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PAGE 2

Lord Carlisle On Pope
by [?]

This is my object, and none that can be supposed personal to Lord Carlisle. Pope, as the subject of the lecture, and not the earlier question as to the propriety of any lecture at all, under the circumstances recited, furnishes my thesis–that thesis on which the reader will understand me to speak with decision, not with the decision of arrogance, but with that which rightfully belongs to a faithful study of the author. The editors of Pope are not all equally careless, but all are careless; and, under the shelter of this carelessness, the most deep-seated vices of Pope’s moral and satirical sketches have escaped detection, or at least have escaped exposure. These, and the other errors traditionally connected with the rank and valuation of Pope as a classic, are what I profess to speak of deliberately and firmly. Meantime, to the extent of a few sentences, I will take the liberty of suggesting, rather than delivering, an opinion upon the other question, viz., the prudence in a man holding Lord Carlisle’s rank of lecturing at all to any public audience. But on this part of the subject I beg to be understood as speaking doubtfully, conjecturally, and without a sufficient basis of facts.

The late Dr. Arnold of Rugby, notoriously a man of great ingenuity, possessing also prodigious fertility of thought, and armed with the rare advantage of being almost demoniacally in earnest, was, however (in some sort of balance to these splendid gifts), tainted to excess with the scrofula of impracticable crotchets. That was the opinion secretly held about him by most of his nearest friends; and it is notorious that he scarcely ever published a pamphlet or contribution to a journal in which he did not contrive to offend all parties, both friendly and hostile, by some ebullition of this capricious character. He hated, for instance, the High Church with a hatred more than theological; and that would have recommended him to the favorable consideration of many thousands of persons in this realm, the same who have been secretly foremost in the recent outbreak of fanaticism against the Roman Catholics; but unfortunately it happened that, although not hating the Low Church (the self-styled Evangelicals), he despised them so profoundly as to make all alliance between them impossible. He hated also many individuals; but, not to do him any injustice, most (or perhaps all) of these were people that had been long dead; and amongst them, by the way, was Livy, the historian; whom I distinguish by name, as furnishing, perhaps, the liveliest illustration of the whimsical and all but lunatic excess to which these personal hatreds were sometimes pushed; for it is a fact that, when the course of an Italian tour had brought him unavoidably to the birthplace of Livy, Dr. Arnold felicitated himself upon having borne the air of that city–in fact, upon having survived such a collision with the local remembrances of the poor historian, very much in those terms which Mr. Governor Holwell might have used on finding himself ‘pretty bobbish’ on the morning after the memorable night in the Black Hole of Calcutta: he could hardly believe that he still lived. [Footnote 1] And yet, how had the eloquent historian trespassed on his patience and his weak powers of toleration? Livy was certainly not very learned in the archaeologies of his own country; where all men had gone astray, he went astray. And in geography, as regarded the Italian movements of Hannibal, he erred with his eyes open. But these were no objects of Livy’s ambition: what he aspired to do was, to tell the story, ‘the tale divine,’ of Roman energy and perseverance; and he so told it that no man, as regards the mere artifices of narration, would ever have presumed to tell it after him. I cite this particular case as illustrating the furnace-heat of Dr. Arnold’s antipathies, unless where some consideration of kindness and Christian charity interposed to temper his fury. This check naturally offered itself only with regard to individuals: and therefore, in dealing with institutions, he acknowledged no check at all, but gave full swing to the license of his wrath. Amongst our own institutions, that one which he seems most profoundly to have hated was our nobility; or, speaking more generally, our aristocracy. Some deadly aboriginal schism he seems to have imagined between this order and the democratic orders; some predestined feud as between the head of the serpent and the heel of man.