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May ne'er thy oak-crown'd hills, rich meads, and downs,
ODE TO CONTENT.
Welcome Content! froin roofs of fretted gold,
From courts, and camps, and crowds,
Fled to my cottage mean.
And with calm smile despise
The loud world's distant din?
Far in the vale below,
The thundering torrent burst!
Pride, pomp, and power to shun
Those fatal Syrens fair,
Their baleful cups present
With pleasing poisons fraught.
With chosen friends to turn
The polish'd Auic page;
My hours, my soul devote
POETS NOT NECESSARILY NOR UNIVERSALLY POOR.
The neglect of economy, in which great geniuses are supposed to have indulged themselves, has unfortunately given so much authority and justification to carelessness and extravagance, that many a minute rhymer has fallen into dissipation and drunkenness,
because Butler and Otway lived and died in an alehouse. As a certain blockhead wore his gown on one shoulder to mimic the negligence of Sir Thomas More, so these servile imitators follow their masters in all that disgraced them; contract immoderate debts, because Dryden died insolvent; and neglect to change their linen, because Smith was a sloven. "If I should happen to look pale,” says Horace, “all the hackney-writers in Rome would immediately drink cumin to gain the same complexion.” And I myself am acquainted with a witling who uses a glass only because Pope was near-sighted.
I can easily conceive that a mind occupied and overwhelmed with the weight and immensity of its own conceptions, glancing with astonishing rapidity from heaven to earth, and from earth to beaven, cannot willingly submit to the dull drudgery of examining the justness and accuracy of a butcher's bill. To descend from the widest and most comprehensive views of nature, and weigh out hops for a brewing, must be invincibly disgusting to a true genius: to be able to build imaginary palaces of the most exquisite architecture, but yet not to pay a carpenter's bill, is a cutting mortification and disgrace: to be ruined by pursuing the precepts of Virgilian agriculture, and by ploughing classically, without attending to the wholesome monitions of low British farmers, is a circumstance that aggravates the failure of a crop to a man who wishes to have lived in the Augustan age, and despises the system of modern husbandry.
Many poets, however, may be found, who have condescended to the cares of economy, and who have conducted their families with all the parsimony and regularity of an alderman of the last century; who have not superciliously disdained to enter into the concerns of common life, and to subscribe to and study certain necessary dogmas of the vulgar, convinced of their utility and expediency, and well knowing that because they are vulgar, they are, therefore, both important and true.
If we look backwards on antiquity, or survey ages nearer our own, we shall find several of the greatest geniuses so far from being sunk in indigence, that many of them enjoyed splendor and honors, or at least were secured against the anxieties of poverty by a decent competence and plenty of the conveniences of life.
Indeed, to pursue riches farther than to attain a decent competence is too low and illiberal an occupation for a real genius to descend to; and Horace wisely ascribes the manifest inferiority of the Roman literature to the Grecian, to an immoderate love of money, which necessarily contracts and rusts the mind, and disqualifies it for noble and generous undertakings.
Æschylus was an officer of no small rank in the Athenian army at the celebrated battle of Marathon; and Sophocles was an accomplished general, who commanded his countrymen in several most important expeditions: Theocritus was caressed and enriched by Ptolemy; and the gaiety of Anacreon was the result of ease and plenty: Pindar was better rewarded for many of his odes than any other bard, ancient or modern, except perhaps Boileau for his celebrated piece of flattery on the taking of Namur: Virgil at last possessed a fine house at Rome, and a villa at Naples : “Horace," says Swift, in one of his lectures on economy to Gay, “I am sure kept his coach:” Lucan and Silius Italicus dwelt in marble palaces, and had their gardens adorned with the most exquisite capital statues of Greece: Milton was fond of a domestic life, and lived with exemplary frugality and order: Corneille and Racine were both admirable masters of their families, faithful husbands, and prudent economists: Boileau, by the liberalities of Louis, was enabled to purchase a delightful privacy at Auteuil, was eminently skilled in the management of his finances, and despised that affectation which arrogantly aims to place itself above the necessary decorums and rules of civil life; in all which particulars they were equalled by Addison, Swift, and Pope.
It ought not, therefore, to be concluded, from a few examples to the contrary, that poetry and prudence are incompatible; a conclusion that seems to have arisen, in this kingdom, from the dissolute behavior of the despicable debauchees that disgraced the muses, and the court of Charles the Second, by their lives and by their writings. Let those who are blest with genius recollect that economy is the parent of integrity, of liberty, and of ease; and the beauteous sister of temperance, of cheerfulness, and health: and that profuseness is a cruel and crafty demon, that gradually involves her followers in dependence and debts; that is, fetters them with “irons that enter into their souls.”
Adventurer, No. 107.
POPE AS A POET.
Thus have I endeavored to give a critical account, with freedom, but it is hoped with impartiality, of each of Pope's works; by which review it will appear, that the largest portion of them is of the didactic, moral, and satiric kind; and consequently, not of the most poetic species of poetry; whence it is manifest, that good sense and judgment were his characteristical excellencies, rather than fancy and invention; not that the author of the Rape of the Lock, and Eloisa, can be thought to want imagination, but because his imagination was not his predominant talent, because he indulged it not, and because he gave not so many proofs of this talent as of the other. This turn of mind led him to admire French models; he studied Boileau attentively; formed himself upon him, as Milton formed himself upon the Grecian and Italian sons of Fancy. He stuck to describing modern manners; but those manners, because they are familiar, uniform, artificial, and polished, are, in their very nature, unfit for any lofty effort of the Muse. He gradually became one of the most correct, even, and exact poets that ever wrote; polishing his pieces with a care and assiduity that no business or avocation ever interrupted: so that, if he does not frequently ravish and transport his reader, yet he does not disgust him with unexpected inequalities, and absurd improprieties. Whatever poetical enthusiasm he actually possessed, he withheld and stifled. The perusal of him affects not our minds with such strong emotions as we feel from Homer and Milton, so that no man of a true poetical spirit is master of himself while he reads them. Hence, he is a writer fit for universal perusal; adapted to all ages and stations; for the old and for the young; the man of business and the scholar. He who would think the Faery Queen, Palamon and Arcite, the Tempest, or Comus, childish and romantic, might relish PoPE. Surely it is no narrow and niggardly encomium to say he is the great Poet of Reason, the First of Ethical authors in verse. And this species of writing is, after all, the surest road to an extensive reputation. It lies more level to the general capacities of men than the higher flights of more genuine poetry. We all remember when even a Churchill was more in vogue than a Gray. He that treats of fashionable follies, and the topics of the day, that describes present persons and recent events, finds many readers, whose understandings and whose passions he gratifies. The name of Chesterfield on one hand, and of Walpole on the other, failed not to make a poem bought up and talked of. And it cannot be doubted, that the Odes of Horace which celebrated, and the satires which ridiculed, well-known and real characters at Rome, were more eagerly read and more frequently cited than the Æneid and the Georgics of Virgil.
Where, then, according to the question proposed at the beginning of this Essay, shall we with justice be authorized to place our admired Pope? Not, assuredly, in the same rank with Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton; however justly we may applaud the Eloisa and Rape of the Lock. But, considering the correctness, elegance, and utility of his works, the weight of sentiment, and
the knowledge of man they contain, we may venture to assign him a place next to Milton, and just above Dryden. Yet, to bring our minds steadily to make this decision, we must forget, for a moment, the divine Music Ode of Dryden; and may perhaps then be compelled to confess that, though Dryden be the greater genius, yet Pope is the better artist.
The preference here given to POPE above other modern English poets, it must be remembered, is founded on the excellencies of his works in general, and taken all together; for there are parts and passages in other modern authors—in Young and in Thomson, for instance-equal to any of POPE; and he has written nothing in a strain so truly sublime as the Bard of Gray.
HESTER CHAPONE, 1727–1801.
MRS. CHAFONE was descended from the ancient family of Mulso, of Twywell, in Northamptonshire. Hester, the subject of this memoir, was the daughter of Thomas Mulso, and was born October 27, 1727. She lost her mother when quite young, and her early education was somewhat neglected; for which, however, she afterwards made amends by her own exertions. Though not handsome, she was full of sensibility and energy; of quick apprehension and attractive manners. After the death of her mother, she not only undertook the management of her father's house, but devoted a great portion of her time to self-improvement; made herself mistress of the French and Italian languages, and acquired some knowledge of the classic tongues. She discovered, also, strong powers of discrimi. nation and judgment; and while her fancy and warm feelings made her delight in poetry, her sound sense gave her a love of philosophy.
Her enthusiastic love of genius made her a warm admirer of Richardson, the novelist, to whom, however, she could not surrender her opinions. With him she entered into an able correspondence on the subject of filial obedience; and her letters, though written at the age of twentytwo, display much ability, and strength and clearness of mind. It was at his house that she met Mr. Chapone, a young practitioner of law. A mu. tual attachment was the result, though from his limited means many years elapsed before they were united in marriage. In the mean time, she lived either with her father or with her friends and relations, while her society was widely sought and her accomplishments were generally acknowledged. At the house of her aunt, Mrs. Donne, of Canterbury, she became acquainted with the celebrated Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, and at Mr. Richardson's she met Dr. Johnson. In one of her letters to Mrs. Carter, dated July