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To Dr. Jonathan Swift.
The Proposition, the Invocation, and the Inscription. Then the original of the great Empire of Dulness, and cause of the continuance thereof. The College of the Goddess in the city, with her private academy for poets in particular; the governors of it, and the four cardinal virtues. Then the Poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting her, on the evening of a Lord Mayor's-day, revolving the long succession of her sons, and the glories past and to come. She fixes her eye on Bayes, to be the instrument of that great event which is the subject of the Poem. He is described pensive, among his books, giving up the cause, and apprehending the period of her empire. After debating whether to betake himself to the church, or to gaming, or to party-writing, he raises an altar of proper books, and (making first his solemn prayer and declaration) purposes thereon to sacrifice all his unsuccessful writings. As the pile is kindled, the Goddess, beholding the flame from her seat, flies and puts it out, by casting upon it the Poem of Thulé. She forthwith reveals herself to him, transports him to her Temple, unfolds her arts, and initiates him into her mysteries; then announcing the death of Eusden, the Poet-Laureat, anoints him, carries him to Court, and proclaims him successor.
THE mighty mother, and her son, who brings
1 It is an inconvenience to which writers of reputation are subject, that the justice of their resentment is not always
I sing. Say you, her instruments, the great! Call'd to this work by Dulness, Jove, and Fate;
rightly understood: for the calumnies of dull authors being soon forgotten, and those whom they aimed to injure, not caring to recall to memory the particulars of false and scandalous abuse, their necessary correction is suspected of severity unprovoked. But in this case it would be but candid to estimate the chastisement on the general character of the offender, compared with that of the person injured. Let this serve with the candid reader in justification of the poet, and, on occasion, of the editor.
This Poem was written in the year 1726. In the next year an imperfect edition was published at Dublin, and reprinted at London in twelves: another at Dublin, and another at London in octavo: and three others in twelves the same year but there was no perfect edition before that of London in quarto, which was attended with notes. We are willing to acquaint posterity, that this Poem was presented to King George II. and his Queen, by the hands of Sir Robert Walpole, on the 12th of March, 1728-9. SCHOL. VET.
It was expressly confessed in the preface to the first edition, that this Poem was not published by the author himself. It was printed originally in a foreign country. And what foreign country? Why, one notorious for blunders; where finding blanks only instead of proper names, these blunderers filled them up at their pleasure.
The very hero of the Poem hath been mistaken to this hour; so that we are obliged to open our notes with a discovery who he really was. We learn from the former editor, that this piece was presented by the hands of Sir Robert Walpole to King George II. Now the author directly tells us, his hero is the man
The Smithfield Muses to the ear of kings.
And it is notorious who was the person on whom this Prince conferred the honour of the laurel.
It appears as plainly from the apostrophe to the great in the third verse, that Tibbald could not be the person, who was never an author in fashion, or caressed by the great: whereas this single characteristic is sufficient to point out the true hero; who, above all other poets of his time, was the peculiar delight and chosen companion of the nobility of
You by whose care, in vain decried and cursed,
In eldest time, ere mortals writ or read,
Still her old empire to restore she tries,
O thou! whatever title please thine ear, Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver! Whether thou choose Cervantes' serious air, Or laugh and shake in Rabelais' easy chair, Or praise the court, or magnify mankind,
Or thy grieved country's copper chains unbind 24;
England; and wrote, as he himself tells us, certain of his works at the earnest desire of persons of quality.
Lastly, the sixth verse affords full proof; this poet being the only one who was universally known to have had a son so exactly like him, in his poetical, theatrical, political, and moral capacities, that it could justly be said of him
'Still dunce the second reigns like dunce the first.'
Alluding to a verse of Mr. Dryden, not in Mac Fleckno, (as is said ignorantly in the Key to the Dunciad, p. 1,) but in his verses to Mr. Congreve,
'And Tom the second reigns like Tom the first.'
24 Relating to the papers of the Drapier against the currency of Wood's copper coin in Ireland; which upon the great discontent of the people, his Majesty was graciously pleased to recall.
From thy Boeotia though her power retires, Mourn not, my Swift! at aught our realm acquires. Here pleased behold her mighty wings outspread To hatch a new Saturnian age of lead.
Close to those walls where Folly holds her throne And laughs to think Monroe would take her down, Where o'er the gates by his famed father's hand,31 Great Cibber's brazen, brainless brothers stand; One cell there is, conceal'd from vulgar eye, The cave of poverty and poetry:
Keen hollow winds howl through the bleak recess,
Hence bards, like Proteus long in vain tied down,
Hence journals, medleys, mercuries, magazines:
And New-year odes, and all the Grub-street race,
31 —by his famed father's hand,] Mr. Caius-Gabriel Cibber, father of the Poet-laureate. The two statues of the lunatics over the gates of Bedlam Hospital were done by him, and (as the son justly says of them) are no ill monuments of his fame as an artist.
40 Two booksellers of whom see Book II. The former was fined by the Court of King's Bench, for publishing obscene books: the latter usually adorned his shop with titles in red letters. W.
41 42 Hence hymning Tyburn's—hence, &c.]
'- Genus unde Latinum,
Albanique patres, atque altæ moenia Romæ,'
VIRG. En. .1
In clouded majesty here Dulness shone", Four guardian virtues, round, support her throne: Fierce champion Fortitude, that knows no fears Of hisses, blows, or want, or loss of ears 48: Calm Temperance, whose blessings those partake Who hunger and who thirst for scribbling sake: Prudence, whose glass presents the' approaching gaol:
Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale,
Where, in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs, And solid pudding against empty praise.
Here she beholds the Chaos dark and deep", Where nameless somethings in their causes sleep, Till genial Jacob, or a warm third day", Call forth each mass, a poem or a play:
How hints, like spawn, scarce quick in embryo lie, How new-born nonsense first is taught to cry,
57 Jacob Tonson; a bookseller who did honour to his profession.
45 In clouded majesty.]
- The Moon
Rising in clouded majesty.'.
that knows no fears
MILTON, b. iv.
Of hisses, blows, or want, or loss of ears.]
Quem neque pauperies, neque mors, neque vincula ter
55 Here she beholds the chaos dark and deep, Where nameless somethings, &c.]
that is to say, unformed things, which are either made into poems, or plays, as the booksellers or the players bid most. These lines allude to the following in Garth's Dispensary, canto vi.
Within the chambers of the globe they spy
The beds where sleeping vegetables lie,
Till the glad summons of a genial ray
Unbinds the glebe, and calls them out to day.' W.