1743
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Dunciad, in Four Books.

The Dunciad, in Four Books. Printed according to the complete Copy found in the Year 1742. With the Prolegomena of Scriblerus, and Notes Variorum. To which are added, several Notes now first publish'd

Alexander Pope


Alexander Pope's allegory sometimes has a general relationship to The Faerie Queene, and Spenser appears several times in the notes. The courtier-butterfly in the new fourth book, imitated from Muiopotmos and Paradise Lost, is thought to be aimed at Queen Caroline, who was fond of gardening. "Paridel" appears as a character, 4:341ff: "Thou too, my Paridel! she mark'd thee there."

James Sutherland identifies the Spenser-imitator John Durant Breval as the corrupt tutor in Dunciad Book IV: "Capt. Breval a travelling Governor had a nun escap'd to him from a Convent at Milan, where she had been plac'd against her will; and afterwards went to Rome and pleaded her cause & was acquitted there and married Breval-Walpole" Dunciad, ed, Sutherland (1943).

Thomas Gray to Richard West: "As to the Dunciad it is greatly admired: The Genii of Operas and Schools, with their attendants, the pleas of the Virtuosos and Florists, and the yawn of dullness in the end, are as fine as any thing he has written. The Metaphysicians' part is to me the worst; and here and there a few ill-expressed lines, and some hardly intelligible" 1743; Poems of Mr. Gray, ed. Mason (1775) 123.

John Wilson: "The close of the Book was as much improved as the opening by the changes consquent on the substitution of Cibber for Theobald. In 1727, when the poem was composed, Eusden, 'a drunken parson,' wore the laurel; but now Cibber had been for years one of the successors of Spenser, and of the predecessors of Wordsworth — though indeed that last fact could not be known to Pope — and well he deserved this still higher elevation" "North's Specimens of the British Critics" Blackwood's Magazine 58 (August 1845) 240.

Edmund Gosse: "It appears, however, that Pope feared that the work, as it originally stood, might seem to posterity to have too local a bearing. The New Dunciad attempts to widen the scope of the satire, to deal with stupidity in education, in philosophy, in the various application of the powers of the mind. Here Pope was far less safe than in dealing with what he thoroughly understood, — literary merit, — and in criticising scholarship and science he made sad blunders" History of Eighteenth-Century Literature (1889) 124-25.

Christine Gerrard: "Book IV of The Dunciad is not only the most political, but also the most Spenserian. Pope's description of the Grand Tour, not unlike [Gilbert] West's description of the Grand Tour taken by Red-Cross [in Abuse of Travelling, 1739], transforms the Italian islands, the 'lands of singing, or of dancing slaves', into a Spenserian Bowre of Blisse.... Pope's disenchantment with the Hanoverian court and especially with its royal shortcomings manifests itself a little later in Book IV in the 'Great Yawn' of Queen Dulness. This is an ironic parody of the 'Roar of a Lion' with which the 'incomparable Spenser' had ended his Mother Hubberds Tale, inviting Elizabeth-Leicester to rise up and punish the upstart usurpers of the Crown power" The Patriot Opposition to Walpole (1994) 179-80.



He ceas'd, and wept. With innocence of mien,
Th' Accus'd stood forth, and thus address'd the Queen.
Of all th' enamel'd race, whose silv'ry wing
Waves to the tepid Zephyrs of the spring,
Or swims along the fluid atmosphere,
Once brightest shin'd this child of Heat and Air.
I saw, and started from its vernal bow'r
The rising game, and chac'd from flow'r to flow'r.
It fled, I follow'd; now in hope, now pain;
It stopt, I stopt; it mov'd, I mov'd again.
At last it fix'd, 'twas on what plant it pleas'd,
And where it fix'd, the beauteous bird I seiz'd:
Rose or Carnation was below my care;
I meddle, Goddess! only in my sphere.
I tell the naked fact without disguise,
And, to excuse it, need but shew the prize;
Whose spoils this paper offers to your eye,
Fair ev'n in death! this peerless Butterfly.

Imitations. Ver. 421. Of all th' enamel'd race,]
The Poet seems to have an eye to Spenser, Muiopotmos. "Of all the race of silver-winged Flies
Which do possess the Empire of the Air."

Imitations. Ver. 427, 428. It fled, I follow'd, &c.]
"— I started back,
It started back; but pleas'd I soon return'd,
Pleas'd it return'd as soon" — Milton.

[ll. 419-36; Works (1796-97) 5:271-72]