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The Epiféle Dedicatory. of Poetry ; for it is very well known the has been a very kind Mistress to you, the has not deny'd you the last Favour; and the has been fruitful to you in a most beautiful Issue -- 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 easie for me to pay,

and too troublesome for you to receive.

I have , since the A&ing of this Play harken'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 confefs'd'em. But I have not heard any thing faid sufficient to provoke an Answer. That which looks most like an Objection, does not relate in particular to this Play, but to all or molt that ever have been written; and that is soliloquy Therefore I wil answer it, not only for my own sake, but to save others the Trouble, to whom it may hereafter be objected.

I grant , that for a Man to talk to him. self, appears absurd and unnatural; and indeed it is so in most Cafes ; but the Cire cumstances which may attend the Occasion, make great Alteration. It oftentimes happens to a Man, to have Designs which require him to himself, and in their nature

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The Epistle Dedicatory" 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 Person upon the Stage takes any 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 exprefsed any Knowledge of an Audience, it is insufferable. But otherwise, when a Man in Soliloquy reasons with himself, and Pros and Cons, and weighs all his Designs : We ought not to imagine that this Man either talks to uś, or to himself; he is only thinkking, and thinking such Matter as were inexcufable Folly in him to speak. But be. cause we are conceal'd Spectators of the Plot in agitation, and the Poet finds it neceflary to let us know the whole Mystery of his Contrivance, he is willing to inform us of this Persons 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 some who have not taken Leisure to distinguith 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

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The Epiflle Dedicatory. I'm afraid the two Classes of Men will be reduc'd to one, and the Knaves themselves be at a loss to justifie 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 fo; and who , to confirm him in his Opinion , in all Appearance, and upon feveral Trials has been fo : If this Man be deceiv'd by the Treachery of the other; muft he of necessity commence Fool immediately only because the other has prov'd a Villain? Ay, but there was Caution given to Mellefont in the firft A&t by his Friend Careless. Of what Nature was that Caution? Only to give the Audience some Light into the Character of Maskwell before his Appearance ; and not to convince Mellefont of his Treachery; for that was more than Careless was then able to do : He never knew Maskwell guilty of any Villany ; he was only a fort of Man which he did not like. As for his suspeating his Familiarity with my Lady Touchwood; Let 'em examine the Answer that Mellefont makes him, and compare it with the Conduct of Maskwells Character through thc Play.

I would beg 'em again to look into the Character of Maskwell before they accufe Mellefont of Weakness for being deceiv'd by him. For upon summing up the Enquiry into this Objection, it may be found they have mistaken Cunning in one Character, for Folly in another,

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But there is one thing, at which I am more concerned than all the false Criticisms that are made upon me; and that is, fome of the Ladies are offended. I am heartily sorry for it; for I declare I would rather difoblige all the Criticks in the World, than one of the fair Sex. They are concerned that I have represented some Women Vicious and Affected: How can I help it? It is the Business of a Comick Poet to paint the Vices and Follies of Human kind; and there are but two Sexes, Male, and Female, Men, and Women, which have a Title to Humanity: And if I leave one half of them out, the Work will be imperfect. I 1hould be very glad of an Opportunity to make my Compliinent to those Ladies who are offended : But they can no more expect it in a Comedy, than to be Tickled by a Surgeon, when he's letting’em Blood. They who are Virtuous or Discreet , should not be offended, for such Characters as these distinguish them, and make their Beauties more thining and observ'd. And they who are of the other kind, may nevertheless pats for such, by seeming not to be displeas'd, or touch’d, with the Satire of this Comedy. Thus have they also wrongfully accus’d me of doing them a Prejudice, when I have in reality done them a Service.

You will pardon me, Sir, for the Freedom I take of making Answers to other People, in an Epistle which ought wholly to be facred to you: But since I intend the Play

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The Epistle Dedicatory. to be fo too, I hope I may take the more Liberty of Justifying it, where it is in the Right.

I must now, Sir , declare to the World, how kind you have been to my Endeavours; for in regard of what was well meant , you havę excus'd what was ill perform’d. I beg you would continue the same Method in your Acceptance of this Dedication. I know no other way of making a Return to that Humanity you lhew'd, in protecting an Infant, but by Enrolling it in your Service now that it is of Age and come into the World. Therefore be pleas'd to accept of this as an Acknowledgement of the Favour you have thewn me, and an Earnest of the real Service and Gratitude of,

SIR,

Your Most Obliged ;

Humble Servant,

WILLIAM CONGREVE,

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