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EPISTLE

ΤΟ

DR. AR BUTH NOT.

An Apology for himself and his Writings..

Ep. to Dr. Arbuthnot.) AT the time of publifhing this Epiftle, the Poet's patience was quite exhaufted by the endless, impertinence of Poetafters of all ranks and conditions; as well those who courted his favour, as those who envied his reputation. So that now he had refolved to quit his hands of both together, by the publication of a DUNCIA D. Tdefign he communicated to his excellent Friend Dr. ARRUTHNOT, who, although as a Man of Wit and Learning he might not have been difpleased to fee their common injuries revenged on this pernicious Tribe;. yet, as our Author's Friend and Phyfician, was folicitous of his cafe and health; and therefore unwilling he fhould provoke fo large and powerful a party.

Their difference of opinion, in this matter, gives occafion to the following Dialogue. where, in a natural and familiar detail of all his Provocations, both from flatterers and flanderers, our Author has artfully interwoven an Apology for his moral and poetic Character.

For after having told his cafe, and humourously applied to his Physician in the manner one would afk for a Receipt to kill Vermin, he trait goes on, in the common Character of Askets of advice, to tell his Doctor that he had already taken his party and determined of his remedy. But ufing a preamble, and introducing it (in the way of Poets) with a Simile, in which he names Kings, Queens, and Minifiers of State, his Friend takes the alarm. begs him to forbear, to stick to his fubiect, and to be eafy under fo common a calamity.

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To make fo light of his difafter provokes the Poet; he, breaks the thread of his difcourfe, which was to lead his Friend gently, and by degrees, into his proie&; and abruptly tells him the application of his Simile, at once,

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Out with it, Dunciad! let the fecret pafs, &c.

But recollecting the humanity and tenderness of his Friend, which, he apprehends, night be a little fhocked at the apparent severity

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of fuch a proceeding, he affures him, that his good-nature is alarmed without a caufe, for that nothing has less feeling than this fort of Offenders; which he illuftrates in the Examples of • d'amn'd Poet, a idetected slanderer, a Table - Parafite, a ChurchBuffoon, and a Party- Writer (from v. I to 100.)

But, in this enumeration, coming again to Names, his Friend once more ftops him, and bids him confider what hoftilities this general attack will fet on foot. So much the better, replies the Poet; for, considering the frong antiphathy of bad to good, enemies they will always be, either open or fecret: and it admits of no question, but a Slanderer is less hurtful than a Flatterer. For, fays he (in a pleasant Simile addressed to his Friend's profession)

Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right,
It is the flaver kills, and not the bite.

And how abject and exceffive the flattery of these creatures was, he fhews, by obferving, that they praised him even for his infirmiries; his bad health, and his inconvenient shape (v. 100 to 125.)

But ftill it might be faid, that if he could bear this evil of Authorship no better, he should not have wrote at all. To this he answers, by lamenting the natural bent of his difpofition, which, from his very birth, had drawn him fo ftrongly towards Poetry, if it were in execution of fome fecret decree of Heaven for crimes unknown. But though he offended in becoming an Author, he offended in nothing else. For his early verfes were perfectly innocent and harmless,

Like gentle Fanny's was my flowing theme,
A painted mistress, or a purling stream.

Yet even then, he tells us, two enraged and hungry Critics fell upon him, without any provocation. But this might have been borne, as the common lot of diftin&tion. But it was his pecu liar ill-fortune to create a Jealousy in One, whom not only many good offices done by our Author to him and his friends, but a fimilitude of genius and ftudies might have inclined to a reciprocal affection and fupport. On the contrary, that otherwise amiable Perfon, being, by nature, timorous and fufpicious; by education a party - man; and, by the circumftances of fortune, befet with flatterers aud pick - thanks; regarded our Author as his Rival, set up by a contrary Faction, with views deftru&tive of public liberty and his friend's reputation. And all this, with as little provocation from Mr. Pope's conduct in his poetic, as in his civil character.

For though he had got a Name (the reputation of which he agreeably rallies in the description he gives of it) yet he never, even when most in fashion, fer up for a Patron, or a Dictator amongst the Wits; but till kept in his ufual privacy; leaving the whole Castalian state, as he calls it, to a Mock-Mecenas, whom he next defcribes (v. 125 to 261.)

And, ftruck with the fenfe of that dignity and felicity infe parable from the character of a true Poet, he breaks out into a paffionate vow for a continuance of the full Liberty attendant fon it; And to fhew how well he deferves it, and how fafely he might be trufted with it, he concludes his wifh with a description of his temper and difpofition (v. a61 to 271.)

This naturally leads him to complain of his Friends, when they confider him in no other view than that of an Author: as if he had neither the fame, right to the enjoyments of life, the fame concern for his highest interests, or the fame difpofitions of benevolence, with other people.

Besides, he now admonishes them, in his turn, that they do not confider to what they expofe him, when they urge him to write on; namely, to the fufpicions and the displeasure of a Court; who are made to believe, he is always writing; or at least co the foolish criticisms of court fycophants, who pretend to find him, by his style, in the immoral libels of every idle fcribler: though he, in the mean time, be fo far from countenancing fuch worthless trash in others, that he would be ready to execrate ever his own best vein of poetry, if made at the expence of Truth or Innocence.

Curst be the verfe, how well fo e'er it flow,

That tends to make one worthy man my foe;
Give Virtue fcandal, Innocence a fear,

Or from the foft-ey'd virgin freal a tear./

(Sentiments, which no efforts of genius, without the concurrence of the heart, could have expreffed in ftrains fo exquifitely fublime) that the fole obiect of his refentment was vice and baffs. In the detection of which, he artfully takes occafion to speak of that by which he himself had been injured and offended: and concludes with the character of one who had wantonly outraged him, and in the most fenfible manner (v. 271 to 334.)

And here, moved again with fresh indignation at his flanderers, he takes the advice of Horace, fume Superbiam quæfitam meritis, and draws a fine picture of his moral and poetic conduct through life.

In which he fhews that not fame, but VIRTUE was the constant object of his ambition: that for this he opposed himself to all, the violence of Cabais, and the treacheries of Courts: the various iniquities of which having distinctly specified, he fums them up in thas most atrocious and fenfible of all, (v. 334 to 359.)

The whi per, that to greatnefs ftill too near,

Perhaps yet vibrates on his SOVREIGN'S ear.
Welcome for thee, fair Virtue! all the paft;

For thee, fair Virtue! welcome ev'n the last.

But here again his Friend interrupts the ftrains of his divine enthufiafm, and defires him to clear up an objection made to his conduft, at Court,,,That it was inhumane to infult the Poor; and illbreeding to affront the Great.,, To which he replies, That indeed, in his pursuit of Vice, he rarely considered how Knavery was circumstanced; but followed it, with his Vengeance, indifferently, whether it led to the Pillory, or the Drawing-Room (v. 359 to 368.)

But left this fhould give his Reader the idea of a favage intractable Virtue, which could bear with nothing, and would pardon nothing, he takes to himself the fhame of owning that he was of fo eafy a nature, as to be duped by the flendereft appearances, a pretence to Virtue in a witty Woman: fo forgiving, that he had fought out the object of his beneficence in a perfonal Enemy: fo humble, that he had fubmitted to the converfation of bad Poets: and fo forbearing, that he had curbed in his resentment under the most shocking of all calumnies, abuses on his Father and Mother (v. 368 to 388.)

This naturally leads him to give a fhort account of their births, fortunes, and difpofitions; which ends with the tenderest wishes for the happiness of his Friend; intermixed with the most pathetic defcription of that filial Piety, in the exercise of which he makes his own happiness to confift.

Me let the tender office long engage

To rock the Cradle of repofing Age;

With lenient arts extend a Mother's breath,

Make Languor smile, and smooth the bed of Death;
Explore the thought, explain the afking eye,

And keep a while one Parent from the fky!

And now the Poem, which holds fo much of the DRAMA,

and opens with all the disorder and vexation that every kind of im. pertinence and flander could occafion, concludes with the utmost calmness and ferenity, in the retired enjoyment of all the tender offices of FRIENDSHIP and PIETY (v. 388 to the end.)

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