New Light on Pope. by Norman Ault. (Methuen. 30s.) APART' from the general consider
ations of the first chaper, this book is a series of closely-reasoned attempts to assign various minor poems to the Pope canon. From the pieces added to the canon and from the incidental reconsideration of the details of many of Pope's personal relationships, the author succeeds in toning down much of the harshness long associated with the name of Pope. All this is done with painstaking attention to first-hand sources, bibliographical, historical and biographical.
The argumentation is well balanced and sensible, though at times it may seem to resemble .a detective novel: " corroborated by the witness of
opportunity . . motive, occasion, and character." (p. 254.) Or one
may suffer minor irritation from the pardonable refrain; now for the first time. These are, however, definitely quite minor blemishes. There can he nothing but praise for the scholarly touch evident in every page, The book as a whole is a different matter: the details are there; the old picture of Pope the ogre is effectively riddled, but no clear new picture seems to emerge.
The hook remains a series of notes which never coalesce into a definite image, sometimes leaving unresolved contradictions such as Pope's utter absorption in his work placed beside the number of friends and the amount of fun he seems to have had with them. Even the light shed by the new poems, positive and delightful as it is, remains fragmentary.
One thing that seems to prevent a clear picture from emerging is the constant need Pope's biographers seem to feel to be apologising for
him. Their patronising and indignant pity for the poor little hunchback (who showed himself quite capable of fighting his own battles) would, I am sure, have infuriated Pope and provoked another epigram; that they should take so seriously the moral Mr. Pope would equally have made him chuckle. The time has come to stop confusing Pope with a Victorian moralist, and to look at him frankly and sympathetically as
a human being. That he will not suffer by it is amply shown by the details of this present work. The 'materials are here, the picture remains to be drawn.