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Now burns with glory, and then melts with love ;
And the world's victor stood subdued by sonnd. POPE. ALEXANDER POPE, the poet, to whom English poetry and the English language are greatly indebted, was born May 22d, 1688, in London. He was a very sickly child; and his bodily infirmities remained through life. He never grew to be taller than about four feet; and his deformity and weakness of limbs were so great, that, for several years before his death, he could not dress or undress himself. Yet, after his twelfth year, he attended no school, but educated himself. The whole of his early life was that of a severe student. He was a poet in infancy. The “Ode to Solitude" dates from his twelfth year. At the age of sixteen he wrote his Pastorals, and his imitation of Chaucer. He soon became acquainted with most of the eminent persons of the day, both in politics and literature. His “Essay on Criticism,” which was composed when he was only twenty-one, is regarded by many as the finest piece of argumentative poetry in the English language. His celebrity was effectually and deservedly secured in 1712, by his first edition of the “Rape of the Lock.” He soon after published “The Messiah,” “The Temple of Fame," “Ode on St. Cecilia's Day," and “Windsor Forest." His translation of the Iliad, published by subscription, from 1715 to 1720, produced to the author more than £5,000. His edition of Shakspeare, and his Odyssey, appeared in 1725. The “Essay on Man," and several other valuable poems, appeared in 1738. He died in May, 1744. For a description of Pope's fine poetic endowments, see the next exercise.
VI. 66. PARALLEL BETWEEN POPE AND DRYDEN. D OPE professed to have learned his poëtry from Dryden,
whom, whenever an opportunity was presented, he praised through his whole life with unvaried liberality; and perhaps his character may receive some illustration, if he be compared with his master.
2. Integrity of understanding, and nicety of discernment, were not allotted in a less proportion to Dryden than to Pope. The rectitude of Dryden's mind was sufficiently shown by the dismission of his poëtical prejudices, and the rejection of unnatural thoughts and rugged numbers. But Dryden never desired to apply all the judgment that he had. He wrote, and professed to write, merely for the people ; and when he pleased others, he contented himself.
3. He spent no time in struggles to rouse latent powers ; he never attempted to make that better which was already good, nor often to mend what he must have known to be faulty. He
wrote, as he tells us, with very little consideration : when occasion or necessity called upon him, he poured out what the present moment happened to supply, and, when once it had passed the press, ejected it from his mind; for, when he had no pecuniary interest he had no further solicitude.
4. Pope was not content to satisfy; he desired to excel, and therefore always endeavored to do his best ; he did not court the candor, but dared the judgment of his reader, and, expecting no indulgence from others, he showed none to himself. He examined lines and words with minūte and punctilious observation, and retouched every part with indefat'igable diligence, till he had left nothing (nŭth'ing) to be forgiven.
5. For this reason he kept his pieces very long in his hands, while he considered and reconsidered them. The only poems which can be supposed to have been written with such regard to the times as might hasten their publication, were the two sătires of Thirty-eight : of which Dodsley' told me, that they were brought to him by the author, that they might be fairly copied. “Every line," said he, "was then written twice over : I gave him a clean transcript, which he sent some time afterward to me for the press, with every line written twice over a second time.”
6. His declaration, that his care for his works ceased at their publication, was not strictly true. His parental attention never abandoned them : what he found ămîss in the first edition, he silently corrected in those that followed. He appears to have revised the Müd, and freed it from some of its imperfections ; and the Essay on Criticism received many improvements after its first appearance. It will seldom be found that he altered without adding clearness, elegance, or vigor. Pope had perhaps the judgment of Dryden ; but Dryden certainly wanted the diligence of Pope.
7. In acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose education was more scholastic, and who, before he became an author, had been allowed more time for study, with better means of information. His mind has a larger range, and he collects his images and illustra'tions from a more extensive circumference of science. Dryden knew more of man in
· Robert Dodsley, an able miscellaneous writer and well-known London bookseller, was born at Mansfield, 1703, and died 1764.
his general nature, and Pope in his local manners. The notions of Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation, and those of Pope by minute attention. There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and more certainty in that of Pope.
8. Poetry was not the sole praise of either; for both excelled likewise in prose ; but Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style of Dryden is capricious and varied ; that of Pope is cautious and uniform. Dryden obeys the motions of his own mind ; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes ve'hement and rapid ; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle. Dryden's page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diver'sified by the varied exuberance of abundant vegetation ; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and leveled by the roller.
9. Of genius,—that power which constitutes a poet-that quality without which judgment is cold, and knowledge is inert —that energy which collects, combines, amplifies, and animates, —the superiority must, with some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred, that of this poëtical vigor Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more ; for every other writer since Milton must give place to Pope ; and even of Dryden it must be said, that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not better poems.
10. Dryden's performances were always hasty, either excited by some external occasion or extorted by domestic necessity ; he composed without consideration, and published without correction. What his mind could supply at call, or găther in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to accumulate all that study might produce, or chance might supply. If the flights of Dryden, therefore, are higher, Pope continues lònger on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight.
11. This parallel will, I hope, when it is well considered, be found just ; and if the reader should suspect me, as I suspect myself, of some partial fondness for the memory of Dryden, let him not too hastily condemn me ; for meditation and inqui'ry
may, perhaps, show him the reasonableness of my determination.
JOHNSON. Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of the literary men of the eighteenth century, was born at Litchfield, England, on the 18th of September, 1709. In the child, the peculiarities which afterward distinguished the man were plainly discernible ;-great muscular strength, accompanied by much awkwardness, and many infirmities; great quickness of parts, with a morbid propensity to sloth and procrastination; a kind and generous heart, with a gloomy and irritable temper. Indolent as he was, he acquired knowledge with such ease and rapidity, that at every school to which he was sent he was soon the best scholar. From sixteen to eighteen he resided at home, and learned much, though his studies were without guidance and without plan. When the young scholar presented himself at Pembroke College, Oxford, he amazed the rulers of that society not more by his ungainly figure and eccentric manners than by the quantity of his extensive and curious information. While here, he early made himself known by turning Pope's Messiah into Latin verse. He was poor, however, even to raggedness; and his appearance excited a mirth and a pity which were equally intolerable to his haughty spirit. After residing at Oxford about three years, Johnson's resources failed; and he was under the necessity of quitting the university without a degree, in the autumn of 1731. In the following winter his father died. The old man left but a pittance; and of that pittance, Samuel received not more than twenty pounds. He became usher of a grammarschool in Leicestershire; he soon after married, took a house in the neighborhood of his native town, and advertised for pupils. But eighteen months passed away, and only three pupils came to his academy, one of whom was the celebrated David Garrick. At length, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, he went to London to seek his fortune as a literary adventurer. Some time elapsed before he was able to form any literary connection from which he could expect more than bread for the day that was passing over him. The effect of the privations and sufferings which he endured at this time was discernible to the last in his temper and deportment. His manners had never been courtly. They now became almost savage. About a year after Johnson had begun to reside in London, he fortunately obtained regular employment as a reporter, or rather writer of parliamentary speeches for the “Gentleman's Magazine." A few weeks after he had entered on these obscure labors, he published a stately and vigorous poem, entitled “London,” which at once placed him high among the writers of his age. From this period till 1762 he was subjected to anxiety and drudgery; and was only able to gain a bare subsistence by the most intense daily toil. This was, however, in part owing to his having been singularly unskillful and unlucky in his literary bargains, as in the mean time he had published the “Vanity of Human Wishes,” in 1749; a “Dictionary of the English Language,” in 1755; and “Rasselas,” in 1759. He also published a paper, entitled the “Rambler," every Tuesday and Saturday, from March, 1750, to March, 1752; and a series of weekly essays, entitled “The Idler," for two years, commencing in the spring of 1758. Able judges have pronounced these periodicals equal, if not superior to the “Spectator.” In 1762, through the influence of Lord Bute, he received a pension of £300 a year; and from that period a great change in his circumstances took place. The University of Oxford honored him with a doctor's degree, and the Royal Academy with a professorship. He was now free to indulge his constitutional idleness; still, though he wrote but little, his tongue was active. The influence exercised by his conversation, directly upon the members of the celebrated club over which he predominated, and indirectly upon the
whole literary world, was altogether without a parallel. His colloquial powers were of the highest order. He had strong sensc, quick discernment, humor, wit, immense knowledge of literature and of life, and an infinite store of curious anecdotes. Every sentence that fell from his lips was correct in structure. All was simplicity, case, and vigor. Of all his numerous writings, those that are now most popular are the “Vanity of Human Wishes" and the “Lives of the Poets.” In a serene frame of mind, he died on the 13th of December, 1784; and a week later was laid in Westminster Abbey.
CHARGE AGAINST LORD BYRON.
HE charge we bring against Lord Byron is, that his writings
have a tendency to destroy all belief in the reality of virtue, and to make all enthusiasm and constancy of affection ridiculous : and this, not so much by direct maxims and examples of an imposing or seducing kind, as by the constant exhibition of the most profligate heartlessness in the persons who had been transiently represented as actuated by the pūrèst and most exalted emotions; and in the lessons of that věry teacher who had been, but a moment before, so beautifully pathetic in the expression of the loftiest conceptions.
2. When a gay voluptuary descănts, somewhat too freely, on the intoxications of love and wine, we ascribe his excesses to the effervescence of youthful spirits, and do not consider him as seriously impeaching either the value or the reality of the severer virtues; and, in the same way, when the sătirist deals out his sarcasms against the sincerity of human professions, and unmasks the secret infirmities of our bosoms, we consider this as aimed at hypocrisy, and not at mankind : or, at all events, and in either case, we consider the sensualist and mis'anthrope as wandering, each in his own delusion, and are contented to pity those who have never known the charms of a tender or generous affection.
3. The true antidote to such seductive or revolting views of human nature, is to turn to the scenes of its nobleness and attraction ; and to reconcile ourselves again to our kind, by listening to the accents of pure affection and incorruptible honor. But, if those accents have flowed in all their sweetness from the