Libels, On Pope; Curll & Company; Libels on Swift & Pope

From the intro to the Twickenham edition of The Dunciad, on who was responsible for the notes added to the 1729 Dunciad Variorum

When allowance has been made for all such assistance, there still seems good reason to believe that Pope wrote the greater part of the notes himself, compiled the Testimonies of Authors, the List of Books and Papers, the Parallel of the Characters of Mr Dryden and Mr Pope, and the Index of Things (including Authors). For one thing, he was the only person likely to have in his possession the information on which many of the statements were based. For years he had been carefully collecting the various printed attacks upon him. He had even got Tonson to bind them together in six volumes, labelled “Curll and Company,” “Libels on Pope,” etc. The volumes are still in existence*; and it is significant that Pope had underlined and occasionally annotated the more outrageous statements of Dennis, Curll, and the rest, as if he intended to make some reply.

*In the British Museum, C 116 b 1-4, and Victoria and Albert Museum

These volumes of annotated libels being the sort of eccentric document that fascinates me, I went looking for more info. They do still exist, though they are (now) held by the British Library (record here). There are no scans (that I can find) and that record is so minimal that it leaves me with some confusion on volumes – Sutherland above says six but the reference number (C.116.b.1-4) would suggest four. The latter is supported by a helpful note from an F.G. in an 1879 issue of Notes and Queries (scanned here):

Pope himself had a collection of [attacks on him] bound up in four volumes. Two of these volumes, in 8vo., were lettered “ Libels upon Pope. Vols. I. and II. Another volume of 12mo. pamphlets was lettered Curll and Company, and the fourth volume Libels on Swift and Pope.

(The author also includes a footnote – ‘Do these volumes still exist?’ I hope this earlier fellow traveler found his answer eventually.)

Final confirmation of volumes and titles comes from a letter of Pope’s to the Tonson mentioned above (presumably this letter is what Sutherland had in evidence for his statement but he doesn’t cite it). The Tonson concerned here is Jacob Tonson junior, not his more famous uncle Jacob Tonson senior. Both were booksellers and publishers with ongoing relationships with Pope and in 1733/34 Pope sent Tonson Jr. the following (Sherburn’s edition of Pope’s Correspondence, v.3 399 – and a small victory to me in that citation since my wife questioned when I’d ever use this set when I bought it a few weeks back):

Sir, — I desire you’l take these five Setts of the Odyssey, & do what you can with ’em.

I desire also you’l cause the Pacquet I send, to be bound together, as many in a volume as are tyed together. Let the Octavo be made to match in colour & Size this which is already bound, & Letter it LIBELS, ON POPE &c. Vol. 2d

Pray Bind the duodecimos also in another vol. the same colour, Letterd CURL[L] & COMPANY

And Bind the Gulliveriana, & letter it (Same Colour) thus, LIBELS ON SWIFT & POPE

So one problem solved – though an editor’s footnote opens another question – “Since the latest pamphlet included is dated 1733, one assumes that the binding was done currently – especially since Tonson is asked to find a perfect copy of one of the items.” Assuming that the dating of the letter is correct, Pope couldn’t have used the volumes as such in compiling the Variorum notes since he would only have had the several ‘pacquets’ to work with. It’s a small distinction but somehow cuts into the jest of the idea for me.

As to contents, the list of all the bound pamphlets is presumably contained in the Pope’s second appendix to the Dunciad A List of Books, Papers, and Verses, in which our Author was abused, printed before the Publication of the Dunciad: With the true Names of the Authors (with later editions expanding to include an After the Dunciad section). A scan of the Twickenham edition with its helpful notes can be found here (starting pg 207 of the text, 268 of the scan). I have not yet attempted to find any of these sources but I expect the sensible route would be first searching out scholarship on contemporary responses to Pope or The Dunciad and hoping for lengthy quotes there. But none of this helps with my initial hope of finding Pope’s hand annotations to any of the criticism so I have no recourse left but a visit to the BL in the coming year, assuming my curiosity can survive that long.



Thus Wit, like Faith, by each Man is apply’d to one small Sect, and All are damn’d beside

From Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism (394-399).

Some foreign Writers, some our own despise;
The Ancients only, or the Moderns prize:
(Thus Wit, like Faith, by each Man is apply’d
To one small Sect, and All are damn’d beside.)
Meanly they seek the Blessing to confine,
And force that Sun but on a Part to shine;

The parentheses are not original. The couplet was taken by some as reducing ‘every Church to a sect, and at the same time sharply attack[ing] the Roman Catholic doctrine of Salvation’ (Twickenham editors) so Pope added the parentheses in a second edition to better indicate the ‘aside’ nature of the remark, which he intended as ironic commentary on those accusing the Catholic church of such exclusivity. This wasn’t change enough so he later – in a very Pope-ian move – removed them to restore the more inflammatory version.

Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend, And rise to Faults true Criticks dare not mend;

From Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism, lines 130-157. I’d started to post an earlier couplet – “Be Homer’s Works your Study, and Delight, / Read them by Day, and meditate by Night” (borrowed from Horace Ars Poetica) – in celebration of my pure chance finding of the rare two volumes of Pope’s Iliad in the Twickenham edition but I ended up preferring a lengthier thought that followed it.

When first young Maro in his boundless Mind
A Work t’outlast Immortal Rome design’d,
Perhaps he seem’d above the Critick’s Law,
And but from Nature’s Fountains scorn’d to draw:
But when t’examine ev’ry Part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the same.
Convinc’d, amaz’d, he checks the bold Design,
And Rules as strict his labour’d Work confine,
As if the Stagyrite o’erlook’d each Line.
Learn hence for Ancient Rules a just Esteem;
To copy Nature is to copy Them.
Some Beauties yet, no Precepts can declare,
For there’s a Happiness as well as Care.
Musick resembles Poetry, in each
Are nameless Graces which no Methods teach,
And which a Master-Hand alone can reach.
If, where the Rules not far enough extend,
(Since Rules were made but to promote their End)
Some Lucky LICENCE answers to the full
Th’ Intent propos’d, that Licence is a Rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common Track.
Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
And rise to Faults true Criticks dare not mend;
From vulgar Bounds with brave Disorder part,
And snatch a Grace beyond the Reach of Art,
Which, without passing thro’ the Judgment, gains
The Heart, and all its End at once attains.

Say, why are beauties prais’d and honour’d most, the wise man’s passion, and the vain man’s toast?

From Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock, Canto 5. I think this is my favorite of of Pope’s bathetic appropriations from ancient epic – if only for how core a scene the original has become for interpreting the social politics of epic or epic-informed culture.

Then grave Clarissa graceful wav’d her fan;
Silence ensu’d, and thus the nymph began.

       “Say, why are beauties prais’d and honour’d most,
The wise man’s passion, and the vain man’s toast?
Why deck’d with all that land and sea afford,
Why angels call’d, and angel-like ador’d?
Why round our coaches crowd the white-glov’d beaux,
Why bows the side-box from its inmost rows?
How vain are all these glories, all our pains,
Unless good sense preserve what beauty gains:
That men may say, when we the front-box grace:
‘Behold the first in virtue, as in face!’
Oh! if to dance all night, and dress all day,
Charm’d the smallpox, or chas’d old age away;
Who would not scorn what housewife’s cares produce,
Or who would learn one earthly thing of use?
To patch, nay ogle, might become a saint,
Nor could it sure be such a sin to paint.
But since, alas! frail beauty must decay,
Curl’d or uncurl’d, since locks will turn to grey,
Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade,
And she who scorns a man, must die a maid;
What then remains but well our pow’r to use,
And keep good humour still whate’er we lose?
And trust me, dear! good humour can prevail,
When airs, and flights, and screams, and scolding fail.
Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll;
Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.”

Here is Pope’s own rendering of the relevant scene in the Iliad – bk 12 310-328 between Sarpedon (speaking) and Glaucus. This one, from his full translation, is a slight revision from an earlier selection of episodes. My edition – the Twickenham v.2 – points out that the parody is closer to a translation by John Denham, though I haven’t found a readily available digital copy to check.

Then casting on his friend an ardent look,
Fired with the thirst of glory, thus he spoke:
“Why boast we, Glaucus! our extended reign,
Where Xanthus’ streams enrich the Lycian plain,
Our numerous herds that range the fruitful field,
And hills where vines their purple harvest yield,
Our foaming bowls with purer nectar crown’d,
Our feasts enhanced with music’s sprightly sound?
Why on those shores are we with joy survey’d,
Admired as heroes, and as gods obey’d,
Unless great acts superior merit prove,
And vindicate the bounteous powers above?
’Tis ours, the dignity they give to grace;
The first in valour, as the first in place;
That when with wondering eyes our martial bands
Behold our deeds transcending our commands,
Such, they may cry, deserve the sovereign state,
Whom those that envy dare not imitate!
Could all our care elude the gloomy grave,
Which claims no less the fearful and the brave,
For lust of fame I should not vainly dare
In fighting fields, nor urge thy soul to war.
But since, alas! ignoble age must come,
Disease, and death’s inexorable doom,
The life, which others pay, let us bestow,
And give to fame what we to nature owe;
Brave though we fall, and honour’d if we live,
Or let us glory gain, or glory give!”

and the Greek because it is always prettiest.

Γλαῦκε τί ἢ δὴ νῶϊ τετιμήμεσθα μάλιστα
ἕδρῃ τε κρέασίν τε ἰδὲ πλείοις δεπάεσσιν
ἐν Λυκίῃ, πάντες δὲ θεοὺς ὣς εἰσορόωσι,
καὶ τέμενος νεμόμεσθα μέγα Ξάνθοιο παρ᾽ ὄχθας
καλὸν φυταλιῆς καὶ ἀρούρης πυροφόροιο;
τὼ νῦν χρὴ Λυκίοισι μέτα πρώτοισιν ἐόντας
ἑστάμεν ἠδὲ μάχης καυστείρης ἀντιβολῆσαι,
ὄφρά τις ὧδ᾽ εἴπῃ Λυκίων πύκα θωρηκτάων:
οὐ μὰν ἀκλεέες Λυκίην κάτα κοιρανέουσιν
ἡμέτεροι βασιλῆες, ἔδουσί τε πίονα μῆλα
οἶνόν τ᾽ ἔξαιτον μελιηδέα: ἀλλ᾽ ἄρα καὶ ἲς
ἐσθλή, ἐπεὶ Λυκίοισι μέτα πρώτοισι μάχονται.
ὦ πέπον εἰ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντε
αἰεὶ δὴ μέλλοιμεν ἀγήρω τ᾽ ἀθανάτω τε
ἔσσεσθ᾽, οὔτέ κεν αὐτὸς ἐνὶ πρώτοισι μαχοίμην
οὔτέ κε σὲ στέλλοιμι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν:
νῦν δ᾽ ἔμπης γὰρ κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο
μυρίαι, ἃς οὐκ ἔστι φυγεῖν βροτὸν οὐδ᾽ ὑπαλύξαι,
ἴομεν ἠέ τῳ εὖχος ὀρέξομεν ἠέ τις ἡμῖν.

Plus a bonus parallel from Milton’s Paradise Lost 2.450

Wherefore do I assume
These royalties and not refuse to reign,
Refusing to accept as great a share
Of hazard as of honour, due alike to him
Who reigns, and so much to him due
Of hazard more, as he above the rest
High honour’d sits.

With varying vanities, from ev’ry part, they shift the moving toyshop of their heart

From Canto 1 of Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock. Setting aside the gendering, I love these lines as a general description of all of us.

Oft, when the world imagine women stray,
The Sylphs through mystic mazes guide their way,
Thro’ all the giddy circle they pursue,
And old impertinence expel by new.
What tender maid but must a victim fall
To one man’s treat, but for another’s ball?
When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand,
If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand?
With varying vanities, from ev’ry part,
They shift the moving toyshop of their heart;
Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots strive,
Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive.
This erring mortals levity may call,
Oh blind to truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.

Edmund Crispin also liked ‘moving toyshop’ enough to take it as the title of one of his novels. He later borrowed a second title from another of Pope’s works – Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady. That one is, depending on printing, either Sudden Vengeance or Frequent Hearses, both from the same couplet.

On all the line a sudden vengeance waits,
And frequent hearses shall besiege your gates.

In books, not authors, curious is my Lord

From Alexander Pope’s Epistle to Burlington (131-138):

And when up ten steep slopes you’ve dragg’d your thighs,
Just at his study door he’ll bless your eyes.
His study! with what authors is it stor’d?
In books, not authors, curious is my Lord;
To all their dated backs he turns you round:
These Aldus printed, those Du Sueil has bound.
Lo, some are vellum, and the rest as good
For all his Lordship knows, but they are wood.

Aldus Manutius was the famed early publisher of classic and humanist texts (an aside for the curious – his prefaces to the Latin and Greek classics he printed are now translated and in print). Du Seuil is Augustin du Seuil (1673-1746) whose entry in Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books informs me was “a celebrated Parisian bookbinder who held the position of royal binder to Louis XV of France” and adds, quoting the above passage, that “he is the only French binder written of in English literature.”

The Twickenham editor (Bateson) suggests that Pope may have been inspired by a passage from La Bruyère (translation is mine but I lost my citation, apologies):

…. je vais trouver cet homme, qui me reçoit dans une maison où dès l’escalier je tombe en faiblesse d’une odeur de maroquin noir dont ses livres sont tous couverts. Il a beau me crier aux oreilles, pour me ranimer, qu’ils sont dorés sur tranche, ornés de filets d’or, et de la bonne édition, me nommer les meilleurs l’un après l’autre, dire que sa galerie est remplie à quelques endroits près, qui sont peints de manière qu’on les prend pour de vrais livres arrangés sur des tablettes, et que l’oeil s’y trompe, ajouter qu’il ne lit jamais, qu’il ne met pas le pied dans cette galerie, qu’il y viendra pour me faire plaisir; je le remercie de sa complaisance, et ne veux, non plus que lui, voir sa tannerie, qu’il appelle bibliothèque.

I go visit this man, who receives me in a house where in the stairwell I fall faint from the smell of the leather in which the books are covered. Trying to resuscitate me in vain he shouts in my ears that their spines are gilded, they’re ornamented with gold tooling, and they’re all the right editions. He names the best ones, one after another. He tells me the room is filled, except in some places which are painted so that everyone – taking them for books arranged on shelves – is deceived. He adds that he never reads, that he never sets foot in the room, that he came there as a favor to me. I thank him for his kindness and wish, no more than he, to see his tannery that he terms a library.

The Folly’s greater to have none at all

From Alexander Pope’s Epistle to Bathurst (On the use of Riches) – lines 153-160 in the Twickenham edition:

“All this is madness,” cries a sober sage:
“But who, my friend, has Reason in his rage?
The ruling Passion, be it what it will,
The ruling Passion conquers Reason still.’
Less mad the wildest whimsy we can frame,
Than ev’n that Passion, if it has no aim;
For tho’ such motives Folly you may call,
The Folly’s greater to have none at all.

The last lines are reminiscent of Rochefoucauld’s Maxime CCIX:


Qui vit sans folie n’est pas si sage qu’il croit
He who lives without folly is not as wise as he believes

Folie, which I’ve rendered to be in accord with Pope, never makes the crossing intact. But in Rochefoucauld it generally carries a sense far closer to passion than to madness. One could almost say hobbyhorse.

Is there no hope? Alas! –then bring the jowl

From Alexander Pope’s An Epistle to Cobham, 234-239 in the Twickenham edition:

A salmon’s belly, Helluo, was thy fate:
The doctor call’d, declares all help too late.
Mercy! cries Helluo, mercy on my soul!
Is there no hope? Alas! –then bring the jowl.

Helluo is a very rare Latin word for glutton. The image, whatever the possible contemporary target, has a real background source in a tale from Athenaeus (8.341) of a little known poet named Philoxenus:

The comic poet Macho (64–86 Gow) writes the following about the dithyrambic poet Philoxenus of Cythera:

They say that the dithyrambic poet
Philoxenus was an extraordinary
glutton. So once when he was in Syracuse,
he bought an octopus that was three feet long,
and prepared it and ate almost the entire thing
except for the head. He got a stomach-ache
and was in terrible shape. A doctor
came to visit him, saw that he was doing
very badly, and said: “If you’ve got
any business that needs to be taken care of, do it
right away,
Philoxenus; because you’ll be dead by mid-afternoon.”
He responded: “My affairs are all in order,
doctor,” he said, “and have been settled for a while
now.
With the gods’ help, the dithyrambs I’m leaving
behind
have all grown up and been awarded garlands,
and I’m entrusting them to the care of the Muses I
grew
up with. That Aphrodite and Dionysus are my
executors,
my will makes clear. But since
Timotheus’ Charon, the one from his Niobe,
is not allowing me to linger, but is shouting for me to
proceed to the ferry,
and my night-dark fate, which I must heed, is
calling—
so that I can run off to the Underworld with
everything that’s mine:
give me the rest of that octopus!”


Bateson, the editor, believes that Pope more likely got his inspiration from John Hales’ Golden Remains:

When Philoxenus the Epicure had fallen desperately sick upon glutting himself on a delicate and costly fish, perceiving he was to die, he calls for the remainder of his fish, and eats it up, and dies a true Martyr to his belly.”

He also – with some qualifying skepticism – offers La Fontaine’s Le Glouton as another possibility. That one feels closer to Pope’s choppy rhythm to me but either way here’s my hasty translation:

À son souper un glouton
Commande que l’on appreste
Pour luy seul un Esturgeon.
Sans en laisser que la teste,
Il soupe ; il creve, on y court :
On luy donne maints clisteres.
On luy dit, pour faire court,
Qu’il mette ordre à ses affaires.
Mes amis, dit le goulu,
M’y voila tout resolu ;
Et puis qu’il faut que le meure,
Sans faire tant de façon,
Qu’on m’apporte tout à l’heure
Le reste de mon poisson.

At his dinner a glutton
orders that there be readied
for himself alone a sturgeon.
Leaving aside only the head,
he dines; Now he’s bursting, help comes running:
They give him several enemas.
They tell him – to cut it short –
That he should put his affairs in order.
My friends, says the glutton,
I’m ready, fully resolute;
And since I must die
don’t make a deal of it
but have someone bring right away
the rest of my fish.

On human actions reason tho’ you can, it may be Reason, but it is not Man

From Alexander Pope’s Epistle to Cobham, lines 10-40 in vol 3, pt. 2 of the Twickenham edition, Epistles to Several Persons. The edition matters more than normal since maybe 1/4 of these lines will not appear in earlier printings:

Men may be read, as well as Books too much.
To Observations which ourselves we make,
We grow more partial for th’ observer’s sake;
To written Wisdom, as another’s, less:
Maxims are drawn from Notions, those from Guess.
There ’s some Peculiar in each leaf and grain,
Some unmark’d fibre, or some varying vein.
Shall only Men be taken in the gross?
Grant but as many sorts of Mind as Moss.*
That each from other differs, first confess;
Next, that he varies from himself no less:
And Nature’s, Custom’s, Reason’s, Passion’s strife,
And all Opinion’s colours cast on life.
Yet more; the diff’rence is as great between
The optics seeing, as the objects seen.
All Manners take a tincture from our own,
Or come discolour’d thro’ our Passions shown.
Or Fancy’s beam enlarges, multiplies,
Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dyes.
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
Quick whirls and shifting eddies of our minds?
Life’s stream for Observation will not stay,
It hurries all too fast to mark their way.
In vain sedate reflections we would make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
On human actions reason tho’ you can,
It may be Reason, but it is not Man:
His Principle of action once explore,
That instant ’tis his Principle no more.
Like following life thro’ creatures you dissect,
You lose it in the moment you detect.

*The editor, Bateson, usefully points out via footnote that there are over 300 kinds of moss. I imagine that number has gone up since the edition’s first publication in 1954.

He intended the Injunction, rather than the Artillery of Heaven

There is much fun in a history of readings and misreadings, textual editing, and the battles than ensue. Here’s the start of Hamlet’s first monologue (1.2):

HAMLET
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!

Alexander Pope’s 1725 edition of Shakespeare has ‘cannon’ here. Lewis Theobald, afterwards a key early editor of Shakespeare, disagreed with this reading and a host of others and let fly the following year in his Shakespeare Restored, or a Specimen of the many Errors as well Committed as Unamended by Mr Pope in his late edition of this poet; designed not only to correct the said Edition, but to restore the true Reading of Shakespeare in all the Editions ever published. His entry for this passage (pages 15-17 in the edition linked) is well reasoned – building primarily on Shakespeare’s own usages – but his best work is his snark – “[Shakespeare] intended the Injunction, rather than the Artillery of Heaven.”

Pope struck back a few years later by making Theobald (as Tibbald) the ‘hero’ of the first three books of his Dunciad (A). I’ll add a few lines for partial illustration (bk 1 251-260, the goddess Dulness is speaking):


I see a King! who leads my chosen sons
To lands, that flow with clenches and with puns:
‘Till each fam’d Theatre my empire own,
‘Till Albion, as Hibernia, bless my throne!
I see! I see! –‘ Then rapt, she spoke no more.
‘God save King Tibbald!’ Grubstreet alleys roar.
So when Jove’s block descended from on high,
(As sings they great fore-father, Ogilby,)
Loud thunder to its bottom shook the bog,
And the hoard nation croak’d, God save King Log!