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of his day -men and women, politicians and literary folk, English and French. His gardens were laid out after the French fashion, and were, like his poetry, models of regularity, uniformity, precision, balance."
Another work which involved great and continued labor, which was little suited to Pope's abilities, but which was financially a successful venture, appeared
in the same year as the Odyssey · his edition of Shakspere. It cannot be said that Pope added greatly to our understanding or appreciation of the great dramatist. His edition was, however, responsible for his most important work in his most effective field, The Dunciad, or "Epic of Dunces."1 Lewis Theobald (Tibbald), the best Shakspere scholar of his day, published a volume pointing out Pope's numerous errors. Pope came back with his "epic," of which Theobald was the
1 Compare with Dryden's Mac Fleknoe, above, page 128.
hero. Virtually every other writer who had in any way incurred the satirist's displeasure and they were legionwas also lashed in the poem, and it caught the public at once. So great was its success that it was considerably extended in succeeding editions; and in one of these, Theobald, who had been sufficiently punished, yielded the place of hero to Colley Cibber, Poet Laureate, new offender of the "wicked wasp of Twickenham."
Late Works. Two other works of Pope's should be mentioned which belong to his last years - Imitations of Horace (commonly called Satires), and Essay on Man. In these we have the poet's best satire and his best verse. one is not pleased by the little dashes of personal spite in the Satires, one can still find entertainment and food for thought in reading that Shakspere
"For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight,
And grew immortal in his own despite."
The Satires are full of pleasant passages, of which the following is typical:
"Of little use the man you may suppose
Who says in verse what others say in prose;
To please a lewd, or unbelieving Court."
The Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, or Prologue to the Satires, aside from unjust characterizations of Addison and other
contemporaries, presents an amusing picture of Pope's position. A literary power, he is sought by all, and the result is not agreeable:
"Is there a parson much bemused in beer,
A clerk foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
Who pens a stanza, when he should engross?
With desp'rate charcoal round his darken'd walls?
Seized and tied down to judge, how wretched I
Essay on Man." - The Essay on Man is perhaps Pope's most ambitious work. It is a long philosophical poem on the text. "Whatever is, is right;" and seeks, using a phrase very similar to Milton's, to
"vindicate the ways of God to man."
As a whole, it cannot be understood without some knowledge of a great religious controversy of its day; but like all Pope's works, it is full of clean-cut, polished, quotable couplets.
"Oh blindness to the future! kindly giv'n,
That each may fill the circle mark'd by Heaven."
"Know then this truth (enough for man to know):
It is in the perfected workmanship of detached passages that Pope's real merit is found.
End of the "Long Disease." - Pope's life was embittered by many quarrels, mostly, it would seem, provoked by him
and without sufficient cause. Much is still not clear regarding these; and even if the worst aspect of them be true, they are somewhat pardonable. "This long disease" he called his life; and his day was hardly capable of producing a Stevenson to cope with lifelong infirmity. If, moreover, he made many enemies, he made many and true friends. During his last illness these friends were frequently at Twickenham, and had the satisfaction of seeing him face death peacefully and not unhappily. He died May 30, 1744, and was buried, according to his own wish, in Twickenham Church.
that every Physical & moral Evil may be for from fore, is the Philosophical Prayer of
yr very ofliged
FACSIMILE OF POPE'S AUTOGRAPH.
(New York Public Library.)
Pope's Position. - Around the life, character, and writings of Pope something of a controversy is still waging; and the end is not in sight. As long as men hold different standards of poetic art, so long will there be dispute as to Pope's place in English poetry. "The question," says a recent writer, "is essentially one of temperament." As long as men differ in their interpretation of admitted facts, so long will there be dispute whether Pope was more sinned against than sinning. It may be said with some truth that this second question is also "essentially one of temperament." But there is seldom a middle ground for the student of Pope: he will champion the poet's cause without stint, or he will condemn it with heat.
We have said that the style of poetry begun by Dryden and established by Pope, both form and subject-matter, held sway throughout the eighteenth century. Writing by rule became the proper mode, the effect of which may be seen in that Pope's portions of his Odyssey are not strikingly distinguished from those of his (certainly inferior) colaborers. The heroic couplet was the accepted measure; contemporary society in its most superficial aspects was the accepted subject. Bold must be the man who ventured to depart from these. A few there were, however, who even in Pope's lifetime did break from the beaten track, and strike out in byways more congenial. Among the most notable of these was
JAMES THOMSON, 1700-1748
Forerunner of Romanticism. In the year 1726, when Pope's popularity and influence were at their height, Thomson published a poem called Winter. Both as to subject and form it holds an important place in the history of English poetry. The matter of the poem is the "wild pagan graces and savage grandeur of external nature" (J. L. Robinson), substituted for the "reigning fopperies of a tasteless age (Thomson's preface): the form is blank verse, which had fallen upon evil days in the sixty years since Milton's death. Thomson has been with good right called the "forerunner" of the movement in poetry called "romantic," which superseded the school of Pope at the close of the century.1
Life in Scotland. - Thomson was born at Ednam, a village in the southeastern part of Scotland, the region made
It seems best to defer definition of the "romantic" movement. Those, however, who wish to take it up at this point will find the subject treated on pages 219-223.