« 前へ次へ »
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 Thewed his fatirical 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 themfelves.
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 flow : 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 Fery 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 per. haps 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 Miscel“ lanięs, to publish such little pieces of theirs as had “ casually 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 pieces 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 fo 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 fcurrili“ ties they could possibly devise; a liberty no way 56 to be wondered at in those people, and in those
papers, that for inany years, during the uncon“ trouled license of the press, had afpersed almost all
“ the great characters of the age; and this with im- ;
punity, their own persons and names being utterly 66 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 “ inankind; since, to invalidate this universal slander, “ it fufficed to fhew what contemptible men were the 66 authors of it. He was not without hopes, that, by. “ manifesting the dulness of those who had only ma“ lice to recommend them, either the booksellers a 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 an happiness, that, by the late flood of "s flander on himself, he had acquired such a pecu“ liar right over their names as was necessary to this
" 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 distinc
“ It is certainly a true observation, that no people
are so impatient of censure as those who are the “ greatest Nanderers, which was wonderfully exempli.. “ fied on this occasion. On the day the book was “ first vended, a crowd of authors besieged the shop; “ intreaties, advices, threats of law and battery, nay s cries of treason, were all employed 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 publick? 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 hoftilities against the “ author: one wrote a Letter to a great minister, as“ furing him Mr. Pope was the greatest enemy the go“ vernment had; and another bought his image in “. clay, to execute him in effigy; with which sad sort " of satisfaction the gentlemen were a little com
“ Some false editions of the book having an owl in “ their frontispiece, the true one, to distinguish it, fixed “ in its stead an ass laden with authors. Then another “ furreptitious one being printed with the same afs, " 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 edi“tion 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
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 fenfibibity 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 aggreflor; for nobody believes that the letters in the Batbos 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 had 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 dif: tinction,
The edition of which he speaks was, I believe, that which, by telling in the text the names and in the notes the characters of those whom he had fatirised, was made intelligible and diverting. The criticks had now declared their approbation of the plan, and the common reader began to like it without fear; those who were strangers to petty literature, and therefore unable to decypher initials, and blanks, had now names and persons brought within their view;' and delighted in the visible effect of those shafts of malice, which they had hitherto conteinplated, as shot into the air.
Dennis, upon the fresh provocation now given him, renewed the enmity, which had for a time been appeased by mutual civilities; and published remarks, which he had till then suppressed, upon the Rape of ibe Lock. Many more grumbled in secret, or vented their resentment in the newspapers by epigrams or invectives.
Ducket, indeed, being mentioned as loving Burnet with picus pallion, pretended that his moral character was injured, and for some time declared his resolution