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When charges are brought, of no light weight, mingled with expressions of spleen and sarcasm, in a distinguished popular journal, and under the eye, and, I might add, with the sanction of such a character as Mr. Gifford, the charges ought to be deeply weighed by any one who has a regard to his own moral or literary character.
If he is convinced, upon consideration, that the charges have not been made out, it is a duty he owes to himself and the public, to give his reasons for so thinking. If he has been affected by the expressions of ill-deserved sarcasm, he will show his sense of it, as far as possible, by disdaining, where its bitterest tone might in returo be assuredly justified, to use language so unwarrantable, even in self-defence, his motives being solely those of truth and justice.
Considering, then, what is said in the Review of Spence's Anecdotes, in the last number of the Quarterly, as far as regards myself, to be both unfair and unjust; I shall bring forward, as I am peremptorily called upon to do, some observations which may tend to divest the arguments there used, of their force, and the sarcasm, needlessly employed, of its sting!
I trust it will not be necessary to say, that I have advanced no opinion which I did not conscientiously believe: I may have believed it, upon mistaken grounds; I may bave been led into the belief too hastily; I may, unknown to myself, have been betrayed by latent prejudices, the progress of which I had not watched with sufficient care: these feelings may have silently operated upon my better judgment, when I was scarce conscious that they operated
on it at all; but, that I ever said, willingly, or with pleasure, one syllable, publicly or privately, on characters, living or dead, detractive of their fair fame, 1 peremptorily deny.
And I must here instantly do the writer of the article in the Review the justice to say that, in the outset (for which I thank him) of his animadversions, he admits this; for he says, “ It is with pain we have witnessed the attacks on the moral and poetical character of this great poet (Pope) by the last two editors. Warton, who first entered the list, though not unwilling to wound, exhibits occasionally some of the courtesy of ancient chivalry; but his successor, the Rev. Mr. Bowles, possesses the contest à l'outrance, with the appeurance, though assuredly not with the reality, of personal hostility.”-Review.
I now proceed to inquire whether, if this character, given by himself, be just, the spleen which is evinced afterwards is warranted; and, above all, whether the arguments advanced respecting what I have said of the Life of Pope, be sound and convincing.
Three publications of mine are here brought under notice : the first, the Life of Pope; secondly, The Observations on his Poetical Character; and, thirdly, the Letter to Mr. Campbell, on the “ InVARIABLE PRINCIPLES of POETRY," lately published.
I shall first advert to the accusations brought against me, as the detractor of Pope's merits as a man, and the exaggerator of his failings; "aggravating infirmities into viciousness." These accusations may be comprised in the following list, given by this writer :
“ We find Pope aspersed for a sordid money-getting passionfor taking bribes to suppress satires-for the most rankling envy of Addison--for the worst of tempers—for duplicity and fickleness of opinion—for the GROSSEST LICENTIOUsness!
First, I confidently reply, I have never “ aspersed” Pope" for a sordid money-getting passion!" No particular passage is pointed out, and
I say confidently, I have never used any such expressions." From his correspondence with the Blounts it appears, that he took upon himself the direction of much of their pecuniary affairs; and was anxious to put them in the best way of making the most interest of their money. However friendly and generous he might have been, and I have never denied this, he certainly took some solicitous care of their incomes and his own.
That he was thus attentive to his pecuniary affairs, surely facts sufficiently show. Martha Blount, whose authority the writer quotes, in the same breath, that she says, “ The reason of Mr. Pope's not being
My words are-"None was more prudent;" but I censured only his affectation, not his prudence.
richer may be easily accounted for; he never had any love for money! If he was extravagant in any thing it was in his grotto.": What does this imply but that he was at least prudent? and I have spoken of his prudence, not of his “sordidness."
But whether saving or expending were a part of his character, what “aspersion” is there in mentioning the fact, if I thought it true? Oh! but I have said, “ his professions were directly at variance with his practice !" So they were in many things: no one can deny they were so when he spoke of his letters as “artless ' effusions,” which were as elaborately polished as his poems. Having seen how much he was consulted by his friends, in money matters, I might have been led to believe (though I cannot now recollect all the circumstances that induced me to believe so, at the time) that when he spoke of his "carelessness" about money concerns, he spoke, after the manner in which he used to speak, of the “ less effusions” of his correspondence. Of a "sordid money-getting passion” I have never accused him; and if I had ever done so, should be glad to find any testimony that might show he was not so.
Of the most “rankling envy” of Addison I have never accused him.-Where? and on what occasion ? and how is such language consistent with the candor, refused on one side, as loudly as it is demanded on the other? Nor is it consistent with this candor ihus to exaggerate what I said, when I spoke of Pope's pecuniary prudence. The critic asserts I accused him of “ base sordid passions;" and here he heightens the word jealousy into the most rankling envy. When I spoke of the memorable quarrel between Pope and Addison, I adduced the narrative of the circumstances, from Pope's most ardent admirer; I say, that from that very account, of that very admirer, in my opinion, the circumstances press more against Pope than against Addison. Why was this account omitted? In weighing characters I have neither considered the adulation of friends, or the rancour of enemies ; but comparing together, from all sides, all the facts I could collect, I have formed my opinion. Whereas, this Instructor, in the new code of candor, when he speaks of Addison, iterates what is said by his enemies; and when he speaks of Pope, pins his faith as firmly on what is said by Pope's friends.
One would suppose, from these representations, that I had the same feelings towards Pope, as Lauder had towards Milton. I think, all circumstances put together, Addison's character was the most lucid, and that in the narrative of their meeting—not according to the account of Addison's friends, but of Pope's own-Pope was
Probably she thought he did not save enough for her as legatee.
most to blame. I have seen no opinions, well founded, that should induce me at present to alter this opinion, and it being such, when I wrote the Life, and such now, even after all that this writer has adduced, I see no reason why I should hesitate to declare it.
Of “ duplicity,” the artful publication of his letter is a positive and lasting proof.
Into the idea of " fickleness of opinion," (no great matter) I was led by the extracts from Spence's Anecdotes. I had not then myself seen them, and I now confess, if I had, I should not have said what I did from unguarded feelings, “ that neither friend or foe were spared.”
But I have charged Pope with the “ GROSSEST LICENTIOUSNESS!" I have said he had a libertine sort of love, which was in a great degree suppressed by his sense of moral duty. I might say, that I have seen passages in his Letters to Martha Blount, which never were published by me, and I hope never will be by others; which are so gross as indeed to imply the “
grossest licentiousness :" but, not to speak of “ licentiousness on account of letters which were never published, can any one acquit him of “ licentiousness," as far as we may judge from language and ideas, when we recollect his correspondence with Cromwell, his translation of the Epistle of Horace, which I expunged from Warton's edition, and which was never denied to be his; his share in the Miscellanies, published jointly by himself and Swift: and if the critic takes the testimony of Addison's enemies against Addison, why might not I take that of Cibber's against him? But I scorn it; I scorn to advert to those pieces which, though not acknowledged by bimself, no one denies were written by him; but I think there is enough in his published letters and acknowledged writings to convict him of “ licentiousness.” “ Grossest,” is a word the writer has added himself, on purpose to make my uncharitableness appear the more heinous,
The writer says, triumphantly, " Will our readers now believe (what is really the case) that Pope was kind from his nature; that his heart was open at all times io his humble friends ; that he was adored by his intimates ?" Aye, marry, will they, and so will I too ; nor have I ever denied that he was all this. That he could have no invidious feelings I deny. He envied Phillips, for the success of his Pastoral; and he surely showed the gratification of a contracted mind, when Gay so successfully ridiculed them, in his Shepherd's Week; and his paper in the Guardian, is a lasting proof of invidious feelings, in this respect, as it is of the insidious inode he took to gratify them.
Finally, he was no “ lover of money," not sordidly so, certainly;
and I confidently repeat I have never used an expression that might imply such sordidness.
alus on visade the case of
the letters, so in money concerns, for which I have before given my reasons, I thought his language was often at variance with his feelings, I spoke as I thought; and if this be “THE BLACK ART OF
the “ reading the LORD's PRAYER BACKWARDS,
I wish the present
critic ma never show the “BLACK ART OF CRITICISM” in a worse manner, nor so read the Lord's Prayer " BACKWARDS." On the contrary, when he is disposed to mark so severely crimes, of which he is in this very article far more guilty than I have ever been, or hope ever could be, I would remind of a few plain words by the
so Divine Author of that of which he so flippantly
speaks, “? Why beholdest thou the mote in thy brother's
, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? First, cast out the BEAM s out of thine own eye, and then thou sh
then thou shalt see clearly to cast I had overlooked, that I had also charged Pope, among his other “ infirmities," aggravated into viciousness," with having the “ WORST of TEMPERS !! I have never said soo; I have never implied it. “ Irritable temper,” this very writer attributes to him,
irritable temper is turned into the WORST of TEMPERS, and then I am charged with being the calumniator. Is this fair Is it honest? The whole article is written purposely in this manner, and it proves, at least, that the charges against me, of “exaggerating all his failings, stripping bim of every amiable qua
e as foul as they are false, when those who make these charges are first obliged to exaggerate, and having so exaggerated
, call on the public to remark, not what I really have said, but such exaggerations, for which their falsehood is answerable, not my want of candor.
Allow him to be « irritable,” but not of the worst of TEM; PERS” and we so far agree,
and cordially, and ex animo, do I admit all that can be said in his favor. Whether he was, as to money, saving or profuse, his noble generosity to the outcast, Richard Savage, and other instances of a compassionate and generous heart, are undoubted. I should have spoken of them as cheerfully as I now admit them, bad they occurred to iny récollection when I wrote.
After these tontotiim ond false colors, the overwhelming question is then asked, “Do COMMENTATORS ever blush?” I will answer this question by another, a D. Critics
ever BLUSH ?”
SYTYY STOLTEU EST**