1728 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

A. B., in The Daily Journal (11 May 1728).



SIR,
I desire that you would give the following Discourse a Place in your Paper, as soon as you can with Convenience, which will oblige,
Your Humble Servant,
A. B.

As Longinus in treating of Sublimity is himself often sublime, so Alexander P— has writ of the Profund with the utmost Profundity, and is himself a perpetual Example of that Absurdity and that Stupidity for which he gives vain and impertinent Rules. His Example alone makes all Rules superfluous. He who can but come to copy his Jargon, and his No-Meaning, will be sure to sink to the lowest Bottom of Profundity. He will be what A. P. is in his Treatise of the Profund; that is, what a Viper is in Winter, cold and creeping, and stupid, and venemous.
The Stupidity of the vilest Scribbler was never so notorious, as A. P.'s in the 6th Chapter of his Treatise, where he makes use of the initial Letters of Authors Christian and Sur-Names; and in one Place, of the initial Letter of the Surname; and all this so very impertinently, that one and the same Author is compared to very different Creatures, whose Natures, and Forms, and Qualities, are, in some of these Creatures, contradictory to those of others. C. G. in the 26th Page is called a Flying Fish, and in the 27th a Porpoise. In the 26th Page L. T. is a Swallow, and in the 28th an Eel. In the 27th Page L. W—D is a Didapper, and in the 28th an Eel, as the Cloud in Hamlet is sometimes like a Weazel, and sometimes like a Whale. But neither the initial nor the final Letters of these Authors Names, nor their Persons, nor their Actions, ever gave any such Ideas to any Mortal, unless to this little whimsical Creature. But now let us see if we cannot turn this very Method with a little more Success upon Alexander P. For let us only do him, what he has done by L. W—D, in his 27th Page, that is, take the initial and final Letters of his Surname, vide, A. P—E, and they give you the same Idea of an Ape, that his Face, and his Shape, and his Stature do, and his Nature ludicrously mischievous.
As he has been constantly meditating Mischief, he has, like his African and Asiatick Relations the Jackanapes's and Quidnunchi's, been always mimicking every Body and every Thing: But in his Mimical Essays he always sinks as far below those whom he endeavours to counterfeit, as the Actions of a Monkey fall short of those of a Man.
In his Rhapsody of Windsor Forest, which was impudently write in Emulation of the Cooper's-Hill of Sir John Denham, one of the most beautiful and most artful Poems that we have in English Rhime, A. P—E sinks as far below Sir John Denham, as the Bottom of Windsor Forest is below the Summit of Cooper's-Hill.
In the Ode which the same Pantomimical Creature wrote upon St. Cecilia's Day, an Ode which was vainly and foolishly writ in Emulation of Mr. Dryden's Feast of Alexander, he has not the least Shadow of any of Mr. Dryden's great Qualities, neither of his Art, his Variety, his Passion, his Enthusiasm, or his Harmony. The very Numbers in Mr. Dryden's incomparable Ode, are themselves incomparable, and are always adapted and adjusted by that great Poet to his Passion and his Enthusiasm.
Tho' I have not for several Years read Chaucer's Temple of Fame, yet I am well enough acquainted with his Character, to know that he has too much Genius, and too much good Sense to have committed many Absurdities; whereas the Temple of Fame, writ by the Pantomimical A. P—E, is one long Chain of Blunders and Boggisms, and one continued Absurdity.
All the World knows how very much he falls short of Ambrose Philips in Pastorals; but in the Drama, he is below even Tom Durfey. The Marriage Hater matched, and the Boarding-School, tho' but indifferent Performances, are yet Ten times better Dramatical Pieces than the whimsical What d'ye call it.
And yet this little turbulent Creature has endeavoured to decry and calumniate every Author who has excelled him, and shone in a superior Region to him, moved partly by his natural Envy and Malice, (the Deformity of his Mind answering to that of his Body) and partly by that Ignorance and Stupidity which make a Dog howl at the Moon.
Yet notwithstanding his Ignorance and his Stupidity, this Animalculum of an Author, is, forsooth! at this very Juncture, writing the Progress of Dulness. Yes! the Author of Windsor Forest, of the Temple of Fame, of the What d'ye call it, nay, the Author even of the Profund, is writing the Progress of Dulness! A most vain and impertinent Enterprize! For they who have read his several Pieces which we mentioned above, have read the Progress of Dulness; a Progress that began in Windsor Forest, and ended in the Profund; as the short Progress of the Devil's Hogs ended in the Depth of the Sea.