« AnteriorContinuar »
to express it, but what have been already used, and rendered suspected by flatterers. Even Truth itself in a Dedication is like an honest man in a difguife or Vizor-Masque, and will appear a Cheat by being drest so like one. Tho’the merit of the person is beyond dispute, I see no reason, that because one man is eminent, therefore another has a right to be impertinent, and throw praises in his face. 'Tis just the reverse of the practice of the ancient Romans, when a person was advanced to triumph for his services: they hired people to rail at him in that Circumstance, to make him as humble as they could; and we have fellows to flatter him, and make him as proud as they can. Suppoling the writer not to be mercenary, yet the great man is no more in reason obliged to thank him for his picture in a Dedication, than to thank the painter for that on a sign-post; except it be a less injury to touch the most sacred part of him, his character, than to make free with his countenance only. I should think nothing justified me in this point, but the patron's permission beforehand, that I should draw him as like as I could ; whereas most authors proceed in this affair just as a dawber I have heard of, who, not being able to drąw portraits after the life, was used to paint faces at random, and look out afterwards for people whom he might persuade to be like them. To express my notion of the thing in a word : to say more to a man than one thinks, with a prospect of interest, is dishoneft; and without it, foolith. And whoever has had success in such an undertaking, must of necessity at once think himself in his heart a knave for having done it, and his patron a fool for having believed it.
I have sometimes been entertained with confi. dering Dedications in no very common light. By observing what qualities our writers think it wij be most pleasing to others to compliment them with, one may form fome judgment which are most so to themselves; and, in consequence, what sort of people they are. Without this view one can read very few Dedications, but will give us cause to wonder, either how such things came to be said at all, or how they were said to such perfons. I have known an Hero complimented upon the decent majesty and state he assumed after 2 victory; and a nobleman of a different character applauded for his condefcenfion to inferiors. This would have seemed very strange to me but that I happened to know the authors : He who made the first compliment was a lofty gentleman, where air and gait discovered when he had publithed a new book; and the other tippled every night with the felows who laboured at the press while his cwn writings were working off. 'Tis observable a the female poets and ladies dedicatory, that tu (a.clfew here) they far exceed us in any strain 1:14. As beauty is the thing that fex are pisud ren, they speak of it generally in a more cleated
style than is used by the men. They adore in the same manner as they would be adored. So when the authoress of a famous modern romance begs a young Nobleman's permission to pay him her kneeling adorations, I am far from censuring the expreffion, as some Criticks would do, as deficient in grammar or sense ; but I reflect, that adorations paid in that posture are what a lady might expect herself, and my wonder immediately ceases. These, when they flatter most, do but as they would be done unto; for as none are so much concerned at being injured by calumnies, as they who are readiest to cast them upon their neighbours ; so, 'tis certain none are so guilty of flattery to others, as those who most ardently desire it themselves.
What led me into these thoughts, was a Dedi. cation I happened upon, this morning. The reader must understand that I treat the least instances or remains of ingenuity with respect, in what places foever found, or under whatever circumstances of disadvantage. From this love to letters I have been so happy in my searches after knowledge, that I have found unvalued repositories of learning in the lining of bandboxes. I look upon these pasteboard edifices, adorned with the fragments of the ingenious, with the same veneration as antiquaries upon ruined buildings, whose walls preserve divers inscriptions and names, which are no where else to be found in the world. This morning, when one of Lady Lizard's daughters was looking over some hoods and ribbands, brought by her tirewoman, with great care and diligence, I employed no less in examining the box which contained them; it was lined with certain scenes of a tragedy, written (as appeared hy a part of the title there extant) by one of the fair sex. What was most legible was the Dedication; which, by reason of the largeness of the characters, was least defaced by those Gothic ornaments of Aourishes and foliage, wherewith the compilers of these fort of structures do often industriously obscure the works of the learned. As much of it as I could read with any ease, I shall communicate to the reader, as follows. ***« Though it is a kind of “ prophanation to approach your Grace with so “ poor an offering, yet when I reflect how accept" able a sacrifice of first fruits was to Heaven, in the “ earliest and purest ages of religion, that they “ were honour'd with solemn feasts, and conse« crated to altars by a Divine command ;*** Upon “ that confideration, as an argument of particular “ zeal, I dedicate *** 'Tis impossible to behold “ you without adoring ; yet dazzled and aw'd by “ the glory that surrounds you, men feel a sacred “ power, that refines their fames, and renders « them pure as those we ought to offer to the " Deity. **** The Thrine is worthy the divinity " that inhabits it. In your Grace we see what " woman was before the fell, how nearly allied
« to the purity and perfection of Angels. And < we adore and bless the glorious work!"
Undoubtedly these, and other periods of this most pious Dedication, could not but convince the Duchess of what the eloquent authoress assures her at the end, that she was her fervant with most ardent devotion. I think this a pattern of a new fort of style, not yet taken notice of by the Criticks, which is above the sublime, and may be called the celestial ; that is, when the most facred praises appropriated to the honour of the deity, are applied to a mortal of good quality. As I am naturally emulous, I cannot but endeavour, in imitation of this Lady, to be the inventor, or, at least, the first producer of a new kind of Dedication, very different from hers and most others, since it has not a word but what the author religiously thinks in it. It may serve for almost any book either Prose or Verse, that has, is, or shall be published ; and might run in this manner.
The AUTHOR to Himself.
1 fo properly belong to none as to you : first, that it was your most earnest desire alone that could prevail upon me to make them publick ; then, as I am secure (from that constant indulgence you have ever shown to all which is mine)