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Bless'd be the Great, for those they take away, 255 And those they left me; for they left me Gay;
: Ver. 256. left me Gay;] The sweetness and simplicity of Gay's temper and manners much endeared him to all his acquaintance, and made them always speak of him with particular fondness and attachment. Trivia appears to be the best of his poems, in which are many strokes of genuine humour, and pictures of London-life, which are now become curious, because our manners, as well as our dresses, have been so much altered and changed within a few years. His Fables, the most popular of all his works, have the fault of many modern fable-writers the ascribing to the different animals and objects introduced, speeches and actions inconsistent with their several natures. Let every man of letters, who wishes for patronage, read D'Alembert's Essay on living with the Great, before he enters the house of a patron : and let him always remember the fate of Racine, who having drawn up, at Madame Maintenon's secret request, a memorial that strongly painted the distresses of the French nation, the weight of their taxes, and the expenses of the court, she could not resist the importunity of Lewis XIV., but shewed him her friend's paper, against whom the king immediately conceived a violent indignation, because a poet should dare to busy himself with politics. Racine had the weakness to take this anger so much to heart, that it brought on a low fever, which hastened his death. The Duchess of Queensberry would not so have betrayed her poetical friend Gay.
Warton. Ver. 256. GAY;] Warton says, Spence informed him that Addison accused himself on his death-bed to Gay, of having injured him. This, no doubt, came from Pope; but the real cause of Gay's being neglected at Court, appears in Coxe’s Walpole. He expected preferment through the interest of Mrs. Howard, mistress to George II., afterwards countess of Suffolk. As this point is so curious, and so clearly ascertained, I beg to quote the words of that interesting and able historian :
“ Swift was convinced that the minister had prevented the bounty of Queen Caroline from being shewn to the author of the Hare and many Friends; and he observes, alluding to it in a copy of verses addressed to Gay :
Left me to see neglected genius bloom,
Oh let me live my own, and die so too, (To live and die is all I have to do :)
« Fain would I think our female friend sincere,
Till Bob, the poet's foe, possess'd her ear," &c. In another place, Swift asserts that it was principally owing to the dedication prefixed to the Pastorals, in honour of Bolingbroke, and to some expressions in his fables, which displeased the Court. He repeats this accusation in his letters and works, and had even the rudeness to hint it to Sir Robert Walpole himself, when he dined with him at Chelsea. Gay was of the same opinion; and in the second part of his fables, which were not printed till after his death, is full of sarcastic and splenetic allusions to the minister. But as Walpole was neither of a jealous nor vindictive disposition, there is no reason to give credit to the aspersions of his enemies, and to suppose that he used his influence over queen Caroline for the purpose of injuring Gay, particularly when another, and a more natural motive of her conduct
be suggested. In fact, Gay was the innocent cause of his own disgrace; for he thought that Mrs. Howard was all-powerful at Court, and that he, whom Swift humorously calls one of her led captains, should rise by her recommendation. Pope also, in a letter to Swift, alluding to Mrs. Howard, says : Gay puts his whole trust in that Lady whom I described to you, and whom you take to be an allegorical creature of fancy. And Gay thus expresses himself to Swift: “Mrs. Howard has declared herself very strongly, both to the king and queen, as my protector.” But in these words, they unconsciously declare the cause of his disfavour. The queen's jealousy of the interference and credit of the mistress obstructed his promotion; and his own indiscretion afterwards, destroyed every hope. Soon after this disappointment, he produced the Beggars' Opera; and both his conversation and writings were so full of invectives against the Court, that all expectations of further notice from the queen were obviously relinquished.” Coxe's Memoirs. Bowles.
Maintain a poet's dignity and ease,
265 Sometimes to call a minister my friend. I was not born for Courts or great affairs; I pay my debts, believe, and say my prayers ; Can sleep without a poem in my head, Nor know if Dennis be alive or dead.
270 Why am I ask'd what next shall see the light? Heavens! was I born for nothing but to write ? Has life no joys for me? or (to be grave) Have I no friend to serve, no soul to save? “ I found him close with Swift" -" Indeed? no
doubt," (Cries prating Balbus) “ something will come out.” 'Tis all in vain, deny it as I will: “ No, such a genius never can lie still;"
Ver. 261. Oh let me live] In the first edition:
Give me on Thames's banks, in honest ease,
To see what friends, or read what books I please. Ver. 271. Why am I ask’d, &c.] This is intended as a reproof of those impertinent complaints, which were continually made to him by those who called themselves his friends, for not entertaining the town as often as it wanted amusement. A French writer says well on this occasion : Dès qu'on est auteur, il semble qu'on soit aux gages d'un tas de fainéans, pour leur fournir de quoi amuser leur oisiveté.
Friendships from youth I sought, and seek them still:
And then for mine obligingly mistakes
Ver. 280. Sir Will] Sir William Young. Bowles.
Ver. 280. or Bubo makes.] By Bubo, it is universally considered, Pope meant Bubb Dodington, afterwards Lord Melcombe. By the kindness of Mr. Wyndham, member for Wiltshire, I have been able to examine all Lord Melcombe's correspondence with many of the first characters in point of rank and literature: and it is singular, though there are letters from so many literary men, and upon literary subjects, particularly from Voltaire, Young, Thomson, &c. Pope's name is never once mentioned. Dodington, although it appears his governing principle was to side with that party by which he could get most, had in other respects many good qualities. He was a liberal patron, and kind friend. His magnificent house at Easbury was the resort of men of genius. Thomson was enabled, by his liberal bounty, to travel into France and Italy; and his letters to Dodington from thence are very interesting, and expressive of the utmost respect and gratitude.
He was handsome, and of a striking figure, and was certainly possessed of wit and talents, if not of great parts. Some of his verses are written with great elegance and beauty, and are particularly animated. Lady M. W. Montagu in her letter calls him " the all accomplished Mr. Dodington.”
The mansion which he built at Easbury, near Blandford, did not long survive him. It came into the possession of the Marquis of Buckingham, and was taken down a few years since. Part of the offices were left standing, and have been turned into a very convenient and handsome house, now in the possession of J. Wedgewood, Esq. who purchased the estate of the Marquis of Buckingham.
Bowles. Ver. 282. When every corcomb knows me by my style ?] The discovery of a concealed author by his style, not only requires a perfect intimacy with his writings, but great skill in the nature of composition. But, in the practice of these critics, knowing an Curs'd be the verse, how well soe'er it flow, That tends to make one worthy man my foe,
author by his style, is like judging of a man's whole person from the view of one of his moles.
When Mr. Pope wrote the Advertisement to the first edition of the New Dunciad, intimating, that “it was by a different hand from the other, and found in detached pieces, incorrect and unfinished,” I objected to him the affectation of using so unpromising an attempt to mislead his reader. He replied, that I thought too highly of the public taste; that, most commonly, it was formed on that of half a dozen people in fashion, who took the lead, and who sometimes have intruded on the town the dullest performances for works of wit, while, at the same time, some true effort of genius, without name or recommendation, hath passed by the public eye unobserved or neglected ; that he once before made the trial I now objected to, with success, in the Essay on Man: which was at first given (as he told me) to Dr. Young, to Dr. Desaguliers, to Lord Bolingbroke, to Lord Paget, and, in short, to every body but to him who was capable of writing it. However, to make him amends, this same public, when let into the secret, would, for some time after, suffer no poem
with a moral title, to pass for any man's but his. So the Essay on Human Life, the Essay on Reason, and many others of a worse tendency, were very liberally bestowed upon him. Warburton.
After Ver. 282. in the MS.
As rumbling D-s or a Norfolk hound;
Then smooth up all, and CAROLINE rehearse.
Leave to court-sermons and to birth-day odes.
Let laurell’a Cibber, and great Arnall shine.