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management; for, as I have often said, I never thought, in the general, that we stood in any place of comparison with the eminent actors before us; perhaps too, by there being now an end of the frequent divisions and disorders that had from time to time broken in upon and frustrated their labours, not a little might be con. tributed to their success.
Collier then, like a true liqucrish courtier, observing the prosperity of a theatre which he the year before had parted with for a worse, began to meditate an exchange of theatrical posts with Swiney, who had visibly very fair pretensions to that he was in, by his being first chosen by the court to regulate and rescue the stage from the disorders it had suffered under its former managers. Yet Collier knew that sort of merit could stand in no competition with his being a member of parliament. He therefore had recourse to his court interest (where mere will and pleasure, at that time, was the only law that disposed of all theatrical rights) to oblige Swiney to let him be off from his bad bargain for a better. To this it may be imagined Swiney demurred, and, as he had reason, strongly remonstrated against it. But as Collier had listed his conscience under the command of interest, he kept it to strict duty, and was immovable; insomuch that sir John Vanbrugh, who was a friend to Swiney, and who by his intimacy with the people in power better knew the motive of their actions, advised Swiney rather to accept of the change, than by a non-compliance to hazard his being excluded from any post or concern in either of the theatres. To conclude; it was not long before Collier had procured a new license for acting plays, &c. for himself, Wilks, Dogget, and Cibber, exclusive of Swiney, who by this new regulation was reduced to his Hobson's choice of the opera.
Swiney, being thus transferred to the opera in the sinking condition Collier had left it, found the receipts of it, in the winter following 1711, so far short of the expenses, that he was driven to attend his fortune in some more favourable climate, where he remained twenty years an exile from his friends and country ; though there has been scarce an English gentleman who, in his tour of France or Italy, has not renewed or created an acquaintance with him. As this is a circumstance that many people may have forgot, I cannot remember it without that regard and concern it deserves from all that know him. Yet it is some mitigation of his misfortune, that since his return to England, his grey hairs and cheerful disposition have still found a general welcome among his foreign and former domestic acquaint
Collier, being now first-commissioned inanager with the comedians, drove them, too, to the last inch of a hard bargain (the natural consequence of all treaties between power and necessity.) He not only demanded six hundred a year neat money, the price at which he had farmed out his opera, and to make the business a sinecure to him; but likewise insisted upon a moiety of the two hundred that had been levied upon us the year before in aid of the operas; in all seven hundred pounds. These large and ample conditions, considering in what hands we were, we resolved to swallow without wry faces; rather choosing to run any hazard than contend with a formidable power, against which we had no remedy. But so it happened, that fortune took better care of our interest than we ourselves had like to have done: for had Collier accepted of our first offer of an equal share with us, he had got three hundred pounds a year more by complying with it, than by the sum he imposed upon us; our shares being never less than a thousand annually to each of us, until the end of the queen's reign in 1714; after which, Collier's commission was superseded, his theatrical post, upon the accession of his late majesty, being given to sir Richard Steele.
From these various revolutions in the government of the theatre, all owing to the patentees' mistaken principle of increasing their profits by too far enslaving their people, and keeping down the price of good actors-(and I could almost insist, that giving large salaries to bad ones could not have had a worse consequence)-I say, when it is considered that the authority for acting plays, &c. was thought of so little worth, that (as has been observed) sir Thomas Skipwith gave away his share of it, and the adventurers had Aed from it; that Mr Congreve at another time had voluntarily resigned it, and sir John Vanbrugh (inerely to get the rent of his new house paid) had by leave of the court farmed out his license to Swiney, who not without some hesitation had ventured upon it; let me say again, out of this low condition of the theatre, was it not owing to the industry of three or four comedians, that a new place was now created for the crown to give away, without any expense attending it, well worth the acceptance of any gentleman whose merit or services had no higher claim to preferment, and which Collier and sir Richard Steele, in the two last reigns, successively enjoyed ? Though I believe I may have said something like this in a former chapter, I am not unwilling it should be twice taken notice of.
We are now come to that firm establishment of the theatre, which, except the admittance of Booth into a share, and Dogget's retiring from it, met with no change or alteration for above twenty years after.
Collier, as has been said, having accepted of a certain appointment of seven hundred per annum, Wilks, Dogget, and myself were now the only acting managers under the queen's license; which being a grant but during pleasure, obliged us to a conduct that might not undeserve that favour. At this time we were all in the vigour of our capacities as actors; and our prosperity enabled us to pay at least double the salaries to what the same actors had usually received, or could have hoped for under the government of the patentees Dogget, who was naturally an economist, kept our expenses and accounts, to the best of his power, within regulated hounds and moderation. Wilks, who had a stronger passion for glory than lucre, was a little apt to be lavish in what was not always as necessary for the profit as the honour ut the theatre : for example, at the beginning of almost every season he would order iwo or three suits to be made or refreshed, for actors of moderate consequence, that his having constantly a new one for himself might seem less particular, though he had as yet no new part for it. This expeditious care of doing us good, without waiting for our consent to it, Dogget always looked upon with the eye of a man in pain: but who hated pain (though I as little liked the favour a. Dogget himself) rather chose to laugh at the circumstance than complain of what I knew was not to be cured but by a remedy worse than the evil. Upon these occasions therefore, whenever I saw him and his followers so prettily dressed out for an old play, I only commended his fancy, or at most but whispered him not to give himself so much trouble about others, upon whose performance it would but be thrown away: to which, with a smiling air of triumph over my want of penetration, he has replied, “Why now, that was what I really lid it for; to show others, that I love to take care of them as well as of myself.” Thus, whenever he made himself easy, he had not the least conception, let the expense be what it would, that we could possibly dislike it; and from the same principle, provided a thinner audience were liberal of their applause, he gave himself
little concern about the receipt of it. As in these different tempers of my brother managers there might be equally something right and wrong, it was equally my business to keep well with them both; and though of the two, I was rather inclined to Dogget's way of thinking, yet I was always under the disagreeable restraint of not letting Wilks see it: therefore, when in any material point of management they were ready to come to a rupture, I found it advisable to think neither of them absolutely in the wrong; but by giving to one as much of the right in his opinion this way, as I took from the other in that, their differences were sometimes softened into concessions that I have reason to think prevented many ill consequences in our affairs that otherwise might have attended ther. But this was always to be done with
a very gentle hand; for, as Wilks was apt to be easily hurt by opposition, so when he felt it, he was apt to be insupportable. However, there were some points in which we were always unanimous. In the twenty years while we were our own directors, we never had a creditor that had occasion to come twice for his bill; every Monday morning discharged us of all demands, before we took a shilling for our own use. And from this time we neither asked any actor, nor were desired by them, to sign any written agreement (to the best of my memory) whatsoever : the rates of their respective salaries were only entered in our daily pay-roll, which plain record every one looked upon as good as city-security ; for where an honest meaning is mutual, the mutual confidence will be bond enough in conscience on both sides. But that I may not ascribe more to our conduct than was really its due, I ought to give fortune her share of the commendation; for had not our success exceeded our expectation, it might not have been in our power so thoroughly to have observed those laud. able rules of economy, justice, and lenity, which so happily supported us : but the severities and oppression we had suffered under our former masters, made us incapable of imposing them upon others; which gave our whole society the cheerful looks of a rescued people. But notwithstanding this general cause of content, it was not above a year or two before the imperfection of human nature began to show itself in contrary symptoms. The merit of the hazards which the managers had run, and the difficulties they had combated in bringing to perfection that revolution by which they had all so amply profited in the amendment of their general income, began now to be forgotten ; their acknowledgments and thankful promises of fidelity were no more repeated, or scarce thought obligatory : ease and plenty by an habitual enjoyment had lost their novelty; and the largeness of their salaries seemed rather lessened than advanced by the extraordinary gains of the undertakers; for that is the scale in which the hired actor will always weigh his performance; but