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cular confidence and long friendship, I have always felt to be an honour to my name. I hope not entirely to discredit his choice. This detail about myself would be inexcusable, but that it shows the position of him who has taken upon him to observe; and that I have not ventured to record, what I had not every opportunity to know, to see, and to examine.
It was to fill up the chasm of a few years in stage history, that I extended my design up to the time when we lost Mr. Garrick; and I thus offer to the public a dramatic record from the death of his great predecessor to that of Mr. Kemble in the year 1823.
There are fortunately many very masterly efforts of the pencil, by which the person and expression of Mr. Garrick may be distinctly known. In private life there is the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, resting upon the hands clasped together; composing, what in truth he could do with surpassing airiness and point-a prologue. It should be re-engraved, for the worn-out mezzotinto, common enough among the dealers, is detestable. But the infinite variety' of this great actor may be seen, at its highest and lowest points of expression, in the tremendous whole length of his Richard the Third, by Dance, and the equally perfect portrait of his Abel Drugger by Zoffanij. Mr. Reynolds has now completed his engravings of these invaluable works, and I congratulate the public upon their perfection.
Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Smith, among the English poets, with the tenderness that such a recent loss excited, did all perhaps for his fame that was just then required, and should not have waited the entreaty of Mrs. Garrick to do more.-The Life of Garrick, by Johnson, would have been a treasure.
"Love is not love,
When it is mingled with respects, that stand
That stroke of death, "which eclipsed the gaiety of nations," occured on the 20th of January, 1779.
But "the public stock of harmless pleasure" was first impoverished by his retirement from the stage: he had some consolation in the opening career of Sheridan, who, like another Congreve, seemed destined to raise our comic style to its former character. Garrick attended the rehearsals of the School for Scandal, and openly announced the brilliant diction of the play; with something of reasonable regret, that like his great model, the writer should have less nature than wit.
This first mention of Mr. Sheridan is a temptation to step a little back, for the object of noticing the succession of his dramatic efforts. His success was so prodigious, that one must have personally known Mr. Sheridan, to be able to conceive how he could so suddenly abandon a course of equal profit and fame, for another to which his nature seemed unsuited, and whose very elements were to be acquired during the exercise of his talents in the science. But as a politician, I have only to record, that his early efforts were discouraged by William Woodfall; a man who stood equally divided, like himself, between the senate and the play-house; equally competent to report, at least, his triumphs upon either scene. He told him, that he would never be an orator-"It was the greatest mistake," said my old friend, "that I ever made."
The Rivals was the first comedy by R. B. Sheridan, and acted at Covent Garden theatre on the 17th January, 1775. The play was rather roughly treated by the audience, and the author gratefully ascribed its ultimate triumph to the judgment and the friendship of Mr. Harris. If he was sincere in his declaration, no subsequent change of scene should have led him to rescind the printed acknowledgment. On the 21st of November, in the same year, he produced his Duenna. He seems then to have abated something of his speed of composition; for not being yet ready with his School for Scandal, he brought out at Drury Lane an alteration of Vanbrugh's Relapse, on the 24th February, 1777, and followed it on the 8th of May by that brilliant effu
sion, which placed the School for Scandal before the Plain Dealer, which suggested it, and surpassed in stage effect, while it at least equalled in wit, the Double Dealer of Congreve.
The plan of the School for Scandal was said to have been derived from a MS. piece by a young lady, which was found in the presented stores of Drury Lane house. To grace the improbable by the pathetic, this prodigy of scenic invention died of a consumption at Bristol, and was the daughter of a merchant in Thames Street. Genius is superior to locality. Don Quixote was written in a prison, and the Araucana of Ercilla amid the often hasty marches, and insecure encampments of an army. But here there was known and acknowledged power in minds of the highest character-difficulty might even be friendly to production, as the flame bursts fiercer forth the more it is compressed. My youth was passed in the midst of the mercantile world, but we certainly never heard of this wonder of the river Thamesfor I look upon the invention of the screen-scene* in the School for Scandal as without a parallel in the drama.
A slight hint for such a situation might, however, be conceived, from Fielding's novel of Tom Jones; in which the fall of a rug in the private apartment of Molly Seagrim, discovers the moral philosopher, Square, in a position very ill suited to the "eternal fitness of things." The probability of such a recollection is strengthened by the certainty that the Charles and Jo
* A friend of mine told me that, on this memorable evening, he was passing hastily through the passage of the Rose Tavern, in front of Garrick's Theatre, when, on a sudden, he heard a rour or shout beyond what he thought any scenic triumph could excite-more like to the exulting enjoyment in Milton of the whole Philistian multitude, when Samson was performing for their amusement feats exceeding human. It was excited by the falling of this screen in the 4th Act. What I myself heard, afterwards, was still beyond any sound I had witnessed previously in the theatre-though the Duenna excited very hearty merriment. It has only one little spot of incongruity in its management-Joseph should say nothing about his "opposite neighbour and her anxious temper," when he is afterwards to place the very person, for whose concealment he draws the screen, between that and the window. The line too has no inference from it, and may therefore properly be omitted-and the direction to the servant stand thus; Stay, stay; draw that screen before the window-that will do."
seph Surface of the play, are but portraits 'modernised of the profligate but generous Jones, and the decorous hypocrite Blifil.
There is absolute proof that he found some aid in the genius of his own family. In the Rivals Falkland rushes into Julia's dressing-room, tells her that he has killed his adversary, that his life is forfeited, that he wishes first to call her his, and then that, without preparation, she would fly the country with him.-Rivals, Act. V. Sc. 1.
In the Memoirs of Sidney Biddulph, written by his excellent mother, the hero, a Falkland, too, observe-enters to the heroine in the same perturbed state-tells the same distracted story, and urges the same sacrifice from the lady. In the romance the story is true, in the play it is merely feigned to try the constancy of Julia. Compare the third volume of the novel from p. 240, of the second edition, printed 1761.
In the same volume, at page 102, the reader will see Warner trying the dispositions of his two cousins, as a poor relation; prepared by immense wealth to reward the liberal indigence of the one, and confound the arrogance and inhumanity of the other. Here is certainly the Sir Oliver Surface of the School for Scandal, who, in the disguise of old Stanley, sounds the hearts of his two nephews, with the same ability to reward and punish.
If, after all, it cannot be credited, that the great writer of dialogue should also possess the knowledge of structure, but that he must only embellish the edifices reared by other hands-(and for such an hypothesis a better reason may be found in his indolence, than can be inferred from his powers,) I should then consider it more likely, that so much stage effect was the actual property of the author of the Discovery, with all the experience of old Sheridan to aid her;-THAT she might once have really dramatised incidents from her own romance; and thus have left among the family papers two, perhaps weak, comedies, for her son to embellish by his wit, as he afterwards graced the Stranger
and Pizarro by his energy and pathos. Something more may be found in aid of this supposition-the ingenuity of her Nourjahad will not easily be paralleled.
The other productions of the stage between the death of Mr. Garrick and the arrival of Mr. Kemble in the metropolis, are but few in number,-I mean those of any lasting merit. Mrs. Cowley took firm possession of the town by her luxuriant farce called Who's the Dupe? acted the first time on the 10th of April, 1779; and as her fancy had great fertility, the following February saw her Belle's Stratagem ranking with the happiest efforts of her sex.
Poor Reddish, on the 5th of May, had a benefit, and it was resolved to try whether he could not go through the character of Posthumus. He was now infirm, and upon the fund; in common occurrences imbecile, but to be excited by his former profession, or by nothing. That amiable spectre of Poet's Corner, the late John Ireland, gave an affecting detail of this attempt. He met his friend on this important evening an hour before the performance began. Reddish entered the room. with the step of an idiot, his eye wandering, and his whole countenance vacant. Mr. Ireland congratulated him, that he was sufficiently recovered to perform his favourite Posthumus. "Yes," said he, "and in the garden scene I shall astonish you." "The garden scene, Mr. Reddish! I thought you were to play Posthumus?" "No, Sir, I play Romeo." His friend assured him, that Posthumus was the part he was to act-and he walked to the theatre, reciting Romeo all the way.
When dressed for Posthumus, and in the green-room, it was still hard to undeceive him-at length he was pushed upon the stage, to take the chance of former habits recovering him to the proper business of the night. Mr. Ireland, in anxious expectation, got close to the orchestra, and had a perfect view of his face. The instant he came in sight of the audience, his recollection seemed to return; his countenance resumed meaning,