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concealed ; if it did, he fathered it upon that author to be get better concealed: if it resembled any of his styles, then was it evident; if it did not, then disguised he it on set purpose. Yea, even direct oppo. sitions 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 excelJence, save he himself. But as this is not our own sentiment, we shall determine on nothing; but leave thee, gentle reader, to steer thy judgement equally between yarious opinions, and to choose 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 1 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 poetics, 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 abso. lutely 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, writ
ten by Homer himself, and anterior even to the Iliad or Odyssey.
Now forasmuch as our poet hath translated those two famous works of Homer wbich are yet left, he did conceive it in some soft his duty to imitate that also which was lost: and was therefore induced to bestow on it the same form which Homer's is re. ported 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! sipce, 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 Fleckoo.
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 be. came so cheap, aud printers so numerous, that a de. luge 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 peither 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 neither scrupled to vend either calumuy or blasphemy, as long as the town would call for it.
• Now our author, living in those times, did con. ceive it an endeavour well worthy an honest satirist,
. Vide Bossu, Du Poeme Epique, chap. viii..
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 allegory (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 show the qualities they estow ou these authorst, and the effects they producet: then the materials or stock, with which they furnish themy; and, above all, that self-opinion || which causeth it to seem ta themselves vastly greater than it is, and is the prime motive of their setting up in this sad and sorr3 mer. chandise. The great power of these goddesses act. ing 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 chosenq, 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 re. moval of the race from thence to Latiuin. But as Homer singeth only the wrath of Achilles, yet in: cludes in his 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 chiluren.
Bossu, chap. vii. | Ver. 45 to 54.
Ver. 80. .
– Book I. ver. x2, &c,
Ibid. chap. vii. viii.
,*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 co...; and he becomes of course the hero of the poem. ? - The fable being thus, according to the best exam. ple, 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 instrua ments, in all her various operations. - This is branclied into episodes, each of which hath its moral apart; though all conducive to the main eud. The crowd assembled in the second book, de monstrates the design to be more extensive than to bad poets only, and that we may expect other epi. sodes of the patrons, encouragers, or paymasters of such authors, as occasion shall bring them forth. And the third book, if well considered, 'seémeth to embrace the whole world. Each of the games reJateth to some or other vile class of writers: the first concerneth the plagiary, to whom he giveth the name of Moore; the second, 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 ac. knowledged how justly they are drawn: the manDers are so depicted, and the sentiment 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 per: son 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 siliy fiest;' but adds, our
* Bossu, chap. viii. Vide Aristot. Poet. cap. ix. † Cibber's Letter to Mr. P. p. 9. 12. 41.