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The daily Anodine, and nightly Draught,
To kill those foes to fair ones, Time and Thought.
After Ver. 122 in the MS.
Oppress'd with wealth and wit, abundance sad!
Ver. 115. great Atossa's mind?] Atossa is a name mentioned in Herodotus, and said to be a follower of Sappho. She was daughter of Cyrus and sister of Cambyses, and married Darius. She is also named in the Persæ of Eschylus. She is said to be the first that wrote Epistles. See Bensley on Phalaris, p. 385; and Dodswell against Bentley.
Ver. 120. Yet is, whate'er she hates] These spirited lines, that paint a singular character, are designed for the famous Dutchess of Marlborough, whom Swift had also severely satirized in the Examiner. Her beauty, her abilities, her political intrigues, are sufficiently known. The violence of her temper frequently broke out into wonderful and ridiculous indecencies. In the last illness of the great Duke her husband, when Dr. Mead left his chamber, the Dutchess, disliking his advice, followed him down stairs, swore at him bitterly, and was going to tear off his periwig. Her friend Dr. Hoadley, Bishop of Winchester, was present at this These lines were shewn to her Grace as if they were intended for the portrait of the Dutchess of Buckingham; but she soon stopped the person who was reading them to her, as the
Full sixty years the World has been her Trade,
So much the Fury still outran the Wit,
Who breaks with her, provokes Revenge from Hell,
Her ev'ry turn with Violence pursu❜d,
Dutchess of Portland informed me, and called out aloud, "I cannot be so imposed upon: I see plainly enough for whom they are designed:" and abused Pope most plentifully on the subject, though she was afterward reconciled to him, and courted him, and gave him a thousand pounds to suppress this portrait, which he accepted, it is said, by the persuasion of Mrs. M. Blount; and, after the Dutchess's death, it was printed in a folio sheet, 1746, and afterward here inserted with those of Philomedé and Cloe. This is the greatest blemish in our Poet's moral character. These three portraits are all animated with the most poignant wit. That of Cloe is particularly just and happy, who is represented as content merely and only to dwell in decencies, and satisfied to avoid giving offence; and is one of those many insignificant and useless beings,
"Who want, as thro' blank life they dream along,
As says the ingenious author of the Universal Passion; a work that abounds in wit, observation on life, pleasantry, delicacy, urbanity, and the most well-bred raillery, without a single mark of spleen and ill-nature. These were the first characteristical satires in our language, and are written with an ease and familiarity of style very different from this author's other works. The four first were published in folio, in the year 1725; and the fifth and sixth, 1727.
Superiors? death! and equals? what a curse! 135
Ver. 139. But die, and she'll adore you--] "It is seldom," says Mr. Walpole," the public receives information on princes and favourites from the fountain-head. Flattery or invective is apt to pervert the relation of others. It is from their pens alone, whenever they are so gracious, like the lady in question, as to have a passion for fame and approbation, that we learn exactly how trifling, and foolish, and ridiculous, their views and actions were, and how often the mischief they did proceeded from the most inadequate causes. We happen to know indeed, though he was no author, that the Duke of Buckingham's repulses, in very impertinent amours, involved King James and King Charles in national quarrels with Spain and France. From her Grace of Marlborough we may collect, that Queen Anne was driven to change her ministry, and, in consequence, the fate of Europe, because she dared to affect one bed-chamber woman as she had done another. The Dutchess could not comprehend how the cousins, Sarah Jennings and Abigail Hill, could ever enter into competition, though the one did but kneel to gather up the clue of favour which the other had haughtily tossed away, and which she could not recover by putting the Whole Duty of Man into the Queen's hands to teach her friendship. This favourite Dutchess, who, like the proud Duke of Espernon, lived to brave the successors in a court where she had domineered, wound up her capricious life, where it seems she had begun it, with an apology for her conduct. The piece, though weakened by the prudence of those who were to correct it, though maimed by her Grace's own corrections, and though great part of it is rather the annals of a wardrobe than of a reign, yet has still curious anecdotes, and a few of those sallies of wit which fourscore years of arrogance could not fail to produce in so fantastic an understanding and yet, by altering her memoirs as often as her will, she disappointed the public as much as her own family. However, the chief objects remain; and one sees exactly how Europe
Last night, her Lord was all that's good and great;
Pictures like these, dear Madam, to design,
After Ver. 148 in the MS.
This Death decides, nor lets the blessing fall
On any one she hates, but on them all.
Curs'd chance! this only could afflict her more,
If any part should wander to the poor.
and the back-stairs took their places in her imagination and in her narrative. The Revolution left no impression on her mind, but of Queen Mary turning up bed-clothes; and the Protestant Hero, but of a selfish glutton who devoured a dish of peas from his sister-in-law. Little circumstances indeed convey the most characteristical ideas; but the choice of them may as often paint the genius of the writer as of the person represented. Mrs. Abigail Hill is not the only person transmitted to posterity with marks of the Dutchess's resentment. Lord Oxford, "Honest Jack Hill, the Ragged Boy, the Quebec General," and others, make the same figure in her history that they did in her mind: -Sallies of passion not to be wondered at in one who has sacrificed even the private letters of her mistress and benefactress. The Queen gave her a picture in enamel, set with diamonds. The Dutchess took off the diamonds, and gave the picture to a Mrs. Higgins to be sold."
Ver. 151. Pictures like these,] A lady of wit and literature observed to me, that such an Epistle as this should be written
Some wand'ring touches, some reflected light,
As never yet to love, or to be lov'd.
She, while her Lover pants upon her breast,
She e'er should cancel!-but she may forget.
every five years, so many new and unimaginable female characters (I am afraid she said foibles and follies) daily arise.
Ver. 159. With ev'ry pleasing,] "These two lines," Lord Huntingdon one day said to me, "exactly paint the character of my old friend, Fontenelle." Tacitus says, that Galba was rather without vices than really virtuous.