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Written by Mr. CONGREVE.
Printed for JACOB TONS ON in the Strand,
To the Right Honourable
One of the
Lords of the Treasury.
Heartily with this Play were as perfect as I intended it, that it might be more worthy your Acceptance; and that my Dedication of it to you, might be more becoming that Honour and Esteem which I, with every Body who is fo fortunate as to know It had your have for you, Countenance when yet unknown; and now it is made publick, it wants your Protection.
I would not have any Body imagine, that I think this Play without its Faults, for I am Confcious of feveral. I confefs I defign'd (whatever Vanity or Ambition occafion'd that Defign) to have written a true and regular Comedy: but I found it an Undertaking which put me in mind of-----Sudet multum, fruftraque laboret aufus idem. And now to make Amends for the Vanity of fuch a Defign, I do confefs both the Attempt, and the imperfect Performance. Yet I must take the Boldness to say, I have not mifcarry'd in the whole; for the Mechanical part of it is regular. That I may fay with as little Vanity, as a Builder may fay he has built a House according to the Model laid down before him; or a Gardiner that he has fet his Flowers in a Knot of fuch or fuch a Figure. I defign'd the Moral firft, and to that Moral I invented the Fable, and do not know that
I have borrow'd one Hint of it any where. I made the Plot as ftrong as I could, because it was fingle; and I made it fingle, because I would avoid Confufion, and was refolved to preferve the three Unities of the Drama. Sir, this Difcourfe is very impertinent to you, whofe Judgment much better can difcern the Faults, than I can excuse them; and whose Good-nature, like that of a Lover, will find out those hidden Beauties (if there are any fuch) which it wou'd be great Immodefty for me to discover. I think I don't speak improperly when I call you a Lover of Poetry; for it is very well known fhe has been a very kind Miftrefs to you; fhe has not deny'd you the laft Favour; and the has been fruitful to you in a moft beautiful Iflue----If I break off abruptly here, I hope every Body will understand that it is to avoid a Commendation, which, as it is your Due, would be moft eafy for me to pay, and too troublesome for you to receive.
I have, fince the Acting of this Play, hearken'd after the Objections which have been made to it; for I was Confcious where a true Critick might have put me upon my Defence, I was prepared for the Attack; and am pretty confident I could have vindicated fome Parts, and excused others; and where there were any plain Mifcarriages, I would moft ingenuously have confefs'd 'em. But I have not heard any thing faid fufficient to provoke an Anfwer. That which looks moft like an Objection, does not relate in particular to this Play, but to all or most that ever have been written; and that is Soliloquy, Therefore I will anfwer it, not only for my own fake, but to fave others the Trouble, to whom it may hereafter be objected.
I grant, that for a Man to Talk to himself, appears abfurd and unnatural; and indeed it is fo in moft Cafes; but the Circumftances which may attend the Occafion, make great Alteration. It often
times happens to a Man, to have Defigns which require him to himself, and in their Nature cannot admit of a Confident. Such, for certain, is all Villany; and other lefs mifchievous Intentions may be very improper to be Communicated to a fecond Perfon. In fuch a Cafe therefore the Audience muft observe, whether the Perfon upon the Stage takes any notice of them at all, or no. For if he fuppofes any one to be by, when he talks to himself, it is monftrous and ridiculous to the last degree. Nay, not only in this Cafe, but in any Part of a Play, if there is expreffed any Knowledge of an Audience, it is infufferable. But otherwife, when a Man in Soliloquy reasons with himself, and Pro's and Con's, and weighs all his Defigns: We ought not to imagine that this Man either talks to us, or to himself; he is only thinking, and thinking fuch Matter as were inexcufable Folly in him to fpeak. But because we are conceal'd Spectators of the Plot in Agitation, and the Poet finds it neceffary to let us know the whole Mystery of his Contrivance, he is willing to inform us of this Perfon's Thoughts; and to that end is forc'd to make ufe of the Expedient of Speech, no other better way being yet invented for the Communication of Thought.
Another very wrong Objection has been made by fome, who have not taken Leifure to diftinguish the Characters. The Hero of the Play, as they are pleas'd to call him, (meaning Mellefont) is a Gull, and made a Fool, and cheated. Is every Man a Gull and a Fool that is deceiv'd? At that rate I'm afraid the two Claffes of Men will be reduc'd to one, and the Knaves themselves be at a lofs to juftify their Title: But if an Open-hearted honeft Man, who has an entire Confidence in one whom he takes to be his Friend, and whom he has oblig'd to be fo; and who (to confirm him in his Opinion) in all Appearance, and upon several Trials has been fo: If this Man be deceiv'd by the Treachery of