Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

should most admire the justness to the original, or the force and beauty of the language, or the sounding variety of the numbers: but when I find all these meet, it puts me in mind of what the poet says of one of his heroes, “ That he alone raised and flung with ease a weighty stone, that two common men could not lift from the ground;" just so, one single person has performed in this translation, what I once despaired to have seen done by the force of several masterly hands.' Indeed the same gentleman appears to have changed his sentiment in his Essay on the Art of Sinking in Reputation (printed in Mist's Journal, March 30, 1728), where he says thus: 'In order to sink in reputation, let him take it into his head to descend into Homer (let the world wonder, as it will, how the devil he got there), and pretend to do him into English, so his version denote his neglect of the manner how.' Strange variation! We are told in

Mist's Journal (June 8), • That this translation of the Iliad was not in all respects conformable to the fine taste of his friend Mr. Addison; insomuch, that he employed a younger muse in an undertaking of this kind, which he supervised himself.' Whether Mr. Addison did find it conformable to his taste, or not, best appears from his own testimony the year following its publication, in these wards :

Mr. Addison's Freeholder, No. 40. •When I consider myself as a British freeholder, I am in a particular manner pleased with the labours of those who have improved our language with the translations of old Greek and Latin authors.--We have already' most of their historians in our own tongue, and, what is more for the honour of our lan. guage, it has been taught to express with elegance the greatest of their poets in each nation. The illiterate among our own countrymen may learn to judge from Dryden's Virgil, of the most perfect epic performance. And those parts of Homer which have been published already by Mr. Pope, give us reason to think that the Iliad will appear in English with as little disadvantage to that immortal poem.'

As to the rest, there is a slight mistake, for this younger muse was an elder : nor was the gentleman (who is a friend of our author) employed by Mr. Ad. dison to translate it after him, since he saith himself that he did it before. Contrariwise, that Mr. Addison engaged our author in this work appeareth by declaration thereof in the preface to the Iliad, printed some time before his death, and by his own letters of October 26, and November 2, 1713, where he declares it is his opinion that no other person was equal to it.

Next comes his Shakspeare on the stage: 'Let him (quoth one, whom I take to be

Mr. Theobald, Mist's Journal, June 8, 1728) publish such an author as he has least studied, and forget to discharge even the dull duty of an editor, In this project let him lend the bookseller his name (for a competent sum of money) to promote the credit of an exorbitant subscription.' Gentle reader, be pleased to cast thine eye on the proposal below quoted, and on what follows (some months after the former assertion) in the same Journalist of June 8: The bookseller proposed the book by subscription, and raised some thousands of pounds for the same: I believe the gentleman did not share in the profits of this extravagant subscription.' • After the Iliad, he undertook (saith

Mist's Journal, June 8, 1728) the sequel of that work, the Odyssey; and having secured the success by a numerous subscription, he em. ployed some underlings to perform what, according to his proposals, should come from his own hands." To which heavy charge we can in truth oppose nothing but the words of Mr. Pope's Proposal for the Odyssey (printed by

J. Watts, Jan. 10, 1724): • I take this occasion to declare that the su ion

* Vid. Pref. to Mr. Tickell's translation of the first book of the Iliad, 4to.

for Shakspeare belongs wholly to Mr. Tonson: and that the benefit of this proposal is not solely for my own use, but for that of two of my friends, who have assisted me in this work,' But these very gentlemen are extolled above our poet himself in another of Mist's Journals, March 30, 1728, saying, “That he would not advise Mr. Pope to try the experiment again of getting a great part of a book done by assistants, lest those extraneous parts should unhappily ascend to the sublime, and retard the declension of the whole.' Behold! these underlings are become good writers!

If any say, that before the said Proposals were printed, the subscription was begun without declaration of such assistance; verily those who set it on foot, or (as the term is) secured it, to wit, the right honourable the Lord Viscount Harcourt, were he living, would testify, and the right honourable the Lord Bathurst, now living, doth testify, the same is a falsehood,

Sorry I am, that persons professing to be learned, or of whatever rank of authors, should either falsely tax, or be falsely taxed. Yet let us, who are only reporters, be impartial in our citations, and proceed.

Mist's Journal, June 8, 1728. * Mr. Addison raised this author from obscurity, obtained him the acquaintance and friendship of the whole body of our nobility, and transferred his pow. erful interests with those great men to this rising bard, who frequently levied by that means unusual contributions on the public. Which surely cannot be, if, as the author of the Dunciad Dissected reporteth, Mr. Wycherley had before introduced him into a familiar acquaintance with the greatest peers and brightest wits then living.'

* No sooner (saith the same journalist) was his body lifeless, but this author, reviving his resentment, libelled the memory of his departed friend; and what was still more heinous, made the scandal public.' Grievous the accusation! unknown the accuser! the person accused, no witness in his own cause; the person,

in whose regard accused, dead! But if there be living any one nobleman whose friendship, yea any one gentleman whose subscription Mr. Addison procured to our author, let him stand forth, that truth may appear! Amicus Plato, amicus Socrates, sed magis amica veritas. In verity, the whole story of the libel is a lie; witness those persons of integrity, who several years before Mr. Addison's decease, did see and approve of the said verses, in no wise a libel, but a friendly rebuke sent privately in our author's own hand to Mr. Addison himself, and never made public, till after their own urnals, and Curll had printed the same. One name alone, which I am here authorized to declare, will sufficiently evince this truth, that of the right honourable the Earl of Burlington.

Next is he taxed with a crime (in the opinion of some authors, I doubt, more heinous than any in morality), to wit, plagiarism, from the inventive and quaint-conceited

James Moore Smith, Gent. • Upon reading the third volume of Pope's Miscellanies, I found five lines which I thought excellent; and happening to praise them, a gentleman produced a modern comedy (the Rival Modes) published last year, where were the same verses to a tittle.

• These gentlemen are undoubtedly the first plagiaries, that pretend to make a reputation by stealing from a man's works in his own life-time, and out of a public print.* Let us join to this what is written by the author of the Rival Modes, the said Mr. James Moore Smith, in a letter to our author himself, who had informed him a month before that play was acted, Jan. 27, 1726-7, that “These verses, which he had be. fore given him leave to insert in it, would be known for his, some copies being got abroad. He desires, nevertheless, that since the lines had been read in his comedy to several, Mr. P. would not deprive it of them,' &c. Surely, if we add the testimonies of the Lord Bolingbroke, of the lady to whom the said verses were originally addressed, of Hugh Bethel, Esq. and others, who knew them as our author's long before

* Daily Journal, March 18, 1728.

the said gentleman composed his play; it is hoped, the ingenuous, that affect not error, will rectify their opinion by the suffrage of 20 honourable personages.

And yet followeth another charge, insinuating no less than his enmity both to church and state, which could come from no other informer than the said

Mr. James Moore Smith. «The Memoirs of a Parish Clerk was a very dull and unjust abuse of a person who wrote in defence of our religion and constitution, and who has been dead many years.'* ' This seemeth also most untrue ; it being known to divers that these memoirs were written at the seat of the Lord Harcourt, in Oxfordshire, before that excellent person (Bishop Burnet's) death, and many years before the appearance of that history, of which they are pretended to be an abuse. Most true it is, that Mr. Moore had such a design, and was himself the man who pressed Dr. Arbuthnot and Mr. Pope to assist him therein; and that he borrowed those memoirs of our author, when that history came forth, with intent to turn them to such abuse. But being able to obtain from our author but one single hint, and either changing his mind, or having more mind than ability, he contented himself to keep the said memoirs, and read them as his own to all his acquaintance. A noble person there is, into whose company Mr. Pope once chanced to introduce him, who well remembereth the conversation of Mr. Moore to have turned upon the 'contempt he had for the work of that reverend prelate, and how full he was of a design he declared himself to have, of exposing it.' This noble person is the Earl of Peterborough.

Here in truth should we crave pardon of all the foresaid right honourable and worthy personages, for having mentioned them in the same page with such weekly riff-raff railers and rhymers; but that we had their ever-honoured commands for the same ; and that they are introduced not as witnesses in the controversy, but as witnesses that cannot be controverted ;' not to dispute, but to decide.

* Daily Journal, April 3, 1728.

« EdellinenJatka »