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As it was the object of the poet, in his Dunciad, to excite his countrymen to exert themselves in the defence and promotion of true taste and sound learning, so, in the following pieces, it is his intention to rouse them to a due sense of their own rights and dignity as a people, "to shew them the dangers by which they were surrounded, to exhibit vice and corruption in the darkest colours, and thereby to stimulate them to the attainment of public integrity, honour, and virtue. This however is not the light in which these Dialogues seem to have been regarded by his later editors, and particularly by Dr. Warton, who conceives that "the satire is carried to excess," and “that the prognostications of ruin to the country were vain and groundless ; for that in about twenty years afterwards it carried its triumphs over all its enemies, through all quarters of the world.” On this it may be observed, that the prognostications of the poet were founded on the political depravity and corruption which he saw around him, and are in fair construction to be considered only as warnings, or denunciations, to apprize his contemporaries, that if they did not act upon higher motives and better principles, and oppose themselves to the torrent, vice would be finally triumphant, would
“ lift her scarlet head, And see pale virtue carted in her stead.” "From the conclusion of this the first) Satire," says Mr. Bowles,
one might suppose that there was neither honesty, honour, public spirit, nor virtue in the nation.” But this is to take in a literal, what the poet meant should be taken only in a hypothetical sense, and to consider a poetical exaggeration as intended for a serious truth. The object of the poet is more decidedly manifested in his second Dialogue, in which he has celebrated numerous instances of public and private virtue, and has declared it to be his intention,
“ To rouse the watchmen of the public weal,
To virtue's work provoke the tardy Hall,
And goad the prelate slumbering in his stall." In short, he avows his resolution to persevere in his purpose
“ Till all but truth drops still-born from the press,
Like the last Gazette, or the last address.” What effect was, in fact, produced by the remonstrances of the poet upon the manners and morals of his countrymen, and what share he may have had in attaining that great improvement and better state of things which we are informed took place some years afterwards, it would not be an easy task to ascertain; but that these Dialogues forcibly exhibit
“ The strong antipathy of good to bad;" that they inculcate high and generous sentiments of public virtue and independence, and an abhorrence of political profligacy and of low and degrading pursuits, no one will be found to deny.'
The first part of these Satires was published under the title of One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty-eight, a Dialogue, something like Horace. London : printed for T. Cooper, at the Globe, in Puter-noster Row : (price one shilling). The second part, printed for R. Dodsley, at Tully's Head, in Pall Mall, 1738 : (price one shilling). Considerable alterations occur in the subsequent editions.