chapter  52
4 Pages

George Sewell, 'A Vindication of the English Stage', 1716

I believe, Sir, that our Author, when he wrote this Parallel, had borrowed an English 'Cato' of some small Retailer of Coffee-house Criticism, who had mark'd one or two Passages in Mr. Addison's, which he had found generally commended, and passed over the numerous Beauties which strike upon Men of better Sense, and less Talk. The late Lord Dorset, (1) it is said, used to double down the the Leaves of the New-books he had which pleas'd him most, and it so fell out that a Pretender to Wit usually had the Opportunity of reviewing those his admir'd Passages when his Lordship was abroad, upon the Credit of which he passed good a while for a good Judge, and an able Critick. This great Man being informed of his Friend's Practice resolved upon a Method of putting his Judgment to a Trial, and accordingly doubled down abundance of Leaves in a very dull Book. The Retailer reads it, starts to the Coffeehouse and swells into Raptures in admiration of a Piece that was generally condemned; but being opposed in his Extasies, and convinced that he was in the wrong, he cried out in a Passion, That my L---d D---t had betrayed him out of Spite, and Dogs-ear'd the Book in the wrong Places. I apply this Story no further, than that it seems probable that the Writer took those Parts of Mr. Addison's Play which he commends upon Credit, not upon any Judgment of his own, for though they are very Beautiful in their proper Places, yet anyone of the least Taste could not have stop'd his Hand at a single Passage or two of that incomparable Tragedy. All the fine Sentiments of Liberty, the Effects of Tyranny and Ambition, and the noble Passion and Love for ones Country, which reign through the whole, are passed over in Silence. Sure Signs that the Play was Dogs-ear'd for Use.