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‘Orator’ Henley on The Dunciad (1743)

‘Orator’ Henley on The Dunciad (1743)

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POPE 353

private Vanity and publick Mischief. On his Way of Thinking, on the Foot of his

Practice, any Person who is conscious, or imagines he has an Ascendant, or an

Advantage over another by his Strength or Deceit, may over-power any, plunder

and kill him: This point pursued in the Manner of the Dunciad, would introduce

universal Confusion; as Mr. POPE, by the Conceit of his Talents, Wit, Numbers,

Popularity, and Diction, thinks himself entitled to destroy and blast the credit of

every or any Person, right or wrong, so all others on the like Imagination of

superior Force or Skill, might murder, hack, and maul as they pleased, and what

He objects of corrupt Ministers, is thoroughly ridiculous, since, on the Basis of

his Thoughts and Conduct, Immorality is Virtue, and the most fortunate and bold

Wickedness is the most Divine Rectitude.

This, Sir, is no Dunciad on you, it is your self, your Works make it self-evident.

Your Description of me might, in the Articles that compose it, be equally

apply’d to any Publick Orator, Speaker, Preacher, Barrister at Law, or to any

Person who converses, or reads in Conversation on Arts and Sciences, on

Divinity, or any subject you intimate: Characters of Ridicule of this Kind might

be and are made by a Recipe, and a common Place of Calumny…

Take a Quantity of Meanness, and Nonsense, Impudence, and Affectation,

Absurdity, and Inconsistence, Preacher and Zany, Stage and Pulpit, Ỉgypt and

Monkey-Gods, Priestly Stalls and Butchers, Meek Modern Faith and Toland,

Tindal, and Woolston,1 a Pound or two of this, and Ounces and Drams of one and

the other, without a Scruple of Honesty in the Poet, the Dunciad is perfect, and

the Portrait is immortal…

You tell the World, that I was for putting Questions and none would dispute

with me [i.e., at his Oratory]: Professors of most Parts of Literature, many

Clergymen, Students from both the Universities, Poets, Counsellors, Physicians,

Dissenters of all Sorts, Romish Priests, Carmelites, Jesuits, Dominicans,

Benedictines, Gentlemen of all Ranks, ingenious Artists, have maintain’d publick

Disputations there, very frequently: Your Works have been undertaken to be

defended there, and come off very ill; those who have written for you against

Mr. Crouzas (the Scheme of whose Work preexisted in our Disputations, the

Date in the Register of them may be compar’d) as Mr. Warburton, &c. have been

very unsuccessful: your Discourse on Pastoral, your Pastorals, your Notion of

Poetical Probability in the Translation of Homer, your Ethical Epistles, your

Character of me in your Dunciad, have been disputed upon distinctly, and

wofully vindicated; your Admirers have shown in their Arguments for you, what

Reason you have to triumph in their Admiration: Pretty Beaux have been rude

and mobb’d, and lively Petit-Maitres have drawn their terrible Blades for you, in

want of Sense: Whites, the Bedford, Tom’s, Nando’s, George’s, and the Crown

&c. have pour’d forth their well-dress’d Auxiliaries, Lace, Bag, Sword, Toupee

and Snuff-Box, all the Rival Modes, in support of Mr. POPE’S Right to be


[Henley refers to Pope’s attack on him, The Dunciad (A), iii. 191–208]


esteem’d the first of the Age: but their Apologies have been murder d, hack’d

and maul’d, even butcher’d in the Priestly Stall, and your exemplary Wit hung

up in Effigy, as only fit for a Scare-Crow, like your self…

Your whole Piece [The Dunciad] is only refining on the low Jests of Porters

and Fish-Women, as you live by the Water-side [in Twickenham]; or dressing the

insolent Scurrility of Link-Boys and Hackney-Coachmen in something (not much)

genteeler Language; they talk of MonkeyNonsense, Pots and Pipes, hacking and

mauling, neither said nor sung, impudent, brazen, and blushing thro’ a thick

Skin, just in the sublime Dialect of the famous Mr. POPE:1 The Dunciad was

compiled from the Stairs between the Temple and Twickenham, out of the Jokes

crack’d and stolen there: Footmen and Chairmen every Day practice more

elegant Conversation, and would be asham’d of the stale weather-beaten


As a Poet, your Similes are like nothing, your Turns in the Hyperbole, your

Satire-Fiction, your Diction Common-Place as well as your Scandal; a

Pinchbeck’s Machine with Chimes might excell it in native Bronze, your

Characters will fit any Body, and may be retorted with a truer Grace on your

self, as a moderate Versifier might prove by one Experiment on your Lines

against me: I was once poetically addicted, and had I perserver’d in the Sin, or

had I been inspir’d with your Muses, a fantastical Imagination, a very vain Head,

and a consummately evil Heart, as you are incomparably possessed with a

Legion of such Sort of Dæmons, could by this Time have surpassed you; but

universal Learning, and more generous Principles and Habits, have naturally

made me the Object of a meritorious Aversion in Knaves and Coxcombs, and [it]

fatigue [s] me longer to dwell on You, the most Illustrious Ornament of that

renowned Fraternity, that ever has been, is, or will be, per Sœcula Sœculorum,



[The Dunciad, ref. cit.]


Richardson on The Dunciad (1744)


Samuel Richardson, extract from letter to Aaron Hill, 19 January

1744, Selected Letters, ed. cit., p. 60.

I have bought Mr. Pope over so often, and his Dunciad so lately before his last

new-vampt one, that I am tir’d of the Extravagance; and wonder every Body else

is not. Especially, as now by this, he confesses that his Abuse of his first hero,

was for Abuse-sake, having no better Object for his Abuse. I admire Mr. Pope’s

Genius, and his Versification: But forgive me, Sir, to say, I am scandaliz’d for

human Nature, and such Talents, sunk so low. Has he no Invention, Sir, to be

better employ’d about? No Talents for worthier Subjects?—Must all be personal

Satire, or Imitations of others Temples of Fame, Alexander’s Feasts, Coopers

Hills, MacFlecknoe’s? Yet his Essay on Man convinces one he can stand upon

his own Legs. But what must then be the strength of that Vanity and of that Illnature that can sink such Talents in a Dunciad, and its Scriblerus-ProlegomenaStuff?



An Elegy by a friend


Anonymous, An Elegy on Mr. Pope. Humbly Inscribed to Henry St.

John, Lord Bolingbroke. By a Friend (1744). An Elegy was

published on 5 June 1744: Pope had died only a few days before,

during the evening of 30 May. Several elegies and effusions were

occasioned by Pope’s death; this is one of the more dignified.

I can’t forbear—not Tears alone shall flow,

But Words, uncull’d by Art, shall tell my Woe;

No Muse I call to lend her lofty Wings;

’Tis Truth that dictates, and ‘tis Love that sings;

Soft Elegy the strong sublime disdains;

Its Style is gentle, humble are its Strains;

In low Simplicity its Grief express’d,

Like the true Mourner in plain Habit dress’d.

THE brightest Ornament of ALBION gone,

Of the poetick World th’illustrious Sun,

Forbid to shine by rigid Fate’s Decree,

Sorrowing I sing; for, POPE, I sing of thee.

WHEN common Wits, like common Mortals die,

The Grief how limited how low the Sigh!

But when the first distinguish’d Genius falls,

That Loss for universal Mourning calls!

Sorrow it claims, where’er bright Sense appears,

And puts BRITANNIA and the World in Tears.

What mortal Man, his Grandeur e’er so high,

Could e’er so honour’d, so lamented die?

Not the good Monarch, to his Subjects dear

For true parental Tenderness and Care;

Not He, when once he pours his latest Breath,

Is wept with Tears more gen’ral at his Death:

Not GEORGE returning to his native sky,


From these sad Scenes shall with more Glory fly,

Than POPE who in his loftier Sphere did sit

Sov’reign of POETRY, and Prince of WIT,

Whose Fame wide Earth’s remotest Corners heard,

And own’d and lov’d th’ inimitable Bard.

THE raptur’d Bard is one, ’tis justly said,

Whom Nature forms, whom Art alone ne’er made;

His Vein with true poetick Vigour fir’d,

Which smiling Phœbus at his Birth inspir’d,

Judgment and Art may check and guide its Course,

But the bold Flight is rais’d by Nature’s Force.

Such was POPE’S Genius, for all feel and own

The vivid Fire was Nature’s gen’rous Boon;

Yet the rich Store, by prudent Art refin’d,

Though not so strong, with purer Lustre shin’d.

Fancy’s just Flights correctly skill’d to know,

His Muse ne’er soar’d too high, nor sunk too low;

But to each Theme its full Demand allow’d,

On each its proper Ornaments bestow’d.

His Genius thus its just Perfection gain’d;

Its Vigour thus, and thus its Charms maintain’d.

To Reason’s cooler Use the Youth scarce came,

But quick rush’d out the Poet’s livelier Flame;

Not to full Glory by Degrees it goes,

But all at once in high Perfection rose;

Thus our first Parent knew no growing Years,

But at his first Formation Man appears.

In POPE’S first Draughts such manly Beauties live,

Not mellowing Age could more Perfection give.

His Verse so strong, so pure his Numbers flow,

The Laurel soon adorns his honour’d Brow.

Soon as his Lyre was tun’d and touch’d the Ear,

Dryden’s Admirers start aside to hear;

For not by Dryden’s Voice, nor Waller’s Tongue,

Such Harmony of melting Sounds was sung.

The living Wits no rival Praise could claim,

Great Prior sunk beneath his tow’ring Fame.

Garth, Swift, and Congreve, at his stronger Blaze,

Shrunk in their Spheres, and shone with fainter Rays.

His Fame, so high by Cato’s Strains that rose,

For its chief Lustre now relies on Prose;

While Pope’s, tho’ on the Muses’ Basis plac’d,

POPE 359

Owns no one’s Prose with brighter Beauties grac’d;

None, whose just Periods boast a finer Strain,

None, where more Elegance and Spirit reign.

The ancient Criticks spread before his View,

Lights that refin’d his Judgment thence he drew;

’Twas there the Sources of true Wit he trac’d,

There saw the Reasons of just Style and Taste;

Reasons by clearest Evidence declar’d,

Why pleas’d the Reader, pleasing why the Bard;

There saw the Rules the great Longinus taught

Both of Sublimity of Words and Thought;

The Rules, which Dionysius’ Labours teach

To range our Words, and modulate our Speech.

How smooth, how nervous all our Diction flows,

When by true verbal Structure we compose!

But, Words misplac’d, which form’d just Strength and Tone,

How lost their Grandeur, how their Musick gone!

In POPE how amicably both conspire,

The Critick’s Judgment, and the Poet’s Fire!

On both POPE built his never-dying Fame;

He wrote with Coolness, and he thought with Flame.

In him so sweetly BRITAIN’S Language flows,

We wonder how each pure Refinement rose.

To harmonize so well our ruder Speech,

What other Art, or other Ear could teach?

Had his but been the Latian living Tongue,

Not MARO’S Muse had more harmonious sung;

Or had but MARO breath’d on Britain’s shore,

MARO had charm’d like POPE, not charm’d us more.

Of Nature’s Scenes in all their Beauties dress’d

So strong th’ Ideas on his Soul impress’d;

That our pleas’d Minds his just Descriptions fire,

Equal to what th’ Originals inspire.

Whate’er he paints and sings, we see and hear,

Just as if Nature charm’d our Eye, or Ear;

As if we saw the living Meadow grow;

As if we heard the murm’ring Riv’let flow.

Pleasing or terrible, whate’er the Song,

‘Tis sweet as Nature, or as Nature strong.

With equal Force he makes the Torrent pour;

With equal Sound he makes the Thunder roar;

With equal Fury makes the Tempest tear;


With equal Horror makes the Lightnings glare.

With equal Art and Judgment too we find

He paints the Passions of the human Mind;

The human Mind, with corresponding Frame

As Nature’s self as various, and the same;

For there the gentle lull the peaceful Soul,

There the rough Passions shake it, and controul;

Those the soft Air, and sweet refreshing Breeze;

These the rough Tempests, or the raging Seas.

To all, with justest Thought and happiest Art,

Could POPE th’ exact Resemblances impart;

Their proper Features all describe so true,

No truer, e’er the finest Pencil drew;

Not Sculpture’s Art could e’er so strong design,

As POPE’S expressive Page, and nervous Line.

But tho’ so fine his Thought, so pure his Style

O’er his Descriptions all the Graces smile;

Tho’ when, and where he pleas’d, t’ enrich the Show,

His copious Hand the choicest Flow’rs could strow;

Tho’ Musick’s mighty Pow’r he knew so well,

As softest Notes to sweeten, loudest swell;

Tho’ form’d th’ Imagination to delight

With all, the richest Genius e’er could write:

A nobler End in Poetry he views,

Than just to please, and barely to amuse;

To more exalted Purposes must shine,

Heav’n’s Inspiration, and the Flame divine.

This then our Poet’s Province, this his Art,

T’ awake fair Virtue, and instruct the Heart.

The glorious Aim of the great Ethic Scheme,

To vindicate the Ways of Heav’ns SUPREME;

To prove, howe’er Pride boasts her erring Light,

All He permits, and all He acts is right.

That Charity’s the universal Law;

Sole Principle that Man to Heav’n can draw.

That Faith, and Law, and Morals, all began,

All end, in LOVE of GOD, and LOVE of MAN.

Part II

Later Criticism



An early biographer’s assessment


William Ayre, extracts from Memoirs of the Life and Writings of

Alexander Pope, Esq… (1745), 2 vols.

Ayre’s biography was announced in January 1745, seven months

after Pope’s death, and echoes the admiration common at this time.

The author of Remarks on Squire Ayre’s Memoirs (1745) claimed

that ‘William Ayre’ was a cover for Curll (pp. 6–8), but this seems

unlikely: see G.Sherburn, The Early Career of Alexander Pope

(1934), p. 4.

[An Essay on Man, ‘The Universal Prayer’]

It would be difficult to pick out any Lines in all the four Essays on Man, which

do not greatly excel the same Number of Lines wrote by any other English Poet,

supposing them to be Rhimes; for he alone has the Manner of keeping up the

greatest Harmony in his Verses, without spinning his Thoughts to Threads, it

being scarcely possible to render the same Thoughts again in so Words, even in


The Universal Prayer, except a doubtful Word or two, is one continued

Confession of Benevolence and Humility, and might become the Mouth of a

dying Saint: It shews, that speculative Divinity pleased him less than practical;

that his Words were not artfully contrived to teach his Heart what it ought to be,

but arose from it, and do more Honour to his Memory than all his other Works,

great and sublime as they are, put together. [i, p. xii]

[Eloisa to Abelard]

There is a Spirit of Tenderness and a Delicacy of Sentiments runs all through

the Letter; but the prodigious Conflict, the War within, the Difficulty of making

Love give up to religious Vows, and Impossibility of forgetting a first real

Passion, shine above all the rest. [i. 71]



Either [Pope’s or Philips’s pastorals] may serve for future Poets to imitate,

who purpose to excel in this Sicilian, or Arcadian Pastoral Stile: Many Friends

has this Manner of Writing, its Softness stealing thro’ the Ear; most young

Minds are strongly affected with it, it warms the very Hearts of all who are touch’d

with the fine Passion of Love, and infuses a disinterested and noble Spirit into

the Soul: It banishes from the Breast every Thing mean and contemptible, and

places in the Stead, a generous Beneficence and Benevolence, so that the Mind

becomes perfectly serene and humane. [ii. 145–6]

[The Dunciad, Book iv (1743)]

Mr. Pope has been in this Piece equal to himself. Some there are, who at this

Crisis, when the publick Dulness often Years past was come under Inquiry, were

in great Expectations of meeting with a political Satire; but the ingenious Author

has given the World only a Satire on Modern Life, and the Conduct of it in

general; from the School to the University, from the University to Travel, from

Travel into the various Branches of Dulness; in which false Wits and Men of

false Taste, false Philosophers, and Men of false Religion, exercise their

Faculties. The Poet has not particulariz’d many Follies of the fair Sex; however,

he has not paid them any Compliment, as he has made the Sovereign of Dulness

a Female, coming in all the Majesty of a Goddess, to destroy Science and

Learning: But then he has given to the Sex some of the greatest Excellencies

human Nature is capable of possessing. The Description of Science, Wit, &c.

Captives at the Footstool of Dulness, is a Picture so full of Imagery, that every

Figure as much presents itself to your View, as if drawn by the Pencil of Le Brun.

[Quotes The Dunciad (B), iv. 21–44]

Though Satire, in its Name carries a common Idea of Censure, not to say

Spleen or Ill-nature; yet Horace, the best Satirist, in most Mens Opinions, took

an Opportunity, amidst his Ridicule of Folly and Vice, to introduce a Contrast,

and set up Merit and Virtue in Opposition to them: The intervening Light of

those were strong enough for the Shade of the other. Our English Horace

pursues this Method: Affected Learning, Want of publick Spirit, &c. are

deservedly expos’d; yet Wyndham and Talbot, Friend, Alsop and Murray,

receive all the Oblations due to Men of refin’d Taste, Learning and Merit. [ii.


…The Speech of the Governor to Dulness, in Recommendation of his Charge,

is a just Censure on modern Education; I shall quote only that Part, which

describes his foreign Tour:

Intrepid then o’er Seas and Lands he flew,

Europe he saw, and Europe saw him too.

There all thy Gifts and Graces we display,

Thou, only thou, directing all our Way,

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‘Orator’ Henley on The Dunciad (1743)

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