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ministered ; and where they are or may be wrong, I leave it to God alone to mend or reform them; which, whenever he does, it must be by greater instruments than I am.
I am not a Papist, for I renounce the temporal invasions of the papal power, and detest their arrogated authority over princes and states; I am a Catholic in the strictest sense of the word. If I was born under an absolute prince I would be a quiet subject; but thank God I was not. I have a due sense of the excellence of the British constitution. In a word, the things I have always wished to see are not a Roman Catholic, or a French Catholic, or a Spanish Catholic, but a true Catholic; and not a king of Whigs, or a king of Tories, but a king of England."
These are the peaceful maxims upon which we find Mr. Pope conducted his life; and if they cannot in some respects be justified, yet it must be owned that his religion and his politics were well enough adapted for a poet, which cntitled him to a kind of universal patronage, and to make every good man his friend.
Dean Swift somctimes wrote to Mr. Pope on the topic of changing his religion, and once humorously offered him twenty pounds for that purpose. Mr. Pope's answer to this, Lord Orrery has obliged the world with by preserving it in the life of Swift. It is a perfect master-piece of wit and pleasantry.
We have already taken notice that Mr. Pope was called upon by the public voice to translate the Iliad, which he performed with so much applause, and, at the same time, with so much profit to himself, that 'ne was envied by many writers, whose vanity perhaps induced them to believe themselves equal to so great a design. A combination of inferior wits were employed to write the Popiad, in which his translation is characterized as unjust to the original, without beauty of language, or variety of numbers. Instead
of the justness of the original, they say there is ab surdity and extravagance; instead of the beautifu. language of the original, there is solecism and barba. rous English. A candid reader may easily discern from this furious introduction, that the critics were actuated rather by malice than truth, and that they must judge with their eyes shut who can see no beauty of language, no harmony of numbers in this translation.
But the most formidable critic against Mr. Pope in this great undertaking, was the celebrated Madame Dacier, whom Mr. Pope treated with less ceremony in his Notes on the Iliad than, in the opinion of some people, was due to her sex. This learned lady was not without a sense of the injury, and took an oppor. tunity of discovering her resentment.
“Upon finishing (says she) the second edition of my translation of Homer, a particular friend sent me a translation of part of Mr. Pope's Preface to his version of the Iliad. As I do not understand English, I cannot form any judgment of his performance, though I have heard much of it. I am indeed willing to be. lieve, that the praises it has met with are not unmerited, because whatever work is approved by the English nation cannot be bad : but yet I hope I may be permitted to judge of that part of the preface which has been transmitted to me; and I here take the liberty of giving my sentiments concerning it. I most freely acknowledge that Mr. Pope's invention is very lively, though he seems to have been guilty of the same fault into which he owns we are often precipitated by our invention when we depend too much upon the strength of it; as magnanimity, says he, may un up to confusion and extravagance, so may great invention to redundancy and wildness.
“ This has been the very case of Mr. Pope himself; othing is more overstrained, or more false, than the nages in which his fancy has represented Homer
sometimes he tells us that the Iliad is a wild paradiso where, if we cannot see all the beauties as in an order ed garden, it is only because the number of them is nfinitely greater. Sometimes he compares him to a copious nursery, which contains the seeds and first productions of every kind; and, lastly, he
represents him under the notion of a mighty tree, which rises from the most vigorous seed; is improved with industry, flourishes and produces the finest fruit, but bears too many branches, which might be lopped into form, to give it a more regular appearance.
“What! is Homer's poem then, according to Mr. Pope, a confused heap of beauties, without order or symmetry, and a plot whereon nothing but seeds, nor nothing perfect or formed is to be found? and a production loaded with many unprofitable things which ought to be retrenched, and which choke and dis. figure those which deserve to be preserved ? Mr. Pope will pardon me if I here oppose those comparisons, which to me appear very false, and entirely contrary to what the greatest of ancient and modern critics ever thought.
“The Iliad is so far from being a wild paradise, that it is the most regular garden, and laid out with more symmetry, than any ever was. Every thing therein is not only in the place it ought to have been, but every thing is fitted for the place it hath. He presents you, at first, with that which ought to be first seen; he places in the middle what ought to be in the middle, and what would be improperly placed at the beginning or end; and he removes what ought to be at a greater distance, to create the more agreeable surprise ; and to use a comparison drawn from painting, he places that in the greatest light which cannot be too visible, and sinks in the obscurity of the shade what does not require a full view ; so that it may be said that Homer is the painter who best knew how to sinploy the shades and lights. The second compari
son is equally unjust : how could Mr. Pope say, 'that one can only discover seeds, and the first productions of every kind in the Iliad ? Every beauty is there to such an amazing perfection, that the following ages could add nothing to those of any kind; and the ancients have always proposed Homer as the most per fect model in every kind of poetry.
“ The third comparison is composed of the errors of the two former; Homer had certainly an incomparable fertility of invention, but his fertility is al. ways checked by that just sense which made him reject every superfluous thing which his vast imagination could offer, and to retain only what was necessary and useful. Judgment guided the hand of this admirable gardener, and was the pruning-hook he employ. ed to lop off every useless branch.”
Thus far Madam Dacier differs in her opinion from Mr. Pope concerning Homer; but these remarks, which we have just quoted, partake not at all of the nature of criticism; they are mere assertion. Pope had declared Homer to abound with irregular beauties. Dacier has contradicted him, and asserted, that all his beauties are regular, but no reason is assigned by either of these mighty geniuses in support of their opinions, and the reader is left in the dark as to the real truth. If he is to be guided by the authority of a name only, no doubt the argument will preponderate in favour of our countryman. The French lady then proceeds to answer some observations which Mı. Pope made upon her remarks upon the Iliad, which she performs with a warmth that generally attends writers of her sex. Mr. Pope, however, paid more regard to this fair antagonist than any other critic upon his works. He confessed that he had received great helps from her, and only thought she had (through a prodigious and almost superstitious fond. ness for Homer) endeavoured to make him appear without any fault or weakness, and stamp a perfec
sion on his works which is no where to be found. He wrote her a very obliging letter, in which he confessed himself exceedingly sorry that he ever should have displeased so excellent a wit; and she, on the other hand, with a goodness and frankness peculiar to her, protested to forgive it; so that there remained no animosities between those two great admirers and translators of Homer.
Mr. Pope, by his successful translation of the Iliad, as we have before remarked, drew upon him the envy and raillery of a whole tribe of writers. Thougla he did not esteem any particular man amongst his enemies of consequence enough to provoke an answer, yet, when they were considered collectively, they offered excellent materials for a general satire. This satire he planned and executed with so extraordinary a mastery, that it is by far the most complete poem of our Author's: it discovers more invention, and a higher effort of genius, than any other production of his. The hint was taken from Mr. Dryden's Mac Flecknoe; but as it is more general, so it is more pleasing. The Dunciad is so universally read, that we reckon it superfluous to give any further account of it here;
and would be an unpleasing task to trace all the provocations and resentments which were mutually discovered upon this occasion. Mr Pope was of opinion that, next to praising good writers, there was a merit in exposing bad ones; though t does not hold infallibly true that each person stigmatized as a dunce was genuinely so. Something must be allowed to personal resentment : Mr. Pope was a man of keen passions; he felt an injury strongly, retained a long remembrance of it, and could very pungently repay it. Some of the gentlemen, however, who had been more severely lashed than the rest, meditated a revenge which redounds but little to their honour. They either intended to chastise him corborallv, or gave it out that they had really done so,