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" Isaac. Hush! (stops his mouth.)
" Isuac. Oh, Ma'am, he's expressing his raptures at such charms as he never saw before.
“ Moses. Ay, such as I never saw before indeed. (aside.)
“ Duenna. You are very obliging, gentlemen ; but, I dare say, Sir, your friend is no stranger to the influence of beauty. I doubt not but he is a lover himself.
“ Moses. Alas! Madam, there is now but one woman living, whom I have any love for, and truly, Ma’am, you resemble her wonderfully.
“ Duenna. Well, Sir, I wish she may give you her hand as speedily as I shall mine to your friend.
“ Moses. Me ber hand !-O Lord, Ma’am-she is the last woman in the world I could think of marrying.
“ Duenna. What then, Sir, are you comparing me to some wantonsome courtezan?
" Isaac. Zounds! he durstn't.
“ Moses. Oh, dear Madam, no—it was my mother I meant, as I hope to be saved.
“ Isaac. Oh the blundering villain! (aside.)
“ Isaac. Stay, dear Madam—my friend meant-that you put him in mind of what his mother was when a girl-didn't
“ Moses. Oh yes, Madam, my mother was formerly a great beauty, a great toast, I assure you ;--and when she married my father about thirty years ago, as you may perhaps remember, Ma’am
“ Duenna. I, Sir! I remember thirty years ago!
“ Isaac. Oh, to be sure not, Ma'am-thirty years! no, no-it was thirty months he said, Ma'am-wasn't it, Moses?
“Moses. Yes, yes, Ma’am--thirty months ago, on her marriage with my father, she was, as I was saying, a great beauty ;-but catching cold, the year afterwards, in child-bed of your humble servant
“ Duenna. Of you, Sir!--and married within these thirty months!
“ Isaac, Oh the devil! he has made himself out but a year old !--Come, . Moses, hold your tongue.-You must excuse him, Ma’am-he means to be civil--but he is a poor, simple fellow-an't you, Moses?
" Moses. 'Tis true, indeed, Ma'am," &c. &c. &c.
The greater part of the humour of Moses here was afterwards transferred to the character of Isaac, and it will be perceived that a few of the points are still retained by him.
· The wit of the dialogue, except in one or two instances, is of that accessible kind which lies near the surface—which may be enjoyed without wonder, and rather plays than shines.
He had not yet searched his fancy for those curious fossils of thought, which make The School for Scandal such a rich museum of wit. Of this precious kind, however, is the description of Isaac's neutrality in religion—"like the blank leaf between the Old and New Testament.” As an instance, too, of the occasional abuse of this research, which led him to mistake laboured conceits for fancies, may be mentioned the far-fetched comparison of serenaders to Egyptian embalmers, “extracting the brain through the ears." For this, however, his taste, not his invention, is responsible, as we have already seen that the thought was borrowed from a letter of his friend Halhed.
In the speech of Lopez, the servant, with which the opera opens, there are, in the original copy, some humorous points, , which appear to have fallen under the pruning knife, but which are not unworthy of being gathered up here :
" A plague on these haughty damsels, say I :—when they play their airs on their whining gallants, they ought to consider that we are the chief sufferers,—we have all their ill-liumours at second-hand. Donna Louisa's cruelty to my master usually converts itself into blows, by the time it gets to me :-she can frown me black and blue at any time, and I shall carry the marks of the last box on the ear she gave him to my grave. Nay, if she smiles on any one else, I am the sufferer for it :-if she says a civil word to a rival, I am a rogue and a scoundrel; and, if she sends him a letter, my back is sure to pay the postage.”
In the scene between Ferdinand and Jerome (act ii. scene 3) the following lively speech of the latter was, I know not why, left out :
“Ferdin....... but he has never sullied his honour, which, with his title, has outlived his means.
“ Jerome. Have they? More shame for them !-What business have honour or titles to survive, when property is extinct ? Nobility is but as a belpmate to a good fortune, and, like a Japanese wife, should perish on the funeral pile of the estate !"
In the first act, too, (scene 3) where Jerome abuses the Duenna, there is an equally unaccountable omission of a sentence, in which he compares the old lady's face to “parchment, ou which Time and Deformity have engrossed their titles.”
Though some of the poetry of this opera is not much above that ordinary kind, to which music is so often doomed to be wedded-making up by her own sweetness for the dulness of her help-mate-by far the greater number of the songs are full of beauty, and some of them may rank among the best models of lyric writing. The verses, “Had I a heart for falsehood framed,” notwithstanding the stiffness of this word " framed," and one or two other slight blemishes, are not unworthy of living in recollection with the matchless air to which they are adapted.
There is another song, less known, from being connected with less popular music, which, for deep, impassioned feeling and natural eloquence, has not, perhaps, its rival, through the whole range of lyric poetry. As these verses, though contained in the common editions of The Duenna, are not to be found in the opera, as printed in the British Theatre, and, still more strangely, are omitted in the late Collection of Mr. Sheridan's Works, * I should feel myself abundantly authorized in citing them here, even if their beauty were not a sufficient excuse for recalling them, under any circumstances, to the recollection of the reader:-
" Ah, crucl maid, how bast thou changed
The temper of my mind!
Becomes, like thee, unkind.
** By fortune favour'd, clear in fame,
I once ambitious was ;
And gave my youth applause.
“ But now my weakness all accuse,
Yet vain their taunts an me;
To gain one smile from thee. • For this Edition of his Works I am no further responsible than in hav. ing communicated to it a few prefatory pages, to account and apologize to the public for the delay of the Life,
“ And only thou should'st not despise
My weakness or my woe;
'Tis thou hast made me so.
“But days, like this, with doubting curst,
I will not long endure-
And likewise know my cure.
“ If, false, her vows she dare renounce,
That instant ends my pain ;
That cannot hate again."
It is impossible to believe that such verses as these had no deeper inspiration than the imaginary loves of an opera, They bear, burnt into every line, the marks of personal feeling, and must have been thrown off in one of those passionate moods of the heart, with which the poet's own youthful love had .nade him acquainted, and under the impression or vivid recollection of which these lines were written.
In comparing this poem with the original words of the air to which it is adapted, (Parnell's pretty lines, “My days have been so wondrous free,”) it will be felt, at once, how wide is the difference between the cold and graceful effusions of taste, and the fervid bursts of real genius-between the delicate product of the conservatory, and the rich child of the sunshine.
I am the more confirmed in the idea that this song was written previously to the opera, and froin personal feeling, by finding among his earlier pieces the originals of two other songs—“I ne'er could any lustre see," and "What bard, oh Time, discover.” The thought, upon which the latter turns, is taken from a poem already cited, addressed by him to Mrs. Sheridan in 1773 ; and the following is the passage that supplied the material :
“Alas, thou hast no wings, oh Time,
It was some thoughtless lover's rhyme,
For, had he, if he truly lov'd,
It will be seen presently, that this poem was again despoiled of some of its lines, for an epilogue which he began a few years after, upon a very different subject. There is something, it must be owned, not very sentimental in this conversion of the poetry of affection to other and less sacred uses—as if, like the ornaments of a passing pageant, it might be broken up after the show was over, and applied to more useful purposes.
That the young poet should be guilty of such sacrilege to love, and thus steal back his golden offerings from the altar, to melt them down into utensils of worldly display, can only be excused by that demand upon the riches of his fancy, which the rapidity of his present career in the service of the dramatic muse occasioned.
There is not the same objection to the approbation of the other song, which, it will be seen, is a selection of the best parts of the following Anacreontic verses :
“ I ne'er could any lustre see*
In eyes that would not look on me:
* Another mode of beginning this song in the MS.
“Go tell the maid who seeks to move