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Alexander Pope At Twickenham

( Originally Published 1880 )



WHEN Pope finished his translation of the Iliad, he was congratulated by his friend Gay in a pleasant copy of verses marked by the usual bonhomie of the fat kindly man. Gay supposes himself to be welcoming his friend on the return from his long expedition.

Did I not see thee when thou first sett'st sail,
To seek adventures fair in Homer's land ?
Did I not see thy sinking spirits fail,
And wish thy bark had never left the strand ?
Even in mid ocean often didst thou quail,
And oft lift up thy holy eye and hand,
Praying to virgin dear and saintly choir
Back to the port to bring thy bark entire.

And now the bark is sailing up the Thames, with bells ringing, bonfires blazing, and " bones and cleavers " clashing. So splendid a show suggests Lord Mayor's Day, but in fact it is only the crowd of Pope's friends come to welcome him on his successful achievement ; and a long catalogue follows, in which each is indicated by some appropriate epithet. The list includes some doubt.. ful sympathizers, such as Gildon, who comes "hearing thou hast riches," and even Dennis, who in fact continued to growl out criticisms against the triumphant poet. Steele, too, and Tickell, --- Whose skiff (in partnership they say)
Set forth for Greece but founder'd on the way,

would not applaud very cordially. Addison, their common hero, was beyond the reach of satire or praise. Parnell, who had contributed a life of Homer, died in 1718 ; and Rowe and Garth, sound Whigs, but friends and often boon companions of the little papist, had followed. Swift was breathing " Boeotian air" in his deanery, and St. John was " confined to foreign climates" for very sufficient reasons. Any such roll-call of friends must show melancholy gaps, and sometimes the gaps are more significant than the names. Yet Pope could boast of a numerous body of men, many of them of high distinction, who were ready to give him a warm welcome. There were, indeed, few eminent persons of the time, either in the political or literary worlds, with whom this sensitive and restless little invalid did not come into contact, hostile or friendly, at some part of his career. His friendships were keen and his hostilities more than proportionally bitter. We see his fragile figure, glancing rapidly from one hospitable circle to another, but always standing a little apart ; now paying court to some conspicuous wit, or philosopher, or statesman, or beauty ; now taking deadly offence for some utterly inexplicable reason ; writhing with agony under clumsy blows which a robuster nature would have met with contemptuous laughter ; racking his wits to contrive exquisite compliments, and suddenly exploding in sheer Billingsgate ; making a mountain of every mole-hill in his pilgrimage ; always preoccupied with his last literary project, and yet finding time for innumerable intrigues ; for carrying out schemes of vengeance for wounded vanity, and for introducing himself into every quarrel that was going on around him.

In all his multifarious schemes and occupations he found it convenient to cover himself by elaborate mystifications, and was as anxious (it would seem) to deceive posterity as to impose upon contemporaries ; and hence it is as difficult clearly to disentangle the twisted threads of his complex history as to give an intelligible picture of the result of the investigation. The publication of the Iliad, however, marks a kind of central point in his history. Pope has reached independence, and become the acknowledged head of the literary world ; and it will be convenient here to take a brief survey of his position, before following out two or three different series of events, which can scarcely be given in chronological order. Pope, when he first came to town and followed Wycherley about like a dog, had tried to assume the airs of a rake. The same tone is adopted in many of his earlier letters. At Binfield he became demure, correct, and respectful to the religious scruples of his parents. In his visits to London and Bath he is little better than one of the wicked. In a copy of verses (not too decent) written in 1715, as a " Farewell to London," he gives us to under-stand that he has been hearing the chimes at midnight, and knows where the bona-robas dwell. He is forced to leave his jovial friends and his worrying publishers " for Homer (damn him !) calls." He is, so he assures us,

Still idle, with a busy air
Deep whimsies to contrive;
The gayest valetudinaire,
Most thinking rake alive.

And he takes a sad leave of London pleasures.
Luxurious lobster nights, farewell,
For sober, studious days !
And Burlington's delicious meal
For salads, tarts, and pease.

Writing from Bath a little earlier, to Teresa and Martha Blount, he employs the same jaunty strain. " Every one," he says, " values Mr. Pope, but every one for a different reason. One for his adherence to the Catholic faith, another for his neglect of Popish supersition ; one for his good behaviour, another for his whimsicalities ; Mr. Titcomb for his pretty atheistical jests ; Mr. Caryll for his moral and Christian sentences ; Mrs. Teresa for his reflections on Mrs. Patty ; Mrs. Patty for his reflections on Mrs. Teresa." He is an " agreeable rattle ; " the accomplished rake, drinking with the wits, though above boozing with the squire, and capable of alleging his drunkenness as an excuse for writing very questionable letters to ladies.

Pope was too sickly and too serious to indulge long in such youthful fopperies. He had no fund of high spirits to draw upon, and his playfulness was too near deadly earnest for the comedy of common life. He had too much intellect to be a mere fribble, and had not the strong animal passions of the thorough debauchee. Age came upon him rapidly, and he had sown his wild oats, such as they were, while still a young man. Meanwhile his reputation and his circle of acquaintances were rapidly spreading, and in spite of all his disqualifications for the coarser forms of conviviality, he took the keenest possible interest in the life that went on around him. A satirist may not be a pleasant companion, but he must frequent society ; he must be on the watch for his natural prey ; he must describe the gossip of the day, for it is the raw material from which he spins his finished fabric. Pope, as his writings show, was an eager' recipient of all current rumours, whether they affected his aristocratic friends or the humble denizens of Grub Street. Fully to elucidate his poems, a commentator requires to have at his finger's ends the whole chronique scandaleuse of the day. With such tastes, it was natural that, as the subscriptions for his Homer began to pour in, he should be anxious to move nearer the great social centre. Lon-don itself might be too exciting for his health and too destructive of literary leisure. Accordingly, in 1716, the little property at Binfield was sold, and the Pope family moved to Mawson's New Buildings, on the bank of the river at Chiswick, and " under the wing of my Lord Burlington." He seems to have been a little ashamed of the residence ; the name of it is certainly neither aristocratic nor poetical. Two years later, on the death of his father, he moved up the river to the villa at Twickenham, which has always been associated with his name, and was his home for the last twenty-five years of his life. There he had the advantage of being just on the boundary of the great world. He was within easy reach of Hampton Court, Richmond, and Kew ; places which, during Pope's residence, were frequently glorified by the presence of George II. and his heir and natural enemy, Frederick, Prince of Wales. Pope, indeed, did not enjoy the honour of any personal interview with royalty. George is said to have called him a very honest man after reading his Dunciad; but Pope's references to his Sovereign were not complimentary. There was a report, referred to by Swift, that Pope had purposely avoided a visit from Queen Caro-line. He was on very friendly terms with Mrs. Howard—afterwards Lady Suffolk—the powerless mistress, who was intimate with two of his chief friends, Bathurst and Peter-borough, and who settled at Marble Villa, in Twickenham. Pope and Bathurst helped to lay out her grounds, and she stayed there to become a friendly neighbour of Horace Walpole, who, unluckily for lovers of gossip, did not become a Twickenhamite until three years after Pope's death. Pope was naturally more allied with the Prince of Wales, who occasionally visited him, and became intimate with the band of patriots and enthusiasts who saw in the heir to the throne the coming "patriot king." Bolingbroke, too, the great inspirer of the opposition, and Pope's most revered friend, was for ten years at Dawley, within an easy drive. London was easily accessible by road and by the river which bounded his lawn. His waterman appears to have been one of the regular members of his household. There he had every opportunity for the indulgence of his favourite tastes. The villa was on one of the loveliest reaches of the Thames, not yet polluted by the encroachments of Lon-don. The house itself was destroyed in the beginning of this century ; and the garden (if we may trust Horace Walpole) had been previously spoilt. This garden, says Walpole, was a little bit of ground of five acres, enclosed by three lanes. "Pope had twisted and twirled and rhymed and harmonized this, till it appeared two or three sweet little lawns, opening and opening beyond one another, and the whole surrounded with impenetrable woods." These, it appears, were hacked and hewed into mere desolation by the next proprietor. Pope was, in-deed, an ardent lover of the rising art of landscape gardening ; he was familar with Bridgeman and Kent, the great authorities of the time, and his example and precepts helped to promote the development of a less formal style. His theories are partly indicated in the description of Timon's villa.

His gardens next your admiration call
On every side you look, behold the wall !
No pleasing intricacies intervene,
No artful wildness to perplex the scene ;
Grove nods at grove, each alley has a brother,
And half the platform just reflects the other.

Pope's taste, indeed, tolerated various old-fashioned excrescences which we profess to despise. He admired mock classical temples and obelisks erected judiciously at the ends of vistas. His most famous piece of handiwork, the grotto at Twickenham, still remains, and is in fact a short tunnel under the high road to connect his grounds with the lawn which slopes to the river. He describes in a letter to one of his friends, his " temple wholly comprised of shells in the rustic manner," and his famous grotto so provided with mirrors that when the doors are shut it becomes a camera obscura, reflecting hills, river, and boats, and when lighted up glitters with rays reflected from bits of looking glass in angular form. His friends pleased him by sending pieces of spar from the mines of Cornwall and Derbyshire, petrifactions, marble, coral, crystals, and humming-birds' nests. It was in fact a gorgeous example of the kind of architecture with which the cit delighted to adorn his country box. The hobby, whether in good taste or not, gave Pope never-ceasing amusement ; and he wrote some characteristic verses in its praise.

In his grotto, as he declares in another place, he could sit in peace with his friends, undisturbed by the distant din of the world.

There my retreat the best companions grace,
Chiefs out of war, and statesmen out of place ;
There St. John mingles with my friendly bowl
The feast of reason and the flow of soul ;
And he whose lightning pierced the Iberian lines
Now forms my quincunx and now ranks my vines,
Or tames the genius of the stubborn plain
Almost as quickly as he conquer'd Spain.

The grotto, one would fear, was better fitted for frogs than for philosophers capable of rheumatic twinges. But de-ducting what we please from such utterances on the score of affectation, the picture of Pope amusing him-self with his grotto and his plantations, directing old John Searle, his gardener, and conversing with the friends whom he compliments so gracefully, is, perhaps, the pleasantest in his history. He was far too restless and too keenly interested in society and literature to resign himself permanently to any such retreat.

Pope's constitutional irritability kept him constantly on the wing. Though little interested in politics, he liked to be on the edge of any political commotion. He appeared in London on the death of Queen Caroline, in 1737 ; and Bathurst remarked that " he was as sure to be there in a bustle as a porpoise in a storm." " Our friend Pope," said Jervas not long before, " is off and on, here and there, everywhere and nowhere, a son ordinaire, and, there-fore as well as we can hope for a carcase so crazy." The Twickenham villa, though nominally dedicated to repose, became of course a centre of attraction for the interviewers of the day. The opening lines of the Prologue to the

Satires give a vivacious description of the crowds of authors who rushed to " Twitnam," to obtain his patronage or countenance, in a day when editors were not the natural scapegoats of such aspirants.

What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide ?
They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide ;
By land, by water, they renew the charge ;
They stop the chariot and they board the barge :
No place is sacred, not the church is free,
E'en Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me.

And even at an earlier period he occasionally retreated from the bustle to find time for his Homer. Lord Harcourt, the Chancellor in the last years of Queen Anne, allowed him to take up his residence in his old house of Stanton Harcourt, in Oxfordshire. He inscribed on a pane of glass in an upper room, " In the year 1718 Alexander Pope finished here the fifth volume of Homer." In his earlier days he was often rambling about on horse-back. A letter from Jervas gives the plan of one such jaunt (in 1715) with Arbuthnot and Disney for companions. Arbuthnot is to be commander-in-chief, and allows only a shirt and a cravat to be carried in each traveller's pocket. They are to make a moderate journey each day, and stay at the houses of various friends, ending ultimately at Bath. Another letter of about the same date describes a ride to Oxford, in which Pope is over-taken by his publisher, Lintot, who lets him into various secrets of the trade, and proposes that Pope should turn an ode of Horace whilst sitting under the trees to rest. " Lord, if you pleased, what a clever miscellany might you make at leisure hours ! " exclaims the man of business ; and though Pope laughed at the advice, we might fancy that he took it to heart. He always had bits of verse on the anvil, ready to be hammered and polished at any moment. But even Pope could not be always writing, and the mere mention of these, rambles suggests pleasant lounging through old-world country lanes of the quiet century. We think of the road-side life seen by Parson Adams or Humphry Clinker, and of which Mr. Borrow caught the last glimpse when dwelling in the tents of the Romany. In later days Pope had to put his " crazy carcase " into a carriage, and occasionally came in for less pleasant experiences. Whilst driving home one night from Dawley, in Bolingbroke's carriage and six, he was upset in a stream. He escaped drowning, though the water was "up to the knots of his periwig," but he was so cut by the broken glass that he nearly lost the use of his right hand. On another occasion Spence was delighted by the sudden appearance of the poet at Oxford, " dread-fully fatigued ; " he had good-naturedly lent his own chariot to a lady who had been hurt in an upset, and had walked three miles to Oxford on a sultry day.

A man of such brilliant wit, familiar with so many social circles, should have been a charming companion. It must, however, be admitted that the accounts which have come down to us do not confirm such preconceived impressions. Like his great rival, Addison, though for other reasons, he was generally disappointing in society. Pope, as may be guessed from Spence's reports, had a large fund of interesting literary talk, such as youthful aspirants to fame would be delighted to receive with reverence ; he had the reputation for telling anecdotes skilfully, and we may suppose that when he felt at ease, with a respectful and safe companion, he could do himself justice. But he must have been very trying to his hosts. He could seldom lay aside his self-consciousness sufficiently to write an easy letter ; and the same fault probably spoilt his conversation. Swift complains of him as a silent and inattentive companion. He went to sleep at his own table, says Johnson, when the Prince of Wales was talking poetry to him—certainly a severe trial. He would, we may guess, be silent till he had something to say worthy of the great Pope, and would then doubt whether it was not wise to treasure it up for preservation in a couplet. His sister declared that she had never seen him laugh heartily ; and Spence, who records the saying, is surprised, because Pope was said to have been very lively in his youth; but admits that in later years he never went beyond a "particular easy smile." A hearty laugh would have sounded strangely from the touchy, moody, intriguing little man, who could " hardly drink tea without a stratagem." His sensitiveness, indeed, appearing by his often weeping when he read moving passages ; but we can hardly imagine him as ever capable of genial self-abandonment.

His unsocial habits, indeed, were a natural consequence of ill-health. He never seems to have been thoroughly well for many days together. He implied no more than the truth when he speaks of his Muse as helping him through that " long disease, his life." Writing to Bathurst in 1728, he says that he does not expect to enjoy any health for four days together ; and, not long after, Bathurst remonstrates with him for his carelessness, asking him whether it is not enough to have the headache for four days in the week and be sick for the other three. It is no small proof of intellectual energy that he managed to do so much thorough work under such disadvantages, and his letters show less of the invalid's querulous spirit than we might well have pardoned. Johnson gives a painful account of his physical defects, on the authority of an old servant of Lord Oxford, who frequently saw him in his later years. He was so weak as to be unable to rise to dress himself without help. He was so sensitive to cold that he had to wear a kind of fur doublet under a coarse linen shirt ; one of his sides was contracted, and he could scarcely stand upright till he was laced into a boddice made of stiff canvas; his legs were so slender that he had to wear three pairs of stockings, which he was unable to draw on and off without help. His seat had to be raised to bring him to a level with common tables. In one of his papers in the Guardian he describes himself apparently as Dick Distich : " a lively little creature, with long legs and arms ; a spider is no ill emblem of him ; he has been taken at a distance for a small windmill." His face, says Johnson, was " not displeasing," and the portraits are eminently characteristic. The thin, drawn features wear the expression of habitual pain, but are brightened up by the vivid and penetrating eye, which seems to be the characteristic poetical beauty.

It was after all a gallant spirit which got so much work out of this crazy carcase, and kept it going, spite of all its feebleness, for fifty-six years. The servant whom Johnson quotes, said that she was called from her bed four times in one night, " in the dreadful winter of Forty," to supply him with paper, lest he should lose a thought. His constitution was already breaking down, but the intellect was still striving to save every moment allowed to him. His friends laughed at his habit of scribbling upon odd bits of paper. "Paper-sparing" Pope is the epithet bestowed upon him by Swift, and a great part of the Iliad is written upon the backs of letters. The habit seems to have been regarded as illustrative of his economical habits ; but it was also natural to a man who was on the watch to turn every fragment of time to account. If anything was to be finished, he must snatch at the brief intervals allowed by his many infirmities. Naturally, he fell into many of the self-indulgent and troublesome ways of the valetudinarian. He was constantly wanting coffee, which seems to have soothed his headaches ; and for this and his other wants he used to wear out the servants in his friends' houses, by " frequent and frivolous errands." Yet he was apparently a kind master. His servants lived with him till they became friends, and he took care to pay so well the unfortunate servant whose sleep was broken by his calls, that she said that she would want no wages in a family where she had to wait upon Mr. Pope. Another form of self-indulgence was more injurious to himself. He pampered his appetite with highly seasoned dishes, and liked to receive delicacies from his friends. His death was imputed by some of his friends, says Johnson, to " a silver saucepan in which it was his delight to eat potted lampreys." He would always get up for dinner, in spite of headache, when told that this delicacy was provided. Yet, as Johnson also observes, the excesses cannot have been very great, as they did not sooner cut short so fragile an existence. " Two bites and a sup more than your stint," says Swift, " will cost you more than others pay for a regular debauch."

At home, indeed, he appears to have been generally abstemious. Probably the habits of his parents' little household were very simple; and Pope, like Swift, knew the value of independence well enough to be systematically economical. Swift, indeed, had a more generous heart, and a lordly indifference to making money by his writings, which Pope, who owed his fortune chiefly to his Homer, did not attempt to rival. Swift alludes in his letters to an anecdote, which we may hope does not represent his habitual practice. Pope, it appears, was entertaining a couple of friends, and when four glasses had been consumed from a pint, retired, saying, " Gentlemen I leave you to your wine." I tell that story to everybody, says Swift, "in commendation of Mr. Pope's abstemiousness;" but he tells it, one may guess, with something of a rueful countenance. At times, however, it seems that Pope could give a " splendid dinner," and show no want of the " skill and elegance which such performances require." Pope, in fact, seems to have shown a combination of qualities which is not uncommon, though sometimes called inconsistent. He valued money, as a man values it who has been poor and feels it essential to his comfort to be fairly beyond the reach of want, and was accordingly pretty sharp at making a bargain with a publisher or in arranging terms with a collaborator. But he could also be liberal on occasion. Johnson says that his whole income amounted to about 8001. a year, out of which he professed himself able to assign 1001. to charity ; and though the figures are doubtful, and all Pope's statements about his own proceedings liable to suspicion, he appears to have been often generous in helping the distressed with money, as well as with advice or recommendations to his powerful friends. Pope, by his infirmities and his talents, belonged to the dependent class of mankind. He was in no sense capable of standing firmly upon his own legs. He had a longing, sometimes pathetic and sometimes humiliating, for the applause of his fellows and the sympathy of friends. With feelings so morbidly sensitive, and with such a lamentable incapacity for straight-forward openness in any relation of life, he was naturally a dangerous companion. He might be brooding over some fancied injury or neglect, and meditating revenge, when he appeared to be on good terms ; when really desiring to do a service to a friend, he might adopt some tortuous means for obtaining his ends, which would convert the service into an injury; and, if he had once become alienated, the past friendship would be remembered by him as involving a kind of humiliation, and therefore supplying additional keenness to his resentment. And yet it is plain that throughout life he was always anxious to lean upon some stronger nature ; to have a sturdy supporter whom he was too apt to turn into an accomplice ; or at least to have some good-natured, easy-going companion, in whose society he might find re-pose for his tortured nerves. And therefore, though the story of his friendships is unfortunately intertwined with the story of bitter quarrels and indefensible acts of treachery, it also reveals a touching desire for the kind of consolation which would be most valuable to one so accessible to the pettiest stings of his enemies. He had many warm friends, moreover, who, by good fortune or the exercise of unusual prudence, never excited his wrath, and whom he repaid by genuine affection. Some of these friendships have become famous, and will be best noticed in connexion with passages in his future career. It will be sufficient if I here notice a few names, in order to show that a complete picture of Pope's life, if it could now be produced, would include many figures of which we only catch occasional glimpses.

Pope, as I have said, though most closely connected with the Tories and Jacobites, disclaimed any close party connexion, and had some relations with the Whigs. Some courtesies even passed between him and the great Sir Robert Walpole, whose interest in literature was a vanishing quantity, and whose bitterest enemies were Pope's greatest friends. Walpole, however, as we have seen, asked for preferment for Pope's old friend, and Pope repaid him with more than one compliment. Thus, in the Epilogue to the Satires, he says,—

Seen him I have, but in his happier hour
Of social pleasure, ill exchanged for power.
Seen him, uncumber'd with the venal tribe,
Smile without art and win without a bribe.

Another Whig statesman for whom Pope seems to have entertained an especially warm regard was James Craggs, Addison's successor as Secretary of State, who died whilst under suspicion of peculation in the South Sea business (1721). The Whig connexion might have been turned to account. Craggs during his brief tenure of office offered Pope a pension of 3001. a year (from the secret service money), which Pope declined, whilst saying that, if in want of money, he would apply to Craggs as a friend. A negotiation of the same kind took place with Halifax, who aimed at the glory of being the great literary patron. It seems that he was anxious to have the Homer dedicated to him, and Pope, being unwilling to gratify him, or, as Johnson says, being less eager for money than Halifax for praise, sent a cool answer, and the negotiation passed off. Pope afterwards revenged himself for this offence by his bitter satire on Bufo in the Prologue to his Satires, though he had not the courage to admit its obvious application.

Pope deserves the credit of preserving his independence. He would not stoop low enough to take a pension at the price virtually demanded by the party in power. He was not, however, inaccessible to aristocratic blandishments, and was proud to be the valued and petted guest in many great houses. Through Swift he had become acquainted with Oxford, the colleague of Bolingbroke, and was a frequent and intimate guest of the second Earl, from whose servant Johnson derived the curious information as to his habits. Harcourt, Oxford's Chancellor, lent him a house whilst translating Homer. Sheffield, the Duke of Buckingham, had been an early patron, and after the duke's death, Pope, at the request of his eccentric duchess, the illegitimate daughter of James IL, edited some of his works and got into trouble for some Jacobite phrases contained in them. His most familiar friend among the opposition magnates was Lord Bathurst, a man of uncommon vivacity and good-humour. He was born four years before Pope, and died more than thirty years later at the age of ninety-one. One of the finest passages in Burke's American speeches turns upon the vast changes which had taken place during Bathurst's lifetime. He lived to see his son Chancellor. Two years before his death the son left the father's dinner-table with some remark upon the advantage of regular habits. " Now the old gentleman's gone," said the lively youth of eighty-nine to the remaining guests, "let's crack the other bottle." Bathurst delighted in planting, and Pope in giving him advice, and in discussing the opening of vistas and erection of temples, and the poet was apt to be vexed when his advice was not taken.

Another friend, even more restless and comet-like in his appearances, was the famous Peterborough, the man who had seen more kings and postilions than any one in Europe ; of whom Walsh injudiciously remarked that he had too much wit to be entrusted with the command of an army ; and whose victories soon after the unlucky remark had been made, were so brilliant as to resemble strategical epigrams. Pope seems to have been dazzled by the amazing vivacity of the man, and has left a curious description of his last days. Pope found him on the eve of the voyage in which he died, sick of an agonizing disease, crying out for pain at night, fainting away twice in the morning, lying like a dead man for a time, and in the intervals of pain giving a dinner to ten people, laughing, talking, declaiming against the corruption of the times, giving directions to his workmen, and insisting upon going to sea in a yacht without preparations for landing anywhere in particular. Pope seems to have been specially attracted by such men, with intellects as restless as his own, but with infinitely more vitality to stand the consequent wear and tear.

We should be better pleased if we could restore a vivid image of the inner circle upon which his happiness most intimately depended. In one relation of life Pope's con-duct was not only blameless, but thoroughly loveable. He was, it is plain, the best of sons. Even here, it is true, he is a little too consciously virtuous. Yet when he speaks of his father and mother there are tears in his voice, and it is impossible not to recognize genuine warmth of heart.

Me let the tender office long engage
To rock the cradle of reposing age,
with lenient arts extend a mother's breath,
Make languor smile, and soothe the bed of death,
Explore the thought, explain the asking eye,
And keep awhile one parent from the sky !

Such verses are a spring in the desert, a gush of the true feeling, which contrasts with the strained and factitious sentiment in his earlier rhetoric, and almost forces us to love the writer. Could Pope have preserved that higher mood, he would have held our affections as he often delights our intellect.

Unluckily we can catch but few glimpses of Pope's family life ; of the old mother and father and the affectionate nurse, who lived with him till 1721, and died during a dangerous illness of his mother's. The father, of whom we hear little after his early criticism of the son's bad " rhymes," died in 1717, and a brief note to Martha Blount gives Pope's feeling as fully as many pages : " My poor father died last night. Believe, since I don't forget you this moment, I never shall." The mother survived till 1733, tenderly watched by Pope, who would never be long absent from her, and whose references to her are uniformly tender and beautiful. One or two of her letters are preserved. " My Deare,—A letter from your sister just now is come and gone, Mr. Mennock and Charls Rackitt, to take his leve of us ; but being nothing in it, doe not send it. . . . Your sister is very well, but your brother is not. There's Mr. Blunt of Maypell Durom is dead, the same day that Mr. Inglefield died. My servis to Mrs. Blounts, and all that ask of me. I hope to here from you, and that you are well, which is my dalye prayers ; this with my blessing." The old lady had peculiar views of orthography, and Pope, it is said, gave her the pleasure of copying out some of his Homer, though the necessary corrections gave him and the printers more trouble than would be saved by such an amanuensis. Three days after her death he wrote to Richardson, the painter. " I thank God," he says, " her death was as easy as her life was innocent ; and as it cost her not a groan, nor even a sigh, there is yet upon her countenance such an expression of tranquillity, nay, almost of pleasure, that it is even enviable to behold it. It would afford the finest image of a saint expired that ever painter drew, and it would be the greatest obligation which ever that obliging art could ever bestow upon a friend, if you would come and sketch it for me. I am sure if there be no very prevalent obstacle, you will leave any common business to do this, and I shall hope to see you this evening as late as you will, or to-morrow morning as early, before this winter flower is faded." Swift's comment, on hearing the news, gives the only consolation which Pope could have felt. " She died in extreme old age," he writes, " without pain, under the care of the most dutiful son I have ever known or heard of, which is a felicity not happening to one in a million." And with her death, its most touching and ennobling influence faded from Pope's life. There is no particular merit in loving a mother, but few biographies give a more striking proof that the loving discharge of a common duty may give a charm to a whole character. It is melancholy to add that we often have to appeal to this part of his story, to assure ourselves that Pope was really deserving of some affection.

The part of Pope's history which naturally follows brings us again to the region of unsolved mysteries. The one prescription which a spiritual physician would have suggested in Pope's case would have been the love of a good and sensible woman. A nature so capable of tender feeling and so essentially dependent upon others, might have been at once soothed and supported by a happy domestic life ; though it must be admitted that it would have required no common qualifications in a wife to calm so irritable and jealous a spirit. Pope was unfortunate in his surroundings. The bachelor society of that day, not only the society of the Wycherleys and Cromwells, but the more virtuous society of Addison and his friends, was certainly not remarkable for any exalted tone about women. Bolingbroke, Peterborough, and Bathurst, Pope's most admired friends, were all more or less flagrantly licentious ; and Swift's mysterious story shows that if he could love a woman, his love might be as. dangerous as hatred. In such a school, Pope, eminently malleable to the opinions of his companions, was not likely to acquire a high standard of sentiment. His personal defects were equally against him. His frame was not adapted for the robust gallantry of the time. He wanted a nurse rather than a wife ; and if his infirmities might excite pity, pity is akin to contempt as well as to love. The poor little invalid, brutally abused for his deformity by such men as Dennis and his friends, was stung beyond all self-control by their coarse laughter, and by the consciousness that it only echoed, in a more brutal shape, the judgment of the fine ladies of the time. His language about women, sometimes expressing coarse contempt and sometimes rising to ferocity, is the reaction of his morbid sensibility under such real and imagined scorn.

Such feelings must be remembered in speaking briefly of two love affairs, if they are such, which profoundly affected his happiness. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is amongst the most conspicuous figures of the time. She had been made a toast at the Kitcat Club at the age of eight, and she translated Epictetus (from the Latin) before she was twenty. She wrote verses, some of them amazingly coarse, though decidedly clever, and had married Mr. Edward Wortley Montagu in defiance of her father's will, though even in this, her most romantic proceeding, there are curious indications of a respect for prudential considerations. Her husband was a friend of Addison's, and a Whig ; and she accompanied.him on an embassy to Constantinople in 1716-17, where she wrote the excellent letters published after her death, and whence she imported the practice of inoculation in spite of much opposition. A distinguished leader of society, she was also a woman of shrewd intellect and masculine character. In 1739 she left her husband, though no quarrel preceded or followed the separation, and settled for many years in Italy. Her letters are characteristic of the keen woman of the world, with an underlying vein of nobler feeling, perverted by harsh experience into a prevailing cynicism. Pope had made her acquaintance before she left England. He wrote poems to her and corrected her verses till she cruelly refused his services, on the painfully plausible ground that he would claim all the good for himself and leave all the bad for her. They corresponded during her first absence abroad. The common sense is all on the lady's side, whilst Pope puts on his most elaborate manners and addresses her in the strained compliments of old-fashioned gallantry. He acts the lover, though it is obviously mere acting, and his language is stained by indelicacies, which could scarcely offend Lady Mary, if we may judge her by her own poetical attempts. The most characteristic of Pope's letters related to an incident at Stanton Harcourt. Two rustic lovers were surprised by a thunderstorm in a field near the house ; they were struck by lightning, and found lying dead in each other's arms. Here was an admirable chance for Pope, who was staying in the house with his friend Gay. He wrote off a beautiful letter to Lady Mary,' descriptive of the event—a true prose pastoral in the Strephon and Chloe style. He got Lord Harcourt to erect a monument over the common grave of the lovers, and composed a couple of epitaphs, which he submitted to Lady Mary's opinion. She replied by a cruel dose of

common sense, and a doggrel epitaph, which turned his fine phrases into merciless ridicule. If the lovers had been spared, she suggests,. the first year might probably have seen a beaten wife and a deceived husband, cursing their marriage chain.

Now they are happy in their doom,
For Pope has writ upon their tomb.

On Lady Mary's return the intimacy was continued. She took a house at Twickenham. He got Kneller to paint her portrait, and wrote letters expressive of humble ado-ration. But the tone which did well enough when the pair were separated by the whole breadth of Europe, was less suitable when they were in the same parish. After a time the intimacy faded and changed into mutual antipathy. The specific cause of the quarrel, if cause there was, has not been clearly revealed. One account, said to come from Lady Mary, is at least not intrinsically improbable. According to this story, the unfortunate poet forgot for a moment that he was a contemptible cripple, and forgot also the existence of Mr. Edward Wortley Montagu, and a passionate declaration of love drew from the lady an " immoderate fit of laughter." Ever afterwards, it is added, he was her implacable enemy. Doubtless, if the story be true, Lady Mary acted like a sensible woman of the world, and Pope was silly as well as immoral. And yet one cannot refuse some pity to the unfortunate wretch, thus roughly jerked back into the consciousness that a fine lady might make a pretty play-thing of him, but could not seriously regard him with anything but scorn. Whatever the precise facts, a breach of some sort might have been anticipated. A game of gallantry in which the natural parts are inverted, and the gentleman acts the sentimentalist to the lady's performance of the shrewd cynic, is likely to have awkward results. Pope brooded over his resentment, and years afterwards took a revenge only too characteristic. The first of his Imitations of Horace appeared in 1733. It contained a couplet, too gross for quotation, making the most outrageous imputation upon the character of " Sappho." Now, the accusation itself had no relation whatever either to facts or even (as I suppose) to any existing scandal. It was simply throwing filth at random. Thus, when Lady Mary took it to herself, and applied to Pope through Peter-borough for an explanation, Pope could make a defence verbally impregnable. There was no reason why Lady Mary should fancy that such a cap fitted ; and it was far more appropriate, as he added, to other women notorious for immorality as well as authorship. In fact, however, there can be no doubt that Pope intended his abuse to reach its mark. Sappho was an obvious name for the most famous of poetic ladies. Pope himself, in one of his last letters to her, says that fragments of her writing would please him like fragments of Sappho's ; and their mediator, Peterborough, writes of her under the same name in some complimentary and once well-known verses to Mrs. Howard. Pope had himself alluded to her as Sappho in some verses addressed (about 1722) to another lady, Judith Cowper, afterwards Mrs. Madan, who was for a time the object of some of his artificial gallantry. The only thing that can be said is that his abuse was a sheer piece of Billingsgate, too devoid of plausibility to be more than an expression of

virulent hatred. He was like a dirty boy who throws mud from an ambush, and declares that he did not see the victim bespattered.

A bitter and humiliating quarrel followed. Lord Hervey, who had been described as "Lord Fanny," in the same satire, joined with his friend, Lady Mary, in writing lampoons upon Pope. The best known was a copy of verses, chiefly, if not exclusively by Lady Mary, in which Pope is brutally taunted with the personal deformities of his "wretched little carcass," which, it seems, are the only cause of his being " unwhipt, unblanketed, unkicked." One verse seems to have stung him more deeply, which says that his " crabbed numbers " are

Hard as his heart and as his birth obscure.

To this and other assaults Pope replied by a long letter, suppressed, however, for the time, which, as Johnson says, exhibits to later readers " nothing but tedious malignity," and is, in fact, a careful raking together of everything likely to give pain to his victim. It was not published till 1751, when both Pope and Hervey were dead. In his later writings he made references to Sappho, which fixed the name upon her, and amongst other pleasant insinuations, speaks of a weakness which she shared with Dr. Johnson,—an inadequate appreciation of clean linen. More malignant accusations are implied both in his acknowledged and anonymous writings. The most ferocious of all his assaults, however, is the character of Sporus, that is Lord Hervey, in the epistle to Arbuthnot, where he seems to be actually screaming with malignant fury. He returns the taunts as to effeminacy, and calls his adversary a "mere white curd of asses' milk,"—an innocent drink, which he was himself in the habit of consuming.

We turn gladly from these miserable hostilities, disgraceful to all concerned. Were any excuse available for Pope, it would be in the brutality of taunts, coming not only from rough dwellers in Grub Street, but from the most polished representatives of the highest classes, upon personal defects, which the most ungenerous assailant might surely have spared. But it must also be granted that Pope was neither the last to give provocation, nor, at all inclined to refrain from the use of poisoned weapons.

The other connexion of which I have spoken has also its mystery,—like everything else in Pope's career. Pope had been early acquainted with Teresa and Martha Blount. Teresa was born in the same year as Pope, and Martha two years later.' They were daughters of Lister Blount, of Mapledurham, and after his death, in 1710, and the marriage of their only brother, in 1711, they lived with their mother in London, and passed much of the summer near Twickenham. They seem to have been lively young women, who had been educated at Paris. Teresa was the most religious, and the greatest lover of London society. I have already quoted a passage or two from the early letters addressed to the two sisters. It has also to be said that he was guilty of writing to them stuff which it is inconceivable that any decent man should have communicated to a modest woman. They do not seem to have taken offence. He professes himself the slave of both alternately or together. "Even from my infancy," he says (in 1714) "I have been in love with one or other of you week by week, and my journey to Bath fell out in the 376th week of the reign of my sovereign lady Sylvia. At the present writing hereof, it is the 389th week of the reign of your most serene majesty, in whose service I was listed some weeks before I beheld your sister." He had suggested to Lady Mary that the concluding lines of Eloisa contained a delicate compliment to her ; and he characteristically made a similar insinuation to Martha Blount about the same passage. Pope was decidedly an economist even of his compliments. Some later letters are in less artificial language, and there is a really touching and natural letter to Teresa in regard to an illness of her sister's. After a time, we find that some difficulty has arisen. He feels that his presence gives pain ; when he comes he either makes her (apparently Teresa) uneasy, or he sees her unkind. Teresa, it would seem, is jealous and disapproves of his attentions to Martha. In the midst of this we find that in 1717 Pope settled an annuity upon Teresa of 401. a year for six years, on condition of her not being married during that time. The fact has suggested various speculations, but was, perhaps, only a part of some family arrangement, made convenient by the diminished fortunes of the ladies. Whatever the history, Pope gradually be-came attached to Martha, and simultaneously came to regard Teresa with antipathy. Martha, in fact, became by degrees almost a member of his household. His correspondents take for granted that she is his regular companion. He writes of her to Gay, in 1730, as " a friend—a woman friend, God help me !—with whom I have spent three or four hours a day these fifteen years." In his last years, when he was most dependent upon kindness, he seems to have expected that she should be invited to any house which he was himself to visit. Such a close connexion naturally caused some scandal. In 1725, he defends himself against "villanous lying tales" of this kind to his old friend Caryll, with whom the Blounts were connected. At the same time he is making bitter complaints of Teresa. He accused her afterwards (1729) of having an intrigue with a married man, of " striking, pinching, and abusing her mother to the utmost shamefulness." The mother, he thinks, is too meek to resent this tyranny, and Martha, as it appears, refuses to believe the reports against her sister. Pope audaciously suggests that it would be a good thing if the mother could be induced to retire to a convent, and is anxious to persuade Martha to leave so painful a home. The same complaints reappear in many letters, but the position remained unaltered. It is impossible to say with any certainty what may have been the real facts. Pope's mania for suspicion deprives his suggestions of the slightest value. The only inference to be drawn is, that he drew closer to Martha Blount as years went by ; and was anxious that she should become independent of het family. This naturally led to mutual dislike and suspicion,, but nobody can now say whether Teresa pinched her mother, nor what would have been her account of Martha's relations to Pope.

Johnson repeats a story that Martha neglected Pope "with shameful unkindness," in his later years. It is clearly exaggerated or quite unfounded. At any rate, the poor sickly man, in his premature and childless old age, looked up to her with fond affection, and left to her nearly the whole of his fortune. His biographers have indulged in discussions—surely superfluous—as to the morality of the connexion. There is no question of seduction, or of tampering with the affections of an innocent woman. Pope was but too clearly disqualified from acting the part of Lothario. There was not in his case any Vanessa to give a tragic turn to the connexion, which, otherwise, resembled Swift's connexion with Stella. Miss Blount, from all that appears, was quite capable of taking care of her-self, and had she wished for marriage, need only have intimated her commands to her lover. It is probable enough that the relations between them led to very unpleasant scenes in her family ; but she did not suffer otherwise in accepting Pope's attentions. The probability seems to be that the friendship had become imperceptibly closer, and that what began as an idle affectation of gallantry was slowly changed into a devoted attachment, but not until Pope's health was so broken that marriage would then, if not always, have appeared to be a mockery.

Poets have a bad reputation as husbands. Strong passions and keen sensibilities may easily disqualify a man for domestic tranquillity, and prompt a revolt against rules essential to social welfare. Pope, like other poets from Shakspeare to Shelley, was unfortunate in his love affairs ; but his ill-fortune took a characteristic shape. He was not carried away, like Byron and Burns, by overpowering passions. Rather the emotional power which lay in his nature was prevented from displaying itself by his physical infirmities, and his strange trickiness and morbid irritability. A man who could not make tea without a stratagem, could hardly be a downright lover. We may imagine that he would at once make advances and retract them ; that he would be intolerably touchy and suspicious ; that every coolness would be interpreted as a deli-berate insult, and that the slightest hint would be enough to set his jealousy in a flame. A woman would feel that, whatever his genius and his genuine kindliness, one thing was impossible with him—that is, a real confidence in his sincerity ; and, therefore, on the whole, it may, perhaps, be reckoned as a piece of good fortune for the most wayward and excitable of sane mankind, that if he never fully gained the most essential condition of all human happiness, he yet formed a deep and lasting attachment to a woman who, more or less, returned his feeling. In a life so full of bitterness, so harassed by physical pain, one is glad to think, even whilst admitting that the suffering was in great part foolish self-torture, and in part inflicted as a retribution for injuries to others, that some glow of feminine kindliness might enlighten the dreary stages of his progress through life. The years left to him after the death of his mother were few and evil, and it would be hard to grudge him such consolation as he could receive from the glances of Patty Blount's blue eyes—the eyes which, on Walpole's testimony, were the last remains of her beauty.



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