« VorigeDoorgaan »
collection of his works, which we profeffedly made use of in drawing up these remarks. They appear to have been written with a defign to have them one day published. They contain, it must be allowed, many interefting particulars; but they are tinctured and blemished with a great share of vanity, and felf-importance, and with too many commendations of his own integrity, independency, and virtue. Pope, Swift, and Bolingbroke, appear by the letters, to have formed a kind of haughty triumvirate, in order to iffue forth profcriptions against all who would not adopt their sentiments and opinions. And by their own account of themselves, they would have the reader believe that they had engroffed and monopolized all the genius, and all the honesty of the age, in which, according to their opinion, they had the misfortune to live.
faults it has) well deferve a feparate volume; a work, which if well executed, would be of the greatest utility in forming a just taste, by fhewing readers, especially of the younger fort, how very inferior and unlike it is to the original, and how much overloaded with improper, unneceffary, and Ovidian ornaments.
THUS have Lendeavoured to give a oriy tical account, with freedom, but it is hoped with impartiality, of each of POFE't works; by which review it will appear that the largest portion of them is of the didactic, moral, and fatyric kind; and con fequently, not of the most poetic species of poetry; whence it is manifeft, that good fenfe and judgment were his characteristical excellencies, rather than fancy and inven tion; not that the author of the Rape of the Lock, and Eloifa, can be thought to want imagination, but because his imagina❤ tion was not his predominant talent, because he indulged it not, and because he gave not fo many proofs of this talent as of the other. This turn of mind led him to admire French models; he ftudied Boileau attentively; formed himself upon him, as Milton formed himself upon the Grecian and Italian fons of Fancy. He fuck to defcribing modern manners; but those manners, because they are familiar, uniform, artificial, and polifbed, are, in their very nature, unfit for any lofty effort of the Musc. He
gradually became one of the most correct, weh, and exact poets that ever wrote; polifting his pieces with a care and affiduity, that no bufinefs or avocation ever interrapted: fo that if he does not frequently ravish and transport his reader, yet he does not disgust him ́with unexpected inequalities, and absurd improprieties. Whatever poetical enthusiasm he actually poffeffed, he withheld and stifled. The perufal of him affects not our minds with such strong emotions as we feel from Homer and Mitfus; so that no man of a true poetical Spirit, is mafter of himself while be reads them. Hence, he is a writer fit for univerfal perusal; adapted to all ages and ftations; for the old and for the young; the man of business and the scholar. He who would think the Faery Queen, Palamon and Arcite, the Tempeft or Comus, childish and romantic, might relish POPE. Surely it is no narrow and niggardly encomium to fay he is the great Poet of Reason, the Firft of Ethical authors in verse. And this fpecies of writing is, after all, the furest
road to an extenfive reputation. It lies more level to the general capacities of men, than the higher flights of more genuine poetry. We all remember when even a Churchill was more in vogue than a Gran He that treats of fashionable follies, and the topics of the day, that defcribes prefent perfons and recent events, finds many readers, whose understandings and whose paffions he gratifies. The name of Chesterfield on one hand, and of Walpole on the other, failed not to make a poem bought
and talked of. And it cannot be doubted, that the Odes of Horace which celebrated, and the fatires which ridiculed, well-known and real characters at Rome, were more eagerly read, and more fre quently cited, than the Eneid and the Georgic of Virgil.
Where then, according to the question proposed at the beginning of this Essay, shall we with justice be authorized to place our admired POPE? Not, affuredly, in the fame rank with Spencer, Shakespeare, and Mil
ton; however justly we may applaud the Eloifa and Rape of the Lock; but, confidering the correctnefs, elegance, and utility of his works, the weight of fentiment, and the knowledge of man they contain, we may venture to affign him a place, next to Milton, and just above Dryden. Yet, to bring our minds steadily to make this decifion, we muft forget, for a moment, the divine Mufic Ode of Dryden ; and may perhaps then be compelled to confefs, that though Dryden be the genius, yet Pope is the better artist.
THE preference here given to POPE, above other modern English poets, it must be remembered, is founded on the excellencies of his works in general, and taken all together; for there are parts and paffages in other modern authors, in Young and in Thomson, for instance, equal to any of POPE; and he has written nothing in a ftrain fo truly fublime, as the Bard of Grey.