To the gentle Gentlewomen Readers
Gentle Readers, whom by my will I would have only Gentlewomen, and therefore to you I direct my words. May it please you to understand, that the great desire I have to procure your delight, hath caused me somewhat to transgress the bounds of faithful friendship: for having with great earnestness obtained of my very friend Master George Pettie the copies of certain histories by himself upon his own and certain of his friends private occasions drawn into discourses, I saw such witty & pithy pleasantness contained in them, that I thought I could not in any way do greater pleasure or better service to your noble sex then to publish them in print to your common profit & pleasure. And though I am sure hereby to incur his displeasure, for that he willed me in any wise to keep them secret: yet if it please you thankfully to accept my goodwill, I force the less of his ill will. [This is essentially the same caveat that Oxford expressed in different words in his letter to the author in the introduction to Bedingfield’s translation of Cardanus Comforte.]
For to speak my fancy without feigning, I care not to displease twenty men to please one woman, for the friendship amongst men, is to be counted but cold kindness in respect of the fervent affection between men and women: and our nature is rather to dote on women than to love men. And yet it lieth in your powers so to think of his doings, and to yield him such courteous consideration for the same, that he shall have more cause to thank me than think ill of my faithless dealing towards him. Which if your courtesies shall perform, you shall increase my duty towards you and his good will towards me; you shall make me show my will and him his skill another time to pleasure you; you shall bind both of us to remain ready at your commandments.
For mine own part, I can challenge no part of praise or thanks for this work, for that I have taken no pains therein, neither by adding argument, note or anything, but even have set them forth as they were sent me; only I have christened them with the name of a Pallace of Pleasure. [Clearly R.B. is the publisher.] I dare not compare this work with the former Pallaces of Pleasure, because comparisons are odious, and because they contain histories [stories] translated out of grave authors and learned writers, and this containeth discourses, devised by green youthful capacities and reported in a manner extempore, as I myself for diverse of them am able to testify.
I dare not commend them because I am partial; I dare dedicate them to you Gentlewomen, because you are courteous. And that you may the better understand the drift of these devises I have caused the letter also which my friend sent me with this work, to be set down to your sight. Thus commending mine own faithless enterprise and my friend’s fruitful labour and learning to your courteous protection, I wish you all beauty with bounty and comeliness with courtesy,
———————————————from my lodging in Fleetstreet.
———————————————Yours readily to command,