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thing to expose the pretenders to wit and poetry. The judges and magistrates may with full as good reason be reproached with til-nature for putting the laws in execution against a thief or impostor.—The same will hold in the republic of letters, if the critics and judges will let every ignorant pretender to scribbling pass on the world.
Theobald, Letter to Mist, June 22,1728.
Attacks may be levelled, either against failures in genins, or against the pretensions of writing without one.
Concanen, Dedication to the Author of the Dunciad.
A satire upon dulness is a thing that has been used and allowed in all ages.
Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, wicked scribbler!
TESTIMONIES OF AUTHORS
Concerning our Poet and his Works.
M. ScribUrus Lectori S.
BEFORE we present thee with our exercitations on this most delectable poem (drawn from the many volumes of our adversaria on modern authors) we shall here, according to the laudable usage of editors, collect the various judgements of the learned concerning our poet; various, indeed, not only of different authors, but of the same author at different seasons. Nor shall we gather only the testimonies of such eminent wits as would of course descend to posterity, and consequently be read without our collection; but we shall likewise, with incredible labour, seek out for divers others, which, but for this our diligence, could never, at the distance of a few months, appear to the eye of the most curious. Hereby thou mayest not only receive the delectation of variety, but also arrive at a more certain judgement by a grave and circumspect comparison of the witnesses with each other, or of each witli himself. Hence also thou wilt be enabled to draw reflections. not only of a critical, but a moral nature, by being let into many particulars of the person as well as genins, and of the fortune as well as merit, of our author: in which, if I relate some things of little concern peradventure to thee, and some of as little even to him; I entreat thee to con* sider how minutely all true critics and commentators are wont to insist upon such, and how material they seem to themselves, if to none other. Forgive me, gentle reader, if (following learned example) I ever and anon become tedious: allow me to take the same pains to find whether my anthorwere good or bad, well or ill-natured, modest or arrogant; as another, whether his anthor was fair or brown, short or tall, or whether he wore a coat or a cassoc.
We proposed to begin with his life, parentage, and education: but as to these, even his contemporaries do exceedingly differ. One saith*, he was educated at home; another t, that he was bred at St. Omer's by Jesuits; a third t,' not at St. Omer's, but at Oxford! a fourth $, that he had no university education at all. Those who allow him to be bred at home, differ as much concerning his tutor: one saith 1|, he was kept by his father on purpose; a secondif, that he was an itinerant priest; a third**, that he was a parson; onett calleth him a secular clergyman of the church of Rome; anothertj, a monk. As little do they agree about his father, whom one$ supposeth, like the father of Hesiod, a tradesman or merchant; another^], a husbandman; another«J«J a hatter, &c. Nor has an anthor been wanting to give our poet such a fatheras Apuleins hath to Plato,Jamblichusto Pythagoras, and divers to Homer, namely a demon: forthus Mr.Gildon*»*: 'Certain it
* Giles Jacob's lives of the poets, vol. ii. in his Life, t Dennis's Reflections on the Essay on Crit. % Dunciad dissected, p. 4. $ Guardian, No. 40. [| Jacob's Lives, &c. vol. ii. «J Dunciad dissected, p. 4. ** Farmer P. and his son. ft Dunciad dissected, tt Characters of the Times, p. 45. $$ Female Dunciad, p. ult. |||| Dunciad dissected. •JI! Roome, Paraphrase ou the 4th of Genesis, prinjled 1729. ",
*#* Character of Mr. P. and his writings, in a Letter to a Friend, printed for S. Popping, 1716, p. 10. Cuxll, in his Key to the Duociad (first edition, is, that his original is not from Adam, but the devil • and that he wenteth nothing but horns and tail to be the exact resemblance of his infernal father.' Finding, therefore, such contrariety of opinions, and (whatever be ours of this sort of generation) not being fond to enter into controversy, we shall defer writing the life of our poet, till authors can determine among themselves what parents or education he had, or whether he had any education or parents at all.
Proceed we to what is more certain, his works, though notless uncertain the judgements concerning them; beginning with his Essay on Criticism, of which hear first the most ancient of critics,
Mr. John Dennis.
'His precepts are false or trivial, or both; his thoughts are crude and abortive, his expressions absurd, his numbers harsh and unmusical, his rhymes trivial and common;—instead of majesty, we have something that is very mean; instead of gravity, something that is very boyish; and instead of perspicuity and lucid order, we have but too often 6bscurity and confusion.- And in another place— 1 What rare numbers are here! Would not one swear that this youngster had espoused some antiquated muse, who had sued out a divorce from some superannuated sinner, upon account of impotence, and who, being poxe|d by the former spouse, has got the gout in her decrepid age, which makes her hobble so damnably *.'
said to be printed for A. Dodd), in the 10th page, declared Gildon to be the author of that libel; though in the subsequent editions of his Key he left out this assertion, and affirmed (in the Curliad, p. 4 and 8) that it was written by Dennis only.
* Reflections critical and satirical on a rhapsody, called, An Essay on Criticism, printed for Bernard lantot, octavo*
No less peremptory Is the censure of our hypercritical historian . • - ... i .. ,. a
Mr. Oldmixon. 'I dare not say any thing of the Essay on Criticism in verse; but if any more curious reader has discovered in it something new, which is not in Dryden's prefaces, dedications, and his essay on dramatic poetry, not to mention the French critics, I should be very glad to have the benefit of the discovery •.'
He is followed (as in fame, so in jndgement) by the modest and simple-minded
Mr. Leonard Wclsted, Who, out of great respect to our poet, not naming him, doth yet glance at his Essay, together with the duke of Buckingham's, and the criticisms of Dry den and of Horace, which he more openly taxetht: * As to the numerous treatises, essays, arts, &c. both in verse and prose, that have been written by the moderns on this ground-work, they do but hackney the eame thoughts over again, making them still more trite. Most of their pieces are nothing but a pert, insipid heap of common-place. Horace has, even in his Art of Poetry, thrown out several things which plainly show, he thought an art of poetry was of no use, even while he was writing one.'
To all which great anthorities, we can only oppose that of
* The Essay on Criticism,*saith he, 'which was published some months since, is a master-piece in its kind. The observations follow one another like
* Essay on Criticism in prose, octavo, 1728, by the anthor of the Critical History of England.
I Preface to his Poems, p. 18, 53,