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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 douz 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 le, “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 Dryden had intrusted to him, upon the credit of this play, the task of completing“ Cleomenes," he triumphantly adds, “If modesty 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 evi. dence 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 farci. cal 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 ;
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.
EPISTLE THE TENTH.
SURE there's a fate in plays, and 'tis in vain
* 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 middle size, his voice clear and audible, his natural countenance grave and sober ; but the moment he spoke, the settled seriousness of his features was utterly discharged, and a dry, drolling, or laughing levity, took such full possession of him, that I can only refer the idea of him to your imagination. In some of his low characters, that became it, he had a shuffling shamble in his gait, with so contented an ignorance in his aspect, and an awkward absurdity in his gesture, that, had you not known him, you could not have believed, that naturally he could have had a grain of common sense." Our author insinuates, that the audience had been so accustomed to the presence of this facetious actor, that they could not tolerate a play where his low humour was excluded.
Nor was thy labour'd drama damn'd or hiss'd,
* Alluding to the character of Mrs Friendall in “ The Wives' Excuse."
EPISTLE THE ELEVENTH.
HENRY HIGDEN, Esq.
ON HIS TRANSLATION OF
THE TENTH SATIRE OF JUVENAL.
Henry Higden was a member of the honourable society of the Middle Temple, and during the reigns of James II. and William III. held some rank among the wits of the age. He wrote a play called “Sir Noisy Parrot, or the Wary Widow," represented in 1693, which seems to have been most effectually damned ; for in the preface the author complains, that “the theatre was by faction transformed into a bear-garden, hissing, mimicking, ridiculing, and cat-calling." I mention this circumstance, because amongst the poetical friends who hastened to condole with Mr Higden on the bad success of his piece, there is one who attributes it to the influence of our author over the inferior wits at Will's coffee-house. * But it seems more generally admitted, as
• From spawn of Will's, these wits of future tense,
He now appeals to men of riper sense ;
Here the great patriarch of Parnassus sits,