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record of Jovius), namely, thofe of feeding from the prince's table, drinking out of his own flaggon, becoming even his domestick and companion; it requires a man warm and refolute, 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 minifters, 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 fteady affertion of thefe privileges may be expected; and, if there be fuch a one, I must do him the juftice to fay, it is Mr. DENNIS, the worthy prefident of our fociety.
March 16, 1713.
HOUGH most things which are wrong in their nature are
that fingle word, the Cuftom; yet there are some, which as they have a dangerous tendency, a thinking man will the less excufe on that very account. Among these I cannot but reckon the common practice of Dedications, which is of fo much the worfe confequence as it is generally used by people of politeness, and whom a learned education for the most part ought to have inspired with nobler and jufter fentiments. This prostitution of Praife is not only a deceit upon the grofs of mankind, who take their notion of characters from the Learned; but also the better fort muft by this means lofe fome part at least of that defire of Fame which is the incentive to generous actions, when they find it promiscuously bestowed on the meritorious and undeferving. Nay, the author himself, let him be fuppofed 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 fufpected by flatterers. Even truth itself in a Dedication is like an honeft man in a disguise or Vizor-Mafque, and will appear a Cheat by being drest fo like one. Though the merit of the perfon is beyond difpute, I fee no reason, that, because one man is eminent, therefore another has a right to be impertinent, and throw praises in his face. "Tis juft the revcrfe of the practice of the ancient Romans, when a person was
advanced to triumph for his fervices: they hired people to rail at him in that Circumftance, to make him as humble as they could; and we have fellows to flatter him, and make him as proud as they can. Suppofing the writer not to be mercenary, yet the great man is no more in reafon obliged to thank him for his picture in a Dedication, than to thank the painter for that on a fign-poft; except it be a lefs injury to touch the most facred part of him, his character, than to make free with his countenance only. I fhould think nothing juftified me in this point, but the patron's permiffion before-hand, that I fhould 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 draw portraits after the life, was used to paint faces at random, and look out afterwards for people whom he might perfuade to be like them. To exprefs my notion of the thing in a word: to fay more to a man than one thinks, with a profpect of intereft, is dishonest ; and without it, foolish. And whoever has had fuccefs in fuch an undertaking, muft of neceflity at once think himself in his heart a knave for having done it, and his patron a fool for having believed it.
I have fometimes been entertained with confidering Dedications in no very common light. By obferving what qualities our writers think it will be most pleasing to others to compliment them with, one may form some judgment which are moft fo to themfelves; and, in confequence, what fort of people they are. Without this view one can read very few Dedications, but will give us caufe to wonder, either how fuch things came to be faid at all, or how they were faid to fuch perfons. I have known an Hero complimented upon the decent majefty and ftate he affumed after a victory; and a nobleman of a different character applauded for his
condefcenfion to inferiors. This would have feemed very ftrange to me, but that I happened to know the authors: He who made the first compliment was a lofty gentleman, whofe air and gait discovered when he had published a new book; and the other tippled every night with the fellows who laboured at the prefs while his own writings were working off. 'Tis obfervable 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 fex are piqued upon, they speak of it generally in a more elevated ftyle than is ufed by the men. They adore in the fame manner as they would be adored. So when the authorefs of a famous modern romance begs a young Nobleman's permiffion to pay him her kneeling adorations, I am far from cenfuring the expreffion, as fome Criticks would do, as deficient in grammar or fenfe; but I reflect, that adorations paid in that posture are what a lady might expect herself, and my wonder immediately ceafes. These, when they flatter moft, do but as they would be done unto; for as none are fo much concerned at being injured by calumnies, as they who are readieft to caft them upon their neighbours; fo it is certain none are fo guilty of flattery to others, as thofe who moft ardently defire it themselves.
What led me into thefe thoughts, was a Dedication I happened upon this morning. The reader must understand that I treat the leaft inftances or remains of ingenuity with refpect, in what places foever found, or under whatever circumftances of difadvantage. From this love to letters I have been fo happy in my fearches after knowledge, that I have found unvalued repofitories of learning in the lining of band-boxes. I look upon these pasteboard edifices, adorned with the fragments of the ingenious, with the fame veneration as
antiquaries upon ruined buildings, whose walls preferve divers infcriptions 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 fome hoods and ribbands, brought by her tirewoman, with great care and diligence, I was employed no lefs in examining the box which contained them; it was lined with certain fcenes of a tragedy, written (as appeared by a part of the title there extant) by one of the fair fex. What was most legible was the Dedication; which, by reafon of the largenefs of the characters, was least defaced by thofe Gothic ornaments of flourishes and foliage, wherewith the compilers of these sort of structures do often induftriously obfcure the works of the learned. As much of it as I could read with any eafe, I shall communicate to the reader, as follows: *** ** Though
it is a kind of prophanation to approach your "Grace with fo poor an offering, yet when I reflect "how acceptable a facrifice of first-fruits was to Heaven, in the earliest and pureft ages of religion, that they were honoured with folemn feasts, and confe"crated to altars by a divine command; *** Upon "that confideration, as an argument of particular zeal, I dedicate *** 'Tis impoffible to behold you without adoring; yet dazzled and awed by the glory that "furrounds 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 fee "what woman was before she fell, how nearly allied to "the purity and perfection of Angels. And we adore " and bless the glorious work !"
Undoubtedly thefe, and other periods of this mol pious Dedication, could not but convince the Duchess