The Dunciad, by Alexander Pope

V. — Advertisement to the Complete Edition of 1743.

I have long had a design of giving some sort of Notes on the works of this poet. Before I had the happiness of his acquaintance, I had written a commentary on his Essay on Man, and have since finished another on the Essay on Criticism. There was one already on the Dunciad, which had met with general approbation; but I still thought some additions were wanting (of a more serious kind) to the humorous notes of Scriblerus, and even to those written by Mr Cleland, Dr Arbuthnot, and others. I had lately the pleasure to pass some months with the author in the country, where I prevailed upon him to do what I had long desired, and favour me with his explanation of several passages in his works. It happened that just at that juncture was published a ridiculous book against him, full of personal reflections, which furnished him with a lucky opportunity of improving this poem, by giving it the only thing it wanted — a more considerable hero. He was always sensible of its defect in that particular, and owned he had let it pass with the hero it had purely for want of a better; not entertaining the least expectation that such an one was reserved for this post as has since obtained the Laurel: but since that had happened, he could no longer deny this justice either to him or the Dunciad.

And yet I will venture to say, there was another motive which had still more weight with our author. This person was one who from every folly (not to say vice) of which another would be ashamed has constantly derived a vanity; and therefore was the man in the world who would least be hurt by it.

W. W.

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