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ternoon, and were represented to the society of the time
by the Spectator, which began in March, 1711, and appear-
ed daily to the end of 1712. Naturally, the young Pope
would be anxious to approach this famous clique, though
his connexions lav, in the first instance, amongst the Jaco-

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bite and Catholic families. Steele, too, would be glad to
welcome so promising a contributor to the Spectator and
its successor, the Guardian.

Pope, we may therefore believe, was heartily delighted
when, some months after Dennis's attack, a notice of his
Essay upon Criticism appeared in the Spectator, December
20, 1711. The reviewer censured some attacks upon con-
temporaries a reference obviously to the lines upon Den-
nis which the author had admitted into his " very fine
poem ;" but there were compliments enough to overbal-
ance this slight reproof. Pope wrote a letter of acknowl-
edgment to Steele, overflowing with the sincerest gratitude
of a young poet on his first recognition by a high author-
ity. Steele, in reply, disclaimed the article, and promised
to introduce Pope to its real author, the great Addison him-
self. It does not seem that the acquaintance thus opened
with the Addisonians ripened very rapidly, or led to any
considerable results. Pope, indeed, is said to have written
some Spectators. He certainly sent to Steele his Messiah,
a sacred eclogue in imitation of Virgil's Pollio. It ap-
peared on May 14, 1 712, and is one of Pope's dexterous
pieces of workmanship, in which phrases from Isaiah are
so strung together as to form a good imitation of the fa-
mous poem which was once supposed to entitle Virgil to
some place among the inspired heralds of Christianity.
Pope sent another letter or two to Steele, which look very
much like intended contributions to the Spectator, and a
short letter about Hadrian's verses to his soul, which ap-


pt-ared in November, 1712. When, in 1713, the Guardian
succeeded the Spectator, Pope was one of Steele's contrib-
utors, and a paper by him upon dedications appeared as
the fourth number. He soon gave a more remarkable
proof of his friendly relations with Addison.

It is probable that no first performance of a play upon
the English stage ever excited so much interest as that of
Addison's Cato. It was not only the work of the first man
of letters of the day, but it had, or was taken to have, a
certain political significance. " The time was come," says
Johnson, " when those who affected to think liberty in
danger, affected likewise to think that a stage-play might
preserve it." Addison, after exhibiting more than the
usual display of reluctance, prepared his play for represen-
tation, and it was undoubtedly taken to be in some sense
a Whig manifesto. It was, therefore, remarkable that he
should have applied to Pope for a prologue, though Pope's
connexions were entirely of the anti-Whiggish kind, and a
passage in Windsor Forestalls, last new poem (it appeared
in March, 1713), indicated pretty plainly a refusal to accept
the AVhior shibboleths. In the Forest he was enthusiastic


for the peace, and sneered at the Revolution. Pope after-
wards declared that Addison had disavowed all party in-
tentions at the time, and he accused him of insincerity for
afterwards taking credit (in a poetical dedication of Cato)
for the services rendered by his play to the cause of liber-
ty. Pope's assertion is worthless in any case where he
could exalt his own character for consistency at another
man's expense, but it is true that both parties were in-
Tinrd to equivocate. It is, indeed, difficult to understand
how, if any " stage-play could preserve liberty," such a play
as C'lto should do the work. The polished declamation is
made up of the platitudes common to Whigs and Tories;


and Bolingbrokc gave the cue to his own party when lie
presented fifty guineas to Cato's representatives for defend-
ing the cause of liberty so well against a perpetual dicta-
tor. The Whigs, said Pope, design a second present when
they can contrive as good a saying. Bolingbroke was, of
course, aiming at Marlborough, and his interpretation was
intrinsically as plausible as any that could have been de-
vised by his antagonists. Each side could adopt Cato as
easily as rival sects can quote the Bible ; and it seems pos-
sible that Addison may have suggested to Pope that noth-
ing in Cato could really offend his principles. Addison,
as Pope also tells us, thought the prologue ambiguous, and
altered "Britons, arise!" to "Britons, attend /" lest the
phrase should be thought to hint at a new revolution.
Addison advised Pope about this time not to be content
with the applause of " half the nation," and perhaps re-
garded him as one who, by the fact of his external position
with regard to parties, would be a more appropriate spon-
sor for the play.

Whatever the intrinsic significance of Cato. circum-

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stances gave it a political colour ; and Pope, in a lively de-
scription of the first triumphant night to his friend Caryll,
says, that as author of the successful and very spirited pro-
logue, he was clapped into a Whig, sorely against his will,
at every two lines. Shortly before, he had spoken in the
warmest terms to the same correspondent of the admira-
ble moral tendency of the work ; and perhaps he had not
realized the full party significance till he became conscious
of the impression produced upon the audience. Not long
afterwards (letter of June 12, 1713) we find him complain-
ing that his connexion with Steele and the Guardian was


giving offence to some honest Jacobites. Had they known
the nature of the connexion, they need hardly have


grudged Steele his contributor. His next proceedings
pos>il>lv suggested the piece of advice which Addison
Li'ave to Lady M. \V. Montagu : " Leave Pope as soon as
you can; he will certainly play you some devilish trick

His first trick was calculated to vex an editor's soul.
Ambrose Philips, as I have said, had published certain pas-
torals in the same volume with Pope's. Philips, though he
seems to have been less rewarded than most of his com-
panions, was certainly accepted as an attached member of
Addison's "little senate;" and that body was not more
free than other mutual admiration societies from the de-
sire to impose its own prejudices upon the public. When
Philips' s Distressed Mother, a close imitation of Racine's
Andromaque, was preparing for the stage, the Spectator
was taken by AVill Honeycomb to a rehearsal (Spectator,
January 31, 1*712), and Sir Roger de Coverley himself at-
tended one of the performances (/6., March 25), and was
profoundly affected by its pathos. The last paper was of
course by Addison, and is a real triumph of art as a most
delicate application of humour to the slightly unworthy
purpose of puffing a friend and disciple. Addison had
again praised Philips's Pastorals in the Sjiecta.tor (October
30, 1712) ; and amongst the early numbers of the Guardian
were a short series of papers upon pastoral poetry, in which
the fortunate Ambrose was again held up as a model,
whilst no notice was taken of Pope's rival performance.
Pope, one may believe, had a contempt for Philips, whose
pastoral inanities, whether better or worse than his own,
had not the excuse of being youthful productions. Phil-
ips has bequeathed to our language the phrase "Namby-
pamby," imposed upon him by Henry Carey (author of
s 'illy in our Alley, and. the clever farce Chrononhotontho-


logos], and years after this he wrote a poem to Miss Pulte-
ney in the nursery, beginning,

" Dimply damsel, sweetly smiling,"

which may sufficiently interpret the meaning of his nick-
name. Pope's irritable vanity was vexed at the liberal
praises bestowed on such a rival, and he revenged himself
by an artifice more ingenious than scrupulous. lie sent
an anonvmous article to Steele for the Guardian. It is a


professed continuation of the previous papers on pastorals,
and is ostensibly intended to remove the appearance of
partiality arising from the omission of Pope's name. In
the first paragraphs the design is sufficiently concealed to
mislead an unwary reader into the belief that Philips is
preferred to Pope; but the irony soon becomes transpar-
ent, and Philips' s antiquated affectation is contrasted with
the polish of Pope, who is said even to " deviate into down-
right poetry." Steele, it is said, was so far mystified as to
ask Pope's permission to publish the criticism. Pope gen-
erously permitted, and, accordingly, Steele printed what he
must soon have discovered to be a shrewd attack upon his
old friend and allv. Some writers have found a difficul-


ty in understanding how Steele could have so blundered.
One might, perhaps, whisper in confidence to the discreet,
that even editors are mortal, and that Steele was conceiva-
bly capable of the enormity of reading papers carelessly.
Philips was furious, and hung up a birch in Button's Cof-
fee-house, declaring that he would apply it to his torment-
or should he ever show his nose in the room. As Philips
was celebrated for skill with the sword, the mode of ven-
geance was certainly unmanly, and stung the soul of his
adversary, always morbidly sensitive to all attacks, and es-
pecially to attacks upon his person. The hatred thus kin-

.vj POPE. [CHAP.

died was never quenched, and breathes in some of Pope's
bitterest lines.

If not a " devilish trick," this little performance was
ciioiiu'li to make Pope's relations to the Addison set de-
cidedly unpleasant. Addison is said (but the story is very
improbable) to have enjoyed the joke. If so, a vexatious
incident must have changed his view of Pope's pleasant-
rics, though Pope professedly appeared as his defender.
Poor old Thersites-Dennis published, during the summer,
a very bitter attack upon Addison's Cato. He said after-
wards though, considering the relations of the men, some
misunderstanding is probable that Pope had indirectly
instigated this attack through the bookseller, Lintot. If
so, Pope must have deliberately contrived the trap for the
unlucky Dennis ; and, at any rate, he fell upon Dennis as
soon as the trap was sprung. Though Dennis \vas a hot-
headed Whig, he had quarrelled with Addison and Steele,
and was probably jealous, as the author of tragedies in-
tended, like Cato, to propagate Whig principles, perhaps
to turn Whig prejudices to account. He writes with the
bitterness of a disappointed and unlucky man, but he
makes some very fair points against his enemy. Pope's
retaliation took the form of an anonymous " Narrative of
the Frenzy of John Dennis." It is written in that style
of coarse personal satire of which Swift was a master, but
for which Pope was very ill fitted. All his neatness of
style seems to desert him when he tries this tone, and
nothing is left but a brutal explosion of contemptuous
hatred. Dennis is described in his garret, pouring forth
insane ravings prompted by his disgust at the success of

Mr. Dilke, it is perhaps right to say, has given some reasons for
doubting Pope's authorship of this squib ; but the authenticity seems
to be established, and Mr. Dilke himself hesitates.


Cato; but not a word is said in reply to Dennis's criti-
cisms. It was plain enough that the author, whoever he
might be, was more anxious to satisfy a grudge against
Dennis than to defend Dennis's victim. It is not much of
a compliment to Addison to say that he had enough good
feeling to scorn such a mode of retaliation, and perspi-
cuity enough to see that it would be little to his credit.
Accordingly, in his majestic way, he caused Steele to write
a note to Lintot (August 4, 1713), disavowing all complic-
itv, and savins: that if even he noticed Mr. Dennis's criti-

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cisms, it should be in such a way as to give Mr. Dennis no
cause of complaint. He added that he had refused to see
the pamphlet when it was offered for his inspection, and
had expressed his disapproval of such a mode of attack.
Nothing could be more becoming; and it does not appear
that Addison knew, when writing this note, that Pope was
the author of the anonymous assault. If, as the biogra-
phers say, Addison's action was not kindly to Pope, it was
bare justice to poor Dennis. Pope undoubtedly must have
been bitterly vexed at the implied rebuff, and not the less
because it was perfectly just. He seems always to have
regarded men of Dennis's type as outside the pale of hu-
manity. Their abuse stung him as keenly as if they had
been entitled to speak with authority, and yet he retorted
it as though they were not entitled to common decency.
He would, to all appearance, have regarded an appeal for
mercy to a Grub-street author much as Dandie Dinmont
regarded Brown's tenderness to a " brock " as a proof of
incredible imbecility, or, rather, of want of proper antipa-
thy to vermin. Dennis, like Philips, was inscribed on the
long list of his hatreds ; and was pursued almost to the
end of his unfortunate life. Pope, it is true, took great
credit to himself for helping his miserable enemy when

54 roI'E. [CHAP.

dying in distress, and wrote a prologue to a play acted for
his lu'uetit. Yet even this prologue is a sneer, and one is
u'lad to think that Dennis was past understanding it. A\V
hardly know whether to pity or to condemn the unfortu-
nate poet, whose unworthy hatreds made him suffer far
worse torments than those which he could inflict upon
their objects.

By this time \ve may suppose that Pope must have been
regarded with anything but favour in the Addison circle ;
and, in fact, he was passing into the opposite camp, and
forming a friendship with Swift and Swift's patrons. No
open rupture followed with Addison for the present ; but
a quarrel was approaching which is, perhaps, the most cele-
brated in our literary history. Unfortunately, the more
closely we look, the more difficult it becomes to give any
definite account of it. The statements upon which ac-
counts have been based have been chiefly those of Pope
himself; and these involve inconsistencies and demonstra-
bly inaccurate statements. Pope was anxious in later life
to show that he had enjoyed the friendship of a man so
generally beloved, and was equally anxious to show that
he had behaved generously and been treated with injus-
tice and, indeed, with downright treachery. And yet, after
reading the various statements made by the original au-
thorities, one begins to doubt whether there was any real
quarrel at all ; or rather, if one may say so, whether it was
not a quarrel upon one side.

It is, indeed, plain that a coolness had sprung up be-
tween Pope and Addison. Considering Pope's offences
against the senate, his ridicule of Philips, his imposition of
that ridicule upon Steele, and his indefensible use of ActTli-
son'> fame as a stalking-horse in the attack upon Dennis,
it is not surprising that he should have been kept at arm's


length. If the rod suspended by Philips at Button's be
authentic (as seems probable), the talk about Pope, in the
^hadow of such an ornament, is easily imaginable. SOUK-
attempts seem to have been made at a reconciliation.
Jervas, Pope's teacher in painting- -a bad artist, but a
kindly man tells Pope on August 20, 1714, of a conver-
sation with Addison. It would have been worth while, he
says, for Pope to have been hidden behind a wainscot or a
half-length picture to have heard it. Addison expressed a
wish for friendly relations, was glad that Pope had not
been "carried too far among the enemy' 1 ' by Swift, and
hoped to be of use to him at Court for Queen Anne died
on August 1st; the wheel had turned; and the Whigs
were once more the distributors of patronage. Pope's an-
swer to Jervas is in the dignified tone; he attributes Addi-


son's coolness to the ill offices of Philips, and is ready to
be on friendly terms whenever Addison recognises his true
character and independence of party. Another letter fol-
lows, as addressed by Pope to Addison himself ; but here,
alas ! if not in the preceding letters, \ve are upon doubtful
ground. In fact, it is impossible to doubt that the letter
has been manipulated after Pope's fashion, if not actually
fabricated. It is so dignified as to be insultino-. It is

O o

like a box on the ear administered by a pedagogue to a re-
pentant but not quite pardoned pupil. Pope has heard
(from Jervas, it is implied) of Addison's profession ; he is
glad to hope that the effect of some " late malevolences "
is disappearing ; he will not believe (that is, he is strongly
inclined to believe) that the author of Cato could mean
one thing and say another ; he will show Addison his first
two books of Homer as a proof of this confidence, and
hopes that it will not be abused ; he challenges Addison

to point out the ill nature in the Essay upon Criticism;


and winds up by making an utterly irrelevant charge (as a
proof, he says, of his own sincerity) of plagiarism against
one of Addison's Spectators. Had such a letter been act-
uallv sent as it now stands, Addison's good nature could
scarcely have held out. As it is, we can only assume that
during 1714 Pope was on such terms with the clique at
Button's, that a quarrel would be a natural result. Ac-
cording to the ordinary account the occasion presented it-
self in the next year.

A translation of the first Iliad by Tickell appeared (in
June, 1715) simultaneously with Pope's first volume. Pope
had no right to complain. No man could be supposed to
have a monopoly in the translation of Homer. Tickell
had the same right to try his hand as Pope; and Pope
fully understood this himself. He described to Spence a
conversation in which Addison told him of TickelFs in-
tended work. Pope replied that Tickell was perfectly jus-
tified. Addison having looked over Tickell's translation
of the first book, said that he would prefer not to see
Pope's, as it might suggest double dealing ; but consented
to read Pope's second book, and praised it warmly. In
all this, by Pope's own showing, Addison seems to have
been scrupulously fair ; and if he and the little senate pre-
ferred Tickell's work on its first appearance, they had a
full right to their opinion, and Pope triumphed easily
enough to pardon them. " He was meditating a criticism
upon Tickell," says Johnson, " when his adversary sank
before him without a blow." Pope's performance was
universally preferred, and even Tickell himself yielded by
anticipation. He said, in a short preface, that he had
abandoned a plan of translating the whole Iliad on finding
tliat a much abler hand had undertaken the work, and that
he only published this specimen to bespeak favour for a


translation of the Odyssey. It was, say Pope's apologist-,
an awkward circumstance that Tickcll should publish at
the same time as Pope, and that is about all that they can
say. It was, we may reply in Stephenson's phrase, very
awkward for Tickcll. In all this, in fact, it seems im-
possible for any reasonable man to discover anything of
which Pope had the slightest ground of complaint; but
his amazingly irritable nature was not to be calmed by
reason. The bare fact that a translation of Homer ap-
peared contemporaneously with his own, and that it came
from one of Addison's court, made him furious. He
brooded over it, suspected some dark conspiracy against
his fame, and gradually mistook his morbid fancies for
solid inference. He thought that Tickell had been put
up by Addison as his rival, and gradually worked himself
into the further belief that Addison himself had actually
written the translation which passed under Tickell's name.
It does not appear, so far as I know, when or how this sus-
picion became current, Some time after Addison's death,
in IT 19, a quarrel took place between Tickell, his literary
executor, and Steele. Tickell seemed to insinuate that
Steele had not sufficiently acknowledged his obligations to


Addison, and Steele, in an angry retort, called Tickell the
" reputed translator " of the first Iliad, and challenged him
to translate another book successfully. The innuendo


shows that Steele, who certainly had some means of know-
ing, was willing to suppose that Tickell had been helped
by Addison. The manuscript of Tickell's work, which has
been preserved, is said to prove this to be an error, and in
any case there is no real ground for supposing that Addi-
son did anything more than he admittedly told Pope, that
is, read Tickell's manuscript and suggest corrections.

To argue seriously about other so-called proofs would


be waste of time. They prove nothing except Pope's ex-
treme anxiety to justify his wild hypothesis of a dark con-
spiracy. Pope was jealous, spiteful, and credulous. He
was driven to fury by TickelTs publication, which had the
appearance of a competition. But angry as he was, he
could find no real cause of complaint, except by imagining
a fictitious conspiracy ; and this complaint was never pub-
licly uttered till long after Addison's death. Addison
knew, no doubt, of Pope's wrath, but probably cared little
for it, except to keep himself clear of so dangerous a com-
panion, lie seems to have remained on terms of civility
with his antagonist, and no one would have been more sur-

O 7

prised than he to hear of the quarrel, upon which so much
controversy has been expended.

The whole affair, so far as Addison's character is con-
cerned, thus appears to be a gigantic mare's nest. There
is no proof, or even the slightest presumption, that Addi-
son or Addison's friends ever injured Pope, though it is
clear that they did not love him. It would have been
marvellous if they had. Pope's suspicions are a proof
that in this case he was almost subject to the illusion
characteristic of actual insanitv. The belief that a man is


persecuted by hidden conspirators is one of the common
symptoms in such cases ; and Pope w r ould seem to have
been almost in the initial stage of mental disease. His
madness, indeed, was not such as would lead us to call him
morally irresponsible, nor was it the kind of madness
which is to be found in a good many people who well de-
serve criminal prosecution ; but it was a state of mind so
morbid as to justify some compassion for the unhappy

One result besides the illustration of Pope's character
remains to be noticed. According to Pope's assertion it


was a communication from Lord Warwick which led him
to write his celebrated copy of verses upon Addison. War-
wick (afterwards Addison's "step-son) accused Addison of
paying' Gildon for a gross libel upon Pope. Pope wrote
to Addison, he says, the next day. He said in this letter
that he knew of Addison's behaviour and that, unwill-
ing- to take a revenge of the same kind, he would rather
tell Addison fairly of his faults in plain words. If he
had to take such a step, it would be in some such way
as followed, and he subjoined the first sketch of the fa-
mous lines. Addison, says Pope, used him very civilly
ever afterwards. Indeed, if the account be true, Addison
showed his Christian spirit by paying a compliment in
one of his Freeholders (May 17, 1716) to Pope's Homer.
Macaulay, taking the story for granted, praises Addi-
son's magnanimity, which, I must confess, I should be

*_* / '

hardly Christian enough to admire. It was, however, as-
serted at the time that Pope had not written the verses
which have made the quarrel memorable till after Addi-
son's death. They were not published till 1723, and are
not mentioned by any independent authority till 1722,
though Pope afterwards appealed to Burlington as a
witness to their earlier composition. The fact seems to
be confirmed by the evidence of Lady M. W. Montagu,
but it does not follow that Addison ever saw the verses.
He knew that Pope disliked him ; but he probably did
not suspect the extent of the hostility. Pope himself ap-
pears not to have devised the worst part of the story
that of Addison having used Tickell's name till some
years later. Addison was sufficiently magnanimous in
praising his spiteful little antagonist as it was ; he little
knew how deeply that antagonist would seek to injure his

Online LibraryJohn MorleyEnglish men of letters (Volume 3) → online text (page 19 of 44)