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The wit, the vigour, and the honesty of Mr. Pope's satiric writings had raised a great clamour against him, as if the Supplement, as he calls it, to the Public Laws, was a violation of morality and society. In answer to this charge he had it in his purpose to show, that two of the most respectable characters in the modest and virtuous age of Elizabeth, Dr. Donne and Bishop Hall, had arraigned vice publicly, and shown it in stronger colours, than he had done, whether they found it
“ On the pillory, or near the throne.” In pursuance of this purpose, our Poet hath admirably versified, as he expresses it, two or three Satires of Dr. Donne. He intended to have given two or three of Bishop Hall's likewise, whose force and classical elegance he much admired; but as Hall was a better versifier, and, as a mere academic, had not his vein vitiated like Donne's, by the fantastic language of Courts, Mr. Pope's purpose was only to correct a little, and smooth the versification. In the first edition of Hall's Satires, which was in Mr. Pope's library, we find that long Satire, called the First of the Sixth Book, corrected throughout, and the versification mended for his
He entitles it, in the beginning of his corrections, by the name of Sat. Opt. This writer, Hall, fell under a severe examiner of his wit and reasoning, in the famous Milton. For Hall, a little before the unhappy breach between Charles I. and the long Parliament, having written in defence of Episcopacy, Milton, who first set out an advocate for Presbytery, thought fit to take Hall's defence to task. And as he rarely gave quarter to his adversaries, from the Bishop's theological writings, he fell upon his poetry. But a stronger proof of the excellency of these Satires can hardly be given, than that all he could find to cavil at, was the title to the three first Books, which Hall, ridiculously enough, calls Toothless SATIRE : : on this, for want of better hold, Milton fastens, and sufficiently mumbles.Warburton.
Sir, though (I thank God for it) I do hate
One (like a wretch, which at barre judged as dead,
Ver. 1. Yes : thank my stars'] Two noblemen of taste and learning, the Duke of Shrewsbury and the Earl of Oxford, desired Pope to melt down and cast anew, the weighty bullion of Dr. Donne's Satires ; who had degraded and deformed a vast fund of sterling wit and strong sense, by the most harsh and uncouth diction. Pope succeeded in giving harmony to a writer, more rough and rugged than even any of his age, and who profited so little by the example Spenser had set, of a most musical and mellifluous versification ; far beyond the versification of Fairfax, who is frequently mentioned as the greatest improver of the harmony of our language. The Satires of Hall, written in very smooth and pleasing numbers, preceded those of Donne many years ; for his Virgidemiarum were published, in six books, in the year 1597 ; in which he calls himself the very first English satirist. This, however, was not true in fact ; for Sir Thomas Wyatt, of Allington Castle, in Kent, the friend and favourite of Henry VIII., and, as was suggested, of Ann Boleyn, was our first writer of satire worth notice. But it was not in his numbers only that Donne was reprehensible. He abounds in false thoughts, in far-sought sentiments, in forced unnatural conceits. He was the first corrupter of Cowley. Dryden was the first who called him a metaphysical poet. He had a considerable share of learning, and though he entered late into orders, yet he was esteemed a good divine. James I. was so earnest to prefer him in the church,