Зображення сторінки

dler's under the blind arch in Petty France, the two translators in bed together, the poet in the cock-loft in Budge Row, whose landlady keeps the ladder. It was Pope, I fear, who contributed, more than any man who ever lived, to depreciate the literary calling. It was not an unprosperous one before that time, as we have seen; at least there were great prizes in the profession which had made Addison a Minister, and Prior an Ambassador, and Steele a Commissioner, and Swift all but a Bishop. The profession of letters was ruined by that libel of the "Dunciad.” If authors were wretched and poor before, if some of them lived in haylofts, of which their landladies kept the ladders, at least nobody came to disturb them in their straw; if three of them had but one coat between them, the two remained invisible in the garret, the third, at any rate, appeared decently at the coffeehouse and paid his twopence like a gentleman. It was Pope that dragged into light all this poverty and meanness, and held up those wretched shifts and rags to public ridicule. It was Pope that has made generations of the reading world (delighted with the mischief, as who would not be that reads it?) believe that author and wretch, author and rags, author and dirt, author and drink, gin, cow-heel, tripe, poverty, duns, bailiffs, squalling children and clamorous landladies, were always associated together. The condition of authorship began to fall from the days of the “Dunciad: ” and I believe in my heart that much of that obloquy which has since pursued our calling was occasioned by Pope's libels and wicked wit. Everybody read those. Everybody was familiarised with the idea of the poor devil, the author. The manner is so captivating that young authors practise it, and begin their career with satire. to write, and so pleasant to read! to fire a shot that makes a giant wince, perhaps; and fancy one's self his

It is so easy

conqueror. It is easy to shoot but not as Pope did. The shafts of his satire rise sublimely: no poet's verse ever mounted higher than that wonderful fight with which the “Dunciad” concludes:

“She comes, she comes ! the sable throne behold
Of Night primeval and of Chaos old;
Before her, Fancy's gilded clouds decay,
And all its varying rainbows die away;
Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
The meteor drops, and in a flash expires.
As, one by one, at dread Medea's strain
The sick’ning stars fade off the ethereal plain;
As Argus' eyes, by Hermes' wand oppress'd,
Closed, one by one, to everlasting rest ;-
Thus, at her felt approach and secret might,
Art after Art goes out, and all is night.
See skulking Truth to her old cavern fled,
Mountains of casuistry heaped o'er her head;
Philosophy, that leaned on Heaven before,
Shrinks to her second cause and is no more.
Religion, blushing, veils her sacred fires,
And, unawares, Morality expires.
Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine,
Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine.
Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos, is restored,
Light dies before thy uncreating word;
Thy hand, great Anarch, lets the curtain fall,
And universal darkness buries all." 2

In these astonishing lines Pope reaches, I think, to the very greatest height which his sublime art has attained, and shows himself the equal of all poets of all times. It is the brightest ardour, the loftiest assertion of truth, the most generous wisdom, illustrated by the

1 "He (Johnson) repeated to us, in his forcible melodious manner, the concluding lines of the 'Dunciad.'” - - BOSWELL.

2 “Mr. Langton informed me that he once related to Johnson (on the authority of Spence), that Pope himself admired these lines so much that when he repeated them his voice faltered. And well it might, sir,' said Johnson, 'for they are noble lines.'” – J. BOSWELL, junior.

noblest poetic figure, and spoken in words the aptest, grandest, and most harmonious. It is heroic courage speaking: a splendid declaration of righteous wrath and war. It is the gage flung down, and the silver trumpet ringing defiance to falsehood and tyranny, deceit, dulness, superstition. It is Truth, the champion, shining and intrepid, and fronting the great world-tyrant with armies of slaves at his back. It is a wonderful and victorious single combat, in that great battle, which has always been waging since society began.

In speaking of a work of consummate art one does not try to show what it actually is, for that were vain; but what it is like, and what are the sensations produced in the mind of him who views it. And in considering Pope's admirable career, I am forced into similitudes drawn from other courage and greatness, and into comparing him with those who achieved triumphs in actual war. I think of the works of young Pope as I do of the actions of young Bonaparte or young Nelson. In their common life you will find frailties and meannesses, as great as the vices and follies of the meanest men. But in the presence of the great occasion, the great soul flashes out, and conquers transcendent. In thinking of the splendour of Pope's young victories, of his merit, unequalled as his renown, I hail and salute the achieving genius, and do homage to the pen of a hero.



[ocr errors]

SUPPOSE, as long as novels last and authors aim

at interesting their public, there must always be

in the story a virtuous and gallant hero, a wicked monster his opposite, and a pretty girl who finds a champion; bravery and virtue conquer beauty; and vice, after seeming to triumph through a certain number of pages, is sure to be discomfited in the last volume, when justice overtakes him and honest folks come by their own. There never was perhaps a greatly popular story but this simple plot was carried through it: mere satiric wit is addressed to a class of readers and thinkers quite different to those simple souls who laugh and weep over the novel. I fancy very few ladies indeed, for instance, could be brought to like “Gulliver" heartily, and (putting the coarseness and difference of manners out of the question) to relish the wonderful satire of Jonathan Wild.” In that strange apologue, the author takes for a hero the greatest rascal, coward, traitor, tyrant, hypocrite, that his wit and experience, both large in this matter, could enable him to devise or depict; he accompanies this villain through all the actions of his life, with a grinning deference and a wonderful mock respect: and does n't leave him, till he is dangling at the gallows, when the satirist makes him a low bow and wishes the scoundrel good day.

It was not by satire of this sort, or by scorn and contempt, that Hogarth achieved his vast popularity

and acquired his reputation. His art is quite simple, he speaks popular parables to interest simple hearts, and

i Coleridge speaks of the “beautiful female faces” in Hogarth's pictures, “in whom,” he says, “the satirist never extinguished that love of beauty which belor.ged to him as a poet.” The Friend.

2 "I was pleased with the reply of a gentleman, who, being asked which book he esteemed most in his library, answered 'Shakspeare:' being asked which he esteemed next best, replied “Hogarth. His graphic representations are indeed books : they have the teeming, fruitful, suggestive meaning of words. Other pictures we look at — his prints we read.

“The quantity of thought which Hogarth crowds into every picture would almost unvulgarise every subject which he might choose.

“I say not that all the ridiculous subjects of Hogarth have necessarily something in them to make us like them ; some are indifferent to us, some in their nature repulsive, and only made interesting by the wonderful skill and truth to nature in the painter; but I contend that there is in most of them that sprinkling of the better nature, which, like holy water, chases away and disperses the contagion of the bad. They have this in them, besides, that they bring us acquainted with the every-day human face, — they give us skill to detect those gradations of sense and virtue (which escape the careless or fastidious observer) in the circumstances of the world about us; and prevent that disgust at common life, that tædium quotidianarum formarum, which an unrestricted passion for ideal forms and beauties is in danger of producing. In this, as in many other things, they are analogous to the best novels of Smollett and Fielding.” – CHARLES LAMB.

" It has been observed that Hogarth's pictures are exceedingly unlike any other representations of the same kind of subjects — that they form a class, and have a character, peculiar to themselves. It may be worth while to consider in what this general distinction consists.

"In the first place, they are, in the strictest sense, historical pictures ; and if what Fielding says be true, that his novel of Tom Jones' ought to be regarded as an epic prose-poem, because it contained a regular development of fable, manners, character, and passion, the compositions of Hogarth will, in like manner, be found to have a higher claim to the title of epic pictures than many which have of late arrogated that denomination to themselves. When we say that Hogarth treated his subject historically, we mean that his works represent the manners and humours of mankind in action, and their characters by varied expression. Everything in his pictures has life and motion in it. Not only does the business of the scene never stand still, but every feature and muscle is put into full play; the exact feeling of the moment is brought out, and carried to its utmost height, and then instantly seized and stamped on

« НазадПродовжити »