Page images
PDF
EPUB

when his CID appeared. Defpreaux was full thirty when he published his fatires, such as we now have them; Moliere was full forty when he wrote the firft of those comedies, on which his reputation is founded. But to excell in this fpecies of compofition, it was not fufficient for Moliere to be only a great poet; but it was more neceffary for him to gain a thorough knowledge of men and the world, which is feldom attained fo early in life, but without which, the best poet would be able to write but very indifferent comedies. Raphäel was about thirty years old also, when he displayed the beauty and fublimity of his genius in the Vatican. For it is there we behold the firft of his works, that are worthy the great name he at present so deservedly poffeffes. When our Shakespear wrote his LEAR, Milton his PARADISE LOST, Spenfer his FAIRY QUEEN, and Dryden his MUSIC ODE, they were all of them paft the middle of man. From this fhort review it appears, that few poets ripened fo early as POPE; who feems literally and ftrictly to have fulfilled

age

fulfilled the precept of Horace in each of it's circumstances;

Multa tulit, fecitque PUER;

he was laborious and indefatigable in his purfuits of learning;

Sudavit et alfit;

and above all, what is of the greatest confequence in preferving each faculty of the mind in due vigour,

Abftinuit venere et vino;

thefe are the two temptations to which a youthful bard is principally fubject, and into whose fnares he generally falls. If the imagination be lively, the paffions will be ftrong. True genius feldom refides in a cold and phlegmatic conftitution. The fame temperament, and the fame fenfibility that makes a poet or a painter, will be apt to make a man a lover and a debauchee. POPE was happily secured from falling into these common failings, the bane of fo many others, by the weakness and delicacy

P

delicacy of his body, and the bad state of his health. The fenfual vices were too violent for fo tender a frame; he never fell into intemperance and diffipation. May I add, that even his bodily make was of use to him as a writer; for one who was acquainted with the heart of man, and the fecret fprings of our actions, has obferved with great penetration; " It is good to confider deformity, "not as a figne, which is more deceivable, "but as a cause, which feldom faileth of the "effect. Whofoever hath any thing fixed "in his person, that doth induce contempt, "hath alfo a perpetual fpur in himfelfe, to "rescue and deliver himself from fcorne." I do not think it improbable, that this circumftance might animate our poet, to double his diligence to make himself distinguished, and hope I shall not be accused, by those who have a knowledge of human nature, of affigning his defire of excellence to a motive too mean and fordid, as well as too weak and inefficacious, to operate fuch an effect.

[blocks in formation]

What

crops

of wit and honefty appear,

From spleen, from obstinacy, hate or fear!
See anger, zeal and fortitude, fupply,
Ev'n avarice, prudence; floth, philosophy;
Nor virtue male or female can we name,

But what will grow on pride or grow on shame. *

It was another circumftance equally propitious to the ftudies of POPE, in this early part of his life, that he inherited a fortune that was a decent competence, and fufficient to fupply the small expences, which both by constitution and reflection he required. He had no occafion to diftract his thoughts by being follicitous, "de lodice paranda;" he needed not to wait,

Pour diner, le fuccefs d'un fonnet. †

his father retired from business, at the revolution, to a little convenient box, at Binfield, near Oakingham, in Berkshire, ‡ and having converted his effects into money, is faid to have brought with him into the country al

*Effay on Man. ep. ii. v. 185. + Boileau. Art Poet. c. 4. See Works. ver. 4. 212.

[blocks in formation]

most twenty thousand pounds. As he was a papist he could not purchase, nor put his money to intereft on real fecurity; and as he adhered to the interefts of King James, he he made a point of confcience not to lend it to the new government;

For right hereditary tax'd and fin'd,

He ftuck to poverty with peace of mind,

he therefore kept this fum in his chest, and lived upon the principal; till by that time. his fon came to the fucceffion, it was almoft all fairly spent. There was however enough left to fupply the occafions of our author, * and to keep him from the two most destruc

* He afterwards acquired a confiderable fortune by his tranflation of the Iliad, which was published for his own benefit, by a subscription fo large, that it does honour to this kingdom. Mr. Warburton informs us, that he fold it to Lintot the bookfeller, on the following terms, twelve hundred pounds paid down, and all the books for his fubfcribers. The Odyffey was published in the fame manner, and fold on the fame conditions, except only, that instead of twelve, he had but fix hundred pounds. He was affifted in this latter work, by Broome and Fenton, to the first of whom he gave fix hundred pounds, and to the latter, three hundred. This tranflation has proved a good eftate to the bookfeller.

« EelmineJätka »