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THE CRITIC;

OR, A TRAGEDY REHEARSED.

A DRAMATIC PJECE,

En Two Acts.

Butter
By RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN,

131
Author of The Rivals, School for Scandal, Trip to Scarborough, &c.

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PRINTED FROM THE ACTING COPY, WITH REMARKS,

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL.

To which are added,

A DESCRIPTION OF THE COSTUME, CAST OF THE CHARACTERS,
-EXITS AND ENTRANCES, RELATIVE POSITION OF THE PER-
FORMERS ON THE STAGE, AND THE WHOLE OF THE STAGE

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REMARKS.

This excellent farce was suggested by the very witty comedy of “ The Rehearsal,” written by the Duke of Buckingham. Like all productions, the humour of which chiefly depends on passing characters and events, the original has become wholly obsolete, and it's prototype is obliged to be varied according to the ruling whim and fashion of the day, that it may maintain it's situation on the Stage. We say obligedfor such is the ignorance of modern audiences, so completely are they infatuated with low buffoonery, that the elegant raillery, the polished wit, the quaint humour of former times, are no longer relished or understood. Had the ingenious author of " The Critic" written for the present day, he would most assuredly have failed--for we hold it impossible, that those who can applaud the trash, that we will not soil our pages even to name, could ever have tolerated the highly-finished and brilliant dialogue of Sheridan. The apathy with which some of our best Comedies are now received, is a proof, that if the fiat of more enlightened times had not already stamped their merit, they would not be endured;

“For those who dare not censure, scarce can praise." 66 The Critic” was first acted at Drury-Lane, in the year 1779. The dialogue is sprightly, the characters are lively and entertaining, and the satire is full of bitterness and humour. It is generally understood that the character of Sir Fretful Plagiary was intended for Cumberland. If such be the case, and Sheridan has almust given his assent to the supposition-it is one man of genius satirising another, imputing to him foibles and peculiarities, and thereby giving the vulgar an opportunity (which they are ever ready to seize) of undervaluing that worth and talent, which they can neither imitate nor comprehend. Knowing however, as we do, that Sir Fretful Plagiary is not a likeness of Cumberland, we enjoy it heartily—the cap is not made for one only, but an hundred ; and Sir Fretful has become as much an household term for an envious, petulant, and conceited ecribbler, as Mrs. Candour bears an expressive signification in the vocabulary of scandal. This peculiar honour can only result from truth and nature, and Sheridan richly deserves it.

Mr. Puff's recital of the various arts, by which he practises on the good-nature of the public, may, we suspect, have done more harm than good. It is well to be on our guard against imposition and deception : but it is better that we should be thrice deceived by a tale of fictitious woe, than once, from an over caution, turn from a case of reul calamity. Sordid spirits" are always upon the look out for an excuse for their avarice and want of feeling; and Mr. Puff's Widow with six helpless children” will generally find them one. The charity that halts and hesitates at every step, is like the religious scepticism—it lives to no good end, and dies in doubt.

But Mr. Puff's history of the art and mystery of puffinglike Touchstone's several degrees of the lie, is humorous and legitimate satire ; Sheridan, from his promiscuous and unrestrained intercourse with society, high and low, literary and otherwise, had a perfect knowledge of life in all its singular varieties, from the six-bottle bon vivant, to the mere newspaper hack who dives for a dinner. Sheridan took the hint of the Auctioneers from Foote’s farce of “ The Minor” (Foote having the original before him, in the celebrated Langford), which Morton, considering as a fair game, has made excellent use of, in Sir Abel Handy's scene with Farmer Ashfield, in the comedy of “ Speed the Plough.”.

Dangle and Sneer, (the former is said to have been intended for a Mr. Thomas Vaughan, author of “ The Hotel,") are introduced chiefly for the purpose of shewing up Sir Fretful Plugiary and Puff. Dangle is one of those theatrical amateurs, who besiege a manager with impertinent flattery, and gratuitous advice one of those green-room loungers,

“ Who for a playhouse freedom sell their own;" while Mr. Sneer is a small critic, who inherits wit in the same degree with the ape-he has just sufficient to make him mischie.

It would appear that “ The Critic” was intended as a goodhumoured advertisement to the tragedy-writers of that day, not to offer any more of their productions to the manager of DruryLane Theatre. We have for soine time past been wanting just such another seasonable hint to stop the importation of certain Tragedies, the authors of which are gentlemen of very violent words with very timorous meanings; who load their language with fustian and finery, to hide the poverty and nakedness of their sentiment. The bombast of Don Ferolo, the ravings of TilburinaLord Burleigh's profound shake of the head, and Sir Christopher Hatton's graceful turning out his toes, are exceedingly comical—but they are not half such true burlesque, as the flaunting, high-flown trumpery--the linsey-wolsey patchwork of “ Bertram," and the Apostate.Bayes is a solemn coxcomb, who delivers his oracles with a studied, formal gravity, that greatly heightens the humour of the character. Puff is pert and vivacious he is sensible that he is saying a good thing, and

vous.

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