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beginning of their libel:—" Never was mountain delivered of such a mouse; the fiercest Tories have been ashamed to defend this piece; they who have any sparks of wit among them are so true to their pleasure, that they will not suffer dulness to pass upon them for wit, nor tediousness for diversion; which is the reason that this piece has not met with the expected applause: I never saw a play more deficient in wit, good characters, or entertainment, than this is."
For shame, gentlemen, pack your evidence a little better against another time. You see, my lord chief baron* has delivered his opinion, that the play was frequently acted and applauded; but you of the jury have found Ignoramus, on the wit and the success of it. Oates, Dugdale and Turberville, never disagreed more than you do; let us know at last, which of the witnesses are true Protestants, and which are Irish \. But it seems your authors had contrary
diffused, spread over all the town; whereby that which was digested at the club over night, was, like nourishment, at every assembly, male and female, the next day. And thus the younglings tasted of political administration, and took themselves for notable counsellors." Examcn, p. 572. The place of meeting is altered by Dryden, from the King's-Head, to the Devil-Tavern, either because he thought the name more appropriate, or wished slightly to disguise what he plainly insinuated.
* Our author never omits an opportunity of twitting Hunt with his expected preferment of lord chief baron of exchequer in Ireland; L'Estrange, whose ready pen was often drawn for the court, answered Hunt's defence of the charter by a pamphlet entitled "The Lawyer Outlawed," in which he fails not to twit his antagonist with the same disappointment.
t The foul practice of taking away lives by false witness, casts an indelible disgrace on this period. Oates, Dugdale, and Turberville, were the perjured evidences of the Popish plot. To meet them with equal arms, counter-plots were sworn against Shaftesbury and others, by Haines, Macnamara, and other Irishmen. designs: Mr Hunt thought fit to say, "it was frequently acted and applauded, because," says he, "it was intended to provoke the rabble into tumults and disorder." Now, if it were not seen frequently, this argument would lose somewhat of its force. The Reflector's business went another way; it was to be allowed no reputation, no success; but to be damned root and branch, to prevent the prejudice it might do their party: accordingly, as much as in them lay, they have drawn a bill of exclusion for it on the stage. But what rabble was it to provoke? Are the audience of a play-house, which are generally persons of honour, noblemen, and ladies, or, at worst, as one of your authors calls his gallants, men of wit and pleasure about the town *,—are these the rabble of Mr Hunt? I have seen a rabble at Sir Edmundbury Godfrey's night, and have heard of such a name as true Protestant meeting-houses; but a rabble is not to be provoked, where it never comes. Indeed, we had one in this tragedy, but it was upon the stage; and that's the reason why your Reflectors would break the glass, which has shewed them their own faces. The business of the theatre is to expose vice and folly; to dissuade men by examples from one, and to shame them out of the other.
But the true Protestant juries would only swallow the perjuries which made for their own opinions; nay, although they believed Dugdale, when he zealously forswore himself for the cause of the Protestant faith, they refused him credit when he bore false witness for the crown. "Thus," says Hume, "the two parties, actuated by mutual rage, but cooped up within the narrow limits of the law, levelled with poisoned daggers the most deadly blows against each other's breast, and buried in their factious divisions all regard to truth, honour, and humanity."—
* In the Dramatis Persona; to Shadwell's play of Epsom-Wells, we have Rains, Bcvil, Woodly, described as "men of wit and pleasure."
And however you may pervert our good intentions, it was here particularly to reduce men to loyalty, by shewing the pernicious consequences of rebellion, and popular insurrections. I believe no man, who loves the government, would be glad to see the rabble in such a posture, as they were represented in our play; but if the tragedy had ended on your side, the play had been a loyal witty poem; the success of it should have been recorded by immortal Og or Doeg *, and the rabble scene should have been true Protestant, though a whig-devil were at the head of it.
In the mean time, pray, where lies the relation betwixt the " Tragedy of the Duke of Guise," and the charter of London? Mr Hunt has found a rare connection, for he tacks them together, by the kicking of the sheriffs. That chain of thought was a little ominous, for something like a kicking has succeeded the printing of his book; and the charter of London was the quarrel. For my part, I have not law enough to state that question, much less decide it; let the charter shift for itself in Westminsterhall; the government is somewhat wiser than to employ my ignorance on such a subject. My promise to honest Nat. Lee, was the only bribe I had, to engage me in this trouble; for which he has the good fortune to escape Scot-free, and I am left in pawn for the reckoning, who had the least share in the entertainment. But the rising, it seems, should have been on the true protestant side; "for he has tried," says ingenious Mr Hunt, "what he could
* Dryden had already distinguished Shadwcll and Settle by those names, which were destined to consign the poor wights to a painful immortality, in the second part of Absalom and Achitophel, published in 108?.
do, towards making the charter forfeitable, by some extravagancy and disorder of the people." A wise man I had been, doubtless, for my pains, to raise the rabble to a tumult, where I had been certainly one of the first men whom they had limbed, or dragged to the next convenient sign-post.
But on second thought, he says, this ought not to move the citizens, fie is much in the right; for the rabble scene was written on purpose to keep his party of them in the bounds of duty. It is the business of factious men to stir up the populace: Sir Edmond on horseback, attended by a swinging pope in effigy, and forty thousand true protestants for his guard to execution, are a show more proper for that design, than a thousand stage-plays #.
Well, he has fortified his opinion with a reason, however, why the people should not be moved; "because I have so maliciously and mischievously represented the king, and the king's son; nay, and his favourite," saith he, "the duke too; to whom I give the worst strokes of my unlucky fancy."
This need not be answered; for it is already manifest, that neither the king, nor the king's son, are represented; neither that son he means, nor any of the rest, God bless them all. What strokes of my unlucky fancy I have given to his royal highness, will be seen; and it will be seen also, who strikes him worst and most unluckily.
"The Duke of Guise," he tells us, "ought to have represented a great prince, that had inserved to some most detestable villainy, to please the rage or lust of a tyrant; such great courtiers have been often sacrificed, to appease the furies of the tyrant's guilty conscience; to expiate for his sin, and to at
* See note on p. 222. Vol. VI. describing this famous procession. tone the people. For a tyrant naturally stands in fear of such wicked ministers, is obnoxious to them, awed by them, and they drag him to greater evils, for their own impunity, than they perpetrated for his pleasure, and their own ambition *.
Sure, he said not all this for nothing. I would know of him, on what persons he would fix the sting of this sharp satire? What two they are, whom, to use his own words, he " so maliciously and mischievously would represent?" For my part, I dare not understand the villainy of his meaning; but somebody was to have been shown a tyrant, and some other " a great prince, inservingto some detestable villainy, and to that tyrant's rage and lust;" this great prince or courtier ought to be sacrificed, to atone the people, and the tyrant is persuaded, for his own interest, to give him up to public justice. I say no more, but that he has studied the law to good purpose. He is dancing on the rope without a metaphor; his knowledge of the law is the staff that poizes him, and saves his neck. The party, indeed, speaks out sometimes, for wickedness is not always so wise as to be secret, especially when it is driven to despair. By some of their discourses, we may guess at whom he points; but he has fenced himself in with so many evasions, that he is safe in his sacrilege; and he, who dares to answer him, may become obnoxious. It is true, he breaks a little out of the clouds, within two paragraphs; for there he tells you, that "Caius Caesar (to give into Cajsar the things that were Caesar's,) was in the ca
• This passage, in Hunt's defence of the charter, obviously alludes to the Duke of York, whom he elsewhere treats with little ceremony, and to the king, whose affection for his brother was not without a mixture of fear, inspired by his more stubborn and resolved temper.