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THOMAS KING, Efq;
OUR present situation, in which,
happily for the professors of the drama, and to the general satisfaction of the public, you have succeeded two of the greatest Geniuses this age has produced, renders the addressing any thing in a dramatic form to you a sort of indispensable propriety; but it is not your fituation that exacts this tribute: the esteem, and real affection, I have many years had for yourself, are the only motives which induce me thus publickly to boast the honour of your friendship;
to commit the following pages to your protection; to embrace this opportunity of informing those (if there are any) who do not know it, that your private virtues are as eminent as your public merits; and to subscribe myself,
have been the attempts to copy the style and manner of several of our most celebrated Poets; some of them ferious, and others avowedly burlesque. The imitations of Spenser, notwithstanding the objections that have been made to his language and stanza, are remarkably numerous (I have seen near thirty different ones, perhaps there are others I have not met with); and many of them very happily executed:
Shakspeare (unless we may except Kenrick's Falstaff's Wedding) has hitherto proved, and it is most likely will continue, inimitable.
The pomp of Milton has been as successfully as humouroully assumed by Philips ; and the Pipe of Tobacco, written in imitation of fix several authors, has been universally applauded and admired.
But none of these, whether well or indifferently performed, either added to, or diminished, the beauty of their Prototype. The various cantos and small
poems written in imitation of Spenser, from Sir Richard Fanshawe, the translator of ll Pastor Fido, and the Lusiad ; to Mr. Mickle, who has enriched our libraries with so truly poetical a version of the fublime Camoëns; were never I believe intended to supply the place of any part of the lost, or notwritten Books of the Faerie Queene; the tragedy of Jane Shore, and other professed imitations of our immortal dramatist, were never proposed to be incoporated in any collection or edition of Shakspeare's works : nor do I imagine, though money is so general a succedaneum for happiness, that the Splendid Shilling was ever considered as a supplement to Paradise Loft. The work now submitted to the public stands in a very different predicament from any I have mentioned, or alluded to; for though it can neither help
to paint the lily,” or “throw a perfume on " the violet ;" it may, by an humble attendance on, give a consequence to, or by its meanness degrade, the company it has had the temerity to intrude into. Yet is not this arduous attempt to continue and complete the justly-admired Pastoral of the Sad Shepherd arrogantly, but “ in trembling hope" annexed to the original Fragment by Jonson; to become, should it be found worthy, his by adoption; or, if “ all too inean,” to be rejected, and consigned to its deserved oblivion.
The new part of the third act is written, it is pre. sumed, agreeably to the plan laid down in Jonson's
argument; which, though he did not finish the dialogue for it, appears to contain all the intended business of that act; the remainder is intirely invented : at least there is no other clue transmitted to us, whereby to guess at the Author's ultimate design, than that Reuben, a devout hermit, in the list of persons, is called, The Reconciler; which I have accordingly made him. I am aware passages may be thought unnecessarily long and tedious; some even in the original, would, were it not for their great beauty, be deem'd so: but the piece was never intended by me, whatever it might have been by Jonson, for representation ; and we often read with attention and delight a length of monologue or dialogue, that would be insufferable on the stage.
The dialect likewise of some of the characters is very uncouth; and not always in the original, as well as copy, correct : in the latter the old Scottish plural, Kie, is twice used in the singular ; but it is by the Swine-herd, Lorel, whom we may suppose no very accurate speaker, It may be no improper question to ask, why the Witch, Maudlin, and her family, who are resident near Belvoir Castle, in Leicestershire, are made to speak a Scottish dialect? or, why some of the characters in Jonson's Tale of a Tub, the scene of which was fo near London, that it is now almost absorb'd in it, thould speak the Somersethire dialect ?