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MR. Pope, Dr. Arbuthnot, and Dr. Swift, in conjunction, formed the project of a satire on the abuses of human learning; and to make it the better received, proposed to execute it in the manner of Cervantes (the original author of this species of satire), under a continued narrative of feigned adventures. They had observed that those abuses still kept their ground against all that the ablest and gravest authors could say to discredit them; they concluded therefore, the force of ridicule was wanting to quicken their disgrace; and ridicule was here in its place, when the abuses had been already detected by sober reasoning; and truth in no danger to suffer by the premature use of so powerful an instrument. But the separation of our author and his friends, which soon after happened, with the death of one, and the infirmities of the other, put a final period to their design, when they had only drawn out an imperfect essay towards it, under the title of The First Book of the Memoirs of Scriblerus.
Moral satire never lost more than in the defeat of this project; in the execution of which, each of this illustrious triumvirate would have found exercise for his own peculiar talent; besides constant employment for those they all had in common. Dr. Arbuthnot was skilled in every thing which related to science; Mr. Pope was a master in the fine arts; and Dr. Swift excelled in the knowledge of the world. Wit they had all in equal measure, and in a measure so large, that no age perhaps ever produced three men, to whom nature had more bountifully bestowed it, or in whom art had brought it to higher perfection. Warburton.
THIS life of the solemn and absurd pedant, Dr. Scriblerus, of which Johnson speaks too contemptuously, and says it is taken from the History of Ouffle, is the only true and genuine imitation we have in our language of the serious and pompous manner of Cervantes; for it is not easy to say, why Fielding should call his Joseph Andrews,* excellent as it is, an imitation of his manner.
Don Quixote is in truth the most original and unrivalled work of modern times. The great art of Cervantes consists in having painted his mad hero with such a number of amiable qualities, as
* Joseph Andrews was written to ridicule Richardson's Pamela, and the publication gave Richardson considerable chagrin.
to make it impossible for us totally to despise him. This light and shade in drawing characters shews the master. It is thus Addison has represented his Sir Roger, and Shakespear his Falstaff. How great must be the native force of Cervantes's humour, when it can be relished by readers, even unacquainted with Spanish manners, with the institution of chivalry, and with the many passages of old romances and Italian poems, to which it perpetually alludes.
There are three or four celebrated works that bear a great resemblance, and have a turn of satire similar to that of these Memoirs the Barbon of Balsac; the Life of Montmaur, by Menage and others; the Chef d'Œuvre d'un Inconnu of Mathanase; and La Charlatanerie des Savans of Menken. Warton.
THE design of this work, as stated by Pope himself, is to ridicule all the false tastes in learning, under the character of a man of capacity enough, that had dipped into every art and science, but injudiciously in each. It was begun by a club of some of the greatest wits of the age; Lord Oxford, the Bishop of Rochester, Pope, Congreve, Arbuthnot, Swift, and others. Gay often held the pen; and Addison liked it very well, and was not disinclined to come into it. The Deipnosophy consisted of disputes on ridiculous tenets of all sorts; and the adventure of the shield was designed against Dr. Woodward and the Antiquaries. It was Anthony Henley who wrote "The Life of his Music Master, Tom Durfey;" a chapter by way of Episode. It was from a part of these memoirs that Swift took his first hints for Gulliver. There were pigmies in Schreibler's Travels, and the projects of Laputa. The design was carried on much farther than has appeared in print, and was stopped by some of the gentlemen being dispersed or otherwise engaged. Spence's Anec. p. 10. Singer's Ed.
That a chief part of the memoirs of Scriblerus was the work of Arbuthnot, there is great reason to believe. Warton has ventured to point out the chapters that are by his hand. After his death the papers came into the possession of Pope, who undoubtedly extended, and corrected them; but it was not till several years afterwards that they were committed to the press. They first appeared in the edition of the prose works of Pope in 2 vols. 4to., 1741, and were reprinted in the following year, together with the fourth book of the Dunciad, in 8vo. by Dodsley, with a note on the title page, that they were never before printed."