British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

By George Henry Nettleton; Arthur Eillicot Case | Go to book overview
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JOHNSON. Honest Frank! I'm glad to see thee with all my heart: how long hast thou been in town?

SMITH. Faith, not above an hour: and, if I had not met you here, I had gone to look you out; for

I long to talk with you freely, of all the strange 5
new things we have heard in the country.

JOHNSON. And, by my troth, I have longed as much to laugh with you, at all the impertinent, dull, fantastical things we are tired out with here.

SMITH. Dull and fantastical! that's an excel­ 10 lent composition. Pray, what are our men of business doing?

JOHNSON. I ne'er enquire after 'em. Thou knowest my humor lies another way. I love to please

myself as much, and to trouble others as little 15
as I can: and therefore do naturally avoid the company of those solemn fops who, being incapable of reason, and insensible of wit and pleasure, are always looking grave, and troubling one another,
in hopes to be thought men of business. 20

SMITH. Indeed, I have ever observed that your grave lookers are the dullest of men.

JOHNSON. Aye, and of birds, and beasts too: your gravest bird is an owl, and your gravest beast

is an ass. 25

SMITH. Well; but how dost thou pass thy time?

JOHNSON. Why, as I use to do -- eat and drink as well as I can, have a she-friend to be private with in the afternoon, and sometimes see a play; where

there are such things, Frank, -- such hideous, 30
monstrous things, -- that it has almost made me forswear the stage and resolve to apply myself to the solid nonsense of your men of business, as the more ingenious pastime.

SMITH. I have heard, indeed, you have had 35
lately many new plays; and our country wits commend 'em.

JOHNSON. Aye, so do some of our city wits, too; but they are of the new kind of wits.

SMITH. New kind! what kind is that? 40

JOHNSON. Why, your virtuosi, your civil persons, your drolls -- fellows that scorn to imitate nature, but are given altogether to elevate and surprise.

SMITH. Elevate and surprise? Prithee, make me

understand the meaning of that. 45

JOHNSON. Nay, by my troth, that's a hard matter: I don't understand that myself. 'Tis a phrase they have got among them, to express their no-meaning by. I'll tell you, as near as I can, what it is. Let

me see; 'tis fighting, loving, sleeping, rhyming, 50
dying, dancing, singing, crying; and everything but thinking and sense.

Mr. BAYES1passes o'er the stage.

BAYES. Your most obsequious, and most observant, very servant, sir.

JOHNSON. Godso, this is an author! I'll fetch 55 him to you.

SMITH. No, prithee, let him alone.

JOHNSON. Nay, by the Lord, I'll have him. (Goes after him.) Here he is. I have caught him. --

Pray, sir, now for my sake, will you do a favor 60 to this friend of mine?

BAYES. Sir, it is not within my small capacity to do favors, but receive 'em, especially from a person that does wear the honorable title you are pleased

to impose, sir, upon this. -- Sweet sir, your 65

SMITH. Your humble servant, sir.

JOHNSON. But wilt thou do me a favor, now?

BAYES. Aye, sir. What is't?

JOHNSON. Why, to tell him the meaning of 70
thy last play.2

BAYES. How, sir, the meaning? Do you mean the plot?

JOHNSON. Aye, aye -- anything.

BAYES. Faith, sir, the intrigo's now quite 75
out of my head; but I have a new one in my pocket, that I may say is a virgin; 't has never yet been blown upon. I must tell you one thing, 'tis all new wit; and though I say it, a better than my last --
and you know well enough how that took. In 80
fine, it shall read, and write, and act, and plot, and show -- aye, and pit, box and gallery,3 'y gad, with any play in Europe. This morning is its last re

HEADING] QQ Actus I. Scæna I., and so throughout the play.
33] Q1 pretenders to business.
41] Q1 your blade, your frank persons.
42] Q1Q2Q5 scorn; Q3Q4 scorns (Q4 follows misprint in Q3).
49] Q1 well for near.
57] Q1 Nay for No.
60] Q1 omits now
82] QQ I gad, throughout.
The name Bayes suits Dryden's appointment as Poet Laureate in August, 1670.
Dryden's Conquest of Granada.
A hit at the 'usual language' of Edward Howard 'at the rehearsal of his plays.' ( Briscoe's Key, 1704.)


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British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan
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