« PreviousContinue »
Who shames a scribbler? Break one cobweb
He spins the slight, self-pleasing thread anew: 90
The creature's at his dirty work again,
Ver. 90. He spins the slight,] The metaphor in our author is most happily carried on through a variety of corresponding particulars, that exactly hit the nature of the two insects in question. It is not pursued too far, nor jaded out, so as to become quaint and affected; as is the case in many of Congreve's too witty comedies, particularly in the Way of the World, and in Young's Satires. For instance:
Critics on verse, as squibs on triumphs, wait,
Burn, hiss, and bounce, waste paper, stink, and die!
The epithets envious and proud, have nothing to do with squibs.' The last line is brilliant and ingenious, but perhaps too much so.
Ver. 98. free-masons Moore ?] He was of this society, and frequently headed their processions. Warburton.
Ver. 98. His butchers Henley,] This alludes to Henley, commonly called Orator Henley, who declaimed on Sundays on religious subjects, and on Wednesdays on the sciences;-one shilling was the price of admittance. His oratory was among the butchers in Newport Market and Butcher Row.
Still Sappho--A. Hold! for God's sake-you'll of
No names-be calm-learn prudence of a friend : I too could write, and I am twice as tall;
But foes like these-P. One flatterer's worse than
Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right, 105 It is the slaver kills, and not the bite.
A fool quite angry is quite innocent:
Alas! 'tis ten times worse when they repent.
Ver. 100. Still to one bishop] Bishop Boulter, who was Ambrose Philips's great friend and patron. Boulter wrote, in conjunction with Philips, a paper called the Freethinker. He was then only minister of a parish in Southwark; but being considered of consequence to Government, he was first made Dean of St. Paul's, and afterwards Primate of Ireland; where, adds Johnson, his piety and charity will be long remembered. Bowles.
Ver. 103. I too could write, &c.] Mr. Pope used to say, that of all the men he ever met with, Dr. Arbuthnot had the most prolific wit; and that here, Swift only held the second place. Nothing occurred of any consequence, but the Doctor wrote a pleasant essay upon it. A large folio paper-book, which used to lie in his parlour, was employed for this purpose; of which, however, he was so negligent, that while he was writing at one end, he would suffer his children to tear out what he had written at the other, for their paper-kites. The thing in which he was most serious, was the cause of religion. In a letter to Dr. Swift, in 1732, he has these words-" But, thank God, he has not taken from me the freedom I have been accustomed to in my discourse (even with the greatest persons to whom I have access) in defending the cause of liberty, virtue, and religion: for the last, I have the satisfaction of suffering some of the ignominy that belonged to the first professors. This has been my lot, from a steady resolution I have taken, of giving these ignorant fellows battle upon all occasions." Warburton.
One dedicates in high heroic prose, And ridicules beyond a hundred foes: One from all Grub-street will my fame defend, And, more abusive, calls himself my friend. This prints my Letters, that expects a bribe, And others roar aloud, "Subscribe, subscribe!" There are, who to my person pay their court: 115 I cough like Horace, and, tho' lean, am short; Ammon's great son one shoulder had too high; Such Ovid's nose; and "Sir! you have an eye.”—
Ver. 115. There are, who to my person] What Addison says in jest, and with his usual humour, is true in fact: "I have observed that a reader seldom peruses a book with pleasure till he knows whether the writer of it be a black or fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor." What passages in Horace are more agreeable than when he tells us he was fat and sleek, "præcanum, solibus aptum," prone to anger, but soon appeased. And again, how pleasing the detail he gives of his way of life, the descriptions of his mule, his dinner, his supper, his furniture, his amusements, his walks, his time of bathing and sleeping, from the 105th line to the end of the sixth satire of the first book. And Boileau, in his tenth epistle, has done the same in giving many amusing particulars of his father, family, and for
Ver. 118. "Sir! you have an eye."] It is remarkable that, amongst the compliments on his infirmities and deformities, he mentions his eye, which was fine, sharp, and piercing. It was done to intimate, that flattery was as odious to him when there was some ground for commendation, as when there was none. Warburton.
Ver. 111 in the MS.
For song, for silence, some expect a bribe;
Go on, obliging creatures, make me see
The muse but served to ease some friend, not wife,
Ver. 128. I lisp'd in numbers,]
"Sponte suâ carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos,
Et quod conabar scribere, versus erat." Warton. Ver. 130. no father disobey'd.] When Mr. Pope was yet a child, his father, though no poet, would set him to make English verses. He was pretty difficult to please, and would often send the boy back to new-turn them. When they were to his mind, he took great pleasure in them, and would say, These are good rhymes. Warburton.
After Ver. 124 in the MS.
But, friend, this shape, which you and Curll admire,
And for my head, if you'll the truth excuse,
I had it from my mother, not the muse. Happy, if he, in whom these frailties join'd, Had heir'd as well the virtues of the mind. VOL. VI.
A. But why then publish? P. Granville the polite, And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write; Well-natured Garth inflamed with early praise, And Congreve loved, and Swift endured my lays; The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield, read, Even mitred Rochester would nod the head, 140
Ver. 135. But why then publish?] To the three first names that encouraged his earliest writings, he has added other friends, whose acquaintance with him did not commence till he was a poet of established reputation. From the many commendations which Walsh, and Garth, and Granville bestowed on his Pastorals, it may fairly be concluded how much the public taste has been improved, and with how many good compositions our language has been enriched since that time. When Gray published his exquisite Ode on Eton College, his first publication, little notice was taken of it but I suppose no critic can be found that will not place it far above Pope's Pastorals. Warton.
That Gray's Ode on Eton College was received with indifference is certainly no proof of the improvement of the public taste; nor does there seem much propriety in commending it here, in order to depreciate Pope's Pastorals, to which it bears no resemblance.
Ver. 139. Talbot, &c.] All these were patrons or admirers of Mr. Dryden; though a scandalous libel against him, entitled, Dryden's Satire to his Muse, has been printed in the name of the Lord Somers, of which he was wholly ignorant.
These are the persons to whose account the author charges the publication of his first pieces: persons with whom he was conversant (and he adds beloved) at 16 or 17 years of age; an early period for such acquaintance. The catalogue might be made yet more illustrious, had he not confined it to that time when he writ the Pastorals and Windsor Forest, on which he passes a sort of censure in the lines following:
"While pure description held the place of sense," &c. Pope. Every word and epithet here used is exactly characteristical, and peculiarly appropriated, with much art, to the temper and manner of each of the persons here mentioned; the elegance of