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Behold a rev’rend sire, whom want of grace Has made the father of a nameless race, Shov'd from the wall perhaps, or rudely press'd By his own son, that passes by unbless'd : 23 Still to his wench he crawls on knocking knees, And envies ev'ry sparrow that he sees.
A salmon's belly, Helluo, was thy fate ; The doctor call’d, declares all help too late : “Mercy!” cries Helluo," mercy on my soul! 240 Is there no hope?-Alas ! -- then bring the
jowl." The frugal Crone, whom praying priests attend, Still tries to save the hallow'd taper's end, Collects her breath, as ebbing life retires, For one puff more, and in that puff expires. 245
“ Odious ! in woollen ! ’twould a Saint provoke (Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke),
Ver. 241. then bring the jowl.] It is remarkable that a similar story may be found in the eighth book of Athenæus, concerning the poet Philoxenus, a writer of dithyrambics, who grew sick by
a eating a whole polypus, except the head; and who, when his physician told him he would never recover from his surfeit, called out, “ Bring me then the head of the polypus." It is not here insinuated that Pope was a reader of Athenæus; but he evidently copied this ludicrous instance of gluttony from La Fontaine :
“ Puis qu'il faut que je meure
Sans faire tant de façon,
Le reste de mon poisson.”
Ver. 245 expires.] He repeated these four lines to Mr. J. Richardson many years
e they were here inserted. Ver. 247. the last words that poor Narcissa spoke,] This story,
No, let a charming Chintz and Brussels lace
The Courtier smooth, who forty years had shin'd
stir, “ If-where I'm going-I could serve you, Sir?”
“ I give and I devise (old Euclio said, 256 And sigh’d) my lands and tenements to Ned.” Your money, Sir? “My money, Sir, what all? Why,—if I must-(then wept) I give it Paul.” The Manor, Sir?-" The Manor ! hold,” he cry'd, “ Not that I cannot part with that”-and died.
And you ! brave COBHÁM, to the latest breath, Shall feel your Ruling Passion strong in death ; Such in those moments as in all the past ; “ Oh, save my Country, Heav'n,” shall be your last.
as well as the others, is founded on fact, though the author had the goodness not to mention the names. Several attribute this in particular to a very celebrated Actress, who, in detestation of the thought of being buried in woollen, gave these her last orders with her dying breath. P.
The Betty here mentioned was Mrs. Saunders, Mrs. Oldfield's friend and confidant; a good actress in parts of decayed widows and old maids.
Ver. 261. and died.] Sir William Bateman used these very words on his death-bed. No comic nor satiric writer has ever carried their descriptions of avarice or gluttony so far as what has happened in real life.
Other vices have been exaggerated; these two never have been.
TO A LADY.
Of the Characters of WOMEN.
NOTHING so true as what you once let fall, “ Most Women have no Characters at all."
Of the Characters of WOMEN.] There is nothing in Mr. Pope's Works more highly finished, or written with greater spirit, than this Epistle: yet its success was in no proportion to the pains he took in composing it, or the effort of genius displayed in adorning . it. Something he chanced to drop in a short advertisement prefixed to it, on its first publication, may perhaps account for the small attention the Public gave to it. He said, that no one Character in it was drawn from the Life. They believed him on his word; and expressed little curiosity about a satire in which there was nothing personal. W.
Ver. 1. Nothing so true] Bolingbroke, a judge of the subject, thought this Epistle the masterpiece of Pope. But the bitterness of the satire is not always concealed in a laugh. The characters are lively, though uncommon. I scarcely remember one of them in our comic writers of the best order. The ridiculous is heightened by many strokes of humour, carried even to the borders of extravagance, as much as the two last lines of Boileau, quoted in the next page. The female foibles have been the subject of perhaps more wit, in every language, than any other topic that can be named. The sixth satire of Juvenal, though detestable for its obscenity, is undoubtedly the most witty of all his sixteen, and is curious for the picture it exhibits of the private lives of the Roman ladies. If this Epistle yields, in any respect, to the tenth satire of Boileau on the same subject, it is in the delicacy and variety of the transitions by which the French writer passes from one
Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear,
character to another, always connecting each with the foregoing. It was a common saying of Boileau, speaking of La Bruyere, that one of the most difficult parts of composition was the art of transition. That we may see how happily Pope has caught the manner of Boileau, let us survey one of his portraits : it shall be that of his learned lady:
“Qui s'offrira d'abord ? c'est cette Sçavante,
Il faut chez Du Vernay voir la dissection." None of Pope's female characters excel the Doris of Congreve in delicate touches of raillery and ridicule.
Ver. 5. How many pictures] The Poet's purpose here is to shew, that the characters of Women are generally inconsistent with themselves: and this he illustrates by so happy a similitude, that we see the folly, described in it, arises from that very principle which gives birth to this inconsistency of character. W.
Ver. 7, 8, 10, &c. Arcadia's Countess,-Pastora by a fountain,Leda with a swan,-Magdalen,--Cecilia,-) 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 are 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. P.
Here Fannia, leering on her own good man,
Come then, the colours and the ground prepare ! Dip in the Rainbow, triek her off in Air; }, Choose a firm Cloud, before it fall, and in it 19 Catch, ere she change, the Cynthia of this minute. Rufa, whose eye quick-glancing o'er the Park, Attracts each light gay meteor of a Spark,
But notwithstanding all the Poet's caution and complaisance, this general satire, or rather moral analysis of human nature, as it appears in the two sexes, will be always received
differently by them. The Men bear a general satire most heroically; the Women with the utmost impatience. This is not from any stronger consciousness of guilt, for I believe the sum of Virtue in the female world does (from many accidental causes) far exceed the sum of Virtue in the male ; but from the fear that such representations may hurt the sex in the opinion of the men : whereas the men are not at all apprehensive that their follies or vices would prejudice them in the opinion of the women.. W.
Ver. 20. Catch, ere the change, the Cynthia of this minute.] Alluding in the expression to the precept of Fresnoy,
-“ formæ veneres captando fugaces."
Young, Sat. 5. Ver. 21. Instances of contrarieties, given even from such chat racters as are most strongly marked, and seemingly therefore most consistent: as, I. In the Affected, Ver. 21, &c.
Ver. 21. Rufa, whose eye] This character of Rufa, and the succeeding ones of Şilia, Papillia, Narcissa, and Flavia, are precisely and entirely in the style and manner of the portraits Young