Page images
PDF
EPUB

Or find some Doctor that would save the life
Of wretched Shylock, spite of Shylock's wife:
But thousands die, without or this or that,

95
Die, and endow a college or a cat.
To some, indeed, Heaven grants the happier fate,
T'enrich a bastard, or a son they hate.

Perhaps you think the poor might have their part? Bond damns the poor, and hates them from his heart: The grave Sir Gilbert holds it for a rule

101 That every man in want is knave or fool :

COMMENTARY. Ver. 97. To some, indeed, &c.] For now the Poet comes, in the second place, to examine, II. Of what use Riches are to others ; which he teaches, as is his way throughout this Poem, by the abuse that stands opposed to it. Thus he shows (from ver. 96 to 107), that with regard to acts of beneficence, the utmost Heaven will grant to those who so greatly abuse its blessings, is either to enrich some favourite bastard, and so perpetuate their vice and infamy; or else, contrary to their intent, a legitimate son they hated, and so expose to public scorn and ridicule, the defeat of their unnatural cruelty. But with regard to acts of charity, they are given up to so reprobate a sense, as to believe they are then seconding the designs of Heaven, when they pursue the indigent with imprecations, or leave them in the midst of their distresses unrelieved, as the common enemies of God and Man.

NOTES.

Ver. 96. Die, and endow a college or a cat.] A famous Duchess of R. in her last will left considerable legacies and annuities to her cats.Pope.

This benefactress was no other than La Belle Stuart of the Comte de Grammont; and her endowment was not a proper object of satire. The real truth was, that she left annuities to certain female friends, with the burden of maintaining some of her cats ; a delicate way of providing for poor, and, probably, proud gentlewomen, without making them feel that they owed their livelihood to her mere liberality.—Warton.

Ver. 100. Bond damns the poor, &c.] This Epistle was written in the year 1730, when a corporation was established to lend money to the poor upon pledges, by the name of the Charitable Corporation ; but the whole was turned only to an iniquitous method of enriching particular people, to the ruin of such numbers, that it became a parliamentary concern to endeavour the relief of those unhappy sufferers ; and three of the managers, who were members of the House, were expelled. By the report of the Committee appointed to inquire into that iniquitous affair, it appears, that when it was objected to the intended removal of the office, that the poor, for whose use it was erected, would be hurt by it, Bond, one of the Directors, replied, Damn the poor. That“ God hates the poor,” and, “ That every man in want is either knave or fool," &c. were the genuine apophthegms of some of the persons here mentioned.-Pope.

Ver. 102. That every man in want is knave or fool :] None are more subject to be deluded by this vain mistake, that prudence does all in human affairs, than those who have been most befriended by fortune. The reason is, that in this situation prudence has never been brought to the test, nor 105

“God cannot love (says Blunt, with tearless eyes)
The wretch he starves”—and piously denies:
But the good Bishop, with a meeker air,
Admits, and leaves them, Providence's care.

Yet, to be just to these poor men of pelf,
Each does but hate his neighbour as himself:

COMMENTARY.

Ver. 107. Yet, to be just, fc.] Having thus shown the true use of Riches in a description of the abuse ; and how that use is perpetually defeated by profusion and avarice ; it was natural to inquire into the spring and original of these vices; as the mischiefs they occasion must be well understood, before they can be corrected. The disposition of his matter, therefore, now calls upon him to come to the Philosophy of his subject ; and he examines particularly into the Motives of Avarice. But what is observable, he, all along, satirically intermixes with the real motives, several imaginary : and those as wild as imagination could conceive. This, which at first sight

NOTES

vanity ever mortified. So that prudence will be always ready to take to herself what fortune encourages vanity to call her due. And then want of success will, of course, be imputed to want of wit.-Warburton.

Ver. 105. But the good Bishop, &c.] In the place of this imaginary Bishop, and in the first Dialogue of 1738, the Poet had named a very worthy person of condition, who, for a course of many years, had shined in public stations much to the honour and advantage of his country. But being at once oppressed by popular prejudice and a public censure, it was no wonder the Poet, to whom he was personally a stranger, should think hardly of him. I had the honour to be well known to that truly illustrious person, and to be greatly obliged by him. From my intimate knowledge of his character, I was fully persuaded of his innocence, and that he was unwarily drawn in by a pack of infamous cheats, to his great loss of fortune as well as reputation. At my request and information, therefore, the poet with much satisfaction retracted, and struck out, in both places, his ill-founded censure. I have since had the pleasure to understand, from the best authority, that these favourable sentiments of him have of late been fully justified in the course of some proceedings in the High Court of Chancery, the most unerring investigator of truth and falsehood.-Warburton.

This proceeding certainly does great honour to Dr. Warburton's gratitude and friendship.. Sir R. gave him the living of Brandbroughton; and the letter he wrote in his vindication appears in p. 144 of his Life by Bishop Hurd.- Warton. The

person above referred to is Sir Robert Sutton, whom Pope had alluded to in the folio edition of 1735, thus :

“ But reverend S ** n with a softer air,

Admits and leaves them Providence's care." The other passage mentioned by Warburton, in the first Dialogue of 1738, appears thus in Dodsley's edition of 1739 :

“ In Sappho touch the failings of the sex ;

In reverend S ** n note some small neglects.” which last line now appears :

In reverend Bishops note some small neglects.” VOL. IV.

R

[ocr errors]

Damn'd to the mines, an equal fate betides
The slave that digs it, and the slave that hides.

110
B. Who suffer thus, mere Charity should own,
Must act on motives powerful, tho' unknown.
P. Some war, some plague, or famine they foresee,
Some revelation hid from you and me.
Why Shylock wants a meal, the cause is found; 115
He thinks a loaf will rise to fifty pound.
What made Directors cheat in South-sea year?
To live on venison when it sold so dear.
Ask you why Phryne the whole auction buys?
Phryne foresees a general excise.

120

COMMENTARY.

might seem to vitiate the purpose of his philosophical inquiry, is found, when duly considered, to have the highest art of design.

His business, the reader sees, was to prove that the real motives had the utmost extravagancy. Nothing could more conduce to this end, than the setting them by, and comparing them with, the most whimsical the fancy itself could invent; in which situation it was seen, that the real were full as wild as the fictitious. To give these images all the force they are capable of, he first describes (from ver. 118 to 123) the real motive, and an imaginary one different from the real, in the same person ; and then (from ver. 122 to 133) an imaginary one, and a real the very same with the imaginary, in different persons. This address the Poet himself hints at, ver. 155.

“Less mad the wildest whimsey we can frame,” &c.
Let me observe, that this has still a further beauty, arising from the nature
of the poem, which (as we have shown) is partly satirical, and partly
philosophical. With regard to the particular beauties of this disposition,
I shall only take notice of one ; where the Poet introduces the fictitious
motive of Blunt's avarice, by a wizard's prophecy :

At length corruption, like a general food,
(So long by watchful Ministers withstood)
Shall deluge all ; and avarice creeping on,

Spread like a low-born mist, and blot the sun,” &c.
“See Britain sunk in lucre's sordid charms,

And France reveng’d on Anne's and Edward's arms !” For it was the Poet's purpose to show, that the main and principal abuse of Riches arises from AVARICE.

NOTES.

Ver. 109. Damn'd to the mines,] This is plainly taken from the Causes of the Decay of Christian Piety. “It has always been held,” says this excellent writer, “the severest treatment of slaves and malefactors, damnere ad metalla, to force them to dig in the mines : now this is the covetous man's lot, from which he is never to expect a release.”—Warton.

Ver. 118. To live on venison,] In the extravagance and luxury of the South-sea

year, the price of a haunch of venison was from three to five pounds.- Pope.

Ver. 120. general excise.] Many people, about the year 1733, had a

Why she and Sappho raise that monstrous sum?
Alas! they fear a man will cost a plum.

Wise Peter sees the world's respect for gold,
And therefore hopes this nation may be sold:
Glorious ambition ! Peter, swell thy store,
And be what Rome's great Didius was before.

125

NOTES.

conceit that such a thing was intended, of which it is not improbable this lady might have some intimation.Pope.

Ver. 123. Wise Peter) Peter Walter, a person not only eminent in the wisdom of his profession, as a dexterous attorney, but allowed to be a good, if not a safe, conveyancer ; extremely respected by the nobility of this land, though free from all manner of luxury and ostentation. His wealth was never seen, and his bounty never heard of, except to his own son, for whom he procured an employment of considerable profit, of which he gave him as much as was necessary. Therefore the taxing this gentleman with any ambition, is certainly a great wrong to him.-Pope.

Peter Walter purchased Stalbridge Park, near Sherborne, a seat of the Boyle Family, now in possession of the Earl of Uxbridge, where he lived many years. He was a neighbour of Henry Fielding, who lived at East Stour, about four miles distant, and was supposed to be the character described by him in Tom Jones, the important “ Peter Pounce.” The manor of Stalbridge was purchased by Peter Walter, Esq.,

who was Clerk of the Peace for the county of Middlesex, steward to the Duke of Newcastle, and other Noblemen and Gentlemen. He acquired an immense fortune, represented the borough of Bridport in Parliament, and died 1745, æt. 83."— History of Dorset.

He resided, during the latter period of his life, in a spacious mansion within this manor, where some particulars of him are still remembered. He had been assisted in making a favourite purchase by a dependant, who consequently expected a compensation : Mr. W. refused making any at his own expense, but promised to reward him at the expense of some other person. He accordingly prevailed on a neighbouring Baronet, to lease to him a part of his demesne lands, on terms so unusually advantageous, that they could not escape observation; the taxes and parochial imposts being charged on the occupier of the adjoining farm. The estate is still possessed by a daughter of the lessee, with all the advantages attached to it. A characteristic scene was described by a son of his bailiff, who, when a boy, attended his father in an evening on business at the manor-house. They found its possessor sitting without light in a small room communicating with the kitchen. On their approach he applied a dry raspberry stick to his fire, and lighted a small candle which stood on the table before him ; but finding, on inquiry, that the present business required no light, he extinguished the candle, and continued the conversation in the dark. Notwithstanding his rigid parsimony, he exacted the respect usually paid to opulence ; for observing that the youth had continued with his hat on, supposing no extraordinary deference due to the great man's appearance, he rated him violently for his rusticity and inattention.

The story of the “Miser and the Candle,” is not uncommon; but I have this account from undoubted authority. The other anecdote shows the propriety of Pope's epithet, “ Wise Peter."-Bowles.

Ver. 126. Rome's great Didius) A Roman lawyer so rich, as to purchase the Empire when was set to sale upon the death of Pertinax.-- Pope.

The crown of Poland, venal twice an age, To just three millions stinted modest Gage. But nobler scenes Maria's dreams unfold, Hereditary realms, and worlds of gold.

130 Congenial souls! whose life one avarice joins, And one fate buries in th’ Asturian mines.

Much injur’d Blunt! why bears he Britain's hate? A wizard told him in these words our fate:

NOTES.

1

Ver. 127. The crown of Poland, fc.] The two persons here mentioned were of quality, each of whom in the Mississippi despised to realize above three hundred thousand pounds ; the Gentleman with a view to the purchase of the crown of Poland, the Lady on a vision of the like royal nature. They since retired into Spain, where they are still in search of gold in the mines of the Asturias.—Pope.

A country devoted to ruin by its ambitious and unjust neighbours ; who deserve the severest strokes of such a satirist as our author.- Warton.

Ver. 128. stinted modest Gage.] “ The names of these two persons were Mr. Gage, and Lady Mary Herbert, daughter of William, Marquis of Powis, who, dying in October, 1745, left in the hands of his executors and trustees an annuity of 2001. a-year to be paid to the use of this daughter, not for the payment of her many debts which she had contracted, but to keep her from wanting necessaries. William, Marquis of Powis, son of the former, litigated the said will, but died while the suit was pending in the Ecclesiastical Court, leaving the residue of the lands and profits of his estates, after his debts should be paid, in the hands of trustees for the use of the Right Honourable Henry Arthur, then Lord Herbert, afterwards Earl of Powis, with whom he had no relation, friendship, or acquaintance ; which Arthur afterwards married Barbara Herbert, niece and heir at law of the latter Earl Powis. This man, by fair promises and threats, got the trustees of the first Earl to agree in obtaining administration with the will and codicil of the Marquis the father annexed, in May 1749, and then repented paying the annuity of 2001. to Mary Herbert, daughter of the said Marquis. As she now resided in France, she had obtained a promise there of being made Dame of Honour to the Queen of France ; which Lord Herbert hearing of, went out of England to dissuade her from accepting it, as being a disgrace to her and the family ; and promised he would pay her all the arrears of the annuity of 2001. due by her father's will, and would give her, over and above, 2001. a-year more. This he never performed, till after several suits of law the cause was brought to the House of Lords, who decreed both her annuities to be paid, with all arrears due in the year 1766. Throughout a long life, so little difference has this lady found between dreams and realities.” From MSS. Notes of Mr. Bowyer.-Warton.

Ver. 133. Much injur'd Blunt !] Sir John Blunt, originally a scrivener, was one of the first projectors of the South Sea Company, and afterwards one of the directors and chief managers of the famous scheme in 1720. He was also one of those who suffered most severely by the bill of pains and penalties on the said directors. He was a Dissenter of a most religious deportment, and professed to be a great believer. Whether he did really credit the prophecy here mentioned is not certain, but it was con

« EelmineJätka »