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for the most part, fpared their Names, and they may escape being laughed at, if they please.
I would have fome of them know, it was owing to the request of the learned and candid Friend to whom it is inscribed, that I make not as free ufe of theirs as they have done of mine. However, I shall have this advantage, and honour, on my fide, that whereas, by their proceeding, any abufe may be directed at any man, no injury can poffibly be done by mine, fince a namelefs Character can never be found out, but by its truth and likeness.
An Apology for himself and his Writings.
Ep. to Dr. Arbuthnot.] AT the time of publishing this Epiftle, the Poet's patience was quite exhausted by the endless impertinence of Poetafters of all ranks and conditions; as well those who courted his favour, as thofe who envied his reputation. So that now he had refolved to quit his hands of both together, by the publication of a DUNCIAD. This defign he communicated to his excellent Friend Dr. ARBUTHNOT, who, although as a Man of Wit and Learning he might not have been difpleased to see their common injuries revenged on this pernicious Tribe; yet, as our Author's Friend and Phyfician, was folicitous of his eafe and health; and therefore unwilling he should provoke fo large and powerful a party.
Their difference of opinion, in this matter, gives occafion to the following Dialogue. Where, in a natural and familiar detail of all his Provocations, both from flatterers and flanderers, our Author has artfully interwoven an Apology for his moral and poetic Character.
For after having told his cafe, and humouroufly applied to his Phyfician in the manner one would afk for a Receipt to kill Vermin, he ftrait goes on, in the common Character of Afkers of advice, to tell his Doctor that he had already taken his party, and determined of his remedy. But ufing a preamble, and introducing it (in the way of Poets) with a Simile, in which he names Kings, Queens, and Minifters of State, his Friend takes the alarm, begs him to forbear, to ftick to his fubject, and to be eafy under to common a calamity.
To make fo light of his difafter provokes the Poet: he breaks the thread of his difcourfe, which was to lead his Friend gently, and by degrees, into his project; and abruptly tells him the application of his Simile, at once,
Out with it, Dunciad! let the fecret pafs, &c.
But recollecting the humanity and tenderness of his Friend, which, he apprehends, might be a little fhocked at the apparent feverity of fuch a proceeding, he affures him, that his goodnature is alarmed without a cause, for that nothing has less feeling than this fort of Offenders; which he illuftrates in the Examples of a damn'd Poet, a detected Slanderer, a Table-Parafite, à Church-Buffoon, and a Party-Writer [from 1 to 100.]
But, in this enumeration, coming again to Names, his Friend once more ftops him, and bids him confider what hostilities this general attack will fet on foot. So much the better, replies the Poet; for, confidering the strong antiphathy of bad to good, enemies they will always be, either open or fecret: and it admits of no question, but a Slanderer is lefs hurtful than a Flatterer. For, fays he (in a pleasant Simile addressed to his Friend's profeffion) Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right, It is the flaver kills, and not the bite.
And how abject and exceffive the flattery of thefe creatures was, he fhews, by obferving, that they praised him even for his infirmities; his bad health, and his inconvenient fhape [ 100 to 125.]
But ftill it might be faid, that if he could bear this evil of Authorship no better, he should not have wrote at all. To this he answers, by lamenting the natural bent of his difpofition, which, from his very birth, had drawn him fo ftrongly towards Poetry, as if it were in execution of fome fecret decree of Heaven for crimes unknown. But though he offended in becoming an Author, he offended in nothing else. For his early verfes were perfectly innocent and harmless,
Like gentle Fanny's was my flowing theme,
A painted mistress, or a purling ftream.
Yet even then, he tells us, two enraged and hungry Critics fell upon him, without any provocation. But this might have been borne, as the common lot of diftinction. But it was his peculiar ill-fortune to create a Jealoufy in One, whom not only many good offices done by our Author to him and his friends, but a fimilitude of genius and ftudies might have inclined to a reciprocal affection and fupport. On the contrary, that otherwife amiable Perfon, being, by nature, timorous and fufpicious; by education a party-man; and, by the circumftances of fortune, befet with flatterers and pick-thanks; regarded our Author as his Rival, fet up by a contrary Faction, with views deftructive of public liberty, and his friend's reputation. And all this, with as
little provocation from Mr. Pope's conduct in his poetic, as in his civil character.
For though he had got a Name (the reputation of which he agreeably rallies in the defcription he gives of it) yet he never, even when most in fashion, set up for a Patron, or a Dictator amongst the Wits; but still kept in his usual privacy; leaving the whole Caftalian ftate, as he calls it, to a Mock-Mecenas, whom he next defcribes [ 125 to 261.]
And, ftruck with the sense of that dignity and felicity infeparable from the character of a true Poet, he breaks out into a paffionate vow for a continuance of the full Liberty attendant on it. And to fhew how well he deferves it, and how fafely he might be trufted with it, he concludes his wish with a defcription of his temper and difpofition [261 to 271.]
This naturally leads him to complain of his Friends, when they confider him in no other view than that of an Author: as if he had neither the fame right to the enjoyments of life, the fame concern for his highest interests, or the fame difpofitions of benevolence, with other people.
Befides, he now admonishes them, in his turn, that they do not confider to what they expofe him, when they urge him to write on; namely, to the fufpicions and the difpleasure of a Court; who are made to believe, he is always writing; or at least to the foolish criticisms of court fycophants, who pretend to find him, by his ftyle, in the immoral libels of every idle fcribler: though he, in the mean time, be fo far from countenancing fuch worthless trash in others, that he would be ready to execrate even his own best vein of poetry, if made at the expence of Truth or Innocence.
Curft be the verse, how well so e'er it flow,
That tends to make one worthy man my foe';
Or from the foft-ey'd virgin steal a téar.
(Sentiments, which no efforts of genius, without the concurrence of the heart, could have expreffed in ftrains fo exquifitely fublime) that the fole object of his refentment was vice and bafenefs. In the detection of which, he artfully takes occafion to speak of that by which he himself had been injured and offended and concludes with the character of one who had wantonly outraged him, and in the moft fenfible manner [ 271 to 334.I
And here, moved again with fresh indignation at his flanderers, he takes the advice of Horace, fume fuperbiam quæfitam meritis, and draws a fine picture of his moral and poetic conduct through life. In which he fhews that not fame, but VIRTUE was the conftant object of his ambition: that for this he oppofed himself to all the violence of Cabals, and the treacheries of Courts: the various iniquities of which having diftinctly specified, he fums them up in that most atrocious and fenfible of all, [ 334 to 359.]
The whisper, that to greatness still too near,
But here again his Friend interrupts the ftrains of his divine. enthufiafm, and defires him to clear up an objection made to his conduct, at Court. "That it was inhumane to infult the "Poor, and ill-breeding to affront the Great." To which he replies, That indeed, in his purfuit of Vice, he rarely confidered how Knavery was circumftanced; but followed it, with his Vengeance, indifferently, whether it led to the Pillory, or the Drawing-Room [ 359 to 368.]
But left this should give his Reader the idea of a favage intractable Virtue, which could bear with nothing, and would pardon nothing, he takes to himself the shame of owning that he was of fo eafy a nature, as to be duped by the flenderest anpearances, a pretence to Virtue in a witty Woman: fo forgiving, that he had fought out the object of his beneficence in a perfonal Enemy: fo humble, that he had submitted to the converfation of bad Poets: and fo forbearing, that he had curbed in his refentment under the moft fhocking of all calumnies, abufes on his Father and Mother [ 368 to 388.]
This naturally leads him to give a fhort account of their births, fortunes, and difpofitions; which ends with the tendereft wishes for the happiness of his Friend; intermixed with the moft pathetic defcription of that filial Piety, in the exercise of which he makes his own happiness to confist.
Me let the tender office long engage
With lenient arts extend a Mother's breath,
And keep a while one Parent from the sky!