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L E T T E R
Occasioned by the first correct
Edition of the DUNCI AD..
T is with pleasure I hear, that you have procured
a correct copy of the Dunciad, which the many
furreptitious ones have rendered so necessary; and it is yet with more, that I am informed it will be attended with a CoMMENTARY: A Work so requisite, that I cannot think the Author himself would have o.. mitted it, had he approved of the first appearance of this
poem. Such Notes as have occurred to me I herewith send you: You will oblige me by inserting them amongst those which are, or will be, transinitted to you by.0thers; since not only the Author's friends, but even strangers, appear engaged by humanity, to take some care of an Orphan of so much genius and spirit, which its parent seems to have abandoned from the beginning, and suffered to step into the world naked, unguarded, and unattended.
It was upon reading some of the abulive papers lately published, that my great regard to a Person, whose Friendship 1 esteem as one of the chief honours of my life, and a much greater respect to Truth, than to him or any man living, engaged me in inquiries, of which the inclosed Notes are the fruit.
I perceived, that most of these Authors had been (doubtless very wisely) the first aggressors. They had tried, 'till they were weary, what was to be got by railing at each other : Nobody was either concerned or furprized, if this or that fcribler was proved a dunce. But every one was curious to read what could be said to prove Mr Pope one, and was ready to pay something for fuch a discovery: A stratagem, which, would they fairly own, it might not only reconcile thein to me, but screen them from the resentment of their lawful Superiors, whom they daily abuse, only (as I charitably hope) to get that by them, which they cannot get from them.
I found this was not all: ill success in that had transported them to l'ersonal abuse, either of himself, or (what I think he could less forgive) of his Friends. They had called Men of virtue and honour bad Men, long before he had either leisure or inclination to call them bad writers: And some had been such old offenders, that he had quite forgotten their perfons as well as their sanders, till they were pleased to revive them.
Now what had Mr Pore done before, to incenfe them? He had published those works which are in the liands of every body, in which not the least mention is made of any of them. And what has he done since ? He has. laughed, and written the DUNCIAD. What
has that said of them! A very serious truth, which the public had said before, that they were dull: And what it had no fooner said, but they themfelves were at great pains to procure, or even purchase room in the prints to testify under their hands to the truth of it.
I should Aill have been filent, if either I had seen any inclination in my friend to be serious with such accufers, or if they had only meddled with his Writings: since whoever publishes, puts himself on his trial by his Country. But when his moral character was attacked, and in a manner from which neither truth nor virtue can secure the most innocent'; in a manner which though it annihilates the credit of the accusation with the just and impartial, yet aggravates very much the guilt of the accusers; I mean by Author's without names ; then I thought, since the danger was common to all, the concern ought to be fo; and that it was an act of justice to detect the Authors, not only on this account, but as many of them are the same, who, for several years past, have made free with the greatest names in Church and State, exposed to the world the private misfortunes of Families, abufed all, even to women, and whose prostituted papers (for one or other Party, in the unhappy divisions of their Country) have insulted the Fallen, the Friendless, the Exil'd, and the Dead.
Besides this, which I take to be a public concern, I have already confessed I had a private one. I am one of that number who have long loved and esteemed Mr Pope; and had often declared it was not his ca. pacity or writings (which we ever thought the least valuable part of his character) but the honest, open,
and beneficent man,
that we most esteemed, and loved in him. Now, if what these people say were believed, I must appear to all my friends either a fool, ora knave; either imposed on myself, or imposing on them ; lo that I am as much interested in the confutation of these calumnies, as he is himself.
I am no Author, and consequently not to be fufpected either of jealousy or refentment against any of the Men, of whom scarce one is known to me by light ; and as for their Writings, I have fought them on this one occafion) in vain, in the closets and libraries of all my acquaintance. I had ftill been in the dark, if a Gentlemen had not procured me (I suppose from fome of themselves, for they are generally much more dangerous friends than enemies) the passages I send you. I folemnly protest I have added nothing to the malice or absurdity of them; which it behoves me to declare, since the vouchers themselves will be so soon and so irrecoverably loft. You may in some measure prevent it, by preserving at least their Titles, and discovering (as far as you can depend on the truth of your information) the Names of the concealed authors.
The first objection I have heard made to the Poem is, that the persons are too: obscure for fatire. The persons themselves, ratlıer than allow the objection, would forgive the fatire ; and if one could be tempted to afford it a serious apswer, were not all assassinates, popular insurrections, the insolence of the rabble without doors, and of domestics within, most wrongfully chaftised, if the Mearness of offenders indemnified them
Which we have done in a List printed in the Appendix.