were two notoriously malevolent critics in the age of Augustus Caesar
who belittled and attacked the talents of superior writers, according to John Lemprière
. In particular, they attacked the work of Virgil
, both of whom mocked Maevius. Virgil struck back at Maevius in his Eclogue III
, while Horace did the same in his tenth Epode. Alexander Pope
mentions Bavius in his 1732 Dunciad Variorum
and explains, in a note, that he got the reference from Virgil. Pope draws a parallel between these two critics and his own dunces by quoting John Dennis
who thought it likely that Bavius "and Maevius had (even in Augustus's
days) a very formidable Party at Rome
, who thought them much superior to Virgil
For (saith he) I cannot believe they would have fix'd that eternal brand upon them, if they had not been coxcombs in more than ordinary credit" (Dunciad Variorum
Bavius and Maevius are also like the "dunces" in Pope's own Dunciad in that little is remembered of them except for their bad reputations. In the Dunciad, Book III, Pope has Bavius dip the transmigrating souls of poetasters in Lethe, making them doubly stupid before being born as hack writers. Maevius also features in the Earl of Roscommon's "An Essay on Translated Verse" as a symbol of poetic failure:
- "Whoever vainly on his strength depends,
- Begins like Virgil, but like Maevius ends."
- (in J.E. Spingarn, ed., Critical Essays of the Seventeenth Century, II, p.299)
N.b. material in this article is taken from the public domain 1828 edition of Lempriere's Dictionary.