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** The Lines distinguished by inverted Commas, are omitted in the Representation.”
Printed for the Proprietors, under the Direáion of
I commit this Comedy to the press with all possible gratitude to the public for the reception it has met: I cannot flatter my. self that the same applause will follow it to the closet; for as it owed much to an excellent representation, I have neither on this nor any preceding occasion, considered myself otherwise than as a sharer only with the managers and performers, who have distinguished themselves in the exhibition of my trifling productions. But it is not on the score of spectacle only that I am obliged to Mr. Garrick; I am, both in the instance of this comedy, and in that of the West Indian, materially indebted to his judgment, and owe the good effect of many incidents in both to his suggestion and advice: the corre&ion of a real critic is as different from that of a pretender, as the operation of a surgeon from the stab of an assassin.
The Comedy now submitted to the reader, is designed as an attempt upon his heart, and as such, proceeds with little deviation from mine; if it should be thought, therefore, that I meant well, the charge of having executed indifferently I shall patiently submit to. I have on this occasion (as on the two preceding ones) wholly rested my performance upon such poor abilities as I am master of. I am not conscious of having drawn any particular assistance, either in respect of character or design, from the produćtions of others ; although I am far from presuming to say or think, that I have ever exhibited any charaćter purely original. The level manners of a polished country like this, do not supply much matter for the comic muse, which delights in variety and extravagance; wherever, therefore, I have made any attempt at novelty, I have found myself obliged either to dive into the lower class of men, or betake myself to the outskirts of the empire: the centre is too equal and refined for such purposes.
Whether the reception of this Comedy may be such, as shall encourage me to future efforts, is of small consequence to the public : but if it should chance to obtain some little credit
with the candid part of mankind, and its author for once es
cape without those personal and unworthy aspersions, which writers, who hide their own names, fling on them who publish theirs, my success, it may be hoped, will draw forth others to the undertaking with far superior requisites; and that there are numbers under this description, whose sensibility keeps them silent, I am well persuaded, when I consider how general it is for men of the finest parts, to be subject to the finest feelings; and I would submit, whether this unhandsome practice of abuse is not calculated to create in the minds of men of genius, not only a disinclination to engage in dramatic compositions, but a languid and unanimated manner of executing them. It will drive men from a necessary confidence in their own powers, and it will be thought convenient to get out of the torrent's way, by mooring under the lee of some great name, either French or Italian, and sitting down contented with the humble, but less exposed task of translation. Should this take place, a cold elaborate stile will prevail in our drama, clearly opposite to the national charaćter, and not at all at unison with the taste of our writers themselves. Correótness will become the chief objećt in view; by which, though much may be avoided, little will be obtained: nothing great can be accomplished on a plain; turn to Shakspere, and you find the Alps not more irregular than his genius: had the critics of his days marked his inacuracies with that illiberal spirit which seems reserved for our time, the bold and daring sallies of the sublimest muse would probably have been suppressed, and neither the great ačtor who has brought his scenes to life, nor the elegant essayist" who has defended them, would have made such display of their own genius in the celebration and protection of his.