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   Chapter 12 PROLOGUE, EPILOGUE; DEDICATIONS AND BENEFITS.

Their Majesties' Servants (Volume 3 of 3) By John Doran Characters: 40943

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


In looking over the poetical addresses made to audiences in former days, our regret is that such abundant illustration, as they give, of life in and out of the theatre, is rendered unavailable by a licentiousness which runs through every line. From those of Aphra Behn, and her contemporaries and immediate successors, filthy missiles, as it were, were flung at morals generally, and at the audience in particular. Nevertheless, and down to a later period, the British appetite for prologue and epilogue was for many years insatiable. The public, though often insulted in both, with that sort of licence which belonged to the old jester, whose master, however, could as readily chastise as laugh at him, listened eagerly; and only with reluctance saw the time arrive when the play was considered safe enough to go on without the introduction. Even when old plays were revived, the audience expected the prologue to enjoy resuscitation also. So, when "Cato" was reproduced at Covent Garden, for Sheridan, and the play commenced without the famous introductory lines by Pope, there was a vociferous shout from the house of "prologue! prologue!" That eccentric actor, Wignell, was then on the stage as Portius, and in his fantastically pompous way had pronounced the opening passage of his part,

"The dawn is overcast, the morning lowers,

And heavily, with clouds, brings on the day,"-

when he was interrupted by renewed vociferations for the prologue. Wignell would neither depart from his character, nor leave the house without satisfactory explanation; and accordingly, after the word "day," without changing feature or tone, he solemnly went on, with this interpolation:-

"(Ladies and gentlemen: there has not been

For years a prologue spoken to this play-).

The great, the important day, big with the fate

Of Cato and of Rome."

Sometimes the prologue, in preceding the piece, did so in mournful verse, "As undertaker walks before the hearse;" and in the case of tragedy, it was etiquette for the speaker to be attired in solemn black, generally a court suit. Occasionally, the prologue to an historical tragedy was a brief lecture, for the enlightenment of an ignorant audience. At all times it was held to be a better means of instruction than that followed by French writers of tragedy, through confidants,-

"Who might instruct the pit,

By asking questions of the leading few,

And hearing secrets, which before they knew."

Few men wrote more of them than Garrick, though in that to "Virginia" he says that-

"Prologues, like compliments, are loss of time,

'Tis penning bows and making legs in rhyme.

'Tis cringing at the door, with simp'ring grin,

When we should show the company within."

But he subsequently wrote in the epilogue to the "Fathers," that-

"Prologue and epilogues-to speak the phrase-

Which suits the warlike spirit of these days-

Are cannons charged, or should be charged, with wit,

Which, pointed well, each rising folly hit."

Garrick, however, only wrote according to the humour of the hour, for elsewhere he describes prologues as "the mere ghosts of wit;" and proposes their abolition. Their alleged falseness of promise he illustrates, in a "Prologue upon Prologues," spoken when none at all was needed, by a story:-

"To turn a penny, once, a wit,

Upon a curious fancy hit,

Hung out a board on which he boasted,

'Dinner for threepence, boiled and roasted!

The hungry read, and in they trip

With eager eye and smacking lip:

'Here bring this boiled and roasted, pray!'

Enter potatoes, drest each way!

All stared and rose, the house forsook,

Cursed the dinner, and kicked the cook."

It is a singular thing that authors had little or no control over the prologues or epilogues attached to their plays. In this respect, the manager acted as he pleased, licensed such sentiments as he approved of, and was irresponsible. Thus, the refined Dr. Young was insulted by an unclean epilogue attached to his "Brothers," which was played for the benefit of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and Dr. Browne, one of the vainest of authors, was horrified by hearing Garrick, in the epilogue to "Barbarossa," make Woodward ask the public-referring to the doctor, to "Let the poor devil eat! allow him that!" Home, however, seems to have exercised, in some respect, his own judgment, when "Douglas" was played. That is, he refused to tag a satirical address to so solemn a tragedy; but another poet laughed at him, through Barry, who came on exclaiming-

"An epilogue I asked! but not one word

Our bard would write! He vows 'tis most absurd

With comic wit, to contradict the strain

Of tragedy, and make your sorrows vain."

But Shenstone, in his epilogue to Dodsley's "Cleone," a few years later, followed a double course. After that tragedy of anguish, the address began with,

"Well, ladies, so much for the tragic style-

And now the custom is-to make you smile."

Then came hints that had the absent husband Lefroy lived in modern times, his Cleone would have proved a different damsel to her depicted by the poet; but Shenstone adds, in his moral strain:-

"'Tis yours, ye fair, to bring those days again,

And form anew the hearts of thoughtless men.

Make beauty's lustre amiable as bright,

And give the soul, as well as sense, delight;

Reclaim from folly a fantastic age,

That scorns the press, the pulpit, and the stage."

This was a good attempt to raise the character of women by pointing to a duty which they might perform; and a similar moral strain was adopted long after by Sheridan. In the epilogue to his "Rivals," spoken by Mrs. Bulkley, he says:-

"Our moral's plain, without more fuss,

Man's social happiness all rests on us;

Through all the drama, whether damned or not,

Love gilds the scene, and women guide the plot."

Among the curiosities of prologues and epilogues, may be reckoned the boasts, promises, and little confidences, in those delivered on the occasion when "Cato" was played at Leicester House, by the children of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and some of the young nobility. The prologue, indeed (spoken by Prince George, afterwards George III.), was not especially remarkable. It lauded the wisdom of men who declared that-

"To speak with freedom, dignity, and ease,

To learn those arts which may hereafter please,"-

nothing was required, but that "youth in earliest age" should "Rehearse the poet's labours on the stage." As for patriotism, said Prince George,-"Know,-'twas the first great lesson I was taught!" And, of course, he gloried that he was "A boy, in England born, in England bred!" Artists, who may hereafter paint the scene, will do well to remember what pictures were suspended on the walls:

"Before my eyes those heroes stand,

Whom the great William brought to bless this land;-

To guard, with pious care, that gen'rous plan

Of power well bounded, which he first began."

The epilogue was spoken by Lady Augusta (as Prince Frederick called his daughter) and Prince Edward, afterwards Duke of York. It was mere doggerel; but Augusta flouted at the fine phrases of the prologue, and Edward-entrusted with a sly hit at George's boast of being English born-declared that George had-

"Vouchsafed to mention

His future gracious intention,

In such heroic strains, that no man

Will e'er deny his soul a Roman."

There was an allusion to the imperial sway the elder brother was to enjoy, and the obedience the younger was to observe; after which, the latter, addressing the little sister, to whom he had been a suitor (Juba) in the play said-

"But, sister, now the play is over,

I wish you'd get a better lover."

To which the already destined bride of Brunswick, and future mother of that Caroline, who was so luckless and unlovely a Queen of England, made reply, wherein we see something of the training for high duties, then adopted in high places:

"Why-not to under-rate your merit,

Others would court with diff'rent spirit;

And I, perhaps, might like another

A little better than a brother,

Could I have one of England's breeding.

But 'tis a point they're all agreed on,

That I must wed a foreigner,

Across the seas-the Lord knows where!"

Whereupon, Prince Edward congratulated himself on being "wedded to the nation;" and, alluding to his mimic command in the tragedy, he hoped that future times would see him "general in reality," adding,-

"Indeed, I wish to serve this land;-

It is my father's strict command."

And so forth, in like strain, wherein great purpose took the guise of low impertinence.

This address is said to have been extremely well delivered. On the regular stage, Woodward and King were remarkable as prologue speakers. A biographer of the latter says: "As a prologue speaker, in the comic style, he is undoubtedly unapproachable. There is a happy distinction in his ease, manner, familiarity, and acting those dramatic exordiums, so as to render them, in his possession, entertainments of the first kind. Indeed, the audience are so sensible of this, that they never omit calling for them on those nights the pieces are represented, with an avidity and impatience that strongly indicate their pleasure." From the earliest times, indeed, it was the ambition of an actor to be considered an efficient speaker of prologues. Wilks was never so angry as when the office was entrusted to another; Cibber never so proud as when Dryden made selection of him.

If the audience were almost invariably insulted in these old addresses, individual patrons were grossly flattered by authors in the dedication of their plays. Mrs. Behn leads the way decently enough with her "good, sweet, honied, sugar-candied reader," prefixed to her "Rover;" but she speedily turns from abstract to actual personages, and then the address out-Herods Herod. Passing from her, to select another sample from the hundreds about me, I come to Dryden's horrible farce of "Amboyna," with its unsavoury jokes, Bacchanalian chaunts, hymn from the Basia, and unspeakable atrocities. It is dedicated to the first Lord Clifford, of Chudleigh. This patron of the poet was the grandson of a Protestant clergyman, but he became a Romanist before the Restoration. He was one of the defamers of Clarendon. In the Commons he was as bold as he had ever been in any of his volunteer actions at sea. Pepys speaks of him as "a very fine gentleman, and one much set by at court, for his activity in going to sea, and strictness everywhere, and stirring up and down." Evelyn alludes to him in unrestrained terms of admiration and affection; and as far as Lord Clifford's private character is concerned, he was worthy of such praise. But he betrayed his country's liberties; and he vehemently desired to establish Popery. Clifford was a magnificent Lord High Treasurer, and one of the Cabal. Dryden's dedication to him, of his anti-Dutch farcical tragedy, probably rests on Clifford's deeds in sea-fights against the Dutch. But here we have an English poet lauding to the skies an un-English peer, who is said to have avowed, that he would rather see our King dependent on the French monarch than on five hundred kings in parliament. Dryden says, that despairing of "repaying his obligements" to my lord, he is driven to "receive only with a profound submission the effects of that virtue which is never to be comprehended but by admiration;" and he receives my lord's "favours as the Jews of old received their law,-with a mute wonder." Perhaps there is a little satire in this, as there seems to be in the reference to his lordship's doings at the Treasury, where "no man attended to be denied." "Had that treasure been your own," says Dryden, "your inclination to bounty must have ruined you!" Which sounds very much like complimenting a man for robbing his master in order to distribute charity.

In the dedication of his plays, Dryden twice approaches royalty,-legitimate royalty,-in the persons of James, Duke of York, and Mary of Modena, his Duchess. To the former, he dedicates his Conquest of Granada; and the poet runs mad in praising the Prince's valour. To the Duchess, he dedicates his State of Innocence; and the bard runs wild in lauding the Princess's beauty!

The Almanzor of the play is a faint image of James himself! whose youth of bright deeds left his manhood nothing to perform, but to outdo himself! He was an honour to England, when England was a reproach to itself!-"and when the fortunate usurper sent his arms to Flanders, many of that adverse party were vanquished by your fame, ere they tried your valour. The report of it drew over to your ensigns whole troops and companies of converted rebels, and made them forsake successful wickedness to follow an oppressed and exiled virtue!" Armies, beaten by the Duke, learned from him to conquer! When he was not present, the guardian angel of the nation was careless as to how inferior generals got bruised! If James and Charles were concerned more with one thing than with another, it was in watching over the honour of England! In the former, the poet had found his model for the extraordinarily heroic Almanzor. He adds, with a spice of satire, which is to be found in most of Dryden's dedications, that there is, to be sure, in Almanzor, "a roughness of character, impatience of injuries, and a confidence of himself, almost approaching to an arrogance!" "But these errors," says the crafty bard, "are incident only to great spirits!"

There is more of insanity and insolence in the adulation with which Dryden deluges the Duchess. Her beauty is a deity, her grandeur a guardian angel! Of her beauty, he will rave. "I would not, without extreme reluctance, resign the theme to any other hand!" He is proud that he cannot flatter, and then pelts her with flattery as with missiles. The Creator had placed her near the crown that her beauty might give lustre to it! There would have been no contest for the apple, had she been alive when the prize was to be awarded! As it is, he cannot describe her wondrous excellence. "Like those who have surveyed the moon by glasses, I can only talk of a new and shining world above us, but not relate the riches and the glories of the place!" So resplendent is she, that she makes men false to other ladies, and then scorns the homage of the traitors. And, having libelled the men, he defames the women, by saying: "Your conjugal virtues have deserved to be set as an example to a less degenerate, less tainted age. They approach so near to singularity in ours, that I can scarcely make a panegyric to your royal highness, without a Satyr on many others!" Finally, having outraged all propriety, he can still go further, by the addition of a little blasphemy; and her royal highness is informed by her most obedient, most humble, and most devoted servant, John Dryden, that her "person is so admirable, it can scarce receive addition when it shall be glorified!" Therefore, the Duchess is to dwell for ever in Elysium, in her mundane body, unchanged, "for your soul, which shines through it," says the vile adulator, "finds it of a substance so near her own, that she will be pleased to pass an age within it, and to be confined to such a palace." Such was the incense which the greatest living poet of his day expected even a shrewd princess like Mary of Modena to inhale!

Otway crawls at the feet of the King's concubine, the rapacious Duchess of Portsmouth, in his dedication of "Venice Preserved," and almost invites her to void her rheum upon his head. However generous the woman may have been to him, the man is abject. The play he presents is but as the poor apple offered by a clown to an emperor! "Next to Heaven," all his gratitude is due to her Grace! It was she who dragged him from the mire, and set him to bask in "those royal beams whose warmth is all I have, or hope, to live by." Then, after asserting his loyalty and his scorn of republicanism, the poet thus tumbles for the amusement of, or by way of homage to, this handsome and painted Jezebel!-"Nature and fortune were certainly in league when you were born, and as the first took care to give you beauty enough to enslave the hearts of all the world, so the other resolved to do its merit justice that none but a monarch fit to rule that world should e'er possess it; and in it he had an empire. The young prince you have given him, by his blooming virtues early declared the mighty stock he came from;" and so forth. That this prince, the first Duke of Richmond of the present line, will always aid the cause of the Stuarts and smite all rebels, is part prayer, part prophecy, on the side of the poet, who in this case was no Vates, for the Duke served as aide-de-camp to William in Flanders, and died a Lord of the Bedchamber to King George I.

In course of time, as the little Duke grows to manhood, the poets keep him in view, and in their dedications oppress him with praise of his parents' qualities and his own. Southern is among the foremost and the most flattering of these eulogists. He dedicates his first venture, the "Loyal Brother" (1682), to the Duke. "Could my vanity," says the author, when dedications were paid for at a rate varying from five to twenty guineas, "carry me to the hopes of succeeding in things of this kind, I am confident my surest way would be to draw my characters from you, in whom the fairest images in nature are shown in little. Your royal father's Greatness, Majestic Awfulness, Wit, and Goodness, are promised all in you. Your mother's conquering beauty triumphs again in you. Nothing is wanting to crown our hopes, but time, to make you in England what Titus was in Rome,-the Delight of Mankind." The Russian Admiral, Livsoski, claims that title now for the Czar,-the holy master of the Mouravieffs and De Bergs,-whose shedding of human blood is gratefully acknowledged by the new Titus,-athirst for vengeance.

Etherege, ordinarily so impudent, pretends, in dedicating his "Man of Mode" to the Duchess of York, that his patroness's virtues and perfections are things not to be treated of in humble prose, and that he will address himself to the sublime subject some day in poetry! Wycherley presents his "Love in a Wood" (1672), to the Duchess of Cleveland, who had gone two successive nights to see it acted. It is his first attempt, he says, at dedication; and he cannot lie, like other dramatists, who wreathe garlands for their patron's brow only to enjoy the perfume of them, themselves! And then he sings a long song of praise for his guineas, or in whatever other way his guerdon may have come, in which he tells the lady, among other fine things, that she has that perfection of beauty which others of her sex only think they have; "that generosity in your actions which others of your quality have only in their promises, with a spirit, wit, and judgment which fit heroes for command, and which fail to make her proud." It is not to be supposed that Wycherley believed this, for when he dedicated his "Plain Dealer" (1674) "to my Lady B--," or Mother Bennet, the most infamous woman in London, he especially praises her for her modesty, in keeping away from the representation of his play, even on the first day,-a play which he pretends to believe ought not to be witnessed by modest people!

Congreve sometimes insinuates praise, at others he flings it. In the dedication of his "Old Batchelor," to Lord Clifford (Lanesborough), afterwards Earl of Burlington, he says, "I cannot give your Lordship your due, without tacking a bill of my own privileges." His "Double Dealer" goes to Charles, Lord Montague, with an assurance that poetry is my Lord's mistress, and the mother by him of a "most beautiful issue." He addresses his "Love for Love" to the Earl of Dorset, and hails him as the undisputed monarch of poetry! Dorset, whose best claim to being considered a poet, rests on the song, "To all ye ladies now on land," of his being the author of which there is no positive assurance!

In the eighteenth century a man was killed in the streets of Morpeth, for maintaining that the blood of the Dacres was as good as that of the Ogles. Of the excellence of the latter, Shadwell entertained very exalted ideas. In 1680 there was living, and in the same year died, the Earl of Ogle, to whom was contracted in her infancy the famous Lady Elizabe

th, sole heiress of the last of the Earls of Northumberland. Her subsequent contract with Tom Thynne led to the murder of the latter by Count K?nigsmark. In the year above-mentioned, Shadwell produced at Dorset Gardens, and published, his "Woman Captain," in dedicating which to the Earl of Ogle, the Marquis of Newcastle's son, Shadwell says, "one virtue of your Lordship's I am too much pleased with not to mention, which is, that in this age, when learning is grown contemptible to those who ought most to advance it, and Greek and Latin sense is despised, and French and English nonsense applauded, when the ancient nobility and gentry of England, who not long since were famous for their learning, have now sent into the world a certain kind of spurious brood of illiterate and degenerate youth, your Lordship dares love books, and labours to have learning."

This is fine testimony and not flattery to one of the most promising young gentlemen of the day. His child-wife subsequently married the proudest of dukes, and Swift has immortalised the red-haired beauty as "the d--d Duchess of Somerset!"

In one of the greatest of moral writers,-the Rev. Dr. Young, we meet with one of the most fulsome of adulators. This divine dedicated his "Revenge" to his friend Philip, Duke of Wharton, the most profligate and unprincipled, but one of the most accomplished men of his age. Young assures us that his Grace leads a virtuous pastoral life, such as your town rakes know nothing of; that his is given to study, and that he is a perfect master of all history, as well as of many languages; that he is as well skilled in men as in books, and that he "can carry from his studies such a life into conversation, that wine seems only an interruption to wit." The Duke has, we are told, "so sweet a disposition that no one ever wished his abilities less, but such as flattered themselves with the hope of shining when near him." The poet even makes the peer his collaborateur in the piece, and acknowledges that he not only "suggested the most beautiful incident, but made all possible provision for the success of the whole."

But, although authors may have been ready enough to flatter their patrons, the appetite of the latter was sometimes stronger than could be met by the supply. Peter Motteux, of whom I have already spoken, had a patron of this quality, whose name was Heveningham, and who, having accepted the dedication of one of Peter's dramatic trifles, was so little satisfied with the copy which was sent to him for approval, that he wrote one to himself, subscribed it with Motteux's name, and sent it to the press! Unluckily, Heveningham had mentioned therein an incident which could have been known only to himself; and the epigrammatic wits found their account in the oversight.

There is something more touching in the dedication of "Merope" to Bolingbroke, by poor Aaron Hill, when "hard up," through speculation, indiscreet generosity, and a profuse hospitality, in which there was no discretion at all! Aaron felt his position, and was conscious of an end approaching, to which the sad poet thus alludes:-

"Covered in Fortune's shade, I rest reclined,

My griefs all silent and my joys resigned.

With patient eye Life's ev'ning gleam survey,

Nor shake th' out-hasting sands, nor bid them stay;

Yet while from life my setting prospects fly,

Fain would my mind's weak off'ring shun to die;

Fain would their hope, some time through light explore,

The name's kind passport, when the man's no more."

I fear Bolingbroke had few means to materially help the writer, beyond the dedication fee. Even the profits of the author's three nights brought to his family little more than a hundred and odd pounds.

Murphy and Fielding were the first dramatic poets who departed from the old beaten track. Murphy dedicated his "Zenobia," not to an earl, but to an actress,-Mrs. Barry, who had saved his tragedy by her glorious acting. This dedication is gracefully worded, and is a faithful testimony to the ability of a great artist. Unfortunately, flattery could creep into such homage as this. For fulsomeness of praise, Soane's dedication of the "Dwarf of Naples," to Edmund Kean; and Sheil's, of his "Adelaide," to Miss O'Neill, equal any similar offence of the olden time.

I could cite more, but will only add that, of all the writers of dedications, by far the most amusing is the man who wrote none! This ingenious person called himself Adam Moses Emanuel Cooke, but his sole Christian name was simply Thomas. He was a Northumbrian by birth, an Oxonian by education, and a beneficed clergyman who drove all his parishioners mad by his superstitious practices, his mystical enthusiasm, and his turn for unintelligible mysteries. He took all the loving promises to the Jews so much to heart as to believe that the more nearly he approached them in all their old observances, the more true he should be to the Christian dispensation. Accordingly, he practised them all, did not hesitate at the most painful and characteristic, and was very much astonished that other men declined to follow his example.

Cooke was mad, in this one matter, no doubt; but considering that episcopal patience bore with the theatre-haunting Rev. Dr. Dodd, I think Cooke's bishop treated him a little harshly by procuring his deprivation, and driving him out to starve.

To starvation, however, the poor man had reasonable objections; and to obviate such an end, he turned dramatic author, as if to justify those who called him mad. It was then that he showed that there was method in his madness. Having nothing, he denounced the rights of property. Possessing nothing he could throw in to the common lot, he preached communism. At Will's, or Tom's, or Button's, at the Grecian, or any other well-frequented coffee-house, the hungry author of two unrepresented and unrepresentable plays who might have thanked heaven that he was not worth a ducat, would coolly enter and seat himself at the first table which he saw ready furnished with a meal for which he longed, and thought not of paying. The rightful owner, if ignorant of the ways of Adam Moses Emanuel, would blandly smile at the absent man, thinking sighingly of the mighty labours which had brought him to such a pass, and quietly move off. If the gentleman whose chocolate, toast, and eggs Cooke appropriated, knew of the mystic's ways, he would smilingly submit to them, and await the moment which should bring the Gastronome sans argent and mine host into collision.

However this might be, the breakfast concluded, Cooke returned thanks, rose, shook his faded suit of sables, and made, calmly satisfied, for the door. Between that and himself ever stood the landlord, or head waiter, and then ensued a controversy, to hear which, old beaux, middle-aged bucks, and younger bloods crowded with more eagerness than would have marked their going to a sermon. Cooke's theory was not "base is the slave that pays," but that, payment lacking on his part, it would be base to deprive him of breakfast. To the simple and conclusive reasoning of the master he opposed texts from the Talmud, maxims from the Rabbis, and a clincher from Moses, according to whose legislation even a thief was not to be punished, if his so-called offence originated in the natural necessity of satisfying his stomach. Of course, when the audience grew tired of the argument, they clubbed the amount required, and sent the cunning author rejoicingly on his way.

That way took him from the landlord, who was quite "agreeable" to have him for a customer,-he drew so many others-to the patron from whom Cooke hoped to extract sufficient whereon to dine, have his claret, and spin out his evening, like a gentleman. He was always about to publish one of, perhaps both, the mad plays he had written: "The King cannot Err," and the "Hermit Converted, or the Maid of Bath Married." Or he was on the point of giving to the public some treatise on mystical divinity. For suitable patrons he had as fine a scent as for breakfast. He selected them among wealthy old Creoles, or rich young lords just returned from the grand tour; or peers who would be glad to give a guinea to get rid of him; or baronets who would think the fun got out of him well worth the fee; or simple 'squires and gentlemen honestly ready to contribute to the support of literature and distressed authors.

With the guinea for subscription in his pocket, Cooke withdrew on that day, to call on the same or some other patron the next, for permission to dedicate his drama to one of whose virtues, talents, magnanimity, divine endowments, and the like, the town was giving hourly assurance. The fish thus tickled generally proved a gold-fish, and with a dedication fee of, at least, five guineas, Cooke disappeared as solemnly as the Ghost in "Hamlet."

Like that shadowy majesty of Denmark, our dramatic author was a "revenant." He always returned. A happy thought had struck him. A copper-plate engraving of his patron's shield of arms, at the head of the dedication, would magnify every party concerned, and especially him of whose house it was the blazon! There were little incidental expenses, no doubt; but what were they to one so munificent and so disposed to promote the best interests of learning! And, accordingly, Cooke withdrew, all the richer by ten guineas,-for the engraver!

When Cooke's goose ceased to lay golden eggs-when no other was to be found, and managers cruelly refused to have anything to do with his dramas, the reverend gentleman let his beard grow, turned street preacher, and, as the Bearded Priest, railed against sin generally, and those connected with plays and players, in particular. That drama having been played out, Cooke became a peripatetic, traversing the three kingdoms on foot, and meeting more examples and incidents for the History of a Vagabond than ever entered into the experience or the imagination of Goldsmith. He contrived to fall into the way of scholars and universities,-and from these, whether they were in Oxford, Dublin, or Edinburgh, he never turned hungry. It is hardly necessary to say that his eccentricities brought him, by the way, to "Bedlam," that hell upon earth, where men were driven fiendishly mad, who were only harmlessly so before. Cooke, recovering his liberty, never recovered method with his madness. The latter was intensified by an aggravation in its old mystic element, and this poor fellow, who is said to have realised more money in fees for dedications, which he never wrote, to plays which were never acted, died, characteristically enough, according to report, of the consequences of following an example set in heathen days, by Atys, and in a Christian period by Origen,-without, however, having had the cause pleaded by the one, or the reason alleged by the other.

To conclude this chapter with a word on Benefits. These are of royal invention, and the first, already recorded, was awarded by King James to Elizabeth Barry,-a tribute to her genius.[86] The fashion has not died out, but that of announcing them, as of yore, has. For example, the Spectator often put in a good word for George Powell. Sometimes there was an intimation that George, well qualified, but ever and anon careless, would distinguish himself, if the public would only patronise the "Conquest of Mexico," to be acted, for his benefit. When, in April 1712, he was, on a like occasion, to play Falstaff, in the first part of "Henry IV.," it was after this fashion that the Spectator did a good turn for its particular friend. "The haughty George Powell hopes all the good-natured part of the town will favour him whom they applauded in Alexander, Timon, Lear, and Orestes, with their company this night, when he hazards all his heroic glory in the humbler condition of honest Jack Falstaff."

It is pleasant, too, to observe that though actors lost their engagements and endured much privation in consequence, they were not forgotten. I frequently meet with announcements of benefits "for some distressed actors, lately of this house;"-and, occasionally, if circumstances rendered the benefit less productive than was expected, a second is gratuitously given to make up for the deficit. Again, "For the benefit of a gentleman who has written for the stage," shows a delicate feeling for a modest, or a damned, author. And as "for sufferers from fire," "wards in Middlesex Hospital," or "for the building of churches and chapels," or for "Lying-in Hospitals," the stage was never weary of lending itself to such good purposes of relief. It was not till May 1766 that the profession began to think of doing something for itself, and I find a benefit announced "towards raising a fund for the relief of those who, from their infirmities, shall be obliged to retire from the stage." Garrick played Kitely on this occasion.

In 1719,[87] Spiller advertised a performance at Lincoln's Inn Fields, "for the benefit of himself and creditors." The announcement, in the shape of a letter, is a curious document. "I think," says this one-eyed comedian, "I have found out what will please the multitude.... I have tolerable good luck, and tickets rise apace, which makes mankind very civil to me, for I get up every morning to a levee of at least a dozen people, who pay their compliments and ask the same question, 'When shall we be paid?' All I can say is, that wicked good company has brought me into this imitation of grandeur. I loved my friend and my jest too well to grow rich: in short, wit," says the comedian, sporting with his own infirmity, "is my blind side." Theophilus Cibber was often as candid, sometimes more impertinent. In May 1722 he announces "Richard III." for his benefit, "for the entertainment of those who will come." He sometimes advertised his benefit as being for himself and creditors conjointly, and in April 1746 we find him, a comedian of the first rank, thus appealing to the consideration of the public,-"As I have, in justice to my creditors, assigned over so much of my salary as reduces the remainder to a very small pittance, I very much depend on the indulgence and encouragement of the town at my benefit, whose favours shall be gratefully remembered, by their very humble servant,-Theophilus Cibber." Such an announcement would sound curiously in these days, but it was, perhaps, exceeded in singularity by Lillo's advertisement, in 1740, of the performance, on the third, or author's night, of his "Elmeric," "for the benefit of my poor relations." The frankness of the avowal and the liberality suggested are social traits worth preserving.

One of the observances which beneficiaires were expected to follow, has long gone out of usage,-namely, that of personally calling on those whose patronage was hoped for. Apologies for the omission are very common. In 1723, Bickerstaffe announces the "Mourning Bride" and "Stage Coach," with this appendix to his bill,-"N.B. Bickerstaffe being confined to his bed by his lameness, and his wife lying now dead, has nobody to wait on the quality and his friends for him; but hopes they'll favour him with their appearance."

Again, Bullock, in 1739, advertises the "Spanish Friar," with himself as Dominic. The once lively fellow thus pleads his excuse:-"Bullock hopes his great age, upwards of threescore years and twelve, will plead his excuse that he cannot pay his duty to his acquaintance and friends, whose good nature may engage them to assist him in his decline of life, in order to make the remainder of his days easy and comfortable to him. In his younger days he had the pleasure and happiness of entertaining the town, and Sir Richard Steele, in his Tatler, has been pleased to perpetuate his memory in honouring him with a memorial there. As this is the last time he may possibly beg the favour of the town, he hopes to receive their indulgence, which, for the few remaining days, shall be gratefully acknowledged by him."

In like half friendly, half humble, style, and with something, too, of the same reflective element, Chapman of Covent Garden, about to play Modely, in the "Country Lasses," adds the apologetic "N.B." to his advertisement:-"I, being in danger of losing one of my eyes, am advised to keep it from the air, therefore stir not out to attend my business at the theatre,-on this melancholy occasion, I hope my friends will be so indulgent as to send for tickets to my house, the corner of Bow Street, Covent Garden, which favour will be gratefully acknowledged by their obedient humble servant, Thomas Chapman." Chapman was only under misfortune, he was not like the younger Cibber, who was as extravagant and as deeply in debt in 1740 as in 1722. At the foot of the advertisement for his benefit in the first-named year are some singular but not altogether unsatisfactory words;-whereby his creditors are requested to meet and receive a fourth dividend of his salary! His creditors were interested in all his benefits.

In the following year, at the Goodman's Fields Theatre, Blakes and Miss Hippisley had a joint benefit, which was curiously announced as "for the entertainment of several of the ancient and honourable society of Free and Accepted Masons." The pieces were the "Miser," and "Lethe," Blakes playing Clerimont and the Frenchman, and Miss Hippisley, Lappet and Miss Lucy. The patronising brethren met at the Fleece Tavern, and walked processionally and "cloathed," to that part of the pit which was especially railed in for them.

When Woodward advertised his benefit in 1745, at Covent Garden, on which occasion he played Sir Amorous la Foole, in the "Silent Woman," and Harlequin, in the "Rape of Proserpine," he made no especial appeal to the public. But Merchant Tailors did not forget their old schoolfellow, and a letter in the General Advertiser called upon Merchant Tailors, generally, to rally round their condiscipulus, for,-"The original design of forming ourselves into a society was, as I take it, to serve and promote the interest of our schoolfellows," &c.

The benefits of the greater actors, however profitable to themselves, must have afforded but few pleasant stage illusions to the public. On these occasions, the stage itself was converted into an amphitheatre, or was built round with boxes for the convenience of ladies, while the pit, if necessary, was turned into ground tiers of boxes, at increased prices. Remembering how fierce the spirit and unscrupulous the actions of that pit could be, when offended, the patience with which it endured being turned out was especially remarkable. The public of that day seems to have been treated with alternate contempt and servility. When Yates took his benefit at Goodman's Fields, he advertised the impossibility of his calling personally on theatrical patrons in the neighbourhood, on the ground that he had got into such a strange part of the town, he could not find his way about the streets!

Sometimes an appeal was made to the compassion of the public, as by generally hilarious Hippisley, who, about to play Scrub for his benefit, at Covent Garden, in 1747, announces in the General Advertiser, "he is so far recovered from his late illness, that though considerably altered in his physiognomy, and lowered in spirits, he persuades himself a crowded house on Thursday next, at the 'Stratagem,' for his benefit, will create a smile on his countenance, raise his spirits, and make him appear as much a Scrub as ever."

In the same year there was an ambitious young actor at Goodman's Fields, named Goodfellow, who played Hamlet and Fribble, two of Garrick's best characters, for his benefit; for taking which he gave the singular reason, that "my friends having expressed a great dislike to my being on the stage, I have resolved upon taking this benefit to enable me to return to my former employment." The public accordingly patronised him in order to get rid of him, and the young fellow was so grateful that he remained on the stage!

These examples are cited as they occur to me, and I will not add to them; but rather turn away, to mark some eminent actors flitting from the stage, and some samples of the public opinion connected with it, before the coming of Edmund Kean.

FOOTNOTES:

[86] Poets' beneficiary nights were of much earlier date.-Doran MS.

[87] This benefit took place on 31st March 1720.

* * *

BURNING OF DRURY LANE THEATRE, 1809.

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