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written this play, after my desultory manner, at such short periods of time and leisure, as I could snatch from business or the society of my family, and sometimes even in the midst of both, for I could then form whole scenes in my memory, and afterwards write them down, when opportunity offered ; neither was it any interruption, if my children were playing about me in the room. I believe I was indebted to Mr. Harris singly for the kind reception, which this offer met; for if I rightly remember what passed on that occasion, my Brothers were not equally acceptable to his brethren as to him. He took it however with all its responsibility, supported it and cast it with the best strength of his company. Woodward in the part of Ironsides, and Yates in that of Sir Benjamin Dove, were actors, that could keep their scene alive, if any life was in it: Quick, then a young performer, took the part of Skiff, and my friend Smith, who had prompted me to the undertaking, was the young man of the piece; Mrs. Green performed Lady Dove, and Mrs. Yates was the heroine Sophia.
The play was successful, and I believe I may
say that it brought some advantage to the theatre as well as some reputation to its author, It has been much played on the provincial stages, and occasionally revived on the royal
There are still such excellent successors in the lines of Yates and Woodward to be found in both theatres, that perhaps it would not even now be a loss of labour, if they took it up afresh. I recollect that I borrowed the hint of Sir Benjamin's assumed valour upon being forced into a rencounter from one of the old comedies, and if I conjecture rightly it is The Little French Lawyer. It may be said of this comedy, as it may of most, it has some merits and some faults; it has its scenes that tell, and its scenes that tire; a start of character, such as that of the tame Sir Benjamin, is always a striking incident in the construction of a drama, and when a revolution of that sort can be brought about without violence to nature, and for purposes essential to the plot, it is a point of art well worthy the attention and study of a writer for the stage.
The comedy of Rule a Wife and have a Wife, and particularly that of Massinger's City Madam, are strong instances in point. It is to be wished
that some man of experience in stage effect would adapt the latter of these comedies to representation.
Garrick was in the house at the first night of The Brothers, and as I was planted in the back seat of an upper box opposite to where he sate, I could not but remark his action of surprise when Mrs. Yates opened the epilogue with the following lines
66 Who but hath seen the celebrated strife,
My friend Fitzherbert, father of Lord St. Helen, was then with Garrick, and came from his box to me across the house to tell me, that the immortal actor had been taken by surprise, but was not displeased with the unexpected compliment from an author, with whom he had supposed he did not stand upon
the best terms; alluding no doubt to his transaction with Lord Halifax respecting The Banishment of Cicero. From this time Mr. Garrick took pains to cultivate an acquaintance, which he had hitherto neglected, and after Mr. Fitz
herbert had brought us together at his house, we interchanged visits, and it is nothing more than natural to confess I was charmed with his company
and flattered by his attentions. I had a house in Queen-Ann-Street, and he then lived in Southampton-Street Covent Garden, where I frequently went to him and sometimes accompanied him to his pleasant villa at Hampton. In the mean time, whilst I was thus fortunate in conciliating to myself one eminent person by my epilogue, I soon discovered to my regret how many I had offended by my prologue. A host of newspaper-writers fell upon me for the pertness and general satire of that incautious composition, and I found myself assailed from various quarters with unmitigated acrimony. I made no defence, and the only one I had to make would hardly have brought me off, for I could have opposed nothing to their charge against me, but the simple and sincere assertion that I alluded personally to no man, and being little versed in the mock-modesty of modern addresses to the audience, took the old style of prologue for my model, and put a bold countenance upon a bold adventure. Numerous examples were before me of prologues arrogant in the extreme; Johnson abounds in such instances, but I did not advert sufficiently to the change, which time had wrought in the circumstances of the dramatic poet, and how much it behoved him to lower his tone in the hearing of his audience: neither did Smith, who was speaker of the prologue, and an experienced actor, warn me of any danger in the lines he undertook to deliver. In short mine was the error of inexperience, and their efforts to rebuff me only gave a fresh spring to my exertions, for I can truly say, that, although I have been annoyed by detraction, it never had the property of depressing
I was silly enough to send this comedy into the world with a dedication to the Duke of Grafton, a man, with whom I had not the slightest acquaintance, nor did I seek to establish any upon the merit of this address : he was Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and this was my sole motive for inscribing my first comedy to him. As for the play itself, whilst the prologue and the prologue's author run the gauntlet, that kept possession of the stage, and Woodward and Yates lost no credit by the support they gave it,