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In this edition, the Imitations of Horace with the Epistle to Arbuthnot, and the two Epilogues, are, to avoid confusion, numbered continuously with the collective title Satires and Epistles.
The imitation of Horace I. Satire 2, which has been excluded by its indecency from most of the editions of Pope's Works from Warburton's edition (1751) downwards, is not here given. And to enable this volume to be freely put into the hands of the young, a few words and lines have been omitted, their place being indicated by asterisks.
THE pieces collected in this volume were published by Pope singly, at various times during the five years from 1733 to 1738. When his Works were first collected, they were placed together in one volume, and entitled Satires and Epistles of Horace imitated. It is no paradox to say that these Imitations are among the most original of his writings. So entirely do they breathe the spirit of the age and country in which they were written, that they can be read without reference to the Latin model.
Our pleasure indeed is enhanced, and our admiration of the poetic skill raised, when we compare them with Horace, and note the ingenuity with which the English analogue is substituted in every instance for the Roman original. It may be said to be a perfect translation, the persons and things being transferred as well as the words. All translation from an ancient into a modern language involves some modernisation of the idea. It is the problem constantly before the translator, how far he shall carry this transformation. In the early part of the eighteenthcentury, many of the classical poets suffered translation into English verse upon this system. The aim was to modernise as much as possible. Dryden's Virgil and Pope's Homer were only attempts to bring Virgil and Homer not only into the language of the 'Town,' but into its modes of thought and expression. The translator followed the precedent of the stage, on which the Greek and Roman heroes appeared in perruque and silkstockings, the court dress of Versailles. In vain Boileau ridiculed the fashion, and (Art Poétique, 3. 118) forbade the dramatist 'peindre Caton galant, et Brutus dameret.' The limits of translation and imitation were not distinctly defined.
Oldham translated some Satires of Juvenal on this system; Dryden himself calls his Art of Poetry a translation of Boileau, though he has substituted English authors throughout for the French examples. And in his translation of Juvenal, Dryden could not resist introducing Shadwell's name. But Rochester (died 1680), in what he calls an Allusion to the tenth Sat. of first Book of Horace, had furnished the first regular example of that style which Pope brought to perfection in these Imitations.
To Lord Bolingbroke Pope assigns (Spence, Anecdotes, p. 297) the suggestion of these Imitations, as he did the suggestion of the Essay on Man. If the suggestion came from Bolingbroke, the idea was not original. Examples lay everywhere at hand in both French and English. Pope, who himself quotes Creech's Horace (Sat. and Ep. 4. 4), could not have been ignorant of what Creech tells his readers, that the same suggestion had been made to him (1684), and rejected in favour of the system of close translation. But Pope may naturally have wished to come forward as a satirist under the shield of a noble name. He seems to feel that the bitter personalities which he is writing may need some such cover. Boileau, before Pope, had felt himself compelled to publish an apology for being a professed satirist. The Discours sur la Satire (1668) rests his defence on classical precedent. Because Persius and Juvenal wrote satire without alarming the jealousy of Nero or Trajan, he may follow their example under the milder government of Louis the Great. The monarch treated it as a joke, so no subject had ground for making it a serious offence.
'Hier, dit-on, de vous on parla chez le roi,
Boileau, Epître, 6. 52.
So Pope would fain shelter himself under a minister, or, greater name, under Bolingbroke. Of his Satires of Donne versified (1735) he tells the reader that they were done at the desire of the Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Shrewsbury, and he does not omit to add that it was while the one was Lord
Treasurer and the other Secretary of State (see Advertisement to Sat. and Ep. 1. p. 37). The tone of this Advertisement is apologetic. He endeavours in it to draw a distinction between satire and libel, like a man who began to suspect himself of having been guilty of the latter. There is not,' he says, ' in the world a greater error than that which fools are so apt to fall into, and knaves with good reason to encourage, the mistaking a satirist for a libeller; whereas to a true satirist nothing is so odious as a libeller, for the same reason as to a man truly virtuous nothing is so hateful as a hypocrite.'
The distinction which Pope here insists upon, he never observed in his own practice. His more elaborate portraits are so many virulent and abusive lampoons. In his savage assaults on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and on Lord Hervey, he passed the bounds of the rules of decorum recognised, not to say in refined, but in decent society. His verses on Addison violate only truth and good feeling. But it is not only in his individual portraits that he is carried beyond the limits of civility, his whole satire is pitched in a key which good taste is compelled to disown. It is trenchant and direct. It does not play, but wound. It is not merely caustic, it is venomous. It betrays a spiteful purpose in the satirist.
Of this fault there were two principal causes; one in the manners of the age, the other in the temperament of the poet.
1. A writer who, like Pope, treats social and personal themes must do so in the tone of the society for which he writes. All poetry, in the time of Pope, was written not for the country, but for the 'Town.' Even the Essay on Man reflects, in its subject, the theological turn of coffee-house discussion. The Satires and Epistles keep still closer to the tone and topics of London conversation. All the evidence we have goes to shew that in the reign of George II. the finer and more delicate graces did not flourish, or were dying out. The passions of political party occupied all minds. At no period since the great Civil War had the spirit of faction so possessed the English nation. Everything else merged in it. The violence of the
parliamentary struggle engendered a violence of language which lost in refinement what it gained in energy. The character of the great ministerial leader, Sir Robert Walpole, resolute, clear-sighted, and with a thorough knowledge of the world, but coarse, vulgar, and without tincture of letters or culture, is typical of the men by whom he was supported and opposed. Learning was at the lowest ebb. Art existed as portrait-painting or caricature. Literature was a mere arena of partisan warfare. Poetry had degenerated into rhymed pamphlets. The public, barbarised by the gladiatorial spectacle of politics, could relish nothing but blows, and blows were then most applauded when they drew blood. It was impossible that Pope, who desired popularity, should escape the infection. He accordingly wrote Satires; or, if he wrote Epistles or Essays, they were satires only not in name. And in his satire there was no occasion for him to respect the feelings of his enemies, for no one else thought of doing so. The only justification of Pope's outrageous personalities is, that such was the habitual dialect of the contemporary press. And the press only followed the lead of general conversation. In 1720 it was one of the good effects of the South Sea mania that it diverted the talk of the town from the fury of politics. Digby writes (D. to Pope, 9 July, 1720), 'The London language and conversation is, I find, quite changed since I left it only three months ago. I hope this will calm
all party rage, and introduce more humanity than has of late prevailed in conversation.' It was sufficient to belong to the Court party to earn a stinging couplet from Pope's pen. His praise was equally blind, for it is bestowed on all Tories, or the Country party as they began to call themselves, without distinction. The Satires were so far of external origin. They were not prompted by the 'satiric heart,' but by the prevailing fashion of the Walpolian era, the fashion of unrestrained invective. Pope was conscious of a talent for caustic effects, conscious that he could do better than any one what every one else was doingsting with epigram.
2. A second and concurrent cause of Pope's satirical poetry