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The Physical Punishment Begins

Article by Mark Gary

The physical punishment begins; while Horace’s vomiting of Crispinus takes place on stage, under the auspices of a court, Curll’s suffering (in reality private) has to be seen by the Avenger and his audience ‘with a delighted Eye’. But as well as physical vomit, Curll must regurgitate his verbal sins. Curll goes home, frightens his wife (who has been reading one of his witchcraft pamphlets), has a row with a comically obtuse Lintot, and summons his partner, John Pemberton, to settle his worldly affairs, which he does principally by making a nuncupatory will. This is not quite the same as regurgitating windy rhetoric, but it has a similar comic form. Curll makes a general apology for his sins as a bookseller, asks pardon of the several Lords, on both sides of the political divide, that he has libelled, and further begs pardon of Replica Cartier poets such as Prior and Rowe, both friends of Pope’s, of whom Curll had published unauthorised editions. Like Jonson’s Crispinus and Fannius, Curll is made to confess the essentially motiveless malignity, and perfect impotence, of his sins. In ffect, the account of the ‘revenge’ is converted into the last dying speech of the condemned criminal: though Pope Starts out as the transgressor, the real convict is Curll, confessing his offences against ‘insulted Fame’.

Curll’s vomitings increase noisily, and we hear him from his close-stool as he falls into ‘horrible gripings’. Finally he is ‘surprizingly relieved by a plentiful foetid Stool, which obliged them all to retire out of the room’, a characteristic insistence on the association between Curll and filth which also reminds us of Gallus’s question, ‘who would have thought there should ha’ been such a deal of Cartier Replica Watches filth in a poet’. In a cameo role, however, Blackmore declares that the poison remains in Curll’s body ‘and will infallibly destroy him by slow Degrees, in less than a Month’, thus paving the way for that essential Grub-Street publication, a sequel. A Further Account Of the most Deplorable Condition of Mr. Edmund Curll, Bookseller, Since his being POISON’D on the “1 of March came out some months later, with the spoof promise that it would be ‘publish’d Weekly’. Pope takes a rise out of the low trade of authorship by having his sequel author compete pettily with his predecessor, the ‘faithful, tho’ unpolite, Historian of Grub-street1, a mere ‘undignify’d Scribler of a Sheet and half, as opposed to himself, ‘the Author of a Three-Penny stitcht Book’. After some Swiftian cod-medicine, Pope gets down to the business of offering humiliating images of Curll designed to locate the malady in his own corrupt humours.

As the poor Man’s Frenzy increas’d, he began to void his Excrements in his Bed, read Rochester’s bawdy Poems to his Wife, gave Old mixon a slap on the Chops, and wou’d have kiss’d Mr. Pembertoris A by Violence. In a ‘lucid interval’ Curll sends for his authors, a comic calling of the roll of various starveling bards in their garrets and cellars, each ludicrously suspicious of the rest, in the manner of the shifting and uncertain allegiances of Poetaster. They form an impromptu ‘society’ of resentful poets and Grub-Street authors, and Curll addresses them in unconsciously mock-epic fashion, already featuring in his own imagination like the sort of bruised chieftain Pope gives us in Dunciad book.

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