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BY MR. POPE,
To a Play for Mr. DENNIS'S Benefit, in 1733, when he was old, blind, and in great Distress, a little before his Death.
As when that Hero, who in each Campaign,
Had brav'd the Goth, and many a Vandal slain, Lay fortune-ftruck, a fpectacle of Woe! Wept by each Friend, forgiv'n by ev'ry Foe; Was there a generous, a reflecting mind, But pitied BELISARIUS old and blind? Was there a Chief but melted at the Sight? A common Soldier, but who clubb'd his Mite?
"This dreaded Sat'rift, Dennis will confefs,
VER. 6. But pitied Belifarius, &c.] Nothing could be more happily imagined than this allufion, nor more finely conducted. The continued pleafantry is fo delicately touched, that it took nothing from the felf-fatisfaction which the critic who heard it, had in his own merit, or the audience in their charity. In a word, this benevo lent irony is profecuted with so masterly a hand, that the Poet fuppofed, had Dennis himself the wit to fee it, he would have had the ingenuity to approve of it.
VER. 7. Was there a Chief, &c.] The fine figure of the Commander in that capital picture of Balifarius at Chifwick, fupplied the Poet with this beautiful idea.
Such, fuch emotions fhould in Britons rife,
If there's a Senior, who contemns this age;
VER. 12. Their Quibbles routed, and defy'd their Puns ;] See Dunciad, Note on v. 63. B. I.
An old gentleman of the laft century, whe used to frequent Button's coffee-house, told me they had many pleasant scenes of Dennis's indignation and resentment, when Steele and Rowe, in particular, teized him with a pun.
VER. 13. A defp'rate Bulwark, &c.] Alluding to his hatred of rime.
VER. 16. And book the Stage with Thunders all his own!] See Dunciad, Note on v. 226. B. II.
VER. 17. Stood up to dafb, &c.] See Dunciad, Note on v. 173 B. III.
VER. 18. Maul the French Tyrant-] See Dunciad, Note on V. 413. B. II.
Ibid. or pull down the POPE!] See Dunciad, Note on v. 63. B. I.
VER. 21. If there's a Critic of diftinguifb'd rage ;] See Dunciad, Notes on v. 106. B. I.
Let him to-night his just affistance lend,
And be the Critic's, Briton's, Old Man's Friend.
Bitter fatire is concealed under the appearance of these topics of pity and commiferation. It is said that poor Dennis did not perceive the force of these sarcasms, and heard the prologue spoke with great complacency. Mallet and Thomson alfo interested them. felves much in procuring the old man a good benefit.
W HEN fimple Macer, now of high renown,
VER. 1. When fimple Macer,] Said to be the character of James Moore Smyth, author of the Rival Modes, a comedy, in 1726. He pilfered verses from Pope. He joined in a political paper with the Duke of Wharton, called The Inquifitor, written with fuch violence against government, that he was foon obliged to drop it. This character was first printed in the Mifcellanies of Swift and Pope, 1727, concerning which the following anecdote is tranfcribed from Dr. Birch's manuscripts in the British Museum :
August 17, 1749. Mr. George Faulkner, of Dublin, told me, that Dr. Swift had long conceived a mean opinion of Mr. Pope, on account of his jealous, peevish, avaricious temper. The Doctor gave Mr. Pope the property of his Gulliver, which he fold the copy of for three hundred pounds; and gave up to him, in 1727, his fhare of the copy of the three volumes of their Mifcellanies, which came to one hundred and fifty pounds. The Doctor was angry with Mr. Pope for his fatire upon Mr. Addison, whom the former efteemed as an honeft, generous, and friendly man. Worfdale the painter was employed by Mr. Pope to go to Curl in the habit of a clergyman, and fell him the printed copies of his Letters. Mr. Pope fent to Ireland to Dr. Swift, by Mr. Gerrard, an Irish gentleman, then at Bath, a printed copy of their letters, with an anonymous letter, which occafioned Dr. Swift to give Mr. Faulkner leave to reprint them at Dublin, though Mr. Pope's Edition was published firft."
Some Ends of verse his betters might afford,
So fome coarse Country Wench, almost decay'd,
Thought wond'rous honest, though of mean degree, And strangely lik❜d for her Simplicity :
In a tranflated Suit, then tries the Town,
And in four months a batter'd Harridan.
Now nothing left, but wither'd, pale, and shrunk, To bawd for others, and go fhares with Punk.
I would obferve, on this anecdote, that it is not very probable that Swift should condemn Pope's Verfes on Addifon, as they were firft printed in the Mifcellanies, which publication was their joint work; and the verses themselves are mentioned in the preface to thefe Miscellanies.
VER. 4. To wear red Stockings,] I remember old Demoivre told me, above fifty years ago, that all he remembered of Corneille was, that he had feen him in red stockings at the theatre.