A Bookseller’s Preface to the Reader

1779

In this Age of Learning, when the Works of the Ingenious are perpetually Collected and sought after by most Curious Persons, we doubt not but the Dramatick Writings of the Famous Mr M——–, will be acceptable to all Encouragers of these Entertainments.

The PLAYS of this Gentleman have most of them pass’d the Test of the Politest Audiences with Applause, and been favourably receiv’d by the greatest Judges of Wit: The Criticks may find Fault with Some Things, but upon the whole, the Impatrial Reader will have a Pleasure, not generally to be met with in Plays that have appear’d Since the Time he wrote…

… King Edward the Third and Henry the Second, which tho’ not wholly composed by him, it is presum’d he had, at least, a Share in fitting them for the Stage, other since it cannot be supposed he would have taken the Liberty of Writing Dedications to them; which we hope is sufficient Authority for this Freedomn, not withstanding* one of them was aftearwards own’d by another Author.

* Henry II by Mr Bancroft.

 

The Phantom Translation:

The Booksellers to the Sucker

“After the success of a couple of not very good but extremely saucy plays by famous people, every Tom Dick and Harry is buying any old crap publishers care to package up and flog. We reckon we can get away with cobbling together a bunch of the barely-heard-of Mr M’s scribblings and no one will realise it’s rubbish until they’ve all bought it.

One or two of his works weren’t booed off the stage, and even though the critics hated him, the plebs all laughed at the rude bits so up yours. He’ll just about pass muster for the undiscerning, who won’t care a fig if nobody’s bothered to put the shows on since he wrote them fifty-odd years ago…

…Okay, we admit that he might have plagiarised a couple of them, but surely he must have at least shifted scenery or held a spear or something or he wouldn’t have scrawled his name on them and slipped them into the bunch of papers he sold us one night when we’d had a few too many at the tavern, so we take no responsiblity for them whatsoever. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Bancroft, you’ll not get a penny out of us.”

 

This -well, the top bit at least – ┬áis the real preface, word-for-word of a collection of plays that I’ll be talking about tomorrow – I just couldn’t let it go without comment – it’s just so, well, frank about its motives, and also, somehow, so modern. I’ve wanted to talk about this for ages, but it’s taken me a long while to track it down. More tomorrow…

 


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