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Dr. ARBUTHNOT. : An Apology for himself and his Writings.
Ep, to Dr. Arbuthnot.] AT the time of publishing this Epistle, the Poet's patience was quite exhausted by the endless impertinence of Poetasters of all ranks and conditions, as well those who courted his favour, as thofe who envied his reputation. So that now he had resolved to quit his hands of both together, by the publication of a Dunciad. This design he communicated to his excellent Friend Dr. ARBUTHNOT, who, although as a Man of Wit and Learning he might not have been displeased to see their common injuries revenged on this pernicious Tribe; yet, as our Author's Friend and Physician, was solicitous of his ease and health; and therefore unwilling he should provoke so large and powerful a party.
Their difference of opinion, in this matter, gives occasion 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 case, and humouroufly applied to his Physician in the manner one would ask for a Receipt to kill Vermin, he strait goes on, in the common Character of Askers of advice, to tell his Doctor that he had already taken his party, and determined of his remedy. But using a preamble, and introducing it in the way of Poets) with a Simile, in which he names King's, Queens, and Ministers of State, his Friend takes the alarm, begs him to forbear, to stick to his subject, and to be eafy under lo common a calamity.
To make so light of his disaster provokes the Poet : he breaks the thread of his discourse, which was to lead his Friend gently, and by degrees, into his project; and abruptly tells him the application of his-Simile, at once,
Out with it, Dunciad! let the secret pass, &c.
But recollecting the humanity and tenderness of his Friend, which, he apprehends, might be a little shocked at the apparent severity of such a proceeding, he assures him, that his goodnature is alarmed without a cause, for that nothing has less feeling than this sort of Offenders; which he illustrates in the Examples of a damn'd Poet, a detected Slanderer, a Table-Parafite, a Church-Buffoon, and a Party-Writer [from 1 to 100.)
But, in this enumeration, coming again to Names, his Friend once more stops him, and bids him consider what hostilities this general attack will set on foot. So much the better, replies the Poet; for, considering the strong antiphathy of bad to good, enemies they will always be, either open or secret: and it admits of no question, but a Slanderer is less hurtful than a Flatterer. For, says he (in a pleasant Simile addressed to his Friend's profession)
Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right,
It is the Naver kills, and not the bite. And how abject and exceffive the flattery of these creatures was, he shews, by observing, that they praised him even for his infirmities; his bad health, and his inconvenient shape [x 100 to 125.]
But still it might be said, 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 disposition, which, from his very birth, had drawn him so strongly towards Poctry, as if it were in execution of some secret decree of Heaven for crimes unknown. But though he offended in becoming an Author, he offended in nothing else. For his early verses were perfe&tly 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 distinction. But it was his peculiar ill-fortune to create a Jealoufy in One, whom not only many good offices done by our Author to him and his friends, but a similitude of genius and studies might have inclined to a reciprocal affection and support. On the contrary, that otherwife amiable Person, being, by nature, timorous and suspicious ; by education a party-man; and, by the circumstances of fortune, beset with flatterers and pick-thanks ; regarded our Author as his Rival, fet up by a contrary Faction, with views destructive of public liberty, and his friend's reputation. And all this, with as
SATİRES. グ 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, fet up for a Patron, or a Dictator amongst the Wits; but still kept in his usual privacy; leaving the whole Castalian state, as he calls it, to a Mock-Mecenas; whom he next describes [ 125 to 261.]
And, ftruck with the sense of that dignity and felicity inseparable from the character of a true Poet, he breaks out into a passionate vow for a continuance of the full Liberty attendant on it. And to fhéw how well he deserves it, and how safely he might be trusted with it, he concludes his wish with a description of his temper and disposition [* 261 to 271.]
This naturally leads him to complain of his Friends, when they consider him in no other view than that of an Author: a's if he had neither the same right to the enjoyments of life, the same concern for his highest interests, or the fame dispositions of benevolence, with other people.
Besides, he now admonishes them, in his turn, that they do not consider to what they expose him, when they urge him to write on; riamely, to the suspicions and the displeasure of a Court; who are made to believe, he is always writing; or at least to the foolish criticisms of court fycophants, who pretend to find him, by his style, in the immoral libels of every idle scribler: though he, in the mean time, be so far from countenancing such worthless trash in others, that he would be ready to execrate even his own best vein of poetry, if made at the expence of Truth or Innocence.
Curst be the verse, how well so e'er it flow,
Or from the soft-ey'd virgin steal a tear. (Sentiments, which no efforts of genius, without the concurrence of the heart, could have expressed in strains so exquifitely fublime) that the fole object of his resentment was vice and baseness. In the detection of which, he artfully takes occasion 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 fensible mannes [x271 to 334.)
And here, moved again with fresh indignation at his sanderers, 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 himfelf to all the violence of Cabals, and the treacheries of Courts: the various iniquities of which having. diftinctly specified, he fums them up in that most atrocious and sensīble of all, [W 334 to 359.)
The whisper, that to greatness still too near,
For thee, fair Virtue! welcome ev'n the last,
But left this should give his Reader the idea of a favage intractable Virtue, which could bear with nothing, and would pardon nothing, he takes to himself the shame of owning that he was of so easy a nature, as to be duped by the slenderest anpearances, a pretence to Virtue in a witty Woman: so forgiving, that he had fought out the object of his beneficence in a perfonal Enemy: fo humble, that he had submitted to the conversation 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 [* 368 to 388.]
This naturally leads him to give a short account of their births, fortunes, and dispositions ; which ends with the tenderest wishes for the happiness of his Friend; intermixed with the most pathetic description of that filial Piety, in the exercise of which he makes his own happiness to confift.
Me let the tender office long engage