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genius" in the Epistle to Arbuthnot, and declaring that the "sole return" of all Gay's "blameless life was
My verse and Queensberry weeping o'er thy urn.
Pope's alliance with Gay had various results. Gay continued the war with Ambrose Philips by writing burlesque pastorals, of which Johnson truly says that they show "the effect of reality and truth, even when the intention was to show them grovelling and degraded." They may still be glanced at with pleasure. Soon after the publication of the mock pastorals, the two friends, in company with Arbuthnot, had made an adventure more in the spirit of the Scriblerus Club. A farce called Three Hours after Marriage was produced and damned in 1717. It was intended (amongst other things) to satirize Pope's old enemy Dennis, called "Sir Tremendous," as an embodiment of pedantic criticism, and Arbuthnot's old antagonist Woodward. A taste for fossils, mummies, or antiquities, was at that time regarded as a fair butt for unsparing ridicule; but the three great wits managed their assault so clumsily as to become ridiculous themselves; and Pope, as presently see, smarted as usual under failure.
After Swift's retirement to Ireland, and during Pope's absorption in Homer, the Scriblerus Club languished. Some fragments, however, of the great design were executed by the four chief members, and the dormant project was revived, after Pope had finished his Homer, on occasion of the last two visits of Swift to England. He passed six months in England from March to August, 1726, and had brought with him the MS. of Gulliver's Travels, the greatest satire produced by the Scriblerians. He passed a great part of his time at Twickenham, and in
rambling with Pope or Gay about the country. Those who do not know how often the encounter of brilliant wits tends to neutralize rather than stimulate their activity, may wish to have been present at a dinner which took place at Twickenham on July 6th, 1726, when the party was made up of Pope, the most finished poet of the day; Swift, the deepest humourist; Bolingbroke, the most brilliant politician; Congreve, the wittiest writer of comedy; and Gay, the author of the most successful burlesque. The envious may console themselves by thinking that Pope very likely went to sleep, that Swift was deaf and overbearing, that Congreve and Bolingbroke were painfully witty, and Gay frightened into silence. When in 1727 Swift again visited England, and stayed at Twickenham, the clouds were gathering. The scene is set before us in some of Swift's verses:
Pope has the talent well to speak,
But not to reach the ear;
Awhile they on each other look,
"Two sick friends," says Swift in a letter written after his return to Ireland, "never did well together." It is plain that their infirmities had been mutually trying, and on the last day of August Swift suddenly withdrew from Twickenham, in spite of Pope's entreaties. He had heard of the last illness of Stella, which was finally to crush his happiness. Unable to endure the company of friends, he went to London in very bad health, and thence, after a short stay, to Ireland, leaving behind him
a letter which, says Pope, "affected me so much that it made me like a girl." It was a gloomy parting, and the last. The stern Dean retired to die "like a poisoned rat in a hole," after long years of bitterness, and finally of slow intellectual decay. He always retained perfect confidence in his friend's affection. Poor Pope, as he says in the verses on his own death,—
will grieve a month, and Gay A week, and Arbuthnot a day;
and they were the only friends to whom he attributes sincere sorrow.
Meanwhile two volumes of Miscellanies, the joint work of the four wits, appeared in June, 1727, and a third in March, 1728. A fourth, hastily got up, was published in 1732. They do not appear to have been successful. The copyright of the three volumes was sold for 2257, of which Arbuthnot and Gay received each 507., whilst the remainder was shared between Pope and Swift; and Swift seems to have given his part, according to his custom, to the widow of a respectable Dublin bookseller. Pope's correspondence with the publisher shows that he was entrusted with the financial details, and arranged them with the sharpness of a practised man of business. The whole collection was made up in great part of old scraps, and savoured of bookmaking, though Pope speaks complacently of the joint volumes, in which he says to Swift, "We look like friends, side by side, serious and merry by turns, conversing interchangeably, and walking down, hand in hand, to posterity." Of the various fragments contributed by Pope, there is only one which need be mentioned here-the treatise on Bathos in the third volume, in which he was helped by Arbuthnot. He told
Swift privately that he had "entirely methodized and in a manner written it all," though he afterwards chose to denounce the very same statement as a lie when the treatise brought him into trouble. It is the most amusing of his prose writings, consisting essentially of a collection of absurdities from various authors, with some apparently invented for the occasion, such as the familiar
Ye gods, annihilate but space and time,
and ending with the ingenious receipt to make an epic poem. Most of the passages ridiculed-and, it must be said, very deservedly-were selected from some of the various writers to whom, for one reason or another, he owed a grudge. Ambrose Philips and Dennis, his old enemies, and Theobald, who had criticised his edition of Shakespeare, supply several illustrations. Black more had spoken very strongly of the immorality of the wits in some prose essays; Swift's Tale of a Tub, and a parody of the first psalm, anonymously circulated, but known to be Pope's, had been severely condemned; and Pope took a cutting revenge by plentiful citations from Blackmore's most ludicrous bombast; and even Broome, his colleague in Homer, came in for a passing stroke, for Broome and Pope were now at enmity. Finally, Pope fired a general volley into the whole crowd of bad authors by grouping them under the head of various animals-tortoises, parrots, frogs, and so forth-and adding under each head the initials of the persons described. He had the audacity to declare that the initials were selected at random. If so, a marvellous coincidence made nearly every pair of letters correspond to the name and surname of some contem
The classification was rather vague,
but seems to have given special offence.
Meanwhile Pope was planning a more elaborate campaign against his adversaries. He now appeared for the first time as a formal satirist, and the Dunciad, in which he came forward as the champion of Wit, taken in its broad sense, against its natural antithesis, Dulness, is in some respect his masterpiece. It is addressed to Swift, who probably assisted at some of its early stages. O thou, exclaims the poet,
O thou, whatever title please thine ear,
And we feel that Swift is present in spirit throughout the composition. "The great fault of the Dunciad," says Warton, an intelligent and certainly not an over-severe critic, "is the excessive vehemence of the satire. It has been compared," he adds, "to the geysers propelling a vast column of boiling water by the force of subterranean fire;" and he speaks of some one who after reading a book of the Dunciad, always soothes himself by a canto of the Faery Queen. Certainly a greater contrast could not easily be suggested; and yet, I think, that the remark requires at least modification. The Dunciad, indeed, is beyond all question full of coarse abuse. The second book, in particular, illustrates that strange delight in the physically disgusting which Johnson notices as characteristic of Pope and his master, Swift. In the letter prefixed to the Dunciad, Pope tries to justify his abuse of his enemies by the example of Boileau, whom he appears to have considered as his great prototype. But Boileau