"Timon's Villa" and Pope

Submitted by William Dane on Tue, 03/02/2021 - 01:28

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannons_(house): "...Alexander Pope was unjustly accused of having represented the house as 'Timon's Villa' in his Epistle of Taste (1731).[5]"


[the note 5] Pope confided to Lord Burlington "that character of Timon is collected from twenty different absurditys and improprieties: and never was the picture of any one human creature"; quoted in James Lees-Milne, The Earls of Creation, :148...


"Epistle of Taste (1731)" is actually Epistle to Burlington (1731, addressed to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington), which includes:


At Timon’s Villa let us pass a day,

Where all cry out, ‘What sums are thrown away!’

So proud, so grand, of that stupendous air,

Soft and Agreeable come never there.

Greatness, with Timon, dwells in such a draught

As brings all Brobdignag before your thought.

To compass this, his building is a Town,

His pond an Ocean, his parterre a Down;

Who but must laugh, the Master when he sees,

A puny Insect, shiv’ring at a Breeze!

Lo, what huge heaps of littleness around!

The whole, a labour’d Quarry above ground.

Two Cupids squirt before: a Lake behind

Improves the keenness of the Northern wind.

His Gardens next your admiration call,

On ev’ry side you look, behold the Wall!

No pleasing Intricacies intervene,

No artful wildness to perplex the scene;

Grove nods at grove, each Alley has a brother,

And half the platform just reflects the other.

The suff’ring eye inverted Nature sees,

Trees cut to Statues, Statues thick as trees,

With here a Fountain, never to be play’d,

And there a Summer-house, that knows no shade;

Here Amphitrite sails thro’ myrtle bow’rs;

There Gladiators fight, or die, in flow’rs;

Un-water’d see the drooping sea-horse mourn,

And swallows roost in Nilus’ dusty Urn.

—The Poems of Alexander Pope. Edited by John Butt. Yale, 1963.

Perhaps another ironic layer of meaning to Kinbote's "like Timon in his cave"? With that intriguing Fountain/shade pair of lines, and an Alley?

Also, somewhat relatedly, Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem fragment "A Vision of the Sea," which describes a shipwreck, includes these lines:


While the surf, like a chaos of stars, like a rout
Of death-flames, like whirlpools of fire-flowing iron
With splendour and terror the black ship environ,
Or like sulphur-flakes hurl'd from a mine of pale fire
In fountains spout o'er it...



"Amphitrite," in Pope's poem in my original post, is also an important player in another notable literary shipwreck: she essentially hands Odysseus a life-jacket during his first near-death hurdle (at sea) in the Odyssey. From Pope's translation of same:

Back to the seas the rolling surge may sweep,
And bury all my hopes beneath the deep.
Or some enormous whale the god may send
(For many such an Amphitrite attend);
Too well the turns of mortal chance I know,
And hate relentless of my heavenly foe.”
While thus he thought, a monstrous wave upbore
The chief, and dash’d him on the craggy shore...