The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom
The Adventures Of Ferdinand Count Fathom
TO DOCTOR ------
You and I, my good friend, have often deliberated on the difficulty of writing such
a dedication as might gratify the self-complacency of a patron, without exposing
the author to the ridicule or censure of the public; and I think we generally agreed
that the task was altogether impracticable.--Indeed, this was one of the few
subjects on which we have always thought in the same manner. For,
notwithstanding that deference and regard which we mutually pay to each other,
certain it is, we have often differed, according to the predominancy of those
different passions, which frequently warp the opinion, and perplex the
understanding of the most judicious.
In dedication, as in poetry, there is no medium; for, if any one of the human
virtues be omitted in the enumeration of the patron's good qualities, the whole
address is construed into an affront, and the writer has the mortification to find
his praise prostituted to very little purpose.
On the other hand, should he yield to the transports of gratitude or affection,
which is always apt to exaggerate, and produce no more than the genuine
effusions of his heart, the world will make no allowance for the warmth of his
passion, but ascribe the praise he bestows to interested views and sordid
Sometimes too, dazzled by the tinsel of a character which he has no opportunity
to investigate, he pours forth the homage of his admiration upon some false
Maecenas, whose future conduct gives the lie to his eulogium, and involves him
in shame and confusion of face. Such was the fate of a late ingenious author [the
Author of the "Seasons"], who was so often put to the blush for the undeserved
incense he had offered in the heat of an enthusiastic disposition, misled by
popular applause, that he had resolved to retract, in his last will, all the
encomiums which he had thus prematurely bestowed, and stigmatise the
unworthy by name--a laudable scheme of poetical justice, the execution of which
was fatally prevented by untimely death.
Whatever may have been the fate of other dedicators, I, for my own part, sit
down to write this address, without any apprehension of disgrace or
disappointment; because I know you are too well convinced of my affection and
sincerity to repine at what I shall say touching your character and conduct. And
you will do me the justice to believe, that this public distinction is a testimony of
my particular friendship and esteem.
Not that I am either insensible of your infirmities, or disposed to conceal them
from the notice of mankind. There are certain foibles which can only be cured by
shame and mortification; and whether or not yours be of that species, I shall have
the comfort to think my best endeavours were used for your reformation.
Know then, I can despise your pride, while I honour your integrity, and applaud
your taste, while I am shocked at your ostentation.--I have known you trifling,
superficial, and obstinate in dispute; meanly jealous and awkwardly reserved;
rash and haughty in your resentments; and coarse and lowly in your connexions.
I have blushed at the weakness of your conversation, and trembled at the errors