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great censors of wit and poetry, either produce nothing of their own, or what is more ridiculous than any thing they reprehend. Much of ill nature, and a very little judgment, go far in finding the mistakes of writers.
I pretend not that any thing of mine can be correct: This poem, especially, which was contrived, and written in seven weeks, though afterwards hindered by many accidents from a speedy representation, which would have been its just excuse.
Yet the scenes are every where unbroken, and the unities of place and time more exactly kept, than perhaps is requisite in a tragedy; or, at least, than I have since preserved them in the “Conquest of Granada.”
I have not everywhere observed the equality of numbers, in my verse; partly by reason of my haste; but more especially, because I would not have my sense a slave to syllables.
It is easy to discover, that I have been very bold in my alteration of the story, which of itself was too barren for a play; and that I have taken from the church two martyrs, in the persons of Porphyrius, and the empress, who suffered for the Christian faith, under the tyranny of Maximin.
I have seen a French play, called the “ Martyrdom of St Catharine :” But those, who have read it, will soon clear me from stealing out of so dull an author. I have only borrowed a mistake from him, of one Maximin for another; for finding him in the French poet, called the son of a Thracian herdsman, and an Alane woman, I too easily believed him to have been the same Maximin mentioned in Herodian. Till afterwards, consulting Eusebius and Metaphrastes, I found the Frenchman had betrayed me into an error, when it was too late to. -alter it, by mistaking that first Maximin for a se
cond, the contemporary of Constantine the Great, and one of the usurpers of the eastern empire.
But neither was the other name of my play more fortunate ; for, as some, who had heard of a tragedy of St Catharine, imagined I had taken my plot from thence; so others, who had heard of another play, called “ L'Amour Tyrannique," with the sanie ignorance, accused me to have borrowed my design from it, because I have accidentally given my play the same title; not having to this day seen it, and knowing only by report that such a comedy is extant in French, under the name of “Monsieur Scudery.”
As for what I have said of astral or aërial spirits, it is no invention of mine, but taken from those who have written on that subject. Whether there are such beings or not, it concerns not me; it is sufficient for my purpose, that many have believed the affirmative; and that these heroic representations, which are of the same nature with the epic, are not limited, but with the extremest bounds of what is credible.
For the little critics, who pleased themselves with thinking they have found a flaw in that line of the prologue,
And he, who servilely creeps after sense,
Is safe, &c.*, as if I patronized my own nonsense, I may reasonably suppose they have never read Horace. Serpit humi tutus, &c. are his words : He, who creeps after plain, dull, common sense, is safe from committing absurdities; but can never reach any height, or excellence of wit; and sure I could not mean, that
* See the prologue to this play.
any excellence were to be found in nonsense. With the same ignorance, or malice, they would accuse me for using--empty arms, when I write of a ghost, or shadow, which has only the appearance of a body or limbs, and is empty, or void, of flesh and blood; and vacuis amplectitur ulnis, was an expression of Ovid's on the same subject. Some fool before them had charged me in “The Indian Emperor” with nonsense in theșe words,
And follow fate, which does too fast pursue ;
Which was borrowed from Virgil, in the eleventh of his Æneids,
Eludit gyro interior, sequiturque sequentem t.
I quote not these to prove, that I never writ nonsense ; but only to shew, that they are so unfortunate as not to have found it.
may be allowed to suspect that this resemblance was discovered ex post facto.
SELF-LOVE, which, never rightlyunderstood,
MAXIMIN, Tyrant of Rome.
BERENICE, wife to Maximin,
SCENE-The camp of Marimin, under the walls of