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Fr. Alas! alas! pray end what you began, And write next winter more Essays on Man. 255
Ver. ult.] This was the last poem of the kind printed by our author, with a resolution to publish no more; but to enter thus, in the most plain and solemn manner he could, a sort of PROTEST against that insuperable corruption and depravity of manners, which he had been so unhappy as to live to see. Could he have hoped to have amended any, he had continued those attacks; but bad men were grown so shameless and so powerful, that ridicule was become as unsafe as it was ineffectual. The Poem raised him, as he knew it would, some enemies; but he had reason to be satisfied with the approbation of good men, and the testimony of his own conscience.
Pope. We must own that these Dialogues, excellent as they are, exhibit many and strong marks of our author's petulance, partyspirit, and self-importance; and of assuming to himself the character of censor general; who, alas ! if he had possessed a thousand times more genius, integrity, and ability, than he actually enjoyed, could not have altered or amended the manners of a rich and commercial, and consequently of a luxurious and dissipated nation. But we make ourselves unhappy, by hoping to possess incompatible things; we want to have wealth without corruption, and liberty without virtue !
Warton, Could Pope with his good sense, unless self-love had blinded him, seriously believe, that his pen could effect such mighty purposes, even if the objects of his satire were so notorious, that
every good and wise man would have been on his side, and nothing was dictated by private spleen, and political asperity! Alas, we might say, in the language of poor Cowper,
66 Leviathan is not so tamed;
Turns to the stroke his adamantine scales." Bowles. The foregoing objections of Dr. Warton and Mr. Bowles to these Satires, would, if just, apply not only to the writings of Pope, but to all moral instruction and remonstrance whatsoever. That the efforts of any single individual are not likely to effect an entire
change in the manners of a people may be admitted ; but it will not thence follow that no attempt is to be made to resist the torrent of corruption and depravity, and to awaken the energies of a people to a better sense of their own true interests and happiness. What results may be produced by such efforts no one can ascertain. They are lessons not confined to a single age or nation, but are common to all times and to all mankind; and whatever may be thought of temporary politics and private partialities or resentments, will inculcate a scorn of factitious greatness, a contempt of meanness and servility, and a generous indignation against profligacy and vice, as long as the language in which they are written
DR. WARTON informs us, “that the colloquial and burlesque style and measure of Swift, here adopted, did not suit the genius and manner of our author, who frequently falls back, as was natural, from the familiar, into his own more laboured, high, and pompous
manner.” On this Mr. Bowles observes, “that the observation is so far just, that Pope certainly does not display, in his Imitations of Horace, the ease and familiarity of Swift; but this does not detract from their merit any farther than as professed imitations of Swift;" to which he adds, that " neither are the least like Horace.”
Whether the public will implicitly adopt the opinions of the above critics, whose observations seem generally intended to preoccupy the judgment of the reader in a manner as unfavourable as possible to the author, may perhaps be doubted. Certain however it is, that such decisions are perfectly irreconcileable with the degree of estimation in which these lighter imitations of Horace have been held by former editors, and perhaps by all who are capable of forming an unprejudiced judgment respecting them. Warburton was of opinion, " that although Pope excelled his friend Swift in his own way of modernizing Horace, yet that this way was infinitely inferior to his own." For which he assigns as a reason “that though Horace be easy, he is not familiar; or if he be, it is the familiarity of courts, which is never without its dignity; these things burlesque verse cannot reconcile, nor indeed any other but that of these imitations.” Dr. Warton has also pointed out in his introductory note to these pieces, several of Mr. Christopher Pitt's translations of Horace, which he assures us, "if carefully and candidly inspected, will be found really equal to any of Pope's Imitations; and are executed with a dignified familiarity and ease, in the very manner of Horace." Through what motives or with what propriety the Imitations of Pope are brought into comparison with the translations of Pitt, does not appear; but it is not improbable that the decision which inclines strongly to the latter, as being in the very manner of Horace, was founded on the peculiar habits and profession of the critic, and that the humour, the discursiveness, and the elegance of Pope, did not accord with the ideas of Warton so well as the more exact and classical translations of Pitt.