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cherley and Walsh, and the wits of that time. The Pastorals, though written in 1704, were not published till 1709, in Tonson's sixth Miscellany; which volume opened with the Pastorals of Philips, and ended with those of our Author. As examples of correct and melodious versification, these Pastorals deserve the highest commendation. It has been said, and indeed truly, that they want invention; and it is thought a sufficient answer to observe, that this is to require what was never intended. But this is a confession of the very fault imputed to them. There ought to have been invention. The discourse prefixed to them is very elegantly and elaborately written; though most of the observations are taken from Rapin on Pastoral, published a few years before in Creech's Theocritus, from Walsh on Virgil's Eclogues, and from Fontenelle; whose dissertation is as full of affected thoughts as his own Eclogues; and whom I wish our young poet had proscribed for his paradoxical doctrines against the ancients, which he first broached in this discourse.
It has been my fortune, from my way of life, to have seen many compositions of youths of sixteen years old, far beyond these Pastorals in point of genius and imagination, though not perhaps of correctness. Their excellence, indeed, might be owing to having had such a predecessor as Pope.
• But another critical treatise of Fontenelle deserves to be spoken of in very different terms; his Reflexions sur la Poetique, annexed to his life of Corneille ; for this treatise contains some of the most true and profound remarks on dramatic poetry
that can be found in any critic whatever.
About this time old Mr. Wycherley courted the friendship, and requested the assistance, of our young Author, to correct his verses, which had all the uncouth harshness and asperity of Donne : But Wycherley's vanity was soon disgusted by the honest freedom and true judgment with which Pope executed the task he had unwillingly undertaken ; a coolness ensued, which ended in a rupture betwixt them. “A book has been written," said a man of wit, “ De morbis artificum. Among authors, jealousy and envy are incurable diseases.”
When we consider the just taste, the strong sense, the knowledge of men, books, and opinions, that are so predominant in the Essay on Criticism, and at the same time recollect that it was written before the Author was twenty years old, we are naturally struck with astonishment; and must readily agree to place him among the first critics, though not, as Dr. Johnson says, “among the first poets,” on this account alone. As a poet, he must rank much higher for his Eloisa, and Rape of the Lock. This judgment reminds one of what the same critic has said of Dryden's Religio Laici ; that one might have expected to have found in it, the effulgence of his genius; though, as he adds, on an argumentative subject; and therefore improper for a display of genius. As much as I revere and respect the memory of my old acquaintance, Dr. Johnson', and as highly as I think of his
• The perpetual pompousness, and the uninterrupted elaboration, of the over-ornamented style of the Rambler, makes one wish that the excellent author had recollected the opinion of Cicero ; “ Is enim est eloquens, qui et humilia subtiliter, et
abilities, integrity, and virtue, yet must I be pardonea for saying, that I cannot possibly subscribe to many of his critical decisions; particularly to what he has said of the Lycidas, Il Penseroso, and Latin poems of Milton; of the Sixth Book of Paradise Lost; of Tasso's Aminta ; of the Rhyming Tragedies, Ode to Killigrew, and the Fables of Dryden; of Chaucer; of the Rehearsal; of Prior; of Congreve's Mourning Bride; of Blackmore; of Yalden; of Pomfret; of Dyer; of Garth; of Lyttelton; of Fielding; of Harris; of Hammond; of Beattie ; of Shenstone; of Savage; of Hughes; of Spence; of Akenside; of Collins; of Pope's Essay on Man, and Imitations of Horace; and of the Odes of Gray.
The Essay on Criticism was first advertised at the end of the Spectator, No. 65. May 15, 1711, and was praised by Addison in the December following, in No. 253 of the Spectator. But Pope was not a little displeased at one sentence in this paper, in which Addison said, “I am sorry to find an Author, who is very justly esteemed among the best judges, has admitted some strokes of ill-nature into a very fine poem, which was published some months since, and is a masterpiece of its kind.” He adds, "The observations follow one another, like those in Horace's Art of Poetry, without that methodical regularity which would have been requisite in a prose writer.”
magna graviter, et mediocria temperate potest dicere. Nam qui nihil potest tranquille, nihil leniter, nihil partite, definite, distincte, facete dicere, is, cum non præparatis auribus inflammare rem cæpit, furere apud sanos, et quasi inter sobrios bacchari temulentus videtur."
So that Addison did not perceive that clear order and close connexion, which Warburton strove to discover, in order to give some shadow of propriety to a perpetual Commentary upon it.
The fierce hostilities of Dennis against Pope, began from some passages in this Essay, which this redoubted critic applied to himself, and never forgave; but pursued our Author, through life, in bitter invectives against every work he gradually published. Old Mr. Lewis, the bookseller in Russell-street, who printed the first edition of this Essay in quarto, without Pope's name, informed me, that it lay many days in his shop, unnoticed and unread; and that, piqued with this neglect, the Author came one day, and packed up and directed twenty copies to several great men; among whom he could recollect none but Lord Lansdown and the Duke of Buckingham; and that in consequence of these presents, and his name being known, the book began to be called for. This Essay, it is said, was first written in prose, according to the precept of Vida, in his first book, and the practice of Racine, who was accustomed to draw out in plain prose, not only the subject of each of the five acts, but of every scene and every speech, that he might see the conduct and coherence of the whole at one view, and would then gedy is finished.”
The Messiah appeared first in the Spectator, 1712, with a warm recommendation by Steele. Nothing can be added to the just and universal approbation with which it was received and read. It raised the
say, “ My Tra
highest expectations of what the Author was capable of performing
He was not so happy in his Odeon St. Cecilia's Day; which, in respect both of subject and execution, is so manifestly inferior to that unrivalled one of his master, Dryden; but which Dr. Johnson, by a strange perversity of judgment, pronounces to contain nothing equal to the first bombast stanza of his Ode on Killegrew. Pope's Ode, many years after it was written, was set to music by Dr. Greene, as were the two Choruses to the tragedy of Brutus, by Bononcini, part of which were written by the Duke of Buckingham. Mr. Galliard set to music the Chorus of Julius Cæsar, entirely written by His Grace. This appears from a letter now before me, from Mr. Galliard to Mr. Duncombe.
It was at Steele's desire that he wrote that beautiful little Ode, The dying Christian to his Soul, to be set to music. But it was not quite candid and open in our Author to tell Steele, that he would see he had not only the verses of Adrian, but the fine frag
Irregular Odes, of which this is one, seem now to be universally exploded : Dr. Brown has, however, remarked, " that the return of the same measure, in the Strophe, Antistrophe, and Epode, of the ancient Greek Ode, was the natural consequence of its union with the Dance. But this union being irrecoverably lost, the unvaried measure of the Ode becomes, at best, an unmeaning thing; and indeed is an absurd one, as it deprives the Poet of that variety of measure, which often gives a great energy to the composition, by the incidental and sudden intervention of an abrupt or lengthened versification.”
• In general, our Author's subjects, which is a happy circumstance for a poet, were chosen by himself.