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There is another circumstance, which almost persuades me you never read my criticism on Pope's Poetic Character. You say, “ He glows with passion in the Epistle of Eloisa ; and displays a lofty feeling, much above that of the satirist and man of the world, in bis prologue to Cato, and his Epistle to Lord OXFORD." -Campbell
This may be called an answer !" how complete an answer it is, will be shown by the following few lines of my criticism: “We regret that we have lille more truly pathetic from his pen than the Epistle of Eloisa ; and the Elegy to the unfortunate Lady; yet let me not forget one of the sweetest and most melodious of his pathetic effusions, the Address to Lord Ox FORD, “ Such were the notes my once-lov'd Poet sung."
Bowles. I must again entreat pardon for showing what I did say of a poem founded on manners, and what I did not say of the Rape of the Lock. “ In this composition Pope stands alone, unrivalled, and possibly never to be rivalled. All his successful labor of correct and musical versification, all his talents of accurate description, though in an inferior province of poetry, are here consummately displayed ; and as far as artificial life, that is, ' manners,' not PasSIONS, are capable of being rendered poetical, they are here repdered so by the fancy, the propriety, the elegance, and the poetic beauty of the machinery.
Now I would put to you a few plain questions; and I would beseech you not to ask whether I mean this or that, fo: I think you must now understand what I do mean. I would beseech you also not to write beside the question, but answer simply and plainly, whether you think that the sylph of Pope,“ trembling over the fumes of a chocolate-pot,” be an image as poetical as that of the delicate and quaint Ariel, who sings "Where the bee sucks, there lurk I ?” Or of the elves of SHAKSPEARE;
Spirits of another sort, “ That with the morning light make sport." Whether you think the description of a ganse of cards be as poetical, supposing the execution in the artists equal, as a description of a Walk in a forest? Whether an age of refinement be as conducive to pictures of poetry, as a period less refined ? Whether passions, affections, &c. of the human heart be not a higher source of what is pathetic or sublime in poetry, than habits or mamers, that apply only to artificial life? If you agree with me, I amı satisfied ; if not, we differ, and always shall, on the princi. ples of poetical criticism.
Your last observation is this: “I know not how to designate the possessor of such gifts, but by the name of genuine poet,
Nor do I, nor did I ever; and I will venture to assert, that if you examine well what I have here said on Pope's several writings, you will not think I ever showed reluctance to attribute to him that high name
Again. You say, "Pope's discrimination lies in the lights and shades of human' manners, which are at least as interesting as those of rocks and leaves .!" Does it require more than the commonest understanding to perceive the fallacy of this language.
I fear it would be thought impertinent to ask you at what University you acquired your logic; but I guess your knowledge of the art was not acquired at Oxford. Your logic is this: “ Human manners are the province of poets ;" therefore," the general and loftier passions are not more poetical than manners of artificial life.” Shall I hint further, that the expression human manners is vague and inapplicable. Human manners may designate equally the red Indian, in the forests of the Mississippi ; the plumed soldier, and the grey-haired minstrel of chivalry; or Beau Nash, in a Bath ball-room. Every comedy, every farce, has human manners ; but my proposition was contined to manners of a refined age, which I called artificial; and which you have artificially slurred over with irrelevant expressions, that prove nothing. Arliticial manners are human, but “human manners" ARE NOT so ADAPTED TO POETRY OF THE HIGHEST KIND AS HO
I beg further to say, that there is not one passage, concerning the poetical beauties of which you have so justly spoken, which I have not expressly pointed out myself, as the reader may find in turning to the passages; particularly let him remember what I have said respecting the PATHOS, and the PICTURES, and the SOLEMN and SWEET HAEMONIES, in the Epistle of Eloisa. Aud can I help pointing out, not with triumph, but with regret, that you only agree with me in some points, and that where we differ, your criticism conflictingly labors against your own argument? for when, nearly in the last sentence, you say, “he, Pope, glows with passion in the Eloisa, and displays a LOFTY feeling, much Á BOVE that of the SATIRIST and man of the world, in his Prologue to Cato, and his Epistle to Lord Oxford;" what is that but to say, that “glowing passions and lofty feelings are niuch A Love those which distinguish the SATIRIST and man of the world!!" Q. E. D.
THOMAS CAMPBELL, ESQ.
Editor of the New Monthly Magazine,
In Consequence of an Article in that Publication.
Bremhill, March 14, 1822. DEAR SIR, I assure you it was only yesterday that I accidentally saw, in the Magazine, of which you are the Editor, an article professedly reviewing a pamphlet, in which a late controversy is spoken of. The article in the Magazine, if not written, which I can hardly suppose, by the Editor, has, at least, his sanction, and therefore is entitled to some notice.
1st. I am happy it is admitted that I spoke of “passions” in my definition of poetry.
Est quodam prodire tenus si non datur ultra. No misunderstanding could have taken place, between me and yourself, if this had been originally adınitted; because I could not have been represented as contining my views of poetry to Dutch pictures and inanimate landscapes.
2d. It being admitted that I had spoken of “passions,” and that you had represented me as omitting them, I am very willing that your representation of my sentiments shall not be called misrepresentation, if there be any other term." '
Whether the sentence in which : " passions” are spoken of as “ derived”. from.“ manners," be verbally accurate or not, the main drift of the argument is not affected by it; which is, whether art or nature, passions or manners, are most susceptible of the
" Mr. C. had originally quoted, but omitted to make any use of, Mr. Bowles's second position.
15) Rev. W. L. Bowles' Letters to T. Campbell
, &c. 543 highest poetical effects, or, in other words, “ are more adapted to the highest orders of poetry,” which is my proposition.
A third edition of the Letters to Lord Byron being about to appear, I shall have an opportunity of making some further remarks respecting the sentiments which come under the sanction of Mr. CamPBELL.
As to the writer reviewed in the New Monthly Magazine, to pass over the eternal quibbles, “splitting hairs" about words; his writing about it, Goddess, and about it;" to pass over his “proving" what I never denied, and assuming what I never asserted; his reasonings appear to me ne plus ultra absurdities in any man who can read and write.
Third and lastly; when he speaks of Homer as introducing images from art, I would ask, " Te judice,” whether those passages, through the whole of the Iliad or Odyssey, are more poetical, whose chief beauty depends on images from Art or NATURE? Yes or no? If you say, "the passages are more poetical that describe images from nature, and passions, than those that describe art, you AGRLE with me!” Can you venture to say the contrary?
I would ask you another question. : Why could not so great and poetical a genius as VIRGIL, have made bis top as poetical as bis JUPITER, (media nimborum in nocte,) if the sublimity of any object depended solely on the genius of the describer?
Whatever verbal cavils- may be made, I am quite sure the immoveable foundation of these principles cannot be shaken, either by yourself or Lord BYRON, if the question be met fully and fairly; and after all, if you should succeed, you will destroy, not my principles, but the principles of common sense, the acknowledged foundation of all sound criticism, from LONGINUS to Dr. JOHNSON. I will be enough to say, that, looking to the authority of Pope himself, and to him alone, if these principles are not sound, the line of the Essay on Criticism, describing nature as
The source, the end, the test of art, was meant by Pope as burlesque, and the "song" by a person of quality,
“NATURE must give way to ART," as serious ;-which is reductio ad absurdum, or rather absurdum per absurdius.
Be assured I never was “angry with you."-How could I be? You had never used the language of vulgar insult, nor even incivility; you had unintentionally omitted, what I thought it necessary,
in my definition of poetry, to lay down, and I thought it right to show this ; and you had spoken of art, without reflecting, apparently, that images from art in poetry, are rendered more poetical from their moral associations, or connexion with the external beauties of nature.
I should certainly have thought it would have been more manly and generous in the Editor of the New Monthly Magazine, to have slated Lord BYRON's arguments, and my answers, briefly but substantially-or his own arguments, and my answers, and his own fair answers to them,-instead of tacking his opinions to ex parte statements of a writer, whose ingenuity consists chiefly in elaborate verbal cavils.
Now, my good Sir, it will not avail you to say, that no one object is more poetical, (that is, more adapted to poetry) than another; it signifies little to assert and build a baseless theory upon an opinion, that I ever said the subject of a poem constitutes its merit more than the genius of the author;" it is unfair to affirm that I said subject was all, when I affirmed that execution must be taken into consideration. It is unjust to cavil on the words“ taken into consideration, when it is clear from the context that the words imply“ taken into consideration, before you can estimate the rank of a poet in his art;" it won't do to cavil about the words subline and poetical, when, if the subject be poetry, every one will know that the sublime, beautiful, or picturesque, or pathetic, must be applied to poetry. It won't do to say, that the sea, the sun, &c. have no sublimity in themselves, but that it depends on the treatment; for ( then appeal to those who have best described them. It won't do to say they are nothing in themselves ; for even by itself, without an adjunct, the sea is more poetical, (nore adapted to poetry) than any canal. It won't do to affirm, or to pretend to prove,” that one subject is not more adapted to poetry than another; for then Virgil could have made his « plough,” in the Georgic, as poetic, at least, as he has made his “serpent. It is of no use to talk of the “no less exquisite perfor. mances of GENIUS in WORKS of Art," without defining what that genius is. It won't do to assert there is nothing sublime or beautiful in nature, abstractedly considered, when, though a bad poet like BLACKMORÉ might undo “ Creation at a jerk," yet the best poet could not make a "mouse-trap" sublime.
This appears to me the substance of the arguments which you think, as editor of a Magazine, CONVINCING !!
Now, my good Sir, ponder these things a little before you put forward your metaphysical coadjutor.
I owe to yourself to pay some more particular attention to arguments which I should otherwise think unworthy of notice.- In the