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Eighth, when no less a revolution happened in the lesser than in the greater empire, for the literary government became absolute, together with the political, in the hands of one and the same monarch, who was himself a writer, and dictated, not only law, but common sense too, to all his people, suffering no one to write or speak but according to his will and pleasure.

After this king's demise the literary commonwealth was again separated from the political, for I do not find that his successor on the greater throne succeeded him likewise in the lesser. Nor did either of the two queens, as I can learn, pretend to any authority in this empire, in which the Salique law hath universally prevailed, for though there have been some considerable subjects of the female sex in the literary commonwealth, I never remember to have read of a queen.

It is not easy to say with any great exactness what form of government was preserved in this commonwealth during the reigns of Edward VI., Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth, for though there were some great men in those times, none of them seem to have affected the throne of wit; nay, Shakespeare, who flourished in the latter end of the last reign, and who seemed so justly qualified to enjoy this crown, never thought of challenging it.

In the reign of James I. the literary government was an aristocracy, for I do not choose to give it the evil name of oligarchy, though it consisted only of four, namely, Master William Shakespeare, Master Benjamin Jonson, Master John Fletcher, and Master Francis Beaumont. This quadrumvirate, as they introduced a new form of government, thought proper, according to Machiavel's advice, to introduce new names; they therefore called themselves The Wits, a name which hath been affected since by the reigning monarchs in this empire.

The last of this quadrumvirate enjoyed the government

alone during his life; after which the troubles that shortly after ensued involved this lesser commonwealth in all the confusion and ruin of the greater, nor can anything be found of it with sufficient certainty till the Wits, in the reign of Charles II., after many struggles among themselves for superiority, at last agreed to elect John Dryden to be their king.

This King John had a very long reign, though a very unquiet one; for there were several pretenders to the throne of wit in his time, who formed very considerable parties against him, and gave him great uneasiness, of which his successor hath made mention in the following lines:

Pride, folly, malice, against Dryden rose,

In various shapes of parsons, critics, beaux.1 Besides which, his finances were in such disorder, that it is affirmed his treasury was more than once entirely empty.

He died, nevertheless, in a good old age, possessed of the kingdom of Wit, and was succeeded by King Alexander, surnamed Pope.

This prince enjoyed the crown many years, and is thought to have stretched the prerogative much farther than his predecessor; he is said to have been extremely jealous of the affections of his subjects, and to have employed various spies, by whom if he was informed of the least suggestion against his title, he never failed of branding the accused person with the word dunce on his forehead in broad letters; after which the unhappy culprit was obliged to lay by his pen for ever, for no bookseller would venture to print a word that he wrote.

He did indeed put a total restraint on the liberty of the press; for no person durst read anything which was writ without his license and approbation; and this license he

1 Pope's Essay on Criticism, 1. 458.

granted only to four during his reign, namely, to the celebrated Dr. Swift, to the ingenious Dr. Young, to Dr. Arbuthnot, and to one Mr. Gay, four of his principal courtiers and favourites.

But without diving any deeper into his character, we must allow that King Alexander had great merit as a writer, and his title to the kingdom of Wit was better founded at least than his enemies have pretended.

After the demise of King Alexander, the literary state relapsed again into democracy, or rather, indeed, into downright anarchy; of which, as well as of the consequences, I shall treat in a future paper.




It matters not how false or forc'd,
So the best things be said o' th' worst,
It goes for nothing when 'tis said,
Only the arrow's drawn to th' head,
Whether it be a swan or goose
They level at: so shepherds use
To set the same mark on the hip
Both of their sound and rotten sheep.

-Hudibras, Pt. II. Canto i., 627.


THOUGH most things which are wrong in their own

nature are at once confessed and absolved in that single word 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, as it is generally used by the people of politeness, and whom a learned education for the most part ought to have inspired with nobler

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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 sort 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-mask, and will appear a cheat by being dressed 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. As they hired people to rail at him in that circumstance to make him as humble as they could, we have fellows to flatter him, and make him as proud as they can. Supposing the writer not to be mercenary, yet the great man is not more in reason obliged to thank him for his picture in a dedication, than to thank a painter for that on a sign - post; except it be a less injury to touch the most sacred part of him, his character, than to make free with his countenance only. I should think nothing justified me in this point but the patron's permission beforehand, that I should draw him as like as I could; whereas most authors proceed in this affair just as a dauber 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 say more to a man than one thinks, with a prospect of interest, is dishonest; and without it, foolish. 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 in consequence, what sort of people they are. Without this view one can read very few dedications but will give us cause to wonder how such things came to be said at all, or how they were said to such persons? I have known a hero complimented upon the decent majesty and state he assumed after victory, and a nobleman of a different character applauded for his condescension to inferiors. This would have seemed very strange to me, but that I happened to know the authors. He who made the first 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. It is observable of the female poets, and ladies dedicatory, that here (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 same 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 critics 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

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