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TO MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR.
It will be in vain to deny that I have some regard for this piece, since I dedicate it to You. Yet you may bear me witness, it was intended only to divert a few young Ladies, who have good sense and good humour enough to laugh not only at their sex's little unguarded follies, but at their own. But as it was communicated with the air of a Secret, it soon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been offered to a Bookseller, you had the good-nature, for my sake, to consent to the publication of one more correct: This I was forced to, before I had executed half my design, for the Machinery was entirely wanting to complete it.
The Machinery, Madam, is a term invented by the Critics, to signify that part which the Deities, Angels, or Demons, are made to act in a Poem: For the ancient Poets are in one respect like many modern Ladies; let an action be never so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the utmost importance. These Machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation, the Rosicrucian doctrine of Spirits.
I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a Lady; but 'tis so much the concern of a Poet to have his works understood, and particularly by your Sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or three difficult terms.
The Rosicrucians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book, called Le Comte de Gabalis, which both in its title and size is so like a Novel, that many of the Fair Sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these Gentlemen the four Elements are inhabited by Spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes or Demons of Earth delight in mischief; but the Sylphs, whose habitation is in the Air, are the best conditioned Creatures imaginable. For they say, any mortals may enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle Spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true Adepts, an inviolate preservation of Chastity.
As to the following Cantos, all the passages of them are as fabulous, as the Vision at the beginning, or the Transformation at the end; (except the loss of your Hair, which I always mention with reverence). The Human persons are as fictitious as the Airy ones; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in Beauty.
If this Poem had as many Graces as there are in your Person, or in your Mind, yet I could never
hope it should pass through the world half so uncensured as You have done. But let its fortune be what it will, mine is happy enough, to have given me this occasion of assuring you that I am, with the truest esteem,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
THIS Lady was also celebrated by Parnell in a poem not published by Pope, as follows, on her leaving London:
"From town fair Arabella flies:
The beaux unpowder'd grieve;
Her lovers swore, they must expire:
Yet soon the fair-one will return,
'Tis constancy enough in love
That nature's fairly shewn :
IF the moderns have excelled the ancients in any species of writing, it seems to be in satire; and, particularly in that kind of satire which is conveyed in the form of the epopee, a pleasing vehicle of satire, seldom, if ever, used by the ancients; for we know so little of the Margites of Homer, that it cannot well be produced as an example. As the poet disappears in this way of writing, and does not deliver the intended censure in his own proper person, the satire becomes more delicate, because more oblique. Add to this, that a tale or story more strongly engages and interests the reader, than a series of precepts or reproofs, or even of characters themselves, however lively or natural. An heroicomic poem may therefore be justly esteemed the most excellent kind of satire. The invention of it is usually ascribed to Alessandro Tassoni; who, in the year 1612, published at Paris a poem composed by him, in a few months of the year 1611, entitled, La Secchia Rapita, or The Rape of the Bucket. To avoid giving offence, it was first printed under the name of Androvini Mělisoni. It was afterwards reprinted at Venice, corrected, with the name of the author, and with some illustrations of Gasparo Salviani. But the learned and curious Crescembini, in his Istoria della Volgar Poesia, informs us, that it is doubtful whether the invention of the heroi-comic poem ought to be ascribed to Tassoni, or to Francesco Bracciolini, who wrote Lo Scherno degli Dei, which performance, though it was printed four years after La Secchia, is nevertheless declared, in an epistle prefixed, to have been written many years sooner. The real subject of Tassoni's poem was the war which the inhabitants of Modena declared against those of Bologna, on the refusal of the latter to restore to them some towns, which had been detained ever since the time of the Emperor Frederic II. The author artfully made use of a popular tradition, according to which it was believed, that a certain wooden bucket, which is kept at Modena, in the treasury of the cathedral, came from Bologna, and that it had been forcibly taken away by the Modenese. Crescembini adds, that because Tassoni had severely ridiculed the Bolognese, Bartolomeo Bocchini, to revenge his countrymen, printed, at Venice, 1641, a tragico-heroi-comic poem,