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they will not deem themselves recompensed by disjointed notices of some of that obscure and forgotten tribe, — " the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease," -- the sweepings of Queen Anne's age, - the Wycherleys, the Fentons, the Halifaxes, the Walshes, and the Broomes. Nor do they escape with this negative disappointment. Positions in taste, confirmed by the undisturbed acquiescence of mankind, are assailed almost for the first time by the authority of Pope. - Shakspeare's manner was that of a bad age, and Milton's language was exotic! It was mighty simple in Rowe to write a play now, professedly in Shakspeare's style; that is, professedly in the style of a bad age.' (Singer's edit. p. 174.) - Milton's style in his Paradise Lost is not natural; 't is an exotic style. (Ibid.) On the Phædo of Plato, and the Tusculan Questions of Cicero, he thus pronounces:- 'Some of Plato's and Cicero's reasonings upon the immortality of the soul are very foolish : but the latter's is less so than the former's.' (Murray's edit. p. 42.) We will leave the censure of Shakspeare and Milton to its own refutation. There is a natural corrective of false taste in criticism in the bosoms of all who feel the sense of beauty, and whose perceptions are not obscured by the affectation of dissenting from the general opinion, when, perhaps, that general opinion is the most unerring standard of rectitude. The universality of suffrage which has consecrated those great poets is the best security of their fame; and no authority, however grave, can silence that echo of the heart which has so long pronounced their praise. The collector, however, who has registered these inconsiderate and hasty opinions, would have better consulted the reputation of Pope by suppressing them. The Aippant remark on Plato and Cicero might also have been spared. Pope's education was imperfect; and it should seem that he had small Latin and less Greek.' * If this did not appear from the well-known circumstances of his life, the remarks themselves on Plato, whom he could not read, and on Cicero, whom he probably never read, would authorize the inference. Who that is conversant with those writings will not bear an eager testimony to the vigorous intimations of the soul's eternity, at which unaided reason had arrived by her own lights and her own aspirings? If the figurative and fanciful diction of Plato, which gained him the title of “the Homer of philosophy," seems a departure from the less rhetorical language which has been generally appropriated to philosophic investigation, the assiduous student of
* Spence's Anecdotes, Murray's edition, p. 40.
his style and manner will be at no loss to discover beneath their varied decorations the closest logic, and the clearest argumentation, which lose nothing of their gigantic strength from the rhetorical graces that clothe them. The muscular limb and the symmetrical form are neither concealed nor impeded by the elegance of drapery in which he has chosen to veil them. Yet it would not be unedifying, even to those who are gifted by the purer illuminations which have brought immortality to light, to hear what the voice of nature has herself proclaimed from the mouth of enlightened men, who were left to the workings of their own intellects on subjects of such aweful import, and long before the more hallowed annunciations of the Gospel had declared their wisdom to “ be foolishness.” With that candour which is among the brightest of the Christian virtues, a truly enlightened Christian must peruse with rapture, as often as he turns to them, the concise and unanswerable reasonings of Socrates on the immortality of the soul, in the Phædrus ; reasonings in which he seems for once to have been moved from his inflexible maxim of affirming nothing, by a mysterious and internal impulse which whispered to him something that fell little short of assurance. The great disciple of the second academy has a concise but fine summary of that argument. “ Sentit igitur animus se moveri : quod cum sentit illud und sentit, non aliena moveri : nec accidere posse ut ipse unquam a se deseratur : ex quo efficitur ceternitas.” We could not abstain from these remarks, lest, among our youthful readers, some might be disposed to take for granted the soundness of the careless dogma which is sheltered under the authority of so high a name as that of the first ethical poet of our country. They cannot be too frequently reminded, in the language of Quinctilian, “ Circumspecte de tantis viris pronuntiandum est, ne damnent quod non intelligunt.”
We gladly turn from these animadversions to such passages of Mr. Spence's collection as illustrate the character of Pope. From these we most cheerfully infer that he was a kind and affectionate man; and, though the fact rests in some degree on the doubtful evidence of his own applause, that he adhered inflexibly to his religious opinions, in spite of the most splendid inducements that might have seduced weaker minds or less virtuous principles.
· He,' Lord Oxford, “talked always kindly to me, and used often to express his concern for my continuing incapable of a place; which I could not make myself capable of without giving a great deal of pain to my parents, such a pain, indeed, as I would not
* Cicero. Tusc. Quæst. 1. i. edit. Ernest,
have given to either of them for all the places he could have bestowed upon me. — Mr. Pope.'
• In the beginning of King George the First's reign, Lord Halifax sent for me of his own accord. He said he had often been concerned that I had never been rewarded as I deserved, that he was very glad that it was now in his power to be of service to me, that a pension should be settled upon me, if I cared to accept it, and that nothing should be demanded of me for it. I thanked his Lordship in general, and seemed to want time to consider of it. I heard nothing farther for some time: and about three months after I wrote to Lord Halifax, to thank him for his obliging offer ; " that I had considered the matter over fully; and that all the difference I could find in having or not having a pension was, that if I had one, I might live more at large in town; and that, if I had not, I might live happily enough in the country.” There was something said too of his love of being quite free, and without any thing that might even look like a bias laid on him. “So the thing (added he) dropped, and I had my liberty without a coach." - The same.
• Craggs afterwards went further than this. He told me, as a real friend, that a pension of 300l. a-year was at my service, and that as he had the management of the secret-service money in his hands, he could pay me such a pension yearly without any one's knowing that I had it. I declined even this : but thanked Mr. Craggs for the heartiness and sincerity of his friendship; told him that I did not like a pension any way; but that since he had so much goodness towards me, if I should want money, I would come to him for a hundred pounds, or even for five hundred, if my wants ran so high. — The same. [I do not find that he ever did go to Mr. Craggs for any thing after all; and have been assured by some of his friends, who knew his private affairs the most intimately, that they think he never did. — Spence.]
• Craggs was so friendly as to press this to me several times; and always used to insist on the convenience that a coach would be of to me, to incline me to accept of his kind offer. It is true, it would have been very convenient; but then I considered that such an addition to my income was very uncertain, and that if I had received it, and kept a coach for some time, it would have made it more inconvenient for me to live without one, whenever that should fail. - Mr. Pope.
• Mr. Pope never fattered any body for money in the whole course of his writings. Alderman Barber had a great inclination to have a stroke in his commendation inserted in some part of Mr. Pope's works. He did not want money, and he wanted fame. He would probably have given four or five thousand pounds to have been gratified in this desire ; and gave Mr. Pope to understand as much. Mr. Pope would not comply with such a baseness; and when the Alderman died he left him only a legacy of a hundred pounds, which might have been some thousands, if he had obliged him only with a couplet.' (Murray's edit. p. 65.)
We can easily believe this of Pope ; and no complacency is more soothing than that with which we contemplate the virtues of the great masters of language and morality. If that testimony requires confirmation, we can find passages in his writings which breathe an independence, and an erect and manly liberality of soul, which no cunning could assume and no hypocrisy simulate. Can any one doubt this who has read the noble lines which he addressed to Lord Oxford after his fall from power ? In that unsuspected moment, his Muse does not shrink from the duties of gratitude and friendship.
The poem embodied in a small compass all that ennobles our nature; all that is calculated to sustain it under unmerited disgrace; all that is proud and unyielding in stoicism; all that is firm and patient in Christian morality; all that is tender in affection, and dignified in affliction. He to whom these verses are not familiar must have formed as imperfect an estimate of Pope, as he who would judge concerning Raffael without having seen his Transfiguration.
" In vain to deserts thy retreat is made,
The Muse attends thee to the silent shade.
Epist. to Lord Oxford, 1721. We meet with a curious anecdote of Wycherley, on the authority of Pope:
• Wycherley used to read himself asleep o’nights, either in Montaigne, Rochefoucault, Seneca, or Gracian; for these were his favourite authors. - He would read one or other of them in the evening, and the next morning, perhaps, write a copy of verses on some subject similar to what he had been reading: and have all the thoughts of his author, only expressed in a different mode, and that without knowing that he was obliged to any one, for a single thought in the whole poem. I have experienced this in him several times, (for I visited him for a whole winter, almost every evening and morning,) and look upon it as one of the strangest phenomena that I ever observed in the human mind.-P.' (Singer's edit. p. 198.)
Another amusing anecdote occurs, of the same person's want of memory :
He lost his memory (forty years before he died) by a fever, and would repeat the same thought, sometimes in the compass of ten lines, and did not dream of its being inserted but just before : when you pointed it out to him, he would say, “ Gads-so, so it is! I thank you very much :— pray blot it out." - He had the same single thoughts (which were very good) come into his head again, that he had used twenty years before. His memory did not carry above a sentence at a time.' (Singer's edit. p. 160.)
Of the meanness of the Duke of Marlborough, we have a remarkable instance:
Inconsistent as the Duke of Marlborough's character may appear to you, yet may it be accounted for, if you gauge his actions by his reigning passion, which was the love of money.
He endeavoured, at the same time, to be well both at Hanover and at St. Germains ; this surprised you a good deal when I first told you of it; but the plain meaning of it was only this, that he wanted to secure the vast riches he had amassed together, whichever should succeed. He was calm in the heat of battle; and when he was so near being taken prisoner (in his first campaign) in Flanders, he was quite unmoved. It is true, he was like to lose his life in the one, and his liberty in the other ; but there was none of his money at stake in either. This mean passion of that great man operated very strongly in him in the very beginning of his life, and continued to the very end of it. One day, as he was looking over some papers in his scrutoire with Lord Cadogan, he opened one of the little drawers, took out a green purse, and turned some broad pieces out of it. After viewing them for some time, with a satisfaction that appeared very visibly on his face ; “ Cadogan, (said he,) observe these pieces well! they deserve to be observed; there are just forty of them : 't is the very first sum I ever got in my life, and I have kept it always unbroken, from that time to this day.” This shows how early, and how strongly, this passion must have been upon him; as another little affair, which happened in his last decline, at Bath, may serve (among many others) to show how miserably it continued to the end. He was playing there with Dean Jones at piquet, for sixpence a game; they played a good while, and the Duke left off when winner of one game. Some time after, he desired the Dean to pay him his sixpence; the Dean said he had no silver; the Duke asked him for it over and over, and at last desired that he would change a guinea to pay it him, because he should want it to pay the chair that carried him home. The Dean, after so much pressing, did at last get change ; paid the Duke his sixpence; observed him a little after leave the room, and declares, that (after all the bustle that had been made for his sixpence) the Duke actually walked home, to save the little expense a chair would have put him to.-P.' (16. p. 162.)