Alexander Pope: The Critical Heritage

By John Barnard | Go to book overview
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June/July 1733


Swift's criticisms


Jonathan Swift, extract from letter to Pope [30 March 1733], The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, ed. Sir H. Williams (1963), iv. 133.

There are three versions of the epitaph (see Twickenham, vi. 349-52). Pope accepted most of Swift's suggestions. For Dr Johnson's criticism of the poem, see pp. 418-19 below.

I have not seen in so few lines more good sence, or more proper to the Subject. Yet I will tell you my remarks and submit them. The whole is intended for an Apostrophe to the dead person, which however doth not appear till the eighth line, Therefore as I checkt a little at the article the twice used in the second line, I imagined it might be changed into thy and then the Apostrophe will appear at first, and be clearer to common readers. My Lord Orrery your great admirer saith the word mixed suits not so properly the Heroes bust, as the dust of Kings. Perhaps My Lord may be too exact, yet you may please to consider it. The beginning of the last Line, striking their aking bosoms. 1 Those last two participles come so near, and sounding so like, I could wish [them] altered, if it might be easily done. The Scripture expression upon our Saviour's death is that the People smote their breasts. You will pardon me, for since I have left off writing, I am sunk into a Critick. Some Gentlemen here, object against the expression in the second line, A

1 [Swift again attacked this phrase on I May, Correspondence, ed. cit., iv. 153]


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Alexander Pope: The Critical Heritage


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