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Conclusion of Book VIII. v. 687.
As when in stillness of the silent night,
pure spreads sacred
not a breath
o'er the dark trees a yellow sheds O'er the dark trees a yellower green they shed,
verdure And tip with silver all the mountain heads
And tip with silver every mountain's head.
shepherds gazing with delight
Of these specimens every man who has cultivated poetry, or who delights to trace the mind from the rudeness of its first conceptions to the elegance of its last, will naturally desire a great number ; but most other readers are already tired, and I am not writing only to poets and philosophers.
The “Iliad” was published volume by volume, as the translation proceeded. The four first books appeared in 1715. The expectation of this work was undoubtedly high, and every man who had connected his name with criticism or poetry was desirous of such intelligence as inight enable him to talk upon the popular topic. Halifax, who, by having been first a poet, and then a patron of poetry, had acquired the right of being a judge, was willing to hear some books while they were yet un. published. Of this rehearsal Pope afterwards gave the following account :
The famous Lord Halifax was rather a pretender to taste than really possessed of it. When I had finished
the two or three first books of my translation of the 'Iliad,' that lord desired to have the pleasure of hearing them read at his house. Addison, Congreve, and Garth were there at the reading. In four or five places Lord Halifax stopped me very civilly, and with a speech each time of mueh the same kind, 'I beg your pardon, Mr. Pope, but there is something in that passage that does not please me. Be so good as to mark the place, and consider it a little at your leisure. I am sure you can give it a little turn.' I returned from Lord Halifax's with Dr. Garth in his chariot, and as we were going along was saying to the Doctor that my lord hau iaid me under a great deal of difficulty by such loose and general observations; that I had been thinking over the passages almost ever since, and could not guess at what it was that offended his lordship in either of them. Garth laughed heartily at my embarrassment: said I had not been long enough acquainted with Lord Halifax to know his way yet; that I need not puzzle myself about looking those places over and over when I got home. “All you need do,' says he, ‘is to leave them just as they are, call on Lord Halifax two or three months hence, thank him for his kind observations on those passages, and then read them to him as altered. I have known him much longer than you have, and will be answerable for the event.' I followed his advice, waited on Lord Halifax some time after ; said I hoped he would find his objections to those passages removed ; read them to him exactly as they were at first; and his lordship was extremely pleased with them, and cried out, 'Ay, now they are perfectly right; nothing can be better.'”
It is seldom that the great or the wise suspect that they are despised or cheated. Halifax, thinking this a lucky opportunity of securing immortality, made some advances of favour and some overtures of advantage to Pope, which he seems to have received with sullen coldness. All our
knowledge of this transaction is derived from a single letter (December 1, 1714), in which Pope says, “I am obliged to you, both for the favours you have done me and those you intend me. I distrust neither your will nor your memory when it is to do good ; and if I ever become troublesome or solicitous, it must not be out of expectation, but out of gratitude. Your lordship may cause me to live agreeably in the town, or contentedly in the country, which is really all the difference I set between an easy fortune and a small one. It is indeed a high strain of generosity in you to think of making me easy all my life, only because I have been so happy as to divert you some few hours ; but, if I may have leave to add it is because you think me no enemy to my native country, there will appear a better reason ; for I must of consequence be very much (as I sincerely am) yours, &c.”
These voluntary offers, and this faint acceptance, ended without effect. The patron was not accustomed to such : frigid gratitude ; and the poet fed his own pride with the dignity of independence. They probably were suspicious of each other. Pope would not dedicate till he saw at what rate his praise was valued; he would be * troublesome out of gratitude, not expectation.” Halifax thought himself entitled to confidence, and would give nothing unless he knew what he should receive. Their commerce had its beginning in hope of praise on one side and of money on the other, and ended because Pope was. less eager of money than Halifax of praise. It is not likely that Halifax had any personal benevolence to Pope ; it is evident that Pope looked on Halifax with scorn and hatred.
The reputation of this great work failed of gaining him a patron, but it deprived him of a friend. Addison and he were now at the head of poetry and criticism, and both in such a state of elevation that, like the two rivals in the Roman State, one could no longer bear an equal,
nor the other à superior. Of the gradual abatement of kindness between friends, the beginning is often scarcely discernible to themselves, and the process is continued by petty provocations, and incivilities sometimes peevishly returned, and sometimes contemptuously neglected, which would escape all attention but that of pride, and drop from any memory but that of resentment. That the quarrel of these two wits should be minutely deduced is not to be expected from a writer to whom, as Homer says, “nothing but rumour has reached, and who has no personal knowledge."
Pope doubtless approached Addison, when the reputation of their wit first brought them together, with the respect due to a man whose abilities were acknowledged, and who, having attained that eminence to which he was himself aspiring, had in his hands the distribution of literary fame. He paid court with sufficient diligence by his prologue to “Cato,” by his abuse of Dennis, and with praise yet more direct, by his poem on the “Dialogues on Medals,” of which the immediate publication was then intended. In all this there was no hypocrisy ; for he confessed that he found in Addison something more pleasing than in any other man.
It may be supposed that, as Pope saw himself favoured by the world, and more frequently compared his own powers with those of others, his confidence increased, and his submission lessened ; and that Addison felt no delight from the advances of a young wit, who might soon contend with him for the highest place. Every great man, of whatever kind be his greatness, has among his friends those who officiously or insidiously quicken his attention to offences, heighten his disgust, and stimulate his resentment. Of such adherents Addison doubtless had many; and Pope was now too high to be without them. From the emission and reception of the proposals for the
Iliad," the kindness of Addison seems to have abated.