The Dunciad, by Alexander Pope

VII. — A Parallel of the Characters of Mr Dryden and Mr Pope, as Drawn by Certain of Their Contemporaries.


MR DRYDEN is a mere renegado from monarchy, poetry, and good sense1 — a true republican son of monarchical Church2 — a republican atheist.3 Dryden was from the beginning an [Greek: alloprosallos], and I doubt not will continue so to the last.4

In the poem called Absalom and Achitophel are notoriously traduced, the King, the Queen, the Lords and Gentlemen, not only their honourable persons exposed, but the whole nation and its representatives notoriously libelled. It is scandalum magnatum, yea of majesty itself.5

He looks upon God’s gospel as a foolish fable, like the Pope, to whom he is a pitiful purveyor.6 His very Christianity may be questioned.7 He ought to expect more severity than other men, as he is most unmerciful in his own reflections on others.8 With as good a right as his holiness, he sets up for poetical infallibility.9


His whole libel is all bad matter, beautified (which is all that can be said of it) with good metre.10 Mr Dryden’s genius did not appear in any thing more than his versification, and whether he is to be ennobled for that only is a question.11


Tonson calls it Dryden’s Virgil, to show that this is not that Virgil so admired in the Augustaean age; but a Virgil of another stamp, a silly, impertinent, nonsensical writer.12 None but a Bavius, a Maevius, or a Bathyllus carped at Virgil; and none but such unthinking vermin admire his translator.13 It is true, soft and easy lines might become Ovid’s Epistles or Art of Love; but Virgil, who is all great and majestic, &c., requires strength of lines, weight of words, and closeness of expressions — not an ambling muse running on carpet-ground, and shod as lightly as a Newmarket racer. He has numberless faults in his author’s meaning, and in propriety of expression.14


Mr Dryden was once, I have heard, at Westminster school. Dr Bushby would have whipped him for so childish a paraphrase.15 The meanest pedant in England would whip a lubber of twelve for construing so absurdly.16 The translator is mad, every line betrays his stupidity.17 The faults are innumerable, and convince me that Mr Dryden did not, or would not understand his author.18 This shows how fit Mr D. may be to translate Homer! A mistake in a single letter might fall on the printer well enough, but [Greek: eichor] for [Greek: ichor] must be the error of the author. Nor had he art enough to correct it at the press.19 Mr Dryden writes for the court ladies. He writes for the ladies, and not for use.20

The translator puts in a little burlesque now and then into Virgil, for a ragout to his cheated subscribers.21


I wonder that any man, who could not but be conscious of his own unfitness for it, should go to amuse the learned world with such an undertaking! A man ought to value his reputation more than money; and not to hope that those who can read for themselves will be imposed upon, merely by a partially and unseasonably celebrated name.22 Poetis quidlibei audendi shall be Mr Dryden’s motto, though it should extend to picking of pockets.23


An Ape. — A crafty ape dressed up in a gaudy gown — whips put into an ape’s paw, to play pranks with — none but apish and papish brats will heed him.24

An Ass. — A camel will take upon him no more burden than is sufficient for his strength, but there is another beast that crouches under all.25

A Frog. — Poet Squab endued with Poet Maro’s spirit! an ugly croaking kind of vermin, which would swell to the bulk of an ox.26

A Coward. — A Clinias or a Damaetas, or a man of Mr Dryden’s own courage.27

A Knave. — Mr Dryden has heard of Paul, the knave of Jesus Christ; and, if I mistake not, I’ve read somewhere of John Dryden, servant to his Majesty.28

A Fool. — Had he not been such a self-conceited fool.29 — Some great poets are positive blockheads.30

A Thing. — So little a thing as Mr Dryden.31


MR POPE is an open and mortal enemy to his country, and the commonwealth of learning.32 Some call him a Popish Whig, which is directly inconsistent.33 Pope, as a papist, must be a Tory and High-flyer.34 He is both a Whig and Tory.35

He hath made it his custom to cackle to more than one party in their own sentiments.36

In his miscellanies, the persons abused are — the King, the Queen, his late Majesty, both Houses of Parliament, the Privy Council, the Bench of Bishops, the Established Church, the present Ministry, &c. To make sense of some passages, they must be construed into royal scandal.37

He is a popish rhymester, bred up with a contempt of the Sacred Writings.38 His religion allows him to destroy heretics, not only with his pen, but with fire and sword; and such were all those unhappy wits whom he sacrificed to his accursed popish principles.39 It deserved vengeance to suggest that Mr Pope had less infallibility than his namesake at Rome.40


The smooth numbers of the Dunciad are all that recommend it, nor has it any other merit.41 It must be owned that he hath got a notable knack of rhyming and writing smooth verse.42


The Homer which Lintot prints does not talk like Homer, but like Pope; and he who translated him, one would swear, had a hill in Tipperary for his Parnassus, and a puddle in some bog for his Hippocrene.43 He has no admirers among those that can distinguish, discern, and judge.44 He hath a knack at smooth verse, but without either genius or good sense, or any tolerable knowledge of English. The qualities which distinguish Homer are the beauties of his diction and the harmony of his versification. But this little author, who is so much in vogue, has neither sense in his thoughts nor English in his expressions.45


He hath undertaken to translate Homer from the Greek, of which he knows not one word, into English, of which he understands as little.46 I wonder how this gentleman would look, should it be discovered that he has not translated ten verses together in any book of Homer with justice to the poet, and yet he dares reproach his fellow-writers with not understanding Greek.47 He has stuck so little to his original as to have his knowledge in Greek called in question.48 I should be glad to know which it is of all Homer’s excellencies which has so delighted the ladies, and the gentlemen who judge like ladies.49

But he has a notable talent at burlesque; his genius slides so naturally into it, that he hath burlesqued Homer without designing it.50


’Tis indeed somewhat bold, and almost prodigious, for a single man to undertake such a work; but ’tis too late to dissuade by demonstrating the madness of the project. The subscribers’ expectations have been raised in proportion to what their pockets have been drained of.51 Pope has been concerned in jobs, and hired out his name to booksellers.52


An Ape. — Let us take the initial letter of his Christian name, and the initial and final letters of his surname, viz., A P E, and they give you the same idea of an ape as his face,53 &c.

An Ass. — It is my duty to pull off the lion’s skin from this little ass.54

A Frog. — A squab short gentleman — a little creature that, like the frog in the fable, swells, and is angry that it is not allowed to be as big as an ox.55

A Coward. — A lurking, way-laying coward.56

A Knave. — He is one whom God and nature have marked for want of common honesty.57

A Fool. — Great fools will be christened by the names of great poets, and Pope will be called Homer.58

A Thing. — A little abject thing.59

1 Milbourn on Dryden’s Virgil, 8vo, 1698, p. 6.

2 Ibid. p. 38.

3 Ibid. p. 192.

4 Ibid. p. 8.

5 Whip and Key, 4to, printed for R. Janeway, 1682, preface.

6 Ibid.

7 Milbourn, p. 9.

8 Ibid. p. 176.

9 Ibid. p. 39.

10 Whip and Key, preface.

11 Oldmixon, Essay on Criticism, p. 84.

12 Milbourn, p. 2.

13 Ibid. p. 35.

14 Ibid. pp. 22, 192.

15 Ibid. p. 72.

16 Ibid. p. 203.

17 Ibid, p. 78.

18 Ibid, p. 206.

19 Ibid. p. 19.

20 Ibid. p. 144, 190.

21 Ibid. p. 67.

22 Milbourn, p. 192.

23 Ibid. p. 125.

24 Whip and Key, preface.

25 Milbourn, p. 105.

26 Ibid. p. 11.

27 Ibid. p. 176.

28 Ibid. p. 57.

29 Whip and Key, preface.

30 Milbourn, p. 34.

31 Ibid. p. 35.

32 Dennis’s Remarks on the Rape of the Lock, preface, p. xii.

33 Dunciad Dissected.

34 Preface to Gulliveriana.

35 Dennis, Character of Mr P.

36 Theobald, Letter in Mist’s Journal, June 22, 1728.

37 List at the end of a Collection of Verses, Letters, Advertisements, 8vo, printed for A. Moore, 1728, and the preface to it, p. 6.

38 Dennis’s Remarks on Homer, p. 27.

39 Preface to Gulliveriana, p. 11.

40 Dedication to the Collection of Verses, Letters, &c., p. 9.

41 Mist’s Journal of June 8, 1728.

42 Character of Mr P. and Dennis on Homer.

43 Dennis’s Remarks on Pope’s Homer, p. 12.

44 Ibid. p. 14.

45 Character of Mr P., p. 17, and Remarks on Homer, p. 91.

46 Dennis’s Remarks on Homer, p. 12.

47 Daily Journal, April 23, 1728.

48 Supplement to the Profund, preface.

49 Oldmixon, Essay on Criticism, p. 66.

50 Dennis’s Remarks, p. 28.

51 Homerides, p. 1, &c.

52 British Journal, Nov. 25, 1727.

53 Dennis, Daily Journal, May 11, 1728.

54 Dennis, Remarks on Homer, Preface.

55 Dennis’s Remarks on the Rape of the Lock, preface, p. 9.

56 Character of Mr P., p. 3.

57 Ibid.

58 Dennis, Remarks on Homer, p. 37.

59 Ibid, p. 8.

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