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In offering this volume to the public, it is hoped that the Editor will not be charged with the presumption of having laid an irreverent hand upon the text of Pope, but that his motive will be admitted as an excuse for the liberties he has ventured to take. Beyond those of omission, they are few; nor have they been resolved on without scrupulous deliberation, and almost a compunctious reluctance. The reasons for them are given in the inscription to his children ; for whom alone the task of this arrangement was undertaken, whilst preparing himself for a long absence in a distant country.
By friends, who have perused the book, he has been urged to extend its circulation as likely to afford a useful addition to the libraries of the young; and with this hope it is offered to the public.
It may be urged by the fastidious among Pope's idolaters, that more delicacy and respect for the poet 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 b, 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.
b 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.'