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The first publication of this Epiftle.
HIS paper is a fort of bill of complaint, begun many years fince, and drawn up by fnatches, as the several occafions offered. I had no thoughts of publishing it, till it pleafed fome Perfons of Rank and Fortune [the Authors of Verfes to the Imitator of Horace, and of an Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity from a Nobleman at Hampton-Court] to attack, in a very extraordinary manner, not only my Writings (of which, being public, the Public is judge) but my Perfon, Morals, and Family, whereof, to those who know me not, a truer information may be requifite. Being divided between the neceffity to fay fomething of myself, and my own laziness to undertake so aukward a task, I thought it the shortest way to put the laft hand to this Epiftle. If it have any thing pleasing, it will be that by which I am most defirous to please, the Truth and the Sentiment; and if any thing offenfive, it will be only to those I am leaft forry to offend, the vicious or the ungenerous.
Many will know their own pictures in it, there being not a circumstance but what is true; but I have for
the most part spared 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 infcribed, that I make not as free use of theirs as they have done of mine. However, I fhall have this advantage, and honour, on my fide, that whereas, by their proceeding, any abuse may be directed at any man, no injury can poffibly be done by mine, fince a nameless Character can never be found out, but by its truth and likeness.
Dr. ARBUTHNOT. An Apology for himself and his Writings.
Ep. to Dr. Arbuthnot.] AT the time of publishing this Epiftle, the Poet's patience was exhaufted by the endless impertinence of Poetafters of all ranks and conditions; as well those who courted his favour, as those 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 displeased to fee their common injuries revenged on this pernicious Tribe; yet, as our Author's friend and phyfician, he was follicitous 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 humorously applied to his Physician in the manner one would ask for a receipt to kill Vermin, he ftrait goes on, in the common character of askers 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 fimile, in which he names Kings, Queens, and Minifters of State, his Friend takes the alarm, and begs him to forbear; advifes him to ftick to his fubject, and to be eafy under fo 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 fimile, at once,
"Out with it, DUNCIAD! let the fecret pafs," &c,
But recollecting the humanity and tendernefs of his Friend, which, he apprehends, might be a little fhocked at the apparent feverity of fuch a proceeding, he affures him, that his good-nature is alarmed without a caufe; for that nothing has lefs feeling than this fort of offenders; which he illuftrates in the Examples of a damn'd Poet, a detected Slanderer, a TableParafite, a Church-Buffon, and a Party-Writer (from Ver. 1 to 101.)
But, in this enumeration, coming again to Names, his Friend once more stops him; and bids him confider what hoftilities this general attack would fet on foot. So much the better, replies the Poet; for, confidering the ftrong antipathy of bad to good, enemies they will always be, either open or fecret and it admits of no queftion, but a Slanderer is lefs hurtful than a Flatterer. For, fays he (in a pleasant Simile addreffed 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 these creatures was, he fhews, by obferving, that they praifed him even for his infirmities; his bad health, and his inconvenient shape (Ver. 100 to 125.)
But ftill it might be faid, that if he could bear this evil annexed to Authorship no better, he fhould not have written. at all. To this he anfwers, by lamenting the natural bent of his difpofition; which, from his very birth, had drawn him. towards Poetry fo ftrongly, 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,
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 Jealousy 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 circumstances of fortune, befet with flatterers and pick-thanks; regarded
our Author as his Rival, fet up by a contrary Faction, with views destructive 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, fet up for a Patron, or a Dictator amongst the Wits; but ftill kept in his usual privacy; leaving the whole Caftalian ftate, as he calls it, to a Mock-Mecenas, whom he next describes (Ver. 124 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 trusted with it, he concludes his wish with a defcription of his temper and difpofition (Ver. 260 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 leaft 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 coun tenancing fuch worthless trash in others, that he would be ready to execrate even his own beft vein of poetry, if made at the expence of Truth and Innocence.
"Curst be the verse, how well foe'er it flow, "That tends to make one worthy man my foe; "Give Virtue fcandal, Innocence a fear, "Or from the foft-ey'd Virgin steal a tear." Sentiments, which no efforts of genius, without the concur rence 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 fpeak 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 (Ver. 270 to 334.)