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The War With The Dunces

( Originally Published 1880 )



IN the Dunciad, published soon after the Odyssey, Pope laments ten years spent as a commentator and translator. He was not without compensation. The drudgery—for the latter part of his task must have been felt as drudgery —once over, he found himself in a thoroughly independent position, still on the right side of forty, and able to devote his talents to any task which might please him. The task which he actually chose was not calculated to promote his happiness. We must look back to an earlier period to explain its history. During the last years of Queen Anne, Pope had belonged to a " little senate " in which Swift was the chief figure. Though Swift did not exercise either so gentle or so imperial a sway as Addison, the cohesion between the more independent members of this rival clique was strong and lasting. They amused themselves by projecting the Scriblerus Club, a body which never had, it would seem, any definite organization, but was held to exist for the prosecution of a design never fully executed. Martinus Scriblerus was the name of an imaginary pedant—a precursor and relative of Dr. Dryasdust—whose memoirs and works were to form a satire upon stupidity in the guise of learning. The various members of the club were to share in the compilation ; and if such joint-stock undertakings were practicable in literature, it would be difficult to collect a more brilliant set of contributors. After Swift—the terrible humourist of whom we can hardly think without a mixture of horror and compassion—the chief members were Atterbury, Arbuthnot, Gay, Parnell, and Pope himself. Parnell, an amiable man, died in 1717, leaving works which were edited by Pope in 1722. Atterbury, a potential Wolsey or Laud born in an uncongenial period, was a man of fine literary taste—a warm admirer of Milton (though he did exhort Pope to put Samson Agonistes into civilised costume—one of the most unlucky suggestions ever made by mortal man), a judicious critic of Pope himself, and one who had already given proofs of his capacity in literary warfare by his share in the famous controversy with Bentley. Though no one now doubts the measureless superiority of Bentley, the clique of Swift and Pope still cherished the belief that the wit of Atterbury and his allies had triumphed over the ponderous learning of the pedant. Arbuthnot, whom Swift had introduced to Pope as a man who could do everything but walk, was an amiable and accomplished physician. He was a strong Tory and high churchman, and retired for a time to France upon the death of Anne and the overthrow of his party. He returned, however, to England, resumed his practice, and won Pope's warmest gratitude by his skill and care. He was a man of learning, and had employed it in an attack upon Wood-ward's geological . speculations, as already savouring of heterodoxy. He possessed also a vein of genuine humour, resembling that of Swift, though it has rather lost its savour, perhaps, because it was not salted by the Dean's misanthropic bitterness. If his good humour weakened his wit, it gained him the affections of his friends, and was never soured by the sufferings of his later years. Finally, John Gay, though fat, lazy, and wanting in manliness of spirit, had an illimitable flow of good-tempered banter ; and if he could not supply the learning of Arbuthnot, he could give what was more valuable, touches of fresh natural simplicity, which still explain the liking of his friends. Gay, as Johnson says, was the general favourite of the wits, though a playfellow rather than a partner, and treated with more fondness than respect. Pope seems to have loved him better than any one, and was probably soothed by his easy-going, unsuspicious temper. They were of the same age; and Gay, who had been apprenticed to a linendraper, managed to gain notice by his poetical talents, and was taken up by various great people. Pope said of him that he wanted independence of spirit, which is indeed obvious enough. He would have been a fitting inmate of Thomson's Castle of Indolence. He was one of those people who consider that Providence is bound to put food into their mouths without giving them any trouble; and, as sometimes happens, his draft upon the general system of things was honoured. He was made comfortable by various patrons ; the Duchess of Queensberry petted him in his later years, and the duke kept his money for him. His friends chose to make a grievance of the neglect of Government to add to his comfort by a good place ; they encouraged him to refuse the only place offered as not sufficiently dignified ; and he even became something of a martyr when his Polly, a sequel to the Beggars' Opera, was prohibited by the Lord Chamberlain, and a good subscription made him ample amends. Pope has immortalized the complaint by lamenting the fate of " neglected genius " in the Epistle to Arbuthnot, and declaring that the " sole return " of all Gay's " blameless life " was

My verse and Queensberry weeping o'er thy urn.

Pope's alliance with Gay had various results. Gay continued the war with Ambrose Philips by writing burlesque pastorals, of which Johnson truly says that they show " the effect of reality and truth, even when the intention was to show them grovelling and degraded." They may still be glanced at with pleasure. Soon after the publication of the mock pastorals, the two friends, in company with Arbuthnot, had made an adventure more in the spirit of the Scriblerus Club. A farce called Three Hours after Marriage was produced and damned in 1717. It was intended (amongst other things) to satirize Pope's old enemy Dennis, called "Sir Tremendous," as an embodiment of pedantic criticism, and Arbuthnot's old antagonist Woodward. A taste for fossils, mummies, or antiquities, was at that time regarded as a fair butt for unsparing ridicule; but the three great wits managed their assault so clumsily as to become ridiculous themselves ; and Pope, as we shall presently see, smarted as usual under failure.

After Swift's retirement to Ireland, and during Pope's absorption in Homer, the Scriblerus Club languished. Some fragments, however, of the great design were executed by the four chief members, and the dormant project was revived, after Pope had finished his Homer, on occasion of the last two visits of Swift to England. He passed six months in England from March to August, 1726, and had brought with him the MS. of Gulliver's Travels, the greatest satire produced by the Scriblerians. He passed a great part of his time at Twickenham, and in rambling with Pope or Gay about the country. Those who do not know how often the encounter of brilliant

wits tends to neutralize rather than stimulate their activity, may wish to have been present at a dinner which took place at Twickenham on July 6th, 1726, when the party was made up of Pope, the most finished poet of the day; Swift, the deepest humourist ; Bolingbroke, the most brilliant politician; Congreve, the wittiest writer of comedy ; and Gay, the author of the most successful burlesque. The envious may console themselves by thinking that Pope very likely went to sleep, that Swift was deaf and overbearing, that Congreve and Boling-broke were painfully witty, and Gay frightened into silence. When in 1727 Swift again visited England, and stayed at Twickenham, the clouds were gathering. The scene is set before us in some of Swift's verses :

Pope has the talent well to speak,
But not to reach the ear ;
His loudest voice is low and weak,
The dean too deaf to hear.
Awhile they on each other look,
Then different studies choose ;
The dean sits plodding o'er a book,
Pope walks and courts the muse.

"Two sick friends," says Swift in a letter written after his return to Ireland, " never did well together." It is plain that their infirmities had been mutually trying, and on the last day of August Swift suddenly withdrew from Twickenham, in spite of Pope's entreaties. He had heard of the last illness of Stella, which was finally to crush his happiness. Unable to endure the company of friends, he went to London in very bad health, and thence, after a short stay, to Ireland, leaving behind him a letter which, says Pope, " affected me so much that it made me like a girl." It was a gloomy parting, and the last. The stern Dean retired to die "like a poisoned rat in a hole," after long years of bitterness, and finally of slow intellectual decay. He always retained perfect confidence in his friend's affection. Poor Pope, as he says in the verses on his own death,

will grieve a month, and Gay
A week, and Arbuthnot a day ;

and they were the only friends to whom he attributes sincere sorrow.

Meanwhile two volumes of Miscellanies, the joint work of the four wits, appeared in June, 1727, and a third in March, 1728. A fourth, hastily got up, was published in 1732. They do not appear to have been successful. The copyright of the three volumes was sold for 2251., of which Arbuthnot and Gay received each 501., whilst the remainder was shared between Pope and Swift ; and Swift seems to have given his part, according to his custom, to the widow of a respectable Dublin bookseller. Pope's correspondence with the publisher shows that he was en-trusted with the financial details, and arranged them with the sharpness of a practised man of business. The whole collection was made up in great part of old scraps, and savoured of bookmaking, though Pope speaks complacently of the joint volumes, in which he says to Swift, " We look like friends, side by side, serious and merry by turns, conversing interchangeably, and walking down, hand in hand, to posterity." Of the various fragments contributed by Pope, there is only one which need be mentioned here—the treatise on Bathos in the third volume, in which he was helped by Arbuthnot. He told Swift privately that he had " entirely methodized and in a manner written it all," though he afterwards chose to denounce the very same statement as a lie when the treatise brought him into trouble. It is the most amusing of his prose writings, consisting essentially of a collection of absurdities from various authors, with some apparently invented for the occasion, such as the familiar

Ye gods, annihilate but space and time,
And make two lovers happy!

and ending with the ingenious receipt to make an epic poem. Most of the passages ridiculed—and, it must be said, very deservedly—were selected from some of the various writers to whom, for one reason or another, he owed a grudge. Ambrose Philips and Dennis, his old enemies, and Theobald, who had criticised his edition of Shakespeare, supply several illustrations. Blackmore had spoken very strongly of the immorality of the wits in some prose essays ; Swift's Tale of a Tub, and a parody of the first psalm, anonymously circulated, but known to be Pope's, had been severely condemned ; and Pope took a cutting revenge by plentiful citations from Blackmore's most ludicrous bombast ; and even Broome, his colleague in Homer, came in for a passing stroke, for Broome and Pope were now at enmity. Finally, Pope fired a general volley into the whole crowd of bad authors by grouping them under the head of various animals—tortoises, parrots, frogs, and so forth—and adding under each head the initials of the persons described. He had the audacity to declare that the initials were selected at random. If so, a marvellous coincidence made nearly every pair of letters correspond to the name and surname of some contemporary poetaster. The classification was rather vague, but seems to have given special offence.

Meanwhile Pope was planning a more elaborate campaign against his adversaries. He now appeared for the first time as a formal satirist, and the Dunciad, in which he came forward as the champion of Wit, taken in its broad sense, against its natural antithesis, Dulness, is in some respect his masterpiece. It is addressed to Swift, who probably assisted at some of its early stages. 0 thou, exclaims the poet,

O thou, whatever title please thine ear,
Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver !
Whether thou choose Cervantes' serious air,
Or laugh and shake in Rabelais's easy chair,

And we feel that Swift is present in spirit throughout the composition. " The great fault of the Dunciad," says Warton, an intelligent and certainly not an over-severe critic, "is the excessive vehemence of the satire. It has been compared," he adds, "to the geysers propelling a vast column of boiling water by the force of subterranean fire ;" and he speaks of some one who after reading a book of the Dunciad, always soothes himself by a canto of the Faery Queen. Certainly a greater contrast could not easily be suggested ; and yet, I think, that the remark requires at least modification. The Dunciad, indeed, is beyond all question full of coarse abuse. The second book, in particular, illustrates that strange delight in the physically disgusting which Johnson notices as characteristic of Pope and his master, Swift. In the letter pre-fixed to the Dunciad, Pope tries to justify his abuse of his enemies by the example of Boileau, whom he appears to have considered as his great prototype. But Boileau would have been revolted by the brutal images which Pope does not hesitate to introduce ; and it is a curious phenomenon that the poet who is pre-eminently the representative of polished society should openly take such pleasure in unmixed filth. Polish is sometimes very thin. It has been suggested that Swift, who was with Pope during the composition, may have been directly responsible for some of these brutalities. At any rate, as I have said, Pope has here been working in the Swift spirit, and this gives, I think, the keynote of his Dunciad.

The geyser comparison is so far misleading that Pope is not in his most spiteful mood. There is not that infusion of personal venom which appears so strongly in the character of Sporus and similar passages. In reading them we feel that the poet is writhing under some bitter mortification, and trying with concentrated malice to sting his adversary in the tenderest places. We hear a tortured victim screaming out the shrillest taunts at his tormentor. The abuse in the Dunciad is by comparison broad and even jovial. The tone at which Pope is aiming is that suggested by the "laughing and shaking in Rabelais' easy chair." It is meant to be a boisterous guffaw from capacious lungs, an enormous explosion of superlative contempt for the mob of stupid thickskinned scribblers. They are to be overwhelmed with gigantic cachinnations, ducked in the dirtiest of drains, rolled over and over with rough horseplay, pelted with the least savoury of rotten eggs, not skilfully anatomized or pierced with dexterously directed needles. Pope has really stood by too long, watching their tiresome antics and receiving their taunts, and he must once for all speak out and give them a lesson.

Out with it Dunciad ! let the secret pass,
That secret to each fool—that he's an ass!

That is his account of his feelings in the Prologue to the Satires, and he answers the probable remonstrance.

You think this cruel ? Take it for a rule,
No creature smarts so little as a fool.

To reconcile us to such laughter, it should have a more genial tone than, Pope could find in his nature. We ought to feel, and we certainly do not feel, that after the joke has been fired off there should be some possibility of reconciliation, or, at least, we should find some recognition of the fact that the victims are not to be hated simply because they were not such clever fellows as Pope. There is something cruel in Pope's laughter, as in Swift's. The missiles are not mere filth, but are weighted with hard materials that bruise and mangle. He professes that his enemies were the first aggressors, a plea which can be only true in part; and he defends himself, feebly enough, against the obvious charge that he has ridiculed men for being obscure, poor, and stupid—faults not to be amended by satire, nor rightfully provocative of enmity. In fact, Pope knows in his better moments that a man is not necessarily wicked because he sleeps on a bulk, or writes verses in a garret ; but he also knows that to mention those facts will give his enemies pain, and he cannot refrain from the use of so handy a weapon.

Such faults make one half ashamed of confessing to reading the Dunciad with pleasure ; and yet it is frequently written with such force and freedom that we half pardon the cruel little persecutor, and admire the vigour with which he throws down the gauntlet to the natural enemies of genius. The Dunciad is modelled upon the Mac Flecknoe, in which Dryden celebrates the appointment of Elkanah Shadwell to succeed Flecknoe as monarch of the realms of Dulness, and describes the coronation ceremonies. Pope imitates many passages, and adopts the general design. Though he does not equal the vigour of some of Dryden's lines, and wages war in a more ungenerous spirit, the Dunciad has a wider scope than its original, and shows Pope's command of his weapons in occasional felicitous phrases, in the vigour of the versification, and in the general sense of form and clear presentation of the scene imagined. For a successor to the great empire of dulness he chose (in the original form of the poem) the unlucky Theobald, a writer to whom the merit is attributed of having first illustrated Shakespere by a study of the contemporary literature. In doing this he had fallen foul of Pope, who could claim no such merit for his own editorial work, and Pope therefore regarded him as a grovelling antiquarian. As such, he was a fit pretender enough to the throne once occupied by Settle. The Dunciad begins by a spirited description of the goddess brooding in her cell upon the eve of a Lord Mayor's day, when the proud scene was o'er,

But lived in Settle's numbers one day more.

The predestined hero is meanwhile musing in his Gothic library, and addresses a solemn invocation to Dulness, who accepts his sacrifice—a pile of his own works—transports him to her temple, and declares him to be the legitimate successor to the former rulers of her kingdom. The second book describes the games held in honour of the new ruler. Some of them are, as a frank critic observes, "beastly;" but a brief report of the least objectionable may serve as a specimen of the whole performance. Dulness, with her court descends

To where Fleet Ditch with disemboguing streams
Rolls the large tribute of dead dogs to Thames,
The king of dykes than whom no sluice of mud
With deeper sable blots the silver flood.
Here strip, my children, here at once leap in ;
Here prove who best can dash through thick and thin,
And who the most in love of dirt excel.

And, certainly by the poet's account, they all love it as well as their betters. The competitors in this contest are drawn from the unfortunates immersed in what Warburton calls "the common sink of all such writers (as Ralph)—a political newspaper." They were all hateful, partly because they were on the side of Walpole, and therefore, by Pope's logic, unprincipled hirelings, and more, because in that cause, as others, they had assaulted Pope and his friend. There is Oldmixon, a hack writer employed in compilations, who accused Atterbury of falsifying Clarendon, and was accused of himself falsifying historical documents in the interests of Whiggism ; and Smedley, an Irish clergyman, a special enemy of Swift's, who had just printed a collection of assaults upon the miscellanies called Gulliveriana; and Concanen, another Irish-man, an ally of Theobald's, and (it may be noted) of War burton's, who attacked the Bathos, and received — of course, for the worst services—an appointment in Jamaica; and Arnall, one of Walpole's most favoured journalists, who was said to have received for himself or others near 11,0001. in four years. Each dives in a way supposed to be characteristic, Oldmixon with the pathetic exclamation,

And am I now threescore ?
Ah, why, ye gods, should two and two make four ?

Concanen, " a cold, long-winded native of the deep," dives perseveringly, but without causing a ripple in the stream :

Not so bold Arnall—with a weight of skull
Furious he dives, precipitately dull,

and ultimately emerges to claim the prize, "with half the bottom on his head." But Smedley, who has been given up for lost, comes up,

Shaking the horrors of his sable brows,

and relates how he has been sucked in by the mud-nymphs, and how they have shown him a branch of Styx which here pours into the Thames, and diffuses its soporific vapours over the Temple and its purlieus. He is solemnly welcomed by Milbourn (a reverend antagonist of Dryden), who tells him to " receive these robes which once were mine,"

Dulness is sacred in a sound divine.

The games are concluded in the second book ; and in the third the hero, sleeping in the Temple of Dulness, meets in a vision the ghost of Settle, who reveals to him the future of his empire ; tells how dulness is to over-spread the world, and revive the triumphs of Goths and monks ; how the hated Dennis, and Gildon, and others, are to overwhelm scorners, and set up at court, and preside over arts and sciences, though a fit of temporary sanity causes him to give a warning to the deists --

But learn ye dunces ! not to scorn your God --

and how posterity is to witness the decay of the stage, under a deluge of silly farce, opera, and sensation dramas ; how bad architects are to deface the works of Wren and Inigo Jones ; whilst the universities and public schools are to be given up to games and idleness, and the birch is to be abolished.

Fragments of the prediction have not been entirely falsified, though the last couplet intimates a hope.

Enough ! enough ! the raptured monarch cries,
And through the ivory gate the vision flies.

The Dunciad was thus a declaration of war against the whole tribe of scribblers; and, like other such declarations, it brought more consequences than Pope foresaw. It introduced Pope to a very dangerous line of conduct. Swift had written to Pope in 1725: " Take care that the bad poets do not outwit you, as they have served the good ones in every age, whom they have provoked to transmit their names to posterity ; " and the Dunciad has been generally censured from Swift's point of view. Satire, it is said, is wasted upon such insignificant persons. To this Pope might have replied, with some plausibility, that the interest of satire must always depend upon its internal qualities, not upon our independent knowledge of its object. Though Gildon and Arnall are forgotten, the type " dunce " is eternal. The warfare, however, was demoralizing in another sense. Whatever may have been the injustice of Pope's attacks upon individuals, the moral standard of the Grub Street population was far from exalted. The poor scribbler had too many temptations to sell himself, and to evade the occasional severity of the laws of libel by humiliating contrivances. Moreover, the uncertainty of the law of copyright encouraged the lower class of booksellers to undertake all kinds of piratical enterprises, and to trade in various ways upon the fame of well-known authors, by attributing trash to them, or purloining and publishing what the authors would have suppresed. Dublin was to London what New York is now, and successful books were at once reproduced in Ireland. Thus the lower strata of the literary class frequently practised with impunity all manner of more or less discreditable trickery, and Pope, with his morbid propensity for mystification, was only too apt a pupil in such arts. Though the tone of his public utterances was always of the loftiest, he was like a civilized commander who, in carrying on a war with savages, finds it convenient to adopt the practices which he professes to disapprove.

The whole publication of the Dunciad was surrounded with tricks, intended partly to evade possible consequences, and partly to excite public interest or to. cause amusement at the expense of the bewildered victims. Part of the plot was concerted with Swift, who, however, does not appear to have been quite in the secret. The complete poem was intended to appear with an elaborate mock commentary by Scriblerus, explaining some of the allusions, and with " proeme, prolegomena, testimonia scriptorum, index auctorum, and notae variorum." In the first instance, however, it appeared in a mangled form without this burlesque apparatus or the lines to Swift. Four editions were issued in this form in 1728, and with a mock notice from the publisher, expressing a hope that the author would be provoked to give a more perfect edition. This, accordingly, appeared in 1729. Pope seems to have been partly led to this device by a principle which he avowed to Warburton. When he had anything specially sharp to say he kept it for a second edition, where it would, he thought, pass with less offence. But he may also have been under the impression that all the mystery of apparently spurious editions would excite public curiosity. He adopted other devices for avoiding unpleasant consequences. It was possible that his victims might appeal to the law. In order to throw dust in their eyes, two editions appeared in Dublin and London, the Dublin edition professing to be a reprint from a London edition, whilst the London edition professed in the same way to be the reprint of a Dublin edition. To oppose another obstacle to prosecutors, he assigned the Dunciad to three noblemen—Lords Bathurst, Burlington, and Oxford—who transferred their right to Pope's publisher. Pope would be sheltered behind these responsible persons, and an aggrieved person might be slower to attack persons of high position and property. By yet another device Pope applied for an injunction in Chancery to suppress a piratical London edition ; but ensured the failure of his application by not supplying the necessary proofs of property. This trick, repeated, as we shall see, on another occasion, was intended either to shirk reponsibility or to increase the notoriety of the book. A further mystification was equally characteristic. To the Dunciad in its enlarged form is prefixed a letter, really written by Pope himself, but praising his morality and genius, and justifying his satire in terms which would have been absurd in Pope's own mouth. He therefore induced a Major Cleland, a retired officer of some position, to put his name to the letter, which it is possible that he may have partly written. The device was trans-parent, and only brought ridicule upon its author. Finally, Pope published an account of the publication in the name of Savage, known by Johnson's biography, who seems to have been a humble ally of the great man—at once a convenient source of information and a tool for carrying on this underground warfare. Pope afterwards incorporated this statement—which was meant to prove, by some palpable falsehoods, that the dunces had not been the aggressors—in his own notes, without Savage's name. This labyrinth of unworthy devices was more or less visible to Pope's antagonists. It might in some degree be excusable as a huge practical joke, absurdly elaborate for the purpose, but it led Pope into some slippery ways, where no such excuse is available.

Pope, says Johnson, contemplated his victory over the dunces with great exultation. Through his mouthpiece, Savage, he described the scene on the day of publication ; how a crowd of authors besieged the shop and threatened him with violence ; how the booksellers and hawkers struggled with small success for copies ; how the dunces formed clubs to devise measures of retaliation; how one wrote to ministers to denounce Pope as a traitor, and another brought an image in clay to execute him in effigy; and how sucessive editions, genuine and spurious, followed each other, distinguished by an owl or an ass on the frontispiece, and provoking infinite controversy amongst rival vendors. It is unpleasant to have ugly names hurled at one by the first writer of the day ; but the abuse was for the most part too general to be libellous. Nor would there be any great interest now in exactly distributing the blame between Pope and his enemies. A word or two may be said of one of the most conspicuous quarrels.

Aaron Hill was a fussy and ambitious person, full of literary and other schemes ; devising a plan for extracting oil from beech-nuts, and writing a Pindaric ode on the occasion ; felling forests in the Highlands to provide timber for the navy; and, as might be inferred, spending instead of making a fortune. He was a stage-manager, translated Voltaire's Merope, wrote words for Handel's first composition in England, wrote unsuccessful plays, a quantity of unreadable poetry, and corresponded with most of the literary celebrities. Pope put his initials, A. H., under the head of " Flying Fishes," in the Bathos, as authors who now and then rise upon their fins and fly, but soon drop again to the profound. In the Dunciad, he reappeared amongst the divers.

Then * * tried, but hardly snatch'd from sight
Instant buoys up and rises into light
He bears no token of the sable streams,
And mounts far off amongst the swans of Thames.

A note applied the lines to Hill, with whom he had had a former misunderstanding. Hill replied to these assaults by a ponderous satire in verse upon " tuneful Alexis ; " it had, however, some tolerable lines at the opening, imitated from Pope's own verses upon Addison, and attributing to him the same jealousy of merit in others. Hill soon afterwards wrote a civil note to Pope, complaining of the passage in the Dunciad. Pope might have relied upon the really satisfactory answer that the lines were, on the whole, complimentary; indeed, more complimentary than true. But with his natural propensity for lying, he re-sorted to his old devices. In answer to this and a subsequent letter, in which Hill retorted with unanswerable force, Pope went on to declare that he was not the author of the notes, that the extracts had been chosen at random, that he would " use his influence with the editors of the Dunciad to get the note altered "; and, finally, by an ingenious evasion, pointed out that the blank in the Dunciad required to be filled up by a dissyllable. This, in the form of the lines as quoted above, is quite true, but in the first edition of the Dunciad the first verse had been Hill tried the next, but hardly snatch'd from sight.

Hill did not detect this specimen of what Pope somewhere calls " pretty genteel equivocation." He was reconciled to Pope, and taught the poor poet by experience that his friendship was worse than his enmity. He wrote him letters of criticism ; he forced poor Pope to negotiate for him with managers and to bring distinguished. friends to the performances of his dreary plays ; nay, to read through, or to say that he had read through, one of them in manuscript four times, and make corrections mixed with elaborate eulogy. No doubt Pope came to regard a letter from Hill with terror, though Hill compared him to Horace and Juvenal, and hoped that he would live till the virtues which his spirit would propagate became as general as the esteem of his genius. In short, Hill, who was a florid flatterer, is so complimentary that we are not surprised to find him telling Richardson, after Pope's death, that the poet's popularity was due to a certain " bladdery swell of management." " But," he concludes, "rest his memory in in peace ! It will very rarely be disturbed by that time he himself is ashes."

The war raged for some time. Dennis, Smedley, Moore-Smythe, Welsted, and others, retorted by various pamphlets, the names of which were published by Pope in an appendix to future editions of the " Dunciad," by way of proving that his own blows had told. Lady Mary was credited, perhaps unjustly, with an abusive performance called a " Pop upon Pope," relating how Pope had been soundly whipped by a couple of his victims—of course a pure fiction. Some such vengeance, however, was seriously threatened. As Pope was dining one day at Lord Bathurst's, the servant brought in the agreeable message that a young man was waiting for Mr. Pope in the lane outside, and that the young man's name was Dennis. He was the son of the critic, and pre-pared to avenge his father's wrongs ; but Bathurst persuaded him to retire, without the glory of thrashing a cripple. Reports of such possibilities were circulated, and Pope thought it prudent to walk out with his big Danish dog Bounce, and a pair of pistols. Spence tried to persuade the little man not to go out alone, but Pope declared that he would not go a step out of his way for such villains, and that it was better to die than to live in fear of them. He continued, indeed, to give fresh provocation. A weekly paper, called the Grub-street Journal, was started in January, 1730, and continued to appear till the end of 1737. It included a continuous series of epigrams and abuse, in the Scriblerian vein, and aimed against the heroes of the Dunciad, amongst whom poor James Moore-Smythe seems to have had the largest share of abuse. It was impossible, however, for Pope, busied as he was in literature and society, and constantly out of health, to be the efficient editor of such a performance ; but though he denied having any concern in it, it is equally out of the question that any one really unconnected with Pope should have taken up the huge burden of his quarrels in this fashion. Though he concealed, and on occasions denied his connexion, he no doubt inspired the editors and contributed articles to its pages, especially during its early years. It is a singular fact—or rather, it would have been singular, had Pope been a man of less abnormal character—that he should have devoted so much energy to this paltry subterranean warfare against the objects of his complex antipathies. Pope was so anxious for concealment, that he kept his secret even from his friendly legal adviser Fortescue; and Fortescue innocently requested Pope to get up evidence to support a charge of libel against his own organ. The evidence which Pope collected—in defence of a quack-doctor, Ward—was not, as we may suppose, very valuable. Two volumes of the Grub-street Journal were printed in 1737, and a fragment or two was admitted by Pope into his works. It is said, in the preface to the collected pieces, that the journal was killed by the growing popularity of the Gentleman's Magazine, which is accused of living by plunder. But in truth the reader will infer that, if the selection includes the best pieces, the journal may well have died from congenital weakness.

The Dunciad was yet to go through a transformation, and to lead to a new quarrel ; and though this happened at a much later period, it will be most convenient to complete the story here. Pope had formed an alliance with Warburton, of which I shall presently have to speak; and it was under Warburton's influence that he resolved to add a fourth book to the Dunciad. This supplement seems to have been really made up of fragments provided for another scheme. The Essay on Man—to be presently mentioned—was to be followed by a kind of poetical essay upon the nature and limits of the human understanding, and a satire upon the misapplication of the serious faculties.' It was a design manifestly beyond the author's powers ; and even the fragment which is turned into the fourth book of the Dunciad takes him plainly out of his depth. He was no philosopher, and therefore an incompetent assailant of the abuses of philosophy. The fourth book consists chiefly of ridicule upon pedagogues who teach words instead of things ; upon the unlucky "virtuosos" who care for old medals, plants, and butterflies—pursuits which afforded an unceasing supply of ridicule to the essayists of the time ; a denunciation of the corruption of modern youth, who learn nothing but new forms of vice in the grand tour ; and a fresh assault upon Toland, Tindal, and other freethinkers of the day. There were some passages marked by Pope's usual dexterity, but the whole is awkwardly constructed, and has no very intelligible connexion with the first part. It was highly admired at the time, and, amongst others, by Gray. He specially praises a passage which has often been quoted as representing Pope's highest achievement in his art. At the conclusion the goddess Dulness yawns, and a blight falls upon art, science, and philosophy. I quote the lines, which Pope himself could not repeat without emotion, and which have received the highest eulogies from Johnson and Thackeray.

In vain, in vain—the all-composing Hour
Resistless falls ; the Muse obeys the Power—
She comes ! she comes ! the sable throne behold
Of night primeval and of chaos old ! Before her
Fancy's gilded clouds decay,
And all its varying rainbows die away.
Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
The meteor drops, and in a flash expires,
As one by one, at dread Medea's strain,
The sickening stars fade off the ethereal plain ;
As Argus' eyes by Hermes' wand oppress'd
Closed one by one to everlasting rest;
Thus at her felt approach, and secret might,
Art after art goes out, and all is night.
See skulking Truth to her old cavern fled,
Mountains of casuistry heaped o'er her head !
Philosophy, that lean'd on heaven before,
Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.
Physic of Metaphysic begs defence,
And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense !
See Mystery to Mathematics fly !
In vain ! They gaze, turn giddy, rave and die.
Religion blushing veils her sacred fires
And unawares Morality expires.
Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine ;
Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine !
Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos ! is restored ;
Light dies before thy uncreating word ;
Thy hand, great Anarch, lets the curtain fall
And universal darkness buries all.

The most conspicuous figure in this new Dunciad (published March, 1742), is Bentley—taken as the representative of a pedant rampant. Bentley is, I think, the only man of real genius of whom Pope has spoken in terms implying gross misappreciation. With all his faults, Pope was a really fine judge of literature, and has made fewer blunders than such men as Addison, Gray, and Johnson, infinitely superior to him in generosity of feeling towards the living. He could even appreciate Bentley, and had written, in his copy of Bentley's Milton, "Pulchre, bene, recte," against some of the happier emendations in the great critic's most unsuccessful performance. The assault in the Dunciad is not the less unsparing and ignorantly contemptuous of scholarship. The explanation is easy. Bentley, who had spoken contemptuously of Pope's Homer, said of Pope, " the portentous cub never forgives." But this was not all. Bentley had provoked enemies by his intense pugnacity almost as freely as Pope by his sneaking malice. Swift and Atterbury, objects of Pope's friendly admiration, had been his antagonists, and Pope would naturally accept their view of his merits. And, moreover, Pope's great ally of this period had a dislike of his own to Bentley. Bentley had said of Warburton that he was a man of monstrous appetite and bad digestion. The remark hit Warburton's most obvious weakness. Warburton, with his imperfect scholarship, and vast masses of badly assimilated learning, was jealous of the reputation of the thoroughly trained and accurate critic. It was the dislike of a charlatan for the excellence which he endeavoured to simulate. Bolingbroke, it may be added, was equally contemptuous in his language about men of learning, and for much the same reason. He depreciated what he could not rival. Pope, always under the influence of some stronger companions, naturally adopted their shallow prejudices, and recklessly abused a writer who should have been recognized as amongst the most effective combatants against dulness.

Bentley died a few months after the publication of the Dunciad. But Pope found a living antagonist, who succeeded in giving him pain enough to gratify the vilified dunces. This was Colley Cibber—most lively and mercurial of actors—author of some successful plays, with too little stuff in them for permanence, and of an Apology for his own Life, which is still exceedingly amusing as well as useful for the history of the stage. He was now approaching seventy, though he was to survive Pope for thirteen years, and as good-tempered a specimen of the lively, if not too particular, old man of the world as could well have been found. Pope owed him a grudge. Cibber, in playing the Rehearsal, had introduced some ridicule of the unlucky Three Hours after Marriage. Pope, he says, came behind the scenes foaming and choking with fury, and forbidding Cibber ever to repeat the insult. Cibber laughed at him, said that he would repeat it as long as the Rehearsal was performed, and kept his word. Pope took his revenge by many incidental hits at Cibber, and Cibber made a good-humoured reference to this abuse in the Apology. Hereupon Pope, in the new Dunciad, described him as reclining on the lap of the goddess, and added various personalities in the notes. Cibber straightway published a letter to Pope, the more cutting because still in perfect good-humour, and told the story about the original quarrel. He added an irritating anecdote in order to provoke the poet still further. It described Pope as introduced by Cibber and Lord Warwick to very 'bad company. The story was one which could only be told by a graceless old representative of the old school of comedy, but it hit its mark. The two Richardsons once found Pope reading one of Cibber's pamphlets. He said, " These things are my diversion ;" but they saw his features writhing with anguish, and young Richardson, as they went home, observed to his father that he hoped to be preserved from such diversions as Pope had enjoyed. The poet resolved to avenge himself, and he did it to the lasting injury of his poem. He dethroned Theobald, who, as a plodding antiquarian, was an excellent exponent of dulness, and installed Cibber in in his place, who might be a representative of folly, but was as little of a dullard as Pope himself. The consequent alterations make the hero of the poem a thoroughly incongruous figure, and greatly injure the general design. The poem appeared in this form in 1743, with a ponderous prefatory discourse by Ricardus Aristarchus, contributed by the faithful Warburton, and illustrating his ponderous vein of elephantine pleasantry.

Pope was nearing the grave, and many of his victims had gone before him. It was a melancholy employment for an invalid, breaking down visibly month by month ; and one might fancy that the eminent Christian divine might have used his influence to better purpose than in fanning the dying flame, and adding the strokes of his bludgeon to the keen stabs of Pope's stiletto. In the fourteen years which had elapsed since the first Dunciad, Pope had found less unworthy employment for his pen ; but, before dealing with the works produced at this time, which include some of his highest achievements, I must tell a story which is in some ways a natural supplement to the war with the dunces. In describing Pope's entangled history, it seems most convenient to follow each separate line of discharge of his multifarious energy, rather than to adhere to chronological order.



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