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Mrs. D. Lord, Mr. Dangle, why will you plague me about such nonsense? Now the plays are begun I shall have no peace. Isn't it sufficient to make yourself ridiculous by your passion for the theatre, without continually teasing me to join you? Why cant you ride your hobby-horse without desiring to place me on a pillion behind you, Mr. Dangle?
Dang. Nay, my dear, I was only going to read
Mrs. D. I have no patience with you! Haven't you made yourself the jest of all your acquaintance, by your interference in matters where you have no business? Are not you called a theatrical Quidnunc, and a mock Mecenas to second-hand authors?
Dang. True; my power with the managers is pretty notorious; but is it no credit to have applications from all quarters for my interest? From lords to recommend fiddlers, from ladies to get boxes, from authors to get answers, and from actors to get engagements.
Mrs. D. Yes, truly; you have contrived to get a share in all the plague and trouble of theatrical property, without the profit, or even the credit of the abuse that attends it.
Dang. I am sure, Mrs. Dangle, you are no loser by it, however; you have all the advantages of it; mightn't you, last winter, have had the reading of the new pantomine a fortnight previous to its performance? And didn't my friend, Mr. Smatter, dedicate his last farce to you at my particular request, Mrs. Dangle?
Mrs. D. Yes; but wasn't the farce damned, Mr. Dangle? And to be sure it is extremely pleasant to have one's house made the motley rendezvous of all the lackeys of literature: the very high change of trading authors and jobbing critics!
Dang. Mrs. Dangle, you will not easily persuade me that there is no credit or importance in being at the
head of a band of critics, who take upon them to decide for the whole town, whose opinion and patronage all writers solicit, and whose recommendation no manager dare refuse!
Mrs. D. Ridiculous! Both managers, and authors of the least merit, laugh at your pretensions. The public is their critic-without whose fair approbation they know no play can rest on the stage, and with whose applause they welcome such attacks as yours, and laugh at the malice of them, where they cant at the wit.
Dang. Very well, madam-very well.
Serv. Mr. Sneer, sir, to wait on you.
Dang. Oh, show Mr. Sneer up. [Exit Servant. Plague on't, now we must appear loving and affectionate, or Sneer will hitch us into a story.
Mrs. D. With all my heart; you cant be more ridiculous than you are.
Dang, You are enough to provoke
Enter Mr. Sneer.
-Ha! my dear Sneer, I am vastly glad to see you. My dear, here's Mr. Sneer. Mr. Sneer, my dear-my dear, Mr. Sneer.
Mrs. D. Good morning to you, sir.
Dang. Mrs. Dangle and I have been diverting ourselves with the papers. Pray, Sneer, wont you go to Drury Lane Theatre the first night of Puff's tragedy?
Sneer. Yes; but I suppose I shant be able to get in. But here, Dangle, I have brought you two pieces, one. of which you must exert yourself to make some of the managers accept, I can tell you that, for 'tis written by a person of consequence.
Dang. So now my plagues are beginning.
Sneer. Ay, I am glad of it, for now you'll be happy. Why, my dear Dangle, it is a pleasure to see how you enjoy your volunteer fatigue, and your solicited solicitations.
Dang. It's a great trouble, yet, egad, it's pleasant too. Why, sometimes of a morning I have a dozen people call on me at breakfast time, whose faces I never saw before, nor ever desire to see again.
Sneer. That must be very pleasant indeed.
Dang. And not a week but I receive fifty letters; and not a line in them about any business of my own. Sneer. An amusing correspondence!
Dang. [Reading.] "Bursts into tears, and exit." What, is this a tragedy?
Sneer. No, that's a genteel comedy, not a translation, only taken from the French; it is written in a style which they have lately tried to run down; the true sentimental, and nothing ridiculous in it from the beginning to the end.
Mrs. D. Well, if they had kept to that, I should not have been such an enemy to the stage: there was some edification to be got from those pieces, Mr. Sneer!
Sneer. I am quite of your opinion, Mrs. Dangle; the theatre, in proper hands, might certainly be made the school of morality; but now, I am sorry to say it, people seem to go there principally for their entertain
Mrs. D. It would have been more to the credit of the managers to have kept it in the other line.
Sneer. Undoubtedly, madam; and hereafter perhaps to have had it recorded, that in the midst of a luxurious and dissipated age, they preserved two houses in the capital, where the conversation was always moral at least, if not entertaining!
Dang. But what have we here? This seems a very odd
Sneer. Oh, that's a comedy, on a very new plan; replete with wit and mirth, yet of a most serious moral! You see it is called "The Reformed Housebreaker;' where, by the mere force of humour, housebreaking is put into so ridiculous a light, that if the piece has its proper run, I have no doubt but that bolts and bars will be entirely useless by the end of the season.
Dang. Egad, this is new indeed!
Sneer. Yes; it is written by a particular friend of mine, who has discovered that the follies and foibles of society are subjects unworthy the notice of the comic muse, who should be taught to stoop only at the greater vices and blacker crimes of humanity-gibbeting capital offences in five acts, and pillorying petty larcenies in two. In short, his idea is to dramatise the penal laws, and make the stage a court-of-ease to the Old Bailey.
Dang. It is truly moral.
Serv. Sir Fretful Plagiary, sir.
Dang. Beg him to walk up. [Exit Servant.] Now, Mrs. Dangle, Sir Fretful Plagiary is an author to your own taste.
Mrs. D. I confess he is a favourite of mine, because everybody else abuses him.
Sneer. Very much to the credit of your charity, madam, if not of your judgment.
Dang. But, egad, he allows no merit to any author but himself, that's the truth on 't-though he's my friend.
Sneer. Never. He is as envious as an old maid verging on the desperation of six-and-thirty: and then
the insidious humility with which he seduces you to give a free opinion on any of his works, can be exceeded only by the petulant arrogance with which he is sure to reject your observations.
Dang. Very true, egad—though he's my friend.
Sneer. Then his affected contempt of all newspaper strictures; though, at the same time, he is the sorest man alive, and shrinks like scorched parchment from the fiery ordeal of true criticism.
There's no denying it-though he's my
Sneer. You've read the tragedy he has just finished, haven't you?
Dang. O yes; he sent it to me yesterday.
Sneer. Well, and you think it execrable, dont you ? Dang. Why, between ourselves, egad I must own --though he's my friend-that it is one of the mostHe's here [Aside]-finished and most admirable perform
Sir F. [Without.] Mr. Sneer with him, did you say?
Enter SIR FRETFUL.
Dang. Ah, my dear friend! Egad, we were just speaking of your tragedy. Admirable, Sir Fretful, admirable!
Sneer. You never did anything beyond it, Sir Fretful-never in your life.
Sir F. You make me extremely happy; for without a compliment, my dear Sneer, there isn't a man in the world whose judgment I value as I do yours—and Mrs. Dangle's.
Mrs. D. They are only laughing at you, Sir Fretful; for it was but just now that
Dang. Mrs. Dangle! Ah, Sir Fretful, you know