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Pope. He has, with too much reason: and I am sorry to say, that all our best comic writers after Shakspeare and Johnson, except Addison and Steele, are as liable as he to that heavy charge. Fletcher is shocking. Etheridge, Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar, have painted the manners of the times in which they wrote, with a masterly hand: but they are too often such manners, that a virtuous man, and much more a virtuous woman, must be greatly offended at the representation.

Boil. In this respect, our stage is far preferable to yours. It is a school of morality. Vice is ex

posed to contempt and to hatred. No false colours are laid on, to conceal its deformity; but those with which it paints itself are there taken off.

Pope. It is a wonderful thing, that in France the comic Muse should be the gravest lady in the nation. Of late she is so grave, that one might almost mistake her for her sister Melpomené. Moliere made her indeed a good moral philosopher; but then she philosophized, like Democritus, with a merry laughing face. Now she weeps over vice, instead of showing it to mankind, as I think she generally ought to do, in ridiculons lights.

Boil. Her business is more with folly than with vice; and when she attacks the latter, it should be rather with ridicule than invective. But sometimes she may be allowed to raise her voice, and change her usual smile into a frown of just indignation.

Pope. I like her best when she smiles. But did

you never reprove your witty friend La Fontaine, for the vicious levity that appears in many of his tales? He was as guilty of the crime of debauching the Muses, as any of our comic poets.

Boil. I own he was; and bewail the prostitution of his genius, as I should that of an innocent and beautiful country girl. He was all nature, all simplicity! yet in that simplicity there was a grace and unaffected vivacity, with a justness of thought and easy elegance of expression, that can hardly be found in any other writer. His manner is quite original, and peculiar to himself, though all the matter of his writings is borrowed from others.

Pope. In that manner he has been imitated by my friend Mr. Prior.

Boil. He has, very successfully. Some of Prior's tales have the spirit of La Fontaine's, with more judgment; but not, I think, with such an amiable and graceful simplicity.

Pope. Prior's harp had more strings than La Fontaine's. He was a fine poet in many different ways: La Fontaine but in one. And, though in some of his tales he imitated that author, his Alma was an original, and of singular beauty.



Boil. THERE is a writer of heroic poetry, who lived before Milton, and whom some of your countrymen place in the highest class of your poets, though he is little known in France. I see him

sometimes in company with Homer and Virgil, but oftener with Tasso, Ariosto, and Dante.

Pope. I understand you mean Spenser. There is a force and beauty in some of his images and descriptions, equal to any in those writers you have seen him converse with. But he had not the art of properly shading his pictures. He brings the minute and disagreeable parts too much into sight; and mingles too frequently vulgar and mean ideas with noble and sublime. Had he chosen a subject proper for epic poetry, he seems to have had a sufficient elevation and strength in his genius to make him a great epic poet: but the allegory, which is continued throughout the whole work, fatigues the mind, and cannot interest the heart so much as those poems, the chief actors in which are supposed to have really existed. The Syrens and Circé in the Odyssey are allegorical persons; but Ulysses, the hero of the poem, was a man renowned in Greece, which makes the account of his adventures affecting and delightful. To be now and then in Fairy-land, among imaginary beings, is a pleasing variety, and helps to distinguish the poet from the orator or historian: but to be always 'there, is irksome.

Boil. Is not Spenser likewise blameable, for confounding the Christian with the Pagan theology, in some parts of his poem?

Pope. Yes; he had that fault in common with Dante, with Ariosto, and with Camoëns.

Boil. Who is the poet that arrived soon after you in Elysium, whom I saw Spenser lead in and present to Virgil, as the author of a poem resem

bling the Georgics? On his head was a garland of the several kinds of flowers that blow in each season, with evergreens intermixed.

Pope. Your description points out Thomson. He painted nature exactly, and with great strength of pencil. His imagination was rich, extensive, and sublime his diction bold and glowing, but sometimes obscure and affected. Nor did he always know when to stop, or what to reject.


Boil. I should suppose that he wrote tragedies upon the Greek model; for he is often admitted into the grove of Euripides.

Pope. He enjoys that distinction both as a tragedian and as a moralist. For, not only in his plays, but all his other works, there is the purest morality, animated by piety, and rendered more touching by the fine and delicate sentiments of a most tender and benovolent heart..

Boil. St. Evremond has brought me acquainted with Waller.-I was surprised to find in his writings a politeness and gallantry which the French suppose to be appropriated only to theirs. His genius was a composition, which is seldom to be met with, of the sublime and the agreeable. In his comparison between himself and Apollo as the lover of Daphné, and in that between Amoret and Sacharissa, there is a finesse and delicacy of wit, which the most elegant of our writers have never exceeded. Nor had Sarrazin or Voiture the art of praising more genteelly the ladies whom they admired. But his epistle to Cromwell, and his poem on the death of that extraordinary man, are written with a force and greatness of manner, which give him a rank among the poets of the first class.

Pope. Mr. Waller was unquestionably a very fine writer. His Muse was as well qualified as the Graces themselves to dress out a Venus; and he could even adorn the brows of a conqueror with fragrant and beautiful wreaths. But he had some puerile and low thoughts, which unaccountably mixed with the elegant and the noble, like schoolboys or mob admitted into a palace. There was

also an intemperance and a luxuriancy in his wit, which he did not enough restrain. He wrote little to the understanding, and less to the heart; but he frequently delights the imagination, and sometimes strikes it with flashes of the highest sublime.-We had another poet of the age of Charles the First, extremely admired by all his contemporaries; in whose works there is still more affectation of wit, a greater redundancy of imagination, a worse taste, and less judgment: but he touched the heart more, and had finer feelings, than Waller.-I mean Cowley.

Boil. I have been often solicited to admire his writings by his learned friend Dr. Spratt. He seems to me a great wit, and a very amiable man, but not a good poet.

Pope. The spirit of poetry is strong in some of his odes; but in the art of poetry he is always extremely deficient.

Boil. I hear that of late his reputation is much lowered in the opinion of the English. Yet I cannot but think that, if a moderate portion of the superfluities of his wit were given by Apollo to some of their modern bards, who write common-place morals in very smooth verse, without any absurdity, but without any single new thought, or one

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