Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

writings they republished and commented excusable enough in a first edition, but upon very good for being mended and which ought not to be allowed to stand carped at, if for nothing else. Mr. Ros- without correction in succeeding imprescoe, if without any pretensions to be ac- sions of the book. counted either a profound or a brilliant The several veratæ quæstiones of Pope's critic, was at least not disqualified for the history will be found to be discussed for office of editing Pope by any such anti- the most part by his latest biographer in a Popish principles or prejudices. On the sufficiently painstaking manner, and with contrary, his charity for his author, both as an attention to the relevant facts which a poet and as a man, has all the amiable will be allowed to be correct and compreweakness that could be desired either in an hensive even by those who may not always editor or a biographer. As his edition, agree with his conclusions. But even in too, was of subsequent date to the publica- the more elaborate portions of his performtion of “ Spence's Anecdotes," his Life of ance, which are occupied with these controPope, and his Notes, might be considered as verted matters, he sometimes misses what embodying nearly all the information re- a little more research would have discospecting the poet and his writings that is vered. Thus, from having consulted only yet before the world. We recollect nothing the first edition of Curll's surreptitious pubof any importance that has come out since lication of the “ Letters,” he has given an 1824, except a fact or two given in Lady incomplete copy of what is called “The Louisa Stuart's brilliant Biographical Initial Correspondence; or, Anecdotes of Anecdotes,” prefixed to Lord Wharncliffe's the Life and Family of Mr. Pope,” inserted edition of the Works of Lady Mary Wort- by Curll at the beginning of his second ley Montagu. Still the new edition ought, volume. The second edition contains a We think, to have been something more long additional advertisement by Curll, than a mere reprint, with only the former dated July 26, 1735, remarkable as for the ten volumes compressed into eight. So first time advancing a direct charge against purely mechanical a piece of reproduction Pope, of being at the bottom of the contrivis the present publication, that the reader ance by which the “Letters" had been can nowhere gather from it even the know- given to the world. “Mr. Pope," Carll ledge of when the former edition appeared. here says, “ having put me under a necesEven the fact that Mr. Roscoe no longer sity of using him as he deserves, I hereby lives is nowhere indicated. The former declare, that the first volume of his · Letedition, for anything that appears, might ters, which I published on the 12th of have preceded the present by only a few May last, was sent me, ready printed, by months; and the Preface, addressed to the himself; and for six hundred of which I world more than twenty years ago by a contracted with his agent, R. Smythe, who writer who is now, and has been for some came to me in the habit of a clergyman." years, dead, might be understood as having Not, indeed, that this assertion of Curll's is been penned within the present year. It the least value as evidence of anything may be that, luckily, the statements in it, except of his own unscrupulosity and imread in that understanding, will still be all pudence. We concur with Mr. Roscoe in true, or at least not absolutely false ; that, scouting the supposition of Pope having for instance, when it said that “ Spence's had anything to do with the mysterious Manuscripts” “now belong to Mr. Sin-proceedings through which the Letters got ger" the fact is still so, as much as it into Curll's hands, as the wildest of improwas in 1824; but so negligent or inartifi- babilities. At the same time, it is possible cial a manner of republication is not for that Curll may have given a true account of that the less pessimi exempli

. The date of the affair, so far as he was himself concernthe Preface, which is of the nature of a leted in it: not only, as Johnson observes, no ter or epistle from the author to his read- falsehood was ever detected in his acers, ought at least to have been given. count but the numerous notes from R. But there are also other reasons why the Smythe and P. T., given in the “ Initial book should not have been left thus to edit, Correspondence,” have all the air of being or re-edit, itself. Apart altogether from genuine. The most natural hypothesis matters of taste or opinion, Mr. Roscoe, would seem to be that Carll really procured though he has executed his task generally the Letters in the way that he said he did, with care and diligence, has committed and that the person from whom he bought several oversights, which may have been them was the party, or the agent of the party, by whom they were stolen, or fraudu

hul

Others of Mr. Roscoe's slips are such as lently transcribed from the collection de- would scarcely have been made by a very posited in Lord Oxford's library. Another sharp man. It is ridiculous to suppose that curious random assertion of Curll's, by a letter of Sir Charles Wogan's to Swift, in the by, in this advertisement, which has which he says : “ I had the honor of bringescaped Mr. Roscoe, is, that Pope had ing Mr. Pope from our retreat in the forest been concerned in the newspaper called of Windsor, to dress à la mode, and introThe Grub-street Journal from its origin. duce at Will's coffee-house," can refer to This, it appears, from a note subjoined to the incident of Pope having had himself the advertisement, had been declared to be taken to Will's to see Dryden. When false by Pope or on his authority; but Dryden died, Pope had not quite completed Curll treats his denial as worth nothing; his twelfth year, and he appears to have “for,” says he, “one of the Grub-street been then a boy at school in London. Nor proprietors assured me, that both him- do we know how long it was before Dryden's self, and Huggonson, the Quaker, who death that his youthful admirer managed to prints the said journal, could testify the catch a sight of him. Pope's own account, contrary; nay further, I know, from indis- in a letter to Wycherley, is :“ I was not putable evidence, that Mr. Pope wrote a so happy as to know him. Virgilium tantum letter to a certain gentleman, in the most vidi.He probably got some grown-up pressing instances of friendship, not to di- friend to take him into the coffee-house; vulge the secret of his being concerned in but the coming up from Binfield, dressed that paper with his writing partner, Dr. à la mode, to be formally introdueed at Arbuthnot." This also, however, is to be Will's, was unquestionably an event of a received as merely another specimen of later date. Mr. Roscoe's account of so Curll's recklessness and effrontery. We important a passage in Pope's literary bisquite go along, likewise, with Mr. Roscoe tory as the publication of the Rape of the in the sensible view that he takes of the in- Lock, in its two successive forms, is altotimacy between Pope and Martha Blount, gether erroneous. He supposes that it and his rejection of the imputations or sur- appeared in its first form, or without the mises of Mr. Bowles on that subject. He machinery of the sylphs and gnomes, in might, however, have strengthened his refu- 1711. It is clear from Pope's correspontation of one of the most remarkable of Mr. dence that the poem was not published till Bowles's speculations, that founded on the towards the end of May, 1712. He sends short note numbered the 27th in the corres- a copy of the volume of Lintot's Miscellapondence with Miss Blount and her sister, nies, in which it appeared, to Martha Blount, if he had more carefully examined the ori- on the 25th of that month, accompanied ginal, which, as he observes, yet exists in the by a letter, in which he says "You have British Museum. It forms one of the scraps no hopes of entertainment but from the rest of paper on which the first rough draft of of this book, wherein, they tell me, are some the translation of Homer is written ; a cir- things that may be dangerous to be looked cumstance which alone might assure us that upon : however, I think you may venture, it was not regarded by Mr. Pope as having though you should blush for it, since blushany peculiar significancy of the kind sup- ing becomes you the best of any lady in posed by Mr. Bowles, seeing that, being England," &c. By the rest of this book” used for such a purpose, it would have to are evidently meant the other contents of fall under the eye of whoever might be em- the volume of Miscellanies, which appaployed to copy the translation for the prin- rently were partly of a somewhat loose ter. But it has happened also that a par- description. Both Mr. Roscoe and Mr. ticular word in the letter has been mis- Bowles absurdly understand the words as read by Mr. Bowles, in whose edition the referring to additions that had been made letter was first published ; and the error to the Rape of the Lock since it was first has been repeated after him by Mr. Ros- printed ; and the former, to support this coe.

What Miss Blount writes is dis- impossible interprotation, proposes that the tinctly“ my room,” not“ any room," as in date of the letter should be altered from the printed letter. This correction will be May, 1712, to May, 1714. But even that found to make the sentence run much new reading would not answer the purpose more naturally, and to clear away from the unless we are to suppose that Miss Blount expression whatever might be thought sin- had not her copy of the improved edition gular or suspicious.

of the poem sent to her till after it had been

before the world for three months; for that supposed to have been Mallet--when there edition certainly appeared in the end of is abundance of evidence, part of which is February, 1714. Still more incorrect is to be found in a subsequent page of his own the account afterwards given of the trans- volume, that Pope and Mallet continued on lation of the Emperor Adrian's death-bed the most friendly terms so long as the forverses : upon this small matter Mr. Roscoe mer lived? We cannot allow the mere biocontrives to crowd nearly half-a-dozen grapher of a modern poet the privilege asblunders into the compass of about as many cribed to the Father of Poetrye of thus sentences. Again, it is impossible that an sometimes writing like a man half asleep. undated letter of Pope's to Lord Burling- Let us here notice, too, for correction in ton, in which he recounts a ludicrous con- the next edition of the Life, such errrors versation with Lintot, the bookseller, who of simple misstatement or omission as the overtook him in Windsor Forest, and rode following. It was not in his childhood with him to Oxford, can have been written that Pope was called “ the little nightinin August, 1714, as Mr. Roscoe supposes, gale," as Mr. Roscoe assumes, here followboth in his Life of Pope and in a special ing Johnson. The original authority is note on the letter; for one of the most re- Lord Orrery, in his “ Letters on Swift," •markable passages in it relates to the recent whose words are, speaking of Pope : publication of the first volume of the trans- “ His voice in common conversation was so lation of Homer, which did not take place naturally musical, that I remember honest till June, 1715. Another of his miscon- Tom Southerne used always to call him ceptions is comical. In November, 1734, the little nightingale.” The epithet little Swift, having just read the Essay on referred to the diminutiveness of his perMan, and some other recent productions son throughout his life. Again : it is not of Pope, writes to him thus :-" I am the fact that, when Pope first took to glad that what you write is printed in large versifying, his father " not only suggested letters; otherwise, between the weakness of subjects for his pen, but corrected his versmy eyes and the thickness of my hearing, 1 es." The old gentleman's practice was, as should lose the greatest pleasure that is Mrs. Pope told Spence, to make the boy left to me. Pray command my Lord Bo-correct the verses himself" to send him lingbroke to follow that example if I live to back to new.turn them,” as she expressed read his Metaphysics.? Whereupon Mr. it. Neither Mr. Roscoe nor any other bioRoscoe gravely remarks that “ Pope, dur- grapher of Pope, by the by, has attempting the latter part of his correspondence ed an interpretation, or taken any notice with Swift, was accustomed to write his of the following passage in his letter to letters in imitation of print, that his friend Lord Hervey, which undoubtedly alludes might more easily read them!” And so to some misconduct of his father's elder Boling broke, too, was to copy over the brother :-"He (Pope's father) did not, whole of his metaphysical lucubrations in indeed, think it a happiness to bury his the same peculiar kind of character, for the elder brother, though he had one who wantcase of the Dean's eyesight! We need ed some of those good qualities which yours hardly observe, that all that Swift asks is, possessed.” Nothing whatever, we believe, that when the work is sent to the press it is known of this elder of the two sons of shall be printed in a good-sized type. Pope, Pope's grandfather, the Hampshire clergyindeed, is said to have learned to write by man. Finally: we may observe that Mr. copying printed books; but the information Roscoe has forgotten to inform his readers that he ever was in the habit of writing his where Pope died. We are told that, on letters to Swift, or any one Alse, in imita- the proclamation coming out ordering all tion of print, is quite original. Once Roman Catholics to withdraw from London more ; how can Mr. Roscoe adopt from and its neighborhood, he removed, in the Ayre, as he does in p. 304, the story of beginning of March, 1744, to the prescribPope's unlucky visitor, who, on discovering ed distance of ten miles from the capital; that his host was the author of the Essay but no mention is made of his having ever on Man, after he had been abusing it for returned to Twickenham, whither, however, everything despicable both in philosophy he had certainly ventured back before the and poetry, is asserted to have taken up end of April, perhaps much sooner, and his hat and never ventured to show his face where he was when he died on the evening again in Pope's presence--adding, from of the 30th of May. One wonders whether himself, that the gentleman referred to is) Mr. Roscoe himself did not discover such inadvertencies as these after his volumes in Goodman's Fields, in 1741, is in that halfwere printed off, and whether he did not mad book, the Memoirs of Percival Stockleave a corrected copy which might have dale. Stockdale had the story from Garbeen made use of for the new edition. rick's own lips. He had the honor, it

Most of the facts mentioned by Pope's seems, to act thrice, in different characters, preceding biographers have been incorpo- in the presence of Pope. The first was rated in Mr. Roscoe's narrative; but it is Richard, the character in which he first assurprising that he should have been alto- tonished the public. “When I was told,” gether ignorant of the existence of Tyers's said he, “that Pope was in the house, I sketch, published in 1782, under the title instantaneously felt a palpitation at my of “ An Historical Rhapsody on Mr. heart .... It gave me a particular pleaPope." Thomas, or Tom Tyers, as his sure that Richard was my character, when friend Johnson used always to call him, Pope was to see and hear me. As I opened now best remembered, perhaps, as one of my part, I saw our little poetical hero, the figures in Boswell, attracted considera- dressed in black, seated in a side box, near ble attention, in his own day, by various the stage, and viewing me with a serious publications. His “Political Conferences and earnest attention. His look shot and between several Great Men in the Last thrilled like lightning through my frame; and Present Century,” and his “ Conver- and I had some hesitation in proceeding, sations Political and Familiar,” may be from anxiety and from joy. As Richard considered as having been the precursors of gradually blazed forth, the house was in a the " Imaginary Conversations of Landor. roar of applause; and the conspiring hand But his biographical tracts on Pope, Ad- of Pope shadowed me with laurels.” Не dison, and Johnson, are now more interest- afterwards learned that Pope had said of ing. That on Pope extends to about a bim: “ That young man never had his hundred and fifty pages. Tyers was a youth equal as an actor, and he will never have a of eighteen when Pope died, but missed rival.” One particular in this description seeing Virgil. He once had, he tells us, by Garrick is in curious accordance with “ an opportunity of viewing Pope's grotto Pope's own picture of himself under the and garden, and should have seen the poet character of Dick Distich, the little poet, himself if he had been at home,” the friend in his paper, giving an account of the Club by whom he was accompanied having been a of Little Men, in the Guardian. They person who could have introduced him. His had elected Dick their President, he says, i Historical Rhapsody,” as he calls it, is not only as he is the shortest of us all, considerably more rhapsodical than histori- but because he has entertained so just a cal, but he has preserved a few particulars sense of his stature as to go generally in not elsewhere mentioned. One, which is black, that he may appear yet less.” Pope's given in a postscript to his second edition, biographers, as far as we remember, have is that Pope, when at school, took great forgotten, or have not deigned to record, delight in cock-fighting, and laid out all this peculiarity. The delineation of Dick his money in buying fighting-cocks, till his Distich goes on :-"Nay, to that perfecmother's solicitous efforts succeeded in tion is he arrived, that he stoops as he weaning him from that passion. One can walks. The figure of the man is odd readily enough believe this of the future enough; he is a lively little creature, with satirist. Pope has been likened sometimes long arms and legs; a spider is no ill emto a bee, sometimes to a wasp ; but the blem of him ; he has been taken at a discock, pugnacious, irritable, and arrogant, tance for a small windmill.” at once presenting something of the ludicrous Pope has been sufficiently honored at in the contrast between his size and his least in the number of his biographers. strut, and yet commanding our respect of the earliest of Mr. Roscoe's predecesby his courage and dignity, would typify sors, William Ayre, Esq., as he calls himhim upon the whole better than either. self, nothing appears to be known. It has Tyers also refers to some memorabilia pre- been conjectured that he may possibly be served by Mrs. Pilkington in her autobio- the same person who is mentioned under graphical memoirs, and by Tom Davies in the name of Ayrs, as one of Pope's friends, his “ Life of Garrick,” which have escaped in Gay's poem entitled " Mr. Pope's Wel.' Mr. Roscoe. The best account, we may come from Greece," written on the compleadd, of Pope's going to see Garrick when I tion of the translation of the Iliad in the great actor first came out at the theatre | 1720. But in a tract-published immedi

ately after Ayre's work appeared—“ Re-translations from Tasso's Aminta and marks on Squire Ayre's Memoirs of the Guarini's Pastor Fido, which the author Life and Writings of Pope,” &c., by a informs us are his own, those from the writer who subscribes himself J. H.-it is. Aminta being taken from a complete verasserted that Ayre is a mere pseudonyme, sion of that poem, which he had published and that the real writer of the Memoirs a few years before ; and even of the rewas Curll, the bookseller. This tract was mainder, more is occupied with Pope's published by Curll’s rival, Cooper ; but it distinguished literary friends, of most of is curious that, some years afterwards, in whom short biographical notices are given, 1754, Ayre's work was reproduced under a than with himself." Ayre's style is barbanew title, “ The Life of Alexander Pope, rous in the extreme; and its appearance is Esq.,” by this very Cooper, as an original rendered still more illiterate by bad puncwork. The new publication, however, tuation. Yet several of the received anecwith the exception of the title-page, con- dotes about Pope have no other authority sisted merely of the unsold copies of the to rest upon than his : and his book confirst and only real edition, which came out tinued to be the standard account of Pope's in 1745, bearing to be printed for the life for a quarter of a century after his author, who, in a patent prefixed to the decease. It is the chief authority referred work, giving him the copyright for four- to by the writers of the “ Biographia Briteen years, is styled, “Our trusty and tannica,” in their article upon Pope, pubwell-beloved William Ayre, Esq." There lished in 1760. At last, in 1769, appeared can be little doubt that Ayre was a real what may be called the official biography, personage.

His book, which consists of not written, however, as originally protwo volumes of between three and four mised, by Warburton, who was now become hundred pages each, is one of considerable Bishop of Gloucester, and too great or too show and pretension. It is embellished indolent for such labors, but compiled by with heads of Pope, and a dozen other per-'Owen Ruffhead, from documents or memosons mentioned in his writings, and is randa put into his hands by the bishop. dedicated to Lord Bolingbroke, Burlington, Ruffhead, who had made himself known by Marchmont, and Bathurst. In his Preface, an edition of the Statutes at Large, exthe author speaks of himself as having presses much apprehension lest his subject always been a professed admirer of Pope's should be deemed by his graver friends too poetiy, criticism, and satire; but he says light a one for a person of his profession, nothing of having had any personal ac- but does not seem to have suspected that quaintance with the deceased poet. “I he might be found too heavy for it. His have made use,” he says, “ of all possible history of Pope's life is extremely meagre; means, my friends, as well as myself, having and although the few facts he gives may be spared no pains to procure what helps were more to be depended on, and his grammar attainable. Some few I had in my own also somewhat more regular, his book hands, which were never made public; and upon the whole, a duller one than Ayre's. the world stands obliged to those of all It is made up, too, like that of his predestations, who have been so kind to hand to cessor, to a large extent, of extracts from me for this use what they thought would Pope's writings, and of criticism thereupon, contribute to give light into his life.” Af- in which the learned editor of the Statutes terwards he declares, that, with certain / at Large does not shine. Johnson was Pope's exceptions, he has not received the least next biographer; his “Lives of the Poets" hint from persons of honor and credit (to appeared in 1781. Tyers published his whom he returns most grateful thanks), of "Historical Rhapsody'i in 1782. Then which he has not made some use. In one followed the “Life” by Joseph Warton, place he mentions that he is authorized to prefixed to his edition of Pope's works, in quote the name of the Earl of Burlington nine volumes, published in 1797. Warton in attestation of a particular statement. had published a first volume of an“ Essay The work, however, which appears from on the Genius and Writings of Pope" in the patent to have been finished by the 1756, and a second in 1782, both containmiddle of December, 1744, has evidently ing a good deal of biographical mixed with been got up in great haste. The greater the critical matter; and his formal memoir, portion of it, indeed, consists of quotations as well as his notes, in his edition of Pope's from Pope's poems and printed correspond works, is principally a repetition of what ence, among which are interspersed a few had already appeared in his Essay. Then

« VorigeDoorgaan »