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upon the stage. I own I was very highly pleased with it, and liked it the better for the want of those studied fimilies and repartees which we, who have writ before him, have thrown into our plays, to indulge and gain upon a false taste that has .prevailed for many years in the British theatre. I believe the author would have condescended to fall into this way a little more than he has, had he, before the writing of it, been often present at theatrical representations. I was confirmed in my thoughts of the play, by the opinion of better judges to whom it was communicated, who observed, that the scenes were drawn after Moliere's manner, and that an easy and natural vein of humour ran through the whole.
I do not question but the reader will discover this, and see many beauties that escaped the audience; the touches being too delicate for every taste in a popular assembly. My brothersharers were of opinion, at the first reading of it, that it was like a picture in which the strokes were not strong enough to appear at a distance. As it is not in the common way of writing, the aps probation was at first doubtful, but has risen every time it has been acted, and has given an opportunity in several of its parts for as just and good action as ever I saw on the stage.
The reader will consider that I speak here, not as the author, but as the patentee. Which
is, perhaps, the reason why I am not diffuse in the praises of the Play, left I should seem like a man who cries up his own wares only to draw in customers.
L E T T E R CCCCXLVII.
To Mr. HUGHES,
DEAR SIR, St. James's-street, Jan. 8, 1715-16*.
PAPER, called “ The Town-talk at," is
particularly designed to be helpful to the stage. If you have not sent the mask , which is to come out on Thursday, to press, if you please to send me the copy, it shall be recom. mended to the town, and published on Thurs. day night with that paper. Your affectionate, friend, and nioft humble servant,
The former volume of The Englishman was
written with a direct intention to destroy
* Steele was at this time member for Boroughbridge in YorkThire. D.
+ Neither this, nor “ The Theatre,” nor “ The Spinster," (all by the same hand), have been collected into volumes. D.
I « Apollo and Daphne," a masque by Mr. Hughes, fet to mu. fic by Dr. Pepusch. See it in his “Poems," vol. II. p. 167. D.
the credit, and frustrate the designs, of wicked men, at that time in power.
To insinuate that there are evil purposes in che ministers of one's country, is, in itself, a seditious and unwarrantable practice; but the
apparent tendency of the proceedings in the late times justified the disrespect with which the officers of the state were then treated.
That volume alarmed mankind against their designs; and this lays together facts which must convince all the world of the methods they had taken to accomplish them.
It is incumbent upon one, who had treated them so frankly when they were only suspected, to inake good what he seemed to accuse thein of, now their actions are brought to light.
There needs no apology for the liberty taken with their characters upon so good a foundation as the Report of a Committee of the House of Commons.
It is no matter to the author of The Englishman, whether they are ever punished for what. they have done, according to their deserts. He has done all he could to make them live in infamy, and, after that, he cares not how long they live.
But our Author's behaviour upon some late circumstances has been thought inconsistent with this spirit; and it has appeared unaccountable, that he who was thus violent against the párri
cides, discovered, in a certain place, inclination to lenity towards the rebels *.
For very many reasons that matter is not to be resumed here ; but, granting that he had declared for mercy, it might possibly be, that his heart failed against submissive criminals, though he has appeared determinate against triumphant wickedness. It ordinarily happens that the same men who make an attack very bravely upon troops in good order, do least execution upon them when they are put to flight, or ask quarter. But I never heard it said, that they were the less zealous for the cause, or that they were held deserters from the service, because they have been over-run, in pursuing a defeat, by their friends, who were in the rear at the onset.
* STEILE Was wont to express himself with smartness against the errors of men, without bitterness towards their persons. Mr. Whiston, a zealous Christian sui generis, in his “ Memoirs," 2d edit. 1753, 2 vols. p. 257, & feq. with little judgement, and less gratitude, reproaches STEELE, who was one of his most active benefactors, with inconffency, for writing in “The Theatre" against the South Sea scheme, when it portended the mischiefs of which it was pregnant, and speaking in the House of Commons in recommendation of lenity to ibe Directors, after the mischiefs were produced ; as if, forsooth, there was any incongruity between expressing deteftation at a crime, and exercising humanity to a criminal. See TATLBR, with Notes, vol. VI. N° 251, p. 286, &c. It seems, Sir Richard was in like manner reproached for advising lenity to the rebels of 1915, after the rebellion was entirely suppressed; though, ill pleased with the tameness of AD. DISON'S “ Freeholder,” he is reported to have said, that “Go“vernment had made choice of a lute on an occafion when they “ ought to have made use of a trumpur."
[1716.] THE reputation you have obtained in the
world for learning, wit, good sense, and a general knowledge of mankind, very much exposes you to addresses of this nature.
I should hardly presume to press in with this little work, amongst the many who seek to shadow their labours under your patronage, but that I think the ingenious productions of the fair sex have a particular claim to it. You shew, in several of your writings, a special regard to the improvement of that sex in the politer part of knowledge, by endeavouring to rescue them from the prejudices of a narrow education, and to enlarge their notions of things. The example this lady affords them of wit, judgement, and capacity, may excite the emulation of fome, and concur with your motives to answer that end. This reason, together with the assurances I have of your readiness to encourage such works as have a tendency to inform the judgements, or improve any of the virtues of mankind, makes
* This entertaining little work, written originally by Madam Daunois, passed through many editions before this Dedication was prefixed to it, and has also been since then frequently reprinted. It was one of the firft books that gave any true account of Spain.