Page images





And published BY MR MOUNTFORT, 1693.


This play is founded on the amours of Henry II. and the death of fair Rosamond. John Bancroft, the author, was a surgeon, and wrote another play called " Sertorius." He gave both the reputation and the profits of " Henry II" to Mountfort, the comedian; and probably made him no great compliment in the former particular, though, as the piece was well received, the latter might be of some consequence. Mountfort was an actor of great eminence. Cibber says, that he was the most affecting lover within his memory.

THUS you the sad catastrophe have seen,
Occasion'd by a mistress and a queen.
Queen Eleanor the proud was French, they say;
But English manufacture got the day.
Jane Clifford was her name, as books aver;
Fair Rosamond was but her nom de guerre.
Now tell me, gallants, would you lead your
With such a mistress, or with such a wife?


If one must be your choice, which d'ye approve,
The curtain lecture, or the curtain love?
Would ye be godly with perpetual strife,
Still drudging on with homely Joan, your wife;
Or take your pleasure in a wicked way,
Like honest whoring Harry in the play?
I guess your minds; the mistress would be taken,
And nauseous matrimony sent a packing.
The devil's in you all; mankind's a rogue;
You love the bride, but you detest the clog.
After a year, poor spouse is left i'the lurch,
And you, like Haynes,* return to mother-church.
Or, if the name of Church comes cross your mind,
Chapels-of-ease behind our scenes you find.
The playhouse is a kind of market-place;
One chaffers for a voice, another for a face;
Nay, some of you,-I dare not say how many,-
Would buy of me a pen'worth for your penny.
E'en this poor face, which with my fan I hide,
Would make a shift my portion to provide,
With some small perquisites I have beside.
Though for your love, perhaps, I should not care,
I could not hate a man that bids me fair.
What might ensue, 'tis hard for me to tell;
But I was drench'd to-day for loving well,
And fear the poison that would make me swell.

* The facetious Joe Haynes became a Catholic in the latter part of James the Second's reign. But after the Revolution, he read his recantation of the errors of Rome in a penitentiary prologue, which he delivered in a suit of mourning.

[blocks in formation]

GALLANTS, a bashful poet bids me say,
He's come to lose his maidenhead to-day.
Be not too fierce; for he's but green of age,
And ne'er, till now, debauch'd upon the stage.
He wants the suffering part of resolution,
And comes with blushes to his execution.
Ere you deflower his Muse, he hopes the pit
Will make some settlement upon his wit.
Promise him well, before the play begin;
For he would fain be cozen'd into sin.
"Tis not but that he knows you mean to fail;
But, if you leave him after being frail,
He'll have, at least, a fair pretence to rail,
To call you base, and swear you used him ill,
And put you in the new Deserter's bill.
Lord, what a troop of perjured men we see !
Enow to fill another Mercury.

But this the ladies may with patience brook;
Theirs are not the first colours you forsook.
He would be loth the beauties to offend;
But, if he should, he's not too old to mend.
He's a young plant, in his first year of bearing;
But his friend swears, he will be worth the rearing.

His gloss is still upon him; though 'tis true
He's yet unripe, yet take him for the blue.
You think an apricot half green is best ;
There's sweet and sour, and one side good at least.
Mangos and limes, whose nourishment is little,
Though not for food, are yet preserved for pickle.
So this green writer may pretend, at least,
To whet your stomachs for a better feast.
He makes this difference in the sexes too;
He sells to men, he gives himself to you.
To both he would contribute some delight;
A meer poetical hermaphrodite.

Thus he's equipp'd, both to be woo'd, and woo;
With arms offensive, and defensive too;

'Tis hard, he thinks, if neither part will do.




The old play, to which this prologue was prefixed upon its revival, was originally acted in 1634, three or four years after the appearance of Jonson's "Alchemist;" to which, therefore, it could not possibly afford any hint. Dryden, observing the resemblance between the plays, took the plagiarism for granted, because the style of "Albumazar" is certainly the most antiquated. This appearance of antiquity is, however, only a consequence of the vein of pedantry which runs through the whole piece. It was written by Tomkins, a scholar of Trinity College, and acted before King James VI. by the gentlemen of that house, 9th March, 1614. It is, upon the whole, a very excellent play; yet the author, whether consulting his own taste, or that of our British Solomon, before whom it was to be represented, has contrived to give it an air of such learned stiffness, that it much more resembles the translation of a play from Terence or Plautus, than an original English composition. By this pedantic affectation, the humour of the play is completely smothered; and although there are several very excellent comic situations in the action, yet neither the attempt to revive it in Dryden's time, nor those which followed in 1748 and 1773, met with any success. As Dryden had imputed, very rashly, however, and groundlessly, the guilt of plagiarism to Jonson, he made this supposed crime the introduction to a similar slur on Shadwell, who at that time seems to have been possessed of the laurel; a circumstance which ascertains the date of the prologue to be posterior to the Revolu


To say this comedy pleased long ago,
Is not enough to make it pass you now.
Yet, gentlemen, your ancestors had wit,
When few men censured, and when fewer writ.

« PreviousContinue »