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A simple Quaker, or a Quaker's Wife,
Ver. 133. a Quaker's Wife,] Mrs. Drummond, celebrated in her time.
Ver. 134. Outdo Landaffe] A Prelate of irreproachable character, who is said never to have offended Pope; and whose son is no small ornament to his Profession, Dr. Harris of Doctors Commons.
Ver. 134. Landaffe] A poor Bishoprick in Wales, as poorly supplied. P.
Ver. 135. Let humble Allen,] Mr. Pope, on the republication of this Poem, in a letter to Mr. Allen, writes thus-“I am going to insert; in the body of my works, my two last poems in quarto. I always profit myself of the opinion of the public, to correct myself on such occasions; and sometimes the merits of particular men, whose names I have made free with, for examples either of good or bad, determine me to alterations. I have found a virtue in you more than I certainly knew before, till I had made experiment of it, I mean Humility. I must therefore, in justice to my own conscience of it, bear testimony to it, and change the epithet I first gave you of low-born, to humble. I shall
, take care to do you the justice to tell every body, this change was not made at your's, or at any friend's request for you, but
, my own knowledge, you merited it," &c. Twit. Nov. 2. W.
Ver. 144. Let Greatness Own HER, and she's mean no more,] The Poet, in this whole passage, was willing to be understood as alluding to a very extraordinary story told by Procopius in his Secret History; the sum of which is as follows:
Her Birth, her Beauty, Crowds and Courts confess, Chaste Matrons praise her, and grave Bishops bless;
The Empress THEODORA was the daughter of one Acaces, who had the care of the wild beasts, which the Green Faction kept for the entertainment of the people. For the Empire was, at that time, divided between the two Factions of the Green and Blue. But Acaces dying in the infancy of Theodora and her two Sisters, his place of Master of the Bears was disposed of to a stranger: and his widow had no other way of supporting herself than by prostituting her three daughters (who were all very pretty) on the public Theatre. Thither she brought them in their turns, as they came to years of puberty. Theodora first attended her Sisters in the habit and quality of a slave. And when it came to her turn to mount the stage, as she could neither dance nor play on the flute, she was put into the lowest class of Buffoons, to make diversion for the Rabble; which she did in so arch a manner,
and complained of the indignities she suffered in so ridiculous a tone, that she became an absolute favourite of the people. After a complete course of infamy and prostitution, the next place we hear of her is at Alexandria, in great poverty and distress: from whence (as it was no wonder) she was willing to remove. And to Constantinople she came; but after a large circuit through the East, where she worked her way by a free course of prostitution. JUSTINIAN was at this time consort in the Empire with his Uncle Justin ; and the inanagement of affairs entirely in his hands. He no sooner saw Theodora than he fell desperately in love with her; and would have married her immediately, but that the Empress Euphemia, a Barbarian, and unpolite, but not illiberal in her nature, was then alive. And she, although she rarely denied him any thing, yet obstinately refused giving him this instance of her complaisance. But she did not live long: and then nothing but the ancient Laws, which forbade a Senator to marry with a common prostitute, hin. dered Justinian from executing this extraordinary project. These he obliged Justin to revoke; and then, in the face of the sun, married his dear Theodora. A terrible example (says the Historian), and an encouragement to the most abandoned licence. And now, no sooner was THEODORA (in the Poet's phrase) owned by Greatness, than she, whom not long before it was thought unlucky to meet, and a pollution to touch, became the idol of the Court. There was not a single Magistrate (says Procopius) that expressed
In golden Chains the willing World she draws, 147
the least indignation at the shame and dishonour brought upon the state; not a single Prelate that shewed the least desolation for the public scandal. They all drove to Court so precipitately, as if they were striving to prevent one another in her good graces. Nay, the very soldiers were emulous of the honour of becoming the Champions of her Virtue. As for the common People, who had so long been the spectators of her servility, her buffoonery, and her prostitution, they all in a body threw themselves at her feet, as slaves at the footstool of their Mistress. In a word, there was no man, of what condition soever, who shewed the least dislike of so monstrous an elevation. In the mean time, Theodora's first care was to fill her Coffers, which she soon did, with immense wealth. To this end, Justinian and she pretended to differ in their party principles. The one protected the blue, and the other the green Faction; till in a long course of intrigue, by sometimes giving up the one to plunder and confiscation, and sometimes the other, they left nothing to either. See Procop. Anec. c. ix.--X.
Upon this note Gibbon observes, vol. iv. p. 26. " Without Warburton's critical Telescope, I should never have seen, in this general picture of triumphant vice, any personal allusion to Theodora.” Her infamous conduct may be read in the 4th vol. of the Menagiana. What Bayle says of J. Scaliger may be justly applied to many of Warburton's notes. “ Les commentaires qui viennent de lui sont pleines de conjectures hardies, ingenieuses, et fort sçavantes ; mais il n'est gueres apparent que les auteurs ayent songés à tout de qu'il leur fait dire. On s' eloigne de leur sens aussi bien, quand on a beaucoup d'esprit, quand on en a pas." Repub. des Lett. 1684.
Ver. 148. And hers the Gospel is, and hers the Laws,] i. e. She disposed of the honours of both. W.
Ver: 149. scarlet head,] Alluding to the Scarlet Whore of the Apocalypse. W.
Ver. 151 Lo! at the wheels) A groupe of allegorical persons
Dragg’d in the Dust! his arms hang idly round,
worthy the pencil of Rubens! and described in expressions worthy of Virgil! This is perhaps the noblest passage in all his works, without any exception whatever.
Ver. 162. 'Tis Ad’rice all,] “ So far from having the virtues, we have not even the vices of our ancestors,” says Bolingbroke.
Ver. 169. While Truth, Worth,] “ Sitting once in my library," says Mr. Harris, “ with a friend, a worthy but melancholy man, I read him, out of a book, the following passage: In our times it
may be spoken more truly than of old, that virtue is gone; the Church is under foot; the Clergy is in error; the Devil reigneth, &c. &c. My friend interrupted me with a sigh, and said, Alas ! how true! How just a picture of the times! I asked him, Of what times? Of what times? replied he, with emotion, Can you suppose any other, but the present? Were any before ever so bad, so corrupt, so, &c. Forgive me (said I) for stopping you, The times I am reading of are older than you imagine; the sentiment was delivered above four hundred years ago; its Author, Sir John Mandeville, who died in 1371."
EPILOGUE TO THE SATIRES. DIAL. I. While Truth, Worth, Wisdom, daily they decrys “Nothing is Sacred now but Villany."
170 Yet may this Verse (if such a Verse remain) Shew, there was one who held it in disdain.
Ver. 170. Nothing is Sacred now] “ There is a certain list of vices committed in all ages (says Sir Thomas Brown), and declaimed against by all Authors, which will last as long as human nature; or digested into common places, may serve for any theme, and never be out of date until doomsday.”
They, whom envy, malevolence, melancholy, discontent, and disappointment, have induced to think that the world is totally degenerated, and that it is daily growing worse and worse, would do well to read a sensible, but too much neglected, treatise of an old divine, written 1630, Hakewill's Apology, or Declaration of the Power and Providence of God.