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Lord Halifax according to Alexander Pope according to Samuel Johnson

March 30, 2014

“The famous Lord Halifax was rather a pretender to taste than really possessed of it. – When I had finished the two or three first books of my translation of the Iliad, that Lord desired to have the pleasure of hearing them read at his house. – Addison, Congreve, and Garth, were there at the reading. In four or five places, Lord Halifax stopt me very civilly, and with a speech each time, much of the same kind, ‘I beg your pardon, Mr. Pope; but there is something in that passage that does not quite please me. – Be so good as to mark the place, and consider it a little [more] at your leisure. – I’m sure you can give it a little [better] turn.’ I returned from Lord Halifax’s with Dr. Garth, in his chariot; and, as we were going along, was saying to the Doctor, that my Lord had laid me under a good deal of difficulty by such loose and general observations; that I had been thinking over the passages almost ever since, and could not guess at what it was that offended his Lordship in either of them. Garth laughed heartily at my embarrassment; said, I had not been long enough acquainted with Lord Halifax to know his way yet; that I need not puzzle myself about looking those places over and over, when I got home. ‘All you need do (says he) is to leave them just as they are; call on Lord Halifax two or three months hence, thank him for his kind observations on those passages, and then read them to him as altered. I have known him much longer than you have, and will be answerable for the event.’ I followed his advice; waited on Lord Halifax some time after; said, I hoped he would find his objections to those passages removed; read them to him exactly as they were at first: and his Lordship was extremely pleased with them, and cried out, ‘Ay, now [Mr. Pope] they are perfectly right: nothing can be better.'”

This version comes from, ed. G. B. Hill, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), as edited and reproduced by Jack Lynch, Rutgers University.


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