AUTOGRAPH WORKING MANUSCRIPT COMPLETE IN ITSELF FOR PART OF HIS FIRST PUBLICATION 'THE PASTORALS' ANNOTATED BY WILLIAM WALSH, some 142 lines in all (predominately Pope's poetry; and prose), headed here 'Alterations to the Pastoralls: (The Solutions of the Queries are written by Mr Walsh)', 4 pages, small quarto, dark green morocco slip case, bookplates of Beverly Chew, Frank Brewer Bemis and Arthur Houghton, no date [?1706]
Alterations to the Pastoralls:
(The Solutions of the Queries are written by Mr. Walsh.)
Past.1. lin.1. First in these Fields I sing the Sylvan Strains,
Nor blush to sport on Windsor's peaceful Plains;
Fair Thames flow gently from thy sacred Spring,
While on thy Banks Sicilian Muses sing.
Objection. That the Letter is hunted too much -- Sing the Sylvan -- Peaceful Plains -
and that the word Sing is us'd two lines after, Sicilian Muses sing.
Alteration. First in these Fields I try the Sylvan Strains,
Nor blush to sport on Windsor's happy Plains. &c.
Quere. If Try be not properer in relation to First; as we first attempt a thing;
and more modest? and if Happy be not more than Peaceful?
Try is better than sing -- Happy does not sound right, ye first Syllabl being short, perhaps you may finde a better word than Peacefull as Flowry...
[Words in Walsh's hand above are the sentences in italics]
POETICAL MANUSCRIPTS BY ALEXANDER POPE ARE RARE: only two others are recorded as having been sold at auction in the last forty years at least. THERE IS ONLY ONE OTHER AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT RELATING TO 'THE PASTORALS': an autograph fair copy in Pope's typographical hand (Smith, PoA 273).
When Pope was only seventeen years of age he was circulating a manuscript of the 'Pastorals', soon to be his first major work to appear in print, largely composed the year before. That manuscript, headed 'The First Copy of the Pastoralls', was produced in a pseudo-typographical script reflecting the fact that Pope had taught himself to write by imitating the print in books. 'The First Copy' was previewed by about fifteen literary and society notables, including William Wychereley, William Congreve and William Walsh. This was an extraordinary degree of attention for the first and youthful production of the son of a linen merchant, who was, moreover, a Roman Catholic (a denomination heavily penalized at that time). Pope corrected his 'First Copy', incorporating changes suggested by his mentors. William Walsh, whom Pope later acknowledged as being particularly helpful, made part of his contribution separately, in the present manuscript which Pope had sent to him. It is closely related to 'The First Copy'.
Walsh was designated by Dryden 'without flattery...the best Critick of our Nation', but he is now chiefly remembered for the help he gave Pope, particularly in recommending 'correctness' in his poetry. The present manuscript is the principal evidence for Walsh's assistance and encouragement of the young poet and takes the form of a dialogue between Pope and his best early critic. It represents an aspect of the creative process that usually remains unrecorded, affording a unique insight into Pope's methods of composition: THIS MANUSCRIPT IS VIRTUALLY A CONVERSATION BETWEEN POPE AND WALSH.. Professor Mack, Pope's modern biographer, thought the exchanges in it to be of special importance: 'because they probably offer as clear examples as may be had of what Walsh -- and Pope at this point in his career -- considers correctness to be; and also because they help revive for us certain aspects of the all-but-forgotten poetics of the rhymed closed couplet, in which, as in eighteenth-century music, much is made of minute variations'.
Pope sent Walsh passages from the 'Pastorals' (generally from 'The First Copy') followed by his own notes and comments under the sub-headings: 'Objection', 'Alteration' and 'Quere'. He underlined the words or phrases he was unsure of and marked whole lines under question with an x in the margin. More than one possibility is sometimes proposed, and each time Walsh selected the one he most liked. In the earliest printed version of the 'Pastorals' (Tonson's Poetical Miscellany, 1709) Pope almost invariably followed the preferences Walsh expressed in this manuscript, with some later revisions of his own. Walsh's felicitous selections determined, for instance, the four lines beginning 'Where-'er you walk, cool Gales shall fan the Glade...', which Handel was later to introduce into his oratorio Semele. As the editors of the Twickenham Edition of Pope's Works concluded about these work-sheets: '[in them] one sees a steady evolvement of the verse from the slack and dull to the precise and lively.'
Pope himself esteemed the poems that make up the 'Pastorals' to be the most correct in their versification and the most musical in their numbers of all his works, but W.H. Auden, who thought 'The Rape of the Lock' the 'most perfect poem in English', gives the more general view of what Ian Jack rather tellingly called these 'poems in water-colour': 'Nature is...too subordinate to artifice, precision to euphony; the epithets [are] as abstract and conventional as the Romantics imagined was typical of all Augustan verse'. It was nonetheless an extraordinarily mature and precocious achievement for a sixteen-year-old. Johnson wrote of the 'Pastorals' as 'a series of versification which had in English poetry no precedent, nor has since had an imitation.'
PROVENANCE: Presented by Alexander Pope to Jonathan Richardson; Richardson Collection until at least 1871 (Elwin and Courthorpe); Beverly Chew (1850-1924); Chew Sale, 8 December 1924; Frank Brewer Bemis (1861-1935); Arthur Houghton; Christie's London, 11-12 June 1980, lot 380; Sotheby's New York, 9-10 November 1989, lot 138; Bernard Quaritch.
REFERENCES: Maynard Mack, Alexander Pope: A Life, 1985; 'Pastoral Poetry and An Essay on Criticism', edited by E. Audra and Aubrey Williams, volume 1 of The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Pope, 1961; The Oxford Authors: Alexander Pope, edited by Pat Rogers, 1993; Selected Poems, edited by John Heath-Stubbs, 1987; George Sherburn, The Early Career of Alexander Pope, 1968; Felicity Rosslyn, Alexander Pope: A Literary Life, 1990; Ian Bell, '"Not Lucre's Madman": Pope, Money And Independence', Alexander Pope: Essays for the Tercentenary, edited by Colin Nicholson, 1988; Bonamy Dobrée, Alexander Pope, 1951; The Correspondence of Alexander Pope, 5 volumes, edited by George Sherburn, 1956; Joseph Spence, Observations, Anecdotes and Characters of Books and Men, 2 volumes, edited by James Osborn, 1966; Edith Sitwell, Alexander Pope, 1930; F.R. Leavis, Revaluations, 1994; I.R. Richards, Complementaries: Uncollected Essays, 1976; Ian Jack, Alexander Pope, 1971; W.H. Auden, The Table Talk of W.H. Auden, 1990; Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume III, 1700-1800, Part 3, compiled by Margaret Smith, PoA 274.