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loved her, and that they pleased him by thinking of her. If his early letters to women are affected and insincere, whenever he speaks about this one, it is with a childish enderness and an almost sacred simplicity. In 1713, when young Mr. Pope had, by a series of the most astonishing victories and dazzling achievements, seized the crown of poetry, and the town was in an uproar of admiration, or hostility, for the young chief ; when Pope was issuing his famous decrees for the translation of the “Iliad ;” when Dennis and the lower critics were hooting and assailing him ; when Addison and the gentlemen of his court were sneering with sickening hearts at the prodigious triumphs of the young conqueror ; when Pope, in a fever of victory, and genius, and hope, and anger, was struggling through the crowd of shouting friends and furious detractors to his temple of Fame, his old mother writes from the country, “My deare," says she
, -“My deare, there's Mr. Blount, of Mapel Durom, dead the same day that Mr. Inglefield died. Your sister is well; but your brother is sick. My service to Mrs. Blount, and all that ask of me. I hope to hear from you, and that you are well, which is my daily prayer ; and this with my blessing." The triumph marches by, and the car of the young conqueror, the hero of a hundred brilliant victories: the fond mother sits in the quiet cottage at home and says, “ I send you my daily prayers, and I bless you, my deare.”
In our estimate of Pope's character, let us always take into account that constant tenderness and fidelity of affection which pervaded and sanctified his life, and never forget that maternal benediction.* It accompanied him always : his life seems purified by those artless and heartfelt prayers. And he seems to have received and deserved the fond attachment of the other members of his family. It is not a little touching to read in Spence of the * Swift's mention of him as one
whose filial piety excels
Whatever Grecian story tells,” is well known. And a sneer of Walpole’s may be put to a better use than he ever intended it for, à propos of this subject.—He charitably sneers, in one of his letters, at Spence's " fondling an old mother-in imitation of Pope !"
enthusiastic admiration with which his half-sister regarded him, and the simple anecdote by which she illustrates her love.
“I think no man was ever so little fond of money." Mrs. Rackett says about her brother, “ I think my brother when he was young read more books than any man in the world ;” and she falls to telling stories of his school-days, and the manner in which his master at Twyford ill-used him. “I don't think my brother knew what fear was,” she continues ; and the accounts of Pope's friends bear out this character for courage. When he had exasperated the dunces, and threats of violence and personal assault were brought to him, the dauntless little champion never for one instant allowed fear to disturb him, or condescended to take any guard in his daily walks, except occasionally his faithful dog to bear him company. “I had rather die at once," said the gallant little cripple, " than live in fear of those rascals."
As for his death, it was what the noble Arbuthnot asked and enjoyed for himself—a euthanasia—a beautiful end. A perfect benevolence, affection, serenity, hallowed the departure of that high soul. Even in the very hallucinations of his brain, and weaknesses of his delirium, there was something almost sacred. Spence describes him in his last days, looking up and with a rapt gaze as if something had suddenly passed before him. “He said to me, •What's that?' pointing into the air with a very steady regard, and then looked down and said, with a smile of the greatest softness, “ 'Twas a vision !” He laughed scarcely ever, but his companions describe his countenance as often illuminated by a peculiar sweet smile.
“When,” said Spence, * the kind anecdotist whom Johnson * Joseph Spence was the son of a clergyman, near Winchester.
He was a short time at Eton, and afterwards became a Fellow of New College, Oxford, a clergyman, and professor of poetry. He was a friend of Thomson's, whose reputation he aided. He published an Essay on the Odyssey " in 1726, which introduced him to Pope. Everybody liked him. His “ Anecdotes” were placed, while still in MS., at the service of Johnson and also of Malone. They were published by Mr. Singer in 1820.
despised—“When I was telling Lord Bolingbroke that Mr. Pope, on every catching and recovery of his mind, was always saying something kindly of his present or absent friends; and that this was so surprising, as it seemed to me as if humanity had outlasted understanding, Lord Bolingbroke said, “ It has so,' and then added, 'I never in my life knew a man who had so tender a heart for his particular friends, or a more general friendship for mankind. I have known him these thirty years, and value myself more for that man's love thanHere," Spence says, “St. John sunk his head, and lost his voice in tears.” The sob which finishes the epitaph is finer than words. It is the cloak thrown over the father's face in the famous Greek picture, which hides the grief and heightens it.
In Johnson's “Life of Pope" you will find described, with rather a malicious minuteness, some of the personal habits and infirmities of the great little Pope. His body was crooked, he was so short that it was necessary to raise his chair in order to place him on a level with other people at table.* He was sewed up in buckram suit every morning and required a nurse like a child. His contemporaries reviled these misfortunes with a strange acrimony, and made his poor deformed person the butt for many a bolt of heavy wit. The facetious Mr. Dennis, in speaking of him, says, “ If you take the first letter of Mr. Alexander Pope's Christian name, and the first and last letters of his surname, you have A. P. E.” Pope catalogues, at the end of the Dunciad, with a rueful precision, other pretty names, besides Ape, which Dennis called him. That great critic pronounced Mr. Pope was a little ass, a fool, a coward, a Papist, and therefore a hater of Scripture, and so forth. It must be
* He speaks of Arbuthnot's having helped him through "that long disease, my life.” But not only was he so feeble as is implied in his use of the “buckram,” but “it now appears,” says Mr. Peter Cunningham, "from his unpublished letters, that, like Lord Hervey, he had recourse to ass's-milk for the preservation of his health.” It is to his lordship's use of that simple beverage that he alludes when
“Let Sporus tremble !-A. What, that thing of silk,
Sporus, that mere white-curd of ass's milk?"
remembered that the pillory was a flourishing and popular institution in those days. Authors stood in it in the body sometimes : and dragged their enemies thither morally, hooted them with foul abuse, and assailed them with garbage of the gutter. Poor Pope's figure was an easy one for those clumsy caricaturists to draw. Any stupid hand could draw a hunchback, and write Pope underneath. They did. A libel was published against Pope, with such a frontispiece. This kind of rude jesting was an evidence not only of an ill nature, but a dull one. When a child makes a pun, or a lout breaks out into a laugh, it is some very obvious combination of words, or discrepancy of objects, which provokes the infantine satirist, or tickles the boorish wag; and many of Pope's revilers laughed, not so much because they were wicked, as because they knew no better.
Without the utmost sensibility, Pope could not have been the poet he was ; and through his life, however much he protested that he disregarded their abuse, the coarse ridicule of his opponents stung and tore him. One of Cibber's pamphlets coming into Pope's hands, whilst Richardson the painter was with him, Pope turned round and said, “ These things are my diversions ;” and Richardson, sitting by whilst Pope perused the libel, said he saw his features “ writhing with anguish." How little human nature changes! Can't one see that little figure? Can't one fancy one is reading Horace? Can't one fancy one is speaking of to-day?
The tastes and sensibilities of Pope, which led him to cultivate the society of persons of fine manners, or wit, or taste, or beauty, caused him to shrink equally from that shabby and boisterous crew which formed the rank and file of literature in his time : and he was as unjust to these men as they to him. "The delicate little creature sickened at habits and company which were quite tolerable to robuster men: and in the famous feud between Pope and the Dunces, and without attributing any peculiar wrong to either, one can quite understand how the two parties should so hate each other. As I fancy, it was a sort of necessity that when Pope's triumph passed, Mr. Addison and his men should look rather contemptuously down on it from their balcony; so it was natural for Dennis and Tibbald, and Webster and Cibber, and the worn and hungry pressmen in the crowd below, to howl at him and assail him. And Pope was more savage to Grub Street than Grub Street was to Pope. The thong with which he lashed them was dreadful; he fired upon that howling crew such shafts of flame and poison, he slew and wounded so fiercely, that in reading the "Dunciad" and the prose lampoons of Pope, one feels disposed to side against the ruthless little tyrant, at least to pity those wretched folks upon whom he was so unmerciful. It was Pope, and Swift to aid him, who established among us the Grub Street tradition. He revels in base descriptions of poor men's want; he gloats over poor Dennis's garret, and flannel-nightcap, and red stockings; he gives instructions how to find Curll's authors, the historian at the tallow-chandler's under the blind arch in Petty France, the two translators in bed together, the poet in the cock-loft in Budge Row, whose landlady keeps the ladder. It was Pope, I fear, who contributed, more than any man who ever lived, to depreciate the literary calling. It was not an unprosperous one before that time, as we have seen ; at least there were great prizes in the profession which had made Addison a Minister, and Prior an Ambassador, and Steele a Commissioner, and Swift all but a Bishop. The profession of letters was ruined by that libel of the "Dunciad.” If authors were wretched and poor before, if some of them lived in haylofts, of which their landladies kept the ladders, at least nobody came to disturb them in their straw ; if three of them had but one coat between them, the two remained invisible in the garret, the third, at any rate, appeared decently at the coffee house and paid his twopence like a gentleman. It was Pope that dragged into light all this poverty and meanness, and held up those wretched shifts and rags to public ridicule. It was Pope that has made generations of the reading world (delighted with the mischief, as who would not be that reads it?) believe that author and wretch, author and rags, author and dirt, author and drink, gin, cow-heel, tripe, poverty, duns, bailiffs, squalling children and clamorous landladies, were always