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could bring these exiles from banishment with the waving of his pen, and whose magic wand, bestowed by Genius, could first create a fashion and then give it vogue? My friend, I have still to deplore the determined alienation of Sheridan, of whose ingratitude to the Muse that loves him, and to the country which loves his Muse, I have before complained and lamented: and even Britannia herself can scarcely reconcile his exclusive devotion to her senate, with the total desertion of her stage, since the manners and morals, and, confessedly, the happiness of a great people depend as much on the influence of a well-supplied theatre, as on a well governed senate.
The magnificence of Drury-Lane play-house will convey to you new proofs of the grandeur of the metropolis, and I have seen it full to over-flowing :—yet, generally speaking, you will think it on too vast a scale; and sometimes feel cold, and observe a sort of empty air about it, though in reality there may be a good audience, but while there is not to be found in the other house a single crevice unoccupied.
This appears to be a radical defect, and to require as desperate a remedy as many of the dramas themselves, which have been, no doubt, offered to the manager for representation: namely, to cut it down or contract it into more reasonable dimensions. And yet I know an easy remedy, and without moving a single brick. Let the author of the "School for Scandal," of the "Duenna," of the "Rivals," and of the "Critic," write for his own theatre. Let Mr. Sheridan enter into a contract, to furnish only one piece in the season for ten years to come; and then so far from there subsisting any complaint of his theatre being over-built, I will venture to predict that, before the close of his dramatic engagement, the cry of the proprietors and of the public would be for want of room!!
With respect to the other theatre, it has been justly observed, that the late elegant interior decorations, which do so much credit to the taste and spirit of the proprietor, Mr. Harris, are supported by authors, composers, performers, and mechanics of the first excellence, and it is, in every respect, the worthy rival of its superb neighbour.
I cannot take leave of the English stage, my dear Baron, without saying a few words on what is technically called dramatic damnation. Upon this subject I meditated ten years ago, and I have seen nothing to alter my sentiments, but every thing to confirm them. '1 hosft who have attended theatres, very well know, that they contain, on the first night of almost every new performance, a countless variety causes, many of them trifling in themselves, but the least, of stfti
cicnt importance to destroy the hopes of the man who hath certainly intended, and to the best oi'his power, attempted, public amusement. The play-house, like the grave, brings friends and enemies together, and both are, as in the grave, promiscuously placed by the side of one another: yet, unlike the tomb ,in one respect, they assemble in the theatre, not to lose the passions of nature, not to drop the asperities of the heart, or forget they ever had a foe, nor yet "to ceaa from troubling, and be at peace;" but every man comes armed, either with the terrors of prejudice, or the less hostile (though frequently not less dangerous) weapons of prepossession: an injudicious friend being the most determined enemy whom any man, and particularly s dramatic writer, hath to encounter. Now where large bodies of men are drawn up as it were in battle array, the one part iircmoW to attack, aud the other to defend, the victory is generally to the strong, and of course, ill-success at all events ensues: for supposing the friends and enemies are equal as to numbers, they are always unequal as to force; it being settled by stage experience, that one hiss can destroy the effect of a thousand plaudits.. Dramatic success depends much also on the immediate temper of an audience, their dispositions to be pleased or displeased at the time; their opinion of an author's politics; his former good or bad luck; his former lustre* or his present obscurity. If he come forth avotced, any one may fake aim at his expectations for a very trifling espence; the malicious opportunity which has, perhaps, been watched for by persons to whom he is obnoxious (and watched too with all the vigilance of implacability) at last oners itself, and is not to be neglected. "Envy, malice, and uncharitableness'' behold, at lengtfy their object a fair mark before them; and even if an author escape* these, other annoyers are in the rear. If, on the contrary, a write folds up his name in mystery, there are those who think it right to prevent the multiplication of dramatic authors, and wishing themselves to keep, as it is called, possession of both houses, crush ambitious genius in its bud, and, by checking its first aspirings, impei'' its progress, or deter from further exertion. To a right mind, pnu* is the nurse of excellence, and by withholding this, in due season, the world has probably lost many a great and valuable acquisition; a truth that will hold good through all the arts and sciences, and indeed through life: and it is certain that the want of generous, welltimed encouragement has done even more injury, than th» intovca' tion of applause.
TO A YOUNG LADY, HER FRIEND.
By the Lady, Author of the preceding Series.
And wiltThou leave me, Anna, and go hence? Must we when dearest to each other part:When most thy Friend feels that she wants defencf ^ Against the anguish of a wounded heart I
Remember, Anna, if she brought relief
How, with some moments of suspended Grief
Or chear thee with the converse you approv'd,
Whose sympathetic strain she knew was lov'd.—
Written, May 1800. S. W. F. now L,
To the Author of the preceding Series,
My Sarah, my Heart feels a simple Lay
Due to thy three and twentieth year completed. How little all that Poesy can say
For Vows to Heaven, not in vain, repeated!
The Boon is given which my fond Soul entreated, A Daughter: who in some propitious Day
Gives hope that not those Prayers shall be defeated Which ask'd a Child whose Mind's attemper'd ray
Might like her Mother's beam.—Calamity*
Sweeps near us with her dark and viewless Wing.
But may it still this Infant spare and Thee,
And, Victress of our Cares and Fears, Joy spring!
Anil ere this Day's Return may Europe know
Some respite to her Cares, her Burthens, and her Woe.
TO MR. MACKINTOSH.
Yes, Mackintosh! thy speech, by Freedom fir'd,
Shall make the tortur'd tyrant feel her power;
To trample on her rights in luckless hour.
Nor by Despising Danger, when 'tis nigh,
Nor dread to view it with expanded eye.
And scorching heats of desart Afric's plains?
Can British freedom bear a tyrant's chains??
Their snowy summits o'er once far-fam'd Rome,
Then let degraded slavery be our doom!
To offer shameful incense at liis shrine:
And meanness thus with impious guilt combine.
Prefer a coward's eye, a tyrant's smiles,
None such there are, we trust, in Britain's isles.
* In this small Villaiea child of about five years was burnt to death on the evenin? o-f the 11th Oct. by ber cloaths taking fire accidentally. On the 4th oftliis Month a very promising and amiably temper'd Child was shot dead by her Brother, about 9 year older than herself. And since that another girl broke her thigh.
t See the corrected report published by Longman and Rees, Paternoster-Row.
No, Mackintosh! the hills which gave thee birth
Ne'er groan'd beneath a base usurper's sway;
Undaunted still let's mingle in the fray.
Let freedom's awful banners be unfurl'd;
And stand alone amid a conquer^ world.
THE SWISS MOUNTAIN PEASANT.
See where, o'erspread with everlasting snow,
Where, fearless of the yawning depths below,
Say, who is he that treads with ventrous pace,
With staff outstretch'd to probe the dangerous way?
'Tis the poor peasant, hardiest of his race,
Where yonder crag o'erhangs the narrow pass,
Awfully terrible! prepar'd to fall On each devoted head, a horrid mass!
E'en now he speeds his way where labours call.
Inur'd to active toil, his hardy mind
Nor groans with discontent, nor pines with care, His faithful dog, still following close behind,
Shares all his dangers, all his humble fare.
When Ev'ning spreads around her mantle grey,
Tis thus he passes each revolving day,
Say, ye who live in luxury and ease,
Do pomp and splendour happiness supply:
Sdy, do vain riches furnish scenes like these,