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No. 335. TUESDAY, MARCII 25.
Respicere exemplar vitæ morumque jubebo
Hor. Ars Poct. 827.
My friend Sir Roger de Coverley, when we last met together at the club, told me, that he had a great mind to sec the new tragedy with me,' assuring me at the same time, that he had not
* This was "The Distressed Mother,” by Ambrose, otherwise "Pastoral” Philips ; and, as it was advertised in the above number of the “Spectator" to be performed for the sixth time, Sir Roger must be supposed to have witnessed its fifth performance. The “first night” is thus announced in the “Spectator” and in the “Daily Courant” of 17th March, 1712.
“By desire of several ladies of Quality; by Her Majesty's Company of Comedians:
“At the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, this present Monday being 17th March, will be presented a new Tragedy called
“THE DISTRESSED MOTHER, "(By Her Majesty's command no person will be admitted behind the scenes.) "Pyrrhus, Mr. Booth.
Andromache, Mrs. Oldfield.
Cleone, Mrs. Cox.” Addison had a strong friendship for Philips, and took extraordinary pains, first to get his friend's play upon the stage, and next to make it succeed; for, according to Spence, he caused the house to be packed on the first night. No. 280 of the “Spectator” contains a puff preliminary.
Whoever dips into this turgid translation of Racine's “Andromache” will be much amused at the green-room grief it is said to have drawn forth. Like many a worse play, some of its success was occasioned by the epilogue as delivered by Mrs. Oldfield. “This was the most successful composition of the kind ever yet," says Johnson, "spoken on the English theatre. The first three nights it was recited twice; and not only continued to be demanded through the run, as it is termed, of the play, but whenever it is recalled to the stage—where by peculiar fortune, though been at a play these twenty years. The last I saw, said Sir Roger, was the Committee, which I should not have gone to neither, had I not been told before-hand that it was a good Church of England comedy.' He then proceeded to inquire of
a copy from the French, it keeps its place—the epilogue is still expected and still spoken." Its reputed author was Budgell; but when Addison was asked how such a silly fellow could write so well? he replied, "The epilogue was quite another thing when I saw it first.” Tonson published the play; and when it was first printed, Addison's name appeared to the epilogue ; but happening to come into the shop early in the morning when the copies were to be issued, he ordered the credit of it to be given to Budgell “ that it might add weight to the solicitation which he was then making for a place.” This story was told to Garrick by a member of the Tonson family. The prologue was by Steele. V. vol. i. p. 219.
* This comedy, written by Sir Robert Howard, was popular so early as 1663. Perys, in his diary of that year, under June 12, writes—“To the Theatre Royal, and there saw the Committee,' a merry but indifferent play; only Lacy's part, an Irish footman, is beyond imagination.” Posterity has not ratified Pepys's criticism as to the “indifference” of the “Committee,” for it kept possession of the stage in one form or another till very lately. The part of Teague was always the greatest favourite, and gave to the comedy the second title of "The Faithful Irishman.” After Lacy it was filled with most applause by Leigh, whom Charles the Second called" his comedian:” Griffin and Bowman respectively succeeded to it, and then the sponsor of the well-known jest-book, Joe Miller; of whom a mezzotint likeness as Teague is still extant. The “ Committee," cut down to a farce, was till lately played under the title of “Honest Thieves."
Much of its earlier celebrity was due to the political allusions in which the “Committee” abounds—to its being, in the words of Sir Roger, “a good Church-of-England play.” Sir R. Howard wrote it to satirise, in the character of Obadiah, the proceedings of the Roundheads; and, at the faintest dawn of religious excitement, its announcement in the play-bills was, even in Sir Roger’s time, sure to attract large audiences. Some fiveand-twenty years before, when James the Second attempted to inflict popery upon Oxford, an interpolation by Leigh—who was playing Teague in that city-caused an intense commotion. The head of University College, Walker (whose first name was the same as that of the chief part in the play-Obadiah), had gone so far, in obedience to the wishes of the king, as to introduce popish rites, and to turn his College into a Catholic seminary. This brought upon him great indignation, a tremendous burst
me who this Distressed Mother was; and upon hearing that she was Hector's widow, he told me that her husband was a bravo man, and that when he was a school-boy he had read his life at the end of the Dictionary. My friend asked me, in the next place, if there would not be some danger in coming home late, in case the Mohocks should be abroad.' 'I assure you (says he), I
of which was vented after Leigh's exploit:-towards the end of the comedy Teague has to haul in Obadiah with a halter about his neck and to threaten to hang him for refusing to drink the king's health. “Here,' says Coiley Cibber, “ Leigh, to justify his purpose with a stronger provocation, put himself into a more than ordinary heat with his captive; and, having heightened- his master's curiosity to know what Obadiah had done to deserve such usage, Leigh, folding his arms with a ridiculous stare of aston replied: 'Upon my shoul, he has shange hi ligion!'" The allusion was caught up and ran round like wild fire: the theatre was suddenly in an uproar of applause. The play was stopped. Some of the audience rushed from the house, in open riot, to revile Obadiah Walker under his own windows. Afterwards lampoons abounded, and satirical ballads were publicly sung: the most popular of which began:
* Old Obadiah
Sings Ave Maria." This adventure was the first intimation the king received of the disaffection of his Oxford subjects to the popish proceedings he had set on foot there. He caused Leigh to be severely reprimanded; and, for fear of the worst, sent down a regiment of dragoons to keep the Protestant “ town and gown” in check. It is not impossible that Addison may have assisted in this riot, for he had entered as a student at Queen's College about a year before it happened.
"It had been for many previous years the favourite amusement of dissolute young men, to form themselves into clubs and associations for the cowardly pleasure of fighting, and sometimes maiming harmless pedes trians, and even defenceless women. They took various slang designations. At the Restoration, they were Muns and Tityre-Tus; then Hectors and Scourers ; * later still, Nickers (whose delight it was to smash windows with showers of halfpence), Hawkabites, and lastly Mohocks. These last took their title from “a sort of cannibals in India, who subsist by plunder
* Pish, this is nothing. Why, I knew the Hectors, and before them the Muns and Títyre-Tus; they were brave fellows indeed. In those days a man could not go from the Rose Tavern to the Piazza once, but he must venture his life twice.”—The Scourere, by Shadwell.
thought I had fallen into their hands last night; for I observed two or three lusty black men that followed me half way up
Fleetstreet, and mended their pace behind me, in proportion as I put
ing and devouring all the nations about them.” * Nor was the designation inapt; for if there was one sort of brutality on which they prided themselves more than another, it was in tattooing; or slashing people's faces with, as Gay wrote, “new invented wounds." Their other exploits were quite ns bavage as those of their predecessors, although they aimed at dashing their mischief with wit and originality. They began the evening at their clubs, by drinking to excess, in order to infiame what little courage they possessed. They then sallied forth sword in hand. Some enacted the part of “dancing-masters” by thrusting their rapiers between the legs of sober citizens in such a fashion as to make them cut the most grotesque capers. The hunt spoken of by Sir Roger was commenced by a "view hallo!” and as soon as the savage pack had run down their victim, they surrounded him, and formed a circle with the points of their swords. One gave him a puncture in the rear which naturally made him wheel about, then came a prick from another, and so they kept him spinning like a top till in their mercy they chose to let him go free. An adventure of this kind is narrated in No. 332 of of the “Spectator.”
Another savage diversion was thrusting women into barrels and rolling them down Snow or Ludgate Hill: Gay sings:
their mischiefs done
TRIRIA. At the date of the present “Spectator" the outrages of the Mohocks were so intolerable, that they became the subject of a royal proclamation issued on the 18th of March, just a week before Sir Roger's visit to Drury Lane. Swift—who was horribly afraid of them—mentions some of their villapies. He writes two days previously that “two of the Mohocks caught a maid of old Lady Winchelsea's at the door of her house in the Park with a candle, and had just lighted out somebody. They cut all her face, avd beat her without any provocation."
The proclamation had little effect. On the very day after our party went to the play, we find Swift exclaiming—"They go on still, and cut people's faces every night! but they shan't cut mine ;-I like it better as it is."
** Spectator," No. 824.
on to go away from them.
You must know, (continued the knight with a smile,) I fancied they had a mind to hunt me: for I remember an honest gentleman in my neighbourhood, who was served such a trick in King Charles the Second's time; for which reason he has not ventured himself in town ever since. I might have shewn them very good sport, had this been their design ; for as I am an old Fox-hunter, I should have turned and dodged, and have played them a thousand tricks they had never seen in their lives before.' Sir Roger added, that if these gentlemen had any such intention, they did not succeed very well in it; for I threw them out, (says he,) at the end of Norfolk-street, where I doubled the corner, and got shelter in my lodgings before they could imagine what was become of me. However (says the knight), if Captain Sentry will make one with us tomorrow night, and if you will both of you call upon me about four o'clock, that we may be at the house before it is full, I will have my own coach in readiness to attend you, for John tells me he has got the fore.wheels mended.' The captain, who did not fail to meet me there at the
appointed hour, bid Sir Roger fear nothing, for that he had put on the same sword which he made use of at the battle of Steenkirk.'
* This battle was remarkable in the annals of fashion for giving the name to a modish neck-cloth. At the beginning of August, 1692, while William the Third was in Flanders at the head of the allies, he discovered an enemy's spy in his camp; and to facilitate a project of surprising the French, His Majesty caused him to give his master false information. The king then set upon the enemy at day-break, while they were asleep, and routed them. The French generals, however, rallied and formed their troops on favourable ground, turned the tables, and finally conquered. The allies were so crest-fallen and disunited by this defeat, that William broke up the campaign, and retired to England. The French were as much elated. Their generals--amongst whom were the Prince de Condé and the Duke of Vendôme--were received in Paris with acclamation, and the roads were lined with jubilants. The petits maitres shared in the general exultation; and, although at that time it was their pride to ar