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Dryden, in his prefatory Essay Of Heroique Playes to the Conquest of Granada, Ed. 1672, thus gives the origin of the new way of writing plays.
“For Heroick Plays, in which onely I have us’d it [i. l., Rhyme) without the mixture of Prose) the first light we had of them on the Engli h Theatre, was from the late Sir William D'Avenant: It being forbidden him in the Rebellious times to act Tragedies and Comedies, because they contain'd some matter of Scandal to those good people, who could more easily dispossess their lawful Sovereign then endure a wanton jeast; he was forc'd to turn his thoughts another way; and to introduce the examples of moral vertue, writ in verse, and perform’d in Recitative Musique. The Original of this musick and of the Scenes which adorn'd his work, he had from the Italian Operas : but he heightn’d his Characters (as I may probably imagine) from the example of Corneille and some French Poets. In this Condition did this part of Poetry remain at his Majesties return. When growing bolder, as being now own'd by a publick Authority, he review'd his Siege of Rhodes, and caus'd it to be acted as a just Drama; but as few men have the happiness to begin and finish any new project, so neither did he live to make his design perfect.'
2 (a) GERARD LANGBAINE gives this account of Lacy :
A Comedian whose Abilities in Action were sufficiently known to all that frequented the King's Theatre, where he was for many years an Actor, and perform'd all Parts that he undertook to a miracle ; insomuch that I am apt to believe, that as this Age never had, so the next never will have his Equal, at least not his Superiour. He was so well approv'd of by King Charles the Second, an undeniable Judge in Dramatick Arts, that he caus’d his Picture to be drawn, in three several Figures in the same Table, viz. That of Teague in the Committee, Mr. Scruple in The Cheats, and M. Galliard, in The Variety: which piece is still in being in Windsor Castle. Nor did his Talent wholly lye in Acting, he knew both how to judge and write Plays : and if his Comedies are somewhat allied to French Farce, 'tis out of choice, rather than want of Ability to write true Comedy.
Account of Eng. Dram. Poets, p. 317. Oxenford, 1691. Lacy wrote four Comedies, printed in the following years :Dumb Lady, or The Farriar made Physitian, 1672, 4to. Old Troop, or Monsieur Ragou, 1672, 4to. Sawny the Scot, or The Taming of a Shrew, 1677, 4to. Sir Hercules Buffoon, or The Poetical Squire, 1684, 4to.
(6) Dean LOCKIER, in Spence's ANECDOTES, p. 63, Ed. 1820, says :
It is incredible what pains Buckingham took with one of the actors, to teach him to speak some passages in Bayes' part, in The Rehearsal right.
This actor was Lacy, fee p. 16.
E might well call this short Mock-play of
ours A Posie made of Weeds instead of Flowers ;
Yet such have been presented to your noses, And there are such, I fear, who thought 'em Roses. Would some of 'em were here, to see, this night, What stuff it is in which they took delight, Here, brisk, insipid Blades, for wit, let fall Sometimes dull sence; but oft'ner, none at all : There, strutting Heroes, with a grim-fac'd train, Shall brave the Gods, in King Cambyses vain. For (changing Rules, of late, as if men writ In spite of Reason, Nature, Art, and Wit) Our Poets make us laugh at Tragedy, And with their Comedies they make us cry. Now, Critiques, do your worst, that here are met; For, like a Rook, I have hedg'd in my Bet. If you approve; I shall assume the state Of those high-flyers whom I imitate: And justly too; for I will shew you more Than ever they vouchsaf'd to shew before : I will both represent the feats they do, And give you all their reasons for 'em too. Some honour to me will from this arise. But if, by my endeavours, you grow wise, And what was once so prais'd you now despise; Then I'l cry out, swells with Poetique rage, 'Tis I, John Lacy," have reform'd your Stage.
The Actors Names.
Attendants of Men and Women.
JOHNSON and SMITH. JOHNS.
Onest Frank! I'm glad to see thee
with all my heart : how long hast thou been in Town ?
SMI. Faith, not above
hour : and, if I had not met you here, I had gone to look you out; for I long to talk with you freely, of all the strange new things we have heard in the Country.
JOHNS. And, by my troth, I have long'd as much to laugh with you, at all the impertinent, dull, fantastical things, we are tir'd out with here.
SMI. Dull and fantastical! that's an excellent composition. Pray, what are our men of business doing ?
JOHNS. I ne'er enquire after 'em. Thou know'st my humour lyes another way.
I love to please my self as much, and to trouble others as little as I can: and therefore do naturally avoid the company of those solemn Fops; who, being incapable of Reason, and insensible of Wit and Pleasure, are always looking grave, and troubling one another, in hopes to be thought men of Business.