Page images
PDF
EPUB

With beaming lustre see they dart at thee;

Ah! dread their vengeance—yet withhold thy hand,— That deep'ning blush upbraids thy rash decree; Her's is the wreath-obey the just demand.

"Pardon, bright nymph," (the wond'ring Silvio cries) "And oh, receive the wreath thy beauty's due"His voice awards what still his hand denies,

For beauteous Amoret* now his eyes pursue.

With gentle step and hesitating grace,

Unconscious of her pow'r the fair one came; If, while he view'd the glories of that face,

Poor Silvio doubted,-who shall dare to blame?

A rosy blush his ardent gaze reprov'd,

The offer'd wreath she modestly declined;"If sprightly wit and dimpled smiles are lov'd, "My brow," said Flavia,† "shall that garland bind,”

With wanton gaiety the prize she seized--
Silvio in vain her snowy hand repell'd;
The fickle youth unwillingly was pleas'd,
Reluctantly the wreath he yet withheld.
But Jessie's all seducing form appears,

Nor more the playful Flavia could delight;
Lovely in smiles, more lovely still in tears,

Her every glance shone eloquently bright.
Those radiant eyes in safety none could view,

Did not those fringed lids their brightness shade----
Mistaken youths! their beams, too late ye knew,
Are by that soft defence more fatal made.

"O God of Love!" with transport Silvio cries,
"Assist me thou, this contest to decide;
"And since to one I cannot yield the prize,

"Permit thy slave the garland to divide.

-

"On Myra's breast the opening rose shall blow,

"Reflecting from her cheek a livelier bloom; "For Stella shall the bright carnation glow-

"Beneath her eyes' bright radiance meet its doom.

"Smart pinks and daffodils shall Flavia grace,
"The modest eglantine and violet blue
"On gentle Amoret's placid brow I'll place-
"Of elegance and love an emblem true."

In gardens oft a beauteous flow'r there grows,
By vulgar eyes unnotic'd and unseen;

* Mrs. (afterwards Lady) Crewe.

Lady Craven, afterwards Margravine of Anspach
The late Countess of Jersey,

In sweet security it humbly blows,

And rears its purple head to deck the green.

This flower, as nature's poet sweetly sings,

Was once milk-white, and heart's-ease was its name:
Till wanton Cupid pois'd his roseate wings,
A vestal's sacred bosom to inflame.

With treacherous aim the god his arrow drew,
Which she with icy coldness did repel;
Rebounding thence with feathery speed it flew,
Till on this lonely flow'r at last it fell.

Heart's-ease no more the wandering shepherds found,
No more the nymphs its snowy form possess,
Its white now chang'd to purple by Love's wound,
Heart's-ease no more, 'tis "Love in Idleness."

"This flow'r with sweet-brier join'd, shall thee adorn,
"Sweet Jessie, fairest 'mid ten thousand fair!
"But guard thy gentle bosom from the thorn,

"Which, tho' conceal'd, the sweet-brier still must bear.

"And place not Love, tho' idle, in thy breast,

"Tho' bright its hues, it boasts no other charm"So may thy future days be ever blest,

"And friendship's calmer joys thy bosom warm!"

But where does Laura pass her lonely hours?

Does she still haunt the grot and willow-tree? Shall Silvio from his wreath of various flow'rs

Neglect to cull one simple sweet for thee?

"Ah Laura, no," the constant Silvio cries,
"For thee a never-fading wreath I'll twine,
"Though bright the rose, its bloom too swiftly flies,
"No emblem meet for love so true as mine.

"For thee, my love, the myrtle, ever-green,

"Shall every year its blossom sweet disclose, Which, when our spring of youth no more is seen, "Shall still appear more lovely than the rose."

[ocr errors]

"Forgive, dear youth," the happy Laura said,

"Forgive each doubt, each fondly anxious fear, "Which from my heart for ever now is fled-

"Thy love and truth, thus tried, are doubly dear.

“ With pain I mark'd the various passions rise,
"When beauty so divine before thee mov'd;
"With trembling doubt beheld thy wandering eyes,
"For still I fear'd;-alas! because I lov'd.

"Each anxious doubt shall Laura now forego,
"No more regret those joys so lately known,

Conscious, that tho' thy breast to all may glow,
"Thy faithful heart shall beat for her alone.

"Then, Silvio, seize again thy tuneful lyre,
"Nor yet sweet Beauty's power forbear to praise ;
Again let charms divine thy strains inspire,
"And Laura's voice shall aid the poet's lays."

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER V.

The School for Scandal.

MR. SHERIDAN was nów approaching the summit of his dramatic fame ;-he had already produced the best opera in the language, and there now remained for him the glory of writing also the best comedy. As this species of composition seems, more, perhaps, than any other, to require that knowledge of human nature and the world which experience alone can give, it seems not a little extraordinary that nearly all our first-rate comedies should have been the productions of very young men. Those of Congreve were all written before he was five-and-twenty. Farquhar produced the Constant Couple in his two-and-twentieth year, and died at thirty. Vanbrugh was a young ensign when he sketched out the Relapse and the Provoked Wife, and Sheridan crowned his reputation with the School for Scandal at six-and-twenty.

It is, perhaps, still more remarkable to find, as in the instance before us, that works which, at this period of life, we might suppose to have been the rapid offspring of a careless, but vigorous fancy,-anticipating the results of experience by a sort of second-sight inspiration,-should, on the contrary, have been the slow result of many and doubtful experiments, gradually unfolding beauties unforeseen even by him who produced them, and arriving, at length, step by step, at perfection. That such was the tardy process by which the School for Scandal was produced, will appear from the first sketches of its plan and dialogue, which I am here enabled to lay before the reader, and which cannot fail to interest deeply all those who take delight in tracing the alchemy of genius, and in watching the first slow workings of the menstruum, out of which its finest transmutations arise.

"Genius," says Buffon, "is Patience;" or, as (another French writer has explained his thought)-"La Patience cherche, et le Génie trouve ;" and there is little doubt that to the co-operation of these two powers all the brightest inventions of this world are owing;--that Patience must first explore the depths where the pearl lies hid, before Genius boldly dives and brings it up full into light. There are, it is true, some striking exceptions to this rule and our own times have witnessed more than one extraordinary intellect, whose depth has not prevented their treasures from lying ever ready within reach. But the records of Immortality furnish few such instances; and all we know of the works, that she has hitherto marked with her seal, sufficiently authorize the general position, that nothing great and durable has ever been produced with ease, and that Labour is the parent of all the lasting wonders of this world, whether in verse or stone, whether poetry or pyramids.

The first Sketch of the School for Scandal that occurs was written, I am inclined to think, before the Rivals, or at least very soon after it ;--and that it was his original intention to satirize some of the gossips of Bath appears from the title under which I find noted down, as follows, the very first hints, probably, that suggested themselves for the dialogue.

"THE SLANDERERS.-A Pump Room Scene.

"Friendly caution to the newspapers.

"It is whispered—

"She is a constant attendant at church, and very frequently takes Dr. M'Brawn home with her.

Mr. Worthy is very good to the girl ;—for my part, I dare swear he has no ill intention.

"What! Major Wesley's Miss Montague?

"Lud, ma'am, the match is certainly broke-no creature knows the cause; some say a flaw in the lady's character, and others, in the gentleman's fortune.

"To be sure they do say

"I hate to repeat what I hear.

"She was inclined to be a little too plump before she went. "The most intrepid blush ;-I've known her complexion to stand fire for an hour together.

"She had twins,'-How ill-natured! as I hope to be saved, ma'am, she had but one; and that a little starved brat not worth mentioning."

The following is the opening scene of his first sketch, from which it will be perceived that the original plot was

wholly different from what it is at present,--Sir Peter and Lady Teazle being at that time not yet in existence.

"LADY SNEERWELL and SPATTER.

66

Lady S. The paragraphs, you say, were all inserted.
Spat. They were, madam.

66

66

Lady S. Did you circulate the report of Lady Brittle's intrigue with Captain Boastall?

66

Sput. Madam, by this, Lady Brittle is the talk of half the town; and in a week will be treated as a demirep.

66

Lady S. What have you done as to the innuendo of Miss Nicely's fondness for her own footman?

"Spat. 'Tis in a fair train, ma'am. I told it to my hair-dresser, -he courts a milliner's girl in Pall Mall, whose mistress has a first cousin who is waiting-woman to Lady Clackit. I think in about fourteen hours it must reach Lady Clackit, and then you know the business is done.

66

Lady S. But is that sufficient, do you think?

-

"Spat. O Lud, ma'am, I'll undertake to ruin the character of the primmest prude in London with half as much. Ha! ha! Did your ladyship never hear how poor Miss Shepherd lost her lover and her character last summer at Scarborough? this was the whole of it. One evening at Lady -'s, the conversation happened to turn on the difficulty of breeding Nova Scotia sheep in England.— 'I have known instances,' says Miss 'for last spring a friend of mine, Miss Shepherd of Ramsgate, had a Nova Scotia Sheep that produced her twins.'- What!' cries the old deaf dowager Lady Bowlwell, has Miss Shepherd of Ramsgate been brought to bed of twins? This mistake, as you may suppose, set the company a laughing. However, the next day, Miss Verjuice Amarilla Lonely, who had been of the party, talking of Lady Bowlwell's deafness, began to tell what had happened; but, unluckily, forgetting to say a word of the sheep, it was understood by the company, and, in every circle, many believed that Miss Shepherd of Ramsgate had actually been brought to bed of a fine boy and a girl; and, in less than a fortnight, there were people who could name the father, and the farm-house where the babies were put out to nurse.

"Lady S. Ha! ha! well, for a stroke of luck, it was a very good one. I suppose you find no difficulty in spreading the report on the censorious Miss -·

66

Spat. None in the world,—she has always been so prudent and reserved, that every body was sure there was some reason for it at bottom.

"Lady S. Yes, a tale of scandal is as fatal to the credit of a prude as a fever to those of the strongest constitutions; but there is a sort of sickly reputation that outlives hundreds of the robuster character of a prude.

"Spat. True, maʼam, there are valetudinarians in reputation as in constitutions; and both are cautious from their appreciation and consciousness of their weak side, and avoid the least breath of air.*

This is one of the many instances, where the improving effect

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »