The History of Henry Fielding - Vol. 1

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

CHAPTER IX
DRAMATIC CAREER
THE LICENSING ACT

I

One more brief season at the Haymarket, and the Great Mogul's Company of Comedians went down to irretrievable disaster. "Like another Erostratus," said Colley Cibber picturesquely, Fielding "set fire to his stage, by writing up to an Act of Parliament to demolish it."* This is the mixed metaphor of an enemy; but the words are essentially true. Fielding's attacks on the Ministry, becoming more and more unrestrained, were the cause, if not the immediate occasion, of the Licensing Act of 1737, which closed his theatre and rendered impossible the performance of a "Pasquin" elsewhere. How Fielding thus wrote up to an Act of Parliament that placed the theatres under the direct control of the Government, is the subject of this chapter.

As usual, Fielding probably passed the late summer and autumn of 1736 on his farm at East Stour and returned to London after the Christmas holidays. The extraordinary run of "Pasquin" the previous season had evidently led the manager of Drury Lane to look upon the Great Mogul as a factor in the dramatic world to be reckoned with; for Fielding's first play of the new year--"Euridice, or the Devil Henpeck'd"--was rehearsed by Fleetwood for Satur-

____________________
*
"An Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber," edited by R. W. Lowe, 1889, I, 287.

-205-

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