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-, ANDi]()N'SON.' "215 wholesome laws of the Parnassian Code, jnflthis case made and provided, for the security of the rights ofauthors, and the greater certainty and authenticity of dramatick hislory. ,
' Nor let our poet's admirers be atxall alarmed, or shrink from this discusiion; for after this slight and temporary fabrick, eredted to his honour, shall have been demolished, there will slill remain abundant proofs of the gentleness, modesty, and humility, of Shakfpeare; of the overweening arrogance iof old Ben; and of the ridiculous absurdity of his partizans, who for near a century set above our great dramatick poet a writer whom no man is now hardy enough to mention as even his competitor.
' I must premise, that The L0ver's. Melancholy, written byjohn Ford, was announced for representation at Drury-lane theatre on Friday the 22d of April. 1748. Mr. Steevens has mentioned that it was- performed for a' berzcsfit; but the person for whose benefit this play whs ailed is in the present case 'very material : it was performed for the bengft of Mrs. Macklin; and consequently it was theinterzfi of Mr. Macklin that the entertainment of that night should prove profitable, or in other words that such expeelation should be raised among the frequenters of the play-house as should draw together a numerous audience. Mr. Macklin, who had then been on the siage about twenty-five years', was sufficiently conversant with the arts of pufling, which, though now praflised with perhaps superior dexterity, have at all times (by whatever name they may have gone) been- tolerably well underslood: and accordingly on Tuefday the lgth of April, three days before the dayrappointed for his
wife's benefit, he inserted the following letter in The General (now The Publick) Aclverliscr, which
appears to have escapcd the notice of my predecellor : '
X ' As The Love'-'s Melancholy, which is to be revived on Friday next at the theatre-royal in DruryLane, for the benefit of Mrs. Macklin, is a scarce play, and in a very few hands, it is hoped, that a short account of the,author, his works in general, and of that piece in particular, will not be unacceptable to the publick.' ,
.' John Ford, Esq. was of the Middle Temple, and though but a young man when Shakfpeare left the Rage, yet as he lived in firicll; friendship with him till he died, which appears by several 0sF0rd's son-nels and verses, it may be said with some propriety that he was a contemporary of that great man s.'
' It is said that he wrote twelve or fourteen dramatick pieces, eight of which only have been collceled, viz. The Broken Heart, Love's Sacrifice, Perkin Warbcck, The Ladies' Trial, 'Tis Pity she'5 a Whore, The Sun'.s Darling, a Masque, and The L0ver's Melancholy] '
' Mofl of thosepieces have great merit in them, particularly The L0-uer's Melancholy; which in the private opinion of many admirers of the Rage, is written with an art, ease, and dramatick spirit, inferior to none before or since his time, Shakfpeare exceptedf
.' The moral of thisplay is obvious and lauda
ble; the sable natural, simple, interesting, and' perfea in all its parts; the aetion one and entire; the time twelve hours, and the place a palace.'
' The writing, as the piece is of that species of the drama, which is neither tragedy, nor comedy, but a play, is often in familiar, and sometimes in elevated, prose, after the manner of Shasqs-beare; but when his subjefl and characiers demand it, he has sentirnent, dicfiion', and flowing numbers, at command.'
' His characfters are natural, and well chosen, and so distinct in manners, sentiment, and language, that each as he speaks would diflinazly live in the reader's judgment, without the common help of marginal directions]
' As Ford was an intimate and a professed admirer of Shakspeare, it is not to be wondered at, that he often thinks and exjzreses like him; which is not his misfortune, but his happiness; for when he is molt like Shakspeare, he is mosl; like nature. He does not put you in mind of him like a plagiarisl, or an aisected mere imitator; but like a true genius, who had fiudied under that great man, and could not avoid catching 'some of his divine e-xcellencef
H' This praise perhaps by some people may be thought too much: of that the praiser pretends not to be ajudge; he only speaks his own feeling, not with an intent to impose, but to recommend a treasure to the publick, that fora century has been buried in obscurity; which when they haveseen, he flatters himself that they will think as well ofit as he does; and should that be the case, the following verses, written by Mr. Ford's contemporaries, will
" To myhonoured friend, Mafterjol-IN FORD, on his [excellent play, The] ' L0ver's Melancholy.
" G. IPONNE." On [that excellent play] The L0ver'.s Melancholy.
How far The L0vcr's Melancholy is entitled to all this high praise, it is not my business at present to inquire. I lhall only observe, that this kind of prelude to a benefit play appears at that period to
V 3 The words xwithin crotchets here and below were interpolated by Mr. Macklin, not being found in the original.
9 'In the original, this lignature is in Greek charufiters , O cpzAa;; a language with which Mr. Macklin is unacquainted. In this inllance therefore he mull haveihad the afiifianee of some more learned friend.
as Ford was an intimate and profelsed admirer of Shakspeare, and had Ptudied under him, itis not to be wondered at that it should be written in his ynanner, and that the author should have caught some portion of his divine excellence: but no'hint is yet given, that TheL0ver's Melancholy had asiill higher claim to the attention of the town than being written in Shakspeare's manner, namely its being supposed to be compiled from the pagcrs of that great poet, which, after his death, as we shall presently hearx fell into Ford's hands. Andiyet undoubtedly this valuable piece of information was on Monday the 21Pt day of April, (when this letter appears to have -been written,) in Mr.'Macklin's posseslion, ever he was poflefled of it; for so improbable a circumsiance will not, I suppose, be urged, as that he found the uncommon pamphlec in which it is said to be contained, between that day and the following Friday.
Judicioufly as the preceding letter was calculated to attain the endforwhich itwas written, it appears