Unknowing and unknown, the hardy Muse
Boldly defies all mean and partial views;
With honest freedom plays the critic's part,
And praises, as she censures, from the heart.
Roscius deceased, each high aspiring player
Push'd all his interest for the vacant chair.
The buskin'd heroes of the mimic stage
No longer whine in love, and rant in rage;
The monarch quits his throne, and condescends
Humbly to court the favour of his friends;
For pity's sake tells undeserved mishaps,
And, their applause to gain, recounts his claps.
Thus the victorious chiefs of ancient Rome,
To win the mob, a suppliant's form assume;
In pompous strain fight o'er the extinguish'd war,
And show where honour bled in every scar.
But though bare merit might in Rome appear
The strongest plea for favour, 'tis not here;
We form our judgment in another way;
And they will best succeed, who best can pay:
Those who would gain the votes of British tribes,
Must add to force of merit, force of bribes.
What can an actor give? In every age
Cash hath been rudely banish'd from the stage;
Monarchs themselves, to grief of every player,
Appear as often as their image there:
They can't, like candidate for other seat,
Pour seas of wine, and mountains raise of meat.
Wine! they could bribe you with the world as soon,
And of 'Roast Beef,' they only know the tune:
But what they have they give; could Clive do more,
Though for each million he had brought home four?
Shuter keeps open house at Southwark fair,
And hopes the friends of humour will be there;
In Smithfield, Yates prepares the rival treat
For those who laughter love, instead of meat;
Foote, at Old House,--for even Foote will be,
In self-conceit, an actor,--bribes with tea;
Which Wilkinson at second-hand receives,
And at the New, pours water on the leaves.
The town divided, each runs several ways,
As passion, humour, interest, party sways.
Things of no moment, colour of the hair,
Shape of a leg, complexion brown or fair,
A dress well chosen, or a patch misplaced,
Conciliate favour, or create distaste.
From galleries loud peals of laughter roll,
And thunder Shuter's praises; he's so droll.
Embox'd, the ladies must have something smart,
Palmer! oh! Palmer tops the jaunty part.
Seated in pit, the dwarf with aching eyes,
Looks up, and vows that Barry's out of size;
Whilst to six feet the vigorous stripling grown,
Declares that Garrick is another Coan.
When place of judgment is by whim supplied,
And our opinions have their rise in pride;
When, in discoursing on each mimic elf,
We praise and censure with an eye to self;
All must meet friends, and Ackman bids as fair,
In such a court, as Garrick, for the chair.
At length agreed, all squabbles to decide,
By some one judge the cause was to be tried;
But this their squabbles did afresh renew,
Who should be judge in such a trial:--who?
For Johnson some; but Johnson, it was fear'd,
Would be too grave; and Sterne too gay appear'd;
Others for Franklin voted; but 'twas known,
He sicken'd at all triumphs but his own:
For Colman many, but the peevish tongue
Of prudent Age found out that he was young:
For Murphy some few pilfering wits declared,
Whilst Folly clapp'd her hands, and Wisdom stared.
To mischief train'd, e'en from his mother's womb,
Grown old in fraud, though yet in manhood's bloom,
Adopting arts by which gay villains rise,
And reach the heights which honest men despise;
Mute at the bar, and in the senate loud,
Dull 'mongst the dullest, proudest of the proud;
A pert, prim, prater of the northern race,
Guilt in his heart, and famine in his face,
Stood forth,--and thrice he waved his lily hand,
And thrice he twirled his tye, thrice stroked his band:--
At Friendship's call (thus oft, with traitorous aim,
Men void of faith usurp Faith's sacred name)
At Friendship's call I come, by Murphy sent,
Who thus by me develops his intent:
But lest, transfused, the spirit should be lost,
That spirit which, in storms of rhetoric toss'd,
Bounces about, and flies like bottled beer,
In his own words his own intentions hear.
Thanks to my friends; but to vile fortunes born,
No robes of fur these shoulders must adorn.
Vain your applause, no aid from thence I draw;
Vain all my wit, for what is wit in law?
Twice, (cursed remembrance!) twice I strove to gain
Admittance 'mongst the law-instructed train,
Who, in the Temple and Gray's Inn, prepare
For clients' wretched feet the legal snare;
Dead to those arts which polish and refine,
Deaf to all worth, because that worth was mine,
Twice did those blockheads startle at my name,
And foul rejection gave me up to shame.
To laws and lawyers then I bade adieu,
And plans of far more liberal note pursue.
Who will may be a judge--my kindling breast
Burns for that chair which Roscius once possess'd.
Here give your votes, your interest here exert,
And let success for once attend desert.
With sleek appearance, and with ambling pace,
And, type of vacant head, with vacant face,
The Proteus Hill put in his modest plea,--
Let Favour speak for others, Worth for me.--
For who, like him, his various powers could call
Into so many shapes, and shine in all?
Who could so nobly grace the motley list,
Actor, Inspector, Doctor, Botanist?
Knows any one so well--sure no one knows--
At once to play, prescribe, compound, compose?
Who can--but Woodward came,--Hill slipp'd away,
Melting, like ghosts, before the rising day.
With that low cunning, which in fools supplies,
And amply too, the place of being wise,
Which Nature, kind, indulgent parent, gave
To qualify the blockhead for a knave;
With that smooth falsehood, whose appearance charms,
And Reason of each wholesome doubt disarms,
Which to the lowest depths of guile descends,
By vilest means pursues the vilest ends;
Wears Friendship's mask for purposes of spite,
Pawns in the day, and butchers in the night;
With that malignant envy which turns pale,
And sickens, even if a friend prevail,
Which merit and success pursues with hate,
And damns the worth it cannot imitate;
With the cold caution of a coward's spleen,
Which fears not guilt, but always seeks a screen,
Which keeps this maxim ever in her view--
What's basely done, should be done safely too;
With that dull, rooted, callous impudence,
Which, dead to shame and every nicer sense,
Ne'er blush'd, unless, in spreading Vice's snares,
She blunder'd on some virtue unawares;
With all these blessings, which we seldom find
Lavish'd by Nature on one happy mind,
A motley figure, of the Fribble tribe,
Which heart can scarce conceive, or pen describe,
Came simpering on--to ascertain whose sex
Twelve sage impannell'd matrons would perplex.
Nor male, nor female; neither, and yet both;
Of neuter gender, though of Irish growth;
A six-foot suckling, mincing in Its gait;
Affected, peevish, prim, and delicate;
Fearful It seem'd, though of athletic make,
Lest brutal breezes should too roughly shake
Its tender form, and savage motion spread,
O'er Its pale cheeks, the horrid manly red.
Much did It talk, in Its own pretty phrase,
Of genius and of taste, of players and of plays;
Much too of writings, which Itself had wrote,
Of special merit, though of little note;
For Fate, in a strange humour, had decreed
That what It wrote, none but Itself should read;
Much, too, It chatter'd of dramatic laws,
Misjudging critics, and misplaced applause;
Then, with a self-complacent, jutting air,
It smiled, It smirk'd, It wriggled to the chair;
And, with an awkward briskness not Its own,
Looking around, and perking on the throne,
Triumphant seem'd; when that strange savage dame,
Known but to few, or only known by name,
Plain Common-Sense appear'd, by Nature there
Appointed, with plain Truth, to guard the chair,
The pageant saw, and, blasted with her frown,
To Its first state of nothing melted down.
Nor shall the Muse, (for even there the pride
Of this vain nothing shall be mortified)
Nor shall the Muse (should Fate ordain her rhymes,
Fond, pleasing thought! to live in after-times)
With such a trifler's name her pages blot;
Known be the character, the thing forgot:
Let It, to disappoint each future aim,
Live without sex, and die without a name!
Cold-blooded critics, by enervate sires
Scarce hammer'd out, when Nature's feeble fires
Glimmer'd their last; whose sluggish blood, half froze,
Creeps labouring through the veins; whose heart ne'er glows
With fancy-kindled heat;--a servile race,
Who, in mere want of fault, all merit place;
Who blind obedience pay to ancient schools,
Bigots to Greece, and slaves to musty rules;
With solemn consequence declared that none
Could judge that cause but Sophocles alone.
Dupes to their fancied excellence, the crowd,
Obsequious to the sacred dictate, bow'd.
When, from amidst the throng, a youth stood forth,
Unknown his person, not unknown his worth;
His look bespoke applause; alone he stood,
Alone he stemm'd the mighty critic flood.
He talk'd of ancients, as the man became
Who prized our own, but envied not their fame;
With noble reverence spoke of Greece and Rome,
And scorn'd to tear the laurel from the tomb.
But, more than just to other countries grown,
Must we turn base apostates to our own?
Where do these words of Greece and Rome excel,
That England may not please the ear as well?
What mighty magic's in the place or air,
That all perfection needs must centre there?
In states, let strangers blindly be preferr'd;
In state of letters, merit should be heard.
Genius is of no country; her pure ray
Spreads all abroad, as general as the day;
Foe to restraint, from place to place she flies,
And may hereafter e'en in Holland rise.
May not, (to give a pleasing fancy scope,
And cheer a patriot heart with patriot hope)
May not some great extensive genius raise
The name of Britain 'bove Athenian praise;
And, whilst brave thirst of fame his bosom warms,
Make England great in letters as in arms?
There may--there hath,--and Shakspeare's Muse aspires
Beyond the reach of Greece; with native fires
Mounting aloft, he wings his daring flight,
Whilst Sophocles below stands trembling at his height.
Why should we then abroad for judges roam,
When abler judges we may find at home?
Happy in tragic and in comic powers,
Have we not Shakspeare?--Is not Jonson ours?
For them, your natural judges, Britons, vote;
They'll judge like Britons, who like Britons wrote.
He said, and conquer'd--Sense resumed her sway,
And disappointed pedants stalk'd away.
Shakspeare and Jonson, with deserved applause,
Joint-judges were ordain'd to try the cause.
Meantime the stranger every voice employ'd,
To ask or tell his name. Who is it? Lloyd.
Thus, when the aged friends of Job stood mute,
And, tamely prudent, gave up the dispute,
Elihu, with the decent warmth of youth,
Boldly stood forth the advocate of Truth;
Confuted Falsehood, and disabled Pride,
Whilst baffled Age stood snarling at his side.
The day of trial's fix'd, nor any fear
Lest day of trial should be put off here.
Causes but seldom for delay can call
In courts where forms are few, fees none at all.
The morning came, nor find I that the Sun,
As he on other great events hath done,
Put on a brighter robe than what he wore
To go his journey in, the day before.
Full in the centre of a spacious plain,
On plan entirely new, where nothing vain,
Nothing magnificent appear'd, but Art
With decent modesty perform'd her part,
Rose a tribunal: from no other court
It borrow'd ornament, or sought support:
No juries here were pack'd to kill or clear,
No bribes were taken, nor oaths broken here;
No gownsmen, partial to a client's cause,
To their own purpose turn'd the pliant laws;
Each judge was true and steady to his trust,
As Mansfield wise, and as old Foster just.
In the first seat, in robe of various dyes,
A noble wildness flashing from his eyes,
Sat Shakspeare: in one hand a wand he bore,
For mighty wonders famed in days of yore;
The other held a globe, which to his will
Obedient turn'd, and own'd the master's skill:
Things of the noblest kind his genius drew,
And look'd through Nature at a single view:
A loose he gave to his unbounded soul,
And taught new lands to rise, new seas to roll;
Call'd into being scenes unknown before,
And passing Nature's bounds, was something more.
Next Jonson sat, in ancient learning train'd,
His rigid judgment Fancy's flights restrain'd;
Correctly pruned each wild luxuriant thought,
Mark'd out her course, nor spared a glorious fault.
The book of man he read with nicest art,
And ransack'd all the secrets of the heart;
Exerted penetration's utmost force,
And traced each passion to its proper source;
Then, strongly mark'd, in liveliest colours drew,
And brought each foible forth to public view:
The coxcomb felt a lash in every word,
And fools, hung out, their brother fools deterr'd.
His comic humour kept the world in awe,
And Laughter frighten'd Folly more than Law.
But, hark! the trumpet sounds, the crowd gives way,
And the procession comes in just array.
Now should I, in some sweet poetic line,
Offer up incense at Apollo's shrine,
Invoke the Muse to quit her calm abode,
And waken Memory with a sleeping Ode.
For how shall mortal man, in mortal verse,
Their titles, merits, or their names rehearse?
But give, kind Dulness! memory and rhyme,
We 'll put off Genius till another time.
First, Order came,--with solemn step, and slow,
In measured time his feet were taught to go.
Behind, from time to time, he cast his eye,
Lest this should quit his place, that step awry.
Appearances to save his only care;
So things seem right, no matter what they are.
In him his parents saw themselves renew'd,
Begotten by Sir Critic on Saint Prude.
Then came drum, trumpet, hautboy, fiddle, flute;
Next snuffer, sweeper, shifter, soldier, mute:
Legions of angels all in white advance;
Furies, all fire, come forward in a dance;
Pantomime figures then are brought to view,
Fools, hand in hand with fools, go two by two.
Next came the treasurer of either house;
One with full purse, t'other with not a sous.
Behind, a group of figures awe create,
Set off with all the impertinence of state;
By lace and feather consecrate to fame,
Expletive kings, and queens without a name.
Here Havard, all serene, in the same strains,
Loves, hates, and rages, triumphs and complains;
His easy vacant face proclaim'd a heart
Which could not feel emotions, nor impart.
With him came mighty Davies: on my life,
That Davies hath a very pretty wife!
Statesman all over, in plots famous grown,
He mouths a sentence, as curs mouth a bone.
Next Holland came: with truly tragic stalk,
He creeps, he flies,--a hero should not walk.
As if with Heaven he warr'd, his eager eyes
Planted their batteries against the skies;
Attitude, action, air, pause, start, sigh, groan,
He borrow'd, and made use of as his own.
By fortune thrown on any other stage,
He might, perhaps, have pleased an easy age;
But now appears a copy, and no more,
Of something better we have seen before.
The actor who would build a solid fame,
Must Imitation's servile arts disclaim;
Act from himself, on his own bottom stand;
I hate e'en Garrick thus at second-hand.
Behind came King.--Bred up in modest lore,
Bashful and young, he sought Hibernia's shore;
Hibernia, famed, 'bove every other grace,
For matchless intrepidity of face.
From her his features caught the generous flame,
And bid defiance to all sense of shame.
Tutor'd by her all rivals to surpass,
'Mongst Drury's sons he comes, and shines in Brass.
Lo, Yates! Without the least finesse of art
He gets applause--I wish he'd get his part.
When hot Impatience is in full career,
How vilely 'Hark ye! hark ye!' grates the ear;
When active fancy from the brain is sent,
And stands on tip-toe for some wish'd event,
I hate those careless blunders, which recall
Suspended sense, and prove it fiction all.
In characters of low and vulgar mould,
Where Nature's coarsest features we behold;
Where, destitute of every decent grace,
Unmanner'd jests are blurted in your face,
There Yates with justice strict attention draws,
Acts truly from himself, and gains applause.
But when, to please himself or charm his wife,
He aims at something in politer life,
When, blindly thwarting Nature's stubborn plan,
He treads the stage by way of gentleman,
The clown, who no one touch of breeding knows,
Looks like Tom Errand dress'd in Clincher's clothes.
Fond of his dress, fond of his person grown,
Laugh'd at by all, and to himself unknown,
Prom side to side he struts, he smiles, he prates,
And seems to wonder what's become of Yates.
Woodward, endow'd with various tricks of face,
Great master in the science of grimace,
From Ireland ventures, favourite of the town,
Lured by the pleasing prospect of renown;
A speaking harlequin, made up of whim,
He twists, he twines, he tortures every limb;
Plays to the eye with a mere monkey's art,
And leaves to sense the conquest of the heart.
We laugh indeed, but, on reflection's birth,
We wonder at ourselves, and curse our mirth.
His walk of parts he fatally misplaced,
And inclination fondly took for taste;
Hence hath the town so often seen display'd
Beau in burlesque, high life in masquerade.
But when bold wits,--not such as patch up plays,
Cold and correct, in these insipid days,--
Some comic character, strong featured, urge
To probability's extremest verge;
Where modest Judgment her decree suspends,
And, for a time, nor censures, nor commends;
Where critics can't determine on the spot
Whether it is in nature found or not,
There Woodward safely shall his powers exert,
Nor fail of favour where he shows desert;
Hence he in Bobadil such praises bore,
Such worthy praises, Kitely scarce had more.
By turns transform'd into all kind of shapes,
Constant to none, Foote laughs, cries, struts, and scrapes:
Now in the centre, now in van or rear,
The Proteus shifts, bawd, parson, auctioneer.
His strokes of humour, and his bursts of sport,
Are all contain'd in this one word--distort.
Doth a man stutter, look a-squint, or halt?
Mimics draw humour out of Nature's fault,
With personal defects their mirth adorn,
And bang misfortunes out to public scorn.
E'en I, whom Nature cast in hideous mould,
Whom, having made, she trembled to behold,
Beneath the load of mimicry may groan,
And find that Nature's errors are my own.
Shadows behind of Foote and Woodward came;
Wilkinson this, Obrien was that name.
Strange to relate, but wonderfully true,
That even shadows have their shadows too!
With not a single comic power endued,
The first a mere, mere mimic's mimic stood;
The last, by Nature form'd to please, who shows,
In Johnson's Stephen, which way genius grows,
Self quite put off, affects with too much art
To put on Woodward in each mangled part;
Adopts his shrug, his wink, his stare; nay, more,
His voice, and croaks; for Woodward croak'd before.
When a dull copier simple grace neglects,
And rests his imitation in defects,
We readily forgive; but such vile arts
Are double guilt in men of real parts.
By Nature form'd in her perversest mood,
With no one requisite of art endued,
Next Jackson came--Observe that settled glare,
Which better speaks a puppet than a player;
List to that voice--did ever Discord hear
Sounds so well fitted to her untuned ear?
When to enforce some very tender part,
The right hand slips by instinct on the heart,
His soul, of every other thought bereft,
Is anxious only where to place the left;
He sobs and pants to soothe his weeping spouse;
To soothe his weeping mother, turns and bows:
Awkward, embarrass'd, stiff, without the skill
Of moving gracefully, or standing still,
One leg, as if suspicious of his brother,
Desirous seems to run away from t'other.
Some errors, handed down from age to age,
Plead custom's force, and still possess the stage.
That's vile: should we a parent's faults adore,
And err, because our fathers err'd before?
If, inattentive to the author's mind,
Some actors made the jest they could not find;
If by low tricks they marr'd fair Nature's mien,
And blurr'd the graces of the simple scene,
Shall we, if reason rightly is employ'd,
Not see their faults, or seeing, not avoid?
When Falstaff stands detected in a lie,
Why, without meaning, rolls Love's glassy eye?
Why? There's no cause--at least no cause we know--
It was the fashion twenty years ago.
Fashion!--a word which knaves and fools may use,
Their knavery and folly to excuse.
To copy beauties, forfeits all pretence
To fame--to copy faults, is want of sense.
Yet (though in some particulars he fails,
Some few particulars, where mode prevails)
If in these hallow'd times, when, sober, sad,
All gentlemen are melancholy mad;
When 'tis not deem'd so great a crime by half
To violate a vestal as to laugh,
Rude mirth may hope, presumptuous, to engage
An act of toleration for the stage;
And courtiers will, like reasonable creatures,
Suspend vain fashion, and unscrew their features;
Old Falstaff, play'd by Love, shall please once more,
And humour set the audience in a roar.
Actors I've seen, and of no vulgar name,
Who, being from one part possess'd of fame,
Whether they are to laugh, cry, whine, or bawl,
Still introduce that favourite part in all.
Here, Love, be cautious--ne'er be thou betray'd
To call in that wag Falstaff's dangerous aid;
Like Goths of old, howe'er he seems a friend,
He'll seize that throne you wish him to defend.
In a peculiar mould by Humour cast,
For Falstaff framed--himself the first and last--
He stands aloof from all--maintains his state,
And scorns, like Scotsmen, to assimilate.
Vain all disguise--too plain we see the trick,
Though the knight wears the weeds of Dominic;
And Boniface disgraced, betrays the smack,
In anno Domini, of Falstaff sack.
Arms cross'd, brows bent, eyes fix'd, feet marching slow,
A band of malcontents with spleen o'erflow;
Wrapt in Conceit's impenetrable fog,
Which Pride, like Phoebus, draws from every bog,
They curse the managers, and curse the town
Whose partial favour keeps such merit down.
But if some man, more hardy than the rest,
Should dare attack these gnatlings in their nest,
At once they rise with impotence of rage,
Whet their small stings, and buzz about the stage:
'Tis breach of privilege! Shall any dare
To arm satiric truth against a player?
Prescriptive rights we plead, time out of mind;
Actors, unlash'd themselves, may lash mankind.
What! shall Opinion then, of nature free,
And liberal as the vagrant air, agree
To rust in chains like these, imposed by things,
Which, less than nothing, ape the pride of kings?
No--though half-poets with half-players join
To curse the freedom of each honest line;
Though rage and malice dim their faded cheek,
What the Muse freely thinks, she'll freely speak;
With just disdain of every paltry sneer,
Stranger alike to flattery and fear,
In purpose fix'd, and to herself a rule,
Public contempt shall wait the public fool.
Austin would always glisten in French silks;
Ackman would Norris be, and Packer, Wilkes:
For who, like Ackman, can with humour please;
Who can, like Packer, charm with sprightly ease?
Higher than all the rest, see Bransby strut:
A mighty Gulliver in Lilliput!
Ludicrous Nature! which at once could show
A man so very high, so very low!
If I forget thee, Blakes, or if I say
Aught hurtful, may I never see thee play.
Let critics, with a supercilious air,
Decry thy various merit, and declare
Frenchman is still at top; but scorn that rage
Which, in attacking thee, attacks the age.
French follies, universally embraced,
At once provoke our mirth, and form our taste.
Long, from a nation ever hardly used,
At random censured, wantonly abused,
Have Britons drawn their sport; with partial view
Form'd general notions from the rascal few;
Condemn'd a people, as for vices known,
Which from their country banish'd, seek our own.
At length, howe'er, the slavish chain is broke,
And Sense, awaken'd, scorns her ancient yoke:
Taught by thee, Moody, we now learn to raise
Mirth from their foibles; from their virtues, praise.
Next came the legion which our summer Bayes,
From alleys, here and there, contrived to raise,
Flush'd with vast hopes, and certain to succeed,
With wits who cannot write, and scarce can read.
Veterans no more support the rotten cause,
No more from Elliot's worth they reap applause;
Each on himself determines to rely;
Be Yates disbanded, and let Elliot fly.
Never did players so well an author fit,
To Nature dead, and foes declared to wit.
So loud each tongue, so empty was each head,
So much they talk'd, so very little said,
So wondrous dull, and yet so wondrous vain,
At once so willing, and unfit to reign,
That Reason swore, nor would the oath recall,
Their mighty master's soul inform'd them all.
As one with various disappointments sad,
Whom dulness only kept from being mad,
Apart from all the rest great Murphy came--
Common to fools and wits, the rage of fame.
What though the sons of Nonsense hail him Sire,
Auditor, Author, Manager, and Squire,
His restless soul's ambition stops not there;
To make his triumphs perfect, dub him Player.
In person tall, a figure form'd to please,
If symmetry could charm deprived of ease;
When motionless he stands, we all approve;
What pity 'tis the thing was made to move.
His voice, in one dull, deep, unvaried sound,
Seems to break forth from caverns under ground;
From hollow chest the low sepulchral note
Unwilling heaves, and struggles in his throat.
Could authors butcher'd give an actor grace,
All must to him resign the foremost place.
When he attempts, in some one favourite part,
To ape the feelings of a manly heart,
His honest features the disguise defy,
And his face loudly gives his tongue the lie.
Still in extremes, he knows no happy mean,
Or raving mad, or stupidly serene.
In cold-wrought scenes, the lifeless actor flags;
In passion, tears the passion into rags.
Can none remember? Yes--I know all must--
When in the Moor he ground his teeth to dust,
When o'er the stage he Folly's standard bore,
Whilst Common-Sense stood trembling at the door.
How few are found with real talents blest!
Fewer with Nature's gifts contented rest.
Man from his sphere eccentric starts astray:
All hunt for fame, but most mistake the way.
Bred at St Omer's to the shuffling trade,
The hopeful youth a Jesuit might have made;
With various readings stored his empty skull,
Learn'd without sense, and venerably dull;
Or, at some banker's desk, like many more,
Content to tell that two and two make four;
His name had stood in City annals fair,
And prudent Dulness mark'd him for a mayor.
What, then, could tempt thee, in a critic age,
Such blooming hopes to forfeit on a stage?
Could it be worth thy wondrous waste of pains
To publish to the world thy lack of brains?
Or might not Reason e'en to thee have shown,
Thy greatest praise had been to live unknown?
Yet let not vanity like thine despair:
Fortune makes Folly her peculiar care.
A vacant throne, high-placed in Smithfield, view.
To sacred Dulness and her first-born due,
Thither with haste in happy hour repair,
Thy birthright claim, nor fear a rival there.
Shuter himself shall own thy juster claim,
And venal Ledgers puff their Murphy's name;
Whilst Vaughan, or Dapper, call him which you will,
Shall blow the trumpet, and give out the bill.
There rule, secure from critics and from sense,
Nor once shall Genius rise to give offence;
Eternal peace shall bless the happy shore,
And little factions break thy rest no more.
From Covent Garden crowds promiscuous go,
Whom the Muse knows not, nor desires to know;
Veterans they seem'd, but knew of arms no more
Than if, till that time, arms they never bore:
Like Westminster militia train'd to fight,
They scarcely knew the left hand from the right.
Ashamed among such troops to show the head,
Their chiefs were scatter'd, and their heroes fled.
Sparks at his glass sat comfortably down
To separate frown from smile, and smile from frown.
Smith, the genteel, the airy, and the smart,
Smith was just gone to school to say his part.
Ross (a misfortune which we often meet)
Was fast asleep at dear Statira's feet;
Statira, with her hero to agree,
Stood on her feet as fast asleep as he.
Macklin, who largely deals in half-form'd sounds,
Who wantonly transgresses Nature's bounds,
Whose acting's hard, affected, and constrain'd,
Whose features, as each other they disdain'd,
At variance set, inflexible and coarse,
Ne'er know the workings of united force,
Ne'er kindly soften to each other's aid,
Nor show the mingled powers of light and shade;
No longer for a thankless stage concern'd,
To worthier thoughts his mighty genius turn'd,
Harangued, gave lectures, made each simple elf
Almost as good a speaker as himself;
Whilst the whole town, mad with mistaken zeal,
An awkward rage for elocution feel;
Dull cits and grave divines his praise proclaim,
And join with Sheridan's their Macklin's name.
Shuter, who never cared a single pin
Whether he left out nonsense, or put in,
Who aim'd at wit, though, levell'd in the dark,
The random arrow seldom hit the mark,
At Islington, all by the placid stream
Where city swains in lap of Dulness dream,
Where quiet as her strains their strains do flow,
That all the patron by the bards may know,
Secret as night, with Rolt's experienced aid,
The plan of future operations laid,
Projected schemes the summer months to cheer,
And spin out happy folly through the year.
But think not, though these dastard chiefs are fled,
That Covent Garden troops shall want a head:
Harlequin comes their chief! See from afar
The hero seated in fantastic car!
Wedded to Novelty, his only arms
Are wooden swords, wands, talismans, and charms;
On one side Folly sits, by some call'd Fun,
And on the other his arch-patron, Lun;
Behind, for liberty athirst in vain,
Sense, helpless captive, drags the galling chain:
Six rude misshapen beasts the chariot draw,
Whom Reason loathes, and Nature never saw,
Monsters with tails of ice, and heads of fire;
'Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.'
Each was bestrode by full as monstrous wight,
Giant, dwarf, genius, elf, hermaphrodite.
The Town, as usual, met him in full cry;
The Town, as usual, knew no reason why:
But Fashion so directs, and Moderns raise
On Fashion's mouldering base their transient praise.
Next, to the field a band of females draw
Their force, for Britain owns no Salique law:
Just to their worth, we female rights admit,
Nor bar their claim to empire or to wit.
First giggling, plotting chambermaids arrive,
Hoydens and romps, led on by General Clive.
In spite of outward blemishes, she shone,
For humour famed, and humour all her own:
Easy, as if at home, the stage she trod,
Nor sought the critic's praise, nor fear'd his rod:
Original in spirit and in ease,
She pleased by hiding all attempts to please:
No comic actress ever yet could raise,
On Humour's base, more merit or more praise.
With all the native vigour of sixteen,
Among the merry troop conspicuous seen,
See lively Pope advance, in jig, and trip
Corinna, Cherry, Honeycomb, and Snip:
Not without art, but yet to nature true,
She charms the town with humour just, yet new:
Cheer'd by her promise, we the less deplore
The fatal time when Olive shall be no more.
Lo! Vincent comes! With simple grace array'd,
She laughs at paltry arts, and scorns parade:
Nature through her is by reflection shown,
Whilst Gay once more knows Polly for his own.
Talk not to me of diffidence and fear--
I see it all, but must forgive it here;
Defects like these, which modest terrors cause,
From Impudence itself extort applause.
Candour and Reason still take Virtue's part;
We love e'en foibles in so good a heart.
Let Tommy Arne,--with usual pomp of style,
Whose chief, whose only merit's to compile;
Who, meanly pilfering here and there a bit,
Deals music out as Murphy deals out wit,--
Publish proposals, laws for taste prescribe,
And chaunt the praise of an Italian tribe;
Let him reverse kind Nature's first decrees,
And teach e'en Brent a method not to please;
But never shall a truly British age
Bear a vile race of eunuchs on the stage;
The boasted work's call'd national in vain,
If one Italian voice pollutes the strain.
Where tyrants rule, and slaves with joy obey,
Let slavish minstrels pour the enervate lay;
To Britons far more noble pleasures spring,
In native notes whilst Beard and Vincent sing.
Might figure give a title unto fame,
What rival should with Yates dispute her claim?
But justice may not partial trophies raise,
Nor sink the actress' in the woman's praise.
Still hand in hand her words and actions go,
And the heart feels more than the features show;
For, through the regions of that beauteous face
We no variety of passions trace;
Dead to the soft emotions of the heart,
No kindred softness can those eyes impart:
The brow, still fix'd in sorrow's sullen frame,
Void of distinction, marks all parts the same.
What's a fine person, or a beauteous face,
Unless deportment gives them decent grace?
Bless'd with all other requisites to please,
Some want the striking elegance of ease;
The curious eye their awkward movement tires;
They seem like puppets led about by wires.
Others, like statues, in one posture still,
Give great ideas of the workman's skill;
Wond'ring, his art we praise the more we view,
And only grieve he gave not motion too.
Weak of themselves are what we beauties call,
It is the manner which gives strength to all;
This teaches every beauty to unite,
And brings them forward in the noblest light;
Happy in this, behold, amidst the throng,
With transient gleam of grace, Hart sweeps along.
If all the wonders of external grace,
A person finely turn'd, a mould of face,
Where--union rare--expression's lively force
With beauty's softest magic holds discourse,
Attract the eye; if feelings, void of art,
Rouse the quick passions, and inflame the heart;
If music, sweetly breathing from the tongue,
Captives the ear, Bride must not pass unsung.
When fear, which rank ill-nature terms conceit,
By time and custom conquer'd, shall retreat;
When judgment, tutor'd by experience sage,
Shall shoot abroad, and gather strength from age;
When Heaven, in mercy, shall the stage release
From the dull slumbers of a still-life piece;
When some stale flower, disgraceful to the walk,
Which long hath hung, though wither'd, on the stalk,
Shall kindly drop, then Bride shall make her way,
And merit find a passage to the day;
Brought into action, she at once shall raise
Her own renown, and justify our praise.
Form'd for the tragic scene, to grace the stage
With rival excellence of love and rage;
Mistress of each soft art, with matchless skill
To turn and wind the passions as she will;
To melt the heart with sympathetic woe,
Awake the sigh, and teach the tear to flow;
To put on frenzy's wild, distracted glare,
And freeze the soul with horror and despair;
With just desert enroll'd in endless fame,
Conscious of worth superior, Cibber came.
When poor Alicia's madd'ning brains are rack'd,
And strongly imaged griefs her mind distract,
Struck with her grief, I catch the madness too,
My brain turns round, the headless trunk I view!
The roof cracks, shakes, and falls--new horrors rise,
And Reason buried in the ruin lies!
Nobly disdainful of each slavish art,
She makes her first attack upon the heart;
Pleased with the summons, it receives her laws,
And all is silence, sympathy, applause.
But when, by fond ambition drawn aside,
Giddy with praise, and puff'd with female pride,
She quits the tragic scene, and, in pretence
To comic merit, breaks down nature's fence,
I scarcely can believe my ears or eyes,
Or find out Cibber through the dark disguise.
Pritchard, by Nature for the stage design'd,
In person graceful, and in sense refined;
Her art as much as Nature's friend became,
Her voice as free from blemish as her fame,
Who knows so well in majesty to please,
Attemper'd with the graceful charms of ease?
When, Congreve's favoured pantomime to grace,
She comes a captive queen, of Moorish race;
When love, hate, jealousy, despair, and rage
With wildest tumults in her breast engage,
Still equal to herself is Zara seen;
Her passions are the passions of a queen.
When she to murder whets the timorous Thane,
I feel ambition rush through every vein;
Persuasion hangs upon her daring tongue,
My heart grows flint, and every nerve's new strung.
In comedy--Nay, there, cries Critic, hold;
Pritchard's for comedy too fat and old:
Who can, with patience, bear the gray coquette,
Or force a laugh with over-grown Julett?
Her speech, look, action, humour, all are just,
But then, her age and figure give disgust.
Are foibles, then, and graces of the mind,
In real life, to size or age confined?
Do spirits flow, and is good-breeding placed
In any set circumference of waist?
As we grow old, doth affectation cease,
Or gives not age new vigour to caprice?
If in originals these things appear,
Why should we bar them in the copy here?
The nice punctilio-mongers of this age,
The grand minute reformers of the stage,
Slaves to propriety of every kind,
Some standard measure for each part should find,
Which, when the best of actors shall exceed,
Let it devolve to one of smaller breed.
All actors, too, upon the back should bear
Certificate of birth; time, when; place, where;
For how can critics rightly fix their worth,
Unless they know the minute of their birth?
An audience, too, deceived, may find, too late,
That they have clapp'd an actor out of date.
Figure, I own, at first may give offence,
And harshly strike the eye's too curious sense;
But when perfections of the mind break forth,
Humour's chaste sallies, judgment's solid worth;
When the pure genuine flame by Nature taught,
Springs into sense and every action's thought;
Before such merit all objections fly--
Pritchard's genteel, and Garrick's six feet high.
Oft have I, Pritchard, seen thy wondrous skill,
Confess'd thee great, but find thee greater still;
That worth, which shone in scatter'd rays before,
Collected now, breaks forth with double power.
The 'Jealous Wife!' on that thy trophies raise,
Inferior only to the author's praise.
From Dublin, famed in legends of romance
For mighty magic of enchanted lance,
With which her heroes arm'd, victorious prove,
And, like a flood, rush o'er the land of Love,
Mossop and Barry came--names ne'er design'd
By Fate in the same sentence to be join'd.
Raised by the breath of popular acclaim,
They mounted to the pinnacle of fame;
There the weak brain, made giddy with the height,
Spurr'd on the rival chiefs to mortal fight.
Thus sportive boys, around some basin's brim,
Behold the pipe-drawn bladders circling swim;
But if, from lungs more potent, there arise
Two bubbles of a more than common size,
Eager for honour, they for fight prepare,
Bubble meets bubble, and both sink to air.
Mossop attach'd to military plan,
Still kept his eye fix'd on his right-hand man;
Whilst the mouth measures words with seeming skill,
The right hand labours, and the left lies still;
For he, resolved on Scripture grounds to go,
What the right doth, the left-hand shall not know,
With studied impropriety of speech,
He soars beyond the hackney critic's reach;
To epithets allots emphatic state,
Whilst principals, ungraced, like lackeys wait;
In ways first trodden by himself excels,
And stands alone in indeclinables;
Conjunction, preposition, adverb join
To stamp new vigour on the nervous line;
In monosyllables his thunders roll,
He, she, it, and we, ye, they, fright the soul.
In person taller than the common size,
Behold where Barry draws admiring eyes!
When labouring passions, in his bosom pent,
Convulsive rage, and struggling heave for vent;
Spectators, with imagined terrors warm,
Anxious expect the bursting of the storm:
But, all unfit in such a pile to dwell,
His voice comes forth, like Echo from her cell,
To swell the tempest needful aid denies,
And all adown the stage in feeble murmurs dies.
What man, like Barry, with such pains, can err
In elocution, action, character?
What man could give, if Barry was not here,
Such well applauded tenderness to Lear?
Who else can speak so very, very fine,
That sense may kindly end with every line?
Some dozen lines before the ghost is there,
Behold him for the solemn scene prepare:
See how he frames his eyes, poises each limb,
Puts the whole body into proper trim:--
From whence we learn, with no great stretch of art,
Five lines hence comes a ghost, and, ha! a start.
When he appears most perfect, still we find
Something which jars upon and hurts the mind:
Whatever lights upon a part are thrown,
We see too plainly they are not his own:
No flame from Nature ever yet he caught,
Nor knew a feeling which he was not taught:
He raised his trophies on the base of art,
And conn'd his passions, as he conn'd his part.
Quin, from afar, lured by the scent of fame,
A stage leviathan, put in his claim,
Pupil of Betterton and Booth. Alone,
Sullen he walk'd, and deem'd the chair his own:
For how should moderns, mushrooms of the day,
Who ne'er those masters knew, know how to play?
Gray-bearded veterans, who, with partial tongue,
Extol the times when they themselves were young,
Who, having lost all relish for the stage,
See not their own defects, but lash the age,
Received, with joyful murmurs of applause,
Their darling chief, and lined his favourite cause.
Far be it from the candid Muse to tread
Insulting o'er the ashes of the dead:
But, just to living merit, she maintains,
And dares the test, whilst Garrick's genius reigns,
Ancients in vain endeavour to excel,
Happily praised, if they could act as well.
But, though prescription's force we disallow,
Nor to antiquity submissive bow;
Though we deny imaginary grace,
Founded on accidents of time and place,
Yet real worth of every growth shall bear
Due praise; nor must we, Quin, forget thee there.
His words bore sterling weight; nervous and strong,
In manly tides of sense they roll'd along:
Happy in art, he chiefly had pretence
To keep up numbers, yet not forfeit sense;
No actor ever greater heights could reach
In all the labour'd artifice of speech.
Speech! is that all? And shall an actor found
An universal fame on partial ground?
Parrots themselves speak properly by rote,
And, in six months, my dog shall howl by note.
I laugh at those who, when the stage they tread,
Neglect the heart, to compliment the head;
With strict propriety their cares confined
To weigh out words, while passion halts behind:
To syllable-dissectors they appeal,
Allow them accent, cadence,--fools may feel;
But, spite of all the criticising elves,
Those who would make us feel, must feel themselves.
His eyes, in gloomy socket taught to roll,
Proclaim'd the sullen 'habit of his soul:'
Heavy and phlegmatic he trod the stage,
Too proud for tenderness, too dull for rage.
When Hector's lovely widow shines in tears,
Or Rowe's gay rake dependent virtue jeers,
With the same cast of features he is seen
To chide the libertine, and court the queen.
From the tame scene, which without passion flows,
With just desert his reputation rose;
Nor less he pleased, when, on some surly plan,
He was, at once, the actor and the man.
In Brute he shone unequall'd: all agree
Garrick's not half so great a Brute as he.
When Cato's labour'd scenes are brought to view,
With equal praise the actor labour'd too;
For still you'll find, trace passions to their root,
Small difference 'twixt the Stoic and the Brute.
In fancied scenes, as in life's real plan,
He could not, for a moment, sink the man.
In whate'er cast his character was laid,
Self still, like oil, upon the surface play'd.
Nature, in spite of all his skill, crept in:
Horatio, Dorax, Falstaff,--still 'twas Quin.
Next follows Sheridan. A doubtful name,
As yet unsettled in the rank of fame:
This, fondly lavish in his praises grown,
Gives him all merit; that allows him none;
Between them both, we'll steer the middle course,
Nor, loving praise, rob Judgment of her force.
Just his conceptions, natural and great,
His feelings strong, his words enforced with weight.
Was speech-famed Quin himself to hear him speak,
Envy would drive the colour from his cheek;
But step-dame Nature, niggard of her grace,
Denied the social powers of voice and face.
Fix'd in one frame of features, glare of eye,
Passions, like chaos, in confusion lie;
In vain the wonders of his skill are tried
To form distinctions Nature hath denied.
His voice no touch of harmony admits,
Irregularly deep, and shrill by fits.
The two extremes appear like man and wife,
Coupled together for the sake of strife.
His action's always strong, but sometimes such,
That candour must declare he acts too much.
Why must impatience fall three paces back?
Why paces three return to the attack?
Why is the right leg, too, forbid to stir,
Unless in motion semicircular?
Why must the hero with the Nailor vie,
And hurl the close-clench'd fist at nose or eye?
In Royal John, with Philip angry grown,
I thought he would have knock'd poor Davies down.
Inhuman tyrant! was it not a shame
To fright a king so harmless and so tame?
But, spite of all defects, his glories rise,
And art, by judgment form'd, with nature vies.
Behold him sound the depth of Hubert's soul,
Whilst in his own contending passions roll;
View the whole scene, with critic judgment scan,
And then deny him merit, if you can.
Where he falls short, 'tis Nature's fault alone;
Where he succeeds, the merit's all his own.
Last Garrick came. Behind him throng a train
Of snarling critics, ignorant as vain.
One finds out--He's of stature somewhat low--
Your hero always should be tall, you know;
True natural greatness all consists in height.
Produce your voucher, Critic.--Serjeant Kite.
Another can't forgive the paltry arts
By which he makes his way to shallow hearts;
Mere pieces of finesse, traps for applause--
'Avaunt! unnatural start, affected pause!'
For me, by Nature form'd to judge with phlegm,
I can't acquit by wholesale, nor condemn.
The best things carried to excess are wrong;
The start may be too frequent, pause too long:
But, only used in proper time and place,
Severest judgment must allow them grace.
If bunglers, form'd on Imitation's plan,
Just in the way that monkeys mimic man,
Their copied scene with mangled arts disgrace,
And pause and start with the same vacant face,
We join the critic laugh; those tricks we scorn
Which spoil the scenes they mean them to adorn.
But when, from Nature's pure and genuine source,
These strokes of acting flow with generous force,
When in the features all the soul's portray'd,
And passions, such as Garrick's, are display'd,
To me they seem from quickest feelings caught--
Each start is nature, and each pause is thought.
When reason yields to passion's wild alarms,
And the whole state of man is up in arms,
What but a critic could condemn the player
For pausing here, when cool sense pauses there?
Whilst, working from the heart, the fire I trace,
And mark it strongly flaming to the face;
Whilst in each sound I hear the very man,
I can't catch words, and pity those who can.
Let wits, like spiders, from the tortured brain
Fine-draw the critic-web with curious pain;
The gods,--a kindness I with thanks must pay,--
Have form'd me of a coarser kind of clay;
Not stung with envy, nor with spleen diseased,
A poor dull creature, still with Nature pleased:
Hence to thy praises, Garrick, I agree,
And, pleased with Nature, must be pleased with thee.
Now might I tell how silence reign'd throughout,
And deep attention hush'd the rabble rout;
How every claimant, tortured with desire,
Was pale as ashes, or as red as fire;
But loose to fame, the Muse more simply acts,
Rejects all flourish, and relates mere facts.
The judges, as the several parties came,
With temper heard, with judgment weigh'd each claim;
And, in their sentence happily agreed,
In name of both, great Shakspeare thus decreed:--
If manly sense, if Nature link'd with Art;
If thorough knowledge of the human heart;
If powers of acting vast and unconfined;
If fewest faults with greatest beauties join'd;
If strong expression, and strange powers which lie
Within the magic circle of the eye;
If feelings which few hearts like his can know,
And which no face so well as his can show,
Deserve the preference--Garrick! take the chair;
Nor quit it--till thou place an equal there.