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“ Gossip Report, who is sometimes correct, and very often erroneous authority, has attributed this poem to the author of the Pursuits of Literature; and, admitting spirited and poignant satire to be an evidence of such an assignment, we have more reason for crediting than for disbelieving the rumour. Certain it is, that traces of no common talents appear in every page; and that this modern Pope, whoever he be, has produced a Dunciad, which the stinging Bard of Twickenham would not be ashamed to own. The bard spares neither poet nor courtier; and in the office of a satirist, he speaks with the boldness of Juvenal. All, however, is not satire ;—he freely praises, as well as freely
The high tone, noble spirit, and true satiric energy of the whole, compensate for any little defect. We are throughout reminded of the undaunted Muse of Twickenham. Truth, indeed, does prevail : but truth is called a libel hy those whom it wounds.'
Monthly Review, April, 1815. “ The title of this satire, we confess, staggered us; and we thought that writer bold, and were half disposed to think him presumptuous, who could thus, fearlessly, tread in the very paths, as it were, of our great poet. We opened the leaves, then, with a strong belief, that we were destined to experience nothing but disappointment, and possibly to labour through a hundred pages of the same namby-pamby strains which almost daily issue from the London presses. We were soon, however, most agreeably surprised, and so our readers will probably think, when they learn our opinion, that the Modern Dunciad has nothing to dread from a comparison with the Dunciad of the last century. Whoever the author is, and we pretend not even to guess, he is worthy, by talent and by principle, to wield the formidable lash of legitimate satire. Here is not only good poetry, but what is better, good principle also; and these go hand in hand throughout the satire. The bard pursues his steady and even course, and administers much wholesome and merited castigation. To prove, however, that his indignation at worthlessness and folly has its source in his admiration of merit, wit, and genius, he
bursts forth in strains of animated praise. The concluding remonstrances of the poet to his friend on the profligacy of the age, are written in the best style of our best sentiments; and it would be a dereliction of duty, and an abandonment of principle in us, to deny that his indignation has its source in virtue, and that he has proved himself an able defender of taste, worth, morals, and religion.”
Anti-Jacobin Review, January, 1815. “ This satirical wag, who is as merry as a grig, and as brisk as a bottle of perry, wishes to
Improve by mirth the remnant of his span,
And gaily cut a caper while he can.' We certainly can have no kind of objection to such amusing frolics. He should rather have called himself Horace in London ; since his satirical sketches are more in the manner of the Venusian, than of the Mantuan Bard. In one instance he reminds us of Juvenal; the passage, • While yet my limbs,' &c. being a close imitation of Sat. iii. 26, · Dum nova canites.' But what's in a name? Let him be called Virgil or Horace; he is a very good laugher, applying the satiric lash with effect, yet with a playful dexterity. He is, indeed, the muse of whim ; but he is archly pert as well as whimsical, and we are wicked enough to enjoy his grinning impudence. Every man who has any conception of humour will relish this Mr. Virgil, and wish that he would write again.”
Monthly Review, January, 1814. “ That Satirist must be a bold man, and feel a strong consciousness of his powers, who not only takes Churchill for his guide, but who adopts the very title (• The Times,') and subject of one of his satires. In the present case, we have nothing to allege against the direction and application of the satirical talents of this poetical censor. He lashes vice with becoming severity, and deplores, with appropriate feeling, the abandoned profligacy of a licentious age. Of Johnson he speaks with equal feeling and truth. The character of Cowper is traced with equal skill. Wherever religion is introduced, the author betrays a degree of feeling which proves him to be in earnest. On the whole, it is one of the most able satires of a serious cast which has been produced in modern times.”
Anti-Jacobin Review, June, 1812.
THE MODERN DUNCIAD.
P. How anxious is the Bard, and yet how vain His wishes :
F. Cease this moralizing strain,
P'rhaps a few :-
Spare thy pity, 'tis my lot ;