« ElőzőTovább »
"Memoirs of Hayley," to whom it was addressed, affords a proof. Its object, as it would seem, was to endeavour to mortify Mrs. Siddons, by magnifying the theatrical talents of her sister:
Hampstead Heath, July 27, 1784.
"MY DEAR SIR,-You have it in your power at once to confer a great favour on me, and do eminent service to a good and lovely girl. Your "Lord Russell," appears in the course of next week, at the Haymarket. Miss Kemble, who acted the very delicate part of Harriet, in "The Guardian," is to personate your "Lady Margaret ;" and I will venture to promise she shall execute all you could desire within the compass of so small a character. If her natural timidity could once be overcome she would make a distinguished figure in her profession, as her mind is every way stronger and more cultivated than that of her sister. Her diffidence in herself is her chief enemy; and I know not how it can be dislodged, but by praise, when she has deserved it. If therefore you, whose approbation is faine, would bestow a dozen lines on her performance of Margaret, you will be guilty only of an honest stratagem to procure her that confidence in her own abilities, which I am certain will operate to her future advantage. You know what you should hope to find in the representative of old Bedford's daughter, and no one can describe it half so well. If you will oblige me with a few verses, which I may send to her in your name and in your hand-writing, the day after she has trod in your buskins, you will, as I observed before, prove the best friend she ever met with. You are one of the few people whom one can I
venture to solicit in the cause of an honest woman. You have my assurance, that your lines shall not be printed without your immediate permission. I shall persuade her you came up incog. to see your own play, returned into the country next morning, and, not knowing her address, intrusted me with the delivery of your compliment. I shall attend every representation of your play, and will transmit you a faithful account of its success, which I do not doubt of. Your "Lady Russell," though patronised by a number of clamorous friends, will prove only a piece of beautiful imbecility. I saw her in Sigismunda twice: her voice is hardly audible; and her face, though handsome, exhibits no variety of expression. If I can prevail on you to oblige me, let me beg you will write the lines on a separate sheet of paper, and inclose them in your letter. I shall pay with cheerfulness for a packet of a pound weight on such an occasion. With my best compliments to the fair Eliza, whom I entreat to back my petition,
"I remain your ever faithful and affectionate
"P. S. On second thoughts, if you will allow the verses to go into The St. James's Chronicle, after they have been presented to the lady, you will do her cause more extensive service: but, without your leave, they shall be circulated only among her friends, in manuscript. I am sure she will be more flattered by your notice than by any present which could be made her.
"I hear you have re-purchased all your works from Dodsley; a circumstance I much rejoice in. Is it true? If it is, we may expect, I hope, a handsome edition. Pray
let me know how the Lord Russels went off at Chichester. I fear the Collins's did little justice to it. I have discharged Hernandez with better success than I expected; and most heartily wish our Marcella was to be your Rachel. I never heard a line so forcibly spoken as she spoke one of yours;
'And all the blazing ruin rushes on thee.'
"Adieu.-My best wishes to nurse; she will see I have not forgotten an old friend, though I am soliciting for a new one."
Hayley, of course, modestly declined the proposal of Steevens.
IMMORALITY OF THE STAGE.
THE attack of Jeremy Collier and Sir Richard Blackmore, on the immorality of the stage, was given during the most memorable era in the history of the English drama. In this honest and undisguised censure, the sublime poet and profound critic, Dryden, experienced a considerable share of rough treatment; and although he retorted to the indiscriminate abuse of Blackmore, yet to the chastisement of the blunt Jeremy, he replied in terms becoming a gentleman :
"I shall say the less of Mr. Collier, because in many things he taxed me justly, and I have pleaded guilty to all thoughts and expressions
of mine, which may be argued of obscenity, profaneness, or immorality, and retract them. If he be my enemy, let him triumph; if he be my friend, as I have given him no personal occasion to be otherwise, he will be glad of my repentance. It becomes me not to draw my pen in the defence of a bad cause, when I have so often drawn it for a good one."
Soon after this controversy Dryden died, and on that event the following lines were printed, having reference to Blackmore and Collier.
"John Dryden, enemies had three,
On the 1st of March, in China, dramatic pieces are performed on stages, in the principal streets of the different towns throughout the Empire, for the amusement of the poorer classes of people, who are not able to purchase these diversions. These plays continue for several days in succession, at the expense of the Emperor.
LA MOTTE'S MEMORY.
La Motte once terrified a young author, who had been reading a new tragedy to him, by accusing him of the plagiarism of one entire act, which he repeated to the distracted poet after hearing it but once read. When La Motte had enjoyed his joke, he put all to rights with the unhappy author.
DURING the reign of Francis I. of France, whilst the people were not suffered to read the sacred history in the books in which they are faithfully related, they were permitted to see them acted upon the stage, mixed with a thousand gross and ridiculous fables, expressed, for the most part, in a very low and burlesque stile. Thus, in one of the mysteries written by Lewis Chocquet, in the history of the choice of an apostle in the room of Judas, it is there ridiculously supposed that they made the two candidates play at short and long; we present part of the dialogue translated. "Give us here two bits of straw, prepared as we have ordered it; one of them has a mark to it, as it appears; we have marked it for the sake of our companions;