« PreviousContinue »
comedy because we have seen it acted, or to applaud a tragedy because it is written in blank verse. The free agency of good sense, and the integrity of principle, will assert their office, although the senses may have been cheated by “ blear illusion.” When mischief is done by the stage, it is the eye which betrays the understanding; and surely, having discovered the traitor, it is in our power to convert his qualities to our own use. In order to blunt all the arrows of temptation, it may be safe to arrest the mind upon
theatrical compositions as one of the most ornamental branches of literature: reading supposes study, and when the powers of attention exert the energies of memory, we may apprehend no danger from effervescent feeling. “ To catch the manners living as they rise," is the business of a dramatist; and to mark probable incidents portrayed in nature's language, never can injure the most frigid morality. Acting is the animation of thought; and when we yield to the satisfaction of seeing a favourite author well represented, I cannot see that our religious tenets are extinguished in the pleasure. This exception may, perhaps, be granted me only in favour of the chaste and moral muse; but no pardon can be extorte ed for those who attend to witness a piece where
Intrigue is plot, obscenity is wit.” Nor is pardon asked. A female, who feels gratified, or does not express herself disgusted at a licentious, performance, has not within her grasp one firm motive to break the force of temptation. To be one of the audience at Farquhar's “ Constant Couple," must be distressing to genuine modesty; but it does not follow that it should bereave you of that quality, though you will certainly be confirmed in a distaste for ribaldry. Scene and decoration merely attach to sight; and their eblouissant brilliancy is perfectly harmless as an instrument of wit: delusion acknowledged loses its power; these fairy splendors may just play round the memory, but they never will be riveted to it; and, supposing they should sometimes sparkle into the fancy, their aim has been “ to elevate and surprise,". and with as little intention of rational sense as Mr. Bayes transfused into his own writings. Without amplifying my position, that the drama, well written, does not sow the seed of crime, or the stage well regulated does not produce the fruit, I will leave the heads of my vindication, sufficiently satisfied with the press of evidence, which my cause exhibits in the virtuous lives of many
theatrical amateurs. That all who frequent play-houses are good, I do not assert; but that all who stay away from them are free from sin, I should be loth to admit. If authors would not propagate evil through the medium of their pens, nor actors exemplify the lesson in their lives, the whole community would consent
To chase the charms of sense, the pomp of show,
JOHN DAVY, THE CELEBRATED COMPOSER. John Davy, Composer, was born in the parish of Upton Hilion, about eight miles from Exeter. When about three years of age, he came into a room where his uncle was playing over a psalm tune on the violoncello; and the moment he heard the instrument, he ran away crying, and was so terrified that he was expected to fall into fits. In the course of some weeks, his unele repeatedly tried to reconcile him to the instrument, which at last he effected, after a great deal of coaxing, by taking the child's fingers, and making him strike the strings, which at first started him; but in a few days he became so passionately fond of the amusement, that he took every opportunity of scraping a better acquaintance with this monster, who, in the hands of his keeper, had so dreadfully frightened him with his tremendous noise. Within a short time, by a little attention, he turned the notes of this frightful animal to notes of joy. At this time there was a company of soldiers quartered at Crediton, a town about a mile from Hilion: his uncle took him there frequently; and one day, attending the roll-call, he' appeared to be greatly delighted with the fifes; but, not content with hearing them, he borrowed one and very soon picked out several tunes and played them very decently. After this he gathered a quantity of what the people call bitter: it is cubular, and grows in marshy grounds; with this bitter he made several imitations of the fife, and sold them to his schoolfellows. When between four and five years of age, his ear was so very correct, that he could play an easy tune after once or twice hearing it. Before he was quite six years old, a neighbouring smith, into whose house he used frequently to run, lost between twenty and thirty horse shoes: diligent search was made after them for many days, but to no pur
pose. Soon after the smith heard some musical sounds, which seemed to come from the upper part of the 'house; and having listened a sufficient time to be convinced that his ears did not deceive him, he went up stairs, where he discovered the young musician, and his property between the ceiling and the thatched roof. He had selected eight horse shoes, out of more than twenty, to form a complete octave; he had suspended each of them by a single cord, clear from the wall, and, with a small iron rod, was amusing himself by imitating Crediton chimes; which he did with great exactness. This story being made public, and his genius for music increasing hourly, a neighbouring clergyman, of considerable rank in the church, who patronized him, showed him a harpsichord, which he soon got a familiar acquaintance with, and, by his intuitive genius, was shortly able to play any easy lesson which came in the way. He applied himself to the violin, and found but few difficulties to surmount in his progress on that instrument. When eleven years old, he was introduced by his patron to the Rev. Mr. Eastcott, of Exeter, who set him down to the piano forte; and, soon perceiving that the seeds of music were sown in a rich soil, he recommended his friends to place him with some cathedral organist, under whom he might have free access to a good instrument and get some knowledge of the rules of composition. Accordingly Mr. Jackson, organist of Exeter cathedral, was applied to, who consented to take him, and he was articled to him when about twelve years of age. His progress in church was hardly credible; and, in his voluntaries, his invention is not to be describe ed. He continued to improve, and became an excellent performer on the organ. He likewise became a good violin, viole and violoncello player; and composed some vocal quartettos, which were thought elegant by the first professors of music. He then composed some dramatic pieces for Sadlers Wells, &c. and an opera (written by Mr. Holman) for Colman's theatre. He was engaged by Mr. Harris to play in the orchestra, and has since assisted the manager as a composer. For a while he followed the profession of a teacher, and had several respectable pupils; but now applies himself entirely to composition, in which he is reckoned wonderfully quick and correct.
EXCULPATION OF RICHARD THE THIRD From the charges brought against him by different historians and followed by Shakspeare.
It seems then to me to appear, that Fabian, and the authors of the Chronicle of Croyland, who were contemporaries with Richard, charge him directly with none of the crimes since imputed to him, and disculpate him of others. That John Rous, the third contemporary, could know the facts he alleges but by hearsay, confounds the dates of them, dedicates his work to Henry the Seventh, and is an author to whom no credit is due, from the lies and fables with which his work is stuffed. That we have no authors who lived near the time but Lancastrian authors, who wrote to flatter Henry the Seventh, or who spread the tales which he invented. That the murder of prince Edward, son of Henry the Sixth, was committed by king Edward's servants, and is imputed to Richard by no contemporary. That Henry the Sixth was found dead in the tower; that it was not known how he came by his death; and that it was against Richard's interest to murder him. That the duke of Clarence was defended by Richard; that the parliament petitioned for his execution; that no author of the time is so absurd as to charge Richard with being the executioner; and that king Edward took the deed wholly upon himself. That Richard's stay at York, on his brother's death, had no appearance of a design to make himself king. That the ambition of the queen, who attempted to usurp the government, contrary to the then established custom of the realm, gave the first provocation to Richard and the princes of the blood to assert their rights; and that Richard was solicited by the duke of Buckingham to vindicate those rights. That the preparation of an armed force under earl Rivers, the seizure of the tower and treasure,and the equipment of a fleet, by the marquis of Dorset, gave occasion to the princes to imprison the relations of the queen; and that, though they were put to death without trial, (the only cruelty which is proved on Richard) it was consonant to the manners of that barbarous and turbulent age, and not till after the queen's party had taken up arms. That the execution of lord Hastings, who had first engaged with Richard against the queen, and whom sir Thomas More confesses Richard was loth to lose, can be accounted for by nothing but absolute necessity, and the law of self-defence. That Richard's assumption of the protectorate was in every respect agreeable to the laws and usage; was probably bestowed on him by the universal
consent of the council and peers, and was a strong indication that he had then no thought of questioning the right of his nephew. That the tale of Richard aspersing the chastity of his own mother is incredible; it appearing that he lived with her in perfect harmony, and lodged with her in her palace at that very time. That it is as little credible that Richard gained the crown by a sermon of Dr. Shaw and a speech of the duke of Buckingham, if the people only laughed at these orators. That there had been a précontract or marriage between Edward the Fourth and lady Eleanor Talbot; * and that Richard's claim to the crown was founded on the illegitimacy of Edward's children. That a convention of the nobility, clergy and people invited him to accept the crown on that title. That the ensuing parliament ratified the act of the convention, and confirmed the bastardy of Edward's children. That nothing can be more improbable than Richard's having taken no measures before he left London to have his nephews murdered, if he had had any such intention. That the story of sir James Tirrel, as related by sir Thomas More, is à notorious falsehood; sir James Tirrel being at that time master of the horse, in which capacity he had walked at Richard's coronation. That Tirrel's jealousy of sir Richard Ratcliffe is another palpable falsehood; Tirrel being already preferred, and Ratcliffe absent. That all that relates to sir Robert Brakenbury is no less false: Brakenbury either being too good a man to die for a tyrant or murderer, or too bad a man to have refused being his accomplice. That sir Thomas More and lord Bacon both confess that many doubted whether the two princes were murdered in Richard's days or not; and it certainly never was proved that they were murdered by Richard's order. That sir Thomas More relied on nameless and uncertain authority; that it appears by dates and facts that his authorities were bad and false; that if sir James Tirrel and Dighton had really committed the murder, and if Perkin Warbeck had made a voluntary, clear, and probable confession of his imposture, there could have remained no doubt of the murder. That Green, the nameless page, and Will Slaughter, having never been questioned about the murder, there is no reason to believe what is related of them in the supposed tragedy. That sir James Tirrel not being attainted on the death of Richard, but having, on the contrary, been employed in great
* Or Butler, by marriage.