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Conceited Alarms Of Dennis








John Dennis, the dramatist, had a most extravagant and enthusiastic
opinion of his tragedy of Liberty Asserted. He imagined that there
were in it some strokes on the French nation so severe, that they would
never be forgiven; and that, in consequence, Louis XIV. would never make
peace with England unless the author was given up as a sacrifice to the
national resentment. Accordingly, when the congress for the negotiation
of the Peace of Utrecht was in contemplation, the terrified Dennis waited
on the Duke of Marlborough, who had formerly been his patron, to entreat
the intercession of his Grace with the plenipotentiaries, that they
should not consent to his surrender to France being made one of the
conditions of the treaty. The Duke gravely told the dramatist that he
was sorry to be unable to do this service, as he had no influence with
the Ministry of the day; but, he added, that he thought Dennis' case
not quite desperate, for, said his Grace, "I have taken no care to get
myself excepted in the articles of peace, and yet I cannot help thinking
that I have done the French almost as much damage as Mr. Dennis himself."
At another time, when Dennis was visiting at a gentleman's house on
the Sussex coast, and was walking on the beach, he saw a vessel, as he
imagined, sailing towards him. The self-important timidity of Dennis
saw in this incident a reason for the greatest alarm for himself, and
distrust of his friend. Supposing he was betrayed, he made the best
of his way to London, without even taking leave of his host, whom he
believed to have lent himself to a plot for delivering him up as a
captive to a French vessel sent on purpose to carry him off.

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