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—