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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Swift to Pope - 14

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JULY 16, 1728.


I HAVE often run over the Dunciad in an Irish edition (I suppose full of faults) which a gentleman sent me. The notes I could wish to be very large, in what relates to the persons concerned; for I have long observed that twenty miles from London nobody understands hints, initial letters, or town facts and passages; and in a few years not even those who live in London. I would have the names of those scribblers printed indexically at the beginning or end of the poem, with an account of their works, for the reader to refer to. I would have all the parodies (as they are called) referred to the author they imitate When I began this long paper, I thought I should have filled it with setting down the several passages I had marked in the edition I had, but I find it unnecessary, so many of them falling under the same rule. After twenty times reading the whole, I never in my opinion saw so much good satire, or more good sense, in so many lines. How it passes in Dublin I know not yet; but I am sure it will be a great disadvantage to the poem, that the persons and facts will not be understood, till an explanation comes out, and a very full one. I imagine it is not to be published till toward winter, when folks begin to gather in town. Again I insist, you must have your astericks filled up with some real names of real dunces.

I am now reading your preceding letter, of June 28, and find that all I have advised above is mentioned there. I would be glad to know whether the quarto edition is to come out anonymously, as published by the commentator, with all his pomp of prefaces, &c. and among many complaints of spurious editions? I am thinking whether the editor should not follow the old style of, this excellent author, &c. and refine in many places when you meant no refinement? and into the bargain take all the load of naming the dunces, their qualities, histories, and performances?

As to yourself, I doubt you want a spurrer on to exercise and to amusements; but to talk of decay at your season of life is a jest. But you are not so regular as I. You are the most temperate man Godward, and the most intemperate yourselfward, of most I have known. I suppose Mr. Gay will return from the Bath with twenty pounds more flesh, and two hundred less in money: Providence never designed him to be above two and twenty, by his thoughtlessness and cullibility. He hath as little foresight of age, sickness, poverty, or loss of admirers, as a girl at fifteen. By the way, I must observe, that my lord Bolingbroke (from the effects of his kindness to me) argues most sophistically: the fall from a million to a hundred thousand pounds, is not so great, as from eight hundred pounds a year to one: besides, he is a controller of fortune, and poverty dares not look a great minister in the face, under his lowest declension. I never knew him live so greatly and expensively as he has done since his return from exile; such mortals have resources that others are not able to comprehend. But God bless you, whose great genius has not so transported you as to leave you to the courtesy of mankind; for wealth is a liberty, and liberty is a blessing fittest for a philosopher and Gay is a slave just by two thousand pounds too little. And Horace was of my mind, and let my lord contradict him if he dares.