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Was Alexander Pope a Great Poet?

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More than two hundred years ago, on May 21, 1688, was born in Lombard Street, London, a poet whose influence, for nearly a century, reigned paramount in English verse. He had not been long dead, it is true, when his supremacy was contested, but to so little purpose that two decades passed away before his overbold assailant mustered courage to follow up his first attack. Then, after an interval, the challenge was renewed, and for a long period the literary world rang with the blows of the opposing champions. Was Alexander Pope a great poet or was he not? It was Thomas Warton who first put that question, and it was William Bowles who repeated it. Against Warton was Warburton; against Bowles were Byron and Campbell and Roscoe, with a host of minor combatants. When at last the contest seemed to droop it was only to begin again upon a new issue; and the lists shook beneath the inroad of De Quincey and Macaulay. Was Pope a "correct" poet? The latter-day reader, turning cautiously—it may be languidly—the records of that ancient controversy, wonders a little at the dust and hubbub. If he trusts to his first impression, he will, in all probability, be content to waive discussion by claiming for Pope a considerably lower place than for Shakespeare or for Milton; and upon the point of his "correctness" will decide discreetly, in the spirit of the immortal Captain Bunsby, that much depends upon the precise application of the term. But let him have a care. The debate is an endless one, eternally seductive, irrepressibly renascent, and hopelessly bound up with the ineradicable oppositions of human nature. Sooner or later he will be drawn into the conflict and cry his slogan with the rest. If, in the ensuing pages, their writer seems to shun that time-honored discussion, as well as some other notable difficulties of Pope's biography, he does so mainly lest they should, in Bunyan's homespun phrase,

"—prove ad infinitum and eat out
The thing that he already is about,"

to wit, the recalling of Pope's work and story.

Pope's father was a London linen-merchant, who, according to Spence, "dealt in Hollands wholesale." His mother was of good extraction, being the daughter of one William Turner, of York. Both were Roman Catholics, at a time when to be of that faith in England was to suffer many social disabilities; and it was perhaps in consequence of these that, about the time of the Revolution, the elder Pope bought a small house at Binfield, on the skirts of Windsor Forest. Here he lived upon his means and cultivated his garden, a taste which he transmitted to his son, who, under the care of his mother and a nurse named Mary Beach, grew from a sickly infant into a frail, large-eyed boy with a sweet voice, an eager, precocious temperament, and an inordinate love of books, from copying the type of which he first learned to write. Like his father, he was slightly deformed, while from his mother he derived a life-long tendency to headache. His early education was of a most miscellaneous character. After some tuition from the family priest, he passed to a school at Twyford, where he is said to have been flogged for lampooning the master. Thence he went to a second school, where he learned but little. As a boy, however, he had tried his hand at translating, and had tacked together, from reminiscences of Ogilby, a kind of Homeric drama to be acted by his playmates, with the gardener for Ajax. But his real education began at Binfield, where, when between twelve and thirteen, he resolutely sat down to teach himself Latin, French, and Greek. Between twelve and twenty he must have read enormously and written as indefatigably. Among other things, he composed an epic of Alexander, Prince of Rhodes, which is said to have extended to four thousand lines, and its versification was so finished that he used some of the couplets long afterward for maturer work. His earliest critic was his father, who would sit in judgment on his son's performances, ruthlessly "sending him down" when the Muse proved unusually stubborn, "These be good rhymes," he would say when he was pleased.

The quiet, orderly household in Windsor Forest received but few visitors, and those chiefly of the family faith. Such, for example, were the Carylls of West Grinstead, and the Blounts of Mapledurham, where there were two bright-eyed daughters of Pope's own age, the "fair-hair'd Martha and Teresa brown," whose names, linked in Gay's dancing-verse, were afterward to be indissolubly connected with that of their Binfield neighbor. At this date, however, they must have been school-girls at Hammersmith, under some pre-Thackerayan Miss Pinkerton, or else were being "finished" at that Paris establishment whence they derived the foreign cachet which is said to have been part of their charm. Another friend was the ex-statesman and ambassador, Sir William Trumbull of East Hampstead, who compared artichokes with the father and read poetry with the son. To Trumbull Pope submitted some of his earliest verses, and from him, it seems, received much valuable advice, including a recommendation to translate Homer. Another acquaintance was the minor poet and criticaster, William Walsh, who gave his young friend that memorable (and somewhat ambiguous) injunction to "study the ancients" and "be correct." He had been introduced to Walsh by another man of letters, whose acquaintance he must have made during one of his brief excursions to London, the whilom dramatist Wycherley—now a broken septuagenarian, but still retaining a sort of bankrupt bel air. To Wycherley, who could not tear himself from his favorite St. James's, the youthful Pope wrote literary letters, being even decoyed into patching and revising the old beau's senile verses. Another of his correspondents was Henry Cromwell—Gay's "honest, hatless Cromwell, with red breeches," who at this time was playing the part of an elderly Phaon to the Sappho of a third-rate poetess, Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas. The epistles of the boy at Binfield to these battered men about town, when not discussing metres and the precepts of M. the Abbé Bossu, in a style modelled upon Balzac and Voiture, are sometimes sorry reading. But both Wycherley and Cromwell were wits and men of education, and it is not difficult to pardon that morbid, over-active mind for occasional vagrancy in its efforts after some congenial escape from the Tory fox-hunters of Berkshire and the ribald drinking songs of Durfey.

By 1711, when Pope was three-and-twenty, his intercourse with Wycherley and Cromwell had practically ceased, and "knowing Walsh" was dead. But he had already obtained a hearing as a poet. He had written a series of "Pastorals" in the reigning taste, a taste which, under guise of imitating Theocritus and Virgil, not only transferred to our bleaker shores the fauna and flora of Italy and Greece, but brought along with them the light-clad (and somewhat embarrassed) Delias and Sylvias of those sunnier lands. Pope, indeed, partly modified this. He drew the line at wolves, for instance, though (as Mr. Leslie Stephen suggests) this mattered little when altars and milk-white sacrificial bulls were still "perpetually retained." But the main feature of the "Pastorals" was less their subject than their versification, which in these earliest efforts was already as finished and as artful as anything Pope ever wrote, and was far above the work of his contemporaries. Lansdowne ("Granville the polite"), Congreve, Garth, Halifax, and others praised them warmly in MS., and left-legged Jacob Tonson came cap in hand to solicit them for the sixth part of his "Miscellany," where they ultimately wound up that volume, balancing (or rather over-balancing) the "Pastorals" of Ambrose Philips, which began it. To the same collection Pope contributed an imitation of Chaucer, and an episode from the "Iliad." The immediate success of these performances seems to have set him upon his next poem, the "Essay on Criticism," which was published by Lewis in 1711. His mastery over his medium was still more noticeable than the originality of his thought. But this cento of exquisitely chiselled critical commonplaces goes far toward being a chef d'œuvre of mere manipulative skill; and we are still, by our daily use of some of its lines, justifying the truth of Addison's dictum, that "Wit and fine Writing doth not consist so much in advancing Things that are new as in giving Things that are known an agreeable Turn."

To the "Essay on Criticism" succeeded one of Pope's most brilliant poems, the famous "Rape of the Lock." In its first form it appeared, together with some minor poems and translations, in a volume of "Miscellanies" published by Tonson's rival, Lintot. Its motif was the theft by a certain Lord Petre of one of the tresses of Miss Arabella or "Belle" Fermor, and this venial larceny having somewhat strained the relations of the two families concerned, Pope was invited to compose matters by invocation of the Muse. The poem in its first "Miscellany" form consisted of no more than two cantos; but Pope, confident of his powers, and certainly with a better knowledge of his own method than his critics could have possessed, boldly took advantage of its success to expand it into five cantos by the addition of a Rosicrucian machinery of sylphs and gnomes. This apparently hazardous experiment was perfectly successful, and the "Rape of the Lock" became what it remains, the typical example of raillery in English verse—the solitary specimen of sustained and airy grace. If it has faults, they are the faults of the time, and not of the poem, the execution of which is a marvel of ease, good humor, and delicate irony. Another of Pope's efforts at this date was "Windsor Forest," a theme which, assuming that to be the best which lies nearest, should have afforded material for another enduring success. But Pope, with a matchless eye for manners, looked at nature with the unpurged vision of his generation, and the poem, though not without dignity and beauty of versification, is, to the modern reader, cold and conventional.

To the reader under Anne it was otherwise, for to him "verdant isles" and "waving groves" and the whole farrago of gradus epithets were not only grateful but indispensable. "Mr. Pope," wrote Swift to Stella under date of March, 1713, "has published a fine poem called 'Windsor Forest.' Read it." This is the only time Pope is mentioned in that memorable journal (now nearing its closing pages) and it scarcely points to any close relations. But, by and by, when Swift came back from his Irish deanery to reconcile Oxford and Bolingbroke, he seems to have made Pope's personal acquaintance, and to have begun the correspondence which lasted so long. By Swift, Pope was introduced to Oxford, to his later "guide, philosopher, and friend," Bolingbroke, to the gentle and humane Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, to Prior and Parnell, to Arbuthnot, best of men and physicians—some of whom he mentions in the "Prologue to the Satires." Swift, he says:

"endur'd my rays;
The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield read;
Ev'n mitred Rochester would nod the head,
And St. John's self (great Dryden's friends before)
With open arms receiv'd one Poet more."

Closely connected with the group of Pope's connections at this time was the famous literary association known as the "Scriblerus Club," the avowed object of which was to satirize the abuses of human learning. The dispersal of its members at the death of Anne interrupted this enterprise, which never extended beyond a first book—a fragment which must, however, be held to have been unusually pregnant in suggestion, since it contained the germs of "Gulliver's Travels" and the "Dunciad." But Pope's life at this point grows too complicated to be pursued in detail, and it will be impossible henceforth to do more than note briefly its chief incidents. Trumbull's counsel to him to translate Homer, and his first essay in Tonson's "Miscellany," have already been mentioned. In a later volume of "Miscellany" poems edited by Steele, he had printed some specimens from the "Odyssey," and in the following year he embarked in the great work of his middle life, the translation of the "Iliad." By 1715 the first volume, containing four books, was issued to the subscribers, whose roll, ennobled by the patronage of Oxford and Bolingbroke, and extended by the imperious advocacy of Swift, included almost everyone of importance. The only blot upon its brilliant success is the unfortunate quarrel with Addison, which led to the portrait of Atticus.

Early in 1716, not long after the death of Wycherley, Pope moved from Binfield to Chiswick. His house, in what was then known as the "New Buildings," but is now Mawson's Row, still exists down a turning off the Mall, not very far from the old Church where Hogarth lies buried, and from Chiswick House, the mansion of Lord Burlington, under whose wing Pope describes himself as residing. Here, for a couple of years, were delivered those letters, upon whose backs or envelopes, piously preserved in the British Museum, the "paper-sparing" poet penned his daily tale of Homeric translation, completing two more volumes of the "Iliad" during his sojourn in Mawson's Row. At this time he was twenty-eight, and may therefore be assumed to be accurately represented in the portrait painted by Kneller in 1716, and mezzotinted a year later by Smith. Here he appears as a slight, delicate young man, wearing a close-fitting vest or tunic, and, in lieu of a wig, the dressing or "night-cap" which took its place. His keen, shaven face is already worn by work and ill-health, and conspicuous for the large and brilliant eyes to which he refers, in his "Epistle to Arbuthnot," as one of his noticeable features.

Besides the poems already mentioned, he had, in 1715, produced another imitation of Chaucer, the "Temple of Fame," an effort which has never taken high rank among his works. But while at Chiswick he published, in addition to instalments of the "Iliad," two pieces of considerable merit, although they are scarcely regarded by the critics of this age with the enthusiasm they excited in Pope's earliest admirers. One is the celebrated "Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady," which perhaps owes some of its reputation to the difficulty experienced in identifying the "ever injur'd Shade" intended. She is now understood to have been a much-persecuted Mrs. Weston, who, although she suffered many griefs, did not (as her poet implies) put an end to her own life in consequence. The other, under the title of "Eloisa to Abelard," versifies the Latin letters of that distinguished amorist to her lover. It is impossible to deny to both these works the utmost amount of artful development and verbal finish. All that skill can do in the simulation of sincerity Pope has done. "The Epistle of Eloisa," he tells a correspondent, "grows warm, and begins to have some breathings of the heart in it, which may make posterity think I was in love." With all submission, this is precisely the illusion which is absent, and it is perfectly possible for the most sympathetic reader to peruse the balanced outpourings of "Fulbert's niece" without the slightest tendency to that globus hystericus which all persons of sensibility must desire to experience. Yet it must nevertheless be admitted that these poems are the best examples of a vein which is not native to their writer, and that, in them, Pope comes nearer to genuine pathos than in any other of his works. Next to these, the only literary event of this portion of his career is his connection with the deplorable "Three Hours after Marriage," a farce in which he was assisted by Arbuthnot and Gay, the latter of whom bore the blame of the play's failure. Pope's old enemy Dennis, was caricatured in it as Sir Tremendous; but it had also the effect of adding another and abler foe to the list of his opponents, the player and manager, Colley Cibber, whose open ridicule of a part of this ill-judged jeu d'esprit began the feud which ultimately secured for him the supreme honors of the "Dunciad."

But although Pope's militant nature never feared to make an enemy, his friends were still in the majority. His "Homer," with its magnificent subscription list, had opened a wider world to him; and his new associates seem for the time to have partially seduced him from his valetudinarian régime and ten hours daily study. In his varied and alembicated correspondence we track him here and there, at Oxford or at Bath, studying architecture with my Lord Burlington and gardening with my Lord Bathurst or "beating the rounds" (probably only in metaphor) with wilder wits such as my Lord of Warwick and Holland. One of the prettiest of Pope's missives (some of them are not pretty) to "Mademoiselles de Maple-Durham," as he styles the Blounts, describes a visit he had paid to Queen Caroline's maids of honor at Hampton Court, the Bellenden and Lepel of his minor verses. He dilates upon their monotonous life of hunting, etiquette, and Westphalia ham, and then, not (as Carruthers suggests) without oblique intention of lighting a spark of jealousy in the fair Martha's bosom, records how he walked for three or four mortal hours by moonlight with Mrs. Lepel, meeting never a creature of quality but his Majesty King George I., giving audience to his Vice Chamberlain "all alone under the garden wall." Another epistolary idyl to Martha Blount, of which there are at least four replicas, relates the sentimental death by lightning of the two haymakers at Stanton Harcourt. Did Pope write this letter? or did Gay? Or did they write it both together? This is a question which Pope's editors have failed to settle. At all events, a similar composition went to another of Pope's flames, the brilliant Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, now absent from England with her husband, who was ambassador at Constantinople. Clever Lady Mary, however, entirely declined to be subjugated by the pathetic fallacy, and sent back a matter-of-fact epitaph for John Hewet and Sarah Drew, which, though it wound up with a compliment to her correspondent, can hardly have gratified him. But there is one letter of this time the sincerity of which is undoubted. It is Pope's announcement to Martha Blount of his father's death. "My poor Father dyed last night," it says. "Believe, since I don't forget you this moment, I never shall. A. Pope." The antithetical touch shows how art had become a second nature with the writer; but his attachment and devotion to his parents is not one of the disputed points in his story.

Alexander Pope the elder died in October, 1717. Not very long after, the poet moved with his mother to a little villa, or "villakin" as Swift called it, on the banks of the Thames at Twickenham, close to the grotesque Gothic jumble known as Radnor House. At Twickenham or, as he called it, "Twitnam," Pope continued to reside until his death, his permanent house-mates being his old nurse, Mary Beach, to whom there is a tablet on the outer wall of Twickenham Church, and his mother, who survived her husband until 1733, only preceding her famous son by eleven years. Pope tended her with exemplary care—a care rendered daily more imperative by her increasing infirmities. Many references to her occur in his correspondence, and the sedulous inquiries made by his friends as to her health are earnest of her son's unwearied solicitude. One or two of the old lady's simple, homely letters to him have been preserved, with their fond messages and faulty spelling. Now and then, it is recorded, he would gratify her by setting her to transcribe his "Homer," an assistance of which the advantages must have been debatable.

Many friends came and went at the pleasant little villa by the Thames, "flanked by its two Courts" of Hampton and Kew, and often, no doubt, the London stage, starting from the Chequers in Piccadilly, brought to it guests bearing names familiar in the annals of the time. There are three of his intimates who cannot be neglected in any record, however brief. When Lady Mary came back to England she took up her residence at Twickenham, and the hitherto epistolary adoration of the poet became a practical fact. According to a story popularized by the pencil of Frith, Pope at length so far forgot himself as to make a declaration in form, to which she returned no reply but that most exasperating of all replies, ungovernable laughter. Whether this tradition be true or not, it is plain that she seems always to have remembered their difference of rank, and to have been rather cold than encouraging. The issue of the acquaintance is a sorry one. Pope revenged himself for her scorn in his worst and most unmanly fashion of innuendo; she, on her side, retorted with lampoons and satire as cruel. One feels glad that she finally left England and that further bickering was impossible. The other two persons were the already mentioned Blounts, each of whom seems at first to have by turn

"—blossomed in the light
Of tender personal regards;"

Teresa, the elder and handsomer, becoming by degrees the acknowledged favorite. But whether, like the lover in Prior's song, Pope "convey'd his treasure in a borrowed name," or merely changed his mind, it is certain that, at a later period, the younger, Martha, had proved the "real flame," to the permanent displacement of her sister. As time went on, Pope's attachment for Martha Blount continued to increase until she became almost an inmate of his house. For more than fifteen years, he told Gay in 1730, he had spent three or four hours a day in her company; and he seems to have loved her with an affection as genuine and as watchful as that which he showed to his parents. Like all his connections, this, too, was marred by strange pettinesses and curious contradictions; but one can scarcely grudge to his sickly sensitive nature the anodyne of feminine sympathy. Why so close and tender a friendship never ripened into marriage is an inquiry that may be consigned to the limbo of questions insoluble. It is enough that in the checkered chronicle of the loves of the poets, "blue-eyed Patty Blount" has an immortality almost as secure as that of Esther Johnson.

To return to Pope's works. In the first years of his Twickenham residence the "Iliad" was finished triumphantly, and Pope was invited by the booksellers to edit Shakespeare. The task was one for which he had few qualifications, and his execution of it at once laid him open to a new attack from a fresh opponent, Lewis Theobald, afterward the Tibbald of the "Dunciad" and the "Satires." Then he followed up the "Iliad" by the "Odyssey," in which he was assisted by Fenton and Broome. Toward 1725 Bolingbroke settled at Dawley, and in the succeeding year Swift paid a long visit to Pope at Twickenham. These two influences may be traced in most of Pope's remaining works. In 1726, "Gulliver's Travels" saw the light, and in 1727 were issued those joint volumes of "Miscellanies" which contained the "Treatise on the Bathos," a prose satire, to be supplanted in brief space by the terrible "Dunciad." In this last, Pope entered upon a campaign against the smaller fry of the pen with a vigor, a deadly earnestness, and a determination to wound, unparalleled in the history of letters. One of the most gifted of his critics, the late Rector of Lincoln College, speaks of the "Dunciad" roundly as "an amalgam of dirt, ribaldry, and petty spite," and M. Taine brought against it the more fatal charge of tediousness. But even if one admits the indiscriminate nature of that onslaught which confuses Bentley with such creatures of a day as Ralph and Oldmixon, it is impossible not to admire the surpassing skill of the measure; and it is probable that, in spite of the "higher criticism," the "Dunciad," swarming as it does with contemporary allusions, will continue to hold its own with the antiquary and the literary historian, though it has ceased to be regarded as one of the desirable masterpieces of its class.

If Swift, who encouraged Pope in his war against Dulness, must be held to be indirectly responsible for the attack upon its strongholds, it was Bolingbroke who suggested the once popular epistles which Pope dedicated to him under the title of the "Essay on Man," a work which has this in common with the earlier "Essay on Criticism," that it is a versification of a given theme. But Pope understood the precepts of Rapin and Bossu better than the precepts of Leibnitz and St. John, and the "Essay on Man," bristling as it does with axiomatic felicities and "jewels five words long," has long been discredited as a philosophical treatise. It is to another hint from the sage of Dawley that we owe its author's most individual work. A chance remark of Bolingbroke set him upon the imitations of Horace that grew into the "Satires and Epistles." In these and the cognate "Moral Essays," which belong to his ripest period of production, Pope's unmatched mastery over heroics, perfected by the long probation of his Homeric translations, and his equally unrivalled powers of satire, let loose and emboldened by the brutalities of the "Dunciad," found their fitting field. Aimed at the old eternal vices and frailties of humanity, they assail them with a pungency, a force, a wit, and a directness which, in English verse, have no parallel. Indeed it may be doubted whether the portraits of Bufo and Sporus, of Atossa and Atticus, have been excelled in any language whatsoever.

The first of the Dialogues known as the "Epilogue to the Satires" was published in 1738, on the same morning as Johnson's "London," thus (in Boswell's view) providing England simultaneously with its Horace and its Juvenal. The second part followed in the same year. Besides these there is little which is material to be added to the record of Pope's work but the revised "Dunciad," in which, to gratify an increased antipathy, he displaced its old hero, Theobald, in favor of Colley Cibber, who, whatever his faults, was certainly not a typical dunce. Toward the close of his life those infirmities at which Wycherley had hinted in his youth grew upon him, and he became almost entirely dependent upon nurses. He had not, to use De Quincey's words, drawn that supreme prize in life, "a fine intellect with a healthy stomach," and his whole story testifies to that fact. As years went on his little figure, in its rusty black, was seen more rarely in the Twickenham lanes, and if he took the air upon the Thames, it was in a sedan-chair that was lifted into a boat. When he visited his friends his sleeplessness and his multiplied needs tired out the servants; while in the day-time he would nod in company, even though the Prince of Wales was talking of poetry. He was a martyr to sick headaches, and in the intervals of relief from them would be tormented by all sorts of morbid cravings for the very dietary which must inevitably secure their recurrence. This continued battle of the brain with the ignobler organs goes far to explain, if it may not excuse, much of the less admirable side of his character. His irritability, his artifice, his meannesses even, are more intelligible in the case of a man habitually racked with pain, and morbidly conscious of his physical shortcomings, than they would be in the case of those "whom God has made full-limbed and tall;" and, in the noble teaching of Arthur's court, his infirmities should entitle him to a larger charity of judgment.

Nothing in his life is more touching than the account of his last days, when he lay wasted with an intolerable asthma, waiting serenely for the end, but full of kindness and tender thoughtfulness for the friends who came and went about his bed. Bolingbroke was often there from Battersea, stirred to philosophic utterances and unphilosophic tears, and grave Lyttleton, and kind Lord Marchmont, and faithful Joseph Spence. Martha Blount, too, was not absent, and "it was very observable," said the spectators, how the sick man's strength and spirits seemed to revive at the approach of his favorite. "Here I am dying of a hundred good symptoms," he said to one of his visitors. What humiliated him most was his inability to think. "One of the things that I have always most wondered at (he told Spence) is that there should be any such thing as human vanity. If I had any, I had enough to mortify it a few days ago, for I lost my mind for a whole day." A little later Spence is telling Bolingbroke how, "on every catching and recovering of his mind," Pope is "always saying something kind either of his present or absent friends," and that it seems "as if his humanity had outlived his understanding." But the vital spark still continued to flicker in its socket, and only a day or two before his death he sat for three whole hours in his sedan-chair, in the garden he loved so well, then filled with the blossoms of May and smelling of the summer he was not to see. On the 29th he took an airing in Bushy Park, and a little later received the sacrament. On the evening of the following day he passed away so softly and painlessly that those who stood by knew not "the exact time of his departure." He had lived fifty-six years and nine days, and he was buried near to the monument of his father in the chancel of Twickenham Church. Seventeen years afterward Bishop Warburton erected a tablet to him in the same building, with an epitaph as idle as that which disgraces the tomb of Gay in Westminster Abbey. It is possible that Pope may at some time have written it, but the terms of his will prove conclusively that he never intended it to be used.

What is Pope's position as a poet? Time, that great practitioner of the exhaustive process, "sifting alway, sifting ever," even to the point of annihilation, has already half answered the question. No one now, except the literary historian or the student of versification, is ever likely to consult the "Pastorals" or "Windsor Forest;" and men will, in all probability, continue to quote "Hope springs eternal in the human breast" and "A little learning is a dangerous thing," without the least suspicion that the one comes from the seldom-read "Essay on Criticism" and the other from the equally seldom-read "Essay on Man." Here and there a professor like the late Professor Conington will praise the "unhasting unresting flow" of the translations from Homer; but the next generation will read its "Iliad" in the Greek, or in some future successor to Mr. William Morris or Mr. Way. Few now re-echo the praises which the critics of fifty years ago gave to the "Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady" and "Eloisa to Abelard;" nor do any but the habitual pilgrims of the by-ways of literature devote their serious attention to the different versions of the "Dunciad." But there is no reason why the "Rape of the Lock" should not find as many admirers a hundred years hence as it does to-day, or why—so long as men remember the poems of the friend of Mæcenas—the "Satires and Epistles" should fail of an audience. In these Pope's verse is as perfect as it is anywhere; and his subject is borrowed, not from his commonplace book, but from his own experiences. He wants, it is true, the careless ease, the variety, the unemphatic grace of the Roman writer. But he has many of the qualities of his master; and it is probable that only when men weary of hearing how Horace strolled down the Sacred Way and met an intolerable Bore—only then, or perhaps a little earlier, will they cease to hearken how Alexander Pope bade John Searle bar the door at Twickenham against the combined inroad of Bedlam and Parnassus.


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