網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

LETTER V.

WARBURTON'S EDITION OF POPE'S WORKS; MISREPRESENTATION

OF DR. JAMES FOSTER; DR. JOHNSON'S ANALYSIS OF Pope's WORKS; FLATMAN'S THOBGHT ON DEATH; SPECIMEN OF POPB's PROSB ; Pope's TRANSLATION OF HOMER, WITH SPECIMENS FROM THE ILIAD AND ODYSSEY; ANECDOTES OF DOGS; POPE's LOVE OF ECONOMY AND STUDY OF ACCURACY; HIS SAYINGS; WILL OF POPE; BRITISH POETS CLASSED; AN ENGLISH PARNASSUS RECOMMENDED; ADVANTAGES OF A TASTE POR THE BELLES LETTRES AND POETRY; THE FIVE AGES OF THE WORLD AS TO LITERATURE; CITIZENS OF LONDON ANGLING AT TWICKENHAM AND IN ITS VICINITY.

Islington, July, 1810.

MY DEAR YOUNG FRIEND, THE Works of Mr. Pope find a place in every gentleman's library. The edition published by Bishop WARBURTON is the most widely circulated, though many of that prelate's notes are distinguished for their petulance and eccentricity. It is remarkable that WARBURTON should have ever been the man destined to guard the fame and convey the name of Pope to posterity. No one seems to have thought less of his merit, or to have spoken more contemptuously of his genius at an early period of his life. In a letter WARBURTON tells Concannen, “ Dryden, I observe, borrows for want of leisure, and Pope for

132

WARBURTON POPE'S DEFENDER.

[ocr errors]

want of genius, Milton out of pride, and Addison out of modesty.” This reverend gentleman, however, thought proper many years afterwards to rush forward and defend Pope against Crousaz, a foreign professor, who had attacked the Essay on Man, hy charging its author with favouring Fatalism, or rejecting Revelation. The poet, who is supposed to have received his system from Bolingbroke, but not to have discerned its tendency, was grateful for this timely assistance. He introduced him to Lord Mansfield, who made him preacher at Lincoln's Inn, and to Mr. Allen, at Prior Park, near Bath, who gave him his niece and his estate. Indeed, he was also the means of raising him to the Bishopric of Gloucester. Pope, when he died, left this fortunate prelate the property of his works, which was estimated at four thousand pounds! Whatever might have been the motive of Warburton, thus officiously to advocate a man whom he once so much undervalued; certain it is, he met with an ample reward.

As a flagrant specimen of the illiberality of Warburton's notes, take the following instance. POPE has these lines

Let modest Foster if he will, excel
'Ten metropolitans in preaching well.

The commentator assigns fanaticism as the ground of the preacher's popularity. Now, never was the mind of any individual more remote from fanaticism than that of Dr. James Foster. He was as much

DR. JAMES FOSTER.

133

distinguished from the press as he was in the pulpit. Author of an admirable Defence of the Christiun Revelation ; of well-reasoned Discourses on Natural Religion and Social Virtue ; and of some volumes of Sermons in high estimation, the charge of fanaticism was as false as it was preposterous on this occasion. Indeed, the censorious prelate must have been altogether unacquainted with the preacher, and entirely ignorant of his works. Dr. James Foster was born 1697, at Exeter, and died 1753, in London, He was remarkable for his meekness and modesty. He attended the amiable but unfortunate Kilmarnock on the scaffold, in 1746; and his tender spirits were so affected on that tragic occasion, that it brought on an illness which, whilst it was very protracted, terminated in his dissolution.

Of the Works of Pope you, my young friend, will wish me to give you some idea ; indeed, I would fain enable you to form a just judgment respecting them. No productions are more generally read_few more ardently admired. I shall present you with a summary account of them, chiefly taken from that eminent critic Dr. Samuel Johnson, who seldom goes wrong when the prejudices of political or religious party are out of the question.

His Windsor Forest, the design of which is derived from Cooper's Hill, is thought to exceed it in variety and elegance. His Temple of Fame, Steele declared to possess a thousand beauties. The Messiah excels the Pollio of Virgil, but is indebted for its superiority

[blocks in formation]

to the glowing language of Isaiah, realized in the blessings and discoveries of the Christian Revelation. The Verses on an Unfortunate Lady, treat suicide with too much respect, but have lines distinguished for strength and tenderness. The Ode for Cecilia's Day, must yield to that of Dryden, though he has outgone other competitors. The Essay on Criticism is one of his earliest and, what is remarkable, greatest works. And Johnson has justly observed, that the comparison of a student's progress in the sciences with the journey of a traveller in the Alps, is perhaps the best that English poetry can shew; it assists the apprehension and elevates the fancy. Pope has been praised for making the sound to seem an echo to the sense ; many instances might be produced from his works, one shall suffice :

With many a weary step and many a groan,
Up a high hill he heaves a huge round stone ;
The huge round stone, resulting with a bound,
TAUNDERS impetuoús down, and smokks along the ground !

The Rape of the Lock is universally allowed to be the most attractive of all ludicrous compositions, possessing beauties of every description.

The Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard is a very happy production of human wit; their fate not leaving their mind in hopeless dejection, for they both found consolation in retirement and piety. The Dunciad affords, perhaps, the best specimen that has yet appeared of personal satire ludicrously pompous ; but

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

the author cannot be freed from the charge of illnature and even malignity. On this account some have called him The Wasp of Twickenham. The Essay on Man has been extravagantly extolled by some, and as violently reprobated by others. It was no favourite with Johnson. He, however, acknowledges that the sentiments, be they what they may, were .“ never till now recommended by such a blaze of embellishment, or such sweetness of melody!" His Characters of Men and Women are laboured ; but superior to those of Boileau, which is no mean commendation. In his Epistles to Lord Bathurst and Lord Burlington, the most valuable passages are the Elegy on good Sense, and the End of the Duke of Buckingham. In the Prologue to the Satires, and also in the Epilogue to the Satires, are many very spirited passages; especially the author's own Vindication of his Character, and his Celebration of the Triumphs of Corruption.

“ When I had a fever one winter in town,” said Pope to Spence, “ that confined me to my room for five or six days, Lord BOLINGBROKE came to see me, happened to take up a Horace that lay on the table, and, in turning it over, dipt on the first Satire of the second book. He observed, how well that would suit my case if I were to imitate it in English. After he was gone I read it over, translated it in a morning or two, and sent it to press in a week or fortnight after. And this was the occasion of my imitating some other of the Satires and Epistles.” “ To how casual a beginning," adds Spence,“ are we

« 上一頁繼續 »