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Mrs C. True, true, child: but there's no stopping people's tongues. I own I was hurt to hear it, as I indeed was to learn, from the same quarter, that your guardian, Sir Peter and Lady Teazle, have not agreed lately as well as could be wished.
Maria. 'Tis strangely impertinent for people to busy themselves so.
Mrs C. Very true, child: but what's to be done? People will talk-there's no preventing it. Why, it was but yesterday I was told that Miss Gadabout had eloped with Sir Filligree Flirt. But there's no minding what one hears; though, to be sure, I had this from very good authority.
Maria. Such reports are highly scandalous. Mrs C. So they are, child-shameful, shameful! But the world is so censorious, no character escapes. Well, now, who would have suspected your friend, Miss Prim, of an indiscretion? Yet such is the illnature of people that they say her uncle stopt her last week, just as she was stepping into the York mail with her dancing-master.
Maria. I'll answer for't there are no grounds for that report.
Mrs C. Ah, no foundation in the world, I dare swear; no more, probably, than for the story circulated last month of Mrs Festino's affair with Colonel Cassino; though, to be sure, that matter was never rightly cleared up.
Joseph S. The license of invention some people take is monstrous indeed.
Maria. Tis so-but, in my opinion, those who report such things are equally culpable.
Mrs C. To be sure they are; tale-bearers are as bad as the tale-makers-'tis an old observation, and a very true one: but what's to be done, as I said before? how will you prevent people from talking? To-day Mrs Clackitt assured me Mr and Mrs Honeymoon were at last become mere man and wife, like the rest of their acquaintance. No, no! tale-bearers, as I said before, are just as bad as the tale-makers. Joseph S. Ah! Mrs Candour, if every body had your forbearance and good-nature!
Mrs C. I confess, Mr Surface, I cannot bear to hear people attacked behind their backs; and when ugly circumstances come out against our acquaintance, I own I always love to think the best. By the by, I hope 'tis not true that your brother is absolutely ruined? Joseph S. I am afraid his circumstances are very bad indeed, ma'am.
Mrs C. Ah! I heard so-but you must tell him to keep up his spirits; everybody almost is in the same way-Lord Spindle, Sir Thomas Splint, and Mr Nickit -all up, I hear, within this week; so, if Charles is undone, he'll find half his acquaintance ruined too; and that, you know, is a consolation.
Joseph S. Doubtless, ma'am-a very great one.
Serv. Mr Crabtree and Sir Benjamin Backbite. [Exit Servant. Lady S. So, Maria, you see your lover pursues you; positively you shan't escape.
Enter CRABTREE and SIR BENJAMIN BACKBITE.
Crab. Lady Sneerwell, I kiss your hand. Mrs Candour, I don't believe you are acquainted with my nephew, Sir Benjamin Backbite? Egad! ma'am, he has a pretty wit, and is a pretty poet, too; isn't he, Lady Sneerwell?
Sir B. O fie, uncle!
Crab. Nay, egad, it's true; I back him at a rebus or a charade against the best rhymer in the kingdom. Has your ladyship heard the epigram he wrote last week on Lady Frizzle's feather catching fire? Do, Benjamin, repeat it, or the charade you made last night extempore at Mrs Drowzie's conversazione. Come now; your first is the name of a fish, your second a great naval commander, and
Sir B. Uncle, now-prithee
Crab. I'faith, ma'am, 'twould surprise you to hear how ready he is at these things. Lady S. I wonder, Sir Benjamin, you never publish anything.
Sir B. To say truth, ma'am, 'tis very vulgar to print; and as my little productions are mostly satires and lampoons on particular people, I find they circulate more by giving copies in confidence to the friends of the parties. However, I have some love elegies, which, when favoured with this lady's smiles, I mean to give the public.
Crab. 'Fore heaven, ma'am, they'll immortalise you! you will be handed down to posterity, like Petrarch's Laura, or Waller's Sacharissa.
Sir B. Yes, madam, I think you will like them, when you shall see them on a beautiful quarto page, where a neat rivulet of text shall murmur through a meadow of margin. 'Fore gad they will be the most elegant things of their kind!
Crab. But, ladies, that's true-have you heard the
Mrs C. What, sir, do you mean the report ofCrab. No, ma'am, that's not it-Miss Nicely is going to be married to her own footman.
Mrs C. Impossible!
Crab. Ask Sir Benjamin.
Sir B. 'Tis very true, ma'am; everything is fixed, and the wedding liveries bespoke.
Crab. Yes; and they do say there were very pressing reasons for it.
Lady S. Why, I have heard something of this before. Mrs C. It can't be; and I wonder any one should believe such a story of so prudent a lady as Miss Nicely.
Sir B. O lud! ma'am, that's the very reason 'twas believed at once. She has always been so cautious and so reserved that everybody was sure there was
some reason for it at bottom.
Mrs C. Why, to be sure, a tale of scandal is as fatal
to the credit of a prudent lady of her stamp as a fever is generally to those of the strongest constitutions. But there is a sort of puny sickly reputation that is always ailing, yet will outlive the robuster characters of a hundred prudes.
Sir B. True, madam, there are valetudinarians in reputation as well as constitution; who, being conscious of their weak part, avoid the least breath of air, and supply their want of stamina by care and circumspection.
Mrs C. Well, but this may be all a mistake. You know, Sir Benjamin, very trifling circumstances often give rise to the most injurious tales.
Crab. That they do, I'll be sworn, ma'am. O lud! Mr Surface, pray is it true that your uncle, Sir Oliver, is coming home?
Joseph S. Not that I know of, indeed, sir.
Crab, He has been in the East Indies a long time. You can scarcely remember him, I believe? Sad comfort whenever he returns, to hear how your brother has gone on.
Joseph S. Charles has been imprudent, sir, to be sure; but I hope no busy people have already prejudiced Sir Oliver against him. He may reform.
Sir B. To be sure he may; for my part I never believed him to be so utterly void of principle as people say; and though he has lost all his friends, I am told nobody is better spoken of by the Jews.
Crab. That's true, egad, nephew. If the Old Jewry was a ward, I believe Charles would be an alderman: no man more popular there! I hear he pays as many annuities as the Irish tontine; and that, whenever he is sick, they have prayers for the recovery of his health in all the synagogues.
Sir B. Yet no man lives in greater splendour. They tell me, when he entertains his friends, he will sit down to dinner with a dozen of his own securities; have a score of tradesmen waiting in the antechamber, and an officer behind every guest's chair
Joseph S. This may be entertainment to you, gentlemen; but you pay very little regard to the feelings of a brother.
Maria. Their malice is intolerable. Lady Sneerwell, I must wish you a good morning: I'm not very well. [Exit Maria. Mrs C. O dear! she changes colour very much. Lady S. Do, Mrs Candour, follow her: she may want your assistance.
Mrs C. That I will, with all my soul, ma'am. Poor dear girl, who knows what her situation may be! [Exit Mrs Candour. Lady S. 'Twas nothing but that she could not bear to hear Charles reflected on, notwithstanding their
Sir B. The young lady's penchant is obvious.
Crab. But, Benjamin, you must not give up the pursuit for that: follow her, and put her into good humour. Repeat her some of your own verses. Come, I'll assist you.
Sir B. Mr Surface, I did not mean to hurt you; but, depend on't, your brother utterly undone.
Crab. O lud, ay! undone as ever man was. Can't raise a guinea!
Sir B. And every thing sold, I'm told, that was moveable.
Crab. I have seen one that was at his house. Not a thing left but some empty bottles that were overlooked, and the family pictures, which I believe are framed in the wainscots.
Sir B. And I'm very sorry, also, to hear some bad stories against him.
Crab. Oh! he has done many mean things, that's certain.
Sir B. But, however, as he is your brotherCrab. We'll tell you all another opportunity. [Exeunt Crabtree and Sir Benjamin.
Lady S. Ha! ha! 'tis very hard for them to leave a subject they have not quite run down.
Joseph S. And I believe the abuse was no more acceptable to your ladyship than Maria.
Lady S. I doubt her affections are further engaged than we imagine. But the family are to be here this evening, so you may as well dine where you are, and we shall have an opportunity of observing farther; in the meantime I'll go and plot mischief, and you shall study sentiment. [Exeunt.
In the last year of this period (1780), Mrs CowLEY, a neglected poetess, produced her lively comedy, The Belle's Stratagem, which is still popular on the stage. In theatrical phrase, therefore, we may say that, with respect to comedy, the season closed well, and was marked by unusual brilliancy.
This period may be said to have given birth to the well-known species of sub-comedy entitled the Farce-a kind of entertainment more peculiarly English than comedy itself, and in which the literature of our country is surprisingly rich. As inferior in dignity, it is here placed after comedy; but there are reasons why it might have been placed first, for some of its luminaries flourished early in the period, and by their productions exercised a considerable influence on the comedies which came after, and which have just been enumerated. Amongst the first who shone in this field was DAVID GARRICK
(1716-1779), so eminent as an actor in both tragedy and comedy. Garrick was a native of Lichfield, and a pupil of Dr Johnson, with whom he came to London to push his fortune. His merits quickly raised him to the head of his profession. As the manager of one of the principal theatres for a long course of years, he banished from the stage many plays which had an immoral tendency; and his personal character, though marked by excessive vanity and other foibles, gave a dignity and respectability to the profession of an actor. As an author he was more lively and various than vigorous or profound. He wrote some epigrams, and even ventured on an ode or two; he succeeded in the composition of some dramatic pieces, and the adaptation of others to the stage. His principal plays are, The Lying I
Fielding was another distinguished writer in this walk, though of all his pieces only one, Tom Thumb, has been able to keep possession of the stage. He threw off these light plays to meet the demands of the town for amusement, and parry his own clamorous necessities, and they generally have the appearance of much haste. Love a-la-Mode, by MACKLIN, presented a humorous satire on the Scottish character, which was followed up by his more sarcastic comedy of The Man of the World, performed in 1781. Macklin was an actor by profession, remarkable for his personation of Shylock after he was ninety years of age; and his dramatic pieces are lively and entertaining. It must be with some surprise that we find another successful author in this line in the person of the Rev. Mr Townley, master of Merchant Tailors' School: he was the author of High Life Below Stairs, a happy burlesque on the extravagance and affectation of servants in aping the manners of their masters, and which had the effect, by a welltimed exposure, of correcting abuses in the domestic establishments of the opulent classes.
[Scene from High Life Below Stairs.]
Enter SIR HARRY'S SERVANT.
Sir H. Oh, ho! Are you thereabouts my lord duke! That may do very well by and by. However, you'll never find me behind hand. [Offers to kiss Kitty
Duke. Stand off; you are a commoner; nothing under nobility approaches Kitty.
Sir H. You are so devilish proud of your nobility. Now, I think we have more true nobility than you. Let me tell you, sir, a knight of the shire
Duke. A knight of the shire! Ha, ha, ha! a mighty honour, truly, to represent all the fools in the county. Kit. O lud! this is charming to see two noblemen quarrel.
Sir H. Why, any fool may be born to a title, but only a wise man can make himself honourable.
Kit. Well said, Sir Harry, that is good morillity. Duke. I hope you make some difference between hereditary honours and the huzzas of a mob.
Kit. Very smart, my lord; now, Sir Harry. Sir H. If you make use of your hereditary honours to screen you from debt
Duke. Žounds! sir, what do you mean by that? Kit. Hold, hold! I shall have some fine old noble blood spilt here. Ha' done, Sir Harry.
Sir H. Not I; why, he is always valuing himself upon his upper house.
Duke. We have dignity.
[Slow. Sir H. But what becomes of your dignity, if we refuse the supplies? [Quick.
Kit. Peace, peace; here's lady Bab.
Enter LADY CHARLOTTE'S MAID in a chair.
am confounded. My lord duke, what shall I say to
Duke. Ask her to show her legs. Ha, ha, ha!
Enter PHILIP and LOVEL, laden with bottles.
Phil. Here, my little peer, here is wine that will ennoble your blood! Both your ladyships' most humble servant.
Lov. [Affecting to be drunk.] Both your ladyships' most humble servant.
Kit. Why, Philip, you have made the boy drunk.
Phil. He has had a smack of every sort of wine, from humble port to imperial tokay.
Lov. Yes, I have been drinking kokay.
Kit. Go, get you some sleep, child, that you may wait on his lordship by and by.
Lov. Thank you, madam; I will certainly wait on their lordships and their ladyships too.
[Aside and exit. Phil. Well, ladies, what say you to a dance? and then to supper.
Enter Cook, COACHMAN, KINGSTON, and CLOE. Come here; where are all our people? I'll couple you. My lord duke will take Kitty; Lady Bab will do me the honour of her hand; Sir Harry and Lady Charlotte; coachman and cook; and the two devils will dance together: ha! ha! ha!
Duke. With submission, the country dances by and by.
Lady C. Ay, ay; French dances before supper, and country dances after. I beg the duke and Mrs Kitty may give us a minuet.
Duke. Dear Lady Charlotte, consider my poor gout.
Phil. Come, now to supper. A gentleman and a lady. [They sit down.] Here is claret, burgundy, and champaign, and a bottle of tokay for the ladies. There are tickets on every bottle: if any gentleman chooses port
Duke. Port! "Tis only fit for a dram.
Dear Lady Charlotte!
Kit. Lady Bab, what shall I send you? Lady Lady C. Oh! Mrs Kitty, thought I never should Charlotte, pray be free; the more free the more have reached your house. Such a fit of the cholic welcome, as they say in my country. The gentleseized me. Oh! Lady Bab, how long has your lady-men will be so good as to take care of themselves. ship been here? My chairmen were such drones. My lord duke! the pink of all good breeding.
Duke. Oh! ma'am.
Lady C. And Sir Harry! Your servant, Sir Harry. [Formally.
Sir H. Madam, your servant: I am sorry to hear your ladyship has been ill.
Lady C. You must give me leave to doubt the sincerity of that sorrow, sir. Remember the Park.
Sir H. The Park! I'll explain that affair, madam.
Sir H. Dear Lady Charlotte!
Lady C. Do you mean an old single gentleman?
Phil. My lord duke, your toast.
Lady C. No, sir; I have observed your coolness of late, and despise you. A trumpery baronet !
Sir H. I see how it is; nothing will satisfy you but nobility. That sly dog, the marquis
Duke. Lady Betty. Phil. Oh no, a health and a sentiment. Duke. Let us have a song. Sir Harry, your song. Sir H. Would you have it? Well then, Mrs Kitty, we must call upon you will you honour my muse?
Lady C. None of your reflections, sir. The marquis is a person of honour, and above inquiring after a lady's fortune, as you meanly did.
Šir H. I-Í, madam? I scorn such a thing. I All. A song, a song; ay, ay, Sir Harry's song; Sir assure you, madam, I never that is to say-Egad, I | Harry's song.
Duke. Lady Charlotte, Hob or nob!'
Lady C. Done, my lord, in burgundy if you please. Duke. Here's your sweetheart and mine, and the friends of the company. [They drink. A pause. Phil. Come, ladies and gentlemen, a bumper all round; I have a health for you. 'Here is to the amendment of our masters and mistresses.'
All. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! [Loud laugh. A pause. Kit. Ladies, pray what is your opinion of a single gentleman's service?
Duke. A song to be sure, but first, preludio. [Kisses Kitty.] Pray, gentlemen, put it about.
[Kisses round. Kingston kisses Cloe heartily. Sir H. See how the devils kiss!
Kit. I am really hoarse; but hem-I must clear up my pipes, hem! This is Sir Harry's song; being a new one, entitled and called the Fellow Servant, or All in a Livery.'
Phil. How do you like it, my lord duke? Duke. It is a vile composition.
Phil. How so?
Duke. O, very low !-Very low indeed!
Sir H. That is very conceited. Duke. What is conceited, you scoundrel? Sir H. Scoundrel! You are a rascal; I'll pull you by the nose. [All rise. Duke. Lookye, friend; don't give yourself airs, and make a disturbance among the ladies. If you are a gentleman, name your weapons.
Sir H. Weapons!-what you will-pistols.
Phil. Oh, for shame, gentlemen. My lord duke! Sir Harry-the ladies!-fie! [Duke and Sir Harry affect to sing. A violent knocking. Kitty faints.] What the devil can that be, Kitty?
But by far the greatest of this class of authors remains to be mentioned. SAMUEL FOOTE (17211777) was born of a good family, and educated at
a profession, was forced to admit the amazing powers and fascinations of his conversation. It was in 1747 that Foote commenced a class of new entertainments in the Haymarket theatre, in which he was himself the sole stage figure, and which proved highly attractive by the many droll and whimsical portraits of character which they presented, many of these being transcripts or caricatures of persons well known. The Diversions of the Morning, The Auction of Pictures, and The Englishman in Paris, were the names of some of these pieces. Of the regular farces of Foote, which were somewhat later in production, The Minor-an unjustifiable attack upon the Methodists-was the most successful. It was followed by The Mayor of Garratt, a coarse but humorous sketch, including two characters, in Major Sturgeon, the city militia officer, and Jerry Sneak, which can never be completely obsolete. His plays are twenty in number, and he boasted, at the close of his life, that he had added sixteen decidedly new characters to the English stage.
Kit. Who can it possibly be?
Phil. Kingston, run up stairs and peep. [Exit King-ing titles. ston.] It sounds like my master's rap: pray heaven it is not he!
Oxford; but, squandering away his fortune, was forced to become an actor and dramatic writer. In powers of mimicry, in wit, and in humour, he seems to have gone far beyond all the men of his own time, and it may be questioned if three such men have come under public notice in England. Samuel Johnson, though he disliked the man for his easy morals and his making the burlesquing of private characters
[From The Lame Lover."]
CHARLOTTE and SERJEANT CIRCUIT.
Charlotte. Sir, I have other proofs of your hero's vanity not inferior to that I have mentioned. Serjeant. Cite them.
Char. The paltry ambition of levying and follow
Serj. Titles! I don't understand you.
Char. I mean the poverty of fastening in public upon men of distinction, for no other reason but because of their rank; adhering to Sir John till the baronet is superseded by my lord; quitting the puny peer for an earl; and sacrificing all three to a duke.
Serj. Keeping good company!-a laudable ambition! Char. True, sir, if the virtues that procured the father a peerage could with that be entailed on the son. Serj. Have a care, hussy; there are severe laws against speaking evil of dignities.