1752 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Henry Fielding, in Covent Garden Journal 23 (21 March 1752); Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism (1901-05) 3:172.



He [Dryden] died, nevertheless, in a good old age, possessed of the kingdom of wit, and was succeeded by king Alexander, surnamed Pope. This prince enjoyed the crown many years, and is thought to have stretched the prerogative much farther than his predecessor: he is said to have been extremely jealous of the affections of his subjects, and to have employed various spies, by whom if he was informed of the least suggestion against his title, he never failed of brandishing the accused person with the word "dunce" on his forehead in broad letters; after which the unhappy culprit was obliged to lay by his pen forever, for no bookseller would venture to print a word that he wrote. He did indeed put a total restraint upon the liberty of the press; for no person durst read anything which was writ without his license and approbation; and this license he granted only to four during his reign, namely, to the celebrated Dr. Swift, to the ingenious Dr. Young, to Dr. Arbuthnot, and to one Mr. Gay, four of his principle courtiers and favourites. But, without diving any deeper into his character, we must allow that king Alexander had great merit as a writer, and his title to the kingdom of wit was better founded, at least, than his enemies have pretended.