« ZurückWeiter »
he) but fancy himself capable of high things, and he will of course be able to achieve the highest." From this principle it follows, that nothing ever can exceed our hero's prowess, as nothing ever equalled the greatness of his conceptions. Hear how he constantly paragons himself; at one time to Alexander the Great and Charles XII. uf Sweden, for the excess and delicacy of bis ambition*; to Henry IV. of France, for honest policy t; to the first Brutus, for love of liberty f; and to Sir Robert Walpole, for good government while in power ll. At another time to the godlike Socrates, for his diversions and amusements ş; to Horace, Montaigne, and Sir Williain Temple, for an elegant vanity that maketh them for ever read and admired IT ; to two Lord Chancellors for law, from whom, when confederate against him at the bar, he carried away the prize of eloquence**; and to say all in a word, to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of London himself, in the art of writing pastoral letters tt.
Nor did his actions fall short of the sublimity of his conceit. In his early youth he met the revolution ff face to face in Nottingham, at a time when his betters contented themselves with following her. It was here he got acquainted with old Battle-array, of whom he bath made so honourable mention in one of his immortal odes|III. But he shone in courts as well as in camps: he was called up when the nation fell in labour of this revolution şş, and was a gossip at her christening, with the bishop and the ladies T.
As to his birth, it is true he pretendeth no relation either to heathen gud or goddess; but, what is as good, he was descended from a maker of both ***. . See Cibber's Life, p. 149. + Ib. p. 424. # Ib. p. 366. # Ib. p. 457.
Ib. p. 18.
Ib. p.425. ** Ib. p. 463, 437.
# Ib. p. 52.
## Ib. p. 47. “ Old Battle-array in confusion is fled; And olive-rob'd Peace is come in his stead," &c.
Cibber's Birth-day, or, New Year's Day Ode. vý Cibber's Life, p.57. 99 Ib. p. 58, 59.
*** A Statuary.
And that he did not pass himself on the world for a hero, as well by birth as education, was his own fault; for his lineage he bringeth into his life as an anecdote, and is sensible he had it in his power to be thought no body's son at all*: and what is that, but
coming into the world a hero? But be it (the punctilious laws of epic poesy so requiring) that a hero of more than mortal birth inust needs be had; even for this we have a remedy. We can easily derive our hero's pedigree from a goddess of no small power and authority amongst men; and legitimate and instal liim after the right classical and authentic fashion: for like as the ancient sages found a son of Mars in a mighty warrior, a son of Neptune in a skilful seaman, a son of Phæbus in a harmonious poet; so have we here, if necd be, a son of Fortune in an artful gamester : and who fitter than the offspring of Chance to assist in restoring the empire of Night and Chaos?
There is, in truth, another objection of greater weight, namely,—that this hero still existeth, and hath not yet finished his earthly course, For, if Solon said well,
Ante obitum nemo supremaque funera debet:" (That no man could be called happy till his death, surely much less can any one, till then, be pronounced a hero; this species of men being far more subject than others to the caprices of fortune and humour.' But to this also we have an answer, that will (we hope) be deemed decisive. It cometh from himself, who, to cut this matter short, hath solemnly protested that he will never change or amend.
With regard to his vanity, he declareth that nothing shall ever part them, Nature (saith he) hath amply supplied me in vanity; a pleasure which neither the pertness of wit, nor the gravity of wisdom,
Cibber's Life, p, 6.
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 t.” 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 put 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 this light I afford them frequent matter of mirth,” &c. &c. I. Having then so publicly declared himself incorrigible, he is become dead in law, (I mean the law Epopæian) 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 Phæbus adest, morsusque inferre parentem
Congelat, et patulos, ut erant, indurat hiatus g."
• C. Cibber's Life, p. 424.
+ Ib. p. 19. Ib. p. 17.
# Ib. p. 243. octavo edit. Ovid, of the serpent biting at Orpheus's head.
Prefixed to the
IN THREE BOOKS,
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 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.
* Who he was is uncertain ; but Edward Ward tells us, in his 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, Janies) determined to own the most trifting pieces in which they had any hand, and to destroy all that remained in their puwer, the first sketch of this poem was snatched from the fire by Dr. Swift, who persuaded his friend to proceed in it, 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 Sin! 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 number 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 li. berty no ways to be wondered at in those people, and in those papers that, 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 invalidate this uni. versal siander, it sufficed to shew what contemptible men were the authors 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 men themselves, when discovered, want courage to proceed in $0 unlawful an occupation. This it was that gave birth to the Dun. ciad; and he thought it an happiness that, by the late flood of slander on himself, he had acquired such a peculiar right over their names as was necessary to his design.
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 t 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 man hath stood up to say one word in his defence.
The only exception is the authors of the following poem, who doubtless bad 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 nunierous 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
* See the list of those anonymous papers, with their dates, and authors annexed, inserted before the poem.
+ It is surprising with what stupiditý this Preface, which is almost a continued irony, was taken by those authors. All such passages as these were understood by Curl, Cooke, Cibber, 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 I read it with those vain-glorious incumbrances of notes and remarks upon it, &c.---It is amazing that you, who have writ with such 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.)
* A very plain irony, speaking of Mr. Pope himself,