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British, the parent from which the American has sprung, and
SIR TO THE EDITOR OF THE MIRROR OF TASTE. I take the liberty of suggesting to you the propriety of soliciting communications under this head. There are a great many old persons now living in various parts of the United States, who know anecdotes of players, and particulars respecting the first theatrical establishments in this country, which it would not cost them any trouble to write down and send to your office, and which if not thus preserved, may soon sink into the grave with their sole and venerable depositaries. Authentic copies of play-bills announcing the first or last appearance of actors or actresses who have since distinguished themselves, and bills of the first or last night's performance of a season, would be well worth preserving for the end I have suggested. Poetical addresses for any particular occasion, especially the opening of a new theatre, would also be of great importance at some future time, because they would illustrate the state of the (iterature, as well as the dramatic history of the age in which they were written. I do not, Mr. Editor, like many advisers, endeavour to impose on others a task I would not encounter myself; but follow up these hints by sending you an important document to begin with; and, in case my project meets with your approbation, I promise that you shall hear from me on the same subject whenever I can spare a moment for that purpose, and your Mirror is unoccupied by abler correspondents. With this letter you will receive a prologue, spoken at the dedication of the first regular theatre that was ever built in Boston, and was opened during the December of 1793, or the January of 1794, I am not certain which. It is a notorious fact that, even so lately as 1793, the legislature of Massachusetts could not, without great difficulty, be persuaded to repeal an act which declared all theatrical performances unlawful and immoral. Before this repeal, the actors evaded the statute by announcing, for example, that “On Monday evening will be delivered at the exhibition room, in Board alley, a Monal Lectuar, enforced by the affecting history of JANE Shor E, which will be alternately recited by Messrs. Harper, Powell, &c.; the evening's exercises to conclude with an Amusing Lecture in the facetious narrative of Chrono NHoront hologos.” I quote this bill, which I once saw, from memory, but will procure the original, and send it to you at some future time. When the prejudices of the Boston legislators were overcome, and the new theatre ready to be occupied, the proprietors offered a gold medal to the author of the best frologue which should be written on the opening of their establishment. The candidates for this distinction sent their several productions inclosed in a sealed cover, and without signatures; and after all had been read, compared, and read a second, and a third time, the preference was unanimously given to the following, which was afterwards discovered to be the work of Mr. PAINE (since celebrated for his political songs), and to him the prize was awarded. At that time Mr. Paine's name was Thomas; but not many years after he changed it to Robert Treat, out of affection for his elder brother, who died in 1798 or 1799, and to perpetuate the name of his father, The Hon. Rob ERT TREAT PA1NE, who is one of the few surviving signers of the Declaration of American Independence.
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These reasons, however, were not assigned in Mr. Paine's petition to the legislature; but wittily alluding to Thomas PAINE, the infidel, he stated that “he had no chaistian NAME, and, therefore, prayed for one.” The good old legislators smiled; the fact " admitted, and the prayer of the petitioner complied with: A FRIEND. To You Rself AND YOUR Woho
Baltimore, October 24, 1811.
spoken by Mr. Powell,” at the dedication of the me" theatre,t Boston
BY Triomas PAIN E, A. B.
when first, o'er Athens, Learning's dawning ray
But soon the Muse, by nobler ardours fir’d,
Hence artists grac'd, and heroes nerv'd the age.
* Not the present manager of the Boston theatre, Powell, who afterwards settled in Halifax, and died there a year or two
f This theatre is not the one now standing in Boston. In 1799, (I give the date from memory) it was destroyed by fire, and the present theatre was
built on the same spot.
but his brother, C. A.