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and judgment with which an impartial public distinguishes between the
errors of inexperience and incapacity, and the indulgence which it shows
even to a disposition to remedy the defects of either.

It were unnecessary to enter into any farther extenuation of what was
thought exceptionable in this play, but that it has been said, that the ma-
nagers should have prevented some of the defects before its appearance to
the public - and in particular the uncommon length of the piece as repre-
sented the first night. It were an ill return for the most liberal and gentle.
manly conduct on their side, to suffer any censure to rest where none was
deserved. Hurry in writing has long been exploded as an excuse for an
author; - however, in the dramatic line, it may happen, that both an
author and a manager may wish to fill a chasm in the entertainment of the
public with a hastiness not altogether culpable. The season was advanced
when I first put the play into Mr. Harris's hands: it was at that time at least
double the length of any acting comedy. I profited by his judgment and
experience in the curtailing of it -- till, I believe, his feeling for the vanity
of a young author got the better of his desire for correctness, and he left
many excrescences remaining, because he had assisted in pruning so many
more. Hence, though I was not uninformed that the acts were still too
long, I flattered myself that, after the first trial, I might with safer judge
ment proceed to remove what should appear to have been most dissatis-
factory. Many other errors there were, which might in part have arisen
from my being by no means conversant with plays in general, either in
reading or at the theatre. Yet I own that, in one respect, I did not regret
my ignorance : for as my first wish in attempting a play was to avoid every
appearance of plagiary, I thought I should stand a better chance of effect.
ing this from being in a walk which I had not frequented, and where, con-
sequently, the progress of invention was less likely to be interrupted by
starts of recollection: for on subjects on which the mind has been much
Informed, invention is slow of exerting itself. Faded ideas float in the
fancy like half-forgotten dreams; and the imagination in its fullest enjoy.
ments becomes suspicious of its offspring, and doubts whether it has created
or adopted.

With regard to some particular passages which on the first night's representation seemed generally disliked, I confess, that if I felt any emotion of surprise at the disapprobation, it was not that they were disapproved of, but that I had not before perceived that they deserved it. As some part of the attack on the piece was begun too early to pass for the sentence of judgment, which is ever tardy in condemning, it has been suggested to me, that much of the disapprobation must have arisen from virulence of malice, rather than severity of criticism: but as I was more apprehensive of there being just grounds to excite the latter than conscious of having deserved the former, I continue not to believe that probable, which I am sure must have been unprovoked. However, if it was so, and I could even mark the quarter from whence it came, it would be ungenerous to retort: for no pagsion suffers more than malice from disappointment. For my own part, 1 see no reason why the author of a play should not regard a first night's audience as a candid and judicious friend attending, in behalf of the public,

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at his last rehearsal. If he can dispense with flattery, he is sure at least of sincerity, and even though the annotation be rude, he may reply upon the justness of the comment. Considered in this light, that audience, whose fiat is essential to the poet's claim, whether his object be famc or profit, has burely a right to expect some deference to its opinion, from principles of politeness at least, if not from gratitude.

As for the little puny critics, who scatter their peevish strictures in private circles, and scribble at every author who has the eminence of being unconnected with them, as they are usually spleen-swoln from a vain idea of increasing their consequence, there will always be found a petulance and illiberality in their remarks, which should place them as far beneath the notice of a gentleman, as their original dulness had sunk them from the level of the most unsuccessful author.

It is not without pleasure that I catch at an opportunity of justifying myself from the charge of intending any national reflection in the character of Sir Lucius O'Trigger. If any gentleman opposed the piece from that idea, I thank ther sincerely for their opposition; and if the condemnation of this comedy (however misconceived the provocation) could have added one spark to the decaying flame of national attachment to the country supposed to be reflected on, I should have been happy in its fate; and might with truth have boasted, that it had done more real service in its failure, than the successful morality of a thousand stage-novels will ever effect.

It is usual, I believe, to thank the performers in a new play, for the exertion of their several abilities. But where (as in this instance) their merit has been so striking and uncontroverted, as to call for the warmest and truest applause from a number of judicious audiences, the poet's afterpraise comes like the feeble acclamation of a child to close the shouts of a multitude. The conduct, however, of the principals in a theatre cannot be so apparent to the public. I think it therefore but justice to declare, that from this theatre (the only one I can speak of from experience) those writers who wish to try the dramatic line will meet with that candour and liberal attention, which are generally allowed to be better calculated to lead genius into excellence, than either the precepts of judgment, or the guidance of experience.

THE AUTHOR.

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DRAMATIS PERSONÆ.
AS ORIGINALLY ACTED AT COVENT-GARDEN THEATRE IN 1775.
SIR ANTHONY ABSO-

| DAVID

Mr. Dunstal.
Mr. Shuter.
LUTE

THOMAS

Mr. Fearon. CAPTAIN ABSOLUTE. Mr. Woodward. MRS. MALAPROP Mrs. Green. FAULKLAND

Mr. Lewis. LYDIA LANGUISH Miss Barsanti. ACRES

Mr. Quick.
JULIA

Mrs. Bulkley.
SIR LUCIUS O'TRIG

LUCY

Mrs. Lessingham.
Mr. Lee.
GER.
FAG
Mr. Lee Lewes.

Maid, Boy, Servants, &c.
SCENE BATU.
Time of Action Five Hours,

PROLOGUE.

BY THE AUTHOR.
SPOKEN BY MR. WOODWARD AND MR. QUICK,
Enter SERJEANT-AT-LAW, and ATTORNEY follouring, and giving a paper.

Serj. WHAT's here! a vile cramp hand! I cannot see
Without my spectacles.
Att.

He means his fee.
Nay, Mr. Serjeant, good sir, try again.

[Gives money.
Serj. The scrawl improves! [more] O come, 'tis pretty plain
Hey! how's this? Dibble! - sure it cannot be!
A poet's brief! a poet and a fee!

Att. Yes, sir! though you without reward, I know,
Would gladly plead the Muse's cause.
Serj.

So! -so!
Att. And if the fee offends, your wrath should fall

On me.

Serj. Dear Dibble, no offence at all.
Att. Some sons of Phoebus in the courts we moet,
Serj. And fifty sons of Phoebus in the Fleet!

Att. Nor pleads he worse, who with a decent sprig
Of bays adorns his legal waste of wig.

Serj. Full-bottom'd heroes thus, signs, unfurl
A leaf of laurel in a grove of curl!
Yet tell your client, that, in adverse days,
This wig is warmer than a bush of bays.

Att. Do you, then, sir, my client's place supply,
Profuse of robe, and prodigal of tie —
Do you, with all those blushing powers of face,
And wonted bashful hesitating grace,
Rise in the court, and flourish on the case.

(Exit.
Serj. For practice then suppose - this brief will show it,
Me, Serjeant Woodward, counsel for the poet.
Used to the ground, I know 'tis hard to deal
With this dread court, from whence there's no appeal;
No tricking here, to blunt the edge of law,
Or, damn'd in equity, escape by flaw:
But judgment given, your sentence must remain;
No writ of error lies - to Drury-lane!

Yet when so kind you seem, 'tis past dispute
We gain some favour, if not costs of suit.
No spleen is here! I see no hoarded fury;
I think I never faced a milder jury!
Sad else our plight! where frowns are transportation,
A hiss the gallows, and a groan damnation!
But such the public candour, without fear
My client waves all right of challenge here.

No newsman from our session is dismiss'd,
Nor wit nor critic we scratch off the list;
His faults can never hurt another's ease,
His crime, at worst, a bad attempt to please:
Thus, all respecting, he appeals to all,
And by the general voice will stand or fall.

PROLOGUE.

BY THE AUTHOR. SPOKEN ON THE TENTH NIGHT, BY MRS. BULKLEY. GRANTED our cause, our suit and trial o'er, The worthy serjeant need appear no more: In pleasing I a different client choose, He served the Poet - I would serve the Muse. Like him, I'll try to merit your applause, A female counsel in a female's cause.

Look on this form*, -- where humour, quaint and sly,
Dimples the cheek, and points the beaming eye;
Where gay invention seems to boast its wiles
In amorous hint, and half-triumphant smiles;
While her light mask or covers satire's strokes,
Or hides the conscious blush her wit provokes.
Look on her well - does she seem form'd to teach?
Should you expect to hear this lady preach?
Is grey experience suited to her youth?
Do solemn sentiments become that mouth?
Bid her be grave, those lips should rebel prove
To every theme that slanders mirth or love.

Yet, thus adorn'd with every graceful art
To charm the fancy and yet reach the heart
Must we displace her? And instead advance
The goddess of the woful countenance -
The sentimental Muse! Her emblems view,
The Pilgrim's Progress, and a sprig of rue!
View her - too chaste to look like flesh and blood
Primly portray'd on emblematic wood!
There, fix'd in usurpation, should she stand,
She'll snatch the dagger from her sister's hand:
And having made her votaries weep a food,
Good heaven! she'll end her comedies in blood -
Bid Harry Woodward break poor Dunstal's crown!
Imprison Quick, and knock Ned Shuter down;

* Pointing to the figure of Comedy.

While sad Barsanti, weeping o'er tho scene,
Shall stab herself - or poison Mrs. Green.

Such dire encroachments to prevent in time,
Demands the critic's voice the poet's rhyme.
Can our light scenes add strength to holy laws!
Such puny patronage but hurts the cause:
Fair virtue scorns our feeble aid to ask;
And moral truth disdains the trickster's mask
For here their favourite stands *, whose brow severe

sad, claims youth's respect, and pity's tear;
Who, when oppress'd by foes her worth creates,
Can point a poniard at the guilt she hates.

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ACT I.

SCENE I. A Street.
Enter Thomas; he crosses the Stage; Fag follows, looking

after him.
Fag. What! Thomas! sure 'tis he? · What! Thomas!
Thomas!

Thos. Hey!- Odd's life! Mr. Fag! — give us your hand, my old fellow-servant.

Fag. Excuse my glove, Thomas: ~ I'm devilish glad to see you, my lad. Why, my prince of charioteers, you look as hearty! — but who the deuce thought of seeing you in Bath?

Thos. Sure, master, Madam Julia, Hairy, Mrs. Kate, and the postillion, be all come.

Fag. Indeed!

Thos. Ay, master thought another fit of the gout was coming to make him a visit; - so he'd a mind to gi't the slip, and whip! we were all off at an hour's warning.

Fag. Ay, ay, hasty in every thing, or it would not be Sir Anthony Absolute!

Thos. But tell us, Mr. Fag, how does young master? Odd!
Sir Anthony will stare to see the Captain here!

Fag. I do not serve Captain Absolute now.
Thos. Why sure!

* Pointing to Tragedy.

2 I

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