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adaptation to the English stage of Molière's "l'Avare," itself a copy from an antique original. Upon this piece (which was first acted on the 17th February, 1733) mainly rests his permanent fame as a dramatist. Its literary merits are great, and some writers, with an extravagance of eulogy in which we do not concur, have not hesitated to prefer it to the original. Notwithstanding the extreme length of the dialogue, and the absence of all indelicate allusions (then unhappily considered necessary to ensure the success of a comedy), it was received with marked approbation, and has always since retained a place among the stock-pieces of the theatre. Perhaps a portion of this enduring popularity may be ascribed to the scope which it affords for the display of the powers of a finished actor. Lovegold, the miser, has been always considered what is termed in the language of the stage, a first-rate "character part." In the eighteenth century Shuter and Macklin were its most famous representatives; and even so late as the past year (1854) it has found favour in the eyes of one of the most distinguished dramatic artists of our day.' Whatever its attractions on the stage, the reader, however, cannot fail to admire the genuine humour and nervous dialogue of this famous version of Molière's famous comedy. It affords an emphatic proof of Fielding's good taste and just sense of propriety, when his better genius had fair play.
"The Mock Doctor," and "The Miser," exhibit a marked improvement in Fielding's dramatic style. Had he ceased to write altogether after the production of the latter comedy, his name would be always remembered in connection with the literature of the stage. He was as yet, be it observed, not six-and-twenty, and the life of dissipation into which he had plunged left him little time or inclination for study, reflection, or mental improvement. Happy
(1) "The Miser" was selected by Mr. Phelps, the manager of Sadlers Wells Theatre, for his benefit in the spring of 1854. The performance, however, we believe was never repeated
indeed would it have been for him had it been otherwise! But in the midst of his wild career he had indited scenes which posterity has thought worthy of preservation. Though to gratify the taste of a licentious age he had supplied the stage with abundance of immoral dialogue, he had at length produced a dramatic work which the most rigid moralist would exempt from the verdict of general censure to which his early literary efforts are liable. True it is that "The Miser" was only a translation,-or at best an adaptation to the English stage of a foreign work, but is not a good copy of a good picture preferable to an indifferent original?
"The Miser" was selected by Miss Raftor (afterwards Mrs. Clive1) for her benefit, on the 6th of April, 1733.2 The afterpiece on this occasion was a farce called "Deborah; or, a Wife for You All," which the playbills announced to be "written by the author of 'The Miser.' This piece—hurriedly thrown off by Fielding for a particular purpose, and designed to display the special talent of the actress-was performed but once, and was never printed. Among the characters were Justice Mittimus (probably only a reproduction of Justice Squeezum), Lawyer Trouble, and Deborah the heroine, personated by Miss Raftor.
(1) See next chapter, and note to page 54.
(2) For this date, as well as others, and for much valuable and minute information respecting Fielding's dramatic career, the biographer is indebted to the voluminous and careful "Account of the English Stage, from the Restoration in 1660 to 1830," in ten volumes, published at Bath in 1832.
FIELDING AT BARTHOLOMEW FAIR. THEATRICAL DISASTERS. "THE INTRIGUING CHAMBERMAID."-"DON QUIXOTE IN ENGLAND."-"THE UNIVERSAL GALLANT."
CLOSELY Connected as he was with the stage at this period, it is not surprising-although at the first blush the announcement may appear rather startling-to find Fielding catering for the amusement of the holiday folks at Bartholomew Fair. In 1733 he had a booth there with Hyppesley, the comedian, at which the performances were "Love and Jealousy; or, the Downfall of Alexander the Great," and "A Cure for Covetousness." In the latter piece Mrs. Pritchard appeared, and took part in a duet which became immensely popular. At this time of day it seems. somewhat derogatory to a dramatist to have written or designed entertainments for such a place: but Bartlemy Fair in Fielding's time was the Londoner's great holiday, and attracted visitors of fashion and quality, as well as the undistinguished multitude. Besides Fielding, Cibber and Hyppesley, Griffin, Mills, and other eminent actors, had their booths there; and exhibited to gaping crowds a happy medley of high tragedy and low comedy :"Tamerlane intermixed with the Miser," and "Jane Shore with the comical humours of Sir Anthony Noodle and his man, Weazle." During the time the fair lasted
(1) This dialogue or duet is printed in the poet's corner of "The Gentleman's Magazine" for September, 1733, as sung at " Fielding's booth at Bartholomew Fair." It begins with the following lines:
"Sweet, if you love me, smiling turn,
Smiling turn, smiling turn," &c.
(2) Some Account of the History of the English Stage, &c.
then recently reduced from fifteen to three days1-the theatres were closed, and the actors emigrated to this grand arena of miscellaneous amusements, which Sir Hans Sloane once visited to copy specimens of natural history; and where, in former years, Ben Jonson had set up a booth, and, at the same time, found materials for humorous caricature.
The theatrical season of 1733-34 was a disastrous one in English dramatic annals, and a period of much perplexity to Fielding. The fortunes of authors and managers were clouded by a conjuncture of untoward circumstances. New theatres were opened, whilst audiences fell off both in number and quality; the best actors were either lost to the stage altogether, or scattered through various parts of the town; whilst, above all, the attractions of the Italian Opera overpowered and cast into the shade the exertions of native talent. The preference shown by the great to foreign artists was not indeed a new grievance. The Opera and masquerade had monopolised for some years the patronage of the Court; and two eminent vocalists from the chosen land of song-Cuzzoni and Faustina-divided the admiration of the town; and, under the patronage of rival ladies of quality, gave occasion to riots, duels, and libels: 2 silly fops drew their bright steel in the cause of one or other of these popular favourites; and hungry poets, with wit not quite
(1) Cunningham's "Hand-Book of London," &c. Fielding alludes to this alteration in the "Author's Farce," where the Poet says, "My lord mayor has shortened the time of Bartholomew Fair in Smithfield, and so they are resolved to keep it all the year round at the other end of the town." After a long and illustrious existence Bartholomew Fair expired this year (1855), unhonoured and unregretted.
(2) "Dr. Arbuthnot, although a stanch supporter of his friend Handel, could not forego the pleasure of a slap, en passant, at certain insolent Italians, who kept the fashionables in such ridiculous warfare. He was the reputed author, at least, of a pamphlet entitled, 'The Devil to pay at St. James's; or, a full and true Account of a most horrid and bloody Battle between Madame Faustina and Madame Cuzzoni. Also, of a hot Skirmish between Signor Boschi and Signor Palmerini. Moreover, how Senesino has taken Snuff, is going to leave the Opera, and sing Psalms at Henley's Oratory.'"-Wine and Walnuts, vol. i. (note).
so bright, abused them both without stint. It was by the multiplication of theatres, however, that the interests of the national drama were most seriously affected at this period. The waning fortunes of time-honoured Drury suffered especially from the erection of a new theatre in Covent Garden, which was about this time opened under the auspices of manager Rich, by whom "The Beggar's Opera" was brought out; and the secession of some of the best actors in the company, who, at the instigation of Theophilus Cibber, deserted the patentees, and opened the Haymarket Theatre. On the boards of Drury most of Fielding's plays during the past two years had been produced: he had become identified with the place and the actors. Above
all, he regarded the case of the patentees-Highmore (who from an amateur actor had become a manager, and who had sunk a large fortune in the speculation) and Mrs. Wilks (the widow of the celebrated actor)—as a peculiarly hard one. To him, therefore, this playhouse revolution, and the factions amongst the actors, were in the highest degree embarrassing. Like a stanch seaman, however, he would not desert the ship, even when the waves threatened to engulf her. He exerted himself, therefore, to retrieve the fortunes of old Drury; and was seconded in his efforts by an artist of incomparable talent in her peculiar walk-the renowned Kitty Clive, who had first won
(1) In November, 1733, Highmore, having applied without success to the Lord Chamberlain to protect his patent, attempted to put the law in force against the seceding actors. He accordingly caused Harper, the comedian (who is said to have been an extremely quiet and timid man), to be arrested as a rogue and vagabond, and committed to Bridewell. On November 20th, the case was argued in the King's Bench; and on the part of Harper it was contended "that though he was a player, yet he did not wander about from place to place like a vagabond; nor was there any appearance of his being chargeable to any parish, for that he was not only a freeholder in Surrey, but a housekeeper in Westminster, and farther, that he was an honest man and paid his debts." Per contra it was argued "that he came under the Act of 12 Anne, and that he did wander from place to place, for that he had formerly acted at Drury Lane, and likewise at Bartholomew and Southwark fairs." The result was, Harper was discharged on his own recognizance.-(London Magazine, quoted in "Some Account of the English Stage.")