The modish wife, a comedy: performed with uninfluenced applause at the Theatre-Royal, Haymarket. To which is prefixed a summary view of the stage, as it has been, is, and ought to be. With biographical anecdotes of Messrs. Mossop, Dexter, Derrick, and the author, ...
THE utility and dignity of the Stage, when properly conducted, has never been diſputed in any age or nation, by men of liberal ſentiments in church or ſtate; ſome exclamatory blaſts of enthuſiaſm have indeed, at different times, made virulent, yet feeble attacks, ſome faint remains of theſe now and then iſſue officially from Tottenham-court-road and Moorfields inſtructors; but even they only utter invectives to preſerve cuſtom and affected ſanctity, while their hearers, as well as themſelves, laugh at the unneceſſary frivolous deluſion: the ſtage ſhould not complain of this abuſe, as every inſtitution may be, and certainly is, miſconducted as well as miſrepreſented; indeed as to the ſcandalous, irrational, and moſt illiberal Roman act, adopted ridiculouſly by our legiſlature, which ſtigmatizes performers, while not only the matter and manner of their performances have been, and are legally authorized and univerſally encouraged, it deſerves general reprobation and theatrical contempt.
Roſcius, Cicero's idol, if his profeſſion could be originally deemed bad, ſhould receive no credit from excellence in purſuing an infamous path; as well might a dexterous highwayman claim praiſe for excelling in actions totally unſufferable.
Some three years ſince, I publickly invited a bigotted preacher in Scotland, to bring one text of ſcripture in corroboration of his rigid opinions; I aſked, if dramatic compoſitions were inconſiſtent with ſtrict chriſtianity, why Saint Paul ſhould have quoted from a Greek author in that ſphere? with ſome other pinching interrogations, which appeared unanſwerable, and occaſioned, what I did not wiſh or mean, the defection of many ſubſcribers to this perſon's preaching, a manifeſt temporal injury to him.
In the courſe of what I have to offer I ſhall be deſultory, conſequently unmethodical; I ſhall produce nothing which does not, in my idea, deſerve notice; but as to arrangement I ſhall let circumſtances and anecdotes fall in as they may, the [Page 2] more to ſport with and amuſe attention; I ſhall endeavour to purſue Othello's rule, and "nothing extenuate," even reſpecting myſelf, "nor ought let down in malice," concerning others: while impartiality is my guide I wiſh to be [...], the moment I paſs that line may contempt be my portion, the ſame contempt I have ever entertained for envy, malevolence, and adulation, three common attendants upon [...], actors, and every degree of public life. A ſtr [...]ng ſymptom of pride may appear in this declaration, but a ſtrict attenti [...]n to the ſeveral degrees of human nature, with many ſevere [...]ubs, ſome gleams of ſunſhine, many ſelf-deluſions, more relative ones, and rigid inſpection into ſocial connections, have made me, I preſume, a tolerable judge of the ſubject I now enter upon.
From every hiſtorical circumſtance, we have reaſon to believe that ſuch entertainments as a theatre affords, could not be in a ſtate of regularity or elegance for many years after their exiſtence: the reformation in its infancy, the grand Spaniſh invaſion, not only threatened but proſecuted; theſe, and other ſucceeding circumſtances, all contributed to prevent that juſtice of exhibition for Shakeſpeare's inimitable productions which they deſerved; no amendment could be expected in the quibbling, ſanctified, pedantic, witch-hunting period of James the Firſt; as to the miſerable monarch his ſon Charles, his time of royalty was ſo perplexed, ſo turbulent, and ſo fatal to himſelf, nothing gentle, elegant, amuſing, or inſtructive could poſſibly prevail: Cromwell's prevalence, though a glorious aera for the nation, was very unfavourable, and neceſſarily ſo to the drama after the interregnum, if I may ſo call an admirable and ſpirited adminiſtration of government.
A volatile, and we may add politic monarch came forward, who perceiving a ſettled gloom on the nation, determined to work a change by introducing the levity of wit, the glare of ſhow, the ba [...]t of gallantry, and a general plan of diſſipation, to ſhake off attention from matters of ſerious concern; if ever the ſtage was proſtituted it was at this time, amidſt a flow of great, of original powerful genius. Dryden may ſtand a proof of the whole, who ranted pompouſly, enthuſiaſtically in his tragedies, and deſcended to the loweſt, moſt fulſome ſtuff in his comedies: however in this reign we may commence the firſt degree of theatrical excellence as to performers; and upon a retroſpect, we find great uniformity in the caſt of plays, as it is phraſed, every one, like a good ſoldier, kept his place, and by not being miſplaced, we may conclude, made a good figure; nay, from the beſt accounts, we are taught to believe ſo, even the printed dramas ſtrengthen this opinion; and this is one of the beſt methods to judge by, both comparatively and deciſively, as in examining the preſent ſtage hereafter [Page 3] I will clearly demonſtrate. From this period compoſition and repreſentation have, ſave the comedies of C [...]ve, [...], and Farquhar, with Rowe's tragedies, been improving, I mean as approaching nearer nature; I do not contend for ſpirit, character, or invention in favour of the preſent age, but a claim to ſuperior propriety may b [...] juſtly maintained upon compari [...]on.
The aera of Wilkes, Booth, and Cibber, has been highly blazened, and there is reaſon to credit tradition in many points; but from the imitators of them I have ſeen (who though they had by no means equal execution, certainly poſſeſſed their manner) it was offenſive to chaſte criticiſm; thus Quin's turgid ſwell was derived from Booth, who catched his from Betterton; young Cibber's caricature grimace, and ſnip-ſnap expreſſion, were but the remnants of his father's oddity; and the late Mr. Giffard's genteel comedy, which he valued himſelf upon, was but a coſtive retail of that formal gentility, which obtained for Mr. Wilkes (when full-bottomed wigs, mechanic utterance and ſtiff deportment were in faſhion) general applauſe.
The Iriſh ſtage, till Mr. Sheridan's aſſuming the reins of direction, was, from all I have been able to learn, ſcarce worth mention; in my own remembrance, four Elrington's, the moſt deplorable manglers of dialogue, ſerious or comic, that ever diſgraced a Theatre-Royal, monopolized all the principal characters; the women were perfect mop-ſqueezers, and the decorations mere puppet-ſhow trumpery: Mr. Sheridan laboured for, and in a great meaſure effected, a reformation; if his execution as an actor had been equal to his judgement, and his general ſucce [...]s as a manager been equal to his liberality [...] ſpirit, his condeſcenſion to performers, and his zeal for the ſtage, he would have made ere now a very genteel fortune; but being in ſome points capricious, and rather too fond of rigid exerciſe of authority, he incurred, at various times, very prejudicial public reſentment; and though ſupported by many friends, he was frequently attacked both by public and private foes, 'till at length from a r [...]iculous attachment to court principles, (for he was wonderfully fond of a ſmile at the caſtle levees) he drew upon himſelf a ſtorm which blighted all his faireſt hopes, and b [...]re away with it the fruit of much labour and ſeveral favourable harveſts.
To this gentleman (for whom I ſhall always entertain a proper degree of reſpect) I ſtand indebted for an introduction to the ſtage, an introduction more like that of a friend than a manager, from whom, had I choſen to ſtay in his theatre, I [Page 4] had reaſon to expect the moſt l [...]beral encouragement. Here, to anticipate any biographical manufacturer, who might in future, as actor or author, gibbet me up to the view of poſterity, I ſhall give an impartial narrative of my coming into, and general progreſs thro' life, which will naturally take in, by connexions, ſome ſchool-fellows and public cotemporaries, whom I wiſh to preſerve from miſrepreſentation as much as I do myſelf.
Without any boaſt of parentage, ſuffice it to ſay my father had the general repute of an honeſt man, who, without any brilliance of parts, poſſeſſed a ſhare of ſenſe to command reſpect, he had ſeen much of the world, and from thence laid in a ſtock of liberal notions; by forty years ſervice in the army, during which time he had ſeen many coxcombs of fortune, titles, or intereſt, put over his head, he obtained a Captain's commiſſion; in this ſtation, moſt unfortunately for me, he died when I was but ſeventeen, he was bleſſed with a wife, and I with a mother, who by invariable conduct proved herſelf a worthy pattern of both characters.
The 23d of October, 1728, gave me to this mortal ſtage; my ſtate of infancy was moſt affectionately attended to, and by unremitting care, an imperfect conſtitution rendered very ſtrong; at ten, or a little after, I was put under the care of Mr. Butler, a clergyman, who kept a grammar-ſchool in Digges-ſtreet, Dublin; here my firſt acquaintance and intimacy began with Meſſrs. Moſſop and Dexter, both within a year of my age; Mr. Moſſop's father reſiding at his rectory, his ſon Henry was ſent to the care of an uncle, who then kept a bookſeller's ſhop, this uncle put him to Mr. Butler's ſchool, and lodged him at an obſcure butcher's in an obſcure market, as I preſume for cheapneſs ſake; not very happy in his ſituation, he frequently, by leave, paſſed a few days at my father's with me, and being of a grave caſt was much liked by all the family as well as myſelf.
During the ſpace of five years we were inſeparable, and, as I thought, that kind of eſteem daily grew upon us which ſeldom terminates but with life. At fifteen I had the misfortune to obtain a commiſſion in the ſame regiment with my father, the inconveniency of which ſtation I did not experience till the death of my beſt friend brought it to light; indeed before that melancholy event I began to diſlike the ſchool of Mars, which was then, and I am afraid is too much ſo ſtill, a ſcene of diſſipation and exceſs, exceedingly dangerous for a young unformed mind poſſeſſed of warm paſſions.
In the year of the rebellion, a camp of 5000 men was formed at Bennet's-bridge, near Kilkenny, which tho' a pleaſing ſhow, was certainly an idle affair, diſcipline being in a moſt relaxed ſtate; our marchings and counter-marchings, our [Page 5] ſweatings and our ſwimmings, were almoſt as laughable as Major S [...]urgeon's expedition to Acton, Ealing, &c. however we furniſhed many important paragraphs for the Dublin newspapers▪ one of which I well remember, though we were but fifty miles from the capital, killed 500 of us by an epidemical diſtemper, which had never been heard of in the camp; a ſtrong proof of what authentic intelligence thoſe political vehicles convey.
From Bennet's-bridge we returned to Dublin duty, here I found Meſſrs. Moſſop and Dexter members of Trinity-college; the former complained grievouſly at the narrowneſs of his allowance; lamenting his diſcontent, in a romantic fit of friendſhip, I gave him my commiſſion, purpoſing to accompliſh myſelf for the church; this circumſtance he has often mentioned, as I have been informed, however he had not intereſt to get the tran [...]fer ratified by government. From Dublin we were ordered into ſeparate quarters, the company I belonged to was deſtined for Caſhell, neither the Captain nor Lieutenant attending —a pretty circumſtance in time of war! the care of a hundred men fell to my ſhare; the route pointed out our way, and we purſued it with commendable regularity, ſave, as I ſuſpected, the plunder of ſome hen-rooſts; on our arrival at Caſhell, a well ſituated, pleaſant, plentiful city, I received a complimentary meſſage from the new mayor, who was that day giving a feaſt on commencing magiſtracy, to partake of the feſtivity.—I attended, was received with moſt polite hoſpitality, and found myſelf immediately acquainted with near thirty leading gentlemen; thus far was well, but it being a kind of cuſtom in that county to drink a viſiter's ſenſes away, I ſuſtained a moſt formidable attack, ſurrounded by ſeaſoned veterans; at length my prudence, head, and heels gave way, and I fell a ſacrifice to Bacchus, but not till three Aldermen and two Parſons had previouſly fallen proſtrate.
This was rather an unfavourable commencement; but during my ſtay in the place afterwards, I kept rather aloof, and was better enabled thereto by paſſing much time in the family of a gentleman who had three very agreeable daughters, one of whom, tho' at leaſt twelve years older than myſelf, had rearly captivated me; however, Cupid perhaps thinking me a trifling conqueſt, let me for that time eſcape. Dr. Price, then Archbiſhop of the ſee, was another ſtrong motive of prevention from exceſs, for as that liberal-minded prelate very condeſcendingly gave me a general invitation to his palace, and to ride with him, which took place every fair morning. I was edifyingly drawn from the company of thoſe who prefer hunting and the bottle to every mental enjoyment.
I was not above four months in this very agreeable, and I may add, profitable ſituation, till my party was ordered to Kinſale, [Page 6] where a large number of French priſoners were rather refractory. At Corke I found two hundred of thoſe gently waiting to be conducted to Kinſale by me, I took them in charge, but never recollected, till we had marched eight miles, that there was not a grain of ammunition in the whole party; however nothing amiſs happened.
At Kinſale diſcipline took place, and the young officers were commendably attentive, but being altogether in a meſs we miſled one another abominably, both as to expences and conſtitutions; our propenſity to diſſipation was conſiderably increaſed by the good-natured volatility of Capt. Henry Boyle Walſingham, ſon of the then Speaker of the Houſe of Commons, whoſe unbounded good-nature, and uncommon flow of ſpirits, rendered him amiably deluſive; and perſons who had little but their pay, endeavouring to aſſociate with him, ran into difficulties, which however his generoſity, having a large income beſides a captain's commiſſion, often removed.
I cannot pay a juſt tribute to the merits of this young gentleman, taken out of life too ſoon, as with a few more years, and reflection, he would have been a very compleat ornament of ſociety, and a moſt valuable friend to his country.
While we were at Kinſale together, an account reached us that liberty was given to raiſe two regiments for the Dutch ſervice; being tired of a life ſo inactive in the military view as ours then was, we determined to apply for commiſſions of an advanced rank in one of thoſe regiments, he promiſed to take me by the hand, which would have inſured me ſucceſs, and even offered to aſſiſt with money if any thing of that kind ſeemed neceſſary. The Dutch deſign being dropped on a view of peace, I was fooliſh enough to give a hundred guineas for advance of rank in the ſame regiment, without conſidering it took me from a ſtation wherein I ſtood ſecure from reduction, and placed me in one of the four additional companies, which about eight months after were reduced; here I found myſelf within the penurious limits of half-pay; I had a right to ſome freehold property, but being under age could not diſpoſe of it, and was cheated out of the rent, all but a trifle, by a knaviſh tenant.
Here I flew to the ſtage, without any great affection for it as a performer, and found a moſt gentleman-like reception from Mr. Sheridan, who judiciouſly recommended Aboan, in O [...]oon [...]ko, for my trial, in which, notwithſtanding a moſt unconſequential figure, and uncommon timidity, I ſucceeded beyond my moſt ſanguine expectations; but this did by no means reconcile me to the back of the curtain, as the ſpirit of malevolence, envy, and ſcandal, was hourly invading my ears. A ſeaſon and a half paſſed without one ſymptom of ambition to urge for parts, and at a time when Mr. Sheridan had [Page 7] marked out a very reputable caſt for me I declined; ſo precipitate a retreat was in a great meaſure occaſioned by receiving a letter, that an uncle of mine, till then totally unknown to me even by name, had died in the Eaſt-Indies, and left me 800 l. this gave me a turn for domeſtic life, as the ſale of my little freehold was likely, excluſive of a 500 l. mortgage, to produce me 700 l. more. When of age, I was adviſed, that on coming to London, or by ſending proper authority, I might receive my Indian legacy; deſirous of ſeeing the Engliſh capital I ſet out.
Here I ſhall return a little.—During my connection with the Dublin theatre, I received a letter from Mr. Moſſop, then in London, that he had been drawn from Ireland by the invitation of an uncle, who, as he ſaid, would do nothing material for him; that he had offered himſelf to Mr. Garrick and Mr. Rich, who both (the latter is not ſurpriſing) deemed him unworthy acceptance, and therefore requeſted I would mention him to Mr. Sheridan; I did, and was informed that a Mr. Marſhall, with whom we were both intimate, had previouſly mentioned the matter; I was aſked ſome queſtions, which I anſwered with all the friendſhip and impartiality (my ever favourite principle) would allow. Mr. Sheridan, always above envy, gave him a cordial invitation; he came over and had his choice of parts, he very judiciouſly choſe Zanga, in the Revenge, and diſplayed in it an aſtoniſhing degree of beautiful wildneſs; his amazing powers of voice were clearly perceived and unanimouſly approved; his action was what in a great meaſure it ever remained, forced, aukward, and unpictureſque; his emphaſis mechanical and laborious; however, a whole pit full of collegians terrified criticiſm from any exertion for two nights; and indeed, his merit went ſo far before his faults, that the encouragement, tho' enthuſiaſtic, was right.
The ſame week which produced Mr. Moſſop to public view, furniſhed the ſtage with another very conſiderable ornament, Mr. Digges, who had been an officer; a young gentleman furniſhed with very agreeable and eſſential requiſites, ſuch as a graceful perſon, a comely countenance, marking eyes, and a full-toned, diſtinct, tho' not harmonious voice.
Theſe two competitors ſet off in the race of fame nearly together, and emulated with becoming ſpirit; however, Mr. Moſſop, both in diligence and powers, rather outſtripped his competitor, tho' Mr. Digges has ſince ſhown himſelf a much more general performer. By ſo powerful a reinforcement Mr. Sheridan had a brilliant ſeaſon, nor did he, as has been practiſed ſince, bind riſing merit to a kind of an apprenticeſhip, upon penurious terms, he rewarded them liberally, and brought them forward with rapid ſpeed.
[Page 8] A ludicrous inſtance of Mr. Moſſop's capricious haughtineſs may, out of many, be produced; after performing the part of Zanga three nights, he choſe Richard for a fourth appearance, and moſt unaccountably dreſſed the character in puckered white ſattin; Mr. Sheridan, very juſtly obſerving that it had a moſt coxcombly appearance, the remark reached Mr. Moſſop's ear, who next morning went to the manager's room, and moſt emphatically addreſſed him thus: ‘"Mr. She—ri—dan, I hear you ſaid I dreſſed Richard like a cox—comb; that is an af—front; you wear a ſword, pull it out of the ſcab—bard, I'll draw mine, and thruſt it into your bel—ly."’ This furious attack was ſmiled off, and had an amicable concluſion.
A circumſtance here ſtrikes recollection painfully, which is, that ſucceſs, in leſs than a month, raiſed my ſchool-fellow ſo high on tragedy-ſtilts, that a moſt ungracious reſerve prevailed in his deportment, and even to me he was the great man tho' civil. Tho' I ever admired merit, and reſpected pre-eminence, I never did, nor never will, idolize either; this he wanted in both reſpects; I would not flatter, my friendſhip forbad it; he grew ſhy according to the dictates of his pride; thus fell gradually into decay, what I wiſhed, a permanent friendſhip. I may have been too ready to catch offence, but he certainly was too ready to furniſh cauſe; I was rather concerned at ſuch a divorce of an early regard, yet I believe we ſtill entertained good wiſhes for each other, and am willing to ſtile it the jarring of two oddities, who had not forbearance ſufficient for each others foibles.
This ſuppoſed defection of a friend haſtened my expedition to England; I reached Cheſter at a time when Mr. Macklin had brought an excellent company to that city, knowing ſeveral of the members, and wiſhing to know others, I protracted my journey a matter of three months, which paſſed pleaſantly and rationally, ſave too great expence, loſs of time, and a near chance of matrimony, which would then have been peculiarly indiſcreet. One leading defect of my diſpoſition has been procraſtination, which has operated moſt powerfully; however I was not totally idle, for during my ſtay I altered Ben Johnſon's Sejanus, which I ſhall ſpeak of in future. Juſt previous to ſetting off for London, Mr. Derrick, another early acquaintance, purſued my ſteps, not liking the avocation he was placed to, viz. that of a linen-draper; very bare of caſh, and little acquainted, I was obliged to ſtand forth for him, which I had great pleaſure in doing.
Soon after coming to London, for ſake of better air, I took lodgings at Richmond, Mr. Derrick remained with me there near a year, and was moſt of the time uſing his admirable talents for puſhing into an extenſive acquaintance, while I, waited with philoſophic patience, tho' not proper oeconomy, [Page 9] for my expected legacy, paſſed moſt of my time in reading [...] the employment of my pen. A ſtrong degree of theatrical frenzy having ſeized poor Derrick, who, contrary to [...] ſenſe, and void of every executive requiſite, would make a ſtage attempt; in friendly compaſſion I prevailed on him to aſſume a character wherein his diminutive and deformed figure would not be ſo laughable; he, in conſequence murdered Gloſter in Jane Shore, and I believe convinced himſelf, a well as the audience, that he could never be bearable, for I recollect no ſimilar attempt—well for the ſtage if many others had followed ſo ſenſible an example!
During my ſtay at Richmond I publiſhed the alteration of Johnſon's Sejanus, and from a connection my father had with the Orrery family, I dedicated it to the late Earl John, whoſe literary abilities, and extreme liberal turn of mind, reflected honour on nobility, and even on the name of Boyle; being ever of a diſtant nature in matters of this ſort, I referred preſentation of the copy to Mr. Derrick, who never was better pleaſed than when employed in this manner; he brought me a verbal account that my piece was politely received, and that his Lordſhip wiſhed to ſee me at his houſe, then in Leiceſter-fields; I obeyed the ſummons, and never experienced more affability or good ſenſe than at this interview: he was pleaſed to ſay that I had given ſome marks of genius, but feared, if I ſhould in future ſhew much improved abilities, they would be but of little advantage, for (as he emphatically obſerved) the fountain-head of critical taſte was frozen and benumbed; if you have a turn for politics, continues his Lordſhip, and will proſtitute principle to profit, either for or againſt adminiſtration, ſome lucrative conſequences will doubtleſs enſue; but if you are an honeſt principled writer, ten to one but laudatur & alget is a proper motto for you: how far I have found this veri [...]ied I won't pretend to ſay, but heartily wiſh I had been fated to uſe an awl and end ſooner than the pen, for nothing but a penſioned defender of government, a ſycophant to managers, or a ſlave to bookſellers, can do any thing more than crawl.
In about a week after I had ſeen Lord Orrery, I received from him a letter, with an order on Mr. Hoare, his banker, for twenty guineas, and an obſervation, ‘"that he wiſhed more ſubſtantial approbation to attend every future production of mine."’ After this (the only profit from dedication I ever experienced, and indeed did not expect) I never ſaw his Lordſhip.
However, Mr. Derrick made ſuch good uſe of his firſt viſit, that he purſued, and at length—miraculous to think!—drew his Lordſhip, as well as ſome other diſtinguiſhed characters, [Page 10] [...]nto a cordial epiſtolary correſpondence. A little after this period, I was ſaluted with an account that my legacy was arrived and payable; but how was I ſurprized to find, that three honeſt lawyers here, had, upon peruſing my uncle's will, explained away 600l. out of the 800l. I expected; this diſagreeable ſtroke precipitated me into freſh diſſipation, which ſhortly narrowed my circumſtances much, and occaſio [...]ed me to accept an engagement for Mr. Simpſon's theatre at Bath.
Before my expedition thither (under the gothic management of one Mr. Phillip's, an old theatrical coxcomb, vain of playing, and covetous of money) I had the pleaſure to ſee both town houſes in a very reputable ſtate of performance; but as to tragedy (ſave ſome of Mr. Garrick's peculiar parts, if I may ſo ſpeak) Covent-garden was much ſuperior, in comedy Drury-lane claimed manifeſt precedence; there never was a more maſterly performance than Every Man in his Humour, from Kitely to Caſh, every part was ſupported with a proportional degree of pleaſant propriety.
Mr. Moſſop, who had reached the Engliſh ſtage, had the Dublin audiences approbation cordially, therefore eſſentially confirmed here; yet though he poſſeſſed undoubted merit, ſome ſhare of what may be ſtiled good fortune, attended him in both places, for what the Iriſh Collegians began with, animation, the London Templars finiſhed with zeal; would he had been as friendly to himſelf as the public was to his endeavours. Here, as in Dublin, too much ill-concerted expence attended his pride, yet I cannot recollect his circumſtances were, at this period, ſo much reduced as thoſe of ſome other ſucceſsful knights-errant of the ſtage I have known; no intimacy prevailed between us, conſiderably owing, I believe, to my rigid remembrance of his ſudden contemptible exaltation of deportm [...]nt, and unfriendly preciſion of converſation, below the idea of a liberal education, and much more ſo of a liberal mind; however, before leaving town, I paid him a complimentary viſit, when he wiſhed me, and I believe with friendly meaning, all poſſible ſucceſs.
When arrived at Bath, where the campaign was begun, I found a very imperfect odd jumbled crew, and according to many of the undertakings I was forced upon, moſt of my endeavours only tended to make the groupe more ridiculous; for being chiefly in a much varied capital line, I muſt neceſſarily have been often capitally wrong; however, in the moſt unjuſtifiable attempts, I always met with forbearance, without the aid of a ſingle puff, or any ſupport from perſonal acquaintances, for I neither ſought, [...] obtained, above twelve during eight months reſidence, multiplicity of acquaintance, and eſpecially upon an intereſted plan, I ever deſpiſed.
[Page 11] So many repetitions of ſelf are diſagreeable, but as they are unavoidable, and as what I ſhall advance can be corrobolated o [...] contradicted, by many perſons living, egotiſm becomes leſs painful, and may be the more credible. Amidſt the ſtudy of a multiplicity of parts, I wrote the Suita [...], a tragedy, which was well received, though weakly performed; even Mr. Quin vouchſafed to ſay, it was a tolerable thing, but the male performers were mere ſprats of muſſulmen; a remark not amiſs, for there were ſeveral light figures: however, that gentleman, with more than uſual condeſcenſion, gave me, on my night, two guineas for a ticket, wiſhing me a better trade than a Bath author or actor, ‘"for, ſays he, the people of faſhion come here only to tipple water, or game; and as to the town's people they underſtand little ſave extortion;"’ two points I found amply confirmed.
The ſecond ſeaſon I produced Zaphira, a tragedy, on the ſame ſtory of Dr. Brown's Barbaroſſa, but performed before that gentleman's piece came out at Drury-lane, it was better repreſented, and better received than the Sultan, though with leſs profit to me. The ſame ſeaſon I fitted up an alteration of Shakeſpeare's Richard the Second, which, though incumbered with too many characters of importance, to be adequately ſupported by a country company (for ſuch Bath might then be called) was alſo very well received; indeed the performance of one Miſs Ibbot, the beſt declamatory actreſs I ever heard, contributed much to the piece's reputation. The manuſcripts of theſe two tragedies have, I know not how, been purloined from me.
During ſummer, between the ſecond and third ſeaſons at Bath, I came to London, and found Mr. Derrick ſtudying law and practical philoſophy in that agreeable academy the [...], where his ſituation would have been painfully exigent, had not the late Sir Francis Delaval, Mr. Foote, a Dr. Thompſon, and, through their aſſiſtance, other gentlemen, liberally ſubſcribed for his ſupport, the me [...]ns of which was placed in Mr. Vailla [...] 's hands, from whom he received it weekly.
Luckily when this ſupply was near exhauſted, I recommended his ſituation to the notice of a moſt benevolent gentlem [...]n, who ſerved him eſſentially, as he has me on many occaſions. Mr. C—not only raiſed him twenty pounds ſubſcription to a volume of poems, but by means of the late Serjeant H [...]d, got him out of confinement; this pleaſing point [...]d, I went to Bath, and there ſound the company under the direction of Mr. King, whoſe ſpirited performances drawing better audiences than ever had been known there before, and whoſe regular, yet mild and gentleman-like management, rendered the theatre much more agreeable than to me it ever had been, and to the proprietors much more prof [...]t.
[Page 12] Departing from Bath, I ſhall omit ſeveral excurſions made to places of leſs note, and only obſerve, that during a year's vacation from dramatic connections, I had an opportunity to ſee the London ſtages in their meridian glory, and a very noble emulation carried on with great ſpirit and ability on each ſide; the uniformity of each caſt, filled by perſons devoted to a particular department, was now ſtrictly adhered to; the managers did not then play the game of croſs and pile as they do now, nor make what is head one night tail another; the policy of this ſcheme I ſhall preſently elucidate, as alſo endeavour at ſhowing its manifeſt detriment to the ſtage in general, and hackney'd drudges in particular.
Having received an invitation from Edinburgh, I went thither, and met there, on my arrival, an extreme diſagreeable diſappointment; Mr. Digges and Mrs. Ward, two very popular favourites, inſtead of joining the company, as was expected, decamped to Dublin, leaving nothing to apologize for them, and reduced me to the ſame diſadvantageous ſtate I was firſt in at Bath, obliging me to take a porter's load on a ſchool-boy's back. Judge of my regret when I was obliged to march on, with a very inſignificant figure, the firſt night in Othello, and the ſecond in Hotſpur, parts I would ever have wiſhed to decline; after all I met indulgence, and the ſeaſon for ſix weeks, during which time I had the misfortune to be acting manager— a moſt diſagreeable ſtation!—went ſmoothly on; at length, conſidering ſome friends I had brought to the company (and without whom it would have been truly deplorable) ill uſed, I reſigned, with ſecret joy, the reins of painful government, painful, except where a thirſt of power, even in a pageant ſtate, ſtifles delicacy of feeling. Several theatrical manoeuvres were practiſed to make me uneaſy, but finding me vulnerable only thro' the ſides of my friends, I was ſo cloſely attacked that way, that an entire breach enſued; and at the end of the ſeaſon I parted with the managers, as they ſtiled themſelves, on terms not the moſt polite, however I was well pleaſed to get rid of ſuch a diſagreeable ſhuffling connection, and wiſhing to ſee Glaſgow, a city I had heard much of, I went thither without any public view.
The place, upon examination, anſwered the deſcription I had heard of it, in the diſpoſal of ſtreets, and elegance of buildings, as well as in briſkneſs of trade and opulence of merchants. I was unexpectedly invited, by ſome gentlemen who had ſeen me in Edinburgh, to ſtay a few months, and aſſiſt ſome perſons of reſpectable families in the proper pronunciation of Engliſh; ſome gentlemen of the univerſity ſoon after applied to me for the ſame purpoſe; I undertook the taſk with ſome reluctance, but at length went through it pleaſingly and profitably. Juſt before my departure, it was intimated to me, [Page 13] by perſons of ſome influence, that if I would ſettle there, it was more than probable, that a profeſſorſhip for Engliſh oratory might be obtained for me, with a ſettled ſalary, and the advantage of pupils, which I make no doubt would have turned out a comfortable eſtabliſhment; yet, ſtrange is the mind of man, tho' from early years I had wiſhed for a calm retreat, now a very eligible and practicable one appeared, a ſudden wandering ſeized my brain, and I would ſet off for London; but not without returning warm and grateful acknowledgements for favours received, and thoſe propoſed.
From Glaſgow I went to Carliſle, over a country rather wild, but good road rendered it agreeable; at Carliſle, which is a pretty little agreeable city, peopled with genteel affable inhabitants, but not much enriched with trade, I expected a remittance from Ireland thro' London; I waited a fortnight with patience, then received information that my draft had been evaded; highly chagrined at this, and being ever more prone to revenge injuries on myſelf than other people, I precipitately, in the heat of vexation, joined a company of Theſpians, then exhibiting there. This is the only ſcene of real theatrical wretchedneſs, both as to performance and finances I ever met, indeed from the former nothing of the latter could be expected; however I was only a pitying ſpectator of ſurrounding woes, for ſome remains of caſh, and a tolerable benefit, brought me through bareably.
By means of the philoſophy I always poſſeſſed, upon a little reflection, time would have paſſed agreeably enough here, had not ſympathetic feelings for the penury around me rather encumbered it; two men of the company were rational and well behaved, my landlord Boniface had a ſmart prattling agreeable daughter, and there was lodged in the houſe a very affable young French priſoner; by theſe, with two or three honeſt blades of Cumberland, my mind, though not improved, was innocently, and often chearfully, relaxed.
At the end of five weeks, I received an invitation from Mr. Whitley, whom I heard of as, and found to be, a reputable, buſtling, judicious manager, alſo a good actor in his line, out of which the ſtate of his company often forced him, and perhaps ſometimes inclination; yet this admitted, it is only what much greater performers have been guilty of; many conſiderable towns have been, and are much indebted to him for regularity, good dreſſes, and as ſuitable decorations as they could expect; he alſo deſerves praiſe for ſuſtaining the ſtage with ſpirited reſolution againſt much malevolence and many oppreſſive attacks.
[Page 14] On my road thither, I ſet up at a ſmall houſe, in a ſmall village called Kirkleatham, here I fell in, for want of better company, with half a dozen farmers, and ſome ſervants of Mr. Turner, lord of the manor; as it has been always an invariable rule with me to conform to the humours of every ſtrange company, as one method of knowing the general diſpoſition of mankind, I ſaid as they did; this conformity, pleaſing even to brutes, with ſome compliments on Mr. Turner, obtained me the titles of honeſt fellow, hearty cock, &c. accompanied by ſeveral ſlaps on the ſhoulder, and ſqueezes by the hand, which, from their roughneſs, I would moſt gladly have excuſed; however this ſocial ſunſhine did not laſt long, for happening to pull out my handkerchief, a piece of paper dropped, on which a perſon had traced out my road from Carliſle, and ſpecified the towns, to prevent my miſtaking a due direction; from Sunderland, to the place I have mentioned, is all on the ſea-coaſt.
Happening to go out of the room, this paper was picked up by one who, for a miracle, could read; they had, while I ſaw my horſe diſpatch a feed of oats, laid their politic noddles together, and, as I found, had diſcovered me to be a French Spy. On coming in I perceived looks of great diſtance, conſequence, and curioſity; ſilence reigned for about a minute, when my making the trite obſervation that it was a right Engliſh meeting; ‘"Look ye there, ſays the one-eyed clerk of the pariſh, did not I tell ye, neighbours, there are French Papiſtes about;"’ ‘"ay, ſays another, turning to his right-hand man, I told thee, Giles, the pig-tail was ſuſpicious, and doſt ſee what a ſkeleton it is—he never eat beef or plum-pudding in his life."’
Not by any means comprehending theſe disjointed remarks, I applied to my landlord for an explanation; who ſaid, ‘"we all ſuſpect thee to be a French Spy, tho', for my part. I can't ſay but you have called for ſupper like an Engliſhman, and drank like one; but our pariſh clerk and ſchool-maſter, and the reſt of the neighbours, ſuſpect you to be what I have ſaid; now as I am conſtable and magiſtrate, d'ye ſee, in his worſhip's abſence, who is gone to Richmond races, I muſt look ſharp;"’ ‘"Right, Mr. Conſtable, ſays a ſmart prig in a green coat and coachman-like wig, 'tis time to be wigilance, I was born a cockney, and know that there man is as ſure French as I ſit at this here table; I have a right to be cunning; a'ant I groom to a Juſtice of Peace? and was'nt I whipper-in to the Lord Chancellor? ſure I ſhould know law."’ In warmth I exclaimed, whip the Lord Chancellor and 'Squire too, for having ſuch fools as you about them.
[Page 15] High treaſon was now echoed thro' the room, for calling, a [...] ſaid, the Chancellor and 'Squire fools; the wiſe and patriotic company here, after giving ſolemn charge of me to my h [...], retired with no ſmall apprehenſions in their countenances. My ſupper now approached, and rather laughing upon recollection at ſo ridiculous an affair, I ſat down to it with good appetite, aſking my landlord to partake, who, with the reſolution of a Caeſar, joined me in the attack, declaring he did not think I would do him any harm.
My room being guarded all night by a couple of ſtout labourers, who firſt ſearched my pockets, and pilfered, as I found afterwards, two very good razors; in the morning I was conducted on horſeback, for there was no juſtice nearer than eight miles: this was the firſt, and indeed the laſt time, I was ever admired by females for my beauty, but they, I ſuppoſe, thinking the rope about my neck, where e'er we paſſed, pitifully exclaimed, ‘"he's a likely weel far'd mon; its a pity of him, I hope as how may get off;"’ on our road too, the tender-hearted conſtable, with a moſt ſolemn face, told me it was a pity that men ſhould be hanged, but it could not be helped, and adviſed me to prepare for the worſt; I have a regard for you, ſays he, for you made me a good reckoning.
When we came before the juſtice, at a place called Ayton, or vulgarly Yatton, the matter was ſettled at once, by my ſhowing ſome letters I had about me, particularly one from a gentleman whoſe perſon and hand-writing he both knew. After a ſharp rebuff, and ſome ſevere ſtrictures from his worſhip, upon the conſtable's ill-timed activity, we departed; Mr. Longſtaff, with all the penitence and politeneſs which defeated vermin of the law are capable of, declared that we muſt not part till we had drank friends, I rather declined this ceremony, but complied to ſave worſe trouble; half a crown's worth of punch was called for, with ſome cold beef, &c. &c. ſeveral ludicrous obſervations paſſed from my companions, among the reſt, my landlord declared, ‘"that unleſs I would drink a glaſs of forgiveneſs to the pariſh clerk, who had cauſed all this, he knew the poor man ſo well, his conſcience would not let him ſleep for putting an innocent man in the way of hanging; for, continues he, if his worſhip had been as fooliſh as we folks of Kirkleatham, who knows what might have happened?"’
Our repaſt over, and a general forgiveneſs both for ſoul and body offered on my ſide, my rejoiced conductor paid the reckoning; I offered to be Yorkſhire club, but, with a ſide inſinuation, he told me, it was not out of his pocket, the pariſh ſhould pay it, ay, and his time, the attendants, horſe-hi [...]e, &c. which, when we have another half-crown's worth, ſays he, [Page 16] will make up about forty ſhillings—I know how to make up a conſtable's bill. After two glaſſes of the ſecond bowl I departed, without a grain of reſentment, and I dare ſay my friends ſtaid, at the pariſh expence, till they were as happy as princes.
Having obſerved that I ſhould, at preſent, only make bare mention of Scarbro', let us paſs at once to Mancheſter, and open to view a convenient, though not an elegant theatre, with a very good apparatus, and a tolerable company: the ſeaſon was ſucceſsful beyond my expectation, the performers were cordial, (eaſy circumſtances promote good humour) the town's people were affable and ſocial; indeed I never met with more eaſe amidſt opulence, more induſtry with leſs ſelfiſhneſs, or more critical taſte with ſteady judgement, than in this flouriſhing mart of trade; (the great capital excepted) the audiences are liberal without levity, and good-natured without weakneſs.
During the ſeaſon I produced a dramatic ſatire called the Mentaliſt, which thro' the uncommonly excellent performance of Mr. Ryder (now a reſpectable manager, and deſerving actor, in one of the Dublin theatres) met a truly favourable reception, and rendered me pecuniary advantage.
By the ſcandalous artifices of a perſon whom I had eſſentially ſerved at Bath, by tittle-tattle miſrepreſentations carried to both ſides, near the cloſe of the ſeaſon, a difference, ſomewhat ſerious in its nature, aroſe between Mr. Whitley and me; from what I ſoon diſcovered, I found, and acknowledged then, as I do now, that he behaved with ſpirit and candour, while I proceeded with cenſurable impetuoſity, though I believe no animoſity remained on either ſide. At the concluſion of the ſeaſon I left his party, determining again for London.
I ſhall now, for ſome time, drop myſelf, to purſue Mr. Moſſop, and the general circumſtances of the ſtage.—In the theatre both male and female performers are, in general, the moſt diſcontented mortals breathing, the top want to be higher, and the bottom want to be top; I know a performer of diſtinguiſhed abilities (no matter for his name) who, four and twenty years ago, lamentingly told me, that he had but one guinea and a half per week; ‘"now, continues he, if I could but riſe to four guineas I ſhould reach my utmoſt ambition."’ This ſame perſon, by ſome happy requiſites, and about ſeven years practice, without a grain of diligence, attained to twice the extent of his wiſh, yet was then as poor, or poorer than when he firſt complained; he has ſince trebled the advantages of his firſt idea, yet though he may live more luxuriantly, I cannot learn that he either has, or ever had, much money to ſpare.
[Page 17] Diſcontent is the moſt irrational, yet the moſt common, perturbation of human nature; it inva [...]es the wiſeſt as well as the weakeſt, and wherever admitted turns philoſophy headlong out of doors; ſomewhat of this having invaded Mr. Moſſop, and occaſioned him, when well eſtabliſhed with the London audience, when poſſeſſed of a ſalary, and other emolum [...]nt, more than ſufficient for every reaſonable, and ſome refin'd enjoyment of life, conſidering him as a ſingle man, without one matrimonial wiſh in his heart; when treated, as he ſince told me, with great gentility by Mr. Garrick, tranſported himſelf, I may juſtly ſo phraſe it, to Ireland. Let it be obſerved, that Mr. Barry and Mr. Woodward acted on the ſame wiſe plan; but as the latter exhibited his penitence publickly, and the former, I am told, recollects his ſplendid but impoveriſhing reign, with ſincere inward compunction, we'll caſt a ſhade over the whole laviſh blunder: Dublin was never made for two theatres, nor ever will properly ſupport that number, one real good company rather bears hard on the theatrical finances of that metropolis, for what avails general ſpirit without money to ſupport that ſpirit.
Hence Meſſrs. Barry and Woodward who had money to loſe, loſt it; and my old ſchool-fellow, who had little more than public merit and private character to ſacrifice, impaired both very much. During the greateſt part of his mock monarchy he was but ruler of a crew not much above the mendicant tribe; if he had pompous dreſſes for himſelf, an unlimited round of characters, ſome quality acquaintance, (who ſtripped him of more by private gaming than they ſerved him in public) and the free exerciſe of his own infallible opinion he was happy, though hourly ſolicited by ſtarving actors, and daily watched by keen-ſcented bailiffs; he proſtituted native honeſty, which I am ſure he poſſeſſed, to inſuperable pride and immoveable obſtinacy. When the diſpoſal of parts was in his own power, thinking the king's name a tower of defence, he undertook as many things out of his way as he did in it, hence, in the general view, he reſembled a man who wears a ſuit of cloaths of contraſt materials, look at his right ſide he is velvet and elegance, turn to his left, he is coarſe frize, which tho' warm and convenient is offenſively miſplaced.
For ſome ſeaſons this unhappy, and in the main, great man, maintained painful, unprofitable, and perturbed authority; he was all through an entire ſlave to his paſſions, and moſt part of the time a priſoner to his circumſtances; and he who thought one half, if not all mankind, beneath him, could, for occaſional forbearance, bribe and truckle to the moſt contemptible raſcally ſet of the human ſpecies—need the word bailiffs be added
[Page 18] However paradoxical this may appear, it is certainly true, and ſhows how very contradictory the human heart is often to itſelf; after toiling through much more than I am able, or think neceſſary to relate (outlines of miſery are ſufficient) he was ſeized with a malignant fever, which, unfortunately for himſelf, and I may add for all his well-wiſhers, did not take him off, yet ſhattered his conſtitution ſo much, that, to my immediate knowledge, he could never have made in public a figure equal to his original abilities; of this I ſhall mention more, and more properly hereafter.
My next trip from Mancheſter, was to join a company, as it was called, of kidnapped comedians, picked up from London, Dublin, &c. led by one Bardin, a noted adventurer, who, without any conſent obtained from the magiſtrates, moſt ignorantly and impudently intruded himſelf and unhappy Co. upon the town of Liverpool; where the wiſe Mayor had, at that time, conceived a wiſe prejudice againſt theatrical performances, why or wherefore he knew not, but power is power however uſed. A ſet of people, who innocent with regard to their general intentions, were decoyed there by threats of proſecution, curiouſly fabricated in the chicanery of law; the performers were not only intimidated, but their finances were ſo much reduced, that they neither knew how to return, or how to ſtay upon honeſt principles; indeed, I believe two or three were capable of any retreat, not poſſeſſing the laſt-mentioned ingredient.
The principle of ſelf-defence, in the firſt place, and a ſocial concern for perſons trepanned into a premunire, made me ſtrike out a rational evaſion of that childiſh, or rancorous law, which makes that in common proſecutable, which a Royal Patent can ſanctify; my ſcheme was, to ſtile, and to occupy the theatre as a ſchool of Oratory, for the explanation of moral and practical philoſophy, both according to the ancients and moderns; to render this plauſible, and indeed incontrovertible, as to both law, equity, and common ſenſe, I gave before each of the pieces, a ſhort introductory lecture upon the general ſubject and tendency of the play; a point not amiſs to be practiſed here, inſtead of farcical unmeaning prologues.
For ſix or ſeven nights that we performed, our little hovel was filled, and every thing bore a pleaſing proſpect as to profit, nor did any ſtorm immediately threaten our quiet; but Mr. Mayor—a wonderful man! thinking the territory of his juriſdiction was invaded, determined (ſenſe or no ſenſe) to ſuppreſs the ſame kind of entertainment in winter, which, at a moſt improper ſeaſon (the ſummer) he was an encourager of: to ſay a diſagreeable truth, it was, on good authority, reported that the London company, who had been excluded that ſummer, had interpoſed to effect our excluſion, which took place [Page 19] accordingly, but not in the ungenteel tyranical manner deſigned by our adverſaries; for ſorry am I to ſay, that the late Mr. Holland, going from Mancheſter to London, took Liverpool in his way, and offered liberally to lay a gentleman, who told me of it, live guineas, that the itenerants—what was he at the time? would all be ſhop'd (his polite phraſe) in leſs than a week. He was deceived in this point, and would have been in the whole of his expectations, had not a miſerable illiterate wretch, who has ſince played at Drury-lane, on being interrogated how he lived, anſwered, by the ſtage; which was equally mean and falſe, mean as he had been inſtructed otherwiſe, and falſe, as it was impoſſible he could live by what he in no ſhape underſtood.
On the day before our defeat (from the above paltry explanation) took place, our valorous manager, ever renowned for being the firſt in, and the firſt out of a ſcrape, ſecreted himſelf, as I was credibly informed, in a coal-houſe; and a perſon, who now fancies himſelf the paragon of actors—oh dire neceſſity of the ſtage!—ſculked out of town, accompanied by a flimzy female, his then wife.
The noble group of heroes and heroines diſſolved, ſome ſcrambled back to London, with this ſmall difference of carriage, that ſeveral who came down in the coach were glad to return in the baſket; others ſwam upon credit to Dublin; while Mr. Hurſt, of Drury-lane, and I remained; we gave two or three lectures, were indulged with genteel audiences, and put ſome eſſential pounds in our pockets: I alſo delivered two for ſervants, as they are ſtiled, of the company, who I underſtood to be pennyleſs; they were, by this effort, to my very great ſatisfaction, decently relieved; thus ended an expedition, well conceived, miſerably conducted, and pitifully marred.
From this mingled ſcene of laughter and woe I went to Cheſter, where I again met Mr. Whitley; having ſeveral cordial and reſpectable friends in the city, I reſolved to paſs ſome time there as a private viſiter. At my leiſure hours I wrote the Modiſh Wife, and though I had no connection with, or emolument from the company, I gave my manuſcript to the manager to uſe it he choſe it; he received the offer politely, and got the piece up with care; it was very well performed, and moſt kindly received for four nights, though full three quarters of an hour longer of performance than in its preſent ſtate; Mr. Hurſt, who did a material part, can teſtify this.
During my ſtay I alſo pieced together a little interlude, calculated for an admirable ſet of children, called the Fairy Court; this trifle was ſo excellently preſented, ſo indeſcribably ſupported by the little ones, eſpecially by one Miſs Wheeler, [Page 20] not then eight years of age, that it ran fifteen nights ( [...] benefits) a circumſtance ſcarce ever known in a country town, ſave in the caſe of the Beggar's Opera, when it find came out; I don't mention this any further in praiſe of myſelf, than in furniſhing ideas which the children ſo aptly conceived, and ſo excellently expreſſed; beſides, I had novelty on my ſide, as ſo very young a dramatis perſonae had never been ſeen there.
At this period, being near Dublin, I was much inclined to viſit my native ſoil, but a freſh and material diſappointment irritated me to a new theatrical expedition, to which I was the more readily induced by the formation of a new company, ſet on foot by two perſons I wiſhed extremely well; I joined the infant ſociety, which was very regular, [...], and reſpectable in private, though the [...]e was not much ſtage merit to boaſt of; I made a tour of twelve months, and though ſome rubs interrupted us, yet I had the pleaſure, at parting, to know that my friend Mr. Bates, then ſole proprietor, was, if not quite, very near eſtabliſhed, indeed a few mon [...]hs proved the matter; he has ſince maintained a very advantageous circuit in Yorkſhire, wherein from his complacent diſpoſition, good regulations, and punctual honeſty, he has acquired univerſal eſteem, and I heartily hope a c [...]mfortable competency, no man deſerves it better, either as a conductor of a theatre or as a member of ſociety.
Having, by my own deſire, and on the utmoſt terms of friendſhip, quitted this connection juſt when profits began to be conſiderable, I went from Scarbro' (a place like Bath) made up in the ſummer of fantaſtical people of quality, and ravenous tradeſmen, who prey on them, let me except however the ſea-faring part, who are blunt, hoſpitable, and ſincere.
I now went, once more ſick of public life, to an agreeable and reaſonable market-town, about twenty miles from York, called Malton, remained there a year, and married a moſt deſerving female—excuſe a ſigh and tear to her loved memory— I remained in this domeſtic retreat four years, and experienced from the inhabitants (ſave one with whom I had ſome dealings in the bill way) very kind friendly treatment, as alſo from ſome leading gentlemen in the neighbourhood. During my reſidence here, I wrote a thing in two volumes, called a Trip to the Moon, which had uncommon praiſe in that part of the world, and was not ſeverely treated by thoſe critical dictators, the Monthly Reviewers, yet the ſucceſs of that publication was no way conſiderable.
[Page 21] My pen was next employed, by advice of a gentleman, conſequ [...] [...]n fortune and connexions, in compoſing a ſet of fables for his ROYAL HIGHNESS the PRINCE of WALES; the work was peruſed and approved by ſeveral acknowledged judges; it was corrected and publiſhed under the inſpection of a gentleman here, whom I ſhould think it an honour to name, were ſuch freedom conſiſtent with delicacy; it was dedicated, by permiſſion, to his ROYAL HIGHNESS, was preſented and graciouſly received: I had, in conſequence a very polite letter from a Lady of Quality, eminent in her ſtation at court—but further on this point we ſay not.
After this moonſhine gleam of advantage had paſſed over, a [...]ſh proſpect, the more agreeable as unexpected, ſtarted up, I mean the patronage of that juſtly and generally lamented friend of his country the late Marq [...]ſs of Granby. A gentleman, who knew my father's and my former [...]ation, recommended me to his Lordſhip, ſhewing him, at the ſame time, ſome of my productions; the conſequence was, that he would provide comfortably for me, a promiſe I had afterwards from the Marquiſs's own mouth. Near twelve months I waited in pleaſing expectation, then came to town, and had not been above a quarter of a year, when death, my frequent friend in ſuch caſes, before and ſince, robbed me of my foremoſt hope, and a favourite ſon in the ſ [...]m day.
With eſſential philoſophy I looked forward and endeavoured to avoid caſting a glance behind, notwithſtanding a peeviſh ſtate of circumſtances urged perturbation; at this time I waited on Mr. Foote, who had the following comedy (recommended by the late Sir Francis Delaval) two years in his poſſeſſion; he waved bringing it out, pleading the inſufficiency of his company to do a five act piec [...].
In lieu of rejecting my piece, Mr. Foote very kindly, and then conveniently for me, offered a ſummer engagement, which I gratefully accepted, played, and was, without any agreement, gratified by Mr. F [...]ote's generoſity, with a [...]al [...]y, which according to the ſtate of his theatre, and the little trouble performers have there, beyond my own opinion. With this gentleman I paſſed three agreeable and advantageous ſummers, an expedition to Edinburgh, one of the intervening winters was, though pleaſant, rather a ballance againſt me, as I took no benefit; however renewing ſome valuable acquaintanceſhips, and having the pleaſure to ſee a great improvement, not only in the city, but in cuſtoms, manners, and critical taſk, I by no means lamented pecuniary deficiencies. During my connection with the Haymarket I fabricated two after pieces, the [...]oba [...]miſt and Cupid's Revenge, which were exceedingly well received, yet again P [...]l G [...]rlick received but trifling advantage. March 1773 moſt fatally deprived me of a companion [Page 22] equal to every idea of matrimonial happineſs, whoſe loved memory no revolutions, fortunate or adverſe, will ever eraze; great indeed have been the prejudices of mind and circumſtances, accruing from this very fatal and moſt unexpected cataſtrophe, health, recollection, and every mental exertion were for ſome months thrown into abſolute confuſion.
About a fortnight before Mr. Foote's theatre began, I was ſtruck with an information that he had no more occaſion for my aſſiſtance; this, at a time of peculiar embarraſſment, embarraſſment known to the manager, was what I could not at that time account for, nor have I to the preſent moment a ſingle idea of explanation.
Notwithſtanding I was thus unaccountably detached from a place my warm wiſhes, and utmoſt endeavours were attached to, I wrote intentionally for Mr. Weſton, the Panthe [...]nites; how that piece, written in four days, and ſent into the world without a procured friend to ſupport it ſucceeded, is too recent a circumſtance to repeat; here I cannot help remarking on a ridiculous cuſtom of authors reading their pieces to the performers, this is giving a falſe conſequence in general to the former, and is making mere machines of the latter, unleſs ſuch inſtructors as Mr. Garrick and Mr. Foote ſtep forth; the former from his extreme intimacy with nature, and from adequate power of expreſſion, muſt give uſeful ſtriking ideas even to the happieſt natural conceptions; the latter, having a very bold ſingular caricature imagination of character, is indiſpenſibly neceſſary for the exhibition of his own pieces; but after all, it is to be wiſhed that the inſtructed did not catch up the peculiarities inſtead of the beauties of the inſtructors: it may be advanced that an author beſt knows his own ideas, I grant it intellectually, but expreſſively makes a wide difference; I have known ſome write very tolerably who could not read decently, and I have heard parſons preach very good borrowed ſermons, who could not write a paragraph fit for a ſchool-boy's theme.
The ſeaſon before my ſeparation from Mr. Foote, I was aſtoniſhed by a moſt friendly line from Mr. Moſſop, wiſhing to ſee me at an appointed hour, at Foreſt's Coffee-houſe, Charing-croſs; though ſo long at a diſtance I punctually and cheerfully attended; he received me like and I hope as a friend, talked of his theatre in Dublin, aſked my connection and ſalary with Mr. Foote; I gave him faithful information; he ſounded my inclination for Dublin in a theatrical capacity; and ſuggeſted not only my aſſiſtance to raiſe recruits but to accept the ſtile of manager-depute; I declined all but the recommendation of ſome performers, and even there told him I ſuppoſed they would expect collateral ſecurity for payment of their ſalaries; here the great man broke out in the ſyllabled utterance of the word ſe—cu—ri—ty; however I ſent two of diligence and [Page 23] merit to him, warning them of his ſituation, as I never choſe nor ever will be a kidnapper in any ſhape; his being arreſted put an end to the negociation. Two days before he got into ſalva cuſtodia (a circumſtance I very ſincerely lamented) in a tete a tete, I aſked him why he did not cloſe with one houſe or the other here? he obſerved that Mrs. Yates was the only theatrical lady who could play conſonantly with him, that ſhe was then at Covent-garden, and as there was a particular reaſon why he could not properly be where Mr. Colman was manager (the reaſon I don't chuſe to [...]elate) he was indifferent about engaging: I then ſuggeſted his obtaining, which he certainly might have done, licence for ſix nights at Mr. Foote's, after the ſeaſon, by which I told him he might at leaſt get 500l. and if his original powers remained, by preſenting himſelf to public view, might oblige the managers of either houſe to comply with his terms.
Whether conſcious of that natural inward decay, I plainly ſaw, or rather more plainly heard, or whether through native pride, he replied thus, ‘"old ſchool-fellow and friend, I would not appear at Mr. Foote's theatre in London to clear 1000l. in the time you mention."’ —here is a great light thrown on character. After the circumſtance of his bankruptcy I ſaw him not, but heard that he paſſed his time dependantly in the ſouth of France—diſmal ſituation for a proud man! when he returned here I know not, nor did I know of his precipitate decline, however of his penury and obſcure death I painfully heard too ſoon; Mr. Garrick, I am informed, offered to bury him, but an uncle, moſt generouſly, took that enormous taſk to himſelf. Here we place to reſt an actor of as great natural powers as ever graced the ſtage for tragedy, and as great defects as ever caſt a damp on merit even in that ſtile—ſhall we, in oppoſition to that charitable maxim, de mortuis nil niſi bonum, enter a little into private character, as I wiſh to be done by myſelf, ſo will I do in this caſe, with truth and brevity.
As a ſchool-boy he was diligent in ſtudy, good-natured, and ſtrictly honeſt, but rather abſtracted; as a member of the college he was tolerably oeconomical, free from debauchery and equally attentive as at ſchool; tranſplanted to the ſtage he almoſt inſtantaneouſly grew ſelf-ſufficient and arrogant, having very little money to command before, and ruſhing into what I may call a profuſion for him, he forgot not only h [...]s early friends but even himſelf, was in ſhort a Baſhaw off as well as on the ſtage; on coming to London his arrogance rather abated, but ſucceſs ſtill cheriſhed pride.
As to his connections with the female ſex I will ſay no more than this, that at the age of eighteen he had, as far as I could judge, a juſt and generous idea of their influence; but commencing [Page 24] a great man he was intimidated at marriage, fearing any invaſion of lordly rule; however, by credible informations he was a dupe to artful females, eſpecially an old noble lady in Dublin, who uſed to make a tolerable audience for her dear Harry, as ſhe ſtiled him, and after the play ſtripped him at her route of twice what her intereſt had procured; thus ſtarving actors were deprived of their ſalaries, and the daped imperious manager was worn out of all circumſtances.
Of his management it may be ſaid, he never conſulted any thing but ſelf, not ſo much for gain as ſelfiſh vanity; from the whole it may be collected that he had original integrity ſtrongly planted in his breaſt, that he was by nature a gentleman, by opportunity and aſſiduity a ſcholar, by uncommon requiſites a great actor, and by particular failings a very reprehenſible man; I arde [...]tly wiſh to caſt a veil over the dark ſhades, but as I profeſs myſelf real [...]y an enthuſiaſt of impartiality, I cannot diſguiſe or varniſh; that ſo little reſpect was paid by the theatrical word to ſuch an ornament is a reproach to the communities of both houſes, ſave thoſe who attended; but he who lived rich in abilities, went to the grave poor in commemoration, very little conſ [...]quence to the de [...]d, but ſhameful to the living.
Great [...]hings were propoſed reſpecting the amiable worthy Dr. Goldſmith, but the great folks dropped off, and he went to his grave (to their diſgrace) ſilently, as a common ballad-ſinger after tu [...]s were at an end.
Oh life what are thy ſtrange variations! the idol of to day, either as a man of power or of genius, when breath departs, and that power or genius operates no more, is neglected not only by the multitude, but alſo by perſons who plume themſelves on ſuperior, or perhap inferior abilities; this is an i [...] refragabl [...] proof that all worldly applauſe, more than a man can conſcientiouſly approve, is contemptible and highly below ſenſible regard.
Having left Mr. Moſſop in that final ſtate of liberation from ſublunary cares, which we muſt all by one means or other reach, I ſhall proceed to a general view of the London ſtages, from my arrival in town ſix years ago to the preſent time.
After ten years abſence, I found a moſt dreadful declenſion of tragic merit, comedy indeed has not ſuffered ſo much; I both [...]eard and judged without prejudice, and grieved I was to find ſo little room for approbation, moſt of the faults I had formerly diſcovered appeared now in an enlarged ſtate, and few ver [...] few of the beauties remained; though it would be peeviſh criticiſm to deny Mr. Holland and Mr. Powell capital merit in ſome views, yet it muſt be acknowledged [...]hat both were very confined; the former ſhould never have uttered a tender ſentiment, the latter ſhould have been entirely limited to pathetic and generous characters; Mr. Powell's Macbeth was [Page 25] boyiſh to the laſt degree, and Mr. Holland making love was totally prepoſterous; yet were theſe two the main props of the ſtage in a variety of inconſiſtent lights; death letting fall the curtain of mortality cloſed their ſcenes of action.
What remained? Mr. Garrick ever excepted, and Mr. Barry alſo, while he has half a leg to ſtand or hop on.—Mr. Reddiſh ſteps forth in Alexander when Lyſimachus is as far, as with credit to himſelf, or juſtice to the public, he ſhould go in that play; Mr. Smith did every thing at the other houſe, and every thing the ſame way; Mr. Cantherley, another capital actor, has figured away in Hamlet when Laertes would rather overload him; Mr. Brereton has—I won't mention for his ſake what he has done; Mr. Benſley went to ſchool or college, as I have been informed, with Mr. Colman, ſo of neceſſity muſt be as exquiſite in acting as the late manager was, [...]nd may be in writing: to ſay truth, abſurd elevation has reduced very good ſecond and third rate actors, into miſerable apologies for the firſt ſtile, and drawn upon them frequent cenſures they might otherwiſe have reputably eſcaped.
I promiſed to give ſome light into the managerical artifice in making actors ſo exceedingly ridiculous and metamorphoſable; an actor really capital is miſſed by the audience, and therefore will have adequate terms, without being under ſlaviſh ſubjection to the manager; if therefore an hungry appetite for ſeeing plays, however mangled, prevails through the public, and a man for ſeven or eight pounds per week is ſent on to bungle through principal parts, which, properly ſuſtained, would deſerve twice that ſum, ſo much is really, or ſuppoſed to be, ſaved; beſides a ſtop-gap of this kind, ſhould he aſſume any importance, is immediately removed, becauſe next ours may ſucceed him without any public complaint; thus actors and audiences are brought effectually into the gripe of pattentees.
Let us only view comparatively the caſt of one play as I have ſeen it done, the Orphan; Caſtalio Mr. Barry, Polydore Mr. Sheridan, Chamont Mr. Garrick; the other view—oh lamentable! Caſtalio Mr. Reddiſh, Polydore Mr. Cantherley, Chamont Mr. Brereton; after ſeveral inſtances, nearly equal to this, can complaint be unjuſt or cenſure cruel?
It i [...] ſomewhat odd tha [...] female merit keeps much nearer its predeceſſors than that of the males; M [...]s. Barry, Mrs Yates, and Miſs Younge in tragedy; Mrs. Abington—herſelf [...]lone— Mrs. Bul [...]el [...]y, Miſs Pope, Mrs. Mattocks, and Mrs. Green in comedy, with the excelle [...]t ſupport of Meſſ [...]s. King, particularly Woodward, Shuter, Weſton, Quick, Dodd, Parſons [...]n the ſoc [...], deſerve a large ſhare of approbation; how could imagination accept, even in moſt uncommon abilities, ſuch contraſte tranſitions as follow; one night we ſee Mr. Palmer, who has conſiderable merit properly applied, exhibiting Dioniſyus, a bluſtering [Page 26] tyrant, the next Bruſh, a coxcombly valet, now Tamerlane, a cool philoſophical declaimer, then Wilding, a rhapſodical, pert, incoherent, volatile young fellow; obſerve Mr. Clinch at Covent-garden, one night ſtuck up for Alexander, and the next ſtuck up for Pylades; I grant the latter much more within his compaſs than the former; this is annihilating the real talents of performers, it is ſetting a waggon-horſe to run a race, and yoking a galloper into a cart.
Let us ſuppoſe Mrs. Yates put into comedy chamber-maids, and Miſs Pope into tragedy heroines, would not the former promote ſleep and the latter laughter? beyond doubt—why then ſhould the men be made butts of ridicule? Mr. Reddiſh kept from all violent paſſions, might be extremely reſpectable; Mr. Smith, more applied to comedy, muſt be more pleaſing; and Mr. Palmer, freed from [...]umbling parts, which he is apt to overdo, might, in his proper place, be a theatrical ornament.
Here a remark occurs—after Mr. Moſſop quitted the Engliſh ſtage, his original part of Barbaroſſa, which he ſhone exceedingly in, was ſupplied by Mr. Branſby, a worthy man, and very decent actor in his road; Mr. Moſſop, with the conſequence I have already mentioned, aſked an acquaintance in Dublin, if he could think ‘"who was his ſucceſſor in one of his principal parts?"’ receiving no anſwer, he imperiouſly, but ſatirically continued, ‘"the frigid Branſby NOW repreſents Barbaroſſa;"’ incapable politicians have expoſed themſelves as miniſters of ſtate, and why not actors vainly, miſtakenly, or compulſively, render themſelves, or be rendered pitiable and contemptible objects.
I could point out a number of faults in decorum and enunciation, but preſuming I ſhall be deemed rather ſevere for ſaying ſo much as I have done, I ſhall contract myſelf on theſe points, and only obſerve, that in reſpect of the former, I have frequently and lately, ſeen the ſide wings of a chamber continued three or four minutes through a grove, a garden ſcene, &c. I have ſeen gothic pillars leading to a ſummer-houſe, and wood wings to a hall; I have obſerved attendant lords and ladies pay no more attention or reſpect to their principals, than if they were merely leading puppets; I have obſerved friends aſſiſt Oreſtes in his madneſs without a gleam of concern in their countenances; and even pages neglect the trains of queens, though ſpreading thoſe royal ornaments is the only purpoſe they are ſent on for, and indeed neceſſary for a dignified diſplay of figure.
In point of enunciation the blunders are innumerable, and as to emphaſis the miſapplication incredible, take one inſtance for all; from head to foot it is now become faſhionable, if the words thou or thy are uttered, to mark them ſtrongly without [Page 27] any doubt of meaning; as for inſtance, our preſent tragedy orators, in ſaying, give me thy hand, though no hand but one is meant, childiſhly, or rather pedantically, pronounce thy hand—thou art a villain; this, without compariſon, ſhould be directly oppoſite, thou art a villain; but theſe, and many other eſſentials, are below the notice of all accompliſhed infallible performers, who are as repugnant to the tickling of criticiſm, as a country girl to the approaches of her lover in early hours of cour [...]ſhip.
Action, one moſt graceful and expletive ornament, is almoſt totally neglected as to correctneſs; a needleſs extravagant miſplaced expanſion of arms, is ſubſtituted for that deſcriptive and impreſſive diſpoſition of limbs, which renders the meaning more obvious and delights the view; if the wings of a paper kite (an emblem of ſome arms on the ſtage) did not move ſo invariably, even they would be more diverting.
Among the heroines, a ſtrange exertion of maſculine geſtures take places, which though it may enforce expreſſion, deſtroys eſſential delicacy; there is alſo a dreadful miſapplication here, ſuch as pointing to the ground, or depreſſing the hand when elevation of the heart or mind is expreſſed.
Standing further back than where the curtain falls, is another conſtant and very prejudicial error, as in that ſituation the voice is devoured, and the features are obſcured, nay, ſometimes rendered ſcarce diſtinguiſhable, it is alſo very objectionable for thoſe who do, or apologize for, capital parts, to monopolize what they think the moſt favourable points of view; thus a great man ſtands full fronted to the pit, while another character, perhaps of conſ [...]quence, is obliged to ſpeak with his back three parts to the audience, forming a picture rude and unſatisfactory; characters too, in general, pay too little at [...]ention to each other, male and female acquaintances in pit or boxes, too often call off eyes that ſhould be rivetted to the ſubject and buſineſs of the ſtage.
I have freely, and perhaps it will be thought ſeverely, as I have determined to ſacrifice all other feelings at the ſhrine of truth, expoſed the lamentable declenſion of capital merit, it behoves me to give ſome reaſon: muſical pieces have been a moſt detrimental alternative, and pantomime, with luxuriant ſcenery, have nearly ſwallowed up all regard for intrinſic genius, and ſmothered every generous, uſeful ſympathetic feeling.
Before I quit this part of my ſubject, a part diſagreeably inſiſted on, I think it a duty to congratulate the public, the patentees, and the performers, that ſo diſpaſſionate a regulator is appointed at Covent-garden, as Mr. Hall, whoſe head and heart, from particular knowledge, I can farely pronounce capable of ornamenting any ſtation, except that of a politician, there impartiality and liberal feelings are an obſtacle; I [Page 28] ſincerely wiſh, for the credit of the ſtage, that every performer either would, or was obliged to keep ſo uniformly within their powers as this gentleman does; I cannot be unreaſonable enough to wiſh every ſon of the buſkin to underſtand his author ſo well, that never was nor can be.
Of Mr. Garrick's management, the policy and ſucceſs have been ſo long and ſo univerſally known, that it will ſuffice as a proof of his generalſhip to ſay, that he has often, particularly of late, gained conqueſts without many front rank men; ſorry are all true lovers of the drama, that he has condeſcended to call upon, as mercenaries or allies, the patched coat, wooden ſword, Fete Champetre, &c. there is not a ſingle article of that ſort but renders capital acting merit unneceſſary; ſuffer a mourning friend of the ſtage to utter this lamentable truth with emphatic feeling.
Mr. Foote's inſtitution, extremely peculiar in its nature, is ſcarce deſcribable, I believe he does not wiſh it ſo; if in his temple of Momus, local characters, temporary ſarcaſms, and biting witticiſms, enriched with caricature features and grimace, will do, the whole end is anſwered; and indeed no place of public exhibition ever anſwered the purpoſe ſo well; let me not here be ſuppoſed ſcanty or churl [...]ſh of praiſe, ſince, according to my own opinion, there is more wit, ſatire, ſentiment, and pleaſantry, in the comic productions in this ſwallow ſeaſon theatre, than either of the winter ones, conſidering the quantity of matter produced.
In London the audience are judicious, forbearing, and fond of catching beauties, ready to make every allowance, ſlow to find fault, keen to ſeize all occaſions of applauſe, tardy to reſentment, yet treated properly eaſy to forgive; they know beſt what is right, and yet will ſooneſt forgive what is wrong; they are prone to the dignity, but not the malevolence of criticiſm.
In Scotland they well know bad performance, and bear it with inconceivable ſufferance in public, yet are ſure to remember it in private; and if a public conviction generally takes place it is rigorouſly enforced: the point of criticiſm in which they are moſt judicious is declamation, here judgement holds a very nice ſcale, and among them would ſooner gain applauſe for a cool deliberate ſentiment, well delivered, than for all the enthuſiaſtic rants of Lee, poured forth with force; their idea of players, in a private capacity, has been much, but juſtly vitiated by the miſconduct of individuals, who, under public favour and great emoluments, for that place, have ſhamefully evaded the engagements of honeſty, I could name [Page 29] particulars but wiſh to be excuſed; however, be it enough to ſay, that thoſe who ſhould have preſerved the ſtage from ſhame in that part of the world, and had it moſt in their power, have laboured moſt for its reprobation.
As to the Dublin ſtage, which has been a moſt excellent nurſery for this metropolis, a variety of ſtorms has aſſailed it; ſome owing to proud obſtinate managers, others to proud luxuriant managers, and ſeveral to proud ignorant managers; to ſay truth, though they are excellent critics in the Hibernian metropolis, yet the warmth of paſſion occaſions unwarrantable prejudice and ſavage oppoſition; ſupport is equally violent, and a ſtranger has exceeding fair hoſpitable play: they, as well as we here, have been, from vic [...]ſſitudes and want of leading genius, moſt miſerably off for ſome ſeaſons, inſomuch th [...]t not a performer has been thought worth importing but Mr. Lewis, who we freely admit a pleaſant comedian—keep him out of tragedy his and our good ſtars!
The taſte of Bath, in and out of the theatre, is frippery, governed by coxcombly faſhion; people of conſequence there think dramatic entertainments mere time killing amuſement: the box cuſtomers are inattentive and inſolent; the pit and galleries, made up of their domeſtics or tradeſmen, are ſubmiſſive and ignorant; if a Lady of Quality commands, (a caſe common there) that play muſt be liked. As a proof of profound judgement, a Royal Perſonage, in my remembrance, beſpoke Shakeſpeare's As You Like It, there was a very pleaſant Roſalind, and a good Touchſtone, the reſt could not be much out of the way; ſcarce a creature appear [...]d in the boxes till—the glorious farce of Chronon [...]otonthologos was beginning, th [...]n came the grande [...]s—oh wonderful!—Lord Cheſterfield among the reſt! but it may be eaſily conceived he politely ſacrificed to folly, though it never could be his favou [...]e. What I have advanced of Bath may ſerve all the watering places in the kingdom.
Mancheſter I have already mentioned as a place of opulence, affability, and ſpirit, the upper claſs are not very keen, yet they are very ſenſible and very candid critics; th [...]y would rather praiſe than fin [...] fault, yet they expect ſomewhat more than bare decency; attention is the chiefeſt put of their applauſe, and indeed the beſt any audience can give; that cannot be obtain [...]d by puffing; the lower claſs, freed from their induſtrious avocations, are willing to receive relaxation in the moſt agreeable manner.
At Cheſter, having had many excellent companies from London, and many of the inhabitants going frequently to Dublin, there is a capricious opinion prevails, and they are rather to be t [...]ken with a Theatre Royal name, than real merit without that very honourable addition; there is much politeneſs, [Page 30] hoſpitality, and friendſhip in this city, but too much affectation in their criticiſm.
York is good-naturedly dull; audiences there are remarkable for fixing public regard on individuals, whom they pronounce incomparable; they are a kind of parents to ſuch actors, and maintain them from youth to grey hairs, even againſt judgement; private character, much to the city's honour, is peculiarly conſidered, and, when good, is ſure to be patronized. Mr. Wilkinſon, the preſent pattentee, has given, in a few years, much ſpirit both to the theatre, performers and frequenters of it.
Thus much for the ſtage—My ſchool fellows Deuter and Derrick paid the debt of nature under the age of thirty; the former was placid in public and private life, gave no particular offence or pleaſure on or off the ſtage; he was liberal, a gentleman, and a ſcholar; an unhappy matrimonal connection breaking his temper broke his heart.
Mr. Derrick, when aſtoniſhingly choſen maſter of the ceremonies at Bath, without a ſingle requiſite for the place, promiſed a grateful return, and actually began to make it; but being involved amongſt ladies of eaſy virtue, he ſoon forgot his friend, and ſacrificed his unhappy life to the ſhrine of Venus.
As to myſelf I am ſtill ſcrambling on the ſurface of exiſtence, "with more offences at my beck, &c." as to them let ſome future commemorator ſet them down, and, if I have any good qualities, join them; from my heart I wiſh to be treated with the ſame honeſt veritable freedom with which I have treated others; if anatomizing my mind, even while living, and anatomizing my body when dead, can render any public uſe, I freely ſubſcribe to both; one favourable circumſtance only, I ſhall advance, and venture to maintain, that I would in no caſe, nor upon any view, flatter a monarch, or inſult a beggar.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE COUNTESS OF MEXBOROUGH, AS A DISTINGUISHED CONTRASTE TO THE MODISH WIFE: AS A LIBERAL AND JUDICIOUS ENCOURAGER OF THE DRAMA; AND AS AN ORNAMENT, NOT ONLY OF NOBILITY, BUT OF DOMESTIC LIFE; THE FOLLOWING COMEDY, IS MOST RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED, BY HER LADYSHIP'S VERY OBEDIENT SERVANT,
The AUTHOR.LONDON, JAN. 1775.
- Sir SCRAPEALL,
- Mr. FOLLET.
- Sir CHARLES PRUDENT,
- Mr. DAVIS.
- Mr. CRESSWICK.
- Mr. WILLIAMS.
- Mr. HAMILTON.
- Mr. LOYD.
- Mr. FEARON.
- Lady BRAINLESS,
- Mrs. WILLIAMS.
- Lady CHARLOTTE,
- Mrs. GREVILLE.
- Mrs. BUSY,
- Mrs. ROCHE.
- Miſs ATKINSON.
and who knows what effect it may have upon you, my Adonis, ha! ha! ha! ha!Muſic has charms to ſooth a ſavage breaſt,To ſoften rocks and bend the knotted oak.
Unpractis'd girls, indeed, with bliſs may dally,But ſprightly widows ne'er ſtand ſhilly, ſhally.
WELL, if what I have heard the Colonel ſay be true, that the outſide of a man is moſtly conſidered, I am in a fair way of being as much reſpected as my betters: ſo Monmouth-Street I thank thee for this gaudy title page; I wiſh the volume of my brain, like many modern pieces, may not fall ſhort of what is promiſed—if that ſhould be the caſe, [Page 29] I ſhall be ſtill the more like a fine gentleman, and at worſt may make a brazen front ſtand for the unfurniſhed inſide, that's ſome comfort, however; and has been the road to preferment of many an enterpriſing blade,—Soft, let me recollect my inſtructions, for what is a military man without his plan of operations.—Fuſee, ſays my maſter, I know women, and he that courts a widow muſt throw aſide modeſty—I know that too, Sir, ſays I, for I have courted, ah, and married, ſeveral of your honours oceaſional widows.—Well, no matter for that, Fuſee, this mother Buſy muſt be taken off at all events; ſhe has received a letter to prepare her for your reception; praiſe her beauty, be very fond, and the buſineſs is done—ay, and when it is done, a hopeful bargain I ſhall have; there will be no need of any death's head but her face; I ſhall never ſee it in a morning but it will put me in mind of the other world; and, to ſay the truth, I have not much inclination to think that way yet; but, damn it, the hopes of plunder have made many a man run his head againſt cannon balls; then why ſhould I be afraid of a witch? ſo moſt engaging, glib-tongued ancient Lady—have at you.
there, Sir, there's an epitaph, might ſerve the greateſt man in the land, and the price no more than five guineas.Stop paſſenger, who e'er thou art,And taſte of grief the bitter ſmart;While to your wounded ears I tell,(mind, Sir, Proſopopoeia, the monument ſpeaks)That Charmer's dead—of dogs the belle!Truly pathetic!Of niceſt judgement—pureſt taſte,With every canine virtue graced;The deſart world now cannot boaſt,Such merit as in him is loſt.
yo, ho; what ſquall now, brother Brainleſs?Early in the morning, the ninetenth of may,For ever be recorded the glorious ninety-two:
That human kind no equal bliſs can prove,To the chaſte raptures of connubial love.