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The Wheel of Fortune. Penruddock. What's all this? For what perverted race of beings was this abominable farrago of absurdity collected ?
Act 111. Sc. III,
THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE.
In Five Acts.
BY RICHARD CUMBERLAND, 1732-1811
PRINTED FROM THE ACTING COPY, WITH REMARKS,
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL.
To which are added,
A DESCRIPTION OF THE COSTUME,-CAST OF THE CHARACTERS,
As now Performed at the
A FINE WOOD ENGRAVING,
By Mr. BONNER, from a Drawing taken in the Theatre by
Mr. R. CRUIKSHANK.
JOHN CUMBERLAND, 19, LUDGATE HILI..
THOSE ignorant Fanatics who declaim so loudly against the immorality of the stage, would do well to read « The Wheel of Fortune;" which, though bearing the profane name of Comedy, may be justly said to lend its powerful aid to the cause of virtue and religion, by painting in true colours the fatal consequences of that most destructive of all vices, gaming--and by inculcating, through the medium of an example perfectly sublime, one of the greatest of all Christian duties,
-—forgiveness of injuries.
The character from which the piece derives its principal interest, is the misanthrope, Roderick Penruddock-A man, who, like Kotzebue's Stranger, had become disgusted with the world, from having proved the victim of its pertidy and ingratitude.Retired to a remote cottage, with a moderate pittance, he had for many years ceased to have commerce with mankind; and having been disappointed in the pursuit of happiness, had sought refuge in tranquillity and solitude. This solitude is however disturbed by the intelligence that the will of a deceased relative had made him the heir of large possessions ;--and fortune, as if to put his philosophy and virtue to an equal trial, places at the same moment in his power the very rival whose treachery had betrayed his early friendship, and blighted his fondest hopes--therefore, if any latent desire of vengeance still rankled in bis bosom, there now awaited, to the fullest extent, its proudest consummation, and its final triumph.
The action commences with the arrival of Mr. T'imothy Weazel, Attorney at Law, booted and spurred, in a Forest, in which, seated amidst a group of trees, the cottage of Penruddock appears. Mr. Weazel, having satisfied himself that this solitary dwelling is not the immediate haunt of wild beasts, or banditti, by a short colloquy with Dame Dunckley, the ancient and sole domestic of the secluded owner, ventures to knock at the door. Penruddock opens the casement, and having questioned Mr. Weasel in no very courteous terms, he prefers dealing with the attorney (as every prudent person would) on the outside of the house, and in open air. He receives the news of this extraordinary bequest, with that philosophical indifference which a true estimate of the value of riches naturally inspires--but when he learns that the man who had so deeply injured him is placed at his mercy-that the proud house of Woodville lies subdued at his
feet; a very different feeling agitates his frame--yoll, which ho held as dirt, becomes his deity-and he burns for the gratification of that passion so nobly described by the poet.
“ Revenge, the attribute of Gods--they stamp'd it
With their great image on our Natures."The dishonoured friend, the broken gamester, Woodville,-next appears in the Forest, in search of Penruddock, to offer him the pleasant alternative of either forgiving, or fighting him—They nieet, each party takes a pistol, and an affair of honour" is only prevented by the timely interference of one Mr. Sydenham, who describes himself as a very idle fellow, who has thrown away much good will upon his friends.”. This gentleman, opon receiving a pacquet from Woodville, with an injunction to give it to the surviver, if he (Woodville) should fall discovers it to be the hand-writing of Mrs. Woodville--he resolves that this fortunate mediation shall not be rejected-an armistice is decreed -and he presents the pacquet to Penruddock, who retires into his cottage to read it,-and the scene closes.
And now the recluse appears once more in London,-attended by Mr. Timothy Weasel, who sticks to him with true professional pertinacity. His first adventure is in the house of Woodville, which presents a melancholy spectacle : the servants dismissed the doors locked and sealed-and an Cfficer (technically speaking) in possession. Here he encounters Henry. Woodville, the son, an ardent enterprising young Soldier, who seeks his unhappy parents in their once-splendid home, unconscious of the ruin that has overwhelmed them. Instead of the long-anticipated welcome of kindred hearts, he meets the uncouth form and stern countenance of the Misanthrope, who, withont disclosing his real character, answers his inquiries with seeming indifference. From his lips he learns the dreadful story of his parents' misfortunes--in the agony of his despair, he invokes his curse on an inheritance derived from gaming and dissipation—and speaks bitterly of the wretched heir-the gloomy, melancholy Recluse, wlio « issues like a hungry lion from his den, to ravage and devour." His ill-timed impetuosity stifles the generous compassion that was rising in the breast of Penruddock, and he resolves, as a punishment to the insolent libeller, to exact his full measure of revenge.
An admirable scene of humour-a true picture of life, now occurs ; Mr. Weazel, as factotum, appears in the splendid saloon of the late Sir George Penruddock, surrounded by a troop of servants in deep mourning, to whom he makes an address which
be pronounced a masterpiece of laconic condolence. He hitches in, by way of moral, a quotation from Shakspeare, (which proof of good taste is sufficient to redeem an hundred attornies from perdition,) and having eulogised their old master,