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it is far otherwise in poetry; witness the works of Mr. Rymer and Mr. Dennis, who, beginning with criticism, became afterwards such poets as no age hath paralleled. With good reason, therefore, did our author choose to write his Essay on that subject at twenty, and reserve for his ma-. turer years this great and wonderful work of THE DUNCIAD. P.
OF THE HERO OF THE POEM.
OF the nature of Dunciad in general, whence derived, and on what authority founded, as well as of the art and conduct of this our poem in particular, the learned and laborious Scriblerus hath, according to his manner, and with tolerable share of judgment, dissertated: but when he cometh to speak of the person of the hero fitted for such poem, in truth he miserably halts and hallucinates: for, misled by one Monsieur Bossu, a Gallic critic, he prateth of I cannot tell what phantom of a hero, only raised up to support the fable. A putrid conceit! as if Homer and Virgil, like modern undertakers, who first build their house, and then seek out for a tenant, had contrived the story of a war and a wandering before they once thought either of Achilles or Æneas. We shall therefore set our good brother, and the world also, right in this particular, by assuring them that, in the greater epic, the prime intention of the Muse is to exalt heroic virtue, in order to
propagate the love of it among the children of men; and, consequently, that the poet's first thought must needs be turned upon a real subject meet for laud and celebration; not one whom he is to make, but one whom he may find truly illustrious. This is the primum mobile of this poetic world, whence every thing is to receive life and motion for this subject being found, he is immediately ordained, or rather acknowledged, an hero, and put upon such action as befitteth the dignity of his character.
But the Muse ceaseth not here her eagle-flight: for sometimes, satiated with the contemplation of these suns of glory, she turneth downward on her wing, and darts with Jove's lightning on the goose and serpent kind. For we apply to the Muse, in her various moods, what an ancient master of wisdom affirmeth of the gods in general 'Si Dii non irascuntur impiis et injustis, nec pios utique justosque diligunt. In rebus enim diversis, ut in utramque partem moveri necesse est, aut in neutram. Itaque qui bonos diligit, et malos odit; et qui malos non odit, nec bonos diligit. Quia et diligere bonos ex odio malorum venit; et malos odisse ex bonorum caritate descendit.' Which, in our vernacular idiom may be thus interpreted: If the gods be not provoked at evil men, neither are they delighted with the good and just; for contrary objects must either excite contrary affections or no affections at all. So that he who loveth good men must at the same time hate the bad; and he who hateth not bad men cannot love the good; because to love good men proceedeth from an aversion to evil, and to hate evil men from a tenderness
to the good.' From this delicacy of the Muse arose the little epic (more lively and choleric than her elder sister, whose bulk and complexion incline her to the phlegmatic); and for this some notorious vehicle of vice and folly was sought out to make thereof an example; an early instance of which (nor could it escape the accurate Scriblerus) the father himself of epic poem affordeth us. From him the practice descended to the Greek dramatic poets, his offspring; who, in the composition of their tetralogy, or set of four pieces, were wont to make the last a satiric tragedy. Happily one of these ancient Dunciads (as we may well term it) is come down unto us, amongst the tragedies of the poet Euripides. And what doth the reader suppose may be the subject thereof? Why, in truth, and it is worthy observation, the unequal contest of an old, dull, debauched buffoon, Cyclops, with the heaven-directed favourite of Minerva: who, after having quietly borne all the monster's obscene and impious ribaldry, endeth the farce in punishing him with the mark of an indelible brand in his forehead. May we not then be excused if, for the future, we consider the epics of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, together with this our poem, as a complete tetralogy, in which the last worthily holdeth the place or station of the satiric piece?
Proceed we therefore in our subject.
been long, and alas for pity! still remaineth a question, whether the hero of the greater epic should be an honest man; or, as the French critics express it, un honnéte homme': but it never
1 Si un heros poëtique doit être un honnête homme. Bossu, Du Poëme Epique, liv. v. ch. 5.
admitted of any doubt but that the hero of the little epic should be his very opposite. Hence, to the advantage of our Dunciad, we may observe how much juster the moral of that poem must needs be where so important a question is previously decided.
But then it is not every knave, nor (let me add) every fool, that is a fit subject for a Dunciad.There must still exist some analogy, if not resemblance of qualities between the heroes of the two poems; and this, in order to admit what neoteric critics call the parody, one of the liveliest graces of the little epic. Thus it being agreed that the constituent qualities of the greater epic hero are wisdom, bravery, and love, from whence springeth heroic virtue; it followeth that those of the lesser epic hero should be vanity, assurance, and debauchery: from which happy assemblage resulteth heroic dulness, the never-dying subject of this our poem.
This being confessed, come we now to particulars. It is the character of true wisdom to seek its chief support and confidence within itself, and to place that support in the resources which proceed from a conscious rectitude of will.-And are the advantages of vanity, when arising to the heroic standard, at all short of this self-complacence? nay, are they not, in the opinion of the enamoured owner, far beyond it? 'Let the world (will such an one say) impute to me what folly or weakness they please; but till wisdom can give me something that will make me more heartily happy, I am contented to be gazed at '.' This, we see, is vanity, according to the heroic gauge or
2 Ded. to the Life of C. Cibber.
measure: not that low and ignoble species which pretendeth to virtues we have not; but the laudable ambition of being gazed at for glorying in those vices which every body knows we have. 'The world may ask (says he) why I make my follies public? Why not? I have passed my time very pleasantly with them 3. In short, there is no sort of vanity such a hero would scruple, but that which might go near to degrade him from his high station in this our Dunciad; namely, "Whether it would not be vanity in him to take shame to himself for not being a wise man 4?'
Bravery, the second attribute of the true hero, is courage manifesting itself in every limb; while its correspondent virtue, in the mock hero, is that same courage all collected into the face: and as power, when drawn together, must needs have more force and spirit than when dispersed, we generally find this kind of courage in so high and heroic a degree, that it insults not only men, but gods. Mezentius is, without doubt, the bravest character in all the Æneis: but how? his bravery, we know, was an high courage of blasphemy. And can we say less of this brave man's? who, having told us that he placed 'his summum bonum in those follies which he was not content barely to possess, but would likewise glory in,' adds, ‘If I am misguided, 'tis Nature's fault, and I follow her. Nor can we be mistaken in making this happy quality a species of courage, when we consider those illustrious marks of it which made his
3 Life, p. 2. oct. edit. 4 Life of C. Cibber, p. 2. octavo. 5 Ibid. p. 23.