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it then becomes low and little. He that will bear no censure, must be often robbed of his due praise. Fools have as good a right to be readers, as men of sense have; and why not to give their judgments too? Methinks it would be a sort of tyranny in wit, for an author to be publicly putting every argument to death that appeared against him; so absolute a demand for approbation puts us upon our right to dispute it; praise is as much the reader's property, as wit is the author's; applause is not a tax paid to him as a prince, but rather a benevolence given to him as a beggar ; and we have naturally more charity for the dumb beggar than the sturdy one. The merit of a writer, and a fine woman's face, are never mended by their talking of them. How amiable is she that seems not to know she is handsome!
To conclude; all I have said upon this subject is much better contained in six lines of a reverend author, which will be an answer to all critical censure for
Time is the judge ; time has nor friend nor foe;
The author's several chances for the church, the court,
and the army:-Going to the university, met the revolution at Nottingham.-Took arms on that side. What he saw of it.-A few political thoughts.-Fortune willing to do for him. His neglect of her.—The stage preferred to all her favours.-The profession of an actor considered. The misfortunes and advantages of it.
I am now come to that crisis of my life when fortune seemed to be at a loss what she should do with
Had she favoured my father's first designation of me, he miglås then perhaps have had as sanguine hopes of my being a bishop, as I afterwards conceived of my being a general, when I first took arms at the revolution. Nay, after that I had a third chance too, equally as good, of becoming an under-propper of the
How at last I came to be none of all these, the sequel will inform you.
About the year 1687 I was taken from school to stand at the election of children into Winchester college; and being by my mother's side a descendant of Wil-. liam of Wickham, the founder, my father (who knew little how the world was to be dealt with) imagined my having that advantage, would be security enough for my success, and so sent me simply down thither, without the least favourable recommendation or interest, but that of my naked merit, and a pompous pedigree in my pocket. Had he tacked a direction to my back, and sent me by the carrier to the mayor of the town, to be chosen member of parliament there, I might have had just as much chance to have succeeded in the one as the other. But I must not omit in this place to let you know, that the experience which my father then bought, at my cost, taught him some years after to take a more judicious care of my younger brother, Lewis Cibber, whom, with the present of a statue of the founder, of his own making, he recommended to the same college. This statue now stands (I think) over the school door there, and was so well executed, that it seemed to speak—for its kinsman. It was no sooner set up, than the door of preferment was open to him.
Here one would think my brother had the advantage of me, in the favour of fortune, by this his first laudable step into the world. I own I was so proud of his success, that I even valued myself upon it; and yet it is but a melancholy reflection, to observe how unequally his profession and mine were provided for; when I, who had been the outcast of fortune, could find means, from my income of the theatre, before I
was my own master there, to supply in his highest preferment his common necessities. I cannot part with his memory without telling you I had as sincere a concern for this brother's well being as my own. Ile had lively parts, and inore than ordinary learning, with a good deal of natural wit and humour; but from too great a disregard to his health, he died a fellow of New college in Oxford, soon after he had been ordained by Dr Compton, then bishop of London.
I now return to the state of my own affair at Winchester.
After the election, the moment I was informed that I was one of the unsuccessful candidates, I blest myself to think what a happy reprieve I had got from the confined life of a schoolboy, and the same day took post back to London, that I might arrive time enough to see a play (then my darling delight) before my mother might demand an account of my travelling charges. When I look back to that time, it almost makes me tremble to think what miseries, in fifty years farther in life, such an unthinking head was liable to! To ask why Providence afterwards took more care of me than I did of myself, might be making too bold an inquiry into its secret will and pleasure: all I can say to that point is, that I am thankful and amazed at it.
It was about this time I first imbibed an inclination, which I durst not reveal, for the stage; for, besides that I knew it would disoblige my father, I had no conception of any means, practicable, to make my way to it. I therefore suppressed the bewitching ideas of so sublime a station, and compounded with my ambition by laying a lower scheme, of only getting the nearest way into the immediate life of a gentleman-collegiate. My father being at this time employed at Chatsworth in Derbyshire by the (then) earl of Devonshire, who was raising that seat from a Gothic, to a Grecian magnificence, I made use of the leisure I then had in London, to open to him by letter my disinclination to wait another year for an uncertain preferment at Winchester, and to entreat him that he would send me per saltum, by a shorter cut, to the university. My father, who was naturally indulgent to me, seemed to comply with my request, and wrote word that as soon as his affairs would permit, he would carry me with him, and settle me in some college, but rather at Cambridge, where during his late residence at that place, in making some statues that now stand upon Trinity college new library, he had contracted some acquaintance with the heads of houses, who might assist his intentions for me. This I liked better than to go discountenanced to Oxford, to which it would have been a sort of reproach to me not to have come elected. After some months were elapsed, my father, not being willing to let me lie too long idling in London, sent for me down to Chatsworth, to be under his eye, till he could be at leisure to carry me to Cambridge. Before I could set out on my journey thither, the nation fell in labour of the revolution, the news being then just brought to London, that the prince of Orange at the head of an army was landed in the west. When I came to Nottingham, I found my father in arms there, among those forces which the earl of Devonshire had raised for the redress of our violated laws and liberties. My father judged this a proper season for a young stripling to turn himself loose into the bustle of the world; and being himself too advanced in years to endure the winter fatigue which might possibly follow, entreated that noble lord that he would be pleased to accept of his son in his room, and that he would give him (my father) leave to return and finish his works at Chatsworth. This was so well received by his lordship, that he not only admitted of my service, but promised my father in return, that when affairs were settled, he would provide for me. Upon this, my father returned to Derbyshire ; while I, not a little transported, jumped into his saddle. Thus in one day all my thoughts of the university were smothered in ambition ! A slight commission for a horse-officer was the least view I had before me. At this crisis you cannot but observe, that the fate of king James and of the prince of Orange, and that of so minute a being as myself, were all at once upon the anvil. In what shape they would severally come out,
though a good guess might be made, was not then des monstrable to the deepest foresight; but as my fortune seemed to be of small importance to the public, Providence thought fit to postpone it, until that of those great rulers of nations was justly perfected. Yet, had my father's business permitted him to have carried me one month sooner (as he intended) to the university, who knows but by this time that purer fountain might have washed my imperfections into a capacity of writing (ins stead of plays and annual odes) sermons and pastoral letters? But whatever care of the church might so have fallen to my share, as I dare say it may be now in better hands, I ought not to repine at my being otherwise disposed of.
You must now consider me as one among those des. perate thousands who, after a patience sorely tried, took arms under the banner of necessity, the natural parent of all human laws and government. I
question if in all the histories of empire there is one instance of so bloodless a revolution as that in England in 1688, wherein whigs, tories, princes, prelates, nobles, clergy, common people, and a standing army, were unanimous. To have seen all England of one mind, is to have lived at a very particular juncture. Happy nation! who are never divided among themselves, but when they have least to complain of. Our greatest grievance since that time seems to have been, that we cannot all govern; and until the number of good places are equal to those who think themselves qualified for them, there must ever be a canse of contention among
While great men want great posts, the nation will never want real or seeming patriots; and while great posts are filled with persons whose capacities are but human, such persons will never be allowed to be without errors. Not even the revolution with all its advantages, it seems, has been able to furnish us with unexceptionable statesmen; for from that time I do not remember any one set of ministers that have not been heartily railed at; a period long enough, one would think (if all of them have been as bad as they have been