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"These things are my diversion," said the poet, striving to put the best face on it; but as he read, his friends saw his features "writhen with anguish," and prayed to be delivered from all such "diversions" as these.
He had to be laced up in stiff stays in order to sit erect, and wore a fur doublet and three pairs of stockings to protect himself against the cold.
With these physical defects he had the extreme sensitiveness of mind that usually accompanies chronic ill health, and this sensitiveness was outraged incessantly by the brutal customs of the age.
Pope's furious retorts have been secured to immortality by his genius.
It would have been nobler, no doubt, to have answered by silence only; but before one condemns Pope it is only fair to realize the causes of his bitterness. He was taught the rudiments of Latin and Greek by his family priest, attended for a brief period a school in the country and another in London, and at the early age of twelve left school altogether, and settling down at his father's house in the country began to read to his heart's delight.
And as his poetical fame diminished, the harsh judgments of his personal character increased.
It is almost incredible with what exulting bitterness critics and editors of Pope have tracked out and exposed his petty intrigues, exaggerated his delinquencies, misrepresented his actions, attempted in short to blast his character as a man.In conclusion the editor would express the hope that his labors in the preparation of this book may help, if only in some slight degree, to stimulate the study of the work of a poet who, with all his limitations, remains one of the abiding glories of English literature, and may contribute not less to a proper appreciation of a man who with all his faults was, on the evidence of those who knew him best, not only a great poet, but a very human and lovable personality. With the change of poetic temper that occurred at the beginning of the nineteenth century Pope's fame was overshadowed.The romantic poets and critics even raised the question whether Pope was a poet at all.Tried in a fair court by impartial judges Pope as a poet would be awarded a place, if not among the noblest singers, at least high among poets of the second order.And the flaws of character which even his warmest apologist must admit would on the one hand be explained, if not excused, by circumstances, and on the other more than counterbalanced by the existence of noble qualities to which his assailants seem to have been quite blind. His father was a Roman Catholic linen draper, who had married a second time.They were excluded from the schools and universities, they were burdened with double taxes, and forbidden to acquire real estate.All public careers were closed to them, and their property and even their persons were in times of excitement at the mercy of informers.In youth he so completely ruined his health by perpetual studies that his life was despaired of, and only the most careful treatment saved him from an early death.Toward the close of his life he became so weak that he could neither dress nor undress without assistance.He was in fact a humpbacked dwarf, not over four feet six inches in height, with long, spider-like legs and arms.He was subject to violent headaches, and his face was lined and contracted with the marks of suffering.