I have borrow'd one Hint of it any where. I made the Plot as strong as I could, because it was fingle; and I made it single, because I would avoid Confusion, and was resolved to preserve the three Unities of the Drama. ' Sir, this Discourse is very impertinent to you, whose Judgment much better can difcern the Faults, than I can excuse them; and whose Gcod-nature, like that of a Lover, will find out those hidden Beauties (if there are any such) which it wou'd be great Immodesty for me to discover. I think I don't 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 deny'd 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 Dưe, would be most easy for me to pay, and too troublesome for you to receive.

I have, fince the Acting of this Play, hearken'd after the Objections which have been made to it; for I was Conscious where a true Critick might have put me upon my Defence, I was prepared for the Attack ; and am pretty confident I could have vine dicated some Parts, and excused others; and where there were any plain Miscarriages, I would most ingenuously have confess’d 'em. But I have not heard any thing said fufficient to provoke an Answer. That which looks most like an Objection, does not relate in particular to this Play, but to all or most that ever have been written ; and that is Soliloquy. Therefore I will answer it, not only for my own fake, but to 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 moft Cases ; but the Circumstances which may attend the Occasion, make great Alteration. It often



times happens to a Man, to have Designs which re. quire him to himself, and in their Nature cannot admit of a Confident. Such, for certain, is all Villany ; and other less mischievous Intentions may

be very improper to be Communicated to a second Perfon. In such a Cafe therefore the Audience must observe, whether the Person upon the Stage takes any 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 degree. 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 otherwise, when a Man in Soliloquy 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 inexcufable Folly in him to speak. But because we are conceal'd Spectators of the Plot in Agitation, and the Poet finds it necessary to let us know the whole Mystery of his Contrivance, he is willing to inform us of this person's Thoughts; and to that end is forc'd to make use of the Expedient of Speech, no other better 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 Characters. The Hero of the Play, as they are pleas’d to call him, (meaning Mellefont) is a Gull, and made a Fool, and cheated. Is every Man a Gull and a Fool that is deceiv'd ? At that rate I'm afraid the two Classes of Men will be reduc'd to one, and the Knaves themselves be at a loss to juftify 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 oblig'd to be fo; and who (to confirm him in his Opinion) in all Appearance, and upon several Trials has been fo: If this Man be deceiv'd by the Treachery of

A 4

the other ; must he of necessity commence Fool immediately, only because the other has prov'd a Villain? Ay, but there was Caution given to Mellefont in the first Act by his Friend Carelefs

. Of what Nature was that Caution ? Only to give the Audience some Light into the Character of Maskavell, before his Appearance; and not to convince Mellefont of his Treachery ; for that was more than Careless was then able to do : He never knew Maskwell guilty 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 'em examine the Anfwer that 'Mellefont makes him, and compare it with the Conduct of Maskwell's Character through the Play.

I would beg 'em again to look into the Character of Maskwell, before they accuse Mellefont of Weakness for being deceiv'd by him. For upon fumming up the Enquiry into this Objection, it may be found they have mistaken Cunning in one Character, for Folly 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 Criticks in the World, than one of the fair Sex. They are concerned that I have represented some Women Vicious and Affected : How can I help it? It is the Business of a Comick Poet to paint the Vices and Follies of Human-kind; and there are but two Sexes, Male, and Female, Men and Women, which have a Title to Humanity: And if I leave one half of them 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's letting 'em Blood. They who are Virtuous or Dif


creet, should not be offended; for such Characters as these distinguish them, and make their Beauties more shining and observ’d: And they who are of the other kind, may nevertheless pass for such, by seeming not to be displeas'd, or touch'd with the Satire of this Comedy. Thus have they also wrongfully accus'd me of doing them a Prejudice, when I have in reality done them a Service.

You will pardon me, Sir, for the Freedom take of making Answers to other People, in an Epistle which ought wholly to be sacred to you : But since I intend the Play to be so too, I hope I may take the more Liberty of Justifying it, where it is in the Right.

I must now, Sir, declare to the World, how kind you have been to my Endeavours; for in regard of what was well meant, you have excus'd what was ill perform’d. I beg you would continue the same Method in your Acceptance of this Dedication. I know no other way of making a Return to that Humanity you shew'd, in proteking an Infant, but by Enrolling it in your Service, now that it is of Age and come into the World. Therefore be pleas’d to accept of this as an Acknowledgement of the Favoir you have shewn ine, and an Earnest of the real Service and Gratitude of,


Your Most Obliged,

Humble Servant,

William Congreve.

To my Dear Friend


On his COMEDY, callid,


WELL then; the promis’d Hour is come at laft;

The present Age of Wit obscures the paft: Strong were our Sires; and as they Fought they Writ, Conquring with Force of Arms, and Dint of Wit; Theirs was the Giant Race, before the Flood; And thus, when Charles return'd, our Empire flood. Like Janus, be the stubborn Soil manur'd, With Rules of Husbandry, the Rankness cur'd: Tam'd us to Manners, when the Stage was rude; And boist'rous English Wit, with Art indu’d. Our Age was cultivated thus at length; But what we gain'd in Skill, we lost in Strength. Our Builders were, with Want of Genius, curst; The Second Temple was not like the First: 'Till You, the beft Vitruvius, come at length, Our Beauties equal; but excel our Strength. Firm Dorique Pillars found your folid Base: The fair Corinthian crowns the higher Space; Thus all below is Strength, and all above is Grace. In eafy Dialogue is Fletcher's Praise : He mov'd the Mind, but had no Pow'r to raise. Great Johnson did by Strength of judgment please : Yet doubling Fletcher's Forće, he wants his Ease. In difføring Talents both adorn'd their Age; One for the Study, t'other for the Stage.



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