« PreviousContinue »
dependent and a higher character; predicting to me, that I should reap neither fame nor satisfaction in the operatic department, and demanding of me, in a tone of encouragement, why I would not rather aim at writing a good comedy, than dabbling in these sing-song pieces. The animating spirit of this friendly remonstrance, and the full persuasion that predicted truly of the character and consequences of my undertaking then on foot, made a sensible impression on my mind, and in the warmth of the moment I formed my resolution to attempt the arduous project he had pointed out. If my old friend and contemporary ever reads this page, perhaps he can call to mind the conversation I allude to; though he has not the same reasons to keep in his remembrance this circumstance, as I have, who was the party favoured and obliged, yet I hope he will at all events believe that I record it truly as to the fact, and gratefully for the effects of it. As his friend, I have lived with him, and shared his gentlemanly hospitality; as his author, I have witnessed his abilities, and
profited by his support; and though I have lost sight of him ever since his retirement from
the stage, yet I have ever retained at heart an interest in his welfare, and as he and I are too nearly of an age to flatter ourselves, that we have any very long continuance to come upon the stage of this life, I beg leave to make this public profession of my sincere regard for him, and to pay the tribute of my plaudits now before he makes his final exit, and the curtain drops. Before I had ushered
melodious nonsense to the audience, I had clearly discovered the weakness of the tame and lifeless fable, on which I had founded it: there were still some scenes between the characters of Henry and Amelia, which were tolerably conceived, and had preserved themselves a place in the good opinion of the audience by the simplicity of the style, and the address of Mrs. Mattocks and Mr. Dyer, to whom those parts were allotted. It was thereupon thought adviseable to cut down the Summer's Tale to an afterpiece of two acts, and exhibit it in the next season under the title of Amelia. In this state it stood its ground, and took its turn with very tolerable success “behind the foremost and be “fore the last." Simpson published the music
in a collection, and I believe he got home pretty well upon the sale of it. The good judges of that time thought it good music, but the better judges of this time would probably think it good for nothing.
In the summer of this year, as soon as the Board of Trade broke up for their usual recess, , I went with my wife and part of my young family to pay my duty and fulfil my promise to my father and mother in Ireland. They waited for us in Dublin, where my father had taken the late Bishop of Meath's house in Kildare-Street, next door to the Duke of Leinster's. When we had reposed ourselves for a few days, after the fatigues of a turbulent passage, we all set off for Clonfert in the county of Galway. Every body, who has travelled in Ireland, and witnessed the wretched accommodation of the inns, particularly in the west, knows that it requires some forecast and preparation to conduct a large family on their journey. It certainly is as different from travelling in England as possible, and not much unlike travelling in Spain; but with my father for our provider, whose appointments of servants and equipage were ever excellent, we could feel few wants, and arrived in good time at our journey's end, where upon the banks of the great river Shannon, in a nook of land, on all sides save one surrounded by an impassable bog, we found the episcopal residence, by courtesy called palace, and the church of Clonfert, by custom called cathedral. This humble residence was not devoid of comfort and convenience, for it contained some tolerable lodging rooms, and was capacious enough to receive me and mine without straitening the family. A garden of seven acres, well planted and disposed into pleasant walks, kept in the neatest order, was attached to the house, and at the extremity of a broad gravel walk in front stood the cathedral. Within this boundary the scene was cheerful; all without it was either impenetrable bog, or a dreary undressed country; but whilst all was harmony, hospitality and affection underneath the parental roof," the mind was its own place,” and every hour was happy. My father lived, as he had ever done, beloved by all around him; the same benevolent and generous spirit, which had endeared him to his neighbours and parishioners in England, now began to make the like im
pressions on the hearts of a people as far different in character, as they were distant in place, from those, whom he had till now been concerned with. Without descending from the dignity he had to support, and condescending to any of the paltry modes of courting popularity, I instantly perceived how high he stood in their esteem; these observations I was perfectly in the way to make, for I had no forms to keep, and was withal uncommonly delighted with their wild eccentric humours, mixing with all ranks and descriptions of men, to my infinite amusement. If I have been successful in my dramatic sketches of the Irish character, it was here I studied it in its purest and most primitive state ; from high to low it was now under my view. Though I strove to present it in its fairest and best light upon the stage, truth obliges me to confess there was another side of the picture, which could not have been contemplated without affright and horror! Atrocities and violences, which set all law and justice at defiance, were occasionally committed in this savage and licen tious quarter, and suffered to pass over with impunity. In the neighbouring town of Eyre