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and standard of their own. If Almanzor has failed
Most obedient servant,
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
THE EARL OF ROCHESTER.
I HUMBLY dedicate to your Lordship that poem, of which you were pleased to appear an early patron, before it was acted on the stage. I may yet go farther, with your permission, and say, that it received amendment from your noble hands, ere it was fit to be presented. You may please
This comedy was printed in the year 1673, when probably it first was represented on the stage. The Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane having been burnt down in January, 1671-2, the King's Company of Comedians, till it was re-built, were obliged to occupy another theatre; but to what theatre they removed, has not been ascertained by the stage-historians of that period. It appears, however, from a manuscript in the British Museum (MSS. Sloan. 4455, art.6) that in this distress they took possession of the old theatre in Portugal-Row, Lincoln's-Inn-Fields, which their competitors, the Duke's Company, had recently left, removing to a new play-house in Dorset
likewise to remember with how much favour to the author, and indulgence to the play, you commended it to his Majesty, then at Windsor, and by his approbation of it in writing, made way for its kind reception on the theatre. In this Dedication, therefore, I may seem to imitate a custom of the ancients, who offered to their gods the firstlings of the flock, which I think they call Ver Sacrum, because they helped them to increase. I am sure if there be any thing in this play wherein
Gardens. In our author's Miscellanies we find a “ Pro. logue spoken the first day of the King's House acting after the fire ;” but the copy among the Sloanian MSS. ascertains not only the play represented on that occasion, but the theatre where it was acted : “ A Prologue of a play, entitled WIT WITHOUT MONEY, spoken at the Duke's old Theatre, (after the King's was burnt,) by the King's Players, Feb. 26, 1671." [i. e. 1671-2.] At this theatre, therefore, MARRIAGE A.LA-MODE must have been represented; for the new house, built by the King's Company, was not opened till March 26, 1674, on which occasion also our author contributed a Prologue. La John Wilmot, the celebrated Earl of Rochester, who at this time was in the twenty-sixth year of his age, and with whom our author was now on good terms. A few years afterwards, in consequence of the publication of the ESSAY ON Satire, which was attributed to Dryden, (and probably was the joint production of him and the Earl of Mulgrave,) Lord Rochester, who together with the Duchess of Portsmouth was severely treated in that poem, is supposed to have hired ruffians to beat our author, which they did in Rose-Alley, (Dec. 18, 1679,) as he was te. turning from a coffee-house to his lodgings.
I have raised myself beyond the ordinary lowness of my comedies, I ought wholly to acknowledge it to the favour of being admitted into your Lordship's conversation. And not only I, who pretend not to this way, but the best comick writers of our age, will join with me to acknowledge, that they have copied the gallantries of courts, the delicacy of expression, and the decencies of behaviour, from your Lordship, with more success than if they had taken their models from the court of France. But this, my Lord, will be no wonder to the world, which knows the excellency of your natural parts, and those you have acquired in a noble education. That which with more reason I admire is, that being so absolute a courtier, you have not forgot either the ties of friendship or the practice of generosity. In my little experience of a court, (which I confess I desire not to improve,) I have found in it much of interest, and more of detraction ; few men there have that assurance of a friend, as not to be made ridiculous by him when they are absent. There are a middling sort of courtiers, who become happy by their want of wit ; but they supply that want by an excess of malice to those who have it. And there is no such persecution as that of fools; they can never be considerable enough to
3 To commend this dissolute nobleman for the decencies of behaviour, may seem a very uncommon stretch of flattery ; yet probably, in the ordinary intercourse of life he was perfectly well-bred and polite,
be talked of themselves, so that they are safe only in their obscurity, and grow mischievous to witty men by the great diligence of their envy, and by being always present to represent and aggravate their faults. In the mean time they are forced, when they endeavour to be pleasant, to live on the offals of their wit whom they decry; and either to quote it, which they do unwillingly, or to pass it upon others for their own. These are the men ( who make it their business to chace wit from the knowledge of princes, lest it should disgrace their ignorance; and this kind of malice your Lordship has not so much avoided as surmounted. But if by the excellent temper of a Royal Master, always more ready to hear good than ill; if by his inclination to love you, if by your own merit and address, if by the charms of your conversation, the grace of your behaviour, your knowledge of greatness and habitude in courts, you have been able to preserve yourself with honour in the midst of so dangerous a course; yet at least the remembrance of those hazards has inspired you with - pity for other men, who being of an inferior wit and quality to you, are yet persecuted for being that in little which your Lordship is in great. For the quarrel of those people extends itself to any thing of sense ; and if I may be so vain to own it amongst the rest of the poets, has sometimes reached to the very borders of it, even to me: so that if our general good fortune had not raised
e grace of red habitude with hono