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favour, bound Lady Touchwood to concealment of his. villainy, and been as able to lay his train for the possession of Cynthia, as by any other mode he could chuse for obtaining her'; but if he put it to the issue of a surprize upon Lady Touchwood, when she was not prepared for the management of that surprize, what was he to expect from the introduction of Lord Touchwood, but discovery and defeat ? Was it not natural to suppose Mellafont would seize the opportunity of reproaching her with her criminality with Maskwell ? It was for that very purpose he brings him thither ; he tells him it will be hard if he cannot then bring her to any conditions ; -and if this was to pass under the terror of his reproaches, how could Maskwell fet Lord Touchwood upon listening to their conversation and not apprehend for a consequence apparently so unavoidable? He puts every thing to risque by proposing to Mellafont to conceal himself in Lady Touchwood's bedchamber, whilft she is in the clofet; he then meets Lord Touchwood, appoints him to come to the lobby by the bedchamber in a quarter of an hour's time; he keeps his affignation with the lady, Mellafont starts from his hiding-place, and Maskwell escapes, but soon returns, secretly introducing Lord Touchwood to listen to the dialogue be
tween his lady and nephew: She accidentally discovers him without his being seen by Mellafont, and turns that accidental discovery against Mellafont. What a combination of improbabilities is here fortuitously thrown together to produce this lucky incident! Could Maskwell reafonably presume upon a chance fo beyond expectation ? Every thing is made to turn upon the precarious point of a minute : If Lord Touchwood, who was appointed for a quarter of an hóúr; had anticipated that appointment, if Lady Touchwood had been less punctual to her affignation, if Mellafont had happened to have dropt one word in his uncle's hearing, charging her with his discovery, as had been agreed, or if either she had happened not to have feen Lord Touchwood, or Mellafont had seen him; in short, if any one thing had turned up, which ought to have come to pafs, or otherwise than it was made to come to pass by the greatest violence to probability, Maskwell was inevitably undone : It must be owned he laid a train for his own destruction, but stage incident rescued him; and this, with the lady's adroitness, effaces the improbability, when it passes in representation, and keeps nature out of sight. Had Mellafont told the plain story to his uncle, after Lady Touchwood had so unexpectedly turned it
against him, it would at least have put the plot to risque, and of this the author feems fo conscious, that he does not suffer him to attempt a single word in his defence; to save his villain, he is compelled to facrifice his hero.
It is not sufficient to say that a poet has his characters in his power, and can fashion incidents according to his own difcretion; he must do no violence to nature and probability for the purposes of his plot. · Maskwell having in this manner efcaped with success, begins next to put in execution his plot for obtaining Cynthia, and this conftitutes the intrigue and catastrophe of the fifth act: His plan is as follows-Having imparted to Lord Touchwood his love for Cynthia by the vehicle of a soliloquy, which is to be overheard by his lordship, he proposes to himself to carry off Cynthia to St. Albans with the chaplain in the coach, there to be married; this she is to be trepanned into by perfuading her that the chaplain is Mellafont, and Mellafont is brought to co-operate, by a promise that he shall elope with Cynthia under that disguise, and that the chaplain shall be made to follow on the day after and then marry him to Cynthia; with this view MelIafont is appointed to meet Maskwell in one chamber, 'and Cynthia in another; the real chap
lain is to be passed upon the lady for Mellafont, and Mellafont is to be left in the lurch; this plot upon Cynthia Maskwell confides to Lord Touchwood, telling him there is no other way to poffess himself of her but by surprize.
Though the author undoubtedly meant his villain should in the end outwit himself, yet he did not mean him to attempt impoflibilities, and the absurdities of this contrivance are so
many, that I know not which to mention first. How was Malkwell to poffefs- himself of Cynthia by this scheme? By what force or fraud is he to accomplish the object of marrying her? We must conclude he was not quite so desperate as to sacrifice all his hopes from Lord Touchwood by any violence upon her person; there is nothing in his character to warrant the conjecture. It is no less unaccountable how Mellafont could be caught by this project, and induced to equip himself in the chaplain's gown to run off with a lady, who had pledged herself to him never to marry any other man: There was no want of consent on her part; a reconciliation with Lord Touchwood was the only object he had to look to, and how was that to be effected by this elopement with Cynthia ?
The jealousy of Lady Touchwood was another rock on which Maskwell was sure to split: It would have been natural for him to have provided against this danger by binding my lord to fecrecy, and the lady's pride of family was a ready plea for that purpose ; when he was talking to Kimself for the purpose of being overheard by Lord Touchwood, he had nothing to do but to throw in this obfervation amongst the rest to bar that point against discovery.
The reader will not suppose I would fuggest a plan of operation for The Double Dealer to secure him against discovery; I am only for adding probability and common precaution to his projects : 1 allow that it is in character for him to grow wanton with success; there is a moral in a villain outwitting himself; but the catastrophe would in my opinion have been far more brilliant, if his schemes had broke up with more force of contrivance ; laid as they are, they melt away and diffolve by their own weakness and inconlistency; Lord and Lady Touchwood, Careless and Cynthia, all join in the discovery; every one but Mellafont sees through the plot, and he is blindnefs itself.
Mr. Congreve, in his dedication above mentioned, defends himself against the objection to soliloquies ; but I conceive he is more open to criticism for the frequent use he makes of listen