« PreviousContinue »
attended with, there was one that pleased me-that the strict friendship we have borne each other so long is thus made known to all mankind. As far as it was your will I cannot be angry at what in all other respects I am quite uneasy under. Had you asked me before you gave them away, I think I could have proposed some better monument for our friendship, or at least of better materials; and you must allow me to say, this was not my erecting but yours. My part of them is far too mean, and how inferior to what you have ever in your works set up to me! And can I see these without shame when I reflect on the many beautiful, pathetic, and amiable lines of yours, which carry to posterity the name of a man who, if he had not every good quality which you so kindly ascribe to him, would be so proud of none as the constancy and the justice of his esteem for you? Adieu! While I can write, speak, remember, or think, I am yours, "A. POPE."
Swift could not have read this letter without strong emotion; but disease had by this time incapacitated him for correspondence. His memory was almost gone, and in the following year he was pronounced unable to manage his own affairs, and guardians were appointed to take care of him. Loss of speech followed loss of memory, and all the faculties of his soul were suspended. The last scene in the mortal career of this extraordinary man, speechless and alone,
"Still as the silence round about his lair,"
seems to us more awful, more pathetic, than any creation in fiction.
WARBURTON AND POPE VISIT OXFORD.
THE NEW DUNCIAD.
NESS AND DEATH.
CIBBER MADE HERO OF THE POEM. POPE'S LAST ILL-
THE poet's acquaintance with Warburton seemed to inspire him with fresh intellectual activity, and in 1741, acting under the advice of his friend, he commenced a fourth book to the Dunciad. During the summer of this year, they made an excursion together into the country, in the course of which they visited Oxford. The Vice-Chancellor of the University sent a message to Warburton, to know if the degree of Doctor of Divinity would be acceptable to him; "to which," says the divine, "such an answer was returned as so civil a message deserved." About the same time, Pope had the offer of the degree of Doctor of Civil Law. Warburton's friends, however, were outvoted in the University, an unexpected proceeding, which was not, he says, the act of that illustrious body, but the exploit of two or three" particulars," the creatures of a man in power, and the slaves of their own passions and prejudices. Pope resolved to make common cause with his friend. As for his degree, he would die before he received one in an art of which he was ignorant, at a place where there was any scruple of bestowing a degree on Warburton, in a science of which he was so great a master. "In short," said Pope, emphatically, "I will be doctored with you, or not at all." He adhered to this resolution, and as
the majority in the University did not relax in their hostility to Warburton, the academical honour was withheld from the poet. He now sought a degree in his own legitimate field. Shortly after the friends had parted, Pope wrote, "If I can prevail on myself to complete the Dunciad, it will be published at the same time with a general edition of all my verses (for poems I will not call them); and I hope your friendship to me will then be as well known as my being an author, and go down to posterity-I mean to as much posterity as poor moderns can reach to; when the commentator, as usual, will lend a crutch to the weak poet to help him to limp a little further than he could on his own feet. We shall take our degree together in fame, whatever we do at the University; and I tell you once more I will not have it there without you." Whilst thus meditating a new Dunciad, and resolved to strike once more for fame, it is amusing to find the poet a month afterwards (October 10, 1741) writing in his recluse, philosophical strain to the Earl of Marchmont:
"I am determined to publish no more in my lifetime, for many reasons; but principally through the zeal I have to speak the whole truth, and neither to praise or dispraise by halves or with worldly managements. I think fifty an age at which to write no longer for amusement, but for some use, and with design to do some good. I never had any uneasy desire of fame, or keen resentment of injuries: and now both are asleep together. Other ambition I never had, than to be tolerably thought of by those I esteemed; and this has been gratified beyond my proudest hopes. I hate no human creature; and the moment any can repent or reform I love them sincerely. Public calamities touch me; but when I read of past times I am somewhat comforted as to the present, upon the comparison; and at the worst, I thank God that I do not yet live under a tyranny nor an Inquisition; that I have thus long enjoyed independency, freedom of body and mind; have told the world my opinions even on the highest subjects, and of the greatest men, pretty freely; that good men have not been ashamed of me; and that my works have not died before me (which is the case of most authors); and if they die soon after, I shall probably not know it, or certainly not be concerned at it in the next world."
It was not without reason that Martha Blount reproved Pope for talking too much of himself and his own motions.
1 Marchmont Papers, vol. ii. 260.
MR. ALLEN'S AT BATH.
The blinding effects of self-love are well known, and the poetical temperament is highly impulsive; but the poet could never have seriously believed that he had no uneasy desire of fame, nor any keen resentment of injuries. That feather of a wit, Colley Cibber, soon put his boasted philosophy to flight, and his resolution not to publish any more during his lifetime (if it were really entertained while he wrote the words) was broken in a few months. In the conclusion of his letter to Lord Marchmont, Pope stated that he was going to Bath; "I will return the sooner whenever you come, but at least next spring. Let not the motto be in vain which I am putting over my door at Twickenham, Libertati et Amicitia." He invited Warburton to join him at Mr. Allen's house near Bath. "You will want no servant here; your
room will be next to mine, and one man will serve us. Here is a library, and a gallery ninety feet long to walk in, and a coach whenever you would take the air with me." A hearty welcome was promised on the part of Mr. Allen, a man sincere and plain, antiquis moribus. Warburton gladly complied with the request. He arrived at Mr. Allen's about the end of November, and was domesticated there for six weeks, during which time the fourth book of the Dunciad was completed. It was published in March, 1742, under the title of
"The NEW DUNCIAD, as it was Found in the year 1741." With his characteristic love of mystification, the poet, in an advertisement prefixed to the work, stated that it was "found merely by accident, in taking a survey of the library of a late eminent nobleman"-Lord Oxford's library again!" but in so blotted a condition, and in so many detached pieces, as plainly showed it to be not only incorrect, but unfinished." Of the reception which the work experienced, and how it was estimated by one well fitted to judge, we have information in one of Gray's letters to West. "As to the Dunciad," says Gray, "it is greatly admired: the genii of operas and schools, with their attendants, the pleas of the virtuosos and florists, and the yawn of Dulness at the end, are as fine as anything he has written. The metaphysicians' part is to me the worst; and here and there are a few ill-expressed lines, and some hardly intelligible." Bolingbroke refrained from reading it for some time, as he heard it was so obscure; but on perusing it he found it to be the best and most finished of all Pope's writings. It has one decided advantage over the former three books. The objects of the poet's satire are worthy of his ridicule and indignation. Instead of attacking weak or starving poets, dunces, and worthless booksellers, he has directed his verse against all false pretenders to taste and science-against the half-wits and libertines who affected admiration of Italian singers, and against those "Indolents" who spend their time in studying butterflies, shells, birds'nests, moss, &c., never proceeding beyond trifles to any useful or extensive views of nature, or of the Author of nature. He also ridicules the system pursued in public schools, of confining our youths to words, and keeping them out of the way of real knowledge. These passages are, as Gray remarked, as fine as anything Pope has written as brilliant, fanciful, and musical-and combine with the rich colouring of the poet a warm moral feeling and justness of thought not excelled in any of his Moral Essays or Epistles. In some of the latter, while vindicating his own character, Pope rises to great dignity and force of expression, but still the subject is self: in the New Dunciad he attains to equal elevation on topics of public and national importance. Warton objects that in the fourth book the hero does nothing-and that the subjects introduced do not harmonise with the previous parts