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Here Fannia, leering on her own good man,
15 If folly grow romantic, I must paint it.
Come then, the colours and the ground prepare ! Dip in the rainbow, trick her off in air ; Choose a firm cloud, before it fall, and in it Catch, ere she change, the Cynthia of this minute. 20
Rufa, whose eye quick-glancing o'er the park, Attracts each light gay meteor of a spark,
whereas in the Characters of Men he has sometimes made use of real names, in the Characters of Women always fictitious. —Pope.
But notwithstanding all the Poet's caution and complaisance, this general satire, or rather moral analysis of human nature, as it appears in the two sexes, will be always received very differently by them. The Men bear a general satire most heroically ; the Women with the utmost impatience. This is not from any stronger consciousness of guilt, for I believe the sum of virtue in the female world does (from many accidental causes) far exceed the sum of virtue in the male ; but from the fear that such representations may hurt the sex in the opinion of the men : whereas the men are not at all apprehensive that their follies or vices would prejudice them in the opinion of the women.—Warburton.
Ver. 20. Catch, ere she change, the Cynthia of this minute.] Alluding in the expression to the precept of Fresnoy,
"formæ veneres captando fugaces,”-Warburton. “ Like a dove's neck she shifts her transient charms."
Young, Sat. 5.--Warton. Ver. 21.] Instances of contrarieties, given even from such characters as are most strongly marked, and seemingly therefore most consistent : as, I. In the affected, ver. 21, &c.—Pope.
Ver. 21. Rufa, whose eye) This character of Rufa, and the succeeding ones of Silia, Papillia, Narcissa, and Flavia, are precisely and entirely in the style and manner of the portraits Young has given us in his Fifth Satire on Women. The pictures of Young are sketched with a lighter and more sportive pencil ; those of our author with a firmer hand and a chaster manner. Pope put forth all his
strength to excel his witty rival in this the best part of the Universal Passion; and he has succeeded accordingly. Both Pope and Boileau (see his tenth satire) have been censured for their severity on the fair sex. They have been reckoned as bad as Euripides ; but surely they are nothing like an old comic poet, Eubulus, in a fragment preserved in that most entertaining book, the Excerpta ex Trag. et Comed. of Grotius, 4to. p. 659, who after mentioning Medea, Clytemnestra, and Phædra, suddenly stops, and wickedly
Agrees as ill with Rufa studying Locke,
How soft is Silia ! fearful to offend; The frail one's advocate, the weak one's friend. 30 To her, Calista prov'd her conduct nice; And good Simplicius asks of her advice. Sudden, she storms ! she raves! You tip the wink, But spare your censure ; Silia does not drink. All eyes may see from what the change arose, 35 All eyes may see--a pimple on her nose.
Papillia, wedded to her amorous spark, Sighs for the shades !-"How charming is a park !” A park is purchas’d, but the fair he sees All bath'd in tears—“Oh odious, odious trees!" 40
Ladies, like variegated tulips, show; 'Tis to their changes half their charms we owe; Fine by defect, and delicately weak, Their happy spots the nice admirer take. 'Twas thus Calypso once each heart alarm’d, 45 Aw'd without virtue, without beauty charm’d; Her tongue bewitch'd as oddly as her eyes ; Less wit than mimic, more a wit than wise.
pretends that his memory fails him in enabling him to mention any one good character among women. The ladies of France revenged themselves on Boileau, by saying he was made incapable of love and marriage by an accident that befel him in his early youth. Warton.
Ver. 23. Agrees as ill] This thought is expressed with great humour in the following stanza, said to mean Q. Caroline :
“ Tho’ Artemisia talks, by fits,
Reads Malbranche, Boyle, and Locke :
And wear a cleaner smock."-Warburton.
Strange graces still, and stranger flights she had,
50 Yet ne'er so sure our passion to create, As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate.
Narcissa's nature, tolerably mild,
60 Why pique all mortals, yet affect a name? A fool to pleasure, yet a slave to fame: Now deep in Taylor and the Book of Martyrs, Now drinking citron with his Grace and Chartres : Now conscience chills her, and now passion burns: 65 And atheism and religion take their turns;
Ver. 52. As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate.] Her charms consisted in the singular turn of her vivacity ; consequently the stronger she exerted this vivacity, the more forcible was her attraction. But when her vivacity arose to that height in which it was most attractive, it was upon the brink of excess : the point where the delicacy of sensuality disappears, and all the coarseness of it stands exposed.-Warburton.
Ver. 53.] IV. In the whimsical.- Pope.
Ver. 54. would hardly stew a child;] This hyperbolical ridicule is carried to a great height, but in an image too disgusting. Juvenal, in his sixth satire, speaking of a great female talker, uses a pleasant hyperbole :
“ Una laboranti poterit succurrere lunæ."—Warton. Ver. 57. in a Christian trim,] This is finely expressed ; implying that her very charity was as much an exterior of Religion, as the ceremonies of the season. It was not even in a Christian humour, it was only in a Christian trim : not so much as habit, only fashion.Warburton.
Ver. 58. And made a widow happy] There are some female characters sketched with exquisite delicacy and deep knowledge of nature, in a book where one would not expect to find them, Law's Christian Perfection.--Warton.
Ver. 65. Now conscience chills her,] Madame de Montespan, during her criminal intercourse with Louis XIV., kept her Lents so strictly, that she used to have her bread weighed out to her. - Warton.
A very heathen in the carnal part,
See Sin in state, majestically drunk ;
Ver. 68. Yet still a sad,] I have been informed on good authority, that this character was designed for the then Duchess of Hamilton. Warton.
Ver. 69.] V. In the lewd and vicious.-Pope.
Ver. 70. Proud as a peeress,] Designed for the Duchess of Marlborough, who so much admired Congreve ; and after his death caused a figure in wax-work to be made of bim, and placed frequently at her table. This connexion is particularly hinted at in ver. 76,
She sins with poetsOur author's declaration, therefore, that no particular character was aimed at, is not true.-Warton.
For the want of delicacy, the coarseness and the vulgarity of these lines, no wit can atone. Even Ruffbead here seems alarmed at the want of politeness of his favourite bard, though he expresses himself in terms more offensive upon the subject than the poet !--Bowles.
It is very extraordinary that the former editors of Pope should have asserted that the character of Philomedé was intended for the Duchess of Marlborough, who is described a few pages afterwards under the striking character of Atossa, but they probably meant to refer to her daughter Henrietta, usually called the young duchess of Marlborough, to whom Congreve left the greater part of his fortune, and who erected a monument to him in Westminster Abbey, in the following extraordinary terms:
“ Mr. William Congreve died Jan. the 19th, 1728, aged fifty-six, and was buried near this place ; to whose most valuable memory, this monument is set up by Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough, as a mark how dearly she remembers the happiness and honour she enjoyed in the sincere friendship of so worthy and honest a man, whose virtue, candour, and wit, gained him the love and esteem of the present age, and whose writings will be the admiration of the future.”
In whose mad brain the mix'd ideas roll
As Helluo, late dictator of the feast,
85 And makes her hearty meal upon a dunce.
Flavia’s a wit, has too much sense to pray; To toast our wants and wishes, is her way; Nor asks of God, but of her stars, to give The mighty blessing, “ While we live, to live.” Then all for death, that opiate of the soul ! Lucretia's dagger, Rosamonda's bowl. Say, what can cause such impotence of mind? A spark too fickle, or a spouse too kind. Wise wretch! with pleasures too refined to please; 95 With too much spirit to be e'er at ease: With too much quickness ever to be taught; With too much thinking to have common thought: You purchase pain with all that joy can give, And die of nothing but a rage to live.
100 Turn then from wits; and look on Simo's mate, No ass so meek, no ass so obstinate: Or her, that owns her faults, but never mends, Because she's honest, and the best of friends: Or her, whose life the church and scandal share, 105 For ever in a passion or a prayer: Or her, who laughs at hell, but (like her Grace) Cries, “ Ah! how charming if there's no such place!”
Ver. 87.] VI. Contrarieties in the witty and refined.-Pope.
Shall pleasures of a short duration chain