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Trapwit (the author). You, Mister, that act my lord, bribe a little more openly, if you please, or the audience will lose that joke, and it is one of the strongest in my whole play.
Lord Place. Sir, I cannot possibly do it better at the table.
Trapwit. Then get all up, and come forward to the front of the stage. Now, you gentlemen that act the mayor and aldermen, range yourselves in a line; and you, my lord and the colonel, come to one end, and bribe away with right and left.
Fustian (the tragic author). Is this wit, Mr. Trapwit?
Trapwit. Yes, sir, it is wit; and such wit as will run all over the kingdom.
Fustian. But, methinks Colonel Promise, as you call him, is but ill-named; for he is a man of very few words.
Trapwit. You'll be of another opinion before the play is over; at present his hands are too full of business; and you may remember, sir, I before told you this is none of your plays wherein much is said and nothing done. Gentlemen, are you all bribed?
Omnes. Yes, sir.
Trapwit. Then, my lord and the colonel, you must go off, and make room for the other candidates to come and bribe too.
[Exeunt LORD PLACE and COLONEL PROMISE.
Besides its general satire, "Pasquin" contained many strokes of personal raillery. The Laureate, Cibber (whose politics rather than his poetry had won him the bays), was assailed in it after the following manner. In the course of his canvass, one of the court candidates (who is peculiarly liberal in promises) thus disposes of the Laureate's wreath:
Lord Place. Gentlemen, be assured I will take care of you all; you shall all be provided for as fast as possible. The Customs and Excise afford a great number of places.
1st Voter. Could not your lordship provide for me at Court?
Lord Place. Nothing easier. What sort of a place would you like ?
1st Voter. Is there not a sort of employment, sir, called—beefeating? If your lordship please to make me a beef-eater, I would have a place fitted for my capacity.
Lord Place. Sir, I will be sure to remember you.
2nd Voter. My lord, I should like a place at Court, too. I don't care what it is, provided I wear fine clothes, and have something to do in the cellar. I own I should like the cellar, for I am a devilish lover of sack.
Lord Place. Sack, say you? Odso! you shall be Poet-Laureate.
2nd Voter. Poet! no, my lord; I am no poet; I can't make verses. Lord Place. No matter for that, you will be able to make odes. 2nd Voter. Odes, my lord! what are those?
Lord Place. Faith, sir, I can't tell what they are, but I know you may be qualified for the place without being a poet.
This was a home-thrust for Colley Cibber; and it was not the last he received from Fielding, whom he afterwards described in his "Apology," as "a broken wit." The dramatist's worldly circumstances were doubtless at this time anything but satisfactory; and poverty is never a recommendation to the world's favour. "The Pasquin' of Fielding," says his friend, Mr. Murphy, "came from the pen of an author in indigence, . . . . and, therefore, though its success was considerable, it never shone forth with a lustre equal to its merits."2 Such wonderful aids to popularity are wealth and worldly position, and so potent in all ages the sway of Snobbism! The manager of the Great Mogul's Company had no capital but his wit; but that wit, whatever Colley Cibber might think of it, was undimmed by poverty and adverse circumstances. Whilst he keenly felt the discomforts attending a life of pecuniary embarrassment, he could jest away his troubles, and treat the misfortunes of his tribe with all his former lightheartedness. The opening passage of "Pasquin" presents a pitiful picture of the abject poverty of a dramatic author, which might probably have been drawn from personal experience.
1st Player. When does the rehearsal begin?
2nd Player. I suppose we shall hardly rehearse the comedy this morning, for the author was arrested as he was going home from King's Coffee-house; and as I heard it was for upwards of four pounds, he will hardly find bail.
What a large debt does the world owe to the poverty of authors-more, far more, than to their wealthy leisure! As a matter of policy, it would seem that we ought not to pension and pamper the intellectual great. The most
(1) See post, p. 120.
(2) Essay on the Life and Genius of Fielding.
priceless treasures have been wrung from their necessities. From our own literary annals, countless instances might be produced of the stimulating influence of the spur of poverty. But there is an anecdote in M. Viardot's life of Fielding's great model, the author of "Don Quixote,"— which may not be altogether out of place here. It is related that when the chaplain of the Archbishop of Toledo, who had been entrusted with the censorship of the second part of that immortal novel, was asked during the lifetime of the author, by some gentlemen in the French embassy, what works of imagination were then popular in Spain, he immediately referred to the adventures of the wondrous "Don." The Frenchmen had read the first part of that romance, and they expressed themselves so warmly respecting its merits, that the chaplain offered to introduce them to the author, an offer which they eagerly accepted. "They questioned me," he said, "very minutely, respecting his age, his profession, his rank, his fortune. I was obliged to reply that he was an old soldier-a poor gentleman." "What!" exclaimed one with surprise, "has not Spain then made such a man rich? Is he not supported at the public cost?" But another added, with great address: "If it be necessity which has compelled him to write, God grant that he may never be rich,-since, by continuing poor, he may enrich by his works the whole world!" However selfish. or ungenerous in one sense, there is profound sagacity and truth in the Frenchman's observation. By the poverty of Fielding (as will hereafter appear), no less than by the poverty of Cervantes, the world has been a priceless gainer. A curious instance this, how every evil has its counterbalancing advantage; and how true it is that Adversity, though,
"Like the toad, ugly and venomous,
To return to Fielding: The success of "Pasquin
(1) Notice sur la Vie et les Ouvrages de Cervantes, par L. Viardot.
temporary gleam of prosperity, and inspirited him to proceed. with vigour in his novel undertaking. Accordingly, in the spring of 1737, the "Great Mogul" once more gathered together his motley crew at the Haymarket, and announced another satirical drama, called "The Historical Register for 1736." This proved a much bolder, and to the then ruling powers of the State, a more objectionable performance even than "Pasquin ;" and its representation led to important consequences, as regarded the interests and independence of the stage. Sir Robert Walpole himself was introduced in the piece, under the name of Quidam; silencing some noisy patriots with a bribe, and then dancing off with them; -a proceeding thus explained by Medley (the author): "Sir, every one of these patriots has a hole in his pocket, as Mr. Quidam, the fiddler, there knows; so that he intends to make them dance till all the money is fallen through, which he will pick up again, and so not lose one halfpenny by his generosity." The most famous scene of the play, however, is that laid in the auction-room of Mr. Cock, the great auctioneer of the day. It cannot be denied that this scene contained an unprecedented amount of personal and political satire; and satire well calculated both to offend and alarm a wary minister of State. As to the tendency of the following bold and unsparing invective
(1) This portion of the piece was afterwards stolen by Theophilus Cibber, in a very impudent manner, and performed, with slight additions, under the title of "The Auction."-Dibdin's History of the Stage.
Theophilus Cibber is introduced in the "Register" under the name of Pistol, and in that character makes allusion to the great contest which was then agitating the theatrical and fashionable world, between Mrs. Cibber and Mrs. Clive, as to whom properly belonged the part of Polly Peachum, in "The Beggar's Opera":
66 Say then, O town, is it your royal will That my great consort represent the part Of Polly Peachum, in the Beggar's Opera? Pist. Thanks to the town, that hiss speaks their consent." Mrs. Cibber, who was then in the full bloom of beauty,, had been cast at Drury Lane for Polly, and Mrs. Clive for Lucy, who performed the latter part with a bad grace, and continued to claim the more favourite character. This dispute gave rise to several dramatic satires. ("Some Account of the English Stage," vol. iii. p. 507.)
there can be little doubt. Mr. Auctioneer Hen, selling off some curiosities collected by Peter Humdrum, Esq., thus introduces them to the notice of the audience :
Hen. Gentlemen and ladies, this is Lot 1. A most curious remnant of Political Honesty. Who puts it up, gentlemen? It will make you a very good cloak. You see it's both sides alike, so you may turn it as often as you will. Come, five pounds for this curious remnant : I assure you, several great men have made their birth-day suits out of the same piece. It will wear for ever, and never be the worse for wearing. Five pounds is bid; nobody more than five pounds for this curious piece of Political Honesty? five pounds, no more (knocks) — Lord Bothsides. Lot 2. A most delicate piece of Patriotism, gentlemen, who bids? Ten pounds for this piece of Patriotism?
1st Courtier. I would not wear it for a thousand pounds. Hen. Sir, I assure you, several gentlemen at Court have worn the same; it's quite a different thing within to what it is without.
1st Courtier. Sir, it is prohibited goods; I sha'n't run the risk of being brought into Westminster Hall for wearing it.
Hen. You take it for the Old Patriotism, whereas it is indeed like that in nothing but the cut; but, alas! sir, there is great difference in the stuff.
Hen. Lot 7. A very clear Conscience, which has been worn by a judge and a bishop.
Mr. Screen. Is it as clean as if it was new?
Hen. Yes, no dirt will stick to it; and pray observe how capacious it is; it has one particular quality-put as much as you will into it, it is never full.
Whatever may be thought of Fielding's taste in bringing a real personage on the stage, as in this instance of Mr. Cock, the auctioneer, or of the wit (if wit it can be called) which attempted to raise a smile by playing upon his name, the town was greatly diverted, and the manager was rewarded with laughter if not with applause. The actor, or rather actress, to whom the part was assigned, was that strangest member of a strange family,-the sport of fortune, and scandal to her sex,-Mrs. Charlotte Charke.1 This woman-the daughter of Colley and sister of Theophilus
(1) This woman also performed the character of Lord Place in "Pasquin," fter the first few nights of its run.