Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
 
An Apology for The Duke of Guise
By John Dryden (1631–1700)
 
From Dedication of The Duke of Guise

To the Right Honourable, LAWRENCE, EARL OF ROCHESTER, etc.
    My Lord—The authors of this poem present it humbly to your lordship’s patronage, if you shall think it worthy of that honour. It has already been a confessor, and was almost made a martyr for the royal cause; but having stood two trials from its enemies, one before it was acted, another in the representation, and having been in both acquitted, it is now to stand the public censure in the reading; where since of necessity it must have the same enemies, we hope it may also find the same friends; and therein we are secure, not only of the greater number, but of the more honest and loyal party. We only expected bare justice in the permission to have it acted; and that we had, after a severe and long examination from an upright and knowing judge, who, having heard both sides and examined the merits of the cause, in a strict perusal of the play, gave sentence for us, that it was neither a libel, nor a parallel of particular persons. In the representation itself, it was persecuted with so notorious malice by one side, that it procured us the partiality of the other; so that the favour more than recompensed the prejudice. And it is happier to have been saved (if so we were) by the indulgence of our good and faithful fellow-subjects, than by our own deserts; because thereby the weakness of the faction is discovered, which, in us, at that time attacked the government and stood combined, like the members of the rebellious league, against the lawful sovereign authority. To what topic will they have recourse, when they are manifestly beaten from their chief post, which has always been popularity and majority of voices? They will tell us, that the voices of a people are not to be gathered in a playhouse; and yet, even there, the enemies as well as friends, have a free admission; but while our argument was serviceable to their interests, they could boast that the theatres were true Protestant; and came insulting to the plays, when their own triumphs were represented. But let them now assure themselves that they can make the major part of no assembly, except it be of a meeting-house. Their tide of popularity is spent; and the natural current of obedience is, in spite of them, at last prevalent. In which, my Lord, after the merciful providence of God, the unshaken resolution, and prudent carriage of the King, and the inviolable duty, and manifest innocence of his Royal Highness, the prudent management of the ministers is also most conspicuous. I am not particular in this commendation, because I am unwilling to raise envy to your lordship, who are too just, not to desire that praise should be communicated to others, which was the common endeavour and co-operation of all. It is enough, my lord, that your own part was neither obscure in it nor unhazardous. And if ever this excellent government, so well established by the wisdom of our forefathers, and so much shaken by the folly of this age, shall recover its ancient splendour, posterity cannot be so ungrateful as to forget those who, in the worst of times, have stood undaunted by their king and country, and, for the safeguard of both, have exposed themselves to the malice of false patriots, and the madness of an headstrong rabble. But since this glorious work is yet unfinished, and though we have reason to hope well of the success, yet the event depends on the unsearchable providence of Almighty God; it is no time to raise trophies, while the victory is in dispute; but every man, by your example, to contribute what is in his power to maintain so just a cause, on which depends the future settlement and prosperity of three nations. The pilot’s prayer to Neptune was not amiss in the middle of the storm: “Thou mayest do with me, O Neptune, what thou pleasest, but I will be sure to hold fast the rudder.” We are to trust firmly in the Deity, but so as not to forget, that he commonly works by second causes, and admits of our endeavours with his concurrence. For our own parts we are sensible, as we ought, how little we can contribute with our weak assistance. The most we can boast of is, that we are not so inconsiderable as to want enemies, whom we have raised to ourselves on no other account than that we are not of their number; and since that is their quarrel, they shall have daily occasion to hate us more. It is not, my lord, that any man delights to see himself pasquined 1 and affronted by their inveterate scribblers; but, on the other side, it ought to be our glory, that themselves believe not of us what they write. Reasonable men are well satisfied for whose sakes the venom of their party is shed on us; because they see, that at the same time our adversaries spare not those to whom they owe allegiance and veneration. Their despair has pushed them to break those bonds; and it is observable that the lower they are driven, the more violently they write; as Lucifer and his companions were only proud when angels, but grew malicious when devils. Let them rail, since it is the only solace of their miseries, and the only revenge which, we hope, they now can take. The greatest and the best of men are above their reach; and, for our meanness, though they assault us like footpads in the dark, their blows have done us little harm; we yet live to justify ourselves in open day, to vindicate our loyalty to the government, and to assure your lordship, with all submission and sincerity, that we are your lordship’s most obedient, faithful servants,
JOHN DRYDEN.    
NAT. LEE.        
  1
 
Note 1. pasquined = turned to ridicule. [back]
 
 
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