Imágenes de páginas

author of his · London,' and saying he will be soon deterré. He observed, that in Dryden's Poetry there were passages drawn from a profundity which Pope could never reach. He repeated some fine lines on love by the former (which I have now forgotten), and gave great applause to the character of Zimri. Goldsmith said, that Pope's character of Addison shewed a deep knowledge of the human heart.

“ In the year 1763 (says Mr. Boswell, addressi ing himself to Dr. Johnson), being at London, I was carried by Dr. John Blair, Prebendary of Westminster, to dine at old Lord Bathurst's; where we found the late Mr. Mallet, Sir James Porter, who had been Ambassador at Constan. tinople, the late Dr. Macaulay, and two or three more. The conversation turning on Mr. Pope, Lord Bathurst told us, that. The Essay on Man was originally composed by Lord Bolingbroke in prose, and that Mr. Pope did no more than put it into verse: that he had read Lord Bolingbroke's manuscript in his own hand-writing; and rea membered well, that he was at a loss whether most to admire the elegance of Lord Bolingbroke's prose, or the beauty of Mr. Pope's

When Lord Bathurst told this, Mr. Mal let bade me attend, and rernember this remarkable piece of information; as, by the course of nature, I might survive his Lordship, and be a


witness of his having said so. The conversation was indeed too remarkable to be forgotten. A few days after, meeting with you, who were then also at London, you will remember that I mentioned to you what had passed on this subject, as I was much struck with this anecdote. But what ascertains my recollection of it beyond doubt is, that being accustomed to keep a Journal of what passed when I was at London, which I wrote out every evening, I find the particulars of the above information, just as I have now given them, distinctly marked; and am thence enabled to fix this conversation to have passed on Friday, the 22d of April, 1763.

Johnson said, “ Depend upon it, Sir, this is too strongly stated. Pope may have had from Bolingbroke the philosophic stamina of his Essay; and admitting this to be true, Lord Bathurst did not intentionally falsify. But the thing is not true in the latitude that Blair seems to imagine; we are sure that the poetical imagery, which makes a great part of the poem, was Pope's own. It is amazing, Sir, what deviations there are from precise truth; in the account which is given of almost every thing. I once told Mrs. Thrale,

You have so little anxiety about truth, that you never tax your memory with the exact thing.' Now what is the use of the memory to truth, if one is careless of exactness? Lord

· Hailes's Annals of Scotland are very exact;

but they contain mere dry particulars. They are to be considered as a dictionary. You know such things are there; and may be looked at

when you please. - Robertson paints; but the misfortune is, you are sure he does not know the people whom he paints; so you cannot suppose a likeness.-Characters should never be given by an historian, unless he knew the people whom he describes, or copies from those who knew them."

Mr. Boswell also relates (though not on the authority of his journal), that in the same conversation he took notice of a report which had been sometimes propagated, that he did not understand Greek. Lord Bathurst said, that he knew that to be false : for that part of the Iliad was translated by Mr. Pope in his house in the country; and that in the mornings when they assembled at breakfast, Mr. Pope used frequently to repeat, with great rapture, the Greek lines which he had been translating, and then to give them his version of them, and to compare them together. • Mr. Beauclerk one day repeated to Dr. Johnson Pope's lines,

! Let modest Foster, if he will, excel
"Ten metropolitans in preaching well.'

Then asked the Doctor, “ Why did Pope say

this?"-JOHNSON. “ Sir, he hoped it would vex somebody."

Talking of the minuteness with which people will often record the sayings of eminent persons, a story was told, that when Pope was on a visit to Spence at Oxford, as they looked from the window they saw a Gentleman Commoner, who was just come in from riding, amusing himself with whipping at a post. Pope took occasion to say, " That young gentleman seems to have little to do.” Mr. Beauclerk observed, " Then, to be sure, Spence turned round and wrote that down;" and went on to say to Dr. Johnson, “ Pope, Sir, would have said the same of you, if he had seen you distilling."-JOHNSON. Sir, if Pope had told me of my distilling, I would have told him of his grotto.” Mr. Ramsay said, " I am old enough to have been a contemporary of Pope. His Poetry was highly admired in his life-time, more a great deal than after his death.” -J. 66 Sir, it has not been less admired after his death; it has only not been as much talked of; but that is owing to its being now more distant, and people having other writings to talk of. Virgil is less talked of than Pope, and Homer is less talked of than Virgil; but they are not less admired. We must read what the world reads at the moment. It has been maintained that this superfætation, this teeming of the press in mo

dern times is prejudicial to good literature, because it obliges us to read so mucn of what is of inferior value, in order to be in the fashion; so that better works are neglected for want of time, because a man will have more gratification of his vanity in conversation from having read modern books, than from having read the best works of antiquity. But it must be considered, that we have now more knowledge generally diffused ; all our ladies read now, which is a great extension. Modern writers are the moons of literature; they shine with reflected light, with light borrowed from the ancients. Greece appears to me to be the fountain of knowledge; Rome of elegance.”-RAMSAY. “ I suppose Homer's - Iliad' to be a collection of pieces which had been written before his time, I should like to see a translation of it in poetical prose, like the book of Ruth or Job."Robertson.

66 Would you, Dr. Johnson, who are master of the EngJish language, but try your hand upon a part of it."-J. “ Sir, you could not read it without the pleasure of verse."

On another occasion, Johnson said, “Sir, a thousand years may elapse before there shall appear another man with a power of versification equal to that of Pope.” That power must undoubtedly be allowed its due share in enhancing the value of his captivating composition.

« AnteriorContinuar »