Page images
PDF
EPUB

passage till he had read his version, which indeed he has been sometimes suspected of using instead of the original.

Notes were likewise to be provided, for the six volumes would have been very little more than six pamphlets without them. What the mere perusal of the text could suggest, Pope wanted no assistance to collect or methodize; but more was necessary; many pages were to be filled, and learning must supply materials to wit and judgment. Something might be gathered from Dacier; but no man loves to be indebted to his contemporaries, and Dacier was accessible to common readers. Eustathius was therefore necessarily consulted. To read Eustathius, of whose work there was then no Latin version, I suspect Pope, if he had been willing, not to have been able; some other was therefore to be found, who had leisure as well as abilities; and he was doubtless most readily employed who would do much work for little money.

The history of the notes has never been traced. Broome, in his preface to his poems, declares himself the commentator "in part upon the Iliad ;" and it appears from Fenton's letter, preserved in the Museum, that Broome was at first engaged in consulting Eustathius, but that after a time, whatever was the reason, he desisted; another man, of Cambridge, was then employed, who soon grew weary of the work; and a third, that was recommended by Thirlb is now discovered to have been Jortin, a man since well known to the learned world, who complained that Pope, having accepted and approved his performance, never testified any curiosity to see him, and who professed to have forgotten the terms on which he worked. The terms which Fenton uses are very mercantile: "I think at first sight that his performance is very commendable, and have sent word for him to finish the 17th book, and to send it with his demands for his trouble. I have here enclosed the specimen; if the rest come before the return, I will keep them till I receive your order."

Broome then offered his service a second time, which was probably accepted, as they had afterwards a closer correspondence. Parnell contributed the life of Homer, which Pope found so harsh, that he took great pains in correcting it; and by his own diligence, with such help as kindness or money could procure him, in some-learning. what more than five years he completed his version of the "Iliad," with the notes. He began it in 1712, his twenty-fifth year, and concluded it in 1718, his thirtieth year.

When we find him translating fifty lines a day it is natural to suppose that he would have brought his work to a more speedy conclusion. The Iliad," containing less than sixteen thousand verses, might have been despatched in less than three hundred and twenty days, by fifty verses in a day. The notes, compiled with the assistance of his mercenaries, could not be supposed to require more time than the text.

tion, business, and pleasure, all take their turns of retardation; and every long work is lengthened by a thousand causes that can, and ten thousand that cannot, be recounted. Perhaps no extensive and multifarious performance was ever effected within the term originally fixed in the undertaker's mind. He that runs against time has an antagonist not subject to casualties.

The encouragement given to this translation, though report seems to have overrated it, was such as the world has not often seen. The subscribers were five hundred and seventy-five.The copies for which subscriptions were given were six hundred and fifty-four; and only six hundred and sixty were printed. For these copies Pope had nothing to pay; he therefore received, including the two hundred pounds a volume, five thousand three hundred and twenty pounds four shillings without deduction, as the books were supplied by Lintot.

By the success of his subscription Pope was relieved from those pecuniary distresses with which, notwithstanding his popularity, he had hitherto struggled. Lord Oxford had often lamented his disqualification for public employment, but never proposed a pension. While the translation of "Homer" was in its progress, Mr. Craggs, then secretary of state, offered to procure him a pension, which, at least during his ministry, might be enjoyed with secrecy. This was not accepted by Pope, who told him, however, that if he should be pressed with want of money, he would send to him for occasional supplies. Craggs was not long in power, and was never solicited for money by Pope, who disdained to beg what he did not want.

With the product of this subscription, which he had too much discretion to squander, he se cured his future life from want, by considerable annuities. The estate of the Duke of Buckingham was found to have been charged with five hundred pounds a year, payable to Pope, which doubtless his translation enabled him to purchase.

It cannot be unwelcome to literary curiosity that I deduce thus minutely the history of the English "Iliad." It is certainly the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen; and its publication must therefore be considered as one of the great events in the annals of

To those who have skill to estimate the excellence and difficulty of this great work, it must be very desirable to know how it was performed, and by what gradations it advanced to correctness. Of such an intellectual process the knowledge has very rarely been attainable; but happily there remains the original copy of the "Iliad," which being obtained by Bolingbroke as a curiosity, descended from him to Mallet, and is now, by the solicitation of the late Dr. Maty, reposited in the Museum.

Between this manuscript, which is written upon accidental fragments of paper, and the printed edition, there must have been an inter

According to this calculation, the progress of Pope may seem to have been slow; but the dis-mediate copy, that was perhaps destroyed as it tance is commonly very great between actual returned from the press. performances and speculative possibility. It is natural to suppose, that as much as has been done to-day may be done to-morrow; but on the morrow, some difficulty emerges, or some exter

From the first copy I have procured a few transcripts, and shall exhibit first the printed lines, distinguished by inverted commas; then those of the manuscripts, with all their varia

nal impediment obstructs. Indolence, interruptions. Those words which are given in italics

[blocks in formation]

"Declare, O Muse, in what ill-fated hour,
Sprung the fierce strife, from what offended Pow'r?
Latona's son a dire contagion spread,
And heap'd the camp with mountains of the dead;
The King of men his reverend priest defy'd,
And for the King's offence the people died."

[blocks in formation]

"Whose limbs, unburied on the naked shore, Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore, Since great Achilles and Atrides strove:

Of these lines, and of the whole first book,

Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of Jove." I am told that there was yet a former copy, more varied, and more deformed with interlineations.

Whose limbs, unburied on the hostile shore,

Devouring dogs and greedy vultures tore,
Since first Atrides and Achilles strove:

The beginning of the second book varies very

Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of little from the printed page, and is therefore set

Jove.

down without a parallel; the few differences do not require to be elaborately displayed.

For Chryses sought by presents to regain
costly gifts to gain
His captive daughter from the Victor's chain!
Suppliant the venerable Father stands,
Apollo's awful ensigns grac'd his hands.
By these he begs, and lowly bending down
The golden sceptre and the laurel crown,
Presents the sceptre

For these as ensigns of his God he bare,
The God that sends his golden shafts afar;
Then, low on earth, the venerable man,
Suppliant, before the brother kings began.

"He sued to all, but chief implor'd for grace
The brother kings of Atreus' royal race:
Ye Kings and warriors, may your vows be crown'd,
And Troy's proud walls lie level with the ground;
May Jove restore you, when your toils are o'er,
Safe to the pleasures of your native shore."

To all he sued, but chief implored for grace
The brother Kings of Atreus' royal race:
Ye sons of Atreus, may your vows be crown'd,
kings and warriors

Your labours, by the Gods be all your labours
crown'd,

So may the Gods your arms with conquest bless,
And Troy's proud walls lie level with the ground;
Till
laid
And crown your labours with deserv'd success;
May Jove restore you, when your toils are o'er,
Safe to the pleasures of your native shore.

"But, oh! relieve a wretched parent's pain,
And give Chryseis to these arms again;
If mercy fail, yet let my present move,
And dread avenging Phoebus, son of Jove."

But, oh! relieve a hapless parent's pain,
And give my daughter to these arms again;

[blocks in formation]

Atrides

Repulsed the sacred Sire, and thus replied.
[Not so the tyrant. Dryden.]

[blocks in formation]

O'er all the Greeks decrees his fame to raise, Above the Greeks her warrior's fame to raise, his deathless

And crown her hero with immortal praise: distinguish'd

Bright from his beamy crest the lightnings play, High on

helm

From his broad buckler flash'd the living ray; High on his helm celestial lightnings play, His beamy shield emits a living ray; The Goddess with her breath the flames supplies, Bright as the star whose fires in Autumn rise; Her breath divine thick streaming flames supplies, Bright as the star that fires the autumnal skies: The unwearied blaze incessant streams supplies, Like the red star that fires the autumnal skies: "When first he rears his radiant orb to sight, And bath'd in ocean, shoots a keener light. Such glories Pallas on the chief bestow'd, Such from his arms the fierce effulgence flow'd; Onward she drives him, furious to engage, Where the fight burns, and where the thickest rage."

[blocks in formation]

Conclusion of Book viii. v. 687.

"As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
O'er Heav'n's clear azure spreads her sacred light,
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,
And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene,
Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
And stars unnumber'd gild the glowing pole;
O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed,'
And tip with silver every mountain's head;
Then shine the vales, the rocks in prospect rise,
A flood of glory bursts from all the skies;
The conscious swains, rejoicing in the sight,
Eye the blue vault, and bless the useful light.
So many flames before proud Ilion blaze,
And lighten glimm'ring Xanthus with their rays;
The long reflections of the distant fires
Gleam on the walls, and tremble on the spires.
A thousand piles the dusky horrors gild,
And shoot a shady lustre o'er the field.
Full fifty guards each flaming pile attend,
Whose umber'd arms by fits thick flashes send;
Loud neigh the coursers o'er the heaps of corn,
And ardent warriors wait the rising morn."

As when in stillness of the silent night,
As when the moon in all her lustre bright;
As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
O'er Heav'n's clear azure sheds her silver light;
spreads sacred
pure
As still in air the trembling lustre stood,
And o'er its golden border shoots a flood;
When no loose gale disturbs the deep serene,
not a breath

And no dim cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene;
not a

Around her silver throne the planets glow And stars unnumber'd trembling beams bestow : Around her throne the vivid planets roll, And stars unnumber'd gild the glowing pole; Clear gleams of light o'er the dark trees are seen, o'er the dark trees a yellow sheds, O'er the dark trees a yellower green they shed, gleam verdure And tip with silver all the mountain heads. forest And tip with silver every mountain's head.

[blocks in formation]

Of these specimens, every man who has culti vated poetry, or who delights to trace the mind from the rudeness of its first conceptions to the elegance of its last, will naturally desire a greater number; but most other readers are already tired, and I am not writing only to poets and philosophers.

The "Iliad" was published volume by volume, as the translation proceeded; the four first books appeared in 1715. The expectation of this work was undoubtedly high, and every man who had connected his name with criticism or poetry was desirous of such intelligence as might enable him to talk upon the popular topic. Halifax, who, by having been first a poet and then a patron of poetry, had acquired the right of being a judge, was willing to hear some books while they were yet unpublished. Of this rehearsal Pope afterwards gave the following account:*

"The famous Lord Halifax was rather a pretender to taste than really possessed of it. When I had finished the two or three first books of my translation of the Iliad,' that lord desired to have the pleasure of hearing them read at his house-Addison, Congreve, and Garth, were there at the reading. In four or five places, Lord Halifax stopped me very civilly, and with a speech each time of much the same kind, 'I beg your pardon, Mr. Pope: but there is something in that passage that does not quite please me. Be so good as to mark the place, and consider it a little at your leisure. I am sure you can give it a little turn.' I returned from Lord Halifax's with Dr. Garth, in his chariot; and, as we were going along, was saying to the doctor, that my ford had laid me under a great deal of difficulty by such loose and general observations; that I had been thinking over the passages almost ever since, and could not guess at what it was that offended his lordship in either of them. Garth laughed heartily at my embarrassment; said, I had not not been long enough acquainted with Lord Halifax to know his way yet; that I need not puzzle myself about looking those places over and over when I got home. All you need do (says he) is to leave them just as they are; call on Lord Halifax two or three months hence, thank him for his kind observations on those passages, and then read them to him as altered. I have known him much longer than you have, and will be answerable for the

• Spence,

ties were acknowledged, and who, having attained that eminence to which he was himself aspiring, had in his hands the distribution of literary fame. He paid court with sufficient diligence by his prologue to "Cato," by his abuse of Dennis, and with praise yet more direct, by his poem on the "Dialogues on Medals," of which the immediate publication was then intended. In all this there was no hypocrisy ; for he confessed that he found in Addison something more pleasing than in any other man.

It may be supposed, that as Pope saw himself favoured by the world, and more frequently compared his own powers with those of others, his confidence increased and his submission lessened; and that Addison felt no delight from the advances of a young wit, who might soon contend with him for the highest place. Every great man, of whatever kind be his greatness, has among his friends those who officiously or insidiously quicken his attention to offences, heighten his disgust, and stimulate his resentment. Of such adherents Addison doubtless had many; and Pope was now too high to be without them.

From the emission and reception of the proposals for the "Iliad," the kindness of Addison seems to have abated. Jervas the painter once pleased himself, (Aug. 20, 1714,) with imagining that he had re-established their friendship; and wrote to Pope that Addison once suspected him of too close a confederacy with Swift, but was now satisfied with his conduct. To this Pope These voluntary offers, and this faint accept- answered, a week after, that his engagements to ance, ended without effect. The patron was not Swift were such as his services in regard to the accustomed to such frigid gratitude; and the subscription demanded, and that the tories never poet fed his own pride with the dignity of inde- put him under the necessity of asking leave to be pendence. They probably were suspicious of grateful. "But," says he, “as Mr. Addison each other. Pope would not dedicate till he saw must be the judge in what regards himself, and at what rate his praise was valued; he would be seems to have no very just one in regard to me, "troublesome out of gratitude, not expectation." so I must own to you I expect nothing but civiHalifax thought himself entitled to confidence; lity from him." In the same letter he mentions and would give nothing unless he knew what he Philips, as having been busy to kindle animosity should receive. Their commerce had its begin-between them; but in a letter to Addison he exning in hope of praise on one side, and of money presses some consciousness of behaviour inaton the other, and ended because Pope was less tentively deficient in respect. eager of money than Halifax of praise. It is not likely that Halifax had any personal benevolence to Pope; it is evident that Pope looked on Halifax with scorn and hatred.

Of Swift's industry in promoting the subscription, there remains the testimony of Kennet, no friend to either him or Pope.

"Nov. 2, 1713, Dr. Swift came into the coffeehouse, and had a bow from every body but me, who, I confess, could not but despise him. When

I

The reputation of this great work failed in gaining him a patron, but it deprived him of a friend. Addison and he were now at the head came to the antichamber to wait, before prayof poetry and criticism; and both in such a state ers, Dr. Swift was the principal man of talk and of elevation, that, like the two rivals in the Ro- business, and acted as master of requests.— man state, one could no longer bear an equal, Then he instructed a young nobleman that the nor the other a superior. Of the gradual abate-best poet in England was Mr. Pope, (a papist,) ment of kindness between friends, the beginning who had begun a translation of Homer into is often scarcely discernible to themselves, and English verse, for which he must have them all the process is continued by petty provocations, subscribe: for, says he, the author shall not beand incivilities, sometimes peevishly returned, gin to print till I have a thousand guineas for him." and sometimes contemptuously neglected, which would escape all attention but that of pride, and drop from any memory but that of resentment. That the quarrel of these two wits should be minutely deduced, is not to be expected from a writer, to whom, as Homer says, "nothing but rumour has reached, and has no personal knowledge."

About this time it is likely that Steele, who was, with all his political fury, good natured and officious, procured an interview between these angry rivals, which ended in aggravated malevolence. On this occasion, if the reports be true, Pope made his complaint with frankness and spirit, as a man undeservedly neglected or opposed; and Addison affected a contemptuous unconcern, and, in a calm even voice, reproached Pope with his vanity, and telling him of the im

Pope doubtless approached Addison, when the reputation of their wit first brought them together, with the respect due to a man whose abili-provements which his early works had received

event.' I followed his advice; waited on Lord Halifax some time after; said, I hoped he would find his objections to those passages removed; read them to him exactly as they were at first; and his lordship was extremely pleased with them, and cried out, Ay, now they are perfectly right; nothing can be better." "

"

It is seldom that the great or the wise suspect that they are despised or cheated. Halifax, thinking this a lucky opportunity of securing immortality, made some advances of favour and some overtures of advantage to Pope, which he seems to have received with sullen coldness. All our knowledge of this transaction is derived from a single letter, (Dec. 1, 1714,) in which Pope says, "I am obliged to you, both for the favours you have done me, and those you intend me. I distrust neither your will nor your memory, when it is to do good; and if I ever become troublesome or solicitous, it must not be out of expectation, but out of gratitude. Your lordship may cause me to live agreeably in the town, or contentedly in the country, which is really all the difference I set between an easy fortune and a small one. It is indeed a high strain of generosity in you to think of making me easy all my life, only because I have been so happy as to divert you some few hours; but, if I may have leave to add, it is because you think me no enemy to my native country, there will appear a better reason; for I must of consequence be very much (as I sincerely am) yours, &c."

from his own remarks and those of Steele, said, that he, being now engaged in public business, had no longer any care for his poetical reputation, nor had any other desire, with regard to Pope, than that he should not, by too much arrogance, alienate the public.

To this Pope is said to have replied with great keenness and severity, upbraiding Addison with perpetual dependence, and with the abuse of those qualifications which he had obtained at the public cost, and charging him with mean endeavours to obstruct the progress of rising merit. The contest rose so high that they parted at last without any interchange of civility.

The first volume of Homer was (1715) in time published; and a rival version of the first "Iliad," for rivals the time of their appearance inevitably made them, was immediately priated, with the name of Tickell. It was soon perceived that among the followers of Addison, Tickell had the preference, and the critics and poets divided into factions. "I," says Pope, "have the town, that is, the mob, on my side; but it is not uncommon for the smaller party to supply by industry what it wants in numbers. I appeal to the people as my rightful judges, and, while they are not inclined to condemn me, shall not fear the high-flyers at Button's." This opposition he immediately imputed to Addison, and com-ther with his father and mother. plained of it in terms sufficiently resentful to Craggs, their common friend.

between us; and, to convince me of what he had said, assured me that Addison had encou raged Gildon to publish those scandals, and had given him ten guineas after they were published. The next day, while I was heated with what I had heard, I wrote a letter to Mr. Addison, to let him know that I was not unacquainted with this behaviour of his; that, if I was to speak severely of him in return for it, it should be not in such a dirty way; that I should rather tell him, himself, fairly of his faults, and allow his good qualities; and that it should be something in the following manner; I then adjoined the first sketch of what has since been called my satire on Addison. Mr. Addison used me very civilly ever after."*

The verses on Addison, when they were sent to Atterbury, were considered by him as the most excellent of Pope's performances; and the writer was advised, since he knew where his strength lay, not to suffer it to remain unemployed.

He was convinced, by adding one circumstance to another, that the other translation was the work of Addison himself; but if he knew it in Addison's life time, it does not appear that he told it. He left his illustrious antagonist to be punished by what has been considered as the most painful of all reflections, the remembrance of a crime perpetrated in vain.

The other circumstances of their quarrel were thus related by Pope:*

"Philips seemed to have been encouraged to abuse me in coffee-houses and conversations; and Gildon wrote a thing about Wycherly, in which he had abused both me and my relations very grossly, Lord Warwick himself told me one day, that it was in vain for me to endeavour to be well with Mr. Addison; that his jealous temper would never admit of a settled friendship

Spence.

This year (1715) being, by the subscription, enabled to live more by choice, having persuaded his father to sell their estate at Binfield, he purchased, I think only for his life, that house at Twickenham, to which his residence afterwards procured so much celebration, and removed thi

Here he planted the vines and the quincunx which his verses mention; and being under the necessity of making a subterraneous passage to a garden on the other side of the road, he adorned

When Addison's opinion was asked. he declared the versions to be both good, but Tickell's the best that had ever been written; and some-it with fossil bodies, and dignified it with the

times said that they were both good, but that Tickell had more of Homer.

title of a grotto, a place of silence and retreat, from which he endeavoured to persuade his friends and himself that cares and passions could be excluded.

Pope was now sufficiently irritated; his reputation and his interest were at hazard. He once intended to print together the four versions of A grotto is not often the wish or pleasure of Dryden, Maynwaring, Pope, and Tickell, that an Englishman, who has more frequent need to they might be readily compared, and fairly esti- solicit than exclude the sun; but Pope's excamated. This design seems to have been de-vation was requisite as an entrance to his garfeated by the refusal of Tonson, who was the den, and as some men try to be proud of their proprietor of the other three versions. defects, he extracted an ornament from an inconvenience, and vanity produced a grotto where necessity enforced a passage. It may be fre

Pope intended, at another time, a rigorous criticism of Tickell's translation, and had marked a copy, which I have seen, in all places that ap-quently remarked of the studious and specupeared defective. But, while he was thus medi- lative, that they are proud of trifles, and that tating defence or revenge, his adversary sunk be- their amusements scem frivolous and childish; fore him without a blow; the voice of the pub-whether it be that men conscious of great repulic was not long divided, and the preference was tation think themselves above the reach of cenuniversally given to Pope's performance. sure, and safe in the admission of negligent indulgences, or that mankind expect from clevated genius a uniformity of greatness, and watch its degradation with malicious wonder; like him who, having followed with his eye an eagle into the clouds, should lament that she ever descended to a perch.

While the volumes of his Homer were annually published, he collected his former works (1717) into one quarto volume, to which he prefixed a preface, written with great sprightliness and elegance, which was afterwards reprinted, with some passages subjoined that he at first omitted; other marginal additions of the same kind he made in the later editions of his poems, Waller remarks, that poets lose half their praise, because the reader knows not what they have blotted. Pope's voracity of fame taught him

See however the Life of Addison in the "Biogrcphia Britannica," last edition.-R.

« EelmineJätka »