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An essay by Thomas De Quincey

Lord Carlisle On Pope

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Title:     Lord Carlisle On Pope
Author: Thomas De Quincey [More Titles by De Quincey]

[1851.]

Lord Carlisle's recent lecture upon Pope, addressed to an audience of artisans, drew the public attention first of all upon himself--_that_ was inevitable. No man can depart conspicuously from the usages or the apparent sympathies of his own class, under whatsoever motive, but that of necessity he will awaken for the _immediate_ and the first result of his act an emotion of curiosity. But all curiosity is allied to the comic, and is not an ennobling emotion, either for him who feels it or for him who is its object. A second, however, and more thoughtful consideration of such an act may redeem it from this vulgarizing taint of oddity. Reflection may satisfy us, as in the present case it _did_ satisfy those persons who were best acquainted with Lord Carlisle's public character, that this eccentric step had been adopted, not in ostentation, with any view to its eccentricity, but _in spite_ of its eccentricity, and from impulses of large prospective benignity that would not suffer itself to be defeated by the chances of immediate misconstruction.

Whether advantageous, therefore, to Lord Carlisle, or disadvantageous (and in that case, I believe, most unjust), the first impressions derived from this remarkable lecture pointed themselves exclusively to the person of the lecturer--to his general qualifications for such a task, and to his possible motives for undertaking it. Nobody inquired _what_ it was that the noble lord had been discussing, so great was every man's astonishment that before such an audience any noble lord should have condescended to discuss anything at all. But gradually all wonder subsides--_de jure_, in nine days; and, after this collapse of the primary interest, there was leisure for a secondary interest to gather about the _subject_ of the patrician lecture. Had it any cryptical meaning? Coming from a man so closely connected with the government, could it be open to any hieroglyphic or ulterior interpretations, intelligible to Whigs, and significant to ministerial partisans? Finally, this secondary interest has usurped upon what originally had been a purely personal interest. POPE! What novelty was there, still open to even literary gleaners, about _him_, a man that had been in his grave for one hundred and six years? What _could_ there remain to say on such a theme? And what was it, in fact, that Lord Carlisle _had_ said to his Yorkshire audience?

There was, therefore, a double aspect in the public interest--one looking to the rank of the lecturer, one to the singularity of his theme. There was the curiosity that connected itself with the assumption of a troublesome duty in the service of the lowest ranks by a volunteer from the highest; and, secondly, there was another curiosity connecting itself with the choice of a subject that had no special reference to this particular generation, and seemed to have no special adaptation to the intellectual capacities of a working audience.

This double aspect of the public surprise suggests a double question. The volunteer assumption by a nobleman of this particular office in this particular service may, in the eyes of some people, bear a philosophic value, as though it indicated some changes going on beneath the surface of society in the relations of our English aristocracy to our English laboring body. On the other hand, it will be regarded by multitudes as the casual caprice of an individual--a caprice of vanity by those who do not know Lord Carlisle's personal qualities, a caprice of patriotic benevolence by those who do. According to the construction of the case as thus indicated, oscillating between a question of profound revolution moving subterraneously amongst us, and a purely personal question, such a discussion would ascend to the philosophic level, or sink to the level of gossip. The other direction of the public surprise points to a question that will interest a far greater body of thinkers. Whatever judgment may be formed on the general fact that a nobleman of ancient descent has thought fit to come forward as a lecturer to the humblest of his countrymen upon subjects detached from politics, there will yet remain a call for a second judgment upon the fitness of the particular subject selected for a lecture under such remarkable circumstances. The two questions are entirely disconnected. It is on the latter, viz., the character and pretensions of Pope, as selected by Lord Carlisle for such an inaugural experiment, that I myself feel much interest. Universally it must have been felt as an objection, that such a selection had no special adaptation to the age or to the audience. I say this with no wish to undervalue the lecture, which I understand to have been ably composed, nor the services of the lecturer, whose motives and public character, in common with most of his countrymen, I admire. I speak of it at all only as a public opportunity suddenly laid open for drawing attention to the true pretensions of Pope, as the most brilliant writer of his own class in European literature; or, at least, of drawing attention to some characteristics in the most popular section of Pope's works which hitherto have lurked unnoticed.

This is my object, and none that can be supposed personal to Lord Carlisle. Pope, as the subject of the lecture, and not the earlier question as to the propriety of any lecture at all, under the circumstances recited, furnishes my _thesis_--that thesis on which the reader will understand me to speak with decision, not with the decision of arrogance, but with that which rightfully belongs to a faithful study of the author. The editors of Pope are not all equally careless, but all are careless; and, under the shelter of this carelessness, the most deep-seated vices of Pope's moral and satirical sketches have escaped detection, or at least have escaped exposure. These, and the other errors traditionally connected with the rank and valuation of Pope as a classic, are what I profess to speak of deliberately and firmly. Meantime, to the extent of a few sentences, I will take the liberty of suggesting, rather than delivering, an opinion upon the other question, viz., the prudence in a man holding Lord Carlisle's rank of lecturing at all to any public audience. But on this part of the subject I beg to be understood as speaking doubtfully, conjecturally, and without a sufficient basis of facts.

The late Dr. Arnold of Rugby, notoriously a man of great ingenuity, possessing also prodigious fertility of thought, and armed with the rare advantage of being almost demoniacally in earnest, was, however (in some sort of balance to these splendid gifts), tainted to excess with the scrofula of impracticable crotchets. That was the opinion secretly held about him by most of his nearest friends; and it is notorious that he scarcely ever published a pamphlet or contribution to a journal in which he did not contrive to offend all parties, both friendly and hostile, by some ebullition of this capricious character. He hated, for instance, the High Church with a hatred more than theological; and _that_ would have recommended him to the favorable consideration of many thousands of persons in this realm, the same who have been secretly foremost in the recent outbreak of fanaticism against the Roman Catholics; but unfortunately it happened that, although not hating the Low Church (the self-styled Evangelicals), he despised them so profoundly as to make all alliance between them impossible. He hated also many individuals; but, not to do him any injustice, most (or perhaps all) of these were people that had been long dead; and amongst them, by the way, was Livy, the historian; whom I distinguish by name, as furnishing, perhaps, the liveliest illustration of the whimsical and all but lunatic excess to which these personal hatreds were sometimes pushed; for it is a fact that, when the course of an Italian tour had brought him unavoidably to the birthplace of Livy, Dr. Arnold felicitated himself upon having borne the air of that city--in fact, upon having survived such a collision with the local remembrances of the poor historian, very much in those terms which Mr. Governor Holwell might have used on finding himself 'pretty bobbish' on the morning after the memorable night in the Black Hole of Calcutta: he could hardly believe that he still lived. [Footnote 1] And yet, how had the eloquent historian trespassed on his patience and his weak powers of toleration? Livy was certainly not very learned in the archaeologies of his own country; where all men had gone astray, _he_ went astray. And in geography, as regarded the Italian movements of Hannibal, he erred with his eyes open. But these were no objects of Livy's ambition: what he aspired to do was, to tell the story, 'the tale divine,' of Roman energy and perseverance; and _he so_ told it that no man, as regards the mere artifices of narration, would ever have presumed to tell it after him. I cite this particular case as illustrating the furnace-heat of Dr. Arnold's antipathies, unless where some consideration of kindness and Christian charity interposed to temper his fury. This check naturally offered itself only with regard to individuals: and therefore, in dealing with institutions, he acknowledged no check at all, but gave full swing to the license of his wrath. Amongst our own institutions, that one which he seems most profoundly to have hated was our nobility; or, speaking more generally, our aristocracy. Some deadly aboriginal schism he seems to have imagined between this order and the democratic orders; some predestined feud as between the head of the serpent and the heel of man.

Accordingly, as one of the means most clamorously invoked by our social position for averting some dreadful convulsion constantly brooding over England, he insists upon a closer approximation between our highest classes and our lowest. Especially he seems to think that the peasantry needed to be conciliated by more familiar intercourse, or more open expressions of interest in their concerns, and by domiciliary visits not offered in too oppressive a spirit of condescension. But the close observer of our social condition will differ with Dr. Arnold at starting, as to the facts. The ancient territorial nobility are not those who offend by _hauteur_. On the contrary, a spirit of parental kindness marks the intercourse of the old authentic aristocracy with their dependants, and especially with the two classes of peasants on their own estates, and their domestic servants. [Footnote 2] Those who _really_ offend on this point, are the _nouveaux riches_--the _parvenus_. And yet it would be great injustice to say that even these offend habitually. No laws of classification are so false as those which originate in human scurrility. Aldermen, until very lately, were by an old traditional scurrility so proverbially classed as gluttons and cormorants, hovering over dinner-tables, with no other characteristics whatever, or openings to any redeeming qualities, that men became as seriously perplexed in our days at meeting an eloquent, enlightened, and accomplished alderman, as they would have been by an introduction to a benevolent cut-throat, or a patriotic incendiary. The same thing happened in ancient days. Quite as obstinate as any modern prejudice against a London alderman was the old Attic prejudice against the natives of Boeotia. Originally it had grown up under two causes--first, the animosities incident to neighborhood too close; secondly, the difference of bodily constitution consequent upon a radically different descent. The blood was different; and by a wider difference, perhaps, than that between Celtic and Teutonic. The garrulous Athenian despised the hesitating (but for that reason more reflecting) Boeotian; and this feeling was carried so far, that at last it provoked satire itself to turn round with scorn upon the very prejudice which the spirit of satire had originally kindled. Disgusted with this arrogant assumption of disgust, the Roman satirist reminded the scorners that men not inferior to the greatest of their own had been bred, or might be bred, amongst those whom they scorned:--


'Summos posse viros, et magna exempla daturos,
Vervecum in patria, crassoque sub are nasci.'


Now, if there is any similar alienation between our lowest classes and our highest, such as Doctor Arnold imagined to exist in England, at least it does not assume any such character of disgust, nor clothe itself in similar expressions of scorn. Practical jealousy, so far as it exists at all, lies between classes much less widely separated. The master manufacturer is sometimes jealous of those amongst his ministerial agents who tread too nearly upon his own traces; he is jealous sometimes of their advances in domestic refinement, he is jealous of their aspirations after a higher education. And on _their_ part, the workmen are apt to regard their masters as having an ultimate interest violently conflicting with their own. In these _strata_ of society there really _are_ symptoms of mutual distrust and hostility. Capital and the aristocracy of wealth is a standing object of suspicion, of fear, and therefore of angry irritation to the working-classes. But as to the aristocracy of rank and high birth, either it is little known to those classes, as happens in the most populous hives of our manufacturing industry, and is regarded, therefore, with no positive feeling of any kind, or else, as in the more exclusively agricultural and pastoral districts, is looked up to by the peasantry with blind feelings of reverence as amongst the immemorial monuments of the past-- involved in one common mist of antiquity with the rivers and the hills of the district, with the cathedrals and their own ancestors. A half-religious sentiment of reverence for an old time-out-of-mind family associated with some antique residence, hall, or abbey, or castle, is a well-known affection of the rural mind in England; and if in one half it points to an infirmity not far off from legendary superstition, in the other half it wears the grace of chivalry and legendary romance. Any malignant scoff, therefore, against the peerage of England, such as calling the House of Lords a Hospital of Incurables, has always been a town-bred scurrility, not only never adopted by the simple rural laborer, but not even known to him, or distinctly intelligible supposing it were.

If, therefore, there are great convulsions lying in wait for the framework of our English society; if, and more in sorrow than in hope, some vast attempt may be anticipated for recasting the whole of our social organization; and if it is probable that this attempt will commence in the blind wrath of maddened or despairing labor--still there is no ground for thinking, with Dr. Arnold, that this wrath, however blind (unless treacherously misled), would apply itself primarily to the destruction of our old landed aristocracy. It would often find itself grievously in error and self-baffled, even when following its first headlong impulses of revenge; but these are the impulses that it would follow, and none of these would primarily point in that direction. Suppose, however, that the probabilities were different, and that a policy of conciliation were become peculiarly needful to the aristocracy--which is what Dr. Arnold does suppose--in that case might not the course indicated by Lord Carlisle, viz., advancing upon a new line of _intellectual_ communication with the laboring classes, be the surest mode of retrieving their affections, as most likely to flatter their self-esteem in its noblest aspirations?

One swallow, it is true, cannot make a summer; and others of the aristocracy must repeat the experiment of Lord Carlisle before any ground can be won for the interest of the order. Even in Lord Carlisle, it might be added, the experiment, if it were not followed up, would not count for more than a caprice. But, on the other hand, think as we may of the probable results, in reference to the _purposes_ of its author, we ought to regard it as a sufficient justification that _thus_ the ice has been broken, that _thus_ a beginning has been made, and _thus_ a sanction established under which no man, if otherwise free to enter upon such a path, needs ever again to find an obstacle in rank the highest or in blood the most ancient. He is authorized by a Howard; and though doubts must still linger about the propriety of such a course, when estimated as a means to a specific end, yet for itself, in reference to the prudery of social decorum, we may now pronounce that to lecture without fee or reward before any audience whatever is henceforth privileged by authentic precedent; and, unless adulterating with political partisanship, is consecrated by its own noble purposes.

Still, if it be urged that these noble purposes are not ratified and sealed by a solitary experiment, I should answer that undoubtedly Lord Carlisle has placed himself under a silent obligation to renew his generous effort; or, in the event of his failing to do so, will have made himself a debtor to public censure, as one who has planned what he has not been strong enough to accomplish, and has founded a staircase or a portico to a temple yet in the clouds. _Had_ he the ulterior purposes assumed? Then, by deserting or neglecting them, he puts on record the instability of his own will. Had he _no_ these ulterior purposes? Then, and in that confession, vanishes into vapor the whole dignity of his bold pretensions, as the navigator who first doubled the Cape of Storms [Footnote 3] into an untried sea.

But against a man dealing presumably with a noble purpose we should reckon nobly. Mean jealousies have no place in circumstances where, as yet, no meanness has been exhibited. The exaction would be too severe upon Lord Carlisle, if, by one act of kindness, he had pledged himself to a thousand; and if, because once his graciousness had been conspicuous, he were held bound over, in all time coming, to the unintermitting energies of a missionary amongst pagans. The laboring men of Yorkshire have not the clamorous necessities of pagans; and _therefore_ Lord Carlisle has not assumed the duties of a working missionary. When, by personally coming forward to lecture, he inaugurated a new era of intellectual prospects for the sons of toil, implicitly he promised that he would himself, from time to time, come forward to co-operate with a movement that had owed its birth to his own summons and impulse. But if he cannot honorably release himself from engagements voluntarily assumed, on the other hand he cannot justly be loaded with the responsibility of a continued participation in the Details of the work which he has set in motion. By sympathy with the liberal purposes of an intellectual movement, he gives to that movement its initial impulse. Henceforward it suffices if at intervals he continues to it such expressions of the same sympathy as may sustain its original activity, or at least may sustain the credit of his own consistency. It cannot be expected that any person in the circumstances of Lord Carlisle should continue even intermittingly to lecture. It is enough if, by any other modes of encouragement, or by inciting others to follow the precedent which he has set, he continues to express an unabated interest in the great cause of intellectual progress amongst poor men.

A doubt may be raised, meantime, whether literature is the proper channel into which the intellectual energies of the poor should be directed. For the affirmative it may be urged, that the interest in literature is universal, whilst the interest in science is exceedingly limited. On the other hand, it may truly be retorted that the scientific interest may be artificially extended by culture; and that these two great advantages would in that case arise: 1. That the apparatus of means and instruments is much smaller in the one case than the other; 2. That science opens into a progression of growing interest; whereas literature, having no determined order of advance, and offering no regular succession of stages to the student, does not with the same certainty secure a self-maintaining growth of pleasureable excitement. Some remedy, however, will be applied to this last evil, if a regular plan of _study_ should ever be devised for literature, and perhaps that may be found not impossible.

But now, coming to the second question, namely, this question, _If any lecture at all, why upon Pope?_ We may see reason to think that Lord Carlisle was in error. To make a choice which is not altogether the best, will not of necessity argue an error; because much must be allowed to constitutional differences of judgment or of sensibility, which may be all equally right as against any philosophic attempts to prove any one of them wrong. And a lecturer who is possibly aware of not having made the choice which was absolutely best, may defend himself upon the ground that accidental advantages of a personal kind, such as previous familiarity with the subject, or preconformity of taste to the characteristic qualities of the author selected, may have qualified him to lecture on that theme with more effect and with more benefit, than upon a theme confessedly higher but less tractable for himself with his own peculiar preparations. Here, however, the case is different. What might be no error _per se_, becomes one if the special circumstances of the situation show it to have rested upon a deep misconception. Given the audience which Lord Carlisle had before him, the audience which he anticipated, and which he proposed to himself as the modulating law for the quality and style of his lecture, that same choice becomes a profound error which, for a different audience, more refined or more miscellaneous, would have been no error at all. I do not fear that I shall offend Lord Carlisle, so upright as he has always shown himself, so manly, and so faithful to his own views of truth, by repeating firmly that such a choice in such a situation argues a deep misconception of the true intellectual agencies by which Pope acts as a power in literature, and of the moral relations to general human sensibilities or _universal_ nature which such agencies involve. My belief is, that, if a prize had been offered for a bad and malappropriate subject, none worse could have been suggested; unless, perhaps, it had been the Letters of Madame de Sevigne, or the Fables of La Fontaine; in both of which cases the delicacies and subtle felicities of treatment are even more microscopic, more shy, and more inapprehensible without a special training and culture, than in Pope, And in this point they all agree, with no great difference amongst the three, that the sort of culture which forms the previous condition for enjoying them (a _conditio sine qua non_) is not of a kind to be won from study. Even of _that_ a mechanic artisan, whose daily bread depends upon his labor, cannot have had much. But the dedication of a life to books would here avail but litttle. What is needed must be the sort of culture won from complex social intercourse; and of, this the laboring artisan can have had none at all. Even the higher ranks, during those stages of society when social meetings are difficult, are rare, and consequently have their whole intellectual opportunities exhausted in forms and elaborate ceremonials, are not able to develope what may be called the social sense, that living, trembling sensibility to the expressions and the electric changes of human thought and feeling, so infinite as they are potentially, and as they will show themselves to be when the intercourse is free, is sudden, is spontaneous, and therefore has not leisure to be false, amongst all varieties of combination as to sex, age, rank, position, and personal accomplishments. Up to the time of James the First, society amongst ourselves wore a picturesque and even a scenical exterior: but the inner life and its pulsations had not then been revealed. Great passions were required to stir the freezing waters; so that certain kinds of comedy, in which such passions are inappropriate, could not then exist. And partly to this case it was amongst the early Romans, united with the almost Asiatic seclusion from social meetings of female influence or in any virtual sense even of female presence, that we must ascribe the meagreness of the true social interest, and of the dialogue exhibited by Plautus. Two separate frosts, during a century otherwise so full of movement as the sixteenth in England, repressed and killed all germinations of free intellectual or social intercourse amongst ourselves. One was the national reserve;' and this was strengthened by concurring with a national temperament--not phlegmatic (as is so falsely alleged), but melancholic, dignified, and for that reason, if there had been no other, anti-mercurial. But the main cause of this reserve lay in the infrequency of visits consequent upon the difficulties of local movement. The other frost lay in the Spanish stateliness and the inflexibility of our social ceremonies. Our social meetings of this period, even for purposes of pleasure, were true _solemnities_. With usage of politeness that laid a weight of silence and delay upon every movement of a social company, rapid motion of thought or fancy became in a literal sense _physically_ impossible. Not until, first, our _capital_ city had prodigiously expanded; not until, secondly, our representative system had so unfolded its tendencies as to bring _politics_ within the lawful privilege of ordinary conversation; not until, thirdly, the expansions of _commerce_ had forced us into the continual necessity of talking with strangers; fourthly, not until all these changes, gradually breaking up the repulsion which separated our ungarrulous nation, had been ratified by continual improvements applied to the construction of _roads_ and the arts of _locomotion_, could it be said that such a state of social intercourse existed as would naturalty prompt the mind to seek food for its own intellectual activity in contemplating the phenomena of that intercourse. The primary aspects and the rapid changes of such an object could not arise until the object itself arose. Satire, which follows social intercourse as a shadow follows a body, was chained up till then. In Marston and in Donne (a man yet unappreciated) satire first began to respire freely, but applying itself too much, as in the great dramatists contemporary with Shakspeare, to the exterior play of society. Under Charles II. in the hands of Dryden, and under Anne in those of Pope, the larger and more intellectual sweep of satire showed that social activities were now appreaching to their culmination. Now, at length, it became evident that a new mode of pleasure had been ripened, and that a great instinct of the intellect had opened for itself an appropriate channel. No longer were social parties the old heraldic solemnities [Footnote 4] enjoined by red letters in the almanac, in which the chief objects were to discharge some arrear of ceremonious debt, or to ventilate old velvets, or to _apricate_ and refresh old gouty systems and old traditions of feudal ostentation, which both alike suffered and grew smoke-dried under too rigorous a seclusion. By a great transmigration, festal assemblages had assumed their proper station, and had unfolded their capacities, as true auxiliaries to the same general functions of intellect--otherwise expressing themselves and feeding themselves through literature, through the fine arts, and through scenic representations. A new world of pleasures had opened itself, offering new subjects of activity to the intellect, but also presupposing a new discipline and experience for enjoying them.

Precisely at this point starts off what I presume to think the great error of Lord Carlisle. He postulates as if it were a mere gift of inevitable instinct, what too certainly is the gift, and the tardy gift, of training; which training, again, is not to be won from efforts of study, but is in the nature of a slow deposition--or sediment, as it were--from a constant, perhaps at the moment, an unconscious, experience. Apparently the error is twofold: first, an oversight, in which it is probable that, without altogether overlooking the truth, Lord Carlisle allowed to it a very insufficient emphasis; but, secondly, a positive misconception of a broad character. The oversight is probably his own, and originating in a general habit of too large and liberal concession; but the misconception, I suspect, that he owes to another.

First, concerning the first. It is evidently assumed, in the adoption of Pope for his subject, that mechanic artists, as a body, are capable of appreciating Pope. I deny it; and in this I offer them no affront. If they cannot enjoy, or if often they cannot so much as understand Pope, on the other hand they can both enjoy and understand a far greater poet. It is no insult; but, on the contrary, it is often a secret compliment to the simplicity and the _breadth_ of a man's intellectual nature that he cannot enter into the artificial, the tortuous, the conventional. Many a rude mind has comprehended to the full, both Milton in his elementary grandeur and Shakspeare in his impassioned depths, that could not have even dimly guessed at the meaning of a situation in comedy where the comic rested upon arbitrary rules and conventional proprieties. In all satiric sketches of society, even where the direct object may happen to have a catholic intelligibility, there is much amongst the allusions that surround and invest it which no man will ever understand that has not personally mixed in society, or understand without very disproportional commentaries; and even in that case he will not enjoy it. This is true of such compositions as a class; but Pope, in reference to this difficulty, is disadvantageously distinguished even amongst his order. Dryden, for instance, is far larger and more capacious in his satire, and in all the genial parts would approach the level of universal sympathies; whereas Pope, besides that the basis of his ridicule is continually too narrow, local, and casual, is rank to utter corruption with a disease far deeper than false refinement or conventionalism. Pardon me, reader, if I use a coarse word and a malignant word, which I should abhor to use unless where, as in this case, I seek to rouse the vigilance of the inattentive by the apparent intemperance of the language. Pope, in too many instances, for the sake of some momentary and farcical effect, deliberately assumes the license of a _liar_. Not only he adopts the language of moral indignation where we know that it could not possibly have existed, seeing that the story to which this pretended indignation is attached was to Pope's knowledge a pure fabrication, but he also cites, as weighty evidences in the _forum_ of morality, anecdotes which he had gravely transplanted from a jest-book. [Footnote 5] Upon this, however, the most painful feature amongst Pope's literary habits, I will not dwell, as I shall immediately have occasion to notice it again. I notice it at all only for its too certain effect in limiting the sympathy with Pope's satiric and moral writings. Absolute truth and simplicity are demanded by all of us as preconditions to any sympathy with moral expressions of anger or intolerance. In all conventionalism there is a philosophic falsehood; and _that_ would be more than sufficient to repel all general sympathy with Pope from the mind of the laboring man, apart from the effect of direct falsification applied to facts, or of fantastic extravagance applied to opinions. Of this bar to the popularity of Pope, it cannot be supposed that Lord Carlisle was unaware. Doubtless he knew it, but did not allow it the weight which in practice it would be found to deserve. Yet why? Suppose that the unpopular tendency in Pope's writings were of a nature to be surmounted--upon a sufficient motive arising, suppose it not absolutely impossible to bring Pope within the toleration of working-men, upon whom, however, all that is bad would tell fearfully, and most of Pope's peculiar brilliancy would absolutely go for nothing--this notwithstanding, suppose the point established that by huge efforts, by pulling and hauling, by coaxing and flattering, and _invita Minerva_, the working-man might at length be _converted_ to Pope; yet, finally, when all was over, what object, what commensurate end, could be alleged in justification of so much preternatural effort? You have got your man into harness, that is true, and in a sullen fashion he pulls at his burden. But, after all, why not have yoked him according to his own original inclinations, and suffered him to pull where he would pull cheerfully? You have quelled a natural resistance, but clearly with so much loss of power to all parties as was spent uponthe resistance; and with what final gain to any party?

The answer to this lies in the second of the errors which I have imputed to Lord Carlisle. The first error was, perhaps, no more than an undervaluation of the truth. The second, if I divine it rightly, rests upon a total misconception, viz., the attribution to Pope of some special authority as a moral teacher. And this, if it were really so, would go far to justify Lord Carlisle in his attempt to fix the attention of literary students amongst the working-classes upon the writings of Pope. Rightly he would judge, that some leading classic must furnish the central object for the general studies. Each man would have his own separate favorites; but it would be well that the whole community of students should also have some _common_ point of interest and discussion. Pope, for such a purpose, has some real advantages. He is far enough from our own times to stand aloof from the corroding controversies of the age--he is near enough to speak in a diction but slightly differing from our own. He is sparkling with wit and brilliant good sense, and his poems are all separately short. But if Lord Carlisle count it for his main advantage that he is by distinction a _moral_ poet, and this I must suppose in order to find any solution whatever for the eagerness to press him upon the attention of our most numerous classes, when is it that this idea has originated? I suspect that it is derived originally from a distinguished man of genius in the last generation, viz., Lord Byron. Amongst the guardians of Lord Byron, one was the late Lord Carlisle; and Lord Byron was, besides, connected by blood with the House of Howard: so that there were natural reasons why a man of such extraordinary intellectual power should early obtain a profound influence over the present Earl of Carlisle. And the prejudice, which I suppose to have been first planted by Lord Byron, would very easily strengthen itself by the general cast of Pope's topics and pretensions. He writes with a showy air of disparaging riches, of doing homage to private worth, of honoring patriotism, and so on, through all the commonplaces of creditable morality. But in the midst of this surface display, and in defiance of his ostentatious pretensions, Pope is _not_ in any deep or sincere sense a moral thinker; and in his own heart there was a misgiving, not to be silenced, that he was not. Yet this is strange. Surely, Lord Carlisle, a man of ability and experience, might have credit given him for power to form a right judgment on such a question as that--_power_ undoubtedly, if he had ever been led to use his power, that is, to make up his opinion in _resistance_ to the popular impression. But to this very probably he never had any motive; and the reason why I presume to set up my individual opinion in this case against that of the multitude is, because I know experimentally that, until a man has a sincere interest in such a question, and sets himself diligently to examine and collate the facts, he will pretty certainly have no title to give any verdict on the case.

What made Lord Byron undertake the patronage of Pope? It was, as usually happened with _him_, a motive of hostility to some contemporaries. He wished to write up Pope by way of writing down others. But, whatever were the motive, we may judge of the style in which he carried out his intentions by the following well-known _mot_. Having mentioned the poets, he compares them with the moralists--'the moralists,' these are his words, 'the moralists, their betters.' How, or in what sense that would satisfy even a lampooner, are moralists as a class the 'betters' in a collation with poets as a class? It is pretty clear at starting that, _in order_ to be a moralist of the first rank, that is, to carry a great moral truth with heart-shaking force into the mind, a moralist must begin by becoming a poet. For instance, 'to justify the ways of God to man.' _That_ is a grand moral doctrine; but to utter the doctrine authentically a man must write a 'Paradise Lost.' The order of precedency, therefore, between poets and moralists, as laid down by Lord Byron, is very soon inverted by a slight effort of reflection.

But without exacting from a man so self-willed as Lord Byron (and at that moment in a great passion) any philosophic vigor, it may be worth while, so far as the case concerns Pope, to ponder for one moment upon this invidious comparison, and to expose the fallacy which it conceals. By the term _moralist_ we indicate two kinds of thinkers, differing as much in quality as a chestnut horse from horse chestnut, and in rank as a Roman proconsul from the nautical consul's first clerk at a seaport. A clerical moralist in a pulpit, reading a sermon, is a moralist in the sense of one who applies the rules of a known ethical system, viz., that system which is contained in the New Testament, to the ordinary cases of human action. Such a man pretends to no originality--it would be criminal in him to do so; or, if he seeks for novelty in any shape or degree, it is exclusively in the quality of his illustrations. But there is another use of the word _moralist_, which indicates an intellectual architect of the first class. A Grecian moralist was one who published a new _theory_ of morals--that is, he assumed some new central principle, from which he endeavored, with more or less success, to derive all the virtues and vices, and thus introduced new relations amongst the keys or elementary gamut of our moral nature. [Footnote 6] For example, the Peripatetic system of morality, that of Aristotle, had for its fundamental principle, that all vices formed one or other of two polar extremes, one pole being in excess, the other in defect; and that the corresponding virtue lay on an equatorial line between these two poles. Here, because the new principle became a law of coercion for the entire system, since it must be carried out harmoniously with regard to every element that could move a question, the difficulties were great, and hardly to be met by mere artifices of ingenuity. The legislative principle needed to be profound and comprehensive; and a moralist in this sense, the founder of an ethical system, really looked something like a great man.

But, valued upon that scale. Pope is nobody; or in Newmarket language, if ranked against Chrysippus, or Plato, or Aristotle, or Epicurus, he would be found 'nowhere.' He is reduced, therefore, at one blow to the level of a pulpit moralist, or mere applier of moral laws to human actions. And in a function so exceedingly humble, philosophically considered, how could he pretend to precedency in respect of anybody, unless it were the amen clerk, or the sexton?

In reality, however, the case is worse, If a man did really bring all human actions under the light of any moral system whatever, provided that he _could_ do so sternly, justly, and without favor this way or that, he would perform an exemplary service, such as no man ever _has_ performed. And this is what we mean by casuistry, which is the application of a moral principle to the _cases_ arising in human life. A _case_ means a genuine class of human acts, but differentiated in the way that law cases are. For we see that every case in the law courts conforms in the major part to the genuine class; but always, or nearly always, it presents some one differential feature peculiar to itself; and the question about it always is, Whether the differential feature is sufficient to take it out of the universal rule, or whether, in fact, it ought not to disturb the incidence of the legal rule? This is what we mean by casuistry. All law in its practical processes is a mode of casuistry. And it is clear that any practical ethics, ethics applied to the realities of life, ought to take the professed shape of casuistry. We do not evade the thing by evading the name. But because casuistry under that name, has been chiefly cultivated by the Roman Catholic Church, we Protestants, with our ridiculous prudery, find a stumbling-block in the very name. This, however, is the only service that _can_ be rendered to morality among us. And nothing approaching to this has been attempted by Pope.

What is it, then, that he _has_ attempted? Certainly he imagines himself to have done something or other in behalf of moral philosophy. For in a well-known couplet he informs us--


'That not in Fancy's maze he lingered long,
But stooped to Truth, and _moralized_ his song.'


Upon these lines a lady once made to me this very acute and significant remark. The particular direction, she said, in which Pope fancied that he came upon Truth, showed pretty clearly what sort of truth it was that he searched after. Had he represented Fancy, as often is done, soaring aloft amongst the clouds, then, because Truth must be held to lie in the opposite direction, there might have been pleaded a necessity for _descending_ upon Truth, like one who is looking for mushrooms. But as Fancy, by good luck, is simply described as roaming about amongst labyrinths, which are always constructed upon dead levels, he had left it free for himself to soar after Truth into the clouds. But _that_ was a mode of truth which Pope cared little for; if _she_ chose to go galavanting amongst the clouds, Pope, for _his_ part, was the last person to follow her. Neither was he the man to go down into a well in search of her. Truth was not liable to wet feet--but Pope _was_. And he had no such ardor for Truth as would ever lead him to forget that wells were damp, and bronchitis alarming to a man of his constitution.

Whatever service Pope may have meditated to the philosophy of morals, he has certainly performed none. The direct contributions which he offered to this philosophy in his 'Essay on Man,' are not of a nature to satisfy any party; because at present the whole system may be read into different, and sometimes into opposite meanings, according to the quality of the integrations supplied for filling up the chasms in the chain of the development. The sort of service, however, expected from Pope in such a field, falls in better with the style of his satires and moral epistles than of a work professedly metaphysical. Here, however, most eminently it is that the falseness and hypocrisy which besieged his satirical career have made themselves manifest; and the dilemma for any working-man who should apply himself to these sections of Pope's writings is precisely this: Reading them with the slight and languid attention which belongs to ordinary reading, they will make no particular discoveries of Pope's hollowness and treacherous infidelities to the truth, whether as to things or persons; but in such a case neither will they reap any benefit. On the other hand, if they so far carry out Lord Carlisle's advice as to enter upon the study of Pope in the spirit of earnest students, and so as really to possess themselves of the key to his inner mind, they will rise from their labors not so much in any spirit of gratitude for enlarged and humanizing views of man, as in a spirit of cynical disgust at finding that such views can be so easily counterfeited, and so often virtually betrayed.

[The paper of last month, [Footnote 7] on Lord Carlisle's lecture, having been written under the oppression of a nervous illness, accompanied by great suffering, may probably enough have been found heavy. Another objection to that paper is, that it too easily _assumes_ the radical falseness, of Pope, as a notorious fact needing no evidence or illustration. To myself it _did_ not need either. But to any casual reader, whose attention had never been attracted to the circumstantialities of Pope's satiric sketches, this assumption would be startling; and it would have done him a service to offer a few exemplifications of the vice attributed to Pope, both as substantiating the charge, and as investing it with some little amusement. This it had been my intention to do at the moment; but being disabled by the illness above-mentioned, I now supply the omission.]

Whom shall we pronounce a fit writer to be laid before an auditory of working-men, as a model of what is just in composition--fit either for conciliating their regard to literature at first or afterwards for sustaining it? The qualifications for such a writer are apparently these two: first, that he should deal chiefly with the elder and elementary affections of man, and under those relations which concern man's grandest capacities;--secondly, that he should treat his subject with solemnity, and not with sneer--with earnestness, as one under a prophet's burden of impassioned truth, and not with the levity of a girl hunting a chance-started caprice. I admire Pope in the very highest degree; but I admire him as a pyrotechnic for producing brilliant and evanescent effects out of elements that have hardly a moment's life within them. There is a flash and a startling explosion, then there is a dazzling coruscation, all purple and gold; the eye aches under the suddenness of a display that, springing like a burning arrow out of darkness, rushes back into darkness with arrowy speed, and in a moment all is over. Like festal shows, or the hurrying music of such shows--

'It _was_, and it is not.'

Untruly, therefore, was it ever fancied of Pope, that he belonged by his classification to the family of the Drydens. Dryden had within him a principle of continuity which was not satisfied without lingering upon his own thoughts, brooding over them, and oftentimes pursuing them through their unlinkings with the _sequaciousness_ (pardon a Coleridgian word) that belongs to some process of creative nature, such as the unfolding of a flower. But Pope was all jets and tongues of flame; all showers of scintillation and sparkle. Dryden followed, genially, an impulse of his healthy nature. Pope obeyed, spasmodically, an overmastering febrile paroxysm. Even in these constitutional differences between the two are written and are legible the corresponding necessities of 'utter falsehood in Pope, and of loyalty to truth in Dryden.' Strange it is to recall this one striking fact, that if once in his life Dryden might reasonably have been suspected of falsehood, it was in the capital matter of religion. He _ratted_ from his Protestant faith; and according to the literal origin of that figure he _ratted_; for he abjured it as rats abjure a ship in which their instinct of divination has deciphered a destiny of ruin, and at the very moment when Popery wore the promise of a triumph that might, at any rate, have lasted his time. Dryden was a Papist by apostasy; and perhaps, not to speak uncharitably, upon some bias from self-interest. Pope, on the other hand, was a Papist by birth, and by a tie of honor; and he resisted all temptations to desert his afflicted faith, which temptations lay in bribes of great magnitude prospectively, and in persecutions for the present that were painfully humiliating. How base a time-server does Dryden appear on the one side!--on the other, how much of a martyr should we be disposed to pronounce Pope! And yet, for all that, such is the overruling force of a nature originally sincere, the apostate Dryden wore upon his brow the grace of sincerity, whilst the pseudo-martyr Pope, in the midst of actual fidelity to his Church, was at his heart a traitor--in the very oath of his allegiance to his spiritual mistress had a lie upon his lips, scoffed at her whilst kneeling in homage to her pretensions, and secretly forswore her doctrines whilst suffering insults in her service.

The differences as to truth and falsehood lay exactly where, by all the external symptoms, they ought _not_ to have lain. But the reason for this anomaly was, that to Dryden sincerity had been a perpetual necessity of his intellectual nature, whilst Pope, distracted by his own activities of mind, living in an irreligious generation, and beset by infidel friends, had early lost his anchorage of traditional belief; and yet, upon an honorable scruple of fidelity to the suffering church of his fathers, he sought often to dissemble the fact of his own scepticism, which yet often he thirsted ostentatiously to parade. Through a motive of truthfulness he became false. And in this particular instance he would, at any rate, have become false, whatever had been the native constitution of his mind. It was a mere impossibility to reconcile any real allegiance to his church with his known irreverence to religion. But upon far more subjects than this Pope was habitually false in the quality of his thoughts, always insincere, never by any accident in earnest, and consequently many times caught in ruinous self-contradiction. Is that the sort of writer to furnish an advantageous study for the precious leisure, precious as rubies, of the toil-worn artisan?

The root and the pledge of this falseness in Pope lay in a disease of his mind, which he (like the Roman poet Horace) mistook for a feature of preternatural strength; and this disease was the incapacity of self-determination towards any paramount or abiding _principles_. Horace, in a well-known passage, had congratulated himself upon this disease as upon a trophy of philosophic emancipation:


'Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri,
Quo me cunque rapit tempestas, deferor liospes:'


which words Pope thus translates, and applies to himself in his English adaptation of this epistle:--


'But ask not to what doctors I apply--
Sworn to no master, of no sect am I.
As drives the storm, at any door I knock;
And house with Montaigne now, or now with Locke.'


That is, neither one poet nor the other having, as regarded philosophy, any internal principle of gravitation or determining impulse to draw him in one direction rather than another, was left to the random control of momentary taste, accident, or caprice; and this indetermination of pure, unballasted levity both Pope and Horace mistook for a special privilege of philosophic strength. Others, it seems, were chained and coerced by sertain fixed aspects of truth, and their efforts were overruled accordingly in one uniform line of direction. But _they_, the two brilliant poets, fluttered on butterfly-wings to the right and the left, obeying no guidance but that of some instant and fugitive sensibility to some momentary phasis of beauty. In this dream of drunken eclecticism, and in the original possibility of such an eclecticism, lay the ground of that enormous falsehood which Pope practised from youth to age. An eclectic philosopher already, in the very title which he assumes, proclaims his self-complacency in the large liberty of error purchased by the renunciation of all controlling principles. Having severed the towing-line which connected him with any external force of guiding and compulsory truth, he is free to go astray in any one of ten thousand false radiations from the true centre of rest. By his own choice he is wandering in a forest all but pathless,


---'ubi passim.
Pallantes error recto de tramite pellit;'


and a forest not of sixty days' journey, like that old Hercynian forest of Caesar's time, but a forest which sixty generations have not availed to traverse or familiarize in any one direction.

For Horace, as I have endeavored to explain in the note, the apology is so much the readier as his intrusions into this province of philosophy are slighter, more careless, and more indirect. But Pope's are wilful, premeditated, with malice aforethought; and his falsehoods wear a more malignant air, because they frequently concern truth speculative, and are therefore presumably more deliberate in their origin, and more influential in the result. It is precisely this part of Pope's errors that would prove most perplexing to the unlearned student. Beyond a doubt the 'Essay on Man' would, in virtue of its subject, prove the most attractive to a laboring man of all Pope's writings, as most of all promising a glimpse into a world of permanence and of mysterious grandeur, and having an interest, therefore, transcendent to any that could be derived from the fleeting aspects of manners or social conventionalisms, though illuminated and vivified by satire. _Here_ would be the most advantageous and _remunerative_ station to take for one who should undertake a formal exposure of Pope's hollow-heartedness; that is, it would most commensurately reward the pains and difficulties of such an investigation. But it would be too long a task for this situation, and it would be too polemic. It would move through a jungle of controversies. For, to quote a remark which I once made myself in print, the 'Essay on Man' in one point resembles some doubtful inscriptions in ancient forms of Oriental languages, which, being made up elliptically of mere consonants, can be read into very different senses according to the different sets of vowels which the particular reader may choose to interpolate. According to the choice of the interpreter, it may be read into a loyal or a treasonable meaning. Instead of this I prefer, as more amusing, as less elaborate, and as briefer, to expose a few of Pope's _personal_ falsehoods, and falsehoods as to the notorieties of _fact_. Truths speculative oftentimes, drives its roots into depth so dark, that the falsifications to which it is liable, though detected, cannot always be exposed to the light of day--the result is known, but not therefore seen. Truth personal, on the other hand, may be easily made to confront its falsifier, not with refutation only, but with the visible _shame_ of refutation. Such sharoe would settle upon _every_ page of Pope's satires and moral epistles, oftentimes upon every couplet, if any censor, armed with an adequate knowledge of the facts, were to prosecute the inquest. Apd the general impression from such an inquest would be, that Pope never delineated a character, nor uttered a sentiment, nor breathed an aspiration, which he, would not willingly have recast, have retracted, have abjured or trampled under foot with the curses assigned to heresy, if by sueh an act he could have added a hue of brilliancy to his coloring, or a new depth to his shadows. There is nothing he would not have sacrificed, not the most solemn of his opinions, nor the most pathetic memorial from his personal experiences, in return for a sufficient consideration, which consideration meant always with _him_ poetic effect. It is not, as too commonly is believed, that he was reckless of other people's feelings; so far from _that_, he had a morbid _facility_ in his kindness; and in cases where he had no reason to suspect any lurking hostility, he showed even a paralytic benignity. But, simply and constitutionally, he was incapable of a sincere thought or a sincere emotion. Nothing that ever he uttered, were it even a prayer to God, but he had a fancy for reading it backwards. And he was evermore false, not as loving or preferring falsehood, but as one who could not in his heart perceive much real difference between what people affected to call falsehood and what they affected to call truth. Volumes might be filled with illustrations; I content myself with three or four.

I. Pope felt _intellectually_ that it was philosophic, and also that it wore an air of nobility, _not_ to despise poverty. _Morally_, however, he felt inversely: nature and the accidents of his life had made it his necessity to despise nothing so heartily. If in any one sentiment he ever was absolutely sincere, if there can be cited one insulated case upon which he found it difficult to play the hypocrite, it was in the case of that intense scorn with which he regarded poverty, and all the painful circumstances that form the equipage of poverty. To look at a pale, dejected fellow-creature creeping along the highway, and to have reason for thinking that he has not tasted food since yesterday--what a pang would such a sight, accompanied by such a thought, inflict upon many a million of benign human hearts! But in Pope, left to his spontaneous nature, such a sight and such a thought would have moved only fits of laughter. Not that he would have refused the poor creature a shilling, but still he would have laughed. For hunger, and cold, and poverty, appeared to _him_ only in the light of drolleries, and too generally of scoundrelisms. Still he was aware that some caution was requisite in giving public expression to such feelings. Accordingly, when he came forward in gala-dress as a philosopher, he assumed the serene air of one upon whom all such idle distinctions as rich and poor were literally thrown away. But watch him: follow his steps for a few minutes, and the deep realities of his nature will unmask themselves. For example, in the first book of the 'Dunciad' he has occasion to mention Dennis:--


'And all the mighty mad in Dennis raged.'


Upon this line (the 106th) of the text he hangs a note, in the course of which he quotes a few sentences about Dennis from Theobald. One of these begins thus: 'Did we really know how much this poor man suffers by being contradicted,' &c.; upon which Pope thinks proper to intercalate the following pathetic parenthesis in italics: _I wish that reflection on POVERTY had been spared._' How amiable! how pretty! Could Joseph Surface have more dexterously _improved_ the occasion: 'The man that disparages poverty, is a man that--' &c.; It is manifest, however, at a glance, that this virtuous indignation is altogether misplaced; for '_poor_' in the quotation from Theobald has no reference whatever to _poverty_ as the antithesis to _wealth_. What a pity that a whole phial of such excellent scenical morality should thus have been uncorked and poured out upon the wrong man and the wrong occasion! Really, this unhappy blunder extorts from me as many tears of laughter as ever poverty extorted from Pope. Meantime, reader, watch what follows. Wounded so deeply in his feelings by this constrained homage to poverty, Pope finds himself unable to resettle the equilibrium in his nervous system until he has taken out his revenge by an extra kicking administered to some old mendicant or vagrant lying in a ditch.

At line 106 comes the flourish about Dennis's poverty. Just nine lines ahead, keeping close as a policeman upon the heels' of a thief, you come up with Pope in the very act of maltreating Gibber, upon no motive or pretence whatever, small or great, but that he (the said Gibber) was guilty of poverty. Pope had detected him--and this is Pope's own account of the assault--in an overt act of poverty. He deposes, as if it were an ample justification of his own violence, that Gibber had been caught in the very act--not of supping meanly, coarsely, vulgarly, as upon tripe, for instance, or other offal--but absolutely in the act of not supping at all!

'Swearing and _supperless_ the hero sate.'

Here one is irresistibly reminded of the old story about the cat who was transformed into a princess: she played the _role_ with admirable decorum, until one day a mouse ran across the floor of the royal saloon, when immediately the old instinct and the hereditary hatred proved too much for the artificial nature, and her highness vanished over a six-barred gate in a furious mouse-chase. Pope, treading in the steps of this model, fancies himself reconciled to poverty. Poverty, however, suddenly presents herself, not as a high poetic abstraction, but in that one of her many shapes which to Pope had always seemed the most comic as well as the most hateful. Instantly Pope's ancient malice is rekindled; and in line 115 we find him assaulting that very calamity under one name, which under another, at line 106, he had treated with an ostentatious superfluity of indulgence.

II. I have already noticed that some of Pope's most pointed examples which he presents to you as drawn from his own experience of life, are in fact due to jest-books; and some (offered as facts) are pure coinages of his own brain. When he makes his miser at the last gasp so tenacious of the worldly rights then slipping from his grasp as that he refuses to resign a particular manor, Pope forgot that even a jest-book must govern its jokes by some regard to the realities of life, and that amongst these realities is the very nature and operation of a will. A miser is not, therefore, a fool; and he knows that no possible testamentary abdication of an estate disturbs his own absolute command over it so long as he lives, or bars his power of revoking the bequest. The moral instruction is in this case so poor, that no reader cares much upon what sort of foundation the story itself rests. For such a story a lie may be a decent basis. True; but not so senseless a lie. If the old miser was delirious, there is an end of his responsibilities; and nobody has a right to draw upon _him_ for moral lessons or warnings. If he was _not_ delirirous, the case could not have happened. Modelled in the same spirit are all Pope's pretended portraitures of women; and the more they ought to have been true, as professing to be studies from life, the more atrociously they are false, and false in the transcendent sense of being impossible. Heaps of contradiction, or of revolting extravagance, do not verify themselves to our loathing incredulity because the artist chooses to come forward with his arms akimbo, saying angrily, 'But I tell you, sir, these are _not_ fancy-pieces! These ladies whom I have here lampooned are familiarly known to me--they are my particular friends. I see them every day in the undiess of confiding friendship. They betray all their foibles to me in the certainty that I shall take no advantage of their candor; and will you, coming a century later, presume to dispute the fidelity or the value of my contemporary portraits?' Yes, and upon these two grounds: first (as to the fidelity), that the pretended portraits are delineations of impossible people; and secondly (as to the value), that, if after all they could be sworn to as copies faithful to the originals, not the less are they to be repelled as abnormal, and so far beyond the intelligibilities of nature as practically to mean nothing, neither teaching nor warning. The two Duchesses of Marlborough, for instance, Sarah and Henrietta, are atrocious caricatures, and constructed on the desperate principle of catching at a momentary stare or grin, by means of anarchy in the features imputed, and truculent antithesis in the expression. Who does not feel that these are the fierce pasquinades, and the coarse pasquinades, of some malignant electioneering contest? Is there a line that breathes the simplicity and single-heartedness of truth? Equal disgust settles upon every word that Pope ever wrote against Lady Mary W. Montagu. Having once come to hate her rancorously, and finding his hatred envenomed by the consciousness that Lady Mary had long ceased to care two straws for all the malice of all the wits in Christendom, Pope labored at his own spite, filing it and burnishing it as a hand-polisher works at the the blade of a scymitar. For years he had forgotten to ask after the realities of nature as they existed in Lady Mary, and considered only what had the best chance of stinging her profoundly. He looked out for a 'raw' into which he might lay the lash; not seeking it in the real woman, but generally in the nature and sensibilities of abstract woman. Whatever seemed to disfigure the idea of womanhood, _that_, by reiterated touches, he worked into his portraits of Lady Mary; and at length, no doubt, he had altogether obliterated from his own remembrance the true features of her whom he so much detested. On this class of Pope's satiric sketches I do not, however, wish to linger, having heretofore examined some of the more prominent cases with close attention.

My last paper on Pope has been taxed with exaggeration. This charge comes from a London weekly journal (_The Leader_) distinguished by its ability, by its hardihood of speculation, by its comprehensive candor, but, in _my_ eyes, still more advantageously distinguished by its deep sincerity. Such qualities give a special value to the courtesies of that journal; and I in particular, as a literary man, have to thank it for repeated instances of kindness the most indulgent on any occasion which has brought up the mention of my name. Such qualities of necessity give a corresponding value to its censures. And accordingly, as a point of duty, I directed my attention immediately to _this_ censure. Whatever was still unprinted I reviewed; and whatever struck me as open to objection I removed. And if the result after all has been that I do not altogether concur in the criticism of _The Leader_, the reason is because, as upon re-examination it strikes me, in the worst cases Pope has not left room for exaggeration. I do not see any actual exaggeration, simply because I do not see that any exaggeration is possible. But though I thus found myself unable sincerely to make the sacrifice of my own opinion, another sacrifice of a different kind I _have_ made, viz., that of half my paper. I cancelled one half--viz., that half which was occupied with cases in Pope of disingenuousness, and perhaps of moral falsehood or collusion with other people's falsehood, but not of falsehood atrociously literal and conscious; meaning thus to diminish by one half the penance of those who do not like to see Pope assaulted, although forced by uneasiness to watch the assault;--feeling with which I heartily sympathize; and meaning, on the other hand, in justification of mylelf, to throw the reader's attention more effectively, because more exclusively, upon such cases of frantic and moonstruck falsehood as could allow no room for suspense or mitigation of judgment. Of these I have selected two, one relating to the Duke of Buckingham, and the other to the history and derivation of English literature. Generally, I believe, that to a just appreciation of Pope's falseness, levity, and self-contradiction, it is almost essential that a reader should have studied him with the purpose of becoming his editor. This at one time was my own purpose; and thus it was that I became acquainted with qualities prevailing in Pope which, in the midst of my great admiration for him, would have made such a purpose difficult of execution. For in the relation between author and editor, any harshness of reproach on the part of the latter, or any expression of alienation and imperfect sympathy, seems unbecoming in one who has spontaneously assumed the office of a _patronus_ to a _client_, and are uniformly painful to the reader. On this account it is that the late Mr. Roscoe figures amongst all editors of Pope as by far the most agreeable. He has a just tenderness for the memory and merits of the great writer whom he undertakes to edit; this feeling keeps his annotations clear from the petulance of Joseph Warton and the malice of Bowles; whilst, not having happened to see Pope's errors in the same light as myself, he suffers from no conflict between his natural indulgence to intellectual splendor and his conscientious reverence for truth.

But if the reader is shocked with Pope's false reading of phenomena, where not the circumstances so much as the construction of the circumstances may be challenged, what must he think of those cases in which downright facts, and incidents the most notorious, have been outrageously falsified only in obedience to a vulgar craving for effect in the dramatic situations, or by way of pointing a moral for the stimulation of torpid sensibilities? Take, for instance, the death of the second Villiers, Duke of Buckingham--a story which, in Pope's version of it, has travelled into a popularity that may be called national; and yet, the whole is one tissue of falsehoods--and of falsehoods that must have been known for such by Pope not less than to most of his contemporary readers. Suppose them _not_ known, and the whole must have wanted all natural interest. For this interest lay in the Duke's character, in his superb accomplishments and natural advantages, in his fine person, in his vast wealth, and in the admirable versatility of his intellectual powers, which made him alternately the idol and the terror of all circles that he approached, which caused Lord Clarendon to tremble with impotent malice in his chancellor's robes, and Dry den to shiver with panic under his laureate crowns. Now, wherever these features of the case were _not_ known, the story was no more than any ordinary death arising out of a fox-chase. But those to whom they _were_ known must, at the same time, have known the audacious falsehood which disfigures the story in Pope's way of telling it. _Without_ the personal interest, the incidents were nothing; and _with_ that interest, at starting, Pope's romance must have defeated itself by its fabulous coloring. Let me recall to the reader the principal lines in this famous description:--


'In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half hung,
The floors of plaster and the walls of dung,
On once a flock-bed, but repaired with straw,
With tape-tied curtains never meant to draw,
The George and Garter dangling from that bed
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies! Alas! how changed from him,
That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim,
Gallant and gay in Cliveden's proud alcove,
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
_There_, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
And fame, the lord of useless thousands ends.'


Without stopping to examine these famous lines as to thought and expression (both of which are scandalously vicious), what I wish the reader to remark is, the one pervading falsehood which connects them. Wherefore this minute and purely fanciful description of the road-side _cabaret_, with its bedroom and bed? Wherefore this impertinent and also fraudulent circumstantiality? It is, as Pope would tell you, for the sake of impressing with more vivacity the abject poverty to which the Duke's follies had brought him. The wretched bed, for instance, is meant to be the exponent of the empty purse which could purchase no better. And, for fear that you might miss this construction of the passage, Pope himself tells you, in a prose note, that the Duke 'died in a remote inn in Yorkshire, _reduced to the utmost misery_.' Being engaged in the business of dying, it could hardly be expected that the Duke should be particularly happy. But what Pope means you to understand by 'misery' is _poverty_; the prose note simply reiterates the words, 'victor of _fortune_,' in the text. Now, had the truth been really so, what moral would such a story exemplify beyond the vulgar one of pecuniary improvidence? And yet surely this was not the cause of the Duke's being thrown from his horse. Meantime, Pope well knew that the whole was a ridiculous fable. The Duke had the misfortune to be fatally injured in a fox-chase. In such an extremity, naturally, his servants carry him into the house nearest at hand, which happens to be an alehouse--not 'the worst,' since there was no other; nor was it possible that, to a man of his distinction, once the lord-lieutenant of that very East Riding, any room would be offered worse than the very best that contained a bed. In these dreadful circumstances, it is not easy to measure the levity which can linger upon the description of such exquisite impertinences as the housewifely defects of the walls, the curtains, the flock-bed, &c.; But Pope was at his wit's end for a striking falsehood. He needed for a momentary effect some tale of a great lord, once fabulously rich, who had not left himself the price of a halter or of a pauper's bed. And thus, for the sake of extorting a stare of wonderment from a mob of gaping readers, he did not scruple to give birth and currency to the grossest of legendary lies. The Duke's death happened a few months before Pope's birth. But the last of the Villiers family that wore a ducal coronet was far too memorable a person to have died under the cloud of obscurity which Pope's representation presumes. He was the most interesting person of the Alcibiades class [Footnote 9] that perhaps ever existed; and Pope's mendacious story found acceptance only amongst an after-generation unacquainted with the realities of the case. There was not so much as a popular rumor to countenance Pope. The story was a pure, gratuitous invention of his own. Even at the time of his death, the Duke of Buckingham was generally reputed to have sixty thousand per annum, and chiefly from land; an income at that period absolutely without precedent or parallel in Europe. In this there might be some exaggeration, as usually there _is_ in such cases. But the 'Fairfax Papers' have recently made it manifest that Pope's tale was the wildest of fictions. The Duke of Buckingham had, to some extent, suffered from his loyalty to the Crown, though apparently sheltered from the main fury of the storm by the interest of his Presbyterian father-in-law; and in his own person he had at one time been carelessly profuse. But all this was nothing. The sting of Pope's story requires him to have been a pauper; and yet--O heaven and incredulous earth!--a pauper hunting upon blood-horses, in a star and garter, and perhaps in a collar of SS! The plain, historical truth, meanwhile, survives, that this pauper was simply the richest man in Christendom; and that, except Aladdin (Oh, yes; always except Aladdin of the Arabian Nights!) there never had been a richer. And thus collapses the whole fable, like a soap-bubble punctured by a surgeon's probe.

II. Yet even this specimen of Pope's propensity to falsehood is far from being the worst. Here were facts scandalously distorted. Falsehoods they were; but, if it had pleased God, they might have been truths. Next, however, comes a fiction so maniacally gross, so incoherent, and so rife with internal contradictions, as to involve its own exposure, literally shrinking from its own intelligible enunciation, burrowing in sentences kept aloof from the text, and calling upon foot-notes to cover it. The case will speak for itself. Pope had undertaken to translate the well-known epistle of Horace to Augustus Caesar; not literally, but upon the principle of adapting it to a modern and English treatment of its topics. Caesar, upon this system, becomes George the Second--a very strange sort of Caesar; and Pope is supposed to have been laughing at him, which may be the color that Pope gave to the travesty amongst his private circle; otherwise there is nothing in the expressions to sustain such a construction. Rome, with a little more propriety, masquerades as England, and France as Greece, or, more strictly, as Athens. Now, by such a transformation, already from the very beginning Pope was preparing for himself a dire necessity of falsehood. And he must have known it. Once launched upon such a course, he became pledged and committed to all the difficulties which it might impose. Desperate necessities would arise, from which nothing but desperate lying and hard swearing could extricate him. The impossibility of carrying through the parallel by means of _genuine_ correspondences threw him for his sole resource upon such as were extravagantly spurious; and apparently he had made up his mind to cut his way through the ice, though all the truths that ever were embattled against Baron Munchausen should oppose his advance. Accordingly about the middle of the Epistle, a dilemma occurs from which no escape or deliverance is possible, except by an almighty falsehood. Take the leap Pope must, or else he must turn back when half-way through. Horace had occasion to observe that, after Rome had made a conquest of Greece by force of arms, captive Greece retaliated upon her conqueror by another kind of victory, namely, by that of arts: [Footnote 10]--


'Graecia capta ferum ietorera cepit, et artes
Intulit agresti Latio.'


Now, in the corresponding case (as Pope had arranged it) between England and France, the parallel certainly held good as far as the military conquest. England, it was undeniable, had conquered France in that sense, as completely as ever Rome had conquered Greece or Macedon. Two English kings had seated themselves in succession upon the throne of France--one virtually, one formally. So far all was tight, and held water. Nothing could disturb _that_ part of the case. But next came the retaliatory conquest, by means of arts and letters. How was this to be dealt with? What shadow or dream of a correspondency could be made out _there_? What impudence could face _that_? Already, in Pope's ears, sounded the trumpet of recall; and Pope mused a, little: but 'No,' he said in effect, 'I will not turn back. Why should I? It is but one astounding falsehood that is wanted to set me free.' I will venture to say that Mendez Pinto, the Portuguese liar, that Sir John Mandeville, the traveller, that Baron Munchausen, the most philosophic of bold adventurers into the back settlements of lying, never soared into such an aerial bounce, never cleared such a rasper of a fence, as did Pope on this occasion. He boldly took it upon his honor and credit that our English armies, in the times of Agincourt and the Regent Bedford, found in France a real, full-grown French literature, packed it up in their baggage-wagons, and brought it home to England. The passage from Horace, part of which has been cited above, stands thus in the translation of Pope:--


'We conquered France, but felt our captive's charms--
Her arts victorious triumphed o'er our arms;
Britain to soft refinements less a foe,
Wit grew polite, and numbers learned to flow.'


Ten years then, before Joan of Arc's execution, [Footnote 11] viz., about 1420 (if we are to believe Pope), or even fifteen years, France had a great domestic literature; and this unknown literature has actually furnished a basis to our own. Let us understand clearly what it is that Pope means to assert. For it is no easy matter to do that where a man dodges behind texts and notes, and shuffles between verse and prose, mystifying the reader, and designing to do so. Under the torture of cross-examination let us force Pope to explain what literature _that_ is which, having glorified France, became the venerable mother of a fine English literature in an early stage of the fifteenth century? The reader, perhaps, fancies that possibly Pope may have expressed himself erroneously only from being a little hurried or a little confused. Not at all. I know my man better, perhaps, than the reader does; and I know that he is trying to hoax us. He is not confused himself, but is bent upon confusing _us_; and I am bent upon preventing him. And, therefore, again I ask sternly, What literature is this which very early in the fifteenth century, as early as Agincourt, we English found prospering in France, and which, for the benefit of the English intellect, such men as Ancient Pistol, Nym, Bardolph, Fluellen, Capt. Macmorris, Jamy, and other well-known literati in the army of Henry V., transplanted (or, 'as the wise it call,' _conveyed_) to England? Agincourt was fought in 1415; exactly four centuries before Waterloo. That was the beginning of our domination in France; and soon after the middle of that same fifteenth century, viz., about 1452, our domination was at an end. During that interval, therefore, it must have been, then, or not at all, that this great intellectual revolution worked by France upon England was begun and completed. Naturally, at this point, the most submissive and sycophantish of Pope's friends would feel moved by the devil of curiosity, if not absolutely by the devil of suspicion, humbly to ask for a name or two, just as a specimen, from this great host of Anglo-Gallic wits. Pope felt (and groaned as he felt) that so reasonable a demand could not be evaded. 'This comes of telling lies,' must have been his bitter reflection: 'one lie makes a necessity for another.' However, he reflected that this second lie need not be introduced into the text, where it would have the fatal effect of blowing up the whole bubble: it might be hidden away in a foot-note. Not one person in twenty would read it, and he that did might easily suppose the note to be some unauthorized impertinence of a foolish commentator. Secretly therefore, silently, stealthily--so as to draw as little attention as possible--Pope introduced into a note his wicked little brazen solution of his own wicked and brazen conundrum. France, such was the proposition, had worked a miracle upon English ground; as if with some magician's rod, she had called up spawn innumerable of authors, lyric, epic, dramatic, pastoral, each after his kind. But by whom had France moved in this creation as the chief demi-urgus? By whom, Mr. Pope? Name, name, Mr. Pope! 'Ay,' we must suppose the unhappy man to reply, 'that's the very question which I was going to answer, if you wouldn't be so violent.' 'Well, answer it then. Take your own time, but answer; for we don't mean to be put off without some kind of answer.' 'Listen, then,' said Pope, 'and I'll whisper it into your ear; for it's a sort of secret.' Now think, reader, of a _secret_ upon a matter like this, which (if true at all) must be known to the antipodes. However, let us have the secret. 'The secret,' replied Pope, 'is, that some time in the reign of Charles the Second--when I won't be positive, but I'm sure it was after the Restoration--three gentlemen wrote an eighteen-penny pamphlet.' 'Good! And what were the gentlemen's names?' 'One was Edmund Waller, the poet; one was Mr. Go-dolphin; and the other was Lord Dorset.' 'This trinity of wits, then, you say, Mr. Pope, produced a mountain, price eighteen-pence, and this mountain produced a mouse.' 'Oh, no! it was just the other way. They produced a mouse, price eighteen-pence, and this mouse produced a mountain, viz., the total English literature.' O day and night, but this is wondrous strange! The total English literature--not the tottle only, but the tottle of the whole, like an oak and the masts of some great amiral, that once slept in an acorn--absolutely lying hid in an eighteen-penny pamphlet! And what, now, might this pamphlet be about? Was it about the curing of bacon, or the sublimer art of sowing moonshine broadcast? It was, says Pope, if you _must_ know everything, a translation from the French. And judiciously chosen; for it was the _worst_ (and surely everybody must think it proper to keep back the _best_, until the English had earned a right to such luxuries by showing a proper sense of their value)--the _worst_ it was, and by very much the worst, of all Corneille's dramas; and its name was 'Pompey.' Pompey, was it? And so, then, from Pompey's loins we, the whole armies of English _litterateurs_, grubs and eagles, are lineally descended. So says Pope. So he _must_ say, In obedience to his own line of argument. And, this being the case, one would be glad to have a look at Pompey. It is hard upon us _literati_, that are the children of Pompey, not to have a look at the author of our existence. But our chance of such a look is small indeed. For Pompey, you are to understand, reader, never advanced so far as to a second edition. That was a poor return on the part of England for Pompey's services. And my too sceptical mind at one time inclined to doubt even Pompey's _first_ edition; which was wrong, and could have occurred only to a lover of paradoxes. For Warton (not Tom, but Joe) had actually seen Pompey, and records his opinion of him, which happened to be this: that Pompey was 'pitiful enough.' These are Joe's own words. Still, I do not see that one witness establishes a fact of this magnitude. A shade of doubt, therefore, continues to linger over Pompey's very existence; and the upshot is, that Pompey (not the great, but confessedly) the doubtful, eighteen-penny Pompey, but, in any case, Pompey, 'the Pitiful,' is the Great overriding and tutelary power, under whose inspiration and inaugurating impulse our English literature has blossomed and ripened, root, stem, and branch, through the life-struggles of five centuries, into its present colossal proportions.

Here pause, reader, and look back upon the separate reticulations--so as, if possible, to connect them--in this network of hideous extravagance; where as elsewhere it happens, that one villany, hides another, and that the mere depth of the umbrage spread by fraudulent mystifications is the very cause which conceals the extent of those mystifications. Contemplated in a languid mood, or without original interest in the subject, that enormity of falsehood fails to strike, which, under circumstances personally interesting, would seem absolutely incredible. The outrage upon the intellect actually obscures and withdraws the outrage upon the facts. And, inversely, the affronts to historical accuracy obscure the affronts to good sense. Look steadily for a moment at the three points in the array of impeachments :--

I. In the Red-rose invasion of France, Pope assumes, as a matter of notoriety, that the English invading force went from a land of semi-barbarism to a land of literature and refinement: the simple fact being so conspicuously the other way, that, whilst France had no literature at all, consequently _could_ have nothing to give (there being no book extensively diffused in the France of that period, except the 'De Imitatione Christi,') [Footnote 13] England, on the other hand, had so bright a jewel to offer, that to this hour the whole of Christendom has not matched it or approached it. Even at present, in the case so often supposed, that a man were _marooned_, that is, confined (as regarded his residence) to one desert island, and marooned also as to books, confined I mean (as regarded his reading) to one sole book, his choice (if he read English) would probably oscillate between Shakspeare and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Now, the Canterbury Tales had been finished about thirty-five years before Agincourt; so exquisitely false, even in this point, is Pope's account. Against the _nothing_ of beggarly France was even then to be set a work which _has_ not been rivalled, and probably _will_ not be rivalled, on our planet.

II. In this comparison of the France and England then existing, historically Pope betrays an ignorance which is humiliating. He speaks of France as if that name, of course, covered the same states and provinces that it now covers. But take away from the France of this day the parts then possessed by Burgundy--take away Alsace, and Lorraine, and Franche Compte--take away the alien territories adjacent to Spain and Navarre--take away Avignon, &c.--take; away the extensive duchy of Britanny, &c.--and; what remains of that which constituted the France of Pope's day? But even that which _did_ remain had no cohesion or unity as regarded any expanded sentiment of nationality, or the possibilities of a common literature. The moral anachronisms of Pope in this case are absolutely frightful--and the physical anachronisms of Pope also; for the simple want of roads, by intercepting all peaceful and pleasurable intercourse, must have intercepted all growth of nationality, unless when a rare community of selfish interest happened to arise, as when the whole was threatened with conquest or with famine through foreign aggression upon a part.

III. That particular section of the French literature through which, Pope pretends to think (for think he does _not_) that France absolutely created our own, was the drama. Eighteen-penny Pompey belongs to this section. Now, most unhappily, these two broad facts are emblazoned beyond all power of impudence to darken them. The first is, that our English drama was closing,' or actually _had_ closed, just about the time when the French was opening. Shakspeare notoriously died in 1616, when Corneille [Footnote 14] was yet a child of ten, and the last of Shakspeare's great contemporary dramatists died, according to my remembrance, in 1636; and, in 1635, one year earlier, was first performed the first successful tragedy (the 'Medea') of Corneille. About seven or eight years after _that_, the Puritans officially suppressed the English drama by suppressing the theatres. At the opening of the Parliamentary war, the elder (that is, the immortal) English drama had finished its career. But Racine, the chief pillar of the French, did not begin until Cromwell was dead and gone, and Charles II. was restored. So, here we have the Asopian fable of the lamb troubling the waters for the wolf; or, in the Greek proverb, _ano potamon_. The other fact is, that, as no section whatever of the French literature has ever availed to influence, or in the slightest degree to modify, our own, it happens that the dramatic section in particular, which Pope insists on as the galvanizing force operating upon our seers, has been in the most signal repulsion to our own. All the other sections have been simply inert and neutral; but the drama has ever been in murderous antagonism to every principle and agency by which our own lives and moves. [Footnote 15] And to make this outrage upon truth and sense even more outrageous, Pope had not the excuse of those effeminate critics, sometimes found amongst ourselves, who recognise no special divinity in our own drama; _that_ would have been one great crime the more, but it would have been one inconsistency the less. For Pope had been amongst the earliest editors of Shakspeare; he had written a memorable preface to this edition. The edition, it is true, was shocking; and if the preface even was disfigured by concessions to a feeble system of dramatic criticism, rhetorically it was brilliant with the expression of a genuine enthusiasm as to Shakspeare, and a true sympathy with his colossal power.

IV. Yet even this may not be the worst. Even below this deep perhaps there opens a lower deep. I submit that, when a man is asked for a specimen of the Agincourt French literature, he cannot safely produce a specimen from a literature two hundred and fifty years younger without some risk of facing a writ _de lunatico inquirendo_. Pompey the Pitiful (or, if the reader is vexed at hearing him so called, let us call him, with Lord Biron, in 'Love's Labor's Lost,' 'more than great, great Pompey--Pompey the Huge') was not published, even in France, until about two centuries and a quarter had elapsed from Agincourt. But, as respects England, eighteen-penny Pompey was not revealed; the fulness of time for his _avatar_ amongst us did not arrive until something like two hundred and sixty years had winged their flight from Agincourt. And yet Pope's doctrine had been that, in the conquest of France, we English first met with the Prometheus that introduced us to the knowledge of fire and intellectual arts. Is not this ghastly? Elsewhere, indeed, Pope skulks away from his own doctrine, and talks of '_correctness_' as the particular grace for which we were indebted to France. But this will not do. In his own 'Art of Criticism,' about verse 715, he describes 'us brave Britons' as incorrigibly rebellious in that particular. We _have_ no correctness, it seems, nor ever had; and therefore, except upon Sir Richard Blackmore's principle of stealing a suit of clothes 'from a naked Pict,' it is hard to see how we need to thank France for that which, as to us, has no existence. Then, again, Pope acquiesced at other times in an opinion of his early friends, that not Pompey, but himself, was the predestined patriarch of 'correctness.' Walsh, who was a sublime old blockhead, suggested to Pope that 'correctness' was the only tight-rope upon which a fresh literary performer in England could henceforth dance with any advantage of novelty; all other tight-ropes and slack-ropes of every description having been preoccupied by elder funambulists. Both Walsh and Pope forgot ever once to ask themselves what it was that they meant by 'correctness;' an idea that, in its application to France, Akenside afterwards sternly ridiculed. Neither of the two _literati_ stopped to consider whether it was correctness in thought, or metrical correctness, or correctness in syntax and idiom; as to all of which, by comparison with other poets, Pope is conspicuously deficient. But no matter what they meant, or if they meant nothing at all. Unmeaning, or in any case inconsistent, as this talk about 'correctness' may be, we cannot allow Pope so to escape from his own hyperbolical absurdities. It was not by a little pruning or weeding that France, according to his original proposition, had bettered our native literature--it was by genial incubation, by acts of vital creation. She, upon our crab-tree cudgel of Agincourt, had engrafted her own peaches and apricots--our sterile thorn France had inoculated with roses. English literature was the Eve that, in the shape of a rib, had been abstracted from the side of the slumbering Pompey--of unconscious Pompey the Huge. And all at the small charge of eighteen-pence! O heavens, to think of _that!_ By any possibility, that the cost, the total 'damage' of our English literature should have been eighteen-pence!--that a shilling should actually be coming to us out of half-a-crown!

'Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem.'

 

NOTES.

NOTE 1.

A similar instance of a craze beyond the bounds of perfect physical sanity may be found in Dr. Arnold's nervous paroxysm of horror on hearing St. Paul placed on a level with St. John the Evangelist.


NOTE 2.

And by the way, as to servants, a great man may offend in two ways: either by treating his servants himself superciliously, or secondly, which is quite reconcilable with the most paternal behavior on his own part, by suffering them to treat the public superciliously. Accordingly, all novelists who happen to have no acquaintance with the realities of life as it now exists, especially therefore rustic Scotch novelists, describe the servants of noblemen as 'insolent and pampered menials.' But, on the contrary, at no houses whatever are persons of doubtful appearance and anomalous costume, sure of more respectful attention than at those of the great feudal aristocracy. At a merchant's or a banker's house, it is odds but the porter or the footman will govern himself in his behavior by his own private construction of the case, which (as to foreigners) is pretty sure to be wrong. But in London, at a nobleman's door, the servants show, by the readiness of their civilities to all such questionable comers, that they have taken their lessons from a higher source than their own inexperience or unlearned fancies.


NOTE 3.

'_Cape of Storms_,' which should _primae facie_ be the Cape of Terrors. But it bears a deep allegoric sense to the bold wrestler with such terrors, that in English, and at length to all the world, this Cape of Terrors has transfigured itself into the Cape of _Good Hope_.


NOTE 4.

'_Heraldic solemnities_'--
'Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare;
Since seldom coming in the long year set,
Like precious stones they thinly placed are,
Or captain jewels in the carcanet.'
_Shakspeare, 52d Sonnet_.


NOTE 5.

'_I give and I bequeath, old Euclio said_'--and the ridiculous story of the dying epicure insisting upon having his luxurious dish brought back to his death-bed (for why not? since at any rate, eating or not eating, he was doomed to die) are amongst the lowest rubbish of jest-books--having done duty for the Christian and the Pagan worlds through a course of eighteen centuries. Not to linger upon the nursery silliness that could swallow the legend of epicureanism surviving up to the very brink of the grave, and when even the hypocrisy of _medical_ hope had ceased to flatter, what a cruel memento of the infirmity charged upon himself was Pope preparing whilst he intended nothing worse than a falsehood! He meant only to tell a lie; naturally, perhaps, saying to himself, What's one lie more or less? And behold, if his friends are to be believed, he was unconsciously writing a sort of hieroglyphic epitaph for his own tomb-stone. Dr. Johnson's taste for petty gossip was so keen, that I distrust all his anecdotes. That Pope killed himself by potted lampreys, which he had dressed with his own hands, I greatly doubt; but if anything inclines me to believe it, chiefly it is the fury of his invectives against epicures and gluttons. What most of all he attacked as a moralist was the particular vice which most of all besieged him.


NOTE 6.

Upon this principle I doubt not that we should interpret the sayings attributed to the seven wise men of Greece. If we regard them as insulated aphorisms, they strike us all as mere impertinences; for by what right is some one prudential admonition separarately illuminated and left as a solemn legacy to all posterity in slight of others equally cogent? For instance, _Meden agan_--nothing in excess--is a maxim not to be neglected, but still not entitled to the exclusive homage which is implied in its present acceptation. The mistake, meantime, I believe to be, not in the Grecian pleiad of sages, but in ourselves, who have falsely apprehended them. The man, for instance (Bias was it, or who?), who left me this old saw about excess, did not mean to bias me in favor of that one moral caution; this would have argued a craze in favor of one element amongst many. What he meant was, to indicate the _radix_ out of which his particular system was expanded. It was the key-note out of which, under the laws of thorough-bass, were generated the whole chord and its affinities. Whilst the whole evolution of the system was in lively remembrance, there needed no more than this short-hand memento for recalling it. But now, when the lapse of time has left the little maxim stranded on a shore of wrecks, naturally it happens that what was in old days the keystone of an arch has come to be compounded with its superfluous rubbish.

 

NOTE 7.

It is no matter of wonder or complaint that a paper written by a correspondent a distance of four hundred miles, or something more, from the press, requiring, therefore, a _diaulos_ of above eight hundred miles for every letter and its answer, a distance which becomes strictly infinite in the case when the correspondent sends no answer at all, should exhibit some press errors. These, having now done their worst, I will not vex the reader or the compositor by recalling. Only with respect to one, viz., the word _genuine_, which is twice printed for the true word _generic_, I make an exception, as it defeats the meaning in a way that may have perplexed a painstaking reader. Such readers are rare, and deserve encouragement. [The same _diaulos_ which Mr. De Quincey laments is also the cause of his present paper appearing incomplete. It will be resumed in the next number.--Ed.]


NOTE 8.

'_The two brilliant poets._' As regards Horace, it is scarcely worth while to direct the reader's attention upon inconsistency of this imaginary defiance to philosophic authority with his profession elsewhere of allegiance to Epicurus; for had it even been possible to direct the poet's own attention upon it, the same spirit of frank simplicity which has converted his very cowardice, his unmitigated cowardice (_relicta non bene parmula_), into one of those amiable and winning frailties which, once having come to know it, on no account could we consent to forego--would have reconciled us all by some inimitable picturesqueness of candor to inconsistency the most shocking as to the fulfilment of some great moral obligation; just as from the brute restiveness of a word (Equotuticum), that positively would not come into the harness of hexameter verse, he has extracted a gay, laughing _alias_ (viz., '_versu quod dicere non est_'); a pleasantry which is nowhere so well paralleled as by Southey's on the name of Admiral Tchichakoff:--


'A name which you all must know very well,
Which nobody can speak, and nobody can spell.'


Vain would it be to fasten any blame upon a poet armed with such heaven-born playfulness that upon a verbal defect he raises a triumph of art, and upon a personal defect raises a perpetual memento of smiling and affectionate forgiveness. We 'condone' his cowardice, to use language of Doctors' Commons, many times over, before we know whether he would have cared for our condonation; and protest our unanimous belief, that, if he did run away from battle, he ran no faster than a gentleman ought to run. In fact, his character would have wanted its amiable unity had he _not_ been a coward, or had he _not_ been a rake. Vain were it to level reproaches at _him_, for whom all reproaches become only occasions of further and surplus honor. But, in fact, for any serious purposes of Horace, philosophy was not wanted. Some slight pretence of that kind served to throw a shade of pensiveness over his convivial revels, and thus to rescue them from the taint of plebeian grossness. So far, and no farther, a slight coloring of philosophy was needed for his moral musings. But Pope's case is different. The moral breathings of Horace are natural exhalations rising spontaneously from the heart under the ordinary gleams of chance and change in the human things that lay around him. But Pope is more ambitious. He is not content with _borrowing_ from philosophy the grace of a passing sanction or countersign, but undertakes to _lend_ her a systematic coherency of development, and sometimes even a fundamental basis. In his 'Essay on Man,' his morals connect themselves with metaphysics. The metaphysics had been gathered together in his chance eclectic rambles amongst books of philosophy, such as Montaigne, Charron, and latterly amongst the fossil rubbish and _debris_ of Bayle's Dictionary. Much also had been suggested to his piercing intellect in conversation, especially with Lord Bolingbroke; but not so exclusively by any means with _him_ as the calumniators of Pope would have us suppose. Adopt he did from all quarters, but Pope was not the man servilely to beg or to steal. It was indispensable to his own comfort that he should at least understand the meaning of what he took from others, though seldom indeed he understood its wider relations, or pursued its ultimate consequences. Hence came anguish and horror upon Pope in his latter days, such as rarely can have visited any but the deathbed of some memorable criminal. To have rejected the _verba magistri_ might seem well, it might look promising, as all _real_ freedom is promising, for the interests of truth; but he forgot that, in rejecting the master, he had also rejected the doctrine--the guiding principle--the unity of direction secured for the inquirer by the master's particular system with its deep internal cohesion. Coming upon his own distracted choice of principles from opposite angles and lines of direction, he found that what once and under one aspect had seemed to him a guiding light, and one of the buoys for narrowing the uncertainties of a difficult navigation, absolutely under another aspect, differently approached and differently associated, did the treacherous office of a _spanselled_ horse, as in past days upon the Cornish and the South Irish coast it was employed--expressly for showing false signals, and leading right amongst breakers. That _hortus siccus_ of pet notions, which had won Pope's fancy in their insulated and separate existence, when brought together as parts and elements of the same system in the elaborate and haughty 'Essay on Man,' absolutely refused to cohere. No doctoring, no darning, could disguise their essential inter-repulsion. Dismal rents, chasms, hiatuses, gaped and grinned in a theory whose very office and arrogant pretension had been to harmonize the dislocated face of nature, and to do _that_ in the way of justification for God which God had forgotten to do for himself. How if an enemy should come, and fill up these ugly chasms with some poisonous fungus of a nature to spread the dry rot through the main timbers of the vessel? And, in fact, such an enemy _did_ come. This enemy spread dismay through Pope's heart. Pope found himself suddenly shown up as an anti-social monster, as an incendiary, as a disorganizer of man's most aspiring hopes. 'O Heavens! What is to be done? what _can_ be done?' he cried out. 'When I wrote that passage, which now seems so wicked, certainly I meant something very good; or, if I didn't, at any rate I meant to mean it.' The case was singular; if no friend of the author's could offer a decent account of its meaning, to a certainty the author could _not_. Luckily, however, there are two ways of filling up chasms; and Warburton, who had reasons best known to himself for cultivating Pope's favor, besides considerable practice during his youth in a special pleader's office, took the desperate case in hand. He caulked the chasms with philosophic oakum, he 'payed' them with dialectic pitch, he sheathed them with copper and brass by means of audacious dogmatism and insolent quibbles, until the enemy seemed to have been silenced, and the vessel righted so far as to float. The result, however, as a permanent result, was this--that the demurs which had once been raised (however feebly pressed) against the poem, considered in the light of a system compatible with religion, settled upon it permanently as a sullen cloud of suspicion that a century has not availed to dissipate.


NOTE 9.

'_The most interesting person of the Alcibiades class._' But it is thoroughly characteristic of Pope, that the one solitary trait in the Duke's career which interested _him_, was the fact that a man so familiar with voluptuous splendor should have died on a flock-bed patched with straw. How advantageously does Dryden come forward on this occasion! _He_, as Mr. Bayes, had some bitter wrongs to avenge; and he was left at liberty to execute this revenge after his own heart, for he survived the Duke by a dozen years. Yet he took no revenge at all. _He_, with natural goodness and magnanimity, declined to kick the dead lion. And in the memorable lines, all alive and trembling with impassioned insight into the demoniac versatility of the Duke's character, how generously does he forbear every expression of scorn, and cover the man's frailties with a mantle of comprehensive apology, and, in fact, the true apology, by gathering them together, one and all, as the united results of some secret nympholepsy, or some sacred Pythian inspiration:--


'Blest madman! that could every hour employ
In something new to wish or to enjoy;

Now all for rhyming, wenching, fiddling, drinking;
Beside ten thousand freaks that died in thinking'


Strangely enough, the only Duke of Buckingham that interested Pope was not the Villiers that so profoundly interested Dryden and his own generation, but in every sense a mock Duke of Buckingham, a pantomimic duke, that is known only for having built a palace as fine as gilt gingerbread, and for having built a pauper poem. Some time after the death of the Villiers duke, and the consequent extinction of the title, Sheffield, Lord Mulgrave, obtained a patent creating him, not Duke of Buckingham, but by a pawnbroker's dodge, devised between himself and his attorney, Duke of Buckingham_shire_; the ostensible reason for which, as alleged by himself, was, that he apprehended some lurking claim to the old title that might come forward to his own confusion at a future time, and in that case he was ready with this demur: 'You mistake, I am not _ham_, but ham_shire_.' Such was _his_ account of the matter. Mine is different: I tell the reason thus. He had known the Villiers of old, he knew well how that lubricated gladiator had defied all the powers of Chancery and the Privy Council, for months after months, once to get a 'grip' of him, or a hawk over him. It was the old familiar case of trying to catch a pig (but in this instance a wild boar of the forest) whose tail has been soaped. (See _Lord Clarendon_, not his History but his Life.) What the Birmingham duke therefore really feared was, that the worst room, the tawdry curtains, the flock-bed, &c.;, were all a pyramid of lies; that the Villiers had _not_ been thrown; had probably _not_ died at all; but was only 'trying it on,' in readiness for a great demonstration against himself; and that, in case the title of Buckingham were ever finally given away, the Villiers would be heard clattering on horseback up the grand staircase of the new-built Buckingham House, like the marble statue in 'Don Juan,' with a double commission against the false duke and the Government as joint-traders in stolen goods. But if Pope were callous to the splendor of the true Buckingham, what was it that drew him to the false one? Pope must have been well aware that, amongst all the poetic triflers of the day, there was not one more ripe for the 'Dunciad.' Like the jaws of the hungry grave (_Acherontis avari_), the 'Dunciad' yawned for him, whilst yet only in dim conception as a remote possibility. He was, besides, the most vain-glorious of men; and, being anxious above all things to connect himself with the blood royal, he had conceived the presumptuous thought of wooing Queen Anne (then the unmarried Princess Anne). Being rejected, of course, rather than have no connection at all with royalty, he transferred his courtship to a young lady born on the wrong side of the blanket, namely, the daughter of James II. by Miss Sedley. Her he married, and they reigned together in great pomp over Buckingham House. But how should this have attracted Pope? The fact, I fear is, that Pope admired him, in spite of his verses, as a man rich and prosperous. One morning, in some of his own verses, he lodged a compliment to the Duke as a poet and a critic: immediately the Duke was down upon him with an answering salute of twenty-one guns, and ever afterwards they were friends. But I repeat that, in Pope's own judgment, nine out of ten who found their way into that great _menagerie_ of the 'Dunciad,' had not by half so well established their right of entrance as the Duke.


NOTE 10.

Even this is open to demur. The Roman literature during the main Punic War with Hannibal, though unavoidably reached by some slight influence from the literature of Greece, was rich in native power and raciness. Left to itself, and less disturbed by direct imitation applied to foreign models, the Roman literature would probably have taken a wider compass, and fulfilled a nobler destiny.


NOTE 11.

'_Joan of Arc's execution_'--viz., not by any English, but virtually by a French tribunal, as _now_, at last, is satisfactorily established by the recent publication, at Paris, of the judicial process itself in its full official records.


NOTE 12.

The notes are _now_ (_i. e._, in all modern editions) assigned to their separate authors; though not always in a way to prevent doubts. For instance, Roscoe's notes, except that they are always distinguished by kindness and good sense, are indicated only by the _absence_ of any distinguishing signature. But in the early editions great carelessness prevailed as to this point, and, sometimes, intentional dissimulation.


NOTE 13.

Which was probably not of French origin. Thomas-a-Kempis, Gerson, and others, have had the credit of it; but the point is still doubtful. When I say that it was _extensively_ diffused, naturally I mean so far as it was possible before the invention of printing. One generation after Agincourt this invention was beginning to move, after which--that is, in two generations--the multiplication of copies, and even of separate editions and separate translations, ran beyond all power of registration. It is one amongst the wonders of the world; and the reason I have formerly explained. Froissart belongs to the courts of England and of Burgundy much more than to that of France.


NOTE 14.

Hardi, it is scarcely necessary to mention; as he never became a _power_ even in France, and _out_ of France was quite unknown. He coincided in point of time, I believe, most nearly with Francis Beaumont.


NOTE 15.

Italian, Spanish, and finally German poetry have in succession exercised some slight influence, more or less, over our English poetry. But I have formerly endeavored to show that it is something worse than a mere historical blunder, that, in fact, it involves a gross misconception and a confusion in the understanding, to suppose that there ever has been what has been called a _French school_ in our literature, unless it is supposed that the unimpassioned understanding, or the understanding speaking' in a minor key of passion, is a French invention.


[The end]
Thomas De Quincey's essay: Lord Carlisle On Pope

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