Conjectures about the motives of avaricious men, ver. 121 to 153. That the conduct of men, with respect to riches, can only be accounted for by the order of Providence, which works the general good out of extremes, and brings all to its great end by perpetual revolutions, ver. 161 to 178. How a miser acts upon principles which appear to him reasonable, ver. 179. How a prodigal does the same, ver. 199. The due medium, and true use of riches, ver. 219. The Man of Ross, ver. 250. The fate of the profuse and the covetous, in two examples: both miserable in life and in death, ver. 300, &c. The story of Sir Balaam, ver. 339 to the end.
HO shall decide, when doctors disagree,
And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me?
1 This Epistle was written [in 1732] after a violent outcry against our author, on a supposition that he had ridiculed a worthy nobleman merely for his wrong taste. He justified himself upon that article in a letter to the Ear of Burlington; at the end of which are these words: "I have learnt that there are some who would rather be wicked than ridiculous; and therefore it may be safer to attack vices than follies. I will therefore leave my betters in the quiet possession of their idols, their groves, and their high places; and change my subject from their pride to their meanness, from their vanities to their miseries; and, as the only certain way to avoid misconstructions, to lessen offence, and not to multiply ill-natured applications, I may probably, in my next, make use of real names instead of fictitious ones."
[See Timon's Villa and the Duke of Chandos in Epistle IV.]
You hold the word, from Jove to Momus given,
But I, who think more highly of our kind,
Like doctors thus, when much dispute has pass'd,
2 John Ward, of Hackney, Esq., member of parliament, being prosecuted by the Duchess of Buckingham, and convicted of forgery, was first expelled the house, and then stood in the pillory on the 17th of March, 1727. He was suspected of joining in a conveyance with Sir John Blunt, to secrete fifty thousand pounds of that director's estate, forfeited to the South Sea Company, by act of parliament. The company recovered the fifty thousand pounds against Ward; but he set up prior conveyances of his real estate to his brother and son, and concealed all his personal, which was computed to be one hundred and fifty thousand pounds. These conveyances being also set aside by a bill in Chancery, Ward was imprisoned, and hazarded the forfeiture of his life by not giving in his effects till the last day, which was that of his examination. During his confinement, his amusement was to give poison to dogs and cats, and see them expire by slower or quicker torments. To sum up the worth of this gentleman at the several eras of his life: at his standing in the pillory he was worth above two hundred thousand pounds; at his commitment to prison he was worth one hundred and fifty thousand; but has been so far diminished in his reputation, as to be thought a worse man by fifty or sixty thousand.
Fr. Chartres, a man infamous for all manner of vices. When he was an ensign in the army, he was drummed out of the regiment for a cheat; he was next banished Brussels, and drummed out of Ghent, on the same account. After a hundred tricks at the gaming-tables, he took to lending of money at an exorbitant interest and on great penalties, accumulating premium, interest, and capital into a new capital, and seizing to a minute when the payments became due; in a word, by a constant attention to the vices, wants, and follies of mankind, he acquired an immense fortune. His house was a perpetual