Addison's man of imagination is essentially a gentleman of quality, with enough property, intelligence, and leisure to peruse the works of nature and of poets. It was a role to aspire to, one continually espoused by The Spectator itself, throughout its immense commercial and literary success. To speak of imagination's pleasures is to imply that imagination can be indulged in from choice, with a certain end in view; it can, in effect, be consumed. As John Brewer reminds us, "the pleasures of the imagination" belong to an eighteenth-century cultural revolution in which the hierarchy of Court patronage was replaced by a market in fine arts from which no one with purchasing power was excluded (Brewer 1997). As consumer choice became more powerful a secondary market in cultural guidance opened up, offering a defensible basis for the luxury pleasures of art.

In this context it is hardly surprising that another zealous proponent of the pleasures of the imagination was an even more successful entrepreneur of the literary product: Alexander Pope. In the Essay on Criticism (1711), he celebrates the "play" of "Beams of warm Imagination' and uses his own imagination to mount the famous simile comparing intellectual endeavor to the experience of climbing a mountain range he had never seen: "Alps on Alps arise!" (ll. 58, 232, in Pope 1939—69: vol. 1, 245, 265). The Rape of the Lock, begun before Addison's papers but extensively revised afterwards, was in one way a kind of supreme imaginative transformation of a "trivial" event, and a recognition of the transformatory power imagination offers the consumer. All the actors in the poem might plausibly be said to be subject to both the pleasures and the pains of imagination; the sylphs look like Pope's response to Addison's commendation of the "fairy way of writing."

But Pope's most extended fantasia on the imagination occurs, like Addison's, in his greatest commercial success: the subscription translation of The Iliad. In the "Preface" (1715), Pope announces: "Homer is universally allow'd to have had the greatest Invention of any Writer whatever."

It is to the Strength of this amazing Invention we are to attribute that unequal'd Fire and Rapture, which is so forcible in Homer, that no Man of a true Poetical Spirit is Master of himself while he reads him. What he writes is of the most animated Nature imaginable; every thing moves, every thing lives, and is put in Action. If a Council be call'd, or a Battle fought, you are not coldly inform'd of what was said or done as from a third Person; the Reader is hurry'd out of himself by the Force of the Poet's Imagination, and turns in one place to a Hearer, in another to a Spectator. (Pope 1939-69: vol. 7, 3-4)

The notes to the translation continue this discourse persistently. Pope highlights a vivid image as "a fine Imagination" (vi. 390n.), "a noble Imagination" (viii. 88n.), "a very grand Imagination" (xiii. 32n.), even "a most gallant Imagination" (xiii. 751n.), suggesting the extent to which each image is actually processed. Commenting on a simile in Book II, he writes:

The Imagination of Homer was so vast and so lively, that whatsoever Objects presented themselves before him impress'd their Images so forcibly, that he pour'd them forth in Comparisons equally simple and noble; without forgetting any Circumstance which could instruct the Reader, and make him see those Objects in the same strong Light wherein he saw them himself. (ii. 534n.)

Homer is the supreme visual artist. But it is not simply a matter of Homer being so well supplied with sense impressions from the material world that he automatically unloads them in superfluity ("the natural Discharge of a vast Imagination"; xx, concluding note). Homer has the human imagination always in his own mind, and Pope several times comments on the accuracy with which Homer depicts the mental lives, and especially the imaginations, of his heroes. Paris is addicted to "those Sciences that are the Result of a fine Imagination" (vi. 390n.), Hector has "in Imagination already forced the Grecian Retrenchments, set the Fleet in Flames, and destroyed the whole Army" (viii. 226n.). Menelaus and Achilles are alert in the same way. Homer causes us to imagine what is going on in someone else's imagination. And this is because he can imagine our mental lives too.

The Reader sees the most natural Night-Scene in the World; he is led step by step with the Adventurers, and made the Companion of all their Expectations, and Uncertainties. We see the very Colour of the Sky, know the Time to a Minute, are impatient while the Heroes are arming, our Imagination steals out after them, becomes privy to all their Doubts, and even to the secret Wishes of their Hearts . . . (x, concluding note)

The reader's imagination is kept focused, it supplies necessary details, puts us in the scene. When Hector picks up his son in Book VI, Pope remarks that "There never was a finer Piece of Painting than this"; listing Homer's selection of detail, he contends: "All these are but small Circumstances, but so artfully chosen, that every Reader immediately feels the force of them, and represents the whole in the utmost Liveliness to his Imagination" (vi. 595n.). In its power and speed the imagination is thus, so far as Homer is concerned, a wholly pleasurable thing, with no critical or medical peril attached to it at all.

This is not to say that Pope had no doubts about the role of the imagination. He would very likely have agreed with John Hughes, who in editing Spenser's The Faerie Queene in the same year that Pope began publishing Homer, found that the "fairy way of writing" could overstep the mark:

The chief Merit of this Poem consists in that surprizing Vein of fabulous Invention, which runs thro it, and enriches it every where with Imagery and Descriptions more than we meet with in any other modern Poem. The Author seems to be possess'd of a kind of Poetical Magick; and the Figures he calls up to our View rise so thick upon us, that we are at once pleased and distracted by the exhaustless Variety of them; so that his Faults may in a manner be imputed to his Excellencies: His Abundance betrays him into Excess, and his Judgment is overborne by the Torrent of his Imagination. (Spenser 1715: lviii—lix)

Pope abandoned a planned Persian fable "in which I should have given a full loose to description and imagination. It would have been a very wild thing" (Spence 1966: vol. 1, 151). His Peri Bathous (1728) is a catalogue of images that Pope found extravagant or nonsensical. Imagination has the power to deform the world; a Dunce must consider himself as a grotesque painter, whose works would be spoil'd by an imitation of nature, or uniformity of design. He is to mingle bits of the most various, or discordant kinds, landscape, history, portraits, animals, and connect them with a great deal of flourishing, by head or tail, as it shall please his imagination, and contribute to his principal end, which is to glare by strong oppositions of colours, and surprize by contrariety of images. (Pope 1986: 191-2)

The Dunciad (1728-43) is Pope's often strenuously imagined gallery of Duncely monstrosities, "on Fancy's easy wing convey'd" (Pope 1939-69: vol. 5, iii. 13), framed by an overmastering irony that prevents identification with the images presented.

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