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Heartily wish this Play were as perfect
as I intended it, that it might be more I 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 so fortunate as to know you, have for you. It had your 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 Conscious of several.' I confess I design'd (whatever Vanity or Ambition occafion’d that Design) 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 such a Defign, I do confess both the Attempt, and the imperfect Performance. Yet I must take the Boldness to say, I have not milcarry'd in the whole ; for the Mechanical part of it is regular. That I may say with as little Vanity, as a Builder may say he has built a House according to the Model laid down before him ; or a Gardiner that he has set his Flowers in a Knot of such or such a Figure. I design'd the Moral first, 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
I have, since the Acting of this Play, hearken'd after the Objections which have been made to it; for I was Conscious 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 some Parts, and excused others; and where there were any plain Miscarriages, I would most ingenuously have confess'd 'em. But I have not heard any thing faid sufficient to provoke an Antwer. That which looks most 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 answer it, not only for my own fake, but to save others the Trouble, to whom it may hereafter be objected,
I grant, that for a Man to Talk to himself, appears absurd and unnatural ; and indeed it is so in most Cafes ; but the Circumstances which may attend the Occasion, make great Alteration. It often
times happens to a Man, to have Designs which require him to himself, and in their Nature cannot admit of a Confident. Such, for certain, is all Villany; and other less mischievous Intentions may be very improper to be Communicated to a second Perfon. In such a Cafe therefore the Audience must observe, whether the Perfon upon the Stage takes aný notice of them at all, or no. For if he supposes any one to be by, when he talks to himself, it is monstrous 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 otherwise, when a Man in Soliloquy reasons with himself, and Pro's and Con's, and weighs all his Designs : We ought not to imagine that this Man either talks to us, or to himself; he is only thinking, and thinking such Matter as were inexcusable Folly in him to speak. But because we are conceal'd Spectators of the Plot in Agitation, and the Poet finds it necessary to let us know the whole Mystery of his Contrivance, he is willing to inform us of this person's Thoughts ; and to that end is forc'd to make use 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 Leisure to distinguish 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 Classes of Men will be reduc'd to one, and the Knaves themselves be at a loss to juftify their Title : But if an Open-hearted honest Man, who has an entire Confidence in one whom he takes to be his Friend, and whom he has oblig'd to be so ; 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