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whose genius, by a fortunate anticipation, has been so cordially acknowledged by her cotemporaries, that nothing is left for posterity, but to record their verdict.
“There is at present an opinion prevailing in regard to dramatic works, which, if just, is wholly contradictory to every proof of cause and effect, which has been applied to the rise and fall of other arts and sciences. It is said that modern dramas are the worst that ever appeared on the English stage ; yet it is well known that the Eng. lish theatres never flourished as they do at present. When it is enquired why painting, poetry, and sculpture decline in England, want of encouragement is the sure reply; but this reply cannot be given to the question, why dramatic literature fails ? for never was there such high remuneration conferred upon every person, and every work, belonging to the drama. A new play, which from a reputed wit of former times would not with success bring
him a hundred pounds, a manager will now purchase from a reputed blockhead, at the price of near a thousand, and sustain all risk whether it be condemned or not. Great, then, must be the attraction of modern plays to repay such speculation. It follows then, that if the stage be really sunk so low as it is said to be, that patronage undeserved' has ruined instead of advanced genius. Or is it not more likely that public favour has incited the envious to rail, or at best raised up minute enquirers into the excellence of that amusement, which adorns a whole nation, and criticism sees faults, as fear sees ghosts, whenever they are looked for *.”
This is undoubtedly an alluring picture, but it should be remembered, that it was traced by a successful and even popular writer, who, having securely weathered the storm, could smile at the perils, once so formidable and appalling. It will however appear, that at the propitious moment, when fancy hailed the fairest visions of futurity, there existed circumstances most unhappily calculated to overwhelm "the ambitious aspirant with doubt and fear, and to crush the efforts of fortitude and perseverance. In the superb theatre which had risen in Drury Lane, on the scite of Sir Christopher Wren's modest edifice, the poet looked in vain for that porch of hospitality, which had been open to his predecessors. Formerly the drama had offered a ready and honourable resource to indigent men of genius : no patron was required to procure them the boon of courtesy; a literary name supplied the best passport to attention ; but not even the undistin. guished stranger was repelled by rudeness, or dismissed with contempt. The ill-fated Otway was admitted to this sanctuary; and even Savage, that homeless outcast, without
* Preface to Every One has his Fault,
a friend, a connection, found in the theatre both shelter and protection. Farquhar was patronized by Wilks, and Garrick did not disdain to lend encouragement to the humble Kelly.* From the restoration to the close of George the Second's reign, there is scarcely, with the exception of Pope and Prior, a poet of any reputation, who is not enrolled among the dramatists : and to the majority of these candidates, not profit, but reputation was the paramount object. With the theatre was vested the prerogative to rescue talents from neglect, to abridge the tedious term of literary probation, and extort attention for those who had long languished in seclusion and obscurity. To the literary adventurer, it wore the aspect of a friendly beacon, inviting to hope, and encouraging to perseverance ; it allured none with promises of wealth, but some it sheltered from penury, and
* Hugh Kelly, the well-known Author of False Delicacy.
others it ransomed from ruin or despair ; with noble liberality, it embraced every object of public and private interest, and was at once the temple of fame, and the mansion of charity.
The history of the drama, during great part of a century, offers many pleasing examples of merit, detected and elicited by kindred talent. The actor, naturally the poet's ally, was then his patron : men of real genius rarely stoop to canvass for fashionable suffrage, and still less willingly submit to purchase venal protection; their confidence can only be freely given to those who are qualified to appreciate their merits, and destined to profit by their exertions.
Some years before Tobin commenced his career, this easy communication between authors and actors appears to have been interrupted. A special recommendation became necessaryto procure for a play an early reading, and interest or reputation could