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former poets, and of which he has fet an example, which will be an example or a reprcach to his successors, His prose style is as perfect in its kind as his poetic, and has all the beauties proper for it, joined to an uncommon force and perfpicuity.
Under the proiellion of the Roman Catholic religion, to which he adhered to the last, he maintained all the moderation and charity becoming the most thorough and corsistent Protestant. His conversation was natural, easy, and agreeable, without any
affectation of displaying his wit, or obtruding his own judgment, even upon subjects of which he was so emirently a master.
The moral character of our Author, as it did not escape the lash of his calumniators in his life, so have there been attempts since his death to diminish his reputation. Lord Boling broke, whom Mr. Pope efteemed to almost an enthusiastic degree of admiration, was the first to make this attack. Not many years ago the public were entertained with this controversy, immediately upon the publication of his Lordhip's Letters on the Spirit of Patriotism, and the Idea of a Patriot King. Different opinions have been offered ; fome to extenuate the fault of Mr. Pope for printing and mutilating these letters without his Lordship’s knowlege; others to blame him for it as the highest breach of friendship, and the greatest mark of difhonour: but it would exceed our proposed bounds to enter into the merits of this controversy.
This great man is allowed to have been one of the first rank amongst the poets of our nation, and to acknowledge the superiority of none but Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden. With the two former it is unnatural to compare him, as their province in writing is so very different. Pope has never attempted the drama, nor published an epic poem, in which these two distinguished geniuses have fo wonderfully fucceeded. Though Pope's genius was great, it was yet
of so different a cast from Shakelpeare's and Milton's, that no comparison can be justly formed. But if this may be laid of the former two, it will by no means hold with respect to the latter; for between him and Dryden there is a great fimilarity of writing, and a very itriking coincidence of genius. It will not, perhaps, be unpleasing to our readers if we pursue this comparison, and endeavour to discover to whom the fuperiority is juftly to be attributed, and to which of them poetry owes the highest obligations.
When Dryden came into the world he found poetry in a very imperfect state; its numbers were unpolithed, its cadences rough, and there was nothing of harmony or mellifluence to give it a graceful How. In this harsh, unmufical situation Dryden found it, (for the refinements of Waller. were but puerile and unfubftantial :) he polithed the rough diainond, he taught it to shine, and connected beauty, elegance, and strength, in all his poetical coinpolitions. Though Dryden thus polished our English numbers, and thus harmonized versification, it cannot be laid that he carried his art to perfection. Much was yet left undone ; his lines, with all their smoothneis, were often rambling, and expletives were frequently introduced to complete his meatures. It is apparent, therefore, that an additional harmony might Itill be given to our numbers, and that cadences were yet capable of a more musical modulation. To effect this purpoté Mr. Pope arose, who with an ear elegantly delicate, and the advantage of the finest genius, so harmonized the English numbers, as to make them completely musical. His numbers are likewile lo minutely correct, that it would be difficult to conceive how any of his lines can be altered to advantage. He has created a kind of mechanical versification; every line is alike; and though they are sweetly mufical, they want diverlity; for he has not studied so great a variety of paules, and where the accents may
be laid gracefully. The itructure of his verse is the best, and a line of his is more musical than any other line can be made by placing the accents elsewhere ; but we are not quite certain whether the ear is not apt to be soon cloyed with this uniformity of elegance, this sameness of harmony. It mult be acknowledged, however, that he has much improved upon Dryden in the article of vertification, and in that part is greatly his fuperior. But though this muit be acknowledged, perhaps it will not neceffarily follow that his genius was, therefore, fuperior.
The grand characteristic of a poet is his invention, the furest distinction of a great genius.
In Mr. Pope nothing is so truly original as his Rape of the Lock, nor discovers so much invention. In this kind of mock-heroic he is without a rival in our language, for Dryden has written nothing of the kind. His other work which discovers invention, fine designing, and admirable execution, is his Dunciad: which, though built on Dryden's Mac Flecknce, is yet so much fupe. rior, that, in satiric writing, the palm muit justly be yielded to him. In Mr. Dryden's Abfalcm and Ahithopel there are, indeed, the most poignant strokes of satire, and characters drawn with the most masterly touches; but this poem, with all its excellencies, is much inserior to the Dunciad, though Dryden had advantages which Mr. Pope had not; for Dryden's characters are men of great eminence and figure in the state, while Pope has to expose men of obscure birth and unimportant lives, only distinguished from the herd of mankind by a glimmering of genius, which rendered the greatest part of them more em phatically contemptible. Pope's was the hardest talk, and he has executed it with the greatest success. As Mr. Dryden must undoubtedly have yielded to Pope in satiric writing, it is incumbent on the partizans of Dryden to name another species, of composition in which the former excels so as to throw the balance
again upon the side of Dryden. This species is the Lyric, in which the warmest votaries of Pope muit certainly acknowledge that he is much inferior: as an irresistible proof of this we need only compare Mr. Dryden's Odeon St. Cecilia’s Day with Mr. Pope's, in which the disparity is very apparent.
It hath been generally acknowledged that the Lyric is a more excellent kind of writing than the Satiric; and, confequently, he who excels in the most excellent species must undoubtedly be esteemed the greatest poet. Mr. Pope has very happily succeeded in many of his occasional pieces, such as Eloila to Abelard, his Elegy on an unfortunate young Lady, and a variety of other performances deservedly celebrated.
To these may be opposed Mr. Dryden's Fables, which, though written in a very advanced age, are yet the most perfect of his works. In these Fables there is, perhaps, a greater variety than in Mr. Pope's occasional pieces : many of them, indeed, are translations, but such as are original show a great extent of invention, and a large compass of genius.
There are not in Pope's works such poignant discoveries of wit, or such a general knowledge of the humours and characters of men, as in the Prologues and Epilogues of Dryden, which are the best record's of the whims and capricious oddities of the times in which they are written.
When these two great geniuses are considered in the light of translators, it will, indeed, be difficult to determine into whose scale the balance should be thrown. That Mr. Pope had a more arduous province in doing justice to Homer, than Dryden with regard to Virgil, is certainly true; as Homer is a more various and diffuse poet than Virgil; and it is likewise true, that Pope has even exceeded Dryden in the execution, and none will deny that Pope's Homer's Iliad is a finer poem than Dryden's Æneid of Virgil, making a proper allowance for the disproportion of
the original authors. But then a candid critic should reflect, that as Dryden was prior in the great attempt of rendering Virgil into English, so did he perform the talk under many disadvantages which Pope, by a happier fituation in life, was enabled to avoid ; and could not but improve upon Dryden's errors, though the authors translated were not the fame : and it is much to be doubted if Dryden were to translate the Æneid now, with that attention which the correctness of the prelent age' would force upon him, whether the preference would be due to Pope's Homer,
But fuppofing it to be yielded (as it certainly must) that the latter bard was the greatest translator, we are now to throw into Mr. Dryden's scale all his dramatic works; which, though not the most excellent of his writings, yet, as nothing of Mr. Pope's can be opposed to them, they have an undoubted right to turn the balance greatly in favour of Mr. Dryden. When the two poets are considered as critics, the comparison will very imperfectly hold. Dryden's Dedications and Prefaces, besides that they are more numerous, and are the best models for courtly panęgyric, thow that he understood poetry as an art beyond any man that ever lived ; and he explained this art so well, that he taught his antagonists to turn the tables against himself: for he so illuminated the mind by his clear and perspicuous reasoning, that dulness itself became capable of discerning; and when at any time his performances fell short of his own ideas of excellence, his enemies tried hiin by rules of his own establihing ; and though they owed to him the ability of judging, they seldom had candour enough to spare him.
Perhaps it may be true, that Pope's works are read with more appetite, as there is a greater evenness and correctness in them; but in peruling the works of Dryden, the mind will take a wider range, and be more fraught with poetical ideas. We adınire Dryden as the greater genius, and Pope as the most pleasing verfiser. Cibber's Linjes,