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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 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 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 provo
cation) 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 iso 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.
BY THE AUTHOR
Spoken by Mr. Woodward and Mr. Quick Enter SERJEANT-AT-LAW, and ATTORNEY following, 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] Oh, come, 'tis pretty
plain. Hey! how's this ? Dibble |--Sure it cannot be ! A poet's briefl a poet and a fee !
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 sprig
Serj. Full-bottom'd heroes thus, on signs, unfurl
Att. Do you, then, sir, my client's place supply,
Serj. For practice then suppose this brief will show it,