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Nor was thy laboured drama damned or hissed,
dle size, his voice clear and audible, his natural countenance grave and sober; but the moment he spoke, the settled seriousness of his features was utterly discharged, and a dry, drolling, or laughing levity, took such full possession of him, that I can only refer the idea of him to your imagination. In some of his low characters, that became it, he had a shuffling shamble in his gait, with so contented an ignorance in his aspect, and an aukward absurdity in his gesture, that, had you not known him, you could not have believed, that naturally he could have had a grain of common sense." Our author insinuates, that the audience had been so accustomed to the presence of this facetious actor, that they could not tolerate a play where his low humour was excluded.
+ Alluding to the character of Mrs Friendall in "The Wives'
HENRY HIGDEN was a member of the honourable society of the Middle Temple, and during the reigns of James II. and William III. held some rank among the wits of the age. He wrote a play called "Sir Noisy Parrot, or the Wary Widow," represented in 1693, which seems to have been most effectually damned; for in the preface the author complains, that "the theatre was by faction transformed into a bear-garden, hissing, mimicking, ridiculing, and cat-calling." I mention this circumstance, because amongst the poetical friends who hastened to condole with Mr Higden on the bad success of his piece, there is one who attributes it to the influence of our author over the inferior wits at Will's coffee-house. But it seems more generally admitted, as
+ From spawn of Will's, these wits of future tense,
Whose judgment always ebb, but zeal flows high,
Here the great patriarch of Parnassus sits,
the cause of the downfall of the "Wary Widow," that the author being a man of a convivial temper, had introduced too great a display of good eating and drinking into his piece; and that the actors, although Mr Higden complains of their general negligence, entered into these convivial scenes with great zeal, and became finally incapable of proceeding in their parts. + The prologue was written by Sir Charles Sedley, in which the following lines seem to be levelled at Dryden's critical prefaces:
But against old, as well as new, to rage,
Is the peculiar phrenzy of this age;
Shakespeare must down, and you must praise no more
If the admirers of Dryden were active in the condemnation of
Higden's play, the offence probably lay in these verses.
From this hot-bed with foplings we're opprest,
Verses prefixed to "Sir Noisy Parrot," 4to, 1693.
Friend Harry, some squeamish pretenders to thinking,
Begging pardon of this apologist, who subscribes himself Tho. Palmer, there is some difference between the satisfaction of eating a good dinner at a tavern, and seeing one presented on the stage.
It seems likely that Higden's translation, of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal, which I have never seen, was printed before Dryden published his own version, in 1693; consequently, before the damnation of the " Wary Widow," acted in the same year, which seems to have been attended with a quarrel between Dryden and the author. It is therefore very probable, that this Epistle should have stood earlier in the arrangement: but, having no positive evidence, the Editor has not disturbed the former order.
EPISTLE THE ELEVENTH.
THE Grecian wits, who satire first began,
To join the virtues of two styles in one.
* A truncheon, with a fool's head and cap upon one end. It was carried by the ancient jester, and is often alluded to in old plays.