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as the concern of every gentleman ; and a party was soon formed to assert and vindicate their honour by humbling this favoured actor, whose slight injury had been judged equal to so severe a notice. Accordingly, the next time Smith acted, he was received with a chorus of cat-calls, that soon convinced him he should not be suffered to proceed in his part; upon which, without the least discomposure, he ordered the curtain to be dropped'; and, having a competent fortune of his own, thought the conditions of adding to it by his remaining upon the stage were too dear; and from that day entirely quitted it. I shall make no observation upon the king's resentment, or on that of his good subjects ; how far either was or was not right, is not the point I dispute for ; be that as it may, the unhappy condition of the actor was so far from being relieved by this royal interposition in his favour, that it was the worse for it.
While these sort of real distresses on the stage are so unavoidable, it is no wonder that young people of sense (though of low fortune) should be so rarely found to supply a succession of good actors. Why then may we not in some measure impute the scarcity of them to the wanton inhumanity of those spectators who have made it so terribly mean to appear there? Were there no ground for this question, where could be the disgrace of entering into a society whose institution, when not abused, is a delightful school of morality; and where to excel requires as ample endowments of nature as any one profession (that of holy institution excepted) whatsoever ? But, alas! as Shakspeare says,
Where's that palace whereinto sometimes
Foul things intrude not? Look into St Peter's at Rome, and see what a profitable farce is made of religion there! Why then is an actor more blemished than a cardinal, while the excellence of the one arises from his innocently seeming what he is not, and the eminence of the other from the most impious fallacies that can be imposed upon human understanding? If the best things therefore are most liable to corruption, the corruption of the theatre is no disproof of its innate and primitive utility.
In this light therefore all the abuses of the stage, all the low, loose, or immoral supplements, to wit, whether in making virtue ridiculous or vice agree. able, or in the decorated nonsense and absurdities of pantomimical trumpery, I give up to the contempt a? every sensible spectator, as so much rank theatrical popery; but cannot still allow these enormities to impeach the profession, while they are so palpably owing to the depraved taste of the multitude. While vice and farcical folly are the most profitable commodities, why should we wonder that, time out of mind, the poor comedian, when real wit would bear no price, should deal in what would bring him inost ready money? But this, you will say, is making the stage a nursery of vice and folly, or at least keeping an open shop for it. I grant it: but who do you expect should reform it? The actors ?. Why so? If people are permitted to buy it without blushing, the theatrical merchant seems to have an equal right to the liberty of selling it without reproach. That this evil wants a remedy, is not to be contested ; nor can it be denied, that the theatre is as capable of being preserved by a reformation, as matters of more importance; which for the honour of our national taste I could wish were attempted ; and then, if it could not subsist under decent regulations, by not being permitted to present any thing there but what were worthy to be there, it would be time enough to consider, whether it were necessary to let it totally fall, or effectually support it.
Notwithstanding all my best endeavours to recommend the profession of an actor to a more general favour, I doubt, while it is liable to such corruptions, and the actor himself to such unlimited insults as I have already mentioned, -I doubt, I say, we must still leave him adrift, with his intrinsic merit, to ride out the storm as well as he is abie.
However, let us now turn to the other side of this account, and see what advantages stand there, to balance the misfortunes I have laid before you. There we shall still find some valuable articles of credit, that sometimes overpay his incidental disgraces.
First, if he has sense, he will consider that as these indignities are seldom or never offered him by people that are remarkable for any one good quality, he ought not to lay them too close to his heart : he will know too, that when malice, envy, or a brutal nature, can securely hide or fence themselves in a multitude, virtue, merit, innocence, and even sovereign superiority, have been and must be equally liable to their insults ; that therefore, when they fall upon him in the same manner, his intrinsic value cannot be diminished by them: on the contrary, if with a decent and unruffled temper he lets them pass, the disgrace will return upon his aggressor, and perhaps warm the generous spectator into a partiality in his favour.
That while he is conscious, that as an actor he must be always in the hands of injustice, it does him at least this involuntary good, that it keeps him in a settled resolution to avoid all occasions of provoking it, or of even offending the lowest enemy who at the expense of a shilling may publicly revenge it.
That if he excess on the stage, and is irreproachable in his personal morals and behaviour, his profession is so far from being an impediment, that it will be oftener a just reason for his being received among people of condition with favour, and sometimes with a more social distinction than the best, though more profitable trade he might have followed, could have recommended him to.
That this is a happiness to which several actors within my memory, as Betterton, Smith, Montfort, captain Griffin, and Mrs Bracegirdle (yet living) have arrived at; to which I may add the late celebrated Mrs Oldfield. Now let us suppose these persons--the men, for example-to have been all eminent mercers, and the women as fainous milliners ; can we imagine that merely as such, though endowed with the sanie natural understanding, they could have been called into the same honourable parties of conversation ? People of sense and condition could not but know it was impossible they could have had such various excellencies on the stage, without having something naturally valuable in them: and I will take upon me to affirm, who knew them all living, that there was not one of the number who were not capable of supporting a variety of spirited conversation, though the stage were never to have been the subject of it.
That to have trod the stage has not always been thought a disqualification from more honourable employınents; several have had military commissions ; Carlisle and Wiltshire were both killed captains, one in king William's reduction of Ireland, and the other in his first war in Flanders ; and the famous Ben Jonson, though an unsuccessful actor, was afterwards made poet-laureat.
To these laudable distinctions let me add one more, that of public applause, which when truly merited is perhaps one of the most agreeable gratifications that venial vanity can feel :- happiness almost peculiar to the actor, insomuch that the best tragic writer, however numerous his separate admirers may be, yet to unite them into one general act of praise, to receive at once those thundering peals of approbation which a crowded theatre throws out, he must still call in the assistance of the skilful actor to raise and partake of them.
In a word, it was in this flattering light only, though not perhaps so thoroughly considered, I looked upon the life of an actor, when but eighteen years of age; nor can you wonder if the temptations were too strong for so warm a vanity as mine to resist; but whether excusable or not, to the stage at length I came; and it is from thence chiefly your curiosity, if you have any left, is to expect a farther account of me.
A short view of the stage, from the year 1660 to the revolution.
-The king's and duke's company united, composed the best set of English actors yet known.—Their several theatrical characters.
Though I have only promised you an account of all the material occurrences of the theatre during my own time, yet there was one which happened not above seven years before my admission to it, which may be as well worth notice as the first great revolution of it, in which among numbers I was involved. And as the one will lead you into a clearer view of the other, it may therefore be previously necessary to let you know that king Charles II, at his restoration, granted two patents, one to sir William Davenant, and the other to Henry Killigrew, esq., and their several heirs and assigns for ever, for the forming of two distinct companies of comedians. The first were called the king's servants, and acted at the theatre-royal in Drury-lane; and the other the duke's company, who acted at the duke's theatre in Dorset-garden. About ten of the king's company were on the royal household establishment, having each ten yards of scarlet cloth, with a proper quantity of lace, allowed them for liveries; and in their warrants from the Jord chamberlain were styled gentlemen of the great chamber. Whether the like appointments were extended to the duke's company, I am not certain; but they were both in high estimation with the public, and so much the delight and concern of the court, that they were not only supported by its being frequently present at their public presentations, but by its taking cognizance even of their
private government, insomuch that their parti. cular differences, pretensions, or complaints, were generally ended by the king or duke's personal command or decision. Besides their being thorough masters or their art, these actors set forwards with two