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conclude better than with that extraordinary one of his, which he conceived in these oraculous words, “ My Dulness will find somebody to do it right *.”
“ Tandem Phoebus adest, morsusque inferre parentem
* Cibber's Life, p. 243, octavo edit.
Prefired to the five first imperfect editions of the Dunciad, in
ihree books, printed at Dublin and London, in octavo and duodecimo, 1727.
Ir will be found a true observation, though some. what surprising, that when any scandal is vented against a man of the highest distinction and charac
The publisher *) 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 Miscellanies) 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 it, and to him it was therefore inscribed. But the occasion of printing it was as follows:
ter, either in the state or literature, the public in ge. neral 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.
There was published in those Miscellanies a Treatise of the Baihos, 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 number of poets eminent in that art, that some cne or other took every letter to himself. Allfell 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, 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 universal slander, it sufficed to shew what contemptible men were the authors of it. He was not without hopes that, by manifesting the dulness of those who had only malice to recommend them, either the booksellers would not find their account in employing them, orthe men themselves, when discovered, wantcourage to proceed in so unlawful an occupation. This it was that gave birth to the Dunciad; 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. Popé; and that of all those men who have received pleasure from his Works, (which, by modest computation, may be about a hundred thousand 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 author of the following Poem, who doubtless had either a better insight
Pamphlets, advertisements, &c.] See the list of those anonymous papers, with their dates and authors annexed, inserted before the Poem.
Abyut an bundred thousand.] 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, Cook, Cibber, and others, to be serious. Here the Laureat (Letier 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 incumberances " of notes and remarks upon it, &c.---it is amazing “ that you, who have writ with such masterly spirit
lipon 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 noies of Scriblerus and others were the Author's own )
The Anthor of the following Poem, &c.] A very plain irony, speaking of Mr. Pope himself.
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.
Further, 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 no man living who had not beofre printed or published some scandal against this gentleman.
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 to give us a more perfect edition, I have my 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 fre
* 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 scurrility, or self-conceit, all mankind agreed to have justly entitled them to a place in the Dunciad.
There is certainly nothing in bis style, &c.] This irony had small effect in concealing the author. The Dunciad, imperfect as it was, had not been published tho days, but the whole town gave it to Mr. Pope.
quency 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, and that he wholly retired himself from all the avocations and pleasures of the world to attend diligently to its correction and perfection; and six years more he intended to bestow upon it, as would seem by this verse of Statius, which was cited at the head of his manuscript:
On mini bissenos multum vigilata per annos, "Duncia * !”
The labour of full sir years, &c.] 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 assi“ duity 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 or 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.
* The prefacer to Curi's Key, p. 3. took this word to be really in Statius : " By à quibble on the word “ Duncia, the Dunciad, is formed.” Mr. Ward also follows him in the same opinion.