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OBSERVATIONS UPON "OBSERVATIONS."
asks, "Shall he fling dirt and receive rose-water ?" This metaphor, by the way, is taken from Marmontel's Memoirs; who, lamenting to Chamfort the shedding of blood during the French revolution, was answered, "Do you think that revolutions are to be made with rose-water ?"
For my own part, I presume that "rose-water" would be infinitely more graceful in the hands of Mr. Bowles than the substance which he has substituted for that delicate liquid. It would also more confound his adversary, supposing him a scavenger." I remember, (and do you remember, reader, that it was in my earliest youth, "Consule Planco,") - on the morning of the great battle, (the second) — between Gulley and Gregson, Cribb, who was matched against Horton for the second fight, on the same memorable day, awaking me (a lodger at the inn in the next room) by a loud remonstrance to the waiter against the abomination of his towels, which had been laid in lavender. Cribb was a coal-heaver and was much more discomfited by this odoriferous effeminacy of fine linen, than by his adversary Horton, whom he "finished in style," though with some reluctance; for I recollect that he said, "he disliked hurting him, he looked so pretty," Horton being a very
fine fresh-coloured young man. To return to" rose-water"—that is, to gentle means of rebuke. Does Mr. Bowles know how to revenge himself upon a hackney-coachman, when he has overcharged his fare? In case he should not, I will tell him. It is of little use to call him "a rascal, a scoundrel, a thief, an impostor, a black guard, a villain, a ragamuffin, a-what you please;" all that he is used toit is his mother-tongue, and probably his mother's. But look him steadily and quietly in the face, and say -"Upon my word, I think you are the ugliest fellow I ever saw in my life," and he will instantly roll forth the brazen thunders of the charioteer Salmoneus as follows:"Hugly! what the h―ll are you? You a gentleman! Why - !" So much easier it is to provoke and therefore to vindicate (for passion punishes him who feels it more than those whom the passionate would excruciate) — by a few quiet words the aggressor, than by retorting violently. The "coals of fire" of the Scripture are benefits; but they are not the less "coals of fire."
I pass over a page of quotation and reprobation "Sin up to my song""Oh let my "Writer in "In-door
little bark" "Arcades ambo".
the Quarterly Review and himself "avocations, indeed”—“ Kings of Brentford". "One nosegay"- -"Perennial nosegay"—"Oh Juvenes," and the like.
Page 12. produces “more reasons," (the task ought not to have been difficult, for as yet there were none)-"to show why Mr. Bowles attributed the critique in the Quarterly to Octavius Gilchrist." All these "reasons' "consist of surmises of Mr. Bowles, upon the presumed character of his opponent. "He did not sup
pose there could exist a man in the kingdom so impudent, &c. &c. except Octavius Gilchrist.”— "He did not think there was a man in the kingdom who would pretend ignorance, &c. &c. except Octavius Gilchrist."-" He did not conceive that one man in the kingdom would utter such stupid flippancy, &c. &c. except Octavius Gilchrist.". ." He did not think there was one man in the kingdom who, &c. &c. could so utterly show his ignorance, combined with conceit, &c. as Octavius Gilchrist.". "He did not believe there was a man in the kingdom so perfect in Mr. Gilchrist's 'old lunes,'" &c. &c. -"He did not think the mean mind of any one in the kingdom," &c. and so on; always beginning with "any one in the kingdom," and ending with "Octavius Gilchrist," like the word in a catch. I am not "in the kingdom," and have not been much in the kingdom since I was one and twenty, (about five years in the whole, since I was of age,) and have no desire to be in the kingdom again, whilst I breathe, nor to sleep there afterwards; and I regret nothing more than having ever been "in the kingdom" at all. But though no longer a man "in the kingdom," let me hope that when I have ceased to exist, it may be said, as was answered by the master of Clanronald's henchman, the day after the battle of Sheriff-Muir, when he was found watching his chief's body. He was asked, "who that was?" he replied. "it was a man yesterday." And in this capacity, "in or out of the kingdom," I must own that I participate in many of the objections urged by Mr. Gilchrist. I participate in his love of Pope, and in his not understanding, and occasionally finding fault with, the last editor of our last truly great poet.
One of the reproaches against Mr. Gilchrist is, that he is (it is sneeringly said) an F. S. A. If it will give Mr. Bowles any pleasure, I am not an F. S. A., but a Fellow of the Royal Society at his service, in case there should be any thing in that association also which may point a paragraph.
"There are some other reasons," but "the author is now not unknown." Mr. Bowles has so totally exhausted himself upon Octavius Gilchrist, that he has not a word left for the real quarterer of his edition, although now "deterré."
The following page refers to a mysterious charge of" duplicity, in regard to the publication of Pope's letters." Till this charge is made in proper form, we have nothing to do with it: Mr. Gilchrist hints it- Mr. Bowles denies it; there it rests for the present. Mr. Bowles professes his dislike to "Pope's duplicity, not to Pope" a distinction apparently without a difference. However, I believe that I understand him. We have a great dislike to Mr. Bowles's edition of Pope, but not to Mr. Bowles; nevertheless, he takes up the subject as warmly as if it was personal. With regard to the fact of 'Pope's duplicity," it remains to be proved like Mr. Bowles's benevolence towards his memory.
In page 14. we have a large assertion, that "the Eloisa' alone is sufficient to convict him of gross licentiousness." Thus, out it comes at last. Mr. Bowles does accuse Pope of "gross licentiousness," and grounds the charge upon a poem. The licentiousness is a "grand peut-être," according to the turn of the times being. The grossness I deny. On the contrary, I do believe that such a subject never was, nor ever could be, treated by any poet with so much delicacy, mingled with, at the same time, such true and intense passion. Is the " Atys" of Catullus licentious? No, nor even gross; and yet Catullus is often a coarse writer. The subject is nearly the same, except that Atys was the suicide of his manhood, and Abelard the victim.
The "licentiousness" of the story was not Pope's it was a fact. All that it had of gross, he has softened; — all that it had of indelicate, he has purified all that it had of passionate, he has beautified; all that it had of holy, he has hallowed. Mr. Campbell has admirably marked this in a few words (I quote from memory), in drawing the distinction between Pope and Dryden, and pointing out where Dryden was wanting. "I fear," says he, "that had the subject of Eloisa' fallen into his (Dryden's) hands, that he would have given us but a coarse draft of her passion." Never was the delicacy of Pope so much shown as in this poem. With the facts and the letters of " Eloisa " he has done what no other mind but that of the best and purest of poets could have accomplished with such materials. Ovid, Sappho (in the Ode called hers) all that we have of ancient, all that we have of modern poetry, sinks into nothing compared with him in this production.
Let us hear no more of this trash about "licentiousness." Is not "Anacreon" taught in our schools?— translated, praised, and edited? Are not his Odes the amatory praises of a boy? Is not Sappho's Ode on a girl? Is not this sublime and (according to Longinus) fierce love for one of her own sex? And is not Phillips's translation of it in the mouths of all your women? And are the English schools or the English women the more corrupt for all this? When you have thrown the ancients into the fire it will be time to denounce the moderns. "Licentiousness!" there is more real mischief and sapping licentiousness in a single French prose novel, in a Moravian hymn, or a German comedy, than in all the actual poetry that ever was penned or poured forth, since the rhapsodies of Orpheus. The sentimental anatomy of Rousseau and Mad. de S. are far more formidable than any quantity of verse. They are so, because they sap the principles, by reasoning upon the passions; whereas poetry is in itself passion, and does not systematise. It assails, but does not argue; it may be wrong, but it does not assume pretensions to Optimism.
Mr. Bowles now has the goodness" to point out the difference between a traducer and him who sincerely states what he sincerely believes." He
might have spared himself the trouble. The one is a liar, who lies knowingly; the other (I speak of a scandal-monger of course) lies, charitably believing that he speaks truth, and very sorry to find himself in falsehood; - because he "Would rather that the dean should die, Than his prediction prove a lie."
After a definition of a "traducer," which was quite superfluous (though it is agreeable to learn that Mr. Bowles so well understands the character), we are assured, that "he feels equally indifferent, Mr. Gilchrist, for what your malice can invent, or your impudence utter." This is indubitable; for it rests not only on Mr. Bowles's assurance, but on that of Sir Fretful Plagiary, and nearly in the same words," and I shall treat it with exactly the some calm indifference and philosophical contempt, and so your servant." 'One thing has given Mr. Bowles concern." It is "a passage which might seem to reflect on the patronage a young man has received." MIGHT seem!! The passage alluded to expresses, that if Mr. Gilchrist be the reviewer of "a certain poet of nature," his praise and blame are equally contemptible." - Mr. Bowles, who has a peculiarly ambiguous style, where it suits him, comes off with a "not to the poet, but the critic," &c. In my humble opinion, the passage referred to both. Had Mr. Bowles really meant fairly, he would have said so from the first- he would have been eagerly transparent. -"A certain poet of nature " is not the style of commendation. It is the very prologue to the most scandalous paragraphs of the newspapers, when
"Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike." "A certain high personage," -" a certain peeress, "a certain illustrious foreigner," — what do these words ever precede, but defamation ? Had he felt a spark of kindling kindness for John Clare, he would have named him. There is a sneer in the sentence as it stands. How a favourable review of a deserving poet can “rather injure than promote his cause" is difficult to comprehend. The article denounced is able and amiable, and it has "served" the poet, as far as poetry can be served by judicious and honest criticism.
With the two next paragraphs of Mr. Bowles's pamphlet it is pleasing to concur. His mention of “Pennie," and his former patronage of "Shoel," do him honour. I am not of those who may deny Mr. Bowles to be a benevolent man. I merely assert, that he is not a candid editor.
Mr. Bowles has been "a writer occasionally upwards of thirty years," and never wrote one word in reply in his life" to criticisms, merely as criticisms." This is Mr. Lofty in Goldsmith's Good-natured Man; "and I vow by all that's honourable, my resentment has never done the men, as mere men, any manner of harm, — that is, as mere men."
"The letter to the editor of the newspaper* is owned; but "it was not on account of the
OBSERVATIONS UPON "OBSERVATIONS."
criticism. It was because the criticism came down in a frank directed to Mrs. Bowles!!!”— (the italics and three notes of admiration appended to Mrs. Bowles are copied verbatim from the quotation), and Mr. Bowles was not displeased with the criticism, but with the frank and the address. I agree with Mr. Bowles that the intention was to annoy him; but I fear that this was answered by his notice of the reception of the criticism. An anonymous letter-writer has but one means of knowing the effect of his attack. In this he has the superiority over the viper; he knows that his poison has taken effect, when he hears the victim cry; - the adder is deaf. The best reply to an anonymous intimation is to take no notice directly nor indirectly. I wish Mr. Bowles could see only one or two of the thousand which I have received in the course of a literary life, which, though begun early, has not yet extended to a third part of his existence as an author. I speak of literary life only. Were I to add personal, I might double the amount of anonymous letters. If he could but see the violence, the threats, the absurdity of the whole thing, he would laugh, and so should I, and thus be both gainers.
To keep up the farce, - within the last month of this present writing (1821), I have had my life threatened in the same way which menaced Mr. Bowles's fame, excepting that the anonymous denunciation was addressed to the Cardinal Legate of Romagna, instead of to Mrs. Bowles. The Cardinal is, I believe, the elder lady of the I append the menace in all its barbaric but literal Italian, that Mr. Bowles may be convinced; and as this is the only "promise to pay," which the Italians ever keep, so my person has been at least as much exposed to a "shot in the gloaming," from "John Heatherblutter" (see Waverley), as ever Mr. Bowles's glory was from an editor. I am, nevertheless, on horseback and lonely for some hours (one of them twilight) in the forest daily; and this, because it was my "custom in the afternoon," and that I believe if the tyrant cannot escape amidst his guards (should it be so written?), so the humbler individual would find precautions useless.
Mr. Bowles has here the humility to say, that "he must succumb; for with Lord Byron turned against him, he has no chance," -a declaration of self-denial not much in unison with
his "promise," five lines afterwards, that "for every twenty-four lines quoted by Mr. Gilchrist, or his friend, to greet him with as many from the Gilchrisiad';" but so much the better. Mr. Bowles has no reason to "succumb" but to Mr. Bowles. As a poet, the author of "The Missionary" may compete with the foremost of his cotemporaries. Let it be recollected that all my previous opinions of Mr. Bowles's poetry were written long before the publication of his last and best poem; and that a poet's last poem should be his best, is his highest praise. But, however, he may duly and honourably rank with his living rivals. There never was so complete
a proof of the superiority of Pope, as in the lines with which Mr. Bowles closes his "to be concluded in our next."
Mr. Bowles is avowedly the champion and the poet of nature. Art and the arts are dragged some before, and others behind his chariot. Pope, where he deals with passion, and with the nature of the naturals of the day, is allowed even by themselves to be sublime; but they complain that too soon
"He stoop'd to truth and moralised his song,"
and there even they allow him to be unrivalled. He has succeeded, and even surpassed them, when he chose, in their own pretended province. Let us see what their Corypheus effects in Pope's. But it is too pitiable, it is too melancholy, to see Mr. Bowles" sinning" not "up" but "down" as a poet to his lowest depth as an editor. By the way, Mr. Bowles is always quoting Pope. I grant that there is no poet not Shakspeare himself who can be so often quoted, with reference to life; - but his editor is so like the devil quoting Scripture, that I could wish Mr. Bowles in his proper place, quoting in the pulpit.
And now for his lines. But it is painful painful -to see such a suicide, though at the shrine of Pope. I can't copy them all : "Shall the rank, loathsome miscreant of the age, Sit, like a night-mare, grinning o'er a page.' "Whose pye-bald character so aptly suit The two extremes of Bantam and of Brute, Compound grotesque of sullenness and show, The chattering magpie, and the croaking crow." "Whose heart contends with thy Saturnian head, A root of hemlock, and a lump of lead. Gilchrist, proceed," &c. &c.
"And thus stand forth, spite of thy venom'd foam,
To give thee bite for bite, or lash thee limping home."
With regard to the last line, the only one upon which I shall venture for fear of infection, I would advise Mr. Gilchrist to keep out of the unless he has way of such reciprocal morsure — more faith in the "Ormskirk medicine" than most people, or may wish to anticipate the pension name, but it is advertised and full of consonants,) of the recent German professor, (I forget his who presented his memoir of an infallible remedy month, coupled with the philanthropic condition for the hydrophobia to the German diet last of a large annuity, provided that his cure cured. Let him begin with the editor of Pope, and double his demand.
To John Murray, Esq.
P. S. Amongst the above-mentioned lines there occurs the following, applied to Pope
"The assassin's vengeance, and the coward's lie." And Mr. Bowles persists that he is a well-wisher to Pope!!! He has, then, edited an “ assassin ”
and a "coward" wittingly, as well as lovingly. In my former letter I have remarked upon the editor's forgetfulness of Pope's benevolence. But where he mentions his faults it is "with sorrow" - his tears drop, but they do not blot them out. The "recording angel" differs from the recording clergyman. A fulsome editor is pardonable though tiresome, like a panegyrical son whose pious sincerity would demi-deify his father. But a detracting editor is a parricide. He sins against the nature of his office, and connection he murders the life to come of his victim. If his author is not worthy to be mentioned, do not edit at all: if he be, edit honestly, and even flatteringly. The reader will forgive the weakness in favour of mortality, and correct your adulation with a smile. But to sit down mingere in patrios cineres," as Mr. Bowles has done, merits a reprobation so strong, that I am as incapable of expressing as of ceasing to feel it.
It is worthy of remark that, after all this outcry about "in-door nature" and "artificial images," Pope was the principal inventor of that boast of the English, Modern Gardening. He divides this honour with Milton. Hear Warton: -"It hence appears that this enchanting art of modern gardening, in which this kingdom claims a preference over every nation in Europe, chiefly owes its origin and its improvements to two great poets, Milton and Pope."
Walpole (no friend to Pope) asserts that Pope formed Kent's taste, and that Kent was the artist to whom the English are chiefly indebted for diffusing "a taste in laying out grounds." The design of the Prince of Wales's garden was copied from Pope's at Twickenham. Warton applauds "his singular effort of art and taste, in impressing so much variety and scenery on a spot of five acres." Pope was the first who ridiculed the "formal, French, Dutch, false and unnatural taste in gardening," both in prose and verse. (See, for the former," The Guardian.")
Pope has given not only some of our first but best rules and observations on Architecture and Gardening." (See Warton's Essay, vol. ii. p. 237, &c. &c.)
Now, is it not a shame, after this, to hear our
1 [No. 173., on laying out Gardens. This paper, which abounds with wit as well as taste, ends with a ridiculous catalogue of various figures cut in evergreen. Here follow a few of the items
"Adam and Eve in yew: Adam a little shattered by the fall of the tree of knowledge in the great storm: Eve and the Serpent very flourishing.
"The tower of Babel, not yet finished. "Edward the Black Prince in cypress.
"A laurestine bear in blossom, with a juniper hunter in berry.
"An old maid of honour in wormwood.
"A topping Ben Jonson in laurel.
"Divers eminent modern poets in bags, somewhat blighted, to be disposed of a penny-worth.
Lakers in "Kendal Green,” and our Bucolical Cockneys, crying out (the latter in a wilderness of bricks and mortar) about "Nature" and Pope's "artificial in-door habits?" Pope had seen all of nature that England alone can supply. He was bred in Windsor Forest, and amidst the beautiful scenery of Eton; he lived familiarly and frequently at the country seats of Bathurst, Cobham, Burlington, Peterborough, Digby, and Bolingbroke; amongst whose seats was to be numbered Stowe. He made his own little "five acres" a model to princes, and to the first of our artists who imitated nature. Warton thinks "that the most engaging of Kent's works was also planned on the model of Pope's-at least in the opening and retiring shades of Venus's Vale."
It is true that Pope was infirm and deformed; but he could walk, and he could ride (he rode to Oxford from London at a stretch), and he was famous for an exquisite eye. On a tree at Lord Bathurst's is carved "Here Pope sang,”
- he composed beneath it. Bolingbroke, in one of his letters, represents them both writing in the hay-field. No poet ever admired Nature more, or used her better, than Pope has done, as I will undertake to prove from his works, prose and verse, if not anticipated in so easy and agreeable a labour. I remember a passage in Walpole, somewhere, of a gentleman who wished to give directions about some willows to a man who had long served Pope in his grounds: "I understand, sir," he replied, "you would have them hang down, sir, somewhat poetical." Now, if nothing existed but this little anecdote, it would suffice to prove Pope's taste for Nature. and the impression which he had made on a common-minded man. But I have already quoted Warton and Walpole (both his enemies), and, were it necessary, I could amply quote Pope himself for such tributes to NATURE 2 as no poet of the present day has even approached.
His various excellence is really wonderful: architecture, painting, gardening, all are alike; subject to his genius. Be it remembered that English gardening is the purposed perfectioning of niggard Nature, and that without it England is but a hedge-and-ditch, double-post-and-rail, Hounslow Heath and Clapham Common sort of country, since the principal forests have been
"A quickset hog, shot up into a porcupine by its being forgot a week in rainy weather.
"A lavender pig with sage growing in the belly," &c. &c.]
2 ["To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
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felled. It is, in general, far from a picturesque country. The case is different with Scotland, Wales, and Ireland; and I except also the lake counties and Derbyshire, together with Eton, Windsor, and my own dear Harrow on the Hill, and some spots near the coast. In the present rank fertility of "great poets of the age," and "schools of poetry' a word which, like "schools of eloquence" and of "philosophy," is never introduced till the decay of the art has increased with the number of its professors in the present day, then, there have sprung up two sorts of Naturals; - the Lakers 1, who whine about Nature because they live in Cumberland; and their under-sect (which some one has maliciously called the "Cockney School"), who are enthusiastical for the country because they live in London. It is to be observed, that the rustical founders are rather anxious to disclaim any connexion with their metropolitan followers, whom they ungraciously review, and call cockneys atheists, foolish fellows, bad writers, and other hard names not less ungrateful than unjust. I can understand the pretensions of the aquatic gentlemen of Windermere to what Mr. Braham terms "entusumusy," for lakes, and mountains, and daffodils, and buttercups; but I should be glad to be apprised of the foundation of the London propensities of their imitative brethren to the same "high argument." Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge have rambled over half Europe, and seen Nature in most of her varieties (although I think that they have occa sionally not used her very well); but what on earth of earth, and sea, and Nature - have the others seen? Not a half, nor a tenth part so much as Pope. While they sneer at his Windsor Forest, have they ever seen any thing of Windsor except its brick
The most rural of these gentlemen is my friend Leigh Hunt, who lives at Hampstead. I believe that, I need not disclaim any personal or poetical hostility against that gentleman. A more amiable man in society I know not; nor (when he will allow his sense to prevail over his sectarian principles) a better writer. When he was writing his " Rimini," I was not the last to discover its beauties, long before it was published. Even then I remonstrated against its vulgarisms; which are the more extraordinary, because the author is any thing but a vulgar man. Mr. Hunt's answer was, that he wrote them upon principle; they made part of his 66 system !!" I then said no more. When a man talks of his system, it is like a woman's talking of her virtue. I let them talk on. Whe
1 [" Write but like Wordsworth, live beside a Lake, And keep your bushy locks a year from Blake; Then print your book, once more return to town, And boys shall hunt your bardship up and down." English Bards, &c.] 2["Who hung with woods yon mountain's sultry brow? From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?
ther there are writers who could have written "Rimini," as it might have been written, I know not; but Mr. Hunt is, probably, the only poet who could have had the heart to spoil his own Capo d'Opera.
With the rest of his young people I have no acquaintance, except through some things of theirs (which have been sent out without my desire), and I confess that till I had read them I was not aware of the full extent of human absurdity. Like Garrick's "Ode to Shakspeare," they "defy criticism." These are of the personages who decry Pope. One of them, a Mr. John Ketch, has written some lines against him, of which it were better to be the subject than the author. Mr. Hunt redeems himself by occasional beauties; but the rest of these poor creatures seem so far gone that I would not "march through Coventry with them, that's flat!" were I in Mr. Hunt's place. To be sure, he has led his ragamuffins where they will be well peppered;" but a system-maker must receive all sorts of proselytes. When they have really seen life- when they have felt it - when they have travelled beyond the far distant boundaries of the wilds of Middlesex when they have overpassed the Alps of Highgate, and traced to its sources the Nile of the New River -then, and not till then, can it properly be permitted to them to despise Pope; who had, if not in Wales, been near it, when he described so beautifully the "artificial" works of the Benefactor of Nature and mankind, the "Man of Ross 2; " whose picture, still suspended in the parlour of the inn, I have so often contemplated with reverence for his memory, and admiration of the poet, without whom even his own still existing good works could hardly have preserved his honest renown.
I would also observe to my friend Hunt, that I shall be very glad to see him at Ravenna, not only for my sincere pleasure in his company, and the advantage which a thousand miles or so of travel might produce to a "natural" poet, but also to point out one or two little things in "Rimini," which he probably would not have placed in his opening to that poem, if he had ever seen Ravenna; unless, indeed, it made part of his system!!" I must also crave his indulgence for having spoken of his disciples — by no means an agreeable or self-sought subject. If they had said nothing of Pope, they might have remained "alone with their glory" for aught I should have said or thought about them or their nonsense. But if they interfere with the "little Nightingale" of Twickenham, they
Not to the skies in useless columns tost,
But clear and artless, pouring through the plain