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IN FOUR BOOKS;
With the Prolegomena of Scriblerus, the Hypercritics of Aristarchus, and Notes Variorum.
A LETTER TO THE PUBLISHER,
Occasioned by the first correct Edition of the Dunciad.
TT is -with pleasure I hear that you have procured a correct copy of the Dunciad, which the many surreptitious ones have rendered so necessary; and it is yet with more that I am informed it will he attended with a commentary; a work so requisite, that I cannot think the author himself would have omitted it, had he approved of the first appearance •f this poem.
Such notes as have occurred to me I herewith send you: you will oblige me by inserting tliem amongst those which are, or will be, transmitted to you by others; since not only the author's friends, but even strangers, appear engaged, by humanity, to take some care of an orphan of so much genins aud spirit, which its parent seems to have abandoned from the very beginning, and suffered to step into tha world naked, unguarded, and unattended.
It was upon reading some of the abusive paper? lately published, that my great regard to a person, whose :friendship I esteem as one of the chief ho* nours of my life, and a much greater respect to truth than to him or any man living, engaged me in inquiries, of which the enclosed notes are the fruit. - I perceived that most of these authors had beea (doubtless very wisely) the first aggressors. They had tried, till they were weary, what was to be got by railing at each other: nobody was either concerned] or surprised, if this or that scribbler was proved a dunce. But every one was curious to read what could be said to prove Mr. Pope one, and was ready to pay something for such a discovery; a stratagem which, would they fairly own it, might not only reconcile them to me, but screen them from the- resentment of their lawful superiors, whom they daily abuse, only (as I charitably hope) to get that by them* which they cannot get from them.
I found this was not all: ill success in that had transported them to personal abuse, either of himself, or (what I think he could less forgive) of his friends. They had called men of virtue and honour bad men, long before he had either leisure or inclination to call them bad writers; and some had been such old offenders, that he had quite forgotten their persons as well as their slanders, till they were pleased to revive them. * ?-a •v ,i, .
Now what had Mr. Pope done before to incense them? He had published those works which are in the hands of every body, in which not the least mention is made of any of them. And what has he doue since? He has laughed, and written the Dunciad. What has that said of them? A very serious truth, which the public had said before, that they were dull; and what it had no sooner said, but they themselves were at great pains to procure, or even purchase, room in the prints to testify under their hands the truth of it. . , t t* .. - v .r rt
I should still have been silent, if either I had seen
any inclination in my friend to be serious with such accusers, or if they had only meddled with his -writings; since whoever publishes, puts himself on his trial by his country: but when his moral character was attacked, and in a manner from which neither truth nor virtue can secure the most innocent; in a manner, which, though it annihilates the credit of the accusation with the just and impartial, yet aggravates very much the guilt of the accusers, I mean by authors without names; then I thought, since the danger was common to all, the concern ought to be so; and that it was an act of justice to detect the authors, not only on this account, but as many of them are the same who for several years past have made free with the greatest names in church and state, exposed to the world the private misfortunes of families, abused all, even to women, and whose prostituted papers .(for- Oh or other party, in the unhappy divisions of thenr country) have insulted the fallen, the friendless, the exiled, and the dead.
Besides this, which X take to be a public concern, I have already confessed I had a private one. I am one of that number who have long loved and esteemed Mr. Pope; and had often declared it was not his capacity or writings (which we ever thought the least valuable part of his character), but the honest, open, and beneficent man, that we most esteemed and loved in him. Now, if what these people say were believed, I must appear to all my friends either a fool or a knave; either imposed on myself, or imposing on them: so that I am as much interested in the confutation of these calumnies as he is himself.
I am no author, and consequently not to bo suspected either of jealousy or resentment against any of the men, of whom scarce one is known to me by sight; and as for their writings, I have sought them (on this one occasion) in vain, in the closets end libraries of all my acquaintance. I had still been in the dark, if a gentleman had not procured me (I suppose from some of themselves, for they are generally much more dangerous friends than enemies) the passages I send yon. I solemnly protest I have added nothing to the malice or absurdity of them; which it behoves me to declare, since the vouchers themselves will be so soon and so irrecoverably lost. You may in some measure prevent it, by preserving at least their titles, and discovering (as far as you can depend on the truth of your information) the names of the concealed authors.
. The first objection I have heard made to the , poem is, that the persons are too obscure for satire. The persons themselves, rather than allow the objection, would forgive the satire; and if one could -be tempted to afford it a serious answer, were not air assassinates, popular insurrections, the insolence of the rabble without doors, and of domestics within, most wrongfully chastised, if the meanness of offenders indemnified them from punishment? On the contrary, obscurity renders them more dangerous, as less thought of: law can pronounce judgement only on open facts: morality alone can pass-censure on intentions of mischief; so that for secret calumny, or the arrow flying in the dark, there is no public punishment left but what a good writer inflicts.
The next objection is, that these sort of authors are poor. That might be pleaded as an excuse at the Old Bailey, for lesser crimes than defamation (for it is the case of almost all who are tried there), but sure it can be none here: for who will pretend that the robbing another of his reputation supplies the want of it in himself? I question not but such authors are poor, and heartily wish, the objection were removed by any honest livelihood. But poverty is here the accident, not the subject: he who describes malice and villany to be pale and meagre, expresses not the least anger against paleness or leanness, but against malice and villany. The apothecary in Romeo and Juliet is poor; but is> the therefore justified in vending poison? Not but -po. Terty itself becomes a just subject of satire, when it ia the consequence of vice, prodigality, or neglect of one's lawful calling; for then it mcreases the public burthen, fills the streets and highways with robbers, and the garrets with clippers, coiners, and weekly journalists. i; . **. . " '* .u.- . . ui
i. But omitting that two or three of these offend less in.their morals than in their writings;, must poverty make nonsense sacred? If so, the fame of bad authors would be much better consulted than that of all the good ones in the world; and not one of a hundred had ever been called by his right name.
They mistake the whole matter: itiia not charity to encourage i them: in the/way they follow, but to get them out of it; for men are not bunglers because they are poor, but they are poor because they are bunglers. - t : *. iuch u. Hi • * V I r I I la.dt not pleasant enough to hear our authors crying out oaithe one hand, as if their persons and characters were too sacred fox satire; and the publie objecting on the other, that they are too mean even for ridicule? But whether bread or fame be their:;end,, it must be allowed, our author, by and in this poem, has mercifully given them a little of both, , t ... i * i f- I: 1. • • - .
- There are two or three, who by their rank and fortune have no benefit from the former objections, supposing them good;r and these I was sorry to see kn such company. But if, without any provocation, two or three gentlemen will fall upon one, in an af. fair wherein his interest and reputation are equally embarked; they cannot certainly, after they have been content to print themselves bis enemies, complain of being put into the number of them. ,i Others, I am told, pretend to have been once his friends. Surely they are their enemies who say so; since nothing can be more odious than to treat a friend as they have doue. But of this I cannot per