The most important critic in our field of study is Lord Halifax. A most individual judge of poety, he once invited Alexander Pope round to give a public reading of his latest poem.
Pope, the leading poet of his day, was greatly surpriesed when Lord Halifax stopped him four or five times and said,”I beg your pardon, Mr.Pope, but there is something in that passage that does not quite please me.”
Pope was rendered speechless, as this fine critic suggested sizeable and unwise emendations to his latest masterpiece. “Be so good as to mark the place and consider at your leisure. I’m sure you can give it a better turn.”
After the reading, a good friend of Lord Halifax, a certain Dr. Garth, took the stunned Pope to one side. “There is no need to touch the lines,” he said. “All you need do is leave them just as they are, call on Lord Halifax two or three months hence, thank him for his kind observation on those passages, and then read them to him as altered. I have known him much longer than you have, and will be answerable for the event.”
Pope took his advece, called on Lord Halifax and read the poem exactly as it was before. His unique critical faculties had lost none of their edge. “Ay”, he commented, “ now they are perfectly right. Nothing can be better.”
n Stephen Pile, “The Book of Heroic Failures”