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The revival of learning mentioned in this poem, affords an opportunity of mentioning the chief periods of literary history, of which this writer reckons five; that of Alexander, of Ptolemy Philadelphus, of Augustus, of Leo the Tenth, of Queen Anne.
These observations are concluded with a remark which deserves great attention ; “ In no polished nation, after criticism has been much studied, and the rules of writing established, has any very extraordinary book ever appeared."
The Rape of the Lock was always regarded by Pope as the highest production of his genius. On occasion of this work, the history of the comic hero is given ; and we are told that it descended from Fassoni to Boileau, from Boileau to Garth, and from Garth to Pope. Garth is mentioned perhaps with too much honour ; but all are confessed to be inferior to Pope. There is in his remarks on this work no discovery of any latent beauty, nor any thing subtle or striking ; he is indeed commonly. right, but has discussed no difficult question.
The next pieces to be considered are the Verses to the Memory of an unfortunate Lady, the Prologue to Cato, and Epilogue to Jane Shore. The first piece he commends. On occasion of the second he digresses according to his custom, into a learned dissertation on tragedies, and compares the English and French with the Greek stage. He justly cnsures Cato for want of action and of characters ; but scarcely does justice to the sublimity of some speeches and the philosophical exactness in the sentiments. 6 The simile of mount Atlas, and that of the Numidian traveller smothered in the sands, are in
deed in character,” says the critic,“ but sufficiently obvious." The simile of the mountain is indeed common; but of that of the traveller I do not remember. That it is obvious is easy to say, and easy to deny. Many things are obvious when they are taught.
He proceeds to criticise the other works of Addison, till the epilogue calls his attention to Rowe, whose character he discusses in the same manner with sufficient freedom and sufficient candour.
The translation of the Epistle of Sanpho to Phaon is next considered ; but Sappho and Ovid are more the subjects of this disquisition than Pope. We shall there. fore pass over it to a piece of more importance, the Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard, which may justly be regarded as one of the works on which the reputation of Pope will stand in future times.
The critic pursues Eloisa through all the changes of passion, produces the passages of her letters to which any allusion is made, and intersperses many agreeable particulars and incidental relations. There is not much profundity, of criticism, because the beauties are sentiments of nature, which the learned and the ignorant feel alike. It is justly remarked by him, that the wish of Eloisa for the happy passage of Abelard into the other world, is formed according to the ideas of mystic devotion.
These are the pieces examined in this volume ; whether the remaining part of the work will be one volume or more, perhaps the writer himself cannot yet inform us.* This piece is, however, a complete work, so far as it goes ; and the writer is of opinion that he has despatched the chief part of his task; for he ventures to remark, that the reputation of Pope as a poet, among posterity, will be principally founded on his Windsor Forest, Rape of the Lock, and Eloisa to Abelard ; while the facts and characters alluded to in his late writings will be forgotten and unknown, and their poignancy and propriety little relished; for wit and satire are transitory and perishable, but nature and passion are eternal.
He has interspersed some passages of Pope's life, with which most readers will be pleased. When Pope was yet a child, his father, who had been a merchant in London, retired to Binfield. He was taught to read by an aunt; and learned to write without a master, by copying printed books. His father used to order him to make English verses, and would oblige him to correct and retouch them over and over, and at last could say, “ These are good rhymes.”
At eight years of age, he was committed to one Tave erner, a priest, who taught him the rudiments of the Latin and Greek. At this time he met with Ogleby's Homer, which seized his attention ; he fell next upon Sandy's Ovid, and remembered these two translations with pleasure to the end of his life.
About ten, being at school near Hyde Park Corner, he was taken to the playhouse, and was so struck with the splendour of the drama, that he formed a kind of
* The second volume of Dr. Warton's Essay was not published until the year 1782.
play out of Ogleby's Homer, intermixed with verses of his own. He persuaded the head boys to act this piece, and Ajax was performed by his master's gardener. They were habited according to the pictures in Ogleby. At twelve he retired with his father to Windsor Forest, and formed himself by study in the best English poets.
In this extract it was thought convenient to dwell chiefly upon such observations as relate immediately to Pope, without deviating with the author into incidental inquiries. We intend to kindle, not to extinguish, curiosity, by this slight sketch of a work abounding with curious quotations and pleasing disquisitions. He must be much acquainted with literary history, both of remote and late times, who does not find in this essay many things which he did not know before ; and if there be any too learned to be instructed in facts or opinions, he may yet properly read this book as a just specimen of literary moderation.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE
APPOINTED TO MANAGE THE CONTRIBUTIONS, BEGON
AT LONDON, DEC. 18, 1758, FOR CLOTHING
FRENCH PRISONERS OF WAR.
The committee intrusted with the money contributed to the relief of the subjects of France, now prisoners in the British dominions, here lay before the public an exact account of all the sums received and expended, that the donors may judge how properly their benefactions have been applied.
Charity would lose its name, were it influenced by so mean a motive as human praise ; it is therefore not intended to celebrate by any particular memorial, the liberality of single persons, or distinct societies ; it is sufficient that their works praise them.
Yet he who is far from seeking honour, may very justly obviate censure. If a good example has been set, it may lose its influence by misrepresentation ; and to free charity from reproach, is itself a charitable action.
Against the relief of the French only one argument has been brought ; but that one is so popular and specious, that if it were to remain unexamined, it would by many be to ught irrefragable. It has been urged, that