Epistles to Several Persons: Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot

Original Text: 
Alexander Pope, Works (1735). E-10 3938 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
Neque sermonibus vulgi dederis te, nec in præmiis spem posueris rerum tuarum; suis te oportet illecebris ipsa virtus trahat ad verum decus. Quid de te alii loquantur, ipsi videant, sed loquentur tamen.
     (Cicero, De Re Publica VI.23)
["... you will not any longer attend to the vulgar mob's gossip nor put your trust in human rewards for your deeds; virtue, through her own charms, should lead you to true glory. Let what others say about you be their concern; whatever it is, they will say it anyway."]
2Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead.
5Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand,
6They rave, recite, and madden round the land.
7     What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide?
9By land, by water, they renew the charge;
11No place is sacred, not the church is free;
12Ev'n Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me:
14Happy! to catch me just at dinner-time.
15     Is there a parson, much bemus'd in beer,
16A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer,
17A clerk, foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
18Who pens a stanza, when he should engross?
19Is there, who, lock'd from ink and paper, scrawls
20With desp'rate charcoal round his darken'd walls?
22Apply to me, to keep them mad or vain.
24Imputes to me and my damn'd works the cause:
26And curses wit, and poetry, and Pope.
27     Friend to my life! (which did not you prolong,
28The world had wanted many an idle song)
30Or which must end me, a fool's wrath or love?
32If foes, they write, if friends, they read me dead.
33Seiz'd and tied down to judge, how wretched I!
34Who can't be silent, and who will not lie;
35To laugh, were want of goodness and of grace,
36And to be grave, exceeds all pow'r of face.
37I sit with sad civility, I read
38With honest anguish, and an aching head;
39And drop at last, but in unwilling ears,
42Lull'd by soft zephyrs through the broken pane,
45"The piece, you think, is incorrect: why, take it,
46I'm all submission, what you'd have it, make it."
47     Three things another's modest wishes bound,
48My friendship, and a prologue, and ten pound.
50I want a patron; ask him for a place."
51     Pitholeon libell'd me--"but here's a letter
52Informs you, sir, 'twas when he knew no better.
55     Bless me! a packet--"'Tis a stranger sues,
56A virgin tragedy, an orphan muse."
57If I dislike it, "Furies, death and rage!"
58If I approve, "Commend it to the stage."
59There (thank my stars) my whole commission ends,
60The play'rs and I are, luckily, no friends.
61Fir'd that the house reject him, "'Sdeath I'll print it,
63"Lintot, dull rogue! will think your price too much."
64"Not, sir, if you revise it, and retouch."
65All my demurs but double his attacks;
67Glad of a quarrel, straight I clap the door,
68"Sir, let me see your works and you no more."
70(Midas, a sacred person and a king)
71His very minister who spied them first,
73And is not mine, my friend, a sorer case,
74When ev'ry coxcomb perks them in my face?
75     "Good friend, forbear! you deal in dang'rous things.
76I'd never name queens, ministers, or kings;
77Keep close to ears, and those let asses prick;
78'Tis nothing"--Nothing? if they bite and kick?
80That secret to each fool, that he's an ass:
81The truth once told (and wherefore should we lie?)
82The queen of Midas slept, and so may I.
83     You think this cruel? take it for a rule,
84No creature smarts so little as a fool.
86Thou unconcern'd canst hear the mighty crack:
88Thou stand'st unshook amidst a bursting world.
89Who shames a scribbler? break one cobweb through,
90He spins the slight, self-pleasing thread anew;
91Destroy his fib or sophistry, in vain,
92The creature's at his dirty work again;
93Thron'd in the centre of his thin designs;
94Proud of a vast extent of flimsy lines!
95Whom have I hurt? has poet yet, or peer,
96Lost the arch'd eye-brow, or Parnassian sneer?
100Still to one bishop Philips seem a wit?
102No names!--be calm!--learn prudence of a friend!
103I too could write, and I am twice as tall;
104But foes like these!" One flatt'rer's worse than all.
105Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right,
106It is the slaver kills, and not the bite.
107A fool quite angry is quite innocent;
108Alas! 'tis ten times worse when they repent.
109     One dedicates in high heroic prose,
110And ridicules beyond a hundred foes;
112And, more abusive, calls himself my friend.
115     There are, who to my person pay their court:
116I cough like Horace, and, though lean, am short,
118Such Ovid's nose, and "Sir! you have an eye"--
119Go on, obliging creatures, make me see
120All that disgrac'd my betters, met in me:
121Say for my comfort, languishing in bed,
123And when I die, be sure you let me know
124Great Homer died three thousand years ago.
126Dipp'd me in ink, my parents', or my own?
127As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
128I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came.
129I left no calling for this idle trade,
130No duty broke, no father disobey'd.
131The Muse but serv'd to ease some friend, not wife,
132To help me through this long disease, my life,
133To second, Arbuthnot! thy art and care,
138And Congreve lov'd, and Swift endur'd my lays;
142With open arms receiv'd one poet more.
143Happy my studies, when by these approv'd!
144Happier their author, when by these belov'd!
145From these the world will judge of men and books,
147     Soft were my numbers; who could take offence,
148While pure description held the place of sense?
150A painted mistress, or a purling stream.
152I wish'd the man a dinner, and sat still.
154I never answer'd, I was not in debt.
155If want provok'd, or madness made them print,
156I wag'd no war with Bedlam or the Mint.
157     Did some more sober critic come abroad?
158If wrong, I smil'd; if right, I kiss'd the rod.
159Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence,
160And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense.
161Commas and points they set exactly right,
162And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite.
163Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel grac'd these ribalds,
165Each wight who reads not, and but scans and spells,
166Each word-catcher that lives on syllables,
167Ev'n such small critics some regard may claim,
168Preserv'd in Milton's or in Shakespeare's name.
169Pretty! in amber to observe the forms
170Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms;
171The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,
172But wonder how the devil they got there?
173     Were others angry? I excus'd them too;
174Well might they rage; I gave them but their due.
175A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find,
176But each man's secret standard in his mind,
178This, who can gratify? for who can guess?
179The bard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown,
181Just writes to make his barrenness appear,
182And strains, from hard-bound brains, eight lines a year:
184Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left:
185And he, who now to sense, now nonsense leaning,
186Means not, but blunders round about a meaning:
187And he, whose fustian's so sublimely bad,
188It is not poetry, but prose run mad:
191How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and chafe?
192And swear, not Addison himself was safe.
194True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires,
195Blest with each talent and each art to please,
196And born to write, converse, and live with ease:
197Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
198Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
199View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
200And hate for arts that caus'd himself to rise;
201Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
202And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
203Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
204Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
205Alike reserv'd to blame, or to commend,
206A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend;
208And so obliging, that he ne'er oblig'd;
210And sit attentive to his own applause;
212And wonder with a foolish face of praise.
213Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
217Or smoking forth, a hundred hawkers' load,
218On wings of winds came flying all abroad?
219I sought no homage from the race that write;
220I kept, like Asian monarchs, from their sight:
221Poems I heeded (now berhym'd so long)
223I ne'er with wits or witlings pass'd my days,
224To spread about the itch of verse and praise;
226To fetch and carry sing-song up and down;
227Nor at rehearsals sweat, and mouth'd, and cried,
228With handkerchief and orange at my side;
229But sick of fops, and poetry, and prate,
232Sat full-blown Bufo, puff'd by every quill;
233Fed with soft dedication all day long,
234Horace and he went hand in hand in song.
235His library (where busts of poets dead
237Receiv'd of wits an undistinguish'd race,
238Who first his judgment ask'd, and then a place:
239Much they extoll'd his pictures, much his seat,
240And flatter'd ev'ry day, and some days eat:
241Till grown more frugal in his riper days,
242He paid some bards with port, and some with praise,
243To some a dry rehearsal was assign'd,
244And others (harder still) he paid in kind.
245Dryden alone (what wonder?) came not nigh,
246Dryden alone escap'd this judging eye:
249     May some choice patron bless each grey goose quill!
251So, when a statesman wants a day's defence,
252Or envy holds a whole week's war with sense,
253Or simple pride for flatt'ry makes demands,
254May dunce by dunce be whistled off my hands!
257Left me to see neglected genius bloom,
258Neglected die! and tell it on his tomb;
259Of all thy blameless life the sole return
261     Oh let me live my own! and die so too!
263Maintain a poet's dignity and ease,
264And see what friends, and read what books I please.
265Above a patron, though I condescend
266Sometimes to call a minister my friend:
267I was not born for courts or great affairs;
268I pay my debts, believe, and say my pray'rs;
269Can sleep without a poem in my head,
270Nor know, if Dennis be alive or dead.
271     Why am I ask'd what next shall see the light?
272Heav'ns! was I born for nothing but to write?
273Has life no joys for me? or (to be grave)
274Have I no friend to serve, no soul to save?
275"I found him close with Swift"--"Indeed? no doubt",
277'Tis all in vain, deny it as I will.
278"No, such a genius never can lie still,"
279And then for mine obligingly mistakes
281Poor guiltless I! and can I choose but smile,
282When ev'ry coxcomb knows me by my style?
283     Curs'd be the verse, how well soe'er it flow,
284That tends to make one worthy man my foe,
285Give virtue scandal, innocence a fear,
286Or from the soft-ey'd virgin steal a tear!
287But he, who hurts a harmless neighbour's peace,
288Insults fall'n worth, or beauty in distress,
289Who loves a lie, lame slander helps about,
290Who writes a libel, or who copies out:
291That fop, whose pride affects a patron's name,
292Yet absent, wounds an author's honest fame;
293Who can your merit selfishly approve,
294And show the sense of it without the love;
295Who has the vanity to call you friend,
296Yet wants the honour, injur'd, to defend;
297Who tells what'er you think, whate'er you say,
298And, if he lie not, must at least betray:
300And sees at Cannons what was never there;
301Who reads, but with a lust to misapply,
302Make satire a lampoon, and fiction, lie.
303A lash like mine no honest man shall dread,
304But all such babbling blockheads in his stead.
307Satire or sense, alas! can Sporus feel?
308Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?"
309Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings,
311Whose buzz the witty and the fair annoys,
312Yet wit ne'er tastes, and beauty ne'r enjoys,
313So well-bred spaniels civilly delight
314In mumbling of the game they dare not bite.
315Eternal smiles his emptiness betray,
316As shallow streams run dimpling all the way.
317Whether in florid impotence he speaks,
318And, as the prompter breathes, the puppet squeaks;
320Half froth, half venom, spits himself abroad,
321In puns, or politics, or tales, or lies,
322Or spite, or smut, or rhymes, or blasphemies.
323His wit all see-saw, between that and this ,
324Now high, now low, now Master up, now Miss,
325And he himself one vile antithesis.
326Amphibious thing! that acting either part,
327The trifling head, or the corrupted heart,
328Fop at the toilet, flatt'rer at the board,
329Now trips a lady, and now struts a lord.
331A cherub's face, a reptile all the rest;
332Beauty that shocks you, parts that none will trust,
333Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust.
334     Not fortune's worshipper, nor fashion's fool,
335Not lucre's madman, nor ambition's tool,
336Not proud, nor servile, be one poet's praise,
337That, if he pleas'd, he pleas'd by manly ways;
338That flatt'ry, even to kings, he held a shame,
339And thought a lie in verse or prose the same:
340That not in fancy's maze he wander'd long,
342That not for fame, but virtue's better end,
344The damning critic, half-approving wit,
345The coxcomb hit, or fearing to be hit;
346Laugh'd at the loss of friends he never had,
347The dull, the proud, the wicked, and the mad;
348The distant threats of vengeance on his head,
352The morals blacken'd when the writings 'scape;
356The whisper, that to greatness still too near,
358Welcome for thee, fair Virtue! all the past:
359For thee, fair Virtue! welcome ev'n the last!
360     "But why insult the poor? affront the great?"
361A knave's a knave, to me, in ev'ry state:
362Alike my scorn, if he succeed or fail,
364A hireling scribbler, or a hireling peer,
367He gain his prince's ear, or lose his own.
368     Yet soft by nature, more a dupe than wit,
370This dreaded sat'rist Dennis will confess
371Foe to his pride, but friend to his distress:
377He lash'd him not, but let her be his wife.
379And write whate'er he pleas'd, except his will;
382Yet why? that father held it for a rule,
383It was a sin to call our neighbour fool:
384That harmless mother thought no wife a whore,--
386Unspotted names! and memorable long,
387If there be force in virtue, or in song.
388     Of gentle blood (part shed in honour's cause,
389While yet in Britain honour had applause)
390Each parent sprung--"What fortune, pray?"--Their own,
392Born to no pride, inheriting no strife,
393Nor marrying discord in a noble wife,
394Stranger to civil and religious rage,
395The good man walk'd innoxious through his age.
396No courts he saw, no suits would ever try,
398Un-learn'd, he knew no schoolman's subtle art,
399No language, but the language of the heart.
400By nature honest, by experience wise,
401Healthy by temp'rance and by exercise;
402His life, though long, to sickness past unknown;
403His death was instant, and without a groan.
404O grant me, thus to live, and thus to die!
405Who sprung from kings shall know less joy than I.
406     O friend! may each domestic bliss be thine!
407Be no unpleasing melancholy mine:
408Me, let the tender office long engage
409To rock the cradle of reposing age,
411Make langour smile, and smooth the bed of death,
412Explore the thought, explain the asking eye,
413And keep a while one parent from the sky!
414On cares like these if length of days attend,
415May Heav'n, to bless those days, preserve my friend,
416Preserve him social, cheerful, and serene,
418Whether that blessing be denied or giv'n,
419Thus far was right, the rest belongs to Heav'n.


1] Published in January 1735. This "Epistle" is the result of a correspondence between Pope and his personal physician and lifelong friend, Dr. John Arbuthnot. In the summer of 1734 Arbuthnot, realizing that he was dying, wrote to the poet cautioning him about his satiric attacks on powerful individuals; on August 25 Pope replied: "I determine to address to you one of my Epistles, written by piecemeal many years, and which I have now made haste to put together: wherein the question is stated, what were and are my Motives of writing, the objections to them and my answers." As Pope's letter would suggest, some of the passages were written earlier and some of them--e.g., the Atticus portrait--published earlier. This portion, originally sketched out in 1715, was finally published in 1722 in the St. James Journal and in an expanded form in 1727. Arbuthnot, to whom the poem is addressed, had been one of the Scriblerus group, a prose satirist in his own right, and physician to Queen Anne during her reign.
Pope's summary of the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot is as follows: "This paper is a sort of bill of complaint, begun many years since, and drawn up by snatches, as the several occasions offered. I had no thoughts of publishing it, till it pleased some persons of rank and fortune (the authors of Verses to the Imitator of Horace, and of an Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity from a Nobleman at Hampton Court) to attack, in a very extraordinary manner, not only my writings (of which, being public, the Public is judge) but my Person, Morals, and Family, whereof, to those who know me not, a truer information may be requisite. Being divided between the necessity to say some thing of myself, and my own laziness to undertake so awkward a task, I thought it the shortest way to put the last hand to this Epistle. If it have anything pleasing, it will be that by which I am most desirous to please, the Truth and the Sentiment; and if anything offensive, it will be only to those I am least sorry to offend, the vicious or the ungenerous. Many will know their own pictures in it, there being not a circumstance but what is true; but I have, for the most part, spared their Names, and they may escape being laughed at, if they please. I would have some of them know, it was owing to the request of the learned and candid Friend to whom it is inscribed that I make not as free use of theirs as they have done of mine. However, I shall have this advantage, and honour, on my side, that whereas, by their proceeding, any abuse may be directed at any man, no injury can possibly be done by mine, since a nameless character can never be found out, but by its Truth and Likeness.
The "Authors" referred to above: Lord Hervey and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Lord Hervey: John Hervey (1696-1743), Vice-Chancellor and confidant of Queen Caroline. He was well known for his trifling verses, effeminacy, profligacy, and gossip. Hervey was one of Pope's bitterest enemies. Lady Mary: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762), a leading figure in eighteenth-century society noted for her wit and extensive travels. As wife of Edward Wortley Montagu, she spent 1716 to 1718 traveling in the east. Pope, who had met her in 1715, wrote many letters while she was away, but after her return in 1720, their friendship cooled, and by 1728, when Pope and Swift first attacked her, the rupture was complete. The main reason for Pope's violent opposition to Hervey was his union with Lady Mary in writing the Verses addressed to the Imitator of Horace.
Neque sermonibus vulgi . . .: "... you will not any longer attend to the vulgar mob's gossip nor put your trust in human rewards for your deeds; virtue, through her own charms, should lead you to true glory. Let what others say about you be their concern; whatever it is, they will say it anyway" (Cicero, De Re Publica, VI, 23).
good John: Pope's servant John Serle. Back to Line
3] Dog-star: Sirius. The rising of this constellation in August associates it with maddening heat and with the August rehearsals of poetry in Juvenal's Rome. See Horace, Odes, III, xiii, 9, and Juvenal, Sat., iii, 15. Back to Line
4] Bellam: an insane asylum in London.
Parnassus: mountain sacred to the Muses and Apollo. Back to Line
8] my grot: Pope's grotto. Back to Line
10] the barge. Pope employed a waterman to take him up and down the Thames and to deliver messages. Back to Line
13] the Mint: a sanctuary for insolvent debtors (so called because Henry VIII's mint had been there). On Sundays the debtors could "walk forth" because they were not liable to arrest. Back to Line
21] Twit'nam: Pope's home at Twickenham. Back to Line
23] Arthur: Arthur Moore (1666?-1730) was a politician, whose son James Moore Smythe (1702-1734), a writer, had gotten into trouble with Pope for using some of Pope's verses in a play, The Rival Ladies (1727). Later, he collaborated in a poem attacking Pope (cf. line 385). Smythe is also said to have been a leader of English freemasonry (cf. line 98), which Pope attacked in the Dunciad (1742 version). Back to Line
25] Cornus: from Latin cornu, a horn. Thus it refers to any cuckold. Some identified the reference with Sir Robert Walpole, whose wife left him in 1734. Back to Line
29] drop: "medicine to be taken in drops . . ." (OED). Back to Line
31] spel: brought to an evil plight or awkward situation. Back to Line
40] Keep ... nine years: Horace's advice in his Ars Poetica, 386-89. Back to Line
41] high: i.e., living in a garret. Drury lane: the abode of harlots and other disreputable types. Back to Line
43] before Term ends: the end of the summer law court terms, which coincided with the close of the London publishing season. Back to Line
44] request of friends: an apology frequently set forth in the prefaces of works by bad writers. Back to Line
49] Pitholeon: "[Pope] The name taken from a foolish poet at Rhodes, who pretended much to Greek. Schol. in Horat. lib. i. Dr. Bentley pretends that this Pitholeon libelled Caesar also. See notes on Hor. Sat. X. 1. I [v.22]." Back to Line
53] Curll: Edmund Curll (1675-1747), an unsavory publisher and enemy of Pope's. He specialized in scandal, sedition, and pornography. Pope had been involved in attacking Curll as early as 1714. See also lines 113, 380. Back to Line
54] Journal: abuse Pope in the newspapers. Probably a specific reference to the Whig newspaper, the London Journal. Back to Line
62] Lintot: Barnaby Bernard Lintot (1675-1736), a bookseller, who published most of Pope's earlier works, including the Rape of the Lock, The Iliad, and The Odyssey. Back to Line
66] go snacks: "to divide profits" (OED). Back to Line
69] Midas: semi-legendary king of Phyrgia (the one who wished for and obtained the golden touch), to whom Apollo gave ass's ears for having awarded the prize in a musical contest between Apollo and Pan to Pan. Back to Line
72] his Queen. "[Pope] The story is told by some [Ovid, Metamorphoses, xi, 146] of his Barber, but by Chaucer of his queen. See the Wife of Bath's Tale in Dryden's Fables [157-200]." Back to Line
79] Ass: appeared as the symbol on the title page to the 1729 Dunciad Variorum. Back to Line
85] Codrus: a traditional name for a bad poet, borrowed from Juvenal. Back to Line
87] Cf. Essay on Man, I. 96. Parnassian sneer: refers to the 1729 Dunciad Variorum: "Great Tibbald nods: The proud Parnassian sneer . . ." (II, 5). Back to Line
97] Colley: Colley Cibber; see Dunciad Book IV below. Back to Line
98] Henley: John Henley (1692-1756), an eccentric preacher, who delivered a sermon celebrating the trade of the butcher at Newport Market on Easter Day 1729, taking for his text: "Thou has put all things in subjection under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea and the beasts of the field." Moore: see note on line 23. Back to Line
99] Bavius: a Roman poetaster who owed his immortality to the enmity which he held towards Horace and Virgil, and who was attacked by them. See Virgil, Eclogues, III.100. Philips: Ambrose Philips (1675-1749), a pastoral poet, secretary for some years to Hugh Boulter, Archbishop of Armagh. Philip's Pastorals had been attacked by Pope in The Spectator, 40. Back to Line
101] Sappho: Lesbian poetess of the seventh century B. C. The name is applied to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Back to Line
111] Grub Street: section of eighteenth-century London inhabited by hack writers. Back to Line
113] my Letters. Curll had published without permission some of Pope's letters to his friends. Back to Line
114] Subscribe. Books were frequently published by subscription. Pope's Iliad had been published in this manner. Back to Line
117] Ammon's great son: Alexander the Great. Back to Line
122] Maro: Virgil. Back to Line
125] what sin ... my own: cf. John 9:2. Back to Line
134] bear: (1) endure, (2) result in creative fruition. Back to Line
135] Granville: George Granville, Baron Lansdowne (1667-1735), poet and statesman. Pope submitted some of his early works to Granville, who had been friendly with Dryden. Back to Line
136] Walsh: see Essay on Criticism, line 729. Back to Line
137] Garth: Sir Samuel Garth (1661-1719), poet and physician to George I. One of Pope's earliest literary friends, he had encouraged the writing of the Pastorals. His Dispensary (1699) was one of the poetical predecessors of the Rape of the Lock. Back to Line
139] Talbot: Charles Talbot, twelfth Earl and only Duke of Shrewsbury (1660-1718), statesman, noted for his personal charm and taste.
Somers: John Somers, Baron Somers (1651-1716) Whig statesman, who encouraged Pope in writing of the Pastorals.
Sheffield: John Sheffield, third Earl of Mulgrave. See Essay on Criticism, note on line 724. Back to Line
140] Rochester: Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester (1662-1732), a Jacobite sympathizer, who was banished in 1732. He was a close friend of Pope's, a member of the Scriblerus Club, and a literary confidant and personal critic for Pope. Back to Line
141] St. John: see Essay on Man, introductory notes. Dryden's friends. All these were patrons or admirers of Mr. Dryden. Back to Line
146] "[Pope] Authors of secret and scandalous history."
Burnets: Thomas Burnet (1694-1753), a follower of Addison, who had attacked Pope. In 1719 he left the English literary scene to become a consul.
Oldmixons: John Oldmixon (1673-1742), a miscellaneous writer engaged with Whig interests. His "secret and scandalous" histories are the Secret History of Europe and the History of England during the Reigns of the Royal House of Stuart.
Cooke: Thomas Cooke (1703-1756), poet, pamphleteer, and translator. He attacked Pope in 1726, but tried unsuccessfully to apologize. Back to Line
149] Fanny: Lord Hervey. See line 305. Back to Line
151] Gillon: Charles Gildon (1665-1724), a critic who had attacked some of Pope's earlier works. Pope did not attack Gildon except here and in the later version of the Dunciad. Back to Line
153] Dennis: John Dennis (1657-1734), a critic and dramatist who had been offended by line 585 of the Essay of Criticism. Dennis's reply began a long period of hostility between himself and Pope. Back to Line
164] Bentley: Richard Bentley (1662-1742), famous English classical scholar, whom Pope and Swift viewed as the stock type of verbal critic, a reputation confirmed by his edition of Horace (1711) and Milton (1732). Cf. The Dunciad, IV.
Tibbalds: Louis Theobold (1688-1744), scholar and dramatist who edited Shakespeare (1734). He attacked Pope's edition of Shakespeare in 1726 and Pope retaliated by making him king of the Dunces in the earlier version of the Dunciad (1728-29). Back to Line
177] casting weight: the added weight that turns the scale. Back to Line
180] a Persian tale. "[Pope] Ambrose Philips translated a book called the Persian Tales." See note on line 100. Philips received a half a crown for each section of this book. Back to Line
183] He. The reference is general here as well as in lines 185 and 187. Back to Line
189] translate: (1) become translators, (2) transform themselves into writers of genuine talent. Back to Line
190] Tate: Nahum Tate (1652-1715), minor versifier who was known chiefly for a translation of the psalms and a happy ending which he provided for King Lear. Back to Line
193] This satire on Addison was originally written in 1716 and was said to have been sent to Addison himself. Addison and Pope had quarrelled over Pope's Iliad, but they also were representatives of opposing intellectual and political points of view. Back to Line
207] The rhyme besieg'd-oblig'd was a perfect rhyme in Pope's day. Back to Line
209] Cato: Addison's tragedy Cato (1713) for which Pope had written the prologue. Back to Line
211] templars: lawyers, from those who had their chambers in the Inner or Middle Temple. Back to Line
214] Atticus: the name of Cicero's cultivated friend, chosen both to suggest Addison and indicate some of his qualities. "[Pope] It was a great falsehood which some of the libels reported, that this character was written after the gentleman's [Addison's] death, which see refuted in the testimonies prefix'd to the Dunciad...." Back to Line
215] rubric. Lintot often displayed titles of books in red letters. Back to Line
216] claps: posters. Back to Line
222] A double thrust at Colley Cibber, the Laureate, who composed royal birthday odes of poor quality, and at the King, whose disdain for poetry was notorious [cf. To Augustus, 404]. Back to Line
225] daggled: to drag or trail about (through the mire) [OED]. Back to Line
230] Bufo: a composite portrait of a literary patron.
Castalian state. Castalia is the name of a spring on Mount Parnassus; hence this refers to the poetic state. Back to Line
231] forked hill: Parnassus, sacred to Apollo and the Muses. Back to Line
236] Pindar: "[Pope] ridicules the affectation of antiquaries, who frequently exhibit the headless trunks and terms of statues for Plato, Homer, Pindar, etc...." Back to Line
247] reserve: rhymed with starve. Back to Line
248] help'd to bury. " [Pope] Mr. Dryden after having lived in exigencies, had a magnificent funeral bestowed upon him by the contributions of several persons of quality." Back to Line
250] Bavius: see note to line 99. Back to Line
255] Blest be ... Gay: ironically echoing Job 1:21: "The Lord gives, and the Lord hath taken away; blest be the name of the Lord." Back to Line
256] Gay: John Gay (1685-1732), poet and dramatist, associated with Pope and Swift in the Scriblerus Club. A close personal friend of Pope's, he collaborated with Pope and Arbuthnot on a play, Three Hours After Marriage (1717). Back to Line
260] Queensb'ry. Charles Douglas (1698-1778), third Duke of Queensbury, erected a monument for Gay in Westminster Abbey with an epitaph written by Pope. Back to Line
262] Pope quotes Denham's Of Prudence: "Learn to live well, that thou may'st die so too;/To live and die is all we have to do" (93-94). Back to Line
276] Balbus: George Hay, seventh Earl of Kinnoul (d. 1758), an acquaintance of Pope's who proved to be unscrupulous. Back to Line
280] Sir Will: Sir William Yonge (d. 1755), a prominent Whig politician, widely held to represent "everything pitiful, corrupt and contemptible."
Bubo: George Bubb Dodington, Baron Melcombe (1691-1762), a minor Whig politician who fancied himself a patron of the arts, but was noted for his ostentation, tastelessness, and affectation. Bubo < Latin owl, with suggestion of booby. Back to Line
299] Dean: "[Pope] See the Epistle to the Earl of Burlington" (Moral Essay IV, 141-50). Pope's enemies had charged that Timon's Villa was the Duke of Chandos' estate, Cannons (line 300). The "dean" and "silver bel" are both mentioned in the description in Moral Essay IV. Back to Line
305] Sporus: a homosexual favourite of the Emperor Nero. Pope applies the name to Lord Hervey (see above).
thing of silk: refers to the spinning of the silk worm. The same image is used a number of times in the Dunciad to describe the activity of the bad poets. Back to Line
306] ass's milk: commonly prescribed as a tonic in the eighteenth century, and part of a diet adopted by Hervey. Back to Line
310] paintel. Hervey used rouge to conceal his intense pallor. Back to Line
319] "[Pope] See Milton [Paradise Lost Bk. IV [800]." Eve is Queen Caroline. Back to Line
330] rabbins: rabbis; here Hebrew commentators on the Old Testament. Back to Line
341] stoop'd. "[W.] The term is from falconry; and the allusion to one of those untamed birds of spirit, which sometimes wantons in airy circles before it regards, or stoops to, its prey." Back to Line
343] stood: endured. Back to Line
349] Alluding to a lampoon which stated that Pope had been publicly beaten, attributed by Pope to Hervey and Lady Mary. Back to Line
350] "[Pope] that he set his name to Mr. Broome's verses, etc., that he received subscriptions for Shakespeare, which, though publicly disproved, were nevertheless shamelessly repeated in the Libels, and even in that called The Nobleman's Epistle." Back to Line
351] "[Pope] Profane Psalms, Court Poems, and other scandalous things, printed by Curll etc." Back to Line
353] Pope's deformity was often a subject of caricature by Hogarth and others. Back to Line
354] "[Pope] Namely on the Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Burlington, Lord Bathurst, Lord Bolingbroke, Bishop Atterbury, Dr. Swift, Mr. Gay, Dr. Arbuthnot, his Friends, his Parents, and his very Nurse, aspersed in printed papers, by James Moore, G. Ducket, Esquires, L. Welsted, Tho. Bentley, and other obscure persons." Back to Line
355] friend in exile: Atterbury had died in 1732, Pope's father in 1717. Back to Line
357] Cf. line 319. Back to Line
363] Japhet: Japhet Crook (1662-1734), a forger who used the alias Sir Peter Stranger, and who was convicted in 1731, sentenced to stand in pillary, have his ears cut off, his nose slit, forfeit his possessions, and be imprisoned for life. Back to Line
365] Knight of the Post: "one who got his living by giving false evidence" (OED). Back to Line
366] or lose his own: see line 363. Back to Line
369] Sappho: cf. line 101. Back to Line
372] Pope had tried to promote a subscription edition of some of Dennis's works in 1731. He also contributed a prologue to a play given for Dennis's benefit in 1733. Back to Line
373] rhym'd for Moore: see note on line 23. Back to Line
374] ten years. "[Pope] It was so long after many libels before the Author of the Dunciad published that poem, till when, he never writ a word in answer to the many scurrilities and falsehoods concerning him." Back to Line
375] Welstel's lie. "[Pope] This man had the impudence to tell in print that Mr. P. had occasioned a Lady's death, and to name a person he never heard of. He also published that he had libelled the Duke of Chandos; with whom (it was added) that he had lived in familiarity, and received from him a present of five hundred pounds; the false-hood of both which is known to his Grace. Mr. P. never received any present farther than the subscription for Homer, from him, or from Any great Man whatsoever." Back to Line
376] Pope probably alludes to William Wyndham, co-author (with Lady Mary and Lord Hervey) of an attack. Wyndham had recently married Lady Deloraine, the most likely original for Pope's portrait of Delia. See Moral Epistle II. Back to Line
378] Budgel. "[Pope] Budgel, in a weekly pamphlet called the Bee, bestowed much abuse on him, in the imagination that he writ some things about the Last Will of Dr. Tindal, in the Grubstreet Journal, a Paper wherein he never had the least hand, direction, or supervisal, nor the least knowledge of its Author." Back to Line
380] the two Curlls: the publisher (see note on June 53) and Lord Hervey. Back to Line
381] "[Pope] In some of Curll's and other pamphlets, Mr. Pope's father was said to be a mechanic, a hatter, a farmer, nay a bankrupt. But, what is stranger, a Nobleman (if such a Reflection can be thought to come from a nobleman) has dropped an allusion to that pitiful untruth, in a paper called an Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity: and the following line, Hard as thy Heart, and as thy Birth obscure, had fallen from a like Courtly pen, in certain Verses to the Imitator of Horace. Mr. Pope's father was of a gentleman's family in Oxfordshire, the head of which was the Earl of Downe, whose sole heiress married the Earl of Lindsey.-- His mother was the daughter of William Turner, Esq. of York: She had three brothers, one of whom was killed, another died in the service of King Charles; the eldest following his fortunes, and becoming a general officer in Spain, left her what estate remained after the sequestrations and forfeitures of her family--Mr. Pope died in 1717, aged 75; She in 1733, aged 93, a very few weeks after this poem was finished. The following inscription was placed by their son on their monument in the parish of Twickenham, in Middlesex. D.O.M. /ALEXANDRO . POPE . VIRO . INNOCVO . PROBO . PIO . /QVI . VIXIT . ANNOS . LXXV . OB . MDCCXVII . /ET . EDITHAE . CONIVGI . INCVLPABILI . /PIENTISSIMAE . QVAE . VIXIT . ANNOS . /XCIII . OB . MDCCXXXIII . , /PARENTIBVX . BENEMERENTIBVS . FILIVS . FECIT . /ET . SIBI . Back to Line
385] Moore: cf. note to line 23. Back to Line
391] Bestia: a Roman consul bribed into a dishonourable peace. Probably refers to the Duke of Marlborough. Back to Line
397] English Roman Catholics were still required to take certain oaths which they could not take without a lie, or be deprived of most of their civil right. Pope's father and himself chose deprivation. Back to Line
410] lenient: softening, soothing. Back to Line
417] Arbuthnot, being a Tory, lost hls place as court physician on Queen Anne's death. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
D. F. Theall
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.154.