Imágenes de páginas

words and expressions, which still hold a place in the work. The task was certainly a difficult one, and the Editor might feel scrupulous of doing what might be accounted by many as too much; yet, on the other hand, it must be said, that any improper expressions, suffered to remain in a work of that kind, are doubly likely to mislead and be adopted, since the Editor professes to have expunged every thing objectionable. Should the work come to a second edition, as no doubt it will, the Editor, it is to be hoped, will give it a thorough reconsideration, and improve it still farther. The Work is comprized in 4 volumes, 12mo, very neatly printed, and sold at the reasonable price of £1. 108. Od. It strikes me, that it would have been more useful, had some Notes been added, particularly those of a moral tendency from Dr. Johnson, from Mrs. Griffith's Morality of Shakspeure's Drama illustrated, and from Professor Richardson's Essays on some of Shakspeure's Dramatic Characters, A selection of our best plays from other authors, on the same plan, would be another acceptable present to the public.

I am happy to find that our public Journals begin to take up the cause, and


aloud for amendment. In THE COURIER for October 3, 1808, is the following paragraph : “ DRURY-LANE THEATRE. On Saturday evening, FLETCHER's Rule a Wife and have a Wife, was performed at this theatre. Before we enter into an examination of the performance, we shall recommend that the next representation of the play, present the public with a farther expurgation of those pruriencies of language and idea, which unhappily render the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher totally unfit for the perusal of a female eye, and which we are convinced have so materially contributed to deprive those poets of the high estimation in which they ought to be held. Much has undoubtedly been effected on this score by GARRICK, whose alteration we believe to be now the Prompter's copy; but there are still some expressions in a dialogue between Leon and Margarita, and the conference of the Copper Captain with the Old Woman, which the proprietors will readily discover, and which they must absolutely revise.”

A friend, who was at the representation of Farquhar's Comedy of The Inconstant, in December 1807, informs me, that in the third Scene of the fourth Act, between Duretete and Bisarre, the Gallery hissed at the grossness of it; and that no part of the house seemed to support it in opposition to them. I consider this as a very

favourable circumstance in behalf of the audience, and of the lower part of it in particular. May the example be followed !

In The MORNING CHRONICLE, for October 10, 1808, is the following: “ Our Play and Farce writers are not aware of the risk to which they expose themselves and the performers, by their mock prayers and familiar use of the name of the Deity, when at a loss for matter to amuse the audience. By the 3d of James the First, Ch. XXI. “ If any person shall in any Stage-play, Interlude, or Shew, jestingly or profanely use the name of God, &c. he shall forfeit ten pounds.” That this statute has been acted upon appears from Mr. Dibdin's History of the Stage, in which, speaking of Collier's Work, he says, that “ The Stage afterwards was narrowly watched, obscene expressions in former plays were obliged to be expunged; and nothing new was produced before it underwent the examination of a licencer. In consequence of this, many were prosecuted by government for uttering profane or indecent expressions, among whom Petterton, and Mrs. Bracegirdle, were actually fined." (Vol. IV. p. 218. See also Cumberland's Rise and Progress, p. 26.)

Though all times and circumstances are desirable and proper for amendment, yet there are periods, which form new eras as it were, in the lives of persons and in the conduct of affairs, which are peculiarly favourable for such purposes ; and such an one seems now to present itself for amending the Stage, in the intended opening of a NEW THEATRE in COVENT-GARDEN. Were the Managers and Proprietors to determine, that henceforth no Play, either old or new, should be exhibited, which is at all calculated to corrupt the minds of the audience, then would they and the public


the world have reason to rejoice in that event, as one of not the least illustrious in the annals of this illustrious nation, in this illustrious age.

nay I will

WITHERSPOON says, that the Stage " implies, not by accident, but essentially and of necessity, the following things : 1. Such a number of plays as will furnish an habitual course of representations, with such changes as the love of variety in human nature necessarily requires. 2. These plays of such a kind, as to procure an audience of voluntary spectators, who are able and willing to pay for being so entertained. 3. A company of hired players, who have this as their only business and occupation, that they may give themselves

wholly to it, and be expert in the performance. 4. The representation must be so frequent, as that the profits may defray the expence of the apparatus, and maintain those who follow this business. They must also be maintained in that measure of luxury, or elegance, if you please, which’their way of life, and the thoughts to which they are accustomed, must make them desire and require. It is a thing impracticable to maintain a player at the same expence as you maintain a peasant.” A Serious Inquiry, p. 49.

The Second of these heads I conceive to be answered before, (p. 38, &c. of Discourse II, and Note V. to the end of the Notes on that Discourse, particularly the latter part of Note X. p. 186, 7.). and the Third and Fourth, will be considered in Note L. I will therefore enter here upon the consideration of the First.

It appears from the Theatrical Registers in the Gentleman's Magasine for 1807, and 1808, that

The Drury-Lane Company played 201 nights.
Covent-Garden .


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Drury-Lane Company played 57 different Plays, and 47 After-pieces, Covent Garden



[blocks in formation]

At the Hay-market ..., 25

36 of these .15 were the same at

the other Theatres 20

[blocks in formation]

Total different Plays at the three Theatres 120 .... 101 Afterpieces.
At Drury-Lane, there were 7 new Plays, and 4 Afterpieces.


5 Haymarket ...


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



- This account, if not correct in every tittle, is at least sufficiently so for the reasoning which I wish to found upon it; and I think it must exhibit a very fair average, at least, of the number of different pieces performed; and may, perhaps, be rather above the usual standard, as there does not appear to have been any particular rivalry between the theatres, as there sometimes is, in running the same play against each other. Now, I do not think that it would be very

difficult to select from the great mass of our Plays, 120 or 150, and Afterpieces in proportion, which might be rendered harmless, if not instructive; and the number of new pieces brought out in the

course of

year at áll the theatres, are so very few, that the talents, and morality, and piety of the nation, are at a very low ebb, if the usual number could not be produced yearly, upon improved and unexceptionable principles, speaking as men, and making allowance for the imperfection of every human performance; and, as far as I am a judge of the talents and principles of some of our present writers, they appear to me, if they set about the work with an honest intention of doing what is right, to be fully equal to the undertaking, their pieces being subject to the revision aud suggestions of the Licencer. When new plays are wanted to answer particular purposes, or to shew off new performers, no difficulty is found in obtaining them. Let it not be said, that the demands of virtue are the only ones which our authors cannot answer. Were the example to begin in London, it would, of course, be followed throughout the kingdom; but, should the reformation not be attempted there, still it is in the power of CountryManagers to correct the pieces which they act; and, as such companies must have a smaller number of different pieces, they have of course a greater choice, and will have even less excuse, if they perform bad ones.

I. p. 87. MR. STyles says, a man, under certain circumstances of reproach, "has oniy to turn Player, to complete the degradation of his character.” Preface, p. x. In another place, he says,

“ It is impossible to entertain respect for a player." p. 57. He talks too, of “ a profession, which has made him infamous.” p. 71.

Speaking of GARRICK, he says, “What advantages have society derived from the exercise of his talents ? What would the world have been injured if he had never lived, and what was the loss it sustained when he died ?" p. 66. " A moral lesson never fell from his lips.” p. 67. “In closing the last volume of Garrick's Memoirs, we sigh and say, this man lived in vain!" p. 69,


My sentiments on the lawfulness of the profession of a Player, have been given, p. 17, and 86; and I shall, therefore, only say a few words, in this place, respecting the character of Garrick, upon which I have touched before, Note B. p. 209. when I introduced Mr. S.'s own concession, that Garrick attempted to discipline the taste of an English audience;" and therefore, it cannot justly, I think, be said of him, that he “lived in vain;" especially as he really did much ; and though he might, I think, have done more, and is blameable for not having done it, yet the reproach of not having done all the good in his power cannot be said to be peculiar to him, or to his profession. Who can say, “I have done all the good in my power, according to the opportunities which God hath put into my hands:” Let us be thankful for what he did : we may lament that he did not do more: let those who survive, endeavour to make up

for his deficiencies.

Mrs. More, who was personally acquainted with Garrick, and the Stage during his time, and who will not be suspected of partiality to it, says, " Mr. Garrick did a great deal towards its purification." Preface, p. 9. Mr. Cumberland says of Garrick, “ The obligations which the public are under to him, for the decency and propriety of our present dramatic performances, will ever entitle him to the grateful respect of the world, independent of his extraordinary merit, either as an actor, or as an author.” Rise and Progress, p. xlii. In the Review of The Family Shakspeare, in The Christian Observer, vol. vii. p. 331. the writer says, that “ Garrick did not scruple to correct the dramas of Shakspeare, by the canons of his own taste. He went so far as to expunge whole scenes ; that, for example, of the grave-diggers in Hamlet.”

That it is possible to entertain respect for a Player, when the Player does not disgrace the man, I will shew by a few passages from the “ last volume of Garrick's Memoirs,” by Davis, who informs us, that he was admitted to an equality of conversation and friendship with the Duke of Devonshire, the Earl of Chatham, and George Lord Lyttelton.” p. 381. 4th Edition. Archbishops have frequently thought themselves happy in being entertained at the Adelphi, or Hampton, by Mr. and Mrs. Garrick."

“Mr. Garrick's manner of living with our nobility was--, with dignity and ease; unassuming in his manner, he was always courted to use that freedom and familiarity which his moderation and good sense declined." p. 384. “What were the qualities of Garrick's

« Both our

p. 382.

« AnteriorContinuar »