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to dissuade the dull, and punish the wicked, the ouly 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 bora 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 bestow ou these authorst, and the effects they producet: then the materials or stock, with which they furnish them; and, abore 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 sorra 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 Latiun. But as Homer singeth only the wratlf 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 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 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 instru. ments, 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, de rionstrates 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 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 manners 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 silly flies t;' but adds, our
* Bossu, chap. viii. Vide Aristot. Poet. cap. ix: + Cibber's Letter to Mr. P. p. 9. 12. 41,
author's wit is remarkably more bare and barren, whenever it would fall foul on Cibber, than upor any other person whatever.!
The descriptions are singular, the comparisons very quaint, the narration various, yet of one coTour; the purity and chastity of diction is so pre served, 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 sanotified 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 subject 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 beencensured by the sound critic. How exact that limitation bath 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 exact time when years bave ripened the judgement, without diminish. ing 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 wbich he published his Al fred True it is, that the talents for criticism,
• See his Essays.
namely, smartness, quick censure, vivacity of re. mark, certainty of asseveration, indeed all but acer. bity, 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. Dennis, who, beginning with criticism, became afterwards such poets as po age hath paralleled. With good reason, therefore, did our author choose to write his essay on that subject at twenty, and reserve for his maturer years this great and wonderful work of the Dun. ciad.
Of the Hero of the Poem.
OF the nature
of Dunciad in general, whence de
prity 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 judgement, dissertated. But when he cometh to speak of the persou 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 under. takers, 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 parti. cular, by assuring them, that, in the greater epic, the prime intention of the muse to exalt heroic virtue, in order to propagate the love of it among the child ren of men; and consequently that the poet's first thought must needs be turned upon a real subject meet for laud and celebration ; not one whom he is to make, but one whom he may find, truly illustrious. This is the primum mobile of his poetic world, whence every thing is to receive life and motion. For, this subject being found, he is immediately ordained, or rather acknowledged, a hero, and put upon such action as befitteth the dignity of his character,