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the Kit-cat Club, but he died in 1713. The scattered notices of Pope's friend in the printed correspondence, and in one of Warton's notes to Dryden, represent him as a careless, jovial person, very free in his sentiments on religious subjects. The Sappho of the above letter was, we suspect, a Roman Catholic lady of Berkshire, Mrs. Nelson, who wrote verses, corresponded with Teresa Blount, of Mapledurham, and indeed was intimate with most of the poet's country friends. We have not met with any of her acknowledged poetry-ladies were then averse to appearing in print-but a complimentary effusion addressed to Pope, following the lines of Wycherley in Tonson's Miscellany of 1709 (evidently written by some personal friend), is probably of her composition. Pope did not republish the piece among the other encomiastic verses prefixed to his works in 1717, but he had then quarrelled with Mrs. Nelson.
The correspondence with Cromwell was for some time steadily maintained, Pope appearing to delight in the careless ease of his friend's tone and manner:
This letter greets you from the shades;
Or skim the flowery meads of Asphodill :)
"April 25, 1708.
Strong drink was drunk, and gambols play'd,
And two substantial meals a day were made.
The business of it is t' express,
From me and from my holiness,
you and to your gentleness,
How much I wish you health and happiness, &c.
I made no question but the news of Sappho's staying behind me in the town would surprise you. But she has since come into the country, and, to surprise you more, I will inform you, that the first person she named, when I waited on her, was one Mr. Cromwell. What an ascendant have you over all the sex, who could gain the fair one's heart by appearing before her in a long, black, unpowdered periwig; nay, without so much as the very extremities of clean linen in neckcloth and cuffs! I guess that friend Vertumnus, among all the forms he assumed to win the good graces of Pomona, never took upon him that of a slovenly beau. Well, sir, I leave you to your meditations, on this occasion, and to languish unactive (as you call it)."
FAME AND THE GREAT MEN OF ANTIQUITY.
The following is more worthy of Pope's reputation:
"May 10, 1708.
'You talk of fame and glory, and of the great men of antiquity; pray tell me, what are all your great dead men, but so many little living letters? What a vast reward is here for all the ink wasted by writers, and all the blood spilt by princes? There was in old time one Severus, a Roman emperor. I dare say you never called him by any other name in your life: and yet in his days he was styled Lucius, Septimius, Severus, Pius, Pertinax, Augustus, Parthicus, Adiabenicus, Arabicus, Maximus, and what not? What a prodigious waste of letters has time made! what a number have here dropped off, and left the poor surviving seven unattended! For my own part, four are all I have to care for; and I'll be judged by you if any man could live in less compass? Well, for the future I'll drown all high thoughts in the Lethe of cowslip-wine; as for fame, renown, reputation, take 'em, critics!"
Byron has versified the same sentiment, and much in the style of Pope:
"What is the end of Fame? 'Tis but to fill
A certain portion of uncertain paper;
Some liken it to climbing up a hill,
Whose summit, like all hills, is lost in vapour;
For this men write, speak, preach, and heroes kill,
And bards burn what they call their midnight taper,
To have, when the original is dust,
A name, a wretched picture, and worse bust."
Yet no two poets ever longed more ardently or laboured more incessantly for fame than Pope and Byron. In moments of languor the above sentiment must have occurred to them, but their destiny impelled them onwards, and despondency was not an abiding sensation with either. The extreme mobility or versatility of the poetical temperament was strikingly displayed in both, and also in a third poet, Burns, whose feelings and emotions, reflected in his poetry, but more capriciously exhibited in his correspondence, changed with such rapidity. In Pope there was always an under-current that he strove to conceal, and which, when discovered, is sometimes strangely at variance with his public and stately appearances.
Cromwell made one visit to Binfield.
"Pray," said the
poet, "bring a very considerable number of pint-bottles with you. This might seem a strange request, if you had not told me you would stay but as many days as you brought bottles, therefore you can't bring too many, though here we are no drunkards." On Cromwell's return to London Pope wrote to him:
"All you saw in this country charge me to assure you of their humble service, and the ladies in particular, who look upon us as but plain country fellows since they saw you, and heard more civil things in a fortnight than they expect from the whole shire of us in an age. The trophy you bore away from one of them in your snuff-box will doubtless preserve her memory, and be a testimony of your approba
tion for ever.
"As long as Mocha's happy tree shall grow,
While berries crackle, or while mills shall go;
While smoking streams from silver spouts shall glide,
Or China's earth receive the sable tide,
While coffee shall to British nymphs be dear,
While fragrant steams the bended head shall cheer;
So long her honours, name, and praise shall last.""
Cromwell, of course, contrasted favourably with the rural magnates of Berkshire, who appear, from Pope's description of them, to have been of the race of Addison's fox-hunter and Fielding's Squire Western. He writes to his town friend:
"SIR-I had written to you sooner, but that I made some scruple of sending profane things to you in Holy Week. Besides, our family would have been scandalised to see me write, who take it for granted I write nothing but ungodly verses; and they say here so many prayers that I can make but few poems. For in this point of praying I am an occasional conformist. So, just as I am drunk or scandalous in town according to my company, I am for the same reason good and godly here. I assure you, I am looked upon in the neighbourhood for a very sober, well-disposed person; no great hunter, indeed, but a great esteemer of the noble sport, and only unhappy in my want of constitution for that and drinking. They all say, 'tis pity I am so sickly, and I think 'tis pity they are so healthy. But I say nothing that may destroy their good opinion of me: I have not quoted one Latin author since I came down, but have learned without book a song of Mr. Thomas Durfey's, who is your only poet of tolerable reputation in this country. He makes all the merriment in our entertainments, and, but for him, there would be so miserable a dearth of catches,
POPE'S BERKSHIRE FRIENDS.
that, I fear, they would (sans cérémonie) put either the parson or me upon making some for 'em. Any man, of any quality, is heartily welcome to the best toping-table of our gentry, who can roundly hum out some fragments or rhapsodies of his works: so that in the same manner as it was said of Homer to his detractors: What! dares any man speak against him who has given so many men to eat? (meaning the rhapsodists who lived by repeating his verses) so may it be said of Mr. Durfey to his detractors: Dares any one despise him, who has made so many men drink? Alas, sir! this is a glory which neither you nor I must ever pretend to. Neither you with your Ovid, nor I with my Statius, can amuse a board of justices and extraordinary 'squires, or gain one hum of approbation, or laugh of admiration. These things (they would say) are too studious, they may do well enough with such as love reading, but give us your ancient poet, Mr. Durfey!
66 April 10, 1710." 25
This is a caricature in the style of the " men upon town," though the difficulty of communication at that time, owing to bad roads and the want of public conveyances, checked the intercourse between different classes, and helped to give an air of strong rusticity to the character of the country gentleman. Pope's Berkshire friends did not, it appears, even read the Spectator. As to Tom Durfey's catches, they possess a good deal of farcical humour and broad mirth, but they contain still more ribaldry and licentiousness. Durfey used to go with a fishing party every summer to Wiltshire, and would probably spend a night by the way with his roystering admirers in the Forest.28 There was much real though coarse enjoyment in these rural gatherings and merry nights in the olden time.
Pope said to Spence that his letters to Cromwell were
25 Pope struck out the characteristic passage in italics, which gives a glimpse of the interior of Binfield.
By long experience Durfey may, no doubt,
Fenton's Ep. to Lambard. Thomson the poet being told that Glover, the author of Leonidas, meditated an epic poem, exclaimed, “He write an epic, who never saw a mountain!" He might have said the same of Pope, who contemplated an epic with Brutus for its hero.
written with a design that does not appear: they were not written in sober sadness. To Aaron Hill he said they were written with unguarded friendliness and freedom. The one remark contradicts the other; and it is impossible to trace any occult motive in these harmless companionable epistles. If any concealment or stratagem may be detected, it consists in Pope representing himself as gay, careless, and indolent, when he was devoted to intense study, and was diligently repairing the deficiencies of his early education. One rather long piece of criticism in a letter to Cromwell Pope printed as if addressed to Walsh. In the letters there is some trifling criticism on the part of Cromwell, and some rather unwarrantable levity on the part of Pope, but much kindliness and respect on both sides. The result, however, was unsatisfactory. After three years of intercourse, oral and epistolary, Cromwell was silent for a twelvemonth. Pope's jocularities and sarcasms had chafed the temper of the old pedantic beau, who began to perceive that the sickly retired lad in the Forest was becoming a decidedly formidable personage. The correspondence accordingly dropped, and was not renewed excepting on one unpleasant occasion. Long after this time, in 1726, Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas, a frail poetess and the Sappho of Cromwell, falling into distressed circumstances, sold to Edmund Curll, the publisher, the original letters of Pope to Cromwell, which she had obtained from the latter. All persons of taste and judgment," she said, "would be pleased with so agreeable an amusement. Mr. Cromwell could not be angry, since it was but justice to his merit to publish the solemn and private professions of love, gratitude, and veneration, made him by so celebrated an author; and, sincerely, Mr. Pope ought not to resent the publication, since the early pregnancy of his genius was no dishonour to his character. And yet (she adds) had either of you been asked, common modesty would have obliged you to refuse what you would not be displeased with if done without your knowledge"-a shrewd observation, which evinces Sappho's knowledge of both the parties concerned. Cromwell, she said, had made her a free gift of the letters, to do what she liked with them. This he denied, though faintly, but he appears to have been vexed and annoyed by his own indiscretion in putting the correspondence into the hands of