Famous Reviews eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 678 pages of information about Famous Reviews.
ruin, and at the very moment when Popery wore the promise of a triumph that might, at any rate, have lasted his time.  Dryden was a papist by apostacy; and perhaps, not to speak uncharitably, upon some bias from self-interest.  Pope, on the other hand, was a Papist by birth, and by a tie of honour; and he resisted all temptations to desert his afflicted faith, which temptations lay in bribes of great magnitude prospectively, and in persecutions for the present that were painfully humiliating.  How base a time-server does Dryden appear on the one side! on the other, how much of a martyr should we be disposed to pronounce Pope!  And yet, for all that, such is the overruling force of a nature originally sincere, the apostate Dryden wore upon his brow the grace of sincerity, whilst the pseudo-martyr Pope, in the midst of actual fidelity to his church, was at his heart a traitor—­in the very oath of his allegiance to his spiritual mistress had a lie upon his lips, scoffed at her while kneeling in homage to her pretensions, and secretly forswore her doctrines while suffering insults in her service.

The differences as to truth and falsehood lay exactly where by all the external symptoms they ought not to have lain.  But the reason for this anomaly was that to Dryden sincerity had been a perpetual necessity of his intellectual nature, whilst Pope, distracted by his own activities of mind, living in an irreligious generation, and beset by infidel friends, had early lost his anchorage of traditional belief; and yet, upon honourable scruple of fidelity to the suffering Church of his fathers, he sought often to dissemble the fact of his own scepticism, which often he thirsted ostentatiously to parade.  Through a motive of truthfulness he became false.  And in this particular instance he would, at any rate, have become false, whatever had been the native constitution of his mind.  It was a mere impossibility to reconcile any real allegiance to his church with his known irreverence to religion.  But upon far more subjects than this Pope was habitually false to the quality of his thoughts, always insincere, never by any accident in earnest, and consequently many times caught in ruinous self-contradiction.  Is that the sort of writer to furnish an advantageous study for the precious leisure, precious as rubies, of the toil-worn artisan.

The root and pledge of this falseness in Pope lay in a disease of his mind, which he (like the Roman poet Horace) mistook for a feature of praeter-natural strength; and this disease was the incapacity of self-determination towards any paramount or abiding principles.  Horace, in a well-known passage, had congratulated himself upon this disease as upon a trophy of philosophical emancipation: 

  Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri,
  Quo me cunque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes: 

which words Pope translates, and applies to himself in his English adaptation of this epistle—­

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