But ask not to what doctors I apply—
Sworn to no master, of no sect am I.
As drives the storm, at any door I knock;
And house with Montaigne now, and now with Locke.
That is, neither one poet nor the other having, as regarded philosophy, any internal principle of gravitation or determining impulse to draw him in one direction rather than another, was left to the random control of momentary taste, accident, or caprice; and this indetermination of pure, unballasted levity both Pope and Horace mistook for a special privilege of philosophic strength. Others, it seems, were chained and coerced by certain fixed aspects of truth, and their efforts were over-ruled accordingly in one uniform line of direction. But they, the two brilliant poets, fluttered on butterfly wings to the right and the left, obeying no guidance but that of some instant and fugitive sensibility to some momentary phasis of beauty. In this dream of drunken eclecticism, and in the original possibility of such an eclecticism, lay the ground of that enormous falsehood which Pope practised from youth to age. An eclectic philosopher already, in the very title which he assumes, proclaims his self-complacency in the large liberty of error purchased by the renunciation of all controlling principles. Having served the towing-line which connected him with any external force of guiding and compulsory truth, he is free to go astray in any one of ten thousand false radiations from the true centre of rest. By his own choice he is wandering in a forest all but pathless,
Pallantes error recto de tramite pellit;
and a forest not of sixty days’ journey, like that old Hercynian forest of Caesar’s time, but a forest which sixty generations have not availed to traverse or familiarise in any one direction....
Here would be the most advantageous and remunerative station to take for one who should undertake a formal exposure of Pope’s hollow-heartedness; that is, it would most commensurately reward the pains and difficulties of such an investigation. But it would be too long a task for this situation, and it would be too polemic. It would move through a jungle of controversies.... Instead of this I prefer, as more amusing, as less elaborate, and as briefer, to expose a few of Pope’s personal falsehoods, and falsehoods as to the notorieties of fact. Truth speculative often-times, drives its roots into depth, so dark that the falsifications to which it is liable, though detected, cannot always be exposed to the light of day—the result is known, but not therefore seen. Truth personal, on the other hand, may easily be made to confront its falsifier, not with reputation only, but with the visible shame of refutation. Such shame would settle upon every page of Pope’s satires and moral epistles, oftentimes upon every couplet, if any censor, armed with an adequate knowledge