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UR. Percy observes in his Preface to the Ballad of Tue King'AND MILLER OF MANSFIELD, that “. It has “ been a favourite subject with our English ballad"makers to represent our kings conversing, either by « accident or design, with the meanest of their subjects. ! Of the former kind, besides this song of the King and “ the Miller ; K.Henry and the Soldier ;* K.James I. and " the Tinker; K. William III. and the Forrester, &c. « Of the latter sort, are K. Alfred and the Shepherd; +
See Shakspeare's Henry Vih. A. IV. $. I. ' + In the first volume of that very pleasing Work, EVENINGS AT HOME, by Dr. Aikin and Mrs. Barbauld, is a short Drama upon this incident in the life of Alfred. But, when Gubba, the Peasant, who is here made a woodman, discovers that his guest, (whom he and his wife had in vain asked to tie np faggots, to thatch, to weavo a basket, and to stack hay, and who had suffered the cakes to buro, when left to watch them, ) is the
em, ) is the king, he says to his wife': “ Why. “ Gandelin, do you see, we might have guessed he was born to be a “King, or some such great man, because, you know, he was fit for “ nothing else.” This speech, being made without any antidote or comment, I conceive to be of a bad tendeocy, and particularly as addressed to young persons, for whom the work is designed. Had the wife made this remark, and the husband made a comment upon it, do just objection I think could have been made to it. By way of answer, or antidote to it, therefore, I shall subjoin two verses from Mrs. H. More's Will Chip's True Rights of Man, in opposition to the Neio lights of Man, which is in the first volume of my Collection of Songs and in my Song Book with music,
“ K. Edward IV.and the Tanner; K. Henry VIII. and “ the Cobler, &c.”—“ Both the author of the following “ bailad, and others who have written on the same plan, “ seem to have copied a very ancient poem, intitled “ John THE REEVE, which is built on an adventure of “the same kind, that happened between K. Edward " Longshanks, and one of his Reeves or Bailiffs. This " is a piece of great antiquity, being written before the “ time of Edward IV.” Reliques of Ancient English 66 Poetry, Vol. III. 3d Edn. p. 179.
To this subject, Dodsley, in writing a drama, would be naturally directed from his connection with Mans. field and Sherwood Forest, where the story of the adventure of King Henry the Second and the Miller will, in all probability, never be forgotten. Dodsley's attachment to the place of his birth is shewn in the second Canto of his Poem on Agriculture (1. 315.) where he is speaking of planting timber trees and of some of the Forests in the kingdom:
* O native Sherwood ! happy were thy bard,
A stranger to the fair Castalian springs,
At this time, when Agriculture is fashionable among the Great, it appears to me that a Collection of Poems on that subject, and others connected with it, published in a handsome manner, and at a moderate price, might be acceptable to the public; in which case Dodsley's Poem I consider as worthy of being rescued from oblivion. But should not that be the case, the present Drama is worthy of preservation on the stage, and will ever, I think, be a favourite.
In his fable Dodsley has varied considerably from his original, and probably with a desire to compliment his countryman. In the Ballad the Miller is represented in an unfavourable light. He is a poacher and treats the king with venison stolen out of his own forest; whereas Dodsley makes him one of the keepers and an honest man, preserving the deer from nightly depredators. In the song, indeed, which Dodsley had put into the mouth of Joe, and which the Miller called “ your last new « song," and which is to be considered as an illustration of the happy state of a Miller, and an exposition of his practice, he makes the Miller crib 66 without scruple from other men's sacks;" a practice highly dishonest, and not to be mentioned with complacency, nor with levity. I have, therefore, preserved the consistency of the Miller's character, and given a directly contrary turn to that verse.
All the story respecting the love of Richard and Peggy and the conduct of Lord Lurewell is the invention of the Dramatist. A difficulty here seems to present itself, especially to the dramatic and poetic historian, who gets his history from the Ballad of Fair Rosamond, from Addison's Opera of Rosamond, from Hawkins' Henry and Rosamond, and from Hull's Tragedy of Henry the Sesond, or the Fall of Rosamond, how the king, who himself lived in a state of adultery could censure and punish the conduct of Lord Lurewell. The true historian, however, receives the account of Henry's amour with Rosamond with much diffidence. Hume does not notice it, (at least not to the best of my recollection, nor do I find any trace of it by the Index) and, of other historians it may be said, that their accounts are so contradictory, that little stress, perhaps, should be laid upon it; and to give his character all possible advantage, for the effect of the piece, it shall be here laid before the reader in the words of Hume:
6 Thus died, in the fifty-eighth year of his age, and “ thirty-fifth of his reign, the greatest prince of his time w for wisdom, virtue, and abilities, and the most pow66 erful in extent of dominion of all those that had ever 66 filled the throne of England. His character, in pri. 66 vate as well as in public life, is almost without a ble6 mish; and he seems to have possessed every accomplish
“ ment, both of body and mind, which makes a man “ either estimable or amiable. He was of a middle sta" ture, strong and well proportioned; his countenance
was lively and engaging; his conversation affable and « entertaining ; his elocution easy, persuasive, and ever « at command. He loved peace, but possessed both 66 bravery and conduct in war; was provident without " timidity ; severe in the execution of justice without “ rigour; and temperate without austerity. He pre« served health, and kept himself from corpulency, to ♡ which he was somewhat inclined, by an abstemious “ diet, and by frequent exercise, particularly hunting. " When he could enjoy leisure, he recreated himself “ either in learned conversation or in reading; and he “ cultivated his natural talents by study, above any « prince of his time. His affectionis, as well as his en. “ mities, were warm and durable; and his long expe66 rience of the ingratitude and infidelity of men never « destroyed the natural sensibility of his temper, which " disposed him to friendship and society. His character " has been transmitted to us by several writers who
were his contemporaries; and it extremely resembles, 66 in its most remarkable features, that of his maternal
grandfather Henry I.: Excepting only, that ambition, us which was a ruling passion in both, found not in the " first Henry such unexceptionable measures of exerting “ itself, and pushed that prince into measures, which 6 were both criminal in themselves, and were the cause 66 of farther crimes, from which his grandson's conduct " was happily exempted.” Edn. 1807. Vol. 1. p. 464.
Of this piece and the story upon which it is founded, the Author of The Biogr. Dram. says, that the Author " has made a very pleasing use of it, and wrought it out “ into a truly dramatic conclusion. The dialogue is “ natural, yet elegant; the satire poignant, yet genteel; “ the sentimental parts such as do honour both to the “ head and heart of its author; and the catastrophe, " though simple, yet affecting, and perfectly just.” “ It had great success." (Edn. of 1812. Vol. II. p. 66 356.) Mr. Dibdin says, that it was a translated into 66 French by SEDAINE, the music hy MONSIGNY, with 6 most extraordinary success.” 66 It has ever been de“6 servedly a favourite.” (Hist of the Stage. Vol. V. p. 166.) It is to me a convincing proof that useful Satire and sentiment are perfectly compatible with humour and interest. I have seen the piece performed several times, and always with pleasure. The last time was by the Norwich Company in this place two years
The alterations which have been made, were chiefly, as in The Toy-Shop, to make the satire less indiscriminate against Courtiers and great men. Satire against the great, and indeed against any set of men, should always be dealt out with candour and caution. It is too acceptable to little minds not to be received with greediness, and should therefore be administered with a sparing hand. In these times, but more particularly a few years back, common justice has not always been shewn to those of high rank. We must pot lightly “ speak evil of dignities.” (2 Pet. II. 10.)
The copy used in prịnting has been one printed for J. Dodsley in 1780, which I have compared with the original edition of 1737, with the edition in Dodsley's Trifles, and with that in Mrs. Inchbald's Collection of Farces. But I find scarcely any variations in any of them.