« AnteriorContinuar »
When the sudden blast,
The face of heaven, and our young sun, o'ercast,
There was, Dryden informs us, a report of the prince's death, to which he alludes. James, in a letter to the Prince of Orange, dated June 12, mentions the birth of his son on the Sunday preceding, and adds, "the child was somewhat ill this last night, of the wind, and some gripes, but is now, blessed be God, very well, and like to have no returns of it, and is a strong boy." About this illness, Burnet tells the following gossipping story: "That night, one Hemings, a very worthy man, an apothecary by his trade, who lived in St Martin's Lane, the very next door to a family of an eminent Papist, (Brown, brother to the Viscount Montacute, lived there ;) the wall between his parlour and their's being so thin, that he could easily hear any thing that was said with a louder voice, he (Hemings) was reading in his parlour late at night, when he heard one come into the neighbouring parlour, and say, with a doleful voice, the Prince of Wales is dead: Upon which a great many that lived in the house came down stairs very quick. Upon this confusion he could not hear any thing more; but it was plain they were in a great consternation. He went with the news next morning to the bishops in the Tower. The Countess of Clarendon came thither soon after, and told them, she had been at the young prince's door, but was denied access: she was amazed at it; and asked, if they knew her: they said, they did; but that the queen had ordered, that no person whatsoever should be suffered to come in to him. This gave credit to Hemings' story; and looked as if all was ordered to be kept shut up close, till another child was found. One, that saw the child two days after, said to me, that he looked strong, and not like a child so newly born."
The poem of Dryden plainly proves, that such a report was so far from being confined among the Catholics, that it was spread over all the town; and what the worthy Mr Hemings over-heard in his next neighbour's, the Papist's, might probably have been heard in any company in London that evening, although the mode of communication would doubtless have been doleful or joyous, according to the party and religion of the news-bearer.
PROLOGUES AND EPILOGUES.
THE prologue of the English drama was originally, like that of the ancients, merely a kind of argument of the play, instructing the audience concerning those particulars of the plot, which were ne cessary in order to understand the opening of the piece. That this might be done more artificially, it was often spoken in the character of some person connected with the preceding history of the intrigue, though not properly one of the dramatis persona. But when increasing refinement introduced the present mode of opening the action in the course of the play itself, the prologue became a preliminary address to the audience, bespeaking their attention and favour for the piece. The epilogue had always borne this last character, being merely an extension of the ancient valete et plaudite;" an opportunity seized by the performers, after resigning their mimic characters, to pay their respects to the public in their own, and to solicit its approbation of their exertions. By degrees it assumed a more important shape, and was indulged in descanting upon such popular topics as were likely to interest the audience, even though less immediately connected with the actor's address of thanks, or the piece they had been performing. Both the prologue and epilogue had assumed their present character so early as the days of Shakespeare and Jonson.
With the revival of dramatic entertainments, after the Restoration, these addresses were revived also; and a degree of consequence seems to have been attached to them in that witty age, which they did not possess before, and which has not since been given to them. They were not only used to propitiate the audience; to apologize for the players, or poet; or to satirize the follies of the day, which is now their chief purpose; but they became, during the collision of contending factions, vehicles of political tenets and political sarcasm, which could, at no time, be insinuated