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however, may be taken as established. Pope was printing a new edition of his works at the time of his death. He had just distributed to his friends some copies of the Ethic Epistles, and in those copies the Atossa appeared. Boling broke, to whom Pope had left his unpublished papers, discovered it, and immediately identified it with the duchess, who it must be noticed) was still alive. He wrote to Marchmont, one of Pope's executors, that there could be "no excuse for Pope's design of publishing it after the favour you and I know.” This is further explained by a note added in pencil by Marchmont's executor, “ 10001. ;” and the son of this executor, who published the Marchmont papers, says that this was the favour received by Pope from the duchess. This, however, is far from proving a direct bribe. It is, in fact, hardly conceivable that the duchess and Pope should have made such a bargain in direct black and white, and equally inconceivable that two men like Bolingbroke and Marchmont should have been privy to such a transaction, and spoken of it in such terms. Boling broke thinks that the favour received laid Pope under an obligation, but evidently does not think that it implied a contract. Mr. Dilke has further pointed out that there are many touches in the character which distinctly apply to the Duchess of Buckingham, with whom Pope had certainly quarrelled, and which will not apply to the Duchess of Marlborough, who had undoubtedly made friends with him during the last years of his life. Walpole again tells a story, partly confirmed by Warton, that Pope had shown the character to each duchess (Warton says only to Marlborough), saying that it was meant for the other. The Duchess of Buckingham, he says, believed him; the other had more sense and paid him 10001. to suppress it.
Walpole is no trustworthy authority; but the coincidence implies at least that such a story was soon current.
The most probable solution must conform to these data. Pope's Atossa was a portrait which would fit either lady, though it would be naturally applied to the most famous. It seems certain also that Pope had received some favours (possibly the 10001. on some occasion unknown) from the Duchess of Marlborough, which was felt by his friends to make any attack upon her unjustifiable. We can scarcely believe that there should have been a direct compact of the kind described. If Pope had been a person of duly sensitive conscience he would have suppressed his work. But to suppress anything that he had written, and especially a passage so carefully laboured, was always agony to him. He preferred, as we may perhaps conjecture, to settle in his own mind that it would fit the Duchess of Buckingham, and possibly introduced some of the touches to which Mr. Dilke refers. He thought it sufficiently disguised to be willing to publish it whilst the person with whom it was naturally identified was still alive. Had she complained, he would have relied upon those touches, and have equivocated as he equivocated to Hill and Chandos. He always seems to have fancied that he could conceal himself by very thin disguises. But he ought to have known, and perhaps did know, that it would be immediately applied to the person who had conferred an obligation. From that guilt no hypothesis can relieve him ; but it is certainly not proved, and seems, on the whole, improbable that he was so base as the concessions of his biographers would indicate.
The last satires were published in 1738. Six years of life still remained to Pope ; his intellectual powers were still vigorous, and his pleasure in their exercise had not ceased. The only fruit, however, of his labours during this period was the fourth book of the Dunciad. He spent much time upon bringing out new editions of his works, and upon the various intrigues connected with the Swift correspondence. But his health was beginning to fail. The ricketty framework was giving way, and failing to answer the demands of the fretful and excitable brain. In the spring of 1744 the poet was visibly breaking up; he suffered from dropsical asthma, and seems to have made matters worse by putting himself in the hands of a noto. rious quack-a Dr. Thomson. The end was evidently near as he completed his fifty-sixth year. Friends, old and new, were often in attendance. Above all, Bolingbroke, the venerated friend of thirty years' standing; Patty Blount, the woman whom he loved best ; and the excellent Spence, who preserved some of the last words of the dying man. The scene, as he saw it, was pathetic; perhaps it is not less pathetic to us, for whom it has another side as of grim tragic humour.
Three weeks before his death Pope was sending off
copies of the Ethic Epistles-apparently with the Atossa lines to his friends. "Here I am, like Socrates," he said, "dispensing my morality amongst my friends just as I am dying." Spence watched him as anxiously as his disciples watched Socrates. He was still sensible to kindness. Whenever Miss Blount came in, the failing spirits rallied for a moment. He was always saying something kindly of his friends, "as if his humanity had outlasted his understanding." Bolingbroke, when Spence made the remark, said that he had never known a man with so tender a heart for his own friends or for mankind. "I have known him," he added, "these thirty years, and value myself more for that man's love than-" and his voice was lost in tears. At moments Pope could still be playful. "Here I am, dying of a hundred good symptoms," he replied to some flattering report, but his mind was beginning to wander. He complained of seeing things as through a curtain. "What's that?" he said, pointing to the air, and then, with a smile of great pleasure, added softly, "'twas a vision." His religious sentiments still edified his hearers. "I am so certain," he said, "of the soul's being immortal, that I seem to feel it within me, as it were by intuition;" and early one morning he rose from bed and tried to begin an essay upon immortality, apparently in a state of semi-delirium. On his last day he sacrificed, as Chesterfield rather cynically observes, his cock to Esculapius. Hooke, a zealous Catholic friend, asked him whether he would not send for a priest. "I do not suppose that it is essential," said Pope, "but it will look right, and I heartily thank you for putting me in mind of it." A priest was brought, and Pope received the last sacraments with great fervour and resignation. Next day, on May 30th, 1744, he died so
painful associations; and Pope, alas! was an unconscious accomplice. To us of a later generation it is impossible to close this strange history without a singular mixture of feelings. Admiration for the extraordinary literary talents, respect for the energy which, under all disadvantages of health and position, turned these talents to the best account; love of the real tender-heartedness which formed the basis of the man's character; pity for the many sufferings to which his morbid sensitiveness exposed him; contempt for the meannesses into which he was hurried; ridicule for the insatiable vanity which prompted his most degrading subterfuges; horror for the bitter animosities which must have tortured the man who cherished them even more than his victims-are suggested simultaneously by the name of Pope. As we look at him in one or other aspect, each feeling may come uppermost in turn. The most abiding sentiment-when we think of him as a literary phenomenon-is admiration for the exquisite skill which enabled him to discharge a function, not of the highest kind, with a perfection rare in any department of literature. It is more difficult to say what will be the final element in our feeling about the man. Let us hope that it may be the pity which, after a certain lapse of years, we may be excused for conceding to the victim of moral as well as physical diseases.