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were probably attracted by the charms described by Miss Lucy in Fielding's farce, where we have the following capital picture of the model "flunkey" of 1735:
"A footman! he looks a thousand times more like a gentleman than either Squire Foxchase or Squire Tankard, and talks more like one,―ay, and smells more like one, too. His head is so prettily drest, done all down upon the top with sugar, like a frosted cake, with three little curls on each side, that you may see his ears as plain! and then his hair is done up behind just like a fine lady's, with a little hat, and a pair of charming white stockings, as neat and as fine as any white-legged fowl; and he always carries a great swinging stick in his hand, as big as himself, that he would knock any dog down with who was to offer to bite me. A footman, indeed! why Miss Jenny likes him as well as I do; and she says all the fine young gentlemen that the ladies in London are so fond of, are just such persons as he is."
Astonishing were the airs assumed by the aristocratic footmen of those days. They not only imitated with great success the manners and behaviour of their masters, but to a disgusting and ridiculous extent mimicked their very vices. Whilst my lord was gambling in the drawingroom, his partycoloured retainers were playing cards or dice on the staircase, or in the servants'-hall. The fashionable slang of the town was familiar to these gentry, and they drawled it forth in their common discourse. Their dress was assimilated closely to that of their employers; and, strangely enough, the footmen of the present day are habited in the costume which belonged to that golden age of flunkeyism. Their privileges also were great. According to the absurd custom of the time, large vails, or presents in money, were distributed by guests to the lackeys of their entertainers, and these, in the course of time, were claimed as a right. They enjoyed, likewise, to the great annoyance of managers, free access to the theatre, where they filled the upper-gallery, from which they excluded all other visitors. Their behaviour in this exalted position was not characterised by forbearance or modesty, and both actors and authors dreaded their
opposition.1 So intolerable did their presence at length become, that, in 1737, Fleetwood, the manager of Drury Lane, deprived them of their privilege. This led to a serious riot. The footmen of London assembled in vast numbers; broke open the doors of the theatre; fought their way into the house, and prevented the reading of a proclamation by the magistrate, Colonel de Veil. Several of the ringleaders were, upon this occasion, taken and committed to Newgate; many more were wounded; whilst the spectators (amongst whom were the Prince and Princess of Wales) were much terrified.
A few weeks after the production of "The Virgin Unmasked" the prolific dramatist announced another original comedy. It was entitled "The Universal Gallant," and was placed on the stage with some care, for the principal characters were assigned to Quin, Cibber, and other eminent actors. Nevertheless it proved a most undoubted failure, and not undeservedly so; although it must be confessed that worse and more immoral comedies had been, only a few years before, honoured with public approbation. The poor author is quite pathetic in the advertisement which he prefixed to the published copies of this play. "I have heard," he writes, "that there are some young gentlemen of this town who make a jest of damning plays; but did they seriously consider the cruelty they are guilty of by this practice, I believe it would prevent them." And in the prologue, written after the
(1) The offensive conduct of the London footmen at the theatres is thus noticed in "The Weekly Register" of March 25, 1732:-"The theatre should be esteemed the centre of politeness and good manners; yet numbers of them every evening are lolling over the boxes, while they keep places for their masters, with their hats on; play over their airs, take snuff, laugh aloud, adjust their cocks'-combs, or hold dialogues with their brethren from one side of the house to the other."
(2) It is said in a periodical paper of the day, called "The Prompter," quoted in the " Gentleman's Magazine" for 1735, that the audience sat quietly till the third act was almost over, expecting the play to mend; but finding it grow worse and worse, they lost all patience.
first night's performance, spoken by Quin, the barbarity of a harsh judgment is thus deprecated:
"Can then another's anguish give you joy?
This may be sport to you, but it is death to us."
The audiences of these days, it must be remembered, were very differently constituted from those of our own time. When a new play was produced, the pit was almost entirely filled with critics, who congregated there, and gave the signal for applause or condemnation. The boxes were altogether reserved for the quality-for persons of rank, note, and fashion. The beaux all attended in full-dress, and came to see and to be seen, rather than to attend to the play. The ladies conducted themselves in the manner described by Fielding in one of his farces,1 where a country-bred lady innocently inquires what they do "at your what-d'yecall-'ems-your plays?" Why, if they can," she is answered, "they take a stage-box, where they let the footman sit the first two acts, to show his livery, then they come in to show themselves, spread their fans upon the spikes, make curtsies to their acquaintance, and then talk and laugh as loud as they are able." The "vulgar and indifferent" being excluded from the pit and boxes, found refuge in the lower-gallery, where they occasionally amused themselves with cat-calls and other discordant noises :
""Tis not the poet's wit affords the jest,
But who can cat-call, hiss, or whistle best."
Such were the audiences which then condemned or applauded plays. A critical pit, filled with gay Templars and prosperous merchants, who had little sympathy for an indigent author; a bevy of frivolous belles and gallants in the boxes, all ogling, criticising, or scandalising each other;
(1) "Miss Lucy in Town," sequel to "The Virgin Unmasked.”
and an upper-gallery crammed with liveried coxcombs, imitating the listless indifference of their masters. In those days, it will be borne in mind, London merchants really lived in London, generally in residences attached to their counting-houses, and, indeed, their credit depended on their living there. Macklin said that he remembered the first emigration of merchants from the city, but they did not venture farther than Hatton Garden; whilst the lawyers all resided in the neighbourhood of the inns of court, and were the principal playgoers of the period.
From the circumstances above detailed, it may be gathered that a theatrical audience towards the middle of the eighteenth century was rather a difficult body to please. Fatal jealousies, also, too often prevailed amongst actors and authors; and Fielding bitterly complained that he, who in his whole life had never done an injury to a living person, should have been assailed from motives of private malice.1 He urged upon the public that a fair hearing had not been accorded to his comedy; and endeavoured to obtain a reversal of the judgment so cruelly passed upon it. But in this he did not succeed; nor will any one who takes the trouble to read "The Universal Gallant" be much surprised at his failure.
(1) See Fielding's "Advertisement" to The Universal Gallant. "Authors," he says, "whose works have been rejected at the theatres are of all persons, they say, the most inveterate; but of all persons I am the last they should attack, as I have often endeavoured to procure the success of others, but never assisted at the condemnation of any one."
COURTSHIP AND MARRIAGE.-COUNTRY LIFE.
THE preceding pages have chronicled the literary achievements of Fielding during his seven years' apprenticeship to the precarious trade of dramatic authorship-from 1728 to 1735. But we have now arrived at a new and most important era in his life. For a time, therefore, we must bid farewell to theatrical triumphs, contentions, and disasters; and quit the feverish excitement of the town to breathe a fresher and more wholesome atmosphere.
In the year 1735, Fielding formed a matrimonial alliance which was in all its circumstances a pure love-match.1 That his heart had been always peculiarly susceptible of the tender passion some of the earlier passages of his life fully prove. On his return from Leyden he conceived a desperate attachment for his cousin, Miss Sarah Andrews. That young lady's friends had, however, so little confidence in her wild kinsman, that they took the precaution of removing her out of his reach; not, it is said, until he had attempted an abduction or elopement. The unfortunate issue of this first passion seems to have severely preyed upon his youthful spirits. Amongst his miscellaneous poems, there appears an imitation, or "modernization " (as he calls it) of the sixth Satire of Juvenal, which, he
(1) There is considerable difficulty in fixing the date of Fielding's first marriage. The dedication of "The Universal Gallant" to the Duke of Marlborough is dated "Buckingham Street, Feb. 12" ; and up to this time he had been supplying the stage with "an annual crop" of farces, comedies, and burlesques. After the publication of "The Universal Gallant," he produced nothing for rather more than a twelvemonth, when "Pasquin" was brought out at the Haymarket. It was in this interval, it may be assumed, that his marriage and brief residence in the country took place.