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of the various judgments of the most distinguished critical writers
concerning the ‘Essais,’ and also two more letters of Montaigne’s at the
end. These additions render this Paris edition the most complete. The
ex-senator Vernier published in 1810, ‘Notices et Observations pour
faciliter la Lecture des Essais de Montaigne,’ Paris, 2 vols. 8vo. It is
a useful commentary.




[Illustration]

POPE.


Alexander Pope was born in London, June S, 1688. His father was a
merchant, of good family, attached to the Roman Catholic religion; and
his own childish years were spent, first under the tuition of a priest,
then at a Roman Catholic Seminary at Twyford, near Winchester. He taught
himself to write by copying printed books, in the execution of which he
attained great neatness and exactness. When little more than eight years
old he accidentally met with Ogilby’s Translation of Homer. The
versification is insipid and lifeless; but the stirring events and
captivating character of the story so possessed his mind, that Ogilby
became a favourite book. When about ten years old he was removed from
Twyford to a school at Hyde Park Corner. He had there occasional
opportunities of frequenting the theatre; which suggested to him the
amusement of turning the chief events in Homer into a kind of play,
composed of a succession of speeches from Ogilby, strung together by
verses of his own. In these two schools he seems, instead of advancing,
to have lost what he had gained under his first tutor. When twelve years
old he went to live with his parents at Binfield, in Windsor Forest. He
there became acquainted with the writings of Spenser, Waller, and
Dryden. For the latter he conceived the greatest admiration. He saw him
once, and commemorates the event in his correspondence, under the words
“Virgilium tantum vidi:” but he was too young to have made acquaintance
with that master of English verse, who died in 1701. He studied Dryden’s
works with equal attention and pleasure, adopted them as a model of
rhythm, and copied the structure of that author’s periods. This was,
however, so far from a grovelling imitation, that it enabled him to
raise English rhyme to the most perfect melody of which it is capable.

[Illustration:

_Engraved by J. Posselwhite._

POPE.

_From the Picture by Hudson in the possession of His Grace the Duke of
Buckingham._

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful
Knowledge.

_London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street._
]

In the retirement of Binfield, Pope laboured successfully to make amends
for the loss of past time. At fourteen years of age he had written with
some elegance, and at fifteen had attained some knowledge of the Greek
and Latin languages, to which he soon added French and Italian. In 1704
he began his pastorals, published in 1709, which introduced him, through
Wycherley, to the acquaintance of Walsh, who proved a sincere friend to
him. That gentleman discovered at once that Pope’s talent lay less in
striking out new thoughts of his own, than in easy versification, and in
improving what he borrowed from the ancients. Among other useful hints,
he pointed out that we had several great poets, but that none of them
were correct; he therefore admonished him to make that merit his own.
The advice was gratefully received; and Pope’s correspondence shows that
it was carefully followed. His melodious numbers, so marked a feature of
his style, were in a great measure the result of that suggestion.

In the same year, 1704, he wrote the first part of his ‘Windsor Forest’:
the whole was not published till 1713. The fault charged on this poem
is, that few images are introduced which are not equally applicable to
any other sylvan scenery. It was dedicated to Lord Lansdowne, whom he
mentions as one of his earliest acquaintance. To those already named,
may be added Bolingbroke, Congreve, Garth, Swift, Atterbury, Talbot,
Somers, and Sheffield, whose friendship he had gained at sixteen or
seventeen years of age. Pope, to his credit be it set down, cultivated
friendships not only with the great, but with his brethren among the
poets. Wycherley indeed was infected with the weakness of the archbishop
in ‘Gil Blas,’ touching his own compositions, and the young poet was
imprudently caustic in his criticism on the old one. Their
correspondence was consequently dropped; and though renewed through the
mediation of a common friend, it was with no revival of cordiality. But
in 1728, some time after Wycherley’s death, his poems were republished;
and in the following year Pope printed several letters which had passed
between them, in vindication of Wycherley’s fame as a poet, in answer to
certain misrepresentations prefixed to that edition. This quarrel was a
trying affair in the outset of Pope’s career, and his conduct had been
above his years; but young as he was, his talents were now beginning to
ripen. His example confirms the truth of Lord Bacon’s remark, that
personal deformity acts as a spur to that improvement of the mind, which
is most likely to rescue him who is curtailed of his due proportion from
a sense of degradation.

To this early period of Pope’s life belong the ‘Messiah,’ the ‘Ode for
St. Cecilia’s Day,’ ‘Verses to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady,’ and
other of Pope’s minor pieces, which were collected and published in a
small 8vo. volume in 1720. It is stated in a note to Dr. Johnson’s Life,
that Pope himself was the object of the passion commemorated in the
last-mentioned poem. The date of that most brilliant composition,
‘Eloisa to Abelard,’ is uncertain. The ‘Essay on Criticism’ was written
in 1709, “A work,” says Johnson, “which displays such extent of
comprehension, such nicety of distinction, such acquaintance with
mankind, and such knowledge both of ancient and modern learning, as are
not often attained by the maturest age and longest experience.” Pope’s
fame was carried to its height by the ‘Rape of the Lock.’ That poem
originated in an impertinence offered by Lord Petre to Mrs. Arabella
Fermor, which led to a quarrel between their respective families. Both
parties were among Pope’s acquaintance, and this lively piece was
written to produce a reconciliation, in which it succeeded. The
universal applause given to the first sketch induced the author to
enrich it with the machinery of the Sylphs. In that new dress the two
cantos, extended to five, came out in 1712, accompanied by a letter to
Mrs. Arabella Fermor, to whom he afterwards addressed another after her
marriage, in the spruce and courtly style of Voiture. A sentence or two
may be quoted as a sample of the poet’s epistolary manner. “Madam, you
are sensible, by this time, how much the tenderness of one man of merit
is to be preferred to the addresses of a thousand; and by this time, the
gentleman you have made choice of is sensible how great is the joy of
having all those charms and good qualities which have pleased so many,
now applied to please one only.... It may be expected, perhaps, that one
who has the title of being a wit should say something more polite upon
this occasion; but I am really more a well-wisher to your felicity, than
a celebrator of your beauty.... I hope you will think it but just that a
man, who will certainly be spoken of as your admirer after he is dead,
may have the happiness, while he is living, to be esteemed, Yours, &c.”
This letter is sometimes annexed to the poem, and not injudiciously, as
it completes the winding-up in the happy marriage of the heroine. In the
same year he published his ‘Temple of Fame,’ which, according to his
habitual caution, he had kept two years in his study. It appears from
one of his letters, that at that time he had made some progress in
translating the Iliad: in 1713, he circulated proposals for publishing
his translation by subscription. He had been pressed to this undertaking
some time before by several of his friends, and was now encouraged in
the design by others. The publication of the first four books, in 1715,
gave general satisfaction; and so materially improved the author’s
finances, that he resolved to come nearer to his friends in the capital.
With that view, the small estate at Binfield was sold, and he purchased
a house at Twickenham, whither he removed with his father and mother
before the end of the year 1715. While employed in the decoration of his
seat, he could not forbear doubling his pleasures by boasting of it in
his communications with his friends. In a letter to Mr. Blount he says,
in his customary tone of gallantry, “The young ladies may be assured
that I make nothing new in my gardens, without wishing to see them print
their fairy steps in every corner of them.... You’ll think I have been
very poetical in this description, but it is pretty nearly the truth.”
This letter was written in 1725. Warburton tells us that the improvement
of his celebrated grotto was the favourite amusement of his declining
years: not long before his death, by enlarging and ornamenting it with
ores and minerals of the richest and rarest kind, he had made it a most
elegant and romantic retirement. But modern taste will scarcely confirm
the reverend editor’s assertion, that “the beauty of his poetic genius,
in the disposition and ornaments of those romantic materials, appeared
to as much advantage as in any of his best-contrived poems.”

Pope’s father survived his removal to Twickenham only two years. The old
gentleman had sometimes recommended to his son the study of medicine, as
the best method of increasing his scanty patrimony. Neglect of pecuniary
considerations was not among Pope’s weaknesses: he did not indeed engage
in the medical profession; but he took other opportunities of pushing
his fortune. With this view, he published an edition of his collected
poems in 1717; a proceeding as much suggested by profit as by fame. In
the like disposition, he undertook a new edition of Shakspeare, which
was published in 1721. The execution of it proved the editor’s unfitness
for the task which he had undertaken. Immediately after the completion
of the Iliad, in 1720, Pope engaged, for a considerable sum, to
undertake the Odyssey. Only twelve books, however, of the translation
proceeded from his own pen: the rest were done by Broome and Fenton
under his direction. The work was completed in 1725. The following year
was employed, in concert with Swift and Arbuthnot, in the publication of
miscellanies, of which the most remarkable is the celebrated ‘History of
Martinus Scriblerus.’ About this time, as he was returning home one day
in Lord Bolingbroke’s chariot, it was overturned on Chase Bridge, near
Twickenham, and thrown with the horses into the river. The glasses being
up, Pope was nearly drowned, and was extricated with difficulty from his
hazardous situation. He lost the use of two fingers, in consequence of a
severe cut from the broken glass.

Having secured an independent fortune, Pope endeavoured to protect his
literary fame from all future attacks, by browbeating every one into
silence: this he hoped to accomplish by the poem of the ‘Dunciad,’ which
came out in 4to. in the year 1727. He somewhere says, that the life of
an author is a state of warfare: he now showed himself a master in
literary tactics, a great captain in offensive as well as defensive war.
The poem made its first appearance in Ireland, cautiously, as a masked
battery; nor was the triumph completed without the co-operation of an
Eugene with this satirical Marlborough in the person of Swift, who
furnished some of the materials in his own masterly style of sarcasm.
The improved edition was printed in London in 1728. Sir Robert Walpole
presented it to the King and Queen, and, probably at the same time,
offered to procure the author a pension; but Pope refused this, as he
had before, in 1714, rejected a similar proposal from Lord Halifax. In a
letter to Swift, written about this time, he expresses his feelings
thus: “I was once before displeased at you for complaining to Mr. —— of
my not having a pension; I am so again at your naming it to a certain
lord.” In 1710, Mr. Craggs had given him a subscription for one hundred
pounds in the South Sea Fund; but he made no use of it. These favours
must be understood to have been proffered for the purpose of estranging
him from his personal friends; and this repeated rejection of them is an
honourable proof of steadiness to his attachments.

In 1729, the poet, by Lord Bolingbroke’s advice, turned his pen to moral
subjects; and, with the assistance of his friend, set to work upon the
‘Essay on Man.’ Bolingbroke writes thus to Swift: “Bid Pope talk to you
of the work he is about, I hope in good earnest; it is a fine one, and
will be, in his hands, an original.” Pope tells the dean, in his next
letter, what this work was. “The work Lord Bolingbroke speaks of with
such abundant partiality, is a system of ethics, in the Horatian way.”
In another letter, written probably at the beginning of the following
year, we trace the general aim which he at all events wished the public
to attribute to this work. “I am just now writing, or rather planning, a
book to bring mankind to look upon this life with comfort and pleasure,
and put morality in good humour.” This subject was well suited to his
genius. He found the performance more easy than he had expected, and
employed his leisure by following up the design in his Ethic Epistles,
which came out separately in the course of the two following years. The
fourth, addressed to the Earl of Burlington, did no good to the author’s
character, in consequence of the violent attack supposed to be made on
the Duke of Chandos, a beneficent and esteemed nobleman, under the name
of Timon. Pope loudly asserted that in drawing Timon’s character he had
not the Duke in view: but his denials have not obtained credence; and he
has thus incurred the charge of equivocation and falsehood, without
exculpating himself from that of ingratitude and wanton insolence. The
vexation caused by this business was somewhat softened by the rapid and
lucrative sale of the epistle, which very soon went through the press a
third time. In a letter to Lord Bolingbroke he says, “Certainly the
writer deserved more candour, even in those who knew him not, than to
promote a report, which, in regard to that noble person, was
impertinent; in regard to me, villainous. I have taken an opportunity of
the third edition, to declare his belief not only of my innocence, but
of their malignity; of the former of which my heart is as conscious as I
fear some of theirs must be of the latter. His humanity feels a concern
for the injury done to me, while his greatness of mind can bear with
indifference the insult offered to himself.” He concludes with a threat
of using real instead of fictitious names in his future works. How far
he carried that menace into effect will presently be seen. The
complaints made against the epistle in question by secret enemies
provoked him to write satire, in which he ventured to attack the
characters of some persons in high life: the affront was of course
resented, and he retaliated by renewing his invective against them, both
in prose and verse. In the imitation of the first satire of the second
book of Horace, he had described Lord Hervey and Lady Mary Wortley
Montague so characteristically, under the names of Lord Fanny and
Sappho, that those noble personages, besides fighting the aggressor with
his own weapons, used their interests to his injury, not only among the
nobility, but with the King and Queen. Pope remonstrated most strongly
against this last mode of revenge. He continued writing satires till the
year 1739, when he entertained some thoughts of undertaking an epic poem
on the pretended colonization of our island by the Trojan Brute. A
sketch of this project, which he never carried into effect, is given in
Ruffhead’s ‘Life of Pope,’ p. 410.

Pope was an elaborate letter-writer; and many of his familiar epistles
found their way into the world without his privity. Under the plea of
self-defence he published a correct and genuine collection of them in
1737. About this time the weak state of his health drew him frequently
to Bath. Mr. Allen, a resident in the neighbourhood, having been pleased
with the letters, took occasion to form an acquaintance with the author,
which soon ripened into friendship. Hence arose Pope’s intimacy with
Warburton, who tells us that, before they knew each other, he had
written his ‘Commentary on the Art of Criticism, and on the Essay on
Man.’ One complaint against that essay had rested on its obscurity, of
which the author had previously been warned by Swift. But this was
comparatively a slight objection: the philosophic poet was charged with
having insidiously laid down a scheme of deism. A French translation, by
the Abbé Resnil, appeared at Paris in 1738, on which a German professor,
by name Crousaz, animadverted, as a system of ethics embodying the
doctrine of fatalism. Pope thus acknowledges his obligation to Warburton
for his defence: “You have made my system as clear as I ought to have
done, and could not; you understand me as well as I do myself, but you
express me better than I express myself.” The ‘Essay on Man’ was
republished with the Commentary annexed in 1740; and at the instance of
Warburton, a fourth book was added to the ‘Dunciad,’ and printed
separately in 1742.

In the course of the following year the whole poem of the ‘Dunciad’ was
published together, as a specimen of a more correct edition of Pope’s
works, which the author had then resolved to give to the world; but he
did not live to complete it. He had through life been subject to an
habitual headache inherited from his mother, and this was now greatly
increased, with the addition of dropsical symptoms. He died on the 30th
of May, 1744, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. Pursuant to his own
request, his body was laid in the same vault with those of his parents,
to whose memory he had erected a monument, with an inscription written
by himself, immediately on their respective deaths. To this, in
conformity with his will, the simple words, “Et sibi,” with the date of
his death, were added. He bequeathed to Warburton the property of such
of his works already printed as he had written, or should write,
commentaries upon, provided they had not been otherwise disposed of or
alienated; with this condition, that they were to be published without
future alterations. After he had made his will, he wrote a letter to
this legatee, announcing his legacy, and saying, “I own the late
encroachments upon my constitution make me willing to see the end of all
further care about me, or my works. I would rest for the one in a full
resignation of my being to be disposed of by the Father of all mercy;
and for the other (though indeed a trifle, yet a trifle may be some
example), I would commit them to the candour of a sensible and
reflecting judge, rather than to the malice of every shortsighted and
malevolent critic, or inadvertent and censorious reader. And no hand can
set them in so good a light, or so well can turn their best side to the
day, as your own.” In discharge of his trust, Warburton put forth a
complete edition of all Pope’s works in 1751; and, according to his own
persuasion, executed it conformably to the presumed wishes of the
author. In point of elegance, allowing for the state of typography at
the time, no objection could be made, nor could the poet’s orders have
been more faithfully obeyed, in forming the various pieces into a
collection. But some of Warburton’s remarks are in a less friendly tone
than might have been expected; and if not absolutely injurious to his
memory, are such as leave Pope’s moral character in a measure open to
attack. Many circumstances are related in the large biographies of Pope,
which our inclination would as little allow us as our limits to detail.
Some of them would not compensate in desirable information for the
tediousness of the narrative: others relate to defunct controversies. To
the latter of these classes may be referred Pope’s quarrel with Colley
Cibber, which loaded the press with vulgar indecency on both sides;
also, Bolingbroke’s charge of treachery brought against Pope in an
advertisement prefixed to a tract published by his lordship in 1749,
five years after the accused could no longer answer his accuser.

We shall not devote any part of our confined space to an examination of
the faults and weaknesses of this eminent man: they have been fully
dwelt on in works of easy access. Some apology for many of them may be
found in his bodily infirmities, deformed frame, and extreme debility of
constitution. Pope’s person, character, and writings are treated of at
large by Dr. Warton, in his ‘Essay.’ Ruffhead’s ‘Life of Pope’ contains
much curious and entertaining matter. Dr. Johnson’s examination of
Pope’s works is among the most elaborate and best pieces of criticism in
his ‘Lives of the Poets.’ We cannot better conclude than with his
description of Pope’s appearance, and summing up of his poetical
character. “The person of Pope is well known not to have been formed by
the nicest model. He has, in his account of the ‘Little Club,’ compared
himself to a spider, and by another is described as protuberant before
and behind. He is said to have been beautiful in his infancy: but he was
of a constitution originally feeble and weak; and, as bodies of a tender
frame are easily distorted, his deformity was probably in part the
effect of his application. His stature was so low, that, to bring him to
a level with common tables, it was necessary to raise his seat. But his
face was not displeasing, and his eyes animated and vivid....” “It is
surely superfluous to answer the question that has once been asked,
whether Pope was a poet, otherwise than by asking, in return, if Pope be
not a poet, where is poetry to be found? To circumscribe poetry by a
definition will only show the narrowness of the definer, though a
definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look
round upon the present time, and back upon the past; let us inquire to
whom the voice of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry; let their
productions be examined, and their claims stated, and the pretensions of
Pope will be no more disputed. Had he given the world only his version,
the name of poet must have been allowed him: if the writer of the Iliad
were to class his successors, he would assign a very high place to his
translator, without requiring any other evidence of genius.” With
respect to the translation of the Iliad, it is fair to give Pope the
benefit of Dr. Johnson’s praise. But we are justified by the consentient
voice of almost all scholars, in condemning it as an unfaithful and
meretricious version, composed in a spirit totally different from that
of Homer, and bearing no resemblance to his manner.

Our engraving is from a copy of the original picture by Hudson, made by
T. Uwins, A.R.A.

[Illustration: [Entrance to Pope’s Grotto.]]

[Illustration:

_Engraved by W. Holl._

BOLIVAR.

_From an Engraving by Mr. H. Ponte._

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful
Knowledge.

_London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street._
]




[Illustration]

BOLIVAR.


The history of Bolivar is that of the revolutions in Columbia and Peru.
Nothing remarkable is related of his early life; and with respect to his
personal merits as a soldier and statesman, he has shared the common lot
of eminent men, in being extravagantly praised and violently censured.
He has been compared to Cæsar and Napoleon on the one hand; and he has
been accused of frivolity, incompetency, and even cowardice, on the
other. The time for forming a dispassionate opinion of his character is
not yet arrived. We shall, therefore, confine ourselves to a short
sketch of the establishment of independence on the Spanish Main, so far
as Bolivar was concerned in it; premising that we merely follow the
course of history in giving him the credit of those measures which were
carried into execution under his authority and ostensible guidance.

Simon Bolivar was born in the city of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela,
on the 24th or 25th of July, 1783. In early childhood he lost both his


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Online LibraryAnonymousThe Gallery of Portraits: with Memoirs. Vol 5 (of 7) → online text (page 18 of 21)