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sole object of his resentment was vice and baseness; in the detection of which, he artfully takes occasion to speak of that by which he himself had been injured and offended : and concludes with the character of one who had wantonly outraged him, and in the most sensible manner (ver. 270 to 334).
And here, moved again with fresh indignation at his slanderers, he takes the advice of Horace, sume superbiam quæsitam meritis, and draws a fine picture of his moral and poetic conduct through life. In which he shows that not fame, but VIRTUE, was the constant object of his ambition: that for this he opposed himself to all the violence of cabals, and the treacheries of courts the various iniquities of which having distinctly specified, he sums them up in that most atrocious and sensible of all (ver. 333 to 360): "The whisper, that to greatness still too near, Perhaps yet vibrates on his SOVEREIGN's ear. Welcome for thee, fair Virtue! all the past;
For thee, fair Virtue! welcome even the last."
But here again his friend interrupts the strains of his divine enthusiasm, and desires him to clear up one objection made to his conduct at court: "that it was inhumane to insult the poor, and ill-breeding to affront the great." To which he replies, that indeed in his pursuit of Vice, he rarely considered how knavery was circumstanced; but followed it, with his vengeance, indifferently, whether it led to the pillory or the drawingroom (ver. 329 to 368).
But lest this should give his reader the idea of a savage intractable virtue, which could bear with nothing, and would pardon nothing, he takes to himself the shame of owning that he was of so easy a nature, as to be duped by the slenderest appearances; a pretence to virtue in a witty woman : so forgiving, that he had sought out the object of his beneficence in a personal enemy: so humble, that he had submitted to the conversation of bad poets and so forbearing, that he had curbed in his resentment under the most shocking of all provocations, abuses on his Father and Mother (ver. 367 to 388).
This naturally leads him to give a short account of their births, fortunes, and dispositions, which ends with the tenderest wishes for the happiness of his friend; intermixed with the most pathetic description of that filial piety, in the exercise of which he makes his own happiness to consist :
Me, let the tender office long engage
To rock the cradle of reposing age;
With lenient arts extend a mother's breath,
Make languor smile, and smooth the bed of death;
And keep a while one parent from the sky!”
And now this incomparable poem, which holds so much of the DRAMA, and opens with all the disorder and vexation that every kind of impertinence and slander could occasion, concludes with the utmost calmness and serenity, in the retired enjoyment of all the tender offices of FRIENDSHIP and PIETY (ver. 387 to the end).—Warburton.
FIRST PUBLICATION OF THIS EPISTLE.
THIS paper is a sort of bill of complaint, begun many years since, and drawn up by snatches, as the several occasions offered. I had no thoughts of publishing it, till it pleased some persons of rank and fortune [the authors of Verses to the Imitator of Horace, and of an Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity from a Nobleman at Hampton Court] to attack, in a very extraordinary manner, not only my writings (of which, being public, the public is judge) but my person, morals, and family, whereof, to those who know me not, a truer information may be requisite. Being divided between the necessity to say something of myself, and my own laziness to undertake so awkward a task, I thought it the shortest way to put the last hand to this Epistle. If it have any thing pleasing, it will be that by which I am most desirous to please, the truth and the sentiment; and if any thing offensive, it will be only to those I am least sorry to offend, the vicious or the ungenerous.
Many will know their own pictures in it, there being not a circumstance but what is true; but I have for the most part spared their names, and they may escape being laughed at, if they please.
I would have some of them know, it was owing to the request of the learned and candid friend to whom
not as free use of theirs as However, I shall have this
it is inscribed, that I make they have done of mine. advantage and honour on my side, that whereas, by their proceeding, any abuse may be directed at any man, no injury can possibly be done by mine, since a nameless character can never be found out, but by its truth and likeness.
PROLOGUE TO THE SATIRES.
P. SHUT, shut the door, good John! fatigued I said, Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead.
Ver. 1. Shut, shut the door, good John!] John Searl, his old and faithful servant, whom he has remembered, under that character, in his will: of whose fidelity, Dodsley, from his own observation, used to mention many pleasing instances. His wife was living at Eccleshall, 1783, ninety years old, and knew many anecdotes of Pope.-Warton.
Ver. 1. Shut, shut the door,] This abrupt exordium is animated and dramatic. Our poet, wearied with the impertinence and slander of a multitude of mean scribblers that attacked him, suddenly breaks out with this spirited complaint of the ill-usage he had sustained. This piece was published in the year 1734, in the form of an Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot. It is now given as a Dialogue, in which a very small share, indeed, is allotted to his friend. Arbuthnot was a man of consummate probity, integrity, and sweetness of temper; he had infinitely more learning than Pope or Swift, and as much wit and humour as either of them. He was an excellent mathematician and physician, of which his letter on the Usefulness of Mathematical Learning, and his Treatise on Air and Aliment, are sufficient proofs. His tables of ancient coins, weights, and measures, are the work of a man intimately acquainted with ancient history and literature, and are enlivened with many curious and interesting particulars of the manners and ways of living of the ancients. The History of John Bull, the best parts of the Memoirs of Scriblerus, the Art of Political Lying, the Freeholder's Catechism, It cannot rain but it pours, &c. abound in strokes of the most exquisite humour. It is known that he gave numberless hints to Swift, and Pope, and Gay, of some of the most striking parts of their works. He was so neglectful of his writings that his children tore his manuscripts and made paper-kites of them. Few letters in the English language are so interesting, and contain such marks of Christian resignation and calmness of mind, as one that he wrote to Swift a little before his death, and is inserted in the third volume of Letters, 157. p. He frequently, and ably, and warmly, in many conversations, defended the cause of revelation against the attacks of Bolingbroke and Chesterfield.—Warton.
The dog-star rages! nay, 'tis past a doubt,
Fire in each eye and papers in each hand,
They rave, recite, and madden round the land.
What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide? They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide, By land, by water, they renew the charge,
They stop the chariot and they board the barge. 10 No place is sacred, not the church is free,
Even Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me:
Then from the Mint walks forth the man of rhyme,
Is there a parson much bemused in beer,
A clerk, foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
Is there, who lock'd from ink and paper, scrawls
With desperate charcoal round his darken'd walls? 20 All fly to TWIT'NAM, and in humble strain
Apply to me to keep them mad or vain.
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,
Imputes to me and my damn'd works the cause:
Ver. 13. Mint] A place to which insolvent debtors retired, to enjoy an illegal protection, which they were there suffered to afford to one another, from the persecution of their creditors.—Warburton.
Ver. 15. Is there a parson] Some lines in this Epistle to Arbuthnot had been used in a letter to Thomson when he was in Italy, and transferred from him to Arbuthnot, which naturally displeased the former, though they lived always on terms of civility and friendship; and Pope earnestly exerted himself, and used all his interest to promote the success of Thomson's Agamemnon, and attended the first night of its being performed.-Warton.
Ver. 20. desperate charcoal] The idea is from Boileau's Art of Poetry "Charbonner les murailles."-Bowles.
Ver. 23. Arthur,] Arthur Moore, Esq.-Warburton.
After ver. 20 in the MS.
Is there a bard in durance? turn them free,
With all their brandish'd reams they run to me: