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Prefixed to the five first imperfect editions of the Dunciad, in
three books, printed at Dublin and London, in octavo and duodecimo, 1797. THE PUBLISHER
TO THE READER.
Ir will be found a true observation, though somewhat surprising, that when any scandal is vented against a man of the highest distinction and character, either in the state or literature, the public in general afford it a most quiet reception, and the larger part accept it as favorably 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 cominon cause of all scribblers, booksellers, and printers whatsoever.
The publisher*. ] Who he was is uncertain; but Edward Ward tells us, in his Preface to Durgen, " That most judges are of opia
nion this Prefare is not of English extraction, but Hibernian,' &c. He means it was written by Dr. Swift, who, whether the publisher or not, may be said, in a sort, to be author of th: Poem. For when he, together with Mr. Pope (for reasons specified in the Preface to their Miscellanies) determined to own the most trifling pieces in which they had any hand, and to destroy all that remained in their power, the first sketch of this poem was znatched from the fire by Dr. Swift, who persuaded his friend to proceed in it, and to him it was therefore inscribed. But the ccasion of printing it was as follows:
There was published in those Miscellanies a Treatise of the Bathos, or, art of sinking in Poetry; in which was a chapter, where the species of bad writers were ranged in classes, and nitial letters of names prefixed, for the most part, at random. But such was the number of poets eminent in that art, that some ine or other took every letter to himself. All fell into so vioint a fury, that for half a year, or more, the common newspajers (in most of which they had some property, as being hired vriiers) were filled with the most abusive falsehoods and scurriities they could possibly devise; a liberty no ways to be woniered at in those people, and in those papers, that, for many
POPE. VOL. IV.
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 perse. cured with pamphlets, advertisements, 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 compu
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 aud naines being utterly secret and u. scure. This gave Mir. Pope the thought, that he had now soile opportunity of doing good, by nie tecting and dragging into light these common enemies of mankind; since, to invalidate 1.5 uriversal slander, it suticed i shew what contempuble mich were the althors of it. He was not without hopes that, by mz. nilesung the dulness of those who had only valice io recommend them, either the booksellers would nounoid their account in coploying them, or the men themselves, when discovered, w2.16 courage io proceedi in so unlawful an oct?pation. This i vras the gave tirth to the Dunciad; and he thought it an happiness that, by the late food of slander on himscii, he had acquired such a peculiar right over their naines as was necessary to ha design.
Pamphlets, adrertisements, &c.] See the list of those 300nymous papers, with their flare's and authors annexed, insclick before the Poein now transferred to the Appendix.]
tation, may be about a hundred thousand 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 adınirers.
Farther, 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 * attacked no man living, who had not before prin•ed or published some scandal against this gentleman.
About an hundred thousand.] It is surprising with what stupidity this Pretace, which is almost a continued irony, was taken by those authors. All such passages as these were understood by Curl, Cook, Cibber, and others, to be serious. Here the Laureate (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 incumberances of
noies and remarks upon ii, &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 uzarice oj praise,” &c. (taking it for granted that the notes of Scribierus and others were ihe Author's own.)
The Author oj the following Poem, &c.) A very plain irony, peaking of Mr Pupe himself. * The Publisher, in these words, went a little too far; but it s certain whatever nimes the reader finds that are unknown to viin, are of such; and the exception is only of two or three, v bose dulness, impudent scurrilities, or self conceit, all man. ind agreed to have justly entitled them to a place in the Dun. iud.
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 edi- ? tion, I have
end. Who he is, I cannot say, and (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 Vir. gil, and a labored (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 labor of full six years of his life, and that he
There is certainly nothing in his style, &c.) This irony had small effect in concealing the author. The Dunciad, imperfect as it was, had not been published two days, but the whole towa gave it to Mr. Pope.
The labour of full si.r years, &c.] This also wis honestly and seriously believed by divers gentlemen of the Dunciad. 5. Ralph, preface to Sawney: We are told it was the labour of 5 I
years, with the utmost assiduity and applicat : 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 Au
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 would seem by this verse of Statius, which was cited at the head of his manuscript:
« On mihi lvissenos 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 Æneid, -of Camoens the Lusiad, --we may pronounce could have been, and can be, no other than
THE DUNCIAD. 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 re
«thor 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 lime 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.
* The prefacer to Curi's Key, P. 3, took this word to be really in Statius: · By a quibble on the word 'Duncia, the Duncud, • is formed,' vir. Ward also follows hin in the sainc opinion.