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By these memoranda I am convinced that if a dramatist can hit upon any strange event, he may easily spin out five acts. A few scattered sentiments, and some allusions to the times, cannot fail of setting criticism at defiance. By the hints with which this pocketbook has urnished one, I am convinced that the following are infallible receipts for writing a MODERN
Let the scene be at a Castle, for a tragedy should be grand, and the chief characters noblemen, but one must be a consummate villain. The lines need not be always metrical-some may be lame-Let the language border upon bombast, and introduce a long and terrible oaththe more blasphemy the better. A secret should be the ground work of a tragedy, and it may remain a secret throughout the five acts--Let there be a grand procession-an awful tribunal--and then-exeunt omnesthe author and friends—the latter to disperse their encomiums, and the former to receive their congratulations.
A MODERN COMEDY—the hero must be an oddity and very poor-his servant a punster--the heroine may have little or nothing to do, but her servant, with whom the hero's servant (like master like man) must be in love, for the sake of stratagems, &c. must do a great deal, and affect more airs than her mistress.
The rest of the characters must be written expressly for the performers. Plots formerly were concealed till the last act, but, except in one case, and that is when there is no plot—they may be discovered by the fall of a screen, &c. in the fourth act, and the last act may be employed in reconciling the parties, arranging estates, &c. &c. Immense sums must always be given by the benevolent, and instead of virtue being rewarded, as formerly, let prodigality be held up as a model.
It appears by the memoranda in the pocket-book, that an OPERA can be very easily produced. This is only a vehicle for good music, therefore the airs, &c. must be written and composed long before the dialogue is thought of. About twenty years ago, we had a very
ingenious divertissement at the Theatre Royal, Coventgarden, composed of original dialogue and borrowed songs. When a dramatic work is neither tragedy, comedy, nor opera, I find it is called A Play, or, À Play with Songs. Hitherto I understood a play to be the general name of any dramatic performance; but dramatists have certainly a right to introduce their productions by whatever appellation they think most applicable. We have had dramatic proverbs, now we have grand spectacles and melo-drames, the novelty of of which renders them, it seems, very popular.
By several memoranda under the head of Characters, denoting that the honourable such a one, the duke of such a place, or an amateur of fashion, would make admirable caricatures or old fellows, I perceive that personality is highly relished. Such pieces, however, can never have a long existence. All the pockets in this lately found pocket-book were crammed with several loose papers—acts of plays-detached speeches, accounts of MURDERS for melo-drames list of French plays to be translated list of modern novels to be dramatised, &c. &c. I am certain the loss of this vade mecum must be very grievous to the owner, as, in all probability, they were the only full pockets he could boast of.
A WHALE-CHASE. On the 25th of June, 1812, one of the harpooners belonging to the Resolution, of Whitby, under my command, struck a whale by the edge of a small floe of ice. Assistance being promptly afforded, a second boat's lines were attached to those of the fast-boat, in a few minutes after the barpoon was discharged. The remainder of the boats proceeded at some distance, in the direction the fish seemed to have taken. In about a quarter of an hour, the fast-boat, to my surprise, again made a signal for lines. As the ship was then
within five minutes sail, we instantly steered towards the boat, with the view of affording assistance, by means of a spare boat we still retained on board. Before we reached the place, however, we observed four oars displayed in signal order, which, by their number, indicated a most urgent necessity for assistance. Two or three men were at the same time seen seated close by the stern, which was considerably elevated, for the purpose of keeping it down,—while the bow of the boat, by the force of the line, was drawn down to the level of the sea,—and the harpooner, by the friction of the line round the bollard, was enveloped in smoky obscurity. At length, when the ship was scarcely 100 yards distant, we perceived preparations for quitting the boat. The sailors' pea-jackets were cast upon the adjoining ice,—the oars were thrown down,-the crew leaped overboard,—the bow of the boat was buried in the water,—the stern rose perpendicular, and then majestically disappeared. The harpooner having caused the end of the line to be fastened to the iron ring at the boat's stern, was the means of its loss*; and a tongue of the ice, on which was a depth of several feet of water, kept the boat, by the pressure of the line against it, at such a considerable distance, as prevented the crew from leaping upon the floe. Some of them were, therefore, put to the necessity of swimming for their preservation; but all of them succeeded in scrambling upon the ice, and were taken on board of the ship in a few minutes afterwards. I may
here observe, that it is an uncommon circumstance for a fish to require more than two boats' lines in such a situation ; none of our harpooners, therefore, had any scruple in leaving the fast-boat, never suspecting, after it had received the assistance of one boat
*" Giving a whale the boat," as the voluntary sacrifice of a boat is termed, is a scheme not unfrequently practised by the fisher when in want of line. By submitting to this risk, he expects to gain the fish, and still has the chance of recovering his boat and its materials. It is only practised in open ice or at fields,
with six lines or upward, that it would need any more.
Several ships being about us, there was a possibility that some person might attack and make a prize of the whale, when it had so far escaped us, that we no longer retained any hold of it; as such, we set all the sail the ship could safely sustain, and worked through several narrow and intricate channels in the ice, in the direction I observed the fish had retreated. After a little time, it was descried by the people in the boats, at a considerable distance to the eastward : a general chase immediately commenced, and within the space of an hour three harpoons were struck. We now imagined the fish was secure, but our expectations were premature. The whale resolutely pushed beneath a large floe that, had been recently broken to pieces by the swell, and soon drew all the lines out of the second fast-boat; the officer of which, not being able to get any assista ance, tied the end of his line to a hummock of ice, and broke it. Soon afterwards the other two boats, still fast, were dragged against the broken floe, when one of the harpoons drew out. The lines of only one boat, therefore, remained fast to the fish, and this, with six or eight lines out, was dragged forward into the shattered floe with astonishing force. Pieces of ice, each of which was sufficiently large to have answered the purpose of a mooring for a ship, were wheeled about by the strength of the whale; and such was the tension and elasticity of the line, that whenever it slipped clear of any mass of ice, after turning it round, into the space between any two adjoining pieces, the boat and its crew flew forward through the crack, with the velocity of an arrow, and never failed to launch several feet upon the first mass of ice that it encountered.
While we scoured the sea around the broken floe with the ship, and while the ice was attempted in vain by the boats, the whale continued to press forward in an easterly direction towards the sea. At length, when 14 lines (about 1680 fathoms) were drawn from the fourth fast-boat, a slight entanglement of the line broke it
at the stem. The fish then again made its escape, taking along with it a boat and 28 lines. The united length of the lines was 6720 yards, or upwards of 31 English miles ; value, with the boat, above 1500. sterling
The obstruction of the sunken boat to the progress of the fish must have been immense; and that of the lines likewise considerable, the weight of lines alone being 35 hundred weight.
So long as the fourth fast-boat, through the medium of its lines, retained its hold of the fish, we searched the adjoining sea with the ship in vain; but, in a short time after the line was divided, we got sight of the object of pursuit, at the distance of near two miles to the eastward of the ice and boats, in the open sea. One boat only with lines, and two empty boats, were reserved by the ship. Having, however, fortunately fine weather, and a fresh breeze of wind, we immediately gave chase under all sails; though, it must be confessed, with the insignificant force by us, the distance of the fish, and the rapidity of its fight considered, we had but very small hopes of success. At length, after pursuing it five or six miles, being at least nine miles from the place where it was struck, we came up with it, and it seemed inclined to rest after its extraordinary exertions. The two dismantled or empty boats having been furnished with two lines each (a very inadequate supply), they, together with the one in a good state of equipment, now made an attack upon the whale. One of the harpooners made a blunder; the fish saw the boat, took the aların, and again Aed. I now supposed it would be seen no more; nevertheless, we chased nearly a mile in the direction I imagined it had taken, and placed the boats, to the best of my judgment, in the most advantageous situations. In this case we were extremely fortunate. The fish rose near one of the boats, and was immediately harpooned. In a few minutes two more harpoons entered its back, and lances were plied against it with vigour and success. Exhausted by its amazing exertions to escape, it yielded