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SPECIMEN OF STEELE'S PROSE.
for he does nothing with sourness or obstinacy; and his being unconfined to modes and forms makes him but the readier and more capable to please and oblige all who know him. When he is in town, he lives in Soho Square. It is said he keeps himself a bachelor by reason he was crossed in love by a perverse beautiful widow of the next county to him. Before this disappointment, Sir Roger was what you call a fine gentleman,-had often supped with my Lord Rochester and Sir George Etherege, fought a duel upon his first coming to town, and kicked bully Dawson in a public coffee-house for calling him youngster. But, being illused by the above-mentioned widow, he was very serious for a year and a half ; and though, his temper being naturally jovial, he at last got over it, he grew careless of himself, and never dressed afterward. He continues to wear a coat and doublet of the same cut that were in fashion at the time of his repulse, which, in his merry humours, he tells us has been in and out twelve times since he first wore it. He is now in his fifty-sixth year, cheerful, gay, and hearty; keeps a good house both in town and country; a great lover of mankind; but there is such a mirthful cast in his behaviour, that he is rather beloved than esteemed. His tenants grow rich, his servants look satisfied, all the young women profess love to him, and the young men are glad of his company. When he comes into a house be calls the servants by their names, and talks all the way up stairs to a visit. I must not omit, that Sir Roger is a justice of the quorum ; that he fills the chair at a quarter-session with great abilities, and three months
gained universal applause by explaining a passage in the game Act.
PRINCE of the Artificial school of English poetry stands the Roman Catholic poet, Alexander Pope, whose brilliant and versatile powers were best displayed in The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad.
Pope's father was a well-to-do linen-draper in the Strand, who gave up business in disgust at the shadow which the Revolution had flung upon his Church, and, retiring to Binfield, on the skirts of Windsor Forest, locked up his fortune of £20,000 in a box, from which he took the needful guineas as often as his purse ran low. Banks were then in their infancy; and the seizure which Charles II. had made of the public funds was too fresh in remem
brance to make a government investment seem safe. His 1688 delicate boy, Alexander, born in 1688, passed under some
priestly tutors, but never enjoyed a college training.
Before he was twelve the little invalid wrote an Ode to Solitude, marked with a thoughtfulness beyond his years; and after loitering for four summers longer among the picturesque woodlands near his home-spending summer and winter alike in a constant round of studies, rambling but deep-he boldly embraced the perilous vocation of a poet, and at sixteen began to haunt the London coffee-houses in that character. Admiration of Dryden was the grand passion of his boyhood; and when the great monarch of letterdom, sented in his easy-chair at Will's, was
TŅE RAPE OF THE LOCK."
one day pointed out by a good-natured friend to the pale, wistful boy, who had already drunk deep into the old man's poetry, we can well imagine the occasion marked with bright red letters in the childish memory. From admiration to imitation, somebody or other says, is but a step. Pope's versification was moulded after Dryden's “long-resounding line.”
Wycherley, a battered old literary rake, was young Pope's first caresser; but in the coffee-room at Will's or Button's headquarters of the author-craft—the boyish writer of the Pastorals, which were as yet only handed about in manuscript, got many a kind shake of the hand and hearty slap on the shoulder from greater and better men than old Wycherley.
The poet soared to yet higher fame, when in 1711 his celebrated Essay on Criticism, begun two years earlier, issued from the press. This performance, wonderful for a youth 1711 of twenty-one, contains many fine passages. The well- A.D. known lines, illustrating the agreement of sound with sense, afford a striking specimen of the ease with which Pope wields his native speech. Then followed a sacred poem, The Messiah, which appeared in No. 378 of the Spectator; and, not long after, came those pathetic verses, An Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady,—which, we are told, mourn the suicide of a rash girl, who had cherished a violent passion for the sickly poet.
The theft of a lady's ringlet by her lover produced the happiest effort of Pope's poetic skill. Lord Petre was the delinquent, and Miss Arabella Fermor the injured fair one. The silly trick having led to a coolness between the families, Pope set to work, inspired by the wish to reconcile the estranged frowners by a good hearty laugh. Thus came into being that epic in miniature, The Rope of the Lock, which presents the most brilliant speci- 1713 men of the mock-heroic style to be found in English verse. We may read the reign of Anne through in many books of history without receiving anything like so clear and vivid an impression of what was then fashionable life, as we derive from
• The two original cantos were written in 1711, but in 1713 the poem appeared in its pre sent, shape
TRANSLATION OF HOMER.
the five cantos that tell the woes of Belinda. The machinery of the poem, as critics call the introduction of supernatural beings into the action of the plot, Pope took from the Rosicrucian doctrine, that the four elements are filled with sylphs, gnomes, nymphs, and salamanders. Most comically does this airy by-play come to
progress of the story, reaching, perhaps, the climax of its humour in the exquisitely absurd idea of a poor sylph who was so eager to save the imperilled lock that she gets between the scissor blades and is snipped in two. After a fierce battle, in which Belinda, armed with a deadly bodkin, leads the van, the severed tress flies up to take its place among the golden stars.
In The Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard we find the poet wasting his pathos upon an unhappy theme. The Temple of Fame, a fine piece of descriptive writing founded on Chaucer's “House of Fame,” though written earlier, was published about this period of his life.
At twenty-four Pope undertook his most extensive, most profitable, yet assuredly not his greatest work." It is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope; but you must not call it Homer," was the terse and true remark of the great scholar Bentley upon the volumes sent him by the poet. Many hundred verses were written on backs of letters and chance scraps of paper, sometimes at the rate of fifty lines a day. Begun in 1712 and finished in 1725, the Iliad and the Odyssey together, after deducting the cost of some help which he got in the notes and the translation of the latter, brought the poet a handsome fortune. Not sixty years before, a blind old man in the same great city had sold the greatest epic of modern days for £18. Pope, whose poetic fame grows pale before the splendour of Milton's genius, as the stars die out before the sun, pocketed more than £8000 for a clever translation. Like Dryden translating Virgil, Pope did little more than reproduce the sense of Homer's verse in smooth and neatly balanced English couplets, leaving the spirit behind in the glorious rough old Greek, that tumbles on the ear like the roar of a winter sea.
With the money thus obtained Pope had the good sense to buy a villa at Twickenham, standing on five acres of land. The hours
QUARREL WITH ADDISON.
which were not given to his desk, were spent in laying out his flower-beds, and adorning his famous grotto with such things as red spar, Cornwall diamonds, Spanish silver, and lava from Vesuvius. Here, by the gentle Thames, his later years were spent; here Swift, Bolingbroke, Gay, Arbuthnot, and a host of the most brilliant men of the day, paid him frequent visits; and it is, at least, one tender trait in the character of a poet who has not had very many kind sayings lavished on him, that here his old mother found a warm welcome and a well-cushioned chair in her declining days.
Pope's love-making was as artificial as his verse, but not so successful. His professed passion for Lady Mary Montagu, of letter-writing renown, suddenly changed its hue, rosy love turning into pallid rage. So bitter, indeed, did the little man's remarks grow after his repulse, that the lady used to call her quondam swain “The wicked wasp of Twickenham."
Of course, Pope and Addison often met. When the poet first came to town, a boy and little known, he danced attendance for a good while
upon the great Oxford scholar. He wrote an admirable prologue for the tragedy of “ Cato.” But gradually a coolness arose between these celebrated men. Some think that Addison was jealous of Pope's brightening fame; others think that Pope's peevish temper, often the accompaniment of a sickly frame, took offence at some slight censures passed upon his “Essay on Criticism." Whatever may have been its cause, the estrangement grew to a crisis, when Pope issued a spiteful pamphlet against old John Dennis, who had published certain “ Remarks on the Tragedy of Cato." Addison, vexed at the tone of the reply, although the lance was broken in his own quarrel, hastily said, that if he answered the “Remarks” at all, he would do it as a gentleman should. This Pope never forgave; and the gulf grew wider when Tickell, Addison's close friend, began a translation of Homer, which seemed to the suspicious eyes of Pope a wilful rivalry of his great work, secretly done by Addison, but put out for appearance' sake under Tickell's
The Odyssey and the editing of Shakspere occupied the pen of