A Brown Woman part 7


Pope went straight to his own rooms. As he came in there was a vivid flash of lightning, followed instantaneously by a crashing, splitting noise, like that of universes ripped asunder. He did not honor the high uproar with attention. This dwarf was not afraid of anything I except the commission of an error in taste.

Anonymous letter

Then, too, there were letters for him, laid ready on the writing table. Nothing of much importance he found there. Here, though, was a rather diverting letter from Eustace Budgell, that poor fool, I abjectly thanking Mr. Pope for his advice concerning how best to answer the atrocious calumnies on Budgell then appearing in The Grub Street Journal and reposing, drolly enough, next the proof-sheets of an anonymous letter Pope had prepared for the forthcoming issue of that publication, wherein he sprightlily told how Budgell Had poisoned Dr. Tindal, after forging his will. For even if Budgell had not in point of fact been guilty of these particular peccadilloes, he had quite certainly committed the crime of speaking lightly of Mr. Pope, as “a little envious animal,” some seven years ago; and it was for this grave indiscretion that Pope was dexterously goading the man into insanity, and eventually drove him to suicide.

The storm made the room dark and reading difficult. Still, this was an even more amusing letter, from the all-powerful Duchess of Marlborough. In as civil terms as her sick rage could muster, the frightened woman offered Mr. Pope £ 1 ,000 to suppress his verbal portrait of her, in the character of Atossa, from his Moral Essays; and Pop straightway decided to accept the bribe, and afterward to print his verses unchanged. For the hag, as he reflected, very greatly needed to be taught that in this world there was at least one person who did not quail before her tantrums. There would be, moreover, even an elementary justice in ‘thus robbing her who had robbed England at large. And, besides, her name was Sarah.

Pope lighted four candles and set them before the long French mirror. He stood appraising his many curious deformities while the storm raged. He stood sidelong, peering over his left shoulder, in order to see the outline of his crooked back. Nowhere in England, he reflected, was there a person more pitiable and more repellent outwardly.

“And, oh, it would be droll,” Pope said, aloud, “if our exteriors were ever altogether parodies. But time keeps a diary in our faces, and writes a monstrously plain hand. Now, if you take the first letter of Mr. Alexander Pope`s Christian name, and the first and last letters of his surname, you have A. P. E.,” Pope quoted, genially. “I begin to think that Dennis was right. What conceivable woman would not prefer a well-set man of five-and-twenty to such a withered abortion ? And what does it matter, after all, that a hunchback has dared to desire a shapely brown-haired woman?”

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