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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
JOHN EARL OF MULGRAVE.
Gentleman of His Majesty's Bedchamber, and Knight of the
most noble Order of the Garter.
MY LORD, WHEN I hear by many persons, not indifferent judges, how poets are censured most even where they most intend to please, and sometimes by those too whom they address condemned for flatterers, sycophants, and little fawning wretches; I consess, of all undertakings, there is none more dreadful to me than a Dedication. So nicely cruel are our judges, that after a play has been generally applauded on the stage, the industrious malice of some after-observer shall damn it for an epistle or a preface. For this reason, my lord, Alexander was more to seek for a patron in my troubled thoughts than for the temple of Jupiter Ammon in the spreading wilds and rolling sands. 'Tis certain too he must have been lost, had not fortune, whom I must once at least acknowledge kind in my life, presented me to your lordship. You were pleased, my lord, to read it over act by act;
and by particular praises, proceeding from the sweetness rather than the justice of your temper, lifted me up from my natural melancholy and diffidence to a bold
belief, that what so great an understanding warranted could not fail of success.
And here I were most ungrateful if I should not satisfy the judging world of the surprise I was in. Pardon me, my lord, for calling it a surprise, when I was first honoured by waiting upon your lordship : so much unexpected, and, indeed, unusual affability, from persons of your birth and quality, so true an easiness, such frankness without affectation, I never
Your constant but few friends show the firme ness of your mind, which never varies; so godlike a virtue, that a prince puts off his majesty when he parls
with resolution. In all the happy times that I attended you, unless business or accident interposed, I have observed your company to be the same. You have travelled through all tempers, sailed through all humours of the court's unconstant sea; you have gained the gallant prizes which you sought, your selected invaluable friends; and I am perfectly persuaded, if you traffic but seldom abroad, it is for fear of splitting upon knaves or fools. Nor is it pride, but rather a delicacy of your soul, that makes you
shun the sordid part of the world, the lees and dregs of it; while in the noblest retirement you enjoy the finer spirits, and have that just greatness to be above the baser. How commendable, therefore, is such a reservation! how admirable such a solitude! If you are singular in this, we ought to blame the wild, unthinking, dissolute age; an age whose business is senseless riot, Neronian gambols, and ridicuclous debauchery; an age that can produce few persons besides your lordship who dare be alone: all our hot hours burnt in night revels, drowned by day in dead sleep, or if we wake, it is a point of reeling honour jogs us to the field, where, if we live or die, we are not concerned; for the soul was laid out before we went abroad, and our bodies were after acted by mere animal spirits without reason.
When I more narrowly contemplate your person, methinks / see in your lord ship two of the most famous characters that ever ancient or modern story could produce, the mighty Scipio and the retired Cowley. You have certainly the gravity, temperance, and judgment, as well as the courage, of the first; all which in your early attempts of war gave the noblest dawn of virtue, and will, when occasion presents, answer our expectaion, and shine forth as full: then for the latter, you possess all his sweetness of humour in peace, all that halcyon tranquillity of mind, where your deep thoughts glide like silent waters without a wrinkle; your hours move with softest wings, and rarely any 'larum strikes 10 discompose you. You have the philosophy of the first, and (which I confess of all your qualities I love most) che poetry of the latter.
I was never more moved at Vir. gil's Dido than at a short poem of your lordship’s, where nothing but the shoriness can be disliked. As our churchmen wish there were more noblemen of their
function ; so wish I, in the behalf of depressed poetry, that there were more poels of your lordship's excellency and eininence. 1 poetry be a virtue, she is a ragged one, and never in any age went barer than
it may be objected she never deserved less. To that I must not answer: but I am sure when she meriled most she was always dissatisfied, or she would not have forsaken the most splendid courts in the world. Virgil and Hurace, favourites of the mightiest emperor, retired from him, preferring a mistress or a white boy, and two or three cheerful drinhing friends in a country village, to all the
magnificence of Rome; or, if sometimes they were snatched from their cooler pleasures to an imperial banquet, we may see by their verses in praise of a country life, it was against their inclination; witness Horace, in his episode-beatus ille qui procul, &c. part of his sixth satire, his epistle 10 Fusc. Arist. Virgil's Georgic, O Fortunatos nimiùm bona si, &c. all rendered by Mr. Cowley so copiously and na. turally, as no age gone before or caming after shall equal, though all heads join together to outdo him: I speak not of his exactness to a line, but of the whole. This then may be said as to the condition of poets in all times, few ever arrived to a middle fortune, most have lived at the lowest, none, ever inounted to the highest; neither by birih---for none was ever born a prince, as no prince, to my remem. brance, was ever born a poet; nor by industry, because they were always loo much transporled by their