The Way of the World HTML version

Audire est operae pretium, prcedere recte
Qui maechis non vultis.--HOR. Sat. i. 2, 37.
- Metuat doti deprensa.--Ibid.
My Lord,--Whether the world will arraign me of vanity or not, that I have presumed to
dedicate this comedy to your lordship, I am yet in doubt; though, it may be, it is some
degree of vanity even to doubt of it. One who has at any time had the honour of your
lordship's conversation, cannot be supposed to think very meanly of that which he would
prefer to your perusal. Yet it were to incur the imputation of too much sufficiency to
pretend to such a merit as might abide the test of your lordship's censure.
Whatever value may be wanting to this play while yet it is mine, will be sufficiently
made up to it when it is once become your lordship's; and it is my security, that I cannot
have overrated it more by my dedication than your lordship will dignify it by your
That it succeeded on the stage was almost beyond my expectation; for but little of it was
prepared for that general taste which seems now to be predominant in the palates of our
Those characters which are meant to be ridiculed in most of our comedies are of fools so
gross, that in my humble opinion they should rather disturb than divert the well-natured
and reflecting part of an audience; they are rather objects of charity than contempt, and
instead of moving our mirth, they ought very often to excite our compassion.
This reflection moved me to design some characters which should appear ridiculous not
so much through a natural folly (which is incorrigible, and therefore not proper for the
stage) as through an affected wit: a wit which, at the same time that it is affected, is also
false. As there is some difficulty in the formation of a character of this nature, so there is
some hazard which attends the progress of its success upon the stage: for many come to a
play so overcharged with criticism, that they very often let fly their censure, when
through their rashness they have mistaken their aim. This I had occasion lately to
observe: for this play had been acted two or three days before some of these hasty judges
could find the leisure to distinguish betwixt the character of a Witwoud and a Truewit.
I must beg your lordship's pardon for this digression from the true course of this epistle;
but that it may not seem altogether impertinent, I beg that I may plead the occasion of it,