THE MIRROR OF TASTE,
Vol. I. MAY, 1810. No. 5.
HISTORY OF THE STAGE.
Conclusion of the Greek Drama.
Menander, as has been said in the last chapter, once more rescued the stage of Greece from barbarism. In the death of Aristophanes was involved the death of "the middle comedy," which rapidly declined in the hands of his insufficient successors. The poets and wits that came after him, wanted either the talents, the malignity, or the courage to follow his example, to imitate him in his daring personalities, or to adopt his merciless satyrical style. They followed his steps, only in his feeble, pitiful paths, and contented themselves with writing contemptible buffoon caricature parodies of the writings of the greatest men. The new comedy never could have raised its head, had the middle comedy continued to be supported by a succession of such wits as Aristophanes, with new supplies of envenomed personal satire. Fortunately, however, the stage was pretty well cleared of that pernicious kind of writing when Menander, the amiable and the refined, came forth and claimed the bay.
This celebrated writer, who justly obtained the appellation of "prince of the new comedy," was a native of Athens, and was born three hundred and forty-five years before the birth of Christ. He was educated under the illustrious Theophrastus, from whom he learned philosophy and composition. While a brilliant genius directed him to comic poetry, his natural delicacy, his refined taste, his moral rectitude, and true philosophy controlled his fancy, imparted to his comedies a charm unknown before, and obtained for them the suffrage of the most enlightened, witty, and judicious men of his age, though for the same reason they were, as Hamlet says, caviere to the multitude, and never did please the corrupted and malicious multitude of Athens. With a wit as brilliant and acute as that of Aristophanes, and perhaps as capable of vitious coarseness and ribaldry, he kept it in correction, and scorned to disgrace his compositions with illiberal personal aspersions, or indecent, obscene, or satirical reflections; but endeavoured to make his comedies pictures of real life, replete with refined useful instruction, and sagacious observation, conveyed through the medium of natural elegant dialogue. His writings, though they did not draw the regards of the million with such irresistible and congenial attraction as those of Aristophanes, had the power in some measure to rescue comedy from the unbridled licentiousness and profligacy which, for fifty years before, had rendered it a public nuisance. The multitude, however, he could not, during his lifetime reclaim; for a miserable cotemporary of his, named Philemon, a coarse writer of broad farce, who afterwards died of a fit of laughter at seeing a jackass eat figs, continued by intrigues and his natural influence with the mob, to carry away some prizes from him; though he was so mean and contemptible a poet that his very name would have been forgotten, and long since sunk in eternal oblivion, if it had not been buoyed up by the simple fact of his entering the lists against Menander.
The honours which his corrupted countrymen denied him were conferred upon Menander by strangers; for we are informed by Pliny that the king of Egypt, and the king of Macedon, as a proof of their respect, and admiration of his rare qualities, sent ambassadors to invite him to their courts; and, not contented with that compliment, sent fleets to convey him: such was the fame accompanied with which his unexampled endowments, spread his name over the remotest nations of the east. Whether it was from local attachment to his native land, or from sound philosophical wisdom and disregard of such temptations, he declined those honours, cannot now be known, though the fact is beyond doubt that he never would leave Attica. It is, however, an honourable testimony of the perfect indifference with which he bore the stupid and unjust preference given by the Athenians to his contemptible rival. It was said that he drowned himself in consequence of Philemon's victory: but this report has never been credited, being at variance with all the accounts given by the best authorities, who, on the contrary, relate that so far from being affected at the success of the other, the only notice he ever took of it was, once to ask the victor, "Philemon! do you not blush to wear that laurel?"
Of the incomparable merit of this great man, the principal evidence now existing is the unanimous praise of some of the greatest men of antiquity, since of one hundred and eight comedies which he wrote, nothing but a few fragments remain in their original state. How much the world ought to deplore the loss of those valuable compositions may be collected from the admiration in which they were held by the Romans, who, as we are assured by the ancients, maintained that their favourite TERENCE was very much inferior to Menander. Terence borrowed six or at least four of his plays from this admirable Greek poet, and those though now considered excellent are allowed by his countrymen to have lost much of the spirit of the great originals.
It cannot be doubted that he possessed to an astonishing fulness the talent so little known in the ancient world, and which has exalted our Shakspeare in lofty preeminence above the rest of mankind, of portraying nature in every condition of human life. We have heard of, and frequently read many terse and witty compliments to the genius of Shakspeare, on account of his intimacy with nature; but we know of none superior to that paid to Menander by the great Byzantian grammarian Aristophanes, who, on reading his comedies exclaimed in an ecstasy, "O MENANDER! O NATURE! WHICH OF YOU HAVE COPIED THE WORKS OF THE OTHER?" Ovid held him in no less admiration; and Plutarch has been lavish in his praise: the old rhetoricians recommend his works as the true and perfect patterns of every thing beautiful and graceful in public speaking. Quintilian advises an orator to seek in Menander for copiousness of invention, for elegance of expression, and all that universal genius which is able to accommodate itself to persons, things, and affections: but that which appears to us more decisive than any other eulogy bestowed upon him, is the opinion of Caesar, who, praising his favourite Terence, calls him a half-Menander, thereby leaving upon record his testimony that Menander had twice the merit of the greatest comic poet of Rome.
Such was the poet from whom the mob of Athens snatched the laurel to bestow it upon a mean and execrable scribbler, and to one hundred of whose comedies the prize was denied, while only eight of them were rewarded with it.
From the death of Menander which happened in his fifty-second year, not a dramatic poet arose, nor a circumstance occurred relating to the art in Greece, worthy of commemoration: here, therefore, history drops the dramatic poetry of that country, till in a future page the merits of the ancient and modern drama come to be viewed in comparison with each other, and proceeds to commemorate some of the Grecian actors.
"Poetry," says a celebrated French writer, "has almost always been prior to every other kind of learning, which is undoubtedly owing to its being the produce of sentiment and fancy, two faculties of the mind always employed before reason. Sensible minds are led by a kind of instinct to sing their pleasures, their happiness, the gods whom they adore, the heroes they admire, and the events they wish to have engraven on their memories; accordingly poetry has been cultivated in all savage nations. The warmth of the passions has been of great use in promoting this delightful art." It is not to be wondered at, then, that the Athenians, who, to use the words of the same writer, possessed a lively imagination, great fertility of genius, a rich harmonious language, and eminent abilities excited by the most ardent emulation, should be extravagantly fond of poetry, and no less partial to those who displayed a vigorous spirit of emulation in that art, and an ambition to excel in any of the employments that served to illustrate or give it effect. For these reasons they systematically honoured not only dramatic poets but actors.
How much the important concerns of mankind are swayed and pre-influenced by manners and habits is strongly illustrated in the discrepance which maintained between the taste, the amusements, and opinions of the lively Athenians, and those of the austere and exact people of Sparta, though they were in fact one people. In their amusements, and partly in their taste for literature, they differed essentially. The Athenians loved poetry and music; while the Spartans, whose schemes were founded on utility alone, rather rejected them as superfluous. Poets and musicians, however, who confined themselves to sober and simple subjects, and to grave and dignified expression, were not without admirers and supporters in the latter: and when the Spartans destroyed and sacked the city of Thebes, they spared the house that had been inhabited by PINDAR, in respect to that great poet's memory. TERPANDER too, a lyric poet and musician is related by AElian to have appeased a tumult at Sparta by the sweetness of his notes and the fire of his poetry. They would not, however, endure either poetry or music which did not breathe exalted sentiment, and produce a beneficial impression on the mind.
On the subject of dramatic poetry and its adjuncts, theatres and actors, the Spartans differed as essentially from the Athenians, as the puritans, methodists, quakers, and rigid presbyterians differ from the amateurs of the present day. During a reign of thirty-six years, AGESILAUS who held the drama in contempt, discouraged and kept the actors in depression. This extreme austerity prevailed through all ranks of the rigid Lacedemonian people, who indeed carried it to a length equally absurd and cruel; for they punished with great severity a famous poet and musician, for adding three strings to the harp; grounding their sentence upon a principle universally assented to among them, that the softness of musical sounds produced effeminacy among the people. Of the truth of their proposition in the abstract, there can be little doubt; it is in the rigid application and extreme extension of it the fault lies. Music has certainly a powerful influence on the passions, and produces happy effects upon the human heart and mind when cultivated moderately: but when it becomes the general prevailing passion of a nation, or, as it were, gets dominion over them, it unquestionably produces not effeminacy merely, but a hateful depravity of manners. Whether the unexampled depravation of the modern Italians has been caused by their passionate devotion to music, or their passionate devotion to music by their monstrous depravity shall not be discussed in this place. But the closeness of the connexion between the two things, no matter which may be the cause or which the effect, will serve as an illustration of the subject.
It is related that once, when Callipedes a celebrated tragedian, offered his homage to Agesilaus, and for some time received no notice in return, he said to the king, "Do you not know me, sir?" To which the king replied, "You are Callipedes, the actor," and turned from him with contempt. This harshness and severity extended even to the slaves of the Spartans, some of whom, being taken prisoners of war by the Thebans, and ordered to sing the odes of Terpander for their captors, peremptorily refused to comply, because it was forbidden them by their old masters.
In all Greece, however, Sparta stands a solitary instance of this austerity; for the drama, poetry, and music were enthusiastically cultivated in Athens, and even in every country into which the Grecians penetrated. Players became in many instances the confidential friends, counsellors, and ministers of kings themselves; and Alexander the Great sent Thessalus, an actor, as an ambassador to Pexodorus, the Persian governor of Caria, to forbid a marriage intended by the governor between his daughter and Aridoeus, an illegitimate son of the late king Philip. The proofs which that mighty conqueror has left on record of his partiality to celebrated professors of the histrionic art, are no less extraordinary than numerous, and in some instances, do no great credit to his judgment. Every general in his camp had along with him his poets, musicians, and declaimers. One time Alexander's favourite, Hephestion, accommodated his musician named Evius, with the quarters which belonged of right to EUMENES, the most worthy and renowned of all the Grecian generals. Eumenes boldly remonstrated, and told Alexander that he plainly saw the best way to acquire promotion in his army would be to throw away arms, and learn to play upon the flute or turn actor.
At a contest of skill between Thessalus, Alexander's favourite actor, and another of the name of Athenodorus, the king, though in his heart deeply interested for the success of Thessalus, would not say a word in his favour, lest it should bias the judges, who actually proclaimed Athenodorus victor: the hero then exclaimed that the judges deserved commendation for what they had done, but that he would have given half his kingdom rather than see Thessalus overcome. This was certainly a striking instance of magnanimity. How unprejudiced and generous that great man's mind was may be collected from a subsequent act of his in a case that concerned that very Athenodorus. That performer being heavily fined by the Athenians for not appearing on the stage at the feast of Bacchus implored Alexander to intercede for him; the just and munificent monarch, however, refused to write in his favour, but, in order to relieve the man, paid the fine for him.
In Greece, declamation was regarded as the principal step to honour and advancement in public life. The greatest men practised it, and as they held action to be the criterion of oratory, made the best actors their models; nor was this a groundless opinion adopted by a few or superficial men; for Demosthenes having remarked with some asperity that the worst orators were heard in the rostrum in preference to him, the celebrated actor SATYRUS, in order to show him how much grace, dignity, and action add to the celebrity of a public man, repeated to him several passages from Sophocles and Euripides, which so delighted and astonished Demosthenes that he always afterwards formed his elocution and action on the models of the most celebrated actors.
Having brought the history of the stage to the end of the Greek theatre, this chapter cannot be better concluded than with an extract from an admirable work lately published on the subject in England, to which this history is indebted for some of its materials.
"It remains now only to say, that from the parodies of the ancient writers, begun by Aristophanes, and awkwardly imitated by his contemporaries and successors, sprung mimes, farces, and the grossest buffoonery; and though the Grecian theatre still kept up an appearance of greatness, and there was often some brilliancy beamed across the heterogeneous mass which obscured truth and nature, to which the people were no longer sensible; yet the grandeur and magnificence of public exhibitions decreased; till, at length the fate of the stage too truly foretold the fate of the empire. So certain it is that where the arts are redundant they introduce luxury, and sap the foundation of a state."
For those readers who love biography, the editors of The Mirror have selected one of the most interesting memoirs to be found in the rich treasury of British literature. As a simple, yet animated picture of natural genius, forcing its way through the impediments which waylay early poverty, and breaking forth like the sun in meridian splendor after a morning of tempest, clouds, and darkness, it will be a fit companion for that of Hodgkinson. As a piece of composition, it is perhaps the very finest specimen to be found in any language of the unaffected, unadorned modest style that becomes a biographer, and particularly a writer of his own life.
This memoir first appeared prefixed to that author's translation of Juvenal.
LIFE OF WILLIAM GIFFORD, ESQ. AUTHOR OF THE BAEVIAD AND MAEVIAD, AND TRANSLATOR OF JUVENAL.
I am about to enter on a very uninteresting subject; but all my friends tell me that it is necessary to account for the long delay of the following work; and I can only do it by adverting to the circumstances of my life. Will this be accepted as an apology?
I know but little of my family, and that little is not very precise. My great-grandfather (the most remote of it, that I ever recollect to have heard mentioned) possessed considerable property at Halsworthy, a parish in the neighbourhood of Ashburton; but whether acquired or inherited, I never thought of asking, and do not know.
He was probably a native of Devonshire, for there he spent the last years of his life; spent them too, in some sort of consideration, for Mr. T. a very respectable surgeon of Ashburton, loved to repeat to me, when I first grew into notice, that he had frequently hunted with his hounds.
My grandfather was on ill terms with him: I believe not without sufficient reason, for he was extravagant and dissipated. My father never mentioned his name, but my mother would sometimes tell me that he had ruined the family. That he spent much I know; but I am inclined to think that his undutiful conduct occasioned my great-grandfather to bequeath a part of his property from him.
My father, I fear, revenged in some measure the cause of my great-grandfather. He was, as I have heard my mother say, "a very wild young man, who could be kept to nothing." He was sent to the grammar-school at Exeter; from which he made his escape, and entered on board a man of war. He was soon reclaimed from this situation by my grandfather, and left his school, a second time, to wander in some vagabond society.[A] He was now probably given up, for he was, on his return from this notable adventure, reduced to article himself to a plumber and glazier, with whom he luckily staid long enough to learn the business. I suppose his father was now dead, for he became possessed of two small estates, married my mother,[B] the daughter of a carpenter at Ashburton, and thought himself rich enough to set up for himself; which he did with some credit, at South Molton. Why he chose to fix there, I never inquired; but I learned from my mother, that after a residence of four or five years he was again thoughtless enough to engage in a dangerous frolic, which drove him once more to sea. This was an attempt to excite a riot in a methodist chapel; for which his companions were prosecuted, and he fled, as I have mentioned.
My father was a good seaman, and was soon made second in command in the Lyon, a large armed transport in the service of government: while my mother (then with child of me) returned to her native place, Ashburton, where I was born, in April, 1757.
The resources of my mother were very scanty. They arose from the rent of three or four small fields, which yet remained unsold. With these, however, she did what she could for me; and as soon as I was old enough to be trusted out of her sight, sent me to a school-mistress of the name of Parret, from whom I learned in due time to read. I cannot boast much of my acquisitions at this school; they consisted merely of the contents of the "Child's Spelling Book;" but from my mother, who had stored up the literature of a country town, which about half a century ago, amounted to little more than what was disseminated by itinerant ballad-singers, or rather, readers, I had acquired much curious knowledge of Catskin, and the Golden Bull, and the Bloody Gardener, and many other histories equally instructive and amusing.
My father returned from sea in 1764. He had been at the siege of the Havanna; and though he received more than a hundred pounds for prize money, and his wages were considerable; yet, as he had not acquired any strict habits of economy, he brought home but a trifling sum. The little property yet left was therefore turned into money; a trifle more was got by agreeing to renounce all future pretensions to an estate at Totness;[C] and with this my father set up a second time as a glazier and house-painter. I was now about eight years old, and was put to the free-school, kept by Hugh Smerdon, to learn to read and write, and cypher. Here I continued about three years, making a most wretched progress, when my father fell sick and died. He had not acquired wisdom from his misfortunes, but continued wasting his time in unprofitable pursuits, to the great detriment of his business. He loved drink for the sake of society, and to this love he fell a martyr; dying of a decayed and ruined constitution before he was forty. The town's people thought him a shrewd and sensible man, and regretted his death. As for me, I never greatly loved him; I had not grown up with him; and he was too prone to repulse my little advances to familiarity, with coldness, or anger. He had certainly some reason to be displeased with me, for I learned little at school, and nothing at home, though he would now and then attempt to give me some insight into the business. As impressions of any kind are not very strong at the age of eleven or twelve, I did not long feel his loss; nor was it a subject of much sorrow to me, that my mother was doubtful of her ability to continue me at school, though I had by this time acquired a love for reading.
I never knew in what circumstances my mother was left; most probably they were inadequate to her support, without some kind of exertion, especially as she was now burthened with a second child, about six or eight months old. Unfortunately she determined to prosecute my father's business; for which purpose she engaged a couple of journeymen, who, finding her ignorant of every part of it, wasted her property, and embezzled her money. What the consequence of this double fraud would have been, there was no opportunity of knowing, as, in somewhat less than a twelvemonth, my poor mother followed my father to the grave. She was an excellent woman, bore my father's infirmities with patience and good humour, loved her children dearly, and died at last, exhausted with anxiety and grief more on their account than on her own.
I was not quite thirteen when this happened; my little brother was hardly two; and we had not a relation nor a friend in the world. Every thing that was left was seized by a person of the name of C——, for money advanced to my mother. It may be supposed that I could not dispute the justice of his claims; and as no one else interfered, he was suffered to do as he liked. My little brother was sent to the alms-house, whither his nurse followed him out of pure affection; and I was taken to the house of the person I have just mentioned, who was also my godfather. Respect for the opinion of the town, which, whether correct or not, was, that he had repaid himself by the sale of my mother's effects, induced him to send me again to school, where I was more diligent than before, and more successful. I grew fond of arithmetic, and my master began to distinguish me: but these golden days were over in less than three months. C——sickened at the expense; and, as the people were now indifferent to my fate, he looked round for an opportunity of ridding himself of a useless charge. He had previously attempted to engage me in the drudgery of husbandry. I drove the plough for one day to gratify him, but I left it with a firm resolution to do so no more, and in despite of his threats and promises, adhered to my determination. In this I was guided no less by necessity than will. During my father's life, in attempting to clamber up a table I had fallen backward, and drawn it after me: its edge fell upon my breast, and I never recovered the effects of the blow; of which I was made extremely sensible on any extraordinary exertion. Ploughing, therefore, was out of the question, and, as I have already said, I utterly refused to follow it.
As I could write and cypher, as the phrase is, C——next thought of sending me to Newfoundland, to assist in a store-house. For this purpose he negotiated with a Mr. Holdsworthy of Dartmouth, who agreed to fit me out. I left Ashburton with little expectation of seeing it again, and indeed with little care, and rode with my godfather to the dwelling of Mr. Holdsworthy. On seeing me, this great man observed with a look of pity and contempt, that I was "too small," and sent me away sufficiently mortified. I expected to be very ill received by my godfather, but he said nothing. He did not, however, choose to take me back himself, but sent me in the passage-boat to Totness, whence I was to walk home. On the passage, the boat was driven by a midnight storm on the rocks, and I escaped with life almost by a miracle.
My godfather had now humbler views for me, and I had little heart to resist any thing. He proposed to send me on board one of the Torbay fishing boats; I ventured, however, to remonstrate against this, and the matter was compromised by my consenting to go on board a coaster. A coaster was speedily found for me at Brixham, and thither I went when little more than thirteen.
My master, whose name was Full, though a gross and ignorant, was not an ill natured man; at least not to me: and my mistress used me with unvarying kindness; moved perhaps by my weakness and tender years. In return, I did what I could to requite her, and my good will was not overlooked.
Our vessel was not very large, nor our crew very numerous. On ordinary occasions, such as short trips, to Dartmouth, Plymouth, &c. it consisted only of my master, an apprentice nearly out of his time, and myself: when we had to go further, to Portsmouth for example, an additional hand was hired for the voyage.
In this vessel, the Two Brothers, I continued nearly a twelvemonth; and here I got acquainted with nautical terms, and contracted a love for the sea, which a lapse of thirty years has but little diminished.
It will easily be conceived that my life was a life of hardship. I was not only a "ship-boy on the high and giddy mast," but also in the cabin, where every menial office fell to my lot: yet if I was restless and discontented, I can safely say, it was not so much on account of this, as of my being precluded from all possibility of reading; as my master did not possess, nor do I recollect seeing during the whole time of my abode with him, a single book of any description except the Coasting Pilot.
As my lot seemed to be cast, however, I was not negligent in seeking such information as promised to be useful; and I therefore frequented, at my leisure hours, such vessels as dropt into Torbay. On attempting to get on board one of these, which I did at midnight, I missed my footing, and fell into the sea. The floating away of the boat alarmed the man on deck, who came to the ship's side just in time to see me sink. He immediately threw out several ropes, one of which providentially (for I was unconscious of it) entangled itself about me, and I was drawn up to the surface, till a boat could be got round. The usual methods were taken to recover me, and I awoke in bed the next morning, remembering nothing but the horror I felt when I first found myself unable to cry out for assistance.
This was not my only escape, but I forbear to speak of them. An escape of another kind was now preparing for me, which deserves all my notice, as it was decisive of my future fate.
On Christmas day, 1770, I was surprised by a message from my godfather, saying that he had sent a man and horse to bring me to Ashburton; and desiring me to set out without delay. My master as well as myself, supposed it was to spend the holydays there; and he, therefore, made no objection to my going. We were, however, both mistaken.
Since I had lived at Brixham, I had broken off all connexion with Ashburton. I had no relation there but my poor brother,[D] who was yet too young for any kind of correspondence: and the conduct of my godfather towards me did not entitle him to any portion of my gratitude, or kind remembrance. I lived, therefore, in a sort of sullen independence on all I had formerly known, and thought without regret, of being abandoned by every one to my fate. But I had not been overlooked. The women of Brixham, who travelled to Ashburton twice a week with fish, and who had known my parents, did not see me without kind concern, running about the beach in ragged jacket and trowsers. They mentioned this to the people of Ashburton, and never without commiserating my change of condition. This tale often repeated, awakened at length the pity of their auditors, and, as the next step, their resentment against the man who had reduced me to such a state of wretchedness. In a large town, this would have little effect, but a place like Ashburton, where every report speedily becomes the common property of all the inhabitants, it raised a murmur which my godfather found himself either unable or unwilling to withstand: he therefore determined, as I have just observed, to recall me; which he could easily do, as I wanted some months of fourteen, and consequently was not yet bound.
All this I learned on my arrival; and my heart, which had been cruelly shut up, now opened to kinder sentiments, and fairer views.
After the holydays I returned to my darling pursuit, arithmetic: my progress was now so rapid, that in a few months I was at the head of the school, and qualified to assist my master (Mr. E. Furlong) on any extraordinary emergency. As he usually gave me a trifle on those occasions, it raised a thought in me, that by engaging with him as a regular assistant, and undertaking the instruction of a few evening scholars, I might, with a little additional aid, be enabled to support myself. God knows, my ideas of support at this time, were of no very extravagant nature. I had, besides, another object in view. Mr. Hugh Smerdon, my first master, was now grown old and infirm; it seemed unlikely that he should hold out above three or four years; and I fondly flattered myself that, notwithstanding my youth, I might possibly be appointed to succeed him. I was in my fifteenth year, when I built these castles: a storm, however, was collecting, which unexpectedly burst upon me, and swept them all away.
On mentioning my little plan to C——, he treated it with the utmost contempt; and told me, in his turn, that as I had learned enough, and more than enough, at school, he must be considered as having fairly discharged his duty (so indeed he had); he added, that he had been negotiating with his cousin, a shoemaker of some respectability; who had liberally agreed to take me without a fee, as an apprentice. I was so shocked at this intelligence, that I did not remonstrate; but went in sullenness and silence to my new master, to whom I was soon after bound[E] till I should attain the age of twenty-one.
The family consisted of four journeymen, two sons about my own age, and an apprentice somewhat older. In these there was nothing remarkable; but my master himself was the strangest creature! he was a presbyterian, whose reading was entirely confined to the small tracts published on the Exeter Controversy. As these (at least his portion of them) were all on one side, he entertained no doubt of their infallibility, and being noisy and disputatious, was sure to silence his opponents; and became, in consequence of it, intolerably arrogant and conceited. He was not, however, indebted solely to his knowledge of the subject for his triumph: he was possessed of Fenning's Dictionary, and he made a most singular use of it. His custom was to fix on any word in common use, and then to get by heart the synonym, or periphrasis by which it was explained in the book: this he constantly substituted for the other, and as his opponents were commonly ignorant of his meaning, his victory was complete.
With such a man I was not likely to add much to my stock of knowledge, small as it was; and indeed nothing could well be smaller. At this period I had read nothing but a black letter romance called Parismus and Parismenus, and a few loose magazines which my mother had brought from South Molton. The Bible, indeed, I was well acquainted with; it was the favourite study of my grandmother, and reading it frequently with her, had impressed it strongly on my mind; these then, with the Imitation of Thomas a Kempis, which I used to read to my mother on her death-bed, constituted the whole of my literary acquisitions.
As I hated my new profession with a perfect hatred, I made no progress in it; and was consequently little regarded in the family, of which I sunk by degrees into the common drudge: this did not much disquiet me, for my spirits were now humbled. I did not, however, quite resign the hope of one day succeeding to Mr. Hugh Smerdon, and therefore secretly prosecuted my favourite study at every interval of leisure.
These intervals were not very frequent; and when the use I made of them was found out, they were rendered still less so. I could not guess the motives for this at first; but at length I discovered that my master destined his youngest son for the situation to which I aspired.
I possessed at this time but one book in the world: it was a treatise on algebra, given to me by a young woman, who had found it in a lodging-house. I considered it as a treasure; but it was a treasure locked up: for it supposed the reader to be well acquainted with simple equation, and I knew nothing of the matter. My master's son had purchased Fenning's Introduction: this was precisely what I wanted; but he carefully concealed it from me, and I was indebted to chance alone for stumbling upon his hiding-place. I sat up for the greatest part of several nights successively, and, before he suspected that his treatise was discovered, had completely mastered it. I could now enter upon my own; and that carried me pretty far into the science.
This was not done without difficulty. I had not a farthing on earth, nor a friend to give me one; pen, ink, and paper, therefore, in despite of the flippant remark of lord Orford, were, for the most part, as completely out of my reach, as a crown and sceptre. There was, indeed, a resource; but the utmost caution and secrecy were necessary in applying to it. I beat out pieces of leather as smooth as possible, and wrought my problems on them with a blunted awl; for the rest my memory was tenacious, and I could multiply and divide by it to a great extent.
Hitherto I had not so much as dreamt of poetry: indeed I scarce knew it by name; and, whatever may be said of the force of nature, I certainly never "lisp'd in numbers." I recollect the occasion of my first attempt: it is, like all the rest of my non-adventures, of so unimportant a nature, that I should blush to call the attention of the idlest reader to it, but for the reason alleged in the introductory paragraph. A person, whose name escapes me, had undertaken to paint a sign for an alehouse: it was to be a lion, but the unfortunate artist produced a dog. On this awkward affair one of my acquaintance wrote a copy of what we called verse; I liked it, but fancied I could compose something more to the purpose: I tried, and by the unanimous suffrage of my shop-mates was allowed to have succeeded. Notwithstanding this encouragement, I thought no more of verse, till another occurrence, as trifling as the former, furnished me with a fresh subject; and so I went on, till I had got together about a dozen of them. Certainly nothing on earth was ever so deplorable: such as they were, however, they were talked of in my little circle, and I was sometimes invited to repeat them, even out of it. I never committed a line to paper for two reasons; first, because I had no paper; and secondly—perhaps I might be excused from going further; but in truth I was afraid, for my master had already threatened me, for inadvertently hitching the name of one of his customers into a rhyme.
(To be concluded in our next.)
[A] He had gone with Bamfylde Moore Carew, then an old man.
[B] Her maiden name was Elizabeth Cain. My father's christian name was Edward.
[C] This was a lot of small houses, which had been thoughtlessly suffered to fall into decay, and of which the rents had been so long unclaimed, that they could not now be recovered unless by an expensive litigation.
[D] Of my brother here introduced for the last time, I must yet say a few words. He was literally
The child of misery baptized in tears;
and the short passages of his life did not belie the melancholy presage of his infancy. When he was seven years old, the parish bound him out to a husbandman of the name of Leman, with whom he endured incredible hardships, which I had it not in my power to alleviate. At nine years of age he broke his thigh; and I took that opportunity to teach him to read and write. When my own situation was improved, I persuaded him to try the sea; he did so, and was taken on board the Egmont, on condition that his master should receive his wages. The time was now fast approaching when I could serve him, but he was doomed to know no favourable change of fortune: he fell sick, and died at Cork.
[E] My indenture, which now lies before me, is dated the first of January, 1772.
BIOGRAPHY—FOR THE MIRROR.
SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF THE LATE MR. HODGKINSON.
(Continued from page 297.)
The regulations of society, and the accidents of life too often thwart the intentions of nature. Multitudes of human beings are in every age poured forth from her inexhaustible stores, with inherent powers to rise to distinction in the highest provinces of art and science, who yet are condemned by the obstructions which worldly circumstance throws in their way, to languish in obscurity—to live dejected and to die unknown. Some whose natural endowments would, under less unpropitious circumstances, qualify them to reach the summit of fame, are fettered by want of patronage and pecuniary distress, while others are cramped in their efforts by a complexional sensibility which they cannot overcome, and checked in enterprise by diffidence and timidity, the natural offspring of a refined and delicate structure.
If genius were always associated with physical force and constitutional vigour, we should have had the dignities of the world more appropriately filled than they are, and many who lord it would be found with their necks bent in humiliation.
How many then should cover that stand bare! How many be commanded that command!
Where mental and constitutional force are combined, and extraordinary talents are sustained by resolution, confidence, vigorous animal spirits, and the perseverance and indefatigable industry, supplied by corporal strength, the obstructions must be numerous and great that can prevent the possessor from rising. In Hodgkinson those requisites were united in an eminent degree. No adversity could crush his energies, no prosperity impair his industry. It was but a few months before his death that old Mr. Whitlock under whose management Hodgkinson had early in life played in the north of England, said to this writer, "John had as much work in him as any two players I ever knew—he's the same in that respect now, and will be the same to the end of the chapter."
Something of this the reader may have already perceived in the specimens afforded by H's boyish adventures. His forcing his way to the notice of one of the most respectable managers in England, and obtaining a footing upon the stage, when not fifteen years of age, would appear incredible if it were not so much a matter of notoriety as to be subject to demonstrative proof. Intimately as the writer thought himself acquainted with the minutest circumstances of H's first adventures at Bristol, he finds that there was one which either he had forgotten, or H. had neglected to mention to him. Though it be of no very great moment, yet as it serves to thicken the circumstances which elucidate the boy's character, it is introduced in this place. Since the publication of the last number of The Mirror, the editor received the following letter directed to "the biographer of Mr. Hodgkinson."
"Considering the circumstantial minuteness with which you have related the youthful adventures of Mr. H. I am surprised at your not mentioning one which I know to be a fact. On the first night's performance of the company after his arrival at Bristol, his passionate love of the stage made him imprudent enough to throw away two shillings for a seat in the gallery, which left him with only ninepence in his pocket. Wishing your work success,
"I am yours obediently,
"An old friend of John Hodgkinson."
Upon mentioning this to another most intimate friend of the deceased in this city, he said that he was sure the fact was so, as H. had more than once mentioned it to him in the chitchat of their convivial hours.
Of his theatrical employment while a boy at Bristol, he was not in the habit of mentioning particulars. Either there was nothing interesting in it as a story, or it was so low that he felt no pleasure in dwelling upon it. He helped to make up the crowd in a spectacle and occasionally delivered letters and short messages on the stage: but his most important and useful occupation was singing in choruses. In the dirge in Romeo and Juliet he had a part allotted him, and never could forget the mortification he felt when a person of consequence inquired of the manager which of the ladies it was that so far exceeded all the rest in the power and sweetness of her voice. The praises bestowed on his voice were poison to his ambitious young heart, when coupled with an impeachment of his manhood.
There is one anecdote, however, of which though this writer has but an obscure recollection, he thinks worth mentioning, as it serves to throw a small ray of light upon one of H's characteristic foibles. One evening, being in full glee, and talking of his early life to this writer and three or four more of his acquaintances, he said that the first time he ever received, specifically on his own account, the slightest mark of applause was on this occasion. He had a letter to deliver in a certain play or farce of the name of which the writer has not at this moment the slightest recollection. The person to whom he was to give the letter was, according to the plan of the piece, in very ridiculous circumstances, scuffling with his wife, which he vainly endeavoured to conceal. After handing him the letter it was H's business to retire; but the comedian acted his part so naturally and looked so ridiculously rueful, that it completely discomposed the boy's nerves, so that just as he got to the side wing, and was about to disappear, he could not help turning about and looking back at the man, and in spite of him burst into a fit of laughter, which he endeavoured to suppress by putting his hand to his mouth. The audience thinking it was purposely done in character, were astonished at the natural way in which the boy acted it, and gave him loud marks of approbation—"I dare say," continued H. "I looked devilish odd at the time, for the house laughed incontinently." "Ay, ay," gravely replied a young Irishman who was present, "I dare say it was your game eye they laughed at." Down fell the muscles of poor H's face—he changed colour, and was for sometime before he could rally his spirit or recover his pleasantry.[F]
His time, however, was not lost or misapplied. He had an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge, and therefore read, with ardour and industry, every book he could lay his hands upon; and he has told this writer, that if reading had been painful to him, his ambition was so ascendant, and his determination to rise in the world so unalterable, that he would not have read less. Strong indeed must have been the internal impulse which made a boy of his age and spirits, his own voluntary task-master, which induced him to lay the pleasures natural to his age at the feet of a laudable purpose, and to devote to useful labour a portion of his time, greater than the most diligent college book-worms devote to their studies. He has declared to this writer that in summer time he rarely gave more than five hours out of the four and twenty to sleep. The rest was devoted to reading, refreshment by food, attendance on the stage, and the practice of music. These constituted the whole of his amusements; except that, when at Bath, he went out sporting—not to shoot, but to see others shooting. One of the players who was a sportsman, was a favourite of some of the great men in the neighbourhood, and often went out shooting with them. On these occasions H. accompanied him, carried his hawking-bag, powder magazine, shot, &c. and helped to mark the birds when they sprung. Thus was generated the passion for dogs and shooting to which he was afterwards so warmly addicted, and which indeed was, in the end, the cause of his death.
The worthy prompter supplied him with books, a benefit he derived from the following circumstance. In Bristol there is a lane or street occupied by venders of second-hand articles of various kinds. Thither he one day repaired to buy, if possible, a pair of cheap silk stockings:—poor John, like many others in the world, was most vain of that part of him which was least handsome. As he sauntered along inspecting the goods that lay exposed to view, he saw a bookstand, at which he stopped, and with greedy eye devoured each title-page. An odd volume of Harris's Hermes caught his fancy, and after having pondered for some time on the alternative, whether he should postpone legs in favour of head, or vice versa, he concluded on the former, saying to himself that Hermes would be snatched up by the first person who saw it; but that the second hand silk stockings could be got at any time. The volume was eighteen pence; yet so restricted was our hero's finances, that this little sum deranged his stocking plan for a week.
His friend the prompter, seeing the book with him, took it out of his hand, and looking at it, told him he had thrown away his money in buying such stuff, and exhorted him not to waste his time in reading it. On coming to an explanation with him, the good man finding the boy intent upon improvement, benevolently told him that he should neither want proper books, nor instructions how to make use of them. He then lent him Lowth's grammar, and pointed out the most useful places. H. read it diligently, and though he seldom forgot any thing he once read, he perused Lowth three or four times over. The literary knowledge of H. was one of the most astonishing circumstances about him. It is doubtful whether on the day he died, he left a more perfect orthoepist living behind him. Indeed his attainments, particularly in poetry and critical science were so great, considering his early privation of means, that with all the aid derived from his frequent and free communications, the writer of this has often found it difficult to account for them satisfactorily.
From this period of H's life all is an hiatus till his connexion with the celebrated James Whiteley, manager of the most extensive midland circuit ever known in England; viz. Worcester, Wolverhampton, Derby, Nottingham, Retford and Stamford theatres. Why, how, or when he left Bath and Bristol—or whether he was intermediately employed at any other theatre, the writer is not in possession of a single fact to enable him to determine. Of one Miller, a manager, he has heard H. speak, but not with any interest. James Whiteley was the theme on which he most liked to dwell. Whiteley was perhaps the greatest oddity on the face of the earth; but of a heart sound, and benevolent beyond the generality of mankind. Violently passionate, and in his passions vulgar, rude, boisterous, and so abhorrent of hypocrisy, that he laboured to make himself appear as bad as possible. He was a native of Ireland; and it has often been said of him that in eccentricity and benevolence he was a full match for any man of that country. He would ridicule and abuse his actors in a style of whimsical foulmouthedness peculiar to himself—but he would allow no other man living to do it—and while conferring substantial benefits upon them, would blackguard them like a Billingsgate fishwoman. So essentially did he differ from most other managers, that instead of wronging or pinching them, instead of intriguing against them, to run them down with the public, in order to enhance his own consequence, he was their champion, their sincere friend, and the strenuous supporter of their character and of the dignity of his company. If they fell into misfortune they found in him a father—and, dying rich, he bequeathed to his veteran performers who survived him, a weekly salary for life, which those who survive still enjoy. Whoever has read or heard of the character of doctor Moncey, may form some idea of the oddity of James Whiteley. Whiteley went much further than Moncey—for the effusions of his spleen or his humour were sometimes too coarse and indelicate to bear public repetition, though they still remain the topic of conversation with all who knew him, and supply an inexhaustible fund of mirth to all who remember him.
In this extraordinary personage Hodgkinson found the warmest, most benevolent friend; and, what may appear strange, a most valuable instructor. Himself always appearing wrong, and speaking like one cracked, he never failed to set right all those who were guided by his advice; and, while his tongue ran riot as if he were drunk or mad, his conduct was governed by sound sense and prudence. If ever any thing hobby-horsical or pedantic crept into the conversation of Hodgkinson, it was his fondness for describing this worthy oddity.
He had heard Whiteley's character described in a variety of quarters, and went to him expecting to be ridiculed, blackguarded, and patronised. Nor was he disappointed. Under his auspices, H. grew up, acquired professional knowledge, and, considering his age, much fame. A whole number of this work would not contain the anecdotes which, in his cheerful moments, Hodgkinson has related to this writer, of Whiteley's worth and eccentricities; but the humour and oddity of them were of a kind not only too coarse for general perusal, but so dependant for effect upon the manner of telling them, that it would be idle to relate them here. Their first meeting, however, and the conversation on that occasion may be hazarded. A gentleman of the name of Mills, an old friend of W's and much in his good graces, introduced our youth to him, having previously obtained his consent to see the lad, and consider what line of business he was fit for. "You must not," said this mutual friend, "take ill any thing that Whiteley says to you. He is a kind of privileged person—says what he pleases to every one, and does all the good he can. But this I can tell you, that if he treats you ceremoniously (for no man can be more perfectly the gentleman when he pleases) you have no chance with him.
"My name being announced," said H. relating to this writer his first interview, "Jemmy Whiteley surveyed me from head to foot with a grinning drollery, that no words can describe; he spat out, according to custom, about a score of times, and after a tittering laugh was proceeding to speak, when he was suddenly called off." "Stay here," said he, "I'll be back in a minute or two." As he was leaving the room he stopped at the door—looked back at me again—pulled up his small clothes, and jeeringly tittered at me in a manner that was enough to provoke a saint, if it were not for the man's well known character. "It will do I see," said my friend, "depend upon it, it will do—dont mind his sayings; but when you come to business, be plain, downright and firm, and you'll have his heart." When W. returned, he again surveyed me from head to foot, and again grinned and tittered. I was almost as tall as I am now, and as thin perhaps as you ever saw any one of the same height. My face too was pale from recent indisposition, and I had no appearance of beard. "So," said he, addressing Mills, "this is the chap about whom you gave me such a platter of stirabout with Ballyhack butter[G] in it yesterday." So far from being vexed or daunted by this first address, the like of which I had never heard before, nor could well understand, the playful, good-natured drollery in his face, and the singularity of his deportment tickled me so, that I could not, if it were to save my life, suppress a smile of merriment, upon which after scrutinizing my face with the eye of a master of his business, he turned to the other and said, "the blackguard has some fun in him I see, though he looks as if a dinner would not come amiss to him—for he's as slim as a starved greyhound;" then casting a comical glance at my clothes which were neat, good, and new—he said, "Why boy, your belly ought to swear its life against your back, for you are killing the one to cover the other." I blushed, but still could not help laughing. "You are mistaken Whiteley," said the other, "there is not a man in your company eats better than John." "Where does he get it?" said W. "he cant have above half a guinea a week for his salary, and the clothes now on his back must cost at least twenty half guineas, or perhaps half a year's pay." "Go on Whiteley," said the other, "discharge all your Irish nonsense upon his head, he has temper to bear it all; in the meantime I'll take a walk, and come back again: but let me know what time you intend to be done, that I may be ready to a minute; for in matters of business Whiteley, you know I like to be punctual." W. understood this sarcasm, and turning to Mills, poured forth such a volley of whim and oddity as I think never fell from the lips of any other man in this world. When he was in this vein of humour, he had, in addition to the comic cast of his countenance, a lisp and a brogue which enhanced his drollery, and at every pause he drew in his breath as if he were sipping out of a teaspoon. He began, "Now you think yourself a very clever fellow after that oration, dont you! you feel aisy I hope Mr. Mills, after throwing that wisp of bullrushes off your stomach! have you made your speech, honey?" Mills laughed and bowed submission. "Pull down your cap then, my dear, and be hanged." Then turning to me, "Take care of yourself, boy, for if you mind what this man says to you, you'll come to the gallows: you stand a chance of that as it is, or I am very much out in my reckoning; but if you follow his advice, you will be hanged as dead as Jack the painter, or my name's not Jemmy Whiteley." "Never in my life before or since," continued H. "was I so astonished, or so diverted. In the midst of all the ribaldry of his mouth and the farce of his countenance, the benevolence of his heart glistened in his eyes;—my nerves were convulsed with a twofold sensation, and actually so enfeebled that, bursting into a fit of laughter I, unbidden, sat down in a large arm chair that stood behind me." "What's this his name is," said he to Mills: "Hodgkinson," replied the other. "I thought that there must be an O or a MAC to his name by the aisy affability with which he helped himself to the great chair. Old Maclaughlin, that blackguard Jew that calls himself Macklin, could not surpass it for modesty." I rose. "Och, to the d—l with your manners honey," said he, clapping his two hands on my shoulders and pressing me down into the chair, "stay there since you're in it, and be d——d to you."
"Well, Whiteley," said my friend, "as you think my advice might be fatal to the young man, give him some advice yourself. What do you think he had best do? what do you think fittest for him?" "Any fool can tell him that," returned Whiteley: "the best and the first thing I advise him to do, is to eat a hearty meal, and as I dare say he has not a jingle[H] in his pocket, I advise him to stay here and dine; and you may stay along with him, if you please." "I cant—I'm engaged," said the other. "Then if you dont, the d——l a crust shall he crack here." Upon which, turning to me, he said, "see what you can do with him, boy—if you cant keep him along with you, you dont get a toothful in this house." I looked foolishly at my friend, who said, "Well, if that be the case, I must stay;" upon which W. making me a very low formal bow, gravely said, "I thank you, sir, for the great honour this gentleman does me, in condescending to eat a piece of the best leg of mutton in the north of England."
"W. then sat down, but he overflowed so with oddity, that business was out of the question. Every three minutes produced an explosion of the most extravagant kind—often full of humour, sometimes witty, always coarse. It was in vain that my friend now urged, and now insinuated the subject of the stage; Whiteley baffled him with a joke or a jeer, or a story—and sometimes with a transition so extreme, rapid, and unconnected, that it was impossible to do any thing with him. My singing was adverted to. "Ay," said Whiteley, "I suspected he was one of your squallers; I thought from his chalky face and lank carcase that he was of the Italian breed, and that his story would end in a song. Did you ever see Signor Tenducci, boy?" "No sir." "No matter, you are not the worse for that; but I have nothing to do with Italianos. I have none but men and women in my company." I then ventured to advert to the English opera and hinted at my old favourite The Padlock. "Why if I were disposed to try you, there is nothing in the Padlock that you could play and I could give you. The part of Ursula is filled by the same old lady who has played it for years in my theatres." The torrent could not be resisted, so we swam along with it, and laughed heartily. "You are too bad Jemmy Whiteley," said Mr. Mills, "by my soul, you're too bad." "Oh I am a very bad fellow to be sure; you'll talk on the other side of your cheek by and by, when you are swallowing my old ale and red port at three and six pence a bottle."
"At length dinner was announced, and to tell you the truth, I had much rather have gone without any than sat down to dine. I was at the best very bashful, and Whiteley's coarse insinuation that I wanted a dinner, though jocularly spoken, stuck in my throat, and made me blush heartily when he helped me. But now his manner was changed, and he displayed such unfeigned hospitality, and such an earnest desire that we should enjoy ourselves, showing us himself the example, that before dinner was half over, I was perfectly comfortable. He pressed me to drink, but was greatly pleased at my refusing to comply. In a word, no two men were ever more different than Jemmy Whiteley in the rhodomontade of the morning and Mr. James Whiteley at his own hospitable, respectable board. He and my friend chatted and drank cheerfully. I looked on, listened, and sung two or three songs for them at Mr. W's request. When my friend made a motion to go, the good manager thus addressed me: "look you my good lad, when the waiter of a tavern or the potboy of a porter-house presents me a pot of beer or ale, I always blow off the froth from the top or wait till it subsides, and then bring it to the light and look down carefully through it, lest it should be muddy or foul, or have some dirt such as a candle-snuff, a mouse, a toad, or some trifle of that kind floating in it: in a word, to know what I am about to swallow. Just so I deal with men, when they approach me in a way that seeks connexion: for I dont like changing, and I greatly detest the fallings out and fallings in again which seem to make up the business and pleasure of so many in this life. While I was blackguarding you and you staring and laughing at me, I was looking down through your contents from your frothy powdered head down to the very bottom; and so, if your friend and you will call here tomorrow morning, I will try to bring my tongue down to some serious conversation with you.""
In a word, our youth next day found himself placed with a man of justice, honour, and generosity, with whom he remained till the grave terminated the contract. Whiteley's passions were so lively, and bad habit had so devested him of all control over his tongue that he would d—n and curse his actors, and call them foul names, even during the performance of the stage, and that too so loud that the audience would frequently hear him. Yet he was in substantial concerns a truly excellent man.
The next place in which Hodgkinson can be distinctly traced is the northern line of theatres, then under the management of Whitlock and Munden, viz. Newcastle, Sheffield, Lancaster, Preston, Warrington, and Chester. In the course of his business in this circuit, the extension of his fame more than kept pace with his years, and he was soon looked upon as the most promising actor of his age. At first he was valued chiefly for his musical talents. A gentleman now residing in Philadelphia was present at his first appearance in that circuit at Preston in Lancashire. A valuable actor and singer was put out of the character of Lubin in the Quaker, to make way for H's debut in that character, in which he was not so warmly received as the managers expected, being encored in only one of the songs. His matchless industry, however, grafted on his great talents, soon produced a rich harvest of the most excellent fruits. He became a very useful general actor, played any thing and every thing the managers thought it their interest to appoint him to, whether tragedy, comedy, opera, or farce; and too confident in his own powers to be captious or fastidious, he never reneged an inferior part, when it was the managers' interest he should play it, even when, by the laws of the theatre, he was entitled to the first. Mr. Whitlock told this writer that H. did with good will more work than any two performers they had. "I have known him," said the old gentleman, "after performing in both play and after-piece at Newcastle in Northumberland, set off without taking a moment's rest in a post-chaise, travel all night, and rehearse the next day and perform the next night in play and farce at Preston in Lancashire."
Powerful as were his talents, he would not, in all probability, have risen to acknowledged eminence in his profession for many years, if he had not fallen under the observation of Mrs. Siddons. That extraordinary actress, little less illustrious for private virtues than splendid talents, being engaged one summer in the northern theatres, observed with pleasure and astonishment, a young man of abilities far above the crowd that played with him. To adopt her own words, she at the first glance discerned a rough, uncleansed diamond sparkling in a heap of rubbish that surrounded it, and through the soil with which it still was encrusted emitting brilliant rays of light. It was her delight to stretch forth her mighty hand to raise genius from depression, and resolving to raise Hodgkinson she took the most decisive means to do so. She appointed him to perform the principal characters to her in every play in which she acted and brought him for the purpose along with her to all the provincial theatres in which she was engaged.
(To be continued.)
[F] Handsome as H. was, he had a strange defect in his eyes: one of them was smaller than the other, and in his efforts to reduce them to an equality, he sometimes produced a whimsical archness of physiognomy. He did not relish its being noticed, however, and thought the young Irishman very rude.
[G] In the low cant of the Irish, gross adulation is called the dirty butter of Ballyhack.
[H] A JINGLE—means a very small piece of coin in the slang of the low Irish.
Colley Cibber has transmitted to us in his apology, the following character of the greatest of all comedians.
Nokes was an actor of a quite different genius from any I have ever read, heard of, or seen, since or before his time; and yet his general excellence may be comprehended in one article, viz. a plain and palpable simplicity of nature, which was so utterly his own, that he was often as unaccountably diverting in his common speech, as on the stage. I saw him once, giving an account of some table talk, to another actor behind the scenes, which a man of quality accidentally listening to, was so deceived by his manner, that he asked him if that was a new play he was rehearsing? it seems almost amazing, that this simplicity, so easy to Nokes, should never be caught by any one of his successors. Leigh and Underhill have been well copied, though not equalled by others. But not all the mimical skill of Estcourt (famed as he was for it) though he had often seen Nokes, could scarce give us an idea of him. After this perhaps it will be saying less of him, when I own, that though I have still the sound of every line he spoke, in my ear, which used not to be thought a bad one, yet I have often tried, by myself, but in vain, to reach the least distant likeness of the vis comica of Nokes. Though this may seem little to his praise, it may be negatively saying a good deal to it, because I have never seen any one actor, except himself, whom I could not, at least so far imitate, as to give a more than tolerable notion of his manner. But Nokes was so singular a species, and was so formed by nature, for the stage, that I question if, beyond the trouble of getting words by heart, it ever cost him an hour's labour to arrive at that high reputation he had and deserved.
The characters he particularly shone in, were Sir Martin Marrall, Gomez in the Spanish Friar, Sir Nicolas Cully in Love in a Tub, Barnaby Brittle in the Wanton Wife, Sir Davy Dunce in the Soldier's Fortune, Sosia in Amphytrion, &c. &c. To tell you how he acted them, is beyond the reach of criticism: but to tell you what effect his action had upon the spectator, is not impossible: this then is all you will expect from me, and hence I must leave you to guess at him.
He scarce ever made his first entrance in a play, but he was received with an involuntary applause, not of hands only, for those may be, and have often been partially prostituted, and bespoken; but by a general laughter, which the very sight of him provoked, and nature could not resist; yet the louder the laugh, the graver was his look upon it; and sure, the ridiculous solemnity of his features were enough to set a whole bench of bishops into a titter, could he have been honoured (may it be no offence to suppose it) with such grave and right reverend auditors. In the ludicrous distresses, which by the laws of comedy, Folly is often involved in; he sunk into such a mixture of piteous pusillanimity, and a consternation so ruefully ridiculous and inconsolable, that when he had shook you, to a fatigue of laughter, it became a moot point, whether you ought not to have pitied him. When he debated any matter by himself, he would shut up his mouth with a dumb studious pout, and roll his full eye into such a vacant amazement, such a palpable ignorance of what to think of it, that his silent perplexity (which would sometimes hold him several minutes) gave your imagination as full content, as the most absurd thing he could say upon it. In the character of Sir Martin Marrall, who is always committing blunders to the prejudice of his own interest, when he had brought himself to a dilemma in his affairs, by vainly proceeding upon his own head, and was afterwards afraid to look his governing servant and counsellor in the face; what a copious, and distressful harangue have I seen him make with his looks, while the house has been in one continued roar for several minutes, before he could prevail with his courage to speak a word to him! then might you have, at once, read in his face vexation—that his own measures, which he had piqued himself upon, had failed. Envy—of his servant's superior wit—distress—to retrieve, the occasion he had lost. Shame—to confess his folly; and yet a sullen desire, to be reconciled and better advised for the future! what tragedy ever showed us such a tumult of passions rising at once in one bosom! or what buskined hero standing under the load of them, could have more effectually moved his spectators, by the most pathetic speech, than poor miserable Nokes did, by this silent eloquence, and piteous plight of his features?
His person was of the middle size, his voice clear and audible; his natural countenance grave and sober; but the moment he spoke, the settled seriousness of his features was utterly discharged, and a dry, drolling, or laughing levity took such full possession of him, that I can only refer the idea of him to your imagination. In some of his low characters, that became it, he had a shuffling shamble in his gait, with so contented an ignorance in his aspect, and an awkward absurdity in his gesture, that had you not known him, you could not have believed, that naturally he could have had a grain of common sense. In a word, I am tempted to sum up the character of Nokes, as a comedian, in a parody of what Shakspeare's Mark Antony says of Brutus as a hero.
His life was laughter, and the ludicrous So mix'd, in him, that nature might stand up, And say to all the world—this was an actor.
THEOBALDUS SECUNDUS, OR SHAKSPEARE AS HE SHOULD BE.
Hamlet Prince of Denmark, continued.
Latin and Greek are the only tongues in which departed spirits can be addressed, for this reason they are denominated the dead languages. The nonappearance of these supernatural beings in the present day, may be fairly ascribed to the decay of the learned languages. COBBET, with all his volubility, has not a word to throw at a ghost. Johnson says:
When Learning's triumph o'er her barbarous foes, First rear'd the stage, immortal Shakspeare rose.
This is converting learning into a bricklayer, and would have come with a better grace from Ben Jonson than from Sam. But however that may be, under such an architect, ghosts would naturally be enrolled in the company. Dr. Farmer may say what he pleases, but I firmly believe Shakspeare had Latin enough to talk to his own ghosts; though I doubt whether I can express the same belief as to certain modern writers, who, by reviving ghosts to squeal and gibber on the London stages, have taken the same liberties as Shakspeare, without taking the same talents—"we have no cold beef sir," said the landlady at Glastonbury to a hungry traveller; "but we have excellent mustard!" All this however is foreign to the Prince of Denmark,
Horatio. ——I have heard, The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn, Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat Awake the god of day.
Doctor Fungus will have it, that cock should be clock, and ground his opinions upon the situation of St. Paul's clock. But this would spoil the poetry of the whole passage. What an accurate picture does the creative pencil of our great poet present to the mind's eye! The epithet lofty has fallen through the sieves of all the commentators excepting Theobaldus Secundus. It obviously alludes to the high roosting perch of that valiant bird; nor is the mythological imagery in this sentence to be passed by without its merited eulogium. Lingo, by way of agreeable surprise, informs us that the cock is the bird of Pallas—Pallas is the goddess of wisdom, and of course an early riser——
Early to bed, and early to rise, &c.
Her favourite bird undoubtedly awoke her with his shrill note, and at the same time roused the slumbering fop Phoebus, who answered in the words of Dr. Watts——
"You have wak'd me too soon, I must slumber again."
and being the god of wit, when he rubbed his own eyes, doubtless vented an imprecation on those of Minerva.
"Thus wit and judgment ever are at strife."—Pope.
The moral is obvious;—they who, like Mr. Sheridan, aim only to be men of wit, lie a bed; while they who, like Sir Isaac Newton, Mr. Burke, and a very few others, aspire to be men of wisdom, rise with the lark. Horatio in continuation—
"The extravagant and erring spirit hies To his confine."
"The extravagant i. e. got out of his bounds"—Warburton—Bravo! old Hurlo-thumbo! got out of his depth, Warburton, you mean. Extra-vagant certainly may be construed out of bounds; we need no ghost with a mouthful of Syntax to tell us that; but Shakspeare had too much taste to adopt such an absurd Latinism. I have no doubt that the late king was a man of expensive habits, and is here compared to a prisoner within the rules of the king's bench, who must return to quod at a given moment or compliment the marshal with the debt and costs. At the crowing of the cock, the extravagant and erring spirit (that is, the spendthrift of a defendant) whether he be drinking arrack punch at Vauxhall, champaigne at the Mount, or brandy and water at the Eccentries, must kick off his glass-slipper, and hobble back to St. George's Fields, like the lame bottle-conjuror of Le Sage.
But look, the morn in russet mantle clad, Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill.
Russet mantle! what sorry attire for a goddess! I wish the critics would settle, once for all, the costume of Aurora; at present she has clothes, fingers, feet, bosom, and hair, of as many colours as the roquelaure of Joseph. Homer styles her——
[Greek: Rododaktylos Eos].—Rosy-finger'd morn.
This is more like an old washerwoman than a young goddess. Ovid calls her rutilis Aurora capillis. And again—
Ut solet aer Purpureus fieri, primum Aurora movetur.
I translate "purpureus fieri," a fiery purple. What says Virgil of that particoloured damsel——
Tithoni croceum liquens Aurora cubile.
A golden bed, by the way, is but a poor atonement for a leaden old spouse snoring in it.
Lucia thinks happiness consists in state, She weds an ideot, but she eats off plate.
The moderns have been equally fanciful in describing Aurora. An old song says——
The morning was up gray as a rat, The clock struck something, faith I can't tell what.
And Rosina now says, "see the rosy morn appearing;" and now "the morn returns in saffron dress'd."—Selim in Blue Beard, sings, "Gray-eyed morn begins to peep," his is no compliment to the beauty of the goddess. If she had changed colours with the magician, it would have been well; a gray beard is fit for an old man, and blue eyes for a young woman.
And now, reader, "make way for the speaker."—The scene draws, and discovers a room of state, containing, the King, Queen, Hamlet, Polonius, Laertes, Voltimand, Cornelius, Lords, and Attendants. This is the first appearance of Hamlet.—Here, then, we must suppose a clapping of hands, and a cry of hats off—down—down—you will therefore fancy to yourself a young gentleman, arrayed in black velvet, with a plume of sable feathers in his bonnet, big enough for the fore-horse of Ophelia's hearse. But as in a certain assembly, if a member, however elevated in rank, rise to speak late in the evening, he sets his hearers coughing, there being no pectoral lozenge equal to an early harangue; and, as touching the Lord Hamlet in that manner, would be touching the honour of a prince, I shall keep his royal highness as a bonne bouche to open my next dissertation.
(To be Continued.)
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DR. JOHN HILL, an author, who to great learning, judgment, sagacity, and luminous fancy, joined unparalleled industry, gratified the British public for a long time with a diurnal paper wholly from his own pen, called "the Inspector." In the course of this work he gave some of the most admirable strictures upon the plays and players of his day. From that work we intend to give some select passages. The following is deserving of particular attention for the truth and accuracy of the parallels it presents to our view.
While I admire in Barry the quick conception, the strong expression, and the fine taste of Julio Romano; while I hang upon the expression of his eyes, when tenderness is the passion to be described by them, and while in the several parts of a history, or through the varied scenes of an interesting tragedy, I am at once surprised and charmed with the choice of attitudes in both, I cannot be blind to the defects that stain as well the painting as the scene: there was always what the judges call a dryness, a hardness in the painter, and the same foible now and then discloses itself in the less guarded moments of the player: neither the one nor the other seem to have been perfect masters of the doctrine of lights and shadows, and both are therefore sometimes extravagant, and not always graceful: this happy difference, however, appears between them, that while the arrogance of the painter esteemed his faults as excellencies, the player, equally capable of giving advice to himself, and of receiving it from others, will soon scandalize all criticism by annihilating the foibles that gave it origin.
The genius, the soul of Titian, is revived in Garrick; both give us not resemblances, but realities: they do not represent but create, upon the canvass or upon the scene; and what from others we would admire as representations, we read in these as actions. There is in the performance of this player, all the delicacy of taste, and all the dignity of expression that we reverence in the painter: his figures, where the subject gives him scope, are noble almost beyond imagination, his attitudes the most strictly appropriated to the sensations that inspire them, and his colouring, to borrow a metaphor from the sister art to express an excellence for which the other has yet no word of its own, is the greatest that we ever did or ever must expect to see. With all the sweetness and delicacy of his imagery, there is a glow of fire and freedom that at once surprises and charms his audience, and, like his brother artist, he excels all men who have ever been eminent, in the peculiar distinguishing touches which separate passion from passion; and thence give at once the greatest spirit and the strictest truth to the representation. I shall hardly venture to affirm that there is no foible in any of the pieces given us by either of these artists; but there is a blaze of majesty and beauty, throughout the works of both, that at once engages the whole eye, and with its superior lustre dims what may be less worthy praise till it becomes indiscernible.
While Bellamy assumes the piety, the tenderness, and the sorrows of a Cordelia, or heightens the repentance of a Shore, we own that a Tintoret has done some pictures equal to Corregio. The first of these is the painter to whom I would resemble this rising actress, the latter only breathes in Cibber. No woman ever excelled Miss Bellamy in the requisites from nature, and were but her love to the profession, her application to its necessary studies, and her patience in going through the difficulties that lie in the road to eminence in it, equal to her abilities, she would have few equals. The outlines of her figures are sometimes faulty, but the colouring always pleases.
All that Corregio executed by the pencil we see in real life from Mrs. Cibber; the strength of lights and shadows, of the glaring and the obscure, are equal in the representations of both, but were never equalled by any other in either art. The dignity of sorrow, and natural and unaffected graces which that artist gives to his Madonas, this lady diffuses over the whole figure in the tragic scene that requires it; we are equally struck by both: we see nothing like either: and we admire the execution while we have no conception of the manner in which it is performed. The strength and heightening are alike admirable in each, and the consummate sweetness only to be rivalled by the expressive strength of the colouring. In the conduct and finish of their pieces, both have done wonders; and as the pictures of Corregio are so equal in their several parts, that, though the labour of years, they seem to have been finished in one day, so that the longest characters of this actress are so uniform throughout, that it is evident there are no careless absences, no false extravagances in any part, but that the whole is the resemblance of one temper actuated, though under various circumstances, by one passion.
In Mrs. Pritchard one sees revived the extensive powers of Hannibal Carrache: while we pursue her through the varied forms she assumes we cannot but acknowledge the character of Corregio, the fire of Titian, and the dignity of Raphael; this lady, of all the players, as that master of all the painters, comes nearest the character of a universal genius.
Woodward strikes the judicious eye with a strong resemblance of Paul Veronese: he has all the vivacity and ease of that great painter, and fully equals him in his fancy for the singular and the shining in his draperies; but, as he shares his beauties, he is not without his faults. His composition is sometimes improper, and his design always incorrect; but with these blemishes, however, his colouring is so well calculated to catch the eye, that he never fails to strike at first sight, and makes so happy an impression on the generality of an audience, that they never perceive what is deficient.
Though the last, not the least in my esteem, Macklin shall be produced; nor must those who judge superficially, be surprized when they see me call forth for his parallel Michael Angelo. It must be confessed of this great painter, that the choice of his attitudes was, though never unjust, not always pleasing: that his taste in design was not the most minutely fine, nor his outlines the most elegant; that he was sometimes extravagant in his conceptions, and bold even to rashness in his execution: perhaps the player of the parallel inherits some tincture of these faults; but to compensate, he has all his excellencies. He knows the foundation of the art better than them all: he designs, if less beautifully than some, more accurately than any: he better understands nature of the human frame, and the situation and power of its muscles than any man who ever played, nor has any man ever understood it like him as a science: there is an air of truth in all his figures, a greatness and severity in many of them that demand the utmost praise: and in the whole, if nature has qualified him less for shining in some of the most conspicuous parts than many, none has fewer faults.
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A correspondent has in a former number made some remarks on the corruptions, or, as they are called, alterations and adaptations of the plays of Shakspeare. As he has not prosecuted the subject, I will, with your permission, say a word or two on that vilest and most infamous of literary treasons, Tate's burlesque of king Lear.
This tragedy, as written by Shakspeare, is in my opinion the very noblest of our author's works; and by the generality of critics, I believe, none of his plays are absolutely preferred to it, except Macbeth. It is inconceivable how any one could think such a play required an alteration beyond the omission of the fool's character; and still more so, how Tate's transformation of it could have been at first endured by the nation: but that it should have been constantly represented at our national theatres for nearly one hundred and thirty years to the total exclusion of Shakspeare's divine drama, would be a circumstance totally incredible, were it not verified by experience, that the majority of an audience are very little troubled with a spirit of inquiry, and are no doubt ignorant of the vast difference between the two dramas. The play, as now performed "has the upper gallery on its side;" whose members, being unacquainted with Shakspeare's tragedy, are enchanted by the mad scenes, mangled as they are, and by all that it is retained of the original, and therefore they applaud the whole, and witness its repetition. But it never could be inferred from their applauses, that even these spectators prefer Tate's play to Shakspeare's; there is no comparison in the case: they applaud the one, because they are pleased with it, not because they are displeased with the other, which they never saw, and of which they know nothing. Let the classical manager of —— —— theatre make a trial; it will be worthy his ambition to introduce a reformation, which even Garrick overlooked; and he may be assured, that the event will not only add to his reputation, but what is a more important consideration with our managers, will add to his profits also. Let Shakspeare and Tate have a fair struggle; and who can doubt the final triumph of Shakspeare.[I]
Dr. Johnson is the advocate of Tate's alteration; but Addison, whose opinion is countenanced by Steevens, declares, that "the tragedy has lost half its beauty." Dr. Johnson is in part excusable for maintaining so erroneous an opinion; but at the same time his sentiments ought to have no weight with others; for we know, that in the present case he has formed his judgment, not with that solidity of taste which generally distinguishes his criticism, but with all the nervous agitation of a hypochondriac. But why should he defend his opinion by arguments at once unfair and untrue? it is not true, that "in the present case the public has decided" in favour of the altered play: "Cordelia," says the critic, "from the time of Tate has always retired with victory and felicity:" but does he mean to assert, that the original drama, before Tate's corruption, was not well received by the public? he cannot assert this, because he could not make good such an assertion. The fact is, as stated by Steevens, that "the managers of the theatres-royal have decided, and the public has been obliged to acquiesce in their decision."
Of the alterations introduced by this reformer of Shakspeare, the first and most obvious is the change of the catastrophe. King Lear and Cordelia, instead of dying as in the original, are finally triumphant, and live very happy after. Here is improvement, here is poetical justice, here is every thing that can be desired to the perfection of a drama. "Since all reasonable beings," says doctor Johnson, "naturally love justice, I cannot easily be persuaded, that the observation of justice makes a play worse; or that, if other excellencies are equal, the audience will not always rise better pleased from the final triumph of persecuted virtue." This reasoning is just; but the critic has unfortunately advanced a sentence, which must be a perpetual stumbling-block to every advocate of Tate, viz. "if other excellencies are equal," &c. Had Shakspeare chosen, according to the "faith of chronicles," to represent Cordelia triumphant; had he adorned the scenes of poetical justice with his peculiar spirit, and nature, and poetry; then indeed the excellencies of the drama, though different in kind, would probably have been equal in magnitude: though I think it very doubtful, whether even then the change of the catastrophe would not have been a deformity, rather than an improvement. Unquestionably our affection for persecuted virtue is strengthened by the very distresses in which it is involved. The triumph of Cordelia would certainly draw from us an instantaneous acknowledgment of satisfaction: but the impression could not be lasting; while her fall is fixed more deeply on the attention, and raises a more permanent feeling of pity for her sufferings, and indignation against her persecutors. Shakspeare must have thought so, when he chose, in violation of the truth of history, to deprive her of poetical justice. To conclude the question relative to the catastrophe, it is utterly impossible that the mind of Lear should be capable of surviving so violent a change of circumstances. In the original, he is very naturally represented by Shakspeare as bending under the weight of his calamities, and expiring of a broken heart.
"Enter Lear, with Cordelia dead in his arms.
"Lear. Howl, howl, howl, howl!—O, you are men of stones; Had I your tongues and eyes, I'd use them so That heaven's vault should crack:—O, she is gone forever!— I know, when one is dead, and when one lives; She's dead as earth.——
"Cordelia, Cordelia, stay a little. Ha! What is't thou says't?—Her voice was ever soft, Gentle, and low; an excellent thing in woman:— I kill'd the slave that was a hanging thee. And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life: Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, And thou no breath at all? O, thou wilt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never!—
"Pray you, undo this button: Thank you sir.— Do you see this?—Look on her,—look,—her lips,— Look there,—look there!— [He dies."
What a "luxury of wo" does this exquisite scene afford? What can Tate produce to counterbalance its value?
The next material alteration is the intrusion of love.[J] Cordelia is in love with Edgar. Why, of what an abominable taste must that man have been possessed, who in his sober senses could think of thus corrupting the noble simplicity of Cordelia's character. As for the language of love here introduced, it is about equal to what might be looked for from such a man. Take for a specimen an exquisitely pithy scene of about ten lines in the commencement of the play, in which Edgar follows Cordelia across the stage with the following pathetic stuff:
"Cordelia, royal fair, turn yet once more, And ere successful Burgundy receive The tribute of thy beauties from the king."—
It is too sickening: I cannot go on. Cordelia the amiable and sensible Cordelia, in love with such a whining milk-and-water fool as this! It need not be mentioned, that of course they have several unaccountable interviews, and at the conclusion of the play, Cordelia, all overjoyed at the restoration of her father, marries Edgar!
The last remarkable corruption is in the introduction of a curious piece of stage-machinery, ycleped a confidant, who, loving her mistress more than herself, like a good servant, accompanies her through wind and rain, and every other stage-horror, in a dark night, on a wild-goose chase, without any adequate or apparent object. This confidant is like every other stage-confidant.
How such a wretched jumble of inconsistencies, absurdity, and insipidity, can have been suffered ever to be performed, is a subject at once of wonder and regret. It is surprising, that Garrick never remedied the evil; a man, who had an ardent veneration for Shakspeare, and by his acting and management went some way towards doing him justice. It is rather inconsistent, that he could suffer this play to be performed instead of Shakspeare's, and yet in one of his prologues make the following assertion:
"'Tis my chief wish, my joy, my only plan, To lose no drop of that immortal man."
Prologue to Catherine and Petruchio.
These lines too are quoted by Mr. Kemble, and prefixed as a motto to his alteration of one of Shakspeare's plays. Is Mr. Kemble not aware, how many drops of Shakspeare are lost, and how much false wine obtruded in their place, in this metamorphosis? It would be an endless task to point out all the beautiful and sublime passages omitted by Tate: but to point out all the absurdities he has introduced, would be more endless. As Mr. Kemble professes, however, such a wish, I will just remind him, before I conclude, of what perhaps he has forgotten, that the present stage-representation of Shakspeare is a disgrace to his memory; that many of his best plays are never performed; that those which are performed are exhibited in so mangled a state, as to be totally unlike Shakspeare; and that not one of his dramas is now exhibited pure and unadulterated.
I am, Mr. Editor, your's, &c.
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A week's journal of a strolling player.
Monday. We opened the house with the tragedy of the distressed mother; I played Orestes. Our dresses and scenery rather out of repair, which gave some gentleman occasion to remark; that it would have been more apropos, had we advertised the play by the title of the distressed family.
Tuesday. Played George Barnwell. Part of the audience wanted me hanged: Afterwards did the watchman, and the bailiff in the Apprentice.—Shared thirteen pence three farthings.
Wednesday. Played Jachimo in Cymbeline. My arms almost broken by being put into too small a chest. The farce the Register-office—played Gulwell.—Shared one shilling.
Thursday. Doubled the Ghost and Rosencrantz in Hamlet, and afterwards played Mogs in the Devil of a Duke. A gentleman affronted me by saying I was the devil of a conjuror. Shared one shilling and six pence, and for the first time took my two bits of candles.
Friday. I played Macduff, and two or three other parts in Macbeth, one of the witches being drunk, we were obliged to make shift with two. The farce Miss in her teens: I was Fribble; and the house barber having gone off in a pet, because I could not pay him his week's bill, I was obliged to go on without my hair being dressed.—Shared ten pence and a candle.
Saturday. The Orphan. The manager had taken Castalio himself, and insisted on my playing Acasto. An ignorant country fellow introduced it only to support Acasto in the third act, stands on the stage, when I asked "where are all my friends?" answered, "sir, they are at the George over a mug of ale." We afterwards had the Padlock without music. I played Mungo and never felt any thing half so much as the favourite air, "I wish to my heart me was dead."
* * * * *
Macklin and Foote.
Macklin once left the stage and set up a tavern and Coffee-house on a new plan in the piazza, Covent garden. At his dinners every thing was done by the waiters, on signs made to them by Macklin himself who acted as chief waiter. One night, being at supper with Foote and some others at the Bedford, one of the company praised Macklin for the great regularity of his ordinary, and in particular his manner of directing his waiters by signals. Ay, sir, says Macklin, I knew it would do, and where do you think I picked up this hint?—well sir, I'll tell you, I picked it up from no less a man than James Duke of York, who you know sir, first invented signals for the fleet. Very apropos indeed, said Foote, and good poetical justice, as from the fleet they were taken, so to the fleet both master and signals are likely to return.
Macklin afterwards failed.
Another time Macklin delivered public lectures. One night as he was preparing to begin, he heard a buz in the room, and spied Foote in a corner talking and laughing immoderately. This he thought a safe time to rebuke that wicked wit, as he had begun his lecture and consequently could not be subject to any criticism: he therefore cried out with some authority "well sir, you seem to be very merry there, but do you know what I am going to say now?" "No sir says Foote, pray do you?" This ready reply and the laughter it occasioned silenced Macklin, and so embarrassed him that he could not get on, till called upon by the general voice of the company.
Another time Macklin undertook to show the causes of duelling in Ireland, and why it was much more the practice of that nation than any other. In order to do this, he began with the earliest part of the Irish history, and, getting as far as queen Elizabeth, he was proceeding when Foote spoke to order. "Well sir, what have you to say on the subject?" said Macklin, "only to crave a little attention sir," said Foote, with much seeming modesty, "when I think I can settle this point in a few words."—"Well sir, go on."—"Why then, sir," says Foote, "to begin, what o'clock is it?"—"O'clock" said Macklin, "what has the clock to do with a dissertation on duelling?" "Pray sir," said Foote, "be pleased to answer my question." Macklin on this, pulled out his watch and reported the hour to be past ten.—"Very well," said Foote, "about this time of the night, every gentleman in Ireland that can afford it, is in his third bottle of claret, consequently is in a fair way of getting drunk; from drunkenness proceeds quarrelling, and from quarrelling, duelling, and so there's an end of the chapter." The company seemed perfectly satisfied with this abridgment, and Macklin shut up his lecture for that evening in great dudgeon.
* * * * *
Countess of Carlisle's opinion of the Drama, taken from her maxims to young ladies.
When you fix your mind on the scenes before you, when the eye shall not wander to, nor the heart flutter at the surrounding objects of the spectacle, you will return home instructed and improved.
The great utilities you may reap from well acted tragedy are the exciting your compassion to real sufferings, the suppressing of your vanity in prosperity, and the inspiring you with heroic patience in adversity.
In comedy you will receive continual correction, delicately applied to your errors and foibles; be impartial in the application, divide it humbly with your acquaintance and friends, and even with your enemies.
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The general lover—An Ovidian rhapsody.
JAQUES. The worst fault you have is to be in love.
ORLANDO. It is a fault I would not change for your best virtue.
Though I may be inconstant to Elizabeth, Betty, and Bess, I am never inconstant to love. But I will not defend myself. No, if it would do any good to confess, I own my fault, and will say that I hate myself for it; but I must add, that though I wish it, I cannot be otherwise than what I hate. I am borne along like a vessel in a rapid current, impelled by wind and tide—I know not what form delights me most, therefore the causes are endless, why I can never cease to love.
If modest the nymph, with her eyes in her lap, Her blushing's enough, I am caught in the trap.
If she is high spirited I am won, because she is not rustic.—Is she austere,—I think her willing, but an admirable dissembler.
If learned, than riches I prize it above, If not, sweet simplicity, O, how I love!
Is there one who prefers my writings to those of the salacious warbler, the wanton lacivious little Moore? She to whom I am pleasing is ever pleasing to me. If she hates both me and my works, I long to give her reason to think differently of both. This fair one walks with grace, her graces captivate me; that sings, and her voice flows like honey from her lips; I pant to kiss the hive from which such honey flows. Her brilliant fingers sweep the chords: Who can but love such well-instructed fingers?—To love in every shape I bend my knees.