Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the company.

Here now the different elements in our teinpers began to work with us.

While Wilks was only animated by a grateful hospitality to his friends, Dogget was ruffled into a storm, and looked upon this generosity as so much insult and injustice upon himself and the fraternity. During this disorder I stood by, a seeming quiet passenger; and since talking to the winds, I knew, could be to no great purpose, (whatever weakness it might be called,) could not help smiling, to observe with what officious ease and delight Wilks was treating his friends at our expense, who were scarce acquainted with them: for it seems all this was to end in their having a benefit-play in the height of the season, for the unprofitable service they had done us, without our consent or desire to employ them. Upon this Dogget bounced, and grew almost as untractable as Wilks himself. Here again I was forced to clap my patience to the helm, to weather this difficult point between them. Applying myself therefore to the person I imagined was most likely to hear me, I desired Dogget “to consider, that I must naturally be as much hurt by this vain and overbearing behaviour in Wilks, as he could be ; and that though it was true these actors had no pretence to the favour designed them, yet we could not say they had done us any farther harm than letting the town see the parts they had been shown in had been better done by those to whom they properly belonged: yet as we had greatly profited by the extraordinary labour of Wilks, who acted long parts almost every day, and at least twice to Dogget's once; and that I granted it might not be so much his consideration of our common interest, as his fondness for applause, that set him to work; yet even that vanity, if he supposed it such, had its merit to us; and as we had found our account in it, it would be folly upon a punctilio to tempt the rashness of a man who was capable to undo all he had done, by any act of extravagance that might fly into his head : that, admitting this benefit might be some little loss to us, yet to break with him upon it, could not but be ten times of worse consequence than our overlooking his disagreeable manner of making the demand upon us."

Though I found this had made Dogget drop the severity of his features, yet he endeavoured still to seem uneasy by his starting a new objection, which was, that we could not be sure even of the charge they were to pay for it: for Wilks, said he, you know will go any lengths to make it a good day to them, and may whisper the door-keepers to give them the ready money taken, and return the account in such tickets only as these actors have not themselves disposed of. To make this easy too, I gave him my word to be answerable for the charge myself. Upon this he acceded, and accordingly they had the benefit-play. But so it happened (whether as Dogget had suspected or not, I cannot say) the ready money received fell ten pounds short of the sum they had agreed to pay for it. Upon the Saturday following (the day on which we constantly made up our accounts) I went early to the office and inquired if the ten pounds had yet been paid in ; but not hearing that one shilling of it had found its way thither, I immediately supplied the sum out of my own pocket, and directed the treasurer to charge it received from ine in the deficient receipt of the benefit-day. Here now, it might be imagined, all this silly matter was accommodated, and that no one could so properly say he was aggrieved as myself; but let us observe what the consequence says. Why, the effect of my insolent interposing honesty proved to be this: that the party most obliged was the most offended; and the offence was imputed to me, who had been ten pounds out of pocket, to be able to commit it: for when Wilks found in the account how spitefully the ten pounds had been paid in, he took me aside into the adjacent stone passage, and with some warmth asked me, what I meant by pretending to pay in this ten pounds; and that for his part he did not understand such treatment. To which I 'replied, that though I was amazed at his thinking himself ill treated, I would give him a plain

justifiable answer; that I had given my word to Dogget the charge of the benefit should be fully paid, and since his friends had neglected it, I found myself bound to make it good. Upon which he told me I was mistaken if I thought he did not see into the bottom of all this ; that Dogget and I were always endeavouring to thwart and make him uneasy ; but he was able to stand upon his own legs, and we should find he would not be used so: that he took this payment of the ten pounds as an insult upon him, and a slight his friends; but rather than suffer it, he would tear the whole business to pieces: that I knew it was in his power to do it; and if he could not do a civil thing to a friend without all this senseless rout about it, he could be received in Ireland upon his own terms, and could as easily mend a company there as he had done here: that if he were gone, Dogget and I would not be able to keep the doors open a week; and, by G-, he would not be a drudge for nothing. As I knew all this was but the foam of the high value he had set upon himself, I thought it not amiss to seem a little silently concerned for the helpless condition to which his resentment of the injury I have related was going to reduce us: for I knew I had a friend in his heart, that, if I

gave him a little time to cool, would soon bring him to reason : the sweet morsel of a thousand pounds a year was not to be met with at every table, and might tempt a nicer palate than his own to swallow it when he was not out of humour. This I knew would always be of weight with him, when the best arguments I could use would be of none. I therefore gave him no farther provocation than by gravely telling him we all had it in our power to do one another a mischief, but I believed none of us much cared to hurt ourselves; that if he was not of my opinion, it would not be in my power to hinder whatever new scheme he might resolve upon; that London would always have a playhouse, and I should have some chance in it, though it might not be so good as it had been ; that he might be sure, if I had thought my paying in the ten pounds could have been

so ill received, I should have been glad to have saved it. Upon this he seemed to mutter something to himself, and walked off as if he had a mind to be alone. I took the occasion, and returned to Dogget to finish our accounts. In about six minutes Wilks came in to usnot in the best humour, it may be imagined, yet not in so ill a one but that he took his share of the ten pounds, without showing the least contempt of it; which had he been proud enough to have refused, or to have paid in himself, I might have thought he intended to make good his menaces, and that the injury I had done him would never have been forgiven; but it seems we had different

ways of thinking; Of this kind, more or less delightful, was the life I led with this impatient man for full twenty years. Dogget, as we shall find, could not hold it so long; but as he had more money than I, he had not occasion for so much philosophy. And thus were our theatrical affairs frequently disconcerted by this irascible commander, this Achilles of our confederacy; who, I may be bold to say, came very little short of the spirit Horace gives to that hero in his

Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer. This then is one of those personal anecdotes of our variances, which, as our public performances were affected by it, could not with regard to truth and justice be omitted.

From this time to the year 1712, my memory (from which repository alone every article of what I write is collected) has nothing worth mentioning until the first acting of the tragedy of “ Cato.” As to the play itself, it might be enough to say, that the anthor and the actors had their different hopes of fame and profit amply answered by the performance; but as its success was attended with remarkable consequences,

it amiss to trace it from its several years' concealment in the closet to the stage.

In 1703, nine years before it was acted, I had the pleasure of reading the first four acts (which was all of

may not be

it then written) privately with sir Richard Steele : il may be needless to say it was impossible to lay them out of my hand until I had gone through them; or to dwell upon the delight his friendship to the author received, upon my being so warmly pleased with them; but my satisfaction was as highly disappointed when he told me, whatever spirit Mr Addison had shown in his writing it, he doubted he would never have courage enough to let his “Cato” stand the censure of an English audience; that it had only been the amusement of his leisure hours in Italy, and was never intended for the stage. This poetical diffidence sir Richard himself spoke of with some concern, and in the transport of his imagination could not help saying, “Good God! what a part would Betterton make of Cato!" But this was seven ycars before Betterton died, and when Booth (who afterwards made his fortune by acting it) was in his theatrical minority. In the latter end of queen Anne's reign, when our national politics had changed hands, the friends of Mr Addison then thought it a proper time to animate the public with the sentiments of Cato. In a word, their importunities were too warm to be resisted ; and it was no sooner finished than hurried to the stage, in April 1712, at a time when three days a week were usually appointed for the benefitplays of particular actors: but a work of that critical importance was to make its way through all private considerations; nor could it possibly give place to a custom, which the breach of could very little prejudice the benefits, that on so unavoidable an occasion were (in part, though not wholly) postponed. It was therefore (Mondays excepted) acted every day for a month to constantly crowded houses. As the author had made us a present of whatever profits he might have claimed from. it, we thought ourselves obliged to spare no cost in the proper decorations of it. Its coming so late in the season to the stage proved or particular advantage to the sharing actors; because the harvest of our annual gains was generally over before the middle of March, many select audiences being then usually reserved in

« AnteriorContinuar »