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poem the whole history of the Trojan war; in like manner our author hath drawn into this single action the whole history of Dulness and her children.
A person must next be fixed upon to support this action. This phantom in the poet's mind must have a name:* He finds it to be — ; and he becomes of course the Hero of the poem.
The fable being thus, according to the best example, one and entire, as contained in the proposition; the machinery is a continued chain of allegories, setting forth the whole power, ministry, and empire of Dulness, extended through her subordinate instruments, in all her various operations.
This is branched into Episodes, each of which hath its Moral apart, though all conducive to the main end. The crowd assembled in the second book, demonstrates the design to be more extensive than to bad poets only, and that we may expect other episodes of the patrons, encouragers, or paymasters of such authors, as occasion shall bring them forth. And the third book, if well considered, seemeth to embrace the whole world. Each of the games relateth to some or other vile class of writers: the first concerneth the plagiary, to whom he giveth the name of More; the second,
* Bossu, chap. viii. Vide Aristot. Poetic. chap. ix. P. + More is the person satirised under the name of “ Umbra :"
“ Close to each well-known author Umbra sits.” Hence he is called in the Dunciad, " the phantom More."
the libellous novelist, whom he styleth Eliza; the third, the flattering dedicator; the fourth, the bawling critic, or noisy poet; the fifth, the dark and dirty party-writer; and so of the rest; assigning to each some proper name or other, such as he could find.
As for the Characters, the public hath already acknowledged how justly they are drawn. The manners are so depicted, and the sentiments so peculiar to those to whom applied, that surely to transfer them to any other or wiser personages, would be exceeding difficult; and certain it is, that every person concerned, being consulted apart, hath readily owned the resemblance of every portrait, his own excepted. So Mr. Cibber calls them, “ a parcel of poor wretches, so many silly flies :"* but adds, our author's wit “is remarkably more bare and barren, whenever it would fall foul on Cibber, than upon any other person whatever.”
The descriptions are singular, the comparisons very quaint, the narration various, yet of one colour. The purity and chastity of diction is so preserved, that in the places most suspicious, not the words but only the images have been censured, and yet are those images no other than have been sanctified by ancient and classical authority, (though, as was the manner of those good times, not so curiously wrapped up), yea, and commented upon by the most grave Doctors, and approved Critics. As it beareth the name of Epic, it is thereby
* Cibber's Letters to Mr. P. pp. 9, 12, 41. Put
subjected to such severe indispensable rules as are laid on all Neoterics, a strict imitation of the Ancients ; insomuch that any deviation, accompanied with whatever poetic beauties, hath always been censured by the sound critic. How exact that imitation hath been in this piece, appeareth not only by its general structure, but by particular allusions infinite, many whereof have escaped both the commentator and poet himself; yea, divers by his exceeding diligence are so altered and interwoven with the rest, that several have already been, and more will be, by the ignorant abused, as altogether and originally his own.
In a word, the whole poem proveth itself to be the work of our author, when his faculties were in full vigour and perfection; at that exaợt time when years have ripened the judgment, without diminishing the imagination : which, by good critics, is held to be punctually at forty. For at that season it was that Virgil finished his Georgics; and Sir Richard Blackmore, at the like age composing his Arthurs, declared the same to be the very Acme and pitch of life for epic poesy; though since he hath altered it to sixty, the year in which he published his Alfred. * True it is, that the talents for criticism, namely, smartness, quick censure, vivacity of remark, certainty of asseveration, indeed all but acerbity, seem rather the gifts of youth than of riper age. But it is far otherwise in poetry; witness the works of Mr. Rymer and Mr.
* See his Essays, P.
Dennis,* who beginning with criticism, became afterwards such poets as no age hath paralleled. With good reason therefore did our author chuse to write his Essay on that subject at twenty, and reserve for his maturer years this great and wonderful work of the Dunciad.
* So in his Essay on Criticism, where appeared his first strokes of spleen : Turnd Critic next, and prov'd plain fool át last.”
HERO OF THE POEM.*
Of the nature of the DUNCIAD in general, whence derived, and on what authority founded, as well as of the art and conduct of this our poem in particular, the learned and laborious Scriblerus hath, according to his manner, and with tolerable share of judgment, dissertated. But when he cometh to speak of the PERSON of the Hero fitted for such poem, in truth he miserably halts and hallucinates. For, misled by one Monsieur Bossu, a Gallic critic, he prateth of I cannot tell what phantom of a Hero, only raised up to support the fable. A putid conceit! As if Homer and Virgil, like modern undertakers, who first build their house, and then seek out for a tenant, had contrived the story of a war and a wandering, before they once thought either of Achilles or Æneas, We shall therefore set our good brother and the world also right in this particular, by assuring them, that, in the greater epic, the prime intention of the Muse is
* It is a singular circumstance, that the hero of the Rehearsal, as well as of the Dunciad, should have been changed. Howard, not Dryden, was the original hero of the former. And perhaps these changes, in both pieces, were for the worse. Warton.