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though he threatened him with violence, so that he thought he would have struck him. Nor, in the morning, when he had induced him to become more composed, would he leave his master, at his own request, to hasten to his wife, without some one, a servant in the prison, whom he hired to be with him; and then he left him only that he might go and tell Mrs. Beverley how her husband was. It is true that Beverley says,
66 Had Jarvis staid this morning, all had been well.” But this is the language of accusation, of a person endeavouring to throw the blame due to himself upon another: it is in the same strain with,
The woman whom thou gavest to be with
gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”-_66 The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Gen. iii. 12, 13.
With respect to the insipidity of the characters of Lewson and Charlotte, it may certainly be allowed that there is less in them to excite the stronger feelings; but they interest the affections and are therefore very pleasing, they form some little repose amid the ruder passions of the others. I would not, however, give them the epithet of insipid. We do not call that a healthful palate which must be excited by strong or high seasoned viands, which requires ardent spirits and hot spices, and rejects generous wine and strong meat as flat and insipid. One reason, however, for their interesting less upon the stage than the other characters arises, I believe, in great measure, from their being represented by inferior performers. The first rate performers are seldom willing to give effect to a play by performing characters which do not afford opportunities of what they consider as displaying great talents.
Of Stukely Mrs. Inchbald says that he “ outrageously wicked, that his character can hardly comprise either moral or example”. Mr. Cumberland
a character which, for the credit of “ human nature, I consider as not belonging to it,
trusting that his counterpart is no where to be found.” Again 6 In his soliloquies Stukely is continually telling
us of his projects for possessing himself of Beverley's u fond and faithful wife. These all end in one abrupti
says, that he is
66 and ineffectual attack upon her honour, so ill-timed, “ so ill-conducted, so impossible to succeed, that in him " who had long experience of her character, the attempt
was perfectly ridiculous and unnatural".
In answer to this it may be said that Stukely is a villain, who, I fear, has been often equalled, if not surpassed, in real life, and the exposing of him is a warning both to the villain and to those likely to bec ne dupes to his villany. He has, however, prepared the way for his attack upon Mrs. B. by endeavouring to excite jealousy, and he hoped that his former love for her, pretended friendship, and poverty in Mrs. B. would make her listen to his suit; and it is frequently the lot of villains to become infatuated in their villany, and themselves to frustrate their designs by their bad manner of conducting them.
With respect to the catastrophe, the author himself has defended it in his Preface; and as it is one of the effects which has too frequently been the result of the vice, the subject seems to require it. The object in these cases should not be merely to amuse the spectator with pleasing sensations, and to spare him where distress becomes deep, but it should be to affect him, and to affect him usefully. The play has been translated into French by Mons. Ducis, and " is made to end happily by “Beverly's being prevented taking the poison, just as 66 he has the fatal phial at his lips:- This play is other“ wise very little altered.” (See 6 A Narrative of a Three Years' Residence in France,” &c. By Anne Plumptre. --Vol. 1. p. 64.) But it appears to me, that the suicide is so much a part of the lesson, and is so fully set forth as a sin, carrying its antidote along with it, that I prefer the play in its present state.
Of the reception of this play by the public on its first appearance, the author of the Biographia Dramatica informs us, that “it met with but middling success, the “ general cry against it being that the distress was too “ deep to be borne; yet I am rather apt to imagine its “ want of perfect approbation arose in one part, and " that no inconsiderable one, of the audience from a « tenderness of another kind than that of compassion; " and that they were less hurt by the distress of Beverley, " than by finding their darling vice, their favourite folly, 6 thus vehemently attacked by the strong lance of reason, 66 and dramatic execution. As the Gil Blas of this “ author had been forced upon the town several nights " after the strongest public disapprobation of it had “ been expressed, it was thought by his friends that any
piece acted under his name would be treated with vin“ dictive severity. The Rev. Joseph Spence therefore
permitted it, for the first four nights, to be imputed to “ him, but immediately afterwards threw aside the mask,
as he supposed the success of the piece to be no longer “ doubtful; when, strange to tell! some of the very
persons, who had applauded it as his work, were among
the foremost to condemn it as the performance of Mr. Moore.”
A rather different account is given of the success of the piece by Davies, in the passage quoted before, see p. 5.
The author himself, however, in a letter to Dr. Warton, dated Feb. 17, 1753, gives another account of the matter: “ I wrote to you this day se'nnight, with an account of the Gamester to the fourth night, I think
the tables are turned, for the play from that 66 night has had a new character: and it is at present as “ much the fashion to speak very highly of it in fashion“ able companies, as it was at first to condemn it.
I am just come from the theatre, and though it is the tenth 66 night, the house is as full as it can, hold. But
poor “ Garrick is ill, through too much fatigue; so that the “ play is to be interrupted till he is recovered.” (See Chalmers' Preface to The World, p. vii.) This play I believe, continued a stock play, both at the London Theatres and with the companies throughout the kingdom, when Mrs. Siddons, early in her dramatic careerin London, gave it additional celebrity by her admirable performance of Mrs. Beverley. It was the first character I ever saw her perform, and the second play I ever saw in London; no wonder that the impression was deep and favourable in regard to the Stage. I have twice since seen her
69 I may say
perform it. It continues to be one of her favourite characters, and the play I believe is still a stock play in almost every company.
The copy from which this edition is printed is one printed for S. Bladon, J. Bew, W. Lowndes, and W. Nicholl, 1789. I have compared it with the copy in Moore's Poems and Plays printed in 4to. in 1756, which being three years after the first publication (which was in 8vo. in 1753,) and the year before he died, I suppose to contain the latest corrections of the author. I have found the edition of 1789 to vary from that of 1756 in some particulars. Where these have appeared to me to be amendments I have preserved them; but, in some cases, I have restored the original reading. One of these is the printing the word them instead of its contraction 'em, which appears to me vulgar in genteel characters. There are other contractions which I should have liked to have restored to full length, or nearer to it, but as this is a matter of taste, not of morality, and not having authority for it, I did not venture upon it.
The alterations which I have myself made in the play are not, comparatively speaking, very numerous, and not such as, in my own estimation, to diminish the spirit and interest of the piece. The most material are, perhaps, in the scene between Lewson and Stukely, in the fourth act; where Lewson, before, manifested too much of the spirit of a Duellist. This scene, as it has already appeared, from Davies's account, (see p. 5.) was probably worked up by Garrick, so that, in lowering it again, I have, probably, come nearer to the original ideas of the author.
In the last scene I have not allowed Beverley to drink the poison in the sight of the audience, but have supposed him to do it before the scene opens. This mode, I conceive, to be less horrid for the audience, less shewing them how the act of suicide is committed, and the effect is heightened by the audience not knowing for certain that he has taken the poison till he confesses it to Mrs. B. towards the end of the scene.*
* See my Four DISCOURSES ON SUBJECTS RELATING TO THE AMUSEMENT OF THE STAGE, Notes, p. 173.
Upon the whole, I believe, I may say with truth, that I do not think I have taken greater liberties with my author than is done in general by authors, managers and printers. Were my copy to be compared with that in THE BRITISH THEATRE published by Messrs. Longman and Co. to which Mrs. Inchbald's Remarks are prefixed, I do not think that greater variations from the original will be found in mine. In that all the passages said in other copies to be omitted at the Theatre are left out, with many others. Of those who candidly consider the superior object of the omissions and alterations made in the present edition, which is nothing less than the great cause of morals and religion, I trust a large majority will give it, on that account, their approbation. Indeed, I almost persuade myself, if the excellent author were alive, and could see them, and hear my reasons for making them, there are very few, if any, which he would not adopt himself.
Clare Ilall, July 17, 1811.