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cation to “ Prince Arthur,” that the Duchess of Monmouth, whom Dryden calls his first and best patroness, was pleased with the parts of airy and earthy spirits, and with that fairy kind of writing, which depends upon the force of imagination. It is probable, therefore, that, in a play inscribed to her husband, that style of composition was judiciously intermingled, to which our poet knew the duchess was partial. There is much fine description in the first account of the wizard ; but the lyrical dialogue of the spirits is rather puerile, and is ridiculed, with great severity, in the “ Rehearsal."
Mr Malone has fixed the first acting of this play to the end of 1668, or beginning of 1669. It was printed in 1670, and a revised edition came forth in 1672.
MOST ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCE,
DUKE OF MONMOUTH AND BUCCLEUGH,
ONE OF HIS MAJESTY's
OF THE MOST NOBLE ORDER OF THE GARTER, &c*.
SIR, The favourable reception which your excellent lady afforded to one of my former plays t, has encouraged me to double my presumption, in addressing this to your grace's patronage. So dangerous a thing it is to admit a poet into your family, that you can never afterwards be free from the chiming of ill verses, perpetually sounding in your ears, and
For some account of the Duke of Monmouth, we refer our readers to the poem of Absalom and Achitophel, in which Dryden has described that unfortunate young nobleman under the character of Absalom.
+ See the Dedication to the “ Indian Emperor."
more troublesome than the neighbourhood of steeples I have been favourable to myself in this expression ; a zealous fanatick would have gone farther, and have called me the serpent, who first presented the fruit of my poetry to the wife, and so gained the opportunity to seduce the husband. Yet, I am ready to avow a crime so advantageous to me; but the world, which will condemn my boldness, I am sure will justify and applaud my choice. All men will join with me in the adoration which I pay you; they would wish only I had brought you a more noble sacrifice.
Instead of an heroick play, you might justly expect an heroick poem, filled with the past glories of your ancestors, and the future certainties of your own. Heaven has already taken care to form you for an hero. You have all the advantages of mind and body, and an illustrious birth, conspiring to render you an extraordinary person. The Achilles and the Rinaldo are present in you, even above their originals; you only want a Homer, or a Tasso, to make
you equal to them. Youth, beauty, and courage (all which you possess in the height of their perfection) are the most desirable gifts of heaven: and heaven is never prodigal of such treasures, but to some uncommon purpose. So goodly a fabric was never framed by an Almighty architect for a vulgar guest. He shewed the value which he set upon your mind, when he took care to have it so nobly, and so beautifully lodged. To a graceful fashion and deportment of body, you have joined a winning conversation, and an easy greatness, derived to you from the best, and best-beloved of princes. And with a great power of obliging, the world has observed in you a desire to oblige, even beyond your power. This, and all that I can say on so excellent and large a subject, is only history, in which fiction has no part; I can employ nothing of poetry in it, any more than I do in that humble protestation which I make, to continue ever
I was moved to write this play by many reasons : Amongst others, the commands of some persons of honour, for whom I have a most particular respect, were daily sounding in my ears, that it would be of good example to undertake a poem of this nature. Neither were my own inclinations wanting to second their desires. I considered that pleasure was not the only end of poesy; and that even the instructions of morality were not so wholly the business of a poet, as that the precepts and examples of piety were to be omitted. For, to leave that employment altogether to the clergy, were to forget that religion was first taught in verse, which the laziness, or dulness, of succeeding priesthood, turned afterwards into prose; and it were also to grant (which I never shall) that representations of this kind may not as well be conducing to holiness, as to good manners. Yet far be it from me to compare the use of dramatick poesy with that of divinity: I only maintain, against the enemies of the stage, that patterns of piety, decently represented, and equally removed from the extremes of superstition and profaneness, may be of excellent use to