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To the FIRST EDITION of the FOURTH BOOK of the DUNCIAD, when printed separately in the Year 1742.
We apprehend it can be deemed no injury to the Author of the three first books of the Dunciad, that we publish this Fourth. It was found merely by accident, in taking a survey of the library of a late eminent nobleman; but in so blotted a condition, and in so many detached pieces, as plainly shewed it to be not only incorrect, but unfinished. That the Author of the three first books had a design to extend and complete his poem in this manner, appears from the dissertation prefixed to it, where it is said, that the design is more extensive, and that we may expect other episodes to complete it: and from the declaration in the argument to the third book, that the accomplishment of the prophecies therein would be the theme hereafter of a greater Dunciad. But whether or no he be the author of this, we declare ourselves ignorant. If he be, we are no more to be blamed for the publication of it, than Tucca and Varius for that of the last six books of the Æneid, though perhaps inferior to the former.
If any person be possessed of a more perfect copy of this work, or of any other fragments of it, and will communicate them to the publisher, we shall make the next edition more complete: in which we also promise to insert any criticisms that shall be pub
lished (if at all to the purpose) with the names of the authors; or any letter sent us (though not to the purpose) shall yet be printed under the title of Epistola Obscurorum Virorum; which, together with some others of the same kind formerly laid by for that end, may make no unpleasant addition to the future im pressions of this poem.
To the complete EDITION of 1743.
I HAVE long had a design of giving some sort of Notes on the works of this Poet. Before I had the happiness of his acquaintance, I had written a commentary on his Essay on Man, and have since finished another on the Efay on Criticifm. There was one already on the Dunciad, which had met with general approbation: but I still thought some additions were wanting (of a more serious kind) to the humourous notes of Scriblerus, and even to those written by Mr. Cleland, Dr. Arbuthnot, and others. I had lately the pleasure to pass some months with the Author in the country, where I prevailed upon him to do what I had long desired, and favour me with his explanation of several passages in his works. It happened, that just at that juncture was published a ridiculous book against him, full of personal reflections, which furnished him with a lucky opportunity of improving this poem, by giving it the only thing it wanted, a more considerable hero. He was always sensible of its defect in that particular, and owned he had let it pass with the hero it had, purely for want of a better; not entertaining the least expectation that such an one was reserved for this post, as has since obtained the laurel: but since that had happened, he could no longer deny this justice either to him or the Dunciad.
And yet I will venture to say, there was another motive which had still more weight with our Author: This person was one, who from every folly (not to say vice) of which another would be ashamed, has constantly derived a vanity; and therefore was the man in the world who would least be hurt by it.
Printed in the JOURNALS, 1730.
WHEREAS, upon occasion of certain pieces relating to the gentlemen of the Dunciad, some have been willing to suggest, as if they looked upon them as an abuse: we can do no less than own, it is our opinion, that to call these gentlemen bad authors is no sort of abuse, but a great truth. We cannot alter this opinion without some reason; but we promise to do it in respect to every person who thinks it an injury to be represented as no wit, or poet, provided he procures a certificate of his being really such, from any three of his companions in the Dunciad, or from Mr. Dennis singly, who is esteemed equal to any three of the number.