« PrejšnjaNaprej »
made his residuary legatees. Richard, though a partner with his elder brother, lived principally on his estate near Windsor, where he was so much beloved and respected, that the electors of that borough almost compelled him to represent them in parliament; an honour which he enjoyed at the time of his death. Jacob, who is called by Dr. Johnson, "the late amiable Mr. Tonson," after having carried on the business of a bookseller with great liberality, and credit to himself, for above thirty years, died without issue, in 1767 ;* and Mr. Steevens afterwards honoured his memory with a characteristick, and, I believe, a very just eulogium.' He was the last commercial name of a
This amiable man carried on his trade for many years in the same shop which had been possessed by his father and great uncle, opposite Catharine-street in the Strand; but some years before his death removed to a new house on the other side of the way, near Catharine-street, where he died, March 31, 1767. Though his younger brother, Richard, survived him a few years, (dying at Water-Oakley, near Bray, in Berkshire, Oct. 9, 1772,) Mr. Jacob Tonson may be considered as the last commercial name of this family; Richard having become a country gentleman, and a Member of Parliament. His father by his will directed his estate at Water-Oakley to be sold, and the produce to be considered as part of his personal property; but it came into the hands of his second son, Richard, either by agreement with his family, or by purchase.
5 Advertisement prefixed to his first edition of Shakspeare's Plays, in ten volumes, 1773
family connected with English literature for almost a hundred years.
Since the death of Dryden, nearly a century has elapsed; during the latter part of which period his reputation has greatly increased, in common with that of our other most famous poets; who for the last fifty years have been more read, and are now much better understood, than they were by our ancestors. Some of the most distinguished wits of Queen Anne's time, however, seem to have thought themselves obscured by the shade of his laurels; and for a few years, endeavoured to depreciate him.
Old Jacob Tonson informed Mr. Spence, that Addison was so eager to be the first name in modern literature, that, with Steele to assist him, he used to decry Dryden, as far as he could, while Pope and Congreve defended him ;' and in this unworthy attempt, as we learn from Dennis, Addison and his followers were joined by
7 In 1715, Dennis wrote a letter to Jacob Tonson, on the conspiracy against the reputation of Dryden,” which he afterwards printed in a Collection of his Letters, in 1721; but Pope having subscribed to that and another work of his, he was induced (as he tells us in his " Remarks on the DUNCIAD," pp. 39, 40.) "to strike out several severe reflections against him, which were scattered up and down in those Letters:" and Pope afterwards thanked him by letter, (May 3, 1721,) for the omissions which he had made in his favour; adding-" I sincerely join with you in the desire that not the least traces may remain of that difference between us, which indeed I am
a numerous band. It is painful to observe, in all times, how much men's judgments are warped by
sorry for."—As the ravings of Dennis against this great poet can detract nothing from his reputation, his Letter relative to Dryden is here printed from the original, without any mutilation. The passages in the Italick character are those which were omitted by Dennis in his book:
"When I had the good fortune to meet you in the citty, it was with concern that I heard from you, of the attempt to lessen the reputation of Mr. Dryden; and 'tis with indignation that I have since learnt that that attempt has chiefly been carried on by small poets, who ungratefully strive to eclipse the glory of a great man, from whom alone they derive their own feint lustre. But that eclipse will be as momentary as that of the sun was lately. The reputation of Mr. Dryden will soon break out again in its full lustre, and theirs will disappear. Upon hearing of this attempt, I reflected with some amazement that I should have gott the reputation of an ill-natur'd man, by exposing the absurditys of living authours, and authours for the most part of a very moderate meritt, tho' I have always done it openly and fairly, and upon just provocations; and that these should attack the reputation of a great man deceas'd, who now can make noe defence for himself, and upon whom they fawn'd while living, and should yet escape uncensur'd.
“But when I heard that this attempt to lessen Mr. Dryden's reputation was done in favour of little Pope, that diminutive of Parnassus and of humanity, it was impossible to expresse to what a height my indignation and disdain were rais'd. Good GOD! was there ever any nation, in which, I will not say a false tast, for we never had a true
the violence of party. Prior, who set out a zealous Whig, not contented with the ridicule which, in
one, but in which a wrong sense, and a fatall delusion, soe generally prevail'd? For have not too many of us lately appear'd to contemn every thing that is great and glorious, and to prize and exalt every thing that is base and infamous? Have not too many made it plain to the world by a manifest execrable choice, that they preferr weaknesse to power, folly to wisdom, poverty to wealth, infamy to glory, submission to victory, slavery to liberty, idolatry to religion; the Duke of O[rmond] to the Duke of M[arlborough]; the empty Pretender to Royall George, our only rightfull King; and the little Mr. Pope to the illustrious Mr. Dryden ?
"If I appear a little too warm, I hope you will excuse my affection for the memory, and my zeal for the reputation, of my departed friend, whom I infinitely esteem'd when living, for the solidity of his thought, for the spring and the warmth, and the beautifull turn of it; for the power, and variety, and fulnesse of his harmony; for the purity, the perspicuity, the energy of his expression; and, whenever these great qualities are requir'd, for the pomp, and solemnity, and majesty, of his style. But Pope is the very reverse of all this: he scarce ever thought once solidly, but is an empty eternall babbler : and as his thoughts almost always are false or trifling, his expression is too often obscure, ambiguous, and uncleanly. He has indeed a smooth verse and a ryming jingle, but he
has noe power or variety
of harmony; but always the same dull cadence, and a continuall bagpipe drone. Mr. Dryden's expressions are always worthy of his thoughts: but Pope never speaks nor thinks at all; or, which is all one, his language is frequently as barbarous, as his thoughts are false.
"This I have ventured to say, in spight of popular errour.
conjunction with his friend Montague, he aimed at Dryden by the parody on THE HIND AND THE PANTHER, represented this great writer as a misera
But popular errour can be of noe significancy either to you or me, who have seen Mr. Settle in higher reputation than Mr. Pope is at present. And they who live thirty years hence, will find Mr. Pope in the same classe in which Mr. Settle is now; unlesse the former makes strange improvements. Good sense is the sole foundation of good writing; and noe authour who wants solidity, can ever long endure. This I have ventur'd to say in spight of popular errour; and this is in my power, when ever I please, to prove to all the world.
You may now see, Sir, by this letter, how little men know one another, who converse daily together. How many were there in Mr. Dryden's life-time, who made him believe that I should be the foremost, if I surviv'd him, to arreign his reputation ? whereas it is plain, that I am he, of all his acquaintance, who flattered him least while living, yet was always ready to doe him justice both behind his back, and before his enemies' face; and now he is gone, am the most ready of all his acquaintance to assert his merit, and to vindicate his glory.
"If Mr. Dryden has faults, (as where is the mortall who has none ?) I, by searching for them, perhaps could find them. But whatever the mistaken world may think, I am always willing to be pleas'd; nay, am always greedy of pleasure as any Epicure living; and whenever I am naturally touch'd, I never look for faults. But whenever a cryed-up authour does not please me, upon the first impression, I am apt to seek for the reasons of it, to see if the fault is in him or in me. Wherever genius runs thro' a work, I forgive its faults; and wherever that is wanting, noe beauties can touch me. Being struck by Mr. Dryden's genius, I have noe eyes for his errours ;