British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

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

PROLOGUE

BY THE AUTHOR

SPOKEN BY MR. WOODWARD AND MR. QUICK1

Enter Serjeant-at-Law and Attorney following and giving a paper.

SERJ. What's here! a vile cramp hand! I cannot see
Without my spectacles.
ATT. [aside]. He means his fee.
Nay, Mr. Serjeant, good sir, try again. (Gives money.)
SERJ. The scrawl improves. (More.) O come, 'tis pretty plain.

((How's this? The poet's brief again!2 O ho! 5
Cast, I suppose?
ATT. O pardon me -- no -- no--
We found the court, o'erlooking stricter laws,
Indulgent to the merits of the cause;
By judges mild, unused to harsh denial,
A rule was granted for another trial. 10
SERJ. Then heark'ee, Dibble, did you mend your pleadings?
Errors, no few, we've found in our proceedings.
ATT. Come, courage, sir, we did amend our plea,3
Hence your new brief, and this refreshing fee.))
Some sons of Phœbus-- in the courts we meet. 15
SERJ. And fifty sons of Phoebus in the Fleet! 4
ATT. Nor pleads he worse, who with a decent sprig
Of bays adorns his legal waste of wig.
SERJ. Full-bottomed heroes thus, on signs, unfurl
A leaf of laurel -- in a grove of curl! 20
Yet tell your client, that, in adverse days,
This wig is warmer than a bush of bays.
ATT. Do you, then, sir, my client's place supply,
Profuse of robe, and prodigal of tie

Do you, with all those blushing pow'rs of face,
And wonted bashful hesitating grace,
Rise in the court, and flourish on the case.
Exit. 25

SERJ. [addressing the audience]. For practice, then, suppose-- this brief will show it, --
Me, Serjeant Woodward, -- counsel for the poet.

Used to the ground -- I know 'tis hard to deal 30
With this dread court, from whence there's no appeal;
No tricking here, to blunt the edge of law,
Or, damned in equity -- escape by flaw:

____________________
5-14] O1 and O2 read as above; O3 revises thus:

Hey! how's this? -- Dibble! -- sure it cannot be!
A poet's brief! A poet and a fee!
Att. Yea, sir? -- though you without reward, I know,
Would gladly plead the Muses' cause -- (Serj.) So-So!
And if the fee offends -- your wrath should fall
On me -- (Serj.) Dear Dibble, no offence at all --

29] 0102 Council; O3-O6 Counsel.
1
Woodward appeared as Captain Absolute and Quick as Bob Acres in the original cast.
2
Referring to the revision of the play after its initial failure and temporary withdrawal. See 'The Initial Failure and Final Triumph of The Rivals' in The Major Dramas of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (N). Introduction, lxiv-lxviii.
3
Revise our play.
4
Poets in the debtors' (Fleet) prison.

-801-

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