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As weak, as earnest; and as gravely out,
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 cir. cumstance 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),
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.
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.
EPIST LE II.
TO A LADY.
Of the Characters of Women. Nothing so true as what you once let fall, “ Most Women have no Characters at all."
Of the Characters of Women.] There is nothing in Mr. Pope's Works more highly finished, or written with greater spirit, than this Epistle: yet its success was in no proportion to the pains he took in composing it, or the effort of genius displayed in adorning it. Something he chanced to drop in a short advertisement prefixed to it, on its first publication, may perhaps account for the small attention the Public gave to it. He said, that no one Character in it was drawn from the Life. They believed him on his word; and expressed little curiosity about a satire in which there was nothing personal. W.
Ver. 1. Nothing so true] Bolingbroke, a judge of the subject, thought this Epistle the masterpiece of Pope. But the bitterness of the satire is not always concealed in a laugh. The characters are lively, though uncommon. I scarcely remember one of them in our comic writers of the best order. The ridiculous is height. ened by many strokes of humour, carried even to the borders of extravagance, as much as the two last lines of Boileau, quoted in the next page. The female foibles have been the subject of perhaps more wit, in every language, than any other topic that can be named. The sixth satire of Juvenal, though detestable for its obscenity, is undoubtedly the most witty of all his sixteen, and is curious for the picture it exhibits of the private lives of the Roman ladies. If this Epistle yields, in any respect, to the tenth satire of Boileau on the same subject, it is in the delicacy and variety of the transitions by which the French writer passes from one
Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear,
character to another, always connecting each with the foregoing. It was a common saying of Boileau, speaking of La Bruyere, that one of the most difficult parts of composition was the art of transition. That we may see how happily Pope has caught the manner of Boileau, let us survey one of his portraits : it shall be that of his learned lady:
“Qui s'offrira d'abord ? c'est cette Sçavante,
Il faut chez Du Vernay voir la dissection.” None of Pope's female characters excel the Doris of Congreve in delicate touches of raillery and ridicule.
Ver. 5. How many pictures] The Poet's purpose here is to shew, that the characters of Women are generally inconsistent with themselves: and this he illustrates by so happy a similitude, that we see the folly, described in it, arises from that very principle which gives birth to this inconsistency of character. W.
Ver. 7, 8, 10,&c. Arcadia's Countess, Pastora by a fountain,Leda with a swan,-Magdalen,-Cecilia,–] Attitudes in which several ladies affected to be drawn, and sometimes one lady in them all. — The Poet's politeness and complaisance to the sex are observable in this instance, amongst others, that whereas in the Characters of Men he has sometimes made use of real names, in the Characters of Women always fictitious. P.