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tenders to wit and poetry: the judges and magistrates may with full as good reason be reproached with ill-nature for putting the laws in execution against a thief or impostor. The same will hold in the republic of letters, if the critics and judges will let every ignorant pretender to scribbling pass on the world.
Theobald, Letter to Mist, June 22, 1728.
Attacks may be levelled, either against failures in genius, or against the pretensions of writing without one.
Concanen, Dedication to the Author of the Dunciad.
A satire on dulness is a thing that has been used and allowed in all ages.
'Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, wicked scribbler !'-P.
TESTIMONIES OF AUTHORS
OUR POET AND HIS WORKS.
M. SCRIBLERUS LECTORI S.
BEFORE We present thee with our exercitations on this most delectable poem, drawn from the many volumes of our Adversaria on modern authors, we shall here, according to the laudable usage of editors, collect the various judgments of the learned concerning our poet; various indeed, not only of different authors, but of the same author at different seasons: nor shall we gather only the testimonies of such eminent wits, as would of course descend to posterity, and consequently be read without our collection; but we shall likewise with incredible labor seek out for divers others, which, but for this our diligence, could never at the distance of a few months appear to the eye of the most curious. Hereby thou mayest not only receive the delectation of variety, but also arrive at a more certain judgment, by a grave and circumspect comparison of the witnesses with each other, or of each with himself: hence also thou wilt be enabled to draw reflections, not only of a critical, but a moral nature, by being let into many particulars of the person as well as genius, and of the fortune as well as merit, of our author; in which if I relate some things of little concern peradventure to thee, and some of as little even to him, I entreat
thee to consider how minutely all true critics and commentators are wont to insist on such, and how material they seem to themselves, if to none other. Forgive me, gentle reader, if, following learned example, I ever and anon become tedious: allow me to take the same pains to find whether my author were good or bad, well or ill-natured, modest or arrogant; as another, whether his author was fair or brown, short or tall, or whether he wore a coat or a cassock.
We purposed to begin with his life, parentage, and education; but as to these, even his contemporaries do exceedingly differ. One saith, he was educated at home; another, that he was bred at St. Omer's by Jesuits; a third," not at St. Omer's, but at Oxford; a fourth, that he had no university education at all. Those who allow him to be bred at home, differ as much concerning his tutor: one saith, he was kept by his father on purpose; a second, that he was an itinerant priest; a third, that he was a parson; one1o calleth him a secular clergyman of the church of Rome; another," a monk. As little do they agree about his father, whom one12 supposeth, like the father of Hesiod, a tradesman, or merchant; another,13 a husbandman; another,14 a hatter, &c. nor has an author been wanting to give our poet such a father as Apuleius hath to Plato, Jamblichus to Pythagoras, and divers to Homer, namely a demon: for thus Mr. Gildon :15 Certain it is, that his origi
3 Giles Jacob's Lives of the
Poets, vol. ii. in his life.
8 Dunciad dissected, p. 4. 10 Dunciad dissected.
11 Characters of the Times, p. 45.
12 Female Dunciad, p. ult. 13 Dunciad dissected. 14 Roome, paraphrase on Genesis iv., printed 1729.
15 Character of Mr. P. and his Writings, in a letter to a friend, printed for S. Popping, 1716, p. 10. Curll, in his Key to the Dunciad (first edit. said to be printed for A. Dodd), in the tenth page declared Gildon to be author of that libel;
nal is not from Adam, but the devil; and that he wanted nothing but horns and tail to be the exact resemblance of his infernal father.' Finding therefore such contrariety of opinions, and (whatever be ours of this sort of generation) not being fond to enter into controversy, we shall defer writing the life of our poet, till authors can determine among themselves what parents or education he had, or whether he had any education or parents at all.
Proceed we to what is more certain, his works, though not less uncertain the judgments concerning them; beginning with his Essay on Criticism,' of which hear first the most ancient of critics,
MR. JOHN DENNIS.
'His precepts are false or trivial, or both; his thoughts are crude and abortive, his expressions absurd, his numbers harsh and unmusical, his rhymes trivial and common: instead of majesty, we have something that is very mean; instead of gravity, something that is very boyish; and instead of perspicuity and lucid order, we have but too often obscurity and confusion.' And in another place ::- What rare numbers are here! Would not one swear that this youngster had espoused some antiquated Muse, who had sued out a divorce from some superannuated sinner on account of impotence; and who, being p· d by her former spouse, has got the gout in her decrepit age, which makes her hobble so damnably?' 16
No less peremptory is the censure of our hypercritical historian,
'I dare not say any thing of the Essay on Criticism' in
though in the subsequent editions of his Key he left out this assertion, and affirmed in the Curliad, p. 4 and 8. that it was written by Dennis only.-P.
16 Reflections Critical and Satirical, on a Rhapsody, called an Essay on Criticism. Printed for Bernard Lintot, 8vo.-P.
verse; but if any more curious reader has discovered in it something new, which is not in Dryden's prefaces, dedications, and his Essay on Dramatic Poetry,' not to mention the French critics, I should be very glad to have the benefit of the discovery.""7
He is followed, as in fame, so in judgment, by the modest and simple-minded
MR. LEONARD WELSTED ;
who, out of great respect to our poet not naming him, doth yet glance at his Essay, together with the duke of Buckingham's, and the criticisms of Dryden, and of Horace, which he more openly taxeth :18 As to the numerous treatises, essays, arts, &c. both in verse and prose, that have been written by the moderns on this ground-work, they do but hackney the same thoughts over again, making them still more trite: most of their pieces are nothing but a pert, insipid heap of common-place. Horace has even, in his 'Art of Poetry,' thrown out several things which plainly show he thought an art of poetry was of no use, even while he was writing one.'
To all which great authorities, we can only oppose that
The Art of Criticism,' saith he,19 which was published some months since, is a master-piece in its kind: the observations follow one another, like those in Horace's Art of Poetry,' without that methodical regularity which would have been requisite in a prose writer: they are some of them uncommon, but such as the reader must assent to, when he sees them explained with that ease and perspicuity
17 Essay on Criticism in prose, 8vo. 1728, by the author of The Critical History of England.'-P.
18 Preface to his Poems, p. 18. 53.-P. 19 Spectator, No. 253.-P.