Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

manager of one of the principal theatres for a long course of years, he banished from the stage many plays which had du immoral tendency: and his persona} character, though marked by excessive vanity and other foibles, gave a dignity and respectability to the profession of an actor. As an autlor he was more lively and various thran vigorous or original. He wrote some epigrams, and even ventured on an ode or two, he succeeded in the composition of some dramatic pieces, and the adaptation of others to the stage. His principal plays are

The Lying Valet' and 'Miss in lier Teens,' which are still favourites. But, unquestionably, the chief strength of Garrick lay in bis powers as an actor, by which he gave a popularity and importance to the drama that it had not possessed since its palmy days in the reigns of Elizabeth and James. Sheridan honoured his memory with a florid sentimental monocy, in which he invoked the gentle muse' to 'guard his laurelled shrine

And with soft sighs disperse the irreverent dust

Which time may strew upon his sacred bust. FIELDING was another distinguished writer in this walk, though of all his pieces only one, Tom Thumb,' bas been able to keep possession of the stage. He threw off these light plays to meet the demands of the town for amusement, and parry his own clamorous necessities, and they generally have the appearance of much haste. “Lovel-laMode,' by CHARLES MACKLIN (1760), presented a humorous satire on the Scottish character, which was followed up by bis more sarcastic comedy of The Man of the World.' Macklin was an actor by profession, remarkable for his personation of Shylock after he was ninety years of age; and bis dramatic pieces are lively and entertaining. He survived till 1797, when he is said to have attained to the extraordinary age of 107. The Rev. JAMES TOWNLEY (1715–1778), master of Merchant Taylors' School, was author of 'High Life below Stairs,' a happy burlesque on the extravagance and affectation of servants in aping the manners of their masters, and which bad the effect, by a welltimed exposure, of correcting abuses in the domestic establishments of the opulent classes.

But by far the greatest of this class of dramatists was SAMUEL FOOTE (circa 1720-1777). He was born at Truro, in Cornwall, of' :: good family, and stu lied at Worcester College, Oxforil; but squan. dering away his fortune, he became an actor and dramatic writer. In powers of mimicry, and in broad humour, Foote has had few equals. Johnson, though he disliked the man for bis easy morals and his making the burlesquing of private characters a profession, was force i to admit his amazing powers and the fascination of his conversation.

It was in 1747 that Foote commenced his new entertainment in the Haymarket Theatre, in which he was himself the sole performer, and which proved highly attractive, in consequence of the humorous and whimsical portraits of character which they presented, many of these being transcripts or caricatures of persons well known. • The Diver sions of the Morning,' “The Auction of Pictures,' and 'The Englishman in Paris,' were the names of some of these pieces. Of the regular farces of Foote, which were somewhat later in production, “The Minor'-an unjustifiable attack upon the Methodists—was the most successful. It was followed by 'The Mayor of Garratt,' a coarse but humorous sketch, including two characters---Major Sturgeon, the city militia officer, and Jerry Sneak—which can never be completely obs: lete. His plays are twenty in number, and he boasted, at the close of his life, that he had added sixteen decidedly new characters to the Eoglish stage.

Tuft-hunting.From · The Lame Loder.'

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

SERJEANT. Cite them.
CAAR. The paltry ambition of levying and following titles.
SERJ. Titles! I don't understand you.

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

SERJ. Keeping good company!--a laudable ambition!

CRAP. True, sir, if the virtues that procured the father a peerage could with that he entailed on the son.

SERs. liave a care, hussy; there are severe laws against speaking evil of dignities.

CHAR. Sir!

SERJ. Scandalumn magnatum is a statnte must not be trifled with: why, you are not one of those vulgar sluts that think a man the worse for being a lord ?

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

SER). For all this, I believe, hussy, a right honourable proposal would soon mako you alier your mind.

Char. Not unless the proposer had other qualities than what he possesses by patent. Besides, sir, you know Sir Luke is a devotee to the bottle.

SERJ. Not a whit the less honest for that.

CHAR. It occasious one evil at least; that when under its influence, he generally reveals all, sometimes more than he kuows.

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

CHAR. You mean, sir, they prove the object a trifle.
SER). Why, you pert jade, do you play on my words? I say Sir Luke is
CHAR. N body.

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

CHAR. But, sir

Sers. Nay, further, child, he may sell, give, bestow, bequeath, devise, demise, lease, or to farm let, ditto lands, or to any person whomsoever-and

Char. Without doubt, sir; but there are, notwithstanding, in this town a great number of nobodies, not described by Lord Coke. SIR LURE LIMP makes his appearance, and after a short dialogus, enter a SERVANT,

and delivers a card to SIR LUKE. SIR LUKE. [Reads.) “Sir Gregory Goose desires the honour of Sir Luke Limp's company to dine, An answer is desired.' Gadso! a little unlucky; I have been crgaged for these three weeks.

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

Sir LUKE. Is tre so? Oh, oh/ that alters the case. "George, give my compliments to Sir Gregory, and I'll certainly come and dine there. Order Joe to run to Alderman Inkle's in Threadneedle Street; sorry can't wait upon him, but confined to bed two days with the new influenza.

[Exit Servant. Cuar. You make light, Sir Luke, of these sort of engagements.

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

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

Sin LUKE. Not but upon these occasions no man in England is more punctual than

Enter SERVANT who gives Sir LUKE a letter. From whom?

Serv. Earl of Brentford. The servant waits for an answer.

SIR LUKE, Answer! By your leave, Mr. Serjeant and Charlotte. [Reads ] . Taste for music--Mons. Duport-fail-dinner upon table at five.' Gadso! I hope Sir Gregory's servant an't gone. Serv. Immediately upon receiving the answer.

Sir LUKE. Run after him as fast as you can-tell him quite in despair-recollect an engagement that can't in nature be missed, and return in an instant.

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

Sır LUKE. No, faith, it is not that, my dear Charlotte ; you saw that was quite an extempore business. No, haug it, no, it is not for the title; but, to tell you the truth, Brentford has more wit that any man in the world: it is that makes me fond of his house.

Char. By the choice of his company he gives an unanswerable instance of that.

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

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

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

SERJ. Indeed, by a late act of his own house-which does them infinite honourhis goods or chattels may be-

SIR LUKE. Seized upon when they can find them; but he lives in ready furnished lodgings, and hires his coach by the inonth.

SERJ. Nay, if the sheriff return .non inventns.'

SIR LUKE. A plagne o' your law; you make me lose sight of my story. One morning a Welch coachmaker came with his bill to my lord, whose name was unluckily Lloyd. My lord had the man up. You are called, I think, Mr. Lloyd ? At your lordship’s service, my lord. What, Lloyd with an L! It was with an L, indeed, my lord. Because in your part of the world I have heard that Lloyd and Flloyd were synonymous, the very same names. Very often, indeed, my lord. But you always spell yours with an L? Always. That, Mr. Lloyd, is a little unlucky; for you must know I am now paying my debts alphabetically, and in four or five years you might have come in with an F ; but I am afraid I can give you no hopes for your L. Ha, ha, ha!

Enter a SERVANT. Serv. There was no overtaking the servant.

Sir LUKE. That is unlucky: tell my lord I 'll attend him. I'll call on Sir Gregory myself.

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

SERJ. True, true.

Sir LUKE. At your toilet to-morrow you may- [Enter a Servant abruptly, and runs against Sir Luke.] Can't you see where you are running, you rascal ?

SERV. Sir, his grace the Duke of ---
Sir LUKE. Grace! Where is he? Where-

Serv. In his coach at the door. If you an't better engaged, would be glad of your company to go into the city, and take a dinner at Dolly's."

Sir LUKE. In his own coach, did you say?
SERV. Yes, sir.
Sır. LUKE. With the coronets--or-
SERV. I believe so.
Sir LUKE. There's no resisting of that. Bid Joe run to Sir Gregory Goose's.
SERV. He is already gone to Alderman Inkle's.

Sir LUKE. Then do you step to the knight-hey!—10-you must go to my lord's --bold, hold, no—I have it-step first to Sir Greg's, then pop in at Lord Brentford's just as the company are going to dinner.

SERV. What shall I say to Sir Gregory
Sir LUKE. Anything-what I told you before.
SERV. And what to my lord ?

SiR LUKE. What! - Why, tell him that my uncle from Epsom-no—that won't do, for he knows I don't care a farthing for him-hey! Why, tell him-hold, I have it. Tell him that as I was going into my chair to obey his commands, I was arrested hy a couple of bailiffs, forced into a hackney-coach, and carried into the Pied Bull in the Borough ; I beg ten thousand pardous for making his grace wait, but his grace knows my misfor

[Exeunt Sir Luke and Serv. CHAR. Well, sir. what d’ye think of the proofs? I flatter myself I have pretty well established my case.

SERJ. Why, hussy, you have hit upon points; but then they are but trifling flaws; they dou’t vitiate the title; that stands unimpeached.

The popularity of 'The Beggar's Opera' being partly owing to the excellent music which accompanied the piece, we find in this period a number of comic operas, in which songs and dialogues alternate. • The Devil to Pay,' by C. COFFEY (died 1745), was long a favourite, chiefly for the female character, Nell, which made the fortune of seva eral actresses; and among the best pieces of this description are those by Isaac BICKERSTAFF (1735–1787), whose operas, The Padlock, * Love in a Village,' ' Lionel Clarissa,' &c. present a pleasing union of lyrical pieces with dramatic incident and dialogue.

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

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

No degree of knowledge attainable by man is able to set him above the want of hourly assistance, or to extinguish the desire of fond endearments and tender ofticiousness; and, therefore, no one should think it unnecessary to learn those arts by which friendship may be gained. Kindness is preserved by a constant reciprocation of benefits or interchange of pleasures ; but such benefits only can be bestowed as others are capable to receive, and such pleasures only imparted as others are qualified to enjoy.

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

On Revenye. A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain. He that willingly suffers the corrosions of inveterate hatred, and gives up his days and nights to the gloom and malice and perturbations of stratagem, cannot surely be said to consult his ease. Resent,

« AnteriorContinuar »