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DE FOE AND PRYNNE.
Ver. 103. She saw old Prynne in restless Daniel shine.] The first edition had it,
“She saw in Norton all his father shine." A great mistake; for Daniel De Foe had parts, but Norton De Foe was a wretched writer, and never attempted poetry. Much more justly is Daniel himself made successor to W. Prynne, both of whom wiote verses as well as politics ; as appears by the poem De jure divino, &c., of De Foe, and by these lines, in Cowley's Miscellanies, on the other :
“One lately did not fear
Call'd to this day the Homer of the isle.” And both these authors had a resemblance in their fates as well as writings, having been alike sentenced to the pillory.
[It is little creditable to Pope, that he should have mentioned without branding with his censure, the arbitrary and cruel edicts of the Star Chamber, by which Prynne suffered, or the party violence and intolerance which sent De Foe to the pillory,
That hieroglyphic state machine
Condemn'd to punish fancy in." When not possessed by that spirit of satire which sometimes blinded him to genius and merit, and to all high and ennobling feelings, Pope coald do justice to De Foe. He said to Spence—“The first part of Robinson Crusoe is very good. De Foe wrote a vast many things, and none bad, though none excellent, except this. There is something good in all he has written.”]
LAURENCE EUSDEN, PHILIPS, AND TATE.
Ver. 104. And Eusden eke out Blackmore's endless line.] Laurence Eusden, poet laureate. Mr. Jacob gives a catalogue of some few only of his works, which were very numerous. Mr. Cooke, in his Battle of Poets, saith of him,
“Eusden, a laurell’d bard, by fortune raised,
By very few was read, by fewer praised.” Mr. Oldmixon, in his Arts of Logic and Rhetoric, p. 413, 414, affirms, " That of all the galimatias he ever met with, none comes up to some verses of this poet, which have as much of the ridiculum and the fustian in them as can well be jumbled together; and are of that sort of nonsense, which so perfectly confounds all ideas, that there is no distinct one left in the mind.” Farther he says of him, “ That he hath prophesied his own poetry shall be sweeter than Catullus, Ovid, and Tibullus; but we have little hope of the accomplish. ment of it, from what he hath lately published.” Upon which Mr. Oldmixon has not spared a reflection, “That the putting the laurel on the head of one who writ such verses, will give futurity a very lively idea of the judgment and justice of those who bestowed it.”—Ibid. p. 417. But the well-known learning of that noble person, who was then Lord Chamberlain, might have screened him from this unmannerly reflection. Nor ought Mr. Oldmixon to complain, so long after, that the laurel would have better become his own brows, or any others'. It were more decent to acquiesce in the opinion of the Duke of Buckingham upon this matter:
“In rush'd Eusden, and cried, Who shall have it
Session of Poets. The same plea might also serve for his successor, Mr. Cibber, and is further strengthened in the following epigram, made on that occasion :
“In merry old England it once was a rule,
The king had his poet, and also his fool;
That Cibber can serve both for fool and for poet." [Eusden succeeded Rowe as laureate in 1718. He was appointed through the influence of the Duke of Newcastle, who was then Lord Chamberlain, and he was some time chaplain to Lord Willoughby de Broke; he died rector of Coningsby, in Lincolnshire, in 1730.]
Ver. 105. She saw slow Philips creep like Tate's poor page.] Of Blackmore, see book ii. Of Philips, book i, ver. 262, and book iii. prope fin. Nahum Tate was poet laureate, a cold writer, of no invention; but sometimes translated tolerably when befriended by Mr. Dryden. In his second part of Absalom and Achitophel are above two hundred admirable lines together of that great hand, which strongly shine through the insipidity of the rest. Something parallel may be observed of another author here mentioned.
[The allusion here is evidently to Addison's supposed assistance to Am. brose Philips.]
DENNIS THE CRITIC.
Ver. 106. And all the mighty mad in Dennis rage.] This is by no means to be understood literally, as if Mr. Dennis were really mad, according to the narrative of Dr. Norris, in Swift and Pope's Miscellanies, vol. iii. No—it is spoken of that excellent and divine madness, so often mentioned by Plato: that poetical rage and enthusiasm with which Mr. D. hath, in his time, been highly possessed; and of those extraordinary hints and motions whereof he himself so feelingly treats in his preface to the Rem. on Pr. Arth.-[See Notes on book ii. ver. 268.]
Mr. Theobald, in the Censor, vol. ii. N. 33, calls Mr. Dennis by the name of Furius. “ The modern Furius is to be looked upon as more an object of pity, than of that which he daily provokes, laughter and contempt. Did we really know how much this poor man (I wish that reflection on poverty had been spared) suffers by being contradicted, or, which is the same thing in effect, by hearing another praised, we should, in compassion, sometimes attend to him with a silent nod, and let him go away with the triumph of his illnature.—Poor Furius (again) when any of his contemporaries are spoken well of, quitting the ground of the present dispute, steps back a thousand years to call in the succour of the ancients. His very panegyric is spiteful, and he uses it for the same reason as some ladies do their commendations of a dead beauty, who would never have had their good word, but that a living one happened to be mentioned in their company. His applause is not the tribute of his heart, but the sacrifice of his revenge,” &c. Indeed his pieces against our poet are somewhat of an angry character, and as they are now scarce extant, a taste of his style may be satisfactory to the curious. young, squab, short gentleman, whose outward form, though it should be that of downright monkey, would not differ so much from human shape as his unthinking immaterial part does from human understanding --He is as stupid and as venomous as a hunch-backed toad.—A book thiough which folly and ignorance, those brethren so lame and impotent, do ridiculously look very big and very dull, and strut and hobble, cheek by jowl, with their arms on kimbo, being led and supported, and bully-backed by that blind Hector, impudence."— Reflect. on the Essay on Criticism, p. 26, 29, 30.
It would be unjust not to add his reasons for this fury, they are so strong and so coercive. “I regard him (saith he) as an enemy; not so much to me as to my king, to my country, to my religion, and to that liberty which has been the sole felicity of my life. A vagary of fortune, who is sometimes pleased to be frolicsome, and the epidemic madness of the times, have given him reputation, and reputation (as Hobbes says) is power, and that has made him dangerous. Therefore I look on it as my duty to King George, whose faithful subject I am ; to my country, of which I have appeared a constant lover; to the laws, under whose protection I have so long lived ; and to the liberty of my country, more dear to me than life, of which I have now for forty years been a constant assertor, &c.,- I look upon it as my duty, I say, to doyou shall see what—to pull the lion's skin from this little ass, which popular error has thrown round him; and to show that this author, who has been lately so much in vogue, has neither sense in his thoughts nor English in his expressions.”—DENNIS, Rem. on Hom. Pref. p. 2, 91, &c.
Besides these public-spirited reasons, Mr. D. had a private one; which, by his manner of expressing it, in p. 92, appears to have been equally strong. He was even in bodily fear of his life from the machinations of the said Mr. P. “The story (says he) is too long to be told, but who would be acquainted with it, may hear it from Mr. Curll, my bookseller. However, what my reason has suggested to me, that I have with a just confidence said, in defiance of his two clandestine weapons, his slander and his poison.” Which last words of his book plainly discover Mr. D.'s suspicion was that of being poisoned, in like manner as Mr. Curll had been before him ; of which fact see A full and true Account of a Horrid and Barbarous Revenge, by Poison, on the Body of Edmund Curll, printed in 1716, the year antecedent to that wherein these remarks of Mr. Dennis were published. But what puts it beyond all question is a passage in a very warm treatise, in which Mr. D. was also concerned, price two-pence, called A true Character of Mr. Pope and his Writings, printed for S. Popping, 1716; in the tenth paye whereof he is said “ to have insulted people on those calamities and diseases which he himself gave them, by administering poison to them,” and is called (p. 4), “a lurking way-laying coward, and a stabber in the dark.” Which (with many other things most lively set forth in that piece) must have rendered him a terror, not to Mr. Dennis only, but to all Christian people. *
For the rest, Mr. John Dennis was the son of a saddler in London, born in 1657. He paid court to Mr. Dryden; and having obtained some correspondence with Mr. Wycherley and Mr. Congreve, he immediately obliged the public with their letters. He made himself known to the government by many admirable schemes and projects, which the ministry, for reasons best known to themselves, constantly kept private. For his character, as a writer, it is given as follows:—“Mr. Dennis is excellent at Pindaric writings, perfectly regular in all his performances, and a person of sound learning. That he is master of a great deal of penetration and judgment, his criticisms (particularly on Prince Arthur) do sufficiently demonstrate.” From the same account it also appears that he writ plays, “ more to get reputation than money."DENNIS of himself. See Giles Jacob's Lives of Dram. Poets, p. 68, 69, compared with
206. [This is one of the Notes which we should have been glad that Pope had expunged from his edition of 1743. Dennis had then been nine years dead. The veteran and coarse critic, it is true, had, in his distress, published his correspondence with Dryden, Wycherley, Congreve, &c., but Pope had subscribed for the work, and Dennis, evidently gratified by the compliment, addressed him in the following terms :
* [In Warburton's edition the following passage is added. “This charitable warn. ng only provoked our incorrigible poet to write the following epigram :
“ 'Should Dennis publish, you had stabb'd your brother,
Lampoon'd your monarch, or debauch'd your mother ;
Secure in dulness, madness, want, and age.” The epigram was published in the third volume of Pope and Swift's Miscellanies, 1728.)
“ April 29, 1721. “Sir,-As you have subscribed for two of my books, I have ordered them to be left for you at Mr. Congreve's lodgings. As most of those letters were writ during the time that I was so unhappy as to be in a state of war with you, I was forced to maim and mangle at least ten of them, that no footsteps might remain of that quarrel. I particularly left out about half the letter which was writ upon publishing the paper called The Guardian. I am, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,
John DENNIS." This letter Pope published in the editions of the Dunciad of 1729, but he afterwards unkindly suppressed it. Dennis printed the poet's reply, which was in a very friendly strain :
May 8, 1721. “Sir,- I called to receive the two books of your letters from Mr. Congreve, and have left with him the little money I was in your debt. I look upon myself to be much more so, for the omissions you have been pleased to make in these letters in my favour, and sincerely join with you in the desire that not the least traces may remain of that difference between us, which indeed I am sorry for. You may, therefore, believe me, without either ceremony or falseness, Sir, &c.
A. POPE." No fresh provocation was given by the critic, and surely to publish the bitter epigram, and introduce Dennis so prominently into the Dunciad after this pledge of peace and amity, was harsh if not indefensible. Dennis retaliated by sending to the press some dull offensive criticism which he had written fourteen years before on the Rape of the Lock. He had also his Tu quoque against the poet. The latter had accused Dennis of writing the account of his own life-"Dennis of himself”-in Giles Jacob's Lives of the Poets. Dennis got a letter written by Jacobs, stating that Pope had revised and altered the account of his life in the same work, subscribing two guineas for the publication. See book third of Dunciad for allusion to Jacob. The Gentleman's Magazine thus announces the death of “the critic.”—1734, January 6, died John Dennis, well known in the learned world for his critical works. We think he may be called the last classic wit of King Charles's reign."]
Ver. 109. Bayes, form'd by nature stage and town to bless.] It is hoped the poet here hath done full justice to his hero's character, which it were a great mistake to imagine was wholly sunk in stupidity; he is allowed to have supported it with a wonderful mixture of vivacity. This character is heightened, according to his own desire, in a letter he wrote to our author. and dull at least you might have allowed me. What! am I only to be dull, and dull still, and again, and for ever?” He then solemnly appealed to his own conscience, that "he could not think himself so, nor believe that our poet did; but that he spoke worse of him than he could possibly think;”