« PreviousContinue »
Bless me! packet.8 ""Tis a stranger sues,
If I dislike it, "Furies, death and rage!"
If I approve,
"Commend it to the stage."
There (thank my stars) my whole commission ends,
Fired that the house reject him, "'Sdeath I'll print it,
All my demurs but double his attacks:
And last he whispers, "Do; and we go snacks."
Sir, let me see your works and you no more.
'Tis sung, when Midas' ears began to spring,
(Midas, a sacred person and a king)
His very minister who spied them first,
(Some say his queen) was forced to speak or burst:10 And is not mine, my friend, a sorer case,
When every coxcomb perks them in my face?
A. Good friend forbear! you deal in dangerous things,
'Tis nothing-P. Nothing? if they bite and kick?
8 [Alludes to a tragedy called the Virgin Queen, by Mr. R. Barford, published 1729, who displeased Pope by daring to adopt the fine machinery of his sylphs in an heroi-comical poem called The Assembly.- Warton.] 9 [In first edit.
"Cibber and I are luckily no friends."
Cibber, in his letter to Pope, 1742, notices this alteration. "You have taken off a little of its edge," he says. "This is so uncommon an instance of your checking your temper, and taking a little shame to yourself, that I cannot in justice omit my notice of it."]
10 The story is told by some of his barber, but by Chaucer of his Queen. See Wife of Bath's Tale in Dryden's Fables. [It is scarcely necessary to point out that the poet intends a sarcastic allusion to Queen Caroline and Sir Robert Walpole. The Queen's management of the King, as detailed by Lord Hervey in his Memoirs, was as artfully constructed and evolved as any dramatic plot. Walpole knew where the real power lay, and made his arrangements accordingly. Hervey, in a letter to Bishop Hoadley (1734) has the expression, "You know the King's two ears as well as I do."]
The truth once told (and wherefore should we lie?)
You think this cruel? Take it for a rule,
No creature smarts so little as a fool.
11 Alluding to Horace,
"Si fractus illabatur orbis,
Impavidum ferient ruinæ."
[Or rather to Addison's version
Should the whole frame of Nature round him break,
In ruin and confusion hurl'd,
He unconcern'd would hear the mighty crack,
And stand secure amidst a falling world."]
12 [In first edit.
"Scribblers, like spiders, break one cobweb through,
There are numerous small alterations in this Epistle.]
13 He was of this society, and frequently headed their processions. [Orator Henley and James Moore Smythe. The former preached in Newport and Clare Markets.]
14 [The Bavius of this couplet has not been named. Shadwell used to represent the character, but he had been dead long ere this Epistle was written. Dennis died in January of the same year, 1733-4. The bishop alluded to was Bishop Boulter, Primate of Ireland, to whom Ambrose Philips was for some time secretary.]
I too could write, and I am twice as tall
But foes like these-P. One flatterer's worse than all.
Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right,
It is the slaver kills, and not the bite.
A fool quite angry is quite innocent:
Alas! 'tis ten times worse when they repent.
One from all Grub-street will my fame defend,
There are, who to my person pay their court: I cough Horace,
Ammon's great son one shoulder had too high,
Such Ovid's nose, and, "Sir! you have an eye." 16
Go on, obliging creatures, make me see
All that disgraced my betters met in me.
Say, for my comfort, languishing in bed,
Why did I write? what sin to me unknown
16 [Warburton mentions that Pope's eye was "fine, sharp, and piercing." He was, however, troubled with some complaint in his eyes, for which he placed himself under Dr. Cheselden.]
17 After ver. 124, in the MS.
"But, friend, this shape which you and Curll admire,
Came not from Ammon's son, but from my sire;
Had heir'd as well the virtues of the mind."
[Curll set up his head for a sign. His father was crooked. His mother
was much afflicted with headaches.-Warburton.]
I left no calling for this idle trade,
No duty broke, no father disobey'd:
The Muse but served to ease some friend, not wife,
To help me through this long disease, my life;
To second, ARBUTHNOT! thy art and care,
But why then publish? Granville the polite,
Soft were my numbers; who could take offence
18 All these were patrons or admirers of Mr. Dryden; though a scandalous libel against him, entitled Dryden's Satyr 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 cen sure in the lines following,
"While pure description held the place of sense?"
19 Authors of secret and scandalous history. [They will all be found in the Dunciad, with Gildon, Dennis, &c., subsequently introduced.]
20 [In first edit. "Like gentle Damon's," &c. Altered, no doubt, to apply to Lord Hervey, the Lord Fanny of many a satire.]
21 "A painted meadow, or a purling stream," is a verse of Mr. Addison's.
If want provoked, or madness made them print,
Did some more sober critic come abroad--
From slashing Bentley down to piddling Tibbalds : 22
Each wight, who reads not, and but scans and spells, 165
Even such small critics, some regard may claim,
Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms!
Were others angry-I excused them too;
Well might they rage, I gave them but their due.
But each man's secret standard in his mind,
That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness,
And strains from hard-bound brains, eight lines a-year;
22 [In the first publication of these verses, as a fragment in the Miscellanies, 1727, this line stood
"From sanguine Sew-" &c.
It was then altered to daring Bentley, and next to slashing Bentley. One of the poet's contemporary critics (Letter to Mr. Pope, 1735), says—“Who this Sewis I don't know, but why must Bentley come slashing and take his place? You are grown very angry, it seems, at Dr. Bentley of late. Is it because he said (to your face I have been told) that your Homer was miserable stuff; that it might be called Homer modernised, or something to that effect: but that there were very little or no vestiges of the old Grecian?"] 23 [In early editions
"Not that the things are either rich or rare,
But all the wonder is, how they got there?"] 24 Amb. Philips translated a book called the Persian Tales.