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Gilchrist might be disposed to a more amicable mode of discussing what I had advanced in regard to Pope's moral character.
But I have since read a publication by him, containing such vulgar slauder, affecting my private life and character, (which are beyond his malice to injure) that I am obliged to set before the public the mode of Christian criticism, of which I believe he has set the first example, in Europe. I trust, therefore, some severer tone of castigation will be pardoned; in regard to such an infamous mode of literary discussion, and such infamous “ arguing from perversions."
In the London Magazine for February, 1820, appeared, in a Review of Spence's ANECDOTES, the following sentence :
“ These testimonies to the worth and virtue of the poet, not consorting with the PURPOSE of Mr. Bowles, be has preferred the representations of his enemies ; and having, with an obliquity unexampled in an editor, RESOLVED TO ASPERSE the moral reputation of his author, it was necessary that he should affect to sneer at the friendly representations of a chronicler, actuated by feelings so unlike his own! The general defamation of Pope's character, Mr. Bowles shares with Curl, Gildon, &c.; but the INQUISITION which he has instituted into the poet's attachment to Martha Blount, is eminently his own; though the PRURIENCY WITH WHICH HIS NOSE IS LAID TO THE GROUNI), to $CENT SOME TAINT in their connection, and the ANATOMICAL MINUTENESS with which he EXAMINĖS and determines on the physical constitution of Pope, might, in charity, be deemed only unseemly in a layman, and occasional critic;-in an Editor, and a CLERGYMAN, such conduct appears to us INDECENT and insUFFERABLY DISGUSTING!!”
How deeply offensive to every sense of decency ought those passages to be, which could call for such a disgusting description. If I bad written any thing in the Life of Pope, which might fairly be thought to merit such a representation, I should deserve the reprobation of every pure and every honorable mind; but if no idea, that could justify such a coarse caricature, ever entered my head; if having looked through all the volumes of the last edition of Pope, to find a passage which could justify such monstrous exaggerations, I have looked in vain ; then I think the literary public will pronounce the writer of it to be the most “ barefaced” dealer in vulgarity, indecency, and slander, that cotemporary criticisin can show.
The writer of this sentence, extracted from the London Magazine, is Octavius Gilchrist! I do not say this unadvisedly, for. he has himself explicitly admitted it, calling it “my castigation !"
I shall non extract, from the Life of Pope, in the last edition, thie only passage which I can suppose he must have had in his eye when he penned the "indecent, yulgar, ribaldry," I have quoted :
Many facts tend to prove, the peculiar susceptibility of his passions, nor can we implicitly believe, that the connexion between him and Martha Blount, was of a nature" so pure and innocent” as his panegyrist, Ruffhead, would make us believe. But whatever there might be of criminality in the connexion, it did not take place till the heyday of youth was over; that is, after the death of her brother, (1720); when he was 98, and she 35. Teresa was of the same age with Pope, being born at Paris, 1688; Martha, three years younger, was born at Mapledyrham, 1691: consequently, she was thirty-five when the connexion between her and Pope became more avowed and explicit. At this time of life there was perhaps no great danger of
“false step.”. Certainly she became by degrees more indifferent to the opinion of the world. At no cine could she have regarded Pope personally with attachment; and when other views were past, she might have acquiesced in her situation, rather than have been gratified by any reciprocities of kindness or affection. But the most extraordinary circumstance, in regard to his connexion with female society, was
, the strange, mixture of indecent and sometimes profane levity, which his conduct and language often exhibited. The cause of this particularity: may be sought, perhaps, in his consciousness o physical defect, which made him affect a character uncongenial, and a language opposite to the truth.”- Life of Pope's Bodilla
If what is bere extracted does, or can excite in the mind, (I will not say of any " Layman,” of any Christian, but) of any human being, such disgusting images as have sprung, up under Mr. Gilchrist's " nose, and which he has drawn with,minuteness?': truly anatomical, and with congenial" pruriency;", then I confess, with sorrow, my couduct deserves the severest animadversions. u.
But, on the contrary, is, as I verily believe, the passage in my Life of Pope, that speaks of his connection with Martha Blount, &c. does not, and cannot excite these filthy ideas and images (here
minutelyspecified), except in the brain of Mr. Gilchrist, I ask, whether, in attributing an article, full of exaggerations, on the same subject, in the Quarterly, Review, to this critic, or, in introducing his
name, I had any reason for distinguishing him with that courtesy which I had hitherto always endeavoured 10 show, from pria. ciple as well as disposition, in literary controversy?
I an now peremptorily called upon to speak of a circumstance which gives me the greatest pain; the mention of a letter I re. ceived from the Editor of the London Magazine
i It is now too late for me to recede, however I may lament that the name of the editor was introduced on the occasion ; but the fact has beeni, by Mr. Gilchrist, positively denied. I am defied to prove this circumstance, and I must consider my own veracity as now called' in question." I therefore' assert, in my own name, and I dare Mr. Gilchrist to contradict me, that the editor of the Magazine, which contamied Mr. Gilchrist's' filthy caricature, did write to me, to say that in the case of Spence's Anecdotes, as the correspondent spoke in the style of editor, the article CERTAINLY SHOULD“ NOT HAVE BEEN adnitted, had not the editor, at the time, been dangerously ill, and incapable of attending to the Magazine ! Metin
It will be observed that' no honor of secregy was violated; and, for myself, I do not fear to declare, that no responsible editor could, upon any principles of justice, to say nothing of the 'ribaldry of expression,
have admitted that criticism, unless he had first seen the specific passages to which it alluded, and was convinced that they contained indecent expressions and disgusting matter, such as could only justify this representation. " It is necessary, absolutely and PAINFULLY necessary,
further to state, respecting the indelicacy of bringing before the public any allusions to 'private correspondence, that PERMISSION so to do was PREVIOUSLY asked! As no answer was returned till nearly a month had elapsed, it was not conceived that any honorable feelings could be violated by publicly mentioning the circumstance of having received such a communication, to such a purport, when, if the most distant intimation of objection had been dropped, during this time, no consideration in the world would, or could, have induced the writer to have made any allusion whatever to sentiments privately expressed.
Mr. Southey's permission was asked, and promptly given, without any restriction, though I shall ever lament that any thing occurred contrary to the feelings of the editor of the London Magazine. It was (rasbly indeed) concluded, that if there had been any particular objection, some notice of it would have been given during the previous three weeks.
I must here also beg to correct another mistake into which I have fallen, in 'hastily writing the article for the Pamphleteer. I allude to the word “stranger," as applied to the editor. Some mis
" understanding may have arisen from the sentence as it stands, for the construction should have been, “ the editor, though nearly a stranger," &c. A revise of the proof-sheet not being returned, the word “ nearly” was omitted.
The editor ought not to have been called a " stranger," as I had been introduced to him by Mr. Moore; yet, it must be added, I
never saw him but that once: the expression, therefore, of “ stranger" was used, though the loss is mine that he should be so.
I admit, also, most willingly, that the letter I received from him, was after Mr. Gilchrist's avowal of his being the writer of the criticism on Spence's Anecdotes, in the London.
The criticism appeared in the Magazine for February; the letter was received in September, and it was occasioned by a letter from me to the unknown editor of the work ; NOT (I beg the reader to remark,) complaining, or even saying a word about the criticism, but communicating a wish that the letter which appears with my name in the Magazine should be inserted.
I never mentioned, to the best of my recollection, one word about the criticism ; and nothing is said of it in the letter published with my name.
The letter that occasioned any reference to the subject, in a previous number, was not mine. It is signed with the initials of the name of the person who wrote it.
Having explicitly stated these things, to the best of my knowledge, I now hope to drop the subject for ever. It will be a miatter of continual regret with me, that any misunderstanding should have arisen, by my fault, with a gentleman, whose character, public and private, I so much esteem. If he had written one word expressive of his feelings, when the permission of taking a sentence from his letter was asked, nothing unpleasant could have occurred; and I only lament now, that under any circumstances, a name should have been introduced without express consent.
No person, who bas written like Mr. Gilchrist, has a right to object to the style of the anonymous pamphlet. I shall therefore set before the reader another specimen of this gentleman's ars maledicendi in criticism, from the pamphlet, which he calls « An Answer to Bowles.” This sentence there appears :
" With the exception of the passage in which, with the MOST UNBLUSHING' EFFRONTERY, you suggest that Pope MADE AN ATTEMPT on Lady Mary's person, and was REPULSED, you have not urged one reason for our believing that Pope was the aggressor, &c.; and yet, without any argument besides YOUR OWN GROSS INVENTION of ATTEMPT at RAPE! you persist in repeating, terque quaterque, Pope was the aggressor.”
Would, any man have the “ MOST UNBLUSHING EFFRONTERY,” in the face of day, in a Christian country, to assert such a fact, of an editor having invented a tale of ATTEMPT AT RAPE, without direct proofs? The writer gives no authority, any more than he did in the former instance, of his disgusting obloquy. I certaiu that such an idea as that of which he speaks never entered
into my head, though, somehow or other, it has entered into his, ás the other indecent images did.
The only passage I can find, to which I suppose he must allude, is the following:
Lady Montague was at this time at Constantinople. Pope has here suppressed part of the letter, which may be seen in Dalloway's edition. The grossness of it will sufficiently explain Pope's meaning; and I have little doubt, but that the lady, disdaining the stiff and formal mode of female manners at that time prevalent, made the lover believe he might proceed a step farther than decorum would allow.”—Edition of Pope, Vol. 7th.
Christian reader! such are the “ beauties” of Gilchristian criticism. This is a specimen of a Gilchrist's heart. I am certain, no words of mine will be necessary to excite disdain and abhorrence of such unblushing effrontery.“ A step BEYOND DECORUM,' in this man's repertory of pure conceptions, is “ AN ATTEMPT TO COMMIT A RAPE!"
And this critic is to undertake a review of the “ controverted points in Pope's writings.” He takes a sentence, puts a construction on it that would enter into the head of no human being but his own, and imputes the filthy genderings of depraved imagination, and the distorting suggestions of malignant spleen, to the editor whom he thus impudently “ asperses,” and then accuses him of “ UNTRUTHS," which, forsooth,' must call forth “H18 castigation.”
And this is the critic, (risum teneatis) to school me for innate vulgarity!! to tell me that I exemplify the “ars male
. dicendi :” that my associates in professional labors will recollect how Hooker, Hall, and Lowth, conducted their controversies ; and sigh inwardly for Mr. Bowles's want of “MODERATION, MODESTY, and GOOD MANNERS !”
Why did he not consult these writers himself before he commenced the gross attack in the London Magazine ?
Under the immediate impression that Mr. Bowles was indebted for the criticism in the Quarterly, to the same band which wrote the criticism in the London, a hasty pamphlet was suffered to appear, in which some personalities respecting Mr. Gilchrist were admitted.
The coarse and illiberal remarks of the Quarterly Review, in which a clergyman, residing chiefly in the country, is described as a distempered hypochondriac; and this remark being associated in the mind, not only with the specimen I have given of Gilchristian criticism, but with what is said in the Quarterly Review about “in-door” NATURE, induced the writer hastily tu seize on some