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Biographical Essays by Thomas de Quincey

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character of that sister,) she was soon dismissed as unfit for
scenical effect. So that not only were female characters few, but,
moreover, of these few the majority were but repetitions of
masculine qualities in female persons. Female agency being seldom
summoned on the stage, except when it had received a sort of
special dispensation from its sexual character, by some terrific
convulsions of the house or the city, naturally it assumed the
style of action suited to these circumstances. And hence it arose,
that not woman as she differed from man, but woman as she resembled
man--woman, in short, seen under circumstances so dreadful as to
abolish the effect of sexual distinction, was the woman of the
Greek tragedy. [Endnote: 23] And hence generally arose for
Shakspeare the wider field, and the more astonishing by its perfect
novelty, when he first introduced female characters, not as mere
varieties or echoes of masculine characters, a Medea or
Clytemnestra, or a vindictive Hecuba, the mere tigress of the
tragic tiger, but female characters that had the appropriate beauty
of female nature; woman no longer grand, terrific, and repulsive,
but woman "after her kind"--the other hemisphere of the dramatic
world; woman, running through the vast gamut of womanly loveliness;
woman, as emancipated, exalted, ennobled, under a new law of
Christian morality; woman, the sister and coequal of man, no longer
his slave, his prisoner, and sometimes his rebel." It is a far cry
to Loch Awe; "and from the Athenian stage to the stage of
Shakspeare, it may be said, is a prodigious interval. True; but
prodigious as it is, there is really nothing between them. The
Roman stage, at least the tragic stage, as is well known, was put
out, as by an extinguisher, by the cruel amphitheatre, just as a
candle is made pale and ridiculous by daylight. Those who were
fresh from the real murders of the bloody amphitheatre regarded
with contempt the mimic murders of the stage. Stimulation too
coarse and too intense had its usual effect in making the
sensibilities callous. Christian emperors arose at length, who
abolished the amphitheatre in its bloodier features. But by that
time the genius of the tragic muse had long slept the sleep of
death. And that muse had no resurrection until the age of
Shakspeare. So that, notwithstanding a gulf of nineteen centuries
and upwards separates Shakspeare from Euripides, the last of the
surviving Greek tragedians, the one is still the nearest successor
of the other, just as Connaught and the islands in Clew Bay are
next neighbors to America, although three thousand watery columns,
each of a cubic mile in dimensions, divide them from each other.

A second reason, which lends an emphasis of novelty and effective
power to Shakspeare's female world, is a peculiar fact of contrast
which exists between that and his corresponding world of men. Let
us explain. The purpose and the intention of the Grecian stage was
not primarily to develop human _character_, whether in men or
in women: human _fates_ were its object; great tragic
situations under the mighty control of a vast cloudy destiny, dimly
descried at intervals, and brooding over human life by mysterious
agencies, and for mysterious ends. Man, no longer the
representative of an august _will_, man the passion-puppet of
fate, could not with any effect display what we call a character,
which is a distinction between man and man, emanating originally
from the will, and expressing its determinations, moving under the
large variety of human impulses. The will is the central pivot of
character; and this was obliterated, thwarted, cancelled, by the
dark fatalism which brooded over the Grecian stage. That
explanation will sufficiently clear up the reason why marked or
complex variety of character was slighted by the great principles
of the Greek tragedy. And every scholar who has studied that grand
drama of Greece with feeling,--that drama, so magnificent, so
regal, so stately,--and who has thoughtfully investigated its
principles, and its difference from the English drama, will
acknowledge that powerful and elaborate character, character, for
instance, that could employ the fiftieth part of that profound
analysis which has been applied to Hamlet, to Falstaff, to Lear, to
Othello, and applied by Mrs. Jamieson so admirably to the full
development of the Shakspearian heroines, would have been as much
wasted, nay, would have been defeated, and interrupted the blind
agencies of fate, just in the same way as it would injure the
shadowy grandeur of a ghost to individualize it too much. Milton's
angels are slightly touched, superficially touched, with
differences of character; but they are such differences, so simple
and general, as are just sufficient to rescue them from the
reproach applied to Virgil's "_fortemque Gyan, forlemque
Cloanthem;_" just sufficient to make them knowable apart. Pliny
speaks of painters who painted in one or two colors; and, as
respects the angelic characters, Milton does so; he is
_monochromatic_. So, and for reasons resting upon the same
ultimate philosophy, were the mighty architects of the Greek
tragedy. They also were monochromatic; they also, as to the
characters of their persons, painted in one color. And so far there
might have been the same novelty in Shakspeare's men as in his
women. There _might_ have been; but the reason why there is
_not_, must be sought in the fact, that History, the muse of
History, had there even been no such muse as Melpomene, would have
forced us into an acquaintance with human character. History, as
the representative of actual life, of real man, gives us powerful
delineations of character in its chief agents, that is, in men; and
therefore it is that Shakspeare, the absolute creator of female
character, was but the mightiest of all painters with regard to
male character. Take a single instance. The Antony of Shakspeare,
immortal for its execution, is found, after all, as regards the
primary conception, in history. Shakspeare's delineation is but the
expansion of the germ already preexisting, by way of scattered
fragments, in Cicero's Philippics, in Cicero's Letters, in Appian,
&c. But Cleopatra, equally fine, is a pure creation of art. The
situation and the scenic circumstances belong to history, but the
character belongs to Shakspeare.

In the great world, therefore, of woman, as the interpreter of the
shifting phases and the lunar varieties of that mighty changeable
planet, that lovely satellite of man, Shakspeare stands not the
first only, not the original only, but is yet the sole authentic
oracle of truth. Woman, therefore, the beauty of the female mind,
_this_ is one great field of his power. The supernatural
world, the world of apparitions, _that_ is another. For
reasons which it would be easy to give, reasons emanating from the
gross mythology of the ancients, no Grecian, [Endnote: 24] no
Roman, could have conceived a ghost. That shadowy conception, the
protesting apparition, the awful projection of the human
conscience, belongs to the Christian mind. And in all Christendom,
who, let us ask, who, who but Shakspeare has found the power for
effectually working this mysterious mode of being? In summoning
back to earth "the majesty of buried Denmark," how like an awful
necromancer does Shakspeare appear! All the pomps and grandeurs
which religion, which the grave, which the popular superstition had
gathered about the subject of apparitions, are here converted to
his purpose, and bend to one awful effect. The wormy grave brought
into antagonism with the scenting of the early dawn; the trumpet of
resurrection suggested, and again as an antagonist idea to the
crowing of the cock, (a bird ennobled in the Christian mythus by
the part he is made to play at the Crucifixion;) its starting "as a
guilty thing" placed in opposition to its majestic expression of
offended dignity when struck at by the partisans of the sentinels;
its awful allusions to the secrets of its prison-house; its
ubiquity, contrasted with its local presence; its aerial substance,
yet clothed in palpable armor; the heart-shaking solemnity of its
language, and the appropriate scenery of its haunt, viz., the
ramparts of a capital fortress, with no witnesses but a few
gentlemen mounting guard at the dead of night,--what a mist, what a
_mirage_ of vapor, is here accumulated, through which the
dreadful being in the centre looms upon us in far larger
proportions, than could have happened had it been insulated and
left naked of this circumstantial pomp! In the _Tempest_,
again, what new modes of life, preternatural, yet far as the poles
from the spiritualities of religion! Ariel in antithesis to
Caliban! What is most ethereal to what is most animal! A phantom of
air, an abstraction of the dawn and of vesper sun-lights, a
bodiless sylph on the one hand; on the other a gross carnal
monster, like the Miltonic Asmodai, "the fleshliest incubus" among
the fiends, and yet so far ennobled into interest by his
intellectual power, and by the grandeur of misanthropy! [Endnote:
25] In the _Midsummer-Night's Dream_, again, we have the old
traditional fairy, a lovely mode of preternatural life, remodified
by Shakspeare's eternal talisman. Oberon and Titania remind us at
first glance of Ariel. They approach, but how far they recede. They
are like--"like, but, oh, how different!" And in no other
exhibition of this dreamy population of the moonlight forests and
forest-lawns, are the circumstantial proprieties of fairy life so
exquisitely imagined, sustained, or expressed. The dialogue between
Oberon and Titania is, of itself, and taken separately from its
connection, one of the most delightful poetic scenes that
literature affords. The witches in Macbeth are another variety of
supernatural life, in which Shakspeare's power to enchant and to
disenchant are alike portentous. The circumstances of the blasted
heath, the army at a distance, the withered attire of the
mysterious hags, and the choral litanies of their fiendish Sabbath,
are as finely imagined in their kind as those which herald and
which surround the ghost in Hamlet. There we see the
_positive_ of Shakspeare's superior power. But now turn and
look to the _negative_. At a time when the trials of witches,
the royal book on demonology, and popular superstition (all so far
useful, as they prepared a basis of undoubting faith for the poet's
serious use of such agencies) had degraded and polluted the ideas
of these mysterious beings by many mean associations, Shakspeare
does not fear to employ them in high tragedy, (a tragedy moreover
which, though not the very greatest of his efforts as an
intellectual whole, nor as a struggle of passion, is _among_
the greatest in any view, and positively _the_ greatest for
scenical grandeur, and in that respect makes the nearest approach
of all English tragedies to the Grecian model;) he does not fear to
introduce, for the same appalling effect as that for which
Aeschylus introduced the Eumenides, a triad of old women,
concerning whom an English wit has remarked this grotesque
peculiarity in the popular creed of that day,--that although potent
over winds and storms, in league with powers of darkness, they yet
stood in awe of the constable,--yet relying on his own supreme
power to disenchant as well as to enchant, to create and to
uncreate, he mixes these women and their dark machineries with the
power of armies, with the agencies of kings, and the fortunes of
martial kingdoms. Such was the sovereignty of this poet, so mighty
its compass!

A third fund of Shakspeare's peculiar power lies in his teeming
fertility of fine thoughts and sentiments. From his works alone
might be gathered a golden bead-roll of thoughts the deepest,
subtilest, most pathetic, and yet most catholic and universally
intelligible; the most characteristic, also, and appropriate to the
particular person, the situation, and the case, yet, at the same
time, applicable to the circumstances of every human being, under
all the accidents of life, and all vicissitudes of fortune. But
this subject offers so vast a field of observation, it being so
eminently the prerogative of Shakspeare to have thought more finely
and more extensively than all other poets combined, that we cannot
wrong the dignity of such a theme by doing more, in our narrow
limits, than simply noticing it as one of the emblazonries upon
Shakspeare's shield.

Fourthly, we shall indicate (and, as in the last case,
_barely_ indicate, without attempting in so vast a field to
offer any inadequate illustrations) one mode of Shakspeare's
dramatic excellence, which hitherto has not attracted any special
or separate notice. We allude to the forms of life, and natural
human passion, as apparent in the structure of his dialogue. Among
the many defects and infirmities of the French and of the Italian
drama, indeed, we may say of the Greek, the dialogue proceeds
always by independent speeches, replying indeed to each other, but
never modified in its several openings by the momentary effect of
its several terminal forms immediately preceding. Now, in
Shakspeare, who first set an example of that most important
innovation, in all his impassioned dialogues, each reply or
rejoinder seems the mere rebound of the previous speech. Every form
of natural interruption, breaking through the restraints of
ceremony under the impulses of tempestuous passion; every form of
hasty interrogative, ardent reiteration when a question has been
evaded; every form of scornful repetition of the hostile words;
every impatient continuation of the hostile statement; in short,
all modes and formulae by which anger, hurry, fretfulness, scorn,
impatience, or excitement under any movement whatever, can disturb
or modify or dislocate the formal bookish style of commencement,
--these are as rife in Shakspeare's dialogue as in life itself; and
how much vivacity, how profound a verisimilitude, they add to the
scenic effect as an imitation of human passion and real life, we
need not say. A volume might be written illustrating the vast
varieties of Shakspeare's art and power in this one field of
improvement; another volume might be dedicated to the exposure of
the lifeless and unnatural result from the opposite practice in the
foreign stages of France and Italy. And we may truly say, that were
Shakspeare distinguished from them by this single feature of nature
and propriety, he would on that account alone have merited a great

The dramatic works of Shakspeare generally acknowledged to be
genuine consist of thirty-five pieces. The following is the
chronological order in which they are supposed to have been
written, according to Mr. Malone, as given in his second edition of
Shakspeare, and by Mr. George Chalmers in his Supplemental Apology
for the Believers in the Shakspeare Papers:

Chalmers. Malone.

1. The Comedy of Errors, 1591 1592
2. Love's Labors Lost, 1592 1594
3. Romeo and Juliet, 1592 1596
4. Henry VI., the First Part, 1593 1589
5. Henry VI., the Second Part, 1595 1591
6. Henry VL, the Third Part, 1595 1591
7. The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1595 1591
8. Richard III., 1596 1593
9. Richard II, 1596 1593
10. The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1596 1601
11. Henry IV., the First Part, 1597 1597
12. Henry IV., the Second Part, 1597 1599
13. Henry V., 1597 1599
14. The Merchant of Venice, 1597 1594
15. Hamlet, 1598 1600
16. King John, 1598 1596
17. A Midsummer-Night's Dream, 1598 1594
18. The Taming of the Shrew, 1599 1596
19. All's Well that Ends Well, 1599 1606
20. Much Ado about Nothing, 1599 1600
21. As you Like It, 1602 1599
22. Troilus and Cressida, 1610 1602
23. Timon of Athens, 1611 1610
24. The Winter's Tale, 1601 1611
25. Measure for Measure, 1604 1603
26. King Lear, 1605 1605
27. Cymbeline, 1606 1609
28. Macbeth, 1606 1606
29. Julius Caesar, 1607 1607
30. Antony and Cleopatra, 1608 1608
31. Coriolanus, 1619 1610
32. The Tempest, 1613 1611
33. The Twelfth Night, 1613 1607
34. Henry VIII., 1613 1603
35. Othello, 1614 1604

Pericles and Titus Andronicus, although inserted in all the late
editions of Shakspeare's Plays, are omitted in the above list, both
by Malone and Chalmers, as not being Shakspeare's.

The first edition of the Works was published in 1623, in a folio
volume, entitled Mr. William Shakspeare's Comedies, Histories, and
Tragedies. The second edition was published in 1632, the third in
1664, and the fourth in 1685, all in folio; but the edition of 1623
is considered the most authentic. Rowe published an edition in
seven vols. 8vo, in 1709. Editions were published by Pope, in six
vols. 4to, in 1725; by Warburton, in eight vols. 8vo, in 1747; by
Dr. Johnson, in eight vols. 8vo, in 1765; by Stevens, in four vols.
8vo, in 1766; by Malone, in ten vols. 8vo, in 1789; by Alexander
Chalmers, in nine vols. 8vo, in 1811; by Johnson and Stevens,
revised by Isaac Reed, in twenty-one vols. 8vo, in 1813; and the
Plays and Poems, with notes by Malone, were edited by James
Boswell, and published in twenty-one vols. 8vo, in 1821. Besides
these, numerous editions have been published from time to time.



Mr. Campbell, the latest editor of Shakspeare's dramatic works,
observes that "the poet's name has been variously written
Shax-peare, Shackspeare, Shakspeare, and Shakspere;" to which
varieties might be added Shagspere, from the Worcester Marriage
License, published in 1836. But the fact is, that by combining with
all the differences in spelling the first syllable, all those in
spelling the second, more than twenty-five distinct varieties of
the name may be expanded, (like an algebraic series,) for the
choice of the curious in mis-spelling. Above all things, those
varieties which arise from the intercalation of the middle _e,
_(that is, the _e_ immediately before the final syllable
_spear,_) can never be overlooked by those who remember, at
the opening of the Dunciad, the note upon this very question about
the orthography of Shakspeare's name, as also upon the other great
question about the title of the immortal Satire, Whether it ought
not to have been the Dunceiade, seeing that Dunce, its great author
and progenitor, cannot possibly dispense with the letter _e._
Meantime we must remark, that the first three of Mr. Campbell's
variations are mere caprices of the press; as is Shagspere; or,
more probably, this last euphonious variety arose out of the gross
clownish pronunciation of the two hiccuping _"marksmen"_ who
rode over to Worcester for the license; and one cannot forbear
laughing at the bishop's secretary for having been so misled by two
varlets, professedly incapable of signing their own names. The same
drunken villains had cut down the bride's name _Hathaway_ into
_Hathwey._ Finally, to treat the matter with seriousness,

Sir Frederick Madden has shown, in his recent letter to the Society
of Antiquaries, that the poet himself in all probability
_wrote_ the name uniformly _Shakspere._ Orthography, both
of proper names, of appellatives, and of words universally, was
very unsettled up to a period long subsequent to that of
Shakspeare. Still it must usually have happened that names written
variously and laxly by others, would be written uniformly by the
owners; especially by those owners who had occasion to sign their
names frequently, and by literary people, whose attention was
often, as well as consciously, directed to the proprieties of
spelling. _Shakspeare_ is now too familiar to the eye for any
alteration to be attempted; but it is pretty certain that Sir
Frederick Madden is right in stating the poet's own signature to
have been uniformly _Shakspere._ It is so written twice in the
course of his will, and it is so written on a blank leaf of
Florio's English translation of Montaigne's Essays; a book recently
discovered, and sold, on account of its autograph, for a hundred


But, as a proof that, even in the case of royal christenings, it
was not thought pious to "tempt God," as it were, by delay, Edward
VI., the only son of Henry VIII., was born on the 12th day of
October in the year 1537. And there was a delay on account of the
sponsors, since the birth was not in London. Yet how little that
delay was made, may be seen by this fact: The birth took place in
the dead of the night, the day was Friday; and yet, in spite of all
delay, the christening was most pompously celebrated on the
succeeding Monday. And Prince Arthur, the elder brother of Henry
VIII., was christened on the very next Sunday succeeding to his
birth, notwithstanding an inevitable delay, occasioned by the
distance of Lord Oxford, his godfather, and the excessive rains,
which prevented the earl being reached by couriers, or himself
reaching Winchester, without extraordinary exertions.


A great modern poet refers to this very case of music entering "the
mouldy chambers of the dull idiot's brain;" but in support of what
seems to us a baseless hypothesis.


Probably Addison's fear of the national feeling was a good deal
strengthened by his awe of Milton and of Dryden, both of whom had
expressed a homage towards Shakspeare which language cannot
transcend. Amongst his political friends also were many intense
admirers of Shakspeare.


He who is weak enough to kick and spurn his own native literature,
even if it were done with more knowledge than is shown by Lord
Shaftesbury, will usually be kicked and spurned in his turn; and
accordingly it has been often remarked, that the Characteristics
are unjustly neglected in our days. For Lord Shaftesbury, with all
his pedantry, was a man of great talents. Leibnitz had the sagacity
to see this through the mists of a translation.


Perhaps the most bitter political enemy of Charles I. will have the
candor to allow that, for a prince of those times, he was truly and
eminently accomplished. His knowledge of the arts was considerable;
and, as a patron of art, he stands foremost amongst all British
sovereigns to this hour. He said truly of himself, and wisely as to
the principle, that he understood English law as well as a
gentleman ought to understand it; meaning that an attorney's minute
knowledge of forms and technical niceties was illiberal. Speaking
of him as an author, we must remember that the _Eikon
Basilike_ is still unappropriated; that question is still open.
But supposing the king's claim negatived, still, in his controversy
with Henderson, in his negotiations at the Isle of Wight and
elsewhere, he discovered a power of argument, a learning, and a
strength of memory, which are truly admirable; whilst the whole of
his accomplishments are recommended by a modesty and a humility as
rare as they are unaffected.


The necessity of compression obliges us to omit many arguments and
references by which we could demonstrate the fact, that
Shakspeare's reputation was always in a progressive state; allowing
only for the interruption of about seventeen years, which this
poet, in common with all others, sustained, not so much from the
state of war, (which did not fully occupy four of those years,) as
from the triumph of a gloomy fanaticism. Deduct the twenty-three
years of the seventeenth century, which had elapsed before the
first folio appeared, to this space add seventeen years of
fanatical madness, during fourteen of which _all_ dramatic
entertainments were suppressed, the remainder is sixty years. And
surely the sale of four editions of a vast folio in that space of
time was an expression of an abiding interest. _No other poet,
except Spenser, continued to sell throughout the century_.
Besides, in arguing the case of a _dramatic_ poet, we must
bear in mind, that although readers of learned books might be
diffused over the face of the land, the readers of poetry would be
chiefly concentred in the metropolis; and such persons would have
no need to buy what they heard at the theatres. But then comes the
question, whether Shakspeare kept possession of the theatres. And
we are really humiliated by the gross want of sense which has been
shown, by Malone chiefly, but also by many others, in discussing
this question. From the Restoration to 1682, says Malone, no more
than four plays of Shakspeare's were performed by a principal
company in London. "Such was the lamentable taste of those times,
that the plays of Fletcher, Jonson, and Shirley, were much oftener
exhibited than those of our author." What cant is this! If that
taste were "lamentable," what are we to think of our own times,
when plays a thousand times below those of Fletcher, or even of
Shirley, continually displace Shakspeare? Shakspeare would himself
have exulted in finding that he gave way only to dramatists so
excellent. And, as we have before observed, both then and now, it
is the very familiarity with Shakspeare, which often banishes him
from audiences honestly in quest of relaxation and amusement.
Novelty is the very soul of such relaxation; but in our closets,
when we are _not_ unbending, when our minds are in a state of
tension from intellectual cravings, then it is that we resort to
Shakspeare; and oftentimes those who honor him most, like
ourselves, are the most impatient of seeing his divine scenes
disfigured by unequal representation, (good, perhaps, in a single
personation, bad in all the rest;) or to hear his divine thoughts
mangled in the recitation; or, (which is worst of all,) to hear
them dishonored and defeated by imperfect apprehension in the
audience, or by defective sympathy. Meantime, if one theatre played
only four of Shakspeare's dramas, another played at least seven.
But the grossest folly of Malone is, in fancying the numerous
alterations so many insults to Shakspeare, whereas they expressed
as much homage to his memory as if the unaltered dramas had been
retained. The substance _was_ retained. The changes were
merely concessions to the changing views of scenical propriety;
sometimes, no doubt, made with a simple view to the revolution
effected by Davenant at the Restoration, in bringing
_scenes_(in the painter's sense) upon the stage; sometimes
also with a view to the altered fashions of the audience during the
suspensions of the action, or perhaps to the introduction of
_after-pieces,_ by which, of course, the time was abridged for
the main performance. A volume might be written upon this subject.
Meantime let us never be told, that a poet was losing, or had lost
his ground, who found in his lowest depression, amongst his almost
idolatrous supporters, a great king distracted by civil wars, a
mighty republican poet distracted by puritanical fanaticism, the
greatest successor by far of that great poet, a papist and a
bigoted royalist, and finally, the leading actor of the century,
who gave and reflected the ruling impulses of his age.


One of the profoundest tests by which we can measure the
congeniality of an author with the national genius and temper, is
the degree in which his thoughts or his phrases interweave
themselves with our daily conversation, and pass into the currency
of the language. _Few French authors, if any, have imparted one
phrase to the colloquial idiom;_ with respect to Shakspeare, a
large dictionary might be made of such phrases as "win golden
opinions," "in my mind's eye," "patience on a monument,"
"o'erstep the modesty of nature," "more honor'd in the breach than
in the observance," "palmy state," "my poverty and not my will
consents, "and so forth, without end. This reinforcement of the
general language, by aids from the mintage of Shakspeare, had
already commenced in the seventeenth century.


In fact, by way of representing to himself the system or scheme of
the English roads, the reader has only to imagine one great letter
X, or a St. Andrew's cross, laid down from north to south, and
decussating at Birmingham. Even Coventry, which makes a slight
variation for one or two roads, and so far disturbs this
decussation, by shifting it eastwards, is still in Warwickshire.

NOTE 10.

And probably so called by some remote ancestor who had emigrated
from the forest of Ardennes, in the Netherlands, and _now_ for
ever memorable to English ears from its proximity to Waterloo.

NOTE 11.

Let not the reader impute to us the gross anachronism of making an
estimate for Shakspeare's days in a coin which did not exist until
a century, within a couple of years, after Shakspeare's birth, and
did not settle to the value of twenty-one shillings until a century
after his death. The nerve of such an anachronism would lie in
putting the estimate into a mouth of that age. And this is
precisely the blunder into which the foolish forger of Vortigern,
&c., has fallen. He does not indeed directly mention guineas; but
indirectly and virtually he does, by repeatedly giving us accounts
imputed to Shakspearian contemporaries, in which the sum total
amounts to 5L 5s.; or to 26L 5s.; or, again, to 17L 17s. 6d. A man
is careful to subscribe 14L 14s. and so forth. But how could such
amounts have arisen unless under a secret reference to guineas,
which were not in existence until Charles II.'s reign; and,
moreover, to guineas at their final settlement by law into
twenty-one shillings each, which did not take place until George I.
's reign.

NOTE 12.

Thomas Campbell, the poet, in his eloquent Remarks on the Life and
Writings of William Shakspeare, prefixed to a popular edition of
the poet's dramatic works. London, 1838.

NOTE 13.

After all the assistance given to such equations between different
times or different places by Sir George Shuckborough's tables, and
other similar investigations, it is still a very difficult problem,
complex, and, after all, merely tentative in the results, to assign
the true value in such cases; not only for the obvious reason, that
the powers of money have varied in different directions with regard
to different objects, and in different degrees where the direction
has on the whole continued the same, but because the very objects
to be taken into computation are so indeterminate, and vary so
much, not only as regards century and century, kingdom and kingdom,
but also, even in the same century and the same kingdom, as regards
rank and rank. That which is a mere necessary to one, is a
luxurious superfluity to another. And, in order to ascertain these
differences, it is an indispensable qualification to have studied
the habits and customs of the several classes concerned, together
with the variations of those habits and customs.

NOTE 14.

Never was the _esse quain videri_ in any point more strongly
discriminated than in this very point of gallantry to the female
sex, as between England and France. In France, the verbal homage to
woman is so excessive as to betray its real purpose, viz. that it
is a mask for secret contempt. In England, little is said; but, in
the mean time, we allow our sovereign ruler to be a woman; which in
France is impossible. Even that fact is of some importance, but
less so than what follows. In every country whatsoever, if any
principle has a deep root in the moral feelings of the people, we
may rely upon its showing itself, by a thousand evidences amongst
the very lowest ranks, and in their daily intercourse, and their
_undress_ manners. Now in England there is, and always has
been, a manly feeling, most widely diffused, of unwillingness to
see labors of a coarse order, or requiring muscular exertions,
thrown upon women. Pauperism, amongst other evil effects, has
sometimes locally disturbed this predominating sentiment of
Englishmen; but never at any time with such depth as to kill the
root of the old hereditary manliness. Sometimes at this day a
gentleman, either from carelessness, or from overruling force of
convenience, or from real defect of gallantry, will allow a female
servant to carry his portmanteau for him; though, after all, that
spectacle is a rare one. And everywhere women of all ages engage in
the pleasant, nay elegant, labors of the hay field; but in Great
Britain women are never suffered to mow, which is a most athletic
and exhausting labor, nor to load a cart, nor to drive a plough or
hold it. In France, on the other hand, before the Revolution, (at
which period the pseudo-homage, the lip-honor, was far more
ostentatiously professed towards the female sex than at present,) a
Frenchman of credit, and vouching for his statement by the whole
weight of his name and personal responsibility, (M Simond, now an
American citizen,) records the following abominable scene as one of
no uncommon occurrence. A woman was in some provinces yoked side by
side with an ass to the plough or the harrow; and M. Simond
protests that it excited no horror to see the driver distributing
his lashes impartially between the woman and her brute yoke-fellow.
So much for the wordy pomps of French gallantry. In England, we
trust, and we believe, that any man, caught in such a situation,
and in such an abuse of his power, (supposing the case, otherwise a
possible one,) would be killed on the spot.

NOTE 15.

Amongst people of humble rank in England, who only were ever asked
in church, until the new-fangled systems of marriage came up within
the last ten or fifteen years, during the currency of the three
Sundays on which the banns were proclaimed by the clergyman from
the reading desk, the young couple elect were said jocosely to Le
"hanging in the bell-ropes;" alluding perhaps to the joyous peal
contingent on the final completion of the marriage.

NOTE 16.

In a little memoir of Milton, which the author of this article drew
up some years ago for a public society, and which is printed in an
abridged shape, he took occasion to remark, that Dr. Johnson, who
was meanly anxious to revive this slander against Milton, as well
as some others, had supposed Milton himself to have this
flagellation in his mind, and indirectly to confess it, in one of
his Latin poems, where, speaking of Cambridge, and declaring that
he has no longer any pleasure in the thoughts of revisiting that
university, he says,

"Nee duri libet usque minas preferre magislri,
Coeteraque ingenio non subeunda meo."

This last line the malicious critic would translate--"And other
things insufferable to a man of my temper." But, as we then
observed, _ingenium_ is properly expressive of the
_intellectual _ constitution, whilst it is the _moral_
constitution that suffers degradation from personal
chastisement--the sense of honor, of personal dignity, of justice,
&c. _Indoles_ is the proper term for this latter idea; and in
using the word _ingenium,_ there cannot be a doubt that Milton
alluded to the dry scholastic disputations, which were shocking and
odious to his fine poetical genius. If, therefore, the vile story
is still to be kept up in order to dishonor a great man, at any
rate let it not in future be pretended that any countenance to such
a slander can be drawn from the confessions of the poet himself.

NOTE 17.

And singular enough it is, as well as interesting, that Shakspeare
had so entirely superseded to his own ear and memory the name
Hamnet by the dramatic name of Hamlet, that in writing his will, he
actually mis-spells the name of his friend Sadler, and calls him
Hamlet. His son, however, who should have familiarized the true
name to his ear, had then been dead for twenty years.

NOTE 18.

"I have heard that Mr. Shakspeare was a natural wit, without any
art at all. Hee frequented the plays all his younger time, but in
his elder days lived at Stanford, and supplied the stage with two
plays every year, and for it had an allowance so large, that he
spent at the rate of 1,000 guineas a-year, as I have heard.
Shakespeare, Dray ton, arid Ben Jonson, had a merie meeting, and it
seems drank too hard, for Shakespear died of a feavour there
contracted" (Diary of the Rev John Ward, A M Vicar of Stratford
upon Avon, extending from 1648 to 1679, p 183 Lond. 1839, 8vo)

NOTE 19.

It is naturally to be supposed that Dr Hall would attend the sick
bed of his father in law, and the discovery of this gentleman's
medical diary promised some gratification to our curiosity as to
the cause of Shakspeare's death. Unfortunately, it does not
commence until the year 1617.

NOTE 20.

An exception ought perhaps to be made for Sir Walter Scott and for
Cervantes, but with regard to all other writers, Dante, suppose, or
Anosto amongst Italians, Camoens amongst those of Portugal,
Schiller amongst Germans, however ably they may have been
naturalized in foreign languages, as all of those here mentioned
(excepting only Anosto) have in one part of their works been most
powerfully naturalized in English, it still remains true, (and the
very sale of the books is proof sufficient,) that an alien author
never does take root in the general sympathies out of his own
country, he takes his station in libraries, he is lead by the man
of learned leisure, he is known and valued by the refined and the
elegant, but he is not (what Shakspeare is for Germany and America)
in any proper sense a _popular_ favorite.

NOTE 21.

It will occur to many readers, that perhaps Homer may furnish the
sole exception to this sweeping assertion. Any _but_ Homer is
clearly and ludicrously below the level of the competition, but
even Homer "with his tail on," (as the Scottish Highlanders say of
then chieftains when belted by their ceremonial retinues,) musters
nothing like the force which _already_ follows Shakspeare, and
be it remembered, that Homer sleeps and has long slept as a subject
of criticism or commentary, while in Germany as well as England,
and _now even in France_, the gathering of wits to the vast
equipage of Shakspeare is advancing in an accelerated ratio. There
is, in fact, a great delusion current upon this subject.
Innumerable references to Homer, and brief critical remarks on
this or that pretension of Homer, this or that scene, this or that
passage, lie scattered over literature ancient and modern; but the
express works dedicated to the separate service of Homer are, after
all, not many. In Greek we have only the large Commentary of
Eustathius, and the Scholia of Didymus, &c.; in French little or
nothing before the prose translation of the seventeenth century,
which Pope esteemed "elegant, "and the skirmishings of Madame
Dacier, La Motte, &c.; in English, besides the various translations
and their prefaces, (which, by the way, began as early as 1555,)
nothing of much importance until the elaborate preface of Pope to
the Iliad, and his elaborate postscript to the Odyssey--nothing
certainly before that, and very little indeed since that, except
Wood's Essay on the Life and Genius of Homer. On the other hand, of
the books written in illustration or investigation of Shakspeare, a
very considerable library might be formed in England, and another
in Germany.

NOTE 22.

Apartment is here used, as the reader will observe, in its true and
continental acceptation, as a division or _compartment_ of a
house including many rooms; a suite of chambers, but a suite which
is partitioned off, (as in palaces,) not a single chamber; a sense
so commonly and so erroneously given to this word in England.

NOTE 23.

And hence, by parity of reason, under the opposite circumstances,
under the circumstances which, instead of abolishing, most
emphatically drew forth the sexual distinctions, viz., in the
_comic_ aspects of social intercourse, the reason that we see
no women on the Greek stage; the Greek Comedy, unless when it
affects the extravagant fun of farce, rejects women.

NOTE 24.

It may be thought, however, by some readers, that Aeschylus, in his
fine phantom of Darius, has approached the English ghost. As a
foreign ghost, we would wish (and we are sure that our excellent
readers would wish) to show every courtesy and attention to this
apparition of Darius. It has the advantage of being royal, an
advantage which it shares with the ghost of the royal Dane. Yet how
different, how removed by a total world, from that or any of
Shakspeare's ghosts! Take that of Banquo, for instance. How
shadowy, how unreal, yet how real! Darius is a mere state ghost--a
diplomatic ghost. But Banquo--he exists only for Macbeth; the
guests do not see him, yet how solemn, how real, how
heart--searching he is.

NOTE 25.

Caliban has not yet been thoroughly fathomed. For all Shakspeare's
great creations are like works of nature, subjects of unexhaustible
study. It was this character of whom Charles I. and some of his
ministers expressed such fervent admiration; and, among other
circumstances, most justly they admired the new language almost
with which he is endowed, for the purpose of expressing his
fiendish and yet carnal thoughts of hatred to his master. Caliban
is evidently not meant for scorn, but for abomination mixed with
fear and partial respect. He is purposely brought into contrast
with the drunken Trinculo and Stephano, with an advantageous
result. He is much more intellectual than either, uses a more
elevated language, not disfigured by vulgarisms, and is not liable
to the low passion for plunder as they are. He is mortal,
doubtless, as his "dam" (for Shakspeare will not call her mother)
Sycorax. But he inherits from her such qualities of power as a
witch could be supposed to bequeath. He trembles indeed before
Prospero; but that is, as we are to understand, through the moral
superiority of Prospero in Christian wisdom; for when he finds
himself in the presence of dissolute and unprincipled men, he rises
at once into the dignity of intellectual power.


Alexander Lexander Pope, the most brilliant of all wits who have at
period applied themselves to the poetic treatment of human manners,
to the selecting from the play of human character what is
picturesque, or the arresting what is fugitive, was born in the
city of London on the 21st day of May, in the memorable year 1688;
about six months, therefore, before the landing of the Prince of
Orange, and the opening of that great revolution which gave the
final ratification to all previous revolutions of that tempestuous
century. By the "city" of London the reader is to understand us as
speaking with technical accuracy of that district, which lies
within the ancient walls and the jurisdiction of the lord mayor.
The parents of Pope, there is good reason to think, were of "gentle
blood," which is the expression of the poet himself when describing
them in verse. His mother was so undoubtedly; and her illustrious
son, in speaking of her to Lord Harvey, at a time when any
exaggeration was open to an easy refutation, and writing in a
spirit most likely to provoke it, does not scruple to say, with a
tone of dignified haughtiness not unbecoming the situation of a
filial champion on behalf of an insulted mother, that by birth and
descent she was not below that young lady, (one of the two
beautiful Miss Lepels,) whom his lordship had selected from all the
choir of court beauties as the future mother of his children. Of
Pope's extraction and immediate lineage for a space of two
generations we know enough. Beyond that we know little. Of this
little a part is dubious; and what we are disposed to receive as
_not_ dubious, rests chiefly on his own authority. In the
prologue to his Satires, having occasion to notice the lampooners
of the times, who had represented his father as "a mechanic, a
hatter, a farmer, nay a bankrupt," he feels himself called upon to
state the truth about his parents; and naturally much more so at a
time when the low scurrilities of these obscure libellers had been
adopted, accredited, and diffused by persons so distinguished in
all points of personal accomplishment and rank as Lady Mary Wortley
Montagu and Lord Harvey: _"hard as thy heart"_ was one of the
lines in their joint pasquinade, _" hard as thy heart, and as thy
birth obscure."_ Accordingly he makes the following formal
statement: "Mr. Pope's father was of a gentleman's family in
Oxfordshire, the head of which was the Earl of Downe. His mother
was the daughter of William Turner, Esq., of York. She had three
brothers, one of whom was killed; another died in the service of
King Charles [meaning Charles I.]; the eldest, following his
fortunes, and becoming a general officer in Spain, left _her_
what estate remained after the sequestrations and forfeitures of
her family." The sequestrations here spoken of were those inflicted
by the commissioners for the parliament; and usually they levied a
fifth, or even two fifths, according to the apparent delinquency of
the parties. But in such cases two great differences arose in the
treatment of the royalists; first, that the report was colored
according to the interest which a man possessed, or other private
means for biassing the commissioners; secondly, that often, when
money could not be raised on mortgage to meet the sequestration, it
became necessary to sell a family estate suddenly, and. therefore
in those times at great loss; so that a nominal fifth might be
depressed by favor to a tenth, or raised by the necessity of
selling to a half. And hence might arise the small dowry of Mrs.
Pope, notwithstanding the family estate in Yorkshire had centred in
her person. But, by the way, we see from the fact of the eldest
brother having sought service in Spain, that Mrs. Pope was a
Papist; not, like her husband, by conversion, but by hereditary
faith. This account, as publicly thrown out in the way of challenge
by Pope, was, however, sneered at by a certain Mr. Pottinger of
those days, who, together with his absurd name, has been safely
transmitted to posterity in connection with this single feat of
having contradicted Alexander Pope. We read in a diary published by
the Microcosm," _Met a large hat, with a man under it_. "And
so, here, we cannot so properly say that Mr. Pottinger brings down
the contradiction to our times, as that the contradiction brings
down Mr. Pottinger." Cousin Pope, "said Pottinger," had made
himself out a fine pedigree, but he wondered where he got it. "And
he then goes on to plead in abatement of Pope's pretensions," that
an old maiden aunt, equally related," (that is, standing in the
same relation to himself and to the poet,) "a great genealogist, who
was always talking of her family, never mentioned this
circumstance." And again we are told, from another quarter, that
the Earl of Guildford, after express investigation of this matter,
"was sure that," amongst the descendants of the Earls of Downe,
"there was none of the name of Pope." How it was that Lord
Guildford came to have any connection with the affair, is not
stated by the biographers of Pope; but we have ascertained that, by
marriage with a female descendant from the Earls of Downe, he had
come into possession of their English estates.

Finally, though it is rather for the honor of the Earls of Downe
than of Pope to make out the connection, we must observe that Lord
Guildford's testimony, _if ever given at all_, is simply
negative; he had found no proofs of the connection, but he had not
found any proofs to destroy it; whilst, on the other hand, it ought
to be mentioned, though unaccountably overlooked by all previous
biographers, that one of Pope's anonymous enemies, who hated him
personally, but was apparently master of his family history, and
too honorable to belie his own convictions, expressly affirms of
his own authority, and without reference to any claim put forward
by Pope, that he was descended from a junior branch of the Downe
family. Which testimony has a double value; first, as corroborating
the probability of Pope's statement viewed in the light of a fact;
and, secondly, as corroborating that same statement viewed in the
light of a current story, true or false, and not as a disingenuous
fiction put forward by Pope to confute Lord Harvey.

It is probable to us, that the Popes, who had been originally
transplanted from England to Ireland, had in the person of some
cadet been re-transplanted to England; and that having in that way
been disconnected from all personal recognition, and all local
memorials of the capital house, by this sort of
_postliminium_, the junior branch had ceased to cherish the
honor of a descent which was now divided from all direct advantage.
At all events, the researches of Pope's biographers have not been
able to trace him farther back in the paternal line than to his
grandfather; and he (which is odd enough, considering the popery of
his descendants) was a clergyman of the established church in
Hampshire. This grandfather had two sons. Of the eldest nothing is
recorded beyond the three facts, that he went to Oxford, that he
died there, and that he spent the family estate. [Endnote: 2] The
younger son, whose name was Alexander, had been sent when young, in
some commercial character, to Lisbon; [Endnote: 3] and there it
was, in that centre of bigotry, that he became a sincere and most
disinterested Catholic. He returned to England; married a Catholic
young widow; and became the father of a second Alexander Pope,
_ultra Sauromatas notus et Antipodes._

By his own account to Spence, Pope learned "very early to read;"
and writing he taught himself "by copying, from printed books;"
all which seems to argue, that, as an only child, with an indolent
father and a most indulgent mother, he was not molested with much
schooling in his infancy. Only one adventure is recorded of his
childhood, viz., that he was attacked by a cow, thrown down, and
wounded in the throat.

Pope escaped this disagreeable kind of vaccination without serious
injury, and was not farther tormented by cows or schoolmasters
until he was about eight years old, when the family priest, that
is, we presume, the confessor of his parents, taught him, agreeably
to the Jesuit system, the rudiments of Greek and Latin
concurrently. This priest was named Banister; and his name is
frequently employed, together with other fictitious names, by way
of signature to the notes in the Dunciad, an artifice which was
adopted for the sake of giving a characteristic variety to the
notes, according to the tone required for the illustration of the
text. From his tuition Pope was at length dismissed to a Catholic
school at Twyford, near Winchester. The selection of a school in
this neighborhood, though certainly the choice of a Catholic family
was much limited, points apparently to the old Hampshire connection
of his father. Here an incident occurred which most powerfully
illustrates the original and constitutional determination to satire
of this irritable poet. He knew himself so accurately, that in
after times, half by way of boast, half of confession, he says,

"But touch me, and no Minister so sore:
Whoe'er offends, at some unlucky time
Slides into verse and hitches in a rhyme,
Sacred to ridicule his whole life long,
And the sad burthen of some merry song."

Already, it seems, in childhood he had the same irresistible
instinct, victorious over the strongest sense of personal danger.
He wrote a bitter satire upon the presiding pedagogue, was brutally
punished for this youthful indiscretion, and indignantly removed by
his parents from the school. Mr. Roscoe speaks of Pope's personal
experience as necessarily unfavorable to public schools; but in
reality he knew nothing of public schools. All the establishments
for Papists were narrow, and suited to their political depression;
and his parents were too sincerely anxious for their son's
religious principles to risk the contagion of Protestant
association by sending him elsewhere.

From the scene [Endnote: 4] of his disgrace and illiberal
punishment, he passed, according to the received accounts, under
the tuition of several other masters in rapid succession. But it is
the less necessary to trouble the reader with their names, as Pope
himself assures us, that he learned nothing from any of them. To
Banister he had been indebted for such trivial elements of a
schoolboy's learning as he possessed at all, excepting those which
he had taught himself. And upon himself it was, and his own
admirable faculties, that he was now finally thrown for the rest of
his education, at an age so immature that many boys are then first
entering their academic career. Pope is supposed to have been
scarcely twelve years old when he assumed the office of
self-tuition, and bade farewell for ever to schools and tutors.

Such a phenomenon is at any rate striking. It is the more so, under
the circumstances which attended the plan, and under the results
which justified its execution. It seems, as regards the plan,
hardly less strange that prudent parents should have acquiesced in
a scheme of so much peril to his intellectual interests, than that
the son, as regards the execution, should have justified their
confidence by his final success. More especially this confidence
surprises us in the father. A doating mother might shut her eyes to
all remote evils in the present gratification to her affections;
but Pope's father was a man of sense and principle; he must have
weighed the risks besetting a boy left to his own intellectual
guidance; and to these risks he would allow the more weight from
his own conscious defect of scholarship and inability to guide or
even to accompany his son's studies. He could neither direct the
proper choice of studies; nor in any one study taken separately
could he suggest the proper choice of books.

The case we apprehend to have been this. Alexander Pope, the elder,
was a man of philosophical desires and unambitious character. Quiet
and seclusion and innocence of life,--these were what he affected
for himself; and that which had been found available for his own
happiness, he might reasonably wish for his son. The two hinges
upon which his plans may be supposed to have turned, were, first,
the political degradation of his sect; and, secondly, the fact that
his son was an only child. Had he been a Protestant, or had he,
though a Papist, been burthened with a large family of children, he
would doubtless have pursued a different course. But to him, and,
as he sincerely hoped, to his son, the strife after civil honors
was sternly barred. Apostasy only could lay it open. And, as the
sentiments of honor and duty in this point fell in with the vices
of his temperament, high principle concurring with his
constitutional love of ease, we need not wonder that he should
early retire from commerce with a very moderate competence, or that
he should suppose the same fortune sufficient for one who was to
stand in the same position. This son was from his birth deformed.
That made it probable that he might not marry. If he should, and
happened to have children, a small family would find an adequate
provision in the patrimonial funds; and a large one at the worst
could only throw him upon the same commercial exertions to which he
had been obliged himself. The Roman Catholics, indeed, were just
then situated as our modern Quakers are. Law to the one, as
conscience to the other, closed all modes of active employment
except that of commercial industry. Either his son, therefore,
would be a rustic recluse, or, like himself, he would be a

With such prospects, what need of an elaborate education? And where
was such an education to be sought? At the petty establishments of
the suffering Catholics, the instruction, as he had found
experimentally, was poor. At the great national establishments his
son would be a degraded person; one who was permanently repelled
from every arena of honor, and sometimes, as in cases of public
danger, was banished from the capital, deprived of his house, left
defenceless against common ruffians, and rendered liable to the
control of every village magistrate. To one in these circumstances
solitude was the wisest position, and the best qualification, for
that was an education that would furnish aids to solitary thought.
No need for brilliant accomplishments to him who must never display
them; forensic arts, pulpit erudition, senatorial eloquence,
academical accomplishments--these would be lost to one against whom
the courts, the pulpit, the senate, the universities, were closed.
Nay, by possibility worse than lost; they might prove so many
snares or positive bribes to apostasy. Plain English, therefore,
and the high thinking of his compatriot authors, might prove the
best provision for the mind of an English Papist destined to

Such are the considerations under which we read and interpret the
conduct of Pope's parents; and they lead us to regard as wise and
conscientious a scheme which, under ordinary circumstances, would
have been pitiably foolish. And be it remembered, that to these
considerations, derived exclusively from the civil circumstances of
the family, were superadded others derived from the astonishing
prematurity of the individual. That boy who could write at twelve
years of age the beautiful and touching stanzas on Solitude, might
well be trusted with the superintendence of his own studies. And
the stripling of sixteen, who could so far transcend in good sense
the accomplished statesmen or men of the world with whom he
afterwards corresponded, might challenge confidence for such a
choice of books as would best promote the development of his own

In reality, one so finely endowed as Alexander Pope, could not
easily lose his way in the most extensive or ill-digested library.
And though he tells Atterbury, that at one time he abused his
opportunities by reading controversial divinity, we may be sure
that his own native activities, and the elasticity of his mind,
would speedily recoil into a just equilibrium of study, under wider
and happier opportunities. Reading, indeed, for a person like Pope,
is rather valuable as a means of exciting his own energies, and of
feeding his own sensibilities, than for any direct acquisitions of
knowledge, or for any trains of systematic research. All men are
destined to devour much rubbish between the cradle and the grave;
and doubtless the man who is wisest in the choice of his books,
will have read many a page before he dies that a thoughtful review
would pronounce worthless. This is the fate of all men. But the
reading of Pope, as a general result or measure of his judicious
choice, is best justified in his writings. They show him well
furnished with whatsoever he wanted for matter or for
embellishment, for argument or illustration, for example and model,
or for direct and explicit imitation.

Possibly, as we have already suggested, within the range of English
literature Pope might have found all that he wanted. But variety
the widest has its uses; and, for the extension of his influence
with the polished classes amongst whom he lived, he did wisely to
add other languages; and a question has thus arisen with regard to
the extent of Pope's attainments as a self-taught linguist. A man,
or even a boy, of great originality, may happen to succeed best, in
working his own native mines of thought, by his unassisted
energies. Here it is granted that a tutor, a guide, or even a
companion, may be dispensed with, and even beneficially. But in the
case of foreign languages, in attaining this machinery of
literature, though anomalies even here do arise, and men there are,
like Joseph Scaliger, who form their own dictionaries and grammars
in the mere process of reading an unknown language, by far the
major part of students will lose their time by rejecting the aid of
tutors. As there has been much difference of opinion with regard to
Pope's skill in languages, we shall briefly collate and bring into
one focus the stray notices.

As to the French, Voltaire, who knew Pope personally, declared that
he "could hardly _read_ it, and spoke not one syllable of the
language." But perhaps Voltaire might dislike Pope? On the
contrary, he was acquainted with his works, and admired them to the
very level of their merits. Speaking of him _after death_ to
Frederick of Prussia, he prefers him to Horace and Boileau,
asserting that, by comparison with _them_,

"Pope _approfondit_ ce qu'ils ont _effleura_.
D'un esprit plus hardi, d'un pas plus assure,
Il porta le flambeau dans l'abeme de l'otre;
Et l'homme _avec lui seul_ apprit a se connoetre.
L'art quelquefois frivole, et quelquefois divine,
L'art des vers est dans Pope utile au genre humain."

This is not a wise account of Pope, for it does not abstract the
characteristic feature of his power; but it is a very kind one. And
of course Voltaire could not have meant any unkindness in denying
his knowledge of French. But he was certainly wrong. Pope, in
_his_ presence, would decline to speak or to read a language
of which the pronunciation was confessedly beyond him. Or, if he
did, the impression left would be still worse. In fact, no man ever
will pronounce or talk a language which he does not use, for some
part of every day, in the real intercourse of life. But that Pope
read French of an ordinary cast with fluency enough, is evident
from the extensive use which he made of Madame Dacier's labors on
the Iliad, and still more of La Valterie's prose translation of the
Iliad. Already in the year 1718, and long before his personal
knowledge of Voltaire, Pope had shown his accurate acquaintance
with some voluminous French authors, in a way which, we suspect,
was equally surprising and offensive to his noble correspondent.
The Duke of Buckingham [Endnote: 5] had addressed to Pope a
letter, containing some account of the controversy about Homer,
which had then been recently carried on in France between La Motte
and Madame Dacier. This account was delivered with an air of
teaching, which was very little in harmony with its excessive
shallowness. Pope, who sustained the part of pupil in this
interlude, replied in a manner that exhibited a knowledge of the
parties concerned in the controversy much superior to that of the
duke. In particular, he characterized the excellent notes upon
Horace of M. Dacier, the husband, in very just terms, as
distinguished from those of his conceited and half-learned wife;
and the whole reply of Pope seems very much as though he had been
playing off a mystification on his grace. Undoubtedly the pompous
duke felt that he had caught a Tartar. Now M. Dacier's Horace,
which, with the text, fills nine volumes, Pope could not have read
_except_ in French; for they are not even yet translated into
English. Besides, Pope read critically the French translations of
his own Essay on Man, Essay on Criticism, Rape of the Lock, &c. He
spoke of them as a critic; and it was at no time a fault of Pope's
to make false pretensions. All readers of Pope's Satires must also
recollect numerous proofs, that he had read Boileau with so much
feeling of his peculiar merit, that he has appropriated and
naturalized in English some of his best passages. Voltaire was,
therefore, certainly wrong.

Of Italian literature, meantime, Pope knew little or nothing; and
simply because he knew nothing of the language. Tasso, indeed, he
admired; and, which is singular, more than Ariosto. But we believe
that he had read him only in English; and it is certain that he
could not take up an Italian author, either in prose or verse, for
the unaffected amusement of his leisure.

Greek, we all know has been denied to Pope, ever since he
translated Homer, and chiefly in consequence of that translation.
This seems at first sight unfair, because criticism has not
succeeded in fixing upon Pope any errors of ignorance. His
deviations from Homer were uniformly the result of imperfect
sympathy with the naked simplicity of the antique, and therefore
wilful deviations, not (like those of his more pretending
competitors, Addison and Tickell) pure blunders of misapprehension.
But yet it is not inconsistent with this concession to Pope's
merits, that we must avow our belief in his thorough ignorance of
Greek when he first commenced his task. And to us it seems
astonishing that nobody should have adverted to that fact as a
sufficient solution, and in fact the only plausible solution, of
Pope's excessive depression of spirits in the earliest stage of his
labors. This depression, after he had once pledged himself to his
subscribers for the fulfilment of his task, arose from, and could
have arisen from nothing else than, his conscious ignorance of
Greek in connection with the solemn responsibilities he had assumed
in the face of a great nation. Nay, even countries as
presumptuously disdainful of tramontane literature as Italy took an
interest in this memorable undertaking. Bishop Berkeley found
Salvini reading it at Florence; and Madame Dacier even, who read
little but Greek, and certainly no English until then, condescended
to study it. Pope's dejection, therefore, or rather agitation (for
it impressed by sympathy a tumultuous character upon his dreams,
which lasted for years after the cause had ceased to operate) was
perfectly natural under the explanation we have given, but not
otherwise. And how did he surmount this unhappy self-distrust?
Paradoxical as it may sound, we will venture to say, that, with the
innumerable aids for interpreting Homer which even then existed, a
man sufficiently acquainted with Latin might make a translation
even critically exact. This Pope was not long in discovering. Other
alleviations of his labor concurred, and in a ratio daily

The same formulae were continually recurring, such as,

_"But him answering, thus addressed the swift-footed Achilles;"_


_"But him sternly beholding, thus spoke Agamemnon the king
of men."_

Then, again, universally the Homeric Greek, from many causes, is
easy; and especially from these two:

1 _st_, The simplicity of the thought, which never gathers
into those perplexed knots of rhetorical condensation, which we
find in the dramatic poets of a higher civilization.

2 _dly_, From the constant hounds set to the expansion of the
thought by the form of the metre; an advantage of verse which makes
the poets so much easier to a beginner in the German language than
the illimitable weavers of prose. The line or the stanza reins up
the poet tightly to his theme, and will not suffer him to
expatiate. Gradually, therefore, Pope came to read the Homeric
Greek, but never accurately; nor did he ever read Eustathius
without aid from Latin. As to any knowledge of the Attic Greek, of
the Greek of the dramatists, the Greek of Plato, the Greek of
Demosthenes, Pope neither had it nor affected to have it. Indeed it
was no foible of Pope's, as we will repeat, to make claims which he
had not, or even to dwell ostentatiously upon those which he had.
And with respect to Greek in particular, there is a manuscript
letter in existence from Pope to a Mr. Bridges at Falham, which,
speaking of the original Homer, distinctly records the knowledge
which he had of his own "imperfectness in the language." Chapman, a
most spirited translator of Homer, probably had no very critical
skill in Greek; and Hobbes was, beyond all question, as poor a
Grecian as he was a doggerel translator; yet in this letter Pope
professes his willing submission to the "authority" of Chapman and
Hobbes, as superior to his own.

Finally, in _Latin_ Pope was a "considerable proficient," even
by the cautious testimony of Dr. Johnson; and in this language only
the doctor was an accomplished critic. If Pope had really the
proficiency here ascribed to him, he must have had it already in
his boyish years; for the translation from Statius, which is the
principal monument of his skill, was executed _before_ he was
fourteen. We have taken the trouble to throw a hasty glance over
it; and whilst we readily admit the extraordinary talent which it
shows, as do all the juvenile essays of Pope, we cannot allow that
it argues any accurate skill in Latin. The word Malea, as we have
seen noticed by some editor, he makes Malea; which in itself, as
the name was not of common occurrence, would not have been an error
worth noticing; but, taken in connection with the certainty that
Pope had the original line before him--

"Arripit ex templo Maleae de valle resurgens,"

when not merely the scanning theoretically, but the
whole rhythm is practically, to the most obtuse ear, would be
annihilated by Pope's false quantity, is a blunder which serves to
show his utter ignorance of prosody. But, even as a version of the
sense, with every allowance for a poet's license of compression and
expansion, Pope's translation is defective, and argues an
occasional inability to construe the text. For instance, at the
council summoned by Jupiter, it is said that he at his first
entrance seats himself upon his starry throne, but not so the
inferior gods;

"Nec protinus ausi
Coelicolae, veniam donee pater ipse sedendi
Tranquilla jubet esse manu."

In which passage there is a slight obscurity, from the ellipsis of
the word _sedere_, or _sese locare_; but the meaning is
evidently that the other gods did not presume to sit down
_protinus_, that is, in immediate succession to Jupiter, and
interpreting his example as a tacit license to do so, until, by a
gentle wave of his hand, the supreme father signifies his express
permission to take their seats. But Pope, manifestly unable to
extract any sense from the passage, translates thus:

"At Jove's assent the deities around
In solemn slate the consistory _crown'd_;"

where at once the whole picturesque solemnity of the celestial
ritual melts into the vaguest generalities. Again, at v. 178,
_ruptaeque vices_ is translated," _and all the ties of
nature broke_; "but by vices is indicated the alternate reign of
the two brothers, as ratified by mutual oaths, and subsequently
violated by Eteocles. Other mistakes might be cited, which seem to
prove that Pope, like most self-taught linguists, was a very
imperfect one. [Endnote: 6] Pope, in short, never rose to such a
point in classical literature as to read either Greek or Latin
authors without effort, and for his private amusement.

The result, therefore, of Pope's self-tuition appears to us,
considered in the light of an attempt to acquire certain
accomplishments of knowledge, a most complete failure. As a
linguist, he read no language with ease; none with pleasure to
himself; and none with so much accuracy as could have carried him
through the most popular author with a general independence on
interpreters. But, considered with a view to his particular
faculties and slumbering originality of power, which required
perhaps the stimulation of accident to arouse them effectually, we
are very much disposed to think that the very failure of his
education as an artificial training was a great advantage finally
for inclining his mind to throw itself, by way of indemnification,
upon its native powers. Had he attained, as with better tuition he
would have attained, distinguished excellence as a scholar, or as a
student of science, the chances are many that he would have settled
down into such studies as thousands could pursue not less
successfully than he; whilst as it was, the very dissatisfaction
which he could not but feel with his slender attainments, must have
given him a strong motive for cultivating those impulses of
original power which he felt continually stirring within him, and
which were vivified into trials of competition as often as any
distinguished excellence was introduced to his knowledge.

Pope's father, at the time of his birth, lived in Lombard Street;
[Endnote: 7] a street still familiar to the public eye, from its
adjacency to some of the chief metropolitan establishments, and to
the English ear possessing a degree of historical importance;
first, as the residence of those Lombards, or Milanese, who
affiliated our infant commerce to the matron splendors of the
Adriatic and the Mediterranean; next, as the central resort of
thrme jewellers, or "goldsmiths," as they were styled, who
performed all the functions of modern bankers from the period of
the parliamentary war to the rise of the Bank of England, that is,
for six years after the birth of Pope; and, lastly, as the seat,
until lately, of that vast Post Office, through which, for so long
a period, has passed the correspondence of all nations and
languages, upon a scale unknown to any other country. In this
street Alexander Pope the elder had a house, and a warehouse, we
presume, annexed, in which he conducted the wholesale business of a
linen merchant. As soon as he had made a moderate fortune he
retired from business, first to Kensington, and afterwards to
Binfield, in Windsor Forest. The period of this migration is not
assigned by any writer. It is probable that a prudent man would not
adopt it with any prospect of having more children. But this chance
might be considered as already extinguished at the birth of Pope;
for though his father had then only attained his forty-fourth year,
Mrs. Pope had completed her forty-eighth. It is probable, from the
interval of seven days which is said to have elapsed between Pope's
punishment and his removal from the school, that his parents were
then living at such a distance from him as to prevent his ready
communication with them, else we may be sure that Mrs. Pope would
have flown on the wings of love and wrath to the rescue of her
darling. Supposing, therefore, as we _do_ suppose, that Mr.
Bromley's school in London was the scene of his disgrace, it would
appear on this argument that his parents were then living in
Windsor Forest. And this hypothesis falls in with another anecdote
in Pope's life, which we know partly upon his own authority. He
tells Wycherley that he had seen Dryden, and barely seen him.
_Virgilium vidi tantum_. This is presumed to have been in
Will's Coffee-house, whither any person in search of Dryden would
of course resort; and it must have been before Pope was twelve
years old, for Dryden died in 1700. Now there is a letter of Sir
Charles Wogan's, stating that he first took Pope to Will's; and his
words are, "from our forest." Consequently, at that period, when he
had not completed his twelfth year, Pope was already living in the

From this period, and so long as the genial spirits of youth
lasted, Pope's life must have been one dream of pleasure. He tells
Lord Harvey that his mother did not spoil him; but that was no
doubt because there was no room for wilfulness or waywardness on
either side, when all was one placid scene of parental obedience
and gentle filial authority. We feel persuaded that, if not in
words, in spirit and inclination, they would, in any notes they
might have occasion to write, subscribe themselves "your dutiful
parents." And of what consequence in whose hands were the reins
which were never needed? Every reader must be pleased to know that
these idolizing parents lived to see their son at the very summit
of his public elevation; even his father lived two years and a half
after the publication of his Homer had commenced, and when his
fortune was made; and his mother lived for nearly eighteen years
more. What a felicity for her, how rare and how perfect, to find
that he, who to her maternal eyes was naturally the most perfect of
human beings, and the idol of her heart, had already been the idol
of the nation before he had completed his youth. She had also
another blessing not always commanded by the most devoted love;
many sons there are who think it essential to manliness that they
should treat their mother's doating anxiety with levity, or even
ridicule. But Pope, who was the model of a good son, never swerved
in words, manners, or conduct, from the most respectful tenderness,
or intermitted the piety of his attentions. And so far did he carry
this regard for his mother's comfort, that, well knowing how she
lived upon his presence or by his image, he denied himself for many
years all excursions which could not be fully accomplished within
the revolution of a week. And to this cause, combined with the
excessive length of his mother's life, must be ascribed the fact
that Pope never went abroad; not to Italy with Thomson or with
Berkeley, or any of his diplomatic friends; not to Ireland, where
his presence would have been hailed as a national honor; not even
to France, on a visit to his admiring and admired friend Lord
Bolingbroke. For as to the fear of sea-sickness, _that_ did
not arise until a late period of his life; and at any period would
not have operated to prevent his crossing from Dover to Calais. It
is possible that, in his earlier and more sanguine years, all the
perfection of his filial love may not have availed to prevent him
from now and then breathing a secret murmur at confinement so
constant. But it is certain that, long before he passed the
meridian of his life, Pope had come to view this confinement with
far other thoughts. Experience had then taught him, that to no man
is the privilege granted of possessing more than one or two friends
who are such in extremity. By that time he had come to view his
mother's death with fear and anguish. She, he knew by many a sign,
would have been happy to lay down her life for his sake; but for
others, even those who were the most friendly and the most constant
in their attentions, he felt but too certainly that his death, or
his heavy affliction, might cost them a few sighs, but would not
materially disturb their peace of mind. "It is but in a very narrow
circle," says he, in a confidential letter, "that friendship walks
in this world, and I care not to tread out of it more than I needs
must; knowing well it is but to two or three, (if quite so many,)
that any man's welfare or memory can be of consequence." After such
acknowledgments, we are not surprised to find him writing thus of
his mother, and his fearful struggles to fight off the shock of his
mother's death, at a time when it was rapidly approaching. After
having said of a friend's death, "the subject is beyond writing
upon, beyond cure or ease by reason or reflection, beyond all but
one thought, that it is the will of God," he goes on thus, "So will
the death of my mother be, which now I tremble at, now resign to,
now bring close to me, now set farther off; every day alters, turns
me about, confuses my whole frame of mind." There is no pleasure,
he adds, which the world can give "equivalent to countervail either
the death of one I have so long lived with, or of one I have so
long lived for." How will he comfort himself after her death? "I
have nothing left but to turn my thoughts to one comfort, the last
we usually think of, though the only one we should in wisdom depend
upon. I sit in her room, and she is always present before me but
when I sleep. I wonder I am so well. I have shed many tears; but
now I weep at nothing."

A man, therefore, happier than Pope in his domestic relations
cannot easily have lived. It is true these relations were
circumscribed; had they been wider, they could not have been so
happy. But Pope was equally fortunate in his social relations.
What, indeed, most of all surprises us, is the courteous,
flattering, and even brilliant reception which Pope found from his
earliest boyhood amongst the most accomplished men of the world.
Wits, courtiers, statesmen, grandees the most dignified, and men of
fashion the most brilliant, all alike treated him not only with
pointed kindness, but with a respect that seemed to acknowledge him
as their intellectual superior. Without rank, high birth, fortune,
without even a literary name, and in defiance of a deformed person,
Pope, whilst yet only sixteen years of age, was caressed, and even
honored; and all this with no one recommendation but simply the
knowledge of his dedication to letters, and the premature
expectations which he raised of future excellence. Sir William
Trumbull, a veteran statesman, who had held the highest stations,
both diplomatic and ministerial, made him his daily companion.
Wycherley, the old _roue_ of the town, a second-rate wit, but
not the less jealous on that account, showed the utmost deference
to one whom, as a man of fashion, he must have regarded with
contempt, and between whom and himself there were nearly "fifty
good years of fair and foul weather." Cromwell, [Endnote: 8] a
fox-hunting country gentleman, but uniting with that character the
pretensions of a wit, and affecting also the reputation of a rake,
cultivated his regard with zeal and conscious inferiority. Nay,
which never in any other instance happened to the most fortunate
poet, his very inaugural essays in verse were treated, not as
prelusive efforts of auspicious promise, but as finished works of
art, entitled to take their station amongst the literature of the
land; and in the most worthless of all his poems, Walsh, an
established authority, and whom Dryden pronounced the ablest critic
of the age, found proofs of equality with Virgil.

The literary correspondence with these gentlemen is interesting, as
a model of what once passed for fine letter-writing. Every nerve
was strained to outdo each other in carving all thoughts into a
fillagree work of rhetoric; and the amoebaean contest was like that
between two village cocks from neighboring farms endeavoring to
overcrow each other. To us, in this age of purer and more masculine
taste, the whole scene takes the ludicrous air of old and young
fops dancing a minuet with each other, practising the most
elaborate grimaces, sinkings and risings the most awful, bows the
most overshadowing, until plain walking, running, or the motions of
natural dancing, are thought too insipid for endurance. In this
instance the taste had perhaps really been borrowed from France,
though often enough we impute to France what is the native growth
of all minds placed in similar circumstances. Madame de Sevigne's
Letters were really models of grace. But Balzac, whose letters,
however, are not without interest, had in some measure formed
himself upon the truly magnificent rhetoric of Pliny and Seneca.
Pope and his correspondents, meantime, degraded the dignity of
rhetoric, by applying it to trivial commonplaces of compliment;
whereas Seneca applied it to the grandest themes which life or
contemplation can supply. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, on first
coming amongst the wits of the day, naturally adopted their style.
She found this sort of _euphuism_ established; and it was not
for a very young woman to oppose it. But her masculine
understanding and powerful good sense, shaken free, besides, from
all local follies by travels and extensive commerce with the world,
first threw off these glittering chains of affectation.

Dean Swift, by the very constitution of his mind, plain, sinewy,
nervous, and courting only the strength that allies itself with
homeliness, was always indisposed to this mode of correspondence.
And, finally, Pope himself, as his earlier friends died off, and
his own understanding acquired strength, laid it aside altogether.
One reason doubtless was, that he found it too fatiguing; since in
this way of letter-writing he was put to as much expense of wit in
amusing an individual correspondent, as would for an equal extent
have sufficed to delight the whole world. A funambulist may harass
his muscles and risk his neck on the tight-rope, but hardly to
entertain his own family. Pope, however, had another reason for
declining this showy system of fencing; and strange it is that he
had not discovered this reason from the very first. As life
advanced, it happened unavoidably that real business advanced; the
careless condition of youth prompted no topics, or at least
prescribed none, but such as were agreeable to the taste, and
allowed of an ornamental coloring. But when downright business
occurred, exchequer bills to be sold, meetings to be arranged,
negotiations confided, difficulties to be explained, here and there
by possibility a jest or two might be scattered, a witty allusion
thrown in, or a sentiment interwoven; but for the main body of the
case, it neither could receive any ornamental treatment, nor if, by
any effort of ingenuity, it _had_, could it look otherwise
than silly and unreasonable:

"Ornari les a ipsa negat, contenta doceri."

Pope's idleness, therefore, on the one hand, concurring with good
sense and the necessities of business on the other, drove him to
quit his gay rhetoric in letter-writing. But there are passages
surviving in his correspondence which indicate, that, after all,
had leisure and the coarse perplexities of life permitted it, he
still looked with partiality upon his youthful style, and cherished
it as a first love. But in this harsh world, as the course of true
love, so that of rhetoric, never did run smooth; and thus it
happened that, with a lingering farewell, he felt himself forced to
bid it adieu. Strange that any man should think his own sincere and
confidential overflowings of thought and feeling upon books, men,
and public affairs, less valuable in a literary view than the
legerdemain of throwing up bubbles into the air for the sake of
watching their prismatic hues, like an Indian juggler with his cups
and balls. We of this age, who have formed our notions of
epistolary excellence from the chastity of Gray's, the brilliancy
of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's during her later life, and the
mingled good sense and fine feeling of Cowper's, value only those
letters of Pope which he himself thought of inferior value. And
even with regard to these, we may say that there is a great mistake
made; the best of those later letters between Pope and Swift, &c.,
are not in themselves at all superior to the letters of sensible
and accomplished women, such as leave every town in the island by
every post. Their chief interest is a derivative one; we are
pleased with any letter, good or bad, which relates to men of such
eminent talent; and sometimes the subjects discussed have a
separate interest for themselves. But as to the quality of the
discussion, apart from the person discussing and the thing
discussed, so trivial is the value of these letters in a large
proportion, that we cannot but wonder at the preposterous value
which was set upon them by the writers. [Endnote: 9] Pope
especially ought not to have his ethereal works loaded by the mass
of trivial prose which is usually attached to them.

This correspondence, meantime, with the wits of the time, though
one mode by which, in the absence of reviews, the reputation of an
author was spread, did not perhaps serve the interests of Pope so
effectually as the poems which in this way he circulated in those
classes of English society whose favor he chiefly courted. One of
his friends, the truly kind and accomplished Sir William Trumbull,
served him in that way, and perhaps in another eventually even more
important. The library of Pope's father was composed exclusively of
polemical divinity, a proof, by the way, that he was not a blind
convert to the Roman Catholic faith; or, if he was so originally,
had reviewed the grounds of it, and adhered to it after strenuous
study. In this dearth of books at his own home, and until he was
able to influence his father in buying more extensively, Pope had
benefited by the loans of his friends; amongst whom it is probable
that Sir William, as one of the best scholars of the whole, might
assist him most. He certainly offered him the most touching
compliment, as it was also the wisest and most paternal counsel,
when he besought him, as one _goddess-born_, to quit the
convivial society of deep-drinkers:

"Heu, fuge nate dea, teque his, ait, eripe malis."

With these aids from friends of rank, and his way thus laid open to
public favor, in the year 1709 Pope first came forward upon the
stage of literature. The same year which terminated his legal
minority introduced him to the public. _Miscellanies_ in those
days were almost periodical repositories of fugitive verse. Tonson
happened at this time to be publishing one of some extent, the
sixth volume of which offered a sort of ambush to the young
aspirant of Windsor Forest, from which he might watch the public
feeling. The volume was opened by Mr. Ambrose Philips, in the
character of pastoral poet; and in the same character, but
stationed at the end of the volume, and thus covered by his bucolic
leader, as a soldier to the rear by the file in advance, appeared
Pope; so that he might win a little public notice, without too much
seeming to challenge it. This half-clandestine emersion upon the
stage of authorship, and his furtive position, are both mentioned
by Pope as accidents, but as accidents in which he rejoiced, and
not improbably accidents which Tonson had arranged with a view to
his satisfaction.

It must appear strange that Pope at twenty-one should choose to
come forward for the first time with a work composed at sixteen. A
difference of five years at that stage of life is of more effect
than of twenty at a later; and his own expanding judgment could
hardly fail to inform him, that his Pastorals were by far the worst
of his works. In reality, let us not deny, that had Pope never
written any thing else, his name would not have been known as a
name even of promise, but would probably have been redeemed from
oblivion by some satirist or writer of a Dunciad. Were a man to
meet with such a nondescript monster as the following, viz.,"
_Love out of Mount Mlna by Whirlwind_"he would suppose himself
reading the Racing Calendar. Yet this hybrid creature is one of the
many zoological monsters to whom the Pastorals introduce us:

"I know thee. love! on foreign mountains born.
Wolves gave thee suck, and savage tigers fed.
Thou wert from Aetna's burning entrails torn.
Got by fierce whirlwinds, and in thunder born."

But the very names "Damon" and "Strephon," "Phillis" and "Delia,"
are rank with childishness. Arcadian life is, at the best, a
feeble conception, and rests upon the false principle of crowding
together all the luscious sweets of rural life, undignified by the
danger which attends pastoral life in our climate, and unrelieved
by shades, either moral or physical. And the Arcadia of Pope's age
was the spurious Arcadia of the opera theatre, and, what is worse,
of the French opera.

The hostilities which followed between these rival wooers of the
pastoral muse are well known. Pope, irritated at what he conceived
the partiality shown to Philips in the Guardian, pursued the review
ironically; and, whilst affecting to load his antagonist with
praises, draws into pointed relief some of his most flagrant
faults. The result, however, we cannot believe. That all the wits,
except Addison, were duped by the irony, is quite impossible. Could
any man of sense mistake for praise the remark, that Philips had
imitated "_every_ line of Strada; "that he had introduced
wolves into England, and proved himself the first of gardeners by
making his flowers "blow all in the same season." Or, suppose
those passages unnoticed, could the broad sneer escape him, where
Pope taxes the other writer (viz., himself) with having deviated"
into downright poetry; "or the outrageous ridicule of Philip's
style, as setting up for the ideal type of the pastoral style, the
quotation from Gay, beginning,

"Rager, go vetch tha kee, or else tha zun
Will quite bego before ch' 'avs half a don!"

Philips is said to have resented this treatment by threats of
personal chastisement to Pope, and even hanging up a rod at
Button's coffee-house. We may be certain that Philips never
disgraced himself by such ignoble conduct. If the public indeed
were universally duped by the paper, what motive had Philips for
resentment? Or, in any case, what plea had he for attacking Pope,
who had not come forward as the author of the essay? But, from
Pope's confidential account of the matter, we know that Philips saw
him daily, and never offered him "any indecorum;" though, for some
cause or other, Pope pursued Philips with virulence through life.

In the year 1711, Pope published his Essay on Criticism, which some
people have very unreasonably fancied his best performance; and in
the same year his Rape of the Lock, the most exquisite monument of
playful fancy that universal literature offers. It wanted, however,
as yet, the principle of its vitality, in wanting the machinery of
sylphs and gnomes, with which addition it was first published in

In the year 1712, Pope appeared again before the public as the
author of the Temple of Fame, and the Elegy to the Memory of an
Unfortunate Lady. Much speculation has arisen on the question
concerning the name of this lady, and the more interesting question
concerning the nature of the persecutions and misfortunes which she
suffered. Pope appears purposely to decline answering the questions
of his friends upon that point; at least the questions have reached
us, and the answers have not. Joseph Warton supposed himself to
have ascertained four facts about her: that her name was Wainsbury;
that she was deformed in person; that she retired into a convent
from some circumstances connected with an attachment to a young man
of inferior rank; and that she killed herself, not by a sword, as
the poet insinuates, but by a halter. As to the latter statement,
it may very possibly be true; such a change would be a very slight
exercise of the poet's privileges. As to the rest, there are
scarcely grounds enough for an opinion. Pope certainly speaks of
her under the name of Mrs. (_i. e._ Miss) W--, which at least
argues a poetical exaggeration in describing her as a being "that
once had _titles_, honor, wealth, and fame;" and he may as
much have exaggerated her pretensions to beauty. It is indeed
noticeable, that he speaks simply of her _decent_ limbs,
which, in any English use of the word, does not imply much
enthusiasm of praise. She appears to have been the niece of a Lady
A--; and Mr. Craggs, afterwards secretary of state, wrote to Lady
A--on her behalf, and otherwise took an interest in her fate. As to
her being a relative of the Duke of Buckingham's, that rests upon a
mere conjectural interpretation applied to a letter of that
nobleman's. But all things about this unhappy lady are as yet
enveloped in mystery. And not the least part of the mystery is a
letter of Pope's to a Mr. C--, bearing date 1732, that is, just
twenty years after the publication of the poem, in which Pope, in a
manly tone, justifies himself for his estrangement, and presses
against his unknown correspondent the very blame which he had
applied generally to the kinsman of the poor victim in 1712. Now,
unless there is some mistake in the date, how are we to explain
this gentleman's long lethargy, and his sudden sensibility to
Pope's anathema, with which the world had resounded for twenty

Pope had now established his reputation with the public as the
legitimate successor and heir to the poetical supremacy of Dryden.
His Rape of the Lock was unrivalled in ancient or modern
literature, and the time had now arrived when, instead of seeking
to extend his fame, he might count upon a pretty general support in
applying what he had already established to the promotion of his
own interest. Accordingly, in the autumn of 1713, he formed a final
resolution of undertaking a new translation of the Iliad. It must
be observed, that already in 1709, concurrently with his Pastorals,
he had published specimens of such a translation; and these had
been communicated to his friends some time before. In particular,
Sir William Trumbull, on the 9th of April, 1708, urged upon Pope a
complete translation of both Iliad and Odyssey. Defective skill in
the Greek language, exaggeration of the difficulties, and the
timidity of a writer as yet unknown, and not quite twenty years
old, restrained Pope for five years and more. What he had practised
as a sort of _bravura_, for a single effort of display, he
recoiled from as a daily task to be pursued through much toil, and
a considerable section of his life. However, he dallied with the
purpose, starting difficulties in the temper of one who wishes to
hear them undervalued; until at length Sir Richard Steele
determined him to the undertaking, a fact overlooked by the
biographers, but which is ascertained by Ayre's account of that
interview between Pope and Addison, probably in 1716, which sealed
the rupture between them. In the autumn of 1713, he made his design
known amongst his friends. Accordingly, on the 21st of October, we
have Lord Lansdown's letter, expressing his great pleasure at the
communication; on the 26th, we have Addison's letter encouraging
him to the task; and in November of the same year occurs the
amusing scene so graphically described by Bishop Kennet, when Dean
Swift presided in the conversation, and, amongst other indications
of his conscious authority, "instructed a young nobleman, that the
best poet in England was Mr. Pope, who had _begun_ a
translation of Homer into English verse, for which he must have
them all subscribe; for," says he," _the author shall not begin
to print until I have a thousand guineas for him_."

If this were the extent of what Swift anticipated from the work, he
fell miserably below the result. But, perhaps, he spoke only of a
cautionary _arrha_ or earnest. As this was unquestionably the
greatest literary labor, as to profit, ever executed, not excepting
the most lucrative of Sir Walter Scott's, if due allowance be made
for the altered value of money, and if we consider the Odyssey as
forming part of the labor, it may be right to state the particulars
of Pope's contract with Lintot.

The number of subscribers to the Iliad was 575, and the number of
copies subscribed for was 654. The work was to be printed in six
quarto volumes; and the subscription was a guinea a volume.
Consequently by the subscription Pope obtained six times 654
guineas, or 4218L. 6s., (for the guinea then passed for 21s. 6d.);
and for the copyright of each volume Lintot offered 200L,
consequently 1200L for the whole six; so that from the Iliad the
profit exactly amounted to 5310L. 16s. Of the Odyssey, 574 copies
were subscribed for. It was to be printed in five quarto volumes,
and the subscription was a guinea a volume. Consequently by the
subscription Pope obtained five times 574 guineas, or 3085L. 5s.;
and for the copyright Lintot offered 600L. The total sum received,
therefore, by Pope, on account of the Odyssey, was 3685L. 5s. But
in this instance he had two coadjutors, Broome and Fenton; between
them they translated twelve books, leaving twelve to Pope. The
notes also were compiled by Broome; but the Postscript to the notes
was written by Pope. Fenton received 300L, Broome 500L. Such at
least is Warton's account, and more probable than that of Ruffhead,
who not only varies the proportions, but increases the whole sum
given to the assistants by 100L. Thus far we had followed the
guidance of mere probabilities, as they lie upon the face of the
transaction. But we have since detected a written statement of
Pope's, unaccountably overlooked by the biographers, and serving of
itself to show how negligently they have read the works of their
illustrious subject. The statement is entitled to the fullest
attention and confidence, not being a hasty or casual notice of the
transaction, but pointedly shaped to meet a calumnious rumor
against Pope in his character of paymaster; as if he who had found
so much liberality from publishers in his own person, were
niggardly or unjust as soon as he assumed those relations to
others. Broome, it was alleged, had expressed himself dissatisfied
with Pope's remuneration. Perhaps he had. For he would be likely to
frame his estimate for his own services from the scale of Pope's
reputed gains; and those gains would, at any rate, be enormously
exaggerated, as uniformly happens where there is a basis of the
marvellous to begin with. And, secondly, it would be natural enough
to assume the previous result from the Iliad as a fair standard for
computation; but in this, as we know, all parties found themselves
disappointed, and Broome had the less right to murmur at this,
since the arrangement with himself as chief journeyman in the job
was one main cause of the disappointment. There was also another
reason why Broome should be less satisfied than Fenton. Verse for
verse, any one thousand lines of a translation so purely mechanical
might stand against any other thousand; and so far the equation of
claims was easy. A book-keeper, with a pen behind his ear, and
Cocker's Golden Rule open before him, could do full justice to Mr.
Broome _as a poet_ every Saturday night. But Broome had a
separate account current for pure prose against Pope. One he had in
conjunction with Fenton for verses delivered on the premises at so
much per hundred, on which there could be no demur, except as to
the allowance for tare and tret as a discount in favor of Pope. But
the prose account, the account for notes, requiring very various
degrees of reading and research, allowed of no such easy equation.
There it was, we conceive, that Broome's discontent arose. Pope,
however, declares, that he had given him 500L, thus confirming the
proportions of Warton against Ruffhead, (that is, in effect,
Warburton,) and some other advantages which were not in money, nor
deductions at all from his own money profits, but which may have
been worth so much money to Broome, as to give some colorable truth
to Ruffhead's allegation of an additional 100L. In direct money, it
remains certain that Fenton had three, and Broome five hundred
pounds. It follows, therefore, that for the Iliad and Odyssey
jointly he received a sum of 8996L. 1s., and paid for assistance
800L, which leaves to himself a clear sum of 8196L. 1s. And, in
fact, his profits ought to be calculated without deduction, since
it was his own choice, from indolence, to purchase assistance.

The Iliad was commenced about October, 1713. In the summer of the
following year he was so far advanced as to begin making
arrangements with Lintot for the printing; and the first two books,
in manuscript, were put into the hands of Lord Halifax. In June,
1715, between the 10th and 28th, the subscribers received their
copies of the first volume; and in July Lintot began to publish
that volume generally. Some readers will inquire, who paid for the
printing and paper, &c.? All this expense fell upon Lintot, for
whom Pope was superfluously anxious. The sagacious bookseller
understood what he was about; and, when a pirated edition was
published in Holland, he counteracted the injury by printing a
cheap edition, of which 7500 copies were sold in a few weeks; an
extraordinary proof of the extended interest in literature. The
second, third, and fourth volumes of the Iliad, each containing,
like the first, four books, were published successively in 1716,
1717, 1718; and in 1720, Pope completed the work by publishing the
fifth volume, containing five books, and the sixth, containing the
last three, with the requisite supplementary apparatus.

The Odyssey was commenced in 1723, (not 1722, as Mr. Roscoe
virtually asserts at p. 259,) and the publication of it was
finished in 1725. The sale, however, was much inferior to that of
the Iliad; for which more reasons than one might be assigned. But
there can be no doubt that Pope himself depreciated the work, by
his undignified arrangements for working by subordinate hands. Such
a process may answer in sculpture, because there a quantity of
rough-hewing occurs, which can no more be improved by committing it
to a Phidias, than a common shop-bill could be improved in its
arithmetic by Sir Isaac Newton. But in literature such arrangements
are degrading; and, above all, in a work which was but too much
exposed already to the presumption of being a mere effort of
mechanic skill, or (as Curll said to the House of Lords)" _a
knack_; "it was deliberately helping forward that idea to let
off parts of the labor. Only think of Milton letting off by
contract to the lowest offer, and to be delivered by such a day,
(for which good security to be found,) six books of Paradise Lost.
It is true, the great dramatic authors were often
_collaborateurs_, but their case was essentially different.
The loss, however, fell not upon Pope, but upon Lintot, who, on
this occasion, was out of temper, and talked rather broadly of
prosecution. But that was out of the question. Pope had acted
indiscreetly, but nothing could be alleged against his honor; for
he had expressly warned the public, that he did not, as in the
other case, profess _to translate_, but _to undertake
[Endnote: 10] a translation_ of the Odyssey. Lintot, however,
was no loser absolutely, though he might be so in relation to his
expectations; on the contrary, he grew rich, bought land, and
became sheriff of the county in which his estates lay.

We have pursued the Homeric labors uninterruptedly from their
commencement in 1713, till their final termination in 1725, a
period of twelve years or nearly; because this was the task to
which Pope owed the dignity, if not the comforts, of his life,
since it was this which enabled him to decline a pension from all
administrations, and even from his friend Craggs, the secretary, to
decline the express offer of 300L per annum. Indeed Pope is always
proud to own his obligations to Homer. In the interval, however,
between the Iliad and the Odyssey, Pope listened to proposals made
by Jacob Tonson, that he should revise an edition of Shakspeare.
For this, which was in fact the first attempt at establishing the
text of the mighty poet, Pope obtained but little money, and still
less reputation. He received, according to tradition, only 217L.
12s. for his trouble of collation, which must have been
considerable, and some other trifling editorial labor. And the
opinion of all judges, from the first so unfavorable as to have
depreciated the money-value of the book enormously, perhaps from a
prepossession of the public mind against the fitness of Pope for
executing the dull labors of revision, has ever since pronounced
this work the very worst edition in existence. For the edition we
have little to plead; but for the editor it is but just to make
three apologies. In the _first_ place, he wrote a brilliant
preface, which, although (like other works of the same class) too
much occupied in displaying his own ability, and too often, for the
sake of an effective antithesis, doing deep injustice to
Shakspeare, yet undoubtedly, as a whole, extended his fame, by
giving the sanction and countersign of a great wit to the national
admiration. _Secondly_, as Dr. Johnson admits, Pope's failure
pointed out the right road to his successors. _Thirdly_, even
in this failure it is but fair to say, that in a graduated scale of
merit, as distributed amongst the long succession of editors
through that century, Pope holds a rank proportionable to his age.
For the year 1720, he is no otherwise below Theobald, Hanmer,
Capell, Warburton, or even Johnson, than as they are successively
below each other, and all of them as to accuracy below Steevens, as
he again was below Malone and Read.

The gains from Shakspeare would hardly counterbalance the loss
which Pope sustained this year from the South Sea Bubble. One
thing, by the way, is still unaccountably neglected by writers on
this question. How it was that the great Mississippi Bubble, during
the Orleans regency in Paris, should have happened to coincide with
that of London. If this were accident, how marvellous that the same
insanity should possess the two great capitals of Christendom in
the same year? If, again, it were not accident, but due to some
common cause, why is not that cause explained? Pope to his nearest
friends never stated the amount of his loss. The biographers report
that at one time his stock was worth from twenty to thirty thousand
pounds. But that is quite impossible. It is true, that as the stock
rose at one time a thousand per cent., this would not imply on
Pope's part an original purchase beyond twenty-five hundred pounds
or thereabouts. But Pope has furnished an argument against _that,
_ which we shall improve. He quotes, more than once, as
applicable to his own case, the old proverbial riddle of Hesiod,
_----- ----- ------, the half is more than the whole_. What
did he mean by that? We understand it thus: That between the
selling and buying, the variations had been such as to sink his
shares to one half of the price they had once reached, but, even at
that depreciation, to leave him richer on selling out than he had
been at first. But the half of 25,000 would be a far larger sum
than Pope could have ventured to risk upon a fund confessedly
liable to daily fluctuation. 3000 English pounds would be the
utmost he could risk; in which case the half of 25,000 pounds
would have left him so very much richer, that he would have
proclaimed his good fortune as an evidence of his skill and
prudence. Yet, on the contrary, he wished his friends to understand
at times that he had lost. But his friends forgot to ask one
important question: Was the word _loss_ to be understood in
relation to the imaginary and nominal wealth which he once
possessed, or in relation to the absolute sum invested in the South
Sea fund? The truth is, Pope practised on this, as on other
occasions, a little finessing, which is the chief foible in his
character. His object was, that, according to circumstances, he
might vindicate his own freedom from the common mania, in case his
enemies should take that handle for attacking him; or might have it
in his power to plead poverty, and to account for it, in case he
should ever accept that pension which had been so often tendered
but never sternly rejected.

In 1723 Pope lost one of his dearest friends, Bishop Atterbury, by
banishment; a sentence most justly incurred, and mercifully
mitigated by the hostile Whig government. On the bishop's trial a
circumstance occurred to Pope which flagrantly corroborated his own
belief in his natural disqualification for public life. He was
summoned as an evidence on his friend's behalf. He had but a dozen
words to say, simply explaining the general tenor of his lordship's
behavior at Bromley, and yet, under this trivial task, though
supported by the enthusiasm of his friendship, he broke down. Lord
Bolingbroke, returning from exile, met the bishop at the sea-side;
upon which it was wittily remarked that they were "exchanged." Lord
Bolingbroke supplied to Pope the place, or perhaps more than
supplied the place, of the friend he had lost; for Bolingbroke was
a free-thinker, and so far more entertaining to Pope, even whilst
partially dissenting, than Atterbury, whose clerical profession
laid him under restraints of decorum, and latterly, there is reason
to think, of conscience.

In 1725, on closing the Odyssey, Pope announces his intention to
Swift of quitting the labors of a translator, and thenceforwards
applying himself to original composition. This resolution led to
the Essay on Man, which appeared soon afterwards; and, with the
exception of two labors, which occupied Pope in the interval
between 1726 and 1729, the rest of his life may properly be
described as dedicated to the further extension of that Essay. The
two works which he interposed were a collection of the fugitive
papers, whether prose or verse, which he and Dean Swift had
scattered amongst their friends at different periods of life. The
avowed motive for this publication, and, in fact, the secret
motive, as disclosed in Pope's confidential letters, was to make it
impossible thenceforwards for piratical publishers like Curll. Both
Pope and Swift dreaded the malice of Curll in case they should die
before him. It was one of Curll's regular artifices to publish a
heap of trash on the death of any eminent man, under the title of
his Remains; and in allusion to that practice, it was that
Arbuthnot most wittily called Curll "one of the new terrors of
death." By publishing _all_, Pope would have disarmed Curll
beforehand; and that was in fact the purpose; and that plea only
could be offered by two grave authors, one forty, the other sixty
years old, for reprinting _jeux d'esprit_ that never had any
other apology than the youth of their authors. Yet, strange to say,
after all, some were omitted; and the omission of one opened the
door to Curll as well as that of a score. Let Curll have once
inserted the narrow end of the wedge, he would soon have driven it

This Miscellany, however, in three volumes, (published in 1727, but
afterwards increased by a fourth in 1732,) though in itself a
trifling work, had one vast consequence. It drew after it swarms of
libels and lampoons, levelled almost exclusively at Pope, although
the cipher of the joint authors stood entwined upon the title-page.
These libels in _their_ turn produced a second reaction; and,
by stimulating Pope to effectual anger, eventually drew forth, for
the everlasting admiration of posterity, the very greatest of
Pope's works; a monument of satirical power the greatest which man
has produced, not excepting the MacFleckno of Dryden, namely, the
immortal Dunciad.

In October of the year 1727, this poem, in its original form, was
completed. Many editions, not spurious altogether, nor
surreptitious, but with some connivance, not yet explained, from
Pope, were printed in Dublin and in London. But the first quarto
and acknowledged edition was published in London early in "1728-9,"
as the editors choose to write it, that is, (without perplexing the
reader,) in 1729. On March 12 of which year it was presented by the
prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, to the king and queen at St.

Like a hornet, who is said to leave his sting in the wound, and
afterwards to languish away, Pope felt so greatly exhausted by the
efforts connected with the Dunciad, (which are far greater, in
fact, than all his Homeric labors put together,) that he prepared
his friends to expect for the future only an indolent companion and
a hermit. Events rapidly succeeded which tended to strengthen the
impression he had conceived of his own decay, and certainly to
increase his disgust with the world. In 1732 died his friend
Atterbury; and on December the 7th of the same year Gay, the most
unpretending of all the wits whom he knew, and the one with whom he
had at one time been domesticated, expired, after an illness of

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