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ALEXANDER POPE was born in London on the 22d May 1688. His paternal grandfather was a clergyman of the Established Church; his mother was the daughter of William Turner, Esq., a Yorkshire gentleman and a loyalist; his father was a linen-merchant in Lombard Street. Like many Roman Catholics, not considering life or property safe after the Revolution, he withdrew from business, taking with him in a strong-box, to his rural retreat in Kensington, ten thousand pounds he had amassed as å merchant. The old man lived long enough xhaust the contents of the strong-box. Pope therefore inherited nothing from his father but his physical deformity, and nothing from his mother except her violent headaches. At the age of eight, the future poet was placed under the tuition of a Jesuit, who taught him Greek and Latin. From the Jesuit, he passed to a public school, kept by a Roman Catholic, near Winchester. A sickly constitution had made him something of a petted child, and, like most petted children, he had contracted certain impertinences of manner which the discipline of the school could not tolerate. He was flogged by the master, and his parents, irritated that the master had not rather spared the rod, removed him from Winchester to a London Academy. Here Pope first became acquainted with Ogilby's Homer, and Sandy's Ovid.

At the age of twelve, he left London and returned home, resolved upon a plan of self-culture. Pope was, however, of too excitable a spirit to pursue such a scheme systematically. But though never a systematic student, he was an omnivorous devourer of light literature. At this period his “Ode to Solitude was produced,-a most remarkable production for a boy of twelve years. Pope's father was fond of poetry, and with a father's pride stimulated the tastes of his son. The retired linen-merchant had a rather fastidious ear, and used frequently to send the boy back to his study, with the remark “these are not good rhymes, Alexander.” Spenser

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Waller, and Dryden, were the writers Pope loved to copy. He succeeded in imbuing his style with something of the energy of glorious John,

and pretty successfully emulated Waller's grace, but he never fully attained the rich and picturesque versification of Spenser. The “Ode to Solitude” was followed by a comedy, of which not so much as even the subject is known. “St Genevieve, a tragedy,” and “ Alcandar, an epic poem, came next in order. Comedy, tragedy, and epic poem, were however, by the advice of Atterbury, committed to the flames. We are therefore without the means of judging of their merits, unless we infer their worth from their fate. At the age of fifteen, the young poet came again to London, to perfect his acquaintance with the modern languages. So keenly had Pope devoted himself to desultory reading, that the seclusion, and want of exercise consequent thereon, began to threaten his life.

Awaking to his perilous position, he prepared to meet fate with the heroism of a stoic. A farewell letter written to his friend “Abbe Southcote " saved the poet. The Abbe was a man of sense, and on receiving Pope's farewell, repaired to the then celebrated Dr Radcliffe, and received from him a recipe for the boy's malady. The youth was to shut his books, and mount his horse. Under this regimen Pope quickly recovered. While thus, by command of Dr Radcliffe, riding for his health in Windsor Forest, Pope had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of a gentleman of distinction, Sir William Trumbull. Trumbull was a Fellow of All Souls', Oxford, and had seen much of public life, having been successively English Envoy at Florence, Turin, Paris, and Constantinople. The statesman and scholar, now retired from life's tumult, treated Pope with the highest consideration. Sir William knew. Wycherley, and introduced his young friend to the aged libertine, already all but forgotten by the world. The old man had some “Fugitive Pieces " which he sent to Pope for correction. Pope speedily cooled the fervour of his friendship by the faithfulness of his criticism. The dramatist wanted praise, not correction. But if Wycherley and Pope found little congenial in each other's society, their friendship, such as it was, introduced the subject of our sketch to a scholar and a gentleman, Mr Walsh, afterwards celebrated in the “Essay on Criticism” as “ Walsh the muse's judge and friend.” It was shortly subsequent to the formation of this acquaintance that Pope's intimacy with the family of the Blounts commenced, an intimacy memorable from the important and commanding influence it exercised over the future of the poet. Pope's “ Pastorals ” had not yet been published, but those whose nod is fame, the leaders of London tastehad begun to speak approvingly of their merits.

The “ Pastorals were first printed in 1709. Their sentiment was in harmony with the general taste, and their versification captivated the general ear. Four years afterwards the “Essay on Criticism was published. The Essay was a too faithful mirror of the literary sins of the age to escape censure from the legion of irritable authors with whom then, as now, London swarmed. Dennis, a writer who made ridicule his trade, discovering that the pungent though delicate satire of Pope was directed against his rude rhymes, retorted with a volume entitled, “ Reflections, Critical and Satirical, on a late Rhapsody called an · Essay on Criticism.'" It had long been the practice of literary antagonists to give point to their sarcasm by expatiating upon and exaggerating the physical defects of rivals. Even Milton, in some of the noblest of his prose works, is compelled to turn aside from his mighty theme to reply to the gross personal libels of his adversaries. Pope's small stature, little more than four feet, together with his deformity, made him an easy butt for the coarse satire of Dennis. As an illustration of the kind of abuse in which men like Dennis revelled, we select the following :—“I remember," says the irate satirist, " I remember a little young gentleman whom Mr Walsh used to take into his company as a double foil to his person and capacity. Inquire between Sunninghall and Oakingham for a young, short, squab gentleman, the very bow of the god of love, and tell me whether he is the proper author to make personal reflections. He may extol the ancients, but he has reason to thank heaven that he was born a modern ; for if he had been born of Grecian parents, his life had been no longer than one of his poems, the life of half a day. But let the person of a gentleman of his parts be ever so contemptible, his inward man is ten times more ridiculous; it being impossible that his outward form, though that of a downright monkey, should differ so much from the human shape as his unthinking, immaterial part does from the buman understanding." But though not impervious to criticism, Pope was not the man to be snuffed out by an article. Dennis gained nothing by his abuse save the honour of a niche in the “ Dunciad.” The object of our sketch had now acquired the amplest confidence in his own powers, and an incident in high life with which Pope was made familiar with Mr Caryll, a gentleman who had been secretary to the Queen of James the Second, gave him an admirable subject. Lord Petre had stolen a lock of Miss Fermor's hair. The offence caused a lengthened estrangement of two families that had long been friends. Mr Caryll, anxious to end the quarrel, desired Pope to produce a poem on the subject. “The Rape of the Lock" was written, and the families were reconciled. At first it had only been intended for private circulation ; but on learning that it was about to be printed surreptitiously, Pope published the first draft of it without machinery, the machinery being added afterwards to make it look a little more considerable. This poem gives proof of the rapid development of the poet's powers.

That concentrated energy and exquisite polish of style for which Pope has so long been celebrated are conspicuous throughout the poem. It has been sought by foolish admirers to exalt its merits by telling of the extremely short time its author laboured on its composition. That, however, is equivocal praise. Pope did not achieve his great popularity by what cost him nought. It may be that the plan of the poem and the outline of the characters were accomplished in the couple of weeks which it is said sufficed for its production; but if more was done, the poet never again attained an equal facility.

Through his acquaintance with Steele, Pope had now the honour of an introduction to Addison, then in the zenith at once of his fame as a writer and of his political importance

a government functionary. • My acquaintance with Addison,” the poet thus writes, “ began in 1712. I liked him as well as I liked any man.' Not long after the formation of this new friendship, Pope gave the first display of his powers as a master of pathetic poetry by the production of the “ Elegy on the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady.” Meanwhile, “ Cato: a Tragedy” has been written by Addison, and Pope is solicited to write a prologue for the performance. “ Cato" is now remembered as one of the poorest of Addison's writings, and the prologue is remembered only because it was written by Pope. But prologue and tragedy were both a signal success at the moment. “Cato" had a thirty-five nights' run of the London stage, and was carried in unimpaired popularity through the provincial theatres. At this new triumph of two men hated by him with nearly equal hatred, the wrath of Dennis was again kindled; the result was a “Criticism of Cato,” to which the satirist brought all the ferocity of his character. In retaliation of this castigation, Pope lashed Dennis and defended Addison in a lampoon entitled “ The Narrative by Dr Robert Norris of the Frenzy of J. D.”.


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