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sixth "Miscellany;" which volume opened with the Pastorals of Philips, and ended with those of our author.
About this time old Mr. Wycherley courted the friendship, and requested the assistance, of our young author, to correct his verses, which had all the uncouth harshness and asperity of Donne. But Wycherley's vanity was soon disgusted by the honest freedom and true judgment with which Pope executed the task he had unwillingly undertaken; a coolness ensued, which ended in a rupture betwixt them.
The "Essay on Criticism" was first advertised at the end of the "Spectator," No. 65, May 15, 1711, and was praised by Addison in the December following, in Number 253 of the "Spectator." The "Messiah" also appeared first in the "Spectator," 1712, with a warm recommendation by Steele. Nothing can be added to the just and universal approbation with which it was received and read. He was not. so happy in his "Ode on St. Cecilia's Day;" which, in respect both of subject and execution, is so manifestly inferior to that unrivalled one of his master, Dryden; but which, Dr. Johnson, by a strange perversity of judgment, pronounces to contain nothing equal to the first bombast stanza of his “Ode on Killegrew." It was at Steele's desire that he wrote that beautiful little Ode, "The Dying Christian to his Soul," to be set to music.
"The Rape of the Lock" was produced in a fortnight, and appeared, 1711, in only two cantos, in a "Miscellany" of Lintot. Finding it received with just and universal applause, he in the next year enlarged it into five cantos.
It appears by a letter to Steele, dated November 16, 1712, that he first communicated to him at that time, "The Temple of Fame," though he had written it two years before. The descriptive powers of Pope are much
more visible and strong in this poem, than in the next that is to be mentioned in the order of time; the "Windsor Forest," the first part of which was written, indeed, in 1704, but the whole was not finished and published till 1713.
After arriving at such eminence by so many capital compositions, our Author, with that just self-confidence that ought to actuate every man of real genius and ability, meditated a higher effort; something that might improve and advance his fortune as well as his fame; a translation of Homer, which Milton is said once to have thought of executing.
This translation he proposed to print by subscription, in six volumes in quarto, for the sum of six guineas. Every man of every party, that had any, or pretended to have any taste or love of literature, sent his name; and the number of subscribers were five hundred and seventyfive; but as some subscribed for more than one copy, the copies delivered to subscribers were six hundred and fifty-four. These copies Lintot, who became proprietor of the work, engaged to supply, at his own expense, and also to give the author two hundred pounds for each volume; so that Pope obtained, on the whole, the sum of five thousand three hundred and twenty pounds four shillings. With this money he purchased several annui'ties, and particularly one of five hundred pounds a year, from the Duke of Buckingham.
The first four books were published 1715, and the largeness of the subscription enabled Pope also to purchase the house at Twickenham, besides the annuities above mentioned; to which he removed, having pursuaded his father to sell his little property at Binfield.
As the eras of a mere author's life can be marked only by the series of his publications, which however show the progress of his genius and labours, I proceed to observe, that, in 1712, he published the exquisite Poems of
his friend Parnell, to which he prefixed the fine Epistle to Lord Oxford; and in the same year engaged with Tonson to give an edition of Shakspeare, in six quarto volumes, for which he received the sum of two hundred and seventeen pounds twelve shillings. For this edition he was justly attacked by Theobald, first in "Shakspeare Restored," and afterwards in a formal edition, to which Warburton contributed many remarks; and by Theobald many deficiencies, errors, and mistakes were pointed out. Pope was so mortified by this failure, that from this time, it is said, he became an enemy to collators, commentators, and verbal critics, hinting that he miscarried in this undertaking, for which he was not qualified, by having a mind too great for such minute employment.
Soon afterwards he gave out proposals for a translation of the Odyssey; and took for his coadjutors, Fenton and Broome; the former of whom, both from his genius and learning, was eminently qualified for the task. He, himself, translated only twelve books; and at the end of the notes, which were compiled by Broome, a false statement was given of their respective shares; but it is now ascertained by Spence's papers, that Fenton translated the first, fourth, nineteenth, and twentieth Books; and Broome the second, sixth, eighth, eleventh, twelfth, sixteenth, eighteenth, and twenty-third Books. Lintot agreed to pay Pope one hundred pounds for each volume; the number of subscribers was five hundred and seventyfour; and of copies eight hundred and nineteen. He is said to have given to Fenton for his assistance, three hundred pounds; and to Broome five hundred.
Swift, coming to England, 1727, joined with Pope in publishing, in four volumes octavo, their Miscellaneous Pieces, in prose and verse; to which Pope wrote a Preface. The two most remarkable passages in this Preface are, where they say, "That in several parts of our lives,
we have written some things which we may wish never to have thought on;" and when they also say, "In regard to two persons only, we wish our raillery, though ever so tender, or resentment ever so just, had not been indulged. We speak of Sir T. Vanbrugh, who was a man of wit and of honour; and of Mr. Addison, whose name deserves all respect from every lover of learning."
And now, in the year 1728, too much exasperated by the rude attacks of impotent scribblers, and forgetting what he had said in the before-mentioned preface, "that it is to be lamented that Virgil let pass a line which told posterity he had two enemies called Bavius and Mævius," he determined to crush his adversaries in a mass, by one strong and decisive blow, and wrote his "Dunciad:" the history of which is so very minutely related by Pope himself, in a Dedication which he wrote to Lord Middlesex, under the name of Savage, who, by the way, assisted Pope in finding out many particulars of these Scribblers' lives, that it ought to be inserted in this place.
"I will relate the war of the Dunces, (for so it has been commonly called,) which began in the year 1727, and ended in 1730.
"When Dr. Swift and Mr. Pope thought it proper, for reasons specified in the preface to their Miscellanies, to publish such little Pieces of theirs, as had casually got abroad, there was added to them the "Treatise of the Bathos, or the Art of Sinking in Poetry.' It happened, that in one Chapter of this Piece the several species of bad poets were ranged in classes, to which were prefixed almost all the Letters of the Alphabet (the greatest part of them at random); but such was the number of poets eminent in that art, that some one or other took every letter to himself. All fell into so violent a fury, that, for half a year or more, the common newspapers (in most of which they had some property, as being hired writers)
were filled with the most abusive falsehoods and scurrilities they could possibly devise. A liberty no way to be wondered at in those people, and in those papers, that for so many years, during the uncontrouled licence of the press, had aspersed almost all the great characters of the age; and this with impunity, their own persons and names being utterly secret and obscure.
“This gave Mr. Pope the thought that he had now some opportunity of doing good, by detecting, and bringing into light, these common enemies of mankind; since, to invalidate this universal slander, it sufficed to show what contemptible men were the authors of it. He was not without hopes, that, by manifesting the dulness of those, who had only malice to recommend them, either the booksellers would not find their account in employing them, or the men themselves, when discovered, want courage to proceed in so unlawful an occupation. This it was that gave birth to the 'Dunciad;' and he thought it an happiness, that, by the late flood of slander on himself, he had acquired such a peculiar right over their names as was necessary to this design.
"On the 12th of May 1729, at St. James's, that poem was presented to the King and Queen (who had before been pleased to read it) by the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole: and some days after the whole impression was taken and dispersed by several noblemen and persons of the first distinction.
"On the day the book was first vended, a crowd of authors besieged the shop; entreaties, advices, threats of law and battery, nay, cries of treason, were all employed to hinder the coming out of the 'Dunciad:' on the other side, the booksellers made as great an effort to procure it. What could a few poor authors do against so great a majority as the public? There was no stopping a torrent with a finger, so out it came.