BOOK XVI. CONTAINING THE SPACE OF FIVE DAYS.
1. Chapter i. Of prologues.
I have heard of a dramatic writer who used to say, he would rather
write a play than a prologue; in like manner, I think, I can with less
pains write one of the books of this history than the prefatory
chapter to each of them.
To say the truth, I believe many a hearty curse hath been devoted on
the head of that author who first instituted the method of prefixing
to his play that portion of matter which is called the prologue; and
which at first was part of the piece itself, but of latter years hath
had usually so little connexion with the drama before which it stands,
that the prologue to one play might as well serve for any other. Those
indeed of more modern date, seem all to be written on the same three
topics, viz., an abuse of the taste of the town, a condemnation of all
contemporary authors, and an eulogium on the performance just about to
be represented. The sentiments in all these are very little varied,
nor is it possible they should; and indeed I have often wondered at
the great invention of authors, who have been capable of finding such
various phrases to express the same thing.
In like manner I apprehend, some future historian (if any one shall do
me the honour of imitating my manner) will, after much scratching his
pate, bestow some good wishes on my memory, for having first
established these several initial chapters; most of which, like modern
prologues, may as properly be prefixed to any other book in this
history as to that which they introduce, or indeed to any other
history as to this.
But however authors may suffer by either of these inventions, the
reader will find sufficient emolument in the one as the spectator hath
long found in the other.
First, it is well known that the prologue serves the critic for an
opportunity to try his faculty of hissing, and to tune his cat-call to
the best advantage; by which means, I have known those musical
instruments so well prepared, that they have been able to play in full
concert at the first rising of the curtain.