« AnteriorContinuar »
Pope Alexander's Supremacy and Infallibility Examined, and the Errors of
Scriblerus and his man William (Cleland] Detected.” 1729.)
Dennis, Remarks on Prince Arthur.1 I cannot but think it the most reasonable thing in the world, to distinguish good writers by discouraging the bad. Nor is it an ill-natured thing, in relation even to the very persons upon whom the reflections are made. It is true it may deprive them a little sooner of a short profit and a transitory reputation ; but then it may have a good effect, and oblige them (before it be too late) to decline that for which they are so very unfit, and to have recourse to something in which they may be more successful.
Character of Mr. Pope, 1716. The persons whom Boileau has attacked in his writings, have been for the most part authors, and most of those authors, poets: and the censures he hath passed upon them have been confirmed by all Europe.
Gildon, Preface to his New Rehearsal. It is the common cry of the poetasters of the town, and their fautors, that it is an ill-natured thing to expose the pretenders to wit and poetry. The judges and magistrates may, with full as good reason, be reproached with ill-nature for putting the laws in execution against a thief or impostor. The same will hold in the republic of letters, if the critics and judges will let every ignorant pretender to scribbling pass on the world.
Theobald, Letter to Mist, June 22, 1728. Attacks may be levelled, either against failures in genius, or against the pretensions of writing without one.
Concanen, Dedication to the Author of the Dunciad. A satire upon dulness is a thing that has been used and allowed in all ages.
Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, wicked scribbler.
1 (For notices of Dennis, Gildon, and the other parties satirised, see the end of the Dunciad.]
TESTIMONIES OF AUTHORS
OUR POET AND HIS WORKS.
M. SCRIBLERUS Lectori S.
we present thee with our exercitations on this most delectable poem (drawn from the many volumes of our Adversaria on modern authors) we shall here, according to the laudable usage of editors, collect the various judgments of the learned concerning our poet: various indeed, not only of different authors, but of the same author at different seasons. Nor shall we gather only the testimonies of such eminent wits, as would of course descend to posterity, and consequently be read without our collection ; but we shall likewise with incredible labour seek out for divers others, which, but for this our diligence, could never at the distance of a few months appear to the eye of the most curious. Hereby thou mayest not only receive the declaration of variety, but also arrive at a more certain judgment, by a grave and circumspect comparison of the witnesses with each other, or of each with himself. Hence also thou wilt be enabled to draw reflections, not only of a critical, but a moral nature, by being let into many particulars of the person as well as genius, and of the fortune as well as merit, of our author: in which if I relate some things of little concern peradventure to thee, and some of as little even to him; I entreat thee to consider how minutely all true critics and commentators are wont to insist upon such, and how material they seem to themselves, if to none other. Forgive me, gentle reader, if (following learned example) I ever and anon become tedious: allow me to take the same pains to find whether my author were good or bad, well or ill-natured, modest or arro
gant; as another, whether his author was fair or brown, short or tall, or whether he wore a coat or a cassuck.
We purposed to begin with his life, parentage, and education : but as to these, even his contemporaries do exceedingly differ. One saith, he was educated at home; another,2 that he was bred at St. Omer's by Jesuits; a third, not at St. Omer's, but at Oxford ; a fourth,4 that he had no university education at all. Those who allow him to be bred at home, differ as much concerning his tutor: one saith, he was kept by his father on purpose ; a second, that he was an itinerant priest; a third, that he was a parson ; one 8 calleth him a secular clergyman of the church of Rome; another, 9 a monk. As little do they agree about his father, whom one 10 supposeth, like the father of Hesiod, a tradesman or merchant; another, 11 a husbandman; another,12 a hatter,13 &c. Nor has an author been wanting to give our poet such a father, as Apuleius hath to Plato, Jamblichus to Pythagoras, and divers to Homer, namely a demon : For thus Mr. Gildon :14 “ Certain it is, that his original is not from Adam, but the devil ; and that he wanted nothing but horns and tail to be the exact resemblance of his infernal Father.” Finding, therefore, such contrariety of opinions, and (whatever be ours of this sort of generation) not being fond to enter into controversy, we shall defer writing the life of our poet, till authors can determine among themselves what parents or education he had, or whether he had any education or parents at all.
Proceed we to what is more certain, his works, though not less uncertain the judgments concerning them; beginning with his
1 Giles Jacob's Lives of Poets, vol. ii. in his Life.
4 Jacob's Lives, &c. vol. ii. 5 Farmer P. and his Son.
6 Guardian, No. 40. 7 Dunciad Dissected, p. 4.
8 Dunciad Dissected. 9 Characters of the Times, p. 45. 10 Female Dunciad, p. ult. 11 Dunciad Dissected. 12 Roome, Paraphrase on the Fourth of Genesis, printed 1729. 13 His father was a hatter.
14 Character of Mr. P. and his Writings, in a Letter to a friend, printed for S. Popping, 1716, p. 10. Curll, in his Key to the Dunciad, (first edition said to be printed for A. Dodd,) in the 10th page, declared Gildon to be author of that libel; though in the subsequent editions of his Key he left out this assertion, and affirmed (in the Curliad, p. 4, and 8) that it was written by Dennis only.
Essay on Criticism, of which hear first the most ancient of critics,
MR. JOHN DENNIS, “ His precepts are false or trivial, or both; his thoughts are crude and abortive, his expressions absurd, his numbers harsh and unmusical, his rhymes trivial and common :-instead of majesty, we have something that is very mean; instead of gravity, something that is very boyish ; and instead of perspicuity and lucid order, we have but too often obscurity and confusion.” And in another place : “ What rare numbers are here! Would not one swear that this youngster had espoused some antiquated Muse, who had sued out a divorce from some superannuated sinner, upon account of impotence.”
No less peremptory is the censure of our hypercritical historian,
MR. OLDNIXON. “ I dare not say anything of the Essay on Criticism in verse; but if any more curious reader has discovered in it something new which is not in Dryden's prefaces, dedications, and his Essay on Dramatic Poetry, not to mention the French critics, I should be very glad to have the benefit of the discovery.” 16
He is followed (as in fame, so in judgment) by the modest and simple-minded
MR. LEONARD WELSTED ; who, out of great respect to our poet not naming him, doth yet glance at his essay, together with the Duke of Buckingham's, and the criticisms of Dryden, and of Horace, which he more openly taxeth.17
“ As to the numerous treatises, essays, arts, &c., both in verse and prose, that have been written by the moderns on this ground-work, they do but hackney the same thoughts over again, making them still more trite. Most of their pieces are nothing but a pert, insipid heap of common-place. Horace has, even in his Art of Poetry, thrown out several things which plainly
15 Reflections Critical and Satirical on a Rhapsody, called an Essay on Criticism. Printed for Bernard Lintot, octavo.
16 Essay on Criticism in prose, octavo, 1728, by the author of The Critical History of England.
17 Preface to his Poems, pp. 18, 53.