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TO THE FIRST EDITION WITH NOTES, QUARTO, 1729... It will be sufficient to say of this edition, that the reader has here a much more correct and complete copy of the Dunciad than has hitherto appeared. I cannot answer but some mistakes may have slipped into it, but a vast number of others will be prevented by the names being now not only set at length, but justisfied by the authorities and rea. sons given. I make no doubt the author's own motive to use real rather than feigned names, was his care to preserve the innocent from any false application; whereas, in the former editions, which had no more than the initial letters, he was made, by keys printed here, to hurt the inoffensive; and (what was worse) to abuse his friends, by an impression at Dublin.
The commentary which attends this poem was sent me from several hands, and consequently must he unequally written; yet will have one advantage over most comnientaries, that it is not made upon conjectures, or at a remote distance of time : and the reader cannot but derive one pleasure from the very obscurity of the persons it treats of, that it partakes of the nature of a secret, which most people love to be let into, though the men or the things be ever so inconsiderable or trivial.
Of the persons, it was judged proper to give some account: for, since it is only in this monument that they must expect to survive, (and here
survive they will, as long as the English tongue shall remain such as it was in the reigns of Queen Anne and King George) it seemed but humanity to bestow a word or two upon each, just to tell what he was, what he writ, when he lived, and when he died.
If a word or two more are added upon the chief offenders, it is only as a paper pinned upon the breast to mark the enormities for which they suffered; lest the correction only should be remembered, and the crime forgotten.
In some articles it was thought sufficient barely to transcribe from Jacob, Curl, and other writers of their own rank, who were much better acquainted with them than any of the authors of this comment can pretend to be. Most of them liad drawn each other's characters on certain occasions ; but the few here inserted are all that could be saved from the general destruction of such works.
Of the part of Scriblerus I need say nothing: his manner is well enough known, and approved by all but those who are too much concerned to be judges.
The imitations of the ancients are added, to gratify those who either never read, or may have forgotten them; together with some of the parodies and allusions to the most excellent of the moderns. If, from the frequency of the former, any man think the poem too much a cento, our poet will but appear to have done the same thing in jest which Boileau did in earnest, and upon which Vida, Fracastorius, and many of the most eminent Latin poets, professedly valued, then. selves,
TO THE FIRST EDITION OF
When printed separately in the Year 1742. We apprehend it can be deemed no injury to the author of the three first books of the Dunciad that we publish this fourth. It was found merely by accident, in taking a survey of the library of a late eminent nobleman; but in so blotted a condition, and in so many detached pieces, as plainly showed it to be not only incorrect, but unfinished. That the author of the three first books had a design to extend and complete his poem in this manner, appears from the dissertation prefixed to it, where it is said, that " The design is more extensive, and that we may expect other episodes to complete it; and, from the declaration in the argument to the third book, that "The accomplishment of the prophecies therein, wonld be the theme hereafter of a greater Dunciad.' But whether or no he be the author of this, we declare ourselves ignorant. If he be, we are no more to be blamed for the publication of it, than Tucca and Varius for that of the last six books of the Æneid, though, perhaps, inferior to the former.
If any person be possessed of a more perfect copy of this work, or of any other fragments of it, and will communicate them to the publisher, wę shall make the next edition more complete : in which we also promise to insert any criticisms that shall be published (if at all to the purpose) with
the names of the authors; or any letters sent as (though not to the purpose) shall yet be printed, under the title of Epistolæ obscurorum virorum; which, together with some others of the same kind, formerly laid by for that end, may make no unpleasant addition to the future impressions of this poem.
TO THE COMPLETE EDITION OF 1743. I have long had a design of giving some sort of notes on the works of this poet. Before I had the happiness of his acquaintance, I had written a commentary on his Essay on Man, and have since finished another on the Essay on Criticism. There was one already on the Dunciad, which had met with general approbation ; but I still thought some additions were wanting (of a more serious kind) to the humorous notes of Scriblerus, and even to those written by Mr. Cleland, Dr. Arbuthnot, and others. I had lately the pleasure to pass some months with the author in the country, where I prevailed upon him to do what I had long desired, and favour me with his explanation of several passages in his works. It bappened, that just at that juncture was published a ridiculous book against him, full of personal reflections, which furnished him with a lucky opportunity of improving this poem, by giving it the only thing it wanted, a more considerable hero. He was always sensible of its defect in that particular, and owned he had let it pass with the hero it had, purely for want of a better, not entertaining the least expectation that such an one was reserved for this post as has since obtained the laurel : but since that had happened, he could no longer deny this justice either to him or the Dunciad.
And yet, I will venture to say, there was another motive which had still more weight with our author: this person was one who, from every folly (not to say vice) of which another would be ashamed, has constantly derived a vanity; and therefore was the man in the world who would least be hurt by it.
WHEREAS, upon occasion of certain pieces relating to the gentlemen of the Dunciad, some have been willing to suggest as if they had looked upon them as an abuse : we can do uo less than own it is our opinion that to call these gentlemen bad authors is no sort of abuse, but a great truth. We cannot alter this opinion without some reason; but we promise to do it in respect to every person who thinks it an injury to be represented as no wit, or poet, provided he procures a certificate of his being really such from any three of his companions in the Dunciad, or from Mr. Dennis singly, who is esteemed equal to any three of the number.