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Then might I sing, without the least offence,
with much purity and elegance, the Soliloquy of Cato in the beginning of the fifth act of that Tragedy. Warton.
Ver. 76. All boys may read, and girls may understand!] i. e. full of school phrases and Anglicisms. Warburton.
Ver. 78. nation's sense;] The cant of politics at that time.
Ver. 80. CAROLINA] Queen Consort to King George II. She died in 1737. Her death gave occasion, as is observed above, to many indiscreet and mean performances, unworthy of her memory, whose last moments manifested the utmost courage and resolution.
Ver. 81. And hail her passage to the realms of rest,] Dryden has a passage similar to the former couplet in his Absalom and Achitophel, part i.
Or fled she with his life, and left this verse
To hang on her departed patron's hearse?
And a verse, resembling the last of this quotation, a little earlier in the same poem:
All parts fulfill'd of subject, and of son:
as Cowley also, on the death of the Earl of Balcarras :
Perform'd all parts of virtue's vigorous life. Ver. 82. and all her children bless'd!] No subtle commentary can torture these words to mean any thing but the most poignant sarcasm on the behaviour of this great personage to her son on her death-bed. A very severe copy of verses was circulated at the time, said to be written by Lord Chesterfield, which ended thus:
“And unforgiving, unforgiven died!"
So that our author's own note is at variance with his text, as is a letter written to Mr. Allen. Warton.
So-Satire is no more-I feel it die
No Gazetteer more innocent than I
Ver. 82. all her children bless'd!"] Her memory has been vindicated in the most satisfactory manner by Mr. Coxe:
"The enemies of Queen Caroline have represented her as being of an unforgiving temper; and even reproached her with want of maternal tenderness. It was maliciously suggested, that she fomented the misunderstanding between the King and the Prince of Wales; but, on the contrary, she exerted her utmost influence to abate the petulance of the Son, and the irritability of the Father.
"The tongue of slander has even reproached her with maintaining her implacability to the hour of her death, and refusing her pardon to the Prince, who had humbly requested to receive her blessing. To this imputation Lord Chesterfield alludes, in a copy of verses circulated at that time:
"And unforgiving, unforgiven dies!"
Pope also has consigned to posterity this aspersion:
"and all her children bless'd!"
"I am happy to have it in my power to remove this stigma from the memory of this great Princess. She sent her blessing to her Son, and a message of forgiveness, and told Sir Robert Walpole she would have seen him with pleasure, but prudence forbad the interview, as it might embarrass and irritate the King." Memoirs of Sir Robert Walpole, p. 497. Bowles.
Ver. 84. No Gazetteer more innocent than I-] The Gazetteer is one of the low appendices to the Secretary of State's office; and his business is to write the government's newspaper, published by authority. Sir Richard Steele for some time had this post; and he describes the condition of it very well, in the Apology for himself and his Writings: "My next appearance as a writer was in the quality of the lowest minister of state, to wit, in the office of Gazetteer; where I worked faithfully according to order, without ever erring against the rule observed by all ministers, to keep that paper very innocent and very insipid. It was to the reproaches I heard every Gazette day against the writer of it, that
And let, a-God's name, every fool and knave
Silent and soft, as saints remove to heaven,
I owe the fortitude of being remarkably negligent of what people say, which I do not deserve." Warburton.
Ver. 87. Why so? if satire] About this time a great spirit of liberty was prevalent. All the men of wit and genius, who indeed were all in the opposition, joined in increasing it. Glover wrote his Leonidas with this view; Nugent, his Odes to Mankind, and to Mr. Pulteney; King, his Miltonis Epistola, and Templum Libertatis; Thomson his Britannia, his Liberty, and his tragedy of Agamemnon; Mallet, his Mustapha; and Brooke, his Gustavus Vasa; our author, his Imitations of Horace, and these two Dialogues; and Johnson, his London. Wurton.
Ver. 92. Immortal S-k, and grave De-re.] A title given that Lord by king James II. He was of the Bedchamber to king William; he was so to king George I.; he was so to king George II. This Lord was very skilful in all the forms of the House, in which he discharged himself with great gravity. Pope. Pope alludes to Charles Hamilton, third son of the Duke of Hamilton, who was created Earl of Selkirk in 1687. Bowles.
Ver. 97. There, where no passion, &c.] The excellent writer De l'Esprit des Loix gives the following character of the Spirit of Courts,
There, where no father's, brother's, friend's dis
Once break their rest, or stir them from their place; But past the sense of human miseries,
All tears are wiped for ever from all eyes;
No cheek is known to blush, no heart to throb, Save when they lose a question, or a job.
Courts, and the Principle of Monarchies: "Qu'on lise ce que historiens de tous les tems ont dit sur la cour des monarques; qu'on se rappelle les conversations des hommes de tous les pays sur le miserable caractère des COURTISANS; ce ne sont point des choses de speculation, mais d'une triste expérience. L'ambition dans l'oisiveté, la bassesse dans l'orgueil, le desir de s'enrichir sans travail, l'aversion pour la vérité; la flatterie, la trahison, la perfidie, l'abandon de tous ses engagemens, le mepris des devoirs du citoyen, la crainte de la vertu du prince, l'espérance de ses foiblesses, et plus que tous cela, LE RIDICULE PERPETUEL JETTE SUR LA VERTU, sont, je crois, le caractère de la plupart des courtisans marqué dans tous les lieux et dans tous les tems. Or il est très mal-aisé que les principaux d'un état soient malhonnêtes gens, et que les inferieurs soient gens de bien, que ceux-la soient trompeurs, et que ceux-ci consentent à n'être que dupes. Que si dans le peuple il se trouve quelque malheureux honnête homme, le Cardinal de Richelieu dans son Testament politique insinue, qu'un monarque doit se garder de s'en servir. Tant il est vrai que la vertu n'est pas le ressort de ce gouvernement." Warburton. This testament, which Voltaire laboured to prove to be spurious, has lately been shewn to be genuine.
The passage in our author far exceeds a celebrated one in Pastor Fido, where Guarini thus characterizes courts and courtiers. Atto v. Scena 1 :
L'ingannare, il mentir, la frode, il furto,
P. Good heaven forbid, that I should blast their
Who know how like Whig ministers to Tory,
Considering what a gracious prince was next.
Ver. 107. And, when three sovereigns died, could scarce be vex'd,] The three sovereigns, I presume, were Mary, William, and Anne; the gracious prince, George the First. Wakefield.
Ver. 111. or peeress, shall I fret,] I have been informed that these verses related to Lady M. W. Montagu and her sister the Countess of Mar. Lady Mary was certainly extravagant, speculated in money matters, and perhaps might have been under temporary difficulties. Pope was willing to lay hold of every report against her; but if there ever was an idea of her having neglected her sister, it could not have been true, for they corresponded always with the greatest tenderness and affection; and Lady Mar could not have been in any great degree of penury, for when Lord Mar was banished, his Scotch estate, which had been settled on his wife, was freely given her by George I. for the maintenance of herself and daughter. She lived at Paris, where she corresponded with her sister, who invites her perpetually to a life of gaiety and expense, very unsuitable to a state of indigence.
Ver. 112. In some editions:
Who starves a mother