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pocrisy does against the Practice of Religion. But Adulation no sooner began to belye its Subject, than it perverted the very Purpose of its Application; while, amongst its many artful traverses, it would now beg Protection for the Book; and, now again, constitute the Patron the sovereign Judge of its Merit.
In this Light, Madam, you might reasonably wonder to see a Collection of Plays dedicated to one who reads few Books besides those of Piety and Moral; and will think, the Address might have been made with somewhat less Impropriety even to a Bishop. This is true: but, as I said, this literary Connexion is not, of right, between the Patron and the Work ; but between him and the Author. Who, to carry on his Commerce with a good Conscience, must therefore search narrowly for a Subject which will not dishonour
Letters, while he is giving that to Me rit, which only Letters can bestow. But I need not be asham'd to say, that the Knowledge of you, has, at the same time, abridged my Labour, and rewarded the Integrity of my Purpose. For if Friendship, Generosity, and the Benevolence of Charity, added to every female Virtue that most adorns your Sex, demand this Acknowledgment; it would be hard to find where it should be earlier paid, or to whom, in fuller Measure, returned.
If any now should affect to ask, What Stranger this is, of whom so much is said? Let him know, that this his Ignorance is your supreme Praise; whose Matron-modesty of Virtue declines all Notice, but where the Influence of your domestic Character extends. If, haply, . you have any further Ambition, it is only this, the being known to constitute the domestic Happiness of a Man
who does Honour to human Nature. The mention of whose Relation to you, reminds me of my own Happiness; who enjoy so equal and so perfect a Share in both your Friendships. This too is my Fame and Reputation, as well as Happiness ; for Ambition would lose its Aim, were I to wish that any thing of me, or mine, should last longer than the Memory of that Friendship. I am,
Your most obliged
and most faithful Servant,
PREF A C E.
T hath been no unusual thing for Writers, when diffatisfied with the Patronage or Judge
ment of their own Times, to appeal to Posterity for a fair Hearing. Some have even thought fit to apply to it in the first Instance ; and to decline Acquaintance with the Public till Envy and Prejudice had quite subsided. But, of all the Trusters to Futurity, commend me to the Author of the following Poems, who not only left it to Time to do him Justice as it would, but to find him out as it could. For, what bez tween too great Attention to his Profit as a Player, and too little to his Reputation as a Poet; his Works, left to the Care of Door-keepers and Prompters, hardly escaped the common Fate of those Writings, how good soever, which are abandoned to their own Fortune, and unprotected by Party or Cabal. At length, indeed, they struggled into Light; but so disguised and travested, that no classic Author, after having runten secular Stages thro' the blind Cloisters of Monks and Canons, ever came out in half so maimed and mangled a Condition. But for a full Ace count of his Disorders, I refer the Reader to the excellent Discourse which follows, and turn myself to consider the Remedies that have been
ap plied to them.
Shakespear's Works, when they escaped the Players, did not fall into much better Hands when they came amongst Printers and Booksellers: who, to say the Truth, had, at first, but small Encouragement for putting him into a better Condition. The stubborn Nonsense, with which he was incrusted, occasioned his lying long neglected amongst the common Lumber of the Stage. And when that resistless Splendor, which now shoots all around him, had, by degrees, broke thro' the Shell of those Impurities, his dazzled Admirers became as suddenly insensible to the extraneous Scurf that still stuck upon him, as they had been before to the native Beauties that lay under it. So that, as then, he was thought not to deserve a Cure, he was now supposed not to need any.
His growing Eminence, however, required that he should be used with Ceremony: And he soon had his Appointment, of an Editor in form. But the Bookseller, whose dealing was with Wits, having learnt of them, I know not what silly Maxim, that none but a Poet should presume to meddle with a Poet, engaged the ingenious Mr. Rowe to undertake this Employment. A Wit indeed he was; but so utterly unacquainted with the whole Business of Criticism, that he did not even collate or consult the first Editions of the Work he undertook to publish ; but contented himself with giving us a meagre Account of the Author's Life, interlarded with some common-place Scraps from his Writings. The Truth is, Shakespear's Condition was yet but ill