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he continually introduces concrete illustrations and employs figures suggested by poetic imagination, so that the treatment of the subject is redeemed from scientific severity. Moreover, as an artist, in the manipulation of the decasyllabic couplet, he is supreme. It is by its poetic invention, which is adequate, and its versification, which is masterly, that the Essay on Criticism or the Essay on Man justly claims a high place in English poetry. And the Rape of the Lock shows us that when Pope worked with materials which admitted of the untrammelled play of imagination, the resources of his imagination were immense. Hazlitt speaks of the poem as 'the most exquisite specimen of filagree work ever invented...the perfection of the mock-heroic1.' Johnson finds it difficult to make any addition 'to the praises which have been accumulated on it by readers of every class, from the critick to the waiting maid2.' And De Quincey, who sometimes showed his regard for Pope in a singular way, describes it as 'the most exquisite monument of playful fancy that universal literature offers3' 'A reader,' says Mr Lowell, 'is happiest whose mind is broad enough to enjoy the natural school for its nature, and the artificial for its artificiality, provided only they be good of their kind. At any rate we must allow that the man who can produce one perfect work is either a great genius or a very lucky one; and, so far as we who read are concerned, it is of secondary importance which.And Pope has done this in the Rape of the Lock. For wit, fancy, invention, and keeping, it has never beển surpassed. I do not say that there is in it poetry of the highest order, or that Pope is a poet whom anyone would choose as the companion of his best hours. There is no inspiration in it, no trumpet-call, but for pure entertainment it is unmatched.' And again: 'Pope had one of the prime qualities of a great poet in exactly answering the intellectual needs of the age in which he lived, and in reflecting its lineaments. He did in some not
1 Lectures on the English Poets, pp. 142-3.
inadequate sense hold the mirror up to nature....It was a mirror in a drawing-room, but it gave back a faithful image of society, powdered and rouged, to be sure, and intent on trifles, yet still as human in its own way as the heroes of Homer in theirs'.'
The Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady and the Eloisa to Abelard show us Pope at his highest level of passion and pathos. These poems contain passages unquestionably impressive, but their general effect is marred by artificiality. The pathos often finds vent in epigram, and the passion fizzles out in rhetoric.
It is in the Satires and Epistles that Pope's genius appears to the best advantage. In compositions of this kind we look not for 'inspiration, lofty sentiment, the heroic soul, chivalrous devotion, the inner eye of faith?,' but for wit, sparkle, antithesis, vivacity, polished aphorism, worldly wisdom. All this Pope supplies in abundance. And he has his reward in the currency which has been given to his lines. No other writer save Shakespeare has contributed so many phrases to our national stock of quotations as Pope, and if his writings are no longer preserved in the minds of men, his lines are often on their lips.
'Much of his work,' says Mr Leslie Stephen, 'may be fairly described as rhymed prose, differing from prose not in substance or tone of feeling, but only in the form of expression3.' The criticism is perfectly just. But Matthew Arnold goes beyond this when he states that, 'though they may write in verse, though they may in a certain sense be masters of the art of versification, Dryden and Pope are not classics of our poetry, they are classics of our prose4.' This is criticism run to paradox.
Here then we must leave the question propounded at the beginning of this section, a question, as Mr Lowell says,
1 My Study Windows, 'Pope,' p. 342.
2 Ward's English Poets: M. Pattison's Introduction to Pope, Vol.
3 Pope, p. 190.
Ward's English Poets, Introduction, Vol. 1. pp. xxxix.—xl.
which is not to be settled by any amount of argument or demonstration. 'There are born Popists or Wordsworthians, Lockists or Kantists, and there is nothing more to be said of the matter.' Pope is at any rate in secure possession of a high place as a great author, a classic of English literature. Test his pretensions to this position by the conditions stated in the following passage from Cardinal Newman and he comes forth triumphant:
'I do not claim for a great author, as such, any great depth of thought, or breadth of view, or philosophy, or sagacity, or knowledge of human nature, or experience of human life,— though these additional gifts he may have, and the more he has of them the greater he is, but I ascribe to him, as his characteristic gift, in a large sense, the faculty of expression.... He always has the right word for the right idea, and never a word too much. If he is brief, it is because few words suffice; if he is lavish of them, still each word has its mark, and aids, not embarrasses, the vigorous march of his elocution. He expresses what all feel, but all cannot say, and his sayings pass into proverbs amongst his people, and his phrases become household words and idioms of their daily speech, which is tesselated with the rich fragments of his language, as we see in foreign lands the marbles of Roman grandeur worked into the walls and pavements of modern palaces1.'
POPE'S ALLEGED 'CORRECTNESS.'
'Walsh used to encourage me much,' Pope informed Spence, 'and used to tell me that there was one way left of excelling; for though we had several great poets, we never had any one great poet who was correct; and desired me to make that my study and aim2.'
1 Lectures and Essays on University Subjects: Lecture on 'Literature.' The passage is quoted in Mr Birrell's Essay already referred to. 2 Spence, Anecdotes, p. 129.
What Walsh,-'the Muse's judge and friend,' of the Essay on Criticism1,—meant by 'correctness' has been the subject of a controversy waged with much unnecessary warmth, and still remains, like the 'Patavinity' of Livy, an undetermined problem of literature.
It is always pleasant to find a pretext for decorating one's pages with a passage from Macaulay, and no apology is needed for quoting him at some length upon the present topic:
'We constantly hear it said, that the poets of the age of Elizabeth had far more genius, but far less correctness, than those of the age of Anne. It seems to be taken for granted, that there is some incompatibility, some antithesis between correctness and creative power. What is meant by correctness in poetry? If by correctness be meant the conforming to rules which have their foundation in truth and in the principles of human nature, then correctness is only another name for excellence. If by correctness be meant the conforming to rules purely arbitrary, correctness may be another name for dulness and absurdity.
'A writer who describes visible objects falsely and violates the propriety of character. . . may be said, in the high and just sense of the phrase, to write incorrectly. He violates the first great law of his art. His imitation is altogether unlike the thing imitated. The four poets who are most eminently free from incorrectness of this description are Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton. They are, therefore, in one sense, and that the best sense, the most correct of poets.
'We can discover no eternal rule, no rule founded in reason and in the nature of things, which Shakespeare does not observe much more strictly than Pope. But if by correctness be meant the conforming to a narrow legislation which, while lenient to the mala in se, multiplies, without a shadow of a reason, the mala prohibita, . . . then, assuredly, Pope may be a more correct poet than Shakespeare . . . But it may well be doubted whether this kind of correctness be a merit, nay, whether it be not an absolute fault.
'Poetry is, as was said more than two thousand years ago, imitation. An art essentially imitative ought not surely to be subjected to rules which tend to make its imitations less perfect than they otherwise would be; and those who obey such rules ought to be called, not correct, but incorrect artists. The true way to judge of the rules by which English poetry was governed during the last century is to look at the effects which they produced..
'It was during the thirty years which preceded the appearance of Johnson's Lives  that the diction and versification of English poetry were, in the sense in which the word is commonly used, most correct. Those thirty years are, as respects poetry, the most deplorable part of our literary history. They have indeed bequeathed to us scarcely
1 1. 729.
any poetry which deserves to be remembered. Two or three hundred lines of Gray, twice as many of Goldsmith, a few stanzas of Beattie and Collins, a few strophes of Mason, and a few clever prologues and satires, were the masterpieces of this age of consummate excellence. They may all be printed in one volume, and that volume would be by no means a volume of extraordinary size. It would contain no poetry of the very highest class, and little which could be placed very high in the second class. The Paradise Regained or Comus would outweigh them all1.'
Here we have excellent sense admirably expressed, quite unlike much of the slip-slop which is served up as literary criticism in the present day. Yet, as an answer to the inquiry what constitutes 'correctness' in poetry, it misses the mark and shows us instead that writers of the 'correct' school, judged by their fruits, rank low. One may imagine that 'knowing' Walsh would have indignantly protested to Macaulay,-'What I meant by "correctness" I can't precisely say, but I am quite sure of this, that I never meant what you seem to think I mean.'
To clear the matter up, De Quincey propounds a series of questions with the rigour of a truculent barrister who intends to stand no nonsense from a prevaricating witness. 'Correctness in what? In developing the thought? In connecting it, or effecting the transitions? In the use of words? In the grammar? In the metre? Under every one of these limitations of the idea, we maintain that Pope is not distinguished by correctness; nay, that as compared with Shakespeare he is eminently incorrect?.'
1 Essays, 'Life of Byron,' Vol. II. pp. 153—7..
2 Collected Works, Vol. xv. p. 141, a reprint of De Quincey's article 'Pope' in the Encycl. Brit. De Quincey discussed Pope in three other papers, (1) Leaders in Literature, ‘Pope,' Vol. viii. pp. 1-53; (2) Lord Carlisle's Lecture on Pope, Vol. x11. pp. 1–58; and more briefly (3) Review of Schloesser's Literary History of the Eighteenth Century, Vol. VII. pp. 64-71. Naturally the sameness of the ground to be traversed involves a good deal of sameness in the treatment. In his paper on Lord Carlisle's lecture (Vol. XII. pp. 57-8) De Quincey deals with Pope's claim to 'correctness' in his best style of boisterous invective. 'Walsh, who was a sublime old blockhead, suggested to Pope that " correctness was the only tight-rope upon which a fresh
literary performer in England could henceforth dance with any advantage of novelty; all other tight-ropes and slack-ropes of every descrip