The Dunciad, by Alexander Pope

The Dunciad:1

Book the First.

To Dr Jonathan Swift.

The proposition, the invocation, and the inscription. Then the original of the great empire of Dulness, and cause of the continuance thereof. The college of the goddess in the city, with her private academy for poets in particular; the governors of it, and the four cardinal virtues. Then the poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting her, on the evening of a Lord Mayor’s day, revolving the long succession of her sons, and the glories past and to come. She fixes her eye on Bayes to be the instrument of that great event which is the subject of the poem. He is described pensive among his books, giving up the cause, and apprehending the period of her empire: after debating whether to betake himself to the Church, or to gaming, or to party-writing, he raises an altar of proper books, and (making first his solemn prayer and declaration) purposes thereon to sacrifice all his unsuccessful writings. As the pile is kindled, the goddess, beholding the flame from her seat, flies and puts it out by casting upon it the poem of Thulè. She forthwith reveals herself to him, transports him to her temple, unfolds her arts, and initiates him into her mysteries; then announcing the death of Eusden the poet laureate, anoints him, carries him to court, and proclaims him successor.

The mighty mother, and her son, who brings2

The Smithfield Muses3 to the ear of kings,

I sing. Say you, her instruments, the great!

Called to this work by Dulness, Jove, and Fate;4

You by whose care, in vain decried and cursed,

Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first:

Say, how the goddess5 bade Britannia sleep,

And pour’d her spirit o’er the land and deep.

In eldest time, ere mortals writ or read,

Ere Pallas issued from the Thunderer’s head,

Dulness o’er all possess’d her ancient right,

Daughter of Chaos6 and Eternal Night:

Fate in their dotage this fair idiot gave,

Gross as her sire, and as her mother grave,

Laborious, heavy, busy, bold, and blind,7

She ruled, in native anarchy, the mind.

Still her old empire8 to restore she tries,

For, born a goddess, Dulness never dies.

O thou! whatever title please thine ear,

Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver!9

Whether thou choose Cervantes’ serious air,

Or laugh and shake in Rabelais’ easy-chair,

Or praise the court, or magnify mankind,10

Or thy grieved country’s copper chains unbind;

From thy Boeotia though her power retires,

Mourn not, my Swift, at ought our realm acquires.

Here pleased behold her mighty wings outspread

To hatch a new Saturnian age of lead.

Close to those walls where Folly holds her throne,

And laughs to think Monro would take her down,

Where o’er the gates, by his famed father’s hand,11

Great Cibber’s brazen, brainless brothers stand,

One cell there is, conceal’d from vulgar eye,

The cave of Poverty and Poetry.

Keen, hollow winds howl through the bleak recess,

Emblem of music caused by emptiness.

Hence bards, like Proteus long in vain tied down,

Escape in monsters, and amaze the town.

Hence Miscellanies spring, the weekly boast

Of Curll’s chaste press, and Lintot’s rubric post:12

Hence hymning Tyburn’s elegiac lines,13

Hence Journals, Medleys, Merc’ries, Magazines:

Sepulchral lies,14 our holy walls to grace,

And new-year odes,15 and all the Grub Street race.

In clouded majesty here Dulness shone;

Four guardian Virtues, round, support her throne:

Fierce champion Fortitude, that knows no fears

Of hisses, blows, or want, or loss of ears:

Calm Temperance, whose blessings those partake

Who hunger and who thirst for scribbling sake:

Prudence, whose glass presents the approaching jail:

Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale,

Where, in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs,

And solid pudding against empty praise.

Here she beholds the chaos dark and deep,

Where nameless somethings in their causes sleep,

‘Till genial Jacob,16 or a warm third day,

Call forth each mass, a poem, or a play;

How hints, like spawn, scarce quick in embryo lie,

How new-born nonsense first is taught to cry,

Maggots half-form’d in rhyme exactly meet,

And learn to crawl upon poetic feet.

Here one poor word an hundred clenches makes,

And ductile Dulness new meanders takes;

There motley images her fancy strike,

Figures ill pair’d, and similes unlike.

She sees a mob of metaphors advance,

Pleased with the madness of the mazy dance;

How Tragedy and Comedy embrace;

How Farce and Epic17 get a jumbled race;

How Time himself stands still at her command,

Realms shift their place, and ocean turns to land.

Here gay Description Egypt glads with showers,

Or gives to Zembla fruits, to Barca flowers;

Glittering with ice here hoary hills are seen,

There painted valleys of eternal green;

In cold December fragrant chaplets blow,

And heavy harvests nod beneath the snow.

All these, and more, the cloud-compelling queen

Beholds through fogs that magnify the scene.

She, tinsell’d o’er in robes of varying hues,

With self-applause her wild creation views;

Sees momentary monsters rise and fall,

And with her own fools-colours gilds them all.

’Twas on the day,18 when Thorold rich and grave,

Like Cimon, triumphed both on land and wave:

(Pomps without guilt, of bloodless swords and maces,

Glad chains,19 warm furs, broad banners, and broad faces.)

Now night descending, the proud scene was o’er,

But lived, in Settle’s numbers, one day more.20

Now mayors and shrieves all hushed and satiate lay,

Yet eat, in dreams, the custard of the day;

While pensive poets painful vigils keep,

Sleepless themselves, to give their readers sleep.

Much to the mindful queen the feast recalls

What city swans once sung within the walls;

Much she revolves their arts, their ancient praise,

And sure succession down from Heywood’s21 days.

She saw, with joy, the line immortal run,

Each sire impress’d and glaring in his son:

So watchful Bruin forms, with plastic care,

Each growing lump, and brings it to a bear.

She saw old Pryn in restless Daniel22 shine,

And Eusden23 eke out Blackmore’s endless line;

She saw slow Philips creep like Tate’s24 poor page,

And all the mighty mad in Dennis rage.25

In each she marks her image full express’d,

But chief in Bayes’s monster-breeding breast;

Bayes formed by nature stage and town to bless,

And act, and be, a coxcomb with success.

Dulness with transport eyes the lively dunce,

Remembering she herself was pertness once.

Now (shame to Fortune!26) an ill run at play

Blank’d his bold visage, and a thin third day;

Swearing and supperless the hero sate,

Blasphemed his gods, the dice, and damn’d his fate.

Then gnaw’d his pen, then dash’d it on the ground,

Sinking from thought to thought, a vast profound!

Plunged for his sense, but found no bottom there,

Yet wrote and floundered on, in mere despair.

Round him much embryo, much abortion lay,

Much future ode, and abdicated play;

Nonsense precipitate, like running lead,

That slipp’d through cracks and zig-zags of the head;

All that on Folly Frenzy could beget,

Fruits of dull heat, and sooterkins of wit.

Next, o’er his books his eyes began to roll,

In pleasing memory of all he stole,

How here he sipp’d, how there he plunder’d snug,

And suck’d all o’er, like an industrious bug.

Here lay poor Fletcher’s half-eat scenes,27 and here

The frippery of crucified Molière;

There hapless Shakspeare, yet of Tibbald28 sore,

Wish’d he had blotted29 for himself before.

The rest on outside merit but presume,

Or serve (like other fools) to fill a room;

Such with their shelves as due proportion hold,

Or their fond parents dress’d in red and gold;

Or where the pictures for the page atone,

And Quarles is saved by beauties not his own.

Here swells the shelf with Ogilby the great;30

There, stamp’d with arms, Newcastle shines complete:31

Here all his suffering brotherhood retire,

And ‘scape the martyrdom of Jakes and fire:

A Gothic library! of Greece and Rome

Well purged, and worthy Settle, Banks, and Broome.32

But, high above, more solid learning shone,

The classics of an age that heard of none;

There Caxton33 slept, with Wynkyn at his side,

One clasp’d in wood, and one in strong cow-hide;

There, saved by spice, like mummies, many a year,

Dry bodies of divinity appear:

De Lyra34 there a dreadful front extends,

And here the groaning shelves Philemon35 bends.

Of these, twelve volumes, twelve of amplest size,

Redeem’d from tapers and defrauded pies,

Inspired he seizes: these an altar raise:

An hecatomb of pure, unsullied lays

That altar crowns: a folio common-place

Founds the whole pile, of all his works the base:

Quartos, octavos, shape the lessening pyre:

A twisted birth-day ode completes the spire.

Then he: Great tamer of all human art!

First in my care, and ever at my heart;

Dulness! whose good old cause I yet defend,

With whom my Muse began, with whom shall end,

E’er since Sir Fopling’s periwig36 was praise,

To the last honours of the butt and bays:

O thou! of business the directing soul;

To this our head, like bias to the bowl,

Which, as more ponderous, made its aim more true,

Obliquely waddling to the mark in view;

Oh, ever gracious to perplexed mankind,

Still spread a healing mist before the mind;

And, lest we err by wit’s wild dancing light,

Secure us kindly in our native night.

Or, if to wit a coxcomb make pretence,

Guard the sure barrier between that and sense;

Or quite unravel all the reasoning thread,

And hang some curious cobweb in its stead!

As, forced from wind-guns, lead itself can fly,

And ponderous slugs cut swiftly through the sky;

As clocks to weight their nimble motion owe,

The wheels above urged by the load below:

Me Emptiness and Dulness could inspire,

And were my elasticity and fire.

Some demon stole my pen (forgive the offence)

And once betrayed me into common sense:

Else all my prose and verse were much the same;

This, prose on stilts; that, poetry fallen lame.

Did on the stage my fops appear confined?

My life gave ampler lessons to mankind.

Did the dead letter unsuccessful prove?

The brisk example never fail’d to move.

Yet sure, had Heaven decreed to save the state,

Heaven had decreed these works a longer date.

Could Troy be saved by any single hand,

This gray-goose weapon must have made her stand.

What can I now my Fletcher cast aside,

Take up the Bible, once my better guide?

Or tread the path by venturous heroes trod,

This box my thunder, this right hand my god?

Or chair’d at White’s amidst the doctors sit,

Teach oaths to gamesters, and to nobles wit?

Or bidst thou rather party to embrace?

(A friend to party thou, and all her race;

’Tis the same rope at different ends they twist;

To Dulness Ridpath is as dear as Mist.37)

Shall I, like Curtins, desperate in my zeal,

O’er head and ears plunge for the common weal?

Or rob Rome’s ancient geese38 of all their glories,

And, cackling, save the monarchy of Tories?

Hold — to the minister I more incline;

To serve his cause, O queen! is serving thine.

And see! thy very gazetteers give o’er,

Ev’n Ralph repents, and Henley writes no more.

What then remains? Ourself. Still, still remain

Cibberian forehead, and Cibberian brain.

This brazen brightness, to the squire so dear;

This polish’d hardness, that reflects the peer:

This arch absurd, that wit and fool delights;

This mess, tossed up of Hockley-hole and White’s;

Where dukes and butchers join to wreathe my crown,

At once the bear and fiddle39 of the town.

O born in sin, and forth in folly brought!

Works damn’d, or to be damn’d (your father’s fault)!

Go, purified by flames, ascend the sky,

My better and more Christian progeny!

Unstain’d, untouch’d, and yet in maiden sheets;

While all your smutty sisters walk the streets.

Ye shall not beg, like gratis-given Bland,40

Sent with a pass, and vagrant through the land;

Nor sail with Ward41 to ape-and-monkey climes,

Where vile Mundungus trucks for viler rhymes:

Not sulphur-tipp’d, emblaze an ale-house fire;

Not wrap up oranges, to pelt your sire!

Oh, pass more innocent, in infant state,

To the mild limbo of our father Tate:42

Or peaceably forgot, at once be blest

In Shadwell’s bosom with eternal rest!

Soon to that mass of nonsense to return,

Where things destroyed are swept to things unborn.

With that, a tear (portentous sign of grace!)

Stole from the master of the sevenfold face:

And thrice he lifted high the birth-day brand,

And thrice he dropp’d it from his quivering hand;

Then lights the structure with averted eyes:

The rolling smoke involves the sacrifice.

The opening clouds disclose each work by turns,

Now flames the Cid, and now Perolla burns;

Great Caesar roars, and hisses in the fires;

King John in silence modestly expires:

No merit now the dear Nonjuror claims,

Moliere’s43 old stubble in a moment flames.

Tears gush’d again, as from pale Priam’s eyes

When the last blaze sent Ilion to the skies.

Roused by the light, old Dulness heaved the head,

Then snatch’d a sheet of Thulè44 from her bed,

Sudden she flies, and whelms it o’er the pyre;

Down sink the flames, and with a hiss expire.

Her ample presence fills up all the place;

A veil of fogs dilates her awful face:

Great in her charms! as when on shrieves and mayors

She looks, and breathes herself into their airs.

She bids him wait her to her sacred dome:

Well pleased he enter’d, and confessed his home.

So, spirits ending their terrestrial race,

Ascend, and recognise their native place.

This the great mother dearer held than all

The clubs of quidnuncs, or her own Guildhall:

Here stood her opium, here she nursed her owls,

And here she plann’d the imperial seat of fools.

Here to her chosen all her works she shows;

Prose swell’d to verse, verse loitering into prose:

How random thoughts now meaning chance to find,

Now leave all memory of sense behind:

How prologues into prefaces decay,

And these to notes are fritter’d quite away:

How index-learning turns no student pale,

Yet holds the eel of science by the tail:

How, with less reading than makes felons ‘scape,

Less human genius than God gives an ape,

Small thanks to France, and none to Rome or Greece,

A past, vamp’d, future, old, revived, new piece,

‘Twixt Plautus, Fletcher, Shakspeare, and Corneille,

Can make a Cibber, Tibbald,45 or Ozell.46

The goddess then o’er his anointed head,

With mystic words, the sacred opium shed.

And, lo! her bird (a monster of a fowl,

Something betwixt a Heidegger47 and owl,)

Perch’d on his crown. ‘All hail! and hail again,

My son! the promised land expects thy reign.

Know, Eusden thirsts no more for sack or praise;

He sleeps among the dull of ancient days;

Safe, where no critics damn, no duns molest,

Where wretched Withers, Ward, and Gildon48 rest,

And high-born Howard,49 more majestic sire,

With fool of quality completes the quire,

Thou, Cibber! thou, his laurel shalt support,

Folly, my son, has still a friend at Court.

Lift up your gates, ye princes, see him come!

Sound, sound, ye viols, be the cat-call dumb!

Bring, bring the madding bay, the drunken vine;

The creeping, dirty, courtly ivy join.

And thou! his aide-decamp, lead on my sons,

Light-arm’d with points, antitheses, and puns.

Let Bawdry, Billingsgate, my daughters dear,

Support his front, and Oaths bring up the rear:

And under his, and under Archer’s wing,

Gaming50 and Grub Street, skulk behind the king.

Oh! when shall rise a monarch all our own,

And I, a nursing mother, rock the throne;

‘Twixt prince and people close the curtain draw,

Shade him from light, and cover him from law;

Fatten the courtier, starve the learnèd band,

And suckle armies, and dry-nurse the land:

Till senates nod to lullabies divine,

And all be sleep, as at an ode of thine.’

She ceased. Then swells the chapel-royal51 throat:

God save King Cibber! mounts in every note.

Familiar White’s, God save King Colley! cries;

God save King Colley! Drury lane replies:

To Needham’s quick the voice triumphal rode,

But pious Needham52 dropp’d the name of God;

Back to the Devil53 the last echoes roll,

And Coll! each butcher roars at Hockley-hole.

So when Jove’s block descended from on high

(As sings thy great forefather Ogilby54),

Loud thunder to its bottom shook the bog,

And the hoarse nation croak’d, God save King Log!


VER. 1. The mighty mother, &c. In the first edition it was thus —

Books and the man I sing, the first who brings

The Smithfield muses to the ear of kings.

Say, great patricians! since yourselves inspire

These wondrous works (so Jove and Fate require)

Say, for what cause, in vain decried and cursed,

Still ——

After VER. 22, in the MS. —

Or in the graver gown instruct mankind,

Or silent let thy morals tell thy mind.

But this was to be understood, as the poet says, ironicè, like the 23d verse.

VER. 29. Close to those walls, &c. In the former edition thus —

Where wave the tatter’d ensigns of Rag-fair,55

A yawning ruin hangs and nods in air;56

Keen hollow winds howl through the bleak recess,

Emblem of music caused by emptiness;

Here in one bed two shivering sisters lie,

The cave of Poverty and Poetry.

VER. 41 in the former lines —

Hence hymning Tyburn’s elegiac lay,

Hence the soft sing-song on Cecilia’s day.

VER. 42 alludes to the annual songs composed to music on St Cecilia’s Feast.

VER. 85 in the former editions —

’Twas on the day — when Thorald,57 rich and grave.

VER. 108. But chief in Bayes’s, &e. In the former edition thus —

But chief, in Tibbald’s monster-breeding breast;

Sees gods with demons in strange league engage,

And earth, and heaven, and hell her battles wage.

She eyed the bard, where supperless he sate,

And pined, unconscious of his rising fate;

Studious he sate, with all his books around,

Sinking from thought to thought, &c —

VER. 121. Round him much embryo, &c. In the former editions thus —

He roll’d his eyes, that witness’d huge dismay,

Where yet unpawn’d much learned lumber lay;

Volumes whose size the space exactly fill’d,

Or which fond authors were so good to gild,

Or where, by sculpture made for ever known,

The page admires new beauties not its own.

Here swells the shelf, &c. —

VER. 146. In the first edition it was —

Well-purged, and worthy W— y, W— s, and Bl ——.

VER. 162. A twisted, &c. In the former edition —

And last, a little Ajax58 tips the spire.

VER. 177. Or, if to wit, &c. In the former edition —

Ah! still o’er Britain stretch that peaceful wand,

Which lulls th’ Helvetian and Batavian land;

Where rebel to thy throne if science rise,

She does but show her coward face, and dies:

There thy good scholiasts with unwearied pains

Make Horace flat, and humble Maro’s strains:

Here studious I unlucky moderns save,

Nor sleeps one error in its father’s grave,

Old puns restore, lost blunders nicely seek,

And crucify poor Shakspeare once a week.

For thee supplying, in the worst of days.

Notes to dull books, and prologues to dull plays;

Not that my quill to critics was confined,

My verse gave ampler lessons to mankind;

So gravest precepts may successless prove.

But sad examples never fail to move.

As, forced from wind-guns, &c.

VER. 195. Yet sure had Heaven, &c. In the former edition —

Had Heaven decreed such works a longer date,

Heaven had decreed to spare the Grub Street state.

But see great Settle to the dust descend,

And all thy cause and empire at an end!

Could Troy be saved, &c. —

VER. 213. Hold — to the minister. In the former edition —

Yes, to my country I my pen consign

Yes, from this moment, mighty Mist! am thine.

VER. 225. O born in sin, &c. In the former edition —

Adieu, my children! better thus expire

Unstall’d, unsold; thus glorious mount in fire,

Fair without spot; than greased by grocer’s hands,

Or shipp’d with Ward to ape-and-monkey lands,

Or wafting ginger, round the streets to run,

And visit ale-house, where ye first begun,

With that he lifted thrice the sparkling brand,

And thrice he dropp’d it, &c. —

VER. 250. Now flames the Cid, &c. In the former edition —

Now flames old Memnon, now Rodrigo burns,

In one quick flash see Proserpine expire,

And last, his own cold Aeschylus took fire.

Then gushed the tears, as from the Trojan’s eyes,

When the last blaze, &c.

After VER. 268, in the former edition, followed these two lines —

Raptured, he gazes round the dear retreat,

And in sweet numbers celebrates the seat.

VER. 293. Know, Eusden, &c. In the former edition —

Know, Settle, cloy’d with custard and with praise,

Is gather’d to the dull of ancient days,

Safe where no critics damn, no duns molest,

Where Gildon, Banks, and high-born Howard rest.

I see a king! who leads my chosen sons

To lands that flow with clenches and with puns:

Till each famed theatre my empire own;

Till Albion, as Hibernia, bless my throne!

I see! I see! — Then rapt she spoke no more.

God save King Tibbald! Grub Street alleys roar.

So when Jove’s block, &c.

1 ‘The Dunciad:’ sic MS. It may well be disputed whether this be a right reading. Ought it not rather to be spelled Dunceiad, as the etymology evidently demands? Dunce with an e, therefore Dunceiad with an e? That accurate and punctual man of letters, the restorer of Shakespeare, constantly observes the preservation of this very letter e, in spelling the name of his beloved author, and not like his common careless editors, with the omission of one, nay, sometimes of two e’s (as Shakspear), which is utterly unpardonable. ‘Nor is the neglect of a single letter so trivial as to some it may appear; the alteration whereof in a learned language is an achievement that brings honour to the critic who advances it; and Dr Bentley will be remembered to posterity for his performances of this sort, as long as the world shall have any esteem for the remains of Menander and Philemon.’— Theobald.

This is surely a slip in the learned author of the foregoing note, there having been since produced by an accurate antiquary, an autograph of Shakspeare himself, whereby it appears that he spelled his own name without the first e. And upon this authority it was, that those most critical curators of his monument in Westminster Abbey erased the former wrong reading, and restored the true spelling on a new piece of old Egyptian granite. Nor for this only do they deserve our thanks, but for exhibiting on the same monument the first specimen of an edition of an author in marble; where (as may be seen on comparing the tomb with the book), in the space of five lines, two words and a whole verse are changed, and it is to be hoped will there stand, and outlast whatever hath been hitherto done in paper; as for the future, our learned sister University (the other eye of England) is taking care to perpetuate a total new Shakspeare, at the Clarendon press. — Bentl.

It is to be noted, that this great critic also has omitted one circumstance: which is, that the inscription with the name of Shakspeare was intended to be placed on the marble scroll to which he points with his hand; instead of which it is now placed behind his back, and that specimen of an edition is put on the scroll, which indeed Shakspeare hath great reason to point at. — Anon.

Though I have as just a value for the letter e as any grammarian living, and the same affection for the name of this poem as any critic for that of his author, yet cannot it induce me to agree with those who would add yet another e to it, and call it the Dunceiade; which being a French and foreign termination, is no way proper to a word entirely English and vernacular. One e, therefore, in this case is right, and two e’s wrong. Yet, upon the whole, I shall follow the manuscript, and print it without any e at all; moved thereto by authority (at all times, with critics, equal, if not superior to reason). In which method of proceeding, I can never enough praise my good friend, the exact Mr Thomas Hearne; who, if any word occur which to him and all mankind is evidently wrong, yet keeps he it in the text with due reverence, and only remarks in the margin sic MS. In like manner we shall not amend this error in the title itself, but only note it obiter, to evince to the learned that it was not our fault, nor any effect of our ignorance or inattention. — Scriblerus.

This poem was written in the year 1726. In the next year, an imperfect edition was published at Dublin, and reprinted at London in twelves; another at Dublin, and another at London in octavo; and three others in twelves the same year. But there was no perfect edition before that of London in quarto; which was attended with notes. We are willing to acquaint posterity, that this poem was presented to King George the Second and his queen by the hands of Sir Robert Walpole, on the 12th of March 1728–9. — Schol. Vet.

It was expressly confessed in the preface to the first edition, that this poem was not published by the author himself. It was printed originally in a foreign country. And what foreign country? Why, one notorious for blunders; where finding blanks only instead of proper names, these blunderers filled them up at their pleasure.

The very hero of the poem hath been mistaken to this hour; so that we are obliged to open our notes with a discovery who he really was. We learn from the former editor, that this piece was presented by the hands of Sir Robert Walpole to King George II. Now the author directly tells us, his hero is the man

               ‘who brings

The Smithfield muses to the ear of kings.’

And it is notorious who was the person on whom this prince conferred the honour of the laurel.

It appears as plainly from the apostrophe to the great in the third verse, that Tibbald could not be the person, who was never an author in fashion, or caressed by the great; whereas this single characteristic is sufficient to point out the true hero, who, above all other poets of his time, was the peculiar delight and chosen companion of the nobility of England, and wrote, as he himself tells us, certain of his works at the earnest desire of persons of quality.

Lastly, the sixth verse affords full proof; this poet being the only one who was universally known to have had a son so exactly like him, in his poetical, theatrical, political, and moral capacities, that it could justly be said of him,

‘Still Dunce the second reign’d like Dunce the first.’— Bentl.

2 ‘Her son who brings,’ &c. Wonderful is the stupidity of all the former critics and commentators on this work! It breaks forth at the very first line. The author of the critique prefixed to Sawney, a poem, p. 5, hath been so dull as to explain ‘the man who brings,’ &c., not of the hero of the piece, but of our poet himself, as if he vaunted that kings were to be his readers — an honour which though this poem hath had, yet knoweth he how to receive it with more modesty.

We remit this ignorant to the first lines of the Aeneid, assuring him that Virgil there speaketh not of himself but of Aeneas:

‘Arma virumque cano, Trojae qui primus ab oris

Italiam, fato profugus, Lavinaque venit

Littora: multum ille et terris jactatus et alto,’ &c.

I cite the whole three verses, that I may by the way offer a conjectural emendation, purely my own, upon each: First, oris should be read aris, it being, as we see, Aen. ii. 513, from the altar of Jupiter Hercaeus that Aeneas fled as soon as he saw Priam slain. In the second line I would flatu for fato, since it is most clear it was by winds that he arrived at the shore of Italy. Jactatus, in the third, is surely as improperly applied to terris, as proper to alto. To say a man is tossed on land, is much at one with saying, he walks at sea. Risum teneatis, amici? Correct it, as I doubt not it ought to be, vexatus. — Scriblerus.

3 ‘The Smithfield Muses.’ Smithfield was the place where Bartholomew Fair was kept, whose shows, machines, and dramatical entertainments, formerly agreeable only to the taste of the rabble, were, by the hero of this poem and others of equal genius, brought to the theatres of Covent Garden, Lincolns–Inn-Fields, and the Haymarket, to be the reigning pleasures of the court and town. This happened in the reigns of King George I. and II. See Book iii.

4 ‘By Dulness, Jove, and Fate:’ i.e., by their judgments, their interests, and their inclinations. — W.

5 ‘Say how the goddess,’ &c. The poet ventureth to sing the action of the goddess; but the passion she impresseth on her illustrious votaries, he thinketh can be only told by themselves. — Scribl. W.

6 ‘Daughter of Chaos,’ &c. The beauty of this whole allegory being purely of the poetical kind, we think it not our proper business, as a scholiast, to meddle with it, but leave it (as we shall in general all such) to the reader, remarking only that Chaos (according to Hesiod’s [Greek: Theogonia]), was the progenitor of all the gods. — Scriblerus.

7 ‘Laborious, heavy, busy, bold,’ &c. I wonder the learned Scriblerus has omitted to advertise the reader, at the opening of this poem, that Dulness here is not to be taken contractedly for mere stupidity, but in the enlarged sense of the word, for all slowness of apprehension, shortness of sight, or imperfect sense of things. It includes (as we see by the poet’s own words) labour, industry, and some degree of activity and boldness — a ruling principle not inert, but turning topsy-turvy the understanding, and inducing an anarchy or confused state of mind. This remark ought to be carried along with the reader throughout the work; and without this caution he will be apt to mistake the importance of many of the characters, as well as of the design of the poet. Hence it is, that some have complained he chooses too mean a subject, and imagined he employs himself like Domitian, in killing flies; whereas those who have the true key will find he sports with nobler quarry, and embraces a larger compass; or (as one saith, on a like occasion)—

‘Will see his work, like Jacob’s ladder, rise,

Its foot in dirt, its head amid the skies.’— Bentl.

8 ‘Still her old empire to restore.’ This restoration makes the completion of the poem. Vide Book iv. — P.

9 ‘Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver!’ the several names and characters he assumed in his ludicrous, his splenetic, or his party-writings; which take in all his works. — P.

10 ‘Or praise the court, or magnify mankind:’ ironicè, alluding to Gulliver’s representations of both. The next line relates to the papers of the Drapier against the currency of Wood’s copper coin in Ireland, which, upon the great discontent of the people, his Majesty was graciously pleased to recall.

11 ‘By his famed father’s hand:’ Mr Caius–Gabriel Cibber, father of the poet laureate. The two statues of the lunatics over the gates of Bedlam Hospital were done by him, and (as the son justly says of them) are no ill monuments of his fame as an artist.

12 ‘Curll’s chaste press, and Lintot’s rubric post:’ two booksellers, of whom, see Book ii. The former was fined by the Court of King’s Bench for publishing obscene books; the latter usually adorned his shop with titles in red letters. — P.

13 ‘Hence hymning Tyburn’s elegiac lines:’ it is an ancient English custom for the malefactors to sing a psalm at their execution at Tyburn, and no less customary to print elegies on their deaths, at the same time, or before. — P.

14 ‘Sepulchral lies:’ is a just satire on the flatteries and falsehoods admitted to be inscribed on the walls of churches, in epitaphs, which occasioned the following epigram:—

‘Friend! in your epitaphs, I’m grieved,

So very much is said:

One-half will never be believed,

The other never read.’— W.

15 ‘New-year odes:’ made by the poet laureate for the time being, to be sung at Court on every New–Year’s Day, the words of which are happily drowned in the voices and instruments. — P.

16 ‘Jacob:’ Tonson, the well-known bookseller.

17 ‘How farce and epic — how Time himself,’ allude to the transgressions of the unities in the plays of such poets. For the miracles wrought upon time and place, and the mixture of tragedy and comedy, farce and epic, see Pluto and Proserpine, Penelope, &c., if yet extant. — P.

18 ”Twas on the day, when Thorold rich and grave, like Cimon, triumph’d:’ viz., a Lord Mayor’s day; his name the author had left in blanks, but most certainly could never be that which the editor foisted in formerly, and which no way agrees with the chronology of the poem. — Bentl. The procession of a lord mayor is made partly by land, and partly by water. Cimon, the famous Athenian general, obtained a victory by sea, and another by land, on the same day, over the Persians and Barbarians. — P.

19 ‘Glad chains:’ The ignorance of these moderns! This was altered in one edition to gold chains, showing more regard to the metal of which the chains of aldermen are made than to the beauty of the Latinism and Graecism — nay, of figurative speech itself: Loetas segetes, glad, for making glad, &c. — P.

20 ‘But lived, in Settle’s numbers, one day more:’ a beautiful manner of speaking, usual with poets in praise of poetry, in which kind nothing is finer than those lines of Mr Addison:—

‘Sometimes, misguided by the tuneful throng,

I look for streams immortalised in song,

That lost in silence and oblivion lie,

Dumb are their fountains, and their channels dry;

Yet run for over by the Muses’ skill,

And in the smooth description murmur still. — P.

Settle was poet to the city of London. His office was to compose yearly panegyrics upon the lord mayors, and verses to be spoken in the pageants. But that part of the shows being at length frugally abolished, the employment of city-poet ceased, so that upon Settle’s demise there was no successor to that place. — P.

21 John Heywood, whose interludes were printed in the time of Henry VIII. — P.

22 ‘Daniel Defoe,’ a man in worth and original genius incomparably superior to his defamer.

23 ‘And Eusden eke out,’ &c.: Laurence Eusden, poet laureate. Mr Jacob gives a catalogue of some few only of his works, which were very numerous. Mr Cook, in his Battle of Poets, saith of him —

‘Eusden, a laurell’d bard, by fortune raised, By very few was read, by fewer praised.’— P.

24 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. — P.

25 ‘Dennis rage:’ Mr John Dennis was the son of a sadler in London, born in 1657. He paid court to Mr Dryden; and having obtained some correspondence with Mr Wycherly 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. — P.

26 ‘Shame to Fortune:’ because she usually shows favour to persons of this character, who have a threefold pretence to it.

27 ‘Poor Fletcher’s half-eat scenes:’ a great number of them taken out to patch up his plays. — P.

28 ‘Tibbald:’ this Tibbald, or Theobald, published an edition of Shakspeare, of which he was so proud himself as to say, in one of Mist’s journals, June 8, ‘That to expose any errors in it was impracticable.’ And in another, April 27, ‘That whatever care might for the future be taken by any other editor, he would still give above five hundred emendations, that shall escape them all.’— P.

29 ‘Wish’d he had blotted:’ it was a ridiculous praise which the players gave to Shakspeare, ‘that he never blotted a line.’ Ben Jonson honestly wished he had blotted a thousand; and Shakspeare would certainly have wished the same, if he had lived to see those alterations in his works, which, not the actors only (and especially the daring hero of this poem) have made on the stage, but the presumptuous critics of our days in their editions — P.

30 ‘Ogilby the great:’ ‘John Ogilby was one who, from a late initiation into literature, made such a progress as might well style him the prodigy of his time! sending into the world so many large volumes. His translations of Homer and Virgil done to the life, and with such excellent sculptures. And (what added great grace to his works) he printed them all on special good paper, and in a very good letter.’— Winstanly, Lives of Poets. — P.

31 ‘There, stamp’d with arms, Newcastle shines complete:’ Langbaine reckons up eight folios of the Duchess of Newcastle’s works, which were usually adorned with gilded covers, and had her coat of arms upon them.

32 ‘Worthy Settle, Banks, and Broome:’ the poet has mentioned these three authors in particular, as they are parallel to our hero in his three capacities — 1. Settle was his brother laureate — only, indeed, upon half-pay, for the city instead of the court; but equally famous for unintelligible flights in his poems on public occasions, such as shows, birth-days, &c.; 2. Banks was his rival in tragedy (though more successful) in one of his tragedies, the Earl of Essex, which is yet alive: Anna Boleyn, the Queen of Scots, and Cyrus the Great, are dead and gone. These he dressed in a sort of beggar’s velvet, or a happy mixture of the thick fustian and thin prosaic; exactly imitated in Perolla and Isidora, Caesar in Egypt, and the Heroic Daughter; 3. Broome was a serving-man of Ben Jonson, who once picked up a comedy from his betters, or from some cast scenes of his master, not entirely contemptible. — P.

33 ‘Caxton:’ a printer in the time of Edward IV., Richard III., and Henry VII.; Wynkyn de Worde, his successor, in that of Henry VII. and VIII. — P.

34 ‘Nich. de Lyra:’ or Harpsfield, a very voluminous commentator, whose works, in five vast folios, were printed in 1472. — P.

35 ‘Philemon Holland:’ doctor in physic. ‘He translated so many books, that a man would think he had done nothing else; insomuch that he might be called translator general of his age. The books alone of his turning into English are sufficient to make a country gentleman a complete library.’— Winstanly. — P.

36 ‘E’er since Sir Fopling’s periwig:’ the first visible cause of the passion of the town for our hero, was a fair flaxen full-bottomed periwig, which, he tells us, he wore in his first play of the Fool in Fashion. It attracted, in a particular manner, the friendship of Col. Brett, who wanted to purchase it. — P.

37 ‘Ridpath — Mist:’ George Ridpath, author of a Whig paper, called the Flying Post; Nathanael Mist, of a famous Tory journal. — P.

38 ‘Rome’s ancient geese:’ relates to the well-known story of the geese that saved the Capitol; of which Virgil, Aen. VIII.

‘Atque hic auratis volitans argenteus anser

Porticibus, Gallos in limine adesse canebat.’

A passage I have always suspected. Who sees not the antithesis of auratis and argenteus to be unworthy the Virgilian majesty? And what absurdity to say a goose sings? canebat. Virgil gives a contrary character of the voice of this silly bird, in Ecl. ix.

. . . ‘argutos interstrepere anser olores.’

Read it, therefore, adesse strepebat. And why auratis porticibus? does not the very verse preceding this inform us,

‘Romuleoque recens horrebat regia culmo.’

Is this thatch in one line, and gold in another, consistent? I scruple not (repugnantibas omnibus manuscriptis) to correct it auritis. Horace uses the same epithet in the same sense. — P.

39 ‘Bear and Fiddle:’ see ‘Butler’s Hudibras.’

40 ‘Gratis-given Bland — Sent with a pass.’ It was a practice so to give the Daily Gazetteer and ministerial pamphlets (in which this Bland, Provost of Eton, was a writer), and to send them post-free to all the towns in the kingdom. — P.

41 ‘With Ward, to ape-and-monkey climes.’ Edward Ward, a very voluminous poet in Hudibrastic verse, but best known by the London Spy, in prose. He has of late years kept a public-house in the City (but in a genteel way), and with his wit, humour, and good liquor (ale) afforded his guests a pleasurable entertainment, especially those of the High–Church party. Jacob, Lives of Poets, vol. ii., p. 225. Great number of his works were yearly sold into the plantations. Ward, in a book called Apollo’s Maggot, declared this account to be a great falsity, protesting that his public-house was not in the City, but in Moorfields. — P.

42 ‘Tate, Shadwell:’ two of his predecessors in the Laurel. — P.

43 ‘The dear Nonjuror, Moliere’s old stubble:’ a comedy threshed out of Moliere’s Tartuffe, and so much the translator’s favourite, that he assures us all our author’s dislike to it could only arise from disaffection to the government:

‘Qui meprise Cotin, n’estime point son roi,

Et n’a, selon Cotin, ni Dieu, ni foi, ni loi.’— Boil.

He assures us, that ‘when he had the honour to kiss his Majesty’s hand upon presenting his dedication of it, he was graciously pleased, out of his royal bounty, to order him two hundred pounds for it. And this he doubts not grieved Mr P.’— P.

44 ‘Thulè:’ An unfinished poem of that name, of which one sheet was printed many years ago, by Amb. Philips, a northern author. It is a usual method of putting out a fire to cast wet sheets upon it. Some critics have been of opinion that this sheet was of the nature of the asbestos, which cannot be consumed by fire: but I rather think it an allegorical allusion to the coldness and heaviness of the writing. — P.

45 ‘Tibbald:’ Lewis Tibbald (as pronounced) or Theobald (as written) was bred an attorney, and son to an attorney (says Mr Jacob) of Sittenburn, in Kent. He was author of some forgotten plays, translations, and other pieces. He was concerned in a paper called the Censor, and a Translation of Ovid. ‘There is a notorious idiot, one hight Whachum, who, from an under-spur-leather to the law, is become an under-strapper to the play-house, who hath lately burlesqued the Metamorphoses of Ovid by a vile translation, &c. This fellow is concerned in an impertinent paper called the Censor.’ Dennis, Rem. on Pope’s Hom. pp. 9, 10. — P.

46 ‘Ozell:’ ‘Mr John Ozell (if we credit Mr Jacob) did go to school in Leicestershire, where somebody left him something to live on, when he shall retire from business. He was designed to be sent to Cambridge, in order for priesthood; but he chose rather to be placed in an office of accounts in the city, being qualified for the same by his skill in arithmetic, and writing the necessary hands. He has obliged the world with many translations of French plays.’ Jacob, Lives of Dram. Poets, p. 198. — P. Mr Jacob’s character of Mr Ozell seems vastly short of his merits, and he ought to have further justice done him, having since fully confuted all sarcasms on his learning and genius, by an advertisement of September 20, 1729, in a paper called the Weekly Medley, &c. ‘As to my learning, this envious wretch knew, and everybody knows, that the whole bench of bishops, not long ago, were pleased to give me a purse of guineas, for discovering the erroneous translations of the Common Prayer in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, &c. As for my genius, let Mr Cleland show better verses in all Pope’s works than Ozell’s version of Boileau’s Lutrin, which the late Lord Halifax was so pleased with, that he complimented him with leave to dedicate it to him, &c. Let him show better and truer poetry in the Rape of the Lock than in Ozell’s Rape of the Bucket (La Secchia Rapita). And Mr Toland and Mr Gildon publicly declared Ozell’s translation of Homer to be, as it was prior, so likewise superior to Pope’s. Surely, surely, every man is free to deserve well of his country.’— John Ozell. We cannot but subscribe to such reverend testimonies as those of the bench of bishops, Mr Toland, and Mr Gildon. — P.

47 ‘A heidegger:’ a strange bird from Switzerland, and not (as some have supposed) the name of an eminent person who was a man of parts, and, as was said of Petronius, arbiter elegantiarum. — P.

48 ‘Gildon:’ Charles Gildon, a writer of criticisms and libels of the last age, bred at St Omer’s with the Jesuits; but renouncing Popery, he published Blount’s books against the divinity of Christ, the Oracles of Reason, &c. He signalised himself as a critic, having written some very bad plays, abused Mr Pope very scandalously in an anonymous pamphlet of the Life of Mr Wycherly, printed by Curll; in another, called the New Rehearsal, printed in 1714; in a third, entitled the Complete Art of English Poetry, in two volumes, and others. — P.

49 ‘Howard:’ Hon. Edward Howard, author of the British Princes, and a great number of wonderful pieces, celebrated by the late Earls of Dorset and Rochester, Duke of Buckingham, Mr Waller, &c. — P.

50 ‘Under Archer’s wing — Gaming:’ when the statute against gaming was drawn up, it was represented that the king, by ancient custom, plays at hazard one night in the year; and therefore a clause was inserted, with an exception as to that particular. Under this pretence, the groom-porter had a room appropriated to gaming all the summer the court was at Kensington, which his Majesty, accidentally being acquainted of, with a just indignation prohibited. It is reported the same practice is yet continued wherever the court resides, and the hazard table there open to all the professed gamesters in town.

‘Greatest and justest sovereign! know ye this?

Alas! no more, than Thames’ calm head can know

Whose meads his arms drown, or whose corn o’erflow.’


51 ‘Chapel-royal:’ the voices and instruments used in the service of the chapel-royal being also employed in the performance of the Birth-day and New-year Odes. — P.

52 ‘But pious Needham:’ a matron of great and peculiar fame, and very religious in her way. — P.

53 ‘Back to the Devil:’ the Devil Tavern in Fleet Street, where these odes are usually rehearsed before they are performed at court. — W.

54 ‘Ogilby — God save King Log:’ See Ogilby’s Aesop’s Fables, where, in the story of the Frogs and their King, this excellent hemistich is to be found. — P.

55 ‘Rag-fair’ is a place near the Tower of London, where old clothes and frippery are sold — P.

56 ‘A yawning ruin hangs and nods in air:’— Here in one bed two shivering sisters lie, The cave of Poverty and Poetry.

57 Sir George Thorald, Lord Mayor of London in the year 1720.

58 ‘A little Ajax:’ in duodecimo, translated from Sophocles by Tibhald.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59