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young nobleman perfectly accomplished. She receives bim graciously, and endues him with the happy quality of want of shame. She sees loitering about her a number of indolent persons abandoning all busi. ness and duty, and dying with laziness: to these approaches the antiquary Annius, entreating her to make them virtuosos, and assign them over to him; but Mummius, another antiquary, complaining of his fraudulent proceeding, she finds a method to reconcilo their difference. Then enter a troop of people fantas. tically adorned, offering her strange and exotic pre sents: amongst them, one stands forth and demands justice on another, who had deprived him of one of the greatest curiosities in nature; but he justifies him self so well, that the goddess gives them both her approbation. She recommends to them to find proper employment for the indolents before mentioned, in the study of butterflies, shells, birds' nests, moss, &c., but with particular caution, not to proceed beyond trifles, to any useful or extensive views of nature, or of the Author of nature. Against the last of these apprehensions, she is secured by a hearty address from the minute philosophers and free-thinkers, one of whom speaks in the name of the rest. The youth thus in. structed and principled, are delivered to her in a body, by the hands of Silenus; and then admitted to taste the cup of the Magus, her ligh priest, which causes a total oblivion of all obligations, divine, civil, inoraf or rational. To these, her adepts, she sends priests, attendants, and comforters, of various kinds; conferg on them orders and degrees; and then dismissing them with a speech, confirming to each his privileges, and telling what she expects from each, concludes with a yawn of extraordinary virtue: the progress and effects whereof on all orders of men, and the consummation of all in the restoration of night and chaos, conclude the poem.
Of darkness visible so much be lent,
Now flamed the dog-star's unpropitious ray,
REMARKS. This book may properly be distinguished from the former, by the name of the Greater Dunciad, not so indeed in size, but in subject; and so far contrary to the distinction anciently made of the Greater and Lesser Iliad. But much are they mistaken who imagine this work in any wise inferior to the former, or of any other hand than of our poet; of which I am much more certain than that the Iliad itself was the work of Solomon, or the Batrachomuomachia of Homer, as Barnes hath affirmed.
Bentl. Ver. 1, &c.] This is an invocation of much piety. The poet, willing to approve himself a genuine son, beginneth by showing (what is ever agreeable to Dulness) his high respect for antiquity and a great family, how dead or dark soever: next declareth his passion for explaining mysteries ; and lastly his impatience to be re-united to her. Scribl.
Ver. 2. Cread Chaos, and eternal Night!) Invoked, as the restoration of their empire is the action of the poem.
Ver. 14. To blot out order, and extinguish light,] The two great ends of her mission; the one in quality of daughter of Chaos, the other as daughter of Night. Order here is to be understood extensively, both as civil and moral; the distinction between high and low in society, and true and falso in individuals: light as intellectual only, wit, science, arts.
Ver. 15. Of dull and venal.] The allegory continued; dull referring to the extinction of light or science: venal to the destruction of order, and the truth of things.
Ibid. A new world.) In allusion to the Epicurean opinion, that from the dissolution of the natural world into Night and Chaos, a new one should arise; this the poet al. uding to, in the production of a now moral world, makes it partake of its original principles.
She mounts the throne: her head a cloud con
ceal'd, in broad effulgence all below reveal'd: ('Tis thus aspiring Dulness ever shines :) Soft on her lap her laureate son reclines. 20
Beneath her footstool, science groans in chains, And wit dreads exile, penalties, and pains.
Ver. 20. Her laureate son reclines.] With great judgincnt it is imagined by the poet, that such a colleague as Dulness had elected, should sleep on the throne, and have very little share in the action of the poem. Accordingly he hath done little or nothing from the day of his anointing; having passed through the second book without taking part in any thing that was transacted about him; and through the third in profound sleep. Nor ought this, well considerod, to seem strange in our days, when so many king-consorts have done the like.
Scribl. This verse our excellent laureate took so to heart, that he appealed to all mankind, 'if he was not as seldom asleep as
But it is hoped the poet hath not injured bim, but rather verified his prophecy (p. 243 of his own Life, 8vo. ch. ix.) where he says, 'the reader will be as much pleased to find me a dunce in my old age, as he was to prove me a brisk blockhead in my youth. Wherever there was any room for briskness, or alacrity of any sort, even in sinking, he bath had it allowed; but here, where there is nothing for him to do but to take his natural rest, he must permit bis historian to be silent. It is from their actions only that princes have their character, and poets from their works; and if in those he be as much asleep as any fool, the poet must leave him and them to sleep to all eternity. Bentl.
Ibid. Her laureate.) When I find my name in the satirical works of this poet, I never look upon it as any malice meant to me, but profit to himself. For he considers that my face is more known than most in the nation; and therefore a lick at the laureate will be a sure
bait ad captandum vulgus, to catch little readers.' Life of Colley Cibber, ch. ii.
Now'if it be certain, that the works of our poet have owed their success to this ingenious expedient, we hence derive an unanswerable argument, that this fourth Dunciad, as well as the former three, hath had the author's last hand, and was by him intended for the press: or else to what parpose hath he crowned it, as we see, by this finishing stroke, the profitable lick at the laureate ?
Bentl. Ver. 21, 22. Beneath her footstool, &c.] We are next
There foam'd rebellious logic, gagg’d and bound, There, stripp'd, fair rhetoric languish'd on the ground His blunted arms by sophistry are borne, And shameless Billingsgate her robes adorn. Morality, by her false guardians drawn, Chicane in furs, and casuistry in lawn, Gasps, as they straighten at each end the cord, And dies, when Dulness gives her Page the word 30 Mad Màthesis alone was unconfined, Too mad for mere material chains to bind, Now to pure space lifts her ecstatic stare, Now running round the circle, finds it square. But held in tenfold bonds the Muses lie, Watch'd both by Envy's and by Flattery's eye ; There to her heart sad Tragedy address'd The dagger wont to pierce the tyrant's breast; But sober History restrain'd her rage, And promised rengeance on a barbarous age. 40
presented with the picture of those whom the goddess leads into captivity Science is only depressed and confined so as to be rendered useless; but wit or genius, as a more dangerous and active enemy, punished, or driven away: Dulness being often reconciled in some degree with learning, but never upon any terms with wit. And accordingly it will be seen that she admits something like each science, as casuigtry, sophistry, &c. but nothing like wit; opera alone supply. ing its place.
Ver. 30. Gives her Page the word.] There was a judge of this name, always ready to hang any man that camo beCore him, of which he was suffered to give a hundred miserable examples, during a long life, even to his dotage. Though the candid Scriblerus imagined Page here to mean no more than a page or mute, and to allude to the custom of strangling state criminals in Turkey by mutes or pages. A practice more decent than that of our Page, who before he hanged any one, loaded him with reproachful language.
Scribl. Ver. 39. But sober History.) History attends on tragedy, satire on comedy, as their substitutes in the discharge of their distinct functions; the one in high life, recording the crimes and punishments of the great; the other in low, ex posing the vices or follies of the common people But it
There sunk Thalia, nerveless, cold, and dead,
REMARKS. may be asked, how came history and satire to be admitted with impunity to administer comfort to the Muses, even in the presence of the goddess, and in the midst of all her triumphs ? A question,' says Scriblerus, ' which we thus rosolve: History was brought up in her infancy by Dulaess herself; but being afterwards espoused into a noble house, she forgot (as is usual) the humility of her birth, and the cares of her early friends. This occasioned a long estrangement between her and Dulness. At length, in process of tine, they met together in a monk's cell, were reconciled, and became better friends than ever. After this they had a second quarrel, but it held not long, and are now again on reasonable terms, and so are likely to continue.' This accounts for the connivance shown to history on this occasion. But the boldness of satire springs from a very different cause; for the reader ought to know, that she alone of all the sisters is unconquerable, never to be silenced, when truly inspired and animated (as should seem) from above, for this very purpose, to oppose the kingdom of Dulness to her last breath.
Ver. 43. Nor couldst thou, &c.). "This noble person in the year 1737, when the act aforesaid was brought into the house of Lords, opposed it in an excellent speech,' says Mr. Cibber, with a lively spirit, and uncommon eloquence.' This speech had the honour to be answered by the said Mr. Cibber, with a lively spirit also, and in a manner very uncommon, in the eighth chapter of his Life and Manners. And here, gentle reader, would I gladly insert the other speech, whereby thou mightest judge between them; but I must defer it on account of some differences not yet adjusted between the noble author and myself, concerning the true reading of certain passages.
Bentl. Ver. 45. When lo! a harlot form] The attitude given to this phantom represents the nature and genius of the Italian opera; its affected airs, effeminate sounds, and the practice of patching up these operas with favourite songs, incoherently put together. These things were supported by the subscriptions of the nobility. This circumstance, that opera should prepare for the opening of the grand sessions, was prophesied of in Book iii. ver. 305.