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times the softness of the verses, enchain philosophy, suspend criticism, and oppress judgment by overpowering pleasure. This is true of many paragraphs; yet, if I had undertaken to exemplify Pope's felicity of composition before a: rigid critic, I should not select the " Essay on Man;" for it contains more lines unsuccessfully laboured, more harshness of diction, and more thoughts imperfectly expressed, more levity without elegance, and more heaviness without strength, than will easily be found in all his other works.
The “Characters of Men and Women are the product of diligent speculation upon human life ; much, labour has been bestowed upon them, and Pope very seldom laboured in vain. That his excellence may be properly estimated, I recommend a comparison of his “Characters of Women with Boileau's Satire ; it will then be seen with how much more perspicacity female nature is investigated, and female excellence selected ; and he surely is no mean writer to whom Boileau should be found inferior. The “Characters of Men,” however, are written with more, if not with deeper, thought, and exhibit many passages exquisitely beautiful. The “ Gem and the Flower” will not easily be equalled. In the women's part are some defects; the character of Atossa is not so neatly finished as that of Clodio, and some of the fernale characters may be found, perhaps, more frequently among men ; what is said of Philomede was true of Prior.
In the Epistles to Lord Bathurst and Lord Burlington, Dr. Warburton has endeavoured to find a train of thought which was never in the writer's head, and, to support his hypothesis, has printed that first which was published last. In one the most valuable passage is perhaps the Elegy on Good Sense, and the other the end of the Duke of Buckingham.
The Epistle to Arbuthnot, now arbitrarily called the “ Prologue to the Satires,” is a performance consisting, as
it seems, of many fragments wrought into one design, which, by this union of scattered beauties, contains more striking paragraphs than could probably have been brought together into an occasional work. As there is no stronger motive to exertion than self-defence, no part has more elegance, spirit, or dignity, than the poet's vindication of his own character. The meanest passage is the satire upon Sporus.
Of the two poems which derived their names from the year, and which are called the “ Epilogue to the Satires," it was very justly remarked by Savage that the second was in the whole more strongly conceived, and more equally supported, but that it had no single passages equal to the contention in the first for the dignity of Vice and the celebration of the triumph of Corruption.
The “: Imitations of Horace" seem to have been written as relaxations of his genius. This employment became his favourite by its facility; the plan was ready to his hand, and nothing was required but to accommodate as he could the sentiments of an old author to recent facts or familiar images; but what is easy is seldom excellent. Such imitations cannot give pleasure to common readers ; the man of learning may be sometimes surprised and delighted by an unexpected parallel, but the comparison requires knowledge of the original, which will likewise often detect strained applications. Between Roman images and English manners there will be an irreconcilable dissimilitude, and the works will be generally uncouth and parti-coloured, neither original nor translated, neither anciens por modern.
Pope had, in proportions very nicely adjusted to each other, all the qualities that constitute genius. He had invention, by which new trains of events are formed and new scenes of imagery displayed, as in the “Rape of the Lock," and by which extrinsic and adventitious embellishments and illustrations are connected with a known
subject, as in the “Essay on Criticism." He had imagination, which strongly impresses on the writer's mind, and enables him to convey to the reader the various forms of nature, incidents of life, and energies of passion, as in his “ Eloisa," “Windsor Forest," and
“ Ethic Epistles.” He had judgment, which selects from life or Nature what the present purpose requires, and by separating the essence of things from its concomitants, often makes the representation more powerful than the reality; and he had colours of language always before him, ready to decorate his matter with every grace of elegant expression, as when he accommodates his diction to the wonderful multiplicity of Homer's sentiments and descriptions.
Poetical expression includes sound as well as meaning. “Music,” says Dryden, " is inarticulate poetry ;” among the excellences of Pope, therefore, must be mentioned the melody of his metre. By perusing the works of Dryden, he discovered the most perfect fabric of English verse, and habituated himself to that nly which he found the best; in consequence of which restraint his poetry has been censured as too uniformly musical, and as glutting the ear with unvaried sweetness. I suspect this objection to be the cant of those who judge by principles rather than perception, and who would even themselves have less pleasure in his works if he had tried to relieve attention by studied discords, or affected to break his lines and vary his pauses. But though he was thus careful of his versification, he did not oppress his powers with superfluous rigour. He seems to have thought with Boileau that the practice of writing might be refined til the difficulty should overbalance the advantage. The construction of the language is not always strictly grammatical; with those rhymes which prescription had conjoined he contented himself, without regard to Swift's remonstrances, though there was no striking consonance,
nor was he very careful to vary his terminations or to refuse admission, at a small distance, to the same rhymes. To Swift's edict for the exclusion of alexandrines and triplets he paid little regard; he admitted them, but, in the opinion of Fenton, too rarely ; he uses them more liberally in his translation than his poems. He has a few double rhymes, and always, I think, unsuccessfully, except once in the “Rape of the Lock.” Expletives he very early ejected from his verses, but he now and then admits an epithet rather commodious than important. Each of the six first lines of the " Iliad might lose two syllables with very little diminution of the meaning, and sometimes, after all his art and labour, one verse seems to be made for the sake of another. In his latter productions the diction is sometimes vitiated by French idioms, with which Bolingbroke had perhaps infected him.
I have been told that the couplet by which he declared his own ear to be most gratified was this :
" Lo, where Mæotis sleeps, and hardly flows
The freezing Tanais through a waste of snows."
But the reason of this preference I cannot discover.
It is remarked by Watts that there is scarcely a happy combination of words, or a phrase poetically elegant in the English language, which Pope has not inserted into his version of Homer. How he obtained possession of so many beauties of speech it were desirable to know. That he gleaned from authors, obscure as well as eminent, what he thought brilliant or useful, and preserved it all in a regular collection, is not unlikely. When, in his last years, Hall's “Satires were shown him, he wished that he had seen them sooner. New sentiments and new images others may produce; but to attempt any further improvement of versification will be dangerous. Art and diligence have now done their best, and what shall be added will be the effort of tedious toil and needless
curiosity. After all this, it is surely superfluous to answer the question that has once been asked, Whether Pope was a poet, otherwise than by asking in return, If Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found ? To circumscribe poetry by a definition will only show the narrowness of the definer, though a definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look round upon the present time and back upon the past; let us inquire to whom the voice of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry; let their productions be examined, and their claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will be no more disputed. Had he given the world only his version, the name of poet must have been allowed him : if the writer of the “Iliad” were to class his successors he would assign a very high place to his translator, without requiring any other evidence of genius.
The following letter, of which the original is in the hands of Lord Hardwicke, was communicated to me by the kindness of Mr. Jodrell:
66 TO MR. BRIDGES, at the Bishop of London's, at Fulham.
SIR,—The favour of your letter, with your remarks, can never be enough acknowledged, and the speed with which you discharged so troublesome a task doubles the obligation.
“I must own you have pleased me very much by the commendations so ill bestowed upon me; but I assure you, much more by the frankness of your consure, which I ought to take the more kindly of the two, as it is more advantage to a scribbler to be improved in his judgment than to be smoothed in his vanity. The greater part of those deviations from the Greek which you have observed I was led into by Chapman and Hobbes ; who are, it seems, as much celebrated for their knowledge of the original as they are decried for the badness of their translations. Chapman pretends to have