Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

will ever persuade me to part with*." Our poet had charitably endeavoured to administer a cure to it; but he telleth us plainly, "My superiors, perhaps, may be mended by him; but, for my part, I own myself incorrigible. I look upon my follies as the best part of my fortune f." And with good reason: we see to what they have brought him!

Secondly, as to buffoonery, "Is it (saith he) a time of day for me to leave off these fooleries, and set up a new character? I can no more pat off my follies than my skin: I have often tried, but they stick too close to me; nor am I sure my friends are displeased with them, for in thislight I afford them frequent matter of mirth," &c. &c. j. Having then so publicly declared himself incorrigible, he is become dead in law, (I mean the law Epoposian) and devolveth upon the poet as his property; who may take him and deal with him like an old Egyptian hero, that is to say, embowel and embalm him for posterity.

Nothing therefore (we conceive) remaineth to hinder his own prophecy of himself from taking immediate effect. A rare felicity! and what few prophets have had the satisfaction to see alive! Nor can we conclude better than with that extraordinary one of his, which is conceived in these oraculous words, "My dulness will find somebody to do it right ||.»

"Tandem Phoebus adest, morsusque inferre parentem Congelat, etpatulos, ut erant, indurat hiatus §."

• C. Cibber's Life, p. 424. t lb. p. 19.

* lb. p. 17. II lb. p. 243. octavo edit. J Ovid, of the serpent biting at Orpheus's head.

Prefixed to the

FIVE FIRST IMPERFECT EDITIONS OF THE PTOCIAU,

IN THREE BOOKS,

Printed at Dublin and London, in octavo and
duodecimo, 1727.

THE PUBLISHER • TO THE READER.

It will be found a true observation, though somewhat surprising, that when any scandal is vented against a man of the highest distinction and character, either in the state or literature, the public in general afford

* Who he was*is uncertain ; but Edward Ward tells us, in hi* Preface to Durgen, *' That most judges are of opinion this Preface is not of English extraction, but. Hibernian," &c. He means it was written by Dr. Swift, who, whether the publisher or not, may be said, in a sort, to be author of the poem. For when he, together with Mr. Pope (for reasons specified in the Preface to their MisceL lauies) determined to own the most trifling pieces in which they had any hand, and to destroy all that remained in their power, the first sketch of this poem was snatched from the fire by Dr. Swift, who persuaded his friend to proceed in H, and to him it was therefore inscribed. But the occasion of printing it was as follows:

There was published in those Miscellanies a Treatise of the Bathos, or, Art of Sinking in Poetry, in which was a chapter where the species of bad writers were ranged in classes, and initial letters of names prefixed* for the most part, at random. But such was the cumber of poets eminent in that art, that some one or other took every letter to himself. All fell into so violent a fury, that for half a year, or more, the common newspapers (in most of which they had some property, as being hired writers) were filled with the most abusive falsehoods and scurrilities they could possibly devise; a liberty no ways to be wondered at in those people, and in those papers th>t, for many years, during the uncontrolled licence of the press, had aspersed almost all the great characters of the age; and this with impunity, their own persons and names being utterly secret and obscure. This gave Mr. Pope the thought, that he had now some opportunity of doing good, by detecting and dragging into light these common enemies of mankind; since, to 'nvalidate this universal slander, it sufficed to shew what contemptible men were the •uthirs of it. He was not without hopes that, by manifesting the duluess of those who had only malice- to recommend them, either the booksellers would not find their account in employing them, or the n'en themselves, when discovered, want courage to proceed in «o unlawful an occupation. This it was that gave birth to the Dunciad ; and he thought it an happiness that, by the late flood of alandcr on himself, he had acquired such a peculiar right over then; aames as was necessary to his design. V,

it a most quiet reception, and the larger part accept it as favourably as if it were some kindness done to themselves: whereas, if a known scoundrel or blockhead but chance to be touched upon, a whole legion is up in arms, and it becomes the common cause of all scribblers, booksellers, and printers whatsoever.

Not to search too deeply into the reason hereof, I will only observe as a fact, that every week, for these two months past, the town has been persecuted with pamphlets, advertisements*, letters, and weekly essays, not only against the wit and writings, but against the character and person of Mr. Pope; and that of all those men who have received pleasure from his works (which by modest computation may be about a hundred thousand f in these kingdoms of England and Ireland, not to mention Jersey, Guernsey, the Orcades, those in the New World, and foreigners who have translated him into their languages) of all this number not a map hath stood up to say one word in his defence.

The only exception is the author J of the following poem, who doubtless had, either a better insight into the grounds of this clamour, or a better opinion of Mr. Pope's integrity, joined with a greater personal love for him, than any other of his numerous friends and admirers.

Farther, that he was in his peculiar intimacy, appears from the knowledge he manifests of the most private authors of all the anonymous pieces against him, and from his having in this poem • attacked Do man living who had not before printed or published some scandal against this gentleman.

* See the list of those anonymous papers, with their dates, and authors annexed, inserted before the poem.

T It is surprising with what stupidity this Preface, which is almost a continued irony, was taken by those authors. All such passages as these were understood by Curl, Cooke, Cibher, and others, to be serious. Hear the Laureat (Letter to Mr. Pope, p. 9.) " Though I grant the Dunciad a better poem of its kind than ever was writ, yet, when 1 read it with those vain-glorious incumbrances of notes and remarks upon it, &c.—It is amazing that you, who have writ with auch masterly spirit upon the ruling passion, should be so blind a slave to your own, as not to see how far a low avarice of praise," &c. (taking it for granted that the notes of Scriblerus and others -were the author's own.) 'V7/

J A very plain irony, speaking of Mr. Pope himself.

How I came possessed of it, is no concern to the reader; but it would have been a wrong to him had I detained the publication; since those names which are its chief ornaments die off daily so fast, as must render it too soon unintelligible. If it provoke the author te give us a more perfect edition, I have mj end.

Who he is, I cannot say; and (which is a great pity) there is certainly nothing in his style and manner of writing \ which can distinguish or discover him; for if it bears any resemblance to that of Mr. Pope, it is not improbable but it might be done on purpose, with a view to have it pass for his. But by the frequency of his allusions to Virgil, and a laboured (not to say affected) shortness in imitation of him, I should think him more an admirer of the Roman poet than of the Grecian, and in that not of the same taste with his friend.

I have been well informed that this work was the labour of full six years of his life J, and that he wholly retired himself from all the avocations and pleasures E" the world to attend diligently to its correction and erfection; and six years more he intended to betow upon it, as it should seem by this verse of Stains, which was cited at the head of his mauucript:—

* The publisher, in these words, went a little too far; but it is certain whatever names the reader finds that are unknown to him are of such; and the exception is only of two or three, whose dulness, impudent scurrilities, or self-conceit, all mankind agree to have justly entitled them to a place in the Dunciad. W.

t This irony had small effect m concealing the author. The Dunciad, imperfect as it was, had not been published two days, but the whole town gave it to Mr. Pope. W.

t This also was honestly and seriously believed by divers gentlemen of the Dunciad. J. Ralph, preface to Sawney: "We are told it was the labour of six years, with the utmost assiduity and application: it is no great compliment to the author's sense to have employed so large a part of his life," &c. So also Ward, preface to Durgen: "The Dunciad, as the publisher very wisely confesses, cost the author six years' retirement from all the pleasures of life; though it is somewhat difficult to conceive, from either its bulk o> beauty, that it could be so long in hatching," &c. But the length of time and closeness of application were mentioned to prepossess the reader with a good opinion of it.

They just as well understood what Scriblerus said of the poem. W.

»« Oh mihi bissenos multum vigilata per annos
Duncia • I"

Hence also we learn the true title of the poem; which, with the same certainty as we call that of Homer the Iliad, of Virgil the JEneid. of Camoens the Lusiad, we may pronounce could have been, and can be, no other than

THE DUNCIAD.

It is styled heroic, as being doubly so; not only with respect to its nature, which, according to the best rules of the ancients, and strictest ideas of the moderns, is critically such; but also with regard to the heroical disposition and high courage of the writer, who dared to stir up such a formidable, irritable, and implacable race of mortals.

There may arise some obscurity in chronology from the names in the poem, by the inevitable removal of some authors, and insertion of others in their niches: for, whoever will consider the unity of the whole design, will be sensible that the poem was not made for these authors, but these authors for the poem. I should judge that they were clapped in as they rose, fresh and fresh, and changed from day to day; in like manner as when the old boughs wither, we thrust new ones into a chimney.

I would not have the reader too much troubled or anxious, if he cannot decypher them; since, when he shall have found them out, he will probably know no more of the persons than before.

Yet we judged it better to preserve them as they pre, than to change them for fictitious names; by

* The prefacer to Curl's Key, p. 3, took this word to be really in Statius: "By a quibble on the word Duncia, the Dunciad is formed." Mr. Ward also follows him In the same opinion, w,

« ZurückWeiter »