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MADAM, AFTER having a great while wished to write something that might be worthy to lay at your Highness's feet, and finding it impossible: since the world has been so kind to me to judge of this poem my
advantage, as the most pardonable fault, which I had made in its kind, I had sinned against myself if I had not chosen this opportunity to implore (what my ambition is most fond of your favour and protection.
For though fortune would not so far bless my endeavours, as to encourage them with your Royal Highness's presence, when this came into the world; yet I cannot but declare, it was my design and hopes, it might have been your divertisement in that happy season, when you returned again, to cheer all those gyes that had before wept for
your departure, and enliven all hearts that had drooped for your
absence. When wit ought to have paid its choicest tributes in, and joy have known no limits, then I hoped my little mite would not have been rejected, though myill
fortune was too hard for me, and I lost a greater honour, by
your Royal Highness's absence, than all the applauses of the world besides can make me reparation for.
Nevertheless, I thought myself not quite unhappy, so long as I had hopes this way yet to recompense my disappointment past: when I considered also, that poetry might claim right to a little share in your favour; for Tasso, and Ariosto, some of the best, have made their names eternal, by transmitting to after ages the glory of your ancestors: and under the spreading of that shade, where two of the best have planted their laurels, how honoured should I be, who am the worst, if but a branch might grow for me?
I dare not think of offering any thing in this address, that might look like a panegyric, for fear, lest when I have done my best, the world should condemn me for saying too little, and you yourself check me for meddling with a task unfit for my talent.
For the description of virtues and perfections so rare as yours are, ought to be done by as deliberate as skilful a hand; the features must be drawn very fine, to be like; hasty daubing will but spoil the picture, and make it so unnatural, as must want false lights to set it off. And your virtue can receive no more lustre from practices, than your beauty can be improved by art; which, as it charms the bravest prince that ever amazed the world with his virtue ; so, let but
all other hearts inquire into themselves, and then judge how it ought to be praised.
Your love too, as none but that great hero who has it, could deserve it, and therefore, by a particular lot from Heaven, was destined to so extraordinary a blessing, so matchless for itself, and so wondrous for its constancy, shall be remembered to your immortal honour, when all other transactions of the age you live in shall be forgotten.
But I forget that I am to ask pardon for the fauli I have been all this while committing. Wherefore I beg your Highness to forgive me this presumption, and that you will be pleased to think well of one who cannot help resolving with all the actions of life, to endeavour to deserve it: nay more, I would beg, and hope it may be granted, that I may, through yours, never want an advocate in his favour, whose heart and mind you have so entire a share in; it is my only portion and my fortune. I cannot but be happy, so long as I have but hopes I may enjoy it; and I must be miserable, should it ever be my ill fate to lose it.
This; with eternal wishes for your Royal Highness's content, happiness, and prosperity, in all humility is presented by Your most obedient, and devoted servant,
This play stands forth to prove the predominating powers of the true poet, who from a fable improbable and badly constructed, and a set of incidents which come home to the feelings of no one, can ne.. vertheless erect a tragic structure which will please to the end of time.
OTWAY seems to have abandoned his productions, to chance, as to any good they were likely to produce from the reflected influence of character and senti ment-Every thing about him has a tinge of licentiousness—The compact enter'd into by his Twin Brothers surely never in a civilized country could occur; and, if it could, they both richly deserved to suffer from the hand of the executioner.
The conduct of this play is all in the dark-there is no light but that of the poet. The parties might say of their calamities, that they could not have happened.
“ If a rush candle e'en had deign'd to visit them.”
The excellence of OTWAY's sentiment and diction bears down every thing-He polishes exquisitely, but his materials are coarse and impure.