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every incident apparently advancing or retarding its progress, assumed an exceptional importance; and in order to keep himself before the public he frequently condescended to doubtful stratagems. But it was restlessness rather than a false estimate of his own value which prompted him to these steps. He never exalted himself above those whom his literary consciousness had taught him to venerate. He never courted the great for other than an equal friendship, or sought favours which he was unable to return.
He has been frequently charged with an inordinate love of money; a supposed weakness on which Lady Mary, in the days of her enmity with Pope, was especially glad to descant. Johnson noted his extreme talkativeness on this subject; but there is little in his actual proceedings to warrant the main accusation.
Swift (who resigned to Pope the profits of their Miscellanies) would not have objected to be paid in place for the services for which he scornfully spurned any other return. But Pope was a literary man—a name which Swift would have despised—and on his literary earnings built up his literary independence. His parsimony in small matters savours rather of a habit than a vice; nor is there reason to disbelieve his statement that of his modest income he expended one-eighth in alms.
In compensation for his bodily infirmities, nature had bestowed upon him a brilliant eye and a melodious voice. To counteract the debilitating effects of his miserable health, he had been gifted with an indefatigable activity of mind, aided by an extraordinary memory. But he also possessed an affectionate heart, to whose promptings he listened in all the dearest relations of life. He was the best of sons to both his parents, a kind brother, and to those who had once engaged his affections, a faithful and devoted friend. No suspicion perverted the attachment which united him to the associates of his youth, to the Carylls and Cromwells and Blounts, and to the friends of his manhood, to Swift and Arbuthnot and Gay, and to Bolingbroke, whom he ght' superior to anything he had een in human nature. Nor was he a friend in sunshine only; the exile of many was cheered by his sympathy; and Swift predicted that among all his friends Pope would grieve longest for his death. His relations to women were those of tender friendship or affected gallantry, but they exercised no momentous influence upon his life. Had he not occasionally allowed his pen to pander to the profligacy of the age, we might regard with unmixed pity the fate which condemned him to an unmarried life. Lastly, a true generosity of spirit held him fast to his father's faith; and as he became the tool of no political faction, so he permitted no arguments of self-interest to weigh against the dictates of an unaffected piety.
Yet there remains the fact that Pope's real life lay in his literary labours. quitted them indeed from time to time, but they never quitted him. His social gifts were small; and in conversation he never shone? • As much company as I have
On this point Spence's Anecdotes must remain versation could have gained nothing in Spence's the chief evidence. It is true that Pope's con- hands, whose note-book is without a spark of dra
kept, and as much as I love it, I love reading better. I would rather be employed in reading than in the most agreeable conversation.' From reading he passed to writing, without the interval of experience of the world which might have saved him many false steps and many empty griefs. But nothing that arose out of the circumstances of his literary life was empty to him. As a boy he had determined to devote himself to literature. Neither the cruel law which deprived him of the opportunity of a regular education, nor the weakness of his health, nor the knowledge that his success must depend upon himself alone, could stop his prosecution of this resolve. He had faith in himself; and this faith, justified by his achievements, stamps him a great man. No self-delusion diverted him from the path which he had chosen. Brought up under the influences of a narrow taste, and in an age when literature was used rather than honoured, he devoted himself to her service as an end, and not as a mean. His age welcomed him as one of its chil. dren; but by what he achieved in and for the national literature his true fame must endure.
The time has gone by for Pope be ranked among the master-geniuses of our literature. In the last of his uncompromising devotees, Lord Byron, we already recognise the note of half-conscious exaggeration usual in the defenders of a no longer tenable cause. “Neither time, nor distance, nor age,” writes Lord Byron in 1821, “can ever diminish my veneration for him who is the great moral poet of all "times, of all climes, of all feelings, and of all stages of existence. The delight of “my boyhood, the study of my manhood, perhaps (if allowed to me to attain to it) "he may be the consolation of my age. His poetry is the book of life. Without "canting and yet without neglecting religion, he has assembled all that a good and great man can gather together of moral wisdom clothed in consummate beauty. “Sir Wm. Temple observes, “That of all the members of mankind that live within " the compass of a thousand years, for one man that is capable of making a great " poet, there may be a thousand born capable of making as great generals or minis"ters of state as any in story.' Here is a statesman's opinion of poetry; it is “honourable to him and to the art. Such a 'poet of a thousand years' was Pope.
A thousand years will roll away before such another can be hoped for in our “ literature. But it can want them. He is himself a literature."
Such an avalanche of enthusiasm in Lord Byron can sometimes be traced to provocation; and the cause of the above extravagant burst was the edition of Pope by Bowles, which had for the first time brought under active debate Pope's claims to a place among the greatest names of English literature. For Johnson had cavilled rather than protested; and Warton's doubts had, in the opinion of the public, met with a satisfactory reply. Bowles's edition is not without its faults, it is indeed not
natic vitality. (Joseph Spence first became ac- wards, through the influence of Pope's friends, he quainted with Pope in 1725, by publishing a criti- was appointed a prebend of Durham and Professor cism on the translation of the Odyssey. After- of Modern History in the University of Oxford.)
without its vices; for it displays an animus against Pope which makes the editor unfair in his judgment of biographical details, as well as ungenerous in the picture which he draws of his author as a man. Yet Bowles has been justly termed the most poetical editor of Pope; and it was he who, under the influences of a new current in English literature with which Byron had more in common than he cared to know, first succeeded in establishing those defects in his author which no candid criticism can since pretend to overlook.
Pope is the foremost of our classical poets, if the term be correctly applied to a school which sought in the masterpieces of ancient times the starting-point of their own literary developement. But a national literature cannot engraft itself upon a foreign trunk; and England already possessed a national literature. Moreover, the classical taste which prevailed in Pope's youth was not the result of another Renaissance, of another movement towards intellectual freedom through genuine culture. English society and its handmaid, English literature, had in the days of the Restoration, recklessly seized upon what seemed most attractive in the social and literary activity of our nearest and most influential neighbours—the French. Foreign literary models had thus been thoughtlessly adopted by our own writers, and by one great genius, Dryden, amongst their number. French classicism, a bastard birth, had been transplanted to our soil; and though it could not be acclimatised without undergoing many modifications in accordance with our national peculiarity, yet it remained an exotic and unnatural growth. Already Dryden, when in the hot haste of his literary life his better genius had found time to take counsel with itself, had recognised the truth that the French classical school was merely a French adaptation of classical rules—and supposed classical rules—into a code which was French rather than classical. He had turned from the French to the ancients themselves, but he could not shake off the influence to which he had allowed himself to be subjected. Pope was less immediately under the influence of French models than Dryden; but, on the other hand, the influence of the latter exerted itself in its turn upon his successor. Hence it was impossible that Pope should approach such a classic as Homer with the freshness of original appreciation; and hence, in his own original poetry, he naturally formed his taste among the moderns, upon those in whom he found the so-called classical element in predominance, and among the ancients in those most capable of assimilation to the conception of classical poetry which the age of his predecessors had derived at second-hand. But the models which he consistently followed were recommended to him by more than an ordinary acceptance of the prevailing canons of taste. He was even as a boy too quick-witted not to perceive many of the characteristic features of such writers as Chaucer and Spenser; yet we seek in vain for any influence of these upon the writings either of his youth or of his maturity. He thought Statius the best of all the Latin poets after Vergil; and perhaps even the exception of the latter was merely conventional. Among the Italians he preferred Tasso to Ariosto; and the preference is equally significant.
Pope had been told by Walsh to be a correct poet, and such he became, Including his very first publications, everything he wrote in verse was invariably, to use a homely but expressive phrase, excellent as far as it went, The Pastorals, the Messiah, Windsor Forest, continue to give the pleasure which finished copies of verse can never fail to afford to an educated ear. Eloisa to Abelard is an equally felicitous imitation of a long-accepted style. The Rape of the Lock was a novelty in English, but not in general, literature; in execution, though made up out of two sets of materials, it nearly approaches perfection. In all these efforts he had shown mastery of form, but no original power marking out any species of poetic composition as signally his own.
He was not to find it in lyric, or dramatic, or epic poetry. The first two of these he barely attempted; his Ode on St Cecilia's Day is only a feeble duplicate of Dryden, his share in Gay's farce is not to be included in any summary of his serious performances. For epic poetry he lacked the historic sense; had he ever ventured upon an attempt in this direction it would have been, like his juvenile Alcander, a slavish imitation of the ancients, such as they appeared to his eyes. A plan for an epic on Brutus, the mythical grandson of Æneas, was found among his papers ofter his death.
There remains didactic poetry in both its direct and indirect form; the poetry which has for its express object the inculcation of principles, and which must be primarily judged according to its success in teaching the lessons which it intends to convey. The Essay on Criticism is a series of detached precepts, not the developement of a complete system. Apart from its marvellous finish as a juvenile effort, it succeeds in enforcing many truths in a form of which the incisiveness has rarely been surpassed. For the developement of a philosophical system, such as that propounded in the Essay on Man, Pope was imperfectly qualified, because, in Lessing's simple words, he was no philosopher. But here again he succeeds, by his mastery of form, in impressing upon the mind many of the precepts incidental to his system; and produces a string of poetic proverbs which will serve for many a future text. Pope's satirical poetry is also didactic in its aim. It has a positive purpose; it contrasts excellence and virtue with dulness and vice; and its examples are illustrations of its precepts. Here Pope is master; his ability in representing types of character is unsurpassed. Personal spleen may have generally suggested their selection, but this fact fails to interfere with the triumphant success of the result. The men and women of his Satires and Epistles, his Atticus and Atossa, and Sappho and Sporus, are real types, whether they be more or less faithful portraits of Addison and the old Duchess, of Lady Mary and Lord Hervey. His Dunces are the Dunces of all times; his orator Henley the mob-orator, and his awful Aristarch the don, of all epochs; though there may have been some merit in Theobald, some use even in Henley, and though in Bentley there was undoubted greatness. But in Pope's hands individuals become types; and his creative power in this respect surpasses that of the Roman satirists, and leaves Dryden himself behind.
Pope's fame as a translator was ranked by Addison on a level with that of Dryden, but even Addison can in this case be hardly admitted as a competent judge. If the art of translation consists not in carrying into an author the characteristics of the translator and his age, but in reproducing at all events the leading characteristics of that author himself, Pope's Homer must be accounted a failure. It is a noble achievement as an English poem; but it resembles those efforts in landscapegardening which require to be surveyed from particular points of view, unless their artificiality is to betray itself at once, Pope has not caught, -he could not catch,the manner of Homer. Had he succeeded in this, he might be forgiven a thousand inaccuracies more glaring than those which he has actually committed. A scholar's hand might make Dryden's Juvenal Juvenal, but to be made Homer Pope's translations need not to be revised, but recast, This is not a mere question of metre. Garrick wore a wig in Macbeth, but he moved the passions of his audience by the spirit of Shakspere. Pope had not caught that Homeric spirit which has communicated itself to at least one later translator, even when imprisoned by his own wilfulness in the machinery of a modern stanza.
As a writer of prose Pope had no ambition to achieve eminence. The majority of his prose satires are mere lampoons; the conception of the Treatise on the Bathos is that of an excursus from the leading idea of the Dunciad, His edition of Shakspere was undertaken as booksellers' work; it is in many respects a careless performance; but his ingenuity is apparent in his abundant emendations, many of which have since met with universal acceptance. Had he carried out the scheme which he entertained towards the close of his life, of writing a history of English poetry, he could hardly have produced more than an interesting, but radically imperfect performance?
Of his poetic form Pope was master. He perfected an English metre, the heroic couplet, which for the purposes of didactic and satirical poetry has since remained the chosen vehicle of expression in our language. To his command over this metre he had attained rapidly, though not at once. His earlier poems are not free from false rhymes, and display that free introduction of an Alexandrine line which Cowley had first among English poets permitted himself, but which Pope afterwards abandoned. Whether Pope could have attained to equal mastery over other metres, seems an idle question; for none could have equally suited the peculiarity of his genius. Lady Mary was of opinion that Pope must have failed in blank verse, just as Dryden declared that Milton would have written Paradise Lost in rhymed couplets if he could. But the heroic couplet, and no other form of verse, was that adapted to the genius of Pope. He once observed that one of the great conditions of writing well is 'to know thoroughly what one writes about.' The clear conception of a thought was in each case his first step; next came the inde
So I judge from the scheme itself, which was first published by Ruffhead, and is given at length in Roscoe, Vol. 1.