The Critic, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Prologue

By the Honourable Richard Fitzpatrick

THE sister Muses, whom these realms obey,

Who o’er the drama hold divided sway,

Sometimes by evil counsellors, ’tis said,

Like earth-born potentates have been misled.

In those gay days of wickedness and wit,

When Villiers criticised what Dryden writ,

The tragic queen, to please a tasteless crowd,

Had learn’d to bellow, rant, and roar so loud,

That frighten’d Nature, her best friend before,

The blustering beldam’s company foreswore;

Her comic sister, who had wit ’tis true,

With all her merits, had her failings too:

And would sometimes in mirthful moments use

A style too flippant for a well-bred muse;

Then female modesty abash’d began

To seek the friendly refuge of the fan,

Awhile behind that slight intrenchment stood,

Till driven from thence, she left the stage for good.

In our more pious, and far chaster times,

These sure no longer are the Muse’s crimes!

But some complain that, former faults to shun,

The reformation to extremes has run.

The frantic hero’s wild delirium past,

Now insipidity succeeds bombast:

So slow Melpomene’s cold numbers creep,

Here dulness seems her drowsy court to keep,

And we are scarce awake, whilst you are fast asleep.

Thalia, once so ill-behaved and rude,

Reform’d, is now become an arrant prude;

Retailing nightly to the yawning pit

The purest morals, undefiled by wit!

Our author offers, in these motley scenes,

A slight remonstrance to the drama’s queens:

Nor let the goddesses be over nice;

Free-spoken subjects give the best advice.

Although not quite a novice in his trade,

His cause to-night requires no common aid.

To this, a friendly, just, and powerful court,

I come ambassador to beg support.

Can he undaunted brave the critic’s rage?

In civil broils with brother bards engage?

Hold forth their errors to the public eye,

Nay more, e’en newspapers themselves defy?

Say, must his single arm encounter all?

By number vanquish’d, e’en the brave may fall;

And though no leader should success distrust,

Whose troops are willing, and whose cause is just;

To bid such hosts of angry foes defiance,

His chief dependence must be, your alliance.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30