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would have been shown in leaving blanks, where expressions have been substituted: but could this method have been effected with proper regard to the sense of every passage, the fear of defeating the object of the attempt by perhaps provoking in such cases an unbecoming curiosity, would have been an argument against its adoption.
The notes have been selected not so much to satisfy as to stimulate the spirit of inquiry.
In the reflection that this book is intended only for the young, there are few parents who will not approve at least of its design; and even should a severe sentence be passed upon its execution, the Editor will hope for partial justification in the motive which led to his attempt.
June 16, 1849.
TO MY CHILDREN.
With the desire of leaving you a parting token of affection, better worth your grateful remembrance than the ordinary memorials of leave-taking, I have urged forward the production of this volume more hastily than I otherwise should have done ; which will account for, and in part excuse, whatever may appear objectionable in the imperfect execution of my design.
In watching over, and assisting in, your education, it has been my constant aim to induce and cultivate in your minds an intimate acquaintance with the works of the greatest authors, and thus insure you that enjoyment and love of them, which, whilst it refines, enlarges, and exalts your intellectual powers, will add abundantly to the best pleasures of your existence. But among our first and most highly gifted writers how few there are, on whom the rare encomium can be passed, that he has left "no line which, dying, he could wish to blot !” Frequently in reading to you from the pages of poets, who preceded Pope, and those of Pope himself, I have been obliged to subject them to previous scrutiny and a severe censorship, in order to avoid giving utterance to passages which, if comprehended, would shock the delicacy of an uncorrupted taste without imparting any benefit to the understanding.
The precept, I have most earnestly sought to impress upon you all, and which I would desire you ever to bear in mind, is, on no account to pass by in your studies the most trifling sentence, or even one single word, until you had gained by your own research or through others' information a clear and distinct idea of its meaninga: and at the same time my fondest wish has been, that I should always be able to think of you as among those“ whose hearts,” to quote our own Wordsworth's lofty verse,
"- the holy forms
of young imagination have kept pure.” I could not, I regret to say, compatibly with such a wish and the enforcement of such an injunction as that I have laid upon you, place in your hands an ordinary edition of this charming poet's works for your meditation and improvement.
You are not to suppose that, in taking partial exceptions, I join in the cry of those who would detract from the high qualities of Pope, as a poet or a man. The uniformity of his conduct in the several relations of son, benefactor, and friend, justify the eulogy of Thomson,
“ Though not more sweetly his own Homer sings,
Yet is his life the more endearing song :” and if we are called upon to notice his over-sensitiveness to the abuse flung on him by the envy of unworthy and incapable writers, and what I cannot but lament, although we owe to it the wit and satire of the Dunciad) his weakness in resenting it, there is no very great stretch of indulgence required to make allowance for such human
“If he has for haste skipped over what he should have examined, he must begin and go over all again, or else he will never come to knowledge.” -LOCKE, Conduct of the Understanding.
Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue;
But, like a shadow, proves its substance true.--Art of Crit. Though fully sensible of the impotent malice of his assailants, he had not the practical philosophy to disregard them, like Burke "Loose libels ought always to be passed by in silence. By me they have been so always. ... If I can live down these contemptible calumnies, I shall never deign to contradict them in any other manner.”
failings on the plea of his unhappy sickly constitution and the deformity of his person.
Frederick, Prince of Wales, when Pope once fell asleep after dinner in his company, rebuked the officious disquiet of the guests with the observation, “ We should respect the infirmities of such a man as Mr. Pope.” We, who owe so much to his genius, may well adopt the language of his polite apologist.
In the foremost rank of those who have enriched our literature, his name will always stand conspicuous. For exquisite fancy, and refined wit, accompanied with peculiar felicity of diction and a versification the most melodious under the regulation of a judgment scrupulously severe, he is without a rival. I cannot concur in the doubt, which some have entertained, of the vigour and loftiness of his imagination, believing implicitly in his own assertion, that he voluntarily “stooped to truth, and moralised his song.".
Our language is largely indebted to him ; and they who can carry his precepts into faithful practice, must surely acknowledge deep obligation to him as a moral teacher.
Would it not then be strange, if I did not seek to make you all familiarly conversant with the thoughts of such a writer ? At the same time I would restrict your knowledge of him, as of all other authors, to such of their works,or portions of their works, as are really worTH YOUR KNOWING. I have expunged nothing in this collection, not one word, that could tend to instruct or amuse you,—not one single thought, that any real lover of poetry, any one of those finer spirits, that “glow as they read,” would wish to have restored for the edification and refinement of their own, or their children's taste. The occasional indelicacy and coarseness, into which Pope has—it must be admitted, rarely-been betrayed, arose less from the bent of his own disposition, which had in it so much of what was tender, delicate, and beautiful, than from the tone of the age in which he lived. Swift could not have published in our day what was popular above an hundred years ago; and even the writings of later times, of Sterne, of Smollett, &c. would require a strong correcting hand, before they could be considered fit to meet the eye, and engage the thoughts of the innocent and young of the present time. But let us not, therefore, cast hasty and indiscriminate blame on our predecessors. “L'imperfection de nos peres, loin d'être une regle pour nous, n'est qu'un avertissement de faire ce qu'ils feraient, s'ils etaient en notre place avec nos lumieres c."
To prepare for you such a collection of the works of Pope, as would enable you to become familiar with his excellences, without any uneasy interruption to the free current of your thoughts in their perusal, has been, in the midst of oppressive occupations, a labour of love to me; and as I think there is no legacy a parent can bequeath his family so rich in value as the means of acquiring wisdom, I have peculiar pleasure in inscribing to you, my children, and in commending to your careful study this edition of Pope's poetical works as an aid to your progress in that first duty of your lives--self-improvement.
W. C. M.
5, CLARENCE TERRACE, REGENT'S PARK,
August 24, 1848.
c Schlegel, too, a name to be reverenced by every lover of Shakspeare, in one of his most powerful characters, notices-"les expressions, qui effrayent la pudeur ; " adding his conviction, “Si Shakspeare avoit écrit de nos jours, sans doute il les auroit adoucies.”