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English marles 8-14-30 22400
T has been the ordinary Practice of the French Poets, to dedicate their Works of this Nature to their King, especially when they have had the least Encouragement to it, by his
Approbation of them on the Stage. But I confess, I want the Confidence to follow their Example, though perhaps I have as speci. ous Pretences to it for this Piece, as any they can boast of : It having been own’d in so particular a Manner by His Majesty, that he has grac'd it with the Title of His Play, and thereby rescued it from the Severity (that I may not say Malice) of its Enemies. But, though a Character fo high and undeserv'd has not rais'd in me the Presumption to offer such a Trifle to his most serious View, yet I will own the Vanity to say, That after this Glory which it has receiv'd from a Soveraign Prince, I could not send it to seek Protection from any Subject. Be this Poem then
facred to him without the tedious Form of a Dedication, and without presuming to interrupt thofe Hours which he is daily giving to the Peace and Settlement of his people.
For what else concerns this Play; I would tell the Reader that it is regular, according to the ftri&test of Dramatick Laws, but that it is a Commendation which many of our Poets now de. spise, and a Beauty which our common Audiences do not easily discern. Neither indeed do I value my self upon it, because with all that Symmetry of Parts, it may want an Air and Spirit (which consists in the Writing) to set it off. Tis a Question variously disputed, whether an Author may be allowed as a competent Judge of his own Works. As to the Fabrick and Contrivance of them certainly he may, for that is properly the Employment of the Judgment; which, as a Master-Builder, he may determine, and that without Deception, whether the Work be according to the Exa&ness of the Model; still granting him to have a perfect Idea of that Pattern by which he works; and that he keeps himself always constant to the Discourse of his Judgment, without admitting Self-love, which is the false Surveyor of his Fancy, to intermeddle in it. These Qualifications granted (being such as all found Poets are presupposed to have within them) I think all Writers, of what kind foever, may infallibly judge of the Frame and Contexture of their works. But for the Ornament of Writing, which is greater, more various and bizarre in Poesie than in any other kind, as it is properly the Child of Fancy, so it can receive no measure, or at least but a very imperfect one, of its own Excellencies or Failures from the
Judgment. Self-love (which enters but rarely into the Offices of the Judgment) here predominates: And Fancy (if I may so speak) judging of it self, can be no more certain or demonstrative of its own Effects, than two crooked Lines can be the adæquate Measure of each other. What I have said on this Subject may, perhaps, give me some credit with my Řeaders, in my Opinion of this Play, which I have ever valued above the rest of my Follies of this kind : Yet not thereby in the least diffenting from their Judgment, who have concluded the Writing of this to be much inferior to my Indian Emperor. But the Argu-, ment of that was much more Noble, not having the Allay of Comedy to depress it: Yet if this be more perfect, either in its kind, or in the general Notion of a Play, 'tis as much as I desire to have granted for the Vindication of my Opinion, and, what as nearly touches me, the Sentence of a Royal Judge. Many have imagin'd the Character of Philocles to be faulty; some for not discovering the Queen's Love, others for his joining in her Restraint. But though I am not of their Num-, ber, who obstinately defend what they have once faid, I may with modesty take up those Answers which have been made for me by my Friends ; namely, that Philocles, who was but a Gentle man of ordinary Birth, had no Reason to guess so soon at the Queen's Paffion, she being a Person so much above him, and by the Suffrages of all her People, already destin'd to Lysimantes : Besides, that he was prepossessed, (as the Queen somewhere hints it to him) with another Inclination which rendred him less clear-fighted in it, fince no Man, at the fame time, can distinctly view two different Objects; and if this, with any shew of Reason, may be defended, I leave my
Mafters, the Criticks, to determine, whether it be not much more conducing to the Beauty of my Plot, that Philocles should be long kept ignorant of the Queen's Love, than that with one leap he should have entred into the Knowledge of it, and thereby freed himself, to the disgust of the Audience, from that pleasing Labyrinth of Errors which was prepar'd for him. As for that other Objection, of his joining in the Queen's Imprisonment, it is indisputably that which every Man, if he Examines himfelf, would have done on the like Occasion. If they answer, that it takes from the height of his Character to do it; I would enquire of my over-wise Cenfors, who told them I intended him a perfect Character, or indeed what neceffity was there he fould be fo, the Variety of Images being one great Beauty of a Play? It was as much as I delign'd, to thew one great and absolute Pattern of Honour in my Poem, which I did in the Person of the Queen: All the Defects of the other Patts being fet to show, the more to recommend that one Character of Virtue to the Audience. But neither was the Fault of Philocles so great, if the Circumstances be confider'd, which, as moral Philosophy assures us, make the essential Differences of good and bad; he himself best explaining his own Intentions in his last Act, which was the Restauration of his Queen; and even before that, in the honesty of his Expreffions, when he was unavoidably led by the Impulsions of his Love to do it. That which with more reason was objected as an Indecorum, is the Management of the last Scene of the Play, where Celadon and Florimel are treating too lightly of their Marriage in the Presence of the Queen, who likewife seems to stand idle, while the great Adion of the Drama is still depending. This I
cannot otherwise defend, than by telling you, I so design'd it on purpose to make my Play go off more smartly; that Scene being, in the Opinion of the best Judges, the most divertising of the whole Comedy. But though the Artifice succeeded, I am willing to acknowledge it as a Fault, since it pleas'd His Majesty, the best Judge, to think it lo. I have only to add, that the Play is founded on a Story in the Cyrus, which he calls the Queen of Corinth; in whose Character, as it has been affirm'd to me, he represents that of the famous Christina, Queen of Sweden. This is what I thought convenient to write by way of Preface to the Maiden-Queen; in the reading of which, I fear you will not meet with that Sätisfaction which you have had in seeing it on the Stage; the chief Parts of it, both serious and comick, being performed to that height of Excellence, that nothing but a Command which I could not handsomely disobey, could have given. me the Courage to have made it publick.