Thursday 6 June 2013

Favourite snatches (6)

Here's a favourite snatch - it's Dr Johnson, no less, on the Twickenham grotto built by the poet
Alexander Pope in the early 1720s. Flush with earnings from his translation of Homer's Iliad, Pope had moved to Twickenham with his mother in 1719 and began to develop a riverside property. His Villa (now demolished) was separated from his garden (also lost) by a road and an elaborately decorated tunnel - or grotto - was his solution. Here's Dr Johnson, booming inimitably:

A grotto is not often the wish or pleasure of an Englishman, who has more frequent need to solicit rather than exclude the sun, but Pope's excavation was requisite as an entrance to his garden, and, as some men try to be proud of their defects, he extracted an ornament from an inconvenience, and vanity produced a grotto where necessity enforced a passage.

I was very surprised to learn today that the grotto still exists, although in a sorry state - an amazing survival. For a good website with pictures click here.

Book 4 of Pope's Dunciad describes some of the figures seated beneath the throne of Dulness. It's wonderful, and offered to my readers as a bonus favourite snatch:

Beneath her foot-stool, Science groans in Chains,

And Wit dreads Exile, Penalties and Pains.

There foam'd rebellious Logic, gagg'd and bound,

There, stript, fair Rhet'ric languish'd on the ground;

His blunted Arms by Sophistry are born, 

And shameless Billingsgate her Robes adorn.

Morality, by her false Guardians drawn,

Chicane in Furs, and Casuistry in Lawn, 

Gasps, as they straiten at each end the cord,

And dies, when Dulness gives her Page the word.

'Chicane in Furs, and Casuistry in Lawn' snags the memory before the meaning is clear.

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