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If the reader will have the kindness, and at the same time, the patience, to compare the predictions and the observations, as well as the circumstances in connection with them, detailed in these Volumes, with the result exemplified in the preface, he will, at least, be “perplexed in the extreme,” to use no stronger term.
It is a matter of great gratification to me to perceive the advantage of the plan upon which this production was originally undertaken, and has throughout been conducted-- that of relying on facts, rather than trusting to fiction, and supporting argument by document. There is no possibility of refuting the various authorities cited which are interspersed throughout these pages, the records and letters inserted, the opinions quoted, and the judgments delivered, because the litera scripta can at any time be seen by all. I have not indulged in any extravagant theory arising out of an overheated imagination; but have preferred backing the calm reflection of a very long experience with the sobered opinions of sundry wiser people than myself. The many impressions opposite to mine own, with which I have had to contend, emanate from persons who, for the most part, prefer giving utterance to the speculations in which inexperience is sure to indulge, rather than listening to the arguments of more practised, and therefore more able disputants; and who stoutly maintain that interest invariably disseats judgment, and sets up prejudice in its stead. A
man interested in theatrical affairs ought to be, to my poor way of thinking, better able to argue upon the construction of them, than those in no one way connected therewith ; unless, indeed, he has taken altogether to wearing the cap and bells. Without ever dreaming of being deemed more learned than the generality of my fellow creatures, I nevertheless cannot quite consent to be set down for
“ A fool whose bells have ceased to ring at all;"
and what remnant of intelligence, therefore, is left me I have endeavoured to impart to others.
I have repeatedly been questioned, during the progress of my undertaking, as
to its general nature; with the invariable conclusion, “ so you are writing your life, I find.” Thousands in this world profess to “find” what yet was never “ lost;" and to that class of people I have invariably and truly replied, “ I am dealing with the lives of other people, rather than with my own.” It has been as erroneously imagined, that, as I professed to tell “ the secrets of the prison house," every one of my leaves would teem with scandal and libel. That
prejudices should be entertained against me by those who have already entertained so many, was naturally to be expected ;—that was not a matter of much moment ; nor was it altogether unnatural to suppose, that with abundant knowledge of the private histories of all I had to deal with, I should take an opportunity of
paying back the unblushing falsehoods, and countless calumnies, many of them have from time to time heaped upon me. But, in the first place, such a proceeding would proclaim myself to be almost as shameless as themselves; and, in the next place, it would be introducing unworthy matter, amongst what, I hope, will be found to be useful information. There will be plenty of time, should they afford me plenty of opportunity, to resort to acerbities and personalities ; at present they could not further my object. At the memorable interview between His Majesty George III. and Doctor Johnson, the King, referring to the controversy between Warburton and Lowth, asked Johnson what he thought of it; the latter remarked, “ Warburton has most
general, Lowth most scholastic, learning; Lowth " is the more correct scholar. I do not know which of “ them calls names best." The King was of the same opinion, and added, “ You do not think then, Doctor “ Johnson, that there was much argument in the case;" and when Johnson said he did not think there was, the King observed, CALLING NAMES,' argument is pretty well at an end!" On so much more humble a subject than the learned disputation here alluded to, I have presumed to act upon the judgment of the good old King; and shall, therefore, undoubtedly disappoint those who, being scandalous themselves, delight in the scandal they hear against another.
I might have made a very diverting book, as far as the power thereof within me lies, had it consisted solely
of green-room cancans, or had it related only to the private indiscretions of public people. I might have told the whole truth to those who have only dealt in falsehood with me; but I prefer leaving them where they are—it will be time enough to take up such a traffic as that, when the dealers in it have recourse again to its practice.
The first circumstance to which I would direct particular attention, indeed the great object which I struggled so long and so hard to attain, and for the attainment of which I devoted so much time and paid so much money, has been accomplished the abolition of the absurd restrictions, during Lent, placed upon theatres within the jurisdiction of the Lord Chamberlain. Letters not a year old, with documents and controversies of the same date, will be found in the ensuing chapters, giving a full detail of the indignation of the Ministers of the Crown at the idea of that boon being asked for, which, since I recorded it, those self-same Ministers have conceded. Mr. Duncombe, the honourable mover in the House of Commons, was, session after session, assailed for his sacrilegious attempt to disturb the sanctity of the season, or rather his desire to make the enjoyment of it general. As for the unfortunate Lessee, some idea of impaling him alive was entertained-nothing else could be thought of for such an offending varlet, who had carried his attempt at reform in this matter so far, that he had set at nought the prerogative of the Crown, and hurled defiance in the face of Her Majesty's Ministers.
“ Seeing what I have seen, seeing what I now see," it would be a matter of some amusement to him, if the Noble Secretary for our Colonies would have the kindness to compare his Parliamentary oration of the 12th of March, 1839, with the documents I shall now have the pleasure of introducing. As the period of Lent, in this present year, 1840, was nearly at hand, Mr. Duncombe, bent upon carrying the object of his former solicitude into effect, took a course somewhat differing from his first, but in reality only preparatory to, the one he had in previous sessions adopted. He addressed the Lord Chamberlain direct, and the answer he obtained from that noble functionary, which reflects such honor on his Lordship, was so satisfactory as to render any further observation unnecessary. The letter, and the reply to it, are herewith subjoined:
“ The Albany, Feb. 4, 1810. « MY LORD, “ The numerous and respectable applications that have been made to me, in
consequence of the part I took in the House of Commons during the last Session of Parliament, upon the subject of theatrical performances in Lent, 'will, I hope, be a sufficient apology for my troubling your Lordship upon the present occasion.
“ It is stated to me, that although it was universally understood, and agreed to last year, ' That no greater restrictions ought to be placed upon theatrical entertuinments during Lent within the City of West