Early Georgian town gossip and scandal!
Opening stanza of Alexander Pope’s Farewell to London:
Dear, damn’d distracting town, farewell!
Thy fools no more I’ll tease:
This year in peace, ye critics, dwell,
Ye harlots, sleep at ease!
What gets lost there is the annex to the title, In the Year 1715. As Bonamy Dobrée‘s appendix VI:Individual Authors (see p664) adds (not published till 1775).
In that previous post I used Dunbar for two main reasons:
- to avoid the most obvious, Wordsworth — because the image was way down river from Westminster Bridge, and that would be so obvious a reference;
- I like Dunbar, and feel he deserves a run in the sun.
Pope’s little ditty is more of a problem: it is stuffed with references. Some of the edits are easier than others. Take the second stanza:
Soft B– and rough C[ragg]s adieu,
Earl Warwick made your moan,
The lively H[inchenbrook] and you
May knock up whores alone.
OK, I’ve got James Craggs, who has an entry in wikipedia. Lord Warwick was Edward Rich, 7th Earl of Warwick, who seems to have been a bit of a lad. The Viscount Hinchenbrooke was Edward Montague, heir to the Sandwich title. But B__ defeats me: presumably a pun to go with ‘soft’, and contrast with ‘rough crag’. It would be nice were that a misprint for H__, which would lead us to Trevor Hill, member both of parliament (for Hillsborough, and — yes — same place as that in County Down) and of the notorious Duke of Wharton’s Club.
The fifth stanza amused me:
Lintot, farewell! thy bard must go;
Farewell, unhappy Tonson!
Heaven gives thee for thy loss of Rowe,
Lean Philips, and fat Johnson.
Bernard Lintot and Jacob Tonson were rival London printers, both of whom published Pope. Nicholas Rowe had a prodigious output of plays, and was an early editor of Shakespeare: by the time of Pope’s verse, he was very much a courtier, and therefore distracted from providing material to the printers. The poet John Philips had died in 1709, and his works published posthumously in 1712, or — more likely — that could be Ambrose Philips, who was closely associated with Tonson, but was a butt of Pope’s mockery. But ‘fat Johnson’ isn’t the obvious: Samuel (born 1709) was barely breached at the time of Pope writing. Yet, in that stanza we have a neat echo of Alan Bennett’s Mrs Dorothy Lintott, as in The History Boys, and her gems such as:
History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.
Is Pope’s Farewell a fitting tribute to literary London? There are more heroic, but it works for me.
Adieu to all but Gay alone,
Whose soul sincere and free,
Loves all mankind, but flatters none,
And so may starve with me.
John Gay was a follower of Pope, and at this moment was losing his royal patronage (solicited by Jonathan Swift) on the death of Queen Anne. He survived on his wits — his work was admired by James Craggs (see above), for example, who presented him with South Sea stock, and encouraged Gay to invest heavily, just as the whole South Sea Bubble burst, leaving Gay destitute. Out of which would come The Beggar’s Opera.