_The School of Action_ was the play which Steele was endeavouring to
finish in 1723-5. The fragment which we have would have required a
great deal of revising before it could have been put upon the stage.
The MS., from which the piece was printed by Nichols, is in the British
Museum (Add. MS., 5145c). It is not in Steele’s writing, and the first
few leaves are now wanting. I have restored the original reading in
several instances in which Nichols made unnecessary alterations. There
are several memoranda on the subject among the Blenheim MSS. Here is
one of them:–

“Minutes for the play itself.–First Act. The beginning as I have it
at Home in y^e Scheme between Brainwell and Lightfoot; after y^t y^e
calling over y^e House w^{th} the actors, and y^e severall purposes y^t
y^e Playhouse might be usefull for signified.–Act 2^{d.} The Country
family wait as in an Inn at the playhouse; all that can be done by
the playhouse to terrifie y^e Attorney and his Wife, and all that can
delight y^e young Lady by Theatricall Powers is exposed and explained.
A Critick upon various Actions.–Act 3^{d.} The Electra of Sophocles,
where Mrs. Porter is to be the Queen, and y^e Tragedy of Sophocles to
be made y^e Moddle is thoroughly set forth in a way attempted to be
truly sublime.–Act 4^{th.} The Country Family, knowing of the Murder
done there, resolved to bear Witness of it and prosecute it according
to Law.” And again, “Let Booth be Orestes, with all the prepossession
and love of His Mother with the necessity upon Him of killing Her,
and resolving upon it all of a sudden from passion to passion in an
Hurry,–yet commanding all his Resentments to execute His design.–His
regard for His sister and her urging Him.” The following are other
rough notes:–“Jenky to be instructed to be a ghost and torment His
Brother–not to be y^t of Hamlet. Johnson to be the false Brother–Mrs.
Willis, His Wife, urging to give up.–They miss the young lady for
2^{d.} Act–but don’t value so y^t Her fortune is safe in His hands….
Let Pinsars ramble from place to place, and getting clear of the Play
House–where he meets Evill Constable (?) and His Mirmidons.–Then
Buntho’s Ghost and all the other incidents possible–appears still
in y^e House, and gives up to Severn, &c.” And again:–“Introduce a
Woman, Drunk, to be acted by Cibber, to talk at beginning Lewdly in
a Mask, y^e rest in Whisper. Let Pinsars be assisted by an Army of
y^e Playhouse to fight his way out; he and his man Ralph and his Wife
Striking all in earnest, assisted by the Constable…. Let Him Threaten
to demolish the Whore of Babylon–Speak of the Dragon and all the Cant
of the Presbyterian Zeal against Plays, &c., but fight…. For the
Prologue take notice of this play as a _Posthumous Work_ according to
Dr. Partridge’s freinds. Spider and Dotterell’s Quality: Beasts made
before men–Therefore the Dotterells must give way, for they were made
before Spiders were in being, and not made before they were men.”

The following notes evidently refer to another piece:–“To take the
play y^t Lyes in loose parts in my Scrutoire and lay it together for
the Stage: To ridicule y^e whole Mechanick of Dr. Faustus, &c., and
all things of that kind for y^e Theatre–make persons to play tricks,
break necks, and the like…. There is no true nobility but in the
practise of Vertue and right reason, where there is nothing can be
little…. Make him go to his certain Ruin for want of knowledge in
a Circumstance he might know if he had looked into a letter w^{ch}
contains a secret Contrived against him, but he cannot pry into because
it comes into his Hands unwarrantably: make this y^e great Incident of
his distress…. To ridicule our Slavery to Italian Musick, to have an
ode of Anacreon set in Greek performed. To observe upon y^e absurdity
of making distresses and mirth for y^e Vulgar out of y^e Accidents y^t
befall the body, as in the play of _The Chances_: The old Woman in her
Colick pains toothless and defective through age is exposed as a Jest.”


Mr. SEVERN, a barrister, lover of Miss DOLLY.

Mr. HUMBER, his friend.

Mr. PINCERS, an old wealthy country Attorney, guardian to DOLLY.

RALPH, his Man.


Candidates for the Stage.


Miss DOLLY, Ward to PINCERS.

Mrs. UMBRAGE, an Actress.


Her DAUGHTER, a Candidate for the Stage.

Barber, Constable, Waiter, Servants, Rabble, &c.



_Enter_ MR. SEVERN _and_ MR. HUMBER.

_Sev._ The world is much more easily imposed upon, than you studious
and modest men imagine.

_Hum._ Dear Severn, if such superficial qualifications as you talk of
will accomplish gentlemen and ladies, I own to you, hard has been our
fate, in having suffered pains and penalties (fit only for malefactors)
in great schools, and been immured in college the best years of life,
to acquire learning and attain to sciences that are all useless when we
come into the world.

_Sev._ Pardon me, dear Humber, I did not say useless; I only argue that
you had better, to make your fortune, have ordinary qualifications,
such as a good mien, common understanding, and an easy address, than
great faculties and talents under the oppression of bashfulness,
rusticity, or—-

_Hum._ Or knowledge.

_Sev._ It shall be or knowledge if you please–if you mean knowledge
kept to a man’s self, or in a man’s keeping, that is afraid or ashamed
to exert it.

_Hum._ Well, be it as you propose; go on.

_Sev._ I say, then, your taste for books and fine writing, your
judgment in the faculties of the soul, my town education, and skill in
the airs, motions, graces, and abilities of the body, will enable us to
carry on this our design of supporting a new playhouse, and keeping a
School of Action.

_Hum._ Well, if we break–I can go down again to my fellowship at
Oxford, and laugh and be laughed at among a parcel of worthy and
ingenious men, whom I will entertain with my adventures; and I think
the undertaking cannot but introduce at least matter of humour and
mirth: if it does not advance our fortunes, it will heighten our
conversation.–But to your School of Action.

_Sev._ As all that reside in inns of court and universities, though
they do not enter into any of the learned professions, are yet better
accomplished for any other ways of life by having the same education
with those who go into them; so will all who come to our School of
Action be better qualified in their own characters, by being instructed
among players, who are taught to become any part which shall be imposed
upon them.

_Hum._ Thou art a rare sanguine fellow to think this will do. But I
have observed confidence in a man’s self that he shall perform a thing,
helps him forward better than any other quality about him–Well, hang
it, in order to make this experiment, I will be as enterprising and
confident as you.

_Sev._ Let me, then, observe one thing, for fear of your relapsing
into your academic shyness; that you must beware of standing as if you
were a thinking statue, a case for a spirit to reflect in, and not
a mind and body acting together. You improve the soul only in your
colleges–you neglect the body.

_Hum._ Thou art in the right: I have studied eloquence till I am dumb.

_Sev._ I am glad you see your want and infirmity. If you will speak,
I know you will talk well. I know when you are unreservedly familiar
you talk very well, as you did t’other night concerning the principles
of motion and rest. Suppose, as you are resolved to talk, you would
resolve also to move, and practise a little local motion. Give me
leave to show you how you perform it. Go to the other side of the
stage. [_He walks thither._] Thus you walked–thus your shoulders–thus
your legs–thus your breast–thus your hips.–Pray adventure back

_Hum._ Pish! I am a little hurt, and grow peevish with this mimicry;
though I believe you are right enough.

_Sev._ Well, I only show you: it is not necessary you should, as to the
present purpose, be jaunty; you are to mind more important matters. You
are censor, observe, upon the sense and spirit of what is said; leave
the manner of doing it to me, the prompter.

_Hum._ But, as you are picking up people from all quarters, are the old
gentleman and his lady, the young girl, and the maid and man, who came
hither last night, all to be players? and why are they accommodated
here in the tiring-room, as if it were an ordinary lodging?

_Sev._ You shall know all in due time and order. Ho!–Harry!–Who waits
there? [_Enters a_ SERVANT.] Is the whole house come?

_Serv._ They are all here, sir, except the thunderer and the
candle-snuffer; they say it is a mistake, and that they are never
required to come to rehearsal.

_Sev._ Tell them they shall forfeit; the thunderer shall pay two
groats; they–they shall be fined a day’s pay. [_Exit_ SERVANT.]–My
dear friend, while the company is assembling in the several
apartments, I will explain further: You are to know that old master
Pincers is a rich northern attorney, who understands the law much
better as it is the business of it to punish offenders, than as it is
to protect the innocent. The young girl is a ward left under his care,
and has a very considerable estate in that country. He has brought her
up to town to settle her.

_Hum._ In the playhouse?

_Sev._ Pray, hear. In the playhouse? no. Of all things in nature,
stage-plays (as he calls them) are his aversion. But they are no less
Miss Dolly’s delight. As I had my education, that is to say, ate and
drank, conversed and lay some years every night at Gray’s Inn, I made
a notable pleader before our bench of justices in Cumberland, and grew
very intimate with Mr. Pincers. He took such a fancy to my promising
parts–for, you must know, I pretended to be a rogue to gain his
good-will–that, with a hint of five hundred pounds reward for my share
in the transaction, he communicated to me a design of disposing of this
young lady by way of sale.

_Hum._ Good–and thought you a proper broker to find out a husband, or
rather a purchaser.

_Sev._ Right. “Mr. Severn,” said he, “you know there is nothing more
common than to observe that orphans are a prey, by reason of their
great wealth, and marry unhappily.”

_Hum._ And therefore—-

_Sev._ And therefore he would have a receipt for _all_ her fortune,
for delivering _half_ of it to the man who should marry her–“which,”
said he, “shall be no fraud to the gentleman; for he shall settle only
an equivalent for ten thousand pounds, which is the moiety. By this
means,” continued my conscientious friend, “I shall observe how he
behaves to this poor girl; and can, if he deserves it, leave the other
moiety to them by my will.”

_Hum._ And what did you say to this hopeful project?

_Sev._ I fell in with it, and promised to find him a right young fellow
for his purpose.

_Hum._ Did you so, sir? [_As going._]

_Sev._ Now you grow a mere scholar again.

_Hum._ An honest gentleman is a mere scholar where a sharper is a
wit–I will leave your accursed town to-night.

_Sev._ I will convince you that there is nothing mean or dishonourable
on my part; but a lucky incident I should be stupid not to take hold of.

_Hum._ Say it; but your prologue is so long, you seem to know that the
plot of your play is not easily to be defended.

_Sev._ You cannot say that till you know it. I agreed with him to find
a young gentleman suitable to her, who shall bring as good an estate as
she shall, and settle all upon her and the children of the marriage.

_Hum._ Well–who is the gentleman whom you have thought of to do this?
On whom will you bestow the poor innocent girl who has never injured

_Sev._ Why, I have been thinking that over and over; and it is so hard
to look into another’s breast, that one may, after all appearances, be
mistaken; and, therefore, I have resolved upon the only man who I was
sure was honest–even my own proper self.

_Hum._ You are most conscientiously impartial and disinterested.

_Sev._ I think myself conscientious, though neither impartial nor
disinterested. I consider that he would certainly sell her elsewhere on
his own terms, without regard to her happiness. In my hands she will
have her estate her own, with the incumbrance only of a man who loves
her, and whom I believe she loves, and who may increase that estate for
her. Consider, he would do what he designed, whether I would or not.

_Hum._ I consider you will do what you design, whether I will or not.
Nay, further, I cannot but own the circumstances much alleviate the
guilt on your part. Nay, if you fairly get the girl’s good-will, I will
allow your attempt not only excusable, but praiseworthy.

_Sev._ There spoke my good genius.–In the country, as much as he
trusted me in the secret of cheating her, he never let me see her
alone, or without witnesses; his wife, the maid, or man, or all of
them, were constantly present. But, as she is a great lover and reader
of plays, and of a great deal of wit and humour, we could speak one
language and look another, above their knowledge or observation. I sent
for him to town in order to marry her, insisting on my five hundred
pounds; for he would not trust me, did he not know my price. I have
lodged all here, whence they shall never go out till dear miss implores
it of me, or has justice done her by me or somebody to her liking.

_Hum._ There you justify all the art you can use for yourself. And may
you win and wear her, since you plot her redemption though yourself
should not succeed!

_Sev._ Well, we have done talking; let us to action. My business is
to review my forces, and not neglect my main plot, but consider my
playhouse and my mistress at the same time; and, while I am preparing
the one, make love to the other.–Here, Jack, call all the actors–let
the whole house march.–Tragedy drums and trumpets, fifes, kettledrums
and clarions shall wake my country lodgers, fright my old parchment,
and charm my little northern pilgrim–my dear refugee–I will
understand her no other. Beat, sound, and play. Make all people be in
their posts round the stage, and answer in all parts to the stage.–All
shall be done that can be to make her pass her time pleasantly. She
shall always expect to see me, but not see me till I have abundant
convincing proofs that I am in her favour. Thus if I can save her,
and save her for myself, it will be an exquisite happiness; if not,
to save her from this rascal is but my duty. Oh! I should have told
you that when Miss Dolly came in, I conveyed a letter into her pocket,
intimating where she was, that she may be surprised at nothing; for I
love the dear thing so tenderly that I could not give her the shortest
uneasiness, to purchase the most lasting good or pleasure to myself.
[_Here begins the march._] Hist!

_Pin._ [_Within._] Ho! chamberlain, bring me my boots–where is the
chamberlain?–What is the noise?—-

_Ralph_ [_Within._] The drums.

_Pin._ What is the matter?

_Ralph._ The train-bands, belike, master.

_Pin._ Ho! chamberlain!

_Hum._ While the rest of the country family are thus deceived, Dolly is
let into the whole matter, and won’t be surprised at anything. If she
humours the deceit it is a good symptom on your side.–This must be a
fruitful circumstance of mirth.

_Sev._ Nymphs, shepherds, ghosts, angels, and demons, shall tease the
old rascal; and all the while Miss Dolly see and hear nothing but
according to the notice I have given her.

_Hum._ While you are thus busied about your people, and managing your
design, which I have not much taste for (I want that mercury about me),
I will go about the house and view the accommodations–they say it is
the most convenient one in the world.

_Sev._ Sir, take your humour; I will pursue mine, and call you when
the circumstance is above my reach. [_Exit_ HUMBER.] Well, march by;
let the kings take place of all the people, next them bishops, then
judges–no, we had as good not to discompose their dresses. [_Among the
march of the actors he observes_ WILL DOTTERELL.] Ho! Mr. Dotterell,
Mr. Dotterell.

_Dot._ Sir! Your most humble servant, good Mr. Severn. What, have you a
part for me in your new play? It was you that first thought of making
an actor of me, and I have gained some reputation; and, harkee, you
have made a deal of me, I can tell you.

_Sev._ Ay, ay, I know thou art a town favourite–thy name is not
spoken of but it raises mirth. Let us see, what parts have you acted?
You have acted all manner of things as well as persons. You began, I
think, a flower-pot, in _Dioclesian_[135]; then you have performed
another ingenious part, been a chair, I think, at another opera; you
have represented all the appetites–as I take it, you do hunger best,
you are a fine fellow at a cold chicken–Then you have been all sorts
of trades, but you shine most in the tailor in _Epsom Wells_[136], you
beat your wife most successfully.

_Dot._ It was thought I laid her on as well as another, for you may
remember she was a bitter one, and she provoked me some six or seven
drubs beyond what the poet writ for her.

_Sev._ Well, look you, Will, I design greater things for you than any
poet of them all; why, you shall act a ghost in the ensuing play.

_Dot._ A ghost of me! No, it can never be.

_Sev._ Yes, yes, you oaf, you shall be a country ghost. You shall come
to the country gentleman who lay here last night in the figure of his
deceased brother, a fat justice of the peace, who left all his money
in his hands–and he cheats him. Why, I don’t know but you may be the
luckiest ghost that ever appeared. Who knows but the old rascal may
repent and pay you? If he does I’m sure you’ll take it.

_Dot._ Nay, nay, there’s no doubt of that. What has the poor money
done? I will take it, as you say.

_Sev._ Look you there: when you have done this part you are a most
accomplished player, you have gone through all the degrees of action.
You came out of the parsley-bed, as they say to the children; you have
been everything—-

_Dot._ A ghost! I shall never be sober enough. What if it be a country
ghost–yet every man is serious after his death. I shall certainly
laugh, and discover all.

_Sev._ Well, bid him they call Dicky come to me.

_Dot._ Dicky, Dicky, come to me; come, Dicky, come to Mr. Severn. I am
not a ghost yet; you need not be afraid.

_Enter_ SPIDER.

_Sev._ Mr. Spider, I have a part for you; but I am afraid you have too
good an air, too much dignity in your person, to do it well.

_Spi._ Oh, I warrant you they never put me to act anything in tragedy,
though my genius and temper is altogether for great and sublime things.

_Sev._ No doubt on’t, Mr. Spider, but you must be content at present to
do me a courtesy, and still keep in comedy; for you are to be a tapster.

_Spi._ What! when Mr. Dotterell (as I apprehend) is to be a ghost, am I
to be but a tapster?

_Sev._ Why, you are to be a tapster to the inn in which he is to be a
ghost, so that he’s in a manner in your keeping. All the ghosts in inns
are kept there by the tapster or chamberlain; now you are to be both in
this inn that I imagine.

_Spi._ Oh! oh! I begin to conceive you. I am to be a live tapster, and
Mr. Dotterell is to be the ghost of a dead man that died in the inn and
left a power of money behind, and so haunts the house because his own
cousin had not–I understand it very well–Look you, Mr. Dotterell,
it was I and my master contrived to kill this gentleman for the great
bag of money he brought into our house. Come, come, we’ll go in and
consider how to act these parts, without giving Mr. Severn any more
trouble about it.

_Sev._ But there is another thing that, I fear, will go much against
you; and that is, you are to be excessively saucy.

_Spi._ No, I shall make no scruple of that if he proves an unmannerly
guest, I’ll warrant you.–But, Mr. Dotterell, let us go and lay our
heads together.

_Sev._ Now, gentlemen, you are going out in your own persons, and no
man living can tell which of you should take place. Certainly, Mr.
Spider, you are somebody or other; and, Mr. Dotterell, so are you. Now
I would fain know which of you is to take place.

_Spi._ Pray, good Mr. Dotterell.

_Dot._ Nay, nay, Mr. Spider, I’ll never be outdone in civility; you
must pardon me, indeed, sir.

_Spi._ Nay, sir.

_Dot._ Nay, sir.

_Spi._ Nay, sir.

_Dot._ Nay, nay, nay, sir, if you go to that. [_Turns aside._

_Spi._ Nay, but, good sir–excuse me, sir. [_Turning another way._

_Dot._ Oh, Mr. Spider, your servant for that, sir. [_Takes him up in
his arms._

_Spi._ Sir, you conquer me beyond expression; sir, you run away with me.

_Dot._ Indeed, sir, I must say you are a very easy gentleman; you are
carried away with the least civility, look you, sir; for—-[_Carrying
him backwards and forwards._

_Spi._ Plague on’t, what a misfortune it is to be a little fellow!
Though I have a soul as great as Hercules, this fellow can deal with me.

_Dot._ Oh, my dear little Dicky Spider! [_Exit, kicking him in his

_Sev._ [_Solus_]. Here’s a great piece of difficulty adjusted; but I
observe very few difficulties of ceremony of much greater moment than
this, and wish they were all to be so ended. Well, now have I the
hardest task in all my affair to pursue: To persuade a woman who is
young, pleasant, and agreeable, to act a part for me to another; to
make love for me, instead of receiving love made to her; and there is
no way of obtaining of ’em but by making love to them. They are used to
no other language, and understand no other.–Ho! who waits there?

_Enter_ WAITER.

_Waiter._ Sir; do you call, sir?

_Sev._ Pray, sir, call Mrs. Umbrage hither. If she be in the
green-room, tell her I beg to speak with her–I must form myself into
all the good humour I can to entertain her, or I shall never get her to
come into it.


Oh, here she comes.–Well, madam, I have cast parts for you, and named
you to many, but never so very nice a one as I am to desire of you to
undertake at present. To overlook yourself and deliver the application
made to another which had been more rightly directed to yourself, is a
greatness of mind–is a candour, to be found only in Mrs. Umbrage.

_Umb._ Well, Mr. Severn, you have waved your cap sufficiently; you have
done homage and made your acknowledgments; pray proceed to the matter.

_Sev._ The northern young lady you have often heard me talk of, is in
town, and lay in this house last night.

_Umb._ That has been the conversation of the green-room.–But what do
you design in all this you are going to let me into?

_Sev._ I would be well with that young lady. Nay, I think I am so.

_Umb._ A man may often be mistaken in those points, as knowing as you

_Sev._ I grant it, madam; I have a mind to know it more explicitly, and
have the most evident proofs of it; which I will not desire till I have
given her sufficient testimony of a disinterested zeal and service for

_Umb._ That is, indeed, the noblest and the surest way to approach a
sensible spirit, as I have heard you describe hers to be. Pray let me
hear what argument you have for thinking she has a disposition towards
you; for you know we naturally are too apt to believe what we wish.

_Sev._ A good opinion is in a man’s own power to create. I took care
to appear in the best manner where she was; to be always in great
good humour, and show a wonderful deference to her in all my actions;
which I constantly expressed by my eye only, as afraid of notice and
observation. She had her eyes as attentive to mine, and she never lost
the least expression that I made to her, but turned away her eyes when
mine grew too familiar.–But give me leave to tell you one particular
occasion wherein I plainly think she declared herself to me.

_Umb._ That will be worth hearing indeed; I shall be glad to hear the
language of the eyes translated by the tongue. [_Smiling._

_Sev._ You are to know, madam, that there happened one day in the
north, a great Quaker’s wedding at which she and I were present.
They went with the greatest gravity and decorum through the whole
circumstance of it. But at night she was invited, so was I, to see the
bride and bridegroom put to bed. Several of her maidens attended her;
several of their young men him. It is the nature of their superstition
to keep their passions bridled, restrained, and formally dissembled.
They have none of those flights, palpitations, gambols, and follies,
which divert the mind and break it from its main object.

_Umb._ You are going into a fine story; but I must trust your

_Sev._ Madam, you may. [_Bowing._] To be sure, the bridegroom is laid
by his bride; the company stands in the most profound silence, as
contemplating the objects before them; he a young man of twenty-five,
she a young woman of twenty; he wishing our absence; she fearing it.
The eyes of everyone of us spectators naturally searching the object
with which they could best be pleased in the same condition, my eyes
met Miss Pincers’, in which there was such a sweet compliance, such a
revel invitation, immediately checked when observed and answered by
me, that I have ever since concluded that she had something more than
goodwill for me.

_Umb._ Well, if she has it, I shall be far from lessening it; but will,
as you seem to desire, accompany her, and improve it.

_Sev._ I form great hopes of success from that declaration; but as the
lady is mighty theatrically disposed, I beseech you to show her the
pleasure and beauties of the house.

_Umb._ All that is in my power; all that is not I must leave to you.

_Sev._ I will not doubt of success.

To gain a she, a sure she-friend provide;
For woman is to woman the best guide.


PINCERS _and his_ WIFE _discovered with_ MISS DOLLY, RALPH, _and_

_Pin._ Fie, Miss Dolly; do you say you heard no manner of noise when I
was knocking my heart out?

_Dolly._ None in the least. In the country they talked of the rattling
of coaches here in London. I heard nothing of it; I can hardly think I
am yet in the City.

_Mrs. Pin._ Why, Miss Dolly, you won’t say so, sure! Did you hear no
drums nor trumpets?

_Dolly._ Not in the least.

_Mrs. Pin._ O gemini! Then, to be sure, the house is haunted, and
the man of the inn has killed some traveller, and hid him behind the
hangings, and we are all disturbed for it–’tis so to be sure.

_Ralph._ It is no otherwise. I wonder Counsellor Severn would bring
master to such an inn as this is, so I do.

_Pin._ Chamberlain! why, chamberlain!

_Enter_ SPIDER (_as_ Chamberlain).

_Spi._ Do you call, sir?

_Pin._ Do you call, sir? Ay, marry do I, sir. What has been doing in
the inn here, or in the streets, with trumpets and kettle-drums?

_Spi._ Trumpets and kettle-drums! Poor gentleman!

_Pin._ Poor gentleman! no, no poor gentleman.–I am afraid this house
is no better than it should be.

_Spi._ Has not your worship lain warm? The bed is as good a bed as any
in the house. A man of fifteen hundred a-year lay in it, and slept all
night. He came to town to be fluxed. He was very much a gentleman, and
owned he slept very well; and his bones ached but little in that easy

_Pin._ Rogue! put honest folks, that have been man and wife these
twenty years, into a p—- bed together!

_Mrs. Pin._ In a p—- bed, husband! Take the law of him.

_Pin._ Sirrah! has not Counsellor Severn been here this morning? Go,
sirrah, bring me some water and a towel; I’ll go to the Counsellor’s
chambers immediately. I’ll trounce this house. [_Exit_ SPIDER.

_Dolly._ [_Aside._] I’ll look over my letter again. [_Reads._] “Be
afraid of nothing; but know, that the disagreeable shapes Mr. Pincers
is entertained with are not to appear to you; and when you know this,
you may partake of that diversion of tormenting those who attempt
only to sell and betray you. What you see are persons and appearances
belonging to the several plays which are acted in this house.”–Oh me!
how pure is all this!

_Re-enter_ SPIDER, _with a_ Barber.

_Spi._ Here is the water and towel, and here is a barber if you want
him. [_Exit._

_Pin._ Harkee, Mr. Barber; you look like an honest man, put on your
trimming cloths about me. I’ll inquire of you what sort of people live
in this house–Ha! what’s this here?

“To MR. PINCERS, Esq.”

[_A letter has come down from the air with this direction._]

“Sir, repent of the ill you are contriving before it be too late. I
shall appear to you and your wife only. In hopes of justice, I remain,

“Your dead and buried brother,


_Enter_ SPIDER, _as_ Tapster.

_Spi._ Sir, do you call for nothing this morning? are not you dry, nor
your wife neither, ha, old dry-boots?

_Pin._ What does this mean? A letter come directed to me out of the
air–and my brother coming! Wife! Margery, do you see that letter? What
can it mean? Look you, sauce-box; good man, Tapster, I shall take a
course with you, sirrah, I shall.

_Spi._ You are a sneaking country bumpkin, sir.

_Enter_ DOTTERELL, _dressed like a Country Squire._

_Pin._ Bless us! there comes on my brother, in his old boots and grey
riding-coat. ‘Tis he: I ha’n’t the heart to speak to it.

_Dot._ [_Aside._] A country ghost! I shall laugh out. How frightened
the dog is! I’ll warrant the rogue has a great sum of money of mine.
I’ll make him give it me.–[_To_ PINCERS.] Repent, and don’t cheat your
brother, and break your word with a man that is dead and buried.–I
shall laugh before the old put has refunded—-[_Aside._

_Mrs. Pin._ There is the justice come to fetch us away with him–he’s
come for Dolly’s portion.–You know I was always for giving it all to
her since Nancy’s death.

_Dot._ Give me my money–give me my money.

_Pin._ Oh! how I tremble! yet dare not speak to him. [_He comes

_Dot._ Show my last will and testament. Give me my money.

_Pin._ I cannot speak to him, to tell him I’ll do everything.

_Dot._ I will haunt thee, and tear thy wife from the fell—-

_Mrs. Pin._ He presents the figure of the poor child we had to cheat
Dolly with! Oh, husband, he’ll have me to punish thy sins! Oh, he
has me, now, now, husband! [_They both sink with the_ Barber _at a

_Ralph._ “He presents the figure of the poor child we had to cheat
Dolly with!” How shall I get off this ground. [_Going away, fearfully._

_Marg._ Oh, Ralph! can you leave me? [_They meet trembling, as if they
found the place open._]

_Ralph._ Let us keep together, and not go underground in a strange

_Marg._ Tell me, Ralph, whether there was anything between you and Nan?

_Ralph._ Ask no questions, ask no questions, good Margery. [_Exeunt._

_Dolly._ Whither shall I go, or where will this adventure end? Sure,
Mr. Severn will—-

[_Four leaves of the MS. are here missing._]

* * * * *

_Umb._ The pretty good-natured absurdity! [_Aside._]–But, madam,
you forgot Lorenzo that you mentioned just now: you must see
his–[_Whistle. Scene changes._] there, madam, there’s the place he
spoke those charming words in. But I forget, madam, you are a country
lady, and delight rather in airy prospects, tracts of land, and
beauteous lawns. [_Scene changes to the Park._

_Dolly._ Is this the Park? Pray, madam, where is the Birdcage Walk,
where lovers meet for intrigue?

_Umb._ You shall see it in due time; for I have a thousand other things
to tell you of. You must understand human life, and what passes in the
world, before you give yourself away.–But I must not inform you of it
abruptly and hastily.

_Dolly._ It will be charitable in you, madam, to do so.

_Umb._ I know you must be an admirer of poetry and good sense, without
which music is insipid, or at least but half-informed.

_Dolly._ I have wished myself at London a thousand times, to see
operas; but I would not have them sing nonsense.

_Umb._ Therefore, madam, I hope you’ll like the poetry which Mr. Severn
has ordered for the stage in celebration of two faithful lovers: they
were persons in an humble condition, and no ways conspicuous but
by their passion for each other; indeed, just what they should be
conspicuous for—-


“Near this place lie the bodies of John Hewett and Sarah Drew, an
industrious young man and a virtuous maiden of this parish, who,
having been contracted in marriage, and being with many others at
harvest-work, were both in one instant killed by lightning on the last
day of July, 1718.”

_Dolly._ Oh! but the poetry–what a sad thing ‘twould have been if one
of them had been left alive–But pray let’s see the poetry.

_Umb._ Have but patience and we will have convenience, miss, to sit
down and hear it. [_Scene changes to a bower._

“Think not with rigorous judgment seized,
A pair so faithful could expire;
Victims so pure Heaven saw well pleased,
And snatched them in celestial fire.
Live well, and fear not sudden fate;
When death calls virtue to the grave,
Alike ’tis justice soon or late,
Mercy alike to kill or save.
Virtue alike can hear the call,
And face the flash that melts the ball.”

But let us take our places, and carry it gravely, suitable to your
fortune and merit. [_Here it is performed._


_Enter_ SEVERN _and_ HUMBER.

_Sev._ I have often begged you to let me shift for myself, let my
character sink or swim. Every man who attempts any new thing must allow
mankind to talk of him as they please. I do not regard what the world
says, but what they should say.

_Hum._ It is very odd that we have never happy moments but at midnight,
so different are our tempers; and we are made to keep together from
no other rule, but that we never expostulate upon past mistakes; to
meet again after a misunderstanding, contains in itself all manner of
apology, all expostulation; but, if I might, I would complain that the
business of the house is neglected while you are attending your amours.

_Sev._ No; there is a present leisure to attend anything of that kind,
to hear any person or persons that pretend to the stage, to examine
scenes or goods to be shown or exhibited there, and give them their
answers.–Let us take our places accordingly.

_Hum._ It is wondrous to consider the folly of mankind, that think so
lightly and so meanly of the faculties of a player.–Roscius had three
thousand scholars, and but one only fit for the purpose.

_Sev._ There’s no arguing mankind out of their humour or their taste;
they may be gained upon by skill and labour, but that must be felt
before it’s seen.

_Hum._ Now you begin to philosophise: but let us hear the people, in
spite of vernacular dialect or tone, attempting to represent the most
difficult characters of state. Mr. Duntaxat, if you please, we will now
sit down and hear them. [_They sit down at table accordingly._] Mr.
Severn, you see he consents to take out places. [_Rings the bell._] Who

_Enter_ SERVANT.

_Servant._ A great many people, sir; but none so importunate to be
admitted as the Welsh gentleman, who offers to act the character of
Hamlet for his own pleasure.

_Hum._ Plague on him, whose pleasure will it be besides?

_Sev._ Oh, all the world will like him; let us admit him by all means.

_Hum._ He, in his vernacular tone, will disparage a scene forever by
repeating it; but do as you will.

_Sev._ Pray desire the gentleman to walk in: pray, gentlemen, keep your
countenance, for he is no fool; or if he is, he is a valiant one, and
hath a great estate half-way up the atmosphere.

_Enter_ MR. GWILLYN.

[_They all rise from their seats._]

Sir, we understand the high obligation you lay upon us (pray sit down,
sir) in condescending to tread the stage in the character of the
Prince of Denmark; in which, sir, you are so far right, that he was a
prince of a very ancient family, and not unworthy a gentleman of your
character to represent.

_Gwil._ I have a respect for him, both for his plutt and his prains,
and think I could do him justice.

_Sev._ There is no doubt of it, good sir; and if you please to
pronounce the sentence, “To be and not to be,” you’ll mightily raise
these gentlemen’s expectations and gratitude to you for the favour you
intend them.

_Gwil._ Sir, that will I do, if the gentlemen please to hear it. [_They
all rise, and come forward with him._

_Gwil._ “To pee and not to pee,” &c.[138]

_Sev._ Most admirably spoke, sir. Be pleased to give us time to concert
measures what day to act this play. Let our tailor wait upon you to
adjust the shape and all things necessary. [_Exit_ GWILLYN.

_Hum._ It’s well we have got well clear of this humorous exceptious
gentleman; but I was in terrible pain lest he should have observed your
inclination to laugh.–But let us not lose time, but go on to answer
other persons. [_Rings the bell._

_Enter_ SERVANT.

_Hum._ Who waits without?

_Servant._ Very many people, sir; but the lady with her daughter says
she has been here so often that she will be next admitted.

_Sev._ She will! she insists to see us altogether and makes a
difficulty even to show her daughter’s face. Now that is so
preposterous and humourous, that I could not answer her civilly and in
general, and so put her off.

_Hum._ Let her come in, however, and have her answer from us all.

_Enter_ MRS. FENNELL, _with her_ DAUGHTER.

_Hum._ Madam, what are your commands here?

_Mrs. Fen._ Gentlemen, I am a gentlewoman of a very ancient family.

_Sev._ Very likely, madam; but, indeed, madam, we sit here to provide
for the stage, and not to hear pedigrees. If you are of a house of
yesterday, and please to-day–you’ll pardon me, madam—that is what we
are to mind chiefly; but pray, madam, break into your business.

_Mrs. Fen._ Why, gentlemen, this young lady in a mask with me is my
daughter, and I propose her for the stage; for I am reduced, and starve
or beg we must not.

_Sev._ But, madam, please to show us how your daughter will help to
keep us from wanting. Madam, we have a great charge already.

_Mrs. Fen._ Why, you see, gentlemen, her height is very well; she is
neither tall nor short.

_Sev._ We allow it, madam; but that is not all: she must speak with a
good air and grace.–Won’t she unmask? Must not we see more than thus
much of her?

_Mrs. Fen._ No, no, gentlemen, we must come to some manner of agreement
before you see any further. To be a maid of honour, a waiting lady on
your Statiras and Roxanas,[139] or any of your theatrical princesses,
she’ll deserve twenty shillings a week for mere dumb show–and I’ll
have assurance of that in case you like her face; or else it shan’t be
said she was offered to the playhouse.

_Sev._ Well, but, madam, that is not all; for let her be for dumb show
only, her face is not all; she must be well limbed [_They whisper and
confer._]–she may sometimes be in a boy’s dress–a Cupid, a young heir
to a great family, a page, or a gentleman-usher.

_Mrs. Fen._ Why, I was aware of the objection, and have had a model
taken of her legs, which you shall see, gentlemen. There they are;
as fine a straight leg and as proper a calf–you shall seldom see a
woman’s leg so well made.–I don’t question, gentlemen, but you have
seen great choice, gentlemen, in your posts; are well acquainted with
the symmetry of parts, and correspondence of limbs.

_Sev._ Well, madam, you speak of your goods so advantageously, and set
them off so reasonably, that if the lady pleases to show her face, we
shall give twenty shillings a week, certain.

_Mrs. Fen._ She is your servant, and shall constantly attend
rehearsals. [DAUGHTER _unmasks._

_Sev._ On my word, a very surprising face.–Pray, madam, may I beg the
favour to see those pretty lips move?

_Daughter._ Yes, sir.

_Sev._ Pray, madam, raise your voice a note higher.

_Mrs. Fen._ Gentlemen, I beg she may be kept wholly for tragedy, for
she takes prodigiously after me. She can act only an haughty part; I
was prodigiously haughty in my youth. She will never act naturally
anything but what’s cruel and unnatural, as the men call it.

_Sev._ But, madam, can’t she repeat any verses, any parts of a play?
It’s strange she should have an inclination to the stage, and yet
nothing by heart.

_Mrs. Fen._ Oh, I have inured her to get as many things as possible
to arm her against the wiles of men; as those concerning Sir Charles
Sedley–Say on, good Betty.

_Daughter._ “Sedley has that prevailing gentle art,
That can with a resistless charm impart
The loosest wishes to the chastest heart.”[140]

_Sev._ “The loosest wishes!”–I fancy somebody or other has seen her
legs otherwise than by a model–she speaks so sensibly! [_Aside._

_Daughter._ “Raise such a conflict, kindle such a fire
Between declining virtue and desire,
Till the poor vanquish’d maid dissolves away,
In dreams all night, in sighs and tears all day.”

_Sev._ Well, madam, pluck up a spirit; and let us hear you grace it,
and do it with an air. Speak it politely, with a side face; you are
to imagine an audience though there is none; and pray speak it with

“Sedley has that prevailing,” &c.

_Hum._ Madam, you may be sure of all the encouragement and care your
beauty and merit deserve. [_Exeunt_ MRS. FENNELL _and_ DAUGHTER.

Well, now, let us look into some scenes that are under examination,
whether proper to be exhibited or not. Let the scene of Mr. Buskin come

[_Trumpets sound, and drums beat a march._]

_Enter_ BUSKIN.

_Busk._ “In vain has conquest waited on my sword,
In vain th’ obedient waves have wafted o’er
The bark in which I sailed; as if the gods
Had ordered nature to preserve her course
With gentle clime and season, to convey
In safety me, their instrument of fate.”

_Hum._ Ho! brave, ho! brave. What’s to come after that?

_Busk._ “All this was vain, since Clidiamira’s eyes
Have met with mine–and stopped my race of glory.
Oh, Clidiamira–Oh! oh! oh! let all
The elements break loose–”

_Hum._ Ay, ay, to be sure, they can do no less, if Clidiamira’s really
angry; but not so fast, not so fast, if you please.

_Busk._ Pray, sir, give me leave–Oh, Mr. Humber, is it you? Your
humble servant.–I submit–I know you are a critic.

_Hum._ To be free, sir, you must know this way of blustering is a
stage legerdemain; a trick upon the eyes and ears of the audience. Look
you, sir, this is a time of licentiousness; and we must examine things,
now we are setting up to strip you, to know whether what you say is
good or not.

_Busk._ How, strip me!

_Hum._ Ay, strip you–for if it be not sense in your doublet, it is not
in your long robe. High heels on your shoes, or the feathers on your
beaver, cannot exalt you a tittle. No; you must know, good folks, this
is all a cheat. Such stuff as this is only a tragedy of feathers–it is
only lace and ribbon in distress; undress the actor, and the speech is

_All._ Strip him–strip him! [_They pull off his clothes._

_Hum._ Now speak, now speak.

_Busk._ Give me my truncheon at least; I got it by heart with a stick
in my hand.

_Many._ Ha, ha, ha; let him have his truncheon–let him have his

_Busk._ Nay–pray, gentlemen and ladies, let me come on the same

_Hum._ You shall do that.–Well, but begin.

_Busk._ “In vain has conquest”–shan’t I have a little of the trumpet?

_All._ No, no, no.

_Busk._ Then the drum only?

_All._ No, no.

_Busk._ “Oh, Clidiamira–oh! oh! oh!”–It won’t do; one can’t follow
either love or honour without some equipage.

_Hum._ Well then, master, to keep you in countenance, you shall take
up your things, and in your doublet speak that sentiment in the play
called _The Patriot_,[141] wherein the great lord speaks to his
friend, who applauds the bestowing of his bounty. The friend, taking
notice of his conveying secretly relief to a distress’d person of great
merit, and thinking to please him, tells him that the man obliged has
found out who sent it, and said it was a God-like action. To which the
“God-like indeed, could one bestow unseen!
Thanks are too large returns, from soul to soul,
For anything that we can handle thus:
Heaven has no more for giving us our all.
The means of sustenance man owes to man,
As angels give each other thought for thought.”
Mr. Buskin, your most humble servant; mingle with the company.–Take
your things. Say that in a doublet, cap, or waistcoat, with or without
shoes, and make it little if you can. [_The crowd takes in_ BUSKIN.

_Hum._ But I see you grow uneasy, to be diverted from your main design;
I’ll only trouble you with two circumstances, which to me appear
very magnificent, tragical, and great: the one is a great favourite
in a court, a man of consummate honour, who was surrounded with many
difficulties and enemies. They got the better of him so far, as that
he must be sacrificed unless he would open a letter which came by an
error into his hand, but was directed to his enemy. He comes on in a
soliloquy, but chooses to preserve his honour and abstain from opening
it, and goes on to his ruin. He says but a word or two; but let him

_Enter a_ TRAGEDIAN, _with a letter in his hand._

_Tragedian._ “Here is my fate: ’tis put into my hands;
‘Tis in my hands to take or to refuse;
I cannot open it but with loss of honour–
Be it for ever closed.
I cannot escape death; that will come soon or late;
‘Tis in my power to make it find me innocent.” [_Exit._

_Hum._ You observe, Mr. Severn, here’s no noise, no eclat, no bustle,
but simple and calm greatness.–The next circumstance for which I beg
your patience is that of a great English general, who, observing the
confederate horse seized with a panic fear, and all, to a man, in the
utmost disorder, assumes himself and mounts an eminence, and says he
would stand there to revive the army. He did so; the enemies soon
observed so remarkable an object, and cannonaded it. He stood the fury
of their cannon while the army marched–But he comes on.

[_Drums and trumpets to precede his march._]

_Enter_ GENERAL.

_Gen._ “Nothing, but seeing me meet all they fear,
Can avert the same contagion from the troops.
Let them behold me die; or, what is more,
Let them behold how I expect to die!” [_Exit._

_Hum._ It is allowable to help great thoughts, and alarm the audience
with warlike instruments, to give the inattentive a sense of what is
truly sublime. But I won’t detain you longer; let us go in; but as we
are going off a stage, let me repeat to you a couple of verses.

Would you reform an heedless guilty age,
Adorn with virtuous characters the stage.


_Enter_ MR. PINCERS, _and_ BARBER, _and_ CONSTABLE.

_Pin._ How do you say, sir? All this is a delusion! an imposition!

_Barb._ Perfectly so, sir; no otherwise, indeed, sir; and they have
seized Mr. Constable there, my neighbour, who came into the house to
keep the peace, when they were waging war in it.

_Pin._ What, lay hold upon a constable! detain the constable! Do they
know what they do?

_Barb._ Ay, they know very well; but they don’t care what they do.

_Pin._ And was the ghost a cheat, and calling this an inn all

_Barb._ Yes, sir; but here Mr. Constable has found below stairs an
inlet into the house, and whence he can let in all the people of Drury
Lane and the parts adjacent.

_Pin._ I have heard of Drury Lane in the country; but they will do as
well as any for this purpose.

_Barb._ That is most excellent good luck; we will swing them for false
imprisonment, and that of so great an officer as a constable.

_Constable._ But, sir, I want a warrant to do what I would on this

_Pin._ There need none, sir; you have the law, which will uphold you in
it; the recovery of your liberty, and my liberty, as well as that of
the barber, will support you. There is in your person the liberty of
every man in England. As you are a constable concerned, I am a lawyer.
I’ll stand by you, I warrant you. But let’s be silent before you bring
in the _posse_. Take these deeds in your care and custody. [_Giving him
deeds._] Observe, Mr. Barber, I deliver them to him; and now let us go,
or him go, and let in his people. [_Exit_ CONSTABLE.] What a prodigious
villainy was here, Mr. Barber! I placed such a confidence in this Mr.
Severn, and took counsel with him for the disposal of my niece, and
thus he has served me; but I have put my deeds relating to her into the
constable’s hand; and if he can let his _posse_ into the house, I’ll
warrant you we will recover all.

[_A noise of people_:–“Beat down the doors; deliver the lady.”]

_Barb._ Hark, hark! he has got them in, I warrant ye the _posse_ is
raised; I’ll warrant we shall have the whole city and country on our

_Pin._ The whole matter is, how to conduct it legally. Let me be but of
the council, and we will knock them all o’ the head, and not transgress
the law at all; we will murder the dogs, I would say the rogues. Why,
what is there in it? they are no people, they are nobody in law; and
if they are no people, to kill them is to kill nobody; for to fire at
_fera natura_, creatures by nature wild–those animals are lawful game,
and any man that has so much a year may kill them; so, Mr. Barber,
any man may fire upon these fellows; these stage-players, who are no
persons, have no right in themselves; and therefore any man may kill

[_A noise without_:–“Deliver the lady; give her to her guardian; give
her to her uncle.”]

_Barb._ They are just a-coming in; I know the neighbourhood and the
constable; you shall direct us all.

_Pin._ Nay, I’ll warrant you all shall be safely and legally done.

[_Enter a crowd of people._]

_Rabble._ Where is the gentleman? where is the gentleman?

_Barb._ Here he is, gentlemen; and the players have taken his niece
from him; and, for aught we know, they have ravished her; but, let it
be so or no, we’ll indict them for it. Harkee, Mr. Pincers, will an
indictment for a rape lie in Drury Lane?

_Pin._ Lookee, gentlemen, we will fall upon them for taking her and her
clothes; and then afterwards come upon them for the body, as we shall
see cause; but we must find this body before we can do anything.

_Barb._ We will bear all down before us but we will find her. Down with
all their sham heavens, their counterfeit seas; down with their false
unsafe lands; down with their windmills and their dragons; burn their
barns; and when we have got the lady, fire the house.–Come, follow the

_All._ Ay, ay.

_Pin._ Huzza, huzza!

_All._ Huzza, huzza! [_Dog barks._

_1st Rabble._ Don’t mind their great dog; he barks a sham. He is no
true dog. Unkennel the dog within. Harkee, neighbour, keep up your
dogs–keep your dogs. Halloo, halloo!

_2nd Rabble._ Keep your dogs, gentlemen butchers; keep the dogs to
charge their house. I’ll warrant we’ll spoil their battling, and
rioting and fighting, and decoying all our daughters and nieces to see
sights, and never mind their business. Ho! the lady, the lady–we’ll
have the lady.

_Barb._ We’ll make this young lady as famous as Helen of Troy was.
We’ll burn all before us for her sake. Come, let us hunt, let’s see
what’s about this house in all its parts–halloo, hunt.

_Pin._ Let the constable march first; there’s our safety, that’s our
security.–Take notice, I declare before all this company, it is in
defence of this honest—-