« PreviousContinue »
Gilliver. By this transaction the poet concealed his name, yet protected his property. His claim to be considered the author was sufficiently set forth in the work; but the covert assignment to his noble friends, with the statement in the prefatory advertisement that the commentary was the work of several hands, and that the part of Scriblerus must be well enough known, left him greater liberty to indulge in egotism, to prefer accusations, and to parry any assaults that the satire might happen to provoke. Perhaps this is the only instance in our literary annals of three noblemen standing as bottle-holders (to use a sporting phrase) to a poet.2
The condescension of the three noblemen was paralleled by that of another friend of the poet, whom we now hear of for the first time. To the enlarged edition of the Dunciad was prefixed a Letter to the Publisher, dated from St. James's, and signed William Cleland. The letter is an elaborate vindication of the satire, and a censure of the dunces, combined with unqualified praise of the moral character, the literary aims, and genius of Pope. But no one, as Warburton asserts, and as is abundantly proved from the contemporary prints, believed that Cleland was the author of the letter. Pope's character for artifice was now so firmly established that all defences or appearances of this kind were believed to emanate from himself. Dennis professed not to know whether such a "worthy person" as William Cleland was in existence; by another pamphleteer he was set down as a "counterfeit friend;" by a third he was designated as "Pope Alexander's man William ;" and by a fourth, who seems to have heard something of Cleland, he is styled " Major Sputter, a Scotch spy, who had travelled in Spain and Italy, and gathered intelligence, true or false, for Ministers and others at home."
? In the registers of the Stationers' Company is the following entry, first published by the editor of "Notes and Queries:"-" Nov. 21, 1729. The author of a book entitled The Dunciad, an Heroick Poem, hath, by writing under his hand and seal, assigned unto the Right Hon. Richard Earl of Burlington and Cork, the Right Hon. Edward Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, and the Right Hon. Allen Lord Bathurst, their executors, &c., the said poem and the copy thereof. And the said Earl of Burlington, Earl of Oxford, and Lord Bathurst, by writing under their hands and seals, have assigned unto Lawton Gilliver, his executors, &c., the said book and copy of the sole right and liberty of printing the same, and also the Prolegomena of Scriblerus. (Signed) "LAWTON GILLIVER."
MAJOR WILLIAM CLELAND.
In reality, the poet's friend and shield-bearer was a gentleman who had served in the army, having, as Pope afterwards said, held the rank of Major, and been under Lord Rivers in Spain. He retired from the army after the peace, and (apparently on the accession of George I.) obtained employment in the civil service, first as a Commissioner of Customs in Scotland, and, subsequent to 1723, as a Commissioner for the Land-tax and House-duty in England. He had an official income of 500l. a year, lived in St. James's-place, and associated with the Scotch Tory peers, Stair, Marchmont, &c., and was known to most of Pope's friends. In 1733 he was one of the persons in London to whom the proceedings of the Scotch peers, who met at Edinburgh in that year, were directed to be communicated. He was thus a man of some rank, and, according to Pope, he was also a man of "universal learning and enlarged conversation." How he submitted to such humiliation as that of lending his name to Pope whenever he wanted it is not easily accounted for. He was, we suspect, a careless, irresolute man, fond of display, and probably under personal obligations to Pope. He may also have had some share in the letters which bear his name. We may suppose that the explanatory statements, the tone of sentiment, and line of defence, were written out by Pope. His complaisant friend, knowing how tremblingly alive the poet was to all that concerned his reputation, and overpowered by his importunities, would then take up the subject, add at least part of the panegyric, and cast the whole in a somewhat freer and less author-like style. Such seems to be a reasonable conjecture as to the actual state of the case between poet and commentator. They had the same feeling and tastes as to literature, politics, and private society. So late as 1739, when Cleland was in his sixty-sixth year, we find Pope acknowledging the receipt of a letter from him of six pages, and, at Cleland's intercession, Pope set to the study of Don Quixote-most likely in Jervas's translation.
It is clear, however, that though Cleland had, by his subserviency, earned the poet's gratitude, he had failed to win his respect. In mentioning the letter of six pages, to which we have alluded, Pope writes to Lord Polwarth, that he acknowledged the receipt of Cleland's letter, that he might be honest even to farthings. The name of Cleland nowhere
appears in the Pope and Swift correspondence, or in the conversations recorded by Spence. His wife seems to have been acquainted with Swift, Lady Worsley, Miss Kelly, &c.; and it is probable that the Major owed his social position, in some measure, to Mrs. Cleland's influence and connexions.s
Sir Walter Scott has stated, in his edition of Swift, that Pope's friend was the son of Colonel Cleland, the young Cameronian chief, who wrote a Hudibrastic satire on the Jacobite army, known as the "Highland Host," of 1678, and who was killed at Dunkeld in 1689. Any man might be proud of such a descent, for no cavalier trained to arms and chivalry could have displayed greater gallantry or truer heroism than this young Covenanting leader. He was suddenly surrounded by a force of four thousand men—the same force that Dundee led to victory. His own followers did not amount to more than eight hundred; but, animated by his exhortations and example, they resolved to give battle, and succeeded in driving the Highland army before them, after the latter had lost about three hundred men. As Cleland was addressing his troops he was shot in the head, and when retiring to conceal the fatal accident, he fell and expired. He was then only in his twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth year.*
She was, we believe, related to the Proby family, mentioned in Swift's letters, and now represented by Lord Carysfort. Pope presented a portrait of himself by Jervas, a three-quarters length, and a copy of the quarto Homer, to Mr. Cleland, the latter inscribed in the poet's neat complimentary style: "Mr. Cleland, who reads all other books, will please read this from his affectionate friend, A. POPE." The book and picture are still at Elton Hall, Huntingdonshire.
In the posthumous collection of Cleland's Poems, 1697, the first piece is an addition to the lines, "Hollo, my Fancy," stated to be written by him in the last year he was at the College, not then fully eighteen years of age. The records of the University of Edinburgh (which Mr. David Laing, with his usual courtesy, has examined to settle this point) show that Cleland matriculated in April, 1676, and took bis Master's degree, "privatim,” in January, 1681. Other instances occur of the degree being privately granted, by which the parties avoided taking the usual oaths. Cleland's college studies may, however, have been interrupted. If he was fifteen when he entered College (and this was then about the usual age), he must have been born in 1661. His namesake, Pope's friend, was born in 1673. There were several families of his name in his native county of Lanark; but we conceive the future major to have been the student William Cleland, enrolled in the fourth class of Glasgow College in March, 1687. Pope says he studied at Utrecht.
This brave officer and clever satirical poet could not have been the father of Pope's friend, for he was only twelve or thirteen years of age when Major Cleland was born. The latter was the representative of an old Scotch family, Cleland "of that ilk," distinguished for its services and alliances from the time of Wallace and Bruce. William Cleland's greatgrandfather sold the lands of Cleland; the house declined, and William, though well connected and educated, and, probably, proud that he was entitled to "carry the principal arms of his family as a tessera of his blood and primogeniture" (Nisbet's Heraldry, 1722), was, like many of his countrymen of gentle birth but small fortune, sent into the army.
During his early London life, Cleland is said to have been the prototype of Will Honeycomb. The tradition rests on no good authority; and if it had any foundation, Steele must have altered some traits of character, and added at least twenty years to the age of the old beau for the purpose of making the ridicule stronger. Cleland was only in his thirtyeighth year when the Spectator Club was drawn. He was married; and instead of despising scholars, bookish men, and philosophers, he was precisely one of this class himself. The prototype of Will (though it is extremely doubtful whether the character was drawn from any particular person) is always said to have been a Colonel Cleland. Military titles were then very carelessly applied; and if Trooper Steele could be universally known as "Captain," no one would have been surprised to find a gentleman who had been in the army sometimes called Major, and sometimes Colonel. There was, however, a Colonel Cleland contemporary with the Major, whom Swift met in society in 1713, and who was anxious to be appointed Governor of Barbadoes. He wrote some tracts on the State of the Sugar Plantations. This Colonel Cleland gave dinners to Swift, Lord Dupplin, and the other Tories, and, after the Queen's death, he entertained Lady Marlborough and Steele. But the difference between Swift's Cleland and Will Honeycomb is essential. Swift describes his colonel as the keenest of all place-hunters, as laying "long traps" to engage interest, and as "a true Scotchman ;" and we know that by a true Scotchman Swift meant everything that is most cold, crafty, and pertinacious
-everything, in short, that is unlike Will Honeycomb. We must, therefore, abandon Swift's Colonel Cleland; and we do so with some regret, as we had hoped to identify him as the father of another Cleland usually connected with Pope's friend, namely, John Cleland, the unfortunate and worthless man of letters, author of an infamous novel, and an extensive miscellaneous writer.
John Cleland is represented as having been the son of "Colonel Cleland," and we should be glad to be able to divorce him from all connexion with the retired Major and literary Commissioner of the land-tax. The evidence on the other side is, however, notwithstanding the erroneous military designation, strong and almost conclusive. While John Cleland was living, it was twice asserted in print that he was the son of Pope's friend and correspondent. Nichols, who asserted this, was a diligent collector of facts, and eminently versed in the literary gossip of the eighteenth century. He had the best means of obtaining information as to this particular point, and his evidence never having been, so far as we know, contradicted, must be received as decisive. He is supported also by Isaac Reed, editor of the European Magazine (vol. xv.), who mentions John Cleland as the son of Colonel Cleland," whose name is to a letter prefixed to the Dunciad." Nichols and Reed, apparently, did not know that there were two military Clelands, contemporaries in London, but they both knew, or believed, that John's father was Pope's friend.5
In the Steele Correspondence published by Nichols there is a letter, dated Sept. 8, 1714, in which Steele mentions his intention of dining with Cleland. This, we suspect, was Swift's Cleland; but on the name Cleland is the following note: "The friend and correspondent of Pope, and supposed to be the Will Honeycomb of the Spectator. Of his son, who is still living, see the Anecdotes of Bowyer." In the Anecdotes of Bowyer (1782), John Cleland's father is stated to have been a colonel, and the friend and correspondent of Pope. John Cleland died in Westminster, January 23rd, 1789, aged eighty. A memoir of him appeared in the Gentleman's and Scots Magazines for February, and there he is again represented as the son of Colonel Cleland, and the original of Will Honeycomb; and it is mentioned that a portrait of the father, in the fashionable costume of the beginning of the century, always hung in the son's library. It is not stated in this memoir that Colonel Cleland was the friend and correspondent of Pope; but when Nichols adopted the memoir in a note to his second edition of his Anecdotes of Bowyer, he inserted this fact.