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have been gleaned from the Wills in Doctors' Commons, and proof is adduced of Pope's connexion with the Grubstreet Journal, as asserted by Curll.
For the private details of the poet's life, the chief authority is Spence's Anecdotes. Johnson had the use of this work in manuscript when writing his life of Pope, and Malone made extracts from it for his life of Dryden. A complete edition, however, was not printed till 1819, when it was edited and published by Mr. Samuel Weller Singer. The anecdotes are interesting and valuable; but Spence was inferior to Boswell in all the important requisites of industry, correctness, and dramatic talent in sketching character and reporting conversation. With the same opportunities as Spence, Boswell would have cleared up all the doubtful and mysterious points in Pope's life and poetry, besides giving us a copious sprinkling of the table-talk at Twickenham and Dawley, and interior glimpses of Will's or Button's coffee-houses. In one respect, however, Spence is equal to the northern biographer: he almost worshipped the object of his work, and unhesitatingly subscribed to the poet's opinions, literary and personal.
All the editors of Pope have been misled in some material points by trusting to Memoirs of his Life and Writings, published in 1745, and written by William Ayre, Esq. The existence of "Squire Ayre" (as he has been called) was denied by one of his contemporaries, "J. H.," who asserted
that the notorious Edmund Curll was author of the work; and Miss Aikin, in her life of Addison, seems inclined to adopt the same conclusion. Ayre, however, was a veritable existing person. He had previously appeared as a commentator on Pope ("Truth, a Counterpart to Mr. Pope's Essay on Man, by Mr. Ayre," 1739; and "A Counterpart to Mr. Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle II., by Mr. Ayre," 1739), and had published some translations from the French and Italian. He put forth his Memoir of Pope with high pretensions, dedicated it to the poet's noble friends, Bolingbroke, Burlington, Marchmont, and Bathurst, and professed to have received large and valuable assistance. He took the precaution of securing the copyright of his work by letters patent under the royal signet. Yet, notwithstanding all this parade and assumption, a more careless and worthless book than that of Ayre never issued from the press. Of the seven hundred and more pages comprised in the two volumes, not fifty are original, the rest having been quoted or stolen from other authors, chiefly from Pope; and the whole work exhibits inextricable confusion, inaccuracy, and misrepresentation. One error which runs through his narrative is assuming that Pope's correspondent, Edward Blount, was brother of the poet's female friends, Teresa and Martha Blount. This has been copied by every succeeding biographer, and forms the groundwork of various conjectures and discussions by Bowles and Roscoe. The importance of this seemingly
trifling mistake will be best seen by an example taken from Roscoe's Pope, vol. viii., p. 383:
"Mr. Blount died in London the following year, 1726."-Pope. "Blount died of the small-pox; and was attended during his illness with the greatest affection and sorrow, by the lady whose name is so often mentioned in these volumes. Soon after his death, Pope was much more explicit than he had ever been before respecting the nature of his feelings towards Miss Martha."-Bowles.
"By "the lady whose name is so often mentioned in these volumes,' Mr. Bowles means Martha Blount, who attended her brother through the illness which terminated in his death, although she had not herself had the disease. The assertion of Mr. Bowles, that after the death of Mr. Blount Pope was much more explicit than he had ever been before respecting the nature of his feelings towards Miss Martha,' is only an additional proof of his earnestness to avail himself of every opportunity of attributing that attachment to an improper motive."Roscoe.
Now, with the exception of Pope's simple statement of the fact of his friend's death, the whole of this explanation and crimination is a tissue of errors. Edward Blount did not die of the small-pox, but of gout and old age; he was not attended by Martha Blount, who in reality had had the small-pox; and Edward Blount's death had no effect whatever on Pope's attachment to his fair friend. The complication of blunders (of which this is but one specimen) arose from two causes-the publication of some letters taken from an old translation of Voiture as genuine letters from Pope to Miss Blount, and the unfounded assertion that Edward Blount was the brother of the lady. The latter had a brother, Mr. Michael Blount, of Mapledurham, in Oxford
shire, who survived till 1739; but Edward Blount was an elderly gentleman, owner of the estate of Blagdon, in Devonshire, whose second daughter afterwards became Duchess of Norfolk. It is obvious from the genuine correspondence that Ayre's statement cannot be correct; but it was implicitly adopted and continued without examination. We may add, that from dependence on the same untrustworthy guide, the quarrel between Pope and Addison has been misrepresented.
Criticism on the poet's works has been exhausted: his position as an English classic has long been fixed. But his biography has been neglected; and though the present work can be considered only as a contribution towards the history of Pope and his times, the Editor can honestly say that he has taken nothing upon trust which he had an opportunity of investigating, and that he has been anxious to show his sense of the public favour by increased attention and diligent inquiry.
Inverness, July, 1857.