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When Catiline by rapine swell’d his store ;
NOTES. Ver. 207. 'Twas all for fear, &c.] To understand this, we must observe, that the lust of general praise made the person, whose character is here so admirably drawn, both extravagant and flagitious : his madness was to please the Fools,
“ Women and Fools must like him, or he dies.” And his crimes, to avoid the censure of the Knaves,
“ 'Twas all for fear the Knaves should call him fool.” Prudence and Honesty being the two qualities in which fools and knaves are most interested, and consequently most industrious, to misrepresent. W.
Ver. 213. When Cæsar made] This was Servilia, the sister of Cato, and the mother of Brutus. “How great,” says St. Real, finely, “must have been her affliction at the death of Cæsar her lover, massacred by the hand of her own son! who perhaps hoped to efface this suspicion of his bastardy by this very action ! Historians have neglected to inform us of the fate of this most unhappy mistress and mother. Nothing could have been more interesting than the history of Servilia after this event. Next to Cleopatra, she was the most beloved of all Cæsar's mistresses ; and Suetonius says, Cæsar bought for her a single jewel at the price of 50,0001.
Ver. 214. In this the Lust,] The same passion excited Richelieu to throw up the dyke at Rochelle, and to dispute the prize of poetry with Corneille ; whom to traduce was the surest method of gaining the affection of this ambitious minister ; nay, who formed a design to be canonized as a Saint. A perfect contrast to the character of Cardinal Fleury, who shewed that it was possible to govern a great state with moderate abilities and a mild temper. His ministry is impartially represented by Voltaire in the age of Louis XIV.
Ver. 215. Ambition was the vice.] Pride, Vanity, and Ambition, are such bordering and neighbouring vices, and hold so much in common, that we generally find them going together; and therefore, as generally mistake them for one another. This does not
That very Cæsar born in Scipio's days,
In this one Passion man can strength enjoy,
NOTES. a little contribute to our confounding characters ; for they are, in reality, very different and distinct ; so much so, that it is remarkable, the three greatest men in Rome, and contemporaries, possessed each of these passions separately, with very little mixture of the other two: the men I mean were, Cæsar, Cato, and Cicero: for Cæsar had ambition without either vanity or pride; Cato had pride without ambition or vanity; and Cicero had vanity without pride or ambition. The aim of these passions too, are very different. VANITY leads.men, as it did Cicero, to seek homage from others : PRIDE, as it did Cato, to seek homage from one's self: and AMBITION, as in the case of Cæsar, to dispense with it from all, for the sake of solid interest. W.
Ver. 225. it sticks to our last sand, &c.] “ M. de Lagny mourut le 12 Avril 1734. Dans les derniers momens, ou il ne connoissoit plus aucun de ceux qui etoient autour de son lit, quelqu’un, pour faire une experience philosophique, s'avisa de lui demander quel étoit le quarré de douze : Il repondit dans l'instant, et apparemment sans savoir qu'il repondit, cent quarante quatre.” Fontenelle, Eloge de M. de Lagny.
Ver. 228. Old Politicians] The strength and continuance of what our Author calls the Ruling Passion, concerning which see ver. 174, and the notes, is strongly exemplified in these eight cha
As weak, as earnest; and as gravely out,
NOTES. racters, namely, the Politician, the Debauchee, the Glutton, the Economist, the Coquet, the Courtier, the Miser, and the Patriot. Of these characters, the most lively, because the most dramatic, are the fifth and seventh. There is true humour also in the circumstance of the frugal Crone, who blows out one of the consecrated tapers in order to prevent its wasting.--Shall I venture to insert another example or two ?-An old usurer, lying in his last agonies, was presented by the priest with the crucifix. He opened his eyes a moment before he expired, attentively gazed on it, and cried out, “ These jewels are counterfeit; I cannot lend more than ten pistoles upon so wretched a pledge.” To reform the language of his country was the ruling passion of Malherbe. The priest, who attended him in his last moments, asked him if he was not affected with the description he gave him of the joys of heaven? "By no means," answered the incorrigible bard; “I desire to hear no more of them, if you cannot describe them in a purer style.” Both these stories would have shone under the hands of Pope.
This doctrine of our Author may be farther illustrated by the following passage of Bacon: “It is no less worthy to observe how little alteration, in good spirits, the approaches of death make, for they appear to be the same men till the last instant. Augustus Cæsar died in a compliment; Livia, conjugii nostri memor, vive et vale. Tiberius, in dissimulation; as Tacitus saith of him, Jam Tiberium vires et corpus, non dissimulatio, deserebant. Vespasian, in a jest; Ut puto Deus fio. Galba, with a sentence: Feri, si ex re sit populi Romani; holding forth his neck. Septimus Severus, in a dispatch; Adeste, si quid mihi restat agendum.”
This Epistle concludes with a stroke of art worthy admiration. The Poet suddenly stops the vein of ridicule with which he was flowing, and addresses his friend in a most delicate compliment, concealed under the appearance of satire.
Ver. 231. Lanesb’row] An ancient Nobleman, who continued this practice long after his legs were disabled by the gout. Upon the death of Prince George of Denmark, he demanded an audience of the Queen, to advise her to preserve her health and dispel her grief by dancing. P.
Behold a rev'rend sire, whom want of grace Has made the father of a nameless race, Shov'd from the wall perhaps, or rudely press’d By his own son, that passes by unbless'd: 235 Still to his wench he crawls on knocking knees, And envies ev'ry sparrow that he sees.
A salmon's belly, Helluo, was thy fate ; The doctor call’d, declares all help too late : “ Mercy !" cries Helluo, “ mercy on my soul! 240 Is there no hope ? Alas! then bring the
jowl.” The frugal Crone, whom praying priests attend, Still tries to save the hallow'd taper's end, Collects her breath, as ebbing life retires, For one puff more, and in that puff expires. 245
“ Odious ! in woollen ! ’twould a Saint provoke (Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke),
NOTES. Ver. 241. then bring the jowl.] It is remarkable that a similar story may be found in the eighth book of Athenæus, concerning the poet Philoxenus, a writer of dithyrambics, who grew sick by eating a whole polypus, except the head; and who, when his physician told him he would never recover from his surfeit, called out, “Bring me then the head of the polypus.” It is not here insinuated that Pope was a reader of Athenæus ; but he evidently copied this ludicrous instance of gluttony from La Fontaine :
“Puis qu'il faut que je meure
Sans faire tant de façon,
Le reste de mon poisson.”
Ver. 245 expires.] He repeated these four lines to Mr. J. Richardson many years before they were here inserted.
Ver. 247. the last words that poor Narcissa spoke,] This story,
No, let a charming Chintz and Brussels lace
The Courtier smooth, who forty years had shin'd
stir, “If—where I'm going— I could serve you, Sir?”
“I give and I devise (old Euclio said, 256 And sigh’d) my lands and tenements to Ned.” Your money, Sir? “My money, Sir, what all ? Why,-If I must-(then wept) I give it Paul.” The Manor, Sir?—“The Manor ! hold,” he cry'd, “Not that, -I cannot part with that”—and died.
And you ! brave Cobham, to the latest breath, Shall feel your Ruling Passion strong in death ; Such in those moments as in all the past; “Oh, save my Country, Heav’n,” shall be your last.
NOTES. as well as the others, is founded on fact, though the author had the goodness not to mention the names. Several attribute this in particular to a very celebrated Actress, who, in detestation of the thought of being buried in woollen, gave these her last orders with her dying breath. P.
The Betty here mentioned was Mrs. Saunders, Mrs. Oldfield's friend and confidant; a good actress in parts of decayed widows and old maids.
Ver. 261, and died.] Sir William Bateman used these very words on his death-bed. No comic nor satiric writer has ever carried their descriptions of avarice or gluttony so far as what has happened in real life. Other vices have been exaggerated; these two never have been.