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time, after his comedy of "The Miser."1 sented once more, when, to the surprise and indignation of the author, its further performance was prohibited by the order of the Lord Chamberlain. The ground of prohibition was not that it was offensive to public morals (although it must be confessed that the piece is coarse enough), but that in one of its characters-Lord Bawblea particular person of quality was aimed at. This personal experience of the rigour of the Chamberlain drew from Fielding a sharp expostulation. He published a pamphlet on the subject, in which he disavowed any idea of a personal attack; and it would appear that subsequently the prohibition was withdrawn. Although throughout this farce there are undoubted marks of Fielding's strong hand, he remarks, in the preface to his "Miscellanies," that "he had but a small share in it." By whom he was assisted he does not say.
Towards the close of the year, in spite of repeated vows against the stage, Fielding was again induced to devote his attention to dramatic composition, attracted thereto by a temptation which it was not in his nature to resist. A new theatrical star had just risen above the horizon, whose brightness dazzled every eye. A young actor had taken the town by storm, and in one season achieved a reputation second only to that of Betterton or Booth. The name of GARRICK was upon every lip; his merits and defects as an actor were the engrossing topics of coffee-house discussion; and those who had not attended a theatre for years were attracted thither to witness his wonderful achievements in tragedy, comedy, and farce.3
(1) Some Account of the English Stage, vol. iii. Bath, 1832. The author of this work (to which the biographer has been indebted for much information) was the Reverend John Genest, of Bath.
(2) A Letter to a noble Lord to whom alone it belongs, occasioned by the Representation of a Farce called " Miss Lucy in Town." 1742.
(3) In the following budget of dramatic gossip, addressed (May 26, 1742) to Sir Horace Mann, Horace Walpole thus refers to Fielding's farce and Garrick's
Very early in his dramatic career, or rather ere it actually commenced, Garrick had made acquaintance with the wit and genius of Fielding. Before he trod the boards of any theatre, or resolved on making the stage his profession, he privately performed a character in one of Fielding's farces in a place and under circumstances of some interest. The place was the room over St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell, where a stage was improvised, and suitable decorations and dresses invented for the occasion. The time was soon after Garrick's friend and tutor, Samuel Johnson, had formed a close intimacy with Cave, the printer and publisher of "The Gentleman's Magazine;" whilst Garrick was still in the wine-trade with his brother Peter, and secretly meditating a withdrawal from it, in order to adopt the congenial but (in the opinion of his mercantile friends) disreputable calling of an actor. The audience was composed, first, of Cave himself, who, though not a man given to mirth, or with an idea beyond his printing-presses, had been tickled by Johnson's description of his young townsman's powers, and was willing to bear an experiment upon his risible nerves. Then there was the burly Johnson-in those days very shabby and seedy indeed, but proudly battling his way in the world, and not a little elated by reflecting on the figure which the boys, who had enjoyed with him and Garrick the advantage of being flogged and taught by Mr. Hunter of Lichfield, were likely to make in it. Several more of Cave's literary handicraftsmen were
acting :-"There is a little simple farce at Drury Lane, called 'Miss Lucy in Town,' in which Mrs. Clive mimics the Muscovite admirably, and Beard Amorevoli tolerably. But all the run is now after Garrick, a wine-merchant, who is turned player at Goodman's Fields. He plays all parts, and is a very good mimic. His acting I have seen, and may say to you, who will not tell it again, I see nothing wonderful in it—but it is heresy to say so; the Duke of Argyll says he is superior to Betterton."
(1) In "The Gentleman's Magazine" for September, 1740, there is an Epilogue to "The Mock Doctor," signed G. It is not impossible that this was written by Garrick, expressly for the performance recorded by Hawkins.
(2) Besides Johnson and Garrick, there is said to have been amongst Mr.
doubtless amongst the audience: Webb, the enigma writer, Duick, the pen-cutter, and Tobacco Browne, whose serious poetry even the religious Johnson confessed himself unable to read with patience. The actors who assisted Garrick upon this occasion were some of Cave's journeymen printers, who laid aside their composing-sticks, and read or recited the parts allotted to them as well as they could. The play was Fielding's successful farce of "The Mock Doctor; or, the Dumb Lady cured;" in which the débutant of course played the part of Gregory.1
For broad farcical humour "The Mock Doctor" is almost without its equal; and who can doubt that Garrick did full justice to it upon this occasion? Even Cave's hard features must have soon relaxed into a smile, whilst his journeymen were unable to read their parts for laughing. As for Johnson-every one has heard how, in his later. years, returning from the Mitre with Boswell, in the early morning, he would grasp the street-post by the Temple gate, and send forth a peal of laughter, which echoed and re-echoed through the silent streets; even with such a laugh-broad, hearty, earnest indication of enjoymentdid he hail the irresistible humour of his clever friend, little Davy.
From performing in Fielding's farce, Garrick's next step was to make the acquaintance of the author; and this was an easy matter. The witty barrister was a most accessible personage, one who was hail-fellow-well- met with any man who liked good wine, good company, and hearty merriment. For many reasons the young actor must have desired this intimacy. There was no name so well known Hunter's pupils the following eminent judges-Wilmot, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas (who was present at Garrick's first and last appearance on the stage); Lord-Chancellor Northington; Sir Thomas Clarke, Master of the Rolls; Chief Justice Willes; and Chief Baron Parker. "The head-master (Hunter)," said Johnson, "was very severe, and wrong-headedly severe. He used to beat us unmercifully; and he would beat a boy equally for not knowing a thing, or for neglecting to know it."
(1) Hawkins' Life of Johnson, p. 45.
in the green-room as Fielding's when Garrick first " out" in Goodman's Fields, in October, 1741. His witticisms were widely circulated; the events of his life were well known; and his reputation as a comic dramatist stood as high, at least, as any of his contemporaries. Circumstances, therefore, soon brought Garrick and Fielding into close intimacy; and when the former had been upon the stage rather more than a twelvemonth, he expressed to his friend an earnest wish to appear in a new play from his pen. At that time Fielding had by him two unfinished comedies. One of them, to which he had intended to give the title of "The Good-natured Man," he thought of in this emergency; but before proceeding to revise and finish it, he hinted to Garrick his misgivings that the manager of Drury Lane (Mr. Fleetwood) would not at that time (probably about December, 1742) feel disposed to incur the risk and expense of introducing a new piece. A word from Garrick, however, was law to the manager; and Fielding, who confesses that he was "full as desirous of putting words into his friend's mouth as he could appear to be of speaking them," was at once engaged by Fleetwood to produce a comedy on a given day, in which Garrick should have a suitable part.
When the author came to revise his comedy-which had been written some years before he found that he had allowed himself "too little time for perfecting it;" and being more than usually attached to the plan and plot, he was unwilling that it should be represented in an imperfect and unripe condition. But, besides this, he found that the part he had designed for Garrick was a comparatively insignificant one; and as it was at the actor's suggestion he had resolved to bring it on the stage at all, his principal object would have been frustrated by its representation. It was true that Garrick himself made no objection to the character assigned him; and the play was actually (1) Preface to Fielding's Miscellanies. 1743.
written out in parts for the actors, when Fielding bethought him of the other unfinished comedy,-a more crude and inartistic work than "The Good-natured Man,"-but having the merit of giving nearly the whole business of the piece to one actor.
This comedy was called "The Wedding Day," and was "the third play he ever wrote." Whether he could never get a manager to risk its representation, or whether he was himself somewhat ashamed of it, or had forgotten it altogether, he does not say, but he informs us that the principal characters were originally intended for Wilkes and Mrs. Oldfield. They were now proposed to be allotted to Garrick and Mrs. Woffington; Fleetwood agreed to the exchange, and Garrick was not dissatisfied with it. Having concluded this arrangement, Fielding prepared himself, with characteristic energy, to perform his part of the original agreement, by having a comedy ready at the appointed time. Accordingly, he sat down with a resolution to work night and day during the short time allowed him-which was about a week-in altering and correcting this production of his more juvenile years.2 The time was in all conscience short enough, but ere the week was over domestic calamity stayed his hand altogether. The extreme danger of life into which a person very dear to him was reduced, rendered him, he says, altogether incapable of executing his task. This very dear person was Mrs. Fielding, whose declining health had long filled him with anxiety. Other sorrows about the same time visited his cheerless home. During this winter he was laid up with an attack of the gout, and he had the misery, as he tells us, "of seeing a favourite child dying in one bed, and his wife, in a condition very little better, on another, attended with other circumstances which served. as very proper decoration to such a scene."4
(1) Preface to Fielding's Miscellanies. 1743.