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the principal parts were supported by the best actors in that way on the stage. Dr. Arbuthnot and Mr. Pope were, no doubt, solicitous to conceal their concern in it; but by a letter which Mr. Gay wrote to Pope, published in Ayre's Memoirs, it appears evident (if Ayre's authority may be depended on) that they both assisted in the composition.
"Too late I see and confess myself mistaken in "relation to the comedy; yet I do not think, had "I followed your advice, and only introduced the
mummy, that the absence of the crocodile had "saved it. I can't help laughing myself (though "the vulgar do not consider it was designed to "look ridiculous) to think how the poor monster "and mummy were dashed at their reception, and, "when the cry was loudest, I thought that, if the "thing had been written by another, I should have "deemed the town in some measure mistaken; and
as to your apprehension that this may do us fu"ture injury, do not think of it; the Doctor has 46 a more valuable name than can be hurt by any "thing of this nature; and yours is doubly safe. "I will, if any shame there be, take it all to my"self, and indeed I ought, the motion being first "mine, and never heartily approved by you.”
Of all our poet's writings, none were read with more general approbation than his Ethic Epistles, or multiplied into more editions. Mr. Pope, who was a perfect economist, secured to himself the profits arising from his own works; he was never subjected to necessity, and therefore was not to be imposed upon by the art or fraud of publishers. But now approaches the period in which, as he himself expressed it; he stood in need of the generous tear he paid;
Poets themselves must fall like those they sung,
Mr. Pope, who had been always subjected to a variety of bodily infirmities, finding his strength give way, began to think that his days, which had been prolonged past his expectation, were drawing towards a conclusion. However, he visited the Hotwells at Bristol, where, for some time, there were small hopes of his recovery; but making too free with purges, he grew worse, and seemed desirous to draw nearer home. A dropsy in the breast at last put a period to his life, at the age of fifty-six, on the 30th of May, 1744, at his house at Twickenham, where he was interred in the same grave with his father and mother.
Mr. Pope's behaviour in his last illness has been variously represented to the world: some have af firmed that it was timid and peevish; that having been fixed in no particular system of faith, his mind was wavering, and his temper broken and disturbed. Others have asserted that he was all cheerfulness and resignation to the divine will: which of these opinions is true we cannot now determine; but if the former, it must be regretted that he who had taught philosophy to others, should himself be destitute of its assistance in the most critical moments of his life. The bulk of his fortune he bequeathed to Mrs. Blount, with whom he lived in the strictest friendship, and for whom he is said to have entertained the warmest affection. His works, which are in the hands of every person of true taste, and will last as long as our language will be understood, render unnecessary all further remarks on his writings. He was equally admired for the dignity and sublimity of his moral and philosophical works, the vivacity of his satirical, the clearness and propriety of his didactic, the richness and variety of his descriptive, and the elegance of all, added to a harmony of versification and correctness of sentiment and language unknown to our former poets, and of which he has set an example, which will be an example or a reproach to his successors. His prose
style is as perfect in its kind as his poetic, and has all the beauties proper for it, joined to an uncommon force and perspicuity.
Under the profession of the Roman Catholic religion, to which he adhered to the last, he maintained all the moderation and charity becoming the most thorough and consistent protestant. His conversation was natural, easy, and agreeable, without any affectation of displaying his wit, or obtruding his own judgment, even upon subjects of which he was so eminently a master.
The moral character of our author, as it did not escape the lash of his calumniators in his life, so have there been attempts since his death to diminish his reputation. Lord Bolingbroke, whom Mr. Pope esteemed to almost an enthusiastic degree of admiration, was the first to make this attack. Not many years ago the public were entertained with this controversy, immediately upon the publication of his Lordship's Letters on the Spirit of Patriotism, and the Idea of a Patriot King. Different opinions have been offered, some to extenuate the fault of Mr. Pope for printing and mutilating these letters without his Lordship's knowledge; others to blame him for it as the highest breach of friendship, and the greatest mark of dishonor; but it would exceed our proposed bounds to enter into the merits of this controversy.
This great man is allowed to have been one of the first rank amongst the poets of our nation, and to acknowledge the superiority of none but Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden. With the two former it is unnatural to compare him, as their province in writing is so very different. Pope has never attempted the drama, nor published an epic poem, in which these two distinguished geniuses have so wonderfully succeeded. Though Pope's genius was great, it was yet of so different a cast from Shakespeare's and Milton's, that no comparison can be justly formed. But if this may be said of the
former two, it will by no means hold with respect to the latter; for between him and Dryden there is a great similarity of writing, and a very striking coincidence of genius. It will not, perhaps, be unpleasing to our readers if we pursue this comparison, and endeavour to discover to whom the superiority is justly to be attributed, and to which of them poetry owes the highest obligations.
When Dryden came into the world he found poetry in a very imperfect state; its numbers were unpolished, its cadences rough, and there was nothing of harmony or mellifluence to give it a graceful flow. In this harsh, unmusical situation, Dryden found it, (for the refinements of Waller were but puerile and unsubstantial;) he polished the rough diamond, he taught it to shine, and connected beauty, elegance, and strength, in all his poetical compositions. Though Dryden thus po lished our English numbers, and thus harmonized versification, it cannot be said that he carried his art to perfection. Much was yet left undone; his lines, with all their smoothness, were often ram. bling, and expletives were frequently introduced to complete his measures. It is apparent, therefore, that an additional harmony might still be given to our numbers, and that cadences were yet capable of more musical modulation. To effect this purpose Mr. Pope arose, who with an ear elegantly delicate, and the advantage of the finest genius, so harmonized the English numbers, as to make them completely musical. His numbers are likewise so minutely correct, that it would be difficult to conceive how any of his lines can be altered to advantage. He has created a kind of mechanical versification; every line is alike; and though they are sweetly musical they want diversity; for he has not studied so great a variety of pauses, and where the accents may be laid gracefully. The structure of his verse is the best, and a line of his is more musical than any other line can
be made by placing the accents elsewhere; but we are not quite certain whether the ear is not apt to be soon cloyed with this uniformity of elegance, this sameness of harmony. It must be acknowledged, however, that he has much improved upon Dryden in the article of versification, and in that part of poetry is greatly his superior. But though this must be acknowledged, perhaps it will not necessarily follow that his genius was therefore superior. The grand characteristic of a poet is his invention, the surest distinction of a great genius. In Mr. Pope nothing isso truly original as his Rape of the Lock, nor discovers so much invention. In this kind of mock-heroic he is without a rival in our language, for Dryden has written nothing of the kind. His other work which discovers invention, fine designing, and admirable execution, is his Dunciad; which, though built on Dryden's Mac Flecknoe, is yet so much superior, that, in satiric writing, the palm must justly be yielded to him. In Mr. Dryden's Absalom and Ahithophel, there are indeed the most poignant strokes of satire, and characters drawn with the most masterly touches; but this poem, with all its excellencies, is much inferior to the Dunciad, though Dryden had advantages which Mr. Pope had not; for Dryden's characters are men of great eminence and figure in the state, while Pope has to expose men of obscure birth and unimportant lives, only distinguished from the herd of mankind by a glimmering of genius, which rendered the greatest part of them more emphatically contemptible. Pope's was the hardest task, and he has executed it with the greatest success. As Mr. Dryden must undoubtedly have yielded to Pope in Satiric writing, it is incumbent on the partisans of Dryden to name another species of composition in which the former excels so as to throw the balance again upon the side of Dryden. This species is the Lyric, in which the warmest votaries of Pope must certainly acknowledge that he