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IN ANSWER TO HIS
LORDSHIP'S LETTER TO **** ******, ON THE REV. W. L. BOWLES'S STRICTURES ON THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF POPE:
MORE PARTICULARLY ON THE QUESTION,
Whether POETRY be MORE IMMEDIATELY indebted to what is SUBLIME or BEAUTIFUL in the Works of NATURE, or the Works of ART?
BY THE REV. WM. L. BOWLES.
"He that plays "at BowLs," must expect RUBBERS."
"NATURE must give way to ART!" (See Pope's Works.) SONG, BY A PERSON OF QUALITY!
Third Edition with Alterations, exclusively for the Pamphleteer.
I trust Lord BYRON will excuse me for having made somewhat free with the singular Motto to his book. It is, "I will play at Bowls with the Sun and the Moon."-Old Song.
A "certain Family" had been spoken of, in the Quarterly Review, as "ringing changes on Nature for two thousand years."
By a somewhat ludicrous coincidence, it happens that the "arms" of this "family" are, literally, a "Sun and Moon," a Sun, OR, and a Moon, ARGENT, secundùm artem.
It is, therefore, with this Sun and Moon, that Lord BYRON, I have no doubt, plays at "BOWLS!" not with the Sun and Moon in Nature.
In return, I have only ventured to take, as an inscription to my shield, his Lordship's motto, with a trifling alteration:
He that plays at " BowLs" (with the "Sun and Moon"),
Which is only an old "proverb," for part of an old song! As for any alteration in his heraldic motto, I should not dare to say, Ne crede BYRON; but, I think, in this game, I shall take from his Lordship's arms the" supporters;" though I would not, if I could, touch the graceful and glittering crest of his high poetical character; and long may he wear it uninjured !
When I have classed POPE, as a Poet, inferior to MILTON and SHAKSPEARE, I must beg to be understood, that I do not consider him in the same file with these Poets, nor in any degree to be ranked with them.
It would be important for the reader to keep in mind one plain distinction, in reading what is here offered. Whatever is picturesque, is so far poetical; but all that is "poetical" does not require to be "picturesque." Lord BYRON would never have said, "What painter does not break the sea with a boat," &c. if he had remembered this distinction.
In speaking as I have done of Lord BYRON, lest the language I have used might be attributed to the wish of deprecating his resentment, I must beg to add, that I have always said the same with regard to the high character of his poetry; but I would wish it to be distinctly understood, that, as I do not fear him, so I scorn to flatter him.
London, May 25, 1821.
HORNE TOOKE, if I remember right, began his well-known letter to JUNIUS in these words: "Tragedy, Comedy, and Farce, JUNIUS, WILKES, and FOOTE,-against one poor parson, are fearful odds.' So I might say, LordBYRON, and my two late assailants,-APOLLO, MIDAS, and PUNCH,—are indeed fearful odds against a country clerk and provincial editor.
But to be more courtly, in approaching your Lordship as a controversialist upon any point, I am well aware of the great talents opposed to me. I have just read your remarks (addressed to a friend) on my Life of POPE, on the first part of my Vindication in the Pamphleteer, and on my PRINCIPLES of Poetical Criticism, which I had called (foolishly, in your Lordship's opinion) INVARIABLE.
I thank you, cordially, for this opportunity of explaining my sentiments, which I know you would not intentionally pervert; for the flattering terms in which you have spoken of me personally; and, most of all, for the honorable and open manner in which you have met the questions on which we are at issue.
The late contest in which I have been involved, with those of a character so opposite, has tended to make this contrast of urbanity and honorable opposition more gratifying. From you, my Lord, I was certain I should not meet coarse and insulting abuse, the foul ribaldry of opprobrious contumely,. nor the petty chicanery that purposely keeps out of sight one part of an argument, and wilfully misrepresents another.
Your opposition, as might become a person of so high a station, and of such distinguished genius, exhibits none of
those little arts of literary warfare. Your letter is at once argumentative, manly, good-humored, and eloquent.
I am afraid, that if those whom I have lately encountered might have thought that "your Lordship would decide the contest at once,"-in short, "hit the nail in the head, and Bowles in the head also,"-they will be somewhat disappointed.
But, be this as it may, I can say, with great truth, that if it be an honor to have such a character for an opponent, it is a duty incumbent on me to endeavour to show myself not unworthy, my Lord, of such notice, by meeting your objections in the same spirit.
Your observations, in answer to what I said of parts of Pope's moral character, may be comprised in few words. It was far from my heart to charge him with a "libertine sort of love," on account of the errors or frailties of youth. I disdained, in the Life of Pope, to make any allusion to Cibber's well-known anecdote. It would have been fanatic or hypocritical in me to have done so. When I spoke of his "libertine kind of love," I alluded to the general tone of his language to Lady Mary, and many of the ladies with whom he corresponded from youth to age. I suppressed with indignation, the Imitation of Horace, which I believe he wrote the most obscene and daring piece of profligacy that ever issued from the press, since the days of Charles the Second. I deduced no trait of his character from it,' though it was not written when youth and gaiety might, in some measure, have palliated the offence, but when he was' forty-two years of age. But though I had no tincture, I hope, in my feeling, of hypocrisy, or fanaticism, I thought it a duty to society to touch on one prominent feature in his character, which shows itself in his correspondence.
As to the omission of the fact of his benevolence to SAVAGE, it was inadvertence, culpable, I confess: but if I have spoken of his "general benevolence," I may be pardoned, I hope, for an omission, which, at all events, was not intentional; but on which your Lordship's animadversion I own to be just.
"Should some more sober critic come abroad,
Having touched on these points, I advance to meet your Lordship on the ground of those principles of poetical criticism, by which I adventured to estimate Pope's rank and station in his art.
If I cannot prove those principles invulnerable, even when