« ZurückWeiter »
when his party had reascended to power. Pope's reply is clear evidence of that state of mind, which, not wholly content with itself, is still less disposed to be satisfied with others. Whoever has encountered such a disposition knows, that as in feeding cross animals, it is well to look after one's fingers ; every favor done to the jealous is distorted into an injury, received without thankfulness, and answered with some snappish revenge.
Addison certainly tried hard to bear himself in such a manner as to calm down those unreasonable suspicions. Pope had desired him to look over the first books of his Iliad. Addison asked him to dine with him at a tavern, and there told him that he would rather be excused from it at that time, since his friend Tickell, when at Oxford, had translated the first book of that poem, and was about to submit it to the world. Tickell had desired him to examine it ; and if, at the same time, he should do the same service for another, it might place him in a delicate position between the two. Now, in common cases, there could be no reason for this caution ; but Addison knew his man, and, being well aware how hard it was to keep the peace, was earnest always to keep to the windward of every affair in which it might be endangered. Pope, however, did not see through his reasons ; he told him thai Tickell had a perfect right to publish his translation, and he to look it over ; but if the first book was thus precluded, he would be glad to send him the second. Addison thus found it impossible to escape ; he looked over it, and in a few days returned it with high expressions of praise. Afterwards, when Pope's first four books were ready for the subscribers, Tickell published his first book, and this appears to have rekindled all his former suspicion.
But why had not Tickell a right to publish his fragment ? and how did he, by this proceeding, cross the path of one who was so far before him ? esides, if it were wrong, why was Addison to answer for it? Though Tickell was his friend, Addison did not keep him in leading-strings, nor feed him with a spoon.
The truth of the matter was, that Addison, when solicited to give his opinion, had said that both were good, but that Tickell's had more of the Greek ; this was doubtless his opinion, and there was no disparagement to Pope in declaring it. But it so happened that this was the very point in which Pope was conscious that he was wanting.
When he commenced the work, he was so oppressed with the difficulty thence arising, that he wished somebody would hang bim”; and the literary world are tolerably unanimous in the opinion, that, however pleasing his Iliad is in itself, there is something quite too modern about it to give much idea of the original. It is like the statues of Louis the Fourteenth, in which, though he wore the classical drapery, he always insisted on retaining the Parisian wig. A scholar, like Addison, would be likely to feel this want of the Homeric simplicity ; and why he should be rigidly silent on the subject, it is not easy to understand, when, at the same time, he awarded the translation the full measure of praise which it deserved.
There is no doubt, however, that Pope, all the wbile, believed Addison himself to be the translator of the first book, which had appeared in Tickell's name.
He did not say this while Addison was living ; then it could have been easily disproved ; but he was himself so much given to artifice and stratagem, that he easily suspected it in others. He
He says, in a letter to Addison, 6 I shall never believe that the author of Cato can say one thing and think another.'
And yet it is plain that he did so believe ; these words are ainple proof that he did, for he evidently meant to bint, that the writer of the high sentiments of the tragedy should be above deception in matters of ordinary life. But it might have been well for him to consider what was implied in this charge. It accused Addison of falsehood, repeated again and again. Addison had told him that the work was Tickell's ; now, if it was his own, there was no reason why he should not say so ; be was under no obligation to refrain from doing a thing because Pope had done it before him. So far from operating to the prejudice of Pope's interests, it went forth to the world with a declaration that it was not to be continued, be, cause the work was already executed by an abler hand. Supposing that Addison would stoop to prevaricate, — and the whole tenor of his life made such a thing incredible, - how was any one in his senses to believe that he did so without any inducement whatever? No man lies, without something to fear, or something to gain by it. The process has no delight in itself to give it attraction. But such was Pope's absurd exaggeration of the importance of his own undertakings, that he was able to work himself into the monstrous belief of
Addison's manœuvring thus disgracefully in this matter, , where he could have nothing to hope for and nothing to dread.
But the reader may ask if there was no evidence upon which to ground these suspicions. If he is not familiar with the subject, he will be rather surprised to learn, that there is nothing whatever but a remark of Dr. Young, who, when he heard that the translation was written at Oxford, said that he was there well acquainted with Tickell, who communicated his writings to him, and he thought it strange that he should have been silent in respect to such an undertaking. This negative testimony certainly does not amount to much ; it was possible that Tickell might have been so employed without making it known to his friends. It was possible that Addison might have been mistaken in the impression that it was written at Oxford. But really, if one man is to be charged with falsehood, because another man has no other means than his word of knowing what he says to be true, a great mortality of human reputations must follow the application of a standard so
Miss Aikin has had access to the Tickell papers, which are still carefully preserved ; and among them is a letter from Dr. Young on the subject of this translation, treating it as Tickell's own, telling him that Pope's is generally preferred, but that his is allowed to be excellent, and, he has no doubt, will at last be able to carry the day.
Those papers show, also, that instead of this first book of the Iliad having been translated out of hostility to Pope, Tickell had made arrangements with a bookseller to translate and publish the whole ; the very preface prepared for it is still in existence, containing judiciously formed principles on which he had intended to proceed. Spence, who was not the wisest of mankind, said that he was confirmed in the impression that Addison wrote it, by the circumstance that Tickell once had an opportunity of denying it, which he did not improve. But it must be remembered that no ventured to bring the charge in Addison's lifetime ; that Tickell, who, according to Spence himself, was a very " fair and worthy man,” could not have been aware that such a calumny was spread ; and that if any one had asked him whether he had engaged in a fraud to act the liar's part, he might have been likely to withhold a reply to an application
so elegantly presented. Old D’Israeli, whose researches were sometimes as valuable as his son's novels are worthless, and human laudation can no farther go, — pot having seen the Tickell papers, believed what Wharton endeavoured to prove. But even in the absence of all external testimony, it is hard to conceive how any one can believe, that a man so emplary as Addison would engage in a wretched lying conspiracy, by which no earthly purpose, not even that of injury to Pope, had he desired it, could possibly have been answered.
There was but one other thing which Pope could allege in justification of his bitter feeling towards Addison. It seems that Gildon had written a life of Wycherley, in which he abused Pope and his relations; and Pope says young Lord Warwick told him, that Addison had encouraged Gildon to write the scandal, and afterwards paid him ten guineas for doing it. Blackstone sets down this story as utterly incredible, so inconsistent is it in every respect with the character of Addison. It is quite possible that, when Gildon's work was presented to him, he may, before reading it, bave given something to the author as matter of charity ; but it is nonsense, on such an account, to hold him responsible for what the work contained. Here again, what could he gain by such a proceeding? There was nothing but malice to be gratified in any such way, and if he ever had any malignity, he succeeded better in keeping it to himself than is usual with the sons of men. Besides, if a man of his high standing could have descended to such a measure, is it likely that he would have deposited the secret in a pudding-bag of a boy? There is often in such hopeful youths a good portion of thoughtless malice ; even if one of them should lie, it is not a thing wholly without example ; but whatever the young lord's communication may have been, we have only Pope's version of it, who probably was not in the best state to understand or remember it as it was ; for, according to his own account, he sat down and wrote a violent letter to Addison, charging him with dirty ways, and, among other insults, painting the character of Atticus as it was first written. To this precious missive, Addison, who doubtless perceived that it was impossible to be at peace with such a person, never deigned a reply. Pope says that he “ used him civilly ever after,” which is more than most men would
have done. No thoughtful and unprejudiced person will think that Addison ought to have cleared himself from such imputations ; for what is character worth, if it will not shield its possessor from such aspersions as this?
That part of this unfortunate history which has been most injurious to the memory of Addison is the account of a last interview with Pope, said to have been arranged by their mutual friends, when Pope expressed a wish to hear his own faults, and spoke as if he did not feel that he had been himself the aggressor. It is said that Addison was so transported with passion, that he accused Pope of upstart vanity, and reminded him that he had been under the greatest literary obligation to him, giving as an instance a line in the Messiah, which he had essentially improved ! After some words of contempt for Pope's Homer, he concluded, in a “ low, hollow voice of feigned temper,” with advice to Pope to be more humble, if he wished to appear well to the world. Pope retorted in the like strain, abusing Addison for his jealousy of the merit of others, and similar failings ; and after this exchange of confectionery, the two poets departed in peace, to meet no more.
Internal evidence alone would show that this must have been a poor fabrication. The benevolent fashion in which the interview was conducted was not strictly Addisonian; and the favor with which he upbraided Pope, that of spoiling a very good line of the Messiah, was not enough to put the younger poet under bonds of gratitude to the end of time. If he had wished to insist on this point, he might have referred to all he had written in favor of Pope, as affording a less questionable claim upon his grateful feeling. But it is needless to dwell on this. For no one can doubt, that had there been a word of truth in this story, Pope would not have said, some time before, that Addison “ used him civilly ever after"; and as Pope was careful, in his conversations with Spence, to give all his causes of complaint against Addison, with perhaps a trifle over, he must have been loud and long on the subject of such a memorable passage, had it ever occurred.
But the story was not manufactured till after he was in the dust. After his death, appeared a Life of Pope, without any
publisher's name, but purporting to be written by William Ayre, Esq., and to contain facts drawn from