Lady S. Ha! ha! 'tis very hard for them to leave a subject they have not quite run down.

Joseph S. And I believe the abuse was no more acceptable to your ladyship than Maria.

Lady S. I doubt her affections are further engaged than we imagine. But the family are to be here this evening, so you may as well dine where you are, and we shall have an opportunity of observing farther; in the meantime I'll go and plot mischief, and you shall study sentiment. [Exeunt.

In the last year of this period (1780), Mrs CowLEY, a neglected poetess, produced her lively comedy, The Belle's Stratagem, which is still popular on the stage. In theatrical phrase, therefore, we may say that, with respect to comedy, the season closed well, and was marked by unusual brilliancy.

This period may be said to have given birth to the well-known species of sub-comedy entitled the Farce-a kind of entertainment more peculiarly English than comedy itself, and in which the literature of our country is surprisingly rich. As inferior in dignity, it is here placed after comedy; but there are reasons why it might have been placed first, for some of its luminaries flourished early in the period, and by their productions exercised a considerable influence on the comedies which came after, and which have just been enumerated. Amongst the first who shone in this field was DAVID GARRICK

[merged small][graphic]
[graphic][merged small]

(1716-1779), so eminent as an actor in both tragedy and comedy. Garrick was a native of Lichfield, and a pupil of Dr Johnson, with whom he came to London to push his fortune. His merits quickly raised him to the head of his profession. As the manager of one of the principal theatres for a long course of years, he banished from the stage many plays which had an immoral tendency; and his personal character, though marked by excessive vanity and other foibles, gave a dignity and respectability to the profession of an actor. As an author he was more lively and various than vigorous or profound. He wrote some epigrams, and even ventured on an ode or two; he succeeded in the composition of some dramatic pieces, and the adaptation of others to the stage. His principal plays are, The Lying

[merged small][ocr errors]

And with soft sighs disperse the irreverent dust Which time may strew upon his sacred bust. Fielding was another distinguished writer in this walk, though of all his pieces only one, Tom Thumb, has been able to keep possession of the stage. He threw off these light plays to meet the demands of the town for amusement, and parry his own clamorous necessities, and they generally have the appearance of much haste. Love a-la-Mode, by MACKLIN, presented a humorous satire on the Scottish character, which was followed up by his more sarcastic comedy of The Man of the World, performed in 1781. Macklin was an actor by profession, remarkable for his personation of Shylock after he was ninety years of age; and his dramatic pieces are lively and entertaining. It must be with some surprise that we find another successful author in this line in the person of the Rev. Mr Townley, master of Merchant Tailors' School: he was the author of High Life Below Stairs, a happy burlesque on the extravagance and affectation of servants in aping the manners of their masters, and which had the effect, by a welltimed exposure, of correcting abuses in the domestic establishments of the opulent classes.

[Scene from High Life Below Stairs.]


Sir H. Oh, ho! Are you thereabouts my lord duke! That may do very well by and by. However, you'll never find me behind hand. [Offers to kiss Kitty.

Duke. Stand off; you are a commoner; nothing under nobility approaches Kitty.

Sir H. You are so devilish proud of your nobility. Now, I think we have more true nobility than you. Let me tell you, sir, a knight of the shire

Duke. A knight of the shire! Ha, ha, ha! a mighty honour, truly, to represent all the fools in the county. Kit. O lud! this is charming to see two noblemen quarrel.

Sir H. Why, any fool may be born to a title, but only a wise man can make himself honourable.

Kit. Well said, Sir Harry, that is good morillity. Duke. I hope you make some difference between hereditary honours and the huzzas of a mob.

Kit. Very smart, my lord; now, Sir Harry. Sir H. If you make use of your hereditary honours to screen you from debt

Duke. Žounds! sir, what do you mean by that? Kit. Hold, hold! I shall have some fine old noble blood spilt here. Ha' done, Sir Harry.

Sir H. Not I; why, he is always valuing himself

upon his upper house.

[Slow. [Quick.

Sir H. But what becomes of your dignity, if we

Duke. We have dignity.

refuse the supplies?

Kit. Peace, peace; here's lady Bab.

Enter LADY BAB'S SERVANT in a chair.

Dear Lady Bab!

Lady Bab. Mrs Kitty, your servant: I was afraid of taking cold, and so ordered the chair down stairs. Well, and how do you? My lord duke, your servant, and Sir Harry too, yours.

Duke. Your ladyship's devoted.

Lady B. I'm afraid I have trespassed in point of time. [Looks on her watch.] But I got into my favourite author.

Duke. Yes, I found her ladyship at her studies this morning; some wicked poem.

Lady B. Oh, you wretch! I never read but one book.

Kit. What is your ladyship so fond of?

Lady B. Shikspur. Did you never read Shikspur? Kit. Shikspur! Shikspur! Who wrote it? No, I never read Shikspur.

Lady B. Then you have an immense pleasure to come. Kit. Well, then, I'll read it over one afternoon or other. Here's Lady Charlotte.

Enter LADY CHARLOTTE'S MAID in a chair.

Dear Lady Charlotte!

[blocks in formation]

Kit. Why, Philip, you have made the boy drunk. Phil. I have made him free of the cellar, ha, ha, ha! Lov. Yes, I am free; I am very free.

Phil. He has had a smack of every sort of wine, from humble port to imperial tokay.

Lov. Yes, I have been drinking kokay.

Kit. Go, get you some sleep, child, that you may wait on his lordship by and by.

Lov. Thank you, madam; I will certainly wait on their lordships and their ladyships too.

[Aside and exit. Phil. Well, ladies, what say you to a dance? and then to supper.

Enter Cook, COACHMAN, KINGSTON, and CLOE. Come here; where are all our people? I'll couple you. My lord duke will take Kitty; Lady Bab will do me the honour of her hand; Sir Harry and Lady Charlotte; coachman and cook; and the two devils will dance together: ha! ha! ha!

Duke. With submission, the country dances by and by.

Lady C. Ay, ay; French dances before supper, and country dances after. I beg the duke and Mrs Kitty may give us a minuet.

Duke. Dear Lady Charlotte, consider my poor gout. Sir Harry will oblige us. [Sir Harry bows. All. Minuet, Sir Harry; minuet, Sir Harry. Kit. Marshal Thingumbob's minuet. [A minuet by Sir Harry and Kitty; awkward and conceited. Lady C. Mrs Kitty dances sweetly. Phil. And Sir Harry delightfully. Duke. Well enough for a commoner.

Phil. Come, now to supper. A gentleman and a lady. [They sit down.] Here is claret, burgundy, and champaign, and a bottle of tokay for the ladies. There are tickets on every bottle: if any gentleman chooses port

Duke. Port! 'Tis only fit for a dram.

Kit. Lady Bab, what shall I send you? Lady Lady C. Oh! Mrs Kitty, I thought I never should Charlotte, pray be free; the more free the more have reached your house. Such a fit of the cholic welcome, as they say in my country. The gentleseized me. Oh! Lady Bab, how long has your lady-men will be so good as to take care of themselves. ship been here? My chairmen were such drones. My lord duke! the pink of all good breeding.

Duke. Oh! ma'am.

[Bowing. Lady C. And Sir Harry! Your servant, Sir Harry. [Formally. Sir H. Madam, your servant: I am sorry to hear your ladyship has been ill.

Lady C. You must give me leave to doubt the sincerity of that sorrow, sir. Remember the Park.

Sir H. The Park! I'll explain that affair, madam. Lady C. I want none of your explanations.


Sir H. Dear Lady Charlotte! Lady C. No, sir; I have observed your coolness of late, and despise you. A trumpery baronet!

Sir H. I see how it is; nothing will satisfy you but nobility. That sly dog, the marquis

Lady C. None of your reflections, sir. The marquis is a person of honour, and above inquiring after a lady's fortune, as you meanly did.

[A pause.

Duke. Lady Charlotte, Hob or nob!' Lady C. Done, my lord, in burgundy if you please. Duke. Here's your sweetheart and mine, and the friends of the company. [They drink. A pause. Phil. Come, ladies and gentlemen, a bumper all round; I have a health for you. Here is to the amendment of our masters and mistresses.'

All. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! [Loud laugh. A pause. Kit. Ladies, pray what is your opinion of a single gentleman's service?

[Loud laugh.

Lady C. Do you mean an old single gentleman?
All. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
Phil. My lord duke, your toast.
Duke. Lady Betty.

Phil. Oh no, a health and a sentiment. Duke. Let us have a song. Sir Harry, your song. Sir H. Would you have it? Well then, Mrs Kitty, we must call upon you: will you honour my muse?

All. A song, a song; ay, ay, Sir Harry's song; Sir

Šir H. I-Í, madam? I scorn such a thing. I assure you, madam, I never that is to say-Egad, I | Harry's song.

Duke. A song to be sure, but first, preludio. [Kisses Kitty.] Pray, gentlemen, put it about.

[Kisses round. Kingston kisses Cloe heartily. Sir H. See how the devils kiss!

Kit. I am really hoarse; but hem-I must clear up my pipes, hem! This is Sir Harry's song; being a new one, entitled and called the Fellow Servant, or All in a Livery.' [Sings.

Phil. How do you like it, my lord duke?
Duke. It is a vile composition.

Phil. How so?

Duke. O, very low!-Very low indeed!
Sir H. Can you make a better?
Duke. I hope so.

Sir H. That is very conceited.

Duke. What is conceited, you scoundrel?

Sir H. Scoundrel! You are a rascal; I'll pull you by the nose. [All rise. Duke. Lookye, friend; don't give yourself airs, and make a disturbance among the ladies. If you are a gentleman, name your weapons.

Sir H. Weapons!-what you will-pistols.
Duke. Done, behind Montague House.
Sir H. Done, with seconds.

Duke. Done.

Phil. Oh, for shame, gentlemen. My lord duke! Sir Harry-the ladies!-fie! [Duke and Sir Harry affect to sing. A violent knocking. Kitty faints.] What the devil can that be, Kitty?

Kit. Who can it possibly be?

Phil. Kingston, run up stairs and peep. [Exit Kingston.] It sounds like my master's rap: pray heaven it

is not he!

But by far the greatest of this class of authors remains to be mentioned. SAMUEL FOOTE (17211777) was born of a good family, and educated at

Samuel Foote.

Oxford; but, squandering away his fortune, was forced to become an actor and dramatic writer. In powers of mimicry, in wit, and in humour, he seems to have gone far beyond all the men of his own time, and it may be questioned if three such men have come under public notice in England. Samuel Johnson, though he disliked the man for his easy morals and his making the burlesquing of private characters

a profession, was forced to admit the amazing powers and fascinations of his conversation. It was in 1747 that Foote commenced a class of new entertainments in the Haymarket theatre, in which he was himself the sole stage figure, and which proved highly attractive by the many droll and whimsical portraits of character which they presented, many of these being transcripts or caricatures of persons well known. The Diversions of the Morning, The Auction of Pictures, and The Englishman in Paris, were the names of some of these pieces. Of the regular farces of Foote, which were somewhat later in production, The Minor-an unjustifiable attack upon the Methodists-was the most successful. It was followed by The Mayor of Garratt, a coarse but humorous sketch, including two characters, in Major Sturgeon, the city militia officer, and Jerry Sneak, which can never be completely obsolete. His plays are twenty in number, and he boasted, at the close of his life, that he had added sixteen decidedly new characters to the English stage.

[Tuft Hunting.]

[From "The Lame Lover."]

CHARLOTTE and SERJEANT CIRCUIT. Charlotte. Sir, I have other proofs of your hero's vanity not inferior to that I have mentioned. Serjeant. Cite them.

Char. The paltry ambition of levying and following titles.

Serj. Titles! I don't understand you.

Char. I mean the poverty of fastening in public upon men of distinction, for no other reason but because of their rank; adhering to Sir John till the baronet is superseded by my lord; quitting the puny peer for an earl; and sacrificing all three to a duke.

Serj. Keeping good company!-a laudable ambition! Char. True, sir, if the virtues that procured the father a peerage could with that be entailed on the son. Serj. Have a care, hussy; there are severe laws against speaking evil of dignities.


Char. Sir!

Serj. Scandalum magnatum is a statute must not be trifled with: why, you are not one of those vulgar sluts that think a man the worse for being a lord!

Char. No, sir; I am contented with only not thinking him the better.

Serj. For all this, I believe, hussy, a right honourable proposal would soon make you alter your mind. Char. Not unless the proposer had other qualities than what he possesses by patent. Besides, sir, you know Sir Luke is a devotee to the bottle.

Serj. Not a whit the less honest for that.

Char. It occasions one evil at least; that when under its influence he generally reveals all, sometimes more than he knows.

Serj. Proofs of an open temper, you baggage; but, come, come, all these are but trifling objections.


Char. You mean, sir, they prove the object a trifle. Serj. Why, you pert jade, do you play on my words! say Sir Luke is

Char. Nobody.

Serj. Nobody! how the deuce do you make that out? He is neither a person attainted nor outlawed, may in any of his majesty's courts sue or be sued, appear by attorney or in propria persona, can acquire, buy, procure, purchase, possess, and inherit, not only personalities, such as goods and chattels, but even realities, as all lands, tenements, and hereditaments, whatsoever and wheresoever.

[blocks in formation]

standing, in this town a great number of nobodies, service, my lord. What, Lloyd with an L! It was not described by Lord Coke.

SIR LUKE LIMP makes his appearance, and after a short dialogue, enter a Servant and delivers a card to SIR LUKE. Sir Luke. [Reads.] Sir Gregory Goose desires the honour of Sir Luke Limp's company to dine. An answer is desired.' Gadso! a little unlucky; I have been engaged for these three weeks.

Serj. What! I find Sir Gregory is returned for the corporation of Fleecem.

Sir Luke. Is he so? Oh, oh! that alters the case. George, give my compliments to Sir Gregory, and I'll certainly come and dine there. Order Joe to run to Alderman Inkle's in Threadneedle Street; sorry can't wait upon him, but confined to bed two days with the new influenza. [Exit Servant. Char. You make light, Sir Luke, of these sort of engagements.

Sir Luke. What can a man do? These fellows (when one has the misfortune to meet them) take scandalous advantage: when will you do me the honour, pray, Sir Luke, to take a bit of mutton with me? Do you name the day? They are as bad as a beggar who attacks your coach at the mounting of a hill; there is no getting rid of them without a penny to one, and a promise to t'other.

Serj. True; and then for such a time too-three weeks! I wonder they expect folks to remember. It is like a retainer in Michaelmas term for the summer assizes.

Sir Lake. Not but upon these occasions no man in England is more punctual than—————

Enter a SERVANT, who gives SIR LUKE a letter. From whom?

Serv. Earl of Brentford. The servant waits for an


Sir Luke. Answer! By your leave, Mr Serjeant and Charlotte. [Reads.] Taste for music-Mons. Duport-fail-dinner upon table at five.'


with an L, indeed, my lord. Because in your part of the world I have heard that Lloyd and Flloyd were synonymous, the very same names. Very often indeed, my lord. But you always spell yours with an L Always. That, Mr Lloyd, is a little unlucky; for you must know I am now paying my debts alphabetically, and in four or five years you might have come in with an F; but I am afraid I can give you no hopes for your L. Ha, ha, ha!


Serv. There was no overtaking the servant. Sir Luke. That is unlucky: tell my lord I'll attend him. I'll call on Sir Gregory myself. [Exit Serv. Serj. Why, you won't leave us, Sir Luke?

Sir Luke. Pardon, dear Serjeant and Charlotte; have a thousand things to do for half a million of people, positively; promised to procure a husband for Lady Cicely Sulky, and match a coach-horse for Brigadier Whip; after that, must run into the city to borrow a thousand for young At-all at Almack's; send a Cheshire cheese by the stage to Sir Timothy Tankard in Suffolk; and get at the Herald's office a coat of arms to clap on the coach of Billy Bengal, a nabob newly arrived; so you see I have not a moment to lose.

Serj. True, true.

Sir Luke. At your toilet to-morrow you may [Enter a Servant abruptly, and runs against Sir Luke.] Can't you see where you are running, you rascal. Serv. Sir, his grace the Duke of Sir Luke. Grace!-Where is he? Serv. In his coach at the door. If you an't better engaged, would be glad of your company to go into the city, and take a dinner at Dolly's.


Sir Luke. In his own coach, did you say?

Serv. Yes, sir.

Sir Luke. With the coronets-or

Serv. I believe so.

Sir Luke. There's no resisting of that. Bid Joe run to Sir Gregory Goose's.

I hope Sir Gregory's servant an't gone.
Serv. Immediately upon receiving the answer.
Sir Luke. Run after him as fast as you can-tell
Serv. He is already gone to Alderman Inkle's.
him quite in despair-recollect an engagement that
Sir Lake. Then do you step to the knight-hey!
can't in nature be missed, and return in an instant.-no-you must go to my lord's-hold, hold, no-I
have it-step first to Sir Greg's, then pop in at Lord
Brentford's, just as the company are going to dinner.
Serv. What shall I say to Sir Gregory?
Sir Luke. Anything-what I told you before.
Serv. And what to my lord?

[Exit Servant. Char. You see, sir, the knight must give way for my lord.

Sir Luke. No, faith, it is not that, my dear Charlotte; you saw that was quite an extempore business. No, hang it, no, it is not for the title; but, to tell you the truth, Brentford has more wit than any man in the world: it is that makes me fond of his house. Char. By the choice of his company he gives an unanswerable instance of that.

Sir Luke, You are right, my dear girl. But now to give you a proof of his wit: you know Brentford's finances are a little out of repair, which procures him some visits that he would very gladly excuse.

Serj. What need he fear? His person is sacred; for by the tenth of William and Mary

Sir Luke. He knows that well enough; but for all that

Serj Indeed, by a late act of his own house (which does them infinite honour), his goods or chattels may


Sir Luke. Seized upon when they can find them; but he lives in ready furnished lodgings, and hires his coach by the month.

Serj. Nay, if the sheriff return 'non inventus."' Sir Luke. A plague o' your law; you make me lose sight of my story. One morning a Welsh coachmaker came with his bill to my lord, whose name was unluckily Lloyd. My lord had the man up. You are called, I think, Mr Lloyd? At your lordship's

Sir Luke. What !-Why, tell him that my uncle from Epsom-no-that won't do, for he knows I don't care a farthing for him-hey! Why, tell him-hold, I have it. Tell him that as I was going into my chair to obey his commands, I was arrested by a couple of bailiffs, forced into a hackney coach, and carried into the Pied Bull in the borough; I beg ten thousand pardons for making his grace wait, but his grace knows my misfor- [Exeunt Sir Luke and Serv. flatter myself I have pretty well established my case. Char. Well, sir, what d'ye think of the proofs? I Serj. Why, hussy, you have hit upon points; but then they are but trifling flaws, they don't vitiate the title; that stands unimpeached.

The popularity of The Beggar's Opera' being partly owing to the excellent music which accompanied the piece, we find in this period a number of comic operas, in which songs and dialogue alternate. Sheridan's unexampled success has been already mentioned. The Devil to Pay, by C. COFFEY, was long a favourite, chiefly for the female character, Nell, which made the fortune of several actresses; and among the best pieces of this description are those by ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, whose operas, The

Padlock, Love in a Village, Lionel Clarissa, &c., present a pleasing union of lyrical charms with those of dramatic incident and dialogue. CHARLES DIBDIN was author and composer of a multitude of musical operas and other dramatic trifles: his Quaker, produced in 1777, is distinguished for its excellent music.


An attempt was made at this period to revive the style of periodical literature, which had proved so successful in the hands of Addison and Steele. After the cessation of The Guardian,' there was a long interval, during which periodical writing was confined to party politics. An effort was made to connect it again with literature by Dr Johnson, who published the first paper of The Rambler on the 20th of March 1750, and it was continued twice a-week, without interruption, till the 14th of March 1752. Johnson received only four contributions (one from Richardson the novelist) during the whole course of the publication, and, consequently, the work bore the stamp of but one mind, and that mind cast in a peculiar mould. The light graces and genialities of Steele were wanting, and sketches of the fashions and frivolities of the times, which had contributed so much to the popularity of the former essayists, found no place in the grave and gloomy pages of The Rambler.' The serious and somewhat pedantic style of the work was ill-calculated for general readers, and it was no favourite with the public. Johnson, when he collected these essays, revised and co rected them with great care, but even then they appeared heavy and cumbrous; his attempts at humour were not happy, and the female characters introduced were all, as Garrick remarked, Johnsons in petticoats. They all speak the same measured lofty style, and resemble figures in sculpture rather than real life. The author's use of hard words was a common complaint; but it is somewhat curious to find, among the words objected to in The Rambler,' resuscitation, narcotic, fatuity, and germination, which have now become of daily use, and carry with them no appearance of pedantry. The turgid style of Johnson, however, often rose into passages of grandeur and beauty; his imagery is striking and original, and his inculcation of moral and religious duty was earnest and impressive. Goldsmith declared that a system of morals might be drawn from these essays. No other English writer of that day could have moralised in such a dignified strain as in the following passages:

[ocr errors]

On useful knowledge:- To lessen that disdain with which scholars are inclined to look on the common business of the world, and the unwillingness with which they condescend to learn what is not to be found in any system of philosophy, it may be necessary to consider, that though admiration is excited by abstruse researches and remote discoveries, yet pleasure is not given, nor affection conciliated, but by softer accomplishments, and qualities more easily communicable to those about us. He that can only converse upon questions about which only a small part of mankind has knowledge sufficient to make them curious, must lose his days in unsocial silence, and live in the crowd of life without a companion. He that can only be useful on great occasions may die without exercising his abilities, and stand a helpless spectator of a thousand vexations which fret away happiness, and which nothing is required to remove but a little dexterity of conduct and readiness of expedients.

No degree of knowledge attainable by man is able to set him above the want of hourly assistance, or to extinguish the desire of fond endearments and

tender officiousness; and, therefore, no one should think it unnecessary to learn those arts by which friendship may be gained. Kindness is preserved by a constant reciprocation of benefits or interchange of pleasures; but such benefits only can be bestowed as others are capable to receive, and such pleasures only imparted as others are qualified to enjoy.

By this descent from the pinnacles of art, no honour will be lost; for the condescensions of learning are always overpaid by gratitude. An elevated genius employed in little things, appears, to use the simile of Longinus, like the sun in his evening declination; he remits his splendour but retains his magnitude, and pleases more though he dazzles less.'

On revenge:-'A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain. He that willingly suffers the corrosions of inveterate hatred, and gives up his days and nights to the gloom and malice and perturbations of stratagem, cannot surely be said to consult his ease. Resentment is a union of sorrow with malignity; a combination of a passion which all endeavour to avoid, with a passion which all concur to detest. The man who retires to meditate mischief, and to exasperate his own rage; whose thoughts are employed only on means of distress and contrivances of ruin; whose mind never pauses from the remembrance of his own sufferings, but to indulge some hope of enjoying the calamities of another, may justly be numbered among the most miserable of human beings, among those who are guilty without reward, who have neither the gladness of prosperity nor the calm of innocence.

Whoever considers the weakness both of himself and others, will not long want persuasives to forgiveness. We know not to what degree of malignity any injury is to be imputed; or how much its guilt, if we were to inspect the mind of him that committed it, would be extenuated by mistake, precipitance, or negligence; we cannot be certain how much more we feel than was intended to be inflicted, or how much we increase the mischief to ourselves by voluntary aggravations. We may charge to design the effects of accident; we may think the blow violent only because we have made ourselves delicate and tender; we are on every side in danger of error and of guilt, which we are certain to avoid only by speedy forgiveness.

From this pacific and harmless temper, thus propitious to others and ourselves, to domestic tranquillity and to social happiness, no man is withheld but by pride, by the fear of being insulted by his adversary, or despised by the world. It may be laid down as an unfailing and universal axiom, that “all pride is abject and mean." It is always an ignorant, lazy, or cowardly acquiescence in a false appearance of excellence, and proceeds not from consciousness of our attainments, but insensibility of our wants.

Nothing can be great which is not right. Nothing which reason condemns can be suitable to the dignity of the human mind. To be driven by external motives from the path which our own heart approves, to give way to anything but conviction, to suffer the opinion of others to rule our choice or overpower our resolves, is to submit tamely to the lowest and most ignominious slavery, and to resign the right of directing our own lives.

The utmost excellence at which humanity can arrive is a constant and determinate pursuit of virtue without regard to present dangers or advantages; a continual reference of every action to the divine will; a habitual appeal to everlasting justice; and an unvaried elevation of the intellectual eye to the reward which perseverance only can ob

« VorigeDoorgaan »