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set purpose. Yea, even direct oppositions in religion, principles, and politics, have equally been supposed in him inherent. Surely a most rare and singular character! Of which let the reader make what he can.
Doubtless most commentators would hence take occasion to turn all to their author's advantage, , and from the testimony of his very enemies would affirm, That his capacity was boundless, as well as his imagination; that he was a perfect master of all styles, and all arguments; and that there was in those times no other writer, in any kind, of any degree of excellence, save he himself. But as this is not our own sentiment, we shall determine on nothing; but leave thee, gentle reader, to steer thy judgment equally between various opinions, and to chuse whether thou wilt incline to the Testimonies of Authors avowed, or of Authors concealed; of those who knew him, or of those who knew him not.
OF THE POEM.
This poem, as it celebrateth the most grave and ancient of things, Chaos, Night, and Dulness; so is it of the most grave and ancient kind. Homer (saith Aristotle) was the first who gave the form, and (saith Horace) who adapted the measure, to heroic poesy. But even before this, may be rationally presumed from what the ancients have left written, was a piece by Homer composed, of like nature and matter with this of our poet. For of epic sort it appeareth to have been, yet of matter surely not unpleasant, witness what is reported of it by the learned archbishop Eustathius, in Odyss. X. And accordingly Aristotle, in his Poetic, chap. iv. doth further set forth, that as the Iliad and Odyssey gave example to tragedy, so did this poem to comedy, its first idea.
From these authors also it should seem, that the Hero, or chief personage of it, was no less obscure, and his understanding and sentiments no less quaint and strange (if indeed not more so), than any of the actors of our poem. MARGITES was the name of this personage, whom Antiquity recordeth to have been Dunce the first; and surely from what we hear of him, not unworthy to be the root of so spreading a tree, and so numerous a posterity.
The poem therefore celebrating him was properly and absolutely a Dunciad; which though now unhappily lost, yet is its nature sufficiently known by the infallible tokens aforesaid. And thus it doth appear, that the first Dunciad was the first epic poem, written by Homer himself, and anterior even to the Iliad or Odyssey. · Now, forasmuch as our poet hath translated those two famous works of Homer which are yet left, he did conceive it in some sort his duty to imitate that also which was lost; and was therefore induced to bestow on it the same form which Homer's is reported to have had, namely, that of epic poem; with a title also framed after the ancient Greek manner, to wit, that of Dunciad.
Wonderful it is, that so few of the moderns have been stimulated to attempt some Dunciad! since, in the opinion of the multitude, it might cost less pain and toil than an imitation of the greater epic. But possible it is also, that on due reflection, the maker might find it easier to paint a Charlemagne, a Brute, or a Godfrey, with just pomp and dignity heroic, than a. Margites, a Codrus, or a Fleckno.
We shall next declare the occasion and the cause which moved our poet to this particular work. He lived in those days, when (after Providence had permitted the invention of printing as a scourge for the sins of the learned) paper also became so cheap, and printers so numerous, that a deluge of authors covered the land: whereby not only the
peace of the honest unwriting subject was daily molested, but unmerciful demands were made of his applause, yea, of his money, by such as would neither earn the one, nor deserve the other. At the same time, the licence of the press was such, that it grew dangerous to refuse them either : for they would forthwith publish slanders unpunished, the authors being anonymous, and skulking under the wings of publishers, a set of men who never scrupled to vend either calumny or blasphemy, as long as the town would call for it.
* Now our author, living in those times, did conceive it an endeavour well worthy an honest satirist, to dissuade the dull, and punish the wicked, the only way that was left. In that public-spirited view he laid the plan of this poem, as the greatest service he was capable (without much hurt or being slain) to render his dear country. First taking things from their original, he considereth the causes creative of such authors, namely Dulness and Poverty; the one born with them, the other contracted by neglect of their proper talents, through self-conceit of greater abilities. This truth he wrappeth in an allegoryt (as the construction of epic poesy requireth) and feigns that one of these Goddesses had taken up her abode with the other, and that they jointly inspired all such writers and such works. He proceedeth to shew the
* Vide Bossu, Du Poëme Epique, ch. viii. P. † Bossu, ch. vii. P. Book I. ver. 32, &c. P.
qualities they bestow on these authors, and the effects they produce ;* then the materials, or stock, with which they furnish them ; and (above all) that self-opinion, which causeth it to seem to themselves vastly greater than it is, and is the prime motive of their setting up in this sad and sorry merchandize. The great power of these Goddesses acting in alliance (whereof as the one is the mother of Industry, so is the other of Plodding) was to be exemplified in some one great and remarkable action :$ and none could be more so than that which our poet hath chosen, viz. the restoration || of the reign of Chaos and Night, by the ministry of Dulness their daughter, in the removal of her imperial seat from the city to the polite world; as the action of the Æneid is the restoration of the empire of Troy, by the removal of the race from thence to Latium. But as Homer, singing only the wrath of Achilles, yet includes in his
* Book I. 45 to 54. P. + Ver. 57 to 77. P. I Ver. 80. P.
§ Ibid. chap. vii, viii.. P. || Altered from the edition 1729. See the note at the beginning of B. IV. of the Dunciad.
Warton. The note referred to by Dr. Warton, as it relates to the Dunciad generally, is now placed at the beginning of the present volume. The passage above referred to stood thus in the edition of 1729.—“ And none could be more so than that which our poet hath chosen ; the introduction of the lowest diversions of the rabble in Smithfield to be the entertainment of the Court and Town; or in other words, the action of the Dunciad, is the removal of the Imperial Seat of Dulness from the City to the polite world, as that of the Æneid is the removal of the Empire of Troy to Latium.”