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SIR, I Heartily wish this play were as persect as I intended it, lhat it might be the more worthy your acceptance; and that my Dedication of ic to you might be more becoming that honour and esteem which I, with every body who is so fortunate as to know you, have for you. It had your countenance when yet unknown ; and now it is made public, it wants your protection.
I would not have any body imagine, that I think this play withont ils faults, for I am conscious of several. I confess I designed (whatever vanity or ambition occasioned that design) to have written a true and regular comedy ; but I found it an undertaking which put me in mind of Sudet multum, frustraque laboret ausus idem. And now to make amends for the vanity of such a design, I do consess both the attempt, and the imperfect performance. Yet I must take ike boldness to say, I have not miscarried in the whole; for the mechanical part of it is regular, That I may say with a little vanily, as a builder may gay, he has built a house aocording to the model laid
down before him; or a gardner that he has set his flowers in a knot of such or such a figure. I designed the moral first, and to that moral I invented the fable, and do not know that I have borrowed one hint of it any
where. I made the plot as strong as I could, because it was single; and I made it single, because I would avoid confusion, and was resolved to preserve the three unities of the Drama. Sir, this dis course is very impertinent to yon, whose judgment much better can discern the faults, than I can excuss them; and whose good nature, like that of a lover, will find out those hidden beauties (if there are any such) which it would be great immodesty for me to discover. I think I do not speak improperly when I call you a Lover of Poetry ; for it is very
well known she has been a very kind mistress to you; she has not denied you the last favour, and she has been fruitful to you in a most beautiful issue.--If I break off abruptly here, I hope every body will understand that it is to avoid a commendation, which, as it is your due, would be most easy for me to pay, and too troublesome for you to receive.
I have, since the acting of this play, hearkened after the objections which have been made to it; for I was conscious where a true critic might have put me upon my defence, I was prepared for the attack; and am pretty confident I could have vindicated some parts, and cxcrised others: and where there were any plain miscarriages, I would most ingenuously have confessed them. But I have not heard
thing said sufficient co provoke an answer. That which looks most like an objection, does not relaie in particular to this play, but to all or most that ever have been written; and that is soloquy. There. fore I will answer it, not only for my own sake, bus 10 save others the trouble, to whom it may hereafter be objected.
I grant, that for a man to talk to himself, appears absurd and unnatural; and indeed it is so in most cases: but the circumstances which may attend the occasion make great alteration. It oftentimes happens to a man, to have designs which require him to himself, and in their nature cannot admit of a confident. Such, for certain, is all villany; and other less misa chievous intentions
be very improper to be communicated to a second person. In such a case, therc. fore, the audience must observe whether the
notice of them at all, or no. For if he supposes any one to be by, when he talks to himself, it is monstrous and ridiculous to the last degrec; nay, not only in this case, but in any part of a play, if there is expressed any knowledge of an audience, it is insufferable. But otherwisc, when a man in soloqny reasons with himself, and pro's and con's, and weighs all his designs, we ought not to imagine that this man either talks to us, or to himself; he is only thinking, and thinking such matter as were inexcusable folly in him to speak. But be. cause we are concealed spectators of the plot in agila. sion, and the poet finds
necessary to let us know
the whole mys:cry of this contrivance, he is willing to inform us of this person's thoughts; and to that end is forced to make use of the expedient of speech, no belter way being yet invented for the communication of thought. Another
very wrong objection has been made by some who have not taken leisure to distinguish the characiers. The hero of the play, as they are pleased 10 call him, (ineaning Mellefont) is a gull, and made a fool, and cheuted.
Is every man a gull and a fool that is deceived? At that rale I am afraid the two classes of men will be reduced to one, and the knaves themselves be at a loss to justify their title; but if an open-hearted honest man, who has an entire confidence in one whom he takes to be his friend, and whom he has obliged to be so; and who (lo confirm him in his opinion) in all appearance,
upon several trials, has been so; if this man be deceived by the treachery of the other, must he of necessity commence fool immediately, only because the other has proved a villain ? Ay, but there was a caution given to Mellefont, in the first act, by his friend Careless. Of what nature was that caution? only to give the alldience some light into the character of Maskwell be. fore his appearance, and not to convince Mellefont of his treachery; for that was more than Careless was then able to do: hc never knew Maskwell guilly of any villany; he was only a sort of man which he did not like. As for his suspecting his familiarity with my Lady Touchwood, let them examine the
swer that Mellefont makes him, and compare it with the conduct of Maskwell's character through the play.
I would beg them again to look into the character of Maskwell before they accuse Mellefont of weakness for being deceived by him. For upon summing up the enquiry into this objection, it may be found they have mistaken cunning in one character for fully in another.
But there is one thing, at which I am more concerned than all the false criticisms that are made upon me; and that is, some of the ladies are offended. I am heartily sorry for it; for I declare I would rather disoblige all the critics in the world, than one of the fair-set. They are concerned that I have represented some women vicious and affec!ed: How can I help it? It is the business of a comic poet lo paint the vices and follies of human-kind; and there are but too sexes, male and female, men and women, which have a title lo humanity: and if I leave one half of thein out, the work will be imperfect. I should be very glad of an opportunity to make my compliment to those ladies who are offended; but they can no more expect it in a comedy, than to be tickled by a surgeon when he is letting them blood. They who are virtilous or discreet should not be offended; for such characiers as these distinguish them, and make their bcauties more shining and observed : and they who are of the other kind, may nevertheless pass for such,