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found by Pree-will, representing a lewd debauchee, who, with his dissolute company, Imagination, relate their manner of life, and describe the stews and other places of base resort with considerable humour. These are presently joined by Hycke Scorner, who is drawn as a libertine returned from travel, and who, agreeably to his name, scoffs at religion. These three are described as extremely vicious, and glorying in every act of wickedness; at length two of them quarrel, and Pity endeavours to part the fray: on this they fall upon him, put him in the stocks, and then leave him. Pity then descants in a kind of lyric measure on the profligacy of the age, and in this situation is found by Perseverance and Contemplation, who set him at liberty, and advise him to go in search of the delinquents. As soon as he is gone, Free-will again makes his appearance, and after relating, in a highly comic manner, some of his rogueries and escapes from justice, is rebuked by the two holy men, who, after a long altercation, at length convert him and his libertine companion, Imagination, from their vicious course of life; and the play ends with a few verses from Perseverance by way of epilogue.
It would be superfluous to point out the absurdities in the plot and conduct of this play. They are evidently great. It is sufficient to observe that, excepting the moral and religious reflections of Pity, &c., the piece is of a comic cast, and contains a humorous display of some of the vices of the age.
Indeed the author has generally been so little attentive to the allegory, that we need only substitute other names to his personages, and we have real characters and living manners, capable of forming the groundwork of a very excellent comedy.
Though that great performer, James Quin, made his first appearance at Drury Lane in 1718, yet it was not till the year 1720, that he had an opportunity of displaying his great theatrical powers. Upon the revival of “ The Merry Wives of Windsor," at the Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, of which Rich was manager, there was no one in the whole company who would undertake the part of Falstaff Rich was therefore inclined to give up all thoughts of representing it, when Quin, happening to come in his way, said, “ If he pleased, he would attempt it.”
“ Hem,” said Rich, taking a pinch of snuff ;
you attempt Falstaff! why (hem !) you might as well think of acting Cato after Booth. The character of Falstaff, young man, is quite another character from what you think (taking another pinch of snuff). It is not a little snivelling part that, that-in short, that any one can do. There is not a man among you that has any idea of the part but myself. It is quite out of your walk. No, never think of Falstaffnever think of Falstaff—it is quite, quite out of your walk, indeed, young man."
. This was the reception his first effort of stepping out of his trifling walk met with ; and for some days he laid aside all thoughts of ever enacting Falstaff, or, indeed, speaking upon the stage, except it were to deliver a message. Ryan, who, at that time, had the ear and contidence of Rich, having heard Quin, long before he thought of coming out upon the stage, repeat some passages in the character of Falstaff, prevailed upon the manager to let Quin rebearse them before him, which he accordingly did, but not much to his master's satisfaction. However, as the case was desperate, and either “ The Merry Wives of Windsor” must be laid aside, or Quin
perform Falstaff, this alternative at length prevailed upon Rich to let Quin play the part.
The first night of his appearance in this character, he surprised and astonished the audience: no actor before ever entered into the spirit of the author, and it seemed as if Shakspeare had, by intuition, drawn the knight for Quin only to represent. The just applause he met with on this occasion, is incredible; continual clappings and peals of laughter in some measure interrupted the representation; which on that account was prolonged to a late hour. It would, however, be injustice to the other performers, not to acknowledge that they contributed to the success of this representation, which had a very great run, and was of eminent service to the company. Ryan was excellent in the part of Ford; Spiller, reckoned among the greatest comedians of that time, performed one of the strongest parts, that of Doctor Caius; and Baheme, another very good actor, did Justice Shallow.
When Quin engaged at Drury Lane, about the year 1751, he succeeded the elder Mills, in all the capital parts of tragedy; and Delane sup
plied his place in Lincoln's Inn Fields, after having performed for some time, with tolerable success, at Goodman's Fields. But it was upon Booth's quitting the stage, on account of his illness, that Quin shone forth in all his splendor; and yet he had the diffidence, upon the first night of his appearance in Cato to insist, in the bills, that the part of Cato would be only attempted by Mr. Quin. The modesty of this invitation produced a full house, and a favourable audience; but the actor's own peculiar merit effected more. When he came to that part of the play where his dead son is brought in upon the bier, Quin, in speaking these words, “ Thanks to the gods; my boy has done his duty !" so affected the whole house, that they cried out, with a continual acclamation, “ Booth outdone! Booth outdone!”
Yet this was not the summit of his applause ; for when he repeated the famous soliloquy, he was encored to that degree, that, though it was submitting to an impropriety, he indulged the audience with its repetition.
There was at that time upon Drury-Lane Theatre, a subaltern player, whose name never