British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

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

PROLOGUE

SPOKEN BY MISS CROSS.1

Ladies, this play in too much haste was writ,
To be o'ercharged with either plot or wit;
'Twas got, conceived, and born in six weeks space,
And wit, you know, 's as slow in growth -- as grace.

Sure it can ne'er be ripened to your taste; 5
I doubt 'twill prove our author bred too fast: For mark 'em well, who with the Muses marry,
They rarely do conceive, but they miscarry.
'Tis the hard fate of those wh'are big with rhyme,
Still to be brought to bed before their time. 10
Of our late poets, Nature few has made; The greatest part -- are only so by trade.

Still want of something brings the scribbling fit;
For want of money some of 'em have writ,
And others do't, you see -- for want of wit. 15
Honor, they fancy, summons 'em to write,
So out they lug2 in wresty3 Nature's spite,
As some of you spruce beaux do -- when you fight.
Yet let the ebb of wit be ne'er so low,
Some glimpse of it a man may hope to show, 20
Upon a theme so ample -- as a beau.
So, howsoe'er true courage may decay,
Perhaps there's not one smock-face4 here today,
But's bold as Cæsar -- to attack a play.
Nay, what's yet more, with an undaunted face, 25
To do the thing with more heroic grace,
'Tis six to four y'attack the strongest place.
You are such Hotspurs5 in this kind of venture,
Where there's no breach, just there you needs must enter.
But be advised. 30
E'en give the hero and the critic o'er,6
For Nature sent you on another score;
She formed her beau for nothing but her whore.
____________________
18]Q2 you, spruce beaux, do.
33]Q1Q2P and various later editions print a second prologue, spoken on the third night, which is omitted from this edition.
1
In the part of Miss Hoyden.
2
Draw (their pens). The term is commonly used with the meaning 'draw a sword.'
3
A variant form of restive, used here in the relatively uncommon sense of 'dull, sluggish.'
4
Effeminate man.
5
Referring to the hot-headed and 'very valiant rebel' in King Henry IV, Part I.
6
Give up attempting to be heroes and critics.

-263-

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