תמונות בעמוד

shillings were saved ; or in a niggardly reception of his friends, and scantiness of entertainment, as, when he had two guests in his house, he would set at supper a single pint upon the table ; and having himself taken two small glasses, would retire and say “Gentlemen, I leave you to your wine.” Yet he tells his friends, that“ he has a heart for all, a house for all, and, whatever they may think, a fortune for all.” He sometimes, however, made a splendid dinner, and is said to have wanted no part of the skill or elegance which such performances require. That this magnificence should be often displayed, that obstinate prudence with which he conducted his affairs would not permit; for his revenue, certain and casual, amounted only to about eight hundred pounds a year, of which however he declares himself able to assign one hundred to charity*.

Of this fortune, which as it arose from public approbation was very ho. nourably obtained, his imagination seems to have been too full : it would be hard to find a man, so well entitled to notice by his wit, that ever delighted so much in talking of his money. In his Letters, and in his Poems, his garden and his grotto, his quincunx and his vines, or some hints of his opulence, are always to be found. The great topick of his ridicule is poverty; the crimes with which he reproaches his antagonists are their debts, their habitation in the Mint, and their want of a dinner. He seems to be of an opinion not very uncommon in the world, that to want money is to want every thing

Next to the pleasure of contemplating his possessions, seems to be that of enumerating the men of high rank with whom he was acquainted, and whose notice he loudly proclains not to have been obtained by any practices of meanness or servility; a boast which was never denied to be true, and to which very few poets have ever aspired. Pope never set genius to sale, le never flattered those whom he did not love, or praised those whom he did not esteem. Savage however remarked, that he began a little to relax his dignity when he wrote a distich for his “ Highness's dog."

His admiration of the Great seems to have increased in the advance of life. He passed over peers and statesmen to inscribe his “ Iliad" to Congreve with a magnanimity of which the praise had been compleat, had his friend's virtue been equal to his wit. Why he was chosen for so great an honour, it is not now possible to know ; there is no trace in literary history of any particular intiniacy between them. The name of Congreve appears in the Letters among those of his other friends, but without any observable distinction or consequence.

To his latter works, however, he took care to annex names dignified with titles, but was not very happy in his choice ; for, except Lord Bathurst, none of his noble friends were such as that a good man would wish to have his


• A part of it arose from an annuity of two hundred pounds a year, which he had purchased either of the last Duke of Buckinghamshire, or the Dutchess his mother, and which was charged on some escate of that family. The deed by which it was granted was some years inmy custody. H.

intimacy with them known to posterity; he can derive little honour from the notice of Cobham, Burlington, or Bolingbroke.

Of his social qualities, if an estimate be made from his Letters, an opinion too favourable cannot easily be formed; they exhibit a perpetual and unclouded effulgence of general benevolence, and particular fondness. There is nothing but liberality, gratitude, constancy and tenderness. It has been 60 long said as to be commonly believed, that the true characters of men may be found in their Letters, and that he who writes to his friend lays his heart open before him. But the truth is, that such were the simple friendships of the “ Golden Age," and are now the friendships only of children. Very few can boast of hearts which they dare lay open to themselves, and of which, by whatever accident exposed, they do not shun a distinct and continued view ; and, certainly, what we hide from ourselves we do not shew to our friends. There is, indeed, no transaction which offers stronger tempo tations of fallacy and sophistication than epistolary intercourse. In the eagerness of conversation the first emotions of the mind often burst out before they are considered ; in the tumult of business, interest and passion have their genuine effect; but a friendly Letter is a calm and deliberate performance, in the cool of leisure, in the stillness of solitude, and surely no man sits down to depreciate by designs his own character.

Friendship has no tendency to secure veracity; for by whom can a man so much wish to be thought better than he is, as by him whose kindness he desires to gain or keep? Even in writing to the world there is less constraints the author is not confronted with his reader, and takes his chance of approbation among the different dispositions of mankind; but a Letter is audressed to a single mind, of which the prejudices and partialities are known, and must therefore please, if not by favouring them, by forbearing to oppose them. :

To charge those favourable representations, which men give of their own minds, with the guilt of hypocritical falsehood, would shew more severity than knowledge. The writer commonly believes himself. Almost every man's thoughts, while they are general, are right; and most hearts are pure, while temptation is away. It is easy to awaken generous sentiments in prię vacy; 10 despise death when there is no danger; to glow with benevolence when there is nothing to be given. While such ideas are formed they are

felt, and self-love does not suspect the gleam of virtue to be the meteor of - fancy.

If the Letters of Pope are considered merely as compositions, they seem to be premeditated and artificial. It is one thing to write, because there is something which the mind wishes to discharge ; and another, to solicit the imagination, because ceremony or vanity requires some thing to be written. Pope confesses his early Letters to be vitiated with affectation and ambition to know whether he disentangled himself from these perverters of epistolary integrity, his book and his life must be set in comparison Vol. I, 4 В


One of his favourite topicks is contempt of his own poetry. For this, if it had been real, he would deserve no commendation; and in this he was certainly not sincere, for his high value of himself.was sufficiently observed ; and of what could he be proud but of his poetry? He writes, he says, when he has just nothing else to do; yet Swift complains that he was never at leisure for conversation, because he had always some poetical scheme in his head. It was 'punctually required that his writing-box should be set upon his bed before he rose ; and Lord Oxford's domestick related, that, in the dreadful winter of Forty, she was called from her bed by hin four, times in one night, to supply him with paper, lest he should lose a thought.

He pretends insensibility to censure and criticism, though it was observed by all who knew him that every pamphlet disturbed his quiet, and that his 'extreme irritability laid him open to perpetual vexation; but he wished to despise his criticks, and therefore hoped that he did despise them..

As he happened to live in two reigns when the Court paid little attention to poetry, he nursed in his mind a foolish disesteem of Kings, and proclaims that" he never sees Courts." Yet a little regard shewn him by the Prince of Wales melted his obduracy ; and he had not much to say when he was asked by his Royal Highness, “How he could love a Prince while he disliked “ Kings ?" .

He very frequently professes contempt of the world, and represents himself 'as looking on mankind, sometimes with gay indifference, as on emmits of a hillock, belou his serious attention; and sometimes with glcomy indignation as on monsters more worthy of hatred than of pity. These were dispositions apparently counterfeited. How could he despise those whom he lived by pleasing, and on whose approbation his esteem of himself was superstructed? Why should he hate those to whose favour he owed his honour and his ease? Of things that terminate in human life, the world is the proper judge, to despise its sentence, if it were possible, is not just; and if it were just, is not possible. Pope was far enough from this unreasonable temper ; he was sufficiently a fool to Fame, and his fault was, that he pretended to neglect it. His levity and his sullenness were only in his Letters ; he passed through common life, sometimes vexed, and sometimes pleased, with the natural emotions of common men.

His scorn of the great is repeated too often to be real; no man thinks much of that which he despises ; and as falsehood is always in danger of inconsistency, he makes it his boast at another time that he lives among them.

It is evident that his own importance swells often in his mind. He is afraid of writing, lest the clerk of the Post-office should know his secrets ; he has many enemies; he considers himself as surrounded by universal jeaJousy" ; " after many deaths, and many dispersions, two or three of us," says he, “may still be brought together, not to plot, but to divert ourselves, and 1" the world too, is it pleases ;": and they can live together, and shew what

. : friends « friends wits may he, in spite of all the fools in the world." All this while it was likely that the clerks did not know his hand ; he certainly had no more enemies than a publick character like his inevitably excites ; and with what degree of friendship the wits might live, very few were so much fools as ever to enquire.

Some part of this pretended discontent he learned from Swift, and expresses it, I think, most frequently in his correspondence with him. Swift's resentment was unreasonable, but it was sincere ; Pope's was the mere mimickry of his friend, a' fictitious part which he began to play before it became him. When he was only twenty-five years, old, he related that “a glut of study “and retirement had thrown him on the world,” and that there was danger lest“ a glut of the world should throw him back upon study and retirement.” To this Swift answered with great, propriety, that Pope had not yet either .acted or suffered enough in the world to have become weary of it. And, indeed, it must be some very powerful reason that can drive back to solitude him who has once enjoyed the pleasures of society.

In the Letters both of Swift and Pope there appears such parrowness of mind, as makes them insensible of any excellence that has not some affinity with their own, and confines their esteem and approbation to so small a number, that whoever should form his opinion of the age from their representation would suppose them to have lived amidst ignorance and barbarity, unable to find among their contemporaries either virtue or intelligence, and persecuted by those that could not understand them. .

When Pope murmurs at the world, when he professes contempt of fame, when he speaks of riches and poverty, of success and disappointment, with negligent indifference, he certainly does not express his habitual and settled sentiments, but either wilfully disguises his own character, or, what is more likely, invests himself with temporary qualities, and sallies outin the colours of the present moment, Hiş hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows, acted strongly upon his mind; and if he differed from others, it was not by care, lessness; he was irritable and resentful; his malignity to Philips, whom he had first made ridiculous, and then hated for being angry, continued too, long. Of his vain desire to make Bentley conteinptible, I never heard any adequate reason. He was sometimes wanton in his attacks ; and, before Chandos, Lady Wortley, and Hill, was mean in his retreat,

The virtues which seem to have had most of his affection were liberality and fidelity of friendship, in which it does not appear that he was other than he describes himself. His fortune did not suffer his charity to be splendid and conspicuous; but he assisted Dodşley with a hundred pounds, that he might open a shop; and of the subscription of forty pounds a year, that hę raised for Savage, twenty were paid by himself. He was accused of loving money, but his love was eagerness to gain, not solicitude to keep it.





In the duties of friendship he was zealous and constant: his early maturity of mind commonly united him with men older than himself; and therefore, without attaining any considerable length of life, he saw many companions of his youth sink into the grave; but it does not appear that he lost a single friend by coldness or by injury; those who loved him once, continued their kindness. His ungrateful mention of Allen, in his will, was the effect of his adherence to one whom he had known much longer, and whom he naturally loved with greater fondness. His violation of the trust reposed in him by Bolingbroke could have no motive inconsistent with the warmest affection; he either thought the action so near to indifferent that he forgot it, or so laudable that he expected his friend to approve it.

It was reported, with such confidence as almost to enforce belief, that in the papers intrusted to his executors was found a defamatory Life of Swift, which he had prepared as an instrument of vengeance, to be used if any provocation should be ever given. About this I enquired of the Earl of Marchmont, who assured me that no such piece was among his remains.

The religion in which he lived and died was that of the Church of Rome, to which in his correspondence with Racine he professes himself a sincere adherent. That he was not scrupulously pious in some part of his life is known by many idle and indecent applications of sentences taken from the Scriptures ; a mode of merriment which a good man dreads for its profaneness, and a witty man disdains for its easiness and vulgarity. But to whatever levities he has been betrayed, it does not appear that his principles were ever corrupted, or that he ever lost his belief of Revelation. The positions which he transmitted from Bolingbroke he seems not to have understood, and was pleased with an interpretation that made them orthodox.

A man of such exalted superiority, and so little moderation, would na. turally have all his delinquencies observed and aggravated; those who could not deny that he was excellent, would rejoice to find that he was not perfect.

Perhaps it may be imputed to the unwillingness with which the same man is allowed to possess many advantages, that his learning has been depreciated He certainly was in his early life, a man of great literary curiosity ; and when he wrote his “ Essay on Criticism” had, for his age, a very wide acquaintance with books. When he entered into the living world, it seems to have happened to him as to many others, that he was less attentive to dead masters; he studied in the academy of Paracelsus, and made the universe his favourite volume. He gathered his notions fresh from reality, not froin the copies of authors, but the originals of Nature. Yet ihere is no reason to believe that literature ever lost his esteem ; he always professed to love reading; and Dobson, who spent some time at his house translating his “ Essay on 5 Man," when I asked him what learning he found him to possess, answered, “ More than I expected.” His frequent references to history, hiş


« הקודםהמשך »