« AnteriorContinuar »
Prefixed to the five first imperfect Editions of the
DUNCIAD, in three books, printed at DUBLIN and London, in octavo and duodecimo, 1727.
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
* 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:
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 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
in general afford it a most quiet reception; and the large 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.
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, or the men themselves, when discovered, want courage to proceed in so unlawful an occupation. This it was that gave birth to the Dunciad; and he thought it a 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.
Pit * pamphlets, advertisements, &c.] See the list of those anonymous papers, with their dates and authors annexed, Appendix, No. II.
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 fauthor 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 at
* about a hundred 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.
Hear the Laureate (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 vainglorious encumbrances 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.)
+ the author of the following poem, &c.] A very plain irony, speaking of Mr. Pope himself.
tacked *no man living, who had not before 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 dis-, cover 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 Isix years of his life, and that he
* 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 agreed to have justly entitled them to a place in the Dunciad. P.
† there is certainly nothing in his style, &c.] This irony had small effect in concealing the author. The Dunciad, imperfect as it was, had not been published two days, but the whole Town gave it to Mr. Pope. .
P. the labour of full six years, &c.] This also was honestly and