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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/124

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Pope
Pope
118

lators, met the public taste. That upon the 'Characters of Men' appeared on 5 Feb. 1733, when the last, upon the 'Characters of Women,' was already written (Works, vii. 298), though it was not published till 1735. The 'Essay on Man,' the first book of which appeared in February 1733 — the remainder following in the course of a year — seems also to have excited the author's apprehensions. It was anonymous, and he wrote to his friends about it without avowing himself. The main cause was no doubt his fear of charges against his orthodoxy. In fact, the poem is simply a brilliant versification of the doctrine which, when openly expressed, was called deism, and, when more or less disguised, was taught as orthodox by the latitudinarian divines of the day. Pope was probably intending only to represent the most cultivated thought of the time, and accepted Bolingbroke as its representative. Bathurst, indeed, said (Boswell, Johnson, ed. Hill, iii. 402–3) that Pope did no more than put Bolingbroke's prose into verse. Johnson's criticism upon this, namely, that Pope may have had the 'philosophic stamina of the essay from Bolingbroke' but added the poetical imagery, probably hits the mark. Comparison between Bolingbroke's fragment and Pope's essays shows coincidences so close as to leave no doubt of the relationship. Bolingbroke probably did not reveal his sceptical conclusions to Pope; and Pope was too little familiar with the subject to perceive the real tendency of the theories which he was adopting. It would be idle to apply any logical test to a series of superficial and generally commonplace remarks. The skill with which Pope gives point and colouring to his unsatisfactory framework of argument is the more remarkable. The many translations indicate that it was the best known of Pope's writings upon the continent. Voltaire and Wieland imitated it; Lessing ridiculed its philosophy in 'Pope ein Metaphysiker' (1755, Lessing, Werke, 1854, vol. v.); but it was greatly admired by Dugald Stewart (Works, vii. 133), and was long a stock source for ornaments to philosophical lectures. Though its rather tiresome didacticism has made it less popular than Pope's satires, many isolated passages are still familiar from the vivacity of the style. The 'Universal Prayer' was first added in 1738.

Bolingbroke, happening one day to visit Pope, took up a Horace, and suggeeted to his friend the suitability to his case of the first satire of the second book. Pope thereupon translated it 'in a morning or two,' and sent it to the press (Spence, p. 297). It appeared in February 1733, and was the first of a series of his most felicitous writings. A couplet containing a gross insult to Lady M. W. Montagu, and another alluding to Lord Hervey, led to a bitter warfare. They retorted in 'Verses addressed to the Imitator of Horace' (ascribed to Lady Mary, Lord Hervey, and Mr. Windham, tutor to the Duke of Cambridge) and in 'A Letter from a Nobleman at Hampton Court to a Doctor of Divinity' (by Lord Hervey). Pope replied by some squibs in the 'Grub Street Journal' and by 'A Letter to a Noble Lord,' dated 30 Nov. 1733. The latter, though printed, and, according to Warburton, submitted to the queen, was suppressed during Pope's life. Johnson says that it exhibits 'nothing but tedious malignity,' and it is certainly laborious and lengthy. A far more remarkable result of this collision, however, was the 'Epistle to Arbuthnot,' published in January 1734–5. It is written for the most part in answer to Hervey and Lady Mary, though various fragments, such as the lines upon Addison, are worked in. This poem is Pope's masterpiece, and shows his command of language and metre in their highest development. It is also of the first importance as an autobiographical document, and shows curiously what was Pope's view of his own character and career.

Pope's autobiography was continued by the publication of his correspondence soon afterwards as the result of a series of elaborate manoeuvres scarcely to be paralleled in literary history. A full account of them, and of the means by which they were detected, is given by Mr. Elwin in the first volume of Pope's 'Works' (pp. xvii–cxlvii), and the story is summarised by Mr. Courthope in the 'Life' (Works, v. 279-300). The main facts are as follows: In 1726 Curll published Pope's correspondence with Cromwell, having obtained them from Cromwell's mistress. The correspondence excited some interest, and Pope soon afterwards began to apply to his friends to return his letters. Caryll, one of his most regular correspondents, returned the letters in 1729, but had them previously copied without Pope's knowledge. In the same year Pope obtained Lord Oxford's leave to deposit the originals of his correspondence in Oxford's library, on the ground that the publication by Theobald in 1726 of the posthumous works of Wycherley might be injurious both to Wycherley's reputation and his own. His intention seems to have been to induce Oxford to become responsible for the publication (see Elwin in Works, vol. i. p, xxvii).