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your house, when I came within the walls, they put me in mind of those of Carthage, where you find, like the wandering Trojan
* Animum picturâ pascit inani;'
for the spacious mansion, like a Turkish caravansera, entertains the vagabonds with bare lodgings. I rule the family very ill, keep bad hours, and lend out your pictures about the town. See what it is to have a poet in your house. Frank, indeed, does all he can in such circumstances; for, considering he has a wild beast in it, he constantly keeps the door chained: every time it is opened, the links rattle, the rusty hinges roar. The house seems so sensible that you are all its support, that it is ready to drop in your absence; but I still trust myself under its roof, as depending that Providence will preserve so many Raphaels, Titians, and Guidos as are lodged in your cabinet. Surely the sins of one poet can hardly be so heavy, as to bring an old house over the heads of so many painters. In a word, your house is falling; but what of that? I am only a lodger!”
This was mere pleasant badinage. During Jervas's absence Pope made a journey on horseback to Oxford, a place he was fond of visiting ; and his account of his journey, and mode of passing his time there, given in a letter to Martha Blount, is a pleasant near peep into his life. “Nothing could have more of that melancholy which once used to please me than my last day's journey; for, after having passed through my favourite woods in the forest, with a thousand reveries of past pleasures, I rode over hanging hills, whose tops were edged with groves, and whose feet watered with winding rivers, listening to the falls of cataracts below, and the murmuring of the winds above. The gloomy verdure of Stonor succeeded to these, and then the shades of the evening overtook me: the moon rose in the clearest sky I ever saw, by whose solemn light I passed on slowly without company, or any interruption to the range of my thoughts. About a mile before I reached Oxford, all the bells rang out in different notes ; the clocks of every college answered one another, and sounded forth, some in deeper, some in softer tones, that it was eleven at night. All this was no ill preparation to the life I have since led among these old walls, memorable galleries, stone
porticos, students' walks, and solitary scenes of the University. I wanted nothing but a black gown and a salary to be as mere a bookworm as any there. I conformed myself to college hours, was rolled up in books, lay in the most dusky parts of the University, and was as dead to the world as any hermit of the desert. If anything was alive or awake in me it was a little vanity, such as even those good men used to entertain, when the monks of their own order extolled their piety and abstraction ; for I found myself received with a sort of respect which the idle part of mankind, the learned, pay to their own species ; who are as considerable here as the busy, the gay, and the ambitious are in your world. Indeed, I was treated in such a manner, that I could not but sometimes ask myself in my mind, what college I was founder of, or what library I had built. Methinks, I do very ill to return to the world again; to leave the only place where I make a figure; and from seeing myself seated with dignity in the most conspicuous shelves of a library, put myself into the abject posture of lying at a lady's feet in St. James's Square."
There is a good deal of the poetical and picturesque in this account, as in another, of a ride to Oxford about two years before, there is of the picturesque and ludicrous. Pope and his cotemporaries, Swift, Addison, and Steele, have made immortal the triad of great publishers of their day—Tonson, Lintot, and Curll. Curll issued to the light a stolen volume of Pope's letters, to the poet's astonishment; and, on Pope's very natural anger, with very bibliopolical coolness, replied that Mr. Pope ought to be very much obliged to him for making them known, for they did him so much credit. Jacob Tonson was the John Murray of his day; he turned out the most splendid editions of standard works, and was moreover the secretary of the great political Whig, or Kit-cat club, of which the dukes of Somerset, Richmond, Grafton, Devonshire, and Marlborough; the earls of Dorset, Sunderland, Manchester, Wharton, and Kingston; lords Halifax and Somers; Sir Richard Steele, Addison, Congreve, Garth, Mainwaring, Pulteney, and many other distinguished men, were members. These, such was the munificence of the great bibliopole, lie employed Sir Godfrey Kneller to paint for him, of a size to admit of representing the heads, and which has since been called the kit-cat size. Munificent, however, as he was, Lintot soon out-bid him for Pope's Homer, and made his fortune by it.
Of Lintot's active schemes to turn a penny, the ride just mentioned to Oxford affords a curious example. Pope had borrowed a horse of Lord Burlington, and set out alone. He had most likely mentioned his going in Lintots shop, for he had but just entered Windsor Forest, when who should come trotting up behind at a smart rate but Bernard Lintot. Pope had an instant feeling of Lintot's design, and in a letter to Lord Burlington gave a humorous and characteristic account of the singular conversation which took place between them. Pope had observed that Lintot, who was more accustomed to get astride of authors than of horses, sat uneasily in his saddle, for which he expressed some solicitude, when Lintot proposed that, as they had the day before them, it would be pleasant to sit awhile under the woods. When they had alighted, “ See here,” said Lintot, “what a mighty pretty Horace I have in my pocket! What if you amused yourself in turning an ode till we mount again ? Lord ! if
you pleased, what a clever miscellany you might make at leisure hours." "Perhaps I may," said Pope, “if we ride on; the motion is an aid to my fancy; a round trot very
much awakens my spirits; then jog on apace, and I'll think as hard as
Silence ensued for a full hour, after which Lintot stopped short, and broke out—"Well, sir, how far have you gone ?"_“Seven miles," answered Pope. “Zounds! sir,” exclaimed Lintot, “I thought you had done seven stanzas. Oldsworth in a ramble round Wimbledon Hill would translate a whole ode in this time. I'll say that for Oldsworth, though I lost by his Timothys, he translates an ode of Horace the quickest of any man in England. I remember Dr. King would write verses in a tavern, three hours after he could not speak; and there is Sir Richard, in that rumbling old chariot of his, between Fleet-street and St. Giles's Pound, shall make you half a Job.” Pope jogged on to Oxford, and dropped Lintot as soon as he
We may imagine Pope, during his occasional visits to London, looking in at Lintot's to see what was coming out new, or spending a morning with Swift at his lodgings; with Bolingo broke; or with Gay, at the Duke of Queensbury's; with Lord Burlington, or Lord Halifax; and in the evening meeting in full conclave all the wits and philosophers of the time, at Will's coffee-house, or at Button's, to which the company which used to meet at Will's had been transferred by the influence of Addison. This was also called the Hanover club, because the members adhered to the Whig principles and the house of Hanover. But Pope was equally welcome at the Tory club, which had been constituted by his great friends, Bolingbroke and Harley, on the downfal of the Whigs at the peace of Utrecht, in opposition to the Kit-cat club, and where these noblemen, their great champion Swift, Sir William Wyndham, Lord Bathurst, Dr. Arbuthnot, and other men of note of that party assembled. This was called the October club, from the month in which the great alteration in the ministry took place. Later, when the dissensions arose between Harley and Bolingbroke, a more exclusively literary club was formed, of which Swift, Gay, Parnell, and Arbuthnot were members. This was the Scriblerus club, amidst whose convivialities originated the History of Martinus Scriblerus; the Discourse on the Bathos, and Gulliver's Travels.
At all these places, Pope, who having friends of all parties would not commit himself to any political party, was always welcome, though the casual influence of party did not fail to take its effect, and do the work of estrangement amongst many of the leading spirits of the time. Pope always professed to hold Whig principles, but in fact there was little distinction of political principle at that period, the chief difference was the difference of mere party.
To the nation and its interests it was of little consequence what leader was in power.
Amid all the convivialities, the excitements of wine, wit, and conversation, which so many meetings of celebrated men opened to Pope, he began to find himself growing dissipated, and his health suffering. His wise old friend, Sir William Trumbull, warned him of his danger with an affectionate earnestness, and it is supposed with due effect. “I now come,” said
he, “to what is of vast moment, I mean the preservation of your health, and beg of you earnestly to get out of all tavern company, and fly away tanquam ex incendio. What a misery it is for you to be destroyed by the foolish kindness it is all one, real or pretended—of those who are able to bear the poison of bad wine, and to engage you in so unequal a combat. As to Homer, by all I can learn, your business is done; therefore come away, and take a little time to breathe in the country. I beg now for my own sake, and much more for yours. Methinks Mr. has said to you more than once
* Heu ! fuge, nati dea, teque his, ait, eripe flammis.'” Pope felt the justice of this call, and obeyed. It was not, however, without a lingering and reverted look, as a letter of his to Jervas testifies. “I cannot express how I long to renew our old intercourse and conversation; our morning conference in bed in the same room, our evening walks in the Park, our amusing voyages on the water, our philosophical suppers, our lectures, our dissertations, our gravities, our fooleries, or what not."
It appears that not merely Jervas, Parnell, Garth, Rowe, and others of like respectable character, were his companions in the amusements referred to, but that unfortunately for him he had fallen into the company of the dissolute Earl of Warwick, Addison's son-in-law, and of Colley Cibber; who, availing themselves of his vivacity, laid a deliberate plan to engage him in an affair derogatory to his reputation. But he cut wisely these connexions, and London, with a valediction to be found in his verses written in the character of a philosophical rake:
“Dear, damned, distracting town, farewell;
Thy fools no more I'll tease,” &c.