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lations of the first book of the Iliad, it must be
confessed that the accusation is not entirely
devoid of probability.
Before the Rape of the Lock appeared, our
writers were distinguished in the eyes of fo
reigners by vigorous thought, and powerful
expression. Mr. Pope has shewn that we were
equally qualified to sacrifice at the shrine of
It would be unnecessary, and almost im
pertinent, to point out the particular beauties
of a poem so universally read and admired,
and upon which so much has been already
written. Pope's writings are perhaps a greater
accession to our literature than those of any
other poet, and, amongst them, the Rape of
the Lock stands pre-eminent, at least in that
first characteristic of a poet, invention.
It is a curious circumstance that Parnell,
hearing Pope repeat the description of Belinda's toilet, immediately translated it into
monkish Latin verses, and accused Pope of
plagiarism, who did not discover the stratagem
till undeceived by Parnell.
Doctor Johnson has made a few observa
tions upon the Rape of the Lock, which we
shall here transcribe.
“To the praises,” says he, “ which have
been accumulated on the Rape of the Lock'
by readers of every class, from the critic to :
the waiting-maid, it is difficult to make any.
addition. Of that which is universally allowed
to be the most attractive of all ludicrous com
positions, let it rather be now enquired from
what sources the power of pleasing is de
“Dr. Warburton, who excelled in critical
perspicacity, has remarked that the preter
natural agents are very happily adapted to the
purposes of the poem. The heathen deities
can no longer gain attention: we should have
turned away from a contest between Venus
and Diana. The employment of allegorical
persons always excites conviction of its own
absurdity;a they may produce effects, but cannot conduct actions: when the phantom is put
a This remark of Dr. Johnson's seems rather shallow,
and it is certainly ill applied; for what are Spleen and her attendants but allegorical actors?
in motion it dissolves: thus Discord may raise
a mutiny; but Discord cannot conduct a march,
nor besiege a town. Pope brought in view a
new race of beings, with powers and passions
proportionate to their operation. The Sylphs
and Gnomes act, at the toilet and the table,
what more terrific and more powerful phan
toms perform on the stormy ocean, or the field
of battle; they give their proper help, and do
their proper mischief.
Pope is said, by an objector, not to have
been the inventor of this petty nation; a
charge which might with more justice have
been brought against the author of the “Iliad,'
who doubtless adopted the religious system of his country; for what is there, but the names
of his agents, which Pope has not invented?
Has he not assigned them characters and ope
rations never heard of before? Has he not,
at least, given them their first poetical exist
ence? If this is not sufficient to denominate
his work original, nothing original ever can be
- In this work are exhibited, in a very
high degree, the two most engaging powers of
an author. New things are made familiar,
and familiar things are made new.
A race of
aërial people, never heard of before, is pre
sented to us in a manner so clear and
that the reader seeks for no further informa
tion, but immediately mingles with his new