« AnteriorContinuar »
thoughtless man of letters, with which the collector was paid.1
That Fielding should from the first have shown a full appreciation of Garrick's genius, is not less satisfactory than that Garrick should have recognised in him-despite his carelessness and irregularities-the healthiest and wittiest writer of the age. In the several spheres in which their talents found scope, both men were remarkable for their disdain of conventionalisms, and for their freedom from every trace of affectation. In the healthful tone and natural ease of "Joseph Andrews," there was something not dissimilar to Garrick's acting. The novel was read by thousands, and the actor followed for the same reasons. In each there was visibly displayed the grace of truth and
(1) In an account of the club at Old Slaughter's coffee-house ("Wine and Walnuts," vol. i. p. 119), when enlivened by the presence of Hogarth and Fielding, there is the following characteristic sketch of the wealth-despising novelist" In the same strain I have heard my great-uncle say, in defending the reputation of the witty fraternity-'No, sir, ill-nature had no seat at our table. It is true that Fielding, the lively rogue, would sometimes entertain us at the expense of some well-known, harmless, humdrum prosers, who filled a box in the coffee-room, or others; and above all, some overbearing, purse-proud miscreants who frequented the house, against whom he indulged an ever-increasing antipathy. O what a look of indignation did he assume immediately, on metamorphosing his features from the vacuity of a grovelling man of wealth back again to his own intelligent countenance, after playing the consequential grub in the act of asking, when a bright man of letters or genius has been praised, the sickening questions- How Much Can HE EARN ? WHAT MAY HE
From the same work (written by Mr. Pyne, and published, we believe, originally in the "Literary Gazette") we cull another anecdote of Fielding and the club-life of this convivial period:-"There is a curious story of Jonathan Richardson [the painter] and Harry Fielding, which I have heard my uncle relate, but it is too long for this chapter. It was about Richardson's notes to Milton, which he used to read to all comers at Old Slaughter's, Button's, and Wills'. He seldom rambled city-ways, though sometimes he slipped in at the Rainbow, where he counted a few worthies, or looked in at Dick's, and gave them a note or two. He would not put his foot on the threshold of the Devil [a tavern by Temple Bar, long since removed], for he thought the sign profane. Fielding would run a furlong to escape him; he called him Doctor Fidget." It should be observed that these sketches are not matter-of-fact relations, but a collection of biographical incidents illustrative of the period, some of which only have any authentic foundation.
nature, in opposition to strut and rant, bombast and buckram. In the case of Garrick, the transition was great and strange. "If this young fellow," said Quin, "be right, I and the rest of the players must be all wrong." It was impossible, thought the veteran, that a mere stripling should have seized by intuition on an idea which proved that so many Richards, Lears, and Othellos, had been fools and blunderers. He comforted himself, therefore, with the notion that "it was a fashion, and would soon be over. It was a new religion: Whitfield was followed for a time, but the people came back to church.” 1 When this observation was reported to Garrick, he truly and wittily observed, that "it was not heresy but reformation.” And reformation it undoubtedly was, which swept away high-heeled boots and enormous perriwigs, and made even tragedy-kings talk like reasonable beings.
Another oracle of the green-room, beside Quin, refused to recognise the merits of the popular idol. When Fleetwood had made a hit at Drury Lane by securing the services of Garrick, Fielding's old antagonist, Colley Cibber, strolled one night into the green-room. "Mr. Cibber," said the manager, deferentially, "when may we hope to have another comedy from you?" "From me!" replied the Laureate, "why who the deuce have you got to act it?" "Why, sir," said Fleetwood, modestly, "there's Garrick, Macklin, Pritchard, and Clive—” “Oh yes," broke in the irritable comedian, "I know all these very well; but (coolly taking a pinch of snuff) where the devil are your ACTORS?" Garrick, as well as Fielding, could, however, well afford to bear the enmity and sarcasms of Colley Cibber. It was more than a compensation to the former that the great poet of an age of great wits
(1) Dibdin's History of the Stage, vol. v.
(2) Macklin's Memoirs. 1804. A qualified admiration of Garrick was nevertheless soon wrung from Cibber. "I'faith, Bracy," he is reported to have said, taking snuff, and turning to his ancient partner in theatrical glory, Mrs. Bracegirdle, "the lad is clever."-Forster's Life of Goldsmith, vol. i.
and poets-who had known Betterton in his best days, and enjoyed his friendship-took the trouble, though in feeble and failing health, to see him when he performed in Goodman's Fields. Mr. Pope-for it was he-made the remark that "he was afraid the young man would be spoiled, for he would have no competitor." Can it be doubted that the admiration of Pope, and the friendship of Fielding, were amongst the most agreeable incidents of Garrick's professional career?
FROM THIS WORLD TO THE NEXT."-" JONATHAN WILD."
THE domestic distresses which interrupted Fielding when engaged in the task of revising "The Wedding Day" for the stage, also delayed the publication of a work which he had for some time promised. He had undertaken to issue three volumes of "Miscellanies," consisting of fugitive poems, and some original pieces in prose. The work was to be published by subscription; and it is gratifying to state that the members of his profession rallied round him on the occasion with generous zeal. When the "Miscellanies" at length appeared (in the course of the year 1743), he mentioned in his preface his deep sense of the friendship shown him by a profession of which he was a late and unworthy member," and from whose assistance he derived more than half the names in his subscriptionlist. The delay which had taken place in the publication of the volumes he apologised for in terms of the deepest pathos. The real reason of it, he said, was "the serious illness of one from whom I draw all the solid comfort of my life during the greatest part of the winter. This, as it is most sacredly true, so will it, I doubt not, sufficiently excuse the delay to all who know me." It may seem that Mr. Murphy's anecdote respecting his behaviour on the night of the first representation of "The Wedding Day," is somewhat inconsistent with the excessive anxiety which he endured on account of his wife's failing health. But a man of Fielding's temperament is always liable to fall into extremes. From his wife's sick-bed to the riot of
the green-room must appear indeed a strange transition. But it may be assumed, that on the night in question Fielding repaired to the theatre with a heavy heart, being naturally anxious about the fate of a piece from which he expected the pecuniary supplies he so much required. What followed was in keeping with his character. He felt that the play was not likely to prove a "success;" and a glass of champagne was resorted to, which brightened up his spirits and unloosed his tongue. And then what more natural from such a man than the jest at calamity and disappointment, and the loud laugh in which the aching heart often hopes to find relief?
The three volumes of "Miscellanies" which Fielding now gave to the world contained at once some of the best and some of the worst productions of his pen. He applied to them, with truth, Martial's famous line:
"Sunt bona, sunt quædam mediocria, sunt mala plura."
In the last class may be included most of the
"For instance, when you rashly think
Swift, however, saw reason afterwards to respect Fielding's character and talents, withdrew his name from the line, and inserted "the Laureate" instead.
Doubtless it would be unfair to subject these fugitive