Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and concluded it must be “merely to show his wit, or for some profit or lucre to himself.”—Life of C. C., chap. vii. and Letter to Mr. P., p. 15, 40, 53. Ver. 113.-Now, shame to Fortune !1 an ill run at play

Blank'd his bold visage, and a thin third day :

Swearing and supperless the hero sate 2 1 Because she usually shows favour to per ons of this character, who have a three-fold pretence to it.

2 It is amazing how the sense of this hath been mistaken by all the former commentators, who most idly suppose it to imply that the hero of the poem wanted a supper.

In truth a great absurdity! Not that we are ignorant that the hero of Homer's Odyssey is frequently that circumstance, and therefore it can no way derogate from the grandeur of epic poem to represent such hero under a calamity to which the greatest, not only of critics and poets, but of kings and warriors, have been subject. But much more refined, I will venture to say, is the meaning of our author: It was to give us, obliquely, a curious precept, or, what Bossu calls a disguised sentence, that

Temperance is the life of study.” The language of poesy brings all into action; and to represent a critic encompassed with books, but without a supper, is a picture which lively expresseth how much the true critic prefers the diet of the mind to that of the body, one of which he always castigates, and often totally neglects, for the greater improvement of the other.SCRIBLERUS.

But since the discovery of the true hero of the Poem, may we not add that nothing was so natural, after so great a loss of money at dice, or of reputation by his play, as that the poet should have no great stomach to eat a sup. per? Besides, how well has the poet consulted his heroic character, in adding that he swore all the time?-BENTL.

THEOBALD'S SHAKESPEAR.

66

Ver. 134. There hapless Shakespear, yet of Tibbald sore,

Wish'd he had blotted for himself before. It is not to be doubted but Bayes was a subscriber to Tibbald's Shakespear. He was frequently liberal this way: and, as he tells us, subscribed to Mr. Pope's Homer, out of pure generosity and civility; but when Mr. Pope did so to his Nonjuror, he concluded it could be nothing but a joke.”—Letter to Mr. P., p. 24.

This Tibbald, or Theobald, published an edition of Shakespear, of which he was so proud himself as to say, in one of Mist's Journals, June 8, “ Thai to expose any errors in it was impracticable.” And in another, April 27, “That whatever care might for the future be taken by any other editor, he would still give above five hundred emendations, that shall escape them all."

It was a ridiculous praise which the players gave to Shakespear, " that he never blotted a line.” Ben Jonson honestly wished he had blotted a thousand; and Shakespear would certainly have wished tbe same, if he had lived

a

[ocr errors]

to see those alterations in his works, which, not the actors only (and especially the daring hero of this poem) have made on the stage, but the presumptuous critics of our days in their editions.

[Annotated editions of Shakespear (as Pope uniformly spells the name) have multiplied vastly since the era of the Dunciad; but up to the laborious work of Malone, Theobald's edition was unquestionably the best. He had the advantage of Pope in being familiar with the old Elizabethan literature, and black-letter poetry, so essential to the proper illustration of Shakespear, and his patient industry rescued the text of our great poet from numerous errors and obscurities. Warburton corresponded with Theobald, and assisted him materially in editing Shakespear. In the edition of 1729, Pope preferred a personal charge against Theobald. He said in a note that “ during two whole years, while Mr. Pope was preparing his edition, he published advertisements, requesting assistance, and promising satisfaction to any who could contribute to its greater perfection; but this restorer, who was at that time soliciting favours of him by letters, did wholly conceal that he had any such design, till after its publication (which he was not ashamed to own in a Daily Journal of Nov. 26, 1729). And then an outcry was made in the prints that nur author had joined with the booksellers to raise an extravagant subscription, in which he had no share, of which he had no knowledge, and against which he had publicly advertised in his own proposals for Homer.” Theobald, in a letter addressed to Concanen, denied this charge. He said he had not concealed his design from Pope, as he had no such certain design till he saw how incorrect an edition of Shakespear Mr. Pope had given to the public. With respect to the alleged ingratitude, Theobald states that when he put out his proposals for translating Æschylus, he solicited Mr. Pope to recommend his design. To this the poet replied that he was glad Theobald had undertaken the work, and that he would be glad to promote his interest. Theobald lived to see himself deposed, and Cibber elevated to the post of hero of the Dunciad. He died September 18, 1744, aged about 52.]

66

OGILBY THE TRANSLATOR AND THE DUCHESS OF

NEWCASTLE. John Ogilby was one, who, from a late initiation into literature, made such a progress as might well style him the prodigy of his time, in sending into the world so many large volumes! His translations of Homer and Virgil, done to the life, and with such excellent sculptures! And (what added great grace to his works) he printed them all on special good paper, and in a very good letter."—WINSTANLY, Lives of Poets.

“ The Duchess of Newcastle was one who busied herself in the ravishing delights of poetry; leaving to posterity in print three ample volumes of her studious endeavours.”_WINSTANLY, ibid. Langbaine reckons up eight folios of her Grace's; which were usually adorned with gilded covers, and had her coat of arms upon them.

[Margaret Lucas, Duchess of Newcastle, who died in 1673, notwithstanding

her pedantry and her folios, has found favour with parties whom it is an honour to please.

Charles Lamb has commemorated the charms of her quaint Muse and her chivalrous devotion to her lord, in his long exile during the Commonwealth. Walpole says, “What gives the best idea of her un. bounded passion for scribbling, was her seldom revising the copies of her works, lest, as she said, it should disturb her following conceptions.” The most fulsome panegyrics were addressed to the Duchess from the various societies of Oxford and Cambridge. She had a lively fancy, with knowledge and invention, but wanted that in which Pope excelled, taste and judgment. Her life was more poetical than her verses.]

SETTLE, BANKS, AND BROOME.
Ver. 145. A Gothic Library, of Greece and Rome

Well purged, and worthy Settle, Banks, and Broome. The poet has mentioned these three authors in particular, as they are parallel to our hero in his three capacities : l. Settle was his brother laureate; only indeed upon half-pay, for the city instead of the court; but equally famous for unintelligible flights in his poems on public occasions, such as shows, birth-days, &c. 2. Banks was his rival in tragedy; though more successful in one of his tragedies, the Earl of Essex, which is yet alive; Anna Boleyn, the Queen of Scots, and Cyrus the Great, are dead and gone. Those he dressed in a sort of beggar's velvet, or a happy mixture of the thick fustian and thin prosaic; exactly imitated in Perolla and Isidora, Cæsar in Egypt, and the Heroic Daughter. 3. Broome was a serving.man of Ben Jonson, who once picked up a comedy from his betters, or from some cast scenes of his master, not entirely contemptible. In the first edition it was,

Well purged, and worthy W-y, W-s, and Bl.

[Wesley, Watts, and Blome.] And in the following, altered to Withers, Quarles, and Blome.

Some have objected, that books of this sort suit not so well the library of our Bayes, which they imagine consisted of novels, plays, and obscene books; but they are to consider, that he furnished his shelves only for ornament, and read these books no more than the dry bodies of divinity, which, no doubt, were purchased by his father, when he designed him for the gown. See the note on ver. 200.

[Of Elkanah Settle, the City poet, some notice has been previously given. John Banks was a pretty successful dramatist, and his tragedy, “ The Un. happy Favourite, or the Earl of Essex," was long on the stage. He was bred to the law. The time of his death is unknown. Richard Broome, or Brome, wrote fifteen comedies, most of which were successful when produced. His comedy, "The Jovial Crew," was revived in the time of Pope, and was well received. Brome died in 1632.]

CAXTON THE PRINTER.

Ver. 149. There Caxton slept with Wynkyn at his side.] A printer in the time of Ed. IV., Rich. III., and Hen. VII.; Wynkin de Worde, his successor, in that of Hen. VII. and VIII. The former translated into prose Virgil's Æneis, as a history; of which he speaks, in his Proeme, in a very singular manner, as of a book hardly known. “ Happened that to my hande cam a lytyl book in frenche, whiche late was translated out of latyn by some noble clerke of fraunce, whiche booke is named Eneydos (made in latyne by that noble poete and grete clerk Vyrgyle) whiche booke I sawe over and redde therein, How after the general destruccyon of the grete Troy, Eneas departed berynge his olde fader anchises upon his sholdres, his lytyl son yolas on his hande, his wyfe with moche other people followynge, and how he shipped and departed; wyth alle thystorye of his adventures that he had er he came to the atchievement of his conquest of ytalye, as all alonge shall be shewed in this present booke. In whiche booke I had grete playsyr, by cause of the fayr and honest termes and wordes in frenche, whiche I never sawe to fore lyke, ne none so playsaunt ne so well ordred; whiche booke as me semed sholde be moche requysite to noble men to see, as wel for the eloquence as the hystoryes. How wel that many hondred yerys passed was the sayd booke of Eneydos wyth other workes made and lerned dayly in scolis, especyally in ytalye and other places, which hystorye the sayd Vyrgyle made in metre.”

[Old Caxton set up his printing press at Westminster, about the year 1474, and brought out a treatise on the Game of Chess, the first book printed in England. Three years before this he had printed in Ghent “The Recuyall of the Histories of Troye,” translated from the French. Before his death, in 1491, Caxton had translated, or written, and “emprinted "about sixty different books.]

COLLEY CIBBER'S PERIWIG, &c. Ver. 167. E'er since Sir Fopling's periwig was praise.] The first visible cause of the passion of the town for our hero, was a fair flaxen full-bottom'd periwig, which he tells us, he wore in his first play of the Fool in Fashion. It attracted, in a particular manner, the friendship of Colonel Brett, who wanted to purchase it. “Whatever contempt (says he) philosophers may have for a fine periwig, my friend, who was not to despise the world, but to live in it, knew very well that so material an article of dress upon the head of a man of sense, if it became him, could never fail of drawing to him a more partial regard and benevolence than could possibly be hoped for in an ill. made one. This, perhaps, may soften the grave censure which so youthful a purchase might otherwise have laid upon him. In a word, he made his attack upon this periwig, as your young fellows generally do upon a lady of pleasure, first by a few familiar praises of her person, and then a civil inquiry into the price of it: and we finished our bargain that night over a bottle."-See Life, octavo, p. 303. This remarkable periwig usually made its entrance upon the stage in a sedan, brought in by two chairmen, with infinite approbation of the audience.

[Nell Gwynne completed the conquest of Charles II. by a similar device. In ridicule of the French courtiers, in 1670, Nell spoke the prologue to Dryden's Conquest of Granada in a broad brimmed hat and waist-belt, which proved irresistible.] Ver. 199. What can I now my Fletcherl cast aside,

Take up the Bible, once my better guide. 1 A familiar manner of speaking, used by modern critics of a favourite author. Bayes might as justly speak thus of Fletcher, as a French wit did of Tully, seeing his works in a library, “Ah! mon cher Cicéron! Je le connois bien ; c'est le même que Marc Tulle.” But he had a better title to call Fletcher his own, having made so free with him.

2 When, according to his father's intention, he had been a clergyman, or (as he thinks himself) a bishop of the church of England. Hear his own words: “At the time that the fate of King James, the Prince of Orange, and myself, were on the anvil, Providence thought fit to postpone niine, till theirs were deterinined: But had my father carried me a month sooner to the University, who knows but that purer fountain might have washed my imperfections into a capacity of writing, instead of plays and annual odes, sermons, and pastoral letters ?”—Apology for his Life, chap. iii.

[Cibber received his education at Winchester, being sent there, as Mr. Bowles observes, with a view of succeeding to a Fellowship of New College.]

Ver. 203. Or chair'd at White's, amidst the doctors sit.] These doctors had a modest and fair appearance, and like true masters of arts, were habited in black and white; they were justly styled subtiles and graves, but not always irrefragabiles, being sometimes examined, laid open, and split."—SCRIBLERUS. This lea ed critic is to be understood allegorically: the doctors in this place mean no more than false dice, a cant phrase used amongst gamesters. So the meaning of these four sonorous lines is only this, “Shall I play fair or foul?"

[ocr errors]

RIDPATH AND MIST.

Ver. 208. To Dulness Ridpath is as dear as Mist.] George Ridpath, author of a Whig paper, called the Flying-post; Nathaniel Mist, of a famous Tory Journal.

[When Mist's Journal was put down for libels, it was revived under the ingenious title of Fog's Journal.]

« AnteriorContinuar »