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science with a traveller passing the Alps, which is perhaps the best fimile in our language; that in which the most exact resemblance is traced between things in appearance utterly unrelated to each other. That the last line conveys no new idea, is not true; it makes particular what was before general. Whether the description which he adds from another author be, as he says, more full and striking than that of Pope, is not to be inquired. Pope's description is relative, and can admit no greater length than is usually allowed to a simile, nor any other particulars than such as form the correspondence.
Unvaried rhymes, says this writer, highly disgust readers of a good ear. It is surely not the ear but the mind that is offended. The fault arising from the use of common rhymes is, that by reading the past line the second
may be guessed, and half the composition loses the grace of novelty.
. On occasion of the mention of an alexandrine, the critic observes, that “the alexandrine may be thought a modern measure, but that Robert of Gloucester's wife is an alexandrine, with the addition of two syllables ; and that Sternhold and Hopkins translated the psalms in the fame measure of fourteen syllables, though they are printed otherwise.”
This seems not to be accurately conceived or expreffed : an alexandrine with the addition of two syllables, is no more an alexandrine than with the detraction of two syllables. Sternhold ard Hopkins did generally write in the alternate measure of eight and six syllables; but Hopkins commonly rhymed the first and third, Sternhold only the second and fourth : so that Sternhold may be considered as writing couplets of A 2 2
long long lines; but Hopkins wrote regular stanzas. Froni the practice of printing the long lines of fourteen fyllables in two short lines, arose the licence of some of our poets, who, though professing to write in stanzas, neglected the rhymes of the first and third lines.
Pope has mentioned Petronius among the great names of criticism, as the remarker justly observes without any critical merit. It is to be suspected that Pope had never read his book, and mentioned him on the credit of two or three sentences which he had often seen quoted, imagining that where there was so much there must necessarily be more. Young men in hafte to be renowned, too frequently talk of books which they have scarcely seen. The revival of learning mentioned in this poem,
af. fords an opportunity of mentioning the chief periods of literary history, of which this writer reckons five; that of Alexander, of Ptolemy Philadelpbus, of Augufius, of Leo the Tenth, of Queen Anne.
These observations are concluded with a remark which deferves great attention: “In no polished nation, after criticism has been much studied, and the rules of writing established, has any very extraordinary book ever appeared.”
The Rape of the Lock was always regarded by Pope as the highest production of his genius. On occasion of this work, the history of the comic hero is given; and we are told that it descended from Fafoni to Boileau, from Boileau to Garth, and from Garth to Pope. Garth is mentioned perhaps with too much honour; but all are confessed to be inferior to Pope. There is in his remarks on this work no discovery of any latent beauty, nor any thing subtle or striking; he is
indeed commonly right, but has discussed no difficult question.
The next pieces to be considered are the Verses to the Memory of an unfortunate Lady, the Prologue ta Cato, and Epilogue to Jane Shore. The first piece he commends. On occasion of the second he digreffes, according to his custom, into a learned differtation on tragedies, and compares the English and French with the Greek stage. He justly censures Cato for want of action and of characters; but scarcely does justice to the sublimity of some speeches and the philosophical exactness in the sentiments. “ The fimile of mount Atlas, and that of the Numidian traveller smothered in the sands, are indeed in character,” says the critic, “ but sufficiently obvious.” The fimile of the mountain is indeed common; but of that of the traveller I do not remember. That it is obvious is easy to say, and easy to deny. Many things are obvious when they are taught.
He proceeds to criticise the other works of Addison, till the epilogue calls his attention to Rowe, whose character he discusses in the same manner with sufficient freedom and fufficient candour.
The translation of the epistle of Sappho to Phaon is next considered: but Sappho and Ovid are more the subjects of this disquisition than Pope. We shall therefore pass over it to a piece of more importance, the Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard, which may justly be regarded as one of the works on which the reputation of Pope will stand in future times.
The critic pursues Eloisa through all the changes of passion, produces the passages of her letters to which any allusion is made, and intersperses many agreeable
particulars and incidental relations. There is not much profundity of criticism, because the beauties are fentiments of nature, which the learned and the ignorant feel alike. It is justly remarked by him, that the wish of Eloisa for the happy passage of Abelard into the other world, is formed according to the ideas of mystic devotion.
These are the pieces examined in this volume: whether the remaining part of the work will be one volume or more, perhaps the writer himself cannot yet inform us. This piece is, however, a complete work, so far as it goes; and the writer is of opinion that he has dispatched the chief part of his talk : for he ventures to remark, that the reputation of Pope as a poet, among posterity, will be principally founded on his Windsor-Forest, Rape of the Lock, and Eloisa to Abelard; while the facts and characters alluded to in his late writings will be forgotten and unknown, and their poignancy and propriety little relished; for wit and satire are transitory and perishable, but nature and palfion are eternal.
He has interspersed some passages of Pope's life, with which most readers will be pleased. When Pope was yet a child, his father, who had been a merchant in London, retired to Binfield. He was taught to read by an aunt; and learned to write without a master, by copying printed books. His father used to order him to make English verses, and would oblige him to correct and retouch them over and over, and at last could say, “ These are good rhymes.”
At eight years of age, he was committed to one Taverner a priest, who taught him the rudiments of the Latin and Greek. At this time he met with Ogleby's
Homer, which seized his attention; he fell next upon Sandy's Ovid, and remembered these two translations with pleasure to the end of his life.
About ten, being at school near Hyde-Park-Corner, he was taken to the play-house, and was so struck with the splendour of the drama, that he formed a kind of play out of Ogleby's Homer, intermixed with verses of his own. He persuaded the head-boys to act this piece, and Ajax was performed by his master's gardener. They were habited according to the pictures in Ogleby. At twelve he retired with his father to Windfor-Forest, and formed himself by study in the best English poets.
In this extract it was thought convenient to dwell chiefly upon such observations as relate immediately to Pope, without deviating with the author into incidental inquiries. We intend to kindle, not to extinguish, curiosity, by this flight sketch of a work abounding with curious quotations and pleasing disquisitions. He must be much acquainted with literary history, both of remote and late times, who does not find in this essay many things which he did not know before : and if there be any too learned to be instructed in facts or opinions, he may yet properly read this book as a just specimen of literary moderation.