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A KEY TO THE LOCK:
Proving beyond all contradiction the dangerous ten
dency of a late poem, intitled, The Rape of the Lock, to government and religion.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCXIV.
A KEY TO THE LOCK'.
Since this unhappy division of our nation into PARTIES, it is not to be imagined how many artifices have been made use of by writers to obscure the truth, and cover designs which may be detrimental to the public. In particular, it has been their custom of late to vent their political spleen in allegory and fable?. If an honest believing nation is to be made a jest of, we have a story of John Bull and his wife; if a treasurer is to be glanced at, an ant with a white straw is introduced; if a treaty of commerce is to be ridiculed, it is immediately metamorphosed into a tale of Count Tariff.
But if any of these malevolents have a small talent in rhyme, they principally delight to convey their malice in that pleasing way; as it were, gilding the pill, and concealing the poison under the sweetness of numbers.
It is the duty of every well-designing subject to prevent, as far as he can, the ill-consequences of such pernicious treatises; and I hold it mine to warn the public of a late poem, intitled, The RAPE OF THE LOCK, which I shall demonstrate to be of this nature.
It is a common and just observation, that, when the meaning of any thing is dubious, one can no way better judge of the true intent of it, than by considering who
i When the Rape of the Lock, Pope's most exquisite and finished poem, was published, Dennis wrote some criticisms on it, as if there were a latent. meaning in many of the incidents, and he therefore publicly accused the author of being an enemy of his king and country. This trifle was written to show, in the most forcible point of view, the ridiculousness of accusations founded on such coincidences.-Bowles.
Alluding to Swift's allegorical history of John Bull, and other ironical pieces, on the side of the Tories.
The ant and the white straw, is Lord Oxford, and the Treasurer's white wand.-Bowles.
is the author, what is his character in general, and his disposition in particular.
Now, that the author of this poem is a reputed papist, is well known; and that a genius so capable of doing service to that cause may have been corrupted in the course of his education by jesuits or others, is justly very much to be suspected ; notwithstanding that seeming coolness and moderation, which he had been (perhaps artfully) reproached with by those of his own persuasion. They are sensible, that this nation is secured by good and wholesome laws, to prevent all evil practices of the Church of Rome; particularly the publication of books, that may in any sort propagate that doctrine: their authors are therefore obliged to couch their designs the deeper; and though I cannot aver the intention of this gentleman was directly to spread popish doctrines, yet it comes to the same point if he touch the government; for the court of Rome knows very well, that the church at this time is so firmly founded on the state, that the only way to shake the one is by attacking the other.
What confirms me in this opinion, is an accidental discovery I made of a very artful piece of management among his popish friends and abettors, to hide his whole design upon the government, by taking all the characters upon themselves.
Upon the day that this poem was published, it was 'my fortune to step into the Cocoa-tree, where a certain gentleman was railing very liberally at the author with a passion extremely well counterfeited, for having, as he said, reflected upon him in the character of Sir Plume. Upon his going out, I inquired who he was, and they told me he was a Roman Catholic Knight.
I was the same evening at Will's, and saw a circle round another gentleman, who was railing in like manner, and showing his snuff-box and cane to prove he was satirized in the same character. I asked this gentleman's name, and was told he was a Roman Catholic Lord.
A day or two after I happened to be in company with the young lady, to whom the poem is dedicated. She also took up the character of Belinda with much frankness and good humour, though the author has given us a hint in his dedication, that he meant something further. This lady is also a Roman Catholic. At the same time others of the characters were claimed by some persons in the room, and all of them Roman Catholics.
But to proceed to the work itself:
In all things which are intricate, as allegories in their own nature are, and especially those that are industriously made so, it is not to be expected we should find the clue at first sight: but when once we have laid hold on that, we shall trace this our author through all the labyrinths, doublings, and turnings of this intricate composition.
First then, let it be observed, that in the most demonstrative sciences some postulata are to be granted, upon which the rest is naturally founded.
The only postulatum or concession which I desire to be made me, is, that by the Lock is meant
THE BARRIER-TREATY 4. I. First then, I shall discover, that Belinda represents Great Britain, or, which is the same thing, her late majesty. This is plainly seen in his description of her:
On her white breast a sparkling cross she bore :
3 “ The character of Belinda (as it is here managed) resembles you in nothing but beauty.” Dedication to the Rape of the Lock.-Warton.
4 For a full account of the political transactions relating to this treaty, see the conduct of the allies ; and remarks on the Barrier-Treaty, vol. ii.Warlon,