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and forty books. 7. As to the loss of a future copy, I despise it, nor will I be concerned with any more such dark suspicious dealers. But now, sir, I'll tell you what I will do : when I have the books perfected which I have already received, and the rest of the impression, I will pay you for them. But what do you call this usage ? First take a note for a month, and then want it to be changed for one of Sir Richard Hoare's. My note is as good, for any sum I give it, as the Bank, and shall be as punctually paid. I always say, gold is better than paper. But if this dark converse goes on, I will instantly reprint the whole book; and, as a supplement to it, all the letters P. T. ever sent me, of which I have exact copies, together with all your originals, and give them in upon oath to my Lord Chancellor. You talk of trust–P. T. has not reposed any in me, for he has my money and notes for imperfect books. Let me see, sir, either P. T. or yourself, or you'll find the Scots proverb verified, Nemo me impune lacessit. “Your abused humble servant,
“E. CURLL. “P. S. Lord I attend this day. LORD DELAWAR I SUP WITH TO-NIGHT. Where Pope has one lord, I have twenty.'
After this, Curll announced “ Mr. Pope's Literary Correspondence, with the initial correspondence of P.T., R. S. &c." But the shadowy correspondents now publicly declared that they could give no title whatever to Mr. Pope's letters, with which they had furnished CURLL, and never pretended any; that therefore any bookseller had the same right of printing them : and, in respect to money matters between them, he had given them notes not negotiable, and had never paid them fully for the copies, perfect and imperfect, which he had sold.
Thus terminated this dark transaction between Curll and his initial correspondents. He still persisted in printing several editions of the letters of Pope, which furnished the poet with a modest pretext to publish an authentic edition the very point to which the whole of this dark and intricate plot seems to have been really directed.*
Were Pope not concerned in this mysterious transaction, how happened it that the letters which P. T. actually printed were genuine ? To account for this, Pope promulgated a
* Pope's victory over Curll is represented by llogarth in a print ostentatiously hung in the garret of his “Distressed Poet."-ED.
new fact. Since the first publication of his letters to his friend Cromwell, wrenched from the distressed female who possessed them, our poet had been advised to collect his letters; and these he had preserved by inserting them in two books; either the originals or the copies. For this purpose an amanuensis or two were employed by Pope when these books were in the country, and by the Earl of Oxford when they were in town. Pope pretended that Curll's letters had been extracted from these two books, but sometimes imperfectly transcribed, and sometimes interpolated. Pope, indeed, offered a reward of twenty pounds to “P.T." and "R. Smith, who passed for a clergyman," if they would come forward and discover the whole of this affair; or “if they had acted, as it was reported, by the direction of any other person.” They never appeared. Lintot, the son of the great rival of Curll, told Dr. Johnson, that his father had been offered the same parcel of printed books, and that Pope knew better than anybody else how Curll obtained the copies.
Dr. Johnson, although he appears not to have been aware of the subtle intricacy of this extraordinary plot, has justly drawn this inference : “ To make the copies perfect was the only purpose of Pope, because the numbers offered for sale by the private messengers, showed that hope of gain could not have been the motive of the impression. It seems that Pope, being desirous of printing his letters, and not knowing how to do, without imputation of vanity, what has in this country been done very rarely, contrived an appearance of compulsion ; when he could complain that his letters were surreptitiously printed, he might decently and defensively publish them himself.”
I have observed, how the first letter of P. T. pretending to be written by one who owed no kindness to Pope, bears the evident impression of his own hand; for it contains matters not exactly true, but exactly what Pope wished should appear in his own life. That he had prepared his letters for publication, appears by the story of the two MS. books—that the printed ones came by water, would look as if they had been sent from his house at Twickenham ; and, were it not absurd to pretend to decipher initials, P. T. might be imagined to indicate the name of the owner, as well as his place of abode.
Worsdale, an indifferent painter, was a man of some humour in personating a character, for he performed Old Lady Scandal in one of his own farces. He was also a literary adventurer, for, according to Mrs. Pilkington's Memoirs, wishing to be a poet as well as a mimic, he got her and her husband to write all the verses which passed with his name; such a man was well adapted to be this clergyman with the lawyer's band, and Worsdale has asserted that he was really employed by his friend Pope on this occasion.
Such is the intricate narrative of this involved transaction. Pope completely succeeded, by the most subtile manæuvres imaginable ; the incident which perhaps was not originally expected, of having his letters brought before the examination at the House of Lords, most amply gratified his pride, and awakened public curiosity. “He made the House of Lords," says Curll, "his tools." Greater ingenuity, perplexity, and secrecy have scarcely been thrown into the conduct of the writer, or writers, of the Letters of Junius.
POPE AND CIBBER;
A VINDICATION OF THE COMIC WRITER.
POPE attacked CIBBER from personal motives—by dethroning Theobald, in
the Dunciad, to substitute CIBBER, he made the satire not applyCIBBER's facetious and serious remonstrance-C1BBER's inimitable goodhumour-an apology for what has been called his “effrontery"-perhaps a modest man, and undoubtedly a man of genius—his bumorous defence of his deficiency in Tragedy, both in acting and writing-Pope more hurt at being exposed as a ridiculous lover than as a bad man-an account of “The Egotist, or Colley upon Cibber,” a kind of supplement to the “Apology for his Life,” in which he has drawn his own character with great freedom and spirit.
POPE's quarrel with Cibber may serve to check the haughtiness of genius; it is a remarkable instance how good. humour can gently draw a boundary round the arbitrary power, whenever the wantonness of satire would conceal calumny. But this quarrel will beconie even more interesting, should it throw a new light on the character of one whose originality of genius seems little suspected. Cibber showed a happy address in a very critical situation, and obtained an honourable triumph over the malice of a great genius, whom, while he complained of he admired, and almost loved the cynic.
Pope, after several “ flirts,” as Cibber calls them, from slight personal motives, which Cibber has fully opened, * at
* Johnson says, that though “Pope attacked Cibber with acrimony, the provocation is not easily discoverable.” But the statements of Cibber, which have never been contradicted, show sufficient motives to excite the poetic irascibility. It was Cibber's “fling” at the unowned and condemned comedy of the triumvirate of wits, Pope, Gay, and Arbuthnot, Three Hours after Marriage, when he performed Bayes in the Rehearsal, that incurred the immortal odium. There was no malice on Cibber's side ; for it was then the custom to restore the zest of that obsolete dramatic satire, by introducing allusions to any recent theatrical event. The plot of this ridiculous comedy hinging on the deep contrivance of two
length from “peevish weakness," as Lord Orford has happily expressed it, closed his insults by dethroning Theobald, and substituting Cibber ; but as he would not lose what he had already written, this change disturbed the whole decorum of the satiric fiction. Things of opposite natures, joined into one, became the poetical chimera of Horace. The hero of the Dunciad is neither Theobald nor Cibber ; Pope forced a dunce to appear as Cibber ; but this was not making Cibber a dunce. This error in Pope emboldened Cibber in the contest, for he still insisted that the satire did not apply to him ;* and humorously compared the libel “to a purge with
lovers getting access to the wife of a virtuoso, “one curiously swathed up like an Egyptian mummy, and the other slily covered in the pasteboard skin of a crocodile,” was an incident so e.ctremely natural, that it seemed congenial with the high imagination and the deep plot of a Bayes ! Poor Cibber, in the gaiety of his impromptu, made the "Aing;" and, unluckily, it was applauded by the audience! The irascibility of Pope too strongly authenticated one of the three authors. “In the swelling of his heart, after the play was over, he came behind the scenes with his lips pale and his voice trembling, to call me to account for the insult; and accordingly fell upon me with all the foul language that a wit out of his senses would be capable of, choked with the foam of his passion.” Cibber replied with dignity, insisted on the privilege of the character, and that he would repeat the same jest as long as the public approved of it. Pope would have certainly approved of Cibber's manly conduct, had he not been the author himself. To this circumstance may be added the reception which the town and the court bestowed on Cibber's “Nonjuror," a satire on the politics of the jacobite faction, Pope appears, under the assumed name of Barnevelt, to have published "an odd piece of wit, proving that the Nonjuror, in its design, its characters, and almost every scene of it, was a closely-couched jacobite libel against the Government.” Cibber says that “this was so shrewdly maintained, that I almost liked the jest myself." Pope seems to have been fond of this new species of irony ; for, in the Pastorals of Phillips, he showed the same sort of ingenuity, and he repeated the same charge of political mystery against his own finest poem ; for he proved by many “merry inuendoes,” that “The Rape of the Lock” was as audacious a libel as the pretended Barnevelt had made out the Nonjuror to be. See note, p. 280.
* Cibber did not obtrude himself in this contest. Had he been merely a poor vain creature, he had not preserved so long a silence. His goodtemper was without anger, but he remonstrates with no little dignity, when he chooses to be solemn; though to be playful was more natural to him. “If I have lain so long stoically silent, or unmindful of your satirical favours, it was not so much for want of a proper reply, as that I thought there never needed a public one ; for all people of sense would know what truth or falsehood there was in what you said of me, without my wisely pointing it out to them. Nor did I choose to follow your example, of being so much a self-tormentor, as to be concerned at whatever opinion of me any published invective might infuse into people unknown to