Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

... His incessant vigilance for the promotion of piety disposed him to look with distrust upon all metaphysical systems of theology, and all schemes of virtue and happiness purely rational ; and therefore it was not long before he was persuaded that the positions of Pope, as they terminated for the most part in natural religion, were intended to draw mankind away from revelation, and to represent the whole course of things as a necessary concatenation of indissoluble fatality; and it is undeniable, that in many passages a religious eye may easily discover expressions not very favourable to morals or to liberty. About this time Warburton began to make his appearance in the first ranks of learning. He was a man of vigorous faculties, a mind fervid and vehement supplied by incessant and unlimited inquiry, with wonderful extent and variety of knowledge, which yet had not oppressed his imagination nor clouded his perspicacity. To every work he brought a memory full fraught, together with a fancy fertile of original combinations, and at once exerted the powers of the scholar, the reasoner, and the wit. But his knowledge was too multifarious to be always exact, and his pursuits too eager to be always cautious. His abilities gave him an haughty confidence, which he disdained to conceal or mollify; and his impatience of opposition disposed him to treat his adversaries with such contemptuous superiority as made his readers commonly his enemies, and excited against the advocate the wishes of some who favoured the cause. He seems to have adopted the Roman emperor's determination, oderint dum metuant ; he used no allurements of gentle language, but wished to compel rather than persuade. His style is copious without selection, and forcible Without neatness; he took the words that presented themselves; his diction is coarse and impure ; and his sentences are unmeasured. He had, in the early part of his life, pleased himself with the notice of inferior wits, and corresponded with the enemies of Pope. A letter" was produced, when he had perhaps himself forgotten it, in which he tells Concanen, “Dryden, I observe, borrows for want of leisure and Pope for want of genius; Milton out of pride and Addison out of modesty.” And when Theobald published “Shakspeare,” in opposition to Pope, the best notes were supplied by Warburton. But the time was now come when Warburton was to change his opinion; and Pope was to find a defender in him who had contributed so much to the exaltation of his rival. The arrogance of Warburton excited against him every artifice of offence, and therefore it may be supposed that his union with Pope was censured as hypocritical inconstancy; but surely to think differently, at different times, of poetical merit, may be easily allow-ed. Such opinions are often admitted, and dismissed, without nice examination. Who is there that has not found reason for changing his mind about questions of greater importance 2 Warburton, whatever was his motive, undertook, without solicitation, to rescue Pope from the talons of Crousaz, by freeing him from the imputation of favouring fatality, or rejecting revelation, and from month to month continued a vindication of the Essay on Man, in the literary journal of that time called “The Republic of Letters.” Pope, who probably began to doubt the tendency of his own work, was glad that the positions, of which he

* This letter is in Mr. Malone's supplement to Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 223. C.

perceived himself not to know the full meaning, could by any mode of interpretation be made to mean well. How much he was pleased with his gratuitous defender, the following letter evidently shews :

“SIR, April 11, 1732.

“I have just received from Mr. R. two more of your letters. It is in the greatest hurry imaginable that I write this; but I cannot help thanking you in particular for your third letter, which is so extremely clear, short, and full, that I think Mr. Crousaz ought never to have another answer, and deserved not so good an one. I can only say, you do him too much honour, and me too much right, so odd as the expression seems; for you have made my system as clear as I ought to have done, and could not. It is indeed the same system as mine, but illustrated with a ray of your own, as they say our natural body is the same still when it is glorified. I am sure I like it better than I did before, and so will every man else. I know I meant just what you explain; but I did not explain my own meaning so well as you. You understand me as well as I do myself; but you express me better than I could express myself. Pray accept the sincerest acknowledgments. I cannot but wish these letters were put together in one book, and intend (with your leave) to procure a translation of part at least, or of all of them, into French; but I shall not proceed a step without your consent and opinien,” &c.

By this fond and eager acceptance of an exculpatory comment, Pope testified that, whatever might be the seeming or real import of the principles which he had received from Bolingbroke, he had not intentionally attacked religion; and Bolingbroke, if he meant to make him, without his own consent, an instrument of mis

chief, found him now engaged, with his eyes open, on the side of truth. It is known that Bolingbroke concealed from Pope his real opinions. He once discovered them to Mr. Hooke, who related them again to Pope, and was told by him that he must have mistaken the meaning of what he heard; and Bolingbroke, when Pope’s uneasiness incited him to desire an explanation, declared that Hooke had misunderstood him. Bolingbroke hated Warburton, who had drawn his pupil from him ; and a little before Pope’s death they had a dispute, from which they parted with mutual aversion. From this time Pope lived in the closest intimacy with his commentator, and amply rewarded his kindness and his zeal; for he introduced him to Mr. Murray, by whose interest he became preacher at Lincoln's inn; and to Mr. Allen, who gave him his niece and his estate, and by consequence a bishoprick. When he died, he left him the property of his works; a legacy which may be reasonably estimated at four thousand pounds. Pope’s fondness for the Essay on Man appeared by his desire of its propagation. Dobson, who had gained reputation by his version of Prior’s “ Solomon,” Was employed by him to translate it into Latin verse, and was for that purpose some time at Twickenham; but he left his work, whatever was the reason, unfinished, and, by Benson's invitation, undertook the longer task of “Paradise Lost.” Pope then desired his friend to find a scholar who should turn his essay into Latin prose; but no such performance has ever appeared. - Pope lived at this time among the great, with that redeption and respect to which his works entitled him, and which he had not impaired by any private misconduct or factious partiality. Though Bolingbroke was his friend, Walpole was not his enemy; but treated him with so much consideration, as, at his request, to solicit and obtain from the French minister an abbey for Mr. Southcot, whom he considered himself as obliged to reward, by this exertion of his interest, for the benefit which he had received from his attendance in a long illness. It was said, that, when the court was at Richmond, queen Caroline had declared her intention to visit him. This may have been only a careless effusion, thought on no more : the report of such notice, however, was soon in many mouths; and, if I do not forget or misapprehend Savage’s account, Pope, pretending to decline what was not yet offered, left his house for a time, not, I suppose, for any other reason, than lest he should be thought to stay at home in expectation of an honour which would not be conferred. He was therefore angry at Swift, who represents him as “refusing the visits of a queen,” because he knew that what had never been offered had never been refused. Besides the general system of morality, supposed to be contained in the Essay on Man, it was his intention to write distinct poems upon the different duties or conditions of life; one of which is the epistle to lord Bathurst (1733) On the Use of Riches, a piece on which he declared great labour to have been bestowed.” J. Into this poem some hints are historically thrown, and some known characters are introduced, with others of which it is difficult to say how far they are real or fictitious; but the praise of Kyrl, the man of Ross, deserves particular examination, who, after a long and pompous enumeration of his public works and private charities, is said to have diffused all those blessings from five hundred a-year. Wonders are willingly told * Spence.

« AnteriorContinuar »