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publicly declared himself incorrigible, he is become dead in law (I mean the law epopeian) and devolveth upon the poet as his property; who may take him, and deal with him as if he had been dead as long as an old Egyptian hero: that is to say, embowel and embalm him for posterity.
Nothing, therefore (we conceive) remaineth to hinder his own prophecy of himself from taking immediate effect. A rare felicity! and what few prophets have had the satisfaction to see, alive! Nor can we conclude better than with that extraordinary one of his, which is conceived in these oraculous words, 'my dulness will find somebody to do it right." Tandem Phœbus adest, morsusque inferre parantem Congelat, et patulos, ut erant, indurat hiatus.'2
By virtue of the authority in us vested by the act for subjecting poets to the power of a licenser, we have revised this piece; where, finding the style and appe lation of King to have been given to a certain pretender, pseudo-poet, or phantom, of the name of Tibbald; and apprehending the same may be deemed in some sort a reflection on majesty, or at least an insult on that legal authority which has bestowed on another person the crown of poesy: We have ordered the said pretender, pseudo-poet, or phantom, utterly to vanish and evaporate out of this work; and do declare the said throne of poesy from henceforth to be abdicated and vacant, unless duly and lawfully supplied by the laureate himself. And it is hereby enacted that no other person do presume to fill the
1 See Life, p. 243, 8vo. edit.
2 Ovid, of the serpent biting at Orpheus's head.
TO DR. JONATHAN SWIFT.
BOOK THE FIRST.
The proposition, the invocation, and the inscription. Then the original of the great empire of Dulness, and cause of the continuance thereof. The college of the goddess in the city, with her private academy for poets in particular: the governors of it, and the four cardinal virtues. Then the poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting her, on the evening of a lord-mayor's day, revolving the long succession of her sons, and the glory past and to come. She fixes, her eyes on Bays to be the instrument of that great event which is the subject of the poem. He is described pensive among his books, giving up the cause, and apprehending the period of her empire. After debating whether to betake himself to the church, or to gaming, or to partywriting, he raises an altar of proper books, and (mak. ing first his solemn prayer and declaration) purposes thereon to sacrifice all his unsuccessful writings. As the pile is kindled, the goddess beholding the flame from her seat, flies and puts it out, by casting upon it the poem of Thule. She forthwith reveals herself to him, transports him to her temple, unfolds her arts, and initiates him into her mysteries; then announcing the death of Eusden, the poet laureate, anoints him, carrics him to court, and proclaims him successor.
THE mighty mother, and her son, who brings
The Dunciad, sic MS.] It may well be disputed whether this be a right reading. Ought it not rather be spelled Dunceiad, as the etymology evidently demands? Dunce
You, by whose care, in vain decried and cursed, Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first;
with an e, therefore Dunceiad with an e. That accurate and punctual man of letters, the restorer of Shakespear constantly observes the preservation of this very letter e in spelling the name of his beloved author, and not like his common careless editors, with the omission of one, nay, sometimes of two ee's (as Shakspear,) which is utterly unpardonable. Nor is the neglect of a single letter so trivial as to some it may appear; the alteration whereof in a learned language is an achievement that brings honour to the critic who advances it; and Dr. Bentley will be remembered to posterity for his performances of this sort, as long as the world shall have any esteem for the remains of Menander and Philemon.' Theobald.
This is surely a slip in the learned author of the foregoing note; there having been since produced by an accurate autiquary, an autograph of Shakespeare himself, whereby it appears that he spelled his own name without the first e. And upon this authority it was, that those most critical curators of his monument in Westminster Abbey erased the former wrong reading, and restored the true spelling on a new piece of old Ægyptian granite. Nor for this only do they deserve our thanks, but for exhibiting on the same monument the first specimen of an edition of an author in marble; where (as may be seen on comparing the tomb with the book) in the space of five lines, two words and a whole verse are changed, and it is to be hoped will there stand, and outlast whatever hath been hitherto done in paper; as for the future, our learned sister university (the other eye of England) is taking care to perpetuate a total new Shakespeare at the Clarendon press. Bentl.
It is to be noted that this great critic also has omitted one circumstance; which is, that the inecription with the name of Shakespeare was intended to be placed on the marble scroll to which he points with his hand; instead of which it is now placed behind his back, and that specimen of an edition is put on the scroll, which indeed Shakespeare hath great reason to point at.
Though I have as just a value for the letter E, as any grammarian living, and the same affection for the name of this poem as any critic for that of his author; yet cannot it induce me to agree with those who would aid yet another e to it, and call it the Dunceiade: which being a French and foreign termination, is no way proper to a word entirely English, and vernacular. One e therefore in this case is right, and two ee's wrong. Yet upon the whole, I shall follow the manuscript, and print it without any e at all; moved
Say, how the goddess bade Britannia sleep,
thereto by authority (at all times, with critics, equal, if not superior to reason.) In which method of proceeding, I can aever enough praise my good friend the exact Mr. Thomas Hearne; who, if any word occur, which to him and all mankind is evidently wrong, yet keeps he it in the text with due reverence, and only remarks in the margin, Sic MS. In like manner we shall not amend this error in the title itself, but only note it obiter, to evince to the learned that it was not our fault, nor any effect of our ignorance or inattention. Scribl.
This poem was written in the year 1726. In the next year an imperfect edition was published at Dublin, and reprinted at London in twelves; another at Dublin, and another at London, in octavo; and three others in twelves the same year. But there was no perfect edition before that of London, in quarto; which was attended with notes. We are willing to acquaint posterity, that this poem was presented to King George the Second and his queen, by the hands of Sir Robert Walpole, on the 12th of March, 1728.9. Schol. Vet.
It was expressly confessed in the preface to the first edition, that this poem was not published by the author himself. It was printed originally in a foreign country: and what foreign country? Why, one notorious for blunders; where finding blanks only instead of proper names, these blunderers filled them up at their pleasure.
The very hero of the poem hath been mistaken to this hour; so that we were obliged to open our notes with a discovery who he really was. We learn from the former editor, that this piece was presented by the hands of sir Robert Walpole to King George II. Now the author directly tells us, his hero is the man
The Smithfield muses to the ear of kings.
And it is notorious who was the person on whom this prince conferred the honour of the laurel.
It appears as plainly from the apostrophe to the great in the third verse, that Tibbald could not be the person, who was never an author in fashion, or caressed by the great; whereas this single characteristic is sufficient to point out the true hero: who, above all other poets of his time, was the peculiar delight and chosen companion of the nobility of England; and wrote, as he himself tells us, certain of his works at the earnest desire of persons of quality.
Lastly, the sixth verse affords full proof; this poet being
In eldest time, ere mortals writ or read,
native anarchy, the mind.
the only one who was universally known to have had a son so exactly like him, in his poetical, theatrical, political, and moral capacities, that it could justly be said of him, 'Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first.'
Ver. 1. The mighty mother, and her son, &c.] The reader ought here to be cautioned, that the mother, and not the son, is the principal agent of this poem, the latter of them is only chosen as her colleague (as was anciently the custom in Rome before some great expedition,) the main action of the poem being by no means the coronation of the laureate, which is performed in the very first book, but the restoration of the empire of Dulness in Britain, which is not accomplished till the last.
Ver. 2. The Smithfield Muses.] Smithfield is the place where Bartholomew fair was kept, whose shows, machines, and dramatical entertainments, formerly agreeable only to the taste of the rabble, were by the hero of this poem, and others of equal genius, brought to the theatres of Coventgarden, Lincoln's inn-fields, and the Hay-market, to be the reigning pleasures of the court and town. This happened in the reigns of King George I. and II. See Book iii.
Ver. 4. By Dulness, Jove, and Fate:] i. e. by their judgments, their interests, and their inclinations.
Ver. 15. Laborious, heavy, busy, bold, &c.] I wonder the learned Scriblerus has omitted to advertise the reader, at the opening of this poem, that Dulness here is not to be taken contractedly for niere stupidity, but in the enlarged sense of the word, for all slowness of apprehension, shortness of sight, or imperfect sense of things. It includes (as we see by the poet's own words) labour, industry, and some degrees of activity and boldness; a ruling principle not inert, but turning topsy-turvy the understanding, and inducing an anarchy or confused state of mind. This remark ought to be carried along with the reader throughout the work; and without this caution he will be apt to mistake the importance of many of the characters, as well as of the