THe writing of Prefaces to Plays was probably invented by some very ambitious Poet, who never thought he had done enough: Per∣haps by some Ape of the French Eloquence, which uses to make a business of a Letter of gallantry, an examen of a Farce; and in short, a great pomp and osten∣tation of words on every trifle. This is certainly the ta∣lent of that Nation, and ought not to be invaded by any other. They do that out of gayety which would be an im∣position upon us.
We may satisfie our selves with surmounting them in the Scene, and safely leave them those trappings of writing, and flourishes of the Pen, with which they adorn the bor∣ders of their Plays, and which are indeed no more than good Landskips to a very indifferent Picture. I must pro∣ceed no farther in this argument, lest I run my self be∣yond my excuse for writing this. Give me leave there∣fore to tell you, Reader, that I do it not to set a value on any thing I have written in this Play, but out of grati∣tude to the memory of Sir William Davenant, who did Page [unnumbered] me the honour to joyn me with him in the alteration of it.
It was originally Shakespear's: a Poet for whom he had particularly a high veneration, and whom he first taught me to admire. The Play it self had formerly been acted with success in the Black-Fryers: and our excel∣lent Fletcher had so great a value for it, that he thought fit to make use of the same Design, not much varied, a se∣cond time. Those who have seen his Sea-Voyage, may easily discern that it was a Copy of Shakespear's Tempest: the Storm, the desart Island, and the Woman who had ne∣ver seen a Man, are all sufficient testimonies of it. But Fletcher was not the only Poet who made use of Shake∣spear's Plot: Sir John Suckling, a profess'd admirer of our Author, has follow'd his footsteps in his Goblins; his Regmella being an open imitation of Shakespear's Miranda; and his Spirits, though counterfeit, yet are copied from Ariel. But Sir William Davenant, as he was a man of quick and piercing imagination, soon found that somewhat might be added to the Design of Shakespear, of which neither Fletcher nor Suckling had ever thought: and therefore to put the last hand to it, he design'd the Counterpart to Shakespear's Plot, namely that of a Man who had never seen a Woman; that by this means those two Characters of Innocence and Love might the more il∣lustrate and commend each other. This excellent contri∣vance he was pleas'd to communicate to me, and to desire my assistance in it. I confess that from the very first moment it so pleas'd me, that I never writ any thing with more Page [unnumbered] delight. I must likewise do him that justice to acknow∣ledge, that my writing received daily his amendments, and that is the reason why it is not so faulty, as the rest which I have done without the help or correction of so judicious a friend. The Comical parts of the Saylors were also his invention, and for the most part his writing, as you will easily discover by the style. In the time I writ with him I had the opportunity to observe somewhat more neerly of him than I had formerly done, when I had only a bare acquaintance with him: I found him then of so quick a faney, that nothing was propos'd to him, on which he could not suddenly produce a thought extreamly pleasant and surprizing: and those first thoughts of his, contrary to the old Latine Proverb, were not alwaies the least happy. And as his fancy was quick, so likewise were the products of it remote and new. He borrowed not of any other; and his imaginations were such as could not easily enter into any other man. His corrections were sober and judicious: and he corrected his own writings much more severely than those of another man, bestowing twice the time and labour in polishing which he us'd in in∣vention. It had perhaps been easie enough for me to have arrogated more to my self than was my due in the writing of this Play, and to have pass'd by his name with silence in the publication of it, with the same ingratitude which o∣thers have us'd to him, whose Writings he hath not only corrected, as he has done this, but has had a greater in∣spection over them, and sometimes added whole Scenes to∣gether, which may as easily be distinguish'd from the rest, Page [unnumbered] as true Gold from counterfeit by the weight. But besides the unworthiness of the action which deterred me from it (there being nothing so base as to rob the dead of his re∣putation) I am satisfi'd I could never have receiv'd so much honour in being thought the Author of any Poem how excellent soever, as I shall from the joining my imper∣fections with the merit and name of Shakespear and Sir William Davenant.
Decemb. 1. 1669.