1699 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Philips

John Philips, "Mr. John Philips's designed Dedication to his Poem called The Splendid Shilling, to William Brome, Esq. of Ewithington, in the County of Hereford" 1699 ca.; St. James's Chronicle (26 September 1775).



SIR,
It would be too tedious an Undertaking at this Time to examine the Rise and Progress of Dedications. The Use of them is certainly ancient, as appears both from Greek and Latin Authors; and we have Reason to believe that it was continued without any Interruption till the Beginning of this Century, at which Time, Mottos, Anagrams, and Frontis-pieces being introduced, Dedications were mightily discouraged, and at last abdicated. But to discover precisely when they were restored, and by whom they were first usher'd in, is a Work that far transcends my Knowledge; a Work, that can justly be expected from no other Pen but that of your operose Doctor Bentley. Let us therefore at present acquiesce in the Dubiousness of their Antiquity, and think the Authority of the past and present Times a sufficient Plea for your patronizing, and my dedicating this Poem. Especially since in this Age Dedications are not only fashionable, but almost necessary; and indeed they are now so much in Vogue, that a Book without one, is as seldom seen as a Bawdy House without a Practice of Piety, or a Poet with Money. Upon this Account, Sir, those who have no Friends, dedicate to all good Christians; some to their Booksellers; some for Want of a sublunary Patron to the Manes of a departed one. There are, that have dedicated to their Whores: God help those hen-peck'd Writers that have been forced to dedicate to their own Wives! But while I talk so much of other Mens Patrons, I have forgot my own; and seem rather to make an Essay on Dedications, than to write one. However, Sir, I presume you will pardon me for saying nothing to the Purpose. You, Sir, are a Person more tender of other Mens Reputation, than your own; and would hear every Body commended but yourself. Should I but mention your Skill in turning, and the Compassion you shew'd to my Fingers Ends when you gave me a Tobacco Stopper, you would blush and be confounded with your just Praises. How much more would you, should I tell you what a Progress you have made in that abstruse and useful Language, the Saxon? Since therefore, the Recital of your Excellencies would prove so troublesome, I shall offend your Modesty no longer. Give me Leave to speak a Word or two concerning the Poem, and I have done. This Poem, Sir, if we consider the Moral, the Newness of the Subject, the Variety of Images, and the Exactness of the Similitudes that compose it, must be allowed a Piece that was n ever equalled by the Moderns or Ancients. The Subject of the Poem, is myself, a Subject never yet handled by any Poets. How fit to be handled by all, we may learn by those few divine commendatory Verses written by the admirable Sir le Bog. Yet since I am the Subject and the Poet too, I shall say no more of it, lest I should seem vain-glorious. As for the Moral, I have took particular Care that it should lie incognito, not like the Ancients who let you know at first Sight they design something by their Verses. But here you may look a good while, and perhaps, after all, find that the Poet has no Aim or Design, which must needs be a diverting Surprize to the Reader. What shall I say of the Similes that are so full of Geography, that you must get a Welshman to understand them? That so raise our Ideas of Things they are apply'd to? that are so extraordinarily quant and well chosen, that there's nothing like them? So that I think I may, without Vanity, say "Avia Pieridum peragro loca, &c." Yet however excellent this Poem is, in the reading of it you will find a vast Difference between some Parts and others; which proceeds not from your humble Servant's Negligence, but Diet. This Poem was begun when he had little Victuals, and no Moneys, and was finished when he had the Misfortune at a virtuous Lady's House to meet with both. But I hope, in Time, Sir, when Hunger and Poverty shall once more be my Companions to make Amends for the Defaults of this Poem, by an Essay on Minced-Pyes, which shall be devoted to you with all Submission, by,
SIR, your most obliged
and humble Servant,
J. PHILIPS.