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D'Avenant * seem to require it from me, that those favours, which you placed on them, and which they wanted opportunity to own in public, yet might not be lost to the knowledge of posterity, with a forgetfulness unbecoming of the Muses, who are the daughters of memory. And give me leave, my lord, to avow so much of vanity, as to say, I am proud to be their remembrancer: For, by relating how gracious you have been to them, and are to me, I, in some measure, join my name with theirs : And the continued descent of your favours to me is the best title which I can plead for my succession. I only wish, that I had as great reason to be satisfied with myself, in the return of our common acknowledgments
, as your grace may justly take in the conferring them: For I cannot but be very sensible, that the present of an ill comedy, whicho I here make you, is a very unsuitable way of giving thanks for them, who, themselves, have written so many better. This pretends to nothing more, than to be a foil to those scenes, which are composed by the most noble poet of our age and nation, and to be set as a water-mark of the lowest ebb, to which the wit of my predecessor has sunk, and run down in me. But, though all of them have surpassed me in the scene, there is one part of glory, in which I will not yield to
of them: I mean, my lord, that honour and veneration which they had for you in their lives; and which I preserve after them, more holily than the vestal fires were maintained from age to age; but with a greater degree of heat, and of devotion, than theirs, as being with more respect and passion than they ever were,
* Jonson and D'Avenant were both protected by the duke of Newcastle. Jonson has addressed several verses to him, and composed a Masque for the splendid entertainment which he gave to Charles I., at his house at Wellbeck, when the king was on his first northern journey.
AN EVENING'S LOVE.
Our author acknowledges, that this play of “ The Mock Astrologer" is founded on “Le feint Astrologue," by the younger Corneille, which he, in his turn, had imitated from " El Astrologo fingido” of Calderon. But Dryden has also laid Moliere under contribution. Most part of the quarrelling scene betwixt Wildblood and Jacintha, in the fourth act, is literally copied from that betwixt Lucile Eraste, Marinette, and Gros René, in “ Le Depit Amoureux." The absurd loquacity of Don Alonzo, and his friend's mode of silencing him, by ringing a bell in his ears, is imitated from the scene betwixt Albert and Metaphraste, in the same play; and, it must be allowed, it is an expedient which might be more decently resorted to against an inundation of nonsense from a pedantic schoolmaster, as in Moliere, than to stop the mouth of a noble old Spaniard, the uncle of Don Lopez' mistress. The play itself is more lively than most of Dryden's comedies. Wildblood and Jacintha are far more pleasant than their prototypes, Celadon and Florimel; and the Spanish bustle of the plot is well calculated to keep up the attention. The character of Aurelia was perhaps suggested by the “. Precieuses Ridicules" of Moliere, but cannot, with any justice, be said to be copied from them. The Preface contains some excellent remarks on the old comedy. There is also an elaborate defence, the first our poet deigned to make, against the charge of plagiarism. On this point he quotes the words of Charles II., who had only desired, that they, who accused Dryden of theft, would steal him such plays as Dryden's: And he vindicates the right of an author to take his plot where he could best find it, in history or romance, providing that the conduct and disposition of the action, with the dialogue, character, and poetical ornaments, were original. Our author's use of the terms and technical phrases of judicial astronomy intimate his acquaintance with that pretended science, in which he is known to have placed some confidence.
The “ Mock Astrologer" appears to have been acted and pube lished in 1668.
I had thought, reader, in this preface, to have written somewhat concerning the difference betwixt the plays of our age, and those of our predecessors, on the English stage: To have shewn in what parts of dramatic poesy we were excelled by Ben Jonson, I mean, humour, and contrivance of comedy; and in what we may justly claim precedence of Shakespeare and Fletcher, namely in heroic plays: But this design I have waved on second considerations; at least, deferred it till I publish The Conquest of Granada, where the discourse will be more proper. I had also prepared to treat of the improvement of our language since Fletcher's and Jonson's days, and consequently of our refining the courtship, raillery, and conversation of plays: But as I am willing to decline that envy which I should draw on myself from some old opiniatre judges of the stage, so likewise I am prest in time so much that I have not leisure, at present, to go through with it. Neither, indeed, do I value a reputation gained from comedy, so far as to concern myself about it, any more than I needs must in my own defence : For I think it, in its own nature, inferior to all sorts of dramatick writing. Low comedy especially requires, on the writer's part, much of conversation with the vulgar, and much of ill nature in the observation of their follies. But let all men please themselves according to their several tastes: That which is not pleasant to ne, may be to others who judge better: And, to prevent an accusation from my enemies, I am sometimes ready to imagine, that my disgust of low comedy proceeds not so much from my judgment as from my temper; which is the reason why I so seldom write it; and that when I succeed in it, (I mean so far as to please the audience) yet I am nothing satisfied with what I have done; but am often vexed to hear the people laugh, and clap, as they perpetually do, where I intended them no jest; while they
the better things, without taking notice of them. Yet even this confirms me in my opinion of slighting popular applause, and of contemning that approbation which those very people give, equally with me, to the zany of a mountebank; or to the appearance of an antick on the theatre, without wit on the poet's part, or any occasion of laughter from the actor, besides the ridiculousness of his habit and his grimaces.
But I have descended, before I was aware, from comedy to farce; which consists principally of gri
That I admire not any comedy equally with tragedy, is, perhaps, from the sulienness of my humour; but that I detest those farces, which are now the most frequent entertainments of the stage, I am sure I have reason on my side. Comedy consists, though of low persons, yet of natural actions and characters; I mean such humours, adventures, and designs, as are to be found and met with in the world. Farce, on the other side, con