The History of Henry Fielding - Vol. 1

By Wilbur L. Cross; Humphrey Milford | Go to book overview

tragic parts of his predecessors, was endured; but when young Cibber, a squat figure with ugly face, attempted Macduff in succession to Wilks, he exposed himself to scorn and ridicule. The only new tragedy that the company tried was Charles Johnson "Caelia: or, the Perjur'd Lover"--the story of a brutal seduction very like the one employed later by Richardson in "Clarissa Harlowe." The author named it "The Deluded Maid," and Colley Cibber wanted to call it "Maidens Beware"; but Booth protested, and gave it a better title. Much against Booth's advice, the play was accepted, and duly performed on December 11, 1732--only to be hissed and withdrawn after the second night. Particular displeasure was manifested by the audience towards certain comic scenes at the house of a Mother Lupine written in imitation of Fielding "Covent- Garden Tragedy." Fielding also supplied the epilogue, in which he commented upon the tragic distress of the piece as if it were a farce; and so, his irony being misunderstood, contributed doubly to the tragedy's utter failure.

After this fiasco, the company fell back upon farce and light comedy wherein Miss Raftor shone brilliantly. But in order to compete with Rich, who had just moved from Lincoln's Inn Fields to his new Covent Garden theatre, young Cibber brought out several puerile dramatic entertainments, to the disgust, of course, of "The Grub-street Journal," as well as of that part of the town who went to the theatre to see real plays. The situation was relieved by Fielding "Miser," which was first performed on February 17, 1733,* and ran, with other plays like "Tom Thumb" and "The Harlot's Progress," for twenty-six nights or more. Elated by the "extraordinary success" of the piece, Fielding dedicated it to Charles, Duke of Richmond and Lennox--a young man of about his own age and a lord of his Majesty's bedchamber. The Duke had in some way

____________________
*
" The Daily Post," Feb. 17, 1733.

-143-

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