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“ judge (faith he) by his concern, who was the true
mother of the child i?"
But from all that hath been said, the discerning reader will collect, that it little availed our Author to have any Candour, fince, when he declared he did not write for others, it was not credited; as little to have any Modesty, fince, when he declined writing in any way himself, the presumption of others was imputed to him. If he fingly enterprized one great work, he was taxed of Boldness and Madness to a Prodigyk : If he took afliltants in another, it was complained of, and represented as a great injury to the Publiel. The loftiest heroics; the loweft ballads, treatises against the state or church, fatires on lords and ladies, raillery on wits and authors, squabbles with booksellers, or even full and true accounts of monsters, poisons, and murders ; of any hereof was there nothing so good, nothing so bad, which hath not at one or other season been to him ascribed. If it bore no author's name, then lay he concealed ; if it did, he fathered it upon that author to be yet better concealed : If it resembled any of his styles, then was it evident; if it did not, then disguised he it on set purpose. Yea, even direct oppositions in religion, principles, and politics, have equally been supposed in him inherent. Surely a most
i Cibber's Letter to Mr. P. p. 19. k Burnet's Homerides, p. 1. of his translation of the Iliad.
Į The London and Mist's Journals, on his undertaking the Odyfey.
rare and fingular character; Of which let the reader make what he can.
Doubtless moft Commentators would hence take occasion to turn all to their Author's advantage, and from the testimony of his very Enemies would affirm, That his Capacity was boundless, as well as his Imagination ; that he was a perfect master of all Styles, and all Arguments; and that there was in those times no other Writer, in any kind, of any degree of excellence, fave he himself. But as this is not our own sentiment, we shall determine on nothing ; but leave thee, gentle reader, to steer thy judgment equally between various opinions, and to chuse whether thou wilt incline to the Testimonies of Authors avowed, or of Authors concealed ; of those who knew him, or of those who knew him not.
OF THE POEM.
HIS poem, as it celebrateth the most grave and
ancient of things, Chaos, Night, and Dulness; fo is it of the most grave and ancient kind. Homer (faith Aristotle) was the first who gave the Form, and (faith Horace) who adapted the Measure, to heroic poesy. But even before this, may be rationally presumed from what the Ancients have left written, was a piece by Homer composed, of like nature and matter with this of our Poet. For of Epic fort it appeareth to have been, yet of matter surely not unpleasant, wit. ness what is reported of it by the learned archbishop Eustathius, in Odyff. x. And accordingly Aristotle, in his Poetics, chap. iv. doth further set forth, that as the Iliad and Odyssey gave example to Tragedy, so did this poem to Comedy its first idea.
From these authors also it should seem, that the Hero, or chief personage of it was no less obscure, and his understanding and sentiments no less quaint and strange (if indeed not more so) than any of the actors of our poem.
MARGITES was the name of this personage, whom Antiquity recordeth to have been Dunce the first; and surely from what we hear of him, not unworthy to he the root of so spreading a tree, and so numerous a posterity. The poem
therefore celebrating him was properly and absolutely a Dunciad; which VOL. III,
though now unhappily loft, yet is its nature sufficiently known by the infallible tokens aforesaid. And thus it doth appear, that the first Dunciad was the first Epic poem, written by Homer himself, and anterior even to the Iliad or Odyssey.
Now, forasmuch as our poet hath translated those two famous works of Homer which are yet left, he did conceive it in some fort his duty to imitate that also which was loft: and was therefore induced to beftow on it the faine form which Homer's is reported to have had, namely that of Epic poem; with a title alla framed after the ancient Greek manner, to wit, that of Dun. ciad.
Wonderful it is, that fo few of the moderns have been stimulated to attempt some Dunciad! since, in the opinion of the multitude, it might cost less pain and toil than an imitation of the greater Epic. But possible it is also, that, on due reflection, the maker might find it easier to paint a Charlemagne, a Brute, or a Godfrey, with just pomp and dignity heroic, than a Margites, a Codrus, or a Fleckno.
We Thall next declare the occasion and the cause which moved our poet to this particular work. He lived in those days, wlien (after Providence had permitted the invention of Printing as a scourge for the fins of the learned) Paper also became fo cheap, and Printers fo numerous, that a deluge of authors covered the land: Whereby not only the Peace of the honeft unwriting subject was daily molested, but unmerciful dejnands were made of his applause, yea of his money,
by such as would neither earn the one, nor deserve the other. At the same time, the licence of the Press was such, that it grew dangerous to refuse them either: for they would forthwith publish Nanders unpunished, the authors being anonymous, and skulking under the wings of publishers, a set of men who neither scrupled to vend either Calumny or Blasphemy, as long as the Town would call for it.
a Now our author, living in those times, did conceive it an endeavour well worthy an honest Satirist, to dissuade the dull, and punish the wicked, the only way that was left. In that public-spirited view he laid the plan of this poem, as the greatest service he was capable (without much hurt, or being flain) to render his dear country. First, taking things from their original, he considereth the causes creative of such Authors, namely Dulness and Poverty ; the one born with them, the other contracted by neglect of their proper talents, through self-conceit of greater abilities. This truth he wrappeth in an Allegory b (as the construction of Epic poely requireth) and feigns that one of these Goddesses had taken up her abode with the other, and that they jointly inspired all such writers and such works. He proceedeth to fhew the qualities they bestow on these authors, and the effects they produce d; then the materials, or stock, with which they furnish theme; and
a Vide Boffu, Du Poeme Epique, chap. viii.