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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 judgment proceed to remove what should appear to have been most dissatisfactory. 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 effecting this from being in a walk which I had not frequented, and where, consequently, 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 halfforgotten dreams; and the imagination in its fullest enjoyments 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 belore 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 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 passion suffers more than malice from disappointment. For my own part, I 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, 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 rely 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 fame or profit, has surely 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 them 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 after-praise 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.
AS ORIGINALLY ACTED AT COVENT GARDEN THEATRE IN 1775.
| Mr. Shuter.
SIR ANTHONY AB
Mr. Dunstal. SOLUTE
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
Mrs. Lessingo GER
ham. • Mr. Lee Lewes. Maid, Boy, Servants, &c.
SPOKEN BY MR. WOODWARD AND MR. QUICK.
He means his fee.
[Gives money. Serj. The scrawl improves ! [more] O come, 'tis pretty
Att. Yes, sir ! though you without reward, I know,
Serj. Dear Dibble, no offence at all.
Att. Nor pleads he worse, who with a decent sprigo
Serj. Full-bottom'd heroes thus, on signs, unfurl
Att. Do you, then, sir, my client's place supply,
[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
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.
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,
Yet, thus adorn'd with every graceful art
* Pointing to the figure of Comedy.