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,: ** But, first, let me be indulged with a word or two on the antiquity and utility of this truly elegant art.
“. It came to Rome from Egypt, through Grecian strainers; for what in reality but puppets were the Esopuses, the Rosciuses, the Dionysiuses, of the Roman theatre? Every part of them, in order to make their figures conspicuous to a numerous audience, was stuffed and raised beyond the natural proportion; their heads covered with masques, and the mouths of those masques lined with brass, in order to convey the voice to the remotest part of their immense theatres; nothing human was visible ; the whole appearance was but a puppet; and whether the voice proceeded from within, or from behind the figure, the difference could not be very essential.
“«This, gentlemen, was the first state of the stage in Italy; but in the five hundred and fifteenth year from the foundation of Rome, this art, by an accident, was brought nearer the puppet perfection. Livius Andronicus, who, like your present servant, was both author and actor, upon delivering a popular sentiment in one of his pieces, was so often encored, that, quite exhausted, he declared himself incapable of a further repetition, unless one of his scholars was permitted to mount the stage, and suffered to declaim the passage which he would attempt to gesticulate : to this the public assented ; and from that period the practice was established, of one actor giving the gesture, whilst another delivered the words. This fact will not admit of a doubt, as we receive it from the best authority, that of Livy the historian. Here, gentlemen, by the separation of the personages, you have the puppet complete : at this period he reached his utmost pitch of perfection, and to that lustre we wish this night to restore him. He flourished with the republic, was honoured and protected by the emperors, nor expired, till, with the other elegant and imitative arts; he lay buried under the ruins of Rome. ..". Having thus, gentlemen, established the antiquity of the art we wish to restore, let me beg your indulgence for a few words on its utility. And, first, as to the extensive abilities of a puppet; his talents in proper hands are universal; he is equally fluent in every language ; Italian, Spanish, nay, even Dutch, are as easy to him as English. Our modern authors will therefore be spared the trouble of translating, and the public the mortification of hearing, those miserable, melancholy French translations with which our theatres are at present infested : here the muse may appear in her native garb; this will not only save our own tongue from the torture, but do justice to the original author ; for the flimsy farces which a French head is formed to invent, French language is only fit to convey.
:7:"The elegant amusement, too, exhibited at the opposite theatre, may here be produced with equal advantage; as we sing full as well as we speak, without subjecting any of our performers to those infamous artifices, which, under the pretence of improving the talents of the actor, condemn him to a living grave; arts equally a dishonour to the subject, and disgraceful to humanity.
". As to the figures of our performers, though they may not be objects of temptation, yet we flatter ourselves that their persons will be pleasing at least; but should we be so unfortunate as to fail in this. instance, you will be kind enough to give the same allowance to them as to other performers, and consider that they did not fashion themselves. One advantage we cannot help thinking we have over the rest of our race is, that if our persons should not please you at present, we can alter them till they do; and as to the roses and lilies, the real flesh and blood of the face, you will see full as much of it here, as upon any other lady's in the same situation. Our imitative powers and docility, no man must pretend to dispute; whatever is given us, we faithfully execute : if we err, it is the fault of our teachers; and so rooted and firmly fixed is our virtue, that the looser parts of Congreve 'or Vanbrugh may proceed from our mouths without ever tainting our morals; and such, gentlemen, is our sobriety and temperance, that though we increase population, we shall not add by personal consumption to the present high price of provisions. , 1:16. As a proof too, gentlemen, that we possess that first of the social virtues,—the love of our country, no foreigners can be received on our stage: all our actors are the produce of England; we have not ransacked Europe for expensive exotics ; this is their native country, the soil from which all of them sprung. To their various families you are none of you strangers. We have modern patriots, made from the box; it is a wood that carries an imposing gloss, and may be easily turned : for constant lovers, we have the circling ivy, crab-stocks for old-maids, and weeping willows for methodist preachers: for modish wives, we have the brittle poplar ; their husbands we shall give you in hornbeam: for the serenity of philosophic unimpassioned tragedy, we have frigid actors hewn out of petrefied blocks; and a theatrical manager upon stilts, mude out of the mulberry-tree; for incorrigible poets, we have plenty of bírch; and thorns for fraudulent bankrupts, directors, and nabobs; for conjugal virtue, we have the fruitful, the unfading olive; and for public spirit, that lord of the forest, the majestic oak. Of such materials, gentlemen, are our performers composed; and that the purity of our stage may not be sullied, we have
banished that nimble-footed gentleman, that offspring of an incestuous marriage between Folly and Extravagance, entirely from the scene.
(Pointing to Harlequin. ::" Nor, gentlemen, though we have been often accused of choosing the comedies of Aristophanes for our model, will we suffer that facetious gentleman, who was unquestionably one of the personages of the ancient drama (Pointing to the figure of Punch), to sully our scenes. Indeed, his manners are too rude and licentious for the chastity of the present times : not a single expression shall escape from our mouths that can wound the nicest ear, or produce a blush on the most transparent skin, not even a double entendre from an Irish Widow.
"As I have the honour, during the summer months, of appearing before you decorated with the royal livery, my present employment may to some seem ill-suited to the dignity of that situation: though I am no friend to monopolies, I could wish there was no other PuppetShow in this town but my own, and that no nobler hands were employed in moving wires and strings than what are concealed by that curtain. There are puppets, though formed of flesh and blood, full as passive, full as obedient as mine; but that mine may not have the disgrace of being confounded with those of that composition, permit me to desire, that you will profit by the error of a raw country yirl: . .
“Being brought by her friends for the first time to a puppet-show, she was so struck with the spirit and truth of the imitation, that it was scarce possible to convince her, but all the puppets were players ; being carried the succeeding night to one of the theatres, it became equally difficult to satisfy her, but that all the players were puppets.
""But the infinite difference that will be found between the different performers will, I flatter' myself, make it impossible for any of my present hearers to commit that mistake ; to which of us the superiority is due, your voices this night will determine. -"Permit me just to observe, gentlemen, that our theatre is yet in its infancy, but that its progress must depend upon you. The imagination of an individual may give rise to an elegant art, but it is the sunshine of public favour only that can mature it.' -, “He then informed the audience, that the piece about to be performed was a sentimental comedy, called. The Handsome Housemaid ; ors Piety in Pattens :' that the audience would not discover much wit and humour in it; for that his brother-writers had all agreed it was highly improper, and beneath the dignity of a mixed assembly, to show any signs of joyful satisfaction; and that creating a laugh was forcing the higher order of an audience to a vulgar and mean use of their muscles :
-he had, therefore, like them, given up the sensual for the sentimental style.
When the curtain drew up, a figure, admirably well made and dressed, was discovered bowing to the audience ; and, according to the usual contrivance at a puppet-show, he spoke a humourous prologue ; in which he personated a sapling, declared himself the offspring of an oak, that had been made into a vessel, which was now laid up to rot in a dock; and that he stood forth a cudgel for the present follies of the age. The piece was in two acts; the story, a servant-girl, whose master had fallen in love with her ; and being offered a settlement by him, is warned by Thomas, the butler, who loves her also, to beware of her master; for if she once loses her virtue, she will have no pretensions to chastity. She takes his advice, and slights her master, who, overcome by her honest principles, and the strength of his passion, offers to marry her. Begging that Thomas may be by, to hear her reply to such a noble offer, she immediately bestows her hand upon him for counselling her so well. The Squire, in his turn, is vanquished by such goodness, and gives his consent to their junction; when the heroine, out of gratitude for this double condescension, resolves to marry neither, and to live single, although she loves them both.
“Just at the conclusion of the piece a constable enters to take up the puppets, and carry them before Justice Girkin, an oilman in the Strand, who has issued his warrant for their apprehension as vagrants, together with Foote. A most laughable examination-scene ensues at the Justice's house, where the puppets are brought, and the Counsellors Quirk (a Scotch advocate) and Quibble appear, one against, the other for the puppets. It is agreed, that the puppets cannot be committed or punished under the vagrant act, as all the whipping in the world could never make them labour ; and the food prescribed to be given, viz. bread and water, nothing could induce them either to chew or swallow. An argument ensues, what shall be done with Footę : the Scotchman says he ought to be sent to the house of correction, as he is surely no puppet : the other declares he will not altogether agree to that, for that Foote is certainly, a fourth part of him, a . puppet, his left leg being composed of the same materials as his figures; and if he is committed as a man, the puppet part of him has a right to his action for damages; on the other hand, if he is committed as a puppet, the body may sue for false imprisonment. The case is
át length decided, by learnedly' consenting that the best way will be, to wait till they can catch his body without bis leg, or his leg without his body."
“ This entertainment was rather too short; the comedy too, as was premised in the exordium, was occasionally insipid. The humour and originality of the matter, however, was alone sufficient to ground a claim for liberal encouragement. Some truly laughable ridicule was thrown on the stale, hash-meat truths which modern writers are so éternally cramming their pieces with, under the name of sentiment. The audience, however, did not universally relish the matter; they perhaps did not at first entirely conceive the drift of the representation before them, nor distinguish that it was a burlesque upon a very insipid species of dramatic writing, then too prevalent and too successful; and that the subject therefore would not afford an opportunity of throwing in the quantity of humour with which Foote's productions generally abounded. *, “ As soon as it was concluded, Foote told the audience, that during the performance he had observed several essential improvements which he could adopt in future, if it was their pleasure that he should përsevere in his attempt to revive this species of the drama; but that he paid too great a deference to the sense of the public to obtrude any entertainment upon them to which they could object. A general plaudit ensued, and he quitted the stage ; but the music striking up with a design to play the audience out of the theatre, they thought something more was about to be produced, and therefore stayed in the house; and on a performer's telling them that all was finished, a great 'noise began : Mr. Foote was called for, and made an apology; . which' satisfied many. The galleries, however, would not be contentéd, båt began rioting, and tore up a bench or two. Some few in the pit also were rather troublesome, and broke down the orchestra. ““ By the advice of a friend, Foote was preparing to speak his prologue to 'The Author,' as a matter apposite to the present disturb-' ànce, but the gallery would not suffer him to go on with it. At length it was agreed, that the contest relative to the repetition of the puppet-show should be decided by holding-up of hands ; when three to one appeared in favour of it. The gentlemen in the boxes, and the greater part of the pit, behaved with candour and propriety; but from the illiberal conduct of the gallery, it seemed as if some of the persons there had come to the theatre not in hopes of seeing a primitive but a modern puppet-show; and that they grew out of temper because Punch, bis wife Joan, and little Ben the Sailor, did not make