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At length agreed, all squabbles to decide, By some one judge the cause was to be tried; But this their squabbles did afresh renew, Who should be judge in such a trial:-Who?
For Johnson some, but Johnson, it was fear'd, Would be too grave; and Sterne too gay appear'd: Others for Francklin voted; but 'twas known, He sicken'd at all triumphs but his own: For Colman many, but the peevish tongue Of prudent age found out that he was young: For Murphy some few pilf'ring wits declar'd, Whilst Folly clapp'd her hands, and Wisdom star'd.
CHARACTER OF A CRITICAL FRIBBLE.
WITH that low cunning, which in fools supplies,
And amply too, the place of being wise,
Which Nature, kind, indulgent parent, gave
To qualify the blockhead for a knave;
With that smooth falsehood, whose appearance
And reason of each wholesome doubt disarms,
Which to the lowest depths of guile descends,
By vilest means pursues the vilest ends,
Wears friendship's mask for purposes of spite,
Fawns in the day, and butchers in the night;
With that malignant envy, which turns pale,
And sickens, even if a friend prevail,
Which merit and success pursues with hate,
And damns the worth it cannot imitate;
With the cold caution of a coward's spleen,
Which fears not guilt, but always seeks a screen,
Which keeps this maxim ever in her view-
What's basely done, should be done safely too;
With that dull, rooted, callous impudence,
Which, dead to shame, and ev'ry nicer sense,
Ne'er blush'd, unless, in spreading vice's snares,
She blunder'd on some virtue unawares:
With all these blessings, which we seldom find
Lavish'd by nature on one happy mind,
A motley figure, of the fribble tribe,
Which heart can scarce conceive, or pen describe,
Came simp'ring on: to ascertain whose sex
Twelve sage impannell'd matrons would perplex.
Nor male, nor female, neither, and yet both;
Of neuter gender, though of Irish growth;
A six-foot suckling, mincing in its gait;
Affected, peevish, prim, and delicate;
Fearful it seem'd, though of athletic make,
Lest brutal breezes should too roughly shake
Its tender form, and savage motion spread
O'er its pale cheeks the horrid manly red.
Much did it talk, in its own pretty phrase,
Of genius and of taste, of play'rs and plays;
Much too of writings, which itself had wrote,
Of special merit, though of little note;
For fate, in a strange humour, had decreed
That what it wrote, none but itself should read;
Much too it chatter'd of dramatic laws,
Misjudging critics, and misplac'd applause,
Then, with a self-complacent jutting air,
It smil'd, it smirk'd, it wriggled to the chair;
And, with an awkward briskness not its own,
Looking around, and perking on the throne,
Triumphant seem'd, when that strange savage
Known but to few, or only known by name,
Plain Common Sense appear'd, by nature there
Appointed, with plain Truth, to guard the chair.
The pageant saw, and blasted with her frown,
To its first state of nothing melted down.
Nor shall the Muse (for even there the pride
Of this vain nothing shall be mortified)
Nor shall the Muse (should fate ordain her rhymes,
Fond, pleasing thought! to live in after-times)
With such a trifler's name her pages blot;
Known be the character, the thing forgot;
Let it, to disappoint each future aim,
Live without sex, and die without a name!
CHARACTERS OF QUIN, SHERIDAN, AND GARRICK. FROM THE SAME.
QUIN, from afar, lur'd by the scent of fame,
A stage leviathan, put in his claim,
Pupil of Betterton and Booth. Alone,
Sullen he walk'd, and deem'd the chair his own.
For how should moderns, mushrooms of the day,
Who ne'er those masters knew, know how to play?
Gray-bearded vet'rans, who, with partial tongue,
Extol the times when they themselves were young;
Who having lost all relish for the stage,
See not their own defects, but lash the age,
Receiv'd with joyful murmurs of applause
Their darling chief, and lin'd his favourite cause.
Far be it from the candid Muse to tread
Insulting o'er the ashes of the dead,
But, just to living merit, she maintains,
And dares the test, whilst Garrick's genius reigns;
Ancients in vain endeavour to excel,
Happily prais'd, if they could act as well.
But though prescription's force we disallow,
Nor to antiquity submissive bow;
Though we deny imaginary grace,
Founded on accidents of time and place;
Yet real worth of ev'ry growth shall bear
Due praise, nor must we, Quin, forget thee there.
His words bore sterling weight, nervous and strong
In manly tides of sense they roll'd along.
Happy in art, he chiefly had pretence
To keep up numbers, yet not forfeit sense.
No actor ever greater heights could reach
In all the labour'd artifice of speech.
Speech! Is that all?-And shall an actor found An universal fame on partial ground? Parrots themselves speak properly by rote, And, in six months, my dog shall howl by note..
I laugh at those, who, when the stage they tread,
Neglect the heart, to compliment the head;
With strict propriety their care's confin'd
To weigh out words, while passion halts behind.
To syllable-dissectors they appeal,
Allow them accent, cadence,-fools may feel;
But, spite of all the criticising elves,
Those who would make us feel, must feel themselves.
His eyes, in gloomy socket taught to roll,
Proclaim'd the sullen habit of his soul.
Heavy and phlegmatic he trod the stage,
Too proud for tenderness, too dull for rage.
When Hector's lovely widow shines in tears,
Or Rowe's gay rake dependant virtue jeers,
With the same cast of features he is seen
To chide the libertine, and court the queen.
From the tame scene, which without passion flows,
With just desert his reputation rose;
Nor less he pleas'd, when, on some surly plan,
He was, at once, the actor and the man.
In Brute he shone unequall'd: all agree
Garrick's not half so great a brute as he.
When Cato's labour'd scenes are brought to view,
With equal praise the actor labour'd too;
For still you'll find, trace passions to their root,
Small diff'rence 'twixt the stoic and the brute.
In fancied scenes, as in life's real plan,
He could not, for a moment, sink the man.
In whate'er cast his character was laid,
Self still, like oil, upon the surface play'd.