« PředchozíPokračovat »
From these letters to Parnell, we may conclude, as far as their testimony can go, that he was an agreeable, a generous, and a sincere man. Indeed, he took care that his friends should always see him to the best advantage; for, when he found his fits of spleen and uneasiness, which sometimes lasted for weeks together, returning, he returned with all expedition to the remote parts of Ireland, and there made out a gloomy kind of satisfaction, in giving hideous descriptions of the solitude to which he retired. It is said of a famous painter, that, being confined in prison for debt, his whole delight consisted in drawing the faces of his creditors in caricatura. It was just so with Parnell. From many of his unpublished pieces which I have seen, and from others that have appeared, it would seem, that scarcely a bog in his neighbourhood was left without reproach, and scarcely a mountain reared its head unsung. « I can easily,” says Pope, in one of his letters, in answer to a dreary description of Parnell's, « I can easily image to my thoughts the solitary hours of your eremitical life in the mountains, from some parallel to it in my own retirement at Binfield:v and in another place, « We are both miserably enough situated, God knows; but of the two evils, I think the solitudes of the South are to be preferred to the deserts of the West.» In this manner Pope answered him in the tone of his own complaints; and these descriptions of the imagined distress of his situation served to give him a temporary relief; they threw off the blame from himself, and laid upon
fortune and accident a wretchedness of his own creating But though this method of quarrelling in his poems
with his situation, served to relieve himself, yet it was not easily endured by the gentlemen of the neighbourhood, who did not care to confess themselves his fellow-sufferers. He
received many mortifications upon that account among them; for, being naturally fond of company, he could not endure to be without even theirs, which, however, among his English friends, he pretended to despise. In fact, his conduct, in this particular, was rather splenetic than wise; he had either lost the art to engage, or did not employ his skill in securing those more permanent, though more humble connexions, and sacrificed, for a month or two in England, a whole year's happiness by his country fire-side at home.
However, what he permitted the world to see of his life was elegant and splendid; his fortune (for a poet) was very considerable, and it may easily be supposed he lived to the very extent of it.
The fact is, his expenses were greater than his income, and his successor found the estate somewhat impaired at his decease. As soon as ever he had collected in his annual revenues, he immediately set out for England, to enjoy the company of his dearest friends, and laugh at the more prudent world that were minding business and gaining money. The friends to whom, during the latter part of his life, he was chiefly attached, were l'ope, Swift, Arbuthnot, Jervas, and Gay. Among these he was particularly happy, his mind was entirely at ease, and gave a loose to every harmless folly that came uppermost. Indeed, it was a society in which, of all others, a wise man might be most foolish, without incurring any danger or contempt. Perhaps the reader will be pleased to see a letter to him from a part of this junto, as there is something striking even in the levities of genius. It comes from Gay, Jervas, Arbuthnot, and Pope, assembled at a chop-house near the Exchange, and is as follows:
« MY DEAR SIR, « I was last summer in Devonshire, and am this winter at Mrs Bonyer's. In the summer I wrote a poem, and in the winter I have published it, which I have sent to you by Dr Elwood. In the summer I ate two dishes of toad-stools of my own gathering, instead of mushrooms; and in the winter I have been sick with wine, as I am at this time, blessed be God for it! as I must bless God for all things. In the summer I spoke truth to damsels; in the winter I told lies to ladies. Now you know where I have been, and what I have done, I shall tell you what I intend to do the ensuing summer; I propose to do the same thing I did last, which was to meet you in any part of England you would appoint; don't let me have two disappointments. I have longed to hear from you, and to that intent I teased you with three or four letters; but, having no answer, I feared both yours and my letters might have miscarried. I hope my performance will please the Dean, whom I often wished for, and to whom I would have often wrote, but for the same reasons I neglected writing to you. I hope I need not tell you how I love you, and how glad I shall be to hear from you; which, next to the seeing you, would be the greatest satisfaction to your most affectionate friend and humble servant,
« DEAR MR ARCHDEACON,
Though my proportion of this epistle should be but a sketch in miniature, yet I take up this half page, having paid my club with the good company both for our dinner of chops and for this paper. The poets will give you lively descriptions in their way; I shall only acquaint you with that which is directly my province. I have just set the last hand to a couplet, for so I may call two nymphs in one piece. They are Pope's favourites, and though few, you
will guess must have cost me more pains than any nymphs can be worth. He has been so unreasonable as to expect that I should have made them as beautiful upon canvass as he has done upon paper.
If this same Mr P- should omit to write for the dear frogs, and the Pervigilium, I must entreat you not to let me languish for them, as I have done ever since they crossed the seas: remember by what neglects, etc. we missed them when we lost you, and therefore I have not yet forgiven any of those triflers that let them escape and run those hazards. I am going on the old rate, and want you and the Dean prodigiously, and am in hopes of making you a visit this summer, and of hearing from you both, now you are together. Fortescue, I am sure, will be concerned that he is not in Cornhill, to set his hand to these presents, not only as a witness, but as a
« Serviteur très humble,
« C. JERVAS.»
« It is so great an honour to a poor Scotchman to be remembered at this time of day, especially by an inhabitant of the Glacialis lerne, that I take it very thankfully, and have, with my good friends, remembered you at our table in the chop-house in Exchange-alley. There wanted nothing to complete our happiness but your company, and our dear friend the Dean's. I am sure the whole entertainment would have been to his relish. Gay has got so much money by his Art of Walking the Streets, that he is ready to set up his equipage; he is just going to the Bank to negociate some exchange-bills. Mr Pope delays his second volume of his Homer till the martial spirit of
the rebels is quite quelled, it being judged that the first part did some harm that way. Our love again and again to the dear Dean. Fuimus torys, I can say no more.
« When a man is conscious that he does no good himself, the next thing is to cause others to do some. claim some merit this way, in hastening this testimonial from your friends above writing: their love to you indeed wants no spur, their ink wants no pen, their pen wants no hand, their hand wants no heart, and so forth (after the manner of Rabelais; which is betwixt some meaning and no meaning); and yet
be said, when present thought and opportunity is wanting, their pens want ink, their hands want pens, their hearts want hands, etc. till time, place, and conveniency, concur to set them writing, as at present, a sociable meeting, a good dinner, warm fire, and an easy situation do, to the joint labour and pleasure of this epistle.
« Wherein if I should say nothing I should say much (much being included in my love), though my love be such, that, if I should say much, I should yet say nothing, it being (as Cowley says) equally impossible either to conceal or to express it.
« If I were to tell you the thing I wish above all things, it is to see you again; the next is to see here
treatise of Zoilus, with Batrachomuomachia, and the Pervigilium Veneris, both which poems are masterpieces in several kinds, and I question not the prose is as excellent in its sort as the Essay on Homer. Nothing can be more glorious to that great author than that the same hand that raised his best statue, and decked it with its old laurels, should also hang up the scarecrow of his miserable critic, and