Abbildungen der Seite

of Chapman, Hobbes, and Ogylby'. With Chapman, whose work, though now totally neglected 2, seems to have been popular almost to the end of the last century, he had very frequent consultations, and perhaps never translated any passage till he had read his version, which indeed he has been sometimes suspected of using instead of the original3.


Notes were likewise to be provided; for the six volumes would 86 have been very little more than six pamphlets without them. What the mere perusal of the text could suggest, Pope wanted no assistance to collect or methodize; but more was necessary; many pages were to be filled, and learning must supply materials to wit and judgement. Something might be gathered from Dacier; but no man loves to be indebted to his contemporaries, and Dacier was accessible to common readers. Eustathius was therefore necessarily consulted. To read Eustathius, of whose work there was then no Latin version, I suspect Pope, if he had been willing, not to have been able 5; some other was therefore to

our common cause.' POPE, Postscript to the Odyssey, Warton, iv. 429. See also Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), x. 145.

''Hobbes's poetry,' wrote Pope, 'as well as Ogilby's, is too mean for criticism.' Warton, iv. 403. In accounting for 'deviations from the Greek' Pope said: 'I was led into the greater part by Chapman and Hobbes.' Post, POPE, 383. See also Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 12. For Ogilby see ante, POPE, 6.

* Ante, DRYDEN, 207, 344; post, POPE, 85.3. Chapman's expression is involved in fustian. . . . His translation is something like what one might imagine Homer himself would have writ before he arrived at years of discretion.' POPE, Warton, iv. 402.

Matthew Arnold says of the latter part of this criticism:-'The remark is excellent: Homer expresses himself like a man of adult reason, Chapman like a man whose reason has not yet cleared itself.' Translating Homer, 1896, p. 26.


About thirty-five years after the publication of The Lives of the Poets Keats wrote his fine sonnet On First Looking into Chapman's Homer.

[blocks in formation]


'I happened to say that a pamphlet meant a prose piece. JOHNSON. No, Sir, a few sheets of poetry unbound are a pamphlet as much as a few sheets of prose.' Boswell's Johnson, iii. 319. Dr. Franklin (Memoirs, 1818, iii. 178) mentions 'the artifices made use of to puff up a paper of verses into a pamphlet.' See post, POPE, 353.

5 Broome wrote to Fenton in 1728: -All the crime that I have committed is saying he is no master of Greek; and I am so confident of this, that if he can translate ten lines of Eustathius I will own myself unjust.'



be found, who had leisure as well as abilities, and he was doubtless most readily employed who would do much work for little money.


The history of the notes has never been traced. Broome, in his preface to his poems, declares himself the commentator 1 'in part upon the Iliad'; and it appears from Fenton's letter, preserved in the Museum2, that Broome was at first engaged in consulting Eustathius 3; but that after a time, whatever was the reason, he desisted: another man of Cambridge was then employed, who soon grew weary of the work; and a third, that was recommended by Thirlby, is now discovered to have been Jortin, a man since well known to the learned world, who complained that Pope, having accepted and approved his performance, never testified any curiosity to see him 5, and who professed to have forgotten the terms on which he worked. The terms which Fenton uses are very mercantile: 'I think at first sight that his performance is very commendable, and have sent word for him to finish the 17th book, and to send it with his demands for his trouble. I have here enclosed the specimen; if the rest come before the return, I will keep them till I receive your orders.'

Broome then offered his service a second time', which was probably accepted, as they had afterwards a closer correspondence. Parnell contributed the Life of Homer, which Pope

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

found so harsh, that he took great pains in correcting it'; and by his own diligence, with such help as kindness or money could procure him, in somewhat more than five years he completed his version of the Iliad, with the notes. He began it in 1712, his twenty-fifth year, and concluded it in 1718, his thirtieth year 2.

When we find him translating fifty lines a day, it is natural to 89 suppose that he would have brought his work to a more speedy conclusion. The Iliad, containing less than sixteen thousand verses, might have been despatched in less than three hundred and twenty days by fifty verses in a day3. The notes, compiled with the assistance of his mercenaries, could not be supposed to require more time than the text. According to this calculation, the progress of Pope may seem to have been slow; but the distance is commonly very great between actual performances and speculative possibility. It is natural to suppose, that as much as has been done to-day may be done to-morrow; but on the morrow some difficulty emerges, or some external impediment obstructs. Indolence, interruption, business, and pleasure, all take their turns of retardation; and every long work is lengthened by a thousand causes that can, and ten thousand that cannot, be recounted. Perhaps no extensive and multifarious performance was ever effected within the term originally fixed in the undertaker's mind. He that runs against Time, has an antagonist not subject to casualties *.

Pope said of the Life:-'It is still stiff, and was written much stiffer. As it is, I think verily it cost me more pains in the correcting than the writing of it would have done.' Spence's Anec. p. 138. Writing to Parnell in 1716, about a treatise by Parnell, he says:-'I question not the prose is as excellent in its sort as the Essay on Homer.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. 460. See also ante, PARNELL, 5.

2 'I began translating the Iliad in my twenty-fifth year (1712), and it took up that and five years more to finish it.' POPE, Spence's Anec. p. 177. The Proposals were issued in Oct. 1713; vol. i was published in 1715; vols. v and vi in May, 1720. Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), v. 148, 168, 169. An inscription on a pane of glass at Stanton Harcourt


[near Oxford] recorded that, "In the year 1718 Alexander Pope finished here the fifth volume of Homer." Ib. vi. 265.


Ante, POPE, 81. 'This subtle thief of life, this paltry time,

What will it leave me, if it snatch my rhyme?

If ev'ry wheel of that unwearied mill That turned ten thousand verses now stands still.'

Imit. Hor., Epis. ii. 2. 76. 'Cowper's translation [of Homer] was performed by piece-work; he set himself forty lines for his daily task.' Southey's Cowper, ii. 189.

* Gibbon wrote in 1786:-'I had some hopes of completing it [The Decline and Fall] this year, but let no man who builds a house or writes a book presume to say when he will

90 The encouragement given to this translation, though report seems to have over-rated it, was such as the world has not often seen1. The subscribers were five hundred and seventy-five. The copies for which subscriptions were given were six hundred and fifty-four; and only six hundred and sixty were printed. For those copies Pope had nothing to pay; he therefore received, including the two hundred pounds a volume, five thousand three hundred and twenty pounds four shillings, without deduction, as the books were supplied by Lintot 2.

91 By the success of his subscription Pope was relieved from those pecuniary distresses with which, notwithstanding his popularity, he had hitherto struggled3. Lord Oxford had often lamented his disqualification for publick employment, but never proposed a pension. While the translation of Homer was in its progress, Mr. Craggs, then secretary of state, offered to procure him a pension, which, at least during his ministry, might be enjoyed with secrecy 5. This was not accepted by Pope, who told him, however, that, if he should be pressed with want of money, he would send to him for occasional supplies. Craggs was not long in power, and was never solicited for money by Pope, who disdained to beg what he did not want .


With the product of this subscription, which he had too much discretion to squander7, he secured his future life from want, by considerable annuities. The estate of the Duke of Buckingham was found to have been charged with five hundred pounds a year,

have finished.' Gibbon's Corres. 1896, ii. 143.

See Boswell's Johnson, i. 186, 291, 319, for Johnson's long delay with his Dictionary and Shakespeare.

Robertson was offered 3,000 guineas for his Charles V. Boswell's Johnson, ii. 63 n. Hawkesworth received £6,000 for editing Cook's Voyages. Ib.ii.247 n. Dryden, in 1699, contracted to write 10,000 verses for 250 guineas. Ante, DRYDEN, 184.

2 In the proof-sheets the numbers
in this paragraph, which had been
left blank, are filled in by another
hand than Johnson's.

3But thanks to Homer, since I live
and thrive,

Indebted to no prince or peer

POPE, Imit. Hor., Epis. ii. 2. 68.


Ante, POPE, 71 n. 2,75. Pope says of himself in The Dunciad:-'All he owed, in the whole course of his life, to any Court was a subscription for his Homer of £200 from King George I, and 100 from the Prince and Princess.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), iv. 74.

5 He told Mr. Pope that £300 a year were then at his service: he had the management of the secret-service money, and could pay him such a pension without its being known, or even coming to account.' Warburton, iv. 69. See also Spence's Anec. p. 307. For Craggs see ante, ADDISON, 103; post, POPE, 123 n., 404. Spence's Anec. p. 307.


? He ventured some of his money in South Sea stocks. Post, POPE, 123.

payable to Pope, which doubtless his translation enabled him to purchase'.

It cannot be unwelcome to literary curiosity, that I deduce 93 thus minutely the history of the English Iliad. It is certainly the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen 2; and its publication must therefore be considered as one of the great events in the annals of learning.

To those who have skill to estimate the excellence and difficulty 94 of this great work, it must be very desirable to know how it was performed, and by what gradations it advanced to correctness. Of such an intellectual process the knowledge has very rarely been attainable; but happily there remains the original copy of the Iliad, which, being obtained by Bolingbroke as a curiosity, descended from him to Mallet 3, and is now by the solicitation of the late Dr. Maty reposited in the Museum.

Between this manuscript, which is written upon accidental 95 fragments of paper, and the printed edition, there must have been an intermediate copy, that was perhaps destroyed as it returned from the press3.


Hawkins, who had been an attorney, mentions 'an annuity of £200 a year, which Pope had purchased either of the last Duke of Buckingham, or the Duchess, his mother, and which was charged on some estate of that family, The deed by which it was granted was some years in my custody.' Johnson's Works, 1787, iv. 95. See ante, SHEFFIELD, 21 n. 2.


Johnson at first wrote 'probably,' not certainly.' Boswell's Johnson, iv. 52. 'I mentioned the vulgar saying that Pope's Homer was not a good representation of the original. JOHNSON. Sir, it is the greatest work of the kind that has ever been produced.' Ib. iii. 256.

Pope called Dryden's Virgil 'the most noble and spirited translation that I know in any language.' Ante, DRYDEN, 306. See also DRYDEN,151.

'When Gray heard Pope's Iliad criticized as wanting the simplicity of the original, he always said :"There would never be another translation of the same poem equal to it." Mitford's Gray, v. 37.

'It is the most splendid poetical

version that any language has produced.' GIBBON, Misc. Works, v. 583. See also his Memoirs, p. 38.

It has done more than any, or all other books towards the corruption of our poetry.' SOUTHEY, Corres. 1881, p. 224. See also Southey's Cowper, ii. 141.

Coleridge, after describing the translation of the Iliad as 'that astonishing product of matchless talent and ingenuity,' adds that it is 'the main source of our pseudo-poetic diction.' Biog. Lit. 1847, i. 17, 39.

Pattison excludes it from the selection which will probably form the Pope's Works of future generations.' Essays, ii. 360. See also post, POPE, 285 n. 2, 349.

Pope bequeathed his papers to Bolingbroke, who, in his turn, bequeathed his own to Mallet. Post, POPE, 249; MALLET, 18.

Maty was Second Librarian in the British Museum. Gibbon's Memoirs, p. 124 n. See also Boswell's Johnson, i. 284.

5 The copy sent to the press was made by Thomas Dancastle, of Bin

« ZurückWeiter »