Thursday, August 03, 2006

this is dedicated ...

A while ago I wrote about George Hanger, Lord Coleraine, an English eccentric. He had an interesting life, which is pretty well documented in wikipedia and a bunch of other sources and he wrote some interesting books.

A plain speaker and a conversationalist who liked a good joke, he made one of the most interesting dedications of his or any time. Wikipedia explains the usual function of dedications in his time. This one is from a book entitled Colonel George Hanger, to all sportsmen, and particularly to farmers, and gamekeepers (London, printed for the author: sold by J. J. Stockdale, 1814.)
Coleraine, George Hanger, 4th baron, 1751-1824.




I HAVE frequently read dedications of books, to persons of distinction, attributing almost every virtue, in nature, to them; and, after the most diligent search to discover where those virtues existed, I could find them no where but in the dedication. Indeed, many such persons, in my opinion, greatly resemble large china jars, in old family houses, which have outwardly a noble and handsome appearance, but, when you look into them, you will find nothing but dust and cobwebs.

I shall attribute three merits to you, which the whole world are acquainted with; passing over those others, which have so firmly attached so many friends to you. First, sir, your conduct in the Senate of the Nation, for so many years, has incontestably proved you to be a true patriot, zealously attached to the liberties and interests of your fellow-subjects. Secondly, sir, you have been a most laudable agriculturist, expending tens of thousands of pounds, experimentally, for the universal benefit of mankind. Thirdly, sir, you are a good sportsman, and a liberal one.

I do not attribute this last quality to you for that unbounded kindness you have favored me with, by permitting me to shoot over three whole parishes, all your own lands; but from your well-known liberality to many others. There is, in truth a very great difference in the conduct of landholders; for there are many who would as soon lend their wives for a day, as their manors. Your kindness, sir, and that of several, others in Norfolk and Suffolk, places me beyond the disagreeable predicament of receiving a refusal on application to them.

That you may live many years to continue that liberal and sumptuous hospitality, which have so much distinguished Holkham Hall, since it has been your country residence, and that you may enjoy every happiness in this world, is the sincere wish of
Sir, your most respectful, Most devoted,
And grateful humble servant, GEORGE HANGER.

London, April 4, 1814.

For contrast, here's a long-winded and much more traditional one, from Dryden's The Indian Emperor
Dedication to Dryden's The Indian Emperor



Dum relego, scripsisse pudet, quia plurima cerno,
Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna limi. OVID.


May it please Your Grace, The favour which heroic plays have lately found upon our theatres, has been wholly derived to them from the countenance and approbation they have received at court. The most eminent persons for wit and honour in the royal circle having so far owned them, that they have judged no way so fit as verse to entertain a noble audience, or to express a noble passion; and among the rest which have been written in this kind, they have been so indulgent to this poem, as to allow it no inconsiderable place. Since, therefore, to the court I owe its fortune on the stage; so, being now more publicly exposed in print, I humbly recommend it to your grace's protection, who by all knowing persons are esteemed a principal ornament of the court. But though the rank which you hold in the royal family might direct the eyes of a poet to you, yet your beauty and goodness detain and fix them. High objects, it is true, attract the sight; but it looks up with pain on craggy rocks and barren mountains, and continues not intent on any object, which is wanting in shades and greens to entertain it. Beauty, in courts, is so necessary to the young, that those, who are without it, seem to be there to no other purpose than to wait on the triumphs of the fair; to attend their motions in obscurity, as the moon and stars do the sun by day; or, at best, to be the refuge of those hearts which others have despised; and, by the unworthiness of both, to give and take a miserable comfort. But as needful as beauty is, virtue and honour are yet more: The reign of it without their support is unsafe and short, like that of tyrants. Every sun which looks on beauty wastes it; and, when it once is decaying, the repairs of art are of as short continuance, as the after-spring, when the sun is going further off. This, madam, is its ordinary fate; but yours, which is accompanied by virtue, is not subject to that common destiny. Your grace has not only a long time of youth in which to flourish, but you have likewise found the way, by an untainted preservation of your honour, to make that perishable good more lasting: And if beauty, like wines, could be preserved, by being mixed and embodied with others of their own natures, then your grace's would be immortal, since no part of Europe can afford a parallel to your noble lord in masculine beauty, and in goodliness of shape. To receive the blessings and prayers of mankind, you need only to be seen together: We are ready to conclude, that you are a pair of angels sent below to make virtue amiable in your persons, or to sit to poets when they would pleasantly instruct the age, by drawing goodness in the most perfect and alluring shape of nature. But though beauty be the theme on which poets love to dwell, I must be forced to quit it as a private praise, since you have deserved those which are more public: For goodness and humanity, which shine in you, are virtues which concern mankind; and, by a certain kind of interest, all people agree in their commendation, because the profit of them may extend to many. It is so much your inclination to do good, that you stay not to be asked; which is an approach so nigh the Deity, that human nature is not capable of a nearer. It is my happiness, that I can testify this virtue of your grace's by my own experience; since I have so great an aversion from soliciting court-favours, that I am ready to look on those as very bold, who dare grow rich there without desert. But I beg your grace's pardon for assuming this virtue of modesty to myself, which the sequel of this discourse will no way justify: For in this address I have already quitted the character of a modest man, by presenting you this poem as an acknowledgment, which stands in need of your protection; and which ought no more to be esteemed a present, than it is accounted bounty in the poor, when they bestow a child on some wealthy friend, who will better breed it up. Offsprings of this nature are like to be so numerous with me, that I must be forced to send some of them abroad; only this is like to be more fortunate than his brothers, because I have landed him on a hospitable shore. Under your patronage Montezuma hopes he is more safe than in his native Indies; and therefore comes to throw himself at your grace's feet, paying that homage to your beauty, which he refused to the violence of his conquerors. He begs only, that when he shall relate his sufferings, you will consider him as an Indian Prince, and not expect any other eloquence from his simplicity, than what his griefs have furnished him withal. His story is, perhaps, the greatest which was ever represented in a poem of this nature; the action of it including the discovery and conquest of a new world. In it I have neither wholly followed the truth of the history, nor altogether left it; but have taken all the liberty of a poet, to add, alter, or diminish, as I thought might best conduce to the beautifying of my work: it being not the business of a poet to represent historical truth, but probability. But I am not to make the justification of this poem, which I wholly leave to your grace's mercy. It is an irregular piece, if compared with many of Corneille's, and, if I may make a judgment of it, written with more flame than art; in which it represents the mind and intentions of the author, who is with much more zeal and integrity, than design and artifice,

Your Grace's most obedient,
And most obliged servant,
October_ 12. 1667.
As addendum, here is Sir Walter Scott's take on the Dryden dedication:
Anne Scott, duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, was the last scion of a race of warriors, more remarkable for their exploits in the field, than their address in courts, or protection of literature. She was the heiress of the Scotts, barons and earls of Buccleuch; and became countess, in her own right, upon the death of her elder sister, lady Mary, who married the unfortunate Walter Scott, earl of Tarras, and died without issue in 1662. In 1665, Anne, countess of Buccleuch, married James Fitzroy, duke of Monmouth, eldest natural son of Charles II. They were afterwards created duke and duchess of Buccleuch. She was an accomplished and high-spirited lady, distinguished for her unblemished conduct in a profligate court. It was her patronage which first established Dryden's popularity; a circumstance too honourable to her memory to be here suppressed.

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