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shoes, those of the next are pretty sure to affect wide ones; if the poetic taste of one generation demands that the emphasis be laid on Nature, that of the next is certain to find its chief satisfaction in what we must, for want of a better term, call Art.
Of course these changes come about gradually. In all human institutions, as in all natural organisms, the form remains long after the soul has fled, long after life is extinct. After the juice of an orange has been dried up for years, there is still left a dwarfed and shrivelled rind. It is so with a literary fashion. After Shakespeare's death men still kept on writing plays in Shakespeare's manner. All of the disagreeable peculiarities of the master—the bad puns, the anachronisms, the swelling blank verse—continued to be reproduced with mathematical precision. But the juice was gone from the fruit. The product was as flat and tasteless as a withered gourd.
The results that followed were perfectly logical. People will not eat withered gourds; neither will they go to see soulless plays. The great object of the Shakespearean drama, “ to hold the mirror up to nature," ceased to be regarded as the cardinal principle of literary production. A new principle,
“True wit is nature to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed." took its place. The nation which had been so amply nourished by a literature of which the fundamental characteristic is freedom began to crave for a literature subject to rigid laws.
When Pope came into the world this craving was just beginning to take definite form. He understood it and satisfied it. His reward was an immense contemporary fame.
After his death, the same laws which had made the world tire for a time of the Elizabethan drama kept on operating. People had been surfeited with poetic freedom before; now they began to be surfeited with poetic rules. Pope's imitators preserved the form of his verses, indeed, but only the form. The result was a fresh literary revolution. King Alexander was dethroned. Wordsworth succeeded to the diadem.
It is certain, however, that the operation of the same laws which caused his downfall will in time restore Pope to partial favor, just as it did in the last century rescue Shakespeare from oblivion. In fact, he has never lacked able apologists. Campbell boldly defended his appreciation of nature. Byron called him the most perfect of poets. De Quincey ridiculed the crusade against his title of bard. Thackeray called him the greatest literary artist England has ever seen. Lowell admitted that he was unrivalled as a wit. Taine called his “ versified prose” the finest in the world. William Minto says that the polemic against his title to the name of poet would be contemptible were it not that beneath the dispute about the name there is a desire to impress on the public a respect for the highest kinds of poetry. Austin Dobson asks the question,“ Was he a poet? ” and answers it:
· Yes, if that be what
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. What were Pope's principles of versification ? 2. Study these principles in a page of Pope; then write twenty lines in
the same form upon some matter of common interest to the class. 3. What do you know of Pope's parents ? 4. With what did Pope first win his reputation ? 5. Tell of the relations between Pope and Addison. 6. What do you know of Pope's life at Twickenham? 7. Write as vivid a description as possible of Pope's character. 8. What were the cause, the content, and the consequences of “The
Dunciad”? 9. What do you know of Pope's method of composition ? 10. Why was Pope's poetry so popular in his own day and why has it since
lost so much of that popularity ?
Suggested Readings.—The “Rape of the Lock," the “Essay on Man," and 'The Universal Prayer" should certainly be read. De Quincey's
Essay on Pope” and “On the Poetry of Pope" are revealing essays. Johnson's “Life of Pope" is admirable.
SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709-1784)
A mass of genuine manhood.”—Carlyle. “Ursa major.”—Lord Auchinleck.
He has nothing of the bear but the skin.”—Goldsmith.
SAMUEL JOHNSON, who was known during his own lifetime as the great Cham of Literature and whose memory is preserved in ours chiefly by the records of his conversation enshrined in his Life by James Boswell, was born in Lichfield in 1709. From his father, who was a bookseller, a Tory, and a hypochondriac, he inherited a scrofulous taint and a superstitious disposition. His parents took him to be touched for the disease by Queen Anne, of course in vain. The result of this affliction was that his sight and hearing were seriously impaired. In spite of these handicaps, he was enormously strong and fond of athletic feats. It is recorded that on one occasion, when a stranger took his chair at the theatre, he threw both the chair and the intruder out of the door. He knew at least the theory of boxing. He would swim into dangerous pools, beat huge dogs into subjection, climb trees, run races, jump gates, and ride a horse as well as the most illiterate fellow in England. As late as his fifty-fifth year, he amused himself by rolling down hill. His intellect was as vigorous as his body, a comLination which won the respect of his play-fellows to such an extent that they used to carry him to school on their shoulders. At the Lichfield Grammar School, a good deal of Latin, according to his own statement, was whipped into him, a process which seems to have met with his approval-after it had ceased. “A child,” he said, “who is flogged, gets his task, and there's an end on't; whereas by exciting emulation and comparisons of superiority, you make brothers and sisters hate each other.” On another occasion, he said, “ There is less flogging in our public schools now than formerly, but then less is learned there, so that what the boys gain at one end they lose at the other."
At the age of sixteen his schooling came abruptly to an end, owing probably to the decline in his father's prosperity. For the next two years he sold and read books at Lichfield. His memory was already remarkable. He had the faculty, as somebody later has said, “ of tearing the heart out of a book," and he thus absorbed a mass of learning remarkable in a youth of his years.
In 1728, he was entered at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he
remained until 1731. Owing to his poverty, his college course seems to have been throughout a kind of battle, in which his melancholy and his pride strove for mastery. Like Swift, he tried to fortify himself against the pity of his companions by affecting a kind of insolence and wildness of demeanor. On one occasion, a charitable fellow student who had observed his lack of shoes left a pair at his door; but Johnson threw them away in a rage. Finally, in 1731, he gave up the fight, left Oxford, and returned to Lichfield, where shortly afterwards his father died, leaving him a legacy of only twenty pounds.
Johnson thereupon endeavored to make a living by entering what Leslie Stephen calls the most depressing of all employments; he became a schoolmaster. Failing in this, he sought literary employment and published a book called “Travels in Abyssinia.” Failing in this, at the age of twenty-six years, he married a widow, a fat, painted widow, of forty-eight, whose chief merit to superficial observers was the possession of eight hundred pounds. The union, however, proved unexpectedly happy. Mrs. Johnson regarded her husband as the most sensible man she had ever met and he repaid her with a devotion which
asted during her life and through a widowerhood of more than thirty years. Immediately after his marriage he set up a school at Edial, but his inability to manage parents was such that he secured only three pupils, and his ability to teach was such that when, after some months of instruction in English history, he asked his pupils who had destroyed the monasteries, one of them could give no answer, and another replied " Jesus Christ.” The third pupil was David Garrick, with whom, in March, 1737, he set out to seek his fortune in London.
One of Johnson's greatest distinctions is the fact that he was the first man to make the literary profession respectable. When he arrived in London it was at a low ebb. Most of the members of the profession lived, at that time, in wretched garrets in Grub Street and literary remuneration was so small that one publisher, to whom he applied for employment, advised him to become a porter. In later years, on at least one occasion, Johnson himself shed tears on recollecting the trials of this period. He dined for eightpence, a cut of meat for sixpence, bread for a penny, and a penny to the waiter, making out the charge. Sometimes, however, he was dinnerless, and sometimes he would walk the street all night with a friend when their funds could not pay for a lodging, the two warming themselves by denouncing the government.
In 1738, he appears to have obtained regular employment as a contributor to the “ Gentleman's Magazine," for which he wrote