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“There is no truth in Pope's satiric sketches of women - not even colorable truth; but if there were, how frivolous, how hollow, to erect into solemn monumental protestations against the whole feminine sex, what turns out to be pure casual eccentricities, or else personal idiosyncrasies, or else foibles shockingly exaggerated!”
His Death. - Pope died on May 30, 1744, aged fifty-six years and nine days. During the last six years of his life his literary work consisted of writing the fourth book of the Dunciad, and in making alterations and additions to what he had already written. Never very strong, it is remarkable that he lived as long as he did. His best friends, Bolingbroke, Patty Blount, and Spence, were with him during the last days of his life. Various anecdotes have come to us of these last days. Warburton had issued a new edition of Pope's Moral Epistles. In sending copies to some of his friends Pope said, "Here am I, like Socrates, distributing my morality among my friends, just as I am dying." He was buried in a vault in Twickenham church, near the monument which he had erected to his parents.
Characteristics As a Man.-One's feeling toward Pope is apt to be a mingling of admiration and contempt, admiration for his ability and contempt for his lack of manliness. His devotion to his art, his perseverance, his surmounting the obstacles of ill health and an insignificant body, his love for his parents — these are qualities that make one wish he could forget his vanity, his subterfuge, his hypocrisy, and vindictiveness. Let it be placed to his credit that in an age when it was fashionable to crook the knee before royalty Pope preserved his independence; that at a time when men changed their religion to suit the fashion of the hour, Pope, while not a devout Catholic, never forswore his childhood's faith for the hope of worldly advancement; that although there are rumors that he was at times almost parsimonious, yet he has never been charged with money-madness.
Mr. Paston, a biographer, after having said that Pope was feminine in timidity and love of subterfuge, adds:
But the finer attributes of the maidenly character were his not less than the defects. He displayed great fortitude and patience under suffer
ing. . . . He was seldom without three or four protégés on his hands, whom he helped liberally, not only with money, but with time, interest and trouble. ... A downright verbal lie he rarely told, but he equivocated pretty genteely, while leaving some loophole out of which to creep when directly taxed with falsehood. This tendency towards evasion and sophistry certainly grew upon him, but he was to the last a most careless, clumsy liar.
Pope (Lives of the Poets). JOHNSON.
Thackeray in The English Humorists, and Lowell in My Study
Windows, have interesting essays on Pope.
Was Pope a Poet? Nation, vol. 90, p. 647.
ing than the product of his pen. Rude and rough in speech, coarse in manners, untidy in person, and governed often by his prejudices, he was nevertheless a man of the kindest heart and the most vigorous intellect. He was not great as an original thinker nor could he appreciate the higher forms of originality in others, but his influence on English literature was as wholesome as it was imperious. Without the gift of the inspired seer who reveals to his generation the vision of a new heaven and a new earth, he had the useful gift of a sturdy commonsense fortified by learning and sweetened by a childlike faith in a revealed religion. He hated the artificiality of the eighteenth century, and was a living protest against sham. “His morality,” thinks Hawthorne, "was as English an article as a beefsteak.” And Jowett has said, “Of all men of genius he is the only typical Englishman in whose strength, as also in his weakness, we see the national character.” We like Johnson, not because he is so thoroughly British, but because he is so thoroughly human. We can feel sympathy with his resolutions to overcome his indolence, to go to church, to eat and drink moderately, to get up early in the morning, to read the Scriptures, to reject or expel wrong thoughts. We admire him, not for his ability as poet, essayist, critic, and lexicographer, but because in spite of his long struggle with poverty and disease, with pride and hypochondria, because in spite of his self-assertiveness and his later years of supreme dictatorship in the world of letters, he remained at heart a sincere and humble man.
Early Days. — Samuel Johnson was born at Lichfield, Staffordshire, September 18, 1709. His father, a bookseller, in 1706, at the age of fifty, had married Sara Ford, a woman of thirty
seven. Young Samuel was afflicted with scrofula, a hereditary disease commonly known as the “ king's evil.” When three years of age he was taken by his mother to London to be cured by the touch of the queen, who placed about his neck an “angel of gold noble," containing on one side St. Michael and on the other a ship under full sail. In later years Johnson retained " a confused, but somehow a solemn, recollection of a lady in diamonds and a long black hood.” The lady was Queen Anne, whose royal touch unfortunately failed to effect a cure.
Early Education. — When a child he attended a school kept by Dame Oliver. In later years the dame declared he was the best scholar she ever had. When he was leaving Lichfield to go to Oxford she presented him with a piece of gingerbread. "This," said Johnson, "was as high a proof of merit as he could conceive." We next find him under the instruction of a master in English whom he called Tom Browne, the author of a spelling book “dedicated to the Universe"; then he attended the Lichfield Grammar School, whose master, Mr. Hunter, was a stern disciplinarian, and "an odd mixture of the pedant and the sportsman.” Johnson was so impressed by the dignity and severity of the master that late in life he said he never could look upon Miss Seward, who resembled Mr. Hunter, her grandfather, without a feeling of awe. Yet he characteristically acknowledged, “My master whipped me very well. Without that, sir, I should have done nothing." Doubtless, according to the ideas of discipline at that time, Johnson needed whippings, for he was a big, clumsy boy with a natural disinclination to work. Yet because of his wonderful memory he was the best scholar in the school. With no fondness for sports, while others were on the playground he was reading omnivorously. When he was fifty-four years old, he said to Boswell, “Sir, in my early days I read very hard; it is a sad reflection but a true one that I knew almost as much at eighteen as I do now.”
We next find him at Stourbridge school, under the instruction of a Mr. Wentworth, from whom he said he was able to learn much. He was here for about a year and then for two
years remained at his father's house. As his father was a bookseller whose shop contained learned works in ancient and modern languages and solemn and ponderous treatises in theology and philosophy, the boy had a splendid opportunity to browse without danger of mental dyspepsia. He himself has referred to this period of his life—“I had looked into a great many books that were not commonly known at the university. . . . so that when I came to Oxford, Dr. Adams, now master of Pembroke College, told me I was the best qualified for the university that he had ever known come there." It was during this period that Samuel on one occasion refused to accompany his father to Uttoxeter market where Michael Johnson was accustomed to sell books on market days. Many years later this act of disobedience so weighed on the conscience of Johnson that he went to Uttoxeter market and in bad weather stood for an hour bareheaded at the place where his father's stall used to be. “In contrition I stood,” he said, “and I hope the penance was expiatory."
At Oxford. - On the last day of October, 1728, he entered Pembroke College, Oxford. Dr. Adams, who was a fellow of Pembroke when Johnson entered, has given an account of the first impression made by the uncouth undergraduate whose father had brought him to the university. In the conversation that ensued after the lad was introduced to Mr. Jordan, his tutor, he at first kept a respectful silence, but at length broke into the conversation with a quotation from Macrobius, a display of erudition that must have amazed the little group. Oxford in those days was not especially conducive to promoting the scholarly life. Degrees were given as a matter of course at the end of the prescribed number of terms of residence. The lectures by the tutors were not especially numerous nor were they interesting. “The one very powerful incentive to learning,” Johnson wrote in one of his essays in The Idler, “is the genius of the place.' Soon after taking up residence at Oxford, Johnson was asked to translate Pope's Messiah into Latin hexameters. While this translation falls short of Vergilian elegance, Pope was so generous as to declare that the "writer of this poem will leave it a