The State Dunces

Original Text: 

critical edition based on first edition, first printing (shelfmark E10-1901); first edition, second printing (shelfmark E10-5269); second edition (shelfmark E10-2678); all published in London by J. Dickenson, 1733; copies held by Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.

1While cringing Crowds at faithless Levees wait,
2Fond to be Fools of Fame, or Slaves of State,
3And others, studious to encrease their Store,
5How blest thy Fate whom calmer Hours attend,
6Peace thy Companion, Fame thy faithful Friend;
8You feast the Fancy and enchant the Ear,
9Thames gently rolls her silver Tide along,
11     Here peaceful pass the gentle Hours away,
13Here happy Bard, as various Fancies lead.
17Now melting move the tender Tear to flow,
19But chief to Dulness ever Foe decreed,
21P[ee]rs, Poets, Panders, mingle in the Throng,
23     Yet vain, O Pope! is all thy sharpest Rage,
24Still starv’ling Dunces persecute the Age;
25Faithful to Folly, or enrag’d with Spite,
29Ah! hapless Victim to the Poet’s Flame,
32Live in thy Labours, and prophane thy Page;
33While Virtue, ever-lov’d, demands thy Lays,
34And claims the tuneful Tribute of thy Praise;
35Can Pope be silent, and not grateful lend,
37Who nobly anxious in his Country’s Cause,
38Maintains her Honours, and defends her Laws:
40Then would I sing---for oh! I burst to praise:
44In Tully’s Music, how each Period flows;
45Instruct each Babe to lisp the Patriot’s Name.
46Who in each bosom breathes a Roman Flame.
47     So when the Genius of the Roman Age
48Stemm’d the strong Torrent of tyrannic Rage,
49In Freedom’s Cause each glowing Breast he warm’d,
52And all the Roman stand confest in Thee!
53Equal thy Worth, but equal were thy Doom,
54To save Brittania as he rescu’d Rome;
55He from a Tarquin snatch’d the destin’d Prey,
56Brittania still laments a W[alpole]’s Sway.
58Let thy Britania, whom thou lov’st, complain:
59If Thou in tuneful Lays relate her Woe,
60Each Heart shall bleed, each Eye with Pity flow:
61If to Revenge you swell the sounding Strain,
62Revenge and Fury fire each British Swain:
64Or burn with Rage, or soften into Love.
65     O let Britania be her Poet’s Care!
67Lo! where he stands, amidst the servile Crew;
68Nor Blushes stain his Cheek with crimson Hue,
69While dire Corruption all around he spreads,
70And ev’ry ductile Conscience captive leads:
71Brib’d by his Boons, behold the venal Band,
72Worship the Idol they could once command:
73So Britain’s now, as Judah’s Sons before,
76Provoke thy Satire, and employ thy Power;
77New Objects rise to share an equal Fate,
78The big, rich, mighty, Dunces of the State.
81Dulness no more roosts only near the Sky,
82But Senates, Drawing-rooms, with Garrets vye;
83Plump P[ee]rs, and breadless Bards, alike are dull,
85     Amidst the mighty Dull, behold how great
87Long had he strove to spread his lawless Sway
88O’er Britain’s Sons, and force them to obey;
89But blasted all his blooming Hopes, he flies
91     Pensive he sat, and sigh’d, while round him lay
92Loads of dull Lumber, all inspir’d by Pay:
93Here, puny Pamphlets, spun from Prelates’ Brains;
97With these the Statesman strove to ease his Care,
98To soothe his Sorrows, and divert Despair:
99But long his Grief Sleep’s gentle Aid denies,
101     Yet vain the healing Balm of downy Rest,
102To chase his Woe, or ease his labouring Breast;
103Now frightful Forms rise hideous to his View,
105Daggers and Halters boding, Terror breeds,
107     Now Goddess Dulness, watchful o’er his Fate,
108And ever anxious for her Child of State,
109From Couch of Down, slow rais’d her drowsy Head,
110Forsook her Slumbers, and to Appius sped.
111     Awake, my Son, awake, the Goddess cries,
112No longer mourn thy darling lost Ex[ci]se;
113(Here the sad Sound unseal’d the Statesman’s Eyes).
114Why slumbers thus my Son, opprest with Care,
115While Dulness rules, say, shall her Sons despair?
116O’er all I spread my universal Sway,
117K[in]gs, Pr[ela]tes, P[ee]rs, and Rulers all obey;
118Lo! in the Church my mighty Power I shew,
119In Pulpit preach, and slumber in the Pew;
121Here prate my Magpies, and there doze my Drones.
124At Court behold me strut in Purple Pride,
126But chief in Thee my mighty Power is seen,
127’Tis I inspire thy Mind, and fill thy Mien;
128On Thee, my Child, my duller Blessings shed,
129And pour my Opium o’er thy favourite Head;
130Rais’d Thee a Ruler of Brittania’s fate,
132     Here bow’d the Statesman low, and thus addrest:
133O Goddess, sole Inspirer of my Breast!
135Long have I strove, but long have strove in vain;
137Unveils those Eyes which Thou had’st curtain’d o’er;
138Makes Britain’s Sons my dark Designs foresee,
139Blast all my Schemes, and struggle to be free.
140O had my Projects met a milder Fate,
142How o’er Brittania spread m’ imperial Sway!
143How taught each free-born Briton to obey!
144No smiling Freedom then had chear’d her Swains,
145But Asia’s Desarts vy’d with Albion’s Plains:
147Had hugg’d their Chains, and joy’d that they were free;
148While wond’ring Nations all around had seen
150Then had I taught Britannia to adore,
153First in the Train, and fairest ’midst the Fair;
154Joyless I see the lovely Mourner lye,
155Nor glow her Cheek, nor sparkle now her Eye;
156Faded each Grace, no smiling Feature warm;
159Slaves are her Sons, and tradeless all her Towns.
162For this, what Wonders, Goddess, have I wrought!
164What wand’ring Maze of Error blunder’d thro’,
165And how repair’d old Blunders still by new!
166Hence the long Train of never-ending Jars
167Of warful Peaces, and of peaceful Wars.
169Which to explain, demands ten Treaties more;
172These wondrous Works, O Goddess, have I done,
173Works ever worthy Dulness’ fav’rite Son.
174     Lo! on thy Sons alone my Favours shower,
175None share my Bounty that disdain thy Power:
177Behold thy choicest Children only share;
179And fondly grasps the visionary Prize;
181And thinks to be a Wretch is to be Great.
182     But turn, O Goddess, turn thine Eyes and view,
183The darling Leaders of thy gloomy Crew.
187Where loud-tongu’d Virgins vend the scaly Race,
188Harsh Peals of vocal Thunder fill the Skies,
189And stunning Sounds in hideous Discords rise;
190So when he tries the wondrous Power of Noise,
191Each hapless Ear’s a Victim to his Voice.
193     Those Ears N[ewcastl]e was ordain’d to rend.
195No empty Words betray his Want of Wit;
196If Sense in hiding Folly is express’d,
197O H[arringto]n, thy Wisdom stands confess’d.
198     To Dulness’ sacred Cause for ever true,
200The Pride and Glory of thy Scotia’s Plains,
201And faithful Leader of her venal Swains,
202Loaded he moves, beneath a servile Weight,
203The dull laborious Packhorse of the State;
204Drudges through Tracks of Infamy for Pay,
205And hacknies out his Conscience by the Day:
206Yonder behold the busy peerless Peer,
207With Aspect meagre and important Air:
208His Form how gothic, and his Looks how sage!
209He seems the living Plato of the age.
210     Blest Form! in which alone thy Merit’s seen,
211     Since all thy Wisdom centers in thy mien!
215By birth a Senator, by Fate a F[oo]l.
216     While these, Brittania, watchful o’er thy State,
217Maintain thine Honours, and direct thy Fate,
218How shall admiring Nations round adore,
219Behold thy Greatness, tremble at thy Pow’r;
221Revere thy Wisdom, and extol thy Name.
223And view thy Sons in solemn Dulness rise,
224All doating, wrinkled, grave, and gloomy, see
225Each Form confess thy dull Divinity;
227Increas’d in Folly as advanc’d in Age:
231Gaols sure convinc’d him, though the Prelate fail’d.
233Devoid of Sense, of Zeal divinely full,
234Retails his Squibs of Science o’er the Town,
235While Charges, Pastorals, through each Street resound,
236These teach a heav’nly Jesus to obey,
237While those maintain an earthly Appius’ Sway.
239     While God and Mammon’s serv’d at once by Thee.
240     Who would not trim, speak, vote, or Conscience pawn,
243Than Thee none merits more the Prelate’s Name:
244Wond’ring behold him faithful to his Fee,
245Prove Parliaments dependent to be free;
246In Senates blunder, flounder, and dispute,
247For ever reas’ning, never to confute.
248Since Courts for this their fated Gifts decree,
249Say what is Reputation to a See.
251And wishful sees the reverend Turrets rise.
252While Lambeth opens to thy longing View,
253Hapless! the Mitre ne’er can bind thy Brow:
254Tho’ Courts should deign the Gift, how wondrous hard
255By thy own Doctrines still to be debar’d;
257Translations sure, O H[ar]e! are sinful Things.
258     These Rulers see, and nameless Numbers more,
259O Goddess, of thy Train the choicest Store,
260Who Ignorance in Gravity entrench,
261And grace alike the Pulpit and the Bench.
263Begrim’d his Face, unpurify’d his Hands;
264To Decency he scorns all nice Pretence,
265And reigns firm Foe to Cleanliness and Sense.
266How did H[o]r[ati]o Britain’s Cause advance!
267How shine the Sloven and Buffoon of France,
268In Senates now, how scold, how rave, how roar,
270How blunder out whate’er should be conceal’d,
271And how keep secret what should be reveal’d:
272True Child of Dulness! see him, Goddess, claim
273Pow’r next myself, as next in Birth and Fame.
275Pours forth melodious Nothings from his Tongue:
276How sweet the Accents play around the Ear,
277Form’d of smooth Periods, and of well-tun’d Air!
278Leave, gentle Y[ong]e, the Senate’s dry Debate,
279Nor labour ’midst the Labyrinths of State;
280Suit thy soft Genius to more tender Themes,
281And sing of cooling Shades, and purling Streams;
284So shall thy Strains in purer Dulness flow,
286Say, can the Statesman wield the Poet’s Quill,
287And quit the Senate for Parnassus’ hill,
288Since there no venal Vote a Pension shares,
291Firm in thy cause, and to thy Appius true;
292Lo! from their Labours what Reward betides!
293One pays my Army, one my Navy guides.
294     To dance, dress, sing, and serenade the Fair,
296O’er baleful Tea with Females taught to blame,
297And spread a Slander o’er each Virgin’s Fame;
299With stubborn Politicks his tender Brain!
300For Ministers laborious Pamphlets write,
302Thy fond Ambition, pretty Youth, give o’er,
303Preside at Balls, old Fashions lost restore;
307Not that the Knight has Merit, but a Vote.
308And here, O Goddess, numerous Wrongheads trace,
310     To murder Science, and my Cause defend,
311Now Shoals of Grub-street Garreteers descend;
312From Schools and Desks the writing Insects crawl,
313Unlade their Dulness, and for Appius bawl.
315See him o’er Politicks superior rise;
317And wond’ring Ministers reward his Skill:
318Unlearn’d in Logic, yet he writes by Rule,
319And proves himself in Syllogism----Fool;
320Now flies obedient, War with Sense to wage,
321And drags th’ Idea through the painful Page:
322Unread, unanswer’d, still he writes again,
323Still spins the endless Cobweb of his Brain;
324Charm’d with each Line, reviewing what he writ,
325Blesses his Stars, and wonders at his Wit.
327Alike in Merit, tho’ unlike in Years:
328Ill-fated Youth! what Stars malignant shed
329Their baneful Influence o’er thy brainless Head,
330Doom’d to be ever writing, never read!
331For Bread to libel Liberty and Sense,
332And damn thy Patron weekly with Defence.
333Drench’d in the sable Flood, O hadst thou still,
335At Temple Ale-house told an idle Tale,
336And pawn’d thy Credit for a Mug of Ale;
337Unknown to Appius then had been thy Name,
341     As Dunce to Dunce in endless Numbers breed,
343A tiny Witling of these Writing Days,
344Full fam’d for tuneless Rhimes, and short-liv’d Plays.
345Write on, my luckless Bard, still unasham’d,
346Tho’ burnt thy Journals, and thy Dramas damn’d;
347’Tis Bread inspires thy Politicks and Lays,
348Not Thirst of Immortality and Praise.
349     These, Goddess, view, the choicest of the Train,
350While yet unnumber’d Dunces still remain,
351Deans, Critics, Lawyers, Bards, a motley Crew,
352To Dullness faithful, as to Appius true.
353     Enough, the goddess cries, Enough I’ve seen,
354     While these support, secure my Son shall reign,
355     Still shalt thou blund’ring rule Brittania’s Fate,
356     Still Grub-street hail thee Minister of State.

Notes

4] Peruvian: at this period, "Peru" meant Spanish South America, not the modern country of that name. Silver was shipped from Cartagena in modern Colombia to Spain, and during times of hostility British ships would try to intercept the treasure fleet. Back to Line
7] Twick'nam: Alexander Pope (1688-1744) lived in a villa on the banks of the Thames in the village of Twickenham, several miles up river from London. Back to Line
10] Naiades: in classical mythology, nymphs of rivers and oceans. Back to Line
12] tuneful Science: [Pope's] mastery of the poetical art, the meter of his verse marking the passage of time (with pun on "measure," a unit of verse, a foot). Back to Line
14] You . . . mead: referring to Pope's first publication, his Pastorals, published in 1709; the list of Pope's major poems that follows is roughly chronological: translation of Homer (1715-26); The Rape of the Lock (1712, revised 1714); Eloisa to Abelard (1717); The Dunciad (1728), greatly augmented as The Dunciad, Variorum (1729); Epistles to Several Persons (1731-1735). Back to Line
15] Sound . . . War: "Homer" (Whitehead's note). Back to Line
16] Or . . . Fair: "Rape of the Lock" (Whitehead's note). Back to Line
18] Now . . . woe: "Eloisa to Abelard" (Whitehead's note). Back to Line
20] But chief . . . bleed: "Dunciad" (Whitehead's note). Apes of Science: pretenders to mastery of a branch of learning, here literature. Back to Line
22] Peers . . . song: "Epistles" (Whitehead's note). Back to Line
26] Timons: Pope's Epistle to Burlington (1731) describes a visit to Timon's villa, a vast mansion displaying great wealth but no taste. Tibbalds: the hero of The Dunciad (1728-29 version) is Lewis Theobald, a scholar and playwright whose name Pope distorts into "Tibbald." Back to Line
27] Beer-inspired: both first and the second edition read "Beer-inspir'd," but the elision leaes the line a syllable short. Back to Line
28] Still Welstead . . . Ralph: "Two Authors, remarkable for nothing so much as the Figure they make in the Dunciad; where Mr. Pope has condescended to drag them from Obscurity, and damn them with Immortality; yet they have ventur'd out in Print since they were enter'd Dunces on Record; the one in a few bad Verses against Mr. Pope's Taste, the other in a dull Epistle to Lord Chesterfield; but both these Pieces are as entirely lost to Fame and Memory, as their Authors are to Modesty and Common Sense" (Whitehead's note). Leonard Welsted (1688-1747), a poet who had been rewarded with a pension for poems flattering the government, was depicted by Pope in The Dunciad as inspired by beer to write verses that flowed like beer (3: 163-6). He had responded with poems bitterly attacking Pope; the one referred to here is Of Dulness and Scandal. Occasion'd by the Character of Lord Timon in Mr. Pope's Epistle to the Earl of Burlington (1732). James Ralph (died 1762) had gratuitously attacked Pope in an "epic poem" called Sawney (1728); taking upon himself to defend the writers pilloried in the Dunciad, Ralph abuses Pope, Swift and Gay in blank verse so poor that it undermines the author's expressed admiration for Milton. Pope contemptuously dismissed his claims to be a poet in The Dunciad, Variorum (1729), 3: 159-60; Whitehead echoes Pope's word "howls" here. See below, line 342. Stanhope: Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773), a prominent figure in politics who had fallen out with Walpole over the Excise Bill. The "dull Epistle" may be Taste and Beauty (London: 1732), which is an anonymous verse epistle dedicated to Chesterfield, pays him fulsome compliments, and is certainly very dull. Back to Line
30] thy: i.e., Chesterfield's. The day after Walpole was compelled to withdraw his Excise Bill in April 1733 he began the systematic punishment of former allies who had opposed this measure by securing Chesterfield's dismissal from all his offices at Court, making him the first and most prominent of a small army of political martyrs. Back to Line
31] Shall . . . laws: lines 31-38 were added in the second edition. Back to Line
36] Patriot: opponents of Walpole's administration liked to designate themselves "patriots" to underline Walpole's supposed subservience to France and to George II's concern for his German principality of Hanover. The "patriot and friend" is Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751) who, though disqualified to sit in the House of Lords because of his years of service to the Jacobite pretender to the throne, was a leader of the opposition to Walpole. Pope dedicated his Essay on Man to St. John, whom he referred to as his "guide, philosopher, and friend" (IV. 390). Back to Line
39] Numbers: verse, metrical utterance. Back to Line
41] Pulteney: William Pulteney (1684-1764) had started his career in the House of Commons at the age of twenty-one. At first he was a close ally of the rising star among the Whigs, Robert Walpole (1676-1745), and served as Secretary of War from 1714 to 1717. In that year the governing Whigs split into two factions; Walpole resigned from the Exchequer and Pulteney followed suit. When Walpole returned to power in 1721, he did not offer Pulteney office commensurate with Pulteney's estimate of his own merits, and relations between them began a slow deterioration, culminating in Pulteney's dismissal from a rich sinecure in 1725. When dissatisfaction with Walpole's continuing preeminence after the accession of George II began to mount, Pulteney was in position to head parliamentary opposition to the"prime minister." He was a powerful speaker in the Commons, and spread his message more widely in hard-hitting journalism. In 1733 he spearheaded the attack on Walpole's excise scheme, seriously threatening Walpole's grip on power. His influence waned slowly thereafter, and after Walpole's fall in 1742 he found himself almost as powerless as his adversary; in that year he was raised to the peerage as Earl of Bath. Back to Line
42] Senates: legislative bodies; in this case, the House of Commons. Back to Line
43] Tully: Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.), one of the most influential of classical writers, is cited here because of his successful career in politics, especially for his crushing of the conspiracy of Catiline against the Roman state, for which he was acclaimed as the second founder of his country, and his opposition to the dictatorship of Julius Caesar. Cicero championed the centuries-old republican constitution of Rome; just as Pulteney asserts the ancient English liberties against Walpole. Back to Line
50] Brutus: Marcus Junius Brutus (85-42 B.C.), one of the assassins of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., a close friend of Cicero, whose republican beliefs he shared. Back to Line
51] British Brutus: Whitehead here shifts the allusion to Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman republic in 509 B.C. He led the successful insurrection to expel the king, Tarquinius Superbus, after one of his sons had raped the chaste Lucretia, who committed suicide because of the shame brought on her family. When Tarquinius with allies invaded the young republic to regain the throne, Brutus, first consul, led Roman forces to decisive victory, although he lost his own life in the battle. Back to Line
57] Arise . . . fair: lines 57-66 were added in the second edition. Back to Line
63] Obsequious: responsive. Back to Line
66] spoiler: he who despoils, ransacks (i.e., Walpole). Back to Line
74] GOLDEN CALF: see Exodus 32. Back to Line
75] Parnassian: of Mount Parnassus in Greece, sacred to the muses. Back to Line
79] Ralph, Welsted: see above, line 29. Cooke: Thomas Cooke (1703-1756), who published the first English translation of Hesiod in 1728. In 1725 he had written The Battel of the Poets, in which he claimed that Pope had translated Homer and edited Shakespeare only to get money; in 1729 he had revised the poem to respond to The Dunciad, where he is mentioned contemptuously (2: 130). Back to Line
80] H[ervey]: see below, line 298. Y[ork]: Lancelot Blackburne (1658-1743), Archbishop of York from 1724. A fervent Whig, he spent most of his time in London, and was influential at Court. Persistent but unconfirmed rumour claimed that he had been elevated to the Archbishopric as reward for secretly marrying George I to his mistress. G[age]: Thomas Gage, first Viscount Gage (before 1701-1754); since his title was in the peerage of Ireland, Gage could sit in the House of Commons at Westminster, where he represented Tewkesbury from 1722 until his death. In 1732 he had exposed the fraudulent sale of an estate forfeited by one of the Jacobite peers who took part in the 1715 rising. Back to Line
84] St. James's: the district adjacent to St. James's Palace, where many courtiers lived. Rag-Fair: a market for old clothes near the Tower of London, which Pope describes as the seat of the goddess Dulness (The Dunciad 1: 27-108). club: combine as exact equivalents. Back to Line
86] Appius: Appius Claudius, a Roman magistrate, abused his powers to make himself a tyrant. He was deposed and thrown into prison, where he committed suicide, after he tried to violate the maiden Virginia; her father killed her to spare her a fate worse than death, and raised the rebellion that destroyed Appius. Whitehead chooses the name of a thoroughly disreputable despot to denote Walpole. Tibbald: see above, line 26. Back to Line
90] Ex[ci]se: in April 1733 Walpole proposed legislation to convert customs duties on wine and tobacco, charged when goods were unloaded at the port of London, into an excise tax to be collected only when wine and tobacco for domestic consumption left the port; wine and tobacco being transshipped to foreign ports would thus pay no duties. Walpole's opponents skillfully represented this administrative change as a scheme to create an army of excise officers with authority to interfere in people's everyday lives, and it provoked a violent reaction that came close to unseating Walpole, who was forced to withdraw the measure. A number of his former allies opposed the excise bill, and henceforth were treated as his enemies, Chesterfield (l.29 above) being the most prominent. Back to Line
94] Cook: see above, line 61. Back to Line
95] Walsingham: "Francis Walsingham, of the Inner Temple, Esq." was the pseudonym used by William Arnall (1700?-1736) as the author of the pro-Walpole paper the Free Briton. For the eight years before his death Arnall not only wrote articles and pamphlets for Walpole and against the opposition, but organized a ring of pro-Walpole hack writers, for all of which he was well paid. See below, line 326. Back to Line
96] Osborn: "Francis Osborne, esq." was the pseudonym of James Pitt (1679?-1763?), who from 1729 wrote influential pro-Walpole articles in the London Journal. See line 290. Back to Line
100] Briton: a number of the Free Briton . Back to Line
104] More, Strafford, Laud: Sir Thomas More (1478-1536), Lord Chancellor of England; Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford (1593-1641), Lord Deputy of Ireland; William Laud (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury; all were beheaded on charges of treason. Back to Line
106] Dudley: Edmund Dudley (1462?-1510), associated with Sir Richard Empson; as agents of Henry VII they enforced his policy of bringing the nobility to heel by imposing financial burdens; Henry VIII had them arrested soon after his accession, and they were beheaded (not hanged) to show that he was a different king from his father. Villars: George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (1592-1628), favourite of James I and Charles II, assassinated in 1628. Back to Line
120] Bench and Bar: judges and barristers, the drones and magpies of the next line. Back to Line
122] Dons: distinguished persons, here senior physicians; the Royal College of Physicians was located in Warwick Lane, not far from St. Paul's Cathedral. Back to Line
123] Gallipots: glazed earthenware jars containing medicines. Back to Line
125] Hockley: Hockley-in-the-Hole, on the northern outskirts of London, where bear-baiting and other rough-and-tumble popular entertainments took place. Crane-Court: off Fleet Street in London; the Royal Society occupied two houses there. Back to Line
131] blundering: a currently popular term in political abuse: a collection of anti-Walpole articles had been dedicated to their subject as "the greatest blunderer in Christendom;" Arnall had responded with an attack on Bolingbroke as "the genuine blunderer." Back to Line
134] gaul: i.e., gall (spelling underlines the pun). Gallic Chain: French autocracy, glancing at Walpole's good relations with Cardinal Fleury, the chief minister of France at this period. Back to Line
136] Caleb: Caleb D'Anvers, the pseudonym under which Nicholas Amhurst (1697-1742) conducted the Craftsman, a popular weekly paper supported and occasionally written by by Bolingbroke and William Pulteney (line 33); it was the leading anti-Walpole paper. Back to Line
141] Bashaw: a variant of "pasha," a Turkish title given to high officials, "lord," Like France, the Ottoman Empire was perceived in England as a place of arbitrary and autocratic rule. Asian rulers were assumed to be unrestrained tyrants. Back to Line
146] Vandals: the historic Vandals, who had a kingdom in North Africa, lost their status as a distinct people in the sixth century; Whitehead may be thinking of their origins in Asia. Back to Line
149] Great Mogul: the head of the Mughal empire, which ruled northern India from the early sixteenth century. Mazarin: Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661), the protégé and successor of Cardinal Richelieu as first minister of France from 1642 until his death. During the long minority of Louis XIV Mazarin governed in alliance with Louis's mother; Whitehead is probably glancing at Walpole's friendship with Queen Caroline. The allusion may have been suggested by an item in the opposition paper Fog's Journal [reprinted in the Gentleman's Magazine for April 1733 (3: 201)] which argues that the purpose of a "prime Minister, is to enrich himself and his family," and says the Queen Regent was "governed by Cardinal Mazarine, a publick Thief, one convicted of having stolen from the finances 9 Millions." Back to Line
151] Then . . . Power: these two lines added in the second edition. Back to Line
152] Methinks I view her: so second edition; first edition reads: I see Brittania Back to Line
157] Joyless . . . Charm: these four lines added in the second edition. Back to Line
158] Nor: so second edition; first edition reads: No Back to Line
160] peaceful Army: a gibe both at Walpole's policy of avoiding war, and at his insistence on maintaining a standing army in time of peace; he claimed it was necessary to deter Jacobite risings or invasions. The excessive size of this army was one of the constant complaints of Walpole's critics (unnecessary in peacetime, too costly, and a threat to liberty). Back to Line
161] Bounty: referring to Walpole's corrupt buying of votes. Back to Line
163] treated: entertained with dinners, etc. Back to Line
168] mystic Treaty: the diplomatic history of the period is one of shifting alliances among the European powers defined in treaties that might quickly be invalidated by changing circumstances. Walpole's opponents decried the number of treaties entered into under his administration; his supporters replied that they were necessary because Bolingbroke had made such a bad job of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Back to Line
170] Raree-Shows: originally a display inside a box, viewed through an aperture, a peep show. Back to Line
171] Iberia's Pride: the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 had transferred to Britain the Asiento, the right to supply slaves and other goods to the Spanish ports in Central and South America; this gave rise to constant disputes. Spain wished to recover Gibraltar and Minorca, British conquests confirmed at Utrecht, and an inconclusive war had been fought from 1727 to 1729, ending in the inconclusive Treaty of Seville. Walpole's reluctance to return to war with Spain was blamed for losses suffered by British traders at the hands of Spanish forces in the Caribbean. Back to Line
176] Feathers, Ribbons: the feathered hat of the ceremonial costume worn by Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and the blue ribbon they wear with formal dress. Back to Line
178] Pageant: the installation of Knights of the Garter, at which ceremonial dress is worn in procession at Windsor Castle. Back to Line
180] Leading-string: a harness worn by young children when they first learn to walk. Back to Line
184] N[ewcastl]e: Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle (1693-1768), long the principal political associate of Sir Robert Walpole, a masterly exponent of the art of patronage, had served as Secretary of State for the Southern Department since 1724. Back to Line
185] Tully: see above, line 35. Archdeacon Coxe in his biography of Walpole (1798), says of Newcastle as a speaker in the House of Lords: "he was ready on all occasions, and spoke with great animation, though with little arrangement, and without grace or dignity." Back to Line
186] Place: Billingsgate fish market in London, infamous for the abusive language of the women who worked there. Back to Line
192] Cheselden: William Cheselden (1688-1752), distinguished anatomist and innovative surgeon, published in 1733 Osteographia or The Anatomy of Bones, a description of the human skeleton with detailed illustrations. Back to Line
194] H[arringto]n: William Stanhope (1683?-1756), soldier and diplomat, was created Baron Harrington and appointed Secretary of State for the Northern Department in 1730. He struck several contemporaries as mediocre in talents; he never spoke in the House of Lords. Back to Line
199] Caledonian: John Campbell, Duke of Argyll and Duke of Greenwich (1680-1743), had s successful career as a soldier in the War of the Spanish Succession. and demonstrated his loyalty to the Hanoverian regime by his leading part in crushing the Jacobite rising of 1715-16. A great landowner, he was the dominant figure in Scottish electoral politics, since he controlled the election of the majority of the eighteen M.P.s Scotland sent to Westminster (the "venal swains"). Back to Line
212] E[ss]ex: so first edition; second edition reads; E-----e. William Capel, Earl of Essex (1697-1743), gentleman of the bedchamber to George II, keeper of St. James's and Hyde Parks, was ambassador to the court of Turin in the early 1730s. In his posthumous edition of Whitehead's Poems and Miscellaneous Compositions (1777), Captain Edward Thompson gives the name as "Egmont;" i.e., John Perceval, created Earl of Egmont in the peerage of Ireland in August 1733. Both last letter and the chronology rule Egmont out. A[lbemar]le: William Anne Keppel, Earl of Albemarle (1702-1754), was a peacetime soldier, aide-de-camp to George II, and, later, absentee Governor of Virginia. Back to Line
213] W[illough]by: Richard Verney, Baron Willoughby de Broke (1693-1752), had taken his seat in the House of Lords in 1728. He wrote prose and very poor verse in support of Walpole, one example being the broadside he published after the appearance of the State Dunces, entitled Dunces out of State. A Poem Addressed to Mr. Pope. Back to Line
214] Looby: clumsy person. G[rafto]n: Charles Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton (1683-1757), was Lord Chamberlain (manager of the king's household) under George I and George II; although a member of the Cabinet he was more interested in hunting than in politics. G[rantha]m: Henry de Nassau d'Auverquerque, Earl of Grantham (1673-1754), Lord Chamberlain to Queen Caroline. Back to Line
220] Shebas: the Queen of Sheba heard of the wisdom of Solomon, came to see for herself, and departed saying: "thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame that I heard" (I Kings 10: 7). Back to Line
222] Bench: here, the area in the House of Lords where the bishops sit. Back to Line
226] trenchar'd: wearing a trenchar, or mortar-board style of academic cap, symbolizing learning. Back to Line
228] C[handle]r: Edward Chandler (1668?-1750), Bishop of Durham, had written two substantial works against Collins, the first entitled The Defence of Christianity from the Prophecies. Back to Line
229] Collins: Anthony Collins (1676-1729), a protégé of John Locke, wrote several controversial works investigating the basis of conventional theology, something that he called "free thinking." His Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (1724) questioned the belief that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, and provoked learned responses from Chandler and others. Back to Line
230] Woolston: Thomas Woolston (1668?-1733), a clergyman who argued in numerous works for a figurative rather than a literal reading of Scripture; his fellow-churchmen regarded him first as mad and then, after his six Discourses on the Miracles of Our Saviour (1727-1729), as blasphemous. Each Discourse was dedicated to a prominent bishop; the first five dedicatees appear in this poem: Gibson, Chandler, Smalbroke, Hare and Sherlock. He was convicted of blasphemy in 1729, and spent his last years in prison, where he died in January 1733. Smallbrook: Richard Smalbroke (1672-1749), bishop of Lichfield and Coventry; his refutation of Woolston, A Vindication of the Miracles of Our Blessed Saviour, was published in two volumes in 1729 and 1731. Back to Line
232] Pastorius: Edmund Gibson (1669-1748), eminent in ecclesiastical history, Dean of the Chapel Royal and Bishop of London, was Walpole's chief adviser on church matters. Back to Line
238] Pastorius: "A Prelate noted for writing Spiritual Pastorals and Temporal Charges; in the one he endeavour'd to serve the Cause of Christianity, in the other the Mammon of a Ministry" (Whitehead's note). Charges ("those") are statements of policy addressed by a bishop to the clergy of his diocese for their instruction and guidance; Whitehead claims Gibson's are pro-Walpole tracts. Between 1728 and 1731 Gibson had published three Pastoral Letters ("These") against infidelity ("Squibs of Science"--the science is theology) that were widely read, and had been reissued in a collected edition in 1732. Back to Line
241] Lawn: fine cotton. with particular reference to the balloon sleeves of the rochet, the white gown worn by bishops. Back to Line
242] S[herloc]k: Thomas Sherlock (1677-1761), had been at school at Eton with Walpole. As Master of the Temple in London from 1705 to 1753 he made a reputation as a preacher. Although a Tory in outlook, he supported the Hanoverian court and spoke strongly for Walpole's position on controversial issues in the House of Lords, hence the charges that he "trims" (equivocates) and pawns his conscience. He was Bishop of Bangor from 1728 to 1734, when he was promoted to the much more prosperous see of Salisbury. Back to Line
250] H[ar]e: Francis Hare (1671-1740), bishop of Chichester, a cleric of strongly whig sympathies, had been Walpole's tutor at Cambridge, and was a favourite of Queen Caroline. He was ambitious, and hoped to become Archbishop of Canterbury, whose London seat is Lambeth Palace on the south side of the Thames. He was to come close in 1737, but the Queen had died and Lord Hervey (line 298) took pains to persuade Walpole otherwise. Back to Line
256] Change: "A noted Sermon preach'd on the 30th of January on this Text: Woe be unto them that are given to Change, &c." (Whitehead's note). Hare's sermon on the anniversary of the execution of Charles I, was actually preached before the House of Lords on January 31, 1732, because in that year January 30 fell on a Sunday. The text as given by Whitehead does not exist; Hare's text was Proverbs 24: 21: "My son, fear the Lord and the King, and meddle not with them that are given to change." The sermon attracted a lot of attention because of its unwhiggish tone; Hare praises Charles I so highly, and attacks those who deposed him so strongly, that he seems to forget that George II reigned because of the "change" that occurred in 1688. Translation is the legal term for the transfer of a bishop from one see to another, usually in effect a promotion; Hare had been translated from the impoverished Welsh see of St. Asaph to Chichester in 1731. Back to Line
262] H[o]r[ati]o: Horatio Walpole (1678-1757), younger brother of Sir Robert, M.P. for Great Yarmouth and holder of the lucrative office of Cofferer of the Royal Household. He had returned to England in 1730 after twenty years of generally successful diplomatic service, largely spent in France, hence his ability to recall the many treaties that marked the tergiversations of European diplomacy in this period. Lord Hervey (line 298) called him his brother's "treaty dictionary," a mere filing-cabinet of information. Horatio was careless about his dress and notoriously deficient in personal hygiene. Back to Line
269] Train-trow: a series of similar items following one after another; apparently from a line of barges roped together and drawn along a river or canal. Back to Line
274] Y[ong]e: Sir William Yonge (1673?-1755), baronet, M.P. for Honiton, one of Walpole's most trusted and effective supporters in the House of Commons, where he was an accomplished speaker, especially in defence of Walpole's use of pensions and offical appointments to maintain his majority. He was widely regarded as venal and corrupt. He was one of those appointed to the Order of the Bath on its revival in 1725, hence "enribon'd." Back to Line
282] Plays: "This Gentleman, with the assistance of Roome, Concanen, and several others, committed a barbarous Murder on the Body of an old Comedy, by turning it into a modern Ballad Opera; which was scarce exhibited on the Stage, before it was thought necessary to be contracted into one Act. As this is the only living Instance of the surprising Genius and Abilities of these wits, I could not forbear mentioning it" (Whitehead's note). The play was The Jovial Crew (1641) by Richard Brome; the musical version, with some songs by Yonge, was produced in 1731. Edward Roome (died 1729) was a lawyer and writer, and a friend of Matthew Concanen (1701-1749). also a lawyer and poet; in 1732 Concanen was appointed attorney-general of Jamaica, and left the London literary scene. The ballad-opera may have been cut down to a single act for some performances, but the three-act version was still being performed on the London stage fifty years later. Back to Line
283] A Brunswick: George II, whose official title in the Holy Roman Empire was Elector of Brunswick and Luneburg. Back to Line
285] C[i]bb[e]r: Colley Cibber (1671-1757), playwright and theatre manager, appointed Poet Laureate in 1730; this position required him to write "sweet odes" in praise of George II for musical performance at the royal levees on New Year's Day and the King's Birthday. His odes were widely mocked as incompetent efforts. Back to Line
289] Apollo: classical god of poetry (among other things). Lord Commissioners: lords commissioner were members of the supervisory boards of government departments; such positions required little work but carried good salaries. Yonge was a Lord Commissioner of the Navy from 1728 to 1730, when he was promoted to a more lucrative Lord Commissionership of the Treasury. Back to Line
290] W[ager]: Admiral Sir Charles Wager (1666-1743), a distinguished naval commander, in 1733 recently appointed First Lord of the Admiralty; he was M.P. for Portsmouth, a personal friend and an effective supporter of Walpole in the House of Commons. P[elham]: Henry Pelham (1696-1754), younger brother of the Duke of Newcastle. As Paymaster General from 1730 to 1743 Pelham was responsible for paying the soldiers of Walpole's controversial standing army. See above, line 160. Back to Line
295] reclaim a Hair: put a single hair back in place. Back to Line
298] H[erve]y: John Hervey (1696-1743), son of the Earl of Bristol, bore the courtesy title Lord Hervey and sat as M.P. for Bury St. Edmunds until he was elevated to the House of Lords as Baron Hervey in June 1733, in part as reward for his vigorous defence of Walpole's excise bill in the Commons two months earlier. Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household from 1730, he was close to Queen Caroline, and worked with her to persuade the King to follow Walpole's policies. He was bisexual and attractive to both sexes; his enemies emphasized the feminine aspects of his personality, as Whitehead does here. Back to Line
301] Patriots: see above line 36. Back to Line
304] Toilet: lady's dressing-table. Back to Line
305] P[et]re: Sir Edward Petre, third Baronet (1631?-1699), a Jesuit priest, was chaplain to James II; he made use of this confidential position to exercise considerable influence at Court, and consequently became very unpopular. Back to Line
306] C[ompto]n: Sir Spencer Compton (1673?-1743) had fully expected to succeed Walpole as leading minister after the death of George I in 1727, but within days his manifest incompetence in state business convinced George II to entrust affairs to Walpole instead. Compton was created Earl of Wilmington, and appointed Lord President of the Council, an empty honour. During the crisis over Walpole's excise bill in the spring of 1733, Compton threatened to vote with the opposition; Walpole secured his vote by promising him the Order of the Garter, to which he was duly appointed in June. The name appears dashed in all eighteenth-century editions, and no contemporary guess has survived. In his edition of Whitehead's Satires for the Augustan Reprint Society, Vincent Carretta identifies "C----n" as "Clifton," i.e., Sir Thomas Clifton, Bt., M.P. for Retford. Clifton appears to be the only knight then in Parliament whose name fits, but he was in 1733 a solid supporter of Walpole, and he was not appointed to the Order of the Garter. The Order of the Garter is the highest order of English knighthood, and its members are Knights of the Order, and it is in this sense that the word is used here. Back to Line
309] Ribbon: worn as part of formal dress by members of orders (the Bath, the Garter). Place: a government job, usually a sinecure or one that could be performed by a deputy who would be paid much less than the salary that went with the job. Back to Line
314] Osborne: see above, line 96 note. Back to Line
316] Caleb: see above, line 136. Back to Line
326] Walsingham: see above, line 95. Back to Line
334] Skins of Parchment: i.e., legal documents. Arnall's background was in the law, something he underlined by styling himself "of the Inner Temple." The Inner Temple was more prestigious than the Middle Temple; in both barristers kept their chambers, and young men studied law, or drifted into taverns and sometimes into writing for a living. Back to Line
338] Unlac'd: not ornamented with costly lace. Back to Line
339] Peele: John Peele, London bookseller at the sign of Locke's Head in Paternoster Row; in business from 1722 until his death in 1771; publisher of the Free Briton. The first printing of the first edition reads "implore"; the correction to "deplore" was made in the second printing. Back to Line
340] Common-shore: sewer, often in this period an open ditch (the unsold printed sheets will be used as toilet paper). Back to Line
342] Concanen: see above, line 282. James Ralph (see above, line 28) had tried his hand at poems and plays with distinctly mixed success before turning to political journalism. In the early 1730s Ralph had been recruited by William Arnall as one of his stable of pro-Walpole writers, but his paper, the Weekly Medley, had failed. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1733
Publication Notes: 

The State Dunces was published in June 1733; it appears in the list of new books for that month in the Gentleman's Magazine, and a series of excerpts amounting to more than 90 lines was included in the poetry section for June.  It attracted attention immediately; the same June poetry section includes an "Answer to the State Dunces," and the register of new books lists "A Friendly Epistle to the Author of the State Dunces."  ("The Court Dunciad," in the same list, is an anthology of short pieces intended for female readers.)    The poetry section of the July number presents excerpts from the "Friendly Epistle"  and from "The Counterpart to the State Dunces,"  both answers to Whitehead that, like "Answer to the State Dunces," mock his youth and inexperience.  the poem was published anonymously,  but since two of the answers name Whitehead as its author his identity must have become public knowledge very soon after publication.

There is no modern scholarly edition of Whitehead's verse.  Whitehead was a previously unpublished poet, and The State Dunces was the first publication of his bookseller, John Dickenson. The first edition is catalogued by David Foxon as W428 (English Verse 1701-1750: A Catalogue of Separately Printed Poems with Notes on Contemporary Collected Editions (New York: Cambridge UP, 1975) 1: 892); in the Eighteenth-Century Short-Title Catalogue it is numbered T160413.  It is neatly printed, but contains one error, "implore" on p. 16 (line 315; line 343 of the present text).  When Dickenson realized he had a hit on his hands, he needed more copies. The second impression (Foxon W427: ESTC T48573) appears to have been made by the same printing house; ornaments and type are the same, but the pages have been hastily reset.  The lines of type are uneven, and on p. 7 and p. 10 a swash italic A appears instead of the italic A of the first impression.  The erroneous "implore' is replaced by "deplore."  Meanwhile Whitehead, whose poetical competence had been called in question by the answers, had additions to make to improve his poem, which then went into a second edition (Foxon W426; ESTC T45872).  The added lines 31-38 softened an awkward transition, and assert a parallel between Pope's friendship with Bolingbroke and Whitehead's admiration for Pulteney; lines 57-64 deal with another abrupt transition, and bring the opening address to Pope to a strong conclusion; lines 150-151, 154-157 again smooth a transition, and develop Britannia as a female figure ravished, rather than simply as the representative of Britain.  A different printer seems to have been employed; the type is not identical, and the ornaments on title-page and first page of text are quite different; the ornament on the lower part of the last page is omitted.  The word "Dulness" has been changed in all but two places to "Dullness." The present text is based on the first impression of the first edition, incorporating the additions of the second edition.  The various spellings of "Britannia" have not been regularized.  The Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto holds copies of all three printings: first edition, first printing: E10-1901; first edition, second printing: E10-5269; second edition: E10-2678.

The title-page has a motto: "I from my Soul sincerely hate / Both [Kings] and M[iniste]rs of State."  This is attributed to "Swift."  It comes from Jonathan Swift's poem, first published in 1730, "A Libel on Doctor Delany and a Certain Noble Lord,"`lines 173-174.  "Minister of State" was a common way of referring to Sir Robert Walpole.

Nothing is known about Whitehead's contractual arrangements with his bookseller, but there is reason to believe that he either retained copyright in his poem or re-assumed it after Dickenson ceased publishing in 1735.  In 1739, when Manners was made popular by the prosecution of the publisher, Robert Dodsley, by the House of Lords, there were a number of reprints issued with missing or doubtfully authentic imprints.  Two of these add The State Dunces; both give the augmented text of the second edition, but both spell "Dulness" with one l throughout.  There were plenty of copies of the first edition in circulation, the second is not so identified, and the changes might easily escape notice unless a careful comparison were made.  It is somewhat remarkable that both publishers should have chosen the second edition, and quite remarkable that both printers should have corrected "Dullness" to "Dulness."  It is hard to resist the conclusion that Whitehead was in a position to license these reprints, ensuring reproduction of the augmented text, with the restoration his favoured spelling of the keyword "Dulness."

Whitehead may have been at work on his poem for some time, but the immediate stimulus to completion and publication in June 1733 was the crisis of Sir Robert Walpole's political authority that Walpole provoked by advancing his excise scheme. On its face an administrative change in the way in which duties on wine and tobacco were collected, it aroused widespread opposition, and was quickly identified as a "wedge issue," that might be exploited to bring about the "prime minister's" fall.  Walpole bowed to the inevitable and withdrew the bill on April 12, 1733; the next day he saw to it that the Earl of Chesterfield, the most prominent of his former supporters who had opposed the bill, was dismissed from all his positions at Court.  Other dismissals followed, as Walpole showed he was still in charge by punishing his opponents and rewarding those who had either not deserted him or had allowed themselves to be recalled by promises of future reward.

In suggesting to Pope that he stop scarifying poetasters and extend the concept of Dulness in the Dunciad to politics, Whitehead is following the model of another poem, but in the reverse direction.  David Mallet's Of Verbal Criticism. An Epistle to Mr. Pope was published two months before the State Dunces in April 1733; in it, Mallet urges Pope to devote his energies to literary satire, with particular reference to misguided critics who concentrate on words rather than ideas, and prefer correcting punctuation and rediscovering the inartistic matter of the uncultured past to observing the good taste exemplified by writers such as Pope. Pope himself may have been influenced by both Mallet and Whitehead in revising and amplifying the Dunciad in 1742-43, but while he mentions Mallet's poem with respect in a note, he gives no recognition to Whitehead.

The names of the persons attacked in the State Dunces are "dashed;" that is, first and (usually) last letters are given, and the intervening letters are represented by hyphens, sometimes, but not always, one hyphen for each omitted letter.  This device, common in satirical writing, was a defence against prosecution; it had the secondary effect of hiding part of the meaning of the poem from readers unfamiliar with the political scene.  In this case, an annotated copy survives in the British Museum, from which several of the identifications provided here have been taken.  Some names are not identified, notably the "C--n" of line 306.  Captain Edward Thompson completes a number of the names in his posthumous edition of Whitehead's Poems and Miscellaneous Compositions (1777), but one is certainly wrong, and he does not attempt the more difficult ones.  In this edition, the names are given with the supplied letters in square brackets.

In his life of Whitehead, Thompson is emphatic that Whitehead was a republican in politics.  It may then seem a little odd that he should in this poem so carefully observe the social hierarchy of his victims.  Of course, it is Walpole, not Whitehead, who introduces his team of understrappers to the goddess Dulness, starting with the House of Lords, first lay peers (184-215), then the bishops (222-261); next the Commons (262-305; Hervey's elevation to the peerage in his own right came in June, too late for notice in the poem).  The lines on Compton (the Earl of Wilmington) which follow (306-309) are anomalous, since he is denied his place among the Lords; this is perhaps the mark of a late addition to the poem. Finally Walpole turns from Parliament to journalism, and to characters whose position in society is such that they can be spared the courtesy of dashing names.

RPO poem Editors: 
John Baird
RPO Edition: 
2015
Rhyme: 
Form: