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THE EDITOR'S PREFACE.*
T REDERICK PILON, the author of the Farce of Barutaria; or, Sancho turned Governor, was born at Cork, in Ireland, in the year 1750. · At a very early age he was distinguished for his classical attainments, and a great display of abilities in oratory. Before he reached his twentieth year, he was sent to Edinburgh to study medicine; but having little relish for that science, and a great partiality for the stage, he relinquished the profession to which he had been destined by his friends, and commenced actor, at the Edinburgh Theatre, in the part of Oroonoko. To his success in this line, however, there were obstacles which) genius could not subdue, nor even industry remove; his voice was deficient in melody, and his figure wanted grace and importance, and a few trials convinced him that he could never succeed on the stage. He now felt all the consequences of his imprudence, for, having incurred the displeasure of his friends, he was deprived of other resources. He, therefore, continued to play for three or four years at the provincial theatres in the northern parts of the kingdom. At length he returned to Cork, where he appeared once on the stage, in the character of The Earl of Essex; but, yielding to the advice of some judicious friends, he abandoned a profession for which he found himself so ill-qualified.. He then repaired to London, and commenced literary adventurer. On his first arrival in the metropolis, he was engaged by Griffin, the bookseller, and then printer of the Morning Post, a daily paper, to write for that; but at the death of his employer, he lost his situation. In an Epilogue written by Keate for the First Part of
* These particulars of the Life of Pilon are taken principally from GILLILAND's Dramatic Mirror, and from The Biographia Dra., 'malica, édition 1812.
King Henry the IVth. acted at Mr. Newcome's School at Hackney, in the year 1777, The Morning Post is ce. lebrated for dealing in scandal:
“ Become a public Object-public Toast
See Keate's Poems, Vol. II. p. 255. It is curious, therefore, to see Pilon in The Invasion, the first Dramatic Piece which he brought out, in 1778, say, in the character of Brussels, " There were a few 6 squibs in the newspapers, but these are so common 6 now, that, even when they are true, nobody believes 66 them.”
A. I. S. II. Pilon next exercised his pen in occasional tracts; and, having produced A critical Essay on Hamlet, as performed by Mr. Henderson, procured the friendship and patronage of Colman. The first eight pieces which he produced, were Farces, with the exception of one, which was a Prelude, and were performed at Covent Garden. He generally caught whatever subject was floating uppermost in the public miud, and immediately adapted it to the stage: of course his pieces contained more ingepuity than correctness, more temporary entertainment than permanent humour. Of these pieces I have only read two lately, namely The Invasion, or a Trip to Brighthelmstone, mentioned before, and The Deaf Lover, acted in 1780. They are both laughable pieces, but with a considerable portion of alloy, and with very little, if any, pure metal.
Notwithstanding the success of his pieces at Covent Garden, the managers rejected the Opera of The Fair American, which was brought out at Drury Lane in 1782. It was acted with applause, but was the origin of all the author's future misfortunes, as he was prosecuted by the Composer for a specific and considerable sum for the music, and was obliged to conceal himself..
His next two pieces were performed at Covent Garden, Ærostation, a Farce, in 1784, and Barataria in 1785. In this year also he produced an alteration of Shakspeare's All's Well that ends Well, at the Haymarket. He would be a Soldier, a Comedy in five acts, was performed at Covent Garden in 1786, with great applause. I remember to have read it soon after it came out, but cannot say any thing of its merits at this distance of time, and with so very different a view of the objects of the stage to what I had at that period.
The profits arising from the success of this piece were not adequate to the wants of our author; there were deductions for money which had been long before advanced, and his former prosecutor re-commenced his lawsuit, and he was obliged to retire to France. During his absence affairs were accommodated by his friends, and he returned to England, when he married Miss Drury of Kingston in 1787, and died January 17, 1788. He was buried at Lambeth.
It is said that at his death he had almost finished a Comedy called The Ward of Chancery, which Mr. Harris purchased of his widow, and had it completed by Mr. O'Keefe, and which was brought out, in the year 1789, under the title of The Toy; or, Hampton Court Frolics: It has been since reduced into three acts by Mr. O'Keefe, under the title of The Lie of the Day; or, A Party at Hampton Court, acted at Covent Garden in 1796. · With respect to the private character of Pilon, it must be acknowledged that many of his years were spent iu the pursuit of dissipation. Those who subsist by precarious resources are often tempted to anticipate what may not afterwards be realized: thus he frequently experienced the want of that half guinea which had been given to the luxury of the preceding day; and his attachment to venison and turbot has often compelled the omissiou of a more necessary meal. His dissipation, however, was not of that kind which Johnson has ascribed to Savage-lonely, self-gratifying, and obscure. And, though he loved the luxuries and the festivity of the table; yet he would subdue bis ruling passion at the call of either friendship or necessity, and cheerfully deny himself the gratification he had intended. His conversation was not distinguished by many coruscations of wit, or brilliant effusions of the fancy; but his reasoning was clear, and his diction copious and argumentative. His knowledge of the world rendered him an agreeable companion, while the gentleness of his heart made him no less acceptable as a friend.
The attention of the Editor was first excited to consider whether the Farce of BARATARIA; OR, SANCHO TURNED GOVERNOR, was a proper piece for his Collection, by seeing, in the third chapter of that very entertaining and highly-useful little work, THE HISTORY OF BETTY Thomson, AND HER FAMILY AND NEIGHBOURS; being the First Part of A Practical Commentary on the Reports of the Society for bettering the Condition of the Poor, that the story of the Spanish labourer, Sancho “ Pança;—who got the government of an island for “ nothing; and after governing it for eight days, and “ having been hard worked, and sadly starved, found 6 the island not worth governing, and went back con6 tented to his cottage.", -was one of those stories which Mrs. Jones told to the children of her sister Betty Thomson for their amusement and instruction. I then remem. bered to have seen the Farce many years ago (I believe at Christmas 1794-5) when commanded by his Majesty at Covent-Garden Theatre. The reader will recollect the state of political opinions and parties at that time, how much those in power were traduced, and the lowest were aspiring to the stations of the highest. Probably this piece was selected by his Majesty as a useful and
good-humoured lesson to his subjects, that the office of · a Governor is not so free from cares and vexations, nor
so easily to be filled, nor so much to be coveted, as some might suppose. But, be this at it may, the Farce must ever be both amusing and instructive.
GILPIN, in his Dialogues on the Amusements of Clergymen, proposes that there should be different theatres for the higher and the lower classes, an idea in which I have ventured to differ from him, for reasons stated in my Discourses on the Stage, Notes, p. 187.