« FöregåendeFortsätt »
For since 'tis allow'd that the stage is a glass,(r)
(r) Plays, novels, and farces, tend more to hand down to succeeding generations a just picture of the times and manners in which they were composed than any branch of literature; since none but the authors of such pieces will deem it requisite to describe, with minuteness, the customs of their contemporaries, as a narration of that kind would be insipid, and of no utility whatsoever. On the contrary, should the dramatic writer err in the delineation of his portraits, the produetion would be scouted, and his piece tend only to burden the shelves of the publisher. It is to Terence, Plautus, Aristophanes, Apuleius, Thucydides, Livy, and Casar, that we are indebted for our insight into the manners, fashions, and customs of the Greeks and Romans; while it is pitiable to remark the extreme distress to which our ablest antiquarians are reduced, when desirous of making the present generation acquainted with the minutiæ of those of our ancestors who lived before the stage or the press existed to elucidate posterior writers. Nay, if we even refer to an epoch subsequent to the invention of the art of printing, how much are the most prominent features of the time enveloped in darkness. Instance the short reign of Richard, III., many of whose actions, as handed down to posterity, even by the ancient chro
As society's friend, I with rigour should scan
Thus whenever morality hitches the toe,
nicles, have since been proved altogether nugatory, particularly in the person of Jane Shore, whom he is stated to have condemned to death by starvation; whereas Sir Thomas More, a writer of the greatest probity living in the reign of Henry VIII., not only acquaints us with the then existence of Mrs. Shore, but that he saw and had a long conversation with her, being a lapse of
many years subsequent to the death of King Richard. But if we refer back a century or two anterior to this monarch's reign, how very
little do monastic charters, or the gaudy ornaments of a missal, which are the best guides to the curious, afford an insight into the humours of the age, when compared to what posterity will glean from the dramatic effusions of a Foote, Murphy, Coleman, Macklin, Sheridan, and Cumberland, or the didactic narratives of a Fielding, Smollet, Goldsmith, together with the labours of many writers of the present period, who, if not endowed with such transcendant talents, are nevertheless close imitators of the existing state of society in their native country.
Since to one that's allur'd with the Right—’midst
And Cumberland's genius, scarce tinctur'd with fail
ing, For sentiinent fam’d, must be ever prevailing. From flights senatorial Sheridan's brain With energy pictures true comedy's vein; A Rivals, Duenna, and Critic, must rule In regions dramatic—while Scandal's just School, Display'd in our writer, when wielding the pen, A knowledge consummate of manners and men. (r)
(r) One note will be sufficient to condense the names of Macklin, Murphy, Cumberland, and Sheridan, whose respece tive dramatic talents have so uniformly been sanctioned by public applause, that it is but to mention each writer, and the meed of praise must consequently follow. Macklin, though not a voluminous contributor to scenic representations, has condensed multum in parvo, by showing a complete knowledge of the practices of the stage, and an acute perception of human life : his characters are drawn with the hand of a master, who felt no diffidence in the accomplishment of the task which he had proposed to himself to execute. Murphy, treading in the old school of the drama, has left to posterity the lasting memorials of what inay be produced by a combination of genius and classical Inur'd to the boards-not divested of grace,
The veteran Waldron shall here claim a place,
acquirements ; his tragic powers are of the first class, and must continue to interest, while Melpomene finds a sanctuary in a British theatre. The versatile talents of Cumberland, and the rapidity of his pen, sometimes prompted him to write without sufficient consideration, and a few of his theatrical labours were in consequence condemned by the audience; but while his West Indian, Wheel of Fortune, and his Jew, are performed, their trifling demerits will always be forgotten, and such pieces receive the sanction of a gratified public. To praise the acknowledged sterling pieces of Sheridan, would only be an echo of the above lines; his claims to theatrical excellence are indelibly stamped upon the minds of the amateurs of the drama, and it is only to be regretted that an individual, thus gifted, should have proved so sparing of the great talents which nature has bestowed upon him.