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ALL human things are subject to decay, And when fate fummons, monarchs must obey.
This is one of the best, as well as severest satires, ever produced in our language. Mr. Thomas Shadwell is the hero of the piece, and introduced, as if pitched upon, by Flecknoe, to succeed him in the throne of dullness; for Flecknoe was never poet-laureat, as has been ignorantly asserted in Cibber's Lives of the Poets.
Richard Flecknoe, Erq; from whom this poem derives its name, was an Irish priest, who had, according to his own declaration, laid aside the mechanic part of the priesthood. He was well known at court; yet, out of four plays which he wrote, could get only one of them acted, and that was damned. “He has,” says Langbaine, "published sundry works, as he ftiles them, to continue his name to posterity, though posibly an enemy has done that for him, which his own endeavours could never have perfected : for, whatever may become of his own pieces, his name will continue, whilft Mr. Dryden's satire, called Mac-Flecknoe, shall remain in vogue." From this poem Pope took the hint of his Dunciad.
DERRICK, There is a copy of this fatire in manuscript, among the mapufcripts in the Archiepiscopal Library at Lambeth Palace; which presents some readings, different from the printed copies, that may probably amuse the reader, and perhaps in two or three instances induce.him to prefer the written text. The MS. is numbered 711. 8.
This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus,
young Was call’d to empire, and had govern'd long;
Ver. 1. All human things] Will it be thought an extrava. gant and exaggerated encomium to say, that in point of pleafantry, various forts of wit, humour, fatire, both oblique and direct, contempt and indignation, clear diction, and melodious versification, this poem is perhaps the best of its kind in any language. Boileau, who spent his life, exhausted his talents, and foured his temper, in proscribing bad poets, has nothing equal to it. It is precisely in the style and manner mentioned by Horace
modò trifti, fæpe jocoso,
Extenuantis eas consultó. It is obvious to observe that this poem is the parent of the Dunciad, which, with all the labour bestowed upon it, is not equal to its original: Though Dr. Johnson praises it, as being more extended in its plan, and more diversi, fied in its incidents. It certainly is more extended in its plan, by attacking such a multitude of mean scribblers, but the attack, by being so divided, is of less force than is confined to one alone. And what plan does Dr. Johnson mean? does he inean that in four books, in which the subject of electing Tibbald as king of the Dunces was totally altered, and enlarged into an account of the Empire of Dulness spreading over the whole world, instead of vesting it in one monarch; which monarch was also unhappily and unskillfully changed to Cibber intead of Tibbald. I shall not repeat what is said on this subject in the fifth volume of the last edition of Pope. As to the incidents being more diversified, Dr. Johnson alludes to the introduction of the games, which are described in the most offensive language, and in images gross and vulgar. It is difficult to underitand fully the meaning of Pope in the fourth book of the Dunciad. Many species of falle and trifling liudies and pursuits are well exposed. But did he really mean to say, contrary to all experience, that the Empire of Dulness was becoming universal over all Europe, and that art after art was daily expiring, when every art is every day improving and enlarged? The numbers in Pope's Dunciad, by being very much laboured,
In prose and verse, was own’d, without dispute,
immortal war with wit, Cry'd, “ 'Tis resolv'd; for nature pleads, that he Should only rule, who most resembles me. Shadwell alone my perfect image bears, Mature in dullness from his tender
years: Shadwell alone, of all my fons, is he, Who stands confirm'd in full stupidity.
are become the most hard and inharmonious of any of his works. To make the poem tolerably intelligible, which every day renders more and more neceffary, it has become unavoidable to print it, in a very late edition, with those many and long notes given to him by his friends, Swift, Arbuthnot, Cleland, Savage, Warburton, and others, without which the names, families, abodes, and employments of the contemptible scribblers muit have remained totally unknown. But after all that is here faid of the excellence of Mac Flecknoe, candour and justice oblige us to add, that Shadwell did not in justice deserve the character here given of him, because in many of his plays are characters supported with true humour and spirit, and plots fkilfully enough conducted. So that neither Dryden nor Pope were fortunate and just in their respective heroes, as neither Shadwell nor Cibber deserved to be placed in such ridiculous and contemptible situations.
Dr. J. WARTON. Ver. 11.
which of all his fons was fit] which of all his fons were fitt. MS.
TODD. Ver. 12. immortal war] - immortal wars, MS.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
eye, And seems design'd for thoughtless majesty : Thoughtless as monarch oaks, that shade the
plain, And, spread in folemn state, supinely reign. Heywood and Shirley were but types of thee, Thou last great prophet of tautology. Even I, a dunce of more renown than they, Was sent before but to prepare thy way; And, coarsely clad in Norwich drugget, came To teach the nations in thy greater name. My warbling lute, the lute I whilom strung, 35 When to king John of Portugal I sung, Was but the prelude to that glorious day, When thou on silver Thames didst cut thy
way, With well-tim’d oars before the royal barge, Swell’d with the pride of thy celestial charge; 40
Ver. 33. And, coarsely clad in Norwich drugget, came] And coarsely cloath'd in rusty drugget came. MS.
TODD. Ver. 39. With well-tim'd oars] With well-trim'd oars. MS.
And big with hymn, commander of an host,
bore, And vow'd he ne'er would act Villerius more.
Ver. 42. The like was ne'er in Epsom blankets tos.] The like in Epsom blanket ne'er was tost. MS.
Todd. Ver. 44. The lute still treinbling] The lute the trembles &c. MS.
TODD. Ver. 53. St. André's feet ne'er kept &c.] A French dancing, master, at this time greatly admired.
DERRICK. Ver. 55. Though they in number as in sense excel ;] Though they in number as in verse excel. MS.