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Then finish what you have began,
But scribble faster if you can ;
For yet no George, to our discerning,
Has writ without a ten years warning.*

* This is the only mention that our author makes of the « Rehearsal” in poetry : In prose he twice notices that satirical farce with some contempt. The length of time which the Duke spent upon it, or at least which elapsed between the first concoction and the representation, is mentioned by Duke in his character of Valerius :

But with play-houses, wars, immortal wars,
He waged, and ten years rage produced a farce.
As many rolling years he did employ,
And hands almost as many, to destroy
Heroic rhyme, as Greece to ruin Troy.
Once more, says fame, for battle he

prepares,
And threatens rhymers with a second farce ;
But if as long for this as that we stay,

He'll finish Čliveden sooner than his play. The last line alludes to the magnificent structure at Cliveden, which Buckingham planned, but never completed. Another satirist has the same idea :

I come to his farce, which must needs well be done,
For Troy was no longer before it was won,
Since 'tis more than ten years since this war was begun.

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EPISTLE THE TENTH.

Το

MR SOUTHERNE,

ON HIS COMEDY

CALLED

THE WIVES EXCUSE,

ACTED IN 1692.

SOUTHERNE,--well known to the present age as a tragic writer, for his Isabella has been ranked among the first-rate parts of our inimitable Siddons,—was also distinguished by his contemporaries as a successful candidate for the honours of the comic muse. Two of his comedies, “ The Mother in Fashion,” and “Sir Anthony Love,” had been represented with success, when, in 1692, the «i Wives' Excuse, or Cuckolds make themselves," was brought forward. The tone of that piece approaches what we now call genteel comedy : but, whether owing to the fatness into which such plays are apt to slide, for want of the vis comica which enlivens the more animated, though coarser, effusions of the lower comedy, or to some strokes of satire directed against music meet. ings, and other places of fashionable resort, “The Wives' Excuse" was unfortunate in the representation. The author of the dedication of the printed play,t has hinted at the latter cause as that

+ To the honourable Thomas Wharton, Esq. comptroller of his majesty's household.

of his defeat; and vindicates himself from the idea of reflecting upon music meetings, or any other resort of the people of fashion, by urging that although a billet douc is represented as being there delivered, “ such a thing has been done before now in a church, without the place being thought the worse of.” But Southerne consoles himself for the disapprobation of the audience with the favour of Dryden, who, says he,"speaking of this play, has publicly said, the town was kind to : Sir Anthony Love;' I needed them only to be just to this." And, after mentioning that Dry. den had intrusted to him, upon the credit of this play, the task of completing “Cleomenes," *he triumphantly adds, "Ifmodesty be sometimes a weakness, what I say can hardly be a crime: in a fair English trial, both parties are allowed to be heard ; and without this vanity of mentioning Mr Dryden, I had lost the best evidence of my cause.” Dryden, not satisfied with a verbal exertion of his patronage, consoled his friend under his discomfiture, by addressing to him the following Epistle, in which his failure is ascribed to the taste for bustling intrigue, and for low and farcical humour.

It is not the Editor's business to trace Southerne's life, or poetical career.

He was born in the county of Dublin, in 1659; and produced, in his twenty-third year, the tragedy of “ The Loyal Brother,” which Dryden honoured with a prologue. On this occasion, Southerne's acquaintance with our bard took place, under the whimsical circumstances mentioned Vol. X. p. 372. The aged bard furnished also a prologue to Southerne's “Disappointment, or Mother in Fashion;" and as he had repeatedly ushered him to success, he presented him with the following lines to console him under disappointment. The poets appear to have continued on the most friendly terms until Dryden's death. Southerne survived him many years, and lived to be praised by the rising generation of a second century, for mildness of manners, and that cheerful and amiable disposition, which rarely is found in old age, unless from the happy union of a body at ease, and a conscience void of offence. When this dramatist was sixtyfive, his last play, called “Money the Mistress," was acted, with a prologue by Welsted, containing the following beautiful lines:t

* See the introductory remarks on that play, Vol. VIII. + Welsted, “ howe'er insulted by the spleen of Pope,” was a poet of merit. His fate is an instance, among a thousand, of the disadvantage sustained by an inferior genius, who enters into collision with one of supereminent talents. It is the combat of a gun-boat with a frigate; and many an author has been run down in such an encounter, who, had he avoided it, might have still enjoyed a fair portion of literary reputation. The apologue of the iron and earthen pot contains a moral applicable to such circumstances.

To you, ye fair, for patronage he sues ;
O last defend, who first inspired his muse !
In your soft service he has past his days,
And gloried to be born for woman's praise :
Deprest at length, and in your cause decay'd,
The good old man to beauty bends for aid;
That beauty he has taught so oft to moan!
That ne'er let Imoinda weep alone,
And made his Isabella's griefs its own!
Ere you arose to life, ye blooming train ;
Ere time brought forth our pleasure and our pain ;
He melted hearts, to monarchs' vows denied,
And soften'd to distress unconquer'd pride:
0! then protect, in his declining years,
The man, that fill'd your mothers' eyes with tears !
The last of Charles's bards ! The living name,
That rose, in that Augustan age, to fame!
And you, his brother authors, bravely dare
To join to-night the squadrons of the fair ;
With zeal protect your veteran writer's page,
And save the drama's father, in his age :
Nor let the wreath from his grey head be torn,
For half a century with honour worn!
His merits let your tribe to mind recal;
Of some the patron, and the friend to all!
In him the poets' Nestor ye defend !

Great Otway's peer, and greater Dryden's friend. Southerne, on his eighty-first birth-day, was complimented with a copy of verses by Pope ; and on 26th May, 1746, he died at the advanced age of eighty-five and upwards.

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EPISTLE THE TENTH.

SURE there's a fate in plays, and 'tis in vain
To write, while these malignant planets reign.
Some very foolish influence rules the pit,
Not always kind to sense, or just to wit;
And whilst it lasts, let buffoonry succeed,
To make us laugh, for never was more need.
Farce, in itself, is of a nasty scent ;
But the gain smells not of the excrement.
The Spanish nymph, a wit and beauty too,
With all her charms, bore but a single show;
But let a monster Muscovite appear,
He draws a crowded audience round the year.
May be thou hast not pleased the box and pit;
Yet those who blame thy tale applaud thy wit :
So Terence plotted, but so Terence writ.
Like his, thy thoughts are true, thy language clean;
Even lewdness is made moral in thy scene.
The hearers may for want of Nokest repine;
But rest secure, the readers will be thine.

* The moral of the “ Wives' Excuse” is as bad as possible; but the language of the play is free from that broad licence which disgraces the dramatic taste of the age.

† Nokes was then famous for parts of low humour. Cibber thus describes him : “ This celebrated comedian was of the mid.

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