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in general afford it a most quiet reception, and the larger part accept it as favourably as if it were some kindness done to themselves: whereas, if a known scoundrel or blockhead but chance to be touched upon, a whole legion is up in arms, and it becomes the common cause of all scribblers, booksellers, and printers whatsoever.
Not to search too deeply into the reason hereof, I will only observe as a fact, that every week, for these two months past, the town has been persecuted with pamphlets, advertisements2, letters, and weekly essays, not only against the wit and writings, but against the character and person, of Mr. Pope; and that of all those men who have received pleasure from his works, (which by modest
or more, the common newspapers (in most of which they had some property, as being hired writers) were filled with the most abusive falsehoods and scurrilities they could possibly devise; a liberty no ways to be wondered at in those people, and in those papers, that for many years, during the uncontrolled licence of the press, had aspersed almost all the great characters of the age; and this with impunity, their own persons and names being utterly secret and obscure. This gave Mr. Pope the thought, that he had now some opportunity of doing good, by detecting and dragging into light these common enemies of mankind; since, to invalidate this universal slander, it sufficed to show what contemptible men were the authors of it. He was not without hopes that, by manifesting the dulness of those who had only malice to recommend them, either the booksellers would not find their account in employing them, or the men themselves, when discovered, want courage to proceed in so unlawful an occupation. This it was that gave birth to the Dunciad; and he thought it an happiness that by the late flood of slander on himself, he had acquired such a peculiar right over their names as was necessary to his design. W.
2 See the list of those anonymous papers, with their dates, and authors annexed, inserted before the poem.
computation may be about a hundred thousand 3 in these kingdoms of England and Ireland, not to mention Jersey, Guernsey, the Orcades, those in the New World, and foreigners who have translated him into their languages) of all this number not a man hath stood up to say one word in his defence.
The only exception is the author of the following poem, who doubtless had either a better insight into the grounds of this clamour, or a better opinion of Mr. Pope's integrity, joined with a greater personal love for him than any other of his numerous friends and admirers.
Further, that he was in his peculiar intimacy, appears from the knowledge he manifests of the most private authors of all the anonymous pieces against him, and from his having in this poem 5 attacked no man living who had not before printed or published some scandal against this gentleman.
3 It is surprising with what stupidity this Preface, which is almost a continued irony, was taken by those authors. All such passages as these were understood by Curl, Cooke, Cibber, and others, to be serious. Hear the Laureat (Letter to Mr. Pope, p. 9.) Though I grant the Dunciad a better poem of its kind than ever was writ, yet, when I read it with those vain-glorious incumbrances of notes and remarks upon it, &c.-it is amazing that you, who have writ with such masterly spirit upon the ruling passion, should be so blind a slave to your own, as not to see how far a low avarice of praise,' &c. (taking it for granted that the notes of Scriblerus and others were the author's own.) W.
A very plain irony, speaking of Mr. Pope himself. 5 The publisher, in these words, went a little too far; but it is certain whatever names the reader finds that are unknown to him are of such; and the exception is only of two or three, whose dulness, impudent scurrilities, or selfconceit, all mankind agreed to have justly entitled them to a place in the Dunciad. W.
How I came possessed of it, is no concern to the reader; but it would have been a wrong to him had I detained the publication: since those names which are its chief ornaments die off daily so fast, as must render it too soon unintelligible. If it provoke the author to give us a more perfect edition, I have my end.
Who he is, I cannot say (which is a great pity) there is certainly nothing in his style and manner of writing which can distinguish or discover him; for if it bears any resemblance to that of Mr. Pope, it is not improbable but it might be done on purpose, with a view to have it pass for his. But by the frequency of his allusions to Virgil, and a laboured (not to say affected) shortness in imitation of him, I should think him more an admirer of the Roman poet than of the Grecian, and in that not of the same taste with his friend.
I have been well informed that this work was the labour of full six years of his life, and that
6 This irony had small effect in concealing the author. The Dunciad, imperfect as it was, had not been published two days, but the whole town gave it to Mr. Pope. W.
7 This also was honestly and seriously believed by divers gentlemen of the Dunciad. J. Ralph, preface to Sawney; We are told it was the labour of six years, with the utmost assiduity and application: it is no great compliment to the author's sense to have employed so large a part of his life,' &c. So also Ward, preface to Durgen: The Dunciad, as the publisher very wisely confesses, cost the author six years' retirement from all the pleasures of life; though it is somewhat difficult to conceive, from either its bulk or beauty, that it could be so long in hatching,' &c. But the length of time and closeness of application were mentioned to prepossess the reader with a good opinion of it. They just as well understood what Scriblerus said of the poem.
he wholly retired himself from all the avocations and pleasures of the world to attend diligently to its correction and perfection; and six years more he intended to bestow upon it, as it should seem by this verse of Statius, which was cited at the head of his manuscript:
'Oh mihi bissenos multum vigilata per annos,
Hence also we learn the true title of the poem ; which, with the same certainty as we call that of Homer the Iliad, of Virgil the Eneid, of Camoëns the Lusiad, we may pronounce could have been, and can be, no other than
It is styled heroic, as being doubly so; not only with respect to its nature, which, according to the best rules of the ancients, and strictest ideas of the moderns, is critically such; but also with regard to the heroical disposition and high courage of the writer, who dared to stir up such a formidable, irritable, and implacable race of mortals.
There may arise some obscurity in chronology from the names in the poem, by the inevitable removal of some authors, and insertion of others in their nitches: for, whoever will consider the unity of the whole design, will be sensible that the poem was not made for these authors, but these authors
8 The prefacer to Curl's Key, p. 3, took this word to be really in Statius: By a quibble on the word Duncia, the Dunciad is formed.' Mr. Ward also follows him in the same
for the poem. I should judge that they were clapped in as they rose, fresh and fresh, and changed from day to day; in like manner as when the old boughs wither, we thrust new ones into a chimney.
I would not have the reader too much troubled or anxious, if he cannot decipher them; since, when he shall have found them out, he will probably know no more of the persons than before.
Yet we judged it better to preserve them as they are, than to change them for fictitious names; by which the satire would only be multiplied, and applied to many instead of one. Had the hero, for instance, been called Codrus, how many would have affirmed him to have been Mr. T., Mr. E., Sir R. B.? &c. but now all that unjust scandal is saved, by calling him by a name which, by good luck, happens to be that of a real person,