1 ROSCIUS deceased, each high aspiring play'r
2 Push'd all his int'rest for the vacant chair.
3 The buskin'd heroes of the mimic stage
4 No longer whine in love, and rant in rage;
5 The monarch quits his throne, and condescends
6 Humbly to court the favour of his friends;
7 For pity's sake tells undeserv'd mishaps,
8 And their applause to gain, recounts his claps.
9 Thus the victorious chiefs of ancient Rome,
10 To win the mob, a suppliant's form assume,
11 In pompous strain fight o'er th' [extinguish'd war,]
12 And shew where honour bled [in every scar]
13 BUT though bear merit might [in Rome appear]
14 'Tis not the strongest plea [for favour, 'tis not here;][Page 2]
15 We form our judgment in another way;
16 And they will best succeed, who best can pay:
17 Those who would gain the votes of British tribes,
18 Must add to force of merit, force of bribes.
19 WHAT can an actor give? in ev'ry age
20 Cash hath been rudely banish'd from the stage;
21 Monarchs themselves to grief of ev'ry play'r,
22 Appear as often as their image there:
23 They can't, like candidate for other seat,
24 Pour seas of wine, and mountains raise of meat.
25 Wine! they could bribe you with the world as soon;
26 And of roast beef, they only know the tune.
27 But what they have they give; could CLIVE do more,
28 Though for one million he had brought home four?
29 S—R keeps open house at Southwark fair,
30 And hopes the friends of humour will be there.
31 In Smithfield, Y—s prepares the rival treat,
32 For those who laughter love instead of meat.
33 F—TE, at Old House, for even F—TE will be
34 In self-conceit an actor) bribes with tea;
35 Which W—K—S—N at second hand receives,
36 And at the New pours water on the leaves.
37 THE Town divided, each runs sev'ral ways,
38 As passion, humour, int'rest, party sways. [Page 3]
39 Things of no moment, colour of the hair,
40 Shape of a leg, complexion brown or fair;
41 A dress well chosen, or a patch misplac'd,
42 Conciliate favour, or create distaste.
43 FROM galleries loud peals of laughter roll,
44 And thunder SHUTER'S praises — he's so droll.
45 Embox'd the ladies must have something smart,
46 PALMER! Oh! PALMER tops the janty part.
47 Seated in pit, the dwarf with aching eyes
48 Looks up, and vows that BARRY'S out of size;
49 Whilst to six feet the stripling vig'rous grown,
50 Declares that GARRICK is another COAN.
51 WHEN place of judgment is by whim supply'd,
52 And our opinions have their rise in pride;
53 When, in discoursing on each mimic elf,
54 We praise and censure with an eye to self;
55 All must find friends; and A—M—N bids as fair
56 In such a court, as GARRICK for the chair.
57 At length agreed all squabbles to decide,
58 By some one judge the cause was to be try'd;
59 But this their squabbles did afresh renew,
60 Who should be judge in such a tryal: — Who?
61 FOR J—HNS—N some; but J—HNS—N, it was fear'd,
62 Would be too grave; and ST—NE too loose appear'd:[Page 4]
63 Some call'd for M—Y, but that sound soon dy'd,
64 And Desart Island rang on ev'ry side:
65 Others for F—KL—N voted, but 'twas known,
66 He sicken'd at all triumphs but his own:
67 For COLMAN many, but the peevish tongue
68 Of prudent age found out that he was young.
69 WITH sleek appearance, and with ambling pace,
70 And, type of vacant head, with vacant face,
71 The Proteus H—LL put in his modest plea —
72 Let favour speak for others, worth for me.
73 For who like him his various pow'rs could call
74 Into so many shapes, and shine in all?
75 Who could so nobly grace the motley list,
76 Actor, Inspector, Doctor, Botanist.
77 Knows any one so well, sure no one knows,
78 At once to play, prescribe, compound, compose?
79 Who can? — But WOODWARD came, — H—LL slipp'd away,
80 Melting like ghosts before the rising day.
81 COLD-BLOODED critics, by enervate sires
82 Scarce hammer'd out, when Nature's feeble fires
83 Glimmer'd their last; whose sluggish blood, half froze,
84 Creeps lab'ring thro' the veins; whose heart ne'er glows
85 With fancy-kindled heat — A servile race,
86 Who in mere want of fault all merit place;[Page 5]
87 Who blind obedience pay to ancient schools,
88 Bigots to Greece, and slaves to musty rules;
89 With solemn consequence declar'd that none
90 Could judge that cause but SOPHOCLES alone.
91 Dupes to their fancied excellence, the crowd
92 Obsequious to the sacred dictate bow'd.
93 WHEN, from amidst the throng a youth stood forth,
94 Unknown his person, not unknown his worth;
95 His looks bespoke applause; alone he stood,
96 Alone he stemm'd the mighty critic flood.
97 He talk'd of ancients as the man became
98 Who priz'd our own, but envied not their fame;
99 With noble rev'rence spoke of Greece and Rome,
100 And scorn'd to tear the laurel from the tomb.
101 "BUT more than just to other countries grown,
102 "Must we turn base apostates to our own?
103 "Where do these words of Greece and Rome excel,
104 "That England may not please the ear as well?
105 "What mighty magic's in the place or air,
106 "That all perfection needs must center there?
107 "In states, let strangers blindly be prefer'd;
108 "In state of letters, merit should be heard.
109 "Genius is of no country, her pure ray
110 "Spreads all abroad as gen'ral as the day. [Page 6]
111 "Foe to restraint, from place to place she flies,
112 "And may hereafter e'en in Holland rise.
113 "May not, to give a pleasing fancy scope,
114 "And chear a patriot heart with patriot hope;
115 "May not some great extensive genius raise
116 "The name of Britain 'bove Athenian praise;
117 "And, whilst brave thirst of fame his bosom warms,
118 "Make England great in letters as in arms?
119 "There may — there hath — and SHAKESPEAR'S muse aspires
120 "Beyond the reach of Greece; with native fires,
121 "Mounting alost he wings his daring flight,
122 "Whilst SOPHOCLES below stands trembling at his height. "
123 WHY should we then abroad for judges roam,
124 When abler judges we may find at home?
125 Happy in tragic and in comic pow'rs,
126 Have we not SHAKESPEAR? — Is not JOHNSON ours?
127 For them, your nat'ral judges, Britons vote;
128 They'll judge like Britons, who like Britons wrote.
129 HE said, and conquer'd. — Sense resum'd her sway,
130 And disappointed pedants stalk'd away.
131 SHAKESPEAR and JOHNSON, with deserv'd applause,
132 Joint-judges were ordain'd to try the cause.
133 Mean-time the stranger ev'ry voice employ'd,
134 To ask or tell his name. — "Who is it?"— LLOYD.
135 THUS, when the aged friends of JOB stood mute,
136 And tamely prudent gave up the dispute,
137 ELIHU, with the decent warmth of youth,
138 Boldly stood forth, the advocate of Truth;
139 Confuted Falshood, and disabled Pride,
140 Whilst baffled Age stood snarling at his side.
141 THE day of tryal's fix'd, nor any fear
142 Lest day of tryal should be put off here.
143 Causes but seldom for delay can call
144 In courts where forms are few, fees none at all.
145 THE morning came, nor find I that the sun,
146 As he on other great events hath done,
147 Put on a brighter robe than what he wore
148 To go his journey in the day before.
149 FULL in the centre of a spacious plain,
150 On plan entirely new, where nothing vain,
151 Nothing magnificent appear'd, but Art,
152 With decent modesty, perform'd her part,
153 Rose a tribunal: from no other court
154 It borrow'd ornament, or sought support:
155 No juries here were pack'd to kill or clear,
156 No bribes were taken, nor oaths broken here:
157 No gownsmen, partial to a client's cause,
158 To their own purpose tun'd the pliant laws. [Page 8]
159 Each judge was true and steady to his trust,
160 As MANSFIELD wise, and as old FOSTER just.
161 IN the first seat, in robe of various dyes,
162 A noble wildness flashing from his eyes,
163 Sat SHAKESPEAR. — In one hand a wand he bore,
164 For mighty wonders fam'd in days of yore;
165 The other held a globe, which to his will
166 Obedient turn'd, and own'd the master's skill:
167 Things of the noblest kind his genius drew,
168 And look'd through Nature at a single view:
169 A loose he gave to his unbounded soul,
170 And taught new lands to rise, new seas to roll;
171 Call'd into being scenes unknown before,
172 And, passing Nature's bounds, was something more.
173 NEXT JOHNSON sat, — in ancient learning train'd,
174 His rigid judgment Fancy's flights restrain'd,
175 Correctly prun'd each wild luxuriant thought,
176 Mark'd out her course, nor spar'd a glorious fault.
177 The Book of Man he read with nicest art,
178 And ransack'd all the secrets of the heart;
179 Exerted Penetration's utmost force,
180 And trac'd each passion to its proper source.
181 Then, strongly mark'd, in liveliest colours drew,
182 And brought each soible forth to public view. [Page 9]
183 The coxcomb felt a lash in ev'ry word,
184 And fools hung out their brother fools deterr'd.
185 His comic humour kept the world in awe,
186 And Laughter frightn'd Folly more than Law.
187 BUT, hark! — The trumpet sounds, the crowd gives way,
188 And the procession comes in just array.
189 Now should I, in some sweet poetic line,
190 Offer up incense at APOLLO'S shrine;
191 Invoke the Muse to quit her calm abode,
192 And waken Mem'ry with a sleeping ode.
193 For how should mortal man, in mortal verse,
194 Their titles, merits, or their names rehearse?
195 But give, kind Dullness, Memory and Rhime,
196 We'll put off Genius till another time.
197 FIRST, Order came, — with solemn step, and slow,
198 In measur'd time his feet were taught to go.
199 Behind, from time to time, he cast his eye,
200 Lest This should quit his place, That step awry.
201 Appearances to save, his only care;
202 So things seem right, no matter what they are.
203 In him his parents saw themselves renew'd,
204 Begotten by Sir Critic on Saint Prude.
205 THEN came drum, trumpet, hautboy, fiddle, flute;
206 Next, snuffer, sweeper, shifter, soldier, mute:
207 Legions of angels all in white advance;
208 Furies, all fire, come forward in a dance:
209 Pantomine figures then are brought to view,
210 Fools, hand in hand with fools, go two by two.
211 Next came the treasurer of either house;
212 One with full purse, t'other with not a sous.
213 BEHIND a group of figures awe create,
214 Set off with all th' impertinence of state;
215 By lace and feather consecrate to fame,
216 Expletive kings and queens without a name.
217 HERE H—V—D, all serene, in the same strains,
218 Loves, hates, and rages, triumphs and complains;
219 His easy vacant face proclaim'd an heart
220 Which could not feel emotions, nor impart.
221 With him came mighty D—s: — On my life,
222 That D—s hath a very pretty wife! —
223 Statesman all over! — In plots famous grown! —
224 He mouths a sentence, as — ours mouth a bone.
225 NEXT, H—LL—ND came. — With truly tragic stalk,
226 He creeps, he flies. — An heroe should not walk.
227 As if with Heav'n he warr'd, his eager eyes
228 Planted their batteries against the skies:[Page 11]
229 Attitude, action, air, pause, sigh, groan
230 He borrow'd, and made use of as his own.
231 By Fortune thrown on any other stage,
232 He might, perhaps, have pleas'd an easy age;
233 But now appears a copy, and no more,
234 Of something better we have seen before.
235 The actor who would build a solid fame,
236 Must Imitation's servile arts disclaim;
237 Act from himself, on his own bottom stand. —
238 I hate e'en GARRICK thus at second hand.
239 BEHIND came K—G. — Bred up in modest lore,
240 Bashful and young, he sought Hibernia's shore;
241 Hibernia, fam'd, 'bove ev'ry other grace,
242 For matchless intrepidity of face.
243 From her his features caught the gen'rous flame,
244 And bid defiance to all sense of shame:
245 Tutor'd by all her rivals to surpass,
246 'Mongst DRURY'S sons he comes, and shines in Brass.
247 Lo Y—s! — Without the least finesse of art
248 He gets applause! — I wish he'd get his part.
249 When hot impatience is in full career,
250 How vilely "Hark'e! Hark'e!"grates the ear?
251 When active Fancy from the brain is sent,
252 And stands on tip-toe for some wish'd event,[Page 12]
253 I hate those careless blunders which recall
254 Suspended sense, and prove it fiction all.
255 W—D—D, endow'd with various pow'rs of face,
256 Great master in the science of Grimace,
257 From Ireland ventures, fav'rite of the Town,
258 Lur'd by the pleasing prospect of Renown.
259 His wit and humour in Distortion lye,
260 And all his merit enters at the eye.
261 We laugh, we clap, — but, on Reflection's birth,
262 We wonder at ourselves, and curse our mirth.
263 His walk of parts he fatally misplac'd,
264 And Inclination fondly took for Taste.
265 Hence hath the Town so often seen display'd
266 Beau in burlesque, high-life in masquerade.
267 Merit he had, some merit in his way,
268 But seldom found out in what part it lay.
269 In Bobadil, indeed, such praise he bore,
270 Such worthy praise, that Kitely scarce had more.
271 BY turns transform'd into all kinds of shapes,
272 Constant to none, F—TE laughs, cries, struts, and scrapes:
273 Now in the centre, now in van or rear,
274 The Proteus shifts, Bawd, Parson, Auctioneer.
275 His strokes of humour, and his bursts of sport,
276 Are all contain'd in this one word, Distort. [Page 13]
277 Doth a man stutter, look a-squint, or halt;
278 Mimics draw humour out of Nature's fault:
279 With personal defects their mirth adorn,
280 And hang misfortunes out to public scorn.
281 E'en I, whom Nature cast in hideous mould,
282 Whom having made, she trembled to behold,
283 Beneath the load of mimicry may groan,
284 And find that Nature's errors are my own.
285 SHADOWS behind of F—TE and W—D—D came;
286 W—K—S—N this, OB—I—N was that name.
287 Strange to relate, but wonderfully true,
288 That even shadows have their shadows too!
289 With not a single comic pow'r endued,
290 The first, a mere mere mimic's mimic stood.
291 The last, by Nature form'd to please, who shews,
292 In JOHNSON'S Stephen, which way Genius grows;
293 Self quite put off, affects, with too much art,
294 To put on WOODWARD in each mangled part;
295 Adopts his shrug, his wink, his stare; nay more,
296 His voice, and croaks; for WOODWARD croak'd before.
297 Thus the dull copyer simple grace neglects,
298 And rests his Imitation in — Defects.
299 ARMS cross'd, brows bent, eyes fix'd, feet marching slow,
300 A band of malcontents with spleen o'erflow;[Page 14]
301 Wrapp'd in Conceit's impenetrable fog,
302 Which Pride, like Phoebus, draws from ev'ry bog;
303 They curse the Managers, and curse the Town,
304 Whose partial favour keeps such merit down.
305 BUT if some man, more hardy than the rest,
306 Should dare attack thefe gnatlings in their nest;
307 At once they rise with impotence of rage,
308 Whet their small stings, and buzz about the stage.
309 "'Tis breach of privilege! — Shall any dare
310 "To arm Satyric Truth against a play'r?
311 "Prescriptive rights we plead, time out of mind;
312 "Actors, unlash'd themselves, may lash mankind. "
313 WHAT! shall Opinion then, of Nature free
314 And lib'ral as the vagrant air, agree
315 To rust in chains like these, impos'd by Things
316 Which, less than nothing, ape the pride of kings?
317 No, — though half-poets with half-players join
318 To curse the freedom of each honest line,
319 Though rage and malice dim their faded cheek,
320 What the Muse freely thinks, she'll freely speak.
321 With just disdain of ev'ry paltry sneer,
322 Stranger alike to Flattery and Fear,[Page 15]
323 In purpose fix'd, and to herself a rule,
324 Public Contempt shall wait the Public Fool.
325 A—ST—N would always glisten in French silks,
326 A—KM—N would NORRIS be, and P—CK—R WILKS.
327 For who, like A—KM—N can with humour please?
328 Who can, like P—CK—R, charm with sprightly ease?
329 Higher than all the rest, see BR—NS—Y strut:
330 A mighty Gulliver in Lilliput!
331 Ludicrous Nature! which at once could shew
332 A man so very High, so very Low.
333 IF I forget thee, BL—K—S, or if I say
334 Ought hurtful, may I never see thee play.
335 Let critics, with a supercilious air,
336 Decry thy various merit, and declare,
337 Frenchman is still at top; — but scorn that rage
338 Which, in attacking thee, attacks the age.
339 French follies, universally embrac'd,
340 At once provoke our mirth, and form our taste.
341 LONG from a nation, ever hardly us'd,
342 At random censur'd, wantonly abus'd,
343 Have Britons drawn their sport; with partial view
344 Form'd gen'ral notions from the rascal few;[Page 16]
345 Condemn'd a people, as for vices known,
346 Which from their country banish'd seek our own.
347 At length, howe'er, the slavish chain is broke,
348 And Sense, awaken'd, scorns her ancient yoke:
349 Taught by thee, MOODY, we now learn to raise
350 Mirth from their foibles; from their virtues, praise.
351 FROM C—v—nt-G—rd—n crowds promiscuous go,
352 Whom the Muse knows not, nor desires to know.
353 Vet'rans they seem'd, but knew of arms no more
354 Than if, till that time, arms they never bore.
355 Like Westminster militia, train'd to fight,
356 They scarcely knew the left hand from the right.
357 Asham'd among such troops to shew the head,
358 Their chiefs were scatter'd, and their heroes fled.
359 S—RKS at his glass sat comfortably down
360 To sep'rate frown from smile, and smile from frown.
361 SM—H the genteel, the airy, and the smart,
362 SM—H was just gone to school to say his part.
363 R—SS (a misfortune which we often meet)
364 Was fast asleep at dear STATIRA'S feet;
365 STATIRA, with her heroe to agree,
366 Stood on her feet as fast asleep as he.
367 M—KL—N, who largely deals in half-form'd sounds,
368 Who wantonly transgresses Nature's bounds,[Page 17]
369 Eager to touch up some new comic scene,
370 Lay happily conceal'd behind a screen.
371 SH—T—R, who never car'd a single pin
372 Whether he left out nonsense or put in,
373 Who aim'd at wit, though, levell'd in the dark,
374 The random arrow seldom hit the mark,
375 At Islington, all by the placid stream.
376 Where city swains in lap of Dullness dream,
377 Where, quiet as her strains, their strains do flow,
378 That all the patron by the bards may know;
379 Secret as night, with R—LT'S experienc'd aid,
380 The plan of future operations laid,
381 Projected schemes, the summer-months to chear,
382 And spin out happy Folly thro' the year.
383 BUT think not, though these dastard chiefs are fled,
384 That C—ve—nt-G—rd—n troops shall want an head:
385 Harlequin comes their chief! — See, from afar,
386 The heroe seated in fantastic car!
387 Wedded to Novelty, his only arms
388 Are wooden swords, wands, talismans, and charms.
389 On one side Folly sits, by some call'd Fun,
390 And, on the other, his arch-patron LUN.
391 Behind, for Liberty a-thirst in vain,
392 Sense, helpless captive, drags the galling chain. [Page 18]
393 Six rude mishapen beasts the chariot draw,
394 Whom Reason loaths, and Nature never saw;
395 Monsters, with tails of ice, and heads of fire;
396 Gorgons, and hydras, and chymaeras dire.
397 Each was bestrode by full as monstrous wight,
398 Giant, Dwarf, Genius, Elf, Hermaphrodite.
399 The Town, as usual, met him in full cry:
400 The Town, as usual, knew no reason why.
401 But Fashion so directs, and Moderns raise,
402 On Fashion's mould'ring base, their transient praise.
403 NEXT, to the field a band of females draw
404 Their Force; for Britain owns no Salique Law:
405 Just to their worth, we female rights admit,
406 Nor bar their claim to Empire or to Wit.
407 FIRST, giggling, plotting chamber-maids arrive,
408 Hoydens and Romps, led on by Gen'ral CLIVE.
409 In spight of outward blemishes she shone
410 For Humour fam'd, and Humour all her own.
411 Easy, as if at home, the stage she trod,
412 Nor sought the Critic's praise, nor fear'd his rod.
413 Original in spirit and in ease,
414 She pleas'd by hiding all attempts to please.
415 No comic actress ever yet could raise,
416 On Humour's base, more merit or more praise.
417 WITH all the native vigour of sixteen,
418 Among the merry troop conspicuous seen,
419 See lively POPE advance in jig and trip,
420 Corinna, Cherry, Honeycomb, and Snip.
421 Not without Art, but yet to Nature true,
422 She charms the Town with Humour just, yet new.
423 Chear'd by her promise, we the less deplore
424 The fatal time when CLIVE shall be no more.
425 MIGHT Figure give a title unto Fame,
426 WHAT rival should with Y—T—S dispute her claim?
427 But Justice may not partial trophies raise,
428 Nor sink the Actress in the Woman's praise.
429 Still, hand in hand, her words and actions go,
430 And the heart feels more than the features shew;
431 For through the regions of that beauteous face,
432 We no variety of passions trace;
433 Dead to the soft emotions of the heart,
434 No kindred softness can those eyes impart;
435 The brow, still fix'd in Sorrow's gloomy frame,
436 Void of distinction, marks all parts the same.
437 WHAT'S a fine person, or a beauteous face,
438 Unless Deportment gives it decent grace?
439 Bless'd with all other requisites to please,
440 Some want the striking elegance of Ease;[Page 20]
441 The curious eye their awkward movement tires;
442 They seem like puppets led about by wires.
443 Others, like statues, in one posture still,
444 Give great ideas of the workman's skill;
445 Wond'ring, his art we praise the more we view,
446 And only grieve he gave not motion too.
447 Weak of themselves are what we beauties call,
448 It is the Manner which gives strength to all.
449 This teaches ev'ry beauty to unite,
450 And brings them forward in the noblest light.
451 Happy in this, behold, amidst the throng,
452 With transient gleam of grace, H—T sweeps along.
453 FORM'D for the tragic scene, to grace the stage,
454 With rival excellence of Love and Rage,
455 Mistress of each soft art, with matchless skill
456 To turn and wind the passions as she will;
457 To melt the heart with sympathetic woe,
458 Awake the sigh, and teach the tear to flow;
459 To put on Frenzy's wild distracted glare,
460 And freeze the soul with horror and despair;
461 With just desert enroll'd in endless fame,
462 Conscious of worth superior, C—BB—R came.
463 WHEN poor ALICIA'S madding brains are rackd,
464 And strongly imag'd griefs her mind distract;[Page 21]
465 Struck with her grief, I catch the madness too!
466 My brain turns round! The headless trunk I view!
467 The roof cracks, shakes, and falls! — New horrors rise,
468 And Reason buried in the ruin lies.
469 NOBLY disdainful of each slavish art,
470 She makes her first attack upon the heart:
471 Pleas'd with the summons, it receives her laws;
472 And all is, silence, sympathy, applause.
473 BUT when, by fond Ambition drawn aside,
474 Giddy with praise, and puff'd with female pride,
475 She quits the tragic scene, and, in pretence
476 To comic merit, breaks down Nature's fence;
477 I scarcely can believe my ears and eyes,
478 Or find out C—BB—R through the dark disguise.
479 PRITCHARD, by Nature for the stage design'd,
480 In person graceful, and in sense refin'd;
481 Her Art as much as Nature's friend became,
482 Her voice as free from blemish as her fame.
483 Who knows so well in majesty to please,
484 Attemper'd with the graceful charms of ease?
485 WHEN CONGREVE'S favour'd pantomine to grace,
486 She comes a captive queen of Moorish race;[Page 22]
487 When Love, Hate, Jealousy, Despair, and Rage,
488 With wildest tumults in her breast engage;
489 Still equal to herself is Zara seen:
490 Her passions are the passions of a queen.
491 WHEN she to murther whets the tim'rous Thane,
492 I feel Ambition rush through ev'ry vein;
493 Persuasion hangs upon her daring tongue,
494 My heart grows flint, and ev'ry nerve's new strung.
495 IN comedy — "Nay, there,"cries critic, "hold.
496 "PRITCHARD'S for comedy too fat and old.
497 "Who can, with patience, bear the grey coquette,
498 "Or force a laugh with over-grown Julett?
499 "Her speech, look, action, humour, all are just;
500 "But then, her age and figure give disgust. "
501 ARE foibles then, and graces of the mind,
502 In real life, to size or age confin'd?
503 Do spirits flow, and is good-breeding plac'd
504 In any set circumference of waist?
505 As we grow old, doth affectation cease,
506 Or gives not age new vigour to caprice?
507 If in originals these things appear,
508 Why should we bar them in the copy here?
509 THE nice punctilio-mongers of this age,
510 The grand minute reformers of the stage,
511 Slaves to propriety of ev'ry kind,
512 Some standard-measure for each part should find;
513 Which, when the best of actors shall exceed,
514 Let it devolve to one of smaller breed.
515 ALL actors too upon the back should bear
516 Certificate of birth; — time, when; — place, where.
517 For how can critics rightly fix their worth,
518 Unless they know the minute of their birth?
519 An audience too, deceived, may find, too late,
520 That they have clapp'd an actor out of date.
521 FIGURE, I own, at first, may give offence,
522 And harshly strike the eye's too curious sense:
523 But when perfections of the mind break forth,
524 Humour's chaste sallies, Judgment's solid worth;
525 When the pure genuine flame, by Nature taught,
526 Springs into Sense, and ev'ry action's Thought;
527 Before such merit, all objections fly;
528 PRITCHARD'S genteel, and GARRICK six feet high.
529 OFT have I, PRITCHARD, seen thy wond'rous skill,
530 Confess'd thee great, but find thee greater still.
531 [That] worth, which shone in scatter'd rays before,
532 [Collected] now, breaks forth with double [power]. [Page 24]
533 The Jealous Wife! — On that thy trophies raise,
534 Inferior only to the Author's praise.
535 FROM D—bl—n, fam'd in legends of romance
536 For mighty magic of enchanted lance,
537 With which her heroes arm'd victorious prove,
538 And, like a flood, rush o'er the land of Love;
539 M—SS—P and B—R—Y came. — Names ne'er design'd
540 By Fate in the same sentence to be join'd.
541 RAIS'D by the breath of popular acclaim,
542 They mounted to the pinnacle of Fame:
543 There the weak brain, made giddy with the height,
544 Spur'd on the rival chiefs to mortal fight.
545 Thus sportive boys, around some bason's brim,
546 Behold the pipe-drawn bladders circling swim;
547 But if, from lungs more potent, there arise
548 Two bubbles of a more than common size,
549 Eager for honour, they for fight prepare,
550 Bubble meets bubble, and both sink to air.
551 M—SS—P, attach'd to military plan,
552 Still kept his eye fix'd on his right-hand man:
553 Whilst the mouth measures words with seeming skill,
554 The right hand labours, and the left lies still.
555 For he resolv'd on scripture-grounds to go,
556 What the right doth, the left hand shall not know. [Page 25]
557 With studied impropriety of speech,
558 He soars beyond the hackney critic's reach;
559 To epithets allots emphatic state,
560 Whilst principals, ungrac'd, like lacquies wait;
561 In ways first trodden by himself excels,
562 And stands alone in indeclinables:
563 Conjunction, preposition, adverb, join
564 To stamp new vigour on the nervous line:
565 In monosyllables his thunders roll,
566 He, she, it, and, we, ye, they fright the soul.
567 IN person taller than the common size,
568 Behold where B—Y draws admiring eyes!
569 When lab'ring passions, in his bosom pent,
570 Convulsive rage, and struggling heave for vent;
571 Spectators, with imagin'd terrors warm,
572 Anxious expect the bursting of the storm:
573 But all unfit in such a pile to dwell,
574 His voice comes forth like Echo from her cell;
575 To swell the tempest needful aid denies,
576 And all adown the stage in feeble murmurs dies.
577 WHAT man, like B—Y, with such pains can err
578 In elocution, action, character?
579 What man could give, if B—Y was not here,
580 Such well-applauded tenderness to Lear? [Page 26]
581 Who else can speak so very, very fine,
582 That Sense may kindly end with ev'ry line?
583 SOME dozen lines before the ghost is there,
584 Behold him for the solemn scene prepare.
585 See how he frames his eyes, poises each limb,
586 Puts the whole body into proper trim, —
587 From whence we learn, with no great stretch of art,
588 Five lines hence comes a ghost, and, ha! a start.
589 WHEN he appears most perfect, still we find
590 Something which jars upon, and hurts the mind.
591 Whatever lights upon a part are thrown,
592 We see too plainly they are not his own.
593 No flame from Nature ever yet he caught,
594 Nor knew a feeling which he was not taught:
595 He rais'd his trophies on the base of art,
596 And conn'd his passions as he conn'd his part.
597 Q—N, from afar, lur'd by the scent of Fame,
598 A Stage-Leviathan, put in his claim.
599 Pupil of BETTERTON and BOOTH. Alone,
600 Sullen he walk'd, and deem'd the chair his own.
601 For how should moderns, mushrooms of the day,
602 Who ne'er those masters knew, know how to play?
603 GRAY-BEARDED vet'rans, who, with partial tongue,
604 Extol the times when they themselves were young;
605 Who, having lost all relish for the stage,
606 See not their own defects, but lash the age,
607 Receiv'd, with joyful murmurs of applause,
608 Their darling chief, and lin'd his fav'rite cause.
609 FAR be it from the candid Muse to tread
610 Insulting o'er the ashes of the dead.
611 But just to living merit, she maintains,
612 And dares the test, whilst GARRICK'S Genius reigns;
613 Ancients, in vain, endeavour to excel,
614 Happily prais'd if they could act as well.
615 BUT, though Prescription's force we disallow,
616 Nor to Antiquity submissive bow;
617 Though we deny imaginary grace,
618 Founded on accidents of time and place;
619 Yet real worth of ev'ry growth shall bear,
620 Due praise, nor dare we, Q—N, forget thee there.
621 His words bore sterling weight, nervous and strong,
622 In manly tides of sense they roll'd along.
623 Happy in art, he chiefly had pretence
624 To keep up Numbers, yet not forfeit Sense,[Page 28]
625 No actor ever greater heights could reach
626 In all the labour'd artifice of speech.
627 SPEECH! Is that all? And, shall an actor found,
628 An universal fame on partial ground?
629 Parrots themselves speak properly by rote,
630 And, in six months, my dog shall howl by note.
631 I laugh at those who, when the Stage they tread,
632 Neglect the heart to compliment the head;
633 With strict propriety, their care's confin'd
634 To weigh out words, while Passion halts behind.
635 To Syllable-dissectors they appeal,
636 Allow them accent, cadence, — Fools may feel;
637 But, spite of all the criticising elves,
638 Those who would make us feel, must feel themselves.
639 His eyes, in gloomy socket taught to roll,
640 Proclaim'd the sullen habit of his soul.
641 Heavy and phlegmatic he trod the Stage,
642 Too proud for tenderness, too dull for rage.
643 WHEN Hector's lovely widow shines in tears,
644 Or Rowe's gay Rake dependant Virtue jeers;
645 With the same cast of features he is seen
646 To chide the Libertine, and court the Queen.
647 FROM the tame scene which without passion flows,
648 With just desert his reputation rose.
649 Nor less he pleas'd, when, on some surly plan,
650 He was, at once, the Actor and the Man.
651 IN Brute he shone unequall'd: all agree
652 GARRICK'S not half so great a Brute as he.
653 When Cato's labour'd scenes are brought to view,
654 With equal praise the Actor labour'd too.
655 For still you'll find, trace passions to their root,
656 Small diff'rence 'twixt the Stoic and the Brute.
657 IN fancied scenes, as in life's real plan,
658 He could not, for a moment, sink the Man.
659 In whate'er cast his character was laid,
660 Self still, like oil, upon the surface play'd.
661 Nature, in spite of all his skill, crept in:
662 Horatio, Dorax, Falstaff, — still 'twas Q—N.
663 NEXT follows SH—R—D—N. — A doubtful name,
664 As yet unsettled in the rank of Fame.
665 This, fondly lavish in his praises grown,
666 Gives him all merit; That, allows him none.
667 Between them both, we'll steer the middle course,
668 Nor, loving Praise, rob Judgment of her force.
669 JUST his conceptions, natural and great:
670 His feelings strong, his words enforc'd with weight.
671 Was speech-fam'd Q—N himself to hear him speak,
672 Envy would drive the colour from his cheek:
673 But step-dame Nature, niggard of her grace,
674 Deny'd the social pow'rs of voice and face.
675 Fix'd in one frame of features, glare of eye,
676 Passions, like Chaos, in confusion lie:
677 In vain the wonders of his skill are try'd
678 To form Distinction Nature hath deny'd.
679 His voice no touch of harmony admits,
680 Irregularly deep and shrill by fits:
681 The two extremes appear, like man and wife,
682 Coupled together for the sake of strife.
683 His Action's always strong, but sometimes such
684 That Candour must declare, he acts too much.
685 Why must Impatience fall three paces back?
686 Why paces three return to the attack?
687 Why is the right leg too forbid to stir,
688 Unless in motion semicircular?
689 Why must the Heroe with the Nailor vie,
690 And hurl the close-clench'd fist at nose or eye?
691 IN Royal John, with Philip angry grown,
692 I thought he would have knock'd poor D—V—S down.
693 Inhuman tyrant! was it not a shame
694 To fright a king so harmless and so tame?
695 BUT, spight of all defects, his glories rise;
696 And Art, by Judgment form'd, with Nature vies.
697 Behold him sound the depth of HUBERT'S soul,
698 Whilst in his own contending passions roll.
699 View the whole scene, with critic judgment scan,
700 And then — deny him Merit if you can.
701 Where he falls short, 'tis Nature's fault alone;
702 Where he succeds, the Merit's all his own.
703 LAST, GARRICK came. — Behind him throng a train
704 Of snarling critics, ignorant as vain.
705 ONE finds out, — "He's of stature somewhat low, —
706 "Your Heroe always should be tall you know. —
707 "True nat'ral greatness all consists in height. "—
708 Produce your voucher, Critic. — "Serjeant KYTE."
709 ANOTHER can't forgive the paltry arts
710 By which he makes his way to shallow hearts;
711 Mere pieces of finesse, traps for applause. —
712 "Avant unnat'ral start, affected pause."
713 FOR me, by Nature form'd to judge with phlegm,
714 I can't acquit by wholesale nor condemn.
715 The best things carried to excess are wrong;
716 The start may be too frequent, pause too long.
717 But only us'd in proper time and place,
718 Severest judgment must allow them Grace.
719 IF Bunglers, form'd on Imitation's plan,
720 Just in the way that Monkies mimic Man;
721 Their copied scene with mangled arts disgrace,
722 And pause and start with the same vacant face;
723 We join the critic laugh; those tricks we scorn,
724 Which spoil the scenes they mean them to adorn.
725 BUT when, from Nature's pure and genuine source,
726 These strokes of acting flow with gen'rous force;
727 When in the features all the soul's portray'd,
728 And passions, such as GARRICK'S, are display'd;
729 To me they seem from quickest feelings caught:
730 Each start, is Nature; and each pause, is Thought.
731 WHEN Reason yields to Passion's wild alarms,
732 And the whole state of Man is up in arms;
733 What, but a Critic, could condemn the Play'r
734 For pausing here, when Cool Sense pauses there?
735 Whilst, working from the heart, the fire I trace,
736 And mark it strongly flaming to the face;[Page 33]
737 Whilst, in each sound, I hear the very man;
738 I can't catch words, and pity those who can.
739 LET Wits, like Spiders, from the tortur'd brain
740 Fine-draw the critic-web with curious pain;
741 The Gods, — a kindness I with thanks must pay, —
742 Have form'd me of a coarser kind of clay;
743 Nor stung with Envy, nor with Spleen diseas'd,
744 A poor dull creature, still with Nature pleas'd:
745 Hence to thy praises, GARRICK, I agree,
746 And, pleas'd with Nature, must be pleas'd with Thee.
747 Now might I tell how silence reign'd throughout,
748 And deep attention hush'd the rabble rout;
749 How ev'ry claimant, tortur'd with desire,
750 Was pale as ashes, or as red as fire:
751 But, loose to Fame, the Muse more simply acts,
752 Rejects all flourish, and relates mere facts.
753 THE judges, as the sev'ral parties came,
754 With Temper heard, with Judgment weigh'd each claim,
755 And in their sentence happily agreed,
756 In name of both, Great SHAKESPEAR thus decreed:
757 "IF Manly Sense; if Nature, link'd with Art;
758 "If thorough Knowledge of the Human Heart;
759 "If Pow'rs of Acting, vast and unconfin'd;
760 "If fewest Faults, with greatest Beauties join'd;
761 "If strong Expression, and strange Pow'rs, which lie
762 "Within the magic circle of the eye;
763 "If Feelings which few hearts, like His, can know,
764 "And which no Face so well as His can shew;
765 "Deserve the Pref'rence; — GARRICK take the Chair;
766 "Nor quit it — 'till Thou place an Equal There.