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TO THE GREAT
VIRTUE, THE MOST NOBLE
LORD CHAMBERLAIN, ETC.
MY LORD: While you cannot change your merit, I dare not change your title : it was that made it and not I. Under which name I here offer to your Lordship the ripest of my studies, my Epigrams; which, though they carry danger in the sound, do not therefore seek your shelter ; for, when I made them, I had nothing in my conscience to expressing of which I did need a cypher. But, if I be fallen into those times, wherein, for the likeness of vice, and facts, every one thinks another's ill deeds objected to him ; and that in their ignorant and guilty mouths, the common voice is for their security, BEWARE THE POET, confessing therein so much love to their diseases, as they would rather make a party for them, than be either rid, or told of them : I must expect, at your Lordship’s hand, the protection of truth and liberty, while you are constant to your own goodness. In thanks whereof, I return you the honor of leading forth so many good and great names (as my verses mention on the better part) to their remembrance with posterity. Amongst whom, if I have praised, unfortunately, any one that doth not deserve; or, if all answer not in all numbers the pictures I have maile of them : I hope it will be forgiven me that they are no ill pieces, though they be not like the persons. But I foresee a nearer fate to my book than this : that the vices thereia will be owned before the virtues (though there I have avoided all particulars, as I have done names) and that some will be so ready to discredit me, as they will have the impudence to belie themselves. For, if I meant them not, it is so. Nor can I hope otherwise. For why should they remit anything of their riot, their pride, their self-love, and other inherent graces, to consider truth or virtue ; but, with the trade of the world, lend their long ears against men they love not : and hold their dear mountebank, or jester, in far better condition than all the study or studiers of humanity. For such, I would rather know them by their vizards still, than they should publish their faces, at their peril, in my theatre, where Cato if he lived might enter without scandal. Your Lordship's most faithful honorer,
PRAY thee, take care, that tak’st my book in
hand, To read it well : that is, to understand.
It will be looked for, Book, when some but see
Thou that mak’st gain thy end, and wisely
well Call'st a book good, or bad, as it doth sell, Use mine so too; I give thee leave; but crave, For the luck's sake, it thus much favor have: To lie upon thy stall till it be sought; Not offered as it made suit to be bought; Nor have my title-leaf on posts or walls, Or in cleft-sticks, advanced to make calls For termers, or some clerk-like serving-man, Who scarce can spell th' hard names; whose
knight less can. If, without these vile arts, it will not sell, Send it to Bucklers-bury, there 'twill, well.
2 It was the custom to paste advertisements not only on the dead walls of the metropolis, but on the numerous posts which stood in the public places, in front of great houses; hence the term posters, which is still applied to mural advertisements ; although the special propriety of its application has long ceased. The term “Knights of the Post” has a similar origin. It appears from the passage in the text that the publishers were in the habit of announcing their new works by pasting the title-pages on walls and posts. – B.
8 Persous who resorted to London during term time, when the town was crowded, for the purposes of carrying on intrigues, or practising cheats and tricks.
4 Bucklersbury at this time was occupied by grocers and apothecaries, who were the residuary legatees of printed literature, as the trunkmakers were afterward. “And smell like Bucklersbury in sinple-time."
Merry Wives of Windsor, III. iii.