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and his remarks were recommended by his coolness and candour. In him Pope had the first experience of a critic without malevolence, who thought it as much his duty to display beauties as expose faults, who censured with respect, and praised with alacrity. With this criticism Pope was so little offended, that he sought the acquaintance of the writer, who lived with him from that time in great familiarity, attended him in his last hours, and compiled memorials of his conversation. The regard of Pope recommended him to the great and powerful, and
he obtained very valuable preferments in the Church. : Not long after Pope was returning home from a visit in a
friend's coach, which, in passing a bridge, was overturned : into the water; the windows were closed, and, being
unable to force them open, he was in danger of immediate death, when the postillion snatched him out by breaking the glass, of which the fragments cut two of his fingers in such a manner that he lost their use.
Voltaire, who was then in England, sent him a letter of consolation. He had been entertained by Pope at his table, where he talked with so much grossness that Mrs. Pope was driven from the room. Pope discovered, by a trick, that he was a spy for the Court, and never considered him as a man worthy of confidence. He soon afterwards (1727) joined with Swift, who was then in England, to publish three volumes of “Miscellanies," in which, amongst other things, he inserted the “Memoirs of a Parish Clerk,” in ridicule of Burnet's importance in his own history, and a “ Debate upon Black and White Horses," written in all the formalities of a legal process by the assistance, as is said, of Mr. Fortescue, afterwards Master of the Rolls. Before these “Miscellanies" is a preface signed by Swift and Pope, but apparently written by Pope, in which he makes a ridiculous and romantic complaint of the robberies committed upon authors by the clandestine seizure and sale of their papers. He tells
in tragic strains how “ the cabinets of the sick and the closets of the dead have been broken open and ransacked,” as if those violences were often committed for papers of uncertain and accidental value which are rarely provoked by real treasures as if epigrams and essays were in danger where gold and diamonds are safe. A cat hunted for his musk is, according to Pope's account, but the emblem of a wit winded by booksellers. His complaint, however, received some attestation, for the same year the letters written by him to Mr. Cromwell in his youth were sold by Mrs. Thomas to Curll, who printed them.
In these “ Miscellanies " was first published the “Art of Sinking in Poetry," which, by such a train of consequences as usually passes in literary quarrels, gave in a short time, according to Pope's account, occasion to the “Dunciad."
In the following year (1728) he began to put Atterbury's advice in practice, and showed his satirical powers by publishing the “Dunciad," one of his greatest and most elaborate performances, in which he endeavoured to sink into contempt all the writers by whom he had been attacked, and some others whom he thought unable to defend themselves. At the head of the “Dunces” he placed poor Theobald, whom he accused of ingratitude, but whose real crime was supposed to be that of having revised Shakespeare more happily than himself. This satire had the effect which he intended, by blasting the characters which it touched. Ralph, who, unnecessarily interposing in the quarrel, got a place in a subsequent edition, complained that for a time he was in danger of starving, as the booksellers had no longer any confidence in his capacity. The prevalence of this poem was gradual and slow : the plan, if not wholly new, was little understood by common readers. Many of the allusions required illustration ; the names were often expressed only by the initial and final letters, and if they had been printed at
length were such as few had known or recollected. The subject itself had nothing generally interesting, for whom did it concern to know that one or another scribbler was a dunce? If, therefore, it had been possible for those who were attacked to conceal their pain and their resentment, the “ Dunciad” might have made its way very slowly in the world. This, however, was not to be expected : every man is of importance to himself, and therefore, in his own opinion, to others; and, supposing the world already acquainted with all his pleasures and his pains, is perhaps the first to publish injuries or misfortunes, which had never been known unless related by himself, and at which those that hear them will only laugh, for no man sympathises with the sorrows of vanity.
The history of the “Dunciad” is very minutely related by Pope himself in a dedication which he wrote to Lord Middlesex in the name of Savage.
“I will relate the war of the 'Dunces' (for so it has been commonly called), which began in the year 1727, and ended in 1730:
“When Dr. Swift and Mr. Pope thought it proper, for reasons specified in the preface to their ‘Miscellanies,' to publish such little pieces of theirs as had occasionally got abroad, there was added to them the Treatise of the Bathos, or the Art of Sinking in Poetry. It happened that in one chapter of this piece the several species of bad poets were ranged in classes, to which were prefixed almost all the letters of the alphabet (the greatest part of them at random); but such was the number of poets eminent in that art, that some one or other took every letter to himself. All fell into so violent a fury, that, for half a year or more, the common newspapers (in most of which they had some property, as being hired writers) were filled with the most abusive falsehoods and scurrilities they could possibly devise), a liberty no way to be wondered at in those people, and in those papers, that,
: for many years during the uncontrolled license of the
Press, had aspersed almost all the great characters of the age; and this with impunity, their own persons and names being utterly secret and obscure. This gave Mr. Pope the thought that he had now some opportunity of doing good by detecting and dragging into light these common enemies of mankind, since, to invalidate this universal slander, it sufficed to show what contemptible men were the authors of it. He was not without hopes that, by manifesting the dulness of those who had only malice to recommend them, either the booksellers would not find their account in employing them, or the men themselves, when discovered, want courage to proceed in so unlawful an occupation. This it was that gave birth to the 'Dunciad,' and he thought it a happiness that, by the late flood of slander on himself, he had acquired such a peculiar right over their names as was necessary to this design.
On the 12th of March, 1729, at St. James's, that poem was presented to the king and queen (who had before been pleased to read it) by the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole, and some days after the whole impression was taken and dispersed by several noblemen and persons of the first distinction.
It, is certainly a true observation that no people are so impatient of censure as those who are the greatest slanderers, which was wonderfully exemplified on this occasion. On the day the book was first vended a crowd of authors besieged the shop; entreaties, advices, threats of law and battery-nay, cries of treason-were all em. ployed to hinder the coming out of the 'Dunciad. On the other side, the booksellers and hawkers made as great efforts to procure it. What could a few poor authors do against so great a majority as the public ? There was no stopping a torrent with a finger, so out it came.
Many ludicrous circumstances attended it. The
'Dunces' (for by this name they were called) held weekly : clubs, to consult of hostilities against the author. One wrote a letter to a great minister, assuring him Mr. Pope was the greatest enemy the Government had, and another bought his image in clay to execute him in effigy, with which sad sort of satisfaction the gentlemen were a little comforted. Some false editions of the book, having an owl in their frontispiece, the true one, to distinguish it, fixed in his stead an ass laden with authors. Then another surreptitious one being printed with the same ass, the new edition in octavo returned for distinction to the owl again. Hence arose a great contest of booksellers against booksellers, and advertisements against advertisements, some recommending the edition of the owl, and others the edition of the ass, by which names they came to be distinguished, to the great honour also of the gentlemen of the 'Dunciad.'
Pope appears by this narrative to have contemplated his victory over the “Dunces" with great exultation ; and such was his delight in the tumult which he had raised, that for a while his natural sensibility was suspended, and he read reproaches and invectives without emotion, considering them only as the necessary effects of that pain which he rejoiced in having given. It cannot, however, be concealed that, by his own confession, he was the aggressor, for nobody believes that the letters in the “ Bathos" were placed at random; and it may be discovered that, when he thinks himself concealed, he indulges the common vanity of common men, and triumphs in those distinctions which he affected to despise. He is proud that his book was presented to the king and queen by the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole ; he is proud that they had read it before ; he is proud that the edition was taken off by the nobility and persons of the first distinction. The edition of which he speaks was, I believe, that which, by telling in the text