The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

III. Pope

§ 4. Pastorals

His Pastorals went from hand to hand and were complimented in flattering terms. Tonson offered to publish them, and, after some delay, they appeared in the sixth volume of his Miscellany, on 2 May, 1709.

If we take Pope’s own word, they had been composed when he was sixteen. Parts, at least, had been written a year or two later, and none assumed their final form until both numbers and language had been assiduously polished. The paper is still extant, containing a list of passages drawn up by Pope, with which he was dissatisfied, and alternatives appended for Walsh’s choice. But the pastoral was a dying form of poetry into which fresh blood could not now be infused. Writing among country sights and sounds, Pope has, at the utmost, two or three descriptive touches from his own observation. In his ironical criticism in The Guardian, Pope remarked that Philips, in his Pastorals, gave “manifest proof of his knowledge of books”; his own amply deserve this praise. He had gleaned, not from Theocritus and Vergil alone, but from Spenser, Sidney, Drummond, Milton, Waller, Dryden, Congreve, Walsh and Sannazaro. The real merit of the Pastorals lay in the versification. The new poet was clearly possessed of a quite exceptional metrical skill.