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[TO AMALTHEA.] To you, fair Amalthea, what I am'
What more grace
Arga. I neither now desire, nor will deserve it; My loss is such as cannot be repaired, And, to the wretched, life can be no mercy.
Leon. Then be a prisoner always : Thy ill fate And pride will have it so: But since in this I cannot, Instruct me, generous Amalthea, how A king may serve you.
Amal. I have all I hope, And all I now must wish; I see you happy. Those hours I have to live, which heaven in pity Will make but few, I vow to spend with vestals: The greatest part in prayers for you; the rest In mourning my unworthiness. Press me not farther to explain myself ; 'Twill not become me, and may cause your trouble. Leon. Too well I understand her secret grief,
[Aside. But dare not seem to know it.—Come, my fairest;
[TO PALMYRA. Beyond my crown I have one joy in store, To give that crown to her whom I adore.
Taus have my spouse and I informed the nation,
to reformation; Not with dull morals, gravely writ, like those, Which men of easy phlegm with care compose,Your poets, of stiff words and limber sense, Born on the confines of indifference; But by examples drawn, I dare to say, From most of you who hear and see the play. There are more Rhodophils in this theatre, More Palamedes, and some few wives, I fear: But yet too far our poet would not run; Though 'twas well offered, there was nothing done. He would not quite the women's frailty bare, But stript them to the waist, and left them there: And the men's faults are less severely shown, For he considers that himself is one. Some stabbing wits, to bloody satire bent, Would treat both sexes with less compliment; Would lay the scene at home; of husbands tell, For wenches, taking up their wives i' the Mall; And a brisk bout, which each of them did want, Made by mistake of mistress and gallant. Our modest author thought it was enough To cut you off a sample of the stuff: He spared my shame, which you, I'm sure, would not, For you were all for driving on the plot: You sighed when I came in to break the sport, And set your teeth when each design fell short. To wives and servants all good wishes lend, But the poor cuckold seldom finds a friend. Since, therefore, court and town will take no pity, I humbly cast myself upon the city.
This play was unfortunate in the representation. It is needless, at the distance of more than a century, to investigate the grounds of the dislike of an audience, who, perhaps, could at the very time have given no good reason for their capricious condemnation of a play, not worse than many others which they received with applause. The author, in the dedication, hints at the “ laineness of the action;" but, as the poet and performers are nearly equally involved in the disgrace of a condemned piece, it is a very natural desire on either side to assign the cause of its failure to the imperfections of the other; of which there is a ludicrous représentation in a dialogue betwixt the player and the poet in “ Joseph Andrews," Another cause of its unfavourable reception seems to have been, its second title of “ Love in a Nunnery." Dryden certainly could, last of any man, have been justly suspected of an intention to ridicule the Duke of York and the Catholic religion; yet, as he fell under the same censure for the “ Spanish Friar," it seems probable that such suspicions were actually entertained. The play certainly contains, in the present instance, nothing to justify them. In point of merit, “ The Assignation” seems pretty much on a level with Dryden's other comedics ; and certainly the spectators, who had received the blunders of Sir Martin Mar-all with such unbounded applause, might have taken some interest in those of poor Benito. Perhaps the absurd and vulgar scene, in which the prince pretends a fit of the cholic, had some share in occasioning the fall of the piece. This inelegant jeu de theatre is severely ridiculed in the '“ Rehearsal.”
To one person, the damnation of this play seems to have afforded exquisite pleasure. This was Edward Ravenscroft, once a member of the Middle Temple,-an ingenious gentleman, of whose taste it may be held a satisfactory instance, that he deemed the tragedy of “ Titus Andronicus” too mild for representation, and generously added a few more murders, rapes, and parricides, to that charnel-house of horrors t. His turn for comedy being at least
+ In the prologue to this beautified edition, Ravenscroft modestly tell us :
Like other poets, he'll not proudly scorn