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legitimate Comedy. . It seems to be tacked to our plays, as a sort of com: position with the galleries, whose tenants, as the existing theatrical laws do not permit their betters and them to seek amusement in distinct theatres adapted to their several tastes, claim the privilege of an hour's coarse and uncontrolled mirth, after having endured five acts of pathos, or of refined wit. Farce has been justly compared to the grotesque style of painting, in which neither rule nor taste is required, provided a whimsical and burlesque effect be produced : yet some authors of considerable talent have not disa dained to exercise themselves in these frolics of uncontrolled whim and fancy. The Apprentice, Miss in her Teens, High Life below Stairs, and the Citizen, are good examples of genuine English Farce. Others we have derived by translation from our neighbours, as The Mock Doctor, and Lying Valet, which have long been favourites.
But our English after-pieces include a description of Drama distinct from that in which the humour is strained to absurdity, and character driven beyond the verge of nature. For, as many of our professed comedies may be justly termed farces in five acts, so several of our after-pieces only differ from regular comedies in the point of duration. Of this description, are Bon Ton, The Maid of the Oaks, Three Weeks after Marriage, and The Deuse is in Him; which, under the title of farces, are, in truth, excellent specimens of genteel comedy. By a yet further departure from the general definition, The Miller of Mansfield, Lethé, and one or two moral dialogues of the same kind, are included in our list of farces.
The unlimited freedom permitted to the author of an after-piece, renders that kind of Drama peculiarly fit for the purposes of satire. I his has been sometimes directed against the authors and taste of the period; as in our parodies, or mock-tragedies, and in the excellent Critic of Mr. Sheridan, which, being founded on the Rehearsal, has shown how far a copy may exceed its original. Sometimes farce has been employed in national satire, of which Macklin's Love à-la-Mode is the most successful example. But even the personal satire of Aristophanes has been revived on the British stage; and the foibles and peculiarities of living individuals held up to the ridicule of the public. Foote's wit, humour, and strong perception of the ludicrous, joined to his extraordinary power of inimicry, secured to him the most eminent success in this species of entertainment. Of its moral tendency some doubt may be entertained. It is true, that the doleful cant of the enthusiast, the trick and imposture of the knavish auctioneer, and the inpudent presumption of the ignorant empiric, are the proper subjects of the scourge of ridicule: nor, while we consider the freedom they use with the souls, estates, and constitutions of their countrymen, can we grudge that the lash reaches their persons as well as their frauds and vices. But it is well known, that in the wanton exercise of his powers of satirical mimicry, Foote was tempted to violate the shade of domestic privacy, and to expose upon the stage the natural imperfections and innocent absurdities of persons, who no otherwise merited public ridicule, than because their peculiarities happened to be obnoxious to it. It is of the less consequence to examine the just limits of drainatic satire in this important particular, since it is very unlikely that a performer should again arise, capable of embodying with humour, and presenting with fidelity, the manners of living characters. The after-pieces of Foote are now seldom acted, having lost the high zest which they received from his own performance. Yet though his scenes are hastily and carelessly flung together, his drama abounds with wit, and with that highest strain of comic excellence, a decided strength of character. The manners of those whom he satirized are now forgotten; but his dramatis personæ resemble a gallery of ancient portraits, of which we acknowledge the general truth and appearance of nature, though unable to ascertain personal resemblance by reference to the originals. It seems probable, that, notwithstanding what they have suffered from the evanescent nature of temporary satire, several of Foote's pieces might be still successfully revived, depending now upon their comic dialogue and general force of humour, for that applause which they originally derived from their application to real personages and events.
The reader will find, in the following, an ample selection of such popular after-pieces of every description, as seem best fitted to afford amusement in the closet.
SCENE I.-A Wood. Cumus Erters with a rout of Men and Women,
dressed as Bacchanals.
SONG, by a Bacchanal.
Midnight shout and revelry,
With their grade saws to slumber lie.