Page images

When Mr. Hooke asked him, whether he would not die as his father and mother had done, and whether he should not send for a priest; he replied, "I do not suppose that is essential, but it will look right; and I heartily thank you for putting me in mind of it.”1

Such was the fervour of his devotion, that he exerted all his strength to throw himself out of bed, that he might receive the last sacrament kneeling on the floor.2

In the morning after it had been administered to him by the priest, he said, "There is nothing that is meritorious but virtue and friendship; and indeed friendship itself is only a part of virtue."

Pope expired on the 30th of May, 1744, about eleven o'clock at night: yielding his breath so imperceptibly, that the exact moment of his departure was not marked by his attendants.*

His body, according to his own desire, was laid in the same vault with those of his parents.


The countenance of Pope was pleasing, and

1 Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 322. 2 Warton's Life of Pope, p. lxv.

8 Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 322.

4 Ruff head's Life of Pope, p. 471. Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 322.

5 "He had a great deal of sweetness in his look, when he was a boy. This is very evident in the picture drawn for him when about ten years old: in which his face is round, plump, pretty, and of a fresh complexion. I have often heard Mrs. Pope say he was then exactly like that picture. I have often been told that it was the perpetual application

bespoke his genius: his eye was remarkably piercing. His person was slender and distorted, and his stature1 so low that, in order to bring him to a level with tables of the common height, it was necessary to elevate his seat. He was unable2 (at least after the middle of life) to dress or undress himself, to go to bed, or to rise, without assistance. He used to wear a sort of fur doublet, under a shirt of very coarse linen with fine sleeves; also stays made of stiff canvas, laced closely round him; and over these a flannel waistcoat. Three pair of stockings were required to give his legs a respectable bulk. The deformity and meanness of his figure were, however, soon forgotten in the ease and elegance of his


His suit of ceremony was black, with a tyewig, and a little sword: when dining privately

he fell into, about two years afterwards, that changed his form and ruined his constitution. The laurel branch in that picture was not inserted originally; but was added, long after, by Jervas.”—Mannick,-apud Spence's Anecdotes, ed. Singer, p. 26.

1"'Tis very amazing, to see a little Creature, scarce four feet high, whose very sight makes one laugh, strutting and swelling like the Frog in Horace, and demanding the adoration of all mankind, because it can make fine verses.”—A Letter to Mr. Pope, occasioned by Sober Advice from Horace, &c. 1735, p. 17.

2 His weakness did not prevent him from making two journeys to Oxford on horseback, one in 1714, another in 1716: but it probably increased as he advanced in years. 3 Johnson's Life of Pope.

with Lord Oxford he wore a velvet cap, on account of baldness.1

That he was occasionally fretful and peevish need excite no wonder, when it is remembered that he was a constant valetudinarian; the chief complaint from which he suffered was headache. It is said that he was never observed to laugh heartily. He by no means excelled in conversation. He was wont to have recourse to little stratagems in order to obtain what he wanted, instead of openly mentioning the object of his wishes; which caused Lady Bolingbroke to say that "he played the politician about cabbages and turnips." 2


He was fond of highly seasoned dishes, sweetmeats, and drams; and his death was imputed (absurdly enough) by some of his acquaintance to a silver saucepan, in which he used to warm potted lampreys. At the houses where he visited he gave much trouble to the servants. He required coffee to be brought to him during the night; and in the severe winter of 1740, he scrupled not to call from her bed, four times in one night, a female domestic of Lord Oxford to

[blocks in formation]

8"We performed our journey hither with great ease, only little Pope was very ill the whole day.


grew better at supper, and of course very irregular, and laughed at me for the care I pretended to take of him."Letter from Mr. Berkeley to Lady Suffolk, 19th June, 1734, among the Suffolk Papers, vol. ii. p. 71.

supply him with writing paper, lest any idea, worthy of preservation, should be lost; he was careful, however, to recompense her want of sleep.1

Pope was the perfect pattern of a dutiful and affectionate son. As a friend, he was warm, sincere, and constant. Raised by the sole force of his talents to a footing of intimacy with the highborn and the powerful, he never sacrificed the independence of his character by accepting their offers of pecuniary assistance: in the deathless praise which he bestowed upon his noble associates there was nothing venal. He was animated by a disinterested love of public freedom and of his country. His religion was that of a liberal and enlightened Roman Catholic. In the ma nagement of his domestic affairs he exercised a prudent economy, which enabled him to devote a portion of his moderate income 2 to purposes of charity.

It must be allowed that he was as unrelenting in his enmities as ardent in his friendships. The desire of fame was the ruling passion of his life; and those who attempted to cast the slightest stain on his reputation as a writer or a man, he persecuted with implacable hostility. The acrimonious terms in which he mentions some of his, distinguished contemporaries can neither be justified nor excused.

1 Johnson's Life of Pope.

2 He had about £800 per annum.

The most striking characteristics of his poetry are lucid arrangement of matter, closeness of argument, marvellous condensation of thought and expression, brilliance of fancy ever supplying the aptest illustrations, and language elaborately finished almost beyond example.

His claim to invention is founded on two of his productions only, -the Rape of the Lock and the Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard. The machinery of the Sylphs, in the former piece, was borrowed from Le Compte de Gabalis of the Abbé Villars; but a hasty glance at the Frenchman's curious rhapsody will immediately convince us how little it assisted Pope in the composition of a poem over which he has diffused the richest colours of imagination. For the Eloisa to Abelard, the Latin Letters of those hapless lovers furnished several hints; but how has Pope elevated them into poetry! the deep pathos, the glowing eloquence, the picturesque imagery, the dramatic effect of that enchanting monologue are all his


Though his writings exhibit incidental glimpses of rural nature, he appears to have had no passionate sense of her beauties: he had more pleasure in describing those external objects which are artificial than those which are natural. His Pastorals are little more than 'imitations of Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenser; and in his Windsor Forest, which gave him an opportunity of presenting to us distinct and peculiar landscapes, his

« EelmineJätka »