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have left in the obscurity of unauthorised publications, his Treatise on the Bathos or Art of Sinking in Poetry, which was founded on the old idea of the Scribblerus club. It is in my opinion by far the most successful of Pope's prose satires, and evinces the extraordinary facility with which he was able to develop ideas originally suggested to him by other minds. It pilloried the whole tribe of poetasters whose names the Dunciad was afterwards to preserve, nailed to the post by quotations from their own works. The chief, or at all events, the tenderest victim was Ambrose Phillips, who resorted to the cautious revenge of hanging up a rod in the Whig sanctum at Button's for the chastisement of the offender, should he ever make his appearance there. The Treatise on the Bathos would be more frequently read and enjoyed than it is, had not its victims soon afterwards been subjected to another, and yet more classical castigation. The Dunciad seems to have been first published in May 1728; and the enlarged edition which followed a few months later was dedicated to the true foster-father of the work, to Swift
There is no necessity for entering at length into the effect which this unparalleled satire created, and the endless warfare into which by its publication Pope had with full consciousness plunged. He had proposed to himself to lash unmercifully all the bad writers of the day, and among their number he included all his personal enemies or those whom he accounted as such. The wasps whose nests he had thus heroically stirred were around his head at once; Theobald more like a humble-bee than a wasp, with a heavy but honest protest; Dennis and his peers with an avowed intention to infuse into their stings all the venom which their natures could spare. Inferior but equally irrepressible combatants each contributed his buzz to the general sabbath of the Dunces. And Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, by this time unhappily included in the ever extending canon of Pope's adversaries, was believed to have contributed the feeblest retort of all, a silly squib entitled a Pop upon Pope, containing an account of an imaginary whipping administered the poet at Twickenham, with the feminine adjunct of a sneer at his friendship with Martha Blount,
The conflict which Pope had provoked, it was in accordance with his nature almost indefinitely to prolong. The Dunciad, instead of remaining his last word against the Dunces, was supplemented by a series of lighter attacks in the Grubstreet Journal, which for eight years (1730—7) made war upon the enemies of true literature and Pope. Many of the epigrams which he furnished to this weekly periodical will be found among the Miscellanies at the close of the present volume; several other pieces are with much probability, though not with absolute certainty, attributed to him. At all events he directed the judgments of the ‘Knights of the Bathos,' as the critics of this journal called themselves, who turned their more or less righteous indignation against the victims of the Dunciad, down to Henley the butchers' lecturer and Ward the quack. In one case only, that of Aaron Hill, the
· See Introductory Remarks to the Dunciad.
dramatist whom Pope had correctly attacked in the Dunciad, was a reconciliation brought about by the determination of the former, and an instance afforded of the timidity occasionally displayed by Pope when driven home by a resolute opponent.
But while these petty combats still continued to occupy a share of the poet's time and attention, he was already passing under the new influence of an old acquaintance, into what may be termed the third phase of his literary life. In the school of Addison Pope had learnt to cultivate that correctness of form which accorded with the leanings of his own mind and the influences of his boyish studies; and gracefully to mingle the reminiscences of a classical education with a careful observation of the characteristics of existing society. In the school of Swift, again assimilating the influences which he admitted to the tendencies of his own individuality, he had imbibed that bitter hatred of the petty and trivial, and adopted that principle of conducting every personal dispute as if its end must be the extinction of his adversary, which had substituted for the elegant refinements of the Essay on Criticism and the suave irony of the Rape of the Lock the scathing invectives of the Dunciad. From Bolingbroke he believed that he learnt the secrets of a philosophy of which he had long been a half-conscious adherent; what he really gained, was a habit of closer and more accurately classified observation, a nearer acquaintance with the machinery rather than the principles of political life, and a fuller insight into the characters of public men.
Pope had seen little personally of Bolingbroke before the flight of the latter into France, in 1715. On the exile's first return in 1723 the only members of the old literary circle whom he found in England, were Pope, Congreve, Arbuthnot and Gay? This short stay sufficed to disabuse Bolingbroke of his hopes of immediate political rehabilitation; and he accordingly writes to Swift from London to assure him that his philosophy grew confirmed by habit,' and that he considers himself a hermit in comparison with Pope. Upon the latter this lofty resignation, with which Bolingbroke at times imposed upon himself as well as his friends, must have made a deep impression. In 1725 Bolingbroke was again in England, this time (according to his own expression) two-thirds restored?' As his father still persisted in remaining alive, he purchased a house for himself at Dawley near Uxbridge in Middlesex. Thus it came to pass that Swift on his visit to England in 1726 found the most brilliant members of his ancient clique once more in familiar union, and Bolingbroke and Pope, with Gay and Arbuthnot, passing to and fro between Dawley and Twickenham.
1 Swift was in Ireland; Atterbury was exiled 2 He was enabled to hold his estates, but in this year; “it is sure my ill fate, writes Pope to not freed from the consequences of the Act of Swift in announcing Bolingbroke's return, 'that Attainder which prevented his taking public all those I most loved, and with whom I most office or his seat in the House of Lords. His lived, must be banished. Of lesser men, Prior father, an old roué of the Restoration, lived to had died in 1721 and Parnell in 1718.
the age of ninety.
To us the delusiveness of Bolingbroke's repeated observations, that he had now become a retired philosopher, are transparent enough. 'Satis beatus ruris honoribus' was the inscription over the porch of the house in which he dispensed his rural hospitality. But we know that Bolingbroke had only applied himself to philosophical studies as alternatives to the tedium of his enforced leisure in France. In the more stirring atmosphere of his native country he soon re-assumed a more familiar character, and began to contribute partisan papers to the Craft. an and to intrigue for the overthrow of Walpole. But in Pope's eyes an indescribable charm attached to the society and personality of this unrepentant Alcibiades. As Bolingbroke discoursed to him on his system of natural theology, clear and shallow as the streamlet in the grotto where they sat, and communicated to him those Essays which he never had the courage to publish, the mind of his friend became imbued with enough of the facile lesson to make him in his own belief the disciple of an exhaustive system, while he was in reality only the acolyte of a sophist and a man of the world. Thus Bolingbroke devised for Pope, or Pope devised with Bolingbroke's direct aid, the scheme of his Essay on Man. It was published in instalments of four epistles during the years 1732—4; and already, under the same influence, Pope was contemplating the developement of the plan of which the Essay formed part, and into which Warburton was ultimately to help him to fit in his other epistles, partly subsequent in date, but partly also antecedent, to the Essay. The dates of these Epistles are given in their place; among the personages to whom they were addressed are most of the noblemen and gentlemen with whom Pope, at his own house or in visits to their seats, enjoyed the pleasure of friendly intercourse: Lords Burlington, Bathurst and Cobham, all in politics opposed to the existing administration, and rising lawyers like Fortescue and Murray.
He had now at last found the species of composition best adapted to his literary genius. The satire of characters, not the direct inculcation of philosophical principles, continued to employ his pen, when, in consequence of a suggestion of Bolingbroke's he began his Imitations of Horace, in which the brilliancy of his Moral Essays was equalled and their pungency sustained.
In all these productions he was once more able to range his friends and foes opposite to one another like the children of light and the children of darkness; but his attacks were no longer directed against Grubstreet and Newport-market, but boldly ranged to the highest in the land. Personal enemies such as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Lord Hervey were tortured in the presence of their peers; and where his own political indifference might have left him silent, the disappointments of Swift and Bolingbroke, and the traditional hatreds of a party with which he had unconsciously identified himself, inspired him to Alcæic invective. The old Duchess of Marlborough, it can hardly be doubted, had to buy off his attacks upon the memory of her husband, if not upon her own character and antecedents. The omnipotent minister himself was only spared after he had rendered a personal service to the poet. As his shafts flew higher and higher, they ventured to touch the sacred
personages of royalty itself. With the court of King George II. or Queen Caroline, Pope (though no hopes of his own had ever been disappointed by them) had long ceased to be on friendly terms; and now he dared to deride the one as a mock Augustus, and pursue the other with his sneers even to her deathbed?. At last he contrived to bring upon himself the danger, or at all events the menace, of a prosecution. Possibly the timidity which he sometimes exhibited in the face of extreme measures may have been judiciously worked upon; at all events he abandoned all further exploration of this vein with the year 1738; and the fragment called '1740,' supposing it to have been his own, was hardly destined for other than private or posthumous circulation. Being in disfavour with the Court of St James', Pope was of course in favour with that of Leicester House, where Frederick Prince of Wales cast around him dubious shadows of a future golden age. But the latter relation exercised no influence upon the remaining phases of his poetic productivity. Prince Frederick sent busts for the Twickenham library, and urns for the Twickenham grounds; and his suite were civil to the writer who had known how to annoy their master's father; and this, said Pope, “is all I ask from courtiers, and all a wise man will expect from them.'
In noting some of the circumstances connected with Pope's activity as a satirist of men and women in exalted spheres, we have, however, anticipated the few events which interfered with the even tenour of his private life between the years 1730 and '40. This life was neither that of a man of fashion nor that of a recluse. Visits to the friends already mentioned, and to Lord Peterborough at Bevis Mount, and to the worthy Ralph Allen at Widcombe near Bath, merely diversified the tranquillity of his life at home, where till 1733 he tended the old age of his mother. In a postscript to one of Bolingbroke's letters to Swift, written in 1731, Pope speaks in touching terms of her gradual decline, and of his gratitude to Heaven for having preserved her to him so long. She died in 1733, in the ninety-third year of her age. In the following year Pope had to mourn the loss of his dearly-loved friend Arbuthnot, to whom he had only shortly before addressed the Epistle which, published after Arbuthnot's death, bore public record to the friendship which united them. The generation of the Augustans was rapidly passing away; and Pope, whose literary career had commenced at so precocious a date in his life, might feel himself old before his time. With the younger poets he showed much kindly sympathy; upon Thomson he bestowed a friendly patronage”; Young whose earlier poems had displayed many characteristics common to his own genius had commended himself by two Epistles published in 1730 against the assailants of the Dunciad; and to a very different poet, the unhappy Savage, Pope at a somewhat later date (1742) proved himself a generous benefactor. But his old friendships were being fast extinguished in death; and his last letter to Swift was written early in 1740.
1 Epil. to Satires Dial. 1. v. 79-81.
Even before that time the mind of the latter had been so darkened as to make a regular continuance of the correspondence impossible. In his great friend's unhappy mind the stronger demon had at last laid the weaker; and Pope was no longer to be invigorated by the intellectual embrace of the greatest of his associates. Swift remained a hopeless lunatic till his death in 1745.
As Pope gradually saw the last of those who had encouraged his juvenile efforts and welcomed the triumphs of his early manhood, passing away before him, it is not strange that he should have thought of collecting the memorials of a brilliant past, in the shape of such of his correspondence as he had preserved, or could contrive to
His letters to Cromwell, as we have seen, had already been published without his consent by the unscrupulous Curll in 1726. They had not, we may rest assured, been intended by Pope for publication ; and as this proceeding had been effected without his consent, no opportunity had been afforded him for controlling the arrangement of the letters. But in 1735, when Pope had collected a large number of letters of himself and his friends and deposited them in his friend Lord Oxford's library, the literary world was startled by the publication, again through Curll's agency, of a collectie of Pope's correspondence with various personages, including several of noble rank. These letters Curll declared to have been delivered to him by an unknown personage, attired half as a clergyman half as a lawyer, who had without stating his authority offered them for sale, and had after receiving the price, departed without further parley. Great indignation was manifested by several of Pope's noble correspondents at the announcement of this publication; and the printer and publisher were summoned before the House of Lords and examined before a committee. Pope offered a trifling reward (£20) for the discovery of any person engaged in the transaction, and published in the London Gazette of July 15th, 1735, a statement to the effect that he found himself driven in self-defence to publish on his own account such of the letters as were genuine. The authorised edition accordingly made its appearance in 1737. In its preface and in the “True Narrative of the method by which Pope's letters have been published' (a paper doubtless drawn up by Pope at the same time) it was stated that he had recalled from his several correspondents the letters formerly written to them and caused MS. copies of these to be drawn up and deposited in Lord Oxford's library. According to the True Narrative these copies were interspersed with some of the originals themselves.)
But since, on a comparison of Curll's with the authorised edition, it becomes evident that both were made from the same original, both presenting in certain cases the same variations from the letters as ginally addressed to Pope's correspondents, a choice between two alternatives is left to us. Either Curll's mysterious 'purveyor had obtained access to Lord Oxford's library and transcribed the letters en masse ; or, Pope himself had supplied Curll with copies. On the latter supposition, the entire proceeding was one of his intricate manoeuvres in order to obtain notoriety for his letters, and by the spurious publication to benefit the sale of the intended genuine