« PreviousContinue »
carries him back, in pleasing recollection, to that season, when he was first imbibing knowledge under the instruction of an excellent and most affectionate Mother.
In 1763, Dodsley published an Account of the Life of Shenstone, with whom he had been intimate, and A Description of his Farm at the Leasowes, prefixed to an edition of his Works in prose and verse, in three volumes 8vo.
In the course of his profession Dodsley acquired a very handsome fortune which enabled him to retire from the active part of business. During his latter years, he was much afflicted with the gout, which at length put a period to his life whilst he was upon a visit to a friend at Durham, the Rev. Joseph Spence, author of the Polymetis. lle was buried in the Abbey-Church-Yard of that city, and the following inscription was engraved on his tomb- one ;
If you have any respect
regard this place,
Mr. Robert DodsLEY ;
who, as an Author, raised bimself
from one in his rank of life,
and who, as a man, was scarce exceeded by any in integrity of heart, and purity of manners and conversation, He left this life for a better
Sept. 25, 1764,
In the 61st year of his age, I am always concerned when I see in Epitaphs any affir. mation respecting the present state of the departed, I would always hope the best of every one; but it appears to me to be presumption to affirm any thing of any man,
As an author Dodsley is entitled to considerable praise. His works are recommended by an ease and elegance which are sometimes more pleasing than a more laboured and ornamented manner of composition, la verse, his VOL III.
numbers, if not sublime, are flowing; and his subjects are in general well chosen and entertaining. His prose is familiar, and yet chaste; and in his dramatic pieces he has always kept in view the one great principle, delectando pariterque monendo. Some general moral is constantly conveyed in each of his plans, and particular instructions are dispersed in the particular strokes of satire. The dialogue, at the same time, is easy, the plots simple, and the catastrophe interesting and pathetic.
With regard to his private character, he is equally entitled to applause. As a tradesman he preserved the greatest integrity, as a writer the most becoming humility. Mindful of the early encouragement with which his own talents had been fostered, he was ever ready to give the same opportunity of advancement to those of others; and on many occasions he was not only the pubJisher, but the patron of genius. There was no circumstance by which he was more distinguished, than by the grateful remembrance which he retained, and always expressed, towards the memory of those to whom he owed the obligation of being first noticed in life. Modest, sensible, and humane, he acquired the esteem and respect of all with whom he was acquainted, and it was his happiness to pass many years in an intimacy with men of the brightest abilities, and whose names will ever be revered by posterity.
See Biogr. Dram. and Biogr. Brit.
Boswell, in his Life of Johnson (Vol. II. p. 462.) relates the following anecdote, which is much to the credit of Dodsley's good sense and humility.
66 I said, Mr. Robert Dodsley's life should be written,
as he had been so much connected with the wits of his “ time, and by his literary merit had raised himself 66 from the situation of a footman. Mr. Warton said, he 66 had published a little volume under the title of “ The 66 Muse in Livery.” JOHNSON. 66 I doubt whether « Dodsley's brother would thank a man who should 66 write his life: yet Dodsley himself was not unwilling
" that his original low condition should be recollected. 66 When Lord Lyttelton's " Dialogues of the Dead'
came out, one of which is between Apicius, an “ cient epicure, and Dartineuf, a modern epicure, “ Dodsley said to me, " I knew Dartineuf well, for I
was once his footman." *
Dodsley was married and had many children, but only one who survived any time, a fine boy, and he died at the
age of 14.
In 1772, a second volume of Dodsley's Works was collected together and published, under the title of Miscellanies.
The Author of the Biographia Dramatica, (Vol. II. p. 376.) speaking of The Toy-Shop, says that " The
hint of this elegant and sensible little piece seems built " on Randolph's Muses. Looking-Gluss. The author " of it, however, has so perfectly modernized it, and 6 adapted the satire to the peculiar manner and follies 66 of the times he writes to, that he has made it perfectly “ his own, and rendered it one of the justest, and at the
same time the best-natured rebukes that fashionable absurdity perhaps ever met with.”
Mr. Dibdin, also, in his History of the Stage, (Vol. V. p. 166.) says, it " is one of those various dramas that
have originated from RANDOLPH's Muses' Looking.
* I have heard a similar anecdote of the late Mr. Brown, coin. monly known by the name of Capability Brown, the Improver of grounds, or what is now called The Landscape Gardener. He was born at Cambo, in Northumberland, and worked first of all as a daylabourer with the late Sir Walter Blackett, at Wellington, in the same county. Many years after, in the zenith of his fanie, he vin sited his native county, and went to see his old master. Sir Walter taking him over his house, they happened to be in the kitchen, Mr. B. stood with his back to the tire, and several of the servants were present. When Sir Walter spoke to him, as he seemed lost in ibought, he said, “ I am considering how many years it is since I “ worked in these grounds as a day-labourerat len-pence a day." I had this anecdote froin a gendeman in that coubly connecied with Sir Walter,
Glass, and which good-naturedly rebukes fashionable 66 follies. In short, it is Foote's piece called Taste 66 with all its points, and none of its asperity."
Under this impression I sate down to read The Muses' Looking-Glass, from Randolph's Poems; I read on, but could not perceive any likeness. I considered whether the play was in Dodsley's Collection, and having the first edition of that work by me, I turned to it, and found the play in the sixth volume. In Dodsley's Preface to this play he mentions The conceited Pedlar, by Randolph, and says " from whence I took the first Hint of the Toy-Shop.”
This piece, which is called only The Pedlar in the title to the piece itself, though it is called “ The conceited Pedlar" in the title-page to Aristippus, to which it is annexed, is not to be found in the first edition of Randolph's Poems printed at Oxford, in 4to, in 1638, nor in the second edition, printed at Oxford in 12mo, in 1640. The third edition I have not seen. It is in the fourth edition, in 12mo, printed in London, in 1652. There are two editions which are called the fifth, one printed in London, in 12mo, in 1664, the other in 12mo also, printed at Oxford in 1668. It is a Mono-drama, or piece spoken by one person only. The Pedlar produces different articles, and comments upon them in the same manner that the Master of The Toy-Shop does, but in a much inferior vein. The only article, however, which bears any resemblance in the two pieces is a looking-glass. There is some grossness in the Pedlar, and I consider it as being written in a very inferior style to The Muses' Looking-glass.
I will not omit this opportunity of stating, that I have seen The Toy-Shop performed as a Mono-drama. Mr. and Mrs. Hudson, formerly of The Royalty Theatre, afterwards travelled about the country, and were in this part of the kingdom, about twenty years ago, and gave an Evening's Entertainment, consisting of Recitation, Singing, &c. and one of the pieces sometimes performed by Mrs. Hudson was The Toy-shop. She was discovered sitting in her shop, as the mistress of it, and commented
in Soliloquy upon the different articles. It was less entertaining than with all the characters, but by no means destitute of amusement.
On turning to the IV th vol. of Mr. Dibdin's Ilistory, (p. 51.) where he is speaking of RANDOLPH, I find that he is himself aware of the real origin of The Toy-Shop: “ Dodsley says with his usual candour and frankness, " at the same time that he confesses his obligations to “ RANDOLPH for his Toy-Shop, the hint of which he 6 took from the Conceited Pedlar, that " the Muses' 66 Looking-Glass has been always esteemed as an excel" lent common place book to instruct dramatic authors 66 in the art of drawing characters.”
Since my attention has been thus called to The Muses' Looking Glass, I hope I shall be excused if I here make some observations upon it.
The Looking-Glass is made of " Water from the Muse's spring,” which Apollo sends
to the porth, there to be freez'd
« Aod cure them both together." This was done by Apollo to
purge the earth « Of ignorance and sin.” But Pluto being jealous, thinking it would cure all mankind, determines it should be only of one day's continuance, and gets the Fates to limit it to that time, and Apollo, to requite this envy, transfuses the virtue of the glass when broken into Comedy.
The Scene is laid at the Play-House in Black Friars, which is also the chief residence of the Puritans, the inveterate enemies of the Stage. Bird, a Feather-man, and Mrs. Flowerdew, a Haberdasher of small Wares,who, notwithstanding that they consider a playhouse and plays and players as abominations, yet do not scruple to sell their wares to them to make money,-bring their