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OF THE DUNCIAD.
WHEN the first complete and correct edition of the Dunciad was published in quarto, 1729, it consisted of three books; and had for its hero Tibbald, a cold, plodding, and tasteless writer and critic, who, with great propriety, was chosen, on the death of Settle, by the Goddess of Dulness, to be the chief instrument of that great work which was the subject of the poem ; namely, “ the introduction (as our author expresses it) of the lowest diversions of the rabble of Smithfield, to be the entertainment of the court and town; the action of the Dunciad being, the removal of the imperial seat of Dulness from the City to the polite world ; as that of the Æneid is the removal of the empire of Troy to Latium.” This was the primary subject of the piece. Our author adds, “as Homer, singing only the wrath
of Achilles, yet includes in his poem, the whole history of the Trojan war; in like manner our poet hath drawn into this single action, the whole history of Dulness and her children. To this end, she is represented, at the very opening of the poem, taking a view of her forces, which are distinguished into these three kinds, partywriters, dull poets, and wild critics. must be fixed upon to support this action, who (to agree with the design) must be such an one as is capable of being all three. This phantom in the poet's mind, must have a name. He seeks for one who hath been concerned in the journals, written bad plays or poems, and published low criticisms. He finds his name to be Tibbald,
* Who was a kind of Margites. It is a singular fact in the history of literature, that the same mighty genius, who, by his Iliad and Odyssey, became the founder of Tragedy, should also, by his Margites, as Aristotle observes in the second chapter of his Poetics, become the father of Comedy. This piece was written in various sorts of metre, and particularly hexameter and iambic. Only three verses remain of this piece, which was much celebrated by the ancients; one in the second Alcibiades of Plato:
« Ως αρα πολλα μεν εργα, κακως δ'ηπιςατο πανία.
and he becomes of course the hero of the
This design is carried on, in the first book, by a description of the Goddess fixing her eye on Tibbald; who, on the evening of a lord-mayor's day, is represented as sitting pensively in his study, and apprehending the period of her empire, from the old age of the present monarch Settle ; and also by an account of a sacrifice he makes of his unsuccessful works; of the Goddess's revealing herself to him, announcing the death of Settle that night, anointing and proclaiming him successor. It is carried on in the second book, by a description of the various games instituted in honour of the new king, in which booksellers, poets, and critics contend. This design is, lastly, completed in the third book,
Another in the sixth book of Aristotle's Ethics :
Τον δ' υπ' αρ' σκαπτηρα θεοι θεσαν, στ' αροτηρα.
A third is cited by the scholiast of Aristophanes, in the Birds :
Μεσαων θεραπων, και εκηβολα Απολλωνος.
The poem is mentioned by Polybius, Dion Chrysostom, Plutarch, Lucian, Stobæus, and others.
by the Goddess's transporting the new king to her temple, laying him in a deep slumber on her lap, and conveying him in a vision to the banks of Lethe, where he meets with the ghost of his predecessor Settle ; who, in a speech that begins at line 35, to almost the end of the book, shews him the past triumphs of the empire of Dulness, then the present, and lastly the future: enumerating particularly by what aids, and by what persons, Great Britain shall be forth with brought to her empire; and prophesying how first the nation shall be over-run with farces, operas, shows; and the throne of Dulness advanced over both the theatres: then, how her sons shall preside in the seats of arts and sciences ; till, in conclusion, all shall return to their original chaos. On hearing which,
Enough! enough! the raptur'd MONARCH cries;
with which words, the design above recited being perfected, the poem concludes. Thus far all was clear, consistent, and of a piece; and was delivered in such nervous and spirited versifica
tion, that the delighted reader had only to lament that so many poetical beauties were thrown away on such dirty and despicable subjects as were the scribblers here proscribed ; who appear like monsters preserved in the most costly spirits. But in the year 1742, our poet was persuaded, unhappily enough, to add a fourth book to his finished piece, of such a very different cast and colour, as to render it at last one of the most motley compositions, that, perhaps, is any where to be found in the works of so exact a writer as POPE. For one great purpose of this fourth book (where, by the way, the hero does nothing at all) was to satirize and proscribe infidels, and free-thinkers; to leave the ludicrous for the sea rious, Grub-street for theology, the inock-heroic for metaphysics ; which occasioned a marvellous mixture and jumble of images and sentiments, Pantomime and Philosophy, Journals and Moral evidence, Fleet-ditch and the High Priori road, Curl and Clarke. To ridicule our petulant libertines, and affected minute philosophers, was doubtless a most laudable intention ; but speaking of the Dunciad as a work of art, in a critical, not a religious light, I must venture to affirm, въ