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JOHN DENNIS in Remarks upon Mr. Pope's Translation of Homer, 1717

JOHN DENNIS in Remarks upon Mr. Pope's Translation of Homer, 1717

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not seem to have soured his relations with Congreve, who for

his part remained on good terms with both men.

There is a Gentleman, the living Ornament of the Comick Scene,

who after he had for several Years entertain’d the Town, with that

Wit and Humour, and Art and Vivacity, which are so becoming of

the Comick Stage, produced at last a Play, which besides that it was

equal to most of the former in those pleasant Humours which the

Laughers so much require, had some certain Scenes in it, which were

writ with so much Grace and Delicacy, that they alone were worth

an entire Comedy. What was the Event? The Play was hiss’d by

Barbarous Fools in the Acting; and an impertinent Trifle was brought

on after it, which was acted with vast Applause. Which rais’d so

much Indignation in the foresaid Writer, that he quitted the Stage in

Disdain, and Comedy left it with him. And those nice great Persons,

whose squeamish Palates rejected Quails and Partridges, have pin’d

ever since in such a Dearth, that they greedily feed upon Bull-Beef.

Thus have I set before the Readers Eyes, in as short a Method as

I could, the cruel Treatment that so many extraordinary Men have

received from their Countrymen for these last hundred Years. If I

should now shift the Scene, and show all that Penury, and that Avarice

chang’d all at once to Riot and Profuseness, and more squander’d

away upon one Object, than would have satisfied the greater part of

those extraordinary Men, the Reader to whom this one Creature

should be altogether unknown, would fancy him a Prodigy of Art

and Nature, would believe that all the great Qualities of those

extraordinary Persons were centred in him alone; that he had the

Capacity and Profoundness of BACON, the fine Painting of

SPENSER, the Force and Sublimity, and Elevation of MILTON; the

fine Thinking and Elegance, and Versification of DRYDEN; the Fire

and Enthusiasm of LEE; the moving melting Tenderness of OTWAY;

the Pleasantry of BUTLER; the Wit and Satire of WYCHERLEY;

and the Humour and Spirit, and Art and Grace of



46. Richardson Pack in ‘Of STUDY’


From Miscellanies in Verse and Prose (London: 1719), p. 95.

Major Richardson Pack (1682–1728) was a veteran of the War

of the Spanish Succession. His Miscellanies were published by

Edmund Curll. The ‘Essays on Study and Conversation’ are in

the form of letters addressed to ‘D.C.’, his friend Captain David


CONGREVE of all the Moderns, seems to me, to have the rightest

Turn for Comedy. In all his Plays there is a great deal of Lively and

Uncommon Humour, and such as yet, for the most part, is a Picture

of true Life. Besides, he hath raised the Vein of Ridicule, and made

the Stage, which had been too much prostituted to the Mob, edifying

to Persons of the first Condition. And as his Fable is Diverting, so is

it wrought according to the strictest Rules.

47. Giles Jacob in The Poetical Register


From The Poetical Register: or, the Lives and Characters of

the English Dramatick Poets. With an Account of their Writings,

2 vols (London: 1719–20), I, pp. 41–6.

Giles Jacob (1686–1744) was a prolific compiler of books,

mostly legal works. Consequently he was lampooned as ‘mighty

J——b Blunderbus of Law’ in the 1728 Dunciad, III, 157, after

provoking Pope by adverse comments on Three Hours after

Marriage. The Preface to The Poetical Register acknowledges



Congreve’s ‘free and early Communication of what relates to

himself, as well as his kind Directions for the Composing of

this Work’ (sig. A7r).

Mr. Congreve, notwithstanding he has justly acquir’d the greatest

Reputation in Dramatick Writings, is so far from being puff’d up

with Vanity (a Failing in most Authors of Excellency) that he abounds

with Humility and good Nature. He does not shew so much the Poet

as the Gentleman; he is ambitious of few Praises, tho’ he deserves

numerous Encomiums; he is genteel and regular in Oeconomy,

unaffected in Behaviour, pleasing and informing in his Conversation,

and respectful to all. And as for his Talents in Dramatick Poetry, I

shall omit a Description of the Beauty of his Dialogue, Fineness of

his Humour, and other particulars; and confine what I have to say in

the smallest Compass of Poetical Expression.

As rising Sparkles in each Draught of Wine,

So Force of Wit appears in ev’ry Line.

Mr. Congreve has oblig’d the World with the following Plays.

I. The Old Batchelor, a Comedy, acted at the Theatre Royal, in

the Year 1693. Dedicated to the Right Honourable Charles Lord

Clifford. This Comedy was acted with a general Applause, and was

introduc’d into the World with several Copies of Verses, which it

justly merited, tho’ the Author was then not above nineteen Years of

Age; and it not only made him known to the Town, and a noble

Mecaenas, but was honour’d with the Presence of the beautiful and

virtuous Queen Mary: And Mr. Congreve, in return of Gratitude,

wrote one of the finest Pastorals we have in the English Language,

on the lamented Death of that incomparable Princess. There’s a

genteel and sprightly Wit in the Dialogue of this Play; and the

humorous Characters are agreeable to Nature, which can be said of

few other Dramatick Performances; yet the Criticks attack him for

the Incidents of Marriages in Masks, as being scarce ever done in


II. The Double Dealer; a Comedy, acted at the Theatre Royal,

1694. Dedicated to the Right Honourable Charles Montague, Esq;

one of the Lords of the Treasury. This Play did not meet with the

Encouragement as the former; neither had it equal Success with



any of Mr. Congreve’s latter Dramatick Pieces; but I never saw

any particular Criticism on its Defects; which gives me leave to

think its ill Reception proceeded more from a capricious Humour

of the Town, than any considerable Errors in the Composure of

the Play.

III. Love for Love; a Comedy, acted at the Theatre in Little

Lincolns-Inn-Fields, by his Majesty’s Servants, 1695. Dedicated to

the Right Honourable Charles Earl of Dorset and Middlesex. This

Play was acted with very great Applause, at the opening of the New

House. There is abundance of Wit in it, and a great deal of fine and

diverting Humour; the Characters are justly distinguish’d, and the

Manners well mark’d. Some of the nicer Criticks find Fault with the

unravelling of the Plot, and the Conduct of Angelica in it: But in

spite of Envy, this Play must be allow’d to be one of the best of our

modern Comedies.

IV. The Mourning Bride; a Tragedy, acted at the Theatre in Little

Lincolns-Inn-Fields, by his Majesty’s Servants, 1697. Dedicated to

her Royal Highness the Princess Anne of Denmark. This Play had

the greatest Success of all Mr. Congreve’s Performances; and indeed

met with Encouragement inferior to no Dramatick piece, that has at

any time appear’d on the English Stage. The Excellency of this

Tragedy can in nothing be more particularly describ’d, than in Sir

Richard Blackmore’s Preface to his Poem, entitled, King Arthur, which

runs thus:

[Quotes No. 19 above.]

This is the Character given by the learned Doctor of Mr. Congreve’s

Mourning Bride; and I can, by no means, be of Opinion with some

pretending Criticks, that Sir Richard’s Aim, in this Commendation,

was more to depress the Praises of Mr. Congreve’s Predecessors, Mr.

Dryden, Mr. Otway, and Mr. Lee, than the raising of Mr. Congreve;

I look upon it to be meerly a Debt due to Merit, and pursu’d without

any further protracted Views.

V. The Way of the World; a Comedy acted at the Theatre in

Little Lincolns-Inn-Fields, by his Majesty’s Servants, Dedicated to

the Right Honourable Ralph Earl of Mountague. This Play, equal

to, if not the best of Mr. Congreve’s Comedies, unless it be his

Love for Love, had not the Success of most of his other

Performances; which shews there is still an uncertainty in hitting

the Humour of the Town: But tho’ at first it seem’d to be rejected,



it has been lately reviv’d at the Theatre in Drury-lane, and acted

several Nights with very great Applause.

VI. SEMELE; an Opera. This Performance was never represented

on the Theatre.

VII. The Judgment of PARIS; a Masque.

These Dramatick Performances of Mr. Congreve, were publish’d

with his other Poetical Writings, in three Volumes Octavo, 1710.

and the Criticks do him the Justice to confess, that the Faults which

may be found in them, are of a Nature that makes them very

disputable; and in which both his Predecessors and Cotemporaries

have offended. Whatever small Errors there may be in Mr. Congreve’s

Dramatick Pieces, he may be justly excus’d, when ’tis consider’d,

that he both began and left off to write when he was very Young; he

quitted writing at the Age of seven and twenty: And what might not

the World have expected from him, if he had continu’ed his

Dramatical Studies, when he was capable of writing an Old Batchelor

at Nineteen? and the great Mr. Dryden did not compleat his first

Performance till he was above the Age of Thirty.

He is the only Dramatick Poet now living, excellent for both

Comedy and Tragedy; the Plays he has written in both ways, being

very much applauded: And what Mr. Dennis has lately observ’d of

Mr. Congreve, is esteem’d, by most Persons, very just; That he left

the Stage early, and Comedy has quitted it with him.

48. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, ‘To

the Memory of Mr. Congreve’


From Essays and Poems and Simplicity, A Comedy, ed. Robert

Halsband and Isobel Grundy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977),

pp. 246–7.

Congreve died on 19 January 1729, and Lady Mary’s poem

was probably written very soon after. She was 8 years old when



she first met Congreve; both he and her father were members

of the Kit-Cat Club. Spence’s Anecdotes No. 744 records Lady

Mary’s opinion that Congreve was the wittiest man she had

ever known.

Farewell the best and loveliest of Mankind

Where Nature with a happy hand had joyn’d

The softest temper with the strongest mind,

In pain could counsel and could charm when blind.

In this Lewd Age when Honor is a Jest

He found a refuge in his Congreve’s breast,

Superior there, unsully’d, and entire;

And only could with the last breath expire.

His wit was never by his Malice stain’d,

No rival writer of his Verse complain’d,

For neither party drew a venal pen

To praise bad measures or to blast good men.

A Queen indeed he mourn’d, but such a Queen

Where Virtue mix’d with royal Blood was seen,

With equal merit grac’d each Scene of Life

An Humble Regent and Obedient Wife.

If in a Distant State blest Spirits know

The Scenes of Sorrow of a World below,

This little Tribute to thy Fame approve,

A Triffling Instance of a boundless Love.

49. Jonathan Swift in a letter to Viscount

Bolingbroke and Alexander Pope


From The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, ed. Sir Harold

Williams, 5 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), III, p. 329.


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JOHN DENNIS in Remarks upon Mr. Pope's Translation of Homer, 1717

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