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Nor was thy laboured drama damned or hissed,
But with a kind civility dismissed;
With such good manners as the Wifet did use,
Who, not accepting, did but just refuse.
There was a glance at parting; such a look,
As bids thee not give o'er for one rebuke.
But if thou wouldst be seen, as well as read,
Copy one living author, and one dead.
The standard of thy style let Etherege be;
For wit, the immortal spring of Wycherly.
Learn, after both, to draw some just design,
And the next age will learn to copy thine.
dle size, his voice clear and audible, his natural countenance grave and sober; but the moment he spoke, the settled seriousness of his features was utterly discharged, and a dry, drolling, or laughing levity, took such full possession of him, that I can only refer the idea of him to your imagination. In some of his low characters, that became it, he had a shuffling shamble in his gait, with so contented an ignorance in his aspect, and an aukward absurdity in his gesture, that, had you not known him, you could not have believed, that naturally he could have had a grain of common sense.”. Our author insinuates, that the audience had been so accustomed to the presence of this facetious actor, that they could not tolerate a play where his low humour was excluded.
+ Alluding to the character of Mrs Friendall in “ The Wives' Excuse."
THE TENTH SATIRE OF JUVEXAL.
HENRY HIGDEx was a member of the honourable society of the Middle Temple, and during the reigns of James II. and Wild liam III. held some rank among the wits of the age. He wrote a play called “ Sir Noisy Parrot, or the Wary Widow,” represented in 1693, which seems to have been most effectually dam ned; for in the preface the author complains, that “ the theatre was by faction transformed into a bear-garden, hissing, mimicking, ridiculing, and cat-calling.” I mention this circumstance, because amongst the poetical friends who hastened to condole with Mr Higden on the bad success of his piece, there is one who attributes it to the influence of our author over the inferior wits at Will's coffee-house. $ But it seems more generally admitted, as
From spawn of Will's, these wits of iuture tense,
He now appeals to men of riper sense ;
And hopes to find some shelter from the wrath
Of furious critics of implicit faith;
Whose judgment always ebb, but zeal flows high,
Who for these truths upon the ehurch relv.
Will's is the mother-church: From thence their creed,
And as that censures, poets must succeed.
Here the great patriarch of Parnassus sits,
Aad graats his bulls to the subordinate wits.
the cause of the downfall of the “ Wary Widow," that the author
being a man of a convivial temper, had introduced too great a
display of good eating and drinking into his piece; and that the
actors, although Mr Higden complains of their general negligence,
entered into these convivial scenes with great zeal, and became
finally incapable of proceeding in their parts. t The prologue was
written by Sir Charles Sedley, in which the following lines seem
to be levelled at Dryden's critical prefaces :
But against old, as well as new, to rage,
Is the peculiar phrenzy of this age;
Shakespeare must down, and you must praise no more
Soft Desdemona, or the jealous Moor.
Shakespeare, whose fruitful genius, happy wit,
Was framed and finished at a lucky hit;
The pride of nature, and the shame of schools,
Born to create, and not to learn from rules,
Must please no more. His bastards now deride
Their father's nakedness, they ought to hide ;
But when on spurs their Pegasus they force,
Their jaded muse is distanced in the course.
If the admirers of Dryden were active in the condemnation of Higden's play, the offence probably lay in these verses.
From this hot-bed with foplings we're opprest,
That crowd the boxes, and the pit infest;
Who their great master's falling spittle lick,
And at the neighbouring playhouse judge on tick.
Thus have I seen from some decaying oak,
A numerous toad-stool brood his moisture suck,
And as the reverend log his verdure sheds,
The fungous offspring flourishes and spreads.
Verses prefixed to " Sir Noisy Parrot,” 4to, 1693. + This circumstance is noticed by one of Higden's poetical comforters :
Friend Harry, some squeamish pretenders to thinking,
Say, thy play is encumbered with eating and drinking;
That too oft, in conscience, thy table's brought out,
And unmerciful healths fly like hail-shot about.
Such a merry objection who ere could expect,
That does on the town or its pleasures reflect ?
Is a treat and a bottle grown quite out of fashion,
Or have the spruce beaus found a new recreation ?
At a tavern I'm certain they seldom find fault,
When flask after flask in due order is brought :
Why then should the fops be so monstrons uncivil,
As to damn at a play, what they like at the Devil ? Begging pardon of this apologist, who subscribes himself Tho. Palmer, there is some difference between the satisfaction of eating a good dinner at a tavern, and seeing one presented on the stage.
It seems likely that Higden's trauslation, of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal, which I have never seen, was printed before Dryden published his own version, in 1693 ; consequently, before the damnation of the “ Wary Widow," acted in the same year, which seems to have been attended with a quarrel between Dryden and the author. It is therefore very probable, that this Epistle should have stood earlier in the arrangement: but, having no positive evi. dence, the Editor has not disturbed the former order.
The Grecian wits, who satire first began,
Were pleasant Pasquins on the life of man;
At mighty villains, who the state opprest,
They durst not rail, perhaps; they lashed, at least,
And turned them out of office with a jest.
No fool could peep abroad, but ready stand
The drolls to clap a bauble * in his hand.
Wise legislators never yet could draw
Ą fop within the reach of common law;
For posture, dress, grimace, and affectation,
Though foes to sense, are harmless to the nation.
Our last redress is dint of verse to try,
And satire is our court of chancery.
This way took Horace to reform an age,
Not bad enough to need an author's rage:
But yours, I who lived in more degenerate times,
Was forced to fasten deep, and worry crimes.
Yet you, my friend, have tempered him so well,
You make him smile in spite of all his zeal;
An art peculiar to yourself alone,
To join the virtues of two styles in one.
* A truncheon, with a fool's head and cap upon one end. It was carried by the ancient jester, and is often alluded to in old plays.