1715 | London

Wretched Lust of Praise

“Unblemished let me live, or die unknown.”

The great man’s curse, without the gains, endure, 
Be envied, wretched, and be flattered, poor; 
All luckless wits their enemies professed, 
And all successful, jealous friends at best.
Nor fame I slight, nor for her favors call; 
She comes unlooked for, if she comes at all.
But if the purchase cost so dear a price,
As soothing folly, or exalting vice;
Oh! If the muse must flatter lawless sway,
And follow still where fortune leads the way;
Or if no basis bear my rising name,
But the fallen ruins of another’s fame;
Then, teach me, heav’n! to scorn the guilty bays; Drive from my breast that wretched lust of praise; Unblemished let me live, or die unknown;
Oh! Grant an honest fame, or grant me none!


Alexander Pope

From “The Temple of Fame.” When the young poet submitted his satire of Chaucer’s “House of Fame” to Richard Steele, The Spectator editor wrote back that he saw “in it a thousand thousand beauties.” Later in life, critics attacked Pope for his edited version of Shakespeare’s works, inspiring him to cast one vehement detractor as the Goddess of Dullness’ favorite son in The Dunciad.