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record of Jovius), namely, those of feeding from the prince's table, drinking out of his (nun fiaggon, becoming even his dome/tick and companion; it requires a man warm and resolute, to be able to claim and obtain the restoring of these high honours. I have cause to fear, most of the candidates would be liable, either through the influence of ministers, or for rewards or favours, to give up the glorious rights of the Laureate: Yet I am not without hopes, there is one, from whom a serious and steady assertion of these privileges may be expected; and, if there be such a one, I must do him the justice to fay, it is Mr. Dennis, the worthy president of our society.
N° 4. March 16, 1713.
Though most things which are wrong in their own nature are at once confessed and absolved in that single word, the Custom; yet there are some, which as they have a dangerous tendency, a thinking man will the less excuse on that very account. Among these I cannot but reckon the common practice of Dedications, which is of so much the worse consequence us it is generally used by people of politeness, and whom a learned education for the most part ought to have inspired with nobler and juster sentiments. This prostitution of Praise is not only a deceit upon the gross of mankind, who take their notion of characters from the Learned; but also the better fort must by this means lose some part at least of that desire of Fame which is the incentive to generous actions, when they find it promiscuously bestowed on the meritorious and undeserving. Nay, the author himself, let him be supposed to have ever so true a value for the patron, can find no terms 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 disguise or Vizor-Masque, and will appear a Cheat by being drest so like one. Though 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 sellows to flatter him, and make him as proud as they can. Supposing 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 facred part of him, his character, than to make free with his countenance only. I should think nothing justisied me in this point, but the patron's permission before-hand, that I should draw him as like as I could; whereas most authors proceed in.this affair just as a diwber I have heard of, who, not being able to draw 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 fay more to a man than one thinks, with a prospect of interest, is dishonest; and without it, soolish. 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 considering Dedications in no very common light. By observing what qualities our writers think it will be most pleasing to others to compliment them with, one may form some judgment which are most so to themselves; and, inconsequence, 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 faid at all, or how they were faid to such persons. I have known an Hero complimented upon the decent majesty and state he assumed after a victory; and a nobleman of a different character applauded for his condescension to inseriors. This would have seemed very strange to me, but that I happened to know the authors : He who made the sirst compliment was a lofty. gentleman, whose air and gait discovered when he had published a new book; and the other tippled every night with the fellows who laboured at the press while his own writings were working off. j 'Tis observable of the female poets and ladies dedicatory, that there (as elsewhere.) they far. exceed us in any strain or rant. As beauty is the thing that sex are piqued upon, they speak of it generally in a more elevated style than is. used by the men. They adore in the fame 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 expression, 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 it is 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 Dedication I happened upon this morning. The reader must understand that I treat the least instances or remains of ingenuity with respect, in what places soever found, or 'under whatever circumstances of difadvantage. 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 band-boxes. I look upon these pasteboard edisices, adorned with the fragments of the ingenious, with the fame 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 was employed no less in examining the box which contained them; it was lined with certain scenes of a tragedy, written (as appeared by 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 flourishes and foliage, wherewith the compilers of these sort 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 acceptable a sacrifice of sirst-fruits was to Hea"ven, in the earliest and purest ages of religion, that "they were honoured with solemn feasts, and conse"crated to altars by a divine command; » * * Upon *' that consideration, as an argument of particular zeal, *' I dedicate **» 'Tis impossible to behold you without "adoring; yet dazzled and awed by the glory that '' surrounds you, men feel a facred power, that refines "their flames, and renders them pure as those we "ought to offer to the Deity. *** The shrine is worthy "the divinity that inhabits it. In your Grace we see "what woman was before she fell, how nearly allied to "the purity and perfection of Angels. And we adore "and bless the glorious work!"