« PrejšnjaNaprej »
of fixty, and fo diftinguished himself, that their interviews ended in friendship and correfpondence. Pope was, through his whole life, ambitious of splendid acquaintance, and he feems to have wanted neither diligence nor fuccess in attracting the notice of the great; for from his firft entrance into the world, and his entrance was very early, he was admitted to familiarity with those whose rank or station made them most conspicuous.
From the age of fixteen the life of Pope, as an author, may be properly computed. He now wrote his pastorals, which were shewn to the Poets and Criticks of that time; as they well deferved, they were read with admiration, and many praises were bestowed upon them and upon the Preface, which is both elegant and learned in a high degree: they were, however, not published till five years afterwards.
Cowley, Milton, and Pope, are distinguished among the English Poets by the early exertion of their powers; but the works of Cowley alone were published in his childhood, and therefore of him only can it be certain that
that his puerile performances received no improvement from his maturer ftudies.
At this time began his acquaintance with Wycherley, a man who feems to have had among his contemporaries his full share of reputation, to have been esteemed without virtue, and careffed without good-humour. Pope was proud of his notice; Wycherley wrote verfes in his praise, which he was charged by Dennis with writing to himself, and they agreed for a while to flatter one another. It is pleasant to remark how foon Pope learned the cant of an author, and began to treat criticks with contempt, though he had yet fuffered nothing from them.
But the fondness of Wycherley was too violent to last. His efteem of Pope was such, that he submitted fome poems to his revifion; and when Pope, perhaps proud of such confidence, was sufficiently bold in his criticisms, and liberal in his alterations, the old fcribbler was angry to see his pages defaced, and felt more pain from the detection than content from the amendment of his faults. They parted; but Pope always confidered him with kindness,
kindness, and visited him a little time before he died..
Another of his early correfpondents was Mr. Cromwell, of whom I have learned nothing particular but that he used to ride a-hunting in a tye-wig. He was fond, and perhaps vain, of amufing himself with poetry and criticism; and fometimes fent his performances to Pope, who did not forbear fuch remarks as were now-and-then unwelcome. Pope, in his turn, put the juvenile verfion of Statius into his hands for correction.
Their correfpondence afforded the publick its first knowledge of Pope's Epiftolary Powers; for his Letters were given by Cromwell to one Mrs. Thomas, and the many years afterwards fold them to Curll, who inferted them in a volume of his Miscellanies.
Walsh, a name yet preferved among the minor poets, was one of his first encouragers. His regard was gained by the Pastorals, and from him Pope received the council by which he feems to have regulated his ftudies. Walsh
advised him to correctness, which, as he told
Pope had now declared himfelf a poets and, thinking himfelf entitled to poetical converfation, began at feventeen to frequent Will's, a coffee-houfe on the north fide of Ruffel-ftreet in Covent-garden, where the wits of that time used to affemble, and where Dryden had, when he lived, been accustomed to prefide.
During this period of his life he was indefatigably diligent, and infatiably curious; wanting health for violent, and money for expenfive pleasures, and having certainly excited in himself very ftrong defires of intelle&ual eminence, he spent much of his time over his books; but he read only to store his mind with facts and images, feizing all
all that his authors presented with undiftinguishing voracity, and with an appetite for knowledge too eager to be nice. In a mind like his, however, all the faculties were at once involuntarily improving. Judgement is forced upon us by experience. He that reads many books must compare one opinion or one style with another; and when he compares, must neceffarily distinguish, reject, and prefer. But the account given by himself of his ftudies was, that from fourteen to twenty he read only for amufement, from twenty to twenty-feven for improvement and instruction; that in the first part of this time he defired only to know, and in the second he endeavoured to judge.
The Paftorals, which had been for fome time handed about among poets and criticks, were at last printed (1709) in Tonson's Mifcellany, in a volume which began with the Paftorals of Philips, and ended with those of Pope.
The fame year was written the Essay on Criticism; a work which difplays fuch extent of comprehenfion, fuch nicety of distinction,