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The first publication of this Epistle.
THIS paper is a sort of bill of complaint, begun
many years since, and drawn up by snatches, as
the several occasions offered. I had no thoughts of publishing it, till it pleased some Persons of Rank and Fortune (the Authors of Verses to the Imitator of Horace, and of an Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity from a Nobleman at Hampton-Court] to attack, in a very extraordinary manner, not only my Writings (of which, being public, the Publicis judge) but my Person, Morals, and Family, whereof, to those who know me not, a truer information may be requisite. Being divided between the necessity to say something of myself, and my own laziness to undertake so aukward a task, I thought it the shortest way to put the last hand to this Epistle. If it have any thing pleasing, it will be that by which I am most desirous to please, the Truth and the Sentiment; and if any thing offensive, it will be only to those I am least forry to offend, the vicious or the ungenerous.
Many will know their own pictures in it, there being not a circumstance but what is true ; but I have for
(4) the most part spared their Names, and they may escape being laughed at, if they please.
I would have some of them know, it was owing to the request of the learned and candid Friend to whom it is inscribed, that I make not as free use of theirs as they have done of mine. However, I shall have this advantage, and honour, on my side, that whereas, by their proceeding, any abuse may be directed at any man, no injury can possibly be done by mine, since a nameless Character can never be found out, but by its truth and likeness. P.
(5) E PIST L E
To Dr. ARBUTHNOT. An Apology for himself and his Writings.
Ep. to Dr. Arbuthnot.] AT the time of publishing this Epistle, the Poet's patience was exhausted by the endless impertinence of Poetasters of all ranks and conditions ; as well those who courted his favour, as those who envied his reputation. So that now he had resolved to quit his hands of both together, by the publication of a DUNCIAD. This design he communicated to his excellent friend Dr. ARBUTHNOT; who, although as a man of Wit and Learning he might not have been displeased to see their common injuries revenged on this pernicious Tribe; yet, as our Author's friend and physician, he was follicitous of his ease and health ; and therefore unwilling he should provoke so large and powerful a party.
Their difference of opinion, in this matter, gives occasion to the following Dialogue. Where, in a natural and familiar detail of all his Provocations, both from Aatterers and landerers, our Author has artfully interwoven an Apology for his moral and poetic Character.
For after having told his case, and humorously applied to his Physician in the manner one would ask for a receipt to kill Vermin, he strait goes on, in the common character of askers of advice, to tell his Doctor that he had already taken his party, and determined of his remedy. But using a preamble, and introducing it (in the way of Poets) with a simile, in which he cames Kings, Queens, and Ministers of State, his Friend takes the alarm, and begs him to forbear; advises him to stick to his subject, and to be easy under fo common a calamity.
To make so light of his disaster provokes the Poet: he breaks the thread of his discourse, which was to lead his Friend gently, and by degrees, into his project ; and abruptly tells bim the application of his simile, at once, ." Out with it, DUNCIAD! let the secret pass,” &c.
iend takes the starings, Queens, and Poets) with a fimi
But recollecting the humanity and tenderness of his Friend, which, he apprehends, might be a little shocked at the apparent severity of such a proceeding, he assures him, that his good-nature is alarmed without a cause; for that nothing has less feeling than this sort of offenders ; which he illustrates in the Examples of a damn’d Post, a detected Slanderer, a TabloParafite, a Church-Buffon, and a Party-Writer (from Ver. I to 101.)
But, in this enumeration, coming again to Names, his Friend once more stops him; and bids him consider what hostilities this general attack would set on foot. So much the better, replies the Poet; for, considering the strong antipathy of bad 10 good, enemies they will always be, either open or secret: and it admits of no question, but a Slanderer is less hurtful than a Flatterer. For, says he (in a pleasant Simile addressed to his Friend's profession)
“'Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right,
“ It is the Naver kills, and not the bite.” And how abject and excessive the Aattery of these creatures was, he shews, by observing, that they praised him even for his infirmities; his bad health, and his inconvenient Mape (Ver. I co to 125.)
But still it might be said, that if he could bear this evil annexed to Authorfhip no better, he should not have written at all. To this he answers, by lamenting the natural bent of his disposition; which, from his very birth, had drawn him towards Poetry so strongly, as if it were in execution of some secret decree of Heaven for crimes unknown. But though he offended in becoming an Author, he offended in nothing else: For his early verses were perfectly innocent and harmless,
“ Like gentle Fanny's was my flowing theme,
“ A painted mistress, or a purling stream.” Yet even then, he tells us, two enraged and hungry Critics fell upon him without any provocation. But this might have been borne, as the common lot of distinction. But it was his peculiar ill-fortune to create a Jealousy in One; whom not only many good offices done by our Author to him and his friends, but a fimilitude of genius and studies might have inclined to a reciprocal affection and support: On the contrary, that otherwise amiable person, being, by nature, timorous and suspicious ; by education a party-man; and, by circumstances of fortune, beset with flatterers and pick-thanks; regarded our Author as his Rival, set up by a contrary Faction, with views destructive of public liberty, and his friend's reputatiods And all this, with as little provocation from Mr. Pope's conduct in his poetic, as in his civil character.
For though he had got a Name (the reputation of which he agreeably rallies in the description he gives of it) yet he never, even when most in fashion, set up for a Patron, or a Dictator amongst the Wits; but still kept in his usual privacy ; leaving the whole Caftalian state, as he calls it, to a Mock-Mecenas, whom he next describes (Ver. 124 to 261.)
And, struck with the sense of that dignity and felicity inseparable from the character of a true Poet, he breaks out into a passionate vow for a continuance of the full Liberty attendant on it. And to fhew how well he deserves it, and how safely he might be trusted with it, he concludes his wish with a de. scription of his temper and disposition (Ver. 260 to 271.)
This naturally leads him to complain of his Friends, when they consider him in no other view than that of an Author; as if he had neither the same right to the enjoyments of life, the same concern for his highest interests, or the same dispoSitions of benevolence, with other people.
Besides, he now admonishes them, in his turn, that they do not consider to what they expose him, when they urge him to write on; namely, to the suspicions and the displeasure of a Court; who are made to believe, he is always writing; or at least to the foolish criticisms of court sycophants, who pretend to find him, by his style, in the immoral libels of every idle fcribler: though he, in the mean time, be so far from coun tenancing such worthless trash in others, that he would be ready to execrate even his own best vein of poetry, if made at the expence of Truth and Innocence.
" Curst be the verse, how well foe'er it flow,
• Or from the soft-ey'd Virgin steal a tear." Sentiments, which no efforts of genius, without the concurs rence of the heart, could have expressed in strains so exquisitely sublime. That the sole object of his resentment was vice and baseness : In the detection of which, he artfully takes occasion to speak of that by which he himself had been injured and offended : and concludes with the character of One who had wantonly outraged him, and in the most sensible manner (Ver. 270 to 334.)