More, James, Esq.

, was the son of Arthur More, esq. one of the lords-commissioners of trade in the reign of queen Anne; and his mother was the daughter of Mr. Smyth, who left this, his grandson, an handsome estate, upon which account he obtained an act of parliament to change his name from More to Smyth; and, besides this estate, at the death of his grandfather, he had his place of pay-master to the band of gentlemen-pensioners, with his younger brother Arthur More, esq. He was bred at Worcester college, Oxford; and, while he was there, wrote a comedy, called “The Rival Modes.” This play was condemned in the acting, but he printed it in 1727, with the following motto, which the commentator on the Dunciad, by way of irony, calls modest: “Hie csestus artemque repono.” Being of a gay disposition, he insinuated himself into the favour of the duke of Wharton; and being also, like him, destitute of prudence, he joined with that nobleman in writing a paper, called “The Inquisitor;” which breathed so much the spirit of Jacobitism, that the publisher thought proper to sacrifice his profit to his safety, and discontinue it. By using too much freedom with Pope, he occasioned that poet to stigmatize him in his Dunciad:

"Never was dash’d out at one lucky hit,

A fool so just a copy of a wit


So like, that critics said, and courtiers swore,

A wit it was, and call’d the phantom More."

The whole is a clear, energetic, and lively description, and, as Dr. Young, who was well acquainted with More, told Dr. Warton, the portrait is not over-charged. Some have thought that Pope’s character of Macer was intended also for More, but the leanness there alluded to cannot apply to More, if the above description be just. The pastoral Philips is more probably Macer.

The cause of the quarrel between More and Pope was this In a letter published in the Daily Journal, March 18, 1728, written by the former, there are the following words: “Upon reading the third volume of Pope’s Miscellanies, I found five lines, which I thought excellent and, happening to praise them, a gentleman produced a modern comedy, * The Rival Modes,' where were the same verses to a tittle. These gentlemen are undoubtedly the first plagiaries, who pretend to make a reputation by stealing from a man’s works in his own life-time, and out of a public print.” But it appears, from the notes to the Dunciad, that More himself borrowed the lines from Pope; for, in a letter to Pope, dated Jan. 27, 1726, he observes, that “these verses, which he had before given him leave to insert in ‘ The Rival Modes,’ would be known for his, some copies being got abroad. He desires nevertheless, that, since the lines in his comedy have been read to several, Pope would not deprive it of them.” As proofs of this circumstance, are brought the testimonies of lord Bolingbroke, and the lady of Hugh Bethel, esq. to whom the verses were originally addressed, who knew them to be Pope’s long before “The Rival Modes” was written. This gentleman died in 1734, at Whister, near Isleworth in Middlesex, for which county he was a justice of peace. Notwithstanding his quarrel with Pope, he was certainly a man of parts and politeness, or the poet would never have introduced him, as he did, to the earl of Peterborough’s acquaintance; but his misfortune was, as the commentator on the Dunciad observes, too inordinate a passion to be thought a wit. 1


Gent. Mag. vol. XLIX.^Biog. Dram. Pope’s Works, by Bowles; see Index, Moore and Smyth.