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up your Lordship to defend us, I know not whether any thing had been more ridiculous in court than writers. It is to your Lordship's favour we generally owe our protection and patronage ; and to the nobleness of your nature, which will not suffer the least shadow of your wit to be contemned in other men. You have been often pleased not only to excuse my imperfections, but to vindicate what was tolerable in my writings from their censures; and, what I never can forget, you have not only been careful of my reputation, but of my fortune; you have been solicitous to supply my neglect of myself, and to overcome the fatal modesty of poets, which submits them to perpetual wants, rather than to become importunate with those people who have the liberality of Kings in their disposing ; and who, dishonouring the bounty of their master, suffer such to be in necessity, who endeavour at least to please him ; and for whose entertainment he has generously provided, if the fruits of his royal favour were not often stopped in other hands. But your Lordship has given me occasion not to complain of courts, whilst you are there. I have found the effects of your mediation in all my concernments; and they were so much the more noble in you, because they were wholly voluntary. I became your Lordship's, if I may venture on the similitude, as the world was made, without knowing him who made it ; and brought only a passive obedience to be your creature.
This nobleness of your's I think myself the rather obliged to own, because otherwise it must have been lost to all remembrance; for you are endued with that excellent quality of a frank nature, to forget the good which you have done.
But, my Lord, I ought to have considered, that you are as great a judge as you are a patron ; and that in praising you ill, I shall incur a higher note of ingratitude than that I thought to have avoided. I stand in need of all your accustomed goodness for the Dedication of this play; which, though perhaps it be the best of my comedies, is yet so faulty, that I should have feared you for my critick, if I had not with some policy given you the trouble of being my protector. Wit seems to have lodged itself more nobly in this age, than in any of the former ; and people of my mean condition are only writers, because some of the nobility, and your Lordship in the first place, are above the narrow praises which poesy could give you. But let those who love to see themselves exceeded, encourage your Lordship in so dangerous a quality; for my own part, I must confess that I have so much of self-interest, as to be content with reading some papers of your verses, without desiring you should proceed to a scene or play ; with the common prudence of those who are worsted in a duel, and declare they are satisfied when they are first wounded. Your Lordship has but another step to makę, and from the patron of wit you may
become its tyrant, and oppress our little reputations with more ease than you now protect them. But these, my Lord, are designs which I am sure you harbour not, any more than the French King is contriving the conquest of the Swissers. It is a barren triumph, which is not worth your pains, and would only rank him amongst your slaves, who is already,
OR, LOVE IN A NUNNERY.4
TO MY MOST HONOURED FRIEND,
The design of dedicating plays is as common and unjust, as that of desiring seconds in a duel. It is engaging our friends (it may be) in a senseless quarrel, where they have much to venture, without any concernment of their own. I have declared thus much beforehand, to prevent you from suspicion that I intend to interest either your judgment or your kindness in defending the errours
4 The AssignATION 'was acted at the Theatre Royal, and first printed in 1673.
s Sir Charles Sedley, whose poetry and plays were formerly much admired, but are now little read, was born about the year 1639, and bred at Wadham College, Oxford, where probably his intimacy with Lord Rochester commenced. In 1678, and several subsequent parliaments, he was Member for New Romney in Kent, which he represented in the year 1700, when he died. Jacob, and other biographers, have erroneously asserted that he lived to ninety years of age.