Richard Blackmore - As A Dunce

As A Dunce

Blackmore's fame today rests with his enemies. Garth's The Dispensary made him out to be a greedy fool with delusions, but Pope's criticisms would be the most lasting, and Pope hits Blackmore over and over again on his stupidity and delusions of grandeur. The Scriblerus Club (Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Robert Harley, Henry St. John, Jonathan Swift, and Thomas Parnell) attacked Blackmore in 1717's Three Hours after Marriage. Pope further picked out Blackmore's foolish lines in Peri Bathos (1727) and gives a devastating characterization of "Neverending Blackmore" in The Dunciad (1728), where Blackmore's poetry is so awful that it can even put lawyers to sleep. These attacks were on top of Tom Brown's previous attacks, as well as Dryden's.

Blackmore's poetry is leaden. However, his special marks as a "dunce" come from his willingness to use poetry, and particularly the epic, for contemporary political purposes. The self-interest involved in King Arthur was apparent to contemporaries, and the desperation of Alfred was similarly offensive to other poets. However, Blackmore used his poetry to satirise and destroy persons of the other political factions, and that made him (except for when his subject matter was religion) fair game for a counter-attack that he could not survive.

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    The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.
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