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MAC FLECKNOE*.

ALL human things are subject to decay,
And when fate fummons, monarchs muft obey.

* This is one of the beft, as well as fevereft fatires, ever produced in our language. Mr. Thomas Shadwell is the hero of the piece, and introduced, as if pitched upon, by Flecknoe, to fucceed him in the throne of dullnefs; for Flecknoe was never poet-laureat, as has been ignorantly afferted in Cibber's Lives of the Poets.

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Richard Flecknoe, Efq; from whom this poem derives its name, was an Irish priest, who had, according to his own declaration, laid afide 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," fays Langbaine, "publifhed fundry works, as he ftiles. them, to continue his name to pofterity, though poffibly 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 fatire, called Mac-Flecknoe, fhall remain in vogue."

From this poem Pope took the hint of his Dunciad.

DERRICK.

There is a copy of this fatire in manufcript, among the manufcripts in the Archiepifcopal Library at Lambeth Palace; which prefents fome readings, different from the printed copies, that may probably amufe the reader, and perhaps in two or three inftances induce.him to prefer the written text. The MS. is numbered 711. 8. TODD.

This Flecknoe found, who, like Auguftus,

young

Was call'd to empire, and had govern'd long;

Ver. 1. All human things] Will it be thought an extravagant and exaggerated encomium to fay, that in point of pleafantry, various forts of wit, humour, fatire, both oblique and direct, contempt and indignation, clear diction, and melodious verfification, this poem is perhaps the beft of its kind in any language. Boileau, who spent his life, exhausted his talents, and foured his temper, in profcribing bad poets, has nothing equal to it. It is precifely in the style and manner mentioned by Horace

modò trifti, fæpe jocofo,

Defendente vicem modò Rhetoris atque Poetæ,
Interdum urbani, parcentis viribus atque
Extenuantis eas confultò.

It is obvious to obferve 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. Johnfon praifes it, as being more extended in its plan, and more diverfi fied in its incidents. It certainly is more extended in its plan, by attacking fuch a multitude of mean fcribblers, but the attack, by being fo divided, is of lefs force than if confined to one alone. And what plan does Dr. Johnfon mean? does he mean 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 Dulnefs fpreading over the whole world, instead of vesting it in one monarch; which monarch was alfo unhappily and unfkillfully changed to Cibber inftead of Tibbald. I fhall not repeat what is faid on this fubject in the fifth volume of the laft edition of Pope. As to the incidents being more diverfified, Dr. Johnfon alludes to the introduction of the games, which are defcribed in the most offenfive language, and in images grofs and vulgar. It is difficult to underftand fully the meaning of Pope in the fourth book of the Dunciad. Many fpecies of falfe and trifling ftudies and purfuits are well expofed. But did he really mean to fay, contrary to all experience, that the Empire of Dulnefs was becoming univerfal 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,

10

In profe and verfe, was own'd, without difpute,
Through all the realms of Nonsense, absolute. 6
This aged prince, now flourishing in peace,
And bleft with iffue of a large increase ;
Worn out with business, did at length debate
To fettle the fucceffion of the ftate:
And, pondering, which of all his fons was fit
To reign, and wage immortal war with wit,
Cry'd, " "Tis refolv'd; for nature pleads, that he
Should only rule, who most resembles me.
Shadwell alone my perfect image bears,
Mature in dullnefs from his tender years:
Shadwell alone, of all my fons, is he,
Who ftands confirm'd in full ftupidity.

15

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 thofe 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 fcribblers muft 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 fupported with true humour and fpirit, 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 fuch ridiculous and con temptible fituations. Dr. J. WARTON.

Ver. 11. which of all his fons was fit] which of all his fons were fitt. MS.

TODD. immortal wars. MS. TODD.

Ver. 12.

immortal war]

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The reft to fome faint meaning make pretence,
But Shadwell never deviates into fenfe.
Some beams of wit on other fouls
may fall,
Strike through, and make a lucid interval;
But Shadwell's genuine night admits no ray,
His rifing fogs prevail upon the day.
Befides, his goodly fabric fills the eye,
And feems defign'd for thoughtless majesty :
Thoughtless as monarch oaks, that shade the
plain,

25

And, fpread in folemn ftate, fupinely reign.
Heywood and Shirley were but types of thee,
Thou laft great prophet of tautology.
Even I, a dunce of more renown than they,
Was fent 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 ftrung, 35
When to king John of Portugal I fung,
Was but the prelude to that glorious day,
When thou on filver Thames didft cut thy
way,

With well-tim'd oars before the royal barge,
Swell'd with the pride of thy celeftial charge; 40

20

30

Ver. 33. And, coarsely clad in Norwich drugget, came] And coarfely cloath'd in rufty drugget came. MS.

TODD. Ver. 39. With well-tim'd oars] With well-trim'd oars. MS. TODD.

And big with hymn, commander of an host, The like was ne'er in Epsom blankets tost. Methinks I fee the new Arion fail,

The lute still trembling underneath thy nail. At thy well-fharpen'd thumb from fhore to

45

shore

50

The trebles fqueak for fear, the bases roar :
Echoes from Piffing-Alley Shadwell call,
And Shadwell they refound from Afton-Hall.
About thy boat the little fishes throng,
As at the morning toast that floats along.
Sometimes, as prince of thy harmonious band,
Thou weild'ft thy papers in thy threshing hand.
St. André's feet ne'er kept more equal time,
Not ev'n the feet of thy own Pfyche's rhime:
Though they in number as in fense excel;
So juft, fo like tautology, they fell,
That, pale with envy, Singleton forswore
The lute and fword, which he in triumph
bore,

And vow'd he ne'er would act Villerius more.'

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55

Ver. 42. The like was ne'er in Epfom blankets toft.] The like in Epfom blanket ne'er was toft. MS. TODD. Ver. 44. The lute ftill trembling] The lute he trembles &c. MS. TODD.

Ver. 53. St. Andre's feet ne'er kept &c.] A French dancingmafter, at this time greatly admired.

DERRICK.

Ver. 55. Though they in number as in fenfe excel;] Though they in number as in verfe excel. MS.

TODD.

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