POPE, Alexander. The Works. London: W. Bowyer for Bernard Lintot [vol. 2: J. Wright for Lawton Gilliver], 1717 and 1735[-1739]. – Letters of Mr. Alexander Pope and Several of his Friends. London: J. Wright for J. Knapton, L. Gilliver, J. Brindley, and R. Dodsley, 1737[-1741].
3 volumes, 4° (285 x 222 mm). Half-titles, titles printed in red and black with engraved vignettes, engraved head- and tailpieces and initials, some by S. Gribelin, others by P. Fourdrinier after W. Kent. EXTRA ILLUSTRATED by the addition of an engraved portrait frontispiece after J. Richardson in vol. 2. (Lacking frontispiece portrait by Vertue in vol. 1 and front blank in vol. 2.) Uniformly bound in 18th-century red morocco, covers with wide gilt border, spines gilt, board edges and turn-ins gilt, page edges gilt (19th-century gilt rebacking, some light rubbing or wear). Provenance: PRESENTATION COPY TO HUGH BETHEL (1689-1747; MP, Yorkshire gentleman and lifelong friend of Pope); William Bethel (armorial bookplate).
FIRST EDITIONS IN QUARTO, THICK PAPER COPIES, BOUND FOR PRESENTATION. Pope’s inscription is in his rarely used calligraphic hand: “Viro antiqua probitate et amicitia praedito,/ Hugoni Bethel,/ Munusculum Alexandri Pope./ Te mihi junxerunt nivei sine crimine mores,/ Simplicitasque sagax, ingenuusque pudor,/ Et bene nota fides, et candor frontis honestae,/ Et studia, a studiis non aliena meis” [“A small gift from Alexander Pope to Hugh Bethel, a man endowed with long-standing honesty and friendship. Your blameless, immaculate manner bound you to me, your shrewd simplicity, your frank modesty, your acknowledged faith and the sincerity of your honest countenance, and your pursuits, not so different from my own”].
The poet placed great significance on his choice of friends, and his esteem for Bethel is very evident in this “small gift,” a sumptuously bound and proudly inscribed set of his works. He had addressed the Second Satire of the Second Book of Horace (1734) to Bethel, the representative of sturdy country values and independence, and, like himself, a member of the Burlington circle. William Roscoe recognized the importance of Pope’s friendship with this relatively ordinary man: “It is remarkable, that he should … have preferred plain good sense, integrity, and fidelity, to superiority of talent and splendour of reputation …. Such seems to have been the basis of his friendship with Mr. Bethel; a gentleman of good fortune in Yorkshire, with whom he maintained an uninterrupted intercourse to the close of his life” (The Works of Alexander Pope (London, 1824) 255n). Pope also reveals his high opinion of Bethel in these rhetorical questions in part 4 of the Essay on Man: “Shall burning Aetna, if a Sage requires,/ Forget to thunder, and recall her fires?/ On Air or Sea new motions be imprest,/ O blamless Bethel! To relieve thy breast?” (pp. 119-122 in vol. 2 of this set). Were it at all possible to relieve Bethel of the respiratory ailments from which he suffered, it would be worth changing the course of nature to do so, Pope suggests.
Griffith records that [in 1739] "Pope found pleasure in making up several copies of his quarto Works of 1735 on thick paper” (ii, p. 393). There were variances, and no one copy may have corresponded exactly with another. The made-up copies of the 1735 volume of Works were frequently bound in two volumes, owing to the thickness of the paper. In this case, however, they are bound in one volume which includes the thick paper copy of the 1734 edition of the Essay on Man (as called for by Griffith). The Letters are a reprint of the Letters of 1735 with additions. No previous English author had published so many letters so often. The third volume also has other content, concluding with “Thoughts on Various Subjects,” the sheets for which were withheld before publication, remaining in the warehouse until 1741, when they were included in vol. 2 of the quarto Works in Prose. The last page of the “Thoughts” contains the errata to this edition of the Letters. Also bound in are: Martinus Scriblerus, Peri Bathos: or, Of the Art of Sinking in Poetry – Virgilius Restauratus– Martinus Scriblerus, An Essay … concerning the Origin of Sciences – Memoirs of P.P. Clerk of the Parish – The Guardian – A Key to the Lock. These works are likely to be sheets from the 1741 edition of Pope’s Works, with corresponding signatures and pagination, which were bound after the letters in that edition. See Griffith 531 (signature groups u, wa, x, y, z [with an additional gathering, *Pp, not called for by Griffith], and wb).
Vol. 1: Griffith 81 (with O2 inserted on a stub as called for); Rothschild 1584. Vol. 2: Griffith 514 (signature groups r to v, with v lacking gathering C of two leaves which Griffith calls “an addition,” I2 inserted as called for) & 515 (groups s and u); Rothschild 1626. Vol. 3: Griffith 454; Rothschild 1633. This copy mentioned in The British Critic. Vol. 10 (1798), Art. viii, 515.