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I have been well informed, that this work was the labour of full? six years of his life, and that 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,
Duncia ! 8 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 removal of some authors, and insertion of others, in their niches. 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 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 de. cipher 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.
7 This also was honestly and seriously believed by divers gentlemen of the Dunciad. J. Ralph, pref. 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, pref. 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.
8 The prefacer to Curll'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 opinion.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION,
WITH NOTES, IN QUARTO, 1729.
It will be sufficient to say of this edition, that the reader has here a much more correct and complete copy of the “ Dunciad,” than has hitherto appeared. I cannot answer but some mistakes may have slipt into it, but a vast number of others will be prevented by the names being now not only set at length, but justified by the authorities and reason given. I make no doubt, the author's own motive to use real rather than feigned names, was his care to preserve the innocent from any false application; whereas, in the former editions, which had no more than the initial letters, he was made, by keys printed here, to hurt the inoffensive; and (what was worse) to abuse his friends, by an impression at Dublin.
The commentary which attends this poem was sent me from several hands, and consequently must be unequally written ; yet will have one advantage over most commentaries, that it is not made upon conjectures, or at a remote distance of time: and the reader cannot but derive one pleasure from the very obscurity of the persons it treats of, that it partakes of the nature of a secret, which most people love to be let into, though the men or the things be ever so inconsiderable or trivial.
Of the persons it was judged proper to give some account: for since it is only in this monument that they must expect to survive (and here survive they will, as long as the English tongue shall remain such as it was in the reigns of queen Anne and king George), it seemed but humanity to bestow a word or two upon each, just to tell what he was, what he writ, when he lived, and when he died.
If a word or two more are added upon the chief offenders, it is only as a paper pinned upon the breast, to mark the enormities for which they suffered, lest the correction only should be remembered, and the crime forgotten.
In some articles it was thought sufficient barely to transcribe from Jacob, Curll, and other writers of their own rank, who were much better acquainted with them than any of the authors of this comment can pretend to be. Most of them had drawn each other's characters on certain occasions; but the few here inserted are all that could be saved from the general destruction of such works.
Of the part of Scriblerus I need say nothing; his manner is well enough known, and approved by all but those who are too much concerned to be judges.
The imitations of the ancients are added to gratify those who either never read, or may have forgotten them; together with some of the parodies and allusions to the most excellent of the moderns. If, from the frequency of the former, any man think the poem too much a cento, our poet will but appear to have done the same thing in jest which Boileau did in earnest; and upon which Vida, Fracastorius, and many of the most eminent Latin poets, professedly valued themselves.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION,
SEPARATE, OF THE FOURTH BOOK OF THE DUNCIAD. We apprehend it can be deemed no injury to the author of the three first books of the “Dunciad,” that we publish this fourth. It was found merely by accident, in taking a survey of the library of a late eminent nobleman; but in so blotted a condition, and in so many detached pieces, as plainly showed it to be not only incorrect, but unfinished. That the author of the three first books had a design to extend and complete his poem in this manner, appears from the dissertation prefixed to it, where it is said, that the design is more extensive, and that we may expect other episodes to complete it: and from the declaration in the argument to the third book, that the accomplishment of the prophecies therein, would be the theme hereafter of a greater “Dunciad.” But whether or no he be the author of this, we de. clare ourselves ignorant. If he be, we are no more to be blamed for the publication of it, than Tucca and Varius for that of the last six books of the Æneid, though perhaps inferior to the former.
If any person be possessed of a more perfect copy of this work, or of any other fragments of it, and will communicate them to the publisher, we shall make the next edition more complete : in which, we also promise to insert any criticisms, that shall be published (if at all to the purpose) with the names of the authors; or any letters sent us (though not to the purpose) shall yet be printed under the title of “ Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum;" which, together with some others of the same kind, formerly laid by for that end, may make no unpleasant addition to the future impressions of this poem.
PRINTED IN THE JOURNALS, 1730. WHEREAS, upon occasion of certain pieces relating to the gentlemen of the Dunciad,” some have been willing to suggest, as if they looked upon them as an abuse : we can do no less than own, it is our opinion, that to call these gentlemen bad authors is no sort of abuse, but a great truth. We cannot alter this opinion without some reason ; but we promise to do it in respect to every person who thinks it an injury to be represented as no wit or poet, provided he procures a certificate of his being really such, from any three of his companions in the “Dunciad,” or from Mr. Dennis singly, who is esteemed equal to any three of the number.
ADVERTISEMENT BY WARBURTON
TO THE COMPLETE EDITION OF 1743. I HAVE long had a design of giving some sort of notes on the works of this poet. Before I had the happiness of his acquaintance, I had written a commentary on his “Essay on Man," and have since finished another on the “Essay on Criticism." There was one already on the “Dunciad,” which had met with general approbation: but I still thought some additions were wanting (of a more serious kind) to the humorous notes of Scriblerus, and even to those written by Mr. Cleland, Dr. Arbuthnot, and others. I had lately the pleasure to pass some months with the author in the country, where I prevailed upon him to do what I had long desired, and favour me with his explanation of several passages in his works. It happened, that just at that juncture was published a ridiculous book against him, full of personal reflections, which furnished him with a lucky opportunity of improving this poem, by giving it the only thing it wanted, a more considerable hero. He was always sensible of its defect in that particular, and owned he had let it pass with the hero it had, purely for want of a better; not entertaining the least expectation that such an one was reserved for this post, as has since obtained the laurel : but since that had happened, he could no longer deny this justice either to him or the “Dunciad."
And yet I will venture to say, there was another motive which had still more weight with our author: this person was one, who from every folly (not to say vice) of which another would be ashamed, has constantly derived a vanity: and therefore was the man in the world who would least be hurt by it.
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 appellation 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 same.
A LETTER TO THE PUBLISHER,
OCCASIONED BY THE FIRST CORRECT EDITION OF THE DUNCIAD.
It is with pleasure I hear, that you have procured a correct copy of the "Dunciad,” which the many surreptitious ones have rendered so necessary; and it is yet with more, that I am informed it will be attended with a com. mentary: a work so requisite, that I cannot think the author himself would have omitted it, had he approved of the first appearance of this poem.
Such notes as have occurred to me I herewith send you: you will oblige me by inserting them amongst those which are, or will be, transmitted to you by others; since not only the author's friends, but even strangers, appear en. gaged by humanity, to take some care of an orphan of so much genius and spirit, which its parent seems to have abandoned from the very beginning, and suffered to step into the world naked, unguarded, and unattended.
It was upon reading some of the abusive papers lately published, that my great regard to a person, whose friendship I esteem as one of the chief honours of my life, and a much greater respect to truth, than to him or any man living, engaged me in inquiries, of which the enclosed notes are the fruit.
I perceived that most of these authors had been (doubtless very wisely) the first aggressors. They had tried, till they were weary, what was to be got by railing at each other: nobody was either concerned or surprised if this or that scribbler was proved a dunce: but every one was curious to read what could be said to prove Mr. Pope one, and was ready to pay something for such a discovery: a stratagem, which, would they fairly own, it might not only reconcile them to me, but screen them from the resentment of their lawful superiors, whom they daily abuse, only (as I charitably hope) to get that by them, which they cannot get from them.
I found this was not all : ill suecess in that had transported them to personal abuse, either of himself, or (what I think he could less forgive) of his friends. They had called men of virtue and honour bad men, long before he had either leisure or inclination to call them bad writers: and some had been such old offenders, that he had quite forgotten their persons as well as their slanders, till they were pleased to revive them.
Now what had Mr. Pope done before, to incense them? He had published those works which are in the hands of everybody, in which not the least mention is made of any of them. And what has he done since ? He has laughed, and written the “Dunciad.” What has that said of them ? A very serious truth, which the public had said before, that they were dull: And what it had no sooner said, but they themselves were at great pains to procure, or even purchase room in the prints, to testify under their hands to the truth of it.
I should still have been silent, if either I had seen any inclination in my friend to be serious with such accusers, or if they had only meddled with his writings; since whoever publishes, puts himself on his trial by his