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truth he miresably halts and hallucinates : for, misled by one Monsieur Bossu, a Gallic critic, he prateth of I cannot tell what phantom of a hero, only raised up to sppport the fable. A putid conceit ! as if Homer and Virgil, like mod. ern undertakers, who first build their house, and then seek out for a tenant, had contrived the story of a war and a wandering, before they once thought either of Achilles or Æneas. We shall therefore set our good brother and the world also right in this particular, by assuring them, that in the great epic, the prime intention of the muse is to exalt heroic virtue, in order to propagate the love of it among the children of men; and consequently that the poet's first thought must needs be turned upon a real subject meet for laud and celebration; not one whom he is to make, but one whom he may find, truly illustrious. This is the primum mobile of his poetic world, whence everything is to receive life and motion. For, this subject being found, he is immediately ordained, or rather acknowledged, a hero, and put upon such action as befitted the dignity of his character.
But the muse ceaseth not here her eagle-flight. For some. times, satiated with the contemplation of these suns of glory, she turneth downward on her wing, and darts with Jove's lightning on the goose and serpent kind. For we may apply to the muse in her various moods what an ancient master of wisdom affirmeth of the gods in general: Si Dii non irascuntur impiis et injustis, nec pios utique justosque diligunt. In rebus enim diversis, aut in utramque partem moveri necesse est, aut in neutram. Itaque qui bonos diligit, et malos odit; et qui malos non odit, nec bonos diligit. Quia et diligere bonos ex odio malorum venit; et malos odisse e. bonorum caritate descendit. Which in our vernacular idiom may be thus interpreted: “If the gods be not provoked at evil men, neither are they delighted with the good and just. For contrary objects must either excite contrary affections, or no affections at all. So that he who loveth good men, must at the same time hate the bad: and he who hateth not bad men, cannot love the good; because to love good men proceedeth from an aversion to evil, and to hate evil men from a tenderness to the good.” From this delicacy of the muse arose and the little epic (more lively and choleric than her elder sister, whose bulk and complexion incline her to the phlegmatic): and for this, some notorious vehicle of vice and folly was sought out, to make thereof an example. An early instance of which (nor could it escape the accuracy of Scriblerus) the father of epic poem himself affordeth us. From him the practice descended to the Greek dramatic poets, his offspring; who, in the composition of their tetralogy, or set of four pieces, were wont to make the last a satiric tragedy. Happily, one of these ancient Dunciads (as we may well term it) is come down unto us, amongst the tragedies of the poet Euripides. And what doth the reader suppose may be the subject thereof? Why, in truth, and it is worthy of observation, the unequal contest of an old, dull debauched buffoon Cyclops with the heavendirected favourite of Minerva; who, after having quietly borne all the monster's obscene and impious ribaldry, endeth the farce in punishing him with the mark of an indelible brand in his forehead. May we not then be excused, if, for the future, we consider the epics of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, together with this our poem, as a complete tetralogy; in which the last worthily holdeth the place or station of the satiric piece ? Proceed we, therefore, in our subject. It hath been long, and, alas for pity I still remaineth a ques. tion, whether the hero of the greater epic should be an honest man; or as the French critics express it, un honnête homme :i but it never admitted of a doubt, but that the hero of the little epic should be just the contrary. Hence, to the advantage of our Dunciad, we may observe, much juster the moral of that poem must needs be where so im. portant a question is previously decided.
But then it is not every knave, nor (let me add) every fool, that is a fit subject for a Duncaid. There must still exist some analogy, if not resemblance of qualities, between the heroes of the two poems; and this, in order to admit what neoteric critics call the parody, one of the liveliest graces of the little epic. Thus it being agreed that the constituent qualities of the great epic hero, are wisdom, bravery, and love, from whence springeth heroic virtue; it followeth, that those of the lesser epic hero should be vanity, assurance, and debauchery, from which happy assemblage resulteth heroic dulness, the never-dying subject of this our poem.
This being settled come we now to particulars. It is the character of true wisdom to seek its chief support and confidence within itself; and to place that support in the resources which proceed from a conscious rectitude of will.And are the advantages of vanity, when arising to the heroic standard, at all short of this self-complacence ? nay, are they not, in the opinion of the enamoured owner, far beyond it? “Let the world,” will such an one say, “impute to me what folly or weakness they please; but till wisdom can give me something that will make me more heartily happy, I am content to be gazed at.”? This, we see, is vanity ancording to the heroic gage or measure; not that low and ignoble species which pretendeth to virtues we have not; but the laudable ambition of being gazed at for glorying in those vices which everybody knows we have. “ The world may ask,” says he « why I make my follies public? Why not? I have passed my life very pleasantly with them.” 3 In short, there is no sort of vanity such a hero would scruple, but that which might go near to degrade him from his high station in this our Dunciad; namely “whether it would not be vanity in him, to take shame to himself, for not being a wise man ?” 4
1«Si un heros poëtique doit être un honnête homme."-Bossu, du “Poëme Epique,” liv. V., ch. 5.
% Dod. to the “Life of 6. C.” & Life, p, 2, 8vo edit. 4 Ibid. 1“Life of C. C.," p. 23, 8vo edit. 3 Alluding to these lines in the Epist. to Dr. Arbuthnot:
Bravery, the second attribute of the true hero, is courage manifesting itself in every limb; while its correspondent virtue, in the mock hero, is, that same courage all collected into the face. And as power, when drawn together, must needs have more force and spirit than when dispersed, we generally find this kind of courage in so high and heroic a degree, that it insults not only men, but gods. Mezentius is, without doubt, the bravest character in all the Æneis; but how? His bravery, we know, was a high courage of blas. phemy. And can we say less of this brave man's, who, hay. ing told us that he placed his “summum bonum in those follies which he was not content barely to possess, but would likewise glory in,” adds, “if I am misguided, 'tis nature's fault, and I follow her." Nor can we be mistaken in making this happy quality a species of courage, when we con. sider those illustrious marks of it, which made his face, “more known (as he justly boasteth) than most in the king. dom;” and his language to consist of what we must allow to be the most daring figure of speech, that which is taken from the name of God.
Gentle love, the next ingredient of the true hero's composi. tion, is a mere bird of passage, or (as Shakespeare calls it) “summer-teeming lust,” and evaporates in the heat of youth; doubtless by that refinement it suffers in passing through those certain strainers which our poet somewhere speaketh of. But when it is let alone to work upon the lees, it acquireth strength by old age; and becometh a lasting ornament to the little epic. It is true, indeed, there is one objection, to its fitness for such an use: for not only the ignorant may think it common, but it is admitted to be so, even by him who best knoweth its value. “Don't you think," argueth he, “to say only a man has his
w e ought to go for little or nothing? because defendit numerus, take the first ten thousand men you meet, and, I believe, you would be no loser if you betted ten to one that every single sinner of them, one with another, had heen guilty of the same frailty."3 But here he seemeth not to have done justice to himself: the man is sure enough a hero who hath his lady at fourscore. How doth his modesty herein lessen the merit of a whole well-spent life! not taking to himself the commendation (which Horace accounted the greatest in a theatrical character) of continuing to the very dregs the same he was from the beginning,
“- Servetur ad imum am
Qualis ab incepto processerat. But here, in justice both to the poet and the hero, let us further remark, that the calling her his w— , implied she was his own, and not his neighbor's. Truly a commendable continence! and such as Scipio himself must have applauded. For how much self-denial was necessary not to covet his neighbor's! and what disorders must the coveting her have occasioned in that society, where (according to this political calculator) nine in ten of all ages have their concubines!
“ And has not Colly still his lord and
3 " Letter to Mr. P.," p. 46.
We have now, as briefly as we could devise, gone through the three constituent qualities of either hero. But it is not in any, or in all of these, that heroism properly or essentially resideth. It is a lucky result rather from the collision of these lively qualities against one another. Thus, as from wisdom, bravery, and love, ariseth magnanimity, the object of admiration, which is the aim of the greater epic; so from vanity, assurance, debauchery, springeth buffoonery, the source of ridicule, that laughing ornament,' as he well term. eth it, ' of the little epic.
He is not ashamed (God forbid he ever should be ashamed!) of this character, who deemeth that not reason but risibility distinguisheth the human species from the brutal. “AS nature,” saith this profound philosopher, “distinguished our species from the mute creation by our risibility, her design must have been by that faculty as evidently to raise our happiness, as by our os sublime (our erected faces) to lift the dignity of our form above them.” ? All this considered, how complete a hero must he be, as well as how happy a man, whose risibility lieth not barely in his muscles, as in the com. mon sort, but (as himself informeth us) in his very spirits ? and whose os sublime is not simply an erect face, but a brazen head; as should seem by his preferring it to one of iron, said to belong to the late king of Sweden ? 3
But whatever personal qualities a hero may have, the examples of Achilles and Æneas shew us, that all those are of small avail, without the constant assistance of the gods; for the subversion and erection of empires have never been adjudged the work of man. How greatly soever then we may esteem of his high talents, we can hardly conceive his personal prowess alone sufficent to restore the decayed empire of dulness. So weighty an achievement must require the particular favour and protection of the great; who being the natural patrons and supporters of letters, as the ancient gods were of Troy, must first be drawn off and engaged in another interest, before the total subversion of them can be accomplished. To surmount, therefore, this last and greatest difficulty, we have, in this excellent man, a professed favourite and intimado of the great. And look, of what force ancient piety was to draw the gods into the party of Æneas, that, and much stronger, is modern incense, to engage the great in the party of dulness.
Thus have we essayed to portray or shadow out this noble imp of fame. But the impatient reader will be apt to say, “ If so many and various graces go to the making up a
1 " Letter to Mr. P.,” p. 31.
2“Life," pp. 23, 24. 3 "Letter to Mr. P.,” p. 8.
hero, what mortal shall suffice to bear his character ?” Ill hath he read who seeth not, in every trace of this picture that individual, all-accomplished person, in whom these rare virtues and lucky circumstances have agreed to meet and concentre with the strongest lustre and fullest harmony.
The good Scriblerus indeed, nay, the world itself, might be imposed on, in the late spurious editions, by I can't tell what sham-hero or phantom; but it was not so easy to impose on him whom this egregious error most of all concerned. For no sooner had the fourth book laid open the high and swelling scene, but he recognised his own heroic acts: and when he came to the words,
“Soft on her lap her laureat son reclines,” (though laureat imply no more than one crowned with laurel, as befitteth any associate or consort in empire), he loudly resented this indignity to violated Majesty. Indeed, not without cause, he being there represented as fast asleep; so misbeseeming the eye of empire, which, like that of Provi. dence, should never doze nor slumber. “Hah!” saith he, “ fast asleep, it seems ! that's a little too strong. Pert and dull at least you might have allowed me, but as seldom asleep as any fool.” However, the injured hero may comfort himself with this reflection, that though it be a sleep, yet it is not the sleep of death, but of immortality. Here he will 2 live at least though not awake; and in no worse condition than many an enchanted warrior before him. The famous Durandante, for instance, was, like him, cast into a long slumber by Merlin, the British bard and necromancer; and his example for submitting to it with a good grace, might be of use to our hero. For that disastrous knight being sorely pressed or driven to make his answer by several persons of quality, only replied with a sigh, “ Patience, and shuffle the cards.” 3
But now, as nothing in this world, no not the most sacred and perfect things, either of religion or government, can escape the sting of envy, methinks I already hear these carpers objecting to the clearness of our hero's title.
“ It would never,” say they, “have been esteemed suffi. cient to make a hero for the Iliad or Æneas, that Achilles was brave enough to overturn one empire, or Æneas pious enough to raise another, had they not been goddess born and princes bred. What then did this author mean, by erecting a player instead of one of his patrons (a person,
never a hero even on the stage,' 4) to this dignity of colleague in the empire of dulness, an achiever of a work that neither old Omar, Attila, nor John of Leyden could entirely bring to pass ?”
To all this we have, as we conceive, a sufficient answer from the Roman historian, fabrum esse suce quemque fortunæ : “that every man is the smith of his own fortune.”
1 "Letter to Mr. P.," p. 53. 3“Don Quixote,” part il., book il., ch. 22,
2“ Letter," p. 1. See “ Life," p. 148.