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affords little information. The author of the Companion to the Playhouse contents himself with repeating what Cibber had related; he states no new facts respecting the writer or his works. The compiler of a List of Dramatic Authors, published with Whincop's tragedy of Scanderbeg, betrays a want of candor, and is equally destitute of truth and accuracy. Perhaps in reviewing the fate of Lillo's Plays we may strike out some sparks of intelligence, which may afford entertainment and illustrate our author's character. I think it is agreed on all hands, that Lillo was born on the 4th of February 1693, somewhere.. near Moorgate-That he learned and practised the business of a Jeweller.
It is very singular that no poetical effort of his should appear in print, at least under his name, till the year 1731, when he produced a Ballad Opera, called Silvia or the Country Burial, which was acted at the Theatre Royal, in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields.-This is one of the best dramatic pieces which had then ap. peared, written in imitation of the celebrated Beggar's Opera; for Silvia has invention in its fable, simplicity in its manners, gaiety in its incidents, and variety as well as truth of character; but what will still more recommend it to the judicious, this Pastoral Burlesque Serio-Comic Opera was written with a view to inculcate the love of truth and virtue, and a hatred of vice and falsehood.-Notwithstanding the apparent merit of the Country Burial it met with little success.
About a year after Lillo offered his George
Banwell to Mr. Theophilus Cibber, manager of
ber's friends, though they were well acquainted with the merit of Barnwell, could not be without their fears for the success of a play, which was formed on a new plan-A history of manners deduced from an old bad; and, which the witlings of the time called a
egate Tragedy. It is true some of our best dramazic poets, in their most affecting pieces, had lowered the buskin, and fitted it to characters in life infe nes to Kings and Heroes; yet no writer had ventured to descend so low as to introduce the character of a merchant, or his clerk, into a tragedy. However the author's attempt was fully justified by his success; plam sterling sense, joined to many happy strokes of Mature and passion, supplied the imagined deficiencies of art, and more tears were shed at the representation of this home-spun drama, than at all the elaborate
itations of ancient fables and ancient manners by the learned moderns. Mr. Pope, who was preseat at the first acting of Barnwell, very candidly Boserved that Lillo had never deviated from propriety, except in a few passages in which he aimed at a greater elevation of language than was consistent h character and situation. (See Lillo, in Cibber's ives, Vol. I.)
Barnwell was acted about twenty nights in the hottest part of the year to crouded houses. The great success of this play excited the attention of
Queen Caroline, who desired to see it in MS. (Gen. tleman's Magazine, July 1731.) A message was dispatched to Drury Lane Theatre, and July 2nd, 1731, Mr. Wilks waited upon her Majesty at Hampton Court with the play. But I have not been able to learn whether the author gained any emolument from the Queen's curiosity. One circumstance which happened the first night that Barnwell was acted, is so singular that it ought not to be forgotten. Certain witty and facetious persons, who call themselves The Town, bought up thousands of the bailad of George Barnwell, with an intent to make a ludicrous comparison between the old song, and the new tragedy; but so forcible and so pathetic were the scenes of the London Merchant, that these merry gentlemen were quite disappointed and ashamed; they were obliged to throw away their ballads and take out their handkerchiefs. (Cibber's Life of Lillo.)
Encouraged by the success of this play, Lillo ventured upon a subject more arduous and sublime. -About four years after, when he appears to have resided at Rotherhith, he produced the Christian Hero, which was acted at Drury Lane Theatre with tolerable success. The plot of the tragedy is to be found in the history of the Turks. The character of Scanderbeg, the hero of the play, resembles that of Tamerlane, and is well constrasted with Amurath, the Turkish Sultan. The characters in this tragedy are in general strongly marked; some
pathetic scenes of the Christian Hero would not disgrace the works of our most esteemed dramatic writers. The manners of the Turks and Christians are well discriminated. The interview in the second act between the generals of both armies, is happily conducted. It is, I believe, an imitation of a similar parley between Caled and Eumenes in the Siege of Damascus. But the Scene in the Christian Hero is greatly heightened by the distress of Scanderbeg, whose mistress, Althea, had fallen by the chance of war into the hands of his enemies. Upon the whole it must be granted that the muse of Lillo was more adapted to an humble than a lofty theme, to plots not so intricate, nor so overcharged with episode, to characters less elevated, and situations more familiar. The editor of a Tragedy of Scanderbeg, written by Mr. Whincop, has ventured to charge the author of the Christian Hero with stealing the hint of his play, from his having seen Scanderbeg in MS. It is to be observed that this accusation was brought against Lillo eight years after his death, and near thirteen since his play was first acted. The charge rests solely on the credit of a nameless editor; and I think we may fairly reject it as an invidious attack upon the character of a man whose moral conduct had never been impeached, and who was greatly esteemed for his modesty and integrity. Besides, this tragedy of Scanderbeg (so much cried up by the editor and his friend) is a despicable performance, full of rant and bombast,
Towards the end of the acting season in 1736, Fatal Curiosity, one of Mr. Lillo's most affecting tragedies, was acted at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket at the time when Fielding, our English Cervantes, was manager of that playhouse. It is not easy to guess why this excellent piece was not represented at one of the old Theatres Royal; as our author's character as a writer was by this time well established. It cannot be doubted that Lillo applied to the managers of the more regular theatres, and had been rejected, so that he was reduced to the necessity of having his play acted at an inferior Play-house, and by persons not so well skilled in their profession as the performers of the established Theatres. However, Mr. Fielding, who had a just sense of our author's merit, and who had often in his humorous pieces (particularly in Joseph Andrews) laughed at those ridiculous and absurd criticks who could not possibly understand the merit of Barnwell because the subject was low, treated Lillo with great politeness and friendship. He took upon himself the management of the play, and the instruc tion of the actors. It was during the rehearsal of Fatal Curiosity that I had an opportunity to see and to converse with Mr. Lillo.-Plain and simple as he was in his address, his manner of conversing was modest, affable and engaging. When invited to give his opinion how a particular sentiment should be uttered by the actor, he expressed himself in the gentlest and most obliging terms, and conveyed in