THIS comedy has been received with universal acceptance, for it was in every part excellently performed; and there needs no other applause of the actors but that they excelled according to the dignity and difficulty of the character they represented. But this great favor done to the work in acting renders the expectation still the greater from the author, to keep up the spirit in the representation of the closet,1 or any other circumstance of the reader, whether alone or in company: to which I can only say that it must be remembered a play is to be seen, and is made to be represented with the advantage of action, nor can appear but with half the spirit without it. For the greatest effect of a play in reading is to excite the reader to go see it; and when he does so, it is then a play has the effect of example and precept.
The chief design of this was to be an innocent performance, and the audience have abundantly showed how ready they are to support what is visibly intended that way. Nor do I make any difficulty to acknowledge that the whole was writ for the sake of the scene of the fourth act, wherein Mr. Bevil evades the quarrel with his friend, and hope it may have some effect upon the Goths and Vandals that frequent the theatres, or a more polite audience may supply their absence.
But this incident, and the case of the father and daughter, are esteemed by some people no subjects of comedy; but I cannot be of their mind, for anything that has its foundation in happiness and success must be allowed to be the object of comedy; and sure it must be an improvement of it to introduce a joy too exquisite for laughter, that can have no spring but in delight, which is the case of this young lady. I must, therefore, contend that the tears which were shed on that occasion flowed from reason and good sense, and that men ought not to be laughed at for weeping till we are come to a more clear notion of what is to be imputed to the hardness of the head and the softness of the heart; and I think it was very politely said of Mr. Wilks,2 to one who told him there was a general3 weeping for Indiana, 'I'll warrant he'll fight ne'er the worse for that.' To be apt to give way to the impressions of humanity is the excellence of a right disposition and the natural working of a well-turned spirit. But as I have suffered by critics who are got no farther than to enquire whether they ought to be pleased or not, I would willingly find them properer matter for their employment, and revive here a song which was omitted for want of a performer, and designed for the entertainment of Indiana. Signor Carbonelli,4 instead of it, played on the fiddle, and it is for want of a singer that such advantageous things are said of an instrument which were designed for a voice. The song is the distress of a love-sick maid, and may be a fit entertainment for some small critics to examine whether the passion is just or the distress male or female.
From place to place forlorn I go,
With downcast eyes a silent shade;
Forbidden to declare my woe;
To speak, till spoken to, afraid.II
My inward pangs, my secret grief,
My soft, consenting looks betray.
He loves, but gives me no relief;
Why speaks not he who may?
It remains to say a word concerning Terence,5 and I am extremely surprised to find what Mr. Cibber told me* prove a truth -- that what I valued myself so much upon -- the translation of him -- should be____________________