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About this time he published the Temple of Fame, which, as he tells Steele in their correspondence, he had written two years before; that is, when he was only twenty-two years old, an early time of life for so much learning, and so much observation as that work exbibits.
On this poem Dennis afterwards published some remarks, of which the most reasonable is, that some of the lines represent motion as exhibited by sculpture.
Of the epistle from Eloisa to Abelard, I do not know the date. His first inclination to attempt a composition of that tender kind arose, às mr. Savage told me, from his perusal of Prior's nut-brown maid. How much he has surpassed Prior's work it is not necessary to mention, when perhaps it may be said with justice, that he has excelled every composition of the same kind. The mixture of religious hope and resignation gives an elevation and dignity to disappointed love, which images merely natural cannot bestow. The gloom of a convent strikes the imagination with far greater force than the solitude of a grove.
This piece' was, however, not much his favourite in hislatter years, though I never heard upon what principle he slighted it.
In the next year (1713) he published Windsor Forest; of which part was, as he relates, written at sixteen, about the same time as his pastorals; and the latter part was added afterwards: where the addition begins, we are not told. The lines relating to the peace confess their own date. It is dedicated to lord Lansdowne, who was then high in reputation and influence among the tories; and it is said, that the conclusion of the poem gave great pain to Addison, both as a poet and a politician. Reports like this are often spread with boldness very disproportionate to their evidence. Why should Addison receive any particular disturbance from the last lines of Windsor Forest ? If contrariety of opinion could poison a politician, he would not live a day; and, as a poet, he must have felt Pope's force of genius much more from many other parts of his works.
The pain that Addison might feel it is not likely that he would confess; and it is certain that he so well suppressed bis discontent, that Pope now thought himself his favourite; for, having been consulted in the revisal of Cato, he introduced it by a prologue; and, when Dennis published his remarks, undertook, not indeed to vindicate, but to revenge his friend, by a narrative of the frenzy of John Dennis.
There is reason to believe that Addison gave no encouragement to this disingenuous hostility; for, says Pope, in a letter to him,"indeed your opinion, that 'tis entirely to be neglected, would be my own in my own case; but I felt more warmth here than I did when I first saw his book against myself (though indeed in two minutes it made me heartily merry).” Addison was not a man on whom such cant of sensibility could make much impression. He left
the pamphlet to itself, having disowned it to Dennis, and • perhaps did not think Pope to have deserved much by his officiousness,
This year was printed, in the Guardian, the ironical comparison between the pastorals of Philips and Pope; a composition of artifice, criticism, and literature, to which nothing equal will easily be found. The superiority of Pope is so ingeniously dissembled, and the feeble lines of Philips so skilfully preferred, that Steele, being deceived, was unwilling to print the paper, lest Pope should be offended. Addison immediately saw the writer's design; and, as it seems, had malice enough to conceal his discovery, and to permit a publication which, by making his friend Philips ridiculous, made him for ever an enemy to Pope.
It appears that about this time Pope had a strong inclipation to unite the art of painting with that of poetry, and put himself under the tuition of Jervas. He was nearsighted, and therefore not formed by nature for a painter: he tried, however, how far he could advance, and sometimes persuaded his friends to sit. A picture of Betterton, supposed to be drawn by him, was in the possession of lord Mansfield: if this was taken from the life, he must have begun to paint earlier; for Betterton was now dead. Pope's ambition of this new art produced some encomiastic verses to Jervas, which certainly shew his power as a poet; but I have been told that they betray his ignorance of painting.
He appears to have regarded Betterton with kindness and esteem; and, after his death, published, under his name, a version into modern English of Chaucer's prologues, and one of his tales, which, as was related by mr. Harte, were believed to have been the performance of Pope himself by Fenton, who made him a gay offer of five pounds, if he would shew them in the hand of Betterton.
The next year (1713) produced a bolder attempt, by which profit was sought as well as praise. The poems which he had hitherto written, however they might have diffused his name, had made very little addition to his fortune. The allowance which his father made him, though, proportioned to what he had, it might be liberal, could not be large ; his religion hindered him from the occupation of any civil employment; and he complained that he wanted even money to buy books.*
He therefore resolved to try how far the favour of the public extended, by soliciting a subscription to a version of the Iliad, with large notes.
To print by subscription was, for some time, a practice peculiar to-the English. The first considerable work, for which this expedient was employed, is said to have been Dryden's Virgil; and it had been tried again with great success when the Tatlers were collected into volumes.
There was reason to believe that Pope's attempt would be successful. He was in the full bloom of reputation, and was personally known to almost all whom dignity of employment or splendour of reputation had made eminent; he conversed indifferently with both parties, and never disturbed the public with his political opinions; and it might be naturally expected, as each faction then boasted its literary zeal, that the great men, who on other occasions practised all the violence of opposition, would emulate each other in their encouragement of a poet who had delighted all, and by whom none had been offended.
With those hopes, he offered an English Iliad to subscribers, in six volumes in quarto, for six guineas; a sum, according to the value of money at that time, by no means inconsiderable, and greater than I believe to have been ever asked before. His proposal, however, was very fa.
vourably received; and the patrons of literature were basy to recommend his undertaking, and promote his interest. Lord Oxford, indeed, lamented that such a genius should be wasted upon a work not original; but proposed no means by which he might live without it. Addison recommended ca ion and moderation, and advised him not to be content with the praise of half the nation, when he might be universally favoured.
The greatness of the design, the popularity of the author, and the attention of the literary world, naturally raised such expectations of the future sale, that the booksellers made their offers with great eagerness; but the highest bidder was Bernard Lintot, who became proprietor, on condition of supplying at his own expence all the copies which were to be delivered to subscribers, or presented to friends, and paying two hundred pounds for every
Of the quartos, it was, I believe, stipulated that none should be printed but for the author, that the subscription might not be depreciated; but Lintot impressed the same pages upon a small folio, and paper perhaps a little thinner; and sold exactly at half the price, for half-a-guinea each volume, books so little inferior to the quartos, that, by a fraud of trade, those folios, being afterwards shortened by cutting away the top and bottom, were sold as copies printed for the subscribers.
Lintot printed two hundred and fifty on royal paper in folio, for lwo guineas a volume; of the small folio, having printed seventeen hundred and fifty copies of the first volume, he reduced the number in the other volumes to a thousand.
It is unpleasant to relate, that the bookseller, after all bis hopes and all bis liberality, was, by a very unjust and illegal action, defrauded of his profit. An edition of the English Iliad was printed in Holland in duodecimo, and imported clandestinely for the gratification of those who were impatient to read what they could not yet afford to buy. This fraud could only be counteracted by an edition equally cheap and more commodious; and Lintot was compelled to contract his folio at once into a duodecimo, and lose the advantage of an intermediate gradation. The
notes, which in the Dutch copies were placed at the end of each book, as they had been in the large volumes, were now subjoined to the text in the same page, and are therefore more easily consulted. Of this edition two thousand five hundred were first printed, and five thousand a few weeks afterwards; but indeed great numbers were necessary to produce considerable profit.
Pope, having now emitted his proposals, and engaged not only his own reputation, but in some degree that of his friends who patronised his subscription, began to be frighted at his own undertaking; and finding himself at first embarrassed with difficulties, which retarded and oppressed him, he was for a time timorous and uneasy, had his nights disturbed by dreams of long journeys through unknown ways, and wished, as he said, “ that somebody would hang him."
This misery, however, was not of long continuance; be grew by degrees more acquainted with Homer's images and expressions, and practice increased his facility of versification. In a short time he represents himself as dispatching regularly fifty verses a day, which would shew him, by an easy computation, the termination of his labour.
His own diffidence was not his only vexation. He that asks a subscription soon finds that he has enemies. All who do not encourage him, defame him. He that wants money will rather be thought angry than poor; and he that wishes to save his money conceals his avarice by his malice. Addison had hinted his suspicion that Pope was loo much a tory; and some of the tories suspected his principles, because he had contributed to the Guardian, which was carried on by Steele.
To those who censured his politics were added enemies yet more dangerous, who called in question his knowledge of Greek, and his qualifications for a translator of Homer. To these he made no public opposition; but, in one of his letters, escapes from them as well as he can. At an age like bis, for he was not more than twenty-five, with an irregular education, and a course of life of which much