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то TYRANNICK LOVE,
OR, THE ROYAL MARTYR.
I was moved to write this play by many reasons; amongst others, the commands of some persons of honour, for whom I have a most particular respect, were daily sounding in my ears, that it would be of good example to undertake a poem of this nature. Neither were my own inclinations wanting to second their desires. I considered that pleasure was not the only end of poesy; and that even the instructions of morality were not so wholly the business of a poet, as that the precepts and examples of piety were to be omitted. For to leave that employment altogether to the clergy, were to forget that religion was first taught in verse, which the laziness or dulness of succeeding priesthood turned afterwards into prose ; * and it were also to grant, (which I never shall,) that representations of this kind may not as well be conducing to holiness as to good manners. Yet far be it from me to compare the use of dramatick poesy with that of Divinity; I only
* “ Thus foolishly, (says Dr. Johnson, observing on this passage,) could Dryden write, rather than not shew his malice to the parsons."
maintain, against the enemies of the stage, that patterns of piety, decently represented, and equally removed from the extremes of superstition and prophaneness, may be of excellent use to second the precepts of our religion. By the harmony of words we elevate the mind to a sense of devotion, as our solemn musick, which is inarticulate poesy, does in churches; and by the lively images of piety, adorned by action, through the senses allure the soul; which, while it is charmed in a silent joy of what it sees and hears, is struck at the same time with a secret veneration of things celestial, and is wound up insensibly into the practice of that which it admires. Now if, instead of this, we sometimes see on our theatres the examples of vice rewarded, or at least unpunished, yet it ought not to be an argument against the art, any more than the extravagancies and impieties of the pulpit in the late times of rebellion can be against the office and dignity of the clergy.
But many times it happens that poets are wrongfully accused, as it is my own case in this very play, where I am charged by some ignorant or malicious persons with no less crimes than prophaneness and irreligion.
The part of Maximin, against which these holy criticks so much declaim, was designed by me to set off the character of St. Catharine ; and those who have read the Roman history may easily remember, that Maximin was not only a bloody tyrant, vastus corpore, animo ferus, as Herodian
describes him, but also a persecutor of the church, against which he raised the Sixth Persecution SO that whatsoever he speaks or acts in this tragedy, is no more than a record of his life and manners; a picture, as near as I could take it, from the original. If with much pains and some success, I have drawn a deformed piece, there is as much of art, and as near an imitation of nature, in a lazar, as in a Venus. Maximin was an heathen, and what he speaks against religion, is in contempt of that which he professed. He defies the gods of Rome, which is no more than St. Catharine might with decency have done. If it be urged, that a person of such principles, who scoffs at any religion, ought not to be presented on the stage, why then are the lives and sayings of so many wicked and profane persons recorded in the Holy Scriptures ? I know it will be answered, -that a due use may be made of them; that they are remembered with a brand of infamy fixed upon them; and set as sea-marks for those who behold them to avoid. And what other use have I made of Maximin? have I proposed him as a pattern to be imitated, whom, even for his impiety to his false gods, I have so severely punished ? Nay, as if I had foreseen this objection, I purposely removed the scene of the play, which ought to have been at Alexandria in Egypt, where St. Catharine suffered, and laid it under the walls of Aquileia in Italy, where Maximin was slain; that the punishment of his crime might immediately succeed its execution.,
· This, Reader, is what I owed to my just defence, and the due reverence of that religion which I profess; to which all men, who desire to be esteemed good or honest, are obliged. I have neither leisure nor occasion to write more largely on this subject, because I am already justified by the sentence of the best and most discerning Prince in the world, by the suffrage of all unbiassed judges, and above all, by the witness of my own conscience, which abhors the thought of such a crime; to which I ask leave to add my outward conversation, which shall never be justly taxed with the note of atheism or prophaneness.
In what else concerns the play, I shall be brief. For the faults of the writing and contrivance, I leave them to the mercy of the reader; for I am as little apt to defend my own errours, as to find those of other poets. Only I observe, that the great censors of wit and poetry either produce nothing of their own, or what is more ridiculous than any thing they reprehend. Much of ill nature, and a very little judgment, go far in finding the mistakes of writers..
I pretend not that any thing of mine can be correct; this poem especially, which was contrived and written in seven weeks, though afterwards hindered by many accidents from a speedy representation, which would have been its just excuse.
Yet the scenes are every where unbroken, and the unities of place and time more exactly kept
than perhaps is requisite in a tragedy; or at least than I have since preserved them in The ConQUEST OF GRANADA.
I have not every where observed the equality of numbers in my verse; partly by reason of my haste, but more especially because I would not have my sense a slave to syllables.
It is easy to discover that I have been very bold in my alteration of the story, which of itself was too barren for a play; and that I have taken from the church two martyrs, in the persons of Porphyrius and the Empress, who suffered for the Christian faith, under the tyranny of Maximin.
I have seen a French play, called The MARTYRDOM OF ST. CATHARINE ; but those who have read it will soon clear me from stealing out of so dull an author. I have only borrowed a mistake from him, of one Maximin for another; for finding him in the French poet, called the son of a Thracian herdsman, and an Alane woman, I too easily believed him to have been the same Maximin mentioned in Herodian ; till afterwards, consulting Eusebius and Metaphrastes, I found the Frenchman had betrayed me into an errour, (when it was too late to alter it,) by mistaking that first Maximin for a second, the contemporary of Constantine the Great, and one of the usurpers of the Eastern empire.
But neither was the other name of my play more fortunate ; for as some who had heard of a tragedy of St. CATHARINE, imagined I had taken