The Dunciad/Book 1
Book the First.
I sing. Say you, her instruments the Great!
Call'd to this work by Dulness, Jove, and Fate[Remarks 4];
5You by whose care, in vain decry'd and curst,
Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first;
Say how the Goddess bade Britannia sleep,
And pour'd her Spirit o'er the land and deep.
In eldest time, e'er mortals writ or read,
10E'er Pallas issu'd from the Thund'rer's head,
Dulness o'er all possess'd her ancient right,
Daughter of Chaos and eternal Night[Remarks 5]:
Fate in their dotage this fair Ideot gave,
Gross as her fire, and as her mother grave,
15Laborious, heavy, busy, bold, and blind[Remarks 6],
She rul'd, in native Anarchy, the mind.[Remarks 7]
Still her old Empire to restore[Remarks 8] she tries,
For, born a Goddess, Dulness never dies.
O Thou! whatever title please thine ear,
20Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver!
Whether thou chuse Cervantes' serious air,
Or laugh and shake in Rablais' easy chair,
Or praise the Court, or magnify Mankind[Remarks 9],
Or thy griev'd Country's copper chains unbind;
25From thy Bœotia tho' her Pow'r retires,
Mourn not, my Swift, at ought our Realm acquires,
Here pleas'd behold her mighty wings out-spread
To hatch a new Saturnian age of Lead[Remarks 10].
Close to those walls where Folly holds her throne,
30And laughs to think Monroe would take her down,
Where o'er the gates, by his fam'd father's hand[Remarks 11]
Great Cibber's brazen, brainless brothers stand;
One Cell there is[Remarks 12], conceal'd from vulgar eye,
The Cave of Poverty and Poetry[Remarks 13].
35Keen, hollow winds howl thro' the bleak recess,
Emblem of Music caus'd by Emptiness.
Hence Bards, like Proteus[Remarks 14] long in vain ty'd down,
Escape in Monsters, and amaze the town.
Hence Miscellanies spring, the weekly boast
40Of Curl's chaste press, and Lintot's rubric post[Remarks 15]:
Hence hymning Tyburn's elegiac lines[Remarks 16]
Hence Journals, Medleys, Merc'ries, Magazines[Imitations 1]:
Sepulchral Lyes[Remarks 17], our holy walls to grace,
And New-year Odes[Remarks 18], and all the Grub-street race.
45In clouded Majesty[Imitations 2] here Dulness shone[Remarks 19];
Four guardian Virtues, round, support her throne:
Fierce champion Fortitude, that knows no fears[Imitations 3]
Of hisses, blows, or want, or loss of ears:
Calm Temperance, whose blessings those partake
50Who hunger, and who thirst[Remarks 20] for scribling sake:
Prudence, whose glass presents th' approaching jayl:
Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale,
Where, in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs,
And solid pudding against empty praise.
55Here she beholds the Chaos dark and deep,
Where nameless Somethings[Imitations 4] in their causes sleep,
'Till genial Jacob, or a warm Third day,
Call forth each mass, a Poem, or a Play:
How hints, like spawn, scarce quick in embryo lie,
60How 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,[Remarks 21]
And ductile dulness[Imitations 5] new meanders takes;
65There motley Images her fancy strike,
Figures ill pair'd, and Similies unlike.
She sees a Mob of Metaphors advance,
Pleas'd with the madness of the mazy dance:
How Tragedy and Comedy embrace;
70How Farce and Epic get a jumbled race;[Remarks 22]
'Till Senates nod to Lullabies divine,
And all be sleep, as at an Ode of thine.
She ceas'd. Then swells the Chapel-royal[Remarks 23] throat:
320God save king Cibber! mounts in ev'ry 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 Needham[Remarks 24] dropt the name of God;
325Back to the Devil[Remarks 25] 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 Ogilby[Remarks 26])
Loud thunder to its bottom shook the bog,
330And the hoarse nation croak'd, God save King Log!
The End of the First Book.
- 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 ee'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 Atchievement 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 Abby erased the former wrong reading, and restored the true spelling on a new piece of old Ægyptian 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 Shakespear, 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. Tho. 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. Schol. Vet.
It was expresly 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
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.
- The Mighty Mother, and her Son, &c.] The Reader ought here to be cautioned, that the Mother, and not the Son, is the principal Agent of this Poem: The latter of them is only chosen as her Collegue (as was anciently the custom in Rome before some great Expedition) the main action of the Poem being by no means the Coronation of the Laureate, which is performed in the very first book, but the Restoration of the Empire of Dulness in Britain, which is not accomplished 'till the last.
Ibid.—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 this Poem hath had, yet knoweth he how to receive it with more modesty.
We remit this Ignorant to the first lines of the Æneid, assuring him that Virgil there speaketh not of himself, but of Æneas:
Arma virumque cano, Trojæ qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus, Lavinaque venit
Littora: multum ille & terris jacatus & 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 Æn. ii. 513. from the altar of Jupiter Hereæus that Æneas fled as soon as he saw Priam slain. In the second line I would read 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 tost 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.
- The Smithfield Muses] Smithfield is the place where Bartholomew Fair was kept, whose shews, 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 Hay-market, to be the reigning pleasures of the Court and Town. This happened in the Reigns of King George I, and II. See Book 3.
- By Dulness, Jove, and Fate:] i.e. By their Judgments, their Interests, and their Inclinations.
- 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 Θιογονία) was the Progenitor of all the Gods. Scriblerus.
- 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 chuses 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.
- She rul'd, in native Anarchy, the mind.] The native Anarchy of the mind is that state which precedes the time of Reason's assuming the rule of the Passions. But in that state, the uncontrolled violence of the Passions would soon bring things to confusion, were it not for the intervention of Dulness in this absence of Reason; who, though she cannot regulate them like Reason, yet blunts and deadens their Vigour, and, indeed, produces some of the good effects of it: Hence it is that Dulness has often the appearance of Reason. This is the only good she ever did; and the Poet takes particular care to tell it in the very introduction of his Poem. It is to be observed indeed, that this is spoken of the universal rule of Dulness in ancient days, but we may form an idea of it from her partial Government in later times.
- Still her old Empire to restore.] This Restoration makes the Completion of the Poem. Vide Book 4.
- 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 recal.
- To hatch a new Saturnian age of Lead.] The ancient Golden Age is by Poets styled Saturnian; but in the Chemical language Saturn is Lead. She is said here only to be spreading her wings to hatch this age; which is not produced completely till the fourth book.
- By his fam'd 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.
- One Cell there is,] The cell of poor Poetry is here very properly represented as a little unendowed Hall in the neighbourhood of the Magnific College of Bedlam; and as the surest Seminary to supply those learned walls with Professors. For there cannot be a plainer indication of madness than in mens persisting to starve themselves and offend the public by scribling,
Escape in Monsters, and amaze the town.
when they might have benefited themselves and others in profitable and honest employments. The Qualities and Productions of the students of this private Academy are afterwards described in this first book; as are also their Actions throughout the second; by which it appears, how near allied Dulness is to Madness. This naturally prepares us for the subject of the third book, where we find them in union, and acting in conjunction to produce the Catastrophe of the fourth; a mad poetical Sibyl leading our Hero through the Regions of Vision, to animate him in the present undertaking, by a view of the past triumphs of Barbarism over Science.
- Poverty and Poetry] I can not here omit a remark that will greatly endear our Author to every one, who shall attentively observe that Humanity and Candor, which every where appears in him towards those unhappy objects of the ridicule of all mankind, the bad Poets. He here imputes all scandalous rhymes, scurrilous weekly papers, base flatteries, wretched elegies, songs, and verses (even from those sung at Court to ballads in the streets) not so much to malice or servility as to Dulness; and not so much to Dulness as to Necessity. And thus, at the very commencement of his Satyr, makes an apology for all that are to be satyrized.
- Hence Bards, like Proteus]
Sunt quibus in plures jus est transire figuras:
Ut tibi, complexi terram maris incola, Proteu;
Nunc violentus aper, nunc quem tetigisse timerent,
Anguis eras, medo te faciebant cornua Taurum,
Sæpe Lapis poteras.Ovid. Met. viii.
Neither Palæphatus, Phurnutus, nor Heraclides give us any steddy light into the mythology of this mysterious fable. If I be not deceived in a part of learning which has so long exercised my pen, by Proteus must certainly be meant a hacknied Town scribler; and by his Transformations, the various disguises such a one assumes, to elude the pursuit of his irreconcilable enemy, the Bailiff. Proteus is represented as one bred of the mud and slime of Ægypt, the original soil of Arts and Letters: And what is a Town-scribler, but a creature made up of the excrements of luxurious Science? By the change then into a Boar is meant his character of a furious and dirty Party-writer; the Snake signifies a Libellor; and the Horns of the Bull, the Dilemmas of a Polemical Answerer. These are the three great parts he acts under; and when he has completed his circle, he sinks back again, as the last change into a Stone denotes, into his natural state of immoveable Stupidity. If I may expect thanks of the learned world for this discovery, I would by no means deprive that excellent Critic of his share, who discovered before me, that in the character of Proteus was designed Sophistam, Magum, Politicum, præsertim rebus omnibus sese accommodantem. Which in English is, A Political writer, a Libeller, and a Disputer, writing indifferently for or against every party in the State, every seat in Religion, and every character in private life. See my Fables of Ovid explained. Abbe Banier.
- Curl's chaste press, and Lintot's rubric post:] Two Booksellers, of whom see Book 2. 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.
- Hence hymning Tyburn's elgiac lines,] It is an ancient English custom for the Malefactors to sing a Psalm at
- Ver. 43. Sepulchral Lyes,] Is a just satyr on the Flatteries and Falshoods admitted to be inscribed on the walls of Churches, in Epitaphs.
- Ver. 44. 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. The New-year Odes of the Hero of this work were of a cast distinguished from all that preceded him, and made a conspicuous part of his character as a writer, which doubtless induced our Author to mention them here so particularly.
- Ver. 45. In clouded Majesty here Dulness shone;] See this Cloud removed, or rolled back, or gathered up to her head, book iv. ver. 17, 18. It is worth while to compare this description of the Majesty of Dulness in a state of peace and tranquillity, with that more busy scene where she mounts the throne in triumph, and is not so much supported by her own Virtues, as by the princely consciousness of having destroyed all other. Scribl.
- V.50. Who hunger, and who thirst, &c.] "This is an allusion to a text in Scripture, which shews, in Mr. Pope, a delight in prophaneness," said Curl upon this place. But it is very familiar with Shakespear to allude to passages of Scripture: Out of a great number I will select a few, in which he not only alludes to, but quotes the very Texts from holy Writ. In All's well that ends well, I am no great Nebuchadnezzar, I have not much skill in grass. Ibid. They are for the flowery way that leads to the bread gate and the great fire. Mat. vii. 13. In Much ado about nothing. All, all, and moreover God saw him when he was hid in the garden. Gen. iii. 8. (in a very jocose scene.) In Love's labour lost, he talks of Sampson's carrying the gates on his back; in the Merry wives of Windsor, of Goliah and the weaver's beam; and in Henry IV, Falstaff's soldiers are compared to Lazarus and the prodigal son.
The first part of this note is Mr. Curl's, the rest is Mr. Theobald's, Appendix to Shakespeare Restored, p. 144
- Ver. 63. Here one poor word an hundred clenches makes,) It may not be amiss to give an instance or two of these operations of Dulness; out of the Works of her Sons, celebrated in the Poem. A great Critic formerly held these clenches in such abhorrence, that he declared "he that would pun would pick a pocket." Yet Mr. Dennis's works afford us notable examples in this kind: "Alexander Pope hath sent abroad into the world as many Bulls as his namesake Pope Alexander.—Let us take the initial and final letters of his Name, viz. A . P-E, and they give you the idea of an Ape.—Pope comes from the Latin word Popa, which signifies a little Wart; or from poppysma, because he was continually popping out squibs of wit, or rather Popysmata, or Popisms." Dennis on Hom. and Daily Journal, June 11, 1728.
- Ver. 70, &c. How Farce and Epic—How Time himself, &c.] 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.
- Ver. 319. 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.
- Ver. 324. But pious Needham] A Matron of great fame, and very religious in her way; whose constant prayer it was, that she might "get enough by her profession to leave it off in time, and make her peace with God." But her fate was not so happy; for being convicted, and set in the pillory, she was (to the lasting shame of all her great Friends and Votaries) so ill used by the populace, that it put an end to her days.
- Ver. 325. Back to the Devil] The Devil Tavern in Fleet-street, where these Odes are usually rehearsed before they are performed at Court.
- Ver. 328.—Ogilvy)—God save king Log!] See Ogilby's Æsop's Fables, where, in the story of the Frogs and their King, this excellent hemistic is to be found.
Our Author manifests here, and elsewhere, a prodigious tenderness for the bad writers. We see he selects the only good passage, perhaps, in all that ever Ogilby writ; which shews how candid and patient a reader he must have been. What can be more kind and affectionate than these words in the preface to his Poems, where he labours to call up all our humanity and forgiveness toward these unlucky men, by the most moderate representation of their case that has ever been given by any author? "Much may be said to extenuate the fault of bad poets: What we call a genius is hard to be distinguished, by a man himself,
their execution at Tyburn; and no less customary to print Elegies on their deaths, at the same time, or before.
Ver. 42. Magazines,] Miscellanies in prose and verse, in which at some times
new-born nonsense first is taught to cry;
at others, dead-born Dulness appears in a thousand shapes. These were thrown out weekly and monthly by every miserable scribler; or picked up piece-meal and stolen from any body, under the title of Papers, Essays, Queries, Verses, Epigrams, Riddles, &c. equally the disgrace of human Wit, Morality, and Decency.
- Ver. 41, 42. Hence hymning Tyburn's——Hence, &c.]
———Genus unde Latinum,
Albanique patres, atque altæ mœnia Romæ.Virg. Æn. i.
- Ver. 45. In clouded Majesty]
Rising in clouded Majesty———Milton, Book iv.
- Ver. 48.———that knows no fears
Of hisses, blows, or want, or loss of ears:]
Quem nogue pauperies, neque mors, neque vincula terrent. Horat.
- Ver. 55. Here's she beholds the Chaos dark and deep,
Where nameless Somethings, &c.]
That is to say, unformed things, which are either made into Poems or Plays, as the Booksellers or the Players bid most. These lines allude to the following in Garth's Dispensary, Cant. vi.
Within the chambers of the globe they spy
The beds where sleeping vegetables lie,
'Till the glad summons of a genial ray
Unbinds the glebe, and calls them out to day.
- Ver. 64. And ductile Dulness, &c.] A parody on a verse in Garth, Cant. I.
How ductile matter new meanders takes.
from a prevalent inclination: And if it be never so great, he can at first discover it no other way than by that strong propensity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken. He has no other method but to make the experiment, by writing, and so appealing to the judgment of others: And if he happens to write ill (which is certainly no sin in itself) he is immediately made the object of ridicule! I wish we had the humanity to reflect, that even the worst authors might endeavour to please us, and, in that endeavour, deserve something at our hands. We have no cause to quarrel with them, but for their obstinacy in persisting, and even that may admit of alleviating circumstances: For their particular friends may be either, ignorant, or unsincere; and the rest of the world too well bred to shock them with a truth which generally their booksellers are the first that inform them of."
But how much all indulgence is lost upon these people may appear from the just reflection made on their constant conduct, and constant fate, in the following Epigram:
Ye little Wits, that gleam'd a while,
When Pope vouchsaf'd a ray,
Alas! depriv'd of his kind smile,
How soon ye fade away!
To compass Phœbus' car about,
Thus empty vapours rise;
Each lends his cloud, to put Him out,
That rear'd him to the skies.
Alas! those skies are not your sphere;
There He shall ever burn:
Weep, weep, and fall! for Earth ye were,
And must to Earth return.