Page images
PDF
EPUB

in emulation of the Cooper's Hill of Sir John Denham: the author of it is obscure, is ambiguous, is affected, is temerarious, is barbarous," But the author of the Dispensary,

Dr. GARTH, in the preface to his poem of Claremonts, differs from this opinion; “ Those who have seen these two excellent poems of Cooper's Hill, and Windsor Forest, the One written by Sir John Denham, the other by Mr. Pope, will shew a great deal of candour if they approve of this.”

Of the Epistle of Eloisa, we are told by the obscure writer of a poem called Sawney, " That because Prior's Henry and Emma charmed the finest tastes, our author writ his Eloise in opposition to it; but forgot innocence and virtue: if

away her tender thoughts, and her fierce desires, all the rest is of no value.” In which, methinks, his judgment resembles that of a French tailor on a villa and gardens by the Thames : “ All this is

very fine, but take

away

the river, and it is good for nothing.” But very contrary hereunto was the opinion of

Mr. PRIOR himself, saying in his Alma”,

“ O Abelard ! ill-fated youth,
Thy tale will justify this truth.
But well I weet, thy cruel wrong
Adorns a nobler Poet's song :
Dan Pope, for thy misfortune griev'd,
With kind concern and skill has weav'd

you take

· Printed 1728, p. 12.

* Alma, Caut. ii.

A silken web; and ne'er shall fade
Its colours : gently has he laid
The mantle o'er thy sad distress,

And Venus shall the texture bless," &c. Come we now to his translation of the Iliad, celebrated by numerous pens, yet shall it suffice to mention the indefatigable

Sir RICHARD BLACKMORE, Kt. Who (though otherwise a severe censurer of our author) yet styleth this a “ laudable translation?," That ready writer

Mr. OLDMIXON, in his forementioned essay, frequently commends the same.

And the painful

Mr. LEWIS THEOBALD thus extols it8 : “ The spirit of Homer breathes all through this translation.— I am in doubt whether I should most admire the justness to the original, or the force and beauty of the language, or the sounding variety of the numbers: but when I find all these meet, it puts me in mind of what the poet says of one of his heroes, That he alone raised and flung with ease a weighty stone, that two common men could not lift from the ground; just so one single person has performed in this translation, what I once despaired to have seen done by the force of several masterly hands.” Indeed the same gentleman appears to have changed his sentiment in his Essay on the Art of sinking in Reputation (printed in Mist's

[blocks in formation]

Journal, March 30, 1728), where he says thus: “In order to sink in Reputation, let him take it into his head to descend into Homer (let the world wonder, as it will, how the devil he got there, and pretend to do him into English, so his version denote his neglect of the manner how.” Strange variation! We are told in

Mist's JOURNAL, June 8, « That this translation of the Iliad was not in all respects conformable to the fine taste of his friend Mr. Addison; insomuch that he employed a younger muse, in an undertaking of this kind, which he supervised himself.” Whether Mr. Addison did find it conformable to his taste, or not, best appears from his own testimony the year following its publication, in these words :

Mr. ADDISON, FREEHOLDER, N° 40. “ When I consider myself as a British freeholder, I am in a particular manner pleased with the labours of those who have improved our language with the translations of old Greek and Latin authors. We have already most of their Historians in our own tongue, and, what is more for the honour of our language, it has been taught to express with elegance the greatest of their poets in each nation. The illiterate among our own countrymen may learn to judge from Dryden's Virgil of the most perfect epic performance. And those parts of Homer which have been published already by Mr. Pope, give us reason to think that the Iliad will appear in English with as little disadvantage to that immortal poem,”

As to the rest, there is a slight mistake, for this younger muse was an elder: nor was the gentleman (who is a friend of our author) employed by Mr. Addison to translate it after him, since he saith himself that he did it before 9. Contrariwise that Mr. Addison engaged our author in this work appeareth by declaration thereof in the preface to the Iliad printed some time before his death, and by his own letters of October 26, and November 2, 1713. Where he declares it is his opinion, that no other person was equal to it.

Next comes his Shakspeare on the stage: " Let him (quoth one, whom I take to be Mr. Theobald, Mist's Journal, June 8, 1728), publish such an author as he has least studied, and forget to discharge even the dull duty of an editor. In this project let him lend the bookseller his name (for a competent sum of Money) to promote the credit of an exorbitant subscription.” Gentle reader, be pleased to cast thine eye on the proposal below quoted, and on what follows (some months after the former assertion) in the same Journalist of June 8: “ The bookseller proposed the book by subscription, and raised some thousands of pounds for the same: I believe the gentleman did not share in the profits of this extravagant subscription. “ After the Iliad he undertook (saith

Mist's JOURNAL, June 8, 1728) the sequel of that work, the Odyssey ; and having secured the success by a numerous subscription, he

9 Vid. pref. to Mr. Tickel's translation of the first book of the Iliad, 4to.

employed some underlings to perform what, according to his proposals, should come from his own hands.” To which heavy charge we can in truth oppose nothing but the words of

Mr. Pope's PROPOSAL for the ODYSSEY,

(printed for J. Watts, Jan. 10, 1724.) “ I take this occasion to declare that the subscription for Shakspeare belongs wholly to Mr. Tonson: and that the benefit of this Proposal is not solely for my own use, but for that of two of my friends, who have ảssisted me in this work.” But these

But these very gentlemen are extolled above our poet himself in another of Mist's Journals, March 30, 1728, saying

That he would not advise Mr. Pope to try the experiment again of getting a great part of a book done by assistants, lest those extraneous parts should unhappily ascend to the sublime, and retard the declension of the whole.” Behold! these Underlings are become good writers !

If any say that, before the said proposals were printed, the subscription was begun without declaration of such assistance; verily those who set it on foot, or (as the term is) secured it, to wit, the right honourable the Lord Viscount HARCOURT, were he living, would testify, and the right honourable the Lord BATHURST, now living, doth testify, the same is a falsehold.

Sorry I am, that persons professing to be learned, or of whatever rank of authors, should either falsely tax, or be falsely taxed. Yet let us, who are only reporters, be impartial in our citations, and proceed.

« PreviousContinue »