תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

66

[ocr errors]

massacre

dozen link-boys, with whom he serenades his could see little and hear nothing could scarcely mistress, beats the watch, and riots through the be a good judge. But She Wou'd if She streets. He is in love with a rich widow or Cou'd " is a much better work than “ Love in a rather her fortune; her maid describes how, at Tub"; it contains no sentiment, and is written two o'clock in the morning, he comes thundering in not inelegant prose. Sir Oliver Cockwood and at her mistress's door, “As if it were upon life Sir Joslin Jolly are two amusing specimens of and death." Admission being refused, she goes country knights, who when in London would on to say:

fain pass themselves off as the arrantest rakes,

but are tame enough when brought to the point. “ You and your ranting companions hoop'd and hol- Lady Cockwood, who gives meetings to her gallow'd

lant, and then growing nervous of her reputation Like madmen, and roar'd out in the streets a

is afraid to avail herself of the opportunity, who

when he is gone scolds her maid if she has rePray tell the consequences, how you march'd mained in the room, and scolds her equally if she heavily

has left them alone, is very well drawn, and is a At the rear of an army of link-boys; upon the refreshing deviation from the unmitigated shamesudden,

lessness of the country and citizen wife of most How you gave defiance, and then wag'd a bloody, of the plays of this period. The comedy is full War with the constable ; and having vanquish'd

of intrigue and situation, the dialogue at all that Dreadful enemy, how you committ'd a general

times lively, and frequently witty.

Eight years now elapsed before Etherege Upon the glass windows."

produced his last and best work, “The Man of

Mode; or, Sir Fopling Flutter,” which, as a picA curious picture this of love-making. The ture of the manners of the high society of the reader will perhaps remark the curious manner day, by the wit and elegance of the dialogue, in which the lines are broken up. I have not and the absence of the farcical element, might found an example of such a metre in any other have served as a model for Congreve, whose style dramatist; although the blank verse of Cowley's it certainly resembles. Several of the characters “Cutter of Colman Street” is as harsh, but it is are supposed to have been drawn from life: usually confined to the prescribed number of Dorimant is said to have been intended for feet. This is certainly prose run mad.

Rochester, Medley for Etherege himself, and a As the serious scenes of this comedy are notorious coxcomb named Beau Hewit is credwritten in imitation of the sentimental vein of ited with being the original of Sir Fopling, alMolière, so the pantomime fun of the comic though a contemporary asserts that he bore a very scenes is borrowed from such farces as “ Les great resemblance to his creator. Sir Fopling Fourberies de Scapin,” “M. de Pourceaugnac,” was the original of a century of coxcombs, and etc. The title is taken from a trick played upon all his successors upon the stage have been more Sir Frederick's French valet by the widow's or or less closely related to him. He is a fine satire ders. Being made intoxicated, a tub is fixed upon the French mania of the day. He is a round his neck by means of a hole in the bottom, most exquisite gentleman, he wears gloves up to and in this guise he is compelled to walk about his elbows, and his periwig is more exactly curled until his tormentors see fit to release him. than a lady's head newly dressed for a ball; eve

Three months before Sedley produced his ry article of his attire is an original from the first first comedy, Etherege brought out his second. hands in Paris; the greatest compliment he can Pepys was there on the first night; he records be paid is to be taken for a Frenchman; he emhow he went to the Duke of York's playhouse; ploys only French servants. “There's one Eng“where a new play of Etheridge's, called Shelish blockhead among 'em, you may know him Would if she Could’; and, though I was there by his mien,” he says. Trott, Trott, Trott! by two o'clock, there was one thousand people There's nothing so barbarous as the names of put back, so that I could not have room in the our English servants.” He has French dancers pit, and I, at last, because my wife was there, in his train, and his own dancing has had the made shift to get into the eighteen-penny box, good fortune to please in Paris, where the Grand and there saw: but Lord ! how full was the Monarque himself does not disdain to figure in a house and how silly was the play, there being ballet. All English dancing is horrible. As nothing in the world good in it, and few people Dorimant remarks, “ He went to Paris a plain, pleased with it. The King was there; but I sat bashful English blockhead, and is returned a fine, mightily behind, and could see but little and hear undertaking French fop." not at all.” The last sentence will probably ex As a picture of manners, this comedy is well plain his unfavorable opinion, as an auditor who worth perusing. An orange-woman, with whom

he talks and bandies jests in a most familiar fortune was so impaired by the dissolute and exstyle, is brought into Dorimant's dressing-room travagant life he had led, that, having met with as soon as he is up, to supply him with fruit. a rich widow, he was induced to turn his thoughts Among other things, she tells him that a lady of to that state most abhorrent of all to the gay title and her daughter are come to lodge at her cavaliers of the time-marriage. Once fair, slenhouse; after she has gone, there enters a drunken der, and handsome, debauchery had done its shoemaker, the style of whose conversation with work upon his face and person, and the widow bis aristocratic patron argues a much greater fa- was not to be tempted without a title; so to semiliarity between the classes than would be tol- cure the prize he purchased a knighthood and erated in this democratic age. “'Sbud,” he says, became Sir George. He had no issue by this "I think you men of quality will grow as unrea- marriage; and a daughter he had by Mrs. Barsonable as the women; you would engross the ry, the actress, with whom he had lived some sins of the nation. Poor folks can no sooner be time, after Rochester's death, died young. The wicked but they're railed at by their betters." date and manner of his death are both uncertain.

Dorimant. “Sirrah, I'll have you stand in the Some say he followed King James into exile, and pillory for this libel.”

died in France; others that, conducting the deShoemaker. “Some of you deserve it, I am parture of some guests after a night's carouse, sure; there are so many of 'em that our journey- he fell down stairs and broke his neck. men nowadays, instead of harmless ballads, sing Now to return to his brother dramatist, Sir nothing but your damned lampoons !"

Charles. He was the author in all of six plays. This character also is said to have been drawn His second, a tragedy, entitled “Antony and from a living original, who became so famous Cleopatra," made its appearance in 1677, nine from his introduction upon the stage, and cus- years after “The Mulberry Garden." Ten years tomers so flocked to him in consequence, that he more elapsed, and then he produced his second made a fortune.

comedy, “Bellamira; or, the Mistress.” The The modes of coquetry are admirably hit off plot and most of the characters of this work are in a scene between Young Bellair and Harriet taken from Terence's “Eunuchus.” Under the Woodville, in which, for the behoof of the old names of Bellamira and Keepwell, however, he people, who desire a union between them to is supposed to have satirized the Duchess of which they are by no means inclined, they pre- Cleveland and her royal lover. In construction, tend to say “ all the passionate things imagina- situation, and sprightliness of dialogue, it is far ble” to each other.

superior to his first comedy; but, almost destiYoung B. “At one motion play your fan, roll tute of originality, it falls very much below Ethyour eyes, and then settle a kind look upon me. erege's last two works. After his death, in 1702, Now spread your fan, look down upon it, and tell three more plays from his pen were published, the sticks with a finger,

• Beauty the Conqueror; or, the Death of Mark Har. “Very modish.

Antony,"

," “ The Grumbler,” a comedy, and a third Young B. “ Clap your hand up to your bo- tragedy, “The Tyrant King of Crete”; but all som, hold down your gown, shrug a little, draw are dull and uninteresting. up your breasts, and let 'em fall again gently Sedley had a daughter, who, although by no with a sigh or two. . . . Clap your fan then in means a beauty, captivated the heart of the Duke both your hands, snatch it to your mouth, smile, of York, who was famous for ugly mistresses, and with a lively motion fling your body a little and who created her Countess of Dorchester. forward, so—now spread it, fall back on the sud- Although such a libertine himself, Sir Charles den, cover your face with it, and break out into a was exceedingly mortified at his daughter's disloud laughter. Take up, look grave, and fall a honor. When James became king, he was one fanning of yourself. Admirably well acted.” of the most determined opponents of the court

With “The Man of Mode” Etherege brought policy in the House of Commons, and at the his dramatic labors to a close. The marked im- Revolution there was no more eager partisan provement observable in each succeeding comedy for the Prince of Orange, or more bitter enemy promised better things than he ever achieved, of the King's, than he. Yet his hatred could still and, had he industriously cultivated the undoubt- find vent in a bon mot : “I hate ingratitude," he ed talents he possessed, he might have ranked as said, “and, as the King has made my daughter a a comedy writer little inferior even to Congreve. countess, I will endeavor to make his daughter a Through the influence of Mary of Modena, in queen.” The years passed on, and still Sir Charles whose favor he stood very high, he was sent Am- could write erotic verses, tragedies, and comedies, bassador to Hamburg, and afterward to Ratis- and be the pleasantest and wittiest of boon combon, where he remained until the deposition of panions, until he reached his sixty-second year. King James. Upon his return to England, his He died in 1701.

[ocr errors]

But the most famous name among the Res- the play is dedicated to the Duchess of Clevetoration comedy writers is that of William Wych- land. That it was not acted until after 1669 is erley. A gentleman by birth, he was born at almost certain, since, had it been produced preClive, near Shrewsbury, in 1640. A polite edu- viously, it would scarcely have escaped the notice cation not being easily attainable under the reign of such a persistent first-night man as Pepys, of Puritanism, he was sent to France. There he who makes no mention of it in his “ Diary.” was so fortunate as to be introduced to the Mon- The "wood " is St. James's Park, in which much tausiers, and to be initiated into the famous Pré- of the action takes place; the plot, which turns cieuse circle of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. There upon the well-worn themes of lovers' jealousies, he formed his taste, but it is a pity that he did mistaken identity, and rogues outwitting one annot more fully assimilate the elegance and refine- other, is ingeniously worked out, and with more ment, which distinguished that society, to temper complications and imagination than are displayed his English coarseness. It was doubtless some in the works of Etherege and Sedley, resembling pretty précieuse devote-for it is impossible to in those respects rather the comedies of Mrs. credit our young gallant with any serious reli- Behn. gious convictions—who induced him to go to Although all are well drawn, the characters mass and call himself a Catholic. Upon his re are conventional types of the day-the gay galturn to England at the Restoration, he entered lant, the silly knight, the libidinous old city usuQueen's College, Oxford, gave up popery, and, rer; Dapperwit, who never utters a sentence as a matter of course, following the well-bred without a simile, in which, by the by, he greatly custom of the country, went to church again. resembles Puny in Cowley's “ Cutter of Colman Like Etherege and Sedley, he left the university Street,” is the most original ; Ranger was afterwithout taking a degree, and like the former he ward, name and all, and with his best situation, entered himself as a student at one of the Inns appropriated by Hoadley in “The Suspicious of Court (the Middle Temple), and with about as Husband ”; and Valentine bears too close a much intention of devoting himself to the law as likeness to Sheridan's Falkland not to render had his confrère. We next hear of him as a us suspicious of a common parentage. Chrisvolunteer on board one of his Majesty's ships tina and Lydia are more decorous than most of during a battle with the Dutch. But tar and the comedy ladies of this period, but this concesbilge-water, and the rough life of a man-of-war's sion to modesty is more than neutralized by that man of that day, were not to the taste of the most disgusting female creation in all English pupil of Julie de Montausier, and a brief experi- drama-Mrs. Flippant. ence of their pleasures sufficed him. Neverthe The last verse in Mrs. Flippant's song, in Act less, these short excursions into the regions of I., which is in praise of the children of ladies of law and war were not so much time wasted, since easy virtue, is said to have brought about Wychthey proved useful for his conceptions of Manly erley's introduction to the Duchess of Cleveland. and the Widow Blackacre. But, to use the cant One day as his coach was passing hers in Pall phraseology of that age, the Muses had more Mall, she looked out of the window and greeted attraction for him than gunpowder or musty him with the full title of illegitimacy. He immetomes, and we next find him in the character of diately turned round and followed, and soon a poet.

came up with her. “Madam,” he said, saluting The dramatic was the supreme literature of her with a profound obeisance, " you have been the time, no other form was at all comparable to pleased to bestow on me a title which belongs it in court favor, and all wit and genius were only to the fortunate. Will your ladyship be at naturally attracted to the stage, in the service of the play to-night?” “Well, and what if I am which, whether as writer or actor, the brightest there?” she replied, saucily. Why, then, I laurels were to be won. So, after giving to the will be there to wait on your ladyship, though I world a few copies of verses, he wrote a comedy disappoint a fine woman who has made me an called “ Love in a Wood,” which was produced, assignation.” “So,” replied the Duchess, “ you it is generally believed, in 1672. This date has, are sure to disappoint a woman who has favored however, been disputed on the authority of Pope, you for one who has not.” “Yes,” he answered, who used to relate that he had been told by with a bold look, “ if the one who has not faWycherley himself that it was written in 1659, vored me is the finer woman of the two! But when the author was only nineteen. A first he who can be constant to your ladyship till he draught of the play might have been written can find a finer is sure to die your captive.” thus early, but it was certainly not the form in From this badinage an intimacy sprang up bewhich it has been handed down to us, since in tween them, and very soon the gallant poet's the commencement of Acts I. and III, there are name was inscribed on the list of her ladyship’s references to the fire of London, and, further, lovers; not unfrequently, the royal mistress, dis

VOL. VIII.-8

guised as a country girl in straw hat and pattens, citizen named Formal, who from long residence and with a box or basket in her hand to keep up in the Peninsula has become infected with an the character, paid visits to his lodgings in Bow equally strong mania for Spanish costume, manStreet. “Love in a Wood" upon its publication ners, and language; but in the contests between was dedicated to her, after the usual style of the the two our author has scarcely evolved as much poets of that day to the favorite sultanas. Un- humor as the situations suggest. Apart, howder such powerful protection Wycherley soon ever, from his foreign affectations, Formal, or made his way at court, and was taken under the Don Diego as he calls himself, is an amusing and patronage of Buckingham, who gave him a com- well-drawn character ; his superlative egotism, mission in his regiment and made him one of his which allows him to be egregiously gulled beequerries; his wit and conversational talents also cause he will not allow that the penetration of attracted the King himself, who took such a any person can be superior to his own, which, fancy to him that when the poet lay ill he visited when at last he discovers the trick his daughter him at his house, and made him a present of five and her lover have put upon him, although his hundred pounds to enable him to try the air of sister has repeatedly warned him of the truth, Montpellier.

makes him claim the discovery as the result of All this seems terribly degrading to a man of his own sagacity, and then, when checkmated at genius, but it was not considered so in that age, every point, actually pretend that he was cogniwhen no man was so great that he would blush zant of the cheat, and was winking at it when to receive any favor or bounty at the hands of pretending to be most angry, is as diverting as it any vile Jezebel by whom the King was ruled. is true to human nature. Mrs. Caution, the old Charles, however, seems to have had a real es- aunt, whose youthful reminiscences render her teem for Wycherley, who bore the character, and such a Cerberus over her niece, and who is ready deservedly it would appear, of being an honest to construe every look and word into improprieand sincere man; and such virtues as honesty ty, must have been even more amusing upon the and sincerity were so rare in that corrupt court stage than she is in the book. The plot is partly that they could not be but prized, if only as ex- borrowed from Molière's “ L'Ecole des Femmes.” otics.

The heroine, Hippolita, avails herself of the silliIn 1673 he produced his second comedy, ness of her affianced husband, M. de Paris, as “The Gentleman Dancing-Master.” In the char- the means of bringing about meetings between acter of M. de Paris, as in that of Sir Fopling her and her lover, and of ultimately marrying Flutter, we have a satire upon the French mania him by the very parson the young cit has brought of the day. Mr. Paris, the son of a rich city into the house to perform that office for himself. merchant, is newly returned from France, and The scenes in which Gerrard, the lover, while with the most supreme contempt for everything not able either to dance or play on the violin, English: even his native tongue he speaks with passes himself off for a dancing-master, are higha French pronunciation, and interspersed with ly diverting, and would be more so were not the French phrases and oaths; he esteems a French same situation repeated too frequently. scullion more than an English gentleman, and all Two years after the production of this comthe perfections of man are in his eyes naught if edy, in 1675,* he wrote “The Country Wife.” his tailor lives within Ludgate, if his valet-de- Altered into a decent form by Garrick, and rechambre be not a Frenchman, and if he should christened “The Country Girl,” this work was a be seen by daylight going into an English eating- favorite until within living memory. Peggy was house. No man can be well bred if he can't one of Mrs. Jordan's finest impersonations; its dance a step, nor sing a French song, nor swear last representative was Fanny Kelly. The plot a French oath, nor use the polite French word in of this work is altogether too gross to be dehis conversation; and, in fine, can't play at hom- scribed; but its wit and cleverness can not be bre, but speak base good Englis, with the com- denied. The character of Mrs. Margery Pinchmune home-bred pronunciation; and, in fine, to wife was undoubtedly inspired by the immortal say no more, never carries a snuff-box about with Agnès, in “L'Ecole des Femmes.”

There is, him.” Etherege's and Wycherley's portraits however, an exquisite naïveté, a delicacy of touch, make a pair: Sir Fopling is drawn more deli- in Molière's portrait, and beside it Wycherley's cately, with less exaggeration, and is decidedly lines look very rough and coarse. But this difthe more natural and finished of the two; but ference speaks more for his genius than for his that is because he is a gentleman, while “ M. de sense of decorum, for while professedly copying Paris ” is but a vulgar, upstart, young citizen, and

* None of the dates here given, however, can be would therefore go to more absurd extremes pronounced with any certainty to be correct ; and can be than would his aristocratic brother. In contrast accepted only in the absence of more precise informato this Frenchified Englishman, we have an old tion.

shall stay

he has contrived to avoid entirely the foreign actions or speech of Alceste, his misanthropy and tone and color of the original. Margery is as misogyny are purely theoretical, and a kind, noble genuine a production of the English soil as Agnès heart beats beneath the outward husk of cyniis of the French, and the more decorous finesse cism: but Manly is a brute pure and simple, a is as native to the one as the coarser animalism savage capable of any horrible atrocity, and he is to the other. But Margery is a pure child of confesses as much in one of his speeches. nature: she is really'artless in the midst of all “I rather choose to go where honest, downher ruses, and in her heart is almost as innocent right barbarity is professed, where men devour as her spouse would have her be. Brought up one another like generous, hungry lions and tiin the country and kept as strictly as though her gers, not crocodiles; where they think the devil jealous old husband had been a grand Turk, white, of our complexion; and I am already so the moment she is introduced, though never so far an Indian." slightly, into the atmosphere of London life—and And his words and actions prove that this is what an atmosphere it was in those days !-sets no exaggerated utterance. When speaking of eyes on a fine gentleman or two, and compares his false mistress he says: “I'm sure I thought them with the clodhoppers and curmudgeons she her lips—but I must not think of 'em more-but has left behind, who have previously been the yet they are such I could still kiss, grow to, and only specimens of man she has beheld, she is all then tear off with my teeth, grind 'em into mamaglow for the pleasures of the town, and really mocks, and spit 'em into her cuckold's face." does not perceive the harm of resorting to any The cannibal, whose vengeance is to eat his enetrick or deception against her spouse to gratify my, could not go beyond this. When bent upon her desires. Witness her ingenuousness in the his disgusting revenge—and that any author last scene, in which not even the presence of old should dare to hold up as a model a man capable Pinchwife can restrain her from rushing out of of such an action, speaks volumes for the bruthe closet, where Horner has hidden her, when tality of the English character at this period—he she thinks he is in danger, and to utter her pro- addresses Fidelia, whom he believes to be a boy, test against his marrying Alithea. She is un- and who has given him every proof of devoted conscious even of the meaning of the marriage fidelity, in such language as this : “What, you tie, for she cries out: "I'll not lose my second are my rival, then! And therefore you husband so. . . . Nay, pray don't quarrel about and keep the door for me, while I go in for (infinding work for the parson, he shall marry me stead of) you; but when I'm gone, if you dare to to Mr. Horner. ... I do love Mr. Horner with stir off from this very board, or breathe the least all my soul, and nobody shall say me nay; pray, murmuring accent, I'll cut her throat first; and don't you go to make poor Mr. Horner believe if you love her you will not venture her life. Nay, to the contrary, 'tis spitefully done of you, I'm then, I'll cut your throat too, and I know you sure." And all this is in the presence of her love your own life at least. . . . Not a word jealous husband. You can not call a creature more, lest I begin my revenge on her by killing like this vicious or immoral. She really does not you.” Even in his normal state, when neither know the meaning of the term; what wrong she under the influence of rage nor revenge, he is does is done in all innocency—or idiocy, if the scarcely less brutal. One of his sailors says to word be more appropriate.

another: “Dost thou remember after we had In 1677, our author gave to the world his last tugged hard the old leaky long-boat to save his and best work, “The Plain Dealer.” In this life, when I welcomed him ashore, he gave me a again he drew on Molière; but, with the excep- box on the ear, and called me fawning watertion that both pretend to hate all mankind, it dog?” Dogs, slaves, rascals,” are the only would be difficult to trace any resemblance be- epithets he can bestow upon these men, usually tween the sea-captain Manly and the principal accompanied by a kick or a blow. What a piccharacter of “Le Misanthrope." Molière, it is ture of the naval service of the time! Even for said, drew Alceste from himself, and Wycherley the friends who fall in with his humor, he has boasted that he was the original of his hero. The contemptuous terms and brutal snubs, while difference between the two characters is again those who do not suit him he calls to their faces, precisely that which distinguishes Agnès from “Bartholomew Fair buffoons," "chattering baMrs. Pinchwife; the one is purely French, the boons,” etc. And this brute was held up as the other purely English. A very suggestive parallel type of a straightforward, blunt, honest Englishbetween the stages of civilization attained by the man, only because the natural brutality of his two countries at that period might be drawn nature prompted him to wound the feelings of from these two plays, and the superior refine- every person he came near by savage speeches ment and delicacy of French manners placed be- which he called truths—a national trait upon yond dispute. There is nothing gross in the which we have not even yet ceased to glorify our

« הקודםהמשך »