Part 1 out of 9
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THE POETICAL WORKS OF CHARLES CHURCHILL.
With Memoir, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes,
By The REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN.
* * * * *
CHURCHILL--HIS LIFE AND WRITINGS.
In Churchill we find a signal specimen of a considerable class of
writers, concerning whom Goldsmith's words are true--
"Who, born for the universe, narrow'd their mind,
And to party gave up what was meant for mankind."
Possessed of powers and natural endowments which might have made him,
under favourable circumstances, a poet, a hero, a man, and a saint, he
became, partly through his own fault, and partly through the force of
destiny, a satirist, an unfortunate politician, a profligate, died early;
and we must approach his corpse, as men do those of Burns and Byron, with
sorrow, wonder, admiration, and blame, blended into one strange, complex,
and yet not unnatural emotion. Like them, his life was short and
unhappy--his career triumphant, yet checquered--his powers
uncultivated--his passions unchecked--his poetry only a partial discovery
of his genius--his end sudden and melancholy--and his reputation, and
future place in the history of letters, hitherto somewhat uncertain. And
yet, like them, his very faults and errors, both as a man and a poet,
have acted, with many, as nails, fastening to a "sure place" his
reputation and the effect of his genius.
Charles Churchill was born in Vine Street, Westminster, in February 1731.
He was the eldest son of the Rev. Charles Churchill, a rector in Essex,
as well as a curate, and lecturer of St John the Evangelist, Westminster.
As to the attainments of the poet's father, we know only that he was
qualified to superintend the studies of the son, during the intervals of
public tuition. At eight years of age, he was sent to Westminster School,
and placed under the care of Dr Nichols and Dr Pierson Lloyd, where his
proficiency in classical lore was by no means remarkable; nor did he give
any promise of the brilliance which afterwards distinguished his genius.
At fifteen, he stood as candidate for admission to the foundation at
Westminster, and carried it triumphantly. Shortly after, having by some
misdemeanour displeased the masters, he was compelled to compose, and
recite in the school-room, a poetical declamation in Latin, by way of
penance. This he accomplished in a masterly manner--to the astonishment
of his masters, and the delight of his school-fellows--some of whom
became afterwards distinguished men. We can fancy the scene at the day of
the recitation--the grave and big-wigged schoolmasters looking grimly
on--their aspect, however, becoming softer and brighter, as one large
hexameter rolls out after another--the strong, awkward, ugly boy,
unblushingly pouring forth his energetic lines--cheered by the sight of
the relaxing gravity of his teachers' looks--while around, you see the
bashful tremulous figure of poor Cowper, the small thin shape and bright
eye of Warren Hastings, and the waggish countenance of Colman--all
eagerly watching the reciter--and all, at last, distended and brightened
with joy at his signal triumph.
At the age of eighteen, he stood for a fellowship in Merton College, but
without success--being defeated by older candidates. Shortly after, he
applied for matriculation at the University of Oxford, but is SAID to
have been rejected at his examination, in which, instead of answering the
questions proposed, he broke out into satirical reflections on the
abilities of his judges. From Oxford he repaired to Cambridge, where he
was admitted into Trinity College. Here, however, his stay was very
short,--he was probably repelled by the _chevaux-de-frise_ of the
mathematics;--and in a few weeks he returned to London, disgusted at both
universities, shaking their dust off his feet, and, perhaps, vowing
vengeance against them--a vow which he has kept in his poetry. In his
"Ghost," for instance, he thus ridiculed those forms of admission--
"Which Balaam's ass
As well as Balaam's self might pass,
And with his master take degrees,
Could he contrive to pay the fees."
Penniless, and soured by disappointment, Churchill returned to his
father's house; and, being idle, soon obtained work from the proverbial
"taskmaster" of all idle people. Having become acquainted with a young
lady, named Scott, whose father lived in the vicinity of Westminster
School, he, with true poetic imprudence, married her privately in the
Fleet, to the great annoyance of both their parents. His father, however,
was much attached to and proud of his son, and at last was reconciled to
the match, and took the young couple home. Churchill passed one quiet
domestic year under the paternal roof. At its termination--for reasons
which are not known--he retired to Sunderland, in the north of England,
and seems there to have applied himself enthusiastically to the study of
poetry--commencing, at the same time, a course of theological reading,
with a view to the Church. He remained in Sunderland till the year 1753,
when he came back to London to take possession of a small fortune which
accrued to him through his wife. He had now reached the age of
twenty-two, and had been three years married.
During the residence in the metropolis which succeeded, he frequented the
theatres, and came thus in contact with a field where he was to gather
his earliest and most untarnished laurels. In "The Rosciad," we find the
results of several years' keen and close observation of the actors of the
period, collected into one focus, and pointed and irradiated by the power
of genius. As Scott, while carelessly galloping in his youth through
Liddesdale, and listening to ballads and old-world stories, was "making
himself" into the mighty minstrel of the border--so this big, clumsy,
overgrown student, seated in the pit of Drury Lane, or exalted to the
one-shilling gallery of Covent Garden, was silently growing into the
greatest poet of the stage that, perhaps, ever lived.
Soon after, he was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, on
the curacy of Cadbury, in Somersetshire, where he immediately removed,
and entered on a career of active ministerial work. Such were the golden
opinions he gained in Cadbury, that, in 1756, although he had taken no
degree, nor could be said to have studied at either of the universities,
he was ordained priest by Dr Sherlock, the Bishop of London (celebrated
for his Sermons and his "Trial of the Witnesses"), on his father's curacy
of Rainham, Essex. Here he continued diligent in his pastoral
duties--blameless in his conduct, and attentive to his theological
studies. He seemed to have entirely escaped from the suction of the
stage--to have forsworn the Muses, and to have turned the eye of his
ambition away from the peaks of Parnassus to the summit of the Bishops'
But for Churchill's poor circumstances, it is likely that he would have
reached this elevation, as surely as did his great contemporary, and the
object of his implacable hatred and abuse, William Warburton. But his
early marriage, and his increasing responsibilities, produced pecuniary
embarrassments, and these must have tended gradually to sour him against
his profession, and to prepare his mind for that rupture with it which
ultimately ensued. To support himself and his family, he opened a school,
and met with considerable encouragement--although we suspect that his
scholars felt something of the spirit of the future satirist stirring in
the motions of his rod, and that he who afterwards lashed his century did
not spare his school. In the year 1758, his amiable and excellent father
died, and (a striking testimony both to his own and his son's early
worth) Charles was unanimously chosen to be his father's successor in the
curacy and lectureship of St John's. There he laboured for a time,
according to some statements, with much punctuality, energy, and
acceptance. After "The Rosciad" had established his name, he sold ten of
the sermons he had preached in St John's to a bookseller for L250. We
have not read them; but Dr Kippis has pronounced them utterly unworthy of
their author's fame--without a single gleam of his poetic fire--so poor,
indeed, that he supposes that they were borrowed from some dull elderly
divine, if not from Churchill's own father. This reminds us of a story
which was lately communicated to us about the famous William Godwin. He,
too, succeeded his father in his pastoral charge. Tinged, however,
already with heterodox views, he was by no means so popular as his father
had been. His own sermons were exceedingly cold and dry, but he possessed
a chestful of his father's, and used to read them frequently, by way of
grateful change to his hearers. The sermons of the elder Godwin were
recognised by the orthodoxy of their sentiment, and the dinginess of
their colour, and were much relished; and so long as the stock lasted,
the future author of "Caleb Williams" commanded a tolerable audience; but
so soon as he had read them all, and resumed his own lucubrations, his
hearers melted away, and he moved off to become a literateur in London.
Perhaps Churchill, in like manner, may have found that general audiences
like plain sense better than poetry. That he had ever much real piety or
zeal has been gravely doubted, and we share in the doubts. But although
he himself speaks slightingly, in one of his latter poems, of his
ministerial labours, he at least played his part with outward decorum.
His great objection to the office was still his small salary, which
amounted to scarcely L100 per annum. This compelled him to resume the
occupation of a tutor, first to the young ladies attending a
boarding-school in Queen Square, Bloomsbury, and then to several young
gentlemen who were prosecuting the study of the classics.
When about twenty-seven years of age, he renewed his acquaintance with
Robert Lloyd, the son of Dr Lloyd, one of the masters of Westminster
School, and who had been an early chum of Churchill's. This young man had
discovered very promising abilities, alike at Westminster and at
Cambridge, and had been appointed usher in his father's seminary; but,
sick of the drudgery, and infected with a fierce thirst both for fame and
pleasure, had flung himself upon the literary arena. Although far
inferior to Churchill in genius, and indeed little better than a clever
copyist of his manner, he exerted a very pernicious influence on his
friend's conduct. He borrowed inspiration from Churchill, and gave him
infamy in exchange. The poet could do nothing by halves. Along with
Lloyd, he rushed into a wild career of dissipation. He became a nightly
frequenter of the theatres, taverns, and worse haunts. His wife, with
whom, after the first year, he never seems to have been happy, instead of
checking, outran her husband in extravagance and imprudence. He got
deeply involved in debt, and was repeatedly in danger of imprisonment,
till Dr Lloyd, his friend's father, nobly stept forward to his relief,
persuaded his creditors to accept five shillings in the pound, and
himself lent what was required to complete the sum. It is said that, when
afterwards Churchill had made money by the sale of his poems, he
voluntarily paid the whole of the original debt.
Along with the new love of indulgence, there had arisen in his bosom the
old love of verse. Stimulated by intercourse with Lloyd, Colman, B.
Thornton, and other wits of the period, he had written a poem, in
Hudibrastic rhyme, entitled "The Bard." This he offered to one Waller, a
bookseller in Fleet Street, who rejected it with scorn. In this feeling
Churchill seems afterwards to have shared, as he never would consent to
its publication. Not at all discouraged, he sat down and wrote a satire
entitled "The Conclave," directed against the Dean and Chapter of
Westminster,--Dr Zachary Pearce, a favourite of Churchill's ire, being
then Dean. This would have been published but for the fear of legal
proceedings. It was extremely personal and severe. His third effort was
destined to be more successful. This was "The Rosciad," written, it is
said, after two months' close attendance on the theatres. This
excessively clever satire he offered to various booksellers, some say for
twenty pounds, others for five guineas. It was refused, and he had to
print it at his own expense. It appeared, without his name, in March
1761. Churchill now, like Byron, "awoke one morning and found himself
famous." A few days convinced him and all men that a decided hit had been
made, and that a strong new satirist had burst, like a comet, into the
"With fear of change perplexing" players.
The effect was prodigious. The critics admired--the victims of his satire
writhed and raved--the public greedily bought, and all cried out, "Who
can this be?" The _Critical Review_, then conducted by Smollett, alone
opposed the general opinion. It accused Colman and Lloyd of having
concocted "The Rosciad," for the purpose of puffing themselves. This
compelled Churchill to quit his mask. He announced his name as the author
of the poem, and as preparing another--his "Apology"--addressed to the
_Critical Reviewers_, which accordingly appeared ere the close of April.
It proved a second bombshell, cast into the astonished town. Smollett was
keenly assailed in it, and had to write to Churchill, through Garrick,
that he was not the writer of the obnoxious critique. Garrick, himself
the hero of "The Rosciad," was here rather broadly reminded that heroes
are mortal, and that kings may be dethroned, and had to make humiliating
concessions to the fearless satirist. Fearless, indeed, and strong he
required to be, for many of his victims had vowed loud and deep to avenge
their quarrel by inflicting corporal chastisement on their foe. He armed
himself with a huge bludgeon, however, and stalked abroad and returned
home unharmed and unattempted. None cared to meddle with such a brawny
In another way his enemies soon had their revenge. He had gained one
thousand pounds by his two poems, and this supplied him with the
materials of unlimited indulgence, which he did not fail to use. He threw
off every restraint. He donned, instead of his clerical costume, a blue
coat and gold-laced waistcoat. He separated from his wife, giving her,
indeed, a handsome allowance. His midnight potations became deeper and
more habitual. Dean Zachary Pearce, afterwards Bishop of Rochester, in
vain remonstrated. At last, on his parishioners taking the matter up, and
raising an outcry as to his neglect of duty, and the unbecoming character
of his dress, he resigned his curacy and lectureship, and became for the
rest of his life a literary and dissipated "man about town."
In October 1761 he published a poem entitled "Night," addressed to Lloyd,
in which, while seeking to vindicate himself from the charges against his
_morale_, he in reality glories in his shame. His sudden celebrity had
perhaps acted as a glare of light, revealing faults that might have been
overlooked in an obscure person. With his dissipation, too, there mingled
some elements of generosity and compassion, as in the story told of him
by Charles Johnson in his "Chrysal" of the poet succouring a poor
starving girl of the town, whom he met in the midnight streets,--an
incident reminding one of the similar stories told of Dr Johnson, and
Burke, and realising the parable of the good Samaritan. Yet his conduct
on the whole could not be defended.
His next poem was "The Ghost," which he published in parts, and continued
at intervals. It was a kind of rhymed diary or waste-book, in which he
deposited his every-day thoughts and feelings, without any order or
plan,--reminding us of "Tristram Shandy" or of "Don Juan," although not
so whimsically delightful as the former, nor so brilliant and poignant as
But now, in 1762, the Poet was to degrade or to sublimate into the
Politician, at the bidding of that gay magician, Jack Wilkes. That this
man was much better than a clever and pre-eminently lucky scoundrel, is
now denied by few. He had, indeed, immense _pluck_ and convivial
pleasantry, with considerable learning and talent. But he had no
principle, no character, little power of writing, and did not even
possess a particle of that mob eloquence which seduces multitudes. His
depravities and vices were far too gross even for that gross age. In the
very height of his reputation for patriotism, he was intriguing with the
ministry for a place for himself. And he became in his latter days, as
Burke had predicted (for we strongly suspect that Burke wrote the words
in "Junius"), "a silent senator," sate down "infamous and
contented,"--proving that it had only been "the tempest which had lifted
him from his place."
Wilkes introduced himself to Churchill, and they became speedily
intimate. Soon after, indignant at the supremacy of Lord Bute, who, as a
royal favourite, had obtained a power in the country which had not been
equalled since Buckingham fell before the assassin Felton's knife, and
was employing all his influence to patronise the Scotch, Wilkes commenced
the _North Briton_. In this, from the first, he was assisted by
Churchill, who, however, did not write prose so vigorously as verse. He
had sent to the _North Briton_ a biting paper against the Scotch. On
reflection, he recalled and recast it in rhyme. It was "The Prophecy of
Famine;" and became so popular as to make a whole nation his enemies, and
all _their_ enemies his friends. This completely filled up the measure of
Churchill's triumph. He actually dressed his youngest son in the Highland
garb, took him everywhere along with him, and instructed him to say, when
asked why he was thus dressed, "Sir, my father hates the Scotch; and does
it to plague them."
Lord Bute resigned early in 1763, and was succeeded by a ministry
comprising such men as Sir Francis Dashwood, and Lord Sandwich, who had
been intimates of Wilkes, and had shared with him in certain disgusting
orgies at Medmenham Abbey. They now, however, changed their tactics, and
became vehement upholders of morality and religion; and began to watch
their opportunity for pouncing on their quondam associate. This he
himself furnished by the famous _North Briton_, No. 45. That paper may
now seem, to those who read it, a not very powerful, and not very daring
diatribe. But the times were inflammable--the nation was frantic with
rage at the peace--the ministry were young, and willing to flesh their
new-got power in some victim or other; and Wilkes, in this paper, had now
exposed himself to their fury. Warrants were instantly issued to arrest
him and Churchill, as well as the publishers and printers. Wilkes was
newly arrested when Churchill walked into his room. Knowing that his
friend's name was also in the warrant, he adroitly said to Churchill,
"Good morrow, Mr Thomson; how is Mrs Thomson to-day; does _she dine in
the country?_" The poet took the hint--said that she was waiting on
him--took his leave, and retired to the country accordingly.
Immediately after occurred the controversy between Hogarth and our poet.
While Wilkes's case was being tried, and Chief-Justice Pratt, afterwards
Lord Camden, was about to give the memorable decision in favour of the
accused, and in condemnation of general warrants, Hogarth was sitting in
the court, and immortalising Wilkes's villanous squint upon the canvas.
In July 1763, Churchill avenged his friend's quarrel by the savage
personalities of his "Epistle to William Hogarth." Here, while lauding
highly the painter's genius, he denounces his vanity, his envy, and makes
an unmanly and brutal attack on his supposed dotage. Hogarth, within a
month, replied by caricaturing Churchill as a bear with torn clerical
bands, paws in ruffles, a pot of porter in his right hand, and a knot of
LIES and _North Britons_ in his left. Churchill threatened him with a
renewed and severer assault in the shape of an elegy, but was dissuaded
from it by his mistress.
This was Miss Carr, daughter of a respectable sculptor in Westminster,
whom Churchill had seduced. After a fortnight they were both struck with
remorse, agreed to separate, and, through the intercession of a friend,
the young lady was restored to her parents. Rendered miserable, however,
by the taunts of an elder sister, she, in absolute despair, cast herself
again on Churchill's protection, and they remained together till his
death. In his letters we find him, during one of his sober intervals,
living quietly with her in Richmond. In "The Conference," he makes some
allusions to this unhappy affair, and discovers the spirit, if not of
true penitence, certainly of keen remorse, and strong self-crimination.
In the autumn of 1763 he became the comforter of his friend, Lloyd, in
the Fleet, supported him in confinement, and opened a subscription for
the discharge of his heavy debts, which, owing to the backwardness of
others, proved of little service.
Toward the close of this year, the _North Briton_ was ordered to be burnt
by the common hangman; and, on the motion of Lord Sandwich, Wilkes was
handed over for prosecution, for his infamous "Essay on Woman," a parody
on Pope's "Essay on Man"--(one Kidgell, a clergyman, had stolen a copy,
and informed the Government.) Lord Sandwich was backed by Warburton; and
the result was, Wilkes's expulsion from the House of Commons, and his
flight to France. He had previously fought a duel with one Martin, an
M.P., by whom he was severely wounded. All this furnished Churchill with
matter for his "Duellist," which even Horace Walpole pronounced
"glorious." In this vigorous production, he mercilessly lashes Martin,
Kidgell, Warburton, and especially Sandwich. At this time he, too,
purposed a retreat to France--a country where his name was already so
well known, that when the Honourable Mr Churchill, the son of a general
of the name, was asked, in Paris, if he were Churchill, the famous poet,
and replied that he was not, the answer of the Frenchman was, "_So much
the worse for you._" His time, however, to visit that coast, destined to
be so fatal to him, was not yet quite come.
From Richmond he removed to Acton-Common, where he had a house furnished
with great elegance--"kept a post-chaise, saddle-horses, and
pointers--and fished, fowled, hunted, coursed, and lived in an easy
independent manner." There he continued his irregular but rapid and
energetic course of composition, pouring out poem after poem as if he
felt his time to be short, or as if he were spurred on by the secret
stings of misery and remorse. To "The Duellist" succeeded "The
Author,"--a poem more general and less poisoned with personalities than
any of his former. "Gotham," by far the most poetical of his works, came
next. When Lord Sandwich stood for the High-Stewardship of Cambridge,
Churchill's ancient grudge, as well as his itch for satire, revived, and
he improvised "The Candidate," a piece of hasty but terrible sarcasm.
With breathless and portentous rapidity followed "The Farewell," "The
Times," and "Independence," which was his last published production. Two
fragments were found among his MSS., one "A Dedication to Warburton," and
another, "The Journey," his latest effort, and in which the last line now
"_I on my journey all alone proceed_."
A far and final journey was before this great and ill-fated poet. He was
seized with one of those sudden longings to see a friend, which are not
uncommon with the impulsive. He determined to visit Wilkes at Boulogne,
and conveyed his purpose to his brother John in the following
note:--"Dear Jack, adieu, C.C." On the 22d of October 1764, he started
for France, met Wilkes; but on the 29th was seized with miliary fever,
under which, while imprudently removed from his bed to be conveyed at his
own desire to England, his constitution sunk, and he expired on the 4th
of November, in the thirty-third year of his age. He is said to have died
calmly and firmly, rebuking the excessive grief of his friends, and
repeating some manly but not very Christian lines from his own poetry. By
a will made during his sickness, he left an annuity of sixty pounds to
his wife (in addition, we suppose, to her former allowance), fifty pounds
a-year to Miss Carr, besides providing for his two boys, and leaving
mourning rings to his more intimate friends. Wilkes got the charge of all
his works. His body was brought to Dover, where he now sleeps in an old
churchyard, which once belonged to the church of St Martin, with a stone
over him, bearing his age, the date of his death, and this line from one
of his own poems--
"Life to the last enjoy'd, here Churchill lies."
The words which he is reported to have used on his deathbed, _should_
have been inscribed on the stone--
"What a fool I have been!"
Hogarth had expired on the 25th of October, ten days before his opponent.
Lloyd was finishing his dinner, when the news of his friend's death
arrived. He was seized with sudden sickness, and crying out, "I shall
soon follow poor Charles," was carried to a bed, whence he was never to
rise. Churchill's favourite sister, Patty, who had been engaged to Lloyd,
soon afterwards sank under the double blow. The premature death of this
most popular of the poets of the time, excited a great sensation. His
furniture and books sold excessively high; a steel pen, for instance, for
five pounds, and a pair of plated spurs for sixteen guineas. Wilkes
talked much about his "dear Churchill," but, with the exception of
burning a MS. fragmentary satire, which Churchill had begun against
Colman and Thornton, _two of his intimate friends_, and erecting an urn
to him near his cottage in the Isle of Wight, with a flaming Latin
inscription, he did nothing for his memory. The poet's brother, John, an
apothecary, survived him only one year; and his two sons, Charles and
John, inherited the vices without the genius of their father. There was,
as late as 1825, a grand-daughter of his, a Mary Churchill, who had been
a governess, surviving as a patient in St George's Hospital,--a
characteristic close to such a wayward, unfortunate race.
For the errors of Churchill, as a man, there does not seem to exist any
plea of palliation, except what may be found in the poverty of his early
circumstances, and in the strength of his later passions. The worst is,
that he never seems to have been seduced into sin through the bewildering
and bewitching mists of imagination. It was naked sensuality that he
appeared to worship, and he always sinned with his eyes open. Yet his
moral sense, though blunted, was never obliterated; and many traits of
generosity and good feeling mingled with his excesses. Choosing satire as
the field of his Muse, was partly the cause and partly the effect of an
imperfect _morale_. We are far from averring that no satirist can be a
good man, but certainly most satirists have either been very good or very
bad men. To the former class have belonged Cowper, Crabbe, &c.; to the
latter, such names as Swift, Dryden, Byron, and, we must add, Churchill.
Robust manhood, honesty, and hatred of pretence, we admit him to have
possessed; but of genuine love to humanity he seems to have been as
destitute as of fear of God, or regard for the ordinary moralities.
We have to deal with him, however, principally as a poet; and there can,
we think, now be but one opinion as to his peculiar merits. He possessed,
beyond all doubt, a strong understanding, a lively imagination, a keen
perception of character--especially in its defects and
weaknesses--considerable wit without any humour, fierce passions and
hatreds, and a boundless command of a loose, careless, but bold and
energetic diction; add to this, a constant tone of self-assertion, and
rugged independence. He was emphatically a John Bull, sublimated. He
rushed into the poetic arena more like a pugilist than a poet, laying
about him on all sides, giving and taking strong blows, and approving
himself, in the phrase of "the fancy," game to the backbone. His faults,
besides those incident to most satirists,--such as undue severity,
intrusion into private life, anger darkening into malignity, and spleen
fermenting into venom,--were carelessness of style, inequality, and want
of condensation. Compared to the satires of Pope, Churchill's are far
less polished, and less pointed. Pope stabs with a silver
bodkin--Churchill hews down his opponent with a broadsword. Pope whispers
a word in his enemy's ear which withers the heart within him, and he
sinks lifeless to the ground; Churchill pours out a torrent of blasting
invective which at once kills and buries his foe. Dryden was his
favourite model; and although he has written no such condensed
masterpieces of satire as the characters of Shaftesbury and Buckingham,
yet his works as a whole are not much inferior, and justify the idea that
had his life been spared, he might have risen to the level of "Glorious
John." His versification, too, is decidedly of the Drydenic type. It is a
free, fierce, rushing, sometimes staggering, race across meadow, moor,
and mountain, dreading nothing except repose and languor, the lines
chasing, and sometimes tumbling over each other in their haste, like
impatient hounds at a fox-hunt. But more than Dryden, we think, has
Churchill displayed the genuine poetic faculty, as well as often a
loftier tone of moral indignation. This latter feeling is the inspiration
of "The Candidate," and of "The Times," which, although coarse in
subject, and coarse in style, burns with a fire of righteous indignation,
reminding you of Juvenal. The finest display of his imaginative power is
in "Gotham," which is throughout a glorious rhapsody, resembling some of
the best prose effusions of Christopher North, and abounding in such
lines as these:--
"The cedar, whose top mates the highest cloud,
Whilst his old father Lebanon grows proud
Of such a child, and _his vast body laid
Out many a mile, enjoys the filial shade_."
It is of "Gotham" that Cowper says that few writers have equalled it for
its "bold and daring strokes of fancy; its numbers so hazardously
ventured upon, and so happily finished; its matter so compressed, and yet
so clear; its colouring so sparingly laid on, and yet with such a
One great objection to Churchill's poetry lies in the temporary interest
of the subjects to which most of it is devoted. The same objection,
however, applies to the letters of Junius, and to the speeches and papers
of Burke; and the same answer to it will avail for all. Junius, by the
charm of his style, by his classic severities, and purged, poignant
venom, contrives to interest us in the paltry political feuds of the
past. Burke's does the same, by the general principles he extracts from,
and by the poetry with which he gilds, the rubbish. And so does
Churchill, by the weighty sense, the vigorous versification, the
inextinguishable spirit, and the trenchant satire and invective of his
song. The wretched intrigues of Newcastle and Bute, the squabbles of the
aldermen and councillors of the day, the petty quarrels of petty patriots
among themselves, and the poverty, spites, and frailties of forgotten
players, are all shown as in a magnifying-glass, and shine upon us
transfigured in the light of the poet's genius.
We have not room for lengthened criticism on all his separate
productions. "The Rosciad" is the most finished, pointed, and Pope-like
of his satires; it has more memorable and quotable lines than any of the
rest. "The Prophecy of Famine" is full of trash; but contains, too, many
lines in which political hatred, through its intense fervour, sparkles
into poetry: such as--
"No birds except as birds of passage flew;"
the account of the creatures which, when admitted into the ark,
"Their saviour shunn'd, and rankled in the dark;"
and the famous line--
"Where half-starved spiders prey on half-starved flies."
"The Ghost" is the least felicitous of all his poems, although its
picture of Pomposo (Dr Johnson) is exceedingly clever. The "Dedication to
Warburton" is a strain of terrible irony, but fails to damage the
Atlantean Bishop. "The Journey" is not only interesting as his last
production, but contains some affecting personal allusions, intermingled
with its stinging scorn--like pale passion-flowers blended with nettles
and nightshade. The most of the others have been already characterised.
Churchill has had two very formidable enemies to his fame and detractors
from his genius--Samuel Johnson and Christopher North. The first
pronounced him "a prolific blockhead," "a huge and fertile crab-tree;"
the second has wielded the knout against his back with peculiar gusto and
emphasis, in a paper on satire and satirists, published in _Blackwood_
for 1828. Had Churchill been alive, he could have easily "retorted
scorn"--set a "Christophero" over against the portrait of "Pomposo:" the
result had been, as always in such cases, a drawn battle; and damage
would have accrued, not to the special literateurs, but to the general
literary character. Prejudice or private pique always lurks at the bottom
of such reckless assaults, and all men in the long run feel so. In
Johnson's case, the _causa belli_ was unquestionably political
difference; and in Christopher North's it was the love of Scotland which
so warmly glowed in his bosom, and which created a glow of hatred no less
warm against Scotland's ablest, fiercest, and most inveterate poetical
Churchill's poetry only requires to be better known to be highly
appreciated for its masculine and thoroughly English qualities. In taking
our leave of him, we are again haunted by the signal resemblance he
bears, both in mental characteristics and in history, to Byron. Both were
powerful in satire, and still more so in purely poetic composition. Both
were irregular in life, and unfortunate in marriage. Both were
distinguished by fitful generosity, and careless tenderness. Both
obtained at once, and during all their career maintained, a pre-eminence
in popularity over all their contemporaries. Both were severely handled
by reviewers, and underrated by rivals. Both assumed an attitude of
defiance to the world, and stood ostentatiously at bay. Both mingled
largely in the politics of their day, and both took the liberal side.
Both felt and expressed keen remorse for their errors, and purposed and
in part began reformation. Both died at an untimely age by fever, and in
a foreign land. The dust of both, not admitted into Westminster Abbey,
nevertheless reposes in their native soil, and attracts daily visitors,
who lean, and weep, and wonder over it--partly in sympathy with their
fate--partly in pity for their errors--and partly in admiration of their
* * * * *
NOTE.--We have not alluded to various anecdotes told about Churchill's
journey to Wales, about his setting up as a cider merchant, &c., because
some of them appear extremely apocryphal. The author of an article on him
in the _Edinburgh Review_ for January 1845 asserts that he was rejected
from Oxford because he had already been married. But, if so, why was he
admitted to Cambridge? Besides, the writer adduces no proof of his
assertion. The paper, otherwise, is worthy of its author and of the poet.
* * * * *
THE PROPHECY OF FAMINE
AN EPISTLE TO WILLIAM HOGARTH
DEDICATION TO CHURCHILL'S SERMONS
LINES WRITTEN IN WINDSOR PARK
* * * * *
Unknowing and unknown, the hardy Muse
Boldly defies all mean and partial views;
With honest freedom plays the critic's part,
And praises, as she censures, from the heart.
Roscius deceased, each high aspiring player
Push'd all his interest for the vacant chair.
The buskin'd heroes of the mimic stage
No longer whine in love, and rant in rage;
The monarch quits his throne, and condescends
Humbly to court the favour of his friends;
For pity's sake tells undeserved mishaps,
And, their applause to gain, recounts his claps.
Thus the victorious chiefs of ancient Rome,
To win the mob, a suppliant's form assume; 10
In pompous strain fight o'er the extinguish'd war,
And show where honour bled in every scar.
But though bare merit might in Rome appear
The strongest plea for favour, 'tis not here;
We form our judgment in another way;
And they will best succeed, who best can pay:
Those who would gain the votes of British tribes,
Must add to force of merit, force of bribes.
What can an actor give? In every age
Cash hath been rudely banish'd from the stage; 20
Monarchs themselves, to grief of every player,
Appear as often as their image there:
They can't, like candidate for other seat,
Pour seas of wine, and mountains raise of meat.
Wine! they could bribe you with the world as soon,
And of 'Roast Beef,' they only know the tune:
But what they have they give; could Clive do more,
Though for each million he had brought home four?
Shuter keeps open house at Southwark fair,
And hopes the friends of humour will be there; 30
In Smithfield, Yates prepares the rival treat
For those who laughter love, instead of meat;
Foote, at Old House,--for even Foote will be,
In self-conceit, an actor,--bribes with tea;
Which Wilkinson at second-hand receives,
And at the New, pours water on the leaves.
The town divided, each runs several ways,
As passion, humour, interest, party sways.
Things of no moment, colour of the hair,
Shape of a leg, complexion brown or fair, 40
A dress well chosen, or a patch misplaced,
Conciliate favour, or create distaste.
From galleries loud peals of laughter roll,
And thunder Shuter's praises; he's so droll.
Embox'd, the ladies must have something smart,
Palmer! oh! Palmer tops the jaunty part.
Seated in pit, the dwarf with aching eyes,
Looks up, and vows that Barry's out of size;
Whilst to six feet the vigorous stripling grown,
Declares that Garrick is another Coan. 50
When place of judgment is by whim supplied,
And our opinions have their rise in pride;
When, in discoursing on each mimic elf,
We praise and censure with an eye to self;
All must meet friends, and Ackman bids as fair,
In such a court, as Garrick, for the chair.
At length agreed, all squabbles to decide,
By some one judge the cause was to be tried;
But this their squabbles did afresh renew,
Who should be judge in such a trial:--who? 60
For Johnson some; but Johnson, it was fear'd,
Would be too grave; and Sterne too gay appear'd;
Others for Franklin voted; but 'twas known,
He sicken'd at all triumphs but his own:
For Colman many, but the peevish tongue
Of prudent Age found out that he was young:
For Murphy some few pilfering wits declared,
Whilst Folly clapp'd her hands, and Wisdom stared.
To mischief train'd, e'en from his mother's womb,
Grown old in fraud, though yet in manhood's bloom, 70
Adopting arts by which gay villains rise,
And reach the heights which honest men despise;
Mute at the bar, and in the senate loud,
Dull 'mongst the dullest, proudest of the proud;
A pert, prim, prater of the northern race,
Guilt in his heart, and famine in his face,
Stood forth,--and thrice he waved his lily hand,
And thrice he twirled his tye, thrice stroked his band:--
At Friendship's call (thus oft, with traitorous aim,
Men void of faith usurp Faith's sacred name) 80
At Friendship's call I come, by Murphy sent,
Who thus by me develops his intent:
But lest, transfused, the spirit should be lost,
That spirit which, in storms of rhetoric toss'd,
Bounces about, and flies like bottled beer,
In his own words his own intentions hear.
Thanks to my friends; but to vile fortunes born,
No robes of fur these shoulders must adorn.
Vain your applause, no aid from thence I draw;
Vain all my wit, for what is wit in law? 90
Twice, (cursed remembrance!) twice I strove to gain
Admittance 'mongst the law-instructed train,
Who, in the Temple and Gray's Inn, prepare
For clients' wretched feet the legal snare;
Dead to those arts which polish and refine,
Deaf to all worth, because that worth was mine,
Twice did those blockheads startle at my name,
And foul rejection gave me up to shame.
To laws and lawyers then I bade adieu,
And plans of far more liberal note pursue. 100
Who will may be a judge--my kindling breast
Burns for that chair which Roscius once possess'd.
Here give your votes, your interest here exert,
And let success for once attend desert.
With sleek appearance, and with ambling pace,
And, type of vacant head, with vacant face,
The Proteus Hill put in his modest plea,--
Let Favour speak for others, Worth for me.--
For who, like him, his various powers could call
Into so many shapes, and shine in all? 110
Who could so nobly grace the motley list,
Actor, Inspector, Doctor, Botanist?
Knows any one so well--sure no one knows--
At once to play, prescribe, compound, compose?
Who can--but Woodward came,--Hill slipp'd away,
Melting, like ghosts, before the rising day.
With that low cunning, which in fools supplies,
And amply too, the place of being wise,
Which Nature, kind, indulgent parent, gave
To qualify the blockhead for a knave; 120
With that smooth falsehood, whose appearance charms,
And Reason of each wholesome doubt disarms,
Which to the lowest depths of guile descends,
By vilest means pursues the vilest ends;
Wears Friendship's mask for purposes of spite,
Pawns in the day, and butchers in the night;
With that malignant envy which turns pale,
And sickens, even if a friend prevail,
Which merit and success pursues with hate,
And damns the worth it cannot imitate; 130
With the cold caution of a coward's spleen,
Which fears not guilt, but always seeks a screen,
Which keeps this maxim ever in her view--
What's basely done, should be done safely too;
With that dull, rooted, callous impudence,
Which, dead to shame and every nicer sense,
Ne'er blush'd, unless, in spreading Vice's snares,
She blunder'd on some virtue unawares;
With all these blessings, which we seldom find
Lavish'd by Nature on one happy mind, 140
A motley figure, of the Fribble tribe,
Which heart can scarce conceive, or pen describe,
Came simpering on--to ascertain whose sex
Twelve sage impannell'd matrons would perplex.
Nor male, nor female; neither, and yet both;
Of neuter gender, though of Irish growth;
A six-foot suckling, mincing in Its gait;
Affected, peevish, prim, and delicate;
Fearful It seem'd, though of athletic make,
Lest brutal breezes should too roughly shake 150
Its tender form, and savage motion spread,
O'er Its pale cheeks, the horrid manly red.
Much did It talk, in Its own pretty phrase,
Of genius and of taste, of players and of plays;
Much too of writings, which Itself had wrote,
Of special merit, though of little note;
For Fate, in a strange humour, had decreed
That what It wrote, none but Itself should read;
Much, too, It chatter'd of dramatic laws,
Misjudging critics, and misplaced applause; 160
Then, with a self-complacent, jutting air,
It smiled, It smirk'd, It wriggled to the chair;
And, with an awkward briskness not Its own,
Looking around, and perking on the throne,
Triumphant seem'd; when that strange savage dame,
Known but to few, or only known by name,
Plain Common-Sense appear'd, by Nature there
Appointed, with plain Truth, to guard the chair,
The pageant saw, and, blasted with her frown,
To Its first state of nothing melted down. 170
Nor shall the Muse, (for even there the pride
Of this vain nothing shall be mortified)
Nor shall the Muse (should Fate ordain her rhymes,
Fond, pleasing thought! to live in after-times)
With such a trifler's name her pages blot;
Known be the character, the thing forgot:
Let It, to disappoint each future aim,
Live without sex, and die without a name!
Cold-blooded critics, by enervate sires
Scarce hammer'd out, when Nature's feeble fires 180
Glimmer'd their last; whose sluggish blood, half froze,
Creeps labouring through the veins; whose heart ne'er glows
With fancy-kindled heat;--a servile race,
Who, in mere want of fault, all merit place;
Who blind obedience pay to ancient schools,
Bigots to Greece, and slaves to musty rules;
With solemn consequence declared that none
Could judge that cause but Sophocles alone.
Dupes to their fancied excellence, the crowd,
Obsequious to the sacred dictate, bow'd. 190
When, from amidst the throng, a youth stood forth,
Unknown his person, not unknown his worth;
His look bespoke applause; alone he stood,
Alone he stemm'd the mighty critic flood.
He talk'd of ancients, as the man became
Who prized our own, but envied not their fame;
With noble reverence spoke of Greece and Rome,
And scorn'd to tear the laurel from the tomb.
But, more than just to other countries grown,
Must we turn base apostates to our own? 200
Where do these words of Greece and Rome excel,
That England may not please the ear as well?
What mighty magic's in the place or air,
That all perfection needs must centre there?
In states, let strangers blindly be preferr'd;
In state of letters, merit should be heard.
Genius is of no country; her pure ray
Spreads all abroad, as general as the day;
Foe to restraint, from place to place she flies,
And may hereafter e'en in Holland rise. 210
May not, (to give a pleasing fancy scope,
And cheer a patriot heart with patriot hope)
May not some great extensive genius raise
The name of Britain 'bove Athenian praise;
And, whilst brave thirst of fame his bosom warms,
Make England great in letters as in arms?
There may--there hath,--and Shakspeare's Muse aspires
Beyond the reach of Greece; with native fires
Mounting aloft, he wings his daring flight,
Whilst Sophocles below stands trembling at his height. 220
Why should we then abroad for judges roam,
When abler judges we may find at home?
Happy in tragic and in comic powers,
Have we not Shakspeare?--Is not Jonson ours?
For them, your natural judges, Britons, vote;
They'll judge like Britons, who like Britons wrote.
He said, and conquer'd--Sense resumed her sway,
And disappointed pedants stalk'd away.
Shakspeare and Jonson, with deserved applause,
Joint-judges were ordain'd to try the cause. 230
Meantime the stranger every voice employ'd,
To ask or tell his name. Who is it? Lloyd.
Thus, when the aged friends of Job stood mute,
And, tamely prudent, gave up the dispute,
Elihu, with the decent warmth of youth,
Boldly stood forth the advocate of Truth;
Confuted Falsehood, and disabled Pride,
Whilst baffled Age stood snarling at his side.
The day of trial's fix'd, nor any fear
Lest day of trial should be put off here. 240
Causes but seldom for delay can call
In courts where forms are few, fees none at all.
The morning came, nor find I that the Sun,
As he on other great events hath done,
Put on a brighter robe than what he wore
To go his journey in, the day before.
Full in the centre of a spacious plain,
On plan entirely new, where nothing vain,
Nothing magnificent appear'd, but Art
With decent modesty perform'd her part, 250
Rose a tribunal: from no other court
It borrow'd ornament, or sought support:
No juries here were pack'd to kill or clear,
No bribes were taken, nor oaths broken here;
No gownsmen, partial to a client's cause,
To their own purpose turn'd the pliant laws;
Each judge was true and steady to his trust,
As Mansfield wise, and as old Foster just.
In the first seat, in robe of various dyes,
A noble wildness flashing from his eyes, 260
Sat Shakspeare: in one hand a wand he bore,
For mighty wonders famed in days of yore;
The other held a globe, which to his will
Obedient turn'd, and own'd the master's skill:
Things of the noblest kind his genius drew,
And look'd through Nature at a single view:
A loose he gave to his unbounded soul,
And taught new lands to rise, new seas to roll;
Call'd into being scenes unknown before,
And passing Nature's bounds, was something more. 270
Next Jonson sat, in ancient learning train'd,
His rigid judgment Fancy's flights restrain'd;
Correctly pruned each wild luxuriant thought,
Mark'd out her course, nor spared a glorious fault.
The book of man he read with nicest art,
And ransack'd all the secrets of the heart;
Exerted penetration's utmost force,
And traced each passion to its proper source;
Then, strongly mark'd, in liveliest colours drew,
And brought each foible forth to public view: 280
The coxcomb felt a lash in every word,
And fools, hung out, their brother fools deterr'd.
His comic humour kept the world in awe,
And Laughter frighten'd Folly more than Law.
But, hark! the trumpet sounds, the crowd gives way,
And the procession comes in just array.
Now should I, in some sweet poetic line,
Offer up incense at Apollo's shrine,
Invoke the Muse to quit her calm abode,
And waken Memory with a sleeping Ode. 290
For how shall mortal man, in mortal verse,
Their titles, merits, or their names rehearse?
But give, kind Dulness! memory and rhyme,
We 'll put off Genius till another time.
First, Order came,--with solemn step, and slow,
In measured time his feet were taught to go.
Behind, from time to time, he cast his eye,
Lest this should quit his place, that step awry.
Appearances to save his only care;
So things seem right, no matter what they are. 300
In him his parents saw themselves renew'd,
Begotten by Sir Critic on Saint Prude.
Then came drum, trumpet, hautboy, fiddle, flute;
Next snuffer, sweeper, shifter, soldier, mute:
Legions of angels all in white advance;
Furies, all fire, come forward in a dance;
Pantomime figures then are brought to view,
Fools, hand in hand with fools, go two by two.
Next came the treasurer of either house;
One with full purse, t'other with not a sous. 310
Behind, a group of figures awe create,
Set off with all the impertinence of state;
By lace and feather consecrate to fame,
Expletive kings, and queens without a name.
Here Havard, all serene, in the same strains,
Loves, hates, and rages, triumphs and complains;
His easy vacant face proclaim'd a heart
Which could not feel emotions, nor impart.
With him came mighty Davies: on my life,
That Davies hath a very pretty wife! 320
Statesman all over, in plots famous grown,
He mouths a sentence, as curs mouth a bone.
Next Holland came: with truly tragic stalk,
He creeps, he flies,--a hero should not walk.
As if with Heaven he warr'd, his eager eyes
Planted their batteries against the skies;
Attitude, action, air, pause, start, sigh, groan,
He borrow'd, and made use of as his own.
By fortune thrown on any other stage,
He might, perhaps, have pleased an easy age; 330
But now appears a copy, and no more,
Of something better we have seen before.
The actor who would build a solid fame,
Must Imitation's servile arts disclaim;
Act from himself, on his own bottom stand;
I hate e'en Garrick thus at second-hand.
Behind came King.--Bred up in modest lore,
Bashful and young, he sought Hibernia's shore;
Hibernia, famed, 'bove every other grace,
For matchless intrepidity of face. 340
From her his features caught the generous flame,
And bid defiance to all sense of shame.
Tutor'd by her all rivals to surpass,
'Mongst Drury's sons he comes, and shines in Brass.
Lo, Yates! Without the least finesse of art
He gets applause--I wish he'd get his part.
When hot Impatience is in full career,
How vilely 'Hark ye! hark ye!' grates the ear;
When active fancy from the brain is sent,
And stands on tip-toe for some wish'd event, 350
I hate those careless blunders, which recall
Suspended sense, and prove it fiction all.
In characters of low and vulgar mould,
Where Nature's coarsest features we behold;
Where, destitute of every decent grace,
Unmanner'd jests are blurted in your face,
There Yates with justice strict attention draws,
Acts truly from himself, and gains applause.
But when, to please himself or charm his wife,
He aims at something in politer life, 360
When, blindly thwarting Nature's stubborn plan,
He treads the stage by way of gentleman,
The clown, who no one touch of breeding knows,
Looks like Tom Errand dress'd in Clincher's clothes.
Fond of his dress, fond of his person grown,
Laugh'd at by all, and to himself unknown,
Prom side to side he struts, he smiles, he prates,
And seems to wonder what's become of Yates.
Woodward, endow'd with various tricks of face,
Great master in the science of grimace, 370
From Ireland ventures, favourite of the town,
Lured by the pleasing prospect of renown;
A speaking harlequin, made up of whim,
He twists, he twines, he tortures every limb;
Plays to the eye with a mere monkey's art,
And leaves to sense the conquest of the heart.
We laugh indeed, but, on reflection's birth,
We wonder at ourselves, and curse our mirth.
His walk of parts he fatally misplaced,
And inclination fondly took for taste; 380
Hence hath the town so often seen display'd
Beau in burlesque, high life in masquerade.
But when bold wits,--not such as patch up plays,
Cold and correct, in these insipid days,--
Some comic character, strong featured, urge
To probability's extremest verge;
Where modest Judgment her decree suspends,
And, for a time, nor censures, nor commends;
Where critics can't determine on the spot
Whether it is in nature found or not, 390
There Woodward safely shall his powers exert,
Nor fail of favour where he shows desert;
Hence he in Bobadil such praises bore,
Such worthy praises, Kitely scarce had more.
By turns transform'd into all kind of shapes,
Constant to none, Foote laughs, cries, struts, and scrapes:
Now in the centre, now in van or rear,
The Proteus shifts, bawd, parson, auctioneer.
His strokes of humour, and his bursts of sport,
Are all contain'd in this one word--distort. 400
Doth a man stutter, look a-squint, or halt?
Mimics draw humour out of Nature's fault,
With personal defects their mirth adorn,
And bang misfortunes out to public scorn.
E'en I, whom Nature cast in hideous mould,
Whom, having made, she trembled to behold,
Beneath the load of mimicry may groan,
And find that Nature's errors are my own.
Shadows behind of Foote and Woodward came;
Wilkinson this, Obrien was that name. 410
Strange to relate, but wonderfully true,
That even shadows have their shadows too!
With not a single comic power endued,
The first a mere, mere mimic's mimic stood;
The last, by Nature form'd to please, who shows,
In Johnson's Stephen, which way genius grows,
Self quite put off, affects with too much art
To put on Woodward in each mangled part;
Adopts his shrug, his wink, his stare; nay, more,
His voice, and croaks; for Woodward croak'd before. 420
When a dull copier simple grace neglects,
And rests his imitation in defects,
We readily forgive; but such vile arts
Are double guilt in men of real parts.
By Nature form'd in her perversest mood,
With no one requisite of art endued,
Next Jackson came--Observe that settled glare,
Which better speaks a puppet than a player;
List to that voice--did ever Discord hear
Sounds so well fitted to her untuned ear? 430
When to enforce some very tender part,
The right hand slips by instinct on the heart,
His soul, of every other thought bereft,
Is anxious only where to place the left;
He sobs and pants to soothe his weeping spouse;
To soothe his weeping mother, turns and bows:
Awkward, embarrass'd, stiff, without the skill
Of moving gracefully, or standing still,
One leg, as if suspicious of his brother,
Desirous seems to run away from t'other. 440
Some errors, handed down from age to age,
Plead custom's force, and still possess the stage.
That's vile: should we a parent's faults adore,
And err, because our fathers err'd before?
If, inattentive to the author's mind,
Some actors made the jest they could not find;
If by low tricks they marr'd fair Nature's mien,
And blurr'd the graces of the simple scene,
Shall we, if reason rightly is employ'd,
Not see their faults, or seeing, not avoid? 450
When Falstaff stands detected in a lie,
Why, without meaning, rolls Love's glassy eye?
Why? There's no cause--at least no cause we know--
It was the fashion twenty years ago.
Fashion!--a word which knaves and fools may use,
Their knavery and folly to excuse.
To copy beauties, forfeits all pretence
To fame--to copy faults, is want of sense.
Yet (though in some particulars he fails,
Some few particulars, where mode prevails) 460
If in these hallow'd times, when, sober, sad,
All gentlemen are melancholy mad;
When 'tis not deem'd so great a crime by half
To violate a vestal as to laugh,
Rude mirth may hope, presumptuous, to engage
An act of toleration for the stage;
And courtiers will, like reasonable creatures,
Suspend vain fashion, and unscrew their features;
Old Falstaff, play'd by Love, shall please once more,
And humour set the audience in a roar. 470
Actors I've seen, and of no vulgar name,
Who, being from one part possess'd of fame,
Whether they are to laugh, cry, whine, or bawl,
Still introduce that favourite part in all.
Here, Love, be cautious--ne'er be thou betray'd
To call in that wag Falstaff's dangerous aid;
Like Goths of old, howe'er he seems a friend,
He'll seize that throne you wish him to defend.
In a peculiar mould by Humour cast,
For Falstaff framed--himself the first and last-- 480
He stands aloof from all--maintains his state,
And scorns, like Scotsmen, to assimilate.
Vain all disguise--too plain we see the trick,
Though the knight wears the weeds of Dominic;
And Boniface disgraced, betrays the smack,
In _anno Domini_, of Falstaff sack.
Arms cross'd, brows bent, eyes fix'd, feet marching slow,
A band of malcontents with spleen o'erflow;
Wrapt in Conceit's impenetrable fog,
Which Pride, like Phoebus, draws from every bog, 490
They curse the managers, and curse the town
Whose partial favour keeps such merit down.
But if some man, more hardy than the rest,
Should dare attack these gnatlings in their nest,
At once they rise with impotence of rage,
Whet their small stings, and buzz about the stage:
'Tis breach of privilege! Shall any dare
To arm satiric truth against a player?
Prescriptive rights we plead, time out of mind;
Actors, unlash'd themselves, may lash mankind. 500
What! shall Opinion then, of nature free,
And liberal as the vagrant air, agree
To rust in chains like these, imposed by things,
Which, less than nothing, ape the pride of kings?
No--though half-poets with half-players join
To curse the freedom of each honest line;
Though rage and malice dim their faded cheek,
What the Muse freely thinks, she'll freely speak;
With just disdain of every paltry sneer,
Stranger alike to flattery and fear, 510
In purpose fix'd, and to herself a rule,
Public contempt shall wait the public fool.
Austin would always glisten in French silks;
Ackman would Norris be, and Packer, Wilkes:
For who, like Ackman, can with humour please;
Who can, like Packer, charm with sprightly ease?
Higher than all the rest, see Bransby strut:
A mighty Gulliver in Lilliput!
Ludicrous Nature! which at once could show
A man so very high, so very low! 520
If I forget thee, Blakes, or if I say
Aught hurtful, may I never see thee play.
Let critics, with a supercilious air,
Decry thy various merit, and declare
Frenchman is still at top; but scorn that rage
Which, in attacking thee, attacks the age.
French follies, universally embraced,
At once provoke our mirth, and form our taste.
Long, from a nation ever hardly used,
At random censured, wantonly abused, 530
Have Britons drawn their sport; with partial view
Form'd general notions from the rascal few;
Condemn'd a people, as for vices known,
Which from their country banish'd, seek our own.
At length, howe'er, the slavish chain is broke,
And Sense, awaken'd, scorns her ancient yoke:
Taught by thee, Moody, we now learn to raise
Mirth from their foibles; from their virtues, praise.
Next came the legion which our summer Bayes,
From alleys, here and there, contrived to raise, 540
Flush'd with vast hopes, and certain to succeed,
With wits who cannot write, and scarce can read.
Veterans no more support the rotten cause,
No more from Elliot's worth they reap applause;
Each on himself determines to rely;
Be Yates disbanded, and let Elliot fly.
Never did players so well an author fit,
To Nature dead, and foes declared to wit.
So loud each tongue, so empty was each head,
So much they talk'd, so very little said, 550
So wondrous dull, and yet so wondrous vain,
At once so willing, and unfit to reign,
That Reason swore, nor would the oath recall,
Their mighty master's soul inform'd them all.
As one with various disappointments sad,
Whom dulness only kept from being mad,
Apart from all the rest great Murphy came--
Common to fools and wits, the rage of fame.
What though the sons of Nonsense hail him Sire,
Auditor, Author, Manager, and Squire, 560
His restless soul's ambition stops not there;
To make his triumphs perfect, dub him Player.
In person tall, a figure form'd to please,
If symmetry could charm deprived of ease;
When motionless he stands, we all approve;
What pity 'tis the thing was made to move.
His voice, in one dull, deep, unvaried sound,
Seems to break forth from caverns under ground;
From hollow chest the low sepulchral note
Unwilling heaves, and struggles in his throat. 570
Could authors butcher'd give an actor grace,
All must to him resign the foremost place.
When he attempts, in some one favourite part,
To ape the feelings of a manly heart,
His honest features the disguise defy,
And his face loudly gives his tongue the lie.
Still in extremes, he knows no happy mean,
Or raving mad, or stupidly serene.
In cold-wrought scenes, the lifeless actor flags;
In passion, tears the passion into rags. 580
Can none remember? Yes--I know all must--
When in the Moor he ground his teeth to dust,
When o'er the stage he Folly's standard bore,
Whilst Common-Sense stood trembling at the door.
How few are found with real talents blest!
Fewer with Nature's gifts contented rest.
Man from his sphere eccentric starts astray:
All hunt for fame, but most mistake the way.
Bred at St Omer's to the shuffling trade,
The hopeful youth a Jesuit might have made; 590
With various readings stored his empty skull,
Learn'd without sense, and venerably dull;
Or, at some banker's desk, like many more,
Content to tell that two and two make four;
His name had stood in City annals fair,
And prudent Dulness mark'd him for a mayor.
What, then, could tempt thee, in a critic age,
Such blooming hopes to forfeit on a stage?
Could it be worth thy wondrous waste of pains
To publish to the world thy lack of brains? 600
Or might not Reason e'en to thee have shown,
Thy greatest praise had been to live unknown?
Yet let not vanity like thine despair:
Fortune makes Folly her peculiar care.
A vacant throne, high-placed in Smithfield, view.
To sacred Dulness and her first-born due,
Thither with haste in happy hour repair,
Thy birthright claim, nor fear a rival there.
Shuter himself shall own thy juster claim,
And venal Ledgers puff their Murphy's name; 610
Whilst Vaughan, or Dapper, call him which you will,
Shall blow the trumpet, and give out the bill.
There rule, secure from critics and from sense,
Nor once shall Genius rise to give offence;
Eternal peace shall bless the happy shore,
And little factions break thy rest no more.
From Covent Garden crowds promiscuous go,
Whom the Muse knows not, nor desires to know;
Veterans they seem'd, but knew of arms no more
Than if, till that time, arms they never bore: 620
Like Westminster militia train'd to fight,
They scarcely knew the left hand from the right.
Ashamed among such troops to show the head,
Their chiefs were scatter'd, and their heroes fled.
Sparks at his glass sat comfortably down
To separate frown from smile, and smile from frown.
Smith, the genteel, the airy, and the smart,
Smith was just gone to school to say his part.
Ross (a misfortune which we often meet)
Was fast asleep at dear Statira's feet; 630
Statira, with her hero to agree,
Stood on her feet as fast asleep as he.
Macklin, who largely deals in half-form'd sounds,
Who wantonly transgresses Nature's bounds,
Whose acting's hard, affected, and constrain'd,
Whose features, as each other they disdain'd,
At variance set, inflexible and coarse,
Ne'er know the workings of united force,
Ne'er kindly soften to each other's aid,
Nor show the mingled powers of light and shade; 640
No longer for a thankless stage concern'd,
To worthier thoughts his mighty genius turn'd,
Harangued, gave lectures, made each simple elf
Almost as good a speaker as himself;
Whilst the whole town, mad with mistaken zeal,
An awkward rage for elocution feel;
Dull cits and grave divines his praise proclaim,
And join with Sheridan's their Macklin's name.
Shuter, who never cared a single pin
Whether he left out nonsense, or put in, 650
Who aim'd at wit, though, levell'd in the dark,
The random arrow seldom hit the mark,
At Islington, all by the placid stream
Where city swains in lap of Dulness dream,
Where quiet as her strains their strains do flow,
That all the patron by the bards may know,
Secret as night, with Rolt's experienced aid,
The plan of future operations laid,
Projected schemes the summer months to cheer,
And spin out happy folly through the year. 660
But think not, though these dastard chiefs are fled,
That Covent Garden troops shall want a head:
Harlequin comes their chief! See from afar
The hero seated in fantastic car!
Wedded to Novelty, his only arms
Are wooden swords, wands, talismans, and charms;
On one side Folly sits, by some call'd Fun,
And on the other his arch-patron, Lun;
Behind, for liberty athirst in vain,
Sense, helpless captive, drags the galling chain: 670
Six rude misshapen beasts the chariot draw,
Whom Reason loathes, and Nature never saw,
Monsters with tails of ice, and heads of fire;
'Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire.'
Each was bestrode by full as monstrous wight,
Giant, dwarf, genius, elf, hermaphrodite.
The Town, as usual, met him in full cry;
The Town, as usual, knew no reason why:
But Fashion so directs, and Moderns raise
On Fashion's mouldering base their transient praise. 680
Next, to the field a band of females draw
Their force, for Britain owns no Salique law:
Just to their worth, we female rights admit,
Nor bar their claim to empire or to wit.
First giggling, plotting chambermaids arrive,
Hoydens and romps, led on by General Clive.
In spite of outward blemishes, she shone,
For humour famed, and humour all her own:
Easy, as if at home, the stage she trod,
Nor sought the critic's praise, nor fear'd his rod: 690
Original in spirit and in ease,
She pleased by hiding all attempts to please:
No comic actress ever yet could raise,
On Humour's base, more merit or more praise.
With all the native vigour of sixteen,
Among the merry troop conspicuous seen,
See lively Pope advance, in jig, and trip
Corinna, Cherry, Honeycomb, and Snip:
Not without art, but yet to nature true,
She charms the town with humour just, yet new: 700
Cheer'd by her promise, we the less deplore
The fatal time when Olive shall be no more.
Lo! Vincent comes! With simple grace array'd,
She laughs at paltry arts, and scorns parade:
Nature through her is by reflection shown,
Whilst Gay once more knows Polly for his own.
Talk not to me of diffidence and fear--
I see it all, but must forgive it here;
Defects like these, which modest terrors cause,
From Impudence itself extort applause. 710
Candour and Reason still take Virtue's part;
We love e'en foibles in so good a heart.
Let Tommy Arne,--with usual pomp of style,
Whose chief, whose only merit's to compile;
Who, meanly pilfering here and there a bit,
Deals music out as Murphy deals out wit,--
Publish proposals, laws for taste prescribe,
And chaunt the praise of an Italian tribe;
Let him reverse kind Nature's first decrees,
And teach e'en Brent a method not to please; 720
But never shall a truly British age
Bear a vile race of eunuchs on the stage;
The boasted work's call'd national in vain,
If one Italian voice pollutes the strain.
Where tyrants rule, and slaves with joy obey,
Let slavish minstrels pour the enervate lay;
To Britons far more noble pleasures spring,
In native notes whilst Beard and Vincent sing.
Might figure give a title unto fame,
What rival should with Yates dispute her claim? 730
But justice may not partial trophies raise,
Nor sink the actress' in the woman's praise.
Still hand in hand her words and actions go,
And the heart feels more than the features show;
For, through the regions of that beauteous face
We no variety of passions trace;
Dead to the soft emotions of the heart,
No kindred softness can those eyes impart:
The brow, still fix'd in sorrow's sullen frame,
Void of distinction, marks all parts the same. 740
What's a fine person, or a beauteous face,
Unless deportment gives them decent grace?
Bless'd with all other requisites to please,
Some want the striking elegance of ease;
The curious eye their awkward movement tires;
They seem like puppets led about by wires.
Others, like statues, in one posture still,
Give great ideas of the workman's skill;
Wond'ring, his art we praise the more we view,
And only grieve he gave not motion too. 750
Weak of themselves are what we beauties call,
It is the manner which gives strength to all;
This teaches every beauty to unite,
And brings them forward in the noblest light;
Happy in this, behold, amidst the throng,
With transient gleam of grace, Hart sweeps along.
If all the wonders of external grace,
A person finely turn'd, a mould of face,
Where--union rare--expression's lively force
With beauty's softest magic holds discourse, 760
Attract the eye; if feelings, void of art,
Rouse the quick passions, and inflame the heart;
If music, sweetly breathing from the tongue,
Captives the ear, Bride must not pass unsung.
When fear, which rank ill-nature terms conceit,
By time and custom conquer'd, shall retreat;
When judgment, tutor'd by experience sage,
Shall shoot abroad, and gather strength from age;
When Heaven, in mercy, shall the stage release
From the dull slumbers of a still-life piece; 770
When some stale flower, disgraceful to the walk,
Which long hath hung, though wither'd, on the stalk,
Shall kindly drop, then Bride shall make her way,
And merit find a passage to the day;
Brought into action, she at once shall raise
Her own renown, and justify our praise.
Form'd for the tragic scene, to grace the stage
With rival excellence of love and rage;
Mistress of each soft art, with matchless skill
To turn and wind the passions as she will; 780
To melt the heart with sympathetic woe,
Awake the sigh, and teach the tear to flow;
To put on frenzy's wild, distracted glare,
And freeze the soul with horror and despair;
With just desert enroll'd in endless fame,
Conscious of worth superior, Cibber came.
When poor Alicia's madd'ning brains are rack'd,
And strongly imaged griefs her mind distract,
Struck with her grief, I catch the madness too,
My brain turns round, the headless trunk I view! 790
The roof cracks, shakes, and falls--new horrors rise,
And Reason buried in the ruin lies!
Nobly disdainful of each slavish art,
She makes her first attack upon the heart;
Pleased with the summons, it receives her laws,
And all is silence, sympathy, applause.
But when, by fond ambition drawn aside,
Giddy with praise, and puff'd with female pride,
She quits the tragic scene, and, in pretence
To comic merit, breaks down nature's fence, 800
I scarcely can believe my ears or eyes,
Or find out Cibber through the dark disguise.
Pritchard, by Nature for the stage design'd,
In person graceful, and in sense refined;
Her art as much as Nature's friend became,
Her voice as free from blemish as her fame,
Who knows so well in majesty to please,
Attemper'd with the graceful charms of ease?
When, Congreve's favoured pantomime to grace,
She comes a captive queen, of Moorish race; 810
When love, hate, jealousy, despair, and rage
With wildest tumults in her breast engage,
Still equal to herself is Zara seen;
Her passions are the passions of a queen.
When she to murder whets the timorous Thane,
I feel ambition rush through every vein;
Persuasion hangs upon her daring tongue,
My heart grows flint, and every nerve's new strung.
In comedy--Nay, there, cries Critic, hold;
Pritchard's for comedy too fat and old: 820
Who can, with patience, bear the gray coquette,
Or force a laugh with over-grown Julett?
Her speech, look, action, humour, all are just,
But then, her age and figure give disgust.
Are foibles, then, and graces of the mind,
In real life, to size or age confined?
Do spirits flow, and is good-breeding placed
In any set circumference of waist?
As we grow old, doth affectation cease,
Or gives not age new vigour to caprice? 830
If in originals these things appear,
Why should we bar them in the copy here?
The nice punctilio-mongers of this age,
The grand minute reformers of the stage,
Slaves to propriety of every kind,
Some standard measure for each part should find,
Which, when the best of actors shall exceed,
Let it devolve to one of smaller breed.
All actors, too, upon the back should bear
Certificate of birth; time, when; place, where; 840
For how can critics rightly fix their worth,
Unless they know the minute of their birth?
An audience, too, deceived, may find, too late,
That they have clapp'd an actor out of date.
Figure, I own, at first may give offence,
And harshly strike the eye's too curious sense;
But when perfections of the mind break forth,
Humour's chaste sallies, judgment's solid worth;
When the pure genuine flame by Nature taught,
Springs into sense and every action's thought; 850
Before such merit all objections fly--
Pritchard's genteel, and Garrick's six feet high.
Oft have I, Pritchard, seen thy wondrous skill,
Confess'd thee great, but find thee greater still;
That worth, which shone in scatter'd rays before,
Collected now, breaks forth with double power.
The 'Jealous Wife!' on that thy trophies raise,
Inferior only to the author's praise.
From Dublin, famed in legends of romance
For mighty magic of enchanted lance, 860
With which her heroes arm'd, victorious prove,
And, like a flood, rush o'er the land of Love,
Mossop and Barry came--names ne'er design'd
By Fate in the same sentence to be join'd.
Raised by the breath of popular acclaim,
They mounted to the pinnacle of fame;
There the weak brain, made giddy with the height,
Spurr'd on the rival chiefs to mortal fight.
Thus sportive boys, around some basin's brim,
Behold the pipe-drawn bladders circling swim; 870
But if, from lungs more potent, there arise
Two bubbles of a more than common size,
Eager for honour, they for fight prepare,
Bubble meets bubble, and both sink to air.
Mossop attach'd to military plan,
Still kept his eye fix'd on his right-hand man;
Whilst the mouth measures words with seeming skill,
The right hand labours, and the left lies still;
For he, resolved on Scripture grounds to go,
What the right doth, the left-hand shall not know, 880
With studied impropriety of speech,
He soars beyond the hackney critic's reach;
To epithets allots emphatic state,
Whilst principals, ungraced, like lackeys wait;
In ways first trodden by himself excels,
And stands alone in indeclinables;
Conjunction, preposition, adverb join
To stamp new vigour on the nervous line;
In monosyllables his thunders roll,
He, she, it, and we, ye, they, fright the soul. 890
In person taller than the common size,
Behold where Barry draws admiring eyes!
When labouring passions, in his bosom pent,
Convulsive rage, and struggling heave for vent;
Spectators, with imagined terrors warm,
Anxious expect the bursting of the storm:
But, all unfit in such a pile to dwell,
His voice comes forth, like Echo from her cell,
To swell the tempest needful aid denies,
And all adown the stage in feeble murmurs dies. 900
What man, like Barry, with such pains, can err
In elocution, action, character?
What man could give, if Barry was not here,
Such well applauded tenderness to Lear?
Who else can speak so very, very fine,
That sense may kindly end with every line?
Some dozen lines before the ghost is there,
Behold him for the solemn scene prepare:
See how he frames his eyes, poises each limb,
Puts the whole body into proper trim:-- 910
From whence we learn, with no great stretch of art,
Five lines hence comes a ghost, and, ha! a start.
When he appears most perfect, still we find
Something which jars upon and hurts the mind:
Whatever lights upon a part are thrown,
We see too plainly they are not his own:
No flame from Nature ever yet he caught,
Nor knew a feeling which he was not taught:
He raised his trophies on the base of art,
And conn'd his passions, as he conn'd his part. 920
Quin, from afar, lured by the scent of fame,
A stage leviathan, put in his claim,
Pupil of Betterton and Booth. Alone,
Sullen he walk'd, and deem'd the chair his own:
For how should moderns, mushrooms of the day,
Who ne'er those masters knew, know how to play?
Gray-bearded veterans, who, with partial tongue,
Extol the times when they themselves were young,
Who, having lost all relish for the stage,
See not their own defects, but lash the age, 930
Received, with joyful murmurs of applause,
Their darling chief, and lined his favourite cause.
Far be it from the candid Muse to tread
Insulting o'er the ashes of the dead:
But, just to living merit, she maintains,
And dares the test, whilst Garrick's genius reigns,
Ancients in vain endeavour to excel,
Happily praised, if they could act as well.
But, though prescription's force we disallow,
Nor to antiquity submissive bow; 940
Though we deny imaginary grace,
Founded on accidents of time and place,
Yet real worth of every growth shall bear
Due praise; nor must we, Quin, forget thee there.
His words bore sterling weight; nervous and strong,
In manly tides of sense they roll'd along:
Happy in art, he chiefly had pretence
To keep up numbers, yet not forfeit sense;
No actor ever greater heights could reach
In all the labour'd artifice of speech. 950
Speech! is that all? And shall an actor found
An universal fame on partial ground?
Parrots themselves speak properly by rote,
And, in six months, my dog shall howl by note.
I laugh at those who, when the stage they tread,
Neglect the heart, to compliment the head;
With strict propriety their cares confined
To weigh out words, while passion halts behind:
To syllable-dissectors they appeal,
Allow them accent, cadence,--fools may feel; 960
But, spite of all the criticising elves,
Those who would make us feel, must feel themselves.
His eyes, in gloomy socket taught to roll,
Proclaim'd the sullen 'habit of his soul:'
Heavy and phlegmatic he trod the stage,
Too proud for tenderness, too dull for rage.
When Hector's lovely widow shines in tears,
Or Rowe's gay rake dependent virtue jeers,
With the same cast of features he is seen
To chide the libertine, and court the queen. 970
From the tame scene, which without passion flows,
With just desert his reputation rose;
Nor less he pleased, when, on some surly plan,
He was, at once, the actor and the man.
In Brute he shone unequall'd: all agree
Garrick's not half so great a Brute as he.
When Cato's labour'd scenes are brought to view,
With equal praise the actor labour'd too;
For still you'll find, trace passions to their root,
Small difference 'twixt the Stoic and the Brute. 980
In fancied scenes, as in life's real plan,
He could not, for a moment, sink the man.
In whate'er cast his character was laid,
Self still, like oil, upon the surface play'd.
Nature, in spite of all his skill, crept in:
Horatio, Dorax, Falstaff,--still 'twas Quin.
Next follows Sheridan. A doubtful name,
As yet unsettled in the rank of fame:
This, fondly lavish in his praises grown,
Gives him all merit; that allows him none; 990
Between them both, we'll steer the middle course,
Nor, loving praise, rob Judgment of her force.
Just his conceptions, natural and great,
His feelings strong, his words enforced with weight.
Was speech-famed Quin himself to hear him speak,
Envy would drive the colour from his cheek;
But step-dame Nature, niggard of her grace,
Denied the social powers of voice and face.
Fix'd in one frame of features, glare of eye,
Passions, like chaos, in confusion lie; 1000
In vain the wonders of his skill are tried
To form distinctions Nature hath denied.
His voice no touch of harmony admits,
Irregularly deep, and shrill by fits.
The two extremes appear like man and wife,
Coupled together for the sake of strife.
His action's always strong, but sometimes such,
That candour must declare he acts too much.
Why must impatience fall three paces back?
Why paces three return to the attack? 1010
Why is the right leg, too, forbid to stir,
Unless in motion semicircular?
Why must the hero with the Nailor vie,
And hurl the close-clench'd fist at nose or eye?
In Royal John, with Philip angry grown,
I thought he would have knock'd poor Davies down.
Inhuman tyrant! was it not a shame
To fright a king so harmless and so tame?
But, spite of all defects, his glories rise,
And art, by judgment form'd, with nature vies. 1020
Behold him sound the depth of Hubert's soul,
Whilst in his own contending passions roll;
View the whole scene, with critic judgment scan,
And then deny him merit, if you can.
Where he falls short, 'tis Nature's fault alone;
Where he succeeds, the merit's all his own.
Last Garrick came. Behind him throng a train
Of snarling critics, ignorant as vain.
One finds out--He's of stature somewhat low--
Your hero always should be tall, you know; 1030
True natural greatness all consists in height.
Produce your voucher, Critic.--Serjeant Kite.
Another can't forgive the paltry arts
By which he makes his way to shallow hearts;
Mere pieces of finesse, traps for applause--
'Avaunt! unnatural start, affected pause!'
For me, by Nature form'd to judge with phlegm,
I can't acquit by wholesale, nor condemn.
The best things carried to excess are wrong;
The start may be too frequent, pause too long: 1040
But, only used in proper time and place,
Severest judgment must allow them grace.
If bunglers, form'd on Imitation's plan,
Just in the way that monkeys mimic man,
Their copied scene with mangled arts disgrace,
And pause and start with the same vacant face,
We join the critic laugh; those tricks we scorn
Which spoil the scenes they mean them to adorn.
But when, from Nature's pure and genuine source,
These strokes of acting flow with generous force, 1050
When in the features all the soul's portray'd,
And passions, such as Garrick's, are display'd,
To me they seem from quickest feelings caught--
Each start is nature, and each pause is thought.
When reason yields to passion's wild alarms,
And the whole state of man is up in arms,
What but a critic could condemn the player
For pausing here, when cool sense pauses there?
Whilst, working from the heart, the fire I trace,
And mark it strongly flaming to the face; 1060
Whilst in each sound I hear the very man,
I can't catch words, and pity those who can.
Let wits, like spiders, from the tortured brain
Fine-draw the critic-web with curious pain;
The gods,--a kindness I with thanks must pay,--
Have form'd me of a coarser kind of clay;
Not stung with envy, nor with spleen diseased,
A poor dull creature, still with Nature pleased:
Hence to thy praises, Garrick, I agree,
And, pleased with Nature, must be pleased with thee. 1070
Now might I tell how silence reign'd throughout,
And deep attention hush'd the rabble rout;
How every claimant, tortured with desire,
Was pale as ashes, or as red as fire;
But loose to fame, the Muse more simply acts,
Rejects all flourish, and relates mere facts.
The judges, as the several parties came,
With temper heard, with judgment weigh'd each claim;
And, in their sentence happily agreed,
In name of both, great Shakspeare thus decreed:-- 1080
If manly sense, if Nature link'd with Art;
If thorough knowledge of the human heart;
If powers of acting vast and unconfined;
If fewest faults with greatest beauties join'd;
If strong expression, and strange powers which lie
Within the magic circle of the eye;
If feelings which few hearts like his can know,
And which no face so well as his can show,
Deserve the preference--Garrick! take the chair;
Nor quit it--till thou place an equal there. 1090
* * * * *
 'The Rosciad:' for occasion, &c., see Life.
 'Roscius:' Quintus Roscius, a native of Gaul, and the most
celebrated comedian of antiquity.  'Clive:' Robert Lord Clive. See
Macaulay's paper on him.
 'Shuter:' Edward Shuter, a comic actor, who, after various
theatrical vicissitudes, died a zealous methodist and disciple of
George Whitefield, in 1776.
 'Yates:' Richard Yates, another low actor of the period.
 'Foote:' Samuel Foote, the once well-known farcical writer, (now
chiefly remembered from Boswell's Life of Johnson), opened the Old
House in the Haymarket, and, in order to overrule the opposition of
the magistrates, announced his entertainments as 'Mr Foote's giving
tea to his friends.'
 'Wilkinson:' Wilkinson, the shadow of Foote, was the proprietor of
Sadler's Wells Theatre.
 'Palmer:' John Palmer, a favourite actor in genteel comedy, who
married Miss Pritchard, daughter of the celebrated actress of that
 'Barry:' Spranger Barry, an actor of first-rate eminence and tall
of size. Barry was a competitor of Garrick. Every one remembers the
lines in a poem comparing the two--
'To Barry we give loud applause;
To Garrick only tears.'
 'Coan:' John Coan, a dwarf, showed himself, like another Tom
Thumb, for sixpence a-head.
 'Ackman:' Ackman ranked as one of the lowest comic actors of his
 'Sterne:' the celebrated Laurence Sterne.
 'Franklin:' Dr Thomas Franklin, the translator of Sophocles,
Phalaris, and Lucian, and the author of a volume of sermons; all
 'Colman:' Colman, the elder, translator of Terence, and author of
many clever comedies.
 'Murphy:' Arthur Murphy, Esq., a native of Ireland. See Boswell's
Life of Johnson. Churchill hated Murphy on account of his politics. He
was in the pay of the Court.
 'Northern race:' Wedderburn, afterwards Lord Loughborough, and
Earl Rosslyn, a patron of Murphy, and a bitter enemy of Wilkes.
 'Proteus Hill:' Sir John Hill, a celebrated character of that day,
of incredible industry and versatility, a botanist, apothecary,
translator, actor, dramatic author, natural historian, multitudinous
compiler, libeller, and, _intus et in cute_, a quack and coxcomb. See
Boswell's account of the interview between the King and Dr Johnson,
for a somewhat modified estimate of Hill.
 'Woodward:' Woodward the comedian had a paper war with Hill.
 'Fools:' the person here meant was a Mr Fitzpatrick, a bitter
enemy of Garrick's, and who originated riots in the theatre on the
subject of half-price.
 'A youth:' Robert Lloyd, the friend and imitator of Churchill--an
ingenious but improvident person, who died of grief at his friend's
death, in 1764.
 'Foster:' Sir Michael Foster, one of the puisne judges of the
Court of King's Bench.
 'Ode:' alluding to Mason's Ode to Memory.
 'Havard:' William Havard, an amiable man, but mediocre actor, of
 'Davies:' Thomas Davies, a bookseller, actor, and author. See
 'Holland:' Holland, a pupil and imitator of Mr Garrick.
 'King:' Thomas King, a voluble and pert but clever actor.
 'Yates:' Yates had a habit of repeating his words twice or thrice
over, such as 'Hark you, hark you.'
 'Tom Errand:' Tom Errand and Clincher, two well-known dramatic
characters--a Clown and a coxcomb.
 'Woodward:' Henry Woodward, comic actor of much power of face.
 'Kitely:' Kitely, in Johnson's 'Every Man in his Humour,' was a
favourite character of Garrick's.
 'Obrien:' a small actor; originally a fencing-master.
 'Jackson:' afterwards manager of the Royal Theatre, Edinburgh.
 'Love:' James Love, an actor and dramatic writer, who could play
nothing well but Falstaff.
 'Dominic:' Dryden's 'Spanish Friar.'  'Boniface:' The jovial
landlord in Farquhar's 'Beaux Stratagem.'
 'Austin,' &c.: all small and forgotten actors.
 'Moody:' Moody excelled in Irish characters.
 'Bayes:' alluding to the summer theatre in the Haymarket, where
Murphy's plays were got up and acted under the joint management of
himself and Mr Foote.
 'Elliot:' a female actress of great merit.
 'Ledgers:' the Public Ledger, a newspaper.
 'Vaughan:' Thomas Vaughan, a friend of Murphy.
 'Little factions:' Murphy had called Churchill and his friends
'The Little Faction.'
 'Militia:' the Westminster militia and the city of London trained
bands and lumber troopers, afforded much amusement.
 'Sparks:' Luke Sparks, an actor of the time, rather hard in his
 'Smith:' Called Gentleman Smith,' an actor in genteel comedy,
corpulent in person.
 'Ross:' a Scotchman, dissipated in his habits.
 'Statira:' Ross's Statira was Mrs Palmer, the daughter of Mrs
 'Macklin:' Charles Macklin, _alias_ M'Laughlin, good in such
characters as Shylock, &c.; no tragedian; a lecturer on elocution;
coarse in features.
 'Sheridan:' father of Richard Brinsley. See Boswell and Moore.
 'Islington:' the new river.
 'Rolt:' a drudge to the booksellers, who plagiarised Akenside's
'Pleasures of Imagination,' and was a coadjutor with Christopher
Smart in the 'Universal Visitor.' See Boswell.
 'Lun:' Mr John Rich, the manager of Covent Garden and Lincoln's
Inn Fields Theatre, called Lun for his performance of Harlequin; famous
 'Clive:' Catherine Clive, a celebrated comic actress, of very
diversified powers; 'a better romp' than Jonson 'ever saw in nature.'
 'Pope:' a pleasing protege of Mrs Clive.
 'Vincent:' Mrs Vincent, a tolerable actress and a fine singer.
 'Arne:' a fine musician, but no writer.
 'Brent:' a female scholar of Arne's, very popular as Polly in the
 'Beard and Vincent:' famous singers.
 'Yates:' Anna Maria Yates, the wife of Richard Yates, mentioned in
a preceding note.
 'Hart:' Mrs Hart, a demirep, married to one Reddish, who, after
her death, wedded Mrs Canning, mother of the great statesman.
 'Bride:' another beautiful, but disreputable actress.
 'Stale flower,' &c.: an unmanly allusion to Mrs Palmer, the
daughter of Mrs Pritchard, who was greatly inferior to her mother.
 'Cibber:' sister to Arne, and wife to the once notorious
Theophilus Cibber, the son of the hero of the 'Dunciad.' She was no
better in character than many actresses of that day; but sang so
plaintively, that a bishop who heard her once cried out, 'Woman, thy
sins be forgiven thee!'
 'Pritchard:' according to Johnson, 'in private a vulgar idiot,
but who, on the stage, seemed to become inspired with gentility and
 'Pantomime:' the 'Mourning Bride.'
 'Thane:' Macbeth.
 'Juletta:' a witty maid-servant in the play of 'The Pilgrim.'
 The 'Jealous Wife:' the 'Jealous Wife,' by Colman, was taken from
the story of Lady Bellaston, in 'Tom Jones.'
 'Mossop:' Henry Mossop, a powerful, fiery, but irregular actor,
very unfortunate in life.
 'Right-hand:' Mossop practised the 'tea-pot attitude.'
 'Barry:' Spranger Barry, mentioned above as Garrick's great rival.
He acted in Covent Garden.
 'Quin:' the friend of Thomson, (see 'Castle of Indolence'),
instructor in reading of George III., famous for indolence, wit, good
nature, and corpulence.
 'Betterton:' the great actor of the seventeenth century, whose
funeral and character are described in the 'Tatler.' Booth was his
successor and copy.
 'Lined:' supported.
 'Rowe.' Andromache, in the tragedy of the 'Distressed Mother,' by
Ambrose Philips, and Lothario, in the 'Fair Penitent,' by Rowe.
 'Brute:' Sir John Brute, in Vanbrugh's 'Provoked Wife.'
 'Dorax:' a soldier in Dryden's 'Don Sebastian.'
 'Sheridan:' see a previous note.
 'Nailor:' pugilist.
 'Hubert:' in King John.
 'Garrick:' see Boswell and Murphy's life of that great actor.
 'Serjeant Kite:' the recruiting serjeant in Farquhar's 'Recruiting
ADDRESSED TO THE CRITICAL REVIEWERS.
Tristitiam et Metus.--HORACE.
Laughs not the heart when giants, big with pride,
Assume the pompous port, the martial stride;
O'er arm Herculean heave the enormous shield,
Vast as a weaver's beam the javelin wield;
With the loud voice of thundering Jove defy,
And dare to single combat--what?--A fly!
And laugh we less when giant names, which shine
Establish'd, as it were, by right divine;
Critics, whom every captive art adores,
To whom glad Science pours forth all her stores; 10
Who high in letter'd reputation sit,
And hold, Astraea-like, the scales of wit,
With partial rage rush forth--oh! shame to tell!--
To crush a bard just bursting from the shell?
Great are his perils in this stormy time
Who rashly ventures on a sea of rhyme:
Around vast surges roll, winds envious blow,
And jealous rocks and quicksands lurk below:
Greatly his foes he dreads, but more his friends;
He hurts me most who lavishly commends. 20
Look through the world--in every other trade
The same employment's cause of kindness made,
At least appearance of good will creates,
And every fool puffs off the fool he hates:
Cobblers with cobblers smoke away the night,
And in the common cause e'en players unite;
Authors alone, with more than savage rage,
Unnatural war with brother authors wage.
The pride of Nature would as soon admit
Competitors in empire as in wit; 30
Onward they rush, at Fame's imperious call,
And, less than greatest, would not be at all.
Smit with the love of honour,--or the pence,--
O'errun with wit, and destitute of sense,
Should any novice in the rhyming trade
With lawless pen the realms of verse invade,
Forth from the court, where sceptred sages sit,
Abused with praise, and flatter'd into wit,
Where in lethargic majesty they reign,
And what they won by dulness, still maintain, 40
Legions of factious authors throng at once,
Fool beckons fool, and dunce awakens dunce.
To 'Hamilton's the ready lies repair--
Ne'er was lie made which was not welcome there--