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PROLEGOMENA AND ILLUSTRATIONS
WITH THE HYPERCRITICS OF ARISTARCHUS.
DENNIS, Remarks on Prince Arthur. Í CANNOT but think it the most reasonable thing in the world to distinguish good writers, by discouraging the bad: nor is it an ill-natured thing, in relation even to the very persons upon whom the reflections are made. It is true, it may deprive them a little the sooner of a short profit and a transitory reputation; but then it may have a good effect, and oblige them (before it be too late) to decline that for which they are so very unfit, and to have recourse to something in which they may be more successful.
Character of Mr. P. 1716.
The persons whom Boileau has attacked in his writings, have been for the most part authors, and most of those authors poets: and the censures he hath passed upon them have been confirmed by all Europe.
GILDON, Preface to his New Rehearsal.
It is the common cry of the poetasters of the town, and their fautors, that it is an ill-natured thing to expose the pretenders to wit and poetry.
The judges and magistrates may with full as good reason be reproached with ill-nature for putting the laws in execution against a thief or impostor.The same will hold in the Republic of Letters, if the critics and judges will let every ignorant pretender to scribbling pass on the world.
THEOBALD, Letter to MIST, June 22, 1728.
Attacks may be levelled either against failures in genius, or against the pretensions of writing without one.
CONCANEN, Ded. to the Author of the Dunciad. A Satire upon dulness is a thing that has been used and allowed in all ages.
Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, wicked Scribbler.
TESTIMONIES OF AUTHORS
Our Poet and his Works.
M. SCRIBLERUS LECTORI S.
BEFORE we present you with our exercitations on this most delectable poem (drawn from the many volumes of our adversaria on modern authors) we shall here, according to the laudable usage of editors, collect the various judgments of the learned concerning our poet; various, indeed, not only of different authors, but of the same author at different seasons. Nor shall we gather only the testimonies of such eminent wits as would
of course descend to posterity, and consequently be read without our collection; but we shall likewise, with incredible labour, seek out for divers others, which, but for this our diligence, could never, at the distance of a few months, appear to the eye of the most curious. Hereby thou mayst not only receive the delectation of variety, but also arrive at a more certain judgment, by a grave and circumspect comparison of the witnesses with each other, or of each with himself. Hence, also, thou wilt be enabled to draw reflections, not only of a critical, but a moral nature, by being let into many particulars of the person as well as genius, and of the fortune as well as merit, of our author: in which if I relate some things of little concern, peradventure, to thee, and some of as little even to him, I intreat thee to consider how minutely all true critics and commentators are wont to insist upon such, and how material they seem to themselves, if to none other. Forgive me, gentle reader, if (following learned example) I, ever and anon, become tedious; allow me to take the same pains to find whether any author were good or bad, well or ill-natured, modest or arrogant; as another, whether his author was fair or brown, short or tall, or whether he wore a coat or a cassock.
We purposed to begin with his life, parentage, and education; but as to these even his contemporaries do exceedingly differ. One saith he was educated at home; another, that he was bred at
1 Giles Jacob's Lives of the Poets, Vol. II. in his life. 2 Dennis's Reflections on the Essay on Criticism, p. 4.
St. Omer's by Jesuits; a third3, not at St. Omer's, but at Oxford; a fourth, that he had no university education at all. Those who allow him to be bred at home differ as much concerning his tutor: one saith' he was kept by his father on purpose; a second, that he was an itinerant priest; a third, that he was a parson; one calleth him a secular clergyman of the Church of Rome; another, a monk. As little do they
agree about his father, whom one supposeth, like the father of Hesiod, a tradesman or merchant; another", a husbandman; another', a hatter, &c. Nor has an author been wanting to give our poet such a father as Apuleius hath to Plato, Jamblichus to Pythagoras, and divers to Homer, namely, a demon for thus Mr. Gildon 13,
Certain it is that his original is not from Adam, but the devil, and that he wanteth nothing but horns and tail to be the exact resemblance of his infernal father.' Finding, therefore, such contrariety of opinions, and (whatever be ours of this sort of generation) not being fond to enter into controversy, we shall defer writing the Life of our
3 Dunciad Dissected, p. 4. 5 Jacob's Lives, &c. Vol. II. 7 Farmer P. and his son. 9 Character of the Times, p. 45. 11 Dunciad Dissected. the 4th of Genesis, printed 1729.
4 Guardian, No. 40.
6 Dunciad Dissected, p. 4.
Dunciad Dissected. 10 Female Dunciad, p. ult. 12 Roome, Paraphrase on
13 Character of Mr. P. and his writings, in a letter to a friend, printed for S. Popping, 1716, p. 10. Curl, in his Key to the Dunciad, (first edit. said to be printed for A. Dodd) in the tenth page, declared Gildon to be author of that libel though, in the subsequent editions of his Key, he left out this assertion, and affirmed (in the Curliad, p. 4 and 8,) that it was written by Dennis only.
poet till authors can determine
what parents or education he had, or whether he had any education or parents at all.
Proceed we to what is more certain, his Works, though not less uncertain the judgments concerning them; beginning with his Essay on Criticism, of which hear first the most ancient of critics,
MR. JOHN DENNIS.
‹ His precepts are false or trivial, or both; his thoughts are crude and abortive; his expressions absurd, his numbers harsh and unmusical, his rhymes trivial and common.-Instead of majesty, we have something that is very mean; instead of gravity, something that is very boyish; and instead of perspicuity and lucid order, we have but too And in another often obscurity and confusion.' place: What rare numbers are here! would not one swear that this youngster had espoused some antiquated Muse, who had sued out a divorce from some superannuated sinner, upon account of impotence, and who being poxed by her former spouse, has got the gout in her decrepit age, which makes her hobble so damnably 1+?'
No less peremptory is the censure of our hypercritical historian,
'I dare not say any thing of the Essay on Criticism in verse; but if any more curious reader has discovered in it something new, which is not in Dryden's Prefaces, Dedications, and his Essay
14 Reflections critical and satirical on a Rhapsody, called An Essay on Criticism, printed for Bernard Lintot, octavo.