The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age

By Joseph M. Levine | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
Pope and the Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns

1

Zoilus lay waiting; the new Homer could no more escape criticism than the original. Even before it appeared, however, the carpers had begun their venomous work, casting suspicions on the enterprise and aspersions on the enterpriser from behind the safety of their pseudonyms: The High German Doctor, Aesop at the Bear-Garden, The Grumbler, Nichydemus Ninnyhammer ( Homer in a Nut Shell) and most wicked of all, Sir Iliad Doggrel in his Homerides.1 Pope, they insinuated, had been won to Homer by greed; Pope was a papist; Pope knew no Greek; the Iliad was a fraud. "To prevent any farther Imposition on the Publick," they threatened, "there is now preparing for the Press by several Hands, Homer defended: Being a Detection of the many Errors committed by Mr. Pope in the Pretended Translation of Homer." It would be shown that the translator had sometimes misunderstood his author, sometimes falsified him deliberately.2 But the boast proved idle and the work never appeared. It was left to Pope's old enemy John Dennis to carry out the threat. In Some Remarks upon Mr. Pope's Translation of Homer ( 1717), Dennis argued that although it was impossible for anyone to translate the Iliad successfully, Pope's failure was due entirely to want of skill and genius. He had "undertaken to translate Homer from Greek of which he does not know

____________________
1
See J. V. Guerinot, Pamphlet Attacks on Alexander Pope: A Bibliography ( New York, 1969); Norman Ault, "Pope and Addison", Review of English Studies 17 ( 1941): 428-51. For the conspirators behind the Homerides, see The Letters of Thomas Burnet to George Duckett, ed. David Nichol Smith ( Oxford, 1914). Pope kept his own list; see the Dunciad Variorum ( London, 1729), app. 2, "A List of Books, Papers, and Verses, in which our Author was abused, Printed before the Dunciad; with the Names of the Authors."
2
From the Flying Post, quoted in George Sherburn, The Early Career of Alexander Pope ( Oxford, 1934), p. 174.

-218-

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The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Literature 11
  • Chapter One - Wotton Vs. Temple 13
  • Chapter Two - Bentley Vs. Christ Church 47
  • Chapter Three - Stroke and Counterstroke 85
  • Chapter Four - The Querelle 121
  • Chapter Five - Ancient Greece and Modern Scholarship 148
  • Chapter Six - Pope's Iliad 181
  • Chapter Seven - Pope and the Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns 218
  • Chapter Eight - Bentley's Milton 245
  • Part Two - History 265
  • Chapter Nine - History and Theory 267
  • Chapter Ten - Ancients 291
  • Chapter Eleven - Moderns 327
  • Chapter Twelve - Ancients and Moderns 374
  • Conclusion 414
  • Index 419
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