But Reason is always pure and chaste: and, as it resembles the sun, in making all things clear; it also resembles it, in its several positions. When it shines in full height, and directly ascendant over any subject, it leaves but little shadow: but, when descended and grown low, its oblique shining renders the shadow larger than the substance; and gives the deceived person [i.e., DRYDEN] a wrong measure of his own proportion.
Thus, begging the Reader’s excuse, for this seeming impertinency; I submit what I have written to the liberty of his unconfined opinion: which is all the favour I ask of others, to afford me.
A Defence of An Essay of Dramatic Poesy.
Being an Answer to the Preface of The great Favourite or the Duke of LERMA.
[Prefaced to the Second Edition of The Indian Emperor. 1668.]
The former Edition of the Indian Emperor, being full of faults, which had escaped the printer; I have been willing to overlook this Second with more care: and, though I could not allow myself so much time as was necessary, yet, by that little I have done, the press is freed from some gross errors which it had to answer for before.
As for the more material faults of writing, which are properly mine; though I see many of them, I want leisure to amend them. ’Tis enough for those, who make one Poem the business of their lives, to leave that correct; yet, excepting VIRGIL, I never met with any which was so, in any language.
But while I was thus employed about this impression, there came to my hands, a new printed Play, called, The great Favourite, or the Duke of LERMA. The author of which, a noble and most ingenious Person, has done me the favour to make some observations and animadversions upon my Dramatic Essay.
I must confess he might have better consulted his reputation, than by matching himself with so weak an adversary. But if his honour be diminished in the choice of his antagonist, it is sufficiently recompensed in the election of his cause: which being the weaker, in all appearance (as combating the received opinions of the best Ancient and Modern authors), will add to his glory, if he overcome; and to the opinion of his generosity, if he be vanquished, since he engages at so great odds, and so (like a Cavalier) undertakes the protection of the weaker party.
I have only to fear, on my own behalf, that so good a cause as mine, may not suffer by my ill management or weak defence; yet I cannot, in honour, but take the glove, when ’tis offered me: though I am only a Champion, by succession; and, no more able to defend the right of ARISTOTLE and HORACE, than an infant DYMOCK, to maintain the title of a King.
For my own concernment in the controversy, it is so small, that I can easily be contented to be driven from a few Notions of Dramatic Poesy, especially by one who has the reputation of understanding all things [!]: and I might justly make that excuse for my yielding to him, which the Philosopher made to the Emperor, “Why should I offer to contend with him, who is Master of more than twenty Legions of Arts and Sciences!” But I am forced to fight, and therefore it will be no shame to be overcome.