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wnatever reason there may seem to be in his case, yet as he is frequently apt to throw a little self-partiality into the balance, that consideration may a good deal alter the justness of it. While the actors therefore had this way of thinking, happy was it for the managers that their united interest was so inseparably the same, and that their skill and power in acting stood in a rank so far above the rest, that if the whole body of private men had deserted them, it would yet have been an easier matter for the managers to have picked up recruits, than for the deserters to have found proper officers to head them. Here then, in this distinction, lay our security: our being actors ourselves was an advantage to our government, which all former managers, who were only idle gentlemen, wanted : nor was our establishment easily to be broken, while our health and limbs enabled us to be joint-labourers in the work we were masters of.
The only actor who, in the opinion of the public, seemed to have had a pretence of being advanced to a share with us, was certainly Booth : but when it is considered how strongly he had opposed the measures that had made us managers, by setting himself (as has been observed) at the head of an opposite interest, he could not as yet have much to complain of; besides, if the court had thought him now an equal object of favour, it could not have been in our power to have opposed his preferment. This I mention, not to take from his merit, but to show from what cause it was not as yet better provided for. Therefore it may be no vanity to say, our having at that time no visible competitors on the stage was the only interest that raised us to be the managers of it.
But here let me rest awhile; and since at my time of day our best possessions are but ease and quiet, I must be content, if I will have sallies of pleasure, to take up with those only that are to be found in imagination. When I look back therefore on the storms of the stage we had been tossed in; when I consider that various vicissitude of hopes and fears we had for twenty years struggled with, and found ourselves at last thus safely set on shore, to enjoy the produce of our own labours; and to have raised those labours, by our skill and industry, to a much fairer profit than our task-masters, by all their severe and griping government, had ever reaped from them; a good-natured reader that is not offended at the comparison of great things with small, will allow was a triumph in proportion equal to those that have attended the most heroic enterprises for liberty. What transport could the first Brutus feel upon his expulsion of the Tarquins, greater than that which now danced in the heart of a poor actor who, from an injured labourer unpaid his hire, had made himself, without guilt, a legal manager of his own fortune? Let the grave and great contemn or yawn at these low conceits; but let me be happy in the enjoyment of them! To this hour my memory runs over that pleasing prospect of life past, with little less delight than when I was first in the real possession of it. This is the natural temper of my mind, which my acquaintance are frequently witnesses of: and as this was all the ambition Provi. dence had made my obscure condition capable of, I am thankful that means were given me to enjoy the fruits of it.
Hoc est Vivere bis, vità posse priore frui. Something like the meaning of this the less learned reader may find in my title page.
The stage in its highest prosperity.–The managers not
without errors.--Of what kind.-Cato first acted. What brought it to the stage. The company go to Oxford.Their success,
and different auditors there.-Booth made a sharer.-Dogget objects to him.-Quits the stage upon bis admittance. That not his true reason.-WI Dogget's theatrical character.
NoTWITHSTANDING the managing actors were now in a happier situation than their utmost pretensions could have expected, yet it is not to be supposed but wiser men might have mended it. As we could not all govern ourselves, there were seasons when we were not all fit to govern others. Our passions and our interest drew not always the same way. Self had a great sway in our debates ; we had our partialities, our prejudices, our favourites of less merit, and our jealousies of those who came too near us; frailties which societies of higher consideration, while they are composed of men, will not always be free from. To have been constantly capable of unanimity had been a blessing too great for our station : one mind among three people, were to have had three masters to one servant; but when that one servant is called three different ways at the same time, whose business to be done first? For my own part, I was forced almost all my life to give up my share of him; and if I could, by art or persuasion, hin. der others from making what I thought a wrong use of their power, it was the all and utmost I desired. Yet whatever might be our personal errors, I shall think I have no right to speak of them farther than where the public entertainment was affected by them. If therefore, among so many, some particular actors were remarkable in any part of their private lives, that might sometimes make the world merry without doors, I hope my laughing friends will excuse me, if I do not so far comply with their desires or curiosity, as to give
them a place in my history. I can only recommend such anecdotes to the amusement of a noble person, who (in case I conceal them) does me the flattering honour to threaten my work with a supplement. It is enough for me, that such actors had their merits to the public: let those recite their imperfections, who are themselves without them : it is my misfortune not to have that qualification. Let us see then (whatever was amiss in it) how our administration went forward.
When we were first invested with this power, the joy of our so unexpectedly coming into it, kept us for some time in amity and good humour with one another: and the pleasure of reforming the many
false measures, absurdities, and abuses, that like weeds had sucked up the due nourishment from the fruits of the theatre, gave us as yet no leisure for private dissentions. Our daily receipts exceeded our imagination; and we seldom met as a board to settle our weekly accounts, without the satisfaction of joint-heirs just in possession of an unexpected estate that had been distantly entailed upon them. Such a sudden change of our condition, it may be imagined, could not but throw out of us a new spirit in almost every play we appeared in: nor did we ever sink into that common negligence which is apt to follow good fortune. Industry we knew was the life of our business ; that it not only concealed faults, but was of equal value to greater talents without it; which the decadence once of Betterton's company in Lincoln'sinn-fields had lately shown us a proof of.
This then was that happy period when both actors and managers were in their highest enjoyment of general content and prosperity. Now it was that the politer world too, by their decent attention, their sensible taste, and their generous encouragements to authors and actors, once more saw that the stage under a due regulation was capable of being what the wisest ages thought it might be the most rational scheme that human wit could form to dissipate with innocence the cares of life, to allure even the turbulent or ill disposed from worse meditations, and to give the leisure hours of business and virtue an instructive recreation.
If this grave assertion is less recommended by falling from the pen of a comedian, I must appeal for the truth of it to the tragedy of “ Cato,” which was first acted in 1712. I submit to the judgment of those who were then the sensible spectators of it, if the success and merit of that play was not an evidence of every article of that value which I have given to a decent theatre ? But (as I was observing) it could not be expected the summer days I am speaking of could be the constant weather of the year; we had our clouded hours as well as our sunshine, and were not always in the same good humour with one another : fire, air, and water, could not be more vexatiously opposite, than the different tempers of the three managers, though they might equally have their useful as well az their destructive qualities. How variously these elements in our several dispositions operated, may be judged from the following single instance, as well as a thousand others which, if they were all to be told, might possibly make my reader wish I had forgot them.
Much about this time then there came over from Dublin theatre two uncelebrated actors, to pick up a few pence among us in the winter, as Wilks had a year or two before done on their side the water in the summer. But it was not so clear to Dogget and myself, that it was in their power to do us the same service in Drury-lane, as Wilks might have done them in Dublin. However, Wilks was so much a man of honour, that he scorned to be outdone in the least point of it, let the cost be what it would to his fellow-managers, who had no particular accounts of honour open with them. To acquit himself therefore with a better grace, Wilks so ordered it, that his Hibernian friends were got upon our stage before any other manager had well heard of their arrival. This so generous despatch of their affair gave Wilks a very good chance of convincing his friends, that hiniself was sole master of the masters of