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The postscript to a letter, as being the result of an afterthought, is generally considered the most important part of such communication—the preface to a book is looked upon in the same light. The matter contained in the pages which these remarks precede, would not have required any elucidation of this nature, otherwise so frequently necessary, had it not been for the occurrence of a series of events, during its preparation, which would, at first, appear almost as incredible as they are unprecedented; and which, from their rapid succession, would not only have deranged, but naturally have delayed the publication of the entire work, if alterations and emendations had taken place, as each event fell in. The deaths of many individuals referred to, and the doings of many yet alive, freely commented upon in the course of its progress, renders a particular allusion to them as essential as it is becoming.
If the reader will have the kindness and, at the same time, the patience to compare the predictions and the observations, as well as the circumstances in connexion with them, detailed in these volumes, with the final result exemplified in the preface, he will, at least, be “perplexed in the extreme-" to use no stronger term. It is a matter to me of great gratification to perceive, to the last, the advantage of the plan upon which this production was originally undertaken, and has throughout been conducted—that of relying on facts, rather than trusting to fiction, and supporting argument by document. There is no possibility of refuting the various authorities cited, the records and letters inserted, the opinions quoted, and the judgments delivered, which are interspersed through these pages, because the litera scripta of all, can at any time be seen by all. I have not indulged in any extravagant theory arising out of an overheated or disappointed imagination; but have preferred backing the calm reflection of a very long experience with the sobered opinions of sundry wiser people than myself. The many opposite impres
sions to mine own, with which I have had to contend, emanate from persons who, for the most part, prefer giving utterance to the speculative thoughts in which inexperience is sure to indulge, rather than listen to the arguments of more practised, and therefore more scient disputants; and who stoutly maintain that interest invariably disseats judgment, and sets up prejudice in his stead. A man interested in theatrical affairs should, to my poor way of thinking, be better able to argue upon the construction of them, than those in no way connected therewith, unless, indeed, he has taken altogether to wearing the cap and bells. Without ever dreaming of being deemed more learned than the generality of my fellow creatures, I nevertheless cannot quite consent to be set down for
“ A fool whose bells have ceased to ring at all;"
and what remnant of intelligence, therefore, is left me, I have endeavoured to impart to others.
I have repeatedly been questioned, during the progress of my little undertaking, as to its general nature, with the invariable conclusion, “ so you are writing your life, I find.” Thousands in this world prosess to“ find” what yet was never lost;' and to that class of people I have invariably and truly replied, “I am dealing with the lives of other people rather than my own." It has been as erroneously imagined, that, as I professed to tell “ the secrets of the prison house,” every one of my leaves would teem with scandal and libel. That any additional prejudice against me should be entertained by those who have already entertained so many, was naturally to be expected; that was not a matter of much moment—nor was it altogether unnatural to suppose, that with an abundant knowledge of the private histories of all I had to deal with, I should take an opportunity of paying back the unblushing falsehoods, and countless calumnies, they have from time to time heaped upon me. But, in the first place, such a proceeding would proclaim myself to be almost as shameless as themselves; and in next place, ould be introducing unworthy matter, amongst what, I hope, will be found to be useful information. There will be plenty of time, should they afford me plenty of opportunity, to resort to acerbities and personalities; at present they could not farther my object. At the memorable interview between His Majesty George III. and Doctor Johnson, the King, referring to the controversy between Warburton and Lowth, asked Johnson what he thought of it; who remarked, “ Warburton has most general, Lowth most scholastic learning; Lowth is the more correct scholar. I do not know which of them calls names best.” The King was of
the same opinion, and added, “ You do not think then, Doctor Johnson, that there was much argument in the case;" and when Johnson said he did not think there was, the King observed,
WHEN ONCE IT COMES TO • CALLING NAMES,' argument is pretty well at an end!” On so much more humble a subject than the learned disputation here alluded to, I have presumed to act upon the judgment of the good old King; and shall
, therefore, undoubtedly disappoint those who, being scandalous themselves, delight in the scandal they hear against another. I might have made a very diverting book, as far as the power thereof within me lies, had it consisted solely of green-room cancans, or had it related only to the private indiscretions of public people. I might have exercised truth with those who have only exercised falschood with me; but I prefer leaving them where they are-it will be time to take up such a trafic as that, when the dealers in it have recourse again to its practice.
The first circumstance to which I would direct particular attention, is the fact of the great object which I struggled so long and so hard to attain, and for the attainment of which I devoted so much time and paid so much money, having been accomplished—the abolition of the absurd restrictions, during Lent, placed upon theatres within the jurisdiction of the Lord Chamberlain. Letters not a year old, with documents and controversies of the same date, will be found in the ensuing chapters, giving a full detail of the indignation of the Ministers of the Crown at the idea of that boon being asked for, which, since I recorded it, those self-same Ministers have conceded. Mr. Duncombe, the honourable mover in the House of Commons, was, session after session, assailed for his sacrilegious attempt to disturb the sanctity of the season, or rather his desire to make the enjoyment of it general. As for the unfortunate Lessee, some idea was entertained of impaling him alive—nothing else could be thought of for such an offending varlet, who had carried his attempt at reform in this matter so far, that he had set at naught the prerogative of the Crown, and hurled defiance in the face of Her Majesty's Ministers. Seeing what I have seen, seeing what I now see,” it would be a matter of some amusement to him, if the Noble Secretary for our Colonies would have the kindness to compare his Parliamentary oration of the 12th of March, 1839, with the documents I shall now have the pleasure of introducing. As the period of Lent, this present year, 1840, was near at hand, Mr. Duncombe, bent upon carrying the object of his former solicitude into effect, took a course somewhat differing at first from, but in reality only preparatory to, the one he had in previous sessions adopted. He addressed the Lord Chamberlain direct, and the answer he
obtained from that noble functionary, which reflects such honour on his Lordship was so satisfactory as to render any
farther observation unnecessary. The letter, and the reply to it, are herewith subjoined:
“« The Albany, Feb. 4, 1840. 66 My LORD,
“ The numerous and respectable applications that have been made to me, in consequence of the part I took in the House of Commons during the last Session of Parliament, upon the subject of theatrical performances in Lent, will, I hope, be a sufficient apology for my troubling your Lordship upon the present occasion.
“ It is stated to me that although is was universally understood, and agreed to last year, • That no greater restrictions ought to be placed upon theatrical entertainments during Lent within the City of Westminster than are placed upon the like amusements at the same period in every other part of the Metropolis,' yet, it is apprehended, no alteration will take place. I have uniformly represented to parties expressing such fears, that I felt confident their apprehensions were unfounded.
“ Your Lordship would, however, confer a great favour upon those who originally did me the honour to place their cause in my hands, if your Lordship would, at your earliest convenience, inform me if I am correct in the conclusions to which I have come, in order that all doubts and misunderstanding upon this subject may be removed.
có I have the honour to be,
6 THOMAS DUNCOMBE." “ To the Earl of Uxbridge, &c.”
46 Windsor Castle, Feb. 13, 1840.
“ In answer to your letter, which I had the honour of receiving last week, on the subject of the Theatres being closed during Lent, I beg to inform you that I have sent letters to the managers, stating that it will only be necessary to close them during Passion-week and on Ash Wednesday.
6 I have the honour to be,
66 UXBRIDGE.” - Thomas S. Duncombe, Esq., Albany."
Now mark the monstrous incongruity too frequently committed by people possessing more means than mind, of which