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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 expe. dition), 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.
Wonderful is the stupidity of all the former critics and commentators on this work! It breaks forth at the very first line. The author of the critique prefixed to Sawney, a poem, p. 5, hath been so dull as to explain the man who brings, &c., not of the hero of the piece, but of our poet himself, as if he vaunted that kings were to be his readers; an honour which though this poem hath had, yet knoweth he how to receive it with more modesty.
We remit this ignorant to the first lines of the Æneid, assuring him that Virgil there speaketh not of himself, but of Æneas :
Arma virumque cano, Trojæ qui primus ab oris
Littora : multum ille et terris jactatus et alto, &c. I cite the whole three verses, that I may by the way offer a conjectural emendation, purely my own, upon each: first oris should be read aris, it being, as we see Æn. ii. 513, from the altar of Jupiter Hercæus that Æneas fled as soon as he saw Priam slain. In the second line I would read flatu for fato, since it is most clear it was by winds that he arrived at the shore of Italy. Jactatus, in the third, is surely as improperly applied to terris, as proper to alto; to say a man is tossed on land, is much at one with saying he walks at sea: Risum teneatis, amici ? Correct it, as I doubt not it ought to be, vexatus.-SCRIBL.
Ver. 2. The Smithfield Muses.] Smithfield is the place where Bartholomew l'air 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 Covent Garden, 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. 12.· Daughter of Chaos and eternal Night.] The beauty of this whole allegory being purely of the poetical kind, we think it not our proper business, as a scholiast, to meddle with it; but leave it (as we shall in general all such) to the reader, remarking only, that Chaos (according to Hesiod's Deojovia) was the progenitor of all the gods.—SCRIBLERUS. [The allegory is more directly taken from Milton, Par. Lost, b. 2.
“There eldest Night
Eternal anarchy.”] Ver. 15. Laborious, heavy, busy, bold and blind.] 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 mere 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 design of the poet. Hence it is, that some have complained he chouses too mean a subject, and imagined he employs himself like Domitian, in killing flies; whereas those who have the true key will find he sports with nobler quarry, and embraces a larger compass; or, (as one saith, on a like occasion)
“ Will see his work, like Jacob's ladder, rise,
Its foot in dirt, its head amid the skies."-BENTL. Ver. 16. She ruled in native anarchy the mind.] The native anarchy of the mind is that state which precedes the time of reason's assuming the rule of the passions. But in that state, the uncontrolled violence of the passions would soon bring things to confusion, were it not for the intervention of Dulness, in this absence of reason; who, though she cannot regulate them like reason, yet blunts and deadens their vigour, and, indeed, produces some of the good effects of it: hence it is that Dulness has often the appearance of
This is the only good she ever did; and the poet takes particular care to tell it in the very introduction of his poem. It is to be observed, indeed, that this is spoken of the universal rule of Dulness in ancient days, but we may form an idea of it from her partial government in later times.
Ver. 21. Whether thou choose Cervantes' serious air
Or laugh and shake in Rabelais' easy chair,
To hatch a new Saturnian age of lead.5 1 In the MS. it followed thus :
“Or in the graver gown instruct mankind,
Or silent let thy morals tell thy mind.” 2 Ironicè, alluding to Gulliver's representations of both.—The next line relates to the papers of the Drapier against the currency of Wood's copper coin in Ireland, which, upon the great discontent of the people, his majesty was graciously pleased to recall.
3 Bæotia of old lay under the raillery of the neighbouring wits, as Ireland does now, though each of those nations produced one of the greatest wits and greatest generals of the age.
[This note was displaced in the edition of 1743. The character of Bæotia was certainly redeemed by Pindar and Epaminondas; and Plutarch might also have been cited. The latter imputes the stupidity of the Bæotians to a cause never urged against the Irish--to their gross indulgence in animal food. The Irish wit, of course, was Swift; the general, the Earl of Ossory. Ireland has since, in Moore and Wellington, gained a glorious addition! The affair of Wood's half-pence, alluded to by Pope, was a simple but successful party movement. The copper coinage was wanted for Ireland. Wood, in 1724, obtained a patent for coining half-pence and farthings to the value of £108,000. Sir Isaac Newton had reported favourably on the coins as to quality; but Swift, from hatred to Walpole's government, especially the administration of Irish affairs by Primate Boulter, and his secretary, Ambrose Philips, roused up a spirit of discontent and resistance among the people, and by his Drapier letters ultimately compelled government to abandon the scheme. The national pride was touched by the fact that neither the Lord-lieutenant nor the privy council of Ireland had been consulted on the subject; and Wood, it was reported, had obtained his patent by a bribe given to the king's mistress, the Duchess of Kendal. The contract itself was both just and legal, and Wood might have pleaded the precedent of the royal mint, for the moneyers there also contracted with the government for the coinage. But Swift's object stretched far beyond the “ copper chains" of Ireland. His country was neglected and oppressed under the British sway, and he burned to emancipate it—to let the British rulers see “that by the laws of God, of nature, and of nations, the Irish were and ought to be as free a people as their brethren in England.” Pope alludes to Rabelais as the prototype of Swift. Voltaire said that, in the Tale of a Tub, Swift was Rabelais in his senses. Coleridge more happily characterises him as anima Rabelaisii habitans in siccom the soul of Rabelais dwelling in a dry place. Yet how marvellous is Swift in his insight into human nature-in the various and grotesque combinations of his wit—and in the tremendous power of his irony and invective !]
Ver. 31. Where o'er the gates, by his famed brother's hand,
Great Cibber's brazen brainless brothers stand.
Mr. Caius Gabriel Cibber, father of the poet laureate. The two statues of the lunatics over the gates of Bedlam Hospital were done by him, and (as the son justly says of them) are no ill monuments of his fame as an artist.
[The statues by Cibber are now in the hall of Bethlehem Hospital in St. George's Fields. One represents raving and the other melancholy madness. On the removal of the hospital to the present building, about 1815, the statues
(which are not of brass, but stone painted,) were repaired by Bacon the sculptor. The conception and execution of the figures attest Cibber's genius
and knowledge of art. It may illustrate the state of manners in Pope's time to mention here, that the old Bedlam was then a place of common resort, visited by the idle, the gay, and the curious, who paid a penny or twopence each for admission, and from this source a sum of about £400 per annum was derived. The “Tatler” classes Bedlam with the Lions in the Tower, the Tombs (Westminster Abbey), and the other places which are entertainments to raw minds. Pepys has an entry in his diary which might have served Pope -“Stept into Bedlam, when I saw several poor miserable creatures in chains: one of them was mad with making verses."]
Ver. 33. One cell there is, conceal'd from vulgar eye,
The cave of Poverty and Poetry.2
Escape in monsters and amaze the town. 1 The cell of poor Poetry is here very properly represented as a little unendowed hall in the neighbourhood of the magnific college of Bedlam, and as the surest seminary to supply those learned walls with professors; for there cannot be a plainer indication of madness than in men persisting to starve themselves and offend the public by scribbling,
Escape in monsters, and amaze the town; when they might have benefited themselves and others in profitable and
onest employments. The qualities and productions of the students of this rivate academy are afterwards described in this first book, as are also their ctions throughout the second, by which it appears, how near allied dulness sto madness. This naturally prepares us for the subject of the third book, here we find them in union and acting in conjunction, to produce the catatrophe of the fourth; a mad poetical sibyl leading our hero through the egions of vision, to animate him in the present undertaking, by a view of the ast triumphs of barbarism over science.
2 I cannot here omit a remark that will greatly endear our author to every ne, who shall attentively observe that humanity and candour, which everyhere appears in him towards those unhappy objects of the ridicule of all lankind, the bad poets. He here imputes all scandalous rhymes, scurrilous eekly papers, base flatteries, wretched elegies, songs, and verses (even from nose sung at court to ballads in the streets) not so much to malice or serlity as to dulness, and not so much to dulness as to necessity : and thus, at le very commencement of his satire, makes an apology for all that are to be stirised.
3 Sunt quibus in plures jus est transire figuras :
Ut tibi, complexi terram maris incola, Proteu;
Sæpe lapis poteras.-Ovid. Met. viii. Neither Palæphatus, Phurnutus, nor Heraclides gives us any steady light to the mythology of this mysterious fable. If I be not deceived in a part of arning which has so long exercised my pen, by Proteus must certainly be eant a hackneyed town-scribbler; and by his transformations, the various isguises such a one assumes, to elude the pursuit of his irreconcilable demy, the bailiff. Proteus is represented as one bred of the mud and slime [ Ægypt, the original soil of arts and letters: and what is a town-scribbler, at a creature made up of the excrements of luxurious science? By the lange then into a boar is meant his character of a furious and dirty partyriter: the snake signifies a libeller; and the horns of the bull, the dilemmas 'a polemical answerer. These are the three great parts he acts under; and hen he has completed his circle he sinks back again, as the last change into stone denotes, into his natural state of immovable stupidity. pect thanks of the learned world for this discovery, I would by no means prive that excellent critic of his share, who discovered before me, that in le character of Proteus was designed sophistam, magum, politicum, præsertim bus sese accommodanten : which in English is, a political writer, a libeller, and disputer, writing indifferently for or against every party in the state, every let in religion, and every character in private life. See my Fables of Ovid plained.—ABBE BANIER.
If I may