« AnteriorContinuar »
The EpiSTLE DEDICATORY.
To His Royal Highness
PRINCE POSTERIT Y.
of a very few leisure-hours, stolen from the short intervals of a world of business, and of an employment quite alien from such amusements as this; the poor production of that refuse of time which has lain heavy upon my hands, during a long prorogation of parliament, a great dearth of foreign news, and a tedious fit of rainy weather. For which, and other reasons, it cannot chufe extremely to deferve such a patronage as that of your Highness, whose numberless virtues, in so few years, make the world look upon you as the future example to all princes. For altho' your Highness is hardly got clear of infancy, yet has the universal learned world already resolved upon appealing to your future dictates with the lowest and most resigned submission; fate having decreed you fole arbiter of the productions of human wit, in this polite and most accomplished age. Methinks, the number of appellants were enough to shock and startle any judge of a genius less unlimited than yours.
The citation out of Irenæus in the title-page to the Tale of a Tub, &c. which seems to be all gibberish, is a form of initiation used antiently by the Marcofian heretics. W. Wotton.
It is the usual style of decried writers, to appeal to Pofterity ; who is here represented as prince in his non-age, and Time as his governor; and the author begins in a way very frequent with him, by personating other writers, who sometimes offer such reasons and excuses for publishing their works, as they ought chiefly to conceal, and be ashamed of.
But, in order to prevent such glorious trials, the person, it seems, to whose care the education of your Highness is committed, has refolved (I am told) to keep you in almost an universal ignorance of our studies, which it is your inherent birth-right to inspect.
It is amazing to me, that this person should have aflurance, in the face of the sun, to go about persuading your Highness, that our age is almost wholly illiterate, and has hardly produced one writer upon any subject. I know very well, that when your Highness shall come to riper years, and have gone through the learning of antiquity, you will be too curious to neglect inquiring into the authors of the very age
And to think that this Infolent, in the account he is preparing for your view, designs to reduce them to a number fo insignificant as I am afhamed to mention ; it moves my zeal and my fpleen for the honour and interest of our vast flourishing body, as well as of myself, for whom I know, by long experience, he has professed, and still continues a peculiar malice.
It is not unlikely, that when your Highness will one day peruse what I am now writing, you may be ready to expoftulate with your governor upon the credit of what I here affirm, and command him to shew you some of our productions. To which he will answer, (for I am well informed of his designs), by asking your Highness, Where they are ? and, What is become of them? and pretend it a demonstration that there never were any, because they are not then to be found. Not to be found! Who has mislaid them ? Are they funk in the abyss of things ? It is certain, that in their own nature they were light enough to swim upon the surface for all eternity. Therefore the fault is in him, who tied weights fo heavy to their heels, as to depress them to the centre. Is their very essence destroyed ? who has annihilated them ? were they drowned by purges, or martyred by pipes ? who administered them to the posteriors of
? But that it may no longer be a doubt with your Highness, who is to be the author of this universal ruin, I beseech you to observe that large and terrible scythe, which your governor affects to bear continually about him. Be pleased to remark the length and strength, the sharpness and hardness of his nails and teeth ; consider his baneful, abominable breath, enemy to life and matter, infectious and corrupting; and then reflect, whether it be poffible for any mortal ink and paper of this generation to make a suitable resistance.
Oh! that your Highness would one day resolve to difarm this ufurping maitre de palais * of his furious engines, and bring your empire hors de page +
It were endless to recount the several methods of tyranny and destruction which your governor is pleased to practise on this occasion. His inveterate malice is such to the writings of our age, that of several thousands produced yearly from this renowned city, before the next revolution of the sun there is not one to be heard of : Unhappy infants ! many of them barbarously destroyed, before they have so much as learned their mother tongue to beg for pity. Some he stifles in their cradles; others he frights into convulsions, whereof they suddenly die: Some he flays alive, others he tears limb from limb: Great numbers are offered to Moloch ; and the rest, tainted by his breath, die of a languishing consumption.
But the concern I have most at heart, is for our corporation of poets ; from whom I am preparing a petition to your Highness, to be fubfcribed with the names of one hundred and thirty-fix of the first rate ; but whose immortal productions are never likely to reach your eyes, though each of them is now humble, and an earnest appellant for the laurel; and has large comely volumes ready to shew for a support to his pretensions. The never dying works of these illustrious persons, your governor, Sir, has devoted to unavoidable death; and your Highness is to be made believe, that our age has never arrived at the honour to produce one fingle poet.
* Comptroller. The kingdom of France had a race of kings, which they call les roys faineans, [from their doing nothing,] who lived lazily in their apartments, while the kingdom was administered by the mayor de palais ; till Charles Martel, the last mayor, put his master to death, and took the kingdom into his own hand. Hawkes. + Out of guardianship.
We confess Immortality to be a great and powerful goddess : But in vain we offer up to her our devotions and our sacrifices, if your Highness's governor, who has usurped the priesthood, must, by an unparalelled ambition and avarice, wholly intercept and devour them.
To affirm that our age is altogether unlearned, and devoid of writers in any kind, seems to be an affertion fo bold, and so false, that I have been some time thinking, the contrary may almost be proved by uncontroulable demonstration. It is true indeed, that although their numbers be vast, and their productions numerous in proportion l; yet are they hurried so hastily off the scene, that they escape our memory, and elude our fight. When I first thought of this address, I had prepared a copious list of titles to present your Highness, as an undisputed argument for what I affirm. The originals were posted fresh upon all gates and corners of streets ; but, returning in a very
few hours to take a review, they were all torn down, and fresh ones in their places. I enquired after them among readers and bookVol. I.