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of you, that you too soon withdraw from us à contentment, of which we expected the continuance, because you gave it us so early. It is a revolt, without occasion, from your party, where your merits had already raised you to the highest commands, and where you have not the excuse of other men, that you have been ill used, and therefore laid down arms. I know no other quarrel you can have to verse, than that which Spurina’ had to his beauty, when he tore and mangled the features of his face, only because they pleased too well the sight. It was an honour which seemed to wait for you, to lead out a new colony of writers from the mother nation : and upon the first spreading of your ensigns, there had been many in a readiness to have followed so fortunate a leader; if not all, yet the better part of poets : - pars, indocili melior grege; mollis et exspes

Inominata perprimat cubilia. I am almost of opinion, that we should force you to accept of the command, as sometimes the Prætorian bands have compelled their captains to receive the empire. The court, which is the best and surest judge of writing, has generally allowed of verse ; and in the town it has found favourers of wit and quality. As for your own particular, my lord, you have yet youth, s and time enough to

3 See Valerius Maximus, l. iv. c. 5. 4 To allow in the last age signified to approve. s Lord Buckhurst was at this time just thirty years old. give part of them to the divertisement of the publick, before you enter into the serious and more unpleasant business of the world. That which the French poet said of the temple of Love, may be as well applied to the temple of the Muses. The words, as near as I can remember them, were these :

Le jeune homme à mauvaise grace,

N'ayant pas adoré dans le Temple d'Amour ; . Il faut qu'il entre; et pour le sage ... Si ce n'est pas son vrai sejour, ! 7. C'est un gite sur son passage. • I leave the words to work their effect upon your lordship in their own language, because no other can so well express the nobleness of the thought; and wish you may be soon called to bear a part in the affairs of the nation, where I know the world expects you, and wonders why you have been so long forgotten ; there being no person amongst our young nobility, on whom the eyes of all men are so much bent. But in the mean time, your lordship may imitate the course of Nature, who gives us the flower before the fruit: that I may speak to you in the language of the muses, which I have taken from an excellent poem to the king :

As Nature, when she fruit designs, thinks fit
By beauteous blossoms to proceed to it;
And while she does accomplish all the spring,
Birds to her secret operations sing. *

* These lines are found in a poem by Sir William D'Avenant, printed in 4to. in 1663, and republished in his works, folio, 1673, p. 268.

I confess I have no greater reason, in addressing this Essay to your lordship, than that it might awakeh in you the desire of writing something, in whatever kind it be, which might be an honour to our age and country. And methinks it might have the same effect on you, which Homer tells us the fight of the Greeks and Trojans before the fleet, had on the spirit of Achilles; who, though he had resolved not to engage, yet found a martial warmth to steal upon him at the sight of blows, the sound of trumpets, and the cries of fighting men.

For my own part, if, in treating of this subject, I sometimes dissent from the opinion of better wits, I declare it is not so much to combat their opinions, as to defend my own, which were first made publick. Sometimes, like a scholar in a fencingschool, I put forth myself, and shew my own ill play, on purpose to be better taught. Sometimes I stand desperately to my arms, like the foot when deserted by their horse; not in hope to overcome, but only to yield on more honourable terms. And yet, my lord, this war of opinions, you well know, has fallen out among the writers of all ages, and sometimes betwixt friends. Only it has been prosecuted by some, like pedants, with violence of words, and managed by others like gentlemen, with candour and civility. Even Tully had a controversy with his dear Atticus; and in one of his

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Dialogues, makes him sustain the part of an enemy in philosophy, who, in his letters, is his confident of state, and made privy to the most weighty affairs of the Roman senate. And the same respect which was paid by Tully to Atticus, we find returned to him afterwards by Cæsar on a like occasion, who answering his book in praise of Cato, made it not so much his business to condemn Cato, as to praise Cicero.

But that I may decline some part of the encounter with my adversaries, whom I am neither willing to combat, nor well able to resist ; I will give your lordship the relation of a dispute betwixt some of our wits on the same subject, in which they did not only speak of plays in verse, but mingled, in the freedom of discourse, some things of the ancient, many of the modern, ways of writing; comparing those with these, and the wits of our nation with those of others : it is true, they differed in their opinions, as it is probable they would : neither do I take upon me to reconcile, but to relate them; and that as Tacitus professes of himself, sine studio partium, aut irâ, without passion or interest; leaving your lordship to decide it in favour of which part you shall judge most reasonable, and withal, to pardon the many errors of

Your Lordship’s

Most obedient humble servant,

JOHN DRYDEN.

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