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the combat.

The age was a great age of clubs; of associations, large or small, of men bound together by the spirit of common antagonism or hatred towards this or that political or literary counter-coterie. Just as the world of politics in this age was limited to a very small numerical proportion of the nation whose affairs it swayed, so the world of literature, extremely confined in comparison to that of only a generation or two later, was clearly and definitely marked off into the fractions which composed it. Political and literary clubs were alike characterised by a single-mindedness of antipathies which the lower orders were not slow to burlesque in the confraternities of the tap-room1. Kit-Cat and Calves-head, Beefsteak and October, may have occasionally drowned even their party-feelings in the oblivion ensured by an unflinching devotion to the club-rules. But the Brothers' Club founded by Bolingbroke in 1711 was a kind of backstairs Cabinet of the Tory party; while the literary champions of the latter (including the professedly neutral Pope) met in the Scribblerus Club to pulverise in a common mortar the small fry of their literary adversaries. At all these clubs (and the 'Brothers' occasionally admitted their 'Sisters') a rivalry in abuse was one of the unwritten laws of the fraternity 2. Our Augustan age was not the most immoral which court and society in England have known (at least it may be said that the profligacy of the Restoration period, arrested by the reaction under William III., was not to revive in its fulness till after the death of Queen Anne); but it was assuredly the most scandalous. And its peculiarity was this, that while evil speaking, even in the age of the Regency, was as a rule left as an unenvied privilege to the lowest hangers-on of literature, or to those members of society whom age and sex or constitutional vacuity include in a licensed category, the practice was assiduously cultivated by the leaders in society and literature of our Augustan age. Horace Walpole lived almost a generation too late. Far happier in this respect was the lot of one with whom an elective affinity at all events connected him, of Lord Hervey, who found a fellowrailer in Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and but too willing an adversary in Pope. It was in literature as in politics. If a man avowed himself, or caused himself to be supposed, the opponent of another, or of his coterie, or the supporter of a coterie opposed to the latter, any means of bringing his face to the grindstone was accounted within the limits of legitimate warfare. To blacken his character, to blast his reputation, to defile his grandfather's grave, all these things followed as a matter of course. An aspersion of venom was held a justifiable addition to the point of the foil; and the slightest sign of hostility, an unfavourable criticism, a line in a farce, was pursued with Corsican persistency of vengeance. How unnatural in the eyes of a more self-possessed posterity seems this age: when great poets made war upon women, when no enemy was deemed too weak to be worthy of the most practised steel. What a lack of dignity as well as of good sense, correspond

[The so-called mug-houses were frequented by Whig Societies who in 1715 and 1716 came to frequent blows with Tory mobs. See Wright's Caric. Hist. of the Georges, chap. 1.]

2 This subject is treated with his usual incisiveness by M. Ch. de Rémusat in his admirable essay on Bolingbroke.

ing to that with which a House of Commons endeavoured to hunt down a pulpit Xanthippe, and a Secretary of State entered upon a crusade against the pygmies of the press. Statesman and man of letters-there was little as to true generosity of spirit to choose between the two1. The comparative smallness of the literary world may help to account for the importance with which its members invested even their most trivial disputes. But few escaped the taint of their age, and nothing in the life of Addison strikes his contemporaries as so remarkable, as the fact that he forgives his enemies before composing himself for an exemplary death. The commonest courtesies of literary life which even Bavius and Mavius would not have permitted themselves to neglect, are defiantly violated by our Augustans. Anonymity, far from serving as a cover against nominal recriminations, is in truth resorted to only as an evasion of an uncertain law; and cowardice too frequently skulks behind a lampoon, as a literary weapon no more fitting than the bludgeons hired by Rochester for his Rose Alley ambuscade. How imperfectly had Dryden's successors learnt to imitate the example of one who truthfully declared that 'he had seldom answered any scurrilous lampoon, and,' though 'naturally vindictive, had suffered in silence, and possessed his soul in quiet.'

That a healthy current of life was still flowing in the nation's veins, in despite of the vices which seemed to pervade society, is of course a fact to which our literature alone bears sufficient testimony. From out of the sphere of the middle classes a reaction had been preparing itself. Its direction was towards that close obedience

to the divine law as a practical, if possible a literal, fingerpost in all relations of life which is in accordance with the Puritan spirit of the nation, and which was in due time to force itself upon the classes long in their own opinion practically emancipated from its control. De Foe and his lineal literary descendants, the essayists and novelists, succeeded in saving its national character to our literature. But an examination of their influence and the gradual progress of its operation would be out of place here. As the age appears to us in the mirror of the literature which professedly and unhesitatingly attached itself to the world of politics, fashion and learning, it is an unnatural age, because licentious in every direction except that of the form which by its own authority it has chosen as the exponent of its very spirit and essence. All the emotions of the Augustans, except their hatreds, seem shallow and transitory, and most of all so in their literary expression. Men who estimate their neighbours according to a selfish standard, necessarily adjust to it their measures of praise as well as of blame. Queen Anne, whose childish dependence upon others was no secret even to herself, is addressed in strains of uncompromising panegyric before which even the tributes of the Cavaliers to the Rose of

1 Bolingbroke, as Secretary of State, writes to the Queen in 1711: 'I have discovered the author of another scandalous libel, who will be in custody this afternoon; he will make the 13th I have seized, and the 15th I have found out.' Swift writes in his Journal to Stella of the same year:

'One Boyer, a French dog, has abused me in a pamphlet, and I have got him up in a messenger's hands; the Secretary promises me to swinge him. I must make that rogue an example for warning to others.' See Macknight's Life of Bolingbroke.

Bohemia grow pale.

Even Prior is recklessly dull when he begins to flatter1 ex officio; even Young's unctuous religiosity adapts itself to the exigencies of a courtly veneration. Nor was it only loyalty which was thus galvanised into a spasmodic existence. Dryden had scattered panegyrics with the profuse vigour belonging to his genial abandon; his successors swung their censers in honour of their minor divinities with the measured oscillations of drilled acolytes; and even a Wharton had his poet-in-ordinary. The amatory verse of the age is perhaps the most unnatural that has ever been written; instead of exhausting itself on even ruby lips and dainty feet, it hovers with inquisitive placidity round ladies' fans or lapdogs or paper-knives. The ladies themselves could hardly be natural without falling into downright cynicism; and passed an existence as unreal as their outward selves, made up as they were of powders and patches, and fenced in with hurdles of whalebone. The real epos of society under Queen Anne, though designed as a burlesque, is Pope's Rape of the Lock. Under the first two Georges the coating of varnish grew thinner and thinner; but the material remained equally rotten beneath.

Such as these were, if I rightly estimate the characteristics of the age in so far as he was brought into contact with it, the conditions under which Pope entered upon and led his literary life. Its course could not fail to be affected and in some degree determined by them. Yet the chief element in the story of his life, as in the stories of all human lives, remains of course the gradual development of his own individuality, and the unconscious compromise ultimately effected between it and the influences which surrounded him. Of his triumphant struggle against difficulties of no ordinary significance, and of his single-minded devotion to the task which his genius hand marked out for him, his life, however imperfectly told, cannot fail to offer clear and abundant testimony. It intertwines itself almost inseparably with his works; for Pope, as has been well said 3, was a literary man, as Garrick was an actor, pure and simple. And life and works viewed together will, I think, irresistibly lead to the conclusion that Pope belonged to that second order of great writers, who return to their age the seeds which it has sown in them, grown and tended into magnificent fruits; not to that other and assuredly higher order, whose genius is not receptive and reproductive only, but creative, and of whom England was barren in its so-called Augustan age.

1 See, besides his well-known Ode to the Queen, the Epistle desiring the Queen's picture, characteristically left unfinished, by the sudden news of H. M. death.'

2 See above all the exordium of his Last Day; besides his poems on the accession of George I.

and II. respectively.

3 By Dibdin, in his History of the Stage. In this sense Warburton might justly write to Garrick: 'Nobody but you and Pope ever knew how to preserve the dignity of your respective employments.' Fitzgerald's Life of Garrick, chap. v.


Much that is peculiar in the life and literary career of Pope is accounted for by the circumstances of his birth and education.

Alexander Pope was born on the twenty-first of May of the year 1688, in Lombard Street in the city of London. Of his father and namesake it is known with certainty that he realised in the linen-trade a fortune sufficient to enable him to retire from business at a comparatively early period in life, and at his death to leave behind him an income which has been variously estimated, but which at all events sensibly added to the worldly ease of his son. That the elder Pope was a devoted member of the Church of Rome, is equally undoubted; we find his son in his earlier letters referring to the pious habits prevailing in his family; and passages in the poetry of the son1 picture the father's life as spent in cheerful resignation to the lot in those days incumbent upon adherents to the persecuted ancient faith. That Pope's father was a convert to the Church in which he lived and brought up his son, is a mere piece of hearsay built upon another piece of hearsay to the effect that the poet's grandfather was a clergyman of the Church of England. Though antiquarian zeal has sought to identify this supposed Anglican clerical grandsire in the person of an Alexander Pope, rector of Thruxton in Hampshire, who died in the year 1645, there is nothing beyond a mere conjecture to justify the application of an intrinsically uninteresting discovery. The poet no doubt claimed kindred with the family bearing his name formerly ennobled as earls of Downe; but as the family in question was entirely extinct in the male line, it is at best possible that the two families had at some former period been more or less closely connected. There is just as much and as little reason to assume that the poet was descended from a Scotch branch of the Popes; the foundation of the claim resting chiefly on the two facts that there have been Catholic Popes in Scotland, and that an enthusiastic Presbyterian namesake of the poet vaguely asserted a kind of kinsmanship with the latter in his lifetime.

The maiden name of Pope's mother was Edith Turner. She was the daughter of William Turner, a Roman Catholic gentleman of good position, and lord of the manor of Towthorpe in Yorkshire. He was the father of no less than seventeen children, of whom Pope's mother survived all the rest. She died at the age of 93, in 1733, affectionately mourned in death as she had been tenderly cherished throughout his life by her son. On a monument which he erected to her he recorded her character as that of the best of mothers and most loving of women2. Dr Johnson, in whose large heart the sentiment of piety sat enthroned, generously observes of Pope under this aspect, that 'life has, among its soothing and quiet comforts, few things better to give than such a son.' Of William Turner's children some were

Epistle to Arbuthnot, vv. 394 ff. Imit. of Hor. bk. 11. Ep 11. vv. 54 ff.

2 No attention need be paid to Mrs Piozzi's statement that Pope's mother was 'a poor

feebleminded thing, unworthy anyone's care or esteem.' Hayward, Autobiography and Remains of Mrs Piozzi, II. 154.

brought up as Protestants and some Catholics; but it cannot be doubted that Pope's mother was among the latter number. Her attachment to the Catholic faith seemed to her son a sufficient argument to outweigh all the inducements to conversion urged upon him, after his father's death, by Atterbury. Thus his attitude towards the church in which he was nurtured invariably remained that of a cheerful outward acquiescence, whatever at times may have been his views in regard to creeds and churches in general1.

On retiring from business, the elder Pope, after residing for a time at Kensington, finally took up his abode at Binfield, on the border of Windsor Forest, and about nine miles distant from the royal castle and town. Here he remained in modest but comfortable circumstances until the year 1716, when the family removed to Chiswick, little more than a year before his death. Whatever may have been his own earlier history, he was a kind and indulgent parent to his precocious only son, the development of whose tastes and tendencies the father seems at times to have been fain to moderate, but never to check. When the son affected the art of painting, his father placed no obstacles in his way; when he adopted literature as the calling of his life, his father with equal readiness acquiesced in this hazardous choice. He never appears to have intended that his son should engage in trade; and even had the delicate and sickly nature of the latter admitted of his following one of the learned professions, all were closed to him by the circumstance of his creed. With his father Pope shared the love of gardening, which, notwithstanding many absurd excrescences, was one of the healthiest tastes of the times, and in which he was afterwards, after a fashion of his own, to indulge in the fantastic laying-out of his Twickenham villa.

Among the many precocious children of whom we read in literary and artistic biography (and precocity is as frequent here as it is rare in the case of future great statesmen; for talents unfold themselves amidst tranquil surroundings, but to fashion a character are needed the storms of the world2), Pope was assuredly one of the most precocious. At five years of age he had already displayed sufficient signs of promise to be chosen by an aunt as the reversionary legatee of all her books, pictures and medals. His education in its beginnings and progress corresponds very closely with its ultimate results. Pope was by necessity rather than choice a self-educated man; and he never became a scholar. Science may number self-taught geniuses among her chief luminaries; of scholarship, as the term implies, discipline is an indispensable element. Pope taught himself writing by copying from printed books, and hence acquired at least one external mark of scholarly habits, the practice of minute calligraphy crowded into nooks and corners of paper—a practice which afterwards in Pope's case almost developed itself into a mania and obtained for him from Swift the epithet of 'paper-sparing' Pope. And as he passed onward from the first rudiments,

The above summary is based on a comparison of Carruthers with various antiquarian tracts on the parentage and family of Pope by J. Hunter and R. Davies.

Goethe's Tasso.

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