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granted, (being such as all sound poets are presupposed to have within them,) I think all writers, of what kind soever, may infallibly judge of the frame and contexture of their works; but for the ornament of writing, (which is greater, more various and bizarre in poesy than in any other kind,) as it is properly the child of fancy, so it can receive no measure, or at least but a very imperfect one, of its own excellencies or failures, from the judgment. Self-love, which enters but rarely into the offices of the judgment, here predominates ; and fancy, if I may so speak, judging of itself, can be no more certain or demonstrative of its own effects, than two crooked lines can be the adequate measure of each other.
What I have said on this subject may perhaps give me some credit with my readers, in my opinion of this play, which I have ever valued above the rest of my follies of this kind ; yet not thereby in the least dissenting from their judgment who have concluded the writing of this to be
6 « In the Preface,”[to THE MAIDEN QUEEN,] says Dr. Johnson,“ Dryden discusses a curious question,-whether a poet can judge well of his own productions; and determines very justly, that, of the play and disposition, and all that can be reduced to principles of science, the author may depend upon his own opinion; but that, in those parts where fancy predominates, self-love may easily deceive. He might have observed, that what is good only because it pleases, cannot be pronounced good till it has been found to please."--Life of DRYDEN.
much inferior to my INDIAN EMPEROR. But the argument of that was much more noble, not having the allay of comedy to depress it; yet if this be more perfect, either in its kind, or in the general notion of a play, it is as much as I desire to have granted for the vindication of my opinion, and, what as nearly touches me, the sentence of a royal judge. Many have imagined the character of Philocles to be faulty ; some for not discovering the Queen's love, others for his joining in her restraint; but though I am not of their number, who obstinately defend what they have once said, I may with modesty take up those answers which have been made for me by my friends ; namely, that Philocles, who was but a gentleman of ordinary birth, had no reason to guess so soon at the queen's passion, she being a person so much above him, and by the suffrages of all her people already destined to Lysimantes : besides, that he was prepossessed (as the Queen somewhere hints it to him,) with another inclination, which rendered him less clear-sighted in it, since no man at the same time can distinctly view two different objects. And if this with any shew of reason may be defended, I leave my masters, the criticks, to determine, whether it be not much more conducing to the beauty of my plot, that Philocles should be long kept ignorant of the Queen's love, than that with one leap he should have entered into the knowledge of it, and thereby freed himself, to the disgust of the audience, from that pleasing
labyrinth of errours which was prepared for him. As for that other objection of his joining in the Queen's imprisonment, it is indisputably that which every man, if he examines himself, would have done on the like occasion. If they answer, that it takes from the height of his character to do it, I would enquire of my over-wise censors, who told them I intended him a perfect character? or indeed, what necessity was there he should be so, the variety of images being one great beauty of a play? It was as much as I designed, to shew one great and absolute pattern of honour in my poem, which I did in the person of the Queen; all the defects of the other parts being set to shew, the more to recommend that one character of virtue to the audience. But neither was the fault of Philocles so great, if the circumstances be considered, which, as moral philosophy assures us, make the essential differences of good and bad; he himself best explaining his own intentions in his last act, which was the restoration of his Queen ; and even before that, in the honesty of his expressions when he was unavoidably led by the impulsions of his love to do it. That which with more reason was objected as an indecorum, is the management of the last scene of the play, where Celadon and Florimel are treating too lightly of their marriage in the presence of the Queen, who likewise seems to stand idle while the great action of the drama is still depending. This I cannot otherwise defend, than by telling
you—I so designed it on purpose to make my play go off more smartly; that scene being in the opinion of the best judges the most divertising of the whole comedy. But though the artifice succeeded, I am willing to acknowledge it as a fault, since it pleased his Majesty, the best judge, to think it so.
I have only to add, that the play is founded on a story in the Cyrus, which he calls the Queen of Corinth; in whose character, as it has been affirmed to me, he represents that of the famous Christina, Queen of Sweden.--This is what I thought convenient to write by way of Preface to THE MAIDEN Queen, in the reading of which, I fear you will not meet with that satisfaction which you have had in seeing it on the stage ; the chief parts of it, both serious and comick, being performed to that height of excellence, that nothing but a command which I could not handsomely disobey, could have given me the courage to have made it publick.
OR, THE ENCHANTED ISLAND.?
The writing of Prefaces to Plays was probably invented by some very ambitious poet, who never thought he had done enough, perhaps by some ape of the French eloquence, which uses to make a business of a letter of gallantry, an examen of a farce, and, in short, a great pomp and ostentation of words on every trifle. This is certainly the talent of that nation, and ought not to be invaded by any other. They do that out of gaiety, which would be an imposition upon us.
We may satisfy ourselves with surmounting them in the scene, and safely leave thein those trappings of writing, and flourishes of the pen, with which they adorn the borders of their plays, and which are indeed no more than good land
7 This play, which has no Dedication, was not printed till 1670, but was acted at the Duke's Theatre in PortugalRow, Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, in 1668, or 1669.
8 Imposition is here used in its academical sense ;-a task prescribed.