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LICENSERS OF THE STAGF,
FROM THE MALICIOUS AND SCANDALOUS ASPERSIONS OF MR. BROOKE, AUTHOR OF GUSTAVUS VASA,
WITH A PROPOSAL FOK MAKING THE OFFICE OF LICENSÉR MORE EXTENSIVE AND EFFECTUAL.
AN IMPARTIAL HANN.
It is generally agreed by the writers of all par- For this reason I attempted to cultivate a ties, that few crimes are equal, in their degree of nearer acquaintance with some of the chiefs of guilt, to that of calumniating a good and gentle, that party, and imagined that it would be necesor defending a wicked and oppressive, adminis- sary for some time to dissemble my sentiments, tration.
that I might learn theirs. It is therefore with the utmost satisfaction of Dissimulation to a true politician is not diffimind, that I reflect bow often I have employed cult, and therefore I readily assumed the chamy pen in vindication of the present ministry, racter of a proselyte; but found, that their prinand their dependents and adherents, how often ciple of action was no other, than that which I have detected the specious fallacies of the ad- they make no scruple of avowing in the most vocates for independence, how often I have soft- public manner, notwithstanding the contempt ened the obstinacy of patriotism, and how often and ridicule to which it every day exposes them, triumphed over the clamour of opposition. and the loss of those honours and profits from
I have, indeed, observed but one set of men, which it excludes them. upon whom all my arguments have been thrown This wild passion, or principle, is a kind of away; which neither flattery can draw to com- fanaticism by which they distinguish those of pliance, nor threats reduce to submission; and their own party, and which they look upon as a who have, notwithstanding all expedients that certain indication of a great mind. We have either invention or experience could suggest, no name for it at court; but among themselves continued to exert their abilities in a vigorous they term it by a kind of cant-phrase, a regard and constant opposition of all our measures. for posterity.
The unaccountable behaviour of these men, This passion seems to predominate in all their the enthusiastic resolution with which, after a conduct, to regulate every action of their lives, hundred successive defeats, they still renewed and sentiment of their minds; I have heard their attacks : the spirit with which they conti- — and P-, when they have made a vigonued to repeat their arguments in the senate, rous opposition, or blasted the blossom of some though they found a majority determined to con- ministerial scheme, cry out, in the height of demn them; and the inflexibility with which their exultations, This will deserve the thanks of they rejected all offers of places and preferments, posterity! And when their adversaries, as it at last excited my curiosity so far, that I ap- much more frequently falls out, have out-numplied myself to inquire with great diligence in-bered and overthrown them, they will say with to the real motives of their conduct, and to dis- an air of revenge, and a kind of gloomy triumph, cover what principle it was that had force to in- Posterity will curse you for this. spire such unextinguishable zeal, and to animate It is common among men under the influence such unwearied efforts.
of any kind of phrenzy, to believe that all the world has the same odd notions that disorder | compose a play which he could license without their own imaginations. Did these unhappy manifest hazard of his office, a hazard which no men, these deluded patriots, know how little we man would incur untainted with the love of posare concerned about posterity, they would never terity, attempt to fright us with their curses, or tempt We cannot therefore wonder that an author, us to a neglect of our own interest by a prospect wholly possessed by this passion, should vent of their gratitude.
his resentment for the licenser's just refusal, in But so strong is their infatuation, that they virulent advertisements, insolent complaints, seem to have forgotten even the primary law of and scurrilous assertions of his rights and priself-preservation ; for they sacrifice without vileges, and proceed in defiance of authority to scruple every flattering hope, every darling en- solicit a subscription. joyment, and every satisfaction of life, to this This temper, which I have been describing, is ruling passion, and appear in every step to con- almost complicated with ideas of the high presult not so much their own advantage, as that rogatives of human nature, of a sacred unalienof posterity.
able birthright, which no man has conferred Strange delusion! that can confine all their upon us, and which neither kings can take, nor thoughts to a race of men whom they neither senates give away: which we may justly assert know, nor can know ; from whom nothing is to whenever and by whomsoever it is attacked, and be feared, nor any thing expected; who cannot which, if ever it should happen to be lost, we even bribe a special jury, nor have so much as a may take the first opportunity to recover it. single riband to bestow.
The natural consequence of these chimeras is This fondness for posterity is a kind of mad- contempt of authority, and an irreverence for ness which at Rome was once alınost epidemi- any superiority but what is founded upon merit; cal, and infected even the women and the chil- and their notions of merit are very peculiar, for dren. It reigned there till the entire destruction it is among them no great proof of merit to be of Carthage ; after which it began to be less wealthy and powerful, to wear a garter or a star, general, and in a few years afterwards a remedy to command a regiment or a senate, to bave the was discovered, by wbich it was almost entirely ear of the minister or of the king, or to possess extinguished.
any of those virtues and excellences, which In England it never prevailed in any such among us entitle a man to little less than wordegree : some few of the ancient Barons seem ship and prostration. indeed to bave been disordered by it; but the We may therefore easily conceive that Mr. contagion has been for the most part timely Brooke thought himself entitled to be importuchecked, and our ladies have been generally nate for a license, because, in his own opinion, free.
he deserved one, and to complain thus loudly But there has been in every age a set of men at the repulse he met with. much admired and reverenced, who have affected His complaints will have, I hope, but little to be always talking of posterity, and have laid weight with the public; since the opinions of out their lives upon the composition of poems, the sect in which he is enlisted are exposed, for the sake of being applauded by this imagi- and shown to be evidently and demonstrably opnary generation.
posite to that system of subordination and deThe present poets I reckon amongst the most pendence, to which we are indebted for the preinexorable enemies of our most excellent min. sent tranquillity of the nation, and that cheerful. istry, and much doubt whether any method ness and readiness with which the two houses will effect the cure of a distemper, which in this concur in all our designs. class of men may be termed not an accidental I shall, however, to silence him entirely, or at disease, but a defect in their original frame and least to show those of our party that he ought constitution.
to be silent, consider singly every instance of Mr. Brooke, a name I mention with all the de- hardship and oppression which he bas dared to testation suitable to my character, could not publish in the papers, and to publish in such a forbear discovering this depravity of his mind manner, that I hope no man will condemn me in his very prologue, which is filled with senti- for want of candour in becoming an advocate ments so wild, and so much unheard of among for the ministry, if I can consider his advertisethose who frequent levees and courts, that I ments as nothing less than an appeal to his much doubt, whether the zealous licenser pro- country. ceeded any further in his examination of his per- Let me be forgiven if I cannot speak with formance.
temper of such insolence as this: is a man withHe might easily perceive that a man,
out title, pension, or place, to suspect the impar
tiality or the judgment of those who are ipWbo bade his moral beam through every age,
trusted with the administration of public affairs?
Is he, when the law is not strictly observed in was too much a bigot to exploded notions, to regard to him, to think himself agrired, to it H
bis sentiments in print, assert his claim to let- Mr. Brooke was doubtless led into this impro ter unnge, and fly for redress to another tri. per manner of acting, by an erroneous notion bunal?
that the grant of a license was not an act of faIf such practices be permitted, I will not ven- vour, but of justice; a mistake into which he ture to foretell the effects of them; the ministry could not have fallen, but from a supine inattenmay soon be convinced, that such sufferers will tion to the design of the statute, which was only find compassion, and that it is safer not to bear to bring poets into subjection and dependence
, bard upon them, than to allow them to com- not to encourage good writers, but to discouplain.
The power of licensing in general being firmly There lies no obligation upon the licenser ta established by an Act of Parliament, our poet grant bis sanction to a play, however excellent; has not attempted to sell in question, but con- nor can Mr. Brooke demand any reparation, tents bimself with censuring the manner in whatever applause his performance may meet which it has been executed ; so that I am not with. now engaged to assert the licenser's authority, Another grievance is, that the licenser assigned but to defend his conduct.
no reason for his refusal. This is a higher strain The poet seems to think himself aggrieved, of insolence than any of the former. Is it for a because the licenser kept his tragedy in his hands poet to demand a licenser's reason for his proone and twenty days, whereas the law allows ceedings? Is he not rather to acquiesce in the him to detain it only fourteen.
decision of authority, and conclude that there Where will the insolence of the malecontents are reasons which he cannot comprehend ? end? Or how are such unreasonable expecta- Unhappy would it be for men in power, were tions possibly to be satisfied ? Was it ever they always obliged to publish the motives of known that a man exalted into a high station, their conduct. What is power but the liberty of dismissed a suppliant in the time limited by law? acting without being accountable? The advoOught not Mr. Brooke to think himself happy cates for the Licensing Act bave alleged, that that his play was not detained longer ? If he the Lord Chamberlain has always had authority bad been kept a year in suspense, what redress to prohibit the representation of a play for just could he have obtained ? Let the poets remem
Why then did we call in all our force ber, when they appear before the licenser, or his to procure an act of parliament ? Was it to endeputy, that they stand at the tribunal from able him to do what he has always done? to which there is no appeal permitted, and where confirm an authority which no man attempted to Bothing will so well become them as reverence impair, or pretended to dispute? No certainly: and subinission.
our intention was to invest him with new privi Mr. Brooke mentions in his preface his know- leges, and to empower him to do that without ledge of the laws of his own country: had he reason, which with reason he could do before. extended his inquiries to the civil law, he could We bave found by long experience, that to lie have found a full justitication of the licenser's under a necessity of assigning reasons, is very conduct, Boni judicis est ampliare suam aucto- troublesome, and that many an excellent design ritatem.
has iniscarried by the loss of time spent undeIt then it be the business of a good judge to cessarily in examining reasons. enlarge his authority, was it not in the licenser Always to call for reasons, and always to rethe utmost clemency and forbearance, to extend ject them, shows a strange degree of perversefourteen days only to twenty one ?
ness ; yet such is the daily behaviour of our adI suppose this great man's inclination to per- versaries, who have never yet been satisfied with form at least this duty of a good judge, is not any reasons that have been offered by us. questioned by any, eitber of his friends or ene- They have made it their practice to demand mies. I may therefore venture to hope, that he once a-year the reasons for which we maintain will extend his power by proper degrees, and that a standing army. I shall live to see a malecontent writer earnest- One year we told them that it was necessary, ly soliciting for the copy of a play, which he had because all the nations round us were involved delivered to the licenser twenty years before. in war; this had no effect upon them, and there
“I waited,” says he, “often on the licenser, fore resolving to do our utmost for their satisfacand with the utmost importunity entreated an tion, we told them the next year that it was neanswer.” Let Mr. Brooke consider, whether cessary, because all the nations round us were that importunity was not a sufficient reason for at peace. the disappointment. Let him reflect how much This reason finding no better reception than more decent it had been to have waited the lei. the other, we had recourse to our apprehensions sure of a great man, than to have pressed upon of an invasion from the Pretender, of an insur. him with repeated petitions, and to have intrud-rection in favour of gin, and of a general disaf. end upon those precious moments which he has fection among the people. dedicated to the service of his country
But as they continue still impenetrable, and oblige us still to assign our annual reasons, we | By which be evidently intends to insinuate a shall spare no endeavour to procure such as may maxim which is, I hope, as false as it is perni. be more satisfactory than any of the former. cious, that men are naturally fond of liberty till
The reason we once gave for building barracks those unborn ideas and desires are effaced by was for fear of the plague, and we intend next literature. year to propose the augmentation of our troops The author, if he be not a man mewed up in for fear of a famine.
his solitary study, and entirely unacquainted The committee, by wbich the act for licensing with the conduct of the present ministry, must the stage was drawn up, had too long known know that we have hitherto acted upon different the inconvenience of giving reasons, and were principles. We have always regarded letters as too well acquainted with the characters of great great obstructions to our scheme of subordinamen, to lay the Lord Chamberlain, or his deputy, tion, and have therefore, when we have heard under any such tormenting obligation.
of any man remarkably unlettered, carefully Yet lest Mr. Brooke should imagine that a noted bim down as the most proper person for license was refused him without just reasons, I any employments of trust or honour, and conshall condescend to treat bim with more regard sidered him as a man in whom we could safely than he can reasonably expect, and point out repose our most important secrets. buch sentiments as not only justly exposed him From among the uneducated and unletterod to that refusal, but would have provoked any we have chosen not only our ambassadors and ministry less merciful than the present to have other negotiators, but even our journalists and inflicted some heavier penalties upon him. pamphleteers; nor have we had any reason to
His prologue is filled with such insinuations as change our measures, or to repent of the confino friend of our excellent government can read dence which we have placed in ignorance. without indignation and abhorrence, and cannot Are we now therefore to be told, that this but be owned to be a proper introduction to such law is scenes, as seem designed to kindle in the au
Stan p'd upon th’unletter'd mind? dience a flame of opposition, patriotism, public spirit, and independency; that spirit which we Are we to suspect our placemen, our pensioners, have so long endeavoured to suppress, and which our generals, our lawyers, our best friends in cannot be revived without the entire subversion both houses, all our adherents among the atheists of all our schemes.
and infidels, and our very gazetteers, clerks and The seditious poet, not content with making court-pages, as friends to independency? Doubtan open attack upon us, by declaring in plain less this is the tendency of his assertion, but we terms, that he looks upon freedom as the only have known them too long to be thus imposed source of public happiness and national security, upon, the unlettered bave been our warmest has endeavoured with subtlety, equal to his mal- and most constant defenders, nor have we omitice, to make us suspicious of our firmest friends, ted any thing to deserve their favour, but have to infect our consultations with distrust, and to always endeavoured to raise their reputation, ruin us by disuniting us.
extend their influence, and increase their numThis indeed will not be easily effected; a ber. union founded upon interest and cemented by In his first act he abounds with sentiments dependence is naturally lasting; but confedera- very inconsistent with the ends for which the cies which owe their rise to virtue or mere con- power of licensing was granted ; to enumerate formity of sentiments, are quickly dissolved, them all would be to transcribe a great part of since no individual has any thing either to hope his play, a task which I shall very willingly leave or fear for himself, and public spirit is generally to others, who, though true friends to the governtoo weak to combat with private passions. ment, are not inflamed with zeal so fiery and im
The poet has, however, attempted to weaken patient as mine, and therefore do not feel the our combination by an artful and sly assertion, same emotions of rage and resentment at the which, if suffered to remain unconfuted, may sight of those infamous passages, in which veoperate by degrees upon our minds in the days nality and dependance are represented as mean of leisure and retirement which are now ap- in themselves, and productive of remorse and proaching, and perhaps fill us with such surmises infelicity. as may at least very much embarrass our affairs. One line which ought, in my opinion, to be
The law by which the Swedes justified their erased from every copy by a special act of paropposition to the encroachments of the King of liament, is mentioned by Anderson, as pra Denmark, he not only calls
nounced by the hero in his sleep, Great Natare's law, the law within the breast,
O Sweden, O my country, yet I'll save thee. but proceeds to tell us that it is
This line I have reason to believe thrown out as
a kind of a watch-word for the opposing faction, -Stamp'd by Heaveu apon the unletter'd mind who, when they meet in their seditious assen. blies, have been observed to lay their hands upon | whenever he can with security, speak contempthoir breasts, and cry out with great vehemence tuously of his head. of accent,
These are the most glaring passages which
have occurred, in the perasal of the first pages; OB-M, O my country, yet I'll save thee.
my indignation will not suffer me to proceed farIn the second scene he endeavours to fix epi- | ther, and I think much better of the licenser, thets of contempt upon those passions and de- than to believe he went so far. sires which have been always found most useful In the few remarks which I have set down, to the ministry, and most opposite to the spirit the reader will easily observe, that I have strained of independency.
no expression beyond its natural import, and
have divested myself of all heat, partiality, and Base fear, the laziness of lust, gross appetites, prejudice. These are the ladders and the grovelling foot-stool
So far therefore is Mr. Brooke from having reFrom whence the tyrant rises-
ceived any hard or unwarrantable treatment, Secure and scepter'd in the soul's servility.
that the licenser has only acted in pursuance of He has debauched the genius of uur country, And rides triumphant, while ber captive sons
that law to which he owes his power, a law Await his nou, the silken slaves of pleasure, which every admirer of the administration must Or fetter'd in their fears.-
own to be very necessary, and to have produced
very salutary effects. Thus is that decent submission to our superiors,
I am indeed surprised, that this great office and that proper awe of authority which we are is not drawn out into a longer series of deputataught in courts, termed base fear and the servi- tions, since it might afford a gainful and reputality of the soul. Thus are those gayeties and en- ble employment to a great number of the friends joyments, those elegant amusements and lulling of the government; and I should think, instead pleasures, which the followers of a court are of having immediate recourse to the deputyblessed with, as the just rewards of their atten- licenser himself, it might be sufficient honour dance and submission, degraded to lust, grossness, for any poet, except the Jaureat, to stand bareand debauchery. The author ought to be told, headed in the presence of the deputy of the dethat courts are not to be mentioned with so little puty's deputy in the nineteenth subordination. ceremony, and that though gallantries and
Such a number cannot but be thought necesamours are admitted there, it is almost treason sary, if we take into consideration the great work to suppose them infected with debauchery or of drawing up an index erpurgatorius to all the old lust.
plays; which is, I hope, already undertaken, or It is observable, that when this hateful writer if it has been hitherto unbappily neglected, I take has conceived any thought of an uncommon ma- | this opportunity to recommend. lignity, a thought which tends in a more parti
The productions of our old poets are crowded cular manner to excite the love of liberty, ani- with passages very unfit for the ears of an Engmate the heat of patriotism, or degrade the ma- lish audience, and which cannot be pronounced jesty of kings, he takes care to put it in the without irritating the minds of the people. mouth of his hero, that it may be more forcibly This censure I do not confine to those lines in impressed upon his reader. Thus Gustavus, which liberty, natural equality, wicked minisspeaking of his tatters, cries out,
ters, deluded kincs, mean arts of negotiation,
venal senates, me, cenary troops, oppressive offi. -Yes, my Arvida,
cers, servile and exorbitant taxes, universal corBeyond the sweeping of the proudest train That shades a monarch's heel, I prize these weeds, ruption, the luxuries of a court, the miseries of For they are sacred to my country's freedom.
the people, the decline of trade, or the happiness
of independency are directly mentioned. These Here this abandoned son of liberty makes a full are such glaring passages as cannot be suffered discovery of his execrable principles : the tatters to pass without the most supine and criminal neof Gustavus, the usual dress of the assertors of gligence. I hope the vigilance of the licensers these doctrines, are of more divinity, because will extend to all such speeches and soliloquies they are sacred to freedom, than the sumptuous as tend to recommend the pleasures of virtue, and magnificent robes of regality itself. Such the tranquillity of an uncorrupted head, and the sentiments are truly detestable, nor could any satisfactions of conscious innocence ; for though thing be an aggravation of the author's guilt, such strokes as these do not appear to a common except his ludicrous manner of mentioning a eye to threaten any danger to the government, monarch.
yet it is well known to more penetrating obserThe heel of a monarch, or even the print of vers, that they have such consequences as cannot his heel, is a thing too venerable and sacred to be too diligently obviated, or too cautiously be treated with such levity, and placed in con- avoided. trast with rags and poverty. Hle, that will speak A man, who becomes once enamoured of the contemptuously of the heel of a monarch, will, charms of virtue, is apt to be very little concerned