Page images

Bless me! packet.8 ""Tis a stranger sues,
A virgin tragedy, an orphan Muse."

If I dislike it, "Furies, death and rage!"

If I approve,

"Commend it to the stage."

There (thank my stars) my whole commission ends,
The players and I are, luckily, no friends;9

Fired that the house reject him, "'Sdeath I'll print it,
And shame the fools-Your interest, Sir, with Lintot."
Lintot, dull rogue! will think your price too much:
"Not, Sir, if you revise it, and retouch."

All my demurs but double his attacks:

And last he whispers, "Do; and we go snacks."
Glad of a quarrel, straight I clap the door :

Sir, let me see your works and you no more.

'Tis sung, when Midas' ears began to spring,

(Midas, a sacred person and a king)

His very minister who spied them first,

(Some say his queen) was forced to speak or burst:10 And is not mine, my friend, a sorer case,

When every coxcomb perks them in my face?

A. Good friend forbear! you deal in dangerous things,
I'd never name queens, ministers, or kings:
Keep close to ears, and those let asses prick,

'Tis nothing-P. Nothing? if they bite and kick?
Out with it, DUNCIAD! let the secret pass,
That secret to each fool, that he's an ass :

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

8 [Alludes to a tragedy called the Virgin Queen, by Mr. R. Barford, published 1729, who displeased Pope by daring to adopt the fine machinery of his sylphs in an heroi-comical poem called The Assembly.- Warton.] 9 [In first edit.

"Cibber and I are luckily no friends."

Cibber, in his letter to Pope, 1742, notices this alteration. "You have taken off a little of its edge," he says. "This is so uncommon an instance of your checking your temper, and taking a little shame to yourself, that I cannot in justice omit my notice of it."]

10 The story is told by some of his barber, but by Chaucer of his Queen. See Wife of Bath's Tale in Dryden's Fables. [It is scarcely necessary to point out that the poet intends a sarcastic allusion to Queen Caroline and Sir Robert Walpole. The Queen's management of the King, as detailed by Lord Hervey in his Memoirs, was as artfully constructed and evolved as any dramatic plot. Walpole knew where the real power lay, and made his arrangements accordingly. Hervey, in a letter to Bishop Hoadley (1734) has the expression, "You know the King's two ears as well as I do."]

The truth once told (and wherefore should we lie?)
The Queen of Midas slept, and so may I.

You think this cruel? Take it for a rule,

No creature smarts so little as a fool.
Let peals of laughter, Codrus! round thee break,
Thou unconcerned canst hear the mighty crack :
Pit, box, and gallery in convulsions hurl'd,
Thou stand'st unshook amidst a bursting world.11
Who shames a scribbler? break one cobweb through,12
He spins the slight, self-pleasing thread anew:
Destroy his fib or sophistry, in vain,
The creature's at his dirty work again,
Throned in the centre of his thin designs,
Proud of a vast extent of flimsy lines!
Whom have I hurt? has poet yet, or peer,
Lost the arch'd eyebrow, or Parnassian sneer?
And has not Colley still his lord, and whore?
His butchers Henley, his free-masons Moore ?1
Does not one table Bavius still admit?
Still to one bishop Philips seem a wit?14
Still Sappho-A. Hold; for God's sake-you'll offend:
No names-be calm-learn. prudence of a friend.

11 Alluding to Horace,

"Si fractus illabatur orbis,

Impavidum ferient ruinæ."

[Or rather to Addison's version

[ocr errors]


Should the whole frame of Nature round him break,

In ruin and confusion hurl'd,

He unconcern'd would hear the mighty crack,

And stand secure amidst a falling world."]

12 [In first edit.

"Scribblers, like spiders, break one cobweb through,
Still spin," &c.

There are numerous small alterations in this Epistle.]

[blocks in formation]

13 He was of this society, and frequently headed their processions. [Orator Henley and James Moore Smythe. The former preached in Newport and Clare Markets.]

14 [The Bavius of this couplet has not been named. Shadwell used to represent the character, but he had been dead long ere this Epistle was written. Dennis died in January of the same year, 1733-4. The bishop alluded to was Bishop Boulter, Primate of Ireland, to whom Ambrose Philips was for some time secretary.]

I too could write, and I am twice as tall

But foes like these-P. One flatterer's worse than all.

Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right,


It is the slaver kills, and not the bite.

A fool quite angry is quite innocent:

Alas! 'tis ten times worse when they repent.
One dedicates in high heroic prose,
And ridicules beyond a hundred foes :


One from all Grub-street will my fame defend,
And, more abusive, calls himself my friend.15
This prints my letters, that expects a bribe,
And others roar aloud, "Subscribe, subscribe!"

There are, who to my person pay their court: I cough Horace,


[ocr errors]

Ammon's great son one shoulder had too high,

Such Ovid's nose, and, "Sir! you have an eye." 16

Go on, obliging creatures, make me see

All that disgraced my betters met in me.


Say, for my comfort, languishing in bed,
"Just so immortal Maro held his head;"
And, when I die, be sure you let me know
Great Homer died three thousand years ago."17

Why did I write? what sin to me unknown
Dipp'd me in ink, my parents', or my own?
As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


16 [Warburton mentions that Pope's eye was "fine, sharp, and piercing." He was, however, troubled with some complaint in his eyes, for which he placed himself under Dr. Cheselden.]

17 After ver. 124, in the MS.

"But, friend, this shape which you and Curll admire,

Came not from Ammon's son, but from my sire;
And for my head, if you 'll the truth excuse,
I had it from my mother, not the Muse.
Happy, if he, in whom these frailties join'd,

Had heir'd as well the virtues of the mind."

[Curll set up his head for a sign. His father was crooked. His mother

was much afflicted with headaches.-Warburton.]

I left no calling for this idle trade,

No duty broke, no father disobey'd:


The Muse but served to ease some friend, not wife,

To help me through this long disease, my life;

To second, ARBUTHNOT! thy art and care,
And teach the being you preserved to bear.

But why then publish? Granville the polite,
And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write;
Well-natured Garth inflamed with early praise,
And Congreve loved, and Swift endured my lays;
The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield read,
Even mitred Rochester would nod the head, 18
And St. John's self (great Dryden's friends before)
With open arms received one poet more.
Happy my studies, when by these approved!
Happier their author, when by these beloved!
From these the world will judge of men and books,
Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cookes. 19

Soft were my numbers; who could take offence
While pure description held the place of sense?
Like gentle Fanny's 20 was my flowery theme,
A painted mistress, or a purling stream. 21
Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill;
I wish'd the man a dinner, and sate still.
Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret;
I never answer'd-I was not in debt.





18 All these were patrons or admirers of Mr. Dryden; though a scandalous libel against him, entitled Dryden's Satyr to his Muse, has been printed in the name of the Lord Somers, of which he was wholly ignorant. These are the persons to whose account the author charges the publication of his first pieces; persons, with whom he was conversant (and, he adds, beloved) at 16 or 17 years of age; an early period for such acquaintance. The catalogue might be made yet more illustrious, had he not confined it to that time when he writ the Pastorals and Windsor Forest, on which he passes a sort of cen sure in the lines following,

"While pure description held the place of sense?"

19 Authors of secret and scandalous history. [They will all be found in the Dunciad, with Gildon, Dennis, &c., subsequently introduced.]

20 [In first edit. "Like gentle Damon's," &c. Altered, no doubt, to apply to Lord Hervey, the Lord Fanny of many a satire.]

21 "A painted meadow, or a purling stream," is a verse of Mr. Addison's.

If want provoked, or madness made them print,
I waged no war with Bedlam or the Mint.

Did some more sober critic come abroad--
If wrong, I smiled; if right, I kiss'd the rod.
Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence,
And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense.
Commas and points they set exactly right,
And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite;
Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel graced these ribalds,

From slashing Bentley down to piddling Tibbalds : 22



Each wight, who reads not, and but scans and spells, 165
Each word-catcher, that lives on syllables,

Even such small critics, some regard may claim,
Preserved in Milton's or in Shakespear's name.
Pretty in amber to observe the forms

Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms!
The things we know are neither rich nor rare,
But wonder how the devil they got there. 23

Were others angry-I excused them too;


Well might they rage, I gave them but their due.
A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find;


But each man's secret standard in his mind,

That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness,
This, who can gratify, for who can guess?
The bard whom pilfer'd Pastorals renown,
Who turns a Persian tale for half a crown, 24
Just writes to make his barrenness appear,


And strains from hard-bound brains, eight lines a-year;

22 [In the first publication of these verses, as a fragment in the Miscellanies, 1727, this line stood

"From sanguine Sew-" &c.

It was then altered to daring Bentley, and next to slashing Bentley. One of the poet's contemporary critics (Letter to Mr. Pope, 1735), says—“Who this Sewis I don't know, but why must Bentley come slashing and take his place? You are grown very angry, it seems, at Dr. Bentley of late. Is it because he said (to your face I have been told) that your Homer was miserable stuff; that it might be called Homer modernised, or something to that effect: but that there were very little or no vestiges of the old Grecian?"] 23 [In early editions

"Not that the things are either rich or rare,

But all the wonder is, how they got there?"] 24 Amb. Philips translated a book called the Persian Tales.

« PreviousContinue »