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Lord Byron engages in a literary Controversy with the Rev. Mr.
Bowles respecting the poetic character of Pope.-Sheridan's Anecdote of Mr. Whitbread.—Lord Byron's Historical Tragedy of “ Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice.”—“ The Prophecy of Dante," a poem.- Visit to Ravenna.-An occurrence in that city hastens Lord Byron's departure from thence.He embarks for Cyprus.
A NEw scene was now about to open upon Lord Byron, or rather he was about to cut out a new line of business for himself, by entering, as a volunteer, into a literary controversy; not in defence of his own writings, as was the case when he published his “ Scotch Reviewers and English Bards," but as the champion of the character and fame of one of the first bards of the English nation. Joseph Warton was the first man who ventured to declare of Pope, that he did not think him at the head of his profession, and that his species of poetry was not the most excellent one of the art. Many years after, Johnson, interrogating this critic, inquired, “ If - VOL. II.
Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found ? To circumscribe poetry,” he added, “ by a definition, will only shew the narrowness of the definer.” Yet such a definer arose in the disciple of Warton, the Rev. W. L. Bowles, who recommenced the attack by his “ Observations on the
poetic Character of Pope.” The origin of this con- troversy sprung from Mr. Bowles's being employed by the Company of Booksellers to superintend a new edition of Pope's Works, which he prefaced by the aforesaid Observations. Mr. Campbell took up his pen in defence of Pope, and Mr. Bowles rejoined in a pamphlet, modestly intitled-“ The invariable Principles of Poetry.” Lord Byron soon after published his satire on “ Scotch Reviewers and English Bards,” in which he lashed Mr. Bowles with great severity for his bell-ringing propensity, without drawing any reply from Mr. Bowles, who, as he himself tells the story, tried to persuade his Lordship to suppress the work. The anecdote, which is a literary curiosity, is this: “ Soon after Lord Byron published his vigorous satire, called · English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,' in which, alas! pars magna fui, I met his Lordship at our common friend's house, the author of the · Pleasures of Memory,' and the still more beautiful poem, · Human Life. As the rest of the company were going into another room, I said I wished to speak one word to his Lordship. He came back with much apparent courtesy. I then
POPE'S POETICAL CHARACTER.
said to him, in a tone of seriousness, but that of perfectly good humour, My Lord, I should not have thought of making any observations on whatever you might be pleased to give to the world, as your opinion on any part of my writings; but I think if I can shew that you have done me a palpable and public wrong, by charging me with having written what I never wrote or thought of, your own principles of justice will not allow the impression to remain. I then spoke of a particular couplet, which he had introduced into his satire,
.“ Thy woods, Madeira, trembled with a kiss;" and taking down the poem, which was at hand, I pointed out the passage.” Excellently contrived, indeed! but Mr. Bowles failed in his diplomatic attempt, and still remains
.“ Delightful Bowles ! still blessing and still blest,
All love thy strains, but children love them best.”
Mr. Bowles's edition of Pope was now attacked in turn by the critics, who accused him of partiality and incompetency, and of detraction from Pope's fame, as well as defamation of his character. The outcry soon became general. Mr. Bowles, in his “ Observations on the poetic Character of Pope," lays down two principles as axiomsthat “ images drawn from what is beautiful and sublime in nature, are more poetical than images drawn from art ;" and that “ the passions are more