Page images

He gets applause-I wish he'd get his part.
When hot impatience is in full career,
How vilely "Hark'e! Hark'e!" grates the ear!
When active fancy from the brain is sent,
And stands on tip-toe for some wish'd event,
I hate those careless blunders which recal
Suspended sense, and prove it fiction all,

In characters of low and vulgar mould,
Where nature's coarsest features we behold,
Where, destitute of ev'ry decent grace,
Unmanner'd jests are blurted in your face,
There Yates with justice strict attention draws,
Acts truly from himself, and gains applause.
But when to please himself or charm his wife,-
He aims at something in politer life,
When, blindly thwarting nature's stubborn plan,
He treads the stage, by way of gentleman,
The clown, who no one touch of breeding knows,
Looks like Tom Errand dress'd in Clincher's clothes.
Fond of his dress, fond of his person grown,
Laugh'd at by all, and to himself unknown,
From side to side he struts, he smiles, he prates,
And seems to wonder what's become of Yates.

Woodward, endow'd with various tricks of face, Great master in the science of grimace, From Ireland ventures, fav'rite of the town, Lur'd by the pleasing prospect of renown; A speaking Harlequin, made up of whim, He twists, he twines, he tortures ev'ry limb, Plays to the eye with a mere monkey's art, And leaves to sense the conquest of the heart. We laugh indeed, but on reflection's birth We wonder at ourselves, and curse our mirth. His walk of parts he fatally misplac'd, And inclination fondly took for taste; Hence hath the town so often seen display'd Beau in burlesque, high life in masquerade.

But when bold wits, not such as patch up plays, Cold and correct, in these insipid days, Some comic character, strong featur'd, urge To probability's extremest verge, Where modest judgment her decree suspends, And for a time nor censures nor commends; Where critics can't determine on the spot, Whether it is in nature found or not; There Woodward safely shall his pow'rs exert, Nor fail of favour where he shows desert. Hence he in Bobadil such praises bore, Such worthy praises, Kitely scarce had more.

By turns transform'd into all kind of shapes, Constant to none, Foote laughs, cries, struts, and


Now in the centre, now in van or rear,
The Proteus shifts, bawd, parson, auctioneer.
His strokes of humour, and his burst of sport,
Are all contain'd in this one word-distort.

Doth a man stutter, look a-squint, or halt? Mimics draw humour out of nature's fault, With personal defects their mirth adorn, And hang misfortunes out to public scorn. Ev'n I, whom nature cast in hideous mould, Whom, having made, she trembled to behold,

Beneath the load of mimicry may groan,
And find that nature's errors are my own.

Shadows behind of Foote and Woodward came;
Wilkinson this, Obrien was that name:
Strange to relate, but wonderfully true,
That even shadows have their shadows too!
With not a single comic pow'r endu❜d,
The first a mere mere mimic's mimic stood;
The last by nature form'd to please, who shows,
In Jonson's Stephen, which way genius grows;
Self quite put off, affects, with too much art,
To put on Woodward, in each mingled part;
Adopts his shrug, his wink, his stare; nay, more,
His voice, and croaks; for Woodward croak'd before.
When a dull copier simple grace neglects,
And rests his imitation in defects,
We readily forgive; but such vile arts
Are double guilt in men of real parts.

By nature form'd in her perversest mood, With no one requisite of art endu’d, Next Jackson came.-Observe that settled glare, Which better speaks a puppet than a player: List to that voice-did ever discord hear Sounds so well fitted to her untun'd ear? When, to enforce some very tender part, The right hand sleeps by instinct on the heart, His soul, of every other thought bereft, Is anxious only where to place the left; He sobs and pants to soothe his weeping spouse, To soothe his weeping mother, turns and bows. Awkward, embarrass'd, stiff, without the skill Of moving gracefully, or standing still, One leg, as if suspicious of his brother, Desirous seems to run away from t' other.

Some errors, handed down from age to age,
Plead custom's force, and still possess the stage.
That's vile-should we a parent's faults adore,
And err, because our fathers err'd before?
If, inattentive to the author's mind,

Some actors made the jest they could not find,
If by low tricks they marr'd fair nature's mien,
And blurr'd the graces of the simple scene,
Shall we, if reason rightly is employ'd,
Not see their faults, or seeing not avoid?
When Falstaff stands detected in a lie,
Why, without meaning, rolls Love's glassy eye?
Why?-There's no cause at least no cause we
It was the fashion twenty years ago.
Fashion a word which knaves and fools may use,
Their knavery and folly to excuse.
To copy beauties, forfeits all pretence
To fame-to copy faults, is want of sense.

Yet (though in some particulars he fails, Some few particulars, where mode prevails.) If in these hallow'd times, when sober, sad, All gentlemen are melancholy mad; When 'tis not deem'd so great a crime by half To violate a vestal, as to laugh;

Rude mirth may hope presumptuous to engage An act of toleration for the stage,

And courtiers will, like reasonable creatures, Suspend vain fashion, and unscrew their features;

Old Falstaff, play'd by Love, shall please once more, And humour set the audience in a roar.

Actors I've seen, and of no vulgar name, Who, being from one part possess'd of fame, Whether they are to laugh, cry, whine, or bawl, Still introduce that fav'rite part in all. Here, Love, be cautious-ne'er be thou betray'd To call in that wag Falstaff's dang'rous aid; Like Goths of old, howe'er he seems a friend, He'll seize that throne you wish him to defend. In a peculiar mould by humour cast, For Falstaff fram'd-himself the first and last, He stands aloof from all-maintains his state, And scorns, like Scotsmen, to assimilate. Vain all disguise-too plain we see the trick, Though the knight wears the weeds of Dominic; And Boniface, disgrac'd, betrays the smack, In Anno Domini, of Falstaff's sack.

[ing slow, Arms cross'd, brows bent, eyes fix'd, feet marchA band of malecontents with spleen o'erflow; Wrapt in conceit's impenetrable fog, Which pride, like Phœbus, draws from every bog, They curse the managers and curse the town, Whose partial favours keep such merit down.

But if some man, more hardy than the rest, Should dare attack these gnatlings in their nest; At once they rise with impotence of rage, Whet their small stings, and buzz about the stage. ""Tis breach of privilege!-Shall any dare To arm satiric truth against a player? Prescriptive rights we plead time out of mind; Actors, unlash'd themselves, may lash mankind." What! shall opinion then, of nature free And lib'ral as the vagrant air, agree To rust in chains like these, impos'd by things Which, less than nothing, ape the pride of kings? No-though half-poets with half-players join To curse the freedom of each honest line; Though rage and malice dim their faded cheek; What the Muse freely thinks, she'll freely speak. With just disdain of ev'ry paltry sneer, Stranger alike to flattery and fear, In purpose fix'd, and to herself a rule, Public contempt shall wait the public fool.

Austin would always glisten in French silks, Ackman would Norris be, and Packer Wilks; For who, like Ackman, can with humour please? Who can, like Packer, charm with sprightly ease? Higher than all the rest, see Bransby strut: A mighty Gulliver in Lilliput! Ludicrous nature! which at once could show A man so very high, so very low.

If I forget thee, Blakes, or if I say Aught hurtful, may I never see thee play. Let critics, with a supercilious air, Decry thy various merit, and declare Frenchman is still at top ;-but scorn that rage Which, in attacking thee, attacks the age. French follies, universally embrac'd,

Have Britons drawn their sport, with partial view
Form'd gen'ral notions from the rascal few;
Condemn'd a people, as for vices known,
Which, from their country banish'd, seek our own.
At length, howe'er, the slavish chain is broke,
And, sense awaken'd, scorns her ancient yoke:
Taught by thee, Moody, we now learn to raise
Mirth from their foibles; from their virtues, praise.

Next came the legion, which our summer Bayes,
From alleys, here and there, contriv'd to raise,
Flush'd with vast hopes, and certain to succeed
With wits who cannot write, and scarce can read.
Vet'rans no more support the rotten cause,
No more from Elliot's worth they reap applause;
Each on himself determines to rely;
Be Yates disbanded, and let Elliot fly.
Never did play'rs so well an author fit,
To nature dead, and foes declar'd to wit.
So loud each tongue, so empty was each head,
So much they talk, so very little said,

So wondrous dull, and yet so wondrous vain,
At once so willing, and unfit to reign,
That reason swore, nor would the oath recal,
Their mighty master's soul inform'd them all.

As one with various disappointments sad,
Whom dullness only kept from being mad,
Apart from all the rest great Murphy came-
Common to fools and wits, the rage of fame.
What though the sons of nonsense hail him sire,
Auditor, author, manager, and 'squire,
His restless soul's ambition stops not there,
To make his triumphs perfect, dub him player.
In person tall, a figure form'd to please,
If symmetry could charm, depriv'd of ease;
When motionless he stands, we all approve;
What pity 'tis the thing was made to move.

His voice, in one dull, deep, unvaried sound, Seems to break forth from caverns under ground. From hollow chest the low sepulchral note Unwilling heaves, and struggles in his throat.

Could authors butcher'd give an actor grace,
All must to him resign the foremost place.
When he attempts, in some one fav'rite part,
To ape the feelings of a manly heart,
His honest features the disguise defy,
And his face loudly gives his tongue the lie.

Still in extremes, he knows no happy mean,
Or raving mad, or stupidly serene.

In cold-wrought scenes the lifeless actor flags,
In passion tears the passion into rags.

Can none remember?-Yes-I know all must-
When in the Moor he ground his teeth to dust;
When o'er the stage he folly's standard bore,
Whilst common-sense stood trembling at the door.

How few are found with real talents bless'd!
Fewer with nature's gifts contented rest.
Man from his sphere eccentric starts astray;
All hunt for fame; but most mistake the way.
Bred at St. Omer's to the shuffling trade,
The hopeful youth a Jesuit might have made,
With various readings stor❜d his empty skull,
Learn'd without sense, and venerably dull;

At once provoke our mirth, and form our taste.
Long, from a nation ever hardly us'd,
At random censur'd, wantonly abus’d,

Or, at some banker's desk, like many more,
Content to tell that two and two make four,
His name had stood in city annals fair,
And prudent dullness mark'd him for a mayor.
What then could tempt thee, in a critic age,
Such blooming hopes to forfeit on a stage?
Could it be worth thy wondrous waste of pains
To publish to the world thy lack of brains?
Or might not reason ev'n to thee have shown
Thy greatest praise had been to live unknown?
Yet let not vanity like thine despair:
Fortune makes folly her peculiar care.

A vacant throne high-plac'd in Smithfield view, To sacred dullness and her first born due; Thither with haste in happy hour repair, Thy birth-right claim, nor fear a rival there. Shuter himself shall own thy juster claim, And venal ledgers puff their Murphy's name, Whilst Vaughan or Dapper, call him what you will, Shall blow the trumpet and give out the bill.

There rule secure from critics and from sense, Nor once shall genius rise to give offence; Eternal peace shall bless the happy shore, And little factions break thy rest no more.

From Covent-Garden crowds promiscuous go, Whom the Muse knows not, nor desires to know. Vet'rans they seem'd, but knew of arms no more Than if, till that time, arms they never bore; Like Westminster militia train'd to fight, They scarcely knew the left hand from the right. Asham'd among such troops to show the head, Their chiefs were scatter'd, and their heroes fled.

Where, quiet as her strains their strains do flow,
That all the patron by the bards may know,
Secret as night, with Rolt's experienc'd aid,
The plan of future operations laid;
Projected schemes the summer months to cheer,
And spin out happy folly through the year.

But think not though these dastard-chiefs are fled.
That Covent-Garden troops shall want a head:
Harlequin comes their chief!-See from afar,
The hero seated in fantastic car!
Wedded to novelty, his only arms

Are wooden swords, wands, talismans, and charms;
On one side folly sits, by some call'd fun,
And on the other, his arch patron, Lun.
Behind, for liberty athirst in vain,
Sense, helpless captive, drags the galling chain.
Six rude misshapen beasts the chariot draw,
Whom reason lothes, and nature never saw;
Monsters with tails of ice and heads of fire;
Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.
Each was bestrode by full as monstrous wight,
Giant, dwarf, genius, elf, hermaphrodite.
The town, as usual, met him in full cry;
The town, as usual, knew no reason why.
But fashion so directs, and moderns raise
On fashion's mould'ring base their transient praise.

Next to the field a band of females draw
Their force; for Britain owns no salique law:
Just to their worth, we female rights admit,
Nor bar their claim to empire or to wit.

First, giggling, plotting chamber-maids arrive, Hoydens and romps, led on by Gen'ral Clive. In spite of outward blemishes, she shone For humour fam'd, and humour all her own. Easy, as if at home, the stage she trod,

Sparks at his glass sat comfortably down To sep'rate frown from smile, and smile from frown; Smith, the genteel, the airy, and the smart, Smith was just gone to school to say his part; Ross (a misfortune which we often meet) Was fast asleep at dear Statira's feet; Statira, with her hero to agree, Stood on her feet as fast asleep as he; Macklin, who largely deals in half-form'd sounds, Who wantonly transgresses nature's bounds; Whose acting's hard, affected, and constrain'd; Whose features, as each other they disdain'd, At variance set, inflexible and coarse, Ne'er know the working of united force, Ne'er kindly soften to each other's aid, Nor show the mingled pow'rs of light and shade; No longer for a thankless stage concern'd, To worthier thoughts his mighty genius turn'd, Harangu'd, gave lectures, made each simple elf Almost as good a speaker as himself; Whilst the whole town, mad with mistaken zeal, An awkward rage for elocution feel; Dull cits and grave divines his praise proclaim, And join with Sheridan's their Macklin's name. Shuter, who never car'd a single pin Whether he left out nonsense, or put in ; Who aim'd at wit, though, levell'd in the dark, The random arrow seldom hit the mark; At Islington, all by the placid stream Where city swains in lap of dullness dream,

Nor sought the critic's praise, nor fear'd his rod. Original in spirit and in ease,

She pleas'd by hiding all attempts to please.
No comic actress ever yet could raise,

On humour's base, more merit or more praise.
With all the native vigour of sixteen,
Among the merry troop conspicuous seen,
See lively Pope advance in jig and trip,
Corinna, Cherry, Honeycomb, and Snip.
Not without art, but yet to nature true,
She charms the town with humour just, yet new.
Cheer'd by her promise, we the less deplore
The fatal time when Clive shall be no more.

Lo! Vincent comes-with simple grace array'd, She laughs at paltry arts, and scorns parade; Nature through her is by reflection shown, Whilst Gay once more knows Polly for his own. Talk not to me of diffidence and fearI see it all, but must forgive it here. Defects like these which modest terrors cause, From impudence itself extort applause. Candour and reason still take virtue's part; We love ev'n foibles in so good an heart.

Let Tommy Arne, with usual pomp of style, Whose chief, whose only merit's to compile, Who meanly pilfering, here and there a bit, Deals music out as Murphy deals out wit,

Publish proposals, laws for taste prescribe, And chaunt the praise of an Italian tribe; Let him reverse kind nature's first decrees, And teach ev'n Brent a method not to please; But never shall a truly British age Bear a vile race of eunuchs on the stage. The boasted work's call'd national in vain, If one Italian voice pollutes the strain. Where tyrants rule, and slaves with joy obey, Let slavish minstrels pour th' enervate lay; To Britons far more noble pleasures spring, In native notes whilst Beard and Vincent sing. Might figures give a title unto fame, What rival should with Yates dispute her claim? But justice may not partial trophies raise, Nor sink the actress in the woman's praise. Still hand in hand her words and actions go, And the heart feels more than the features show: For through the regions of that beauteous face We no variety of passions trace: Dead to the soft emotions of the heart, No kindred softness can those eyes impart; The brow, still fix'd on sorrow's sullen frame, Void of distinction, marks all parts the same.

What's a fine person, or a beauteous face, Jnless deportment gives them decent grace? Bless'd with all other requisites to please, Some want the striking elegance of ease; The curious eye their awkward movement tires; They seem like puppets led about by wires. Others, like statues, in one posture still, Give great ideas of the workman's skill; Wond'ring, his art we praise the more we view, And only grieve he gave not motion too. Weak of themselves are what we beauties call, It is the manner which gives strength to all. This teaches ev'ry beauty to unite, And brings them forward in the noblest light. Happy in this, behold, amidst the throng, With transient gleam of grace, Hart sweeps along. If all the wonders of external grace, A person finely turn'd, a mould of face, Where, union rare, expression's lively force With beauty's softest magic holds discourse, Attract the eye! if feelings void of art, Rouse the quick passions, and inflame the heart; If music sweetly breathing from the tongue, Captives the ear, Bride must not pass unsung.

When fear, which rank ill-nature terms conceit, By time and custom conquer'd, shall retreat; When judgment tutor'd by experience sage, Shall shoot abroad and gather strength from age; When Heav'n in mercy shall the stage release From the dull slumbers of a still-life piece; When some stale flow'r, disgraceful to the walk, Which long hath hung,though wither'd, on the stalk, Shall kindly drop, then Bride shall make her way, And merit find a passage to the day; Brought into action, she at once shall raise Her own renown, and justify our praise.

Form'd for the tragic scene, to grace the stage, With rival excellence of love and rage,

Mistress of each soft art, with matchless skill
To turn and wind the passions as she will;
To melt the heart with sympathetic woe,
Awake the sigh, and teach the tear to flow:
To put on frenzy's wild distracted glare,
And freeze the soul with horror and despair;
With just desert enroll'd in endless fame,
Conscious of worth superior, Cibber came.

When poor Alicia's madd'ning brains are rack'd, And strongly-imag'd griefs her mind distract; Struck with her grief, I catch the madness too! My brain turns round, the headless trunk I view ! The roof cracks, shakes and falls.-New horrors And reason buried in the ruin lies. [rise

Nobly disdainful of each slavish art,
She makes her first attack upon the heart;
Pleas'd with the summons, it receives her laws,
And all is silence, sympathy, applause.

But when, by fond ambition drawn aside,
Giddy with praise, and puff'd with female pride,
She quits the tragic scene, and, in pretence
To comic merit, breaks down nature's fence;
I scarcely can believe my ears or eyes,
Or find out Cibber through the dark disguise.
Pritchard, by nature for the stage design'd,
In person graceful, and in sense refin'd;
Her art as much as nature's friend became;
Her voice as free from blemish as her fame;
Who knows so well in majesty to please,
Attemper'd with the graceful charms of ease?
When, Congreve's favour'd pantomime to grace,
She comes a captive queen of Moorish race;
When love, hate, jealousy, despair and rage,
With wildest tumults in her breast engage,
Still equal to herself is Zara seen;
Her passions are the passions of a queen.

When she to murder whets the timorous Thane, I feel ambition rush through ev'ry vein; Persuasion hangs upon her daring tongue, My heart grows flint, and ev'ry nerve's new strung.

In comedy-"Nay, there," cries critic," hold, Pritchard's for comedy too fat and old. Who can, with patience, bear the gray coquette, Or force a laugh with overgrown Julett? Her speech, look, action, humour, all are just; But then, her age and figure give disgust."

Are foibles then, and graces of the mind, In real life, to size or age confin'd? Do spirits flow, and is good-breeding plac'd In any set circumference of waist? As we grow old, doth affectation cease, Or gives not age new vigour to caprice? If in originals these things appear, Why should we bar them in the copy here? The nice punctilio-mongers of this age, The grand minute reformers of the stage, Slaves to propriety of ev'ry kind, Some standard-measure for each part should find, Which when the best of actors shall exceed, Let it devolve to one of smaller breed. All actors too upon the back should bear Certificate of birth;-time, when ;-place, where.

For how can critics rightly fix their worth,
Unless they know the minute of their birth?
An audience too, deceiv'd, may find too late
That they have clapp'd an actor out of date.

Figure, I own, at first may give offence,
And harshly strike the eye's too curious sense:
But when perfections of the mind break forth,
Humour's chaste sallies, judgment's solid worth;
When the pure genuine flame by nature taught,
Springs into sense, and ev'ry action's thought;
Before such merit all objections fly,
Pritchard's genteel, and Garrick's six feet high.

Oft have I, Pritchard, seen thy wondrous skill, Confess'd thee great, but find thee greater still. That worth, which shone in scatter'd rays before, Collected now, breaks forth with double pow'r. The Jealous Wife! on that thy trophies raise, Inferior only to the author's praise.

From Dublin, fam'd in legends of romance For mighty magic of enchanted lance, With which her heroes arm'd victorious prove, And like a flood rush o'er the land of love, Mossop and Barry came-names ne'er design'd By fate in the same sentence to be join'd. Rais'd by the breath of popular acclaim, They mounted to the pinnacle of fame; There the weak brain, made giddy with the height, Spurr'd on the rival chiefs to mortal fight. Thus sportive boys, around some bason's brim, Behold the pipe-drawn bladders circling swim: But if from lungs more potent, there arise Two bubbles of a more than common size, Eager for honour they for fight prepare, Bubble meets bubble, and both sink to air.

Mossop, attach'd to military plan,

Still kept his eye fix'd on his right-hand man.
Whilst the mouth measures words with seeming
The right hand labours, and the left lies still; [skill,
For he resolv'd on scripture-grounds to go,
What the right doth the left-hand shall not know.
With studied impropriety of speech,

What man could give, if Barry was not here,
Such well-applauded tenderness to Lear?
Who else can speak so very, very fine,
That sense may kindly end with ev'ry line?

Some dozen lines before the ghost is there,
Behold him for the solemn scene prepare.
See how he frames his eyes, poises each limb,
Puts the whole body into proper trim.—
From whence we learn, with no great stretch of art,
Five lines hence comes a ghost, and, ha! a start.

He soars beyond the hackney critic's reach;
To epithets allots emphatic state,
Whilst principals, ungrac'd, like lacquies wait;
In ways first trodden by himself excels,
And stands alone in indeclinables;
Conjunction, preposition, adverb join
To stamp new vigour on the nervous line:
In monosyllables his thunders roll,
He, she, it, and, we, ye, they, fright the soul.
In person taller than the common size,
Behold where Barry draws admiring eyes!
When lab'ring passions, in his bosom pent,
Convulsive rage, and struggling heave for vent;
Spectators, with imagin'd terrors warm,
Anxious expect the bursting of the storm:
But all unfit in such a pile to dwell,

His voice comes forth, like Echo from her cell;
To swell the tempest needful aid denies,
And all a-down the stage in feeble murmurs dies.
What man, like Barry, with such pains, can err
In elocution, action, character?

When he appears most perfect, still we find Something which jars upon, and hurts the mind. Whatever lights upon a part are thrown, We see too plainly they are not his own. No flame from nature ever yet he caught; Nor knew a feeling which he was not taught; He rais'd his trophies on the base of art, And conn'd his passions, as he conn'd his part. 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 reigas; 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 In manly tides of sense they roll'd along. [strong 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, [selves Those who would make us feel, must feel them

His eyes, in gloomy socket taught to roll, Proclaim'd the sullen habit of his soul.

« PreviousContinue »