صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

as well as comick, in onę Piece, would render it still more likely to make a favourable Impreifion on the Audience. There is a Gentleman, not unequal to such a Task, who was once tempied to begin a Piece of this Sort; but, I fear, he has too much Love of Ease and Indolence, and too little Ambition of literary Fame ever to complete it..

But to conclude: .

Have I, Sir, been wasting all this Ink and Time in vain? Or may it be hoped that you will extend some of that Care to the rest of our old Authors, which you have so long bestowed on Shakespeare, and which you have so often lavished on many a worse Writer, than the most inferior of those here recommended to you? It is certainly your Interest to give Variety to the Publick Taste, and to diverfify the Colour of our Dramatick Entertainments. Encourage new Attempts ; but do Justice to the Old! The Theatre is a wide Field. Let not one, or two Walks of it alone be beaten, but lay open the Whole to the Excursions of Genius! This, perhaps, might kindle a Spirit of Originality in our modern Writers for the Stage; who might be tempted to aim at more Novelty in their Compositions, when the Liberality of the popular Taste rendered it less hazardous. That the Narrowness of Theatrical Criticism might be enlarged, I have no Doubt. Reflect, for a Moment, on the uncommon Success of Romeo and Juliet, and Every Man in his Humour ! and then tell me, whether there are not many other Pieces of as antient a Date, which, with the like proper Curtailments and Alterations, would produce the same Effect? Has an industrious Hand been at the Pains to scratch up the Dunghill of Dryden's Amphitryon for the few Pearls that are buried in it, and shall the rich Treasures of Beaumont and Fletcher, Jonson and Mafinger, lie (as it were) in the Orę, untouched and disregarded? Reform your Lift of

Plays ! Plays! In the Name of Burbage, Taylor, and Betterton; I conjure you to it! Let the veteran Criticks once more have the Satisfaction of seeing The Maid's Tragedy, Philaster, King and no King, &c. on the Stage!-Restore Fletcher's Elder Brother to the Rank unjustly usurped by Gibber's Love Makes a Man! and **since you have wisely defifted from giving an annual

Affront to the City by acting The London Cuckolds on Lord-Mayor's Day, why will you not pay them a Compliment, by exhibiting The City Madam of Maffinger on the same Occasion ?

If after all, Sir, these Remonstrances should prove without Effect, and the Merit of these great Authors should plead with you in vain, I will here fairly turn my Back upon you, and address myself to the Lovers of Dramatick Compositions in general.. They, I am fưre, will peruse those Works with Pleafure in the Closet, though they lose the Satisfaction of seeing them represented on the Stage: Nay, should they, together with you, concur in determining that such Pieces are unfit to be acted, you, as well as they, will, I am confident, agree, that such Pieces are, at leait, very worthy to be read. There are many modern Compositions, seen with Delight at the Theatre, which ficken on the Taste in the Perusal; and the honest Country Gentleman, who has not been present at the Representation, wonders with what his London Friends have been so highly entertained, and is as much perplexed at the Town-manner of Writing as Mr. Smith in The Rehear fal. The Excellencies of our old Writers are, Ón the contrary, not confined to Time and Place, but always bear about them the Evidences of true Genius.

Masinger is perhaps the least known, but not the leaft meritorious of any of the old Class of Writers. His Works declare him to be no mean Proficient in the fame School. He poffefses all the Beauties and

Blemishes

Blemishes common to the Writers of that Age. He has, like the rest of them, in Compliance with the Custont of the Times, admitted Scenes of a low and gross Nature, which might be admitted with no more Prejudice to the Fable, than the Buffoonry in Venice Preserved. For his few Faults he makes ample Atonement. His Fables are, most of them, affecting; his Characters well conceived, and strongly supported; and his Di&tion, flowing, various, elegant, and manly. His two Plays, revived by Betterton, The Bondman, and The Roman Azlor, are not, I think, among the Number of his best. The Duke of Milan, The Renegado, The Pitture, The Fatal

Old Debts, The Unnatural Combat, The Guardian, The City Madam, are each of them, in my Mind, more excellent. He was a very popular Writer in his own Times, but so unaccountably, as well as unjustly, neglected at present, that the accurate Compilers of a Work, called, The Lives of the Poets, published under the learned Name of the late Mr. Theophilus Cibber, have not so much as mentioned him. He is, however, take him for all in all, an Author, whofe Works the intelligent Reader will peruse with Admiration : And that I may not be supposed to withdraw my Plea for his Admission to the modern Stage, I shall conclude these Reflections with one more Specimen of his Abilities ; submitting it to all Judges of Theatrical Exhibitions, whether the most masterly Actor would not here have an opportuity of displaying his Powers to Advantage.

The Extract I mean to subjoin is from the last Scene of the first Act of The Duke of Milan.Sforza, having espoused the Cause of the King of France against the Emperor, on the King's Defeat, is advised by a Friend, to yield himself up to the Emperor's Discretion. He consents to this Mea

sure, fure, but provides for his Departure in the following Manner: Fran. These Preparations, Sir, to work a Stranget, Or to one unacquainted with your Bounties, Might appear useful ; but, to Me, they are Needless impertinencies: For I dare do : Whate'er you dare command.

Sfor. Stay you, Francisco.
You see how Things fland with me?

Fran. To my Grief:
And if the Loss of my poor Life could be
A Sacrifice, to restore them as they were;
I willingly would lay it downı.

Sfor. I think so;
For I have ever found you true and thankful,
Which makes me love the Building I have rais'd,
In your Advancement ; and repent no Grace

I have conferd upon you: And, believe me, · Though now I should repeat my Favours to you,

The Titles I have given you, and the Means.
Suitable to your Honours; that I thought you
Worthy my sister, and my Family,
And in my Dukedom made you next myself ;
It is not to upbraid you ; but to tell you
I find you're worthy of them, in your Love
And Service to me.

Fran. Sir, I am your Creature ;
And any Shape that you would have me wear;
I gladly will put on.

Sfor. Thus, then, Francisco;.
I now am to deliver to your Trust
A weighty Secret, of so strange a Nature,
And 'twill, I know, appear fo monstrous to you,
That you will tremble in the Execution,
As much as I am tortur'd to command it:
For 'tis a Deed so horrid, that, but to hear it,
Would strike into a Ruffian fleth'd in Murthers,
Or an obdurate Hangman, soft Compaffion ;
And yet, Francisco (of all Men the dearest,
And from me most deserving) such my State
And strange Condition is, chac Thou alone
Must know the fatal Service, and perform it.

[ocr errors]

Sfor. But thou must swear it,
And put into thy Oath, all Joys, or Torments
That frighi the Wicked, or confirm the Good :
Not to conceal it only (that is notbing)
But, whensoe'er my Will shall speak, itrike now!
To fall upon't like 'Thunder.

Fran. Minister
The Oath in any way, or Form you please,
I stand resolv'd to take it.

Sfor. I hou must do, then,
What no malevolent Star will dare to look on,
It is so wicked: For which, Men will curse thee
For being the Instrument; and the Angels
Forsake me at my Need, for being the Author:
For 'cis a Deed of Night, of Night, Francisco,
In which the Memory of all good Actions,
We can pretend to, ihall be buried quick:
Or, if we be remember'd, it shall be
To frighe Posterity by our Example,
That have outgone all Precedents of Villains
That were before us; and such as succeed,
Though taught in Hell's black School, shall ne'er

Art thou not shaken yet! [come near us.
Fran. I grant you move me:
But to a Man confirm'd-

Sfor. I'll try your Temper:
What think you of my Wise?
- Fran. As a Thing facreil ;
To whose fair Name and Memory I pay gladly
These Signs of Duty:

[Kneels. Sfor. is the not the Abstract Of all that's rare, or to be wish'd in Woman?

Fran It were a Kind of Blasphemy to dispute it: But to the Purpose, Sir.

« السابقةمتابعة »