« PreviousContinue »
neither betray my trust, nor play with my oath, for
any man or any consideration whatsoever. And therefore, if what I have already said is not satisfactory, I must say with Hamlet “ I'll go no farther.” It is very painful to me to be so repeatedly pressed to do what is not in my power. What the Scotch societies may have done, is no sort of rule to me : they, perhaps, may not be bound as I am by an oath; or they may have a different idea of its obligation. Dr. Percy too may have written a very strong letter to Dr. Farmer, to be shown to me ;* but I am not that sort of man to be intimidated by the strongest letter that any lord, either spiritual or temporal, can indite. And I must take the liberty to add, that I do not want Dr. Percy or any one else to teach me what is a favor received, or what the degree of gratitude due for it. Nor can I conceive how the college will be under obligation to you, by granting you a favor which you have requested. There has, doubtless, been before my time some relaxation of proper care by too liberal and indulgent a permission of access; and great mischief has arisen from it: it is therefore become more immediately necessary for me to attend to my duty in that point, which I hope I shall be able to
* Mr. T. Warton, in a letter which I have not printed, had suggested to Mr. Pinkerton that it would be advisable that the Bishop of Dromore should do so; and he adds, “I am amazed at this illiberal behaviour from the Head of a College.” He, most assuredly, would not have expressed himself so, had he known the real state of the case.
do without giving real cause of dishonor to the English, on a comparison with the Scotch literary societies. If not, may the disgrace fall on myself alone! I am willing to submit to any that may arise from my reverence for an oath, and my resolution to do what appears to be my duty.
With respect to the extraordinary difficulties, which you insinuate, in the work of transcribing, and which, according to Dr. Percy, you are the only person in the kingdom qualified to understand, I wish you to set your heart at rest; for it seems to me a mere ideal terror. Many besides yourself, I dare say, are well qualified to understand, and decipher ; for I am sure that a very moderate share of abilities with industry is all that is wanted. If glossaries are necessary, they, you know, are few in number, and may probably be found in the public library at Cambridge as well as in your library at home; and, if I shall be there at the time they will be wanted, I will endeavor to procure you the use of them in the room where you shall transcribe, and do you any other service in my power. The similar manuscript of which you speak, can occupy but a very small space in a corner of your chaise.
I shall be obliged to you, if you will inform Dr. Beattie that I shall probably remain in this place till the latter end of October; and, if it suits with his convenience, should be very happy to see him here.
THE HON. HORACE WALPOLE TO MR.
Strawberry Hill, Sept. 27th, 1784. I have read your piece, Sir, very attentively; and, as I promised, will give you my opinion of it fairly. There is much wit in it, especially in the part of Nebuchadnezer; and the dialogue is very easy, and the dénouement in favor of Barbara interesting. There are, however, I think, some objections to be made, which, having written so well, you may easily remove, as they are rather faults in the mechanism than in the writing.
Several scenes seem to me to finish too abruptly, and not to be enough connected. Juliana is not enough distinguished, as of an age capable of more elevated sentiments: her desire of playing at Hotcockles and Blindman's Buff sounds more childish than vulgar.
There is another defect, which is in the conduct of the plot: surely there is much too long an interval between the discovery of the marriage of Juliana and Philip, and the anger of her parents. The audience must expect immediate effect from it; and yet the noise it is to make arrives so late, that it would have been forgotten in the course of the intermediate scenes.
I doubt a little, whether it would not be dangerous to open the piece with a song that must be totally incomprehensible to at least almost all the audience. It is safer to engage their prejudices by something captivating. I have the same objection to Juliana's mistaking deposit for posset, which may give an ill turn : besides, those mistakes have been too often produced on the stage : so has the character of Mrs. Winter, a romantic old maid ; nor does she contribute to the plot or catastrophe. I am afraid that even Mrs. Vernon's aversion to the country is far from novel; and Mr. Colman, more accustomed to the stage than I am, would certainly think so. Nebuchadnezer's repartees of “ very well, thank you,” and bringing in Philip, when bidden to go for a rascal, are printed in the Terræ Filius, and, I believe, in other jest-books; and therefore had better be omitted.
I flatter myself, Sir, you will excuse these remarks; as they are intended kindly, both for your reputation and interest, and to prevent their being made by the manager, or audience, or your friends the reviewers. I am ready to propose your piece to Mr. Colman at any time; but, as I have sincerely an opinion of your parts and talents, it is the part of a friend to wish you to be very correct, especially in a first piece ; for, such is the illnature of mankind, and their want of judgment too, that, if a new author does not succeed in a first attempt on the stage, a prejudice is contracted against him, and may be fatal to others of his productions, which might have prospered, had that bias not been taken. An established writer for the stage may venture almost any idleness; but a first essay
different. Shall I send you your piece, Sir, and how ? — As Mr. Colman's theatre will not open till next summer, you will have full time to make any alterations you please. I mean, if you should think any of my
observations well founded, and which perhaps are very trifling. I have little opinion of my own sagacity as a critic, nor love to make objections; nor should have taken so much liberty with you,
you had not pressed it. I am sure in me it is a mark of regard, and which I never pay to an indifferent author : my admiration of your essay on medals was natural, uninvited, and certainly unaffected. My acquaintance with you since, Sir, has confirmed my opinion of your good sense, and interested me in behalf of your works; and, having lived so long in the world myself, if my experience can be of any service to you, I cannot withhold it when you ask it; at the same time leaving you perfectly at liberty to reject it, if not adopted by your own judgment. The experience of old age is very likely to be balanced by the weaknesses incident to that age. I have not, however, its positiveness yet, and willingly abandon my criticism to the vigor of your judgment.
THE HON. HORACE WALPOLE TO MR.
Strawberry Hill, Oct. 6th, 1784.
You have accepted my remarks with great good humor, Sir: I wish you may not have paid too much regard to them; and I should be glad that you did not rest any alterations on my single judg