Page images

--666 gentleman of fortune took his nephew, a raw youth

666 just arrived from the country, to the Play-House. 6The piece represented happened to be the above «6 « Opera ; and so highly pleased was the old gentleman «« with it, that in the course of the performance he « could not help repeatedly exclaiming, in the hear“ ing of his nephew,“ Were I a young fellow, and

reduced to my shifts, the character of Macheath 666 should be mine." If the uncle was pleased, the ne

666 phew was transported with what he saw and heard ; .666 and eagerly imbibing the baneful sentiment so unco guardedly dropped by the former, he treasured it up 66° in his heart. What was the result of it?-Alas! the 666 following letter gives but too dreadful an explana«6tion. It is a genuine copy (names excepted) of the « 6 original, now in my possession, as sent to me by « « the above unhappy lad, while he laboured under 66 every anguish that a heart of sensibility-a heart 66 which (though still inclined to virtue) has yet been " " hurried-into the last extremity, vice and its atten" dant, guilt, can possibly experience.”

66 That it may convey a striking lesson to the young 666 and inexperienced, who have but lately fixed, or "! who intend soon to fix their abode in London, is the 66 ardent wish of,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


'*Acignon, **Ah! my ever dear and venerable friend! « « Friend! alas! I have rendered myself unworthy of

that appellation; and even the recollection of the · « « virtues of Honorio enhances the misery of the hap46. less Altamont.'”

«« « Would to God, my friend, I had never left the * ¢ ¢ blissful plains of B , or at least had never - 666 visited that mass of foul villainy and pollution, the

66" Town.--Hardly had I set foot in London, when 666 Acasto, my worthy and ever-to-be-lamented uncle, (6 6 conducted me to the Play-House; and it is from 566 that period that I ought to date my ruin.”

66 • The Beggar's Opera was the piece performed, and 666 to such a pitch was the deluded Acasto captivated with 666 the piece, that he scrupled not openly to defend the 66-6-most vicious sentiments, and abandoned characters 66 bin that baneful drama. He even dared, in the gaiety 66.of his heart to justify the most atrocious deeds which 166 a desperate highwayman could commit, when im. 66.6 pelled to it by necessity. Alas! could. we have 666 thought that he was himself to atone with his life for «« this doctrine? fraught with destruction, and un66.6 guardedly insinuated in the hearing of a youth unac. 666 quainted with the world, yet naturally fond of (66 pleasure, and eager for the means of gratifying it? 66-6 Ah! no, he could not think that Altamont, the 66.6 child of his heart, was destined to be his mure 66.6 derer !" - 66 « Enamoured as I was of dissipation, it was not long 66 before I became a slave to the passions of the aban66 doned Florella'; and though I knew her soul to be 65,equally prostituted as her body, yet I thought her 56.6 smilės cheaply purchased with the last shilling of my 666 little fortune. What was now to be done?-One 666 demand was only a preface to another--the horrors 66-6 of a gaol baunted me whithersoever I went.Florella' 66 (was insolently clamorous for a renewal of my former 16.6. profusion-she upbraided me for want of spirit

666 called me niggardly poltroon,--and, in short; plainly: * 66-6 ivrsinuated,' that if I could not support her by fair

66.6 means, I inust either do it by foul, or never see her:

666 more.

“ Not see Florellà more! The thậught was death. .666 Nor did I close my eyes, till providing myself with a : «6 mask, and the other implements of the road, I sal. .

e lied forth in quest of a booty.In crossing the wood: 16 6 in the neighbourhood of M , whom should I 666 meet but, gracious God! support me while I re666 peat it! -my honoured uncle, Acasto !-Trembling 66 with confusion, and surrounded with darkness, I 66.6 knew not who it was, till I had thrown him by his « 6 venerable grey hairs to the ground. It was now, I " 6 thought, too late to retreat. With mad precipitation 6° I accordingly plunged my dagger into his breast. " Unable before to withdraw from conscious guilt and 666 shame, remorse and tenderness now rivetted me to 666 the spot ; nor did I stir from the fatal scene of blood, 666 till having thrown aside my mask, with his dying «« breath, he declared that he knew me, that he forgave me, and that he implored salvation for my 66. guilty soul.

" Since this fatal adventure I have sojourned in this (6 6 place, a wretch unworthy to live, yet a villain unfit 66*6 to die; nor have I heard more of the detestable Flo“ rella since, but that she still triumphs in the capital 666 of England, the infamous favourite of the votaries of « lewdness, dissipation, and of every infernal vice.

66 • Cease not, oh! Honorio-thou friend of my youth «(while that youth was innocent) to pray for «6 « The undone and miserable

666 ALTAMONT.« Such," adds Mr. Simpson, « is the tendency, and “ such the triumphs of the Stage !" An exclamation equally applicable to the story before mentioned by Mr. Ross, and both together very forcibly proving, that the Stage, properly conducted, may be of great service to mankind; but, directed to bad objects, is of a tendency highly pernicious..

As to the question, whether this story is the foundation of the Tragedy, that is easily settled. The Beggar's Operá was first acted at the Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1728, and George Barnwell was first acted in 1731. There does not, therefore, appear to have been time for the events mentioned to have taken place, even were there not the old Ballad and the circumstance before mentioned (p. 315) existing to fix the story to a much earlier period. The dates of these letters should have been given, and the work mentioned in which they were originally inserted. It appears to me, to be a story built upon the play of George Barnwell, rather than as having given rise to the play. The account, if true, proves the very pernicious tendency of The Beggar's Opera.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


At p. 254 of my Preface to Douglas, I have said that“ “ When the play was performed at Lady De Crespigny's “ Private Theatre at Camberwell, in the year 1790, she “ altered it to save the lives of Lady Randolph and her «6 son."

Wishing much to see that alteration. I applied to Lady De C. through a friend, for the perusał of it; and for permission to print it, should it appear to me to be de- -sirable. This request was complied with in the most obliging manner; and I have now the pleasure of laying it before the reader and the performer, who may adopt, either one or the other conclusion of the play, as may appear to him the best.

Mr. Pye, in the xwith chapter of his Commentary Ilu'. lustrating the Poetic of Aristotle, Note VN.: p. 268,4 seems to prefer a happy ending to Douglas, and alludes most probably to this::.66 The catastrophe of King Lear : « and of Douglas are both derived from accident. Tate • “ has altered the first by making the mossenger arrive · “ only an instant sooner in the prison; in the original : « he comes time enough to save the king. The other “ may be altered, and I believe has been on a private " theatre, by making Douglas turn a moment sooner on : " Glenalvon.” Had I received this alteration sooner, I : should have printed it in tbe place of the other conclusion, , reserving that for the Appendix. The printing two terminations to the same play is a thing not altogether i without precedent. Sir John Suckling so contrived his · Aglaura, that, by means of an alteration in the fifth . act, it might be performed' either as a tragic-comedy, or. a perfect tragedy. Sir Robert Howard wrote two fifth acts to his Vestal Virgin, the one of which ends' tra-

« PreviousContinue »