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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/118

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Pope
Pope
112

since occupied as a masterpiece. The chief precedent was Boileau's 'Lutrin' (first published in 1674, and completed in 1683). The baron in the poem represents Lord Petre; 'Sir Plume' is Sir George Brown, and Thalestris his sister. Sir George Brown, as Pope says, 'blustered,' and Miss Fermor was offended (Works, vi. 162). Sir Plume is clearly not a flattering portrait. The poem, however, went far to establish Pope's reputation as one of the first writers of the day.

Pope's 'Windsor Forest' appeared in March 1712-13. The first part, modelled upon Denham's 'Cooper's Hill,' had been written in his earlier period. The conclusion, with its prophecy of free trade, refers to the peace of Utrecht, which, though not finally ratified till 28 April, had been for some time a certainty. Pope's poem was thus on the side of the tories, and brought him the friendship of Swift, who speaks of it as a 'fine poem' in the 'Journal to Stella' on 9 March 1712-1713.

Pope still preserved friendly relations with Addison, whose 'Cato' was shown to him in manuscript. He praises it enthusiastically in a letter to Caryll (February 1712-1713), though he afterwards told Spence that he had recommended Addison not to produce it on the stage. He wrote the prologue, which was much applauded, and the play, produced on 13 April 1713, had an immense success, due partly to the political interpretation fixed upon it by both parties. Pope's friendship with Addison's 'little senate' was now to be broken up. According to Dennis (Remarks on the Dunciad), whose story is accepted by Pope's best biographer, Mr. Courthope, Pope devised a singular stratagem. He got Lintot to persuade Dennis to print some shrewd though rather brutal remarks upon 'Cato.' Pope then took revenge for Dennis's previous pamphlet upon the 'Essay on Criticism' by publishing a savage onslaught on the later pamphlet, called a 'Narrative … of the strange and deplorable Frenzy of Mr. J[ohn] D[ennis].' Had the humour been more successful, the personality would still have been discreditable. Dennis was abused nominally on behalf of Addison, but his criticisms were not answered. Addison was bound as a gentleman, though he has been strangely blamed for his conduct, to disavow a vulgar retort which would be naturally imputed to himself. At his desire, Steele let Dennis know, through Lintot,that he disapproved of such modes of warfare, and had declined to see the papers. Pope, if he heard of this at the time, would of course be wounded. He had meanwhile another ground of quarrel. His prologue to 'Cato' had appeared in the 'Guardian' of 18 April 1713. Some previous papers upon pastoral poetry had appeared shortly before, in which high praise was given to Ambrose Philips, one of the whig clique whose 'Pastorals' were in the same 'Miscellany' with Pope's (1709). Pope now published a paper (27 April 1713) ostensibly in praise of Philips as contrasted with himself. Steele is said to have been deceived by this very transparent irony; but the paper, when published, provoked Philips's wrath. He is said to have hung up a rod at Button's, vowing that he would apply it to Pope's shoulders (see Broome to Fenton [1728], Works, viii. 147. The story is also told by Ayre and Cibber). Pope appears to deny some such story in a letter to Caryll of 8 June 1714 (Works, vi. 208). He says that Philips had never 'offered him any indecorum,' and that Addison had expressed a desire to remain upon friendly terms.

Pope, in any case, was naturally thrown more upon the opposite party. Swift became a warm friend, and introduced him to Arbuthnot and other distinguished men. The 'Scriblerus Club,' in which Pope, Gay, and Parnell joined Swift, Arbuthnot, Congreve, Atterbury, Oxford, and others, was apparently a kind of informal association which projected a joint-stock satire upon pedantry. It was possibly an offshoot from the 'Brothers' Club' formed in 1711, of which Swift was also a member, and which was now declining. Pope at the end of 1713 was taking lessons in painting from Charles Jervas [q. v.], but he was soon to be absorbed in the most laborious task of his life. Among his early translations was a fragment from the 'Iliad,' and his friend Trumbull upon reading it had suggested (9 April 1708) that he should continue the work. Idolatry of classical models was an essential part of the religion of men of letters of the day. Many of them, however, could not read Greek, and the old translations of Chapman, Ogilby, and Hobbes were old-fashioned or feeble in style. Many translations from the classics had been executed by Dryden and his school. Dryden had himself translated 'Virgil' and the first book of the 'Iliad.' But a Homer in modern English was still wanting. Pope's rising fame and his familiarity with the literary and social leaders made him the man for the opportunity. Addison's advice, according to Pope (Preface to the Iliad), first determined him to the undertaking, although a letter, in which Addison says 'I know of none of this age that is equal to the task except yourself' (Works, vi. 401), is of doubtful authenticity. Pope also thanks Swift, Congreve, Garth,