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Thus with each gift of nature and of art,
“ Ce n'étoit pas un ambitieux, mais un homme vain, qui vouloit faire du bruit, et occuper les Athéniens. Il avoit l'esprit d'un grand homme ; mais son ame, dont les ressorts amollis étoient devenus incapables d'une application constante, ne pouvoit s'élever au grand, que par boutade. J'ai bien de la peine à croire, qu'un homme assez souple, pour être à Sparte aussi dur et aussi sévère qu'un Spartiate ; dans l'Ionie aussi recherché dans ses plaisirs qu'un Ionien, &c. fût propre à faire un grand homme.”— Warburton.
Ver. 200. A fool, with more of wit] Folly, joined with much wit, produces that behaviour which we call absurdity; and this absurdity the Poet has here admirably described in the words,
“ Too rash for thought, for action too refin’d :” by which we are given to understand, that the person described, indulged his fancy when he should have used his judgment ; and pursued his speculations when he should have trusted to his experience.Warburton.
Ver. 205. And, harder still! flagitious, yet not great.] To arrive at what the world calls GREATNESS, a wicked man must either hide and conceal his vices, or he must openiy and steadily practise them in the pursuit and attainment of one important end. This unhappy nobleman did neither.Warburton.
Ver. 206. Ask you why Wharton] “ This celebrated peer,” says Lord Orford, "like Buckingham and Rochester, comforted all the grave and dull by throwing away the brightest profusion of parts on witty fooleries, debaucheries, and scrapes,
with a great character, but never can compose one.
If Julius Cæsar had only rioted with Catiline, he had never been emperor of the world. Indeed, the Duke of Wharton was not made for conquest; he was not equally formed for a Round-house and Pharsalia. In one of his ballads he has bantered his
Nature well known, no prodigies remain ; Comets are regular, and WHARTON plain. Yet, in this search, the wisest
mistake, If second qualities for first they take.
Ver. 210. Yet, in this search, fc.) But here (from ver. 209 to 222) he gives one very necessary caution, that in developing the Ruling Passion, we must be careful not to mistake a subsidiary passion for the principal ;
own want of heroism ; it was in a song he made on being seized by the guard in St. James's Park, for singing the Jacobite air, · The King shall have his own again :'
“ The duke he drew out half his sword,
The guard drew out the rest.” His levities, wit, and want of principles, his eloquence and adventures, are too well known to be recapitulated. With attachment to no party, though with talents to govern any party, this lively man changed the free air of Westminster for the gloom of the Escurial, the prospect of King George's garter for the Pretender's ; and, with indifference to all religion, the frolic lord, who had writ the ballad on the Archbishop of Canterbury, died in the habit of a capuchin.
It is difficult to give an account of the works of so mercurial a man, whose library was a tavern, and women of pleasure his muses. A thousand sallies of his imagination may have been lost : he no more wrote for farne than he acted for it. There are two volumes in octavo, called his Life and Writings, but containing of the latter nothing but “ seventy-four numbers of a periodical paper, called the True Briton," and his celebrated
Speech in the House of Lords on the third reading of the bill to inflict pains and penalties on Francis Lord Bishop of Rochester, May 15, 1723." It is a remarkable anecdote relating to this speech, that his Grace, then in opposition to the Court, went to Chelsea the day before the last debate on that prelate’s affair, where, acting contrition, he professed being determined to work out his pardon at Court, by speaking against the bishop, in order to which he begged some hints. The minister was deceived, and went through the whole cause with him, pointing out where the strength of the argument lay, and where its weakness. The duke was very thankful, returned to town, passed the night in drinking, and, without going to bed, went to the House of Lords, where he spoke for the bishop, recapitulating, in the most masterly manner, and answering all that had been urged against him. His speech against the Ministry, two years before, on the affair of the South-Sea Company, had a fatal effect, Earl Stanhope answering it with so much warmth, that he broke a blood-vessel and died.Warton.
Ver. 207. 'Twas all for fear, &c.] To understand this, we must observe, that the lust of general praise made the person, whose character is here so admirably drawn, both extravagant and flagitious ; his madness was to please the fools : “Women and fools must like him, or he dies."
VARIATIONS. Ver. 208.] In the former editions,
Nature well known, no miracles remain. Altered as above, for very obvious reasons.—Warburton.
When Catiline by rapine swell’d his store ;
which, without great attention, we may be very liable to do; as the subsidiary, acting in support of the principal, has frequently all its vigour and much of its perseverance. This error has misled several both of the ancient and modern historians ; as when they supposed lust and luxury to be characteristics of Cæsar and Lucullus ; whereas, in truth, the Ruling Passion in both was ambition ; which is so certain, that at whatsoever different time of the Republic these men bad lived, their ambition, as the Ruling Passion, had been the same ; but a different time had changed their subsidiary ones of lust and luxury, into their very opposites of chastity and frugality. 'Tis in vain, therefore, says our author, for the observer of human nature to fix his attention on the workman, if he all the while mistakes the scaffold for the building.
And his crimes, to avoid the censure of the knaves :
“'Twas all for fear the knaves should call him fool.” Prudence and Honesty being the two qualities, in which fools and knaves are most interested, and consequently most industrious, to misrepresent. -Warburton.
Ver. 213. When Cæsar made] This was Servilia, the sister of Cato, and the mother of Brutus. “ How great,” says St. Real, finely, “must have been her affliction at the death of Cæsar, her lo massacred by the hand of her own son! who perhaps hoped to efface this suspicion of his bastardy by this very action ! Historians have neglected to inform us of the fate of this most unhappy mistress and mother. Nothing could have been more interesting than the history of Servilia after this event. Next to Cleopatra, she was the most beloved of all Cæsar's mistresses ; and Suetonius says, Cæsar bought for her a single jewel at the price of 50,0001.—Warton.
Ver. 214. In this the lust,] The same passion excited Richelieu to throw. up the dyke at Rochelle, and to dispute the prize of poetry with Corneille ; whom to traduce was the surest method of gaining the affection of this ambitious minister ; nay, who formed a design to be canonized as a saint. A perfect contrast to the character of Cardinal Fleury, who showed that it was possible to govern a great state with moderate abilities and a mild temper. His ministry is impartially represented by Voltaire in the Age of Louis XIV.-Warton.
Ver. 215. ambition was the vice.] Pride, vanity, and ambition are such bordering and neighbouring vices, and hold so much in common, that we generally find them going together ; and, therefore, as generally mistake them for one another. This does not a little contribute to our confounding characters; for they are, in reality, very different and distinct ; so much so, that it is remarkable, the three greatest men in Rome, and contemporaries, possessed each of these passions separately, with very little mixture of the other two : the men I mean were Cæsar, Cato, and Cicero: for Cæsar had ambition without either vanity or pride ; Cato had pride without ambition or vanity; and Cicero had vanity without pride or ambition. The aim of these passions too are very different. Vanity leads men, as it did Cicero, to seek homage from others : Pride, as it did Cato, to seek homage from one's self: and Ambition, as in the case of Cæsar, to dispense with it from all, for the sake of solid interest.-Warburton.
That very Cæsar, born in Scipio's days,
In this one Passion man can strength enjoy,
Old politicians chew on wisdom past,
Ver. 222. In this one Passion, &c.] But now it may be objected to our philosophic Poet, that he has indeed shown the true means of coming to the knowledge and characters of men, by a Principle certain and infallible, when found ; yet it is, by his own account, of so difficult investigation, that its counterfeit (and it is always attended with one) may be easily mistaken for it. To remove this difficulty, therefore, and consequently the objection that arises from it, the Poet has given (from ver. 221 to 228) one certain and infallible criterion of the Ruling Passion : which is this, that all the other passions, in the course of time, change and wear away ; while this is ever constant and vigorous, and still going on from strength to strength, to the very moment of its demolishing the miserable machine, which it has now, at length, over-worked. Of this great truth, the Poet (from ver. 227 to the end) gives various instances, in all the principal Ruling Passions of our nature, as they are to be found in the Man of business, the Man of pleasure, the Epicure, the Parsimonious, the Toast, the Courtier, the Miser, and the Patriot ; which last instance, the Poet has had the art, under the appearance of Satire, to turn into the noblest compliment on the person to whom the Epistle is addressed.
Ver. 225. it sticks to our last sand, &c.] “ M. de Lagny mourut le 12 Avril, 1734. Dans les derniers momens, où il ne connoissoit plus aucun de ceux qui étoient autour de son lit, quelqu'un, pour faire une expérience philosophique, s'avisa de lui demander quel étoit le quarré de douze. Il répondit dans l'instant, et apparemment sans savoir qu'il répondit, cent quarante quatre.”-Fontenelle, Eloge de M. de Lagny. Warburton.
Ver. 228. Old politicians] The strength and continuance of what our author calls the Ruling Passion, concerning which see ver. 174, and the notes, is strongly exemplified in these eight characters ; namely, the Politician, the Debauchee, the Glutton, the Economist, the Coquette, the Courtier, the Miser, and the Patriot. Of these characters, the most lively, because the most dramatic, are the fifth and seventh. There is true humour also in the circumstance of the frugal Crone, who blows out one of the consecrated tapers in order to prevent its wasting. Shall I venture to insert
As weak, as earnest, and as gravely out,
230 As sober Lanesb’row dancing in the gout.
Behold a reverend sire, whom want of grace
235 Still to his wench he crawls on knocking knees, And envies ev'ry sparrow that he sees.
A salmon's belly, Helluo, was thy fate; The doctor call’d, declares all help too late; “Mercy!” cries Helluo, “mercy on my soul ! 240 Is there no hope !---Alas then bring the jowl.”
another example or two ? An old usurer, lying in his last agonies, was presented by the priest with the crucifix. He opened his eyes a moment. before he expired, attentively gazed on it, and cried out, “ These jewels are counterfeit ; I cannot lend more than ten pistoles upon so wretched a pledge.” To reform the language of his country was the ruling passion of Malherbe. The priest, who attended him in his last moments, asked him if he was not affected with the description he gave him of the joys of heaven? By no means," answered the incorrigible bard ; “I desire to hear no more of them, if you cannot describe them in a purer style.” Both these stories would have shone under the hands of Pope.
This doctrine of our author may be farther illustrated by the following passage of Bacon : “It is no less worthy to observe how little alteration, in good spirits, the approaches of death make, for they appear to be the same men till the last instant. Augustus Cæsar died in a compliment; Livia, conjugii nostri memor, vive et vale. Tiberius, in dissimulation ; as Tacitus saith of him, Jam Tiberium vires et corpus, non dissimulatio deserebant. Vespasian, in a jest ; Ut puto Deus fio. Galba, with a sentence ; Feri, si ex re sit populi Romani ; holding forth his neck. Septimius Severus, in a despatch ; Adeste, si quid mihi restat agendum.”
This Epistle concludes with a stroke of art worthy admiration. The Poet suddenly stops the vein of ridicule with which he was flowing, and addresses his friend in a most delicate compliment, concealed under the appearance of satire.- Warton.
Ver. 231. Lanesb'row] An ancient Nobleman, who continued this practice long after his legs were disabled by the gout. Upon the death of Prince George of Denmark, he demanded an audience of the Queen, to advise her to preserve her health and dispel her grief by dancing.–Pope.
Ver. 241. then bring the jowl.”] It is remarkable that a similar story may be found in the eighth book of Athenæus, concerning the poet Philoxenus, a writer of dithyrambics, who grew sick by eating a whole polypus, except the head ; and who, when his physician told him
he would never recover from his surfeit, called out, “ Bring me then the head of the polypus.” It is not here insinuated that Pope was a reader of Athenæus ; but he evidently copied this ludicrous instance of gluttony from La Fontaine :