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TO DR. JONATHAN SWIFT
BOOK THE FIRST.
ARGUMENT. The proposition, the invocation, and the inscription. Then the original of the great empire of Dulness, and cause of the continuance thereof. The college of the goddess in the city, with her private academy for poets in particular; the
governors of it, aud the four cardinal virtues. Then the poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting her, on the evening of a lordmayor's day, revolving the long succession of her sons, and the glories past and to come. She fixes her eyes on Bays to be the instrument of that great event which is the subject of the poem. He is described pensive among his books, giving up the cause, and apprehending the period of her empire. After debating whether to betake himself to the church, or to gaming, or to party-writing, he raises an altar of proper books, and (making first his solemn prayer and declaration) purposes thereon to sacrifice all his unsuccessful writings. As the pile is kindled, the goddess, beholding the flame from her seat, flies and puts it out, by casting upon it the poem of Thulé. She forthwith reveals herself to him, transports him to her temple, unfolds her arts, and initiates him into her mysteries; then announcing the death of Eusden, the poet laureat, anoints him, carries him to court, and proclaims him successor.
The mighty mother, and her son, who brings
REMARKS. The Dunciad, sic MS.). It may well be disputed whether this be a right reading; ought it not rather to be spelled Dunceiad, as the etymology evidently demands? Dunce with an e, therefore Duncéiad with an e. That accurate and punctual man of letters, the restorer of Shakespeare, constantly observes the preservation of this very letter e, in spelling the name of his beloved author, and not like his common careless editors, with the omission of one, nay, sometimes of two ee's (as Shakspear), which is utterly unpardonable. Nor is the neglect of a single letter so trivial as to some it may appear; the alteration whereof in a learned language is an achievement that brings honour to the critic who advances it; and Dr. Bentley will be remembered to posterity for his performances of this sort, as long as the world shall have any esteem for the remains of Menander and Philemon.'-Theobald.
This is surely a sli in the learned author of foregoing note; there having been since produced by an accurate antiquary, an autograph of Shakspeare himself, whereby it appears that be spelled his own name without the first e. And upon this au
You, by whose care, in vain decried and cursed,
REMARKS. thority it was, that those most critical curators of his monument in Westminster Abbey erased the former wrong reading, and restored the true spelling on a new piece of old Ægyptian granite. Nor for this only do they deserve our thanks, but for exhibiting on the same monument the first specimen of an edition of an author in marble; where (as may be seen on comparing the tomb with the book) in the space of five lines, two words and a whole verse are changed, and it is to be hoped will there stand and outlast whatever hath been hitherto done in paper; as for the future, our learned sister university (the other eye of Engiand) is taking care to perpetuate a total new Shakspeare at the Clarendon press.- Bentl. • It is to be noted that this great critic also has omitted one circumstance; which is, that the inscription with the name of Shakspeare was intended to be placed on the marble scroll to which he points with his hand; instead of which it is now placed behind his back, and that specimen of an edition is put on the scroll, which indeed Shakspeare hath great reason to point at.An on.
Though I have as just a value for the letter E, as any grammarian living, and the same affection for the name of this poem as any critic for that of his author; yet cannot it induce me to agree with those who would add yet another e to it, and call it the Dunceiade: which being a French and fore go termination, is no way proper to a word entirely English, and vernacular. One e therefore in this case is right, and iwo ee's wrong. Yet, upon the whole, I shall follow the manuscript, and print it without any e at all; moved thereto by authority (at all times, with critics, equal, if not superior to reason). In which method of proceeding, I can never enough praise my good friend, the exact Mr. Tho. Hearne; who, iť any word occur, which to him and all mankind is evidently wrong, yet keeps he it in the text with due reverence, and only remarks in the margin, Sic MS. In like manner we shall not amend this error in the title itself, but only note it obiter, to evince to the learned that it was not our fault, nor any effect of our ignorance or inattention.-Scribl.
This poem was written in the year 1726. In the next year an imperfect edition was published at Dublin, and reprinted at London in twelves; another at Dublin, and another at London, in octavo; and three others in twelves the same year. Bet there was no perfect edition before that of London, in quarto; which was attended with notes. We are willing to acquaint posterity, that this poem was presented to King George the Second and his queen, by the hands of Sir Robert Walpole, on the 12th of March 1728-9. Schol. Vet.
It was expressly confessed in the preface to the first edition, that this poem was not published by the author himself. It was printed originally in a foreign country: and what foreign couniry! Why, one notorious for blunders; where finding blanks ouly instead of proper names, these blunderers filled them up at their pleasure.
The very hero of the poem hath been mistaken to this hour;
In eldest time, ere mortals writ or read,
REMARKS. so that we are obliged to open our notes with a discovery who he really was. We learn from the former editor, that this piece was presented by the hands of Sir Robert Walpole to King George II. Now the author directly tells us, his hero is the man
"who brings The Smithfield muses to the ear of kings.' And it is notorious who was the person on whom this prince conferred the honour of the laurel.
It appears as plainly from the apostrophe to the great in the third verse, that Tibhåld could not be the person, who was never an author in fashion, or caressed by the great, whereas this single characteristic is sufficient to point out the true hero: who, above all other poets of his time, was the peculiar delight and chosen companion of the nobility of England; and wrote, as he himself tells us, certain of his works at the earnest desire of persons of quality.
Lastly, the sixth verse affords full proof; this poet being the only one who was universally known to have had a son so exactly like him, in his poetical, theatrical, political, and moral capacities, that it could justly be said of him, "Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first.'
Bentl. Ver. 1. The mighty mother, and her son, &c.] The reader ought here to be cautioned, that the mother, and not the son, is the principal agent of this poem; the latter of them is only chosen as her colleague (as was anciently the custom in Rome before some great expedition), the main action of the poem being by no means the coronation of the laureat, which is performed in the very first book, but the restoration of the empire of Dulness in Britain, which is not accomplished till the last.
Ver. 2. The Smithfield muses-] Smithfield is the place where Bartholomew-fair was kept, whose shows, machines, and dramatical entertainments, formerly agreeable only to the taste of the rabble, were, by the hero of this poem, and others of equal genius, brought to the theatres of Covent-garden, Lincoln's-innfields, and the Hay-market, to be the reigning pleasures of the court and town. This happened in the reigns of King George J. and 11. See Book iii.
Ver. 4. ---by Dulness, Jove, and Fate;] i.e. by their judgments, their interests, and their inclinations.
Ver. 15. Laborious, heavy, busy, bold, &c.] I wonder the learned Scriblerus las omitted to advertise the reader, at the opening of this poem, that Dulness here is not to be taken contractedly for mere stupidity, but in the enlarged sense of the word, for all slowness of apprehension, shortness of sight, or Still her old empire to restore she tries, For, born a goddess, Dulness never dies.
Oh thou! whatever title please thine ear, Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver !
20 Whether thou choose Cervantes serious air, Or laugh and whake in Rabelais' easy chair, Or praise the court, or magnify mankind, Or thy grieved country's copper chains unbind; From thy Boeotia though her power retires, Mourn pot, my Swift, at aught our realm acquires. Here pleased behold her mighty wings outspread To hatch a new Saturnian age of lead.
Close to those walls where Folly holds her throne, And laughs to think Monroe would take her down, Where o’er the gates, by his famed father's hand, 31 Great Cibber's brazen, brainless brothers stand;
REMARKS. imperfect sense of things. It includes (as we see by the poet's own words) labour, industry, and some degrees of activity aud boldness; a ruling principle not inert, but turning topsy-turvy the understanding, and inducing an anarchy or confused state of mind. This remark ought to be carried along with the reader throughout the work: and without this caution he will be apt to mistake the importance of many of the characters, as well as of the design of the poet. Hence it is, that some have complained be chooses too mean a subject, and imagined he employs himself like Domitian, in killing flies; whereas those who have the true key will find' he sports with nobler quarry, and embraces a larger compass; or (as one saith on a like occasion),
• Will see his work, like Jacob's ladder rise,
Its foot in dirt, its head amid the skies.'-Bentl. Ver. 17. Still her old empire to restore-] This restoration makes the completion of the poem. Vide Book iv.
Ver. 22. -laugh and shake in Rabelais' easy chair,] The imagery is exquisite; and the equivoque in the last words, gives a peculiar elegance to the whole expression. The easy chair suits his age : Rabelais' easy chair marks his character, and he filled and possessed it as the right heir and successor of that original genius.
Ver. 23. Or praise the court, or magnify mankind,) Ironice, alluding to Gulliver's representations of both. The next line relates to the papers of the Drapier against the currency of Wood's copper coin in Ireland, which, upon the great diseontent of the people, his majesty was graciously pleased to recal.
Ver. 26. Mourn not, my Swift, at aught our realm acquires. Ironicè iterum. The politics of England and Ireland were at this time by some thought to be opposite,
or interfering with each other. Dr. Swift of course was in the interest of the latter, our author of the former.
Ver. 31. -by his famed father's hand,] Mr. Caius Gabriel Cibber, father of the poet-laureat. The two statues of the lunatics over the gates of Bedlam-hospital were done by him, and (as
One cell there is, conceal'd from vulgar eye,
In clouded majesty here Dulness shone,
REMARKS. the son justly says of them) are no ill monuments of his fame as an artist.
Ver. 34. —poverty, and poetry,] I cannot here omit a remark that will greatly endear our author to every one, who shall attentively observe that humanity and candour, which every where appears in him towards those unhappy objects of the ridicule of all mankind, the bad poets. He there imputes all scandalous rhymes, scurrilous weekly papers, base flaiterics, wretched elegies, songs, and verses (even from those sung at court, to ballads in the streets), not so much to malice or servility as to dulness, and not so much to dulness as to necessity. And thus, at the very commencement of his satire, he makes an apology for all that are to be satirized.
Ver. 40.-Curll's chaste press, and Lintot's rubric post:) Two booksellers, of whom see Book ii. The former was fined by the Conrt of King's Bench for publishing obscene
books; the latter usually adorned his shop with titles in red letters.
Ver. 41. Hence hymning Tyburn's elegiac lines,] It is an ancient English custom for the malefactors to sing a psalm at their execution at Tyburn; and no less customary to print elegies on their deaths, at the same time, or before.
Ver. 43. Sepulchral lies,) is a just satire on the flatteries and falsehoods admitted to be inscribed on the walls of churches, in epitaphs; which occasioned the following epigram:
Friend! in your epitaphs, l'm grieved,
So very mnch is said;
' will never be believed,
The other never read.' Ver. 44. -new-year odes,] Made by the poet-laureat for the time being, to be sung at court on every new-year's day, the words of which are happily drowned in the voices and instruments.
The new-year odes of the hero of this work were of a cast distinguished from all that preceded him, and made a conspicuous part of his character as a writer, which doubtless induced our author to mention them here so particularly.
Ver. 45. In clouded majesty here Dulness shone, 1 See this cloud removed, or rolled back,
or gathered up to her head.