Слике страница
PDF
ePub

From many

soon as is possible. Inform me also upon best advantage; for, when he found his what terms I am to deal with the bookfits of spleen and uneasiness, which someseller, and whether you design the copy times lasted for weeks together, returning, money for Gay, as you formerly talked; he returned with all expedition to the what number of books you would have remote parts of Ireland, and there made yourself, &c. I scarce see anything to be out a gloomy kind of satisfaction, in giving altered in this whole piece; in the poems hideous descriptions of the solitude to you sent I will take the liberty you allow which he retired. It is said of a famous me. The story of Pandora and the Eclogue painter, that, being confined in prison for upon Health are two of the most beau- debt, his whole delight consisted in drawtiful things I ever read. I do not say this ing the faces of his creditors in caricatura. to the prejudice of the rest, but as I have It was just so with Parnell. read these oftener. Let me know how of his unpublished pieces which I have far my commission is to extend, and be seen, and from others that have appeared, confident of my punctual performance of it would seem that scarcely a bog in his whatever you enjoin. I must add a para- neighbourhood was left without reproach, graph on this occasion in regard to Mr. and scarcely a mountain reared its head Ward, whose verses have been a great unsung: “I can easily,” says Pope, in pleasure to me. I will contrive they shall one of his letters, in answer to a dreary be so to the world, whenever I can find a description of Parnell's, —“I can easily proper opportunity of publishing them. image to my thoughts the solitary hours

“ I shall very soon print an entire col- of your eremitical life in the mountains, lection of my own madrigals, which I from some parallel to it in my own retirelook upon as making my last will and ment at Binfield :” and in another place, testament, since in it I shall give all I “We are both miserably enough situated, ever intend to give (which I'll beg yours God knows; but of the two evils, I think and the Dean's acceptance of). You must the solitudes of the South are to be prelook on me no more a poet, but a plain ferred to the deserts of the West.” “In commoner, who lives upon his own, and this manner Pope answered him in the fears and flatters no man. I hope, before tone of his own complaints: and these I die, to discharge the debt I owe to descriptions of the imagined distress of his Homer, and get upon the whole just fame situation served to give him a temporary enough to serve for an annuity for my relief; they threw off the blame from himown time, though I leave nothing to self, and laid upon fortune and accident posterity.

a wretchedness of his own creating. “I beg our correspondence may be more But though this method of quarreling in frequent than it has been of late. I am sure his poems with his situation served to remy esteem and love for you never more lieve himself, yet it was not easily endured deserved it from you, or more prompted by the gentlemen in the neighbourhood, it from you. I desired our friend Jervas who did not care to confess themselves (in the greatest hurry of my business) to his fellow-sufferers. He received many say a great deal in my name, both to mortifications upon that account among yourself and the Dean, and must once them; for, being naturally fond of commore repeat the assurances to you both pany, he could not endure to be without of an unchanging friendship and unalter- even theirs, which, however, among his able esteem. -Iam, dear sir, most entirely, English friends he pretended to despise. your affectionate, faithful, obliged friend In fact, his conduct in this particular and servant,

A. POPE.” was rather splenetic than wise; he had

either lost the art to engage, or did not From these letters to Parnell we may employ his skill in securing those more conclude, as far as their testimony can go, permanent, though more humble, connecthat he was an agreeable, a generous, and tions, and sacrificed for a month or two a sincere man. Indeed, he took care that in England a whole year's happiness by his friends should always see him to the his country fireside at home.

However, what he permitted the world formance will please the Dean, whom I to see of his life was elegant and splendid: often wished for, and to whom I would his fortune (for a poet) was very consider- have often wrote, but for the same reasons able, and it may be easily supposed he I neglected writing to you. I hope I need lived to the very extent of it. The fact not tell you how I love you, and how glad is, his expenses were greater than his I shall be to hear from you, which, next income, and his successor found the estate to the seeing you, would be the greatest somewhat impaired at his decease. As satisfaction to your most affectionate friend soon as ever he had collected in his annual and humble servant, “J. G.” revenues, he immediately set out for England, to enjoy the company of his dearest “ DEAR MR. ARCHDEACON,—Though friends, and laugh at the more prudent my proportion of this epistle should be world that were minding business and but a sketch in miniature, yet I take up gaining money. The friends to whom this half page, having paid my club with during the latter part of his life he was the good company both for our dinner of chiefly attached were Pope, Swift, Arbuth- chops and for this paper. The poets will not, Jervas, and Gay. Among these he give you lively descriptions in their way; was particularly happy, his mind was I shall only acquaint you with that which entirely at ease, and gave a loose to every is directly my province. I have just set harmless folly that came uppermost. In- the last hand to a couplet, for so I may deed, it was a society in which, of all call two nymphs in one piece. They are others, a wise man might be most foolish, Pope's favourites, and though few, you without incurring any danger or contempt. will guess must have cost me more pains Perhaps the reader will be pleased to see than any nymphs can be worth. He has a letter to him from a part of this junto, been so unreasonable as to expect that I as there is something striking even in the should have made them as beautiful upon levities of genius. It comes from Gay, canvas, as he has done upon paper. If Jervas, Arbuthnot, and Pope, assembled this same Mr. P- should omit to write at a chophouse near the Exchange, and is for the dear frogs and the Pervigilium, as follows:

I must entreat you not to let me languish

for them, as I have done ever since they “MY DEAR SIR,-I was last summer crossed the seas : remember by what neg. in Devonshire, and am this winter at Mrs. lects, &c. we missed them when we lost Bonyer's. In the summer I wrote a poem, you, and therefore I have not yet forgiven and in the winter I have published it, any of those triflers that let them escape which I have sent to you by Dr. Elwood. and run those hazards. I am going on In the summer I ate two dishes of toad the old rate, and want you and the Dean stools of my own gathering, instead of prodigiously, and am in hopes of making mushrooms; and in the winter I have been you a visit this summer, and of hearing sick with wine, as I am at this time, blessed from you both, now you are together. be God for it! as I must bless God for all Fortescue, I am sure, will be concerned things. In the summer I spoke truth to that he is not in Cornhill, to set his hand damsels; in the winter I told lies to ladies. to these presents, not only as a witness, Now you know where I have been, and but as a serviteur très humble, what I have done, I shall tell you what I

“C. Jervas.” intend to do the ensuing summer: I propose to do the same thing I did last, which “ It is so great an honour to a poor was to meet you in any part of England Scotchman to be remembered at this time you would appoint; don't let me have two of day, especially by an inhabitant of the disappointments. I have longed to hear Glacialis lerne, that I take it very thankfrom you, and to that intent I teased you fully, and have, with my good friends, with three or four letters; but, having no remembered you at our table in the chopanswer, I feared both yours and my letters house in Exchange Alley. There wanted might have miscarried. I hope my per- nothing to complete our happiness but

your company, and our dear friend the gibbet up the carcass of Zoilus, to the Dean's. I am sure the whole entertain- terror of the witlings of posterity. More, ment would have been to his relish. Gay and much more, upon this and a thousand has got so much money by his Art of other subjects, will be the matter of my Walking the Streets, that he is ready to next letter, wherein I must open all the set up his equipage; he is just going to friend to you. At this time I must be the bank to negotiate some exchange bills. content with telling you I am faithfully Mr. Pope delays his second volume of his your most affectionate and humble servant, Homer till the martial spirit of the rebels

• A. Pope." is quite quelled, it being judged that the first part did some harm that way. Our If we regard this letter with a critical love again and again to the dear Dean. eye, we must find it indifferent enough; Fuimus Tories, I can say no more. if we consider it as a mere effusion of " ARBUTHNOT.” friendship, in which every writer con

tended in affection, it will appear much When a man is conscious that he does to the honour of those who wrote it. To no good himself, the next thing is to cause be mindful of an absent friend in the hours others to do some. I may claim some of mirth and feasting, when his company merit this way, in hastening this testi- is least wanted, shows no slight degree monial from your friends above writing: of sincerity. Yet probably there was still their love to you indeed wants no spur, another motive for writing thus to him their ink wants no pen, their pen wants in conjunction. The above-named, to. no hand, their hand wants no heart, and gether with Swift and Parnell, had some so forth (after the manner of Rabelais, time before formed themselves into a which is betwixt some meaning and no society, called the Scribblerus Club, and meaning); and yet it may be said, when I should suppose they commemorated present thought and opportunity is want. him thus, as being an absent member.

pen:

want ink, their hands want It is past a doubt that they wrote many pens, their hearts want hands, &c. till things in conjunction, and Gay usually time, place, and conveniency concur to held the pen. And yet I do not remember set them writing, as at present a sociable any productions which were the joint meeting, a good dinner, warm fire, and effort of this society as doing it honour. an easy situation do, to the joint labour There is something feeble and quaint in and pleasure of this epistle.

all their attempts, as if company repressed “ Wherein if I should say nothing I thought, and genius wanted solitude for should say much (much being included its boldest and happiest exertions. Of in my love), though my love be such, those productions in which Parnell had a that if I should say much, I should yet principal share, that of the Origin of the say nothing, it being (as Cowley says) Sciences from the Monkeys in Ethiopia equally impossible either to conceal or to is particularly mentioned by Pope himself, express it.

in some manuscript anecdotes which he 'If I were to tell you the thing I wish left behind him. The Life of Homer also, above all things, it is to see you again; prefixed to the translation of the Iliad, the next is to see here your treatise of is written by Parnell, and corrected by Zoilus, with the Batrachomuomachia, Pope; and, as that great poet assures us and the Pervigilium Veneris, both which in the same place, this correction was not poems are masterpieces in several kinds ; effected without great labour. It is still and I question not the prose is as excel. stiff,” says he, and was written still lent in its sort as the Essay on Homer. stiffer; as it is, I verily think it cost me Nothing can be more glorious to that more pains in the correcting, than the great author, than that the same hand writing it would have done." All this that raised his best statue, and decked it may be easily credited; for every thing with its old laurels, should also hang up of Parnell's that has appeared in prose the scarecrow of his miserable critic, and is written in a very awkward, inelegant

ing, their

manner.

correct.

It is true, his productions teem only pleasure in view, and can seldom with imagination, and show great learning, find it but among each other. The Scribbut they want that ease and sweetness for blerus Club, when the members were which his poetry is so much admired; town, were seldom asunder, and they oiten and the language is also shamefully in- made excursions together into the country,

Yet, though all this must be and generally on foot. Swift was usually allowed, Pope should have taken care not the butt of the company, and if a trick to leave his errors upon record against was played, he was always the sufferer. him, or put it in the power of envy to | The whole party once agreed to walk tax his friend with faults that do not down to the house of Lord B-, who appear in what he has left to the world. is still living, and whose seat is about A poet has a right to expect the same twelve miles from town. As every one secrecy in his friend as in his confessor; agreed to make the best of his way, Świst, the sins he discovers are not divulged for who was remarkable for walking, soon punishment, but pardon. Indeed, Pope left the rest behind him, fully resolved, is almost inexcusable in this instance, as upon his arrival, to choose the very best what he seems to condemn in one place bed for himself, for that was his custom. he very much applauds in another. In In the meantime Parnell was determined one of the letters from him to Parnell, to prevent his intentions, and taking horse, above mentioned, he treats the Life of arrived at Lord B—'s by another way, Homer with much greater respect, and long before him. Having apprized his seems to say, that the prose is excellent lordship of Swift's design, it was resolved in its kind. must be confessed, how at any rate to keep him out of the house; ever, that he is by no means inconsistent; but how to effect this was the question. what he says in both places may very Swift never had the small-pox, and was easily be reconciled to truth; but who very much afraid of catching it; as soon, can defend his candour and sincerity? therefore, as he appeared striding along

It would be hard, however, to suppose at some distance from the house, one of that there was no real friendship be his lordship's servants was despatched to tween these great men. The benevolence inform him that the small-pox was then of Parnell's disposition remains unim- making great ravages in the family, but peached; and Pope, though subject to that there was a summer-house with a starts of passion and envy, yet never field-bed at his service, at the end of the missed an opportunity of being truly garden. There the disappointed Dean serviceable to him. The commerce be- was obliged to retire, and take a cold tween them was carried on to the common supper that was sent out to him, while interest of both. When Pope had a Mis the rest were feasting within. However, cellany to publish, he applied to Parnell at last they took compassion on him; and for poetical assistance, and the latter as upon his promising never to choose the implicitly submitted to him for correction. best bed again, they permitted him to Thus they mutually advanced each other's make one of the company, interest or fame, and grew stronger by There is something satisfactory in these conjunction. Nor was Pope the only accounts of the follies of the wise : they person to whom Parnell had recourse for give a natural air to the picture, and reassistance. We learn from Swift's letters concile us to our own. There have been to Stella that he submitted his pieces to few poetical societies more talked of, or all his friends, and readily adopted their productive of a greater variety of whimalterations. Swift, among the number, sical conceits, than this of the Scribblerus was very useful to him in that particular; Club, but how long it lasted I cannot and care has been taken that the world exactly determine. The whole of Parnell's should not remain ignorant of the obli- poetical existence was not of more than gation.

eight or ten years' continuance; his first But in the connections of wits, interest excursions to England began about the has generally very little share ; they have year 1706, and he died in the year 1718; so that it is probable the club began with writing which the poet sits down without him, and his death ended the connection. any plan, and heaps up splendid images Indeed, the festivity of his conversation, without any selection; where the reader the benevolence of his heart, and the grows dizzy with praise and admiration, generosity of his temper, were qualities and yet soon grows weary, he can scarcely that might serve to cement any society, tell why. Our poet, on the contrary, and that could hardly be replaced when gives out his beauties with a more sparing he was taken away. During the two or hand; he is still carrying his reader forthree last years of his life he was more ward, and just gives him refreshment fond of company than ever, and could sufficient to support him to his journey's scarcely hear to be alone. The death of end. At the end of his course the reader his wife, it is said, was a loss to him that regrets that his way has been so short, he he was unable to support or recover. wonders that it gave him so little trouble, From that time he could never venture and so resolves to go the journey over to court the Muse in solitude, where he again. was sure to find the image of her who His poetical language is not less correct first inspired his attempts. He began, than his subjects are pleasing. He found therefore, to throw himself into every it at that period in which it was brought company, and to seek from wine, if not to its highest pitch of refinement; and relief, at least insensibility. Those helps ever since his time it has been gradually that sorrow first called for assistance debasing. It is, indeed, amazing, after habit soon rendered necessary, and he what has been done by Dryden, Addison, died before his fortieth year, in some and Pope, to improve and harmonize our measure a martyr to conjugal fidelity. native tongue, that their successors should

Thus in the space of a very few years have taken so much pains to involve it Parnell attained a share of fame equal to into pristine barbarity. These misguided what most of his contemporaries were a innovators have not been content with long life in acquiring. He is only to be restoring antiquated words and phrases, considered as a poet; and the universal but have indulged themselves in the most esteem in which his poems are held, and licentious transpositions and the harshest the reiterated pleasure they give in the constructions, vainly imagining that the perusal, are a sufficient test of their merit. more their writings are unlike prose, the He appears to me to be the last of that more they resemble poetry. They have great school that had modelled itself upon adopted a language of their own, and call the ancients, and taught English poetry upon mankind for admiration. All those to resemble what the generality of man- who do not understand them are silent, kind have allowed to excel. A studious and those who make out their meaning and correct observer of antiquity, he sets are willing to praise, to show they underhimself to consider nature with the lights stand. From these follies and affectations it lent him; and he found that the more the poems of Parnell are entirely free: he aid he borrowed from the one, the more has considered the language of poetry delightfully he resembled the other. To as the language of life, and conveys the copy nature is a task the most bungling warmest thoughts in the simplest expresworkman is able to execute; to select sion. such parts as contribute to delight is re

Parnell has written several poems Leserved only for those whom accident has sides those published by Pope, and some blessed with uncommon talents, or such of them have been made public with very as have read the ancients with indefati- little credit to his reputation. There are gable industry. Parnell is ever happy in still many more that have not yet seen the the selection of his images, and scrupu- light in the possession of Sir John Parnell, lously careful in the choice of his subjects. his nephew, who, from that laudable zeal His productions bear no resemblance to which he has for his uncle's reputation, those tawdry things, which it has for some will probably be slow in publishing what time been the fashion to admire; in he may even suspect will do it injury. Of

« ПретходнаНастави »