British Dramatists from Dryden to Sheridan

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

PROLOGUE

BY THE AUTHOR

SPOKEN ON THE TENTH NIGHT, BY MRS. BULKLEY1

Granted our cause, our suit and trial o'er,
The worthy serjeant2 need appear no more:
In pleasing I a different client choose;
He served the poet -- I would serve the Muse:

Like him, I'll try to merit your applause, 5
A female counsel in a female's cause. Look on this form,*-- where Humor, quaint and sly,
Dimples the cheek, and points the beaming eye;
Where gay Invention seems to boast its wiles
In amorous hint, and half-triumphant smiles; 10
While her light masks or covers Satire's strokes, All hides the conscious blush her wit provokes.
Look on her well -- does she seem formed to teach?
Should you expect to hear this lady preach?
Is grey experience suited to her youth? 15
Do solemn sentiments become that mouth? Bid her be grave, those lips should rebel prove
To every theme that slanders mirth or love.
Yet, thus adorned with every graceful art
To charm the fancy and yet reach the heart ----- 20
Must we displace her, and instead advance The goddess of the woful countenance
The sentimental Muse? -- Her emblems view,
The Pilgrim's Progress, and a sprig of rue!
View her -- too chaste to look like flesh and blood -- 25
Primly portrayed on emblematic wood! There, fixed in usurpation, should she stand,
She'll snatch the dagger from her sister's hand:
And having made her votaries weep a flood,
Good heav'n! she'll end her comedies in blood -- 30
Bid Harry Woodward [CAPTAIN ABSOLUTE] break poor Dunstal's [DAVID] crown!
Imprison Quick [ACRES], and knock Ned Shuter [SIR ANTHONY ABSOLUTE] down;
While sad Barsanti [ LYDIA LANGUISH], weeping o'er the scene,
Shall stab herself -- or poison Mrs. Green [MRS. MALAPROP].
Such dire encroachments to prevent in time, 35
Demands the critic's voice -- the poet's rhyme. Can our light scenes add strength to holy laws?
Such puny patronage but hurts the cause:
Fair Virtue scorns our feeble aid to ask;
And moral Truth disdains the trickster's mask. 40
For here their fav'rite stands, whose brow -- severe
And sad -- claims Youth's respect, and Pity's tear;
Who, when oppressed by foes her worth creates,
Can point a poniard at the guilt she hates.

____________________
PROLOGUE SPOKEN ON THE TENTH NIGHT] In O3 but not in O1 and O2.
*
Pointing to the Figure of COMEDY [in Covent Garden Theatre].
1
The Julia of the original cast of The Rivals.
2
The Serjeant-at-Law of the previous Prologue.
Painting to TRAGEDY [the opposite 'Figure' in Covent Garden Theatre].

-803-

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