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LIFE OF E. MOORE,
BY MR. CHALMERS.
Having lately published what information I could collect respecting the life of Moore', the present article will be little else than a transcript, with a few additional particulars from more recent inquiry. For the account of his family I am indebted to Dr. Anderson, who received his information from Mr. Toulmin of Taunton.
Edward Moore was the grandson of the reverend John Moore, of Devonshire, one of the ejected nonconformists, who died Aug. 23, 1717, leaving two sons in the dissenting ministry. Of these, Thomas, the father of our poet, removed to Abingdon in Berkshire, where he died in 1721, and where Edward was born March 22, 1711-12, and for some time brought up under the care of his uncle. He was afterwards placed at the school of East Orchard in Dorsetshire, where he probably received no higher education than would qualify him for trade.
For some years he followed the business of a linen-draper, both in London and in Ireland, but with so little success that he became disgusted with his occupation, and, as he informs us in his preface," more from necessity than inclination," began to encounter the vicissitudes of a literary life. His first attempts were of the poetical kind, which still preserve his name among the minor poets of his country. In 1744, he published his Fables for the Female Sex, which were so favourably received, as to introduce him into the society of some learned and some opulent contemporaries. The hon. Mr. Pelham was one of his early patrons, and, by bis Trial of Selim, he gained the friendship of lord Lyttelton, who felt himself flattered by a compliment turned with much ingenuity, and decorated by wit and spirit.
But as, for some time, Moore derived no substantial advantage from patronage, his clief dependance was on the stage, to which, within tive years, he supplied three pieces of considerable, althongh unequal, merit. The Foundling, a comedy, which was first acted in 1748, was decried from a fancied resemblance to the Conscious Lovers. however, of a more lively cast, and the characters and incidents are more natural and probable. His Gil Blas, which appeared in 1751, met with a more severe fate, and,
· British Essayists, vol. xxvi. pref, to the World.
rotwithstanding the sprightliness of the dialogue, not altogether unjustly. The reader will perhaps not be displeased to read the following account of its failure, written for the Gentleman's Magazine, hy Dr. Johnson’.
“ Perhaps the ill success of this comedy is chiefly the effect of the author's having so widely mistaken the character of Gil Blas, whom he has degraded from a man of sense, discernment, true humour, and great knowledge of mankind, who never discovered his vanity but in circumstances in which every man would have been vain, to an impertinent, silly, conceited coxcomb, a mere Lying Valet, with all the affectation of a fop, and all the insolence of a coward. But though he was not at liberty to degrade Gil Blas, some applause is certainly due to him for having changed the character of Isabella. In the novel she is a woman of virtue, and Aurora's stratagem to deprive her of the affection of Don Lewis, whom she tenderly loved, is so base and cruel, that a good mind regrets her success, and a bad one is encouraged to imitation : but in the play she is a prostitute, that needed only to be known to be hated, and Aurora is no more than an instrument in the discovery of her true character.”
The Gamester, a tragedy, first acted Feb. 7, 1753, was our author's most successful attempt, and is still a favourite. In this piece, however, he deviated from the custom of the modern stage, as Lillo had in his George Barnwell, by discarding blank verse, and perhaps nothing short of the power by which the catastrophe engages the feelings, could have reconciled the audience to this innovation. But his object was the misery of the life and death of a gamester, to which it would have been difficult to give a heroic colouring, and his language became, what would be most impressive, that of truth and nature. The critic already quoted remarks, that it " probably produced a greater effect upon the majority of the audience than if it had been decorated with beauties, which they cannot miss, at the expense of that plainness without which they cannot understand.”
Davies, in his life of Garrick, seems inclined to share the reputation of The Gamester between Moore and Garrick. Moore acknowledges, in his preface, that he was indebted to that inimitable actor for "
many popular passages,” and Davies believes that the scene between Lewson and Stukely, in the fourth act, was almost entirely his, because he expressed, during the time of action, uncommon pleasure at the applause given to it. Whatever may be in this conjecture, the play, after having been acted to crowded Houses for eleven nights, was suddenly withdrawn. The report of the day attributed this to the intervention of the leading members of some gaming clubs. Davies thinks this a mere report, “ to give more consequence to those assemblies than they could really boast.”. From a letter, in my possession, written by Moore to Dr. Warton, it appears, that Garrick suffered so much from the fatigue of acting the principal character as to require some repose. Yet this will not account for the total neglect, for some years afterwards, of a play, not only popular, but obviously calculated to give the alarm to reclaimable gamesters, and perhaps bring the whole gang into discredit. The author mentions, in his letter to Dr. Warton, that he expected to clear about four bundred pounds by his tragedy, exclusive of the profits by the sale of the copy.
It is asserted by Dr. Johnson, in his life of lord Lyttelton, that, in return for Moore's elegant compliment, The Trial of Selim, lis lordship paid him with “ kind words, which, as is common, raised great hopes, that at last were disappointed.” It is possible, how
From internal evidence.