’s Satires Essay, Research Paper
Despite the fact that Pope made most of his money from subscriptions to his Classical translations, it is for his sharp and gritty satires that he is best remembered and justly revered. It is these that proved most entertaining and that, in literature, remained pertinent personal accounts of social history. During the Restoration and 18th Century satire was a popular generic choice for those writers who wanted to pass comment on some issue of contemporary life whilst still practicing their art. By definition satire is Œthe use of ridicule, irony, sarcasm etc. in speech or writing for the ostensible purpose of exposing and discouraging vice or folly¹. Satire is then necessarily didactic because its aim is to realign its target with a particular ideal from which the satirist believes it to have strayed. This definition alone though is not enough to help us define and examine why Pope delighted in this particular genre and why he used it as a vehicle for his political and moral beliefs. Satire is distinct from pure didacticism because of its ability to entertain; Complaint and teaching alone…do not themselves make satire…satire at all levels must entertain as well as try to influence conduct… (by) the joy of hearing a travesty, a fantastic inversion of the real world. An inversion such as the realm of the Queen of Dullness in the Dunciad. Likewise Pope makes it clear that what he writes is not slander or lampoon, which is what litters the texts of the Grub Street writers, and which he attacks in The Dunciad with the lines, Œ”Here strip, my children! here at once leap in,/Here prove who best can dash through thick and thin,/And who the most in love of dirt excel,¹ (II 275-7). He makes his opinion clear on this in the lines; There is not in the world a greater Error than that which Fools are so apt to fall into, and Knaves with good reason to encourage, the mistaking of a Satyrist for a libeller; wheras to a true satyrist nothing is so odious as a libeller, for the same reason as to a man truly Virtuous nothing is so hateful as a hypocrite. In 1725 Pope wrote to his eminent friend Swift, of his desire for his proceeding poetry to be a, Œuseful investigation of my own territories….something domestic, fit for my own country, and for my own time;¹ This definition could apply to many types of works and it is possible that he was referring to the epic he had always wanted to write, just as Virgil had written the Aeneid to instill a sense of patriotism in his people, or like Milton whose Paradise Lost explained the Œways of God to men¹. However satires, in which he excelled, proved to be an excellent reflection of the moral and social climes of England in the 1730s. Rather than a purely historical account, a satire is a good illustration of personal contemporary experience within any given historical period. It is obviously biased because it is imbued with opinion, but it is this that gives us insight into a slice of contemporary life, so seeing how the larger social and political machinations turned the miniature cogs of the people.Pope was reluctant to leave his position as a literary poet and turn to satire. In his Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot Pope claimed that he had resisted the provocation of responding to slander directed at him until the publication of the Dunciad , ŒFull ten years slandered, did he once reply?¹ (l 374). However throughout his entire literary career Pope was the subject of constant literary attack. So much so that the body of critical literature against him was sufficient to earn itself the name ŒPopiana¹. These attacks were largely in the form of pamphlets. Pamphleteering in the Eighteenth century was a cheap and effective way of reaching a large audience often with topical and controversial issues. Those liable laws that did exist were rarely brought into play over personal attacks and so the people who wrote them stood to profit financially without the risk of legal action. Pamphleteering was one of the chief employments of the Grub Street hacks. Grub Street was a place, as Dr Johnson kindly put it Œmuch inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries and temporary poems.¹, and these inhabitants were less sympathetically described by Richard Savage as Œof very low Parentage, and without any Pretence of Merit,( are) aspiring to the Rank of Gentlemen,¹. The possible causes for attacking Pope were many fold. Let us look at some of those reasons and some of Pope¹s satirical responses. Pope¹s early success and affluence, in spite of deformities and irrespective of his unorthodox political and religious tendencies, was enough in itself to irk those hack writers whose hands were tied to the pens of their publishers. Pope had managed to beat the booksellers at their own game, making a fortune from subscriptions to his Classical translations, a thing which provided much fodder for the pamphleteers. Pamphlets dealt with questions from Pope¹s knowledge of Greek, ŒIf I did not understand Greek, what of that; I hope a Man may translate a Greek Author without understanding Greek,¹, to criticisms over his continued financial return from revised editions in a line such as, ŒAnd all your laurels from Subscriptions grew:¹. All these sorts of attack were largely fueled by the envy over the fact that Pope¹s translations freed him from the sort of literary work that the hacks were destined to carry out. Their sort of livelihood was brilliantly described by Richard Savage in his aptly titled An Author to be Lett of 1729. This is the story of a fictitious Grub Street writer Iscariot Hackney who works for the real life bookseller Edmund Curll. His work under this man is described thus; ŒTwas in his service that I wrote Obscenity and Profaneness, under the Names of Pope and Swift. Sometimes I was Mr.Joseph Gay, …..I abridg¹d Histories and Travels, translated from the French, what they never wrote, and was expert at finding out new Titles for old Books…¹ As the hacks saw it, Pope was an outsider to this sort of penury and was instead moving in prolific political and literary circles backed by the support of many affluent men such as Bolingbroke and Swift. The maxim that you had to be famous before you could be successful was one of which many hacks were aware and to them it would seem that Pope was not roped in to this viscous circle. As Johnson said in his Life of Richard Savage, the hack ate Œonly when he was invited to the tables of his acquaintances, from which the meanness of his dress often excluded him,¹. However what Johnson also said of Savage¹s talent did not necessarily hold for all hack writers, On a bulk, in a cellar, or in a glass-house among thieves and beggars, was to be found the author of The Wanderer,…the man whose remarks on life might have assisted the statesman,…whose eloquence might have influenced senates… If this had been the case Pope might have been more sympathetic. Many hacks chose to believe that Pope was ridiculing poverty, with lines such as Œsupperless¹ hero, (I 115), and retorted, Œas if the want of a Dinner made a man a Fool, or Riches and good Sence only kept company.¹ Instead it was his own staunch principles regarding the duty of the author to spread cultural tradition or to hold a critical mirror up to a degenerate society and so on, that meant he abhorred the kind of cheap slander and titillation which characterized Grub Street journalism. It was the fact that many of the writers in Grub Street should never have chosen a literary vocation in the first place, and if we take the time to look at how Colly Cibber, or Bayes in the Dunciad, became a supperless hero, we see that his choice of vocation is not made out of enthusiasm but out of necessity; Swearing and supperless the Hero sate, Blasphem¹d the Gods, the Dice, and damn¹d his Fate. Then gnaw¹d his pen, then dash¹d it on the ground, sinking from thought to thought, a vast profound! Plung¹d for his sense, but found no bottom there, Yet wrote and flounder¹d on, in mere despair. (I 115-20) Moreover the hacks criticism of Pope on this topic, and their failure to grasp his point, only further supports his belief that they had no concept of good literature. The hack writer¹s tendency to plagiarize and to fabricate and his love of hyperbole were tactics that offended Pope¹s very raison d¹etre. The motive for these tactics are nicely explained by the hack writer Ned Ward; I borrowed my method from our Moorfield¹s conjurors, who use their utmost art to put on a terrible countenance, that everybody that gazes on their outsides may think the devil is in them; and they undoubtedly find it a useful policy, for I have commonly observed, that he thrives best, and has his door most crowded, that can look the most frightful. The results were largely empty promises of something fantastic and in themselves insubstantial and weak. The formats in which these kinds of writings flourished saturated the literary world making it easy to vent personal gripes in the press. All these things provided Pope with ample provocation to write responsive and often defensive satire. The Dunciad is the best known and most comprehensive attack on these issues. The hacks cry ŒThe more we rail, the more bespatter,/¹Twill make our pamphlets sell the better.¹, was justly answered by the mud slinging scene in Book II of the Dunciad. Pope is likewise critical of the huge range of cheap pamphlets and periodicals that delighted in such scandal and gossip, which he again attacks in the Dunciad; Hence miscellanies spring, the weekly boast Of Curll¹s chaste press, and Lintot¹s rubric post: Hence hyming Tyburn¹s elegaic lines, Hence Journals, Medleys, Merc¹ries, Magazines: Sepulchrul lies, our holy walls to grace, (I 39-43) Pope further presses this point when, within the footnotes of the Dunciad he has his fictitious critic Martin Scriblerus comment on the word ŒMagazines¹; Miscellanies in prose and verse, in which at some times – new born nonsense is first taught to cry; at others, dead – born Dullness appears in a thousand shapes. These were thrown out weekly and monthly by every miserable scribbler; or picked up piece-meal and stolen from anybody, under the title of papers, essays, queries, verses, epigrams, riddles, etc. equally the disgrace of human wit, morality, and decency. The frequent unauthorized use of an author¹s name to sell literature in Grub Street was a charge answered by Pope in the line, ŒCurll stretches after Gay, but Gay is gone,/He grasps an empty Joseph for a John:¹ (II 127-8), after Curll reportedly affixed the name J Gay to cheap texts in an attempt to pass them off as those of the respected John Gay. The preposterous antics of booksellers in this scene is a pertinent satirical attack on the immoral behavior of this financially driven occupation. A similar charge is answered in Pope¹s A Full and True Account of a Horrid and Barbarous Revenge by poison, on the Body of Mr Edmund curll, Bookseller. In this Pope poisons Curll and then has him beg forgiveness for Œthose indirect methods I have pursued in inventing new titles to old books, putting authors names to things they never saw,¹. Pope¹s attack of the hack writers in the Dunciad immortalized many otherwise unremarkable men, just as Swift had warned him it would. In his Life of Pope Johnson asked the critical question Œfor whom did it concern to know that one or the other scribbler was a dunce?¹. The fact was that although the naming names that went on was an integral part of the satirical machinations of the Dunciad, the names themselves were endlessly translatable because the criticism is not so much of individuals as of their principles and the types of writing to which those authors subscribe. The changes Pope made to the first edition of the Dunciad is testimony to this fact. For example book I line 256 of the Dunciad Variorum reads Œ”God save King Tibbald!” Grubstreet allies roar”¹, and focuses on Theobald, Popes real life enemy. The equivalent line in the final version of 1743 reads Œ”God save King Colley!” Drury Lane replies:¹ (I 322). What we see then is that nearly fifteen years on Pope managed to alter the victim and setting of his satire without greatly changing the focus of his criticism – the Grub Street ideology. It is significant to note that a writer such as Gissing in his New Grub Street in 1891 has dispensed with the procedure of alluding to real people because it supports the idea that Pope and Gissing, and any others who have addressed this same topic, were not solely interested in personal attack but in a critique of the Grub Street ethic. It is probably true to say that the source of these battles between Grub Street and Pope was an economic and classed based one. In the Dunciad Pope¹s refers to Œthat area¹, (II 27). The place he means is the area surrounding St Mary le Strand, which was becoming known as a residency for people in the literary Œtrade¹ such as Curll and Tonson. What Pope is actually alluding to is the gradual encroachment of poor quality literature, and what it stood for, into the bounds of Westminster, the seat of the aristocracy. As George Gissing was to say over two hundred years later, the problem that true literary artists had with hack writing was that it made Œa trade of art!¹. This is part of a bigger issue that fueled the fire of the pamphlet wars and Pope¹s responsive satire: Pope¹s political and religious bias and his social standing. As we have already discussed, the zeitgeist of Grub Street was commercial success. Given the sway of the government at this time, in many ways this was a political issue. From 1721 to 1742 Robert Walpole, as the First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, was effectively England¹s first Prime Minister. As a Whig leader he opposed the succession of James Duke of York on the grounds that he was a Catholic. Moreover the Whigs represented the desires of the industrialists and resented the elitism of the aristocracy, represented by the Tories. Although we must avoid sweeping generalizations, it would be broadly true to say that most of Grub Street was Whig because of its practical and commercial nature, and that Pope was most definitely a Tory and a Catholic, (a fact for which his name provided much amusement). Pope was thus criticized again for making too much money, fraternizing with the aristocracy and the Tories and, to add insult to injury, took all this for granted. Pope¹s Epistle to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington , for example outraged the critics because of Pope¹s ostensible ingratitude to Duke Chandos, who many believed was the model for the tasteless Timon and his seat which Popes leaves, Treated, caressed, and tired, I take my leave, Sick of his civil pride from morn to eve; I curse such lavish cost, and little skill, And swear no day was ever passed so ill. (165-8)Pope denied the charge that Timon was infact Chandos, but the critics were adamant. One article tells the story of how Pope had asked Chandos for a subscription of one guinea and how, after Chandos had given him five hundred pounds Œ …the Wretch, who is a Composition o f Peevishness, Spleen, and Envy, ….in a few Years after,..publishes a Satire, as he terms it, but in Reality it is an Infamous and Scandalous Libel,..¹ Pope earned himself the reputation for being precocious and self satisfied, ŒAlexander Pope, keeper of the Profound, Vicar of the Dunciad; Blunder-Master-General of Dramatic Poetry, Lord Paramount wou¹d-be of Mount Parnassus…¹. As a result many attacks were reduced to base lampoon, focusing on his deformities. It would be difficult to ever ascertain how much of Pope¹s satire was motivated by personal injury and how much was written in an effort to rectify moral degeneracy in general. However it would be naive to assume that attacks such as the one by Lady Mary Montague did not cut Pope¹s self esteem; Like the first bold Assassin¹s be thy Lot, Ne¹er be thy Guilt forgiven, or forgot; But as thou hate¹st, be hated by Mankind, And with the Emblem of thy crooked Mind, Mark¹d on thy Back, like Cain, by God¹s own Hand, Wander like him, accursed through the Land. We might find Pope¹s true response to attacks such as these in the lines, ŒThe Muse but served to ease some friend, not wife,/To help me through this long disease, my life,¹ There are hints at what must have seemed like injustices in society to Pope throughout his texts. For example in the reference in An Epistle to Lord Bathurst to the Monument in London which was erected in memory of the Great Fire and inscribed with the assertion that it was begun by the Papists: Pope describes it standing ŒLike a tall bully,¹ (340). In the Advertisement at the beginning of Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot Pope quite explictly states his irritation at these kinds of personal attack on, Œmy person, morals, and family, whereof to those who know me not, a truer information may be requisite.¹ The lamentable state of contemporary English Society, which Pope felt had become morally degenerate as a result of the temptations of vice, was sufficient to prompt a response from Pope. At the end of his Epilogue to the Satires: Dialogue One, he comments on just this; In golden chains the willing world she draws,/And hers the gospel is, and hers the laws,/Mounts the tribunal, lifts her scarlet head,/And sees pale Virtue carted in her stead./Lo! at the wheels of her triumphal car,/Old England¹s genius, rough with many a scar,/Dragged in the dust! his arms hang idly round/His flag inverted trails along the ground!/Our youth, all liveried o¹er with foreign gold,/Before her dance: behind her, crawl the old!/See thronging millions to the pagod run,/And offer country, parent, wife or son!/Hear her black trumpet through the land proclaim,/That Œnot to be corrupted is the shame¹…. Yet may this verse (if such a verse remain)/Show, there was one who held it in disdain. (147-172) In short things conspired to prompt Pope to turn to satire, a genre in which he would endeavour Œto correct the taste of the town in wit and criticism.¹ Despite Swift¹s warning that in exposing the follies of his enemies, Pope may cement their place in history saying, Œand as to the difference between good and bad fame, it is a perfect trifle¹ , Pope¹s response was one of defiance, ŒI think a bright author should put an end to slanders only as the sun does to stinks – by shinning out exhale them to nothing.¹ Thus, quite apart from letting these matters go, it seemed almost an obligation to Pope to expose the vice and poor taste of his enemies, and in doing so treat them to an example of elegant rhetoric in the form of a satire.