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Interdum tamen et vocem Comoedia tollit.--HOR. Ar. Po. Huic equidem consilio palmam
do: hic me magnifice effero, qui vim tantam in me et potestatem habeam tantae astutiae,
vera dicendo ut eos ambos fallam.
SYR. in TERENT. Heaut.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE CHARLES MONTAGUE,
ONE OF THE LORDS OF THE TREASURY.
Sir,--I heartily wish this play were as perfect as I intended it, that it might be more worthy
your acceptance, and that my dedication of it to you might be more becoming that honour
and esteem which I, with everybody 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
I would not have anybody imagine that I think this play without its 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 confess both the attempt and
the imperfect performance. Yet I must take the boldness to say I have not miscarried in
the whole, for the mechanical part of it is regular. That I may say with as little vanity as a
builder may say he has built a house according to the model laid down before him, or a
gardener 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 anywhere. 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 discourse is very impertinent to you, whose judgment much
better can discern the faults than I can excuse 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 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
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 everybody 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 harkened 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
excused others; and where there were any plain miscarriages, I would most ingenuously
have confessed 'em. But I have not heard anything said sufficient to provoke an answer.
That which looks most like an objection does not relate in particular to this play, but to all