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In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half-hung, The floors of plaister, and the walls of dung, 300 On once a flock-bed, but repair'd with straw, With tape-tied curtains, never meant to draw, The George and Garter dangling from that bed Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red, Great Villiers lies—alas ! how chang’d from him, 305 That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim! Gallant and gay, in Cliveden's proud alcove, The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
two extraordinary persons naturally leads the Poet into this reflection, truly humane, however ludicrously as well as ironically expressed :
Say, for such worth, are other worlds prepar'd ?
Or are they both, in this, their own reward ?” And now, as if fully determined to resolve this doubtful question, he assumes the air and importance of a Professor, ready addressed to plunge himself into the very depths of Theology :
" A knotty point! to which we now proceed_" when, on a sudden, the whole sense is changed,
“ But you are tir'd—I'll tell a tale.- -Agreed.” And thus, by the most easy transition, we are come to the concluding doctrine of his poem.
Ver. 305. Great Villiers lies-] This Lord, yet more famous for his vices than his misfortunes, having been possessed of about 50,0001. a-year, and passed through many of the highest posts in the kingdom, died in the year 1687, in a remote inn in Yorkshire, reduced to the utmost misery.-Pope.
" When this extraordinary man, with the figure and genius of Alcibiades, could equally charm the presbyterian Fairfax, and the dissolute Charles ; when he alike ridiculed that witty king, and his solemn chancellor ; when he plotted the ruin of his country with a cabal of bad ministers ; or, equally unprincipled, supported its cause with bad patriots; one laments that such parts should have been devoid of every virtue. But when Alcibiades turns chymist ; when he is a real bubble, and a visionary miser ; when ambition is but a frolic ; when the worst designs are for the foolishest ends ; contempt extinguishes all reflections on his character. The portrait of this duke has been drawn by four masterly hands : Burnet has hewn it with a rough chisel : Count Hamilton touched it with that slight delicacy that finishes while it seems to sketch : Dryden catched the living likeness : Pope completed the historical resemblance. Yet the abilities of this Lord appear in no instance more amazing, than that being exposed by two of the greatest Poets, he has exposed one of them ten times more severely. Zimri is an admirable portrait ; but Bayes an original creation. Bryden satirized Buckingham ; but Villiers made Dryden satirize himself.” Catalogue of Noble Authors, vol. ii. p. 77.Warton.
Ver. 307. Cliveden) A delightful palace, on the banks of the Thames, built by the Duke of Buckingham.--- Pope.
Ver. 308. Shrewsbury] The Countess of Shrewsbury, a woman aban
Or just as gay, at council, in a ring
His Grace's fate sage Cutler could foresee, 315 And well (he thought) advis’d him, “ Live like me." As well his Grace replied: “Like you, Sir John? That I can do, when all I have is gone.” Resolve me, Reason, which of these is worse, Want with a full, or with an empty purse ? 320 Thy life more wretched, Cutler, was confess’d; Arise, and tell me, was thy death more bless'd ? Cutler saw tenants break, and houses fall, For very want; he could not build a wall.
doned to gallantries. The Earl her husband was killed by the Duke of Buckingham in a duel ; and it has been said, that during the combat she held the Duke's horses in the habit of a
page.- Pope. Ver. 308. The bower] This very infamous Countess of Shrewsbury was eldest daughter of Robert Brudenel, Earl of Cardigan. Her husband was killed March 16, 1667. She afterwards married George Rodney Bridges, Esq. second son of Sir Thomas Bridges of Keynsham in Somersetshire, Knt. and died April 20, 1702. The noble house of Cliveden, so delightfully and superbly situated on the banks of the Thames, which had been the residence of Frederick Prince of Wales, who lived in it for many years with a proper dignity and magnificence, attended by many of the first geniuses of the age, was unfortunately burnt to the ground in May, 1795, and nothing of its elegant furniture preserved from the flames but the fine tapestry that represented the Duke of Marlborough’s victories. The beautiful Mask of Alfred was written and acted at Cliveden in 1744. In the duel mentioned above, the Duke of Buckingham had for his two seconds, Captain Holmes and Mr. Jenkins. The Earl of Shrewsbury's seconds were Sir John Talbot of Laycock, and Mr. Bernard Howard. The Duke of Buckingham mortally wounded the Earl.-Warton.
Ver. 312. No fool to laugh at, which he valued more.] That is, he liked disguised flattery better than the more direct and open. And no wonder, a man of wit should have this taste. For the taking pleasure in fools for the sake of laughing at them, is nothing else but the complaisance of flattering ourselves, by an advantageous comparison which the mind makes between itself and the object laughed at. Hence too, we may see the reason of men's preferring this to every other kind of flattery. For we are always inclined to think that work done best which we do ourselves.- Warburton.
His only daughter in a stranger's power,
325 For very want; he could not pay a dower. A few grey hairs his reverend temples crown'd; 'Twas very want that sold them for two pound. What, even denied a cordial at his end, Banish'd the doctor, and expelld the friend? 330 What but a want, which you perhaps think mad, Yet numbers feel, the want of what he had ! Cutler and Brutus, dying, both exclaim, “ Virtue! and wealth! what are ye but a name !" Say, for such worth are other worlds prepard ? 335 Or are they both, in this, their own reward ? A knotty point! to which we now proceed. But you are tir'd - I'll tell a tale.-B. Agreed. P. Where London's column, pointing at the skies, Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies;
Ver. 339. Where London's column, &c.] For, the foregoing examples of profusion and avarice having been given, to show that wealth misapplied was not enjoyed, it only remained to prove, that, in such circumstances, wealth became the heaviest punishment ; and this was the very point to conclude with, as it is the great Moral of this instructive Poem; which is to teach us, how miserable men make themselves by not endeavouring to restrain the Ruling Passion, though it be indeed implanted in us by the Author of our Nature ; while, at the same time, it is an answer to the latter part of the question,
Say, for such worth are other worlds prepard ?
Or are they both, in this, their own reward ?” For the solution of which only, this example was jocularly pretended to have been given.
All this the Poet has admirably supported in the artful construction of his fable of Sir Balaam ; whose character is so drawn, as to let the reader
Ver. 339. Where London's column] The monument built in memory of the fire of London, with an inscription importing that city to have been burnt by the Papists.—Pope.
Ver. 340. Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies ;] It were to be wished, the City monument had been compared to something of more dignity; as, to the Court-champion, for instance, since, like him, it only spoke the sense of the Government. SCRIBL.-Warburton.
Ver. 337.] In the former editions :
That knotty point, my Lord, shall I discuss,
Or tell a tale ?--A tale.-It follows thus.--Warburton. VOL. IV.
There dwelt a citizen of sober fame,
345 An added pudding solemniz'd the Lord's:
see he had it in his power to regulate the ruling Passion by Reason, as having in himself the seeds of integrity, religion, and sobriety. These are all gradually worked out by an insatiable thirst of wealth ; and this again (through a false sense of his own abilities in acquiring it) succeeded by as immoderate a vanity : which will lead us to another beauty in the management of the story. For, in order to see, in one concluding example, the miseries of exorbitant wealth, ill employed, it was necessary to set before the reader, at once, all the misuse that flowed both from avarice and profusion. The vices of the Citizen and the Noble, therefore, which were separated, and contrasted in the foregoing instances, are here shown incorporated in a Courtly Cit. Perhaps it will be said, that the character has, by this means, the appearance of two ruling Passions : but those studied in human nature know the contrary ; and that alieni appetens, sui profusus, is frequently as much one as either the profuse or avaricious apart. Indeed, this is so far from an inaccuracy, that it produces a new beauty. The Ruling Passion is of two kinds, the simple and the complex. The first sort, the Poet had given examples of before. Nothing then remained to complete his philosophic plan, but to conclude with the
other. Let me only observe further, that the author, in this tale, has artfully summed up and recapitulated those three principal mischiefs in the abuse of money, which the satirical part of this poem throughout was employed to expose, namely AvaricE, PROFUSION, and Public CORRUPTION :
“ Constant at Church, and 'Change ; his gains were sure,
His givings rare, save farthings to the poor.”-
The well-bred cuckolds in St. James's air.".
And one more pensioner St. Stephen gains.”
Ver. 341. There dwelt a citizen] This tale of Sir Balaam, his progress and change of manners, from being a plodding, sober, plain, and punctual citizen, to his becoming a debauched and dissolute courtier and senator, abounds in much knowledge of life, and many strokes of true humour, and will bear to be compared to the exquisite history of Eugenio and Crosodes in one of Swift's Intelligencers.—Warton.
Ver. 346. An added pudding] It would be curious to trace the origin of this old English custom :
“ With a pudding on Sunday, with stout humming liquor,
And remnants of Latin, to welcome the vicar !" See that old excellent ballad, the “ Old Man's Wish," where there is this note :
Though the Poet never eats any, yet he provides this dish for his guests ; but principally in observance of the old English custom, to let no Sunday pass without a pudding !!”-Bowles.
Constant at Church, and 'Change; his gains were sure, His givings rare, save farthings to the poor.
The Devil was piqued such saintship to behold, And long'd to tempt him like good Job of old : 350 But Satan now is wiser than of
yore, And tempts by making rich, not making poor.
Rous'd by the Prince of air, the whirlwinds sweep The surge, and plunge his father in the deep; Then full against his Cornish lands they roar, 355 And two rich shipwrecks bless the lucky shore.
Sir Balaam now, he lives like other folks, He takes his chirping pint, and cracks his jokes : “ Live like yourself,” was soon my Lady's word; And lo! two puddings smok'd upon the board. 360
Asleep and naked as an Indian lay, An honest factor stole a gem away: He pledg’d it to the Knight, the Knight had wit, So kept the diamond, and the rogue was bit. Some scruple rose, but thus he eas'd his thought: 365 “ I'll now give sixpence where I gave a groat; Where once I went to Church, I'll now go twiceAnd am so clear too of all other vice.”
The tempter saw his time; the work he plied ; Stocks and subscriptions pour on every side, 370 Till all the Demon makes his full descent In one abundant shower of cent per cent, Sinks deep within him, and possesses whole, Then dubs Director, and secures his soul.
Behold Sir Balaam, now a man of spirit, 375 Ascribes his gettings to his parts and merit ;
Ver. 355. Cornish] The author has placed the scene of these shipwrecks in Cornwall, not only from their frequency on that coast, but from the inhumanity of the inhabitants to those to whom that misfortune arrives. When a ship happens to be stranded there, they have been known to bore holes in it, to prevent its getting off; to plunder, and sometimes even to massacre the people ; nor has the Parliament of England been yet able wholly to suppress these barbarities.- Pope.