British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

By George Henry Nettleton; Arthur Eillicot Case | Go to book overview

has ever been the practice of the world. And then,

when he comes to what he calls 'good lan­ 95
guage,' it is, as I told thee, very fantastical, most abominably dull, and not one word to the purpose.

SMITH. It does surprise me, I'm sure, very much.

JOHNSON. Aye, but it won't do so long: by that

time thou hast seen a play or two that I'll show 100
thee, thou wilt be pretty well acquainted with this new kind of foppery.

*SMITH. Pox on't, but there's no pleasure in him: he's too gross a fool to be laughed at.

Enter BAYES.

*JOHNSON. I'll swear, Mr. Bayes, you have 105
done this scene most admirably; though, I must tell you, sir, it is a very difficult matter to pen a whisper well.

*BAYES. Aye, gentlemen, when you come to write

yourselves, o' my word, you'll find it so. 110

*JOHNSON. Have a care of what you say, Mr. Bayes, for Mr. Smith there, I assure you, has written a great many fine things already.

*BAYES. Has he, i'fackins? Why, then, pray, sir,

how do you do when you write? 115

*SMITH. Faith, sir, for the most part, I am in pretty good health.

*BAYES. Aye, but I mean, what do you do, when you write?

*SMITH. I take pen, ink, and paper, and sit 120 down.

*BAYES. Now I write standing; that's one thing: and then, another thing is, with what do you prepare yourself?

*SMITH. Prepare myself! What the devil 125
does the fool mean?

*BAYES. Why, I'll tell you, now, what I do. If I am to write familiar things, as sonnets to Armida,1 and the like, I make use of stewed prunes only; but,

when I have a grand design in hand, I ever take 130
physic, and let blood, for, when you would have pure swiftness of thought and fiery flights of fancy, you must have a care of the pensive part. In fine, you must purge the belly.

*SMITH. By my troth, sir, this is a most ad­ 135
mirable receipt for writing.

*BAYES. Aye, 'tis my secret; and, in good earnest, I think, one of the best I have.

*SMITH. In good faith, sir, and that may very well

be. 140

*BAYES. May be, sir? 'Y gad, I'm sure on't: experto crede Roberto.2 But I must give you this caution by the way -- be sure you never take snuff, when you write.

*SMITH. Why so, sir? 145

*BAYES. Why, it spoiled me once, 'y gad, one of the sparkishest plays in all England. But a friend of mine, at Gresham College,3 has promised to help me to some spirit of brains, and, 'y gad, that shall do

my business. 150


SCENE II

Enter the two Kings, hand in hand.4

BAYES. Oh, these now are the two kings of Brentford. Take notice of their style: 'twas never yet upon the stage; but, if you like it, I could make a shift, perhaps, to show you a whole play, writ all

just so. 5

1ST KING. Did you observe their whisper, brother king? 2D KING. I did; and heard besides a grave bird sing
That they intend, sweetheart, to play us pranks.

BAYES. This is now familiar, because they are

both persons of the same quality. 10

SMITH. 'Sdeath, this would make a man spew.

1ST KING. If that design appears,
I'll lug 'em by the ears
Until I make 'em crack.

2D KING. And so will I, i'fack. 15
1ST KING. You must begin, mon foy. 2D KING. Sweet sir, pardonnes moy.

BAYES. Mark that: I makes 'em both speak French to show their breeding.

JOHNSON. Oh, 'tis extraordinary fine. 20

2D. KING. Then, spite of Fate, we'll thus combinèd stand; And, like true brothers, walk still hand in hand.

Exeunt Reges.

JOHNSON. This is a very majestic scene indeed.

BAYES. Aye, 'tis a crust, a lasting crust for your

rogue critics, 'y gad: I would fain see the proud­ 25
est of 'em all but dare to nibble at this; 'y gad, if they do, this shall rub their gums for 'em, I promise you. It was I, you must know, that have written a whole play just in this very same style; but 'twas
never acted yet. 30

JOHNSON. How so?

BAYES. 'Y gad, I can hardly tell you for laughing (ha, ha, ha!). It is so pleasant a story -- ha, ha, ha!

SMITH. What is't?

BAYES. 'Y gad, the players refused to act it. 35 Ha, ha, ha!

SMITH. That's impossible.

BAYES. 'Y gad, they did it, sir, point blank refused it, 'y gad. -- Ha, ha, ha!

JOHNSON. Fie, that was rude. 40

BAYES. Rude! Aye, 'y gad, they are the rudest,

____________________
1
Duchess of Richmond ('la belle Stuart'), celebrated in verses ascribed to Dryden -- 'Farewell, fair Armida.' See also p. 53, ll. 113-114, and footnote.
2
The 'expert Robert' may possibly be Dryden's brother-in- law. Robert Howard.
3
The early London home of the Royal Society.
4
Summers notes in this scene parodies of Orrery's Mustapha ( 1665) and, in 'the second King's endearment,' of Burr, in Dryden's The Wild Gallant ( 1663).

-49-

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