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In gardens oft a beauteous flow'r there grows,
By vulgar eyes unnotic'd and unseen; 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.
Which she with icy coldness did repel;
Till on this lonely flow'r at last it fell.
No more the nymphs its snowy form possess ,
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 most 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, nu,” the constant Silvio cries,
“For thee an ever-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. “ 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; u With trembling doubt beheld thy wandering eyes,
" For still I fear'd ;-alas! because I lov'd. Each anxious doubt sball 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.
MR. Sheridan was now 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 secondsight 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 limes 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 authorise 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 satirise 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 gentlemen's fortune.
"To be sure they do say-
“The most intrepid blush ;—I've known her complexion 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 S. The paragraphs, you say, were all inserted. · Spat. They were,
madam. * Lady S. Did
you circulate the report of Lady Brittle's intrigue with Captain Boastall ?
Spat. Madam, by this Lady Brittle is the talk of half the town; and in a week will be treated as a demirep.
“ Lady S. What have you done as to the inuendo of Miss Niceley's fondness for her own footman ?
“ Spat. 'Tis in a fair train, ma'am I told it to my hair-dresser,-lte 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. “Lady S. But is that sufficient, do
think? ‘Spat. O Lud, ma'am, I'll undertake to ruin the character of the primest. prude in Londou with half as much. Ka! 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- . ?
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, ma’am, 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'.
“Lady S. But, Spatter, I have something of greater confidence now to entrust you with. I think I have some claim to your gratitude.
Spat. Have I ever shown myself one moment unconscious of what I owe you?
Lady S. I do not charge you with it, but this is an affair of importance. You are acquainted with my situation, but not all my weaknesses. I was hurt, in the early part of my life, by the envenomed tongue of scandal, and ever since, I own, have no joy but in sullying the fame of others. In this I have found you an apt tool : you have often been the instrument of my revenge, but you must now assist me in a softer passion. A young widow with a little beauty and easy fortune is seldom
This is one of the many instances, where the improving effect of revision may be traced. The passage at present stands thus :-“There are valetudinarians in reputation as well as constitution; who , being conscious of their weak part, avoid the least breath of air, and supply the want of stamina by care and cir. cumspection.
driven to sue,-yet is that my case. Of the many you have seen here, have you ever observed me, secretly, to favour one?
“Spat. Egad! I never was more posed : I'm sure you cannot mean that ridiculous old knight, Sir Christopher Crab ?
Lady S. A wretch! his assiduities are my torment. “Spat. Perhaps his nephew, the baronet, Sir Benjamin Backbite, is the happy man?
“Lady S. No, though he has ill-nature and a good person on his side, he is not to my taste. What think you of Clerimont" ?
“Spat. How! the professed lover of your ward, Maria ; between whom, too, there is a mutual affection.
Lady S. Yes, that insensible, that doater on an idiot, is the man. “Spat. But how can you hope to succeed ? Lady S. By poisoning both with jealousy of the other, till the eredulous fool, in a pique, shall be entangled in my snare. “Spat. Have you taken any measure for it ?
Lady S. I have. Maria has made me the confidente of Clerimont's love for her : in return, I pretended to entrust her with my
affection for Sir Benjamin ; who is her warm admirer. By strong representation of my passion , I prevailed on her not to refuse to see Sir Benjamin, which she once promised Clerimont to do. I entreated her to plead my cause, and even drew her in to answer Sir Benjamin's letters with the same intent. Of this I have made Clerimont suspicious; but 'tis you must inflame him to the pitch I want.
“Spat. But will not Maria, on the least unkindness of Clerimont, instantly come to an explanation ?
“ Lady S. This is what we must prevent by blinding
The scene that follows, between Lady Sneerwell and Maria, gives some insight into the use that was to be made of this intricate groundwork ?; and it was, no doubt, the difficulty of managing such an involvement of his personages dramatically, that drove him, luckily for the world, to the construction of a simpler, and, at the same time, more comprehensive plan. He might also, possibly, have been influenced by the consideration, that the chief movement of this plot must depend upon the jealousy of the lover,-a spring of interest which he had already brought sufficiently into play in the Rivals.
Lady Sneerwell. Well, my love, have you seen Clerimont to-day? “Maria. I have not, nor does he come as often as he used. Indeed, madam, I fear what I have done to serve you has by some means come to
"Afterwards called Florival.
“ Act. II. Scene 1st. All.--2nd. Lady S. and Mrs. C.--3d. Lady S. * * and Em. and Mrs. C. listening.–4th. L. S. and Flor. shows him into the room ,-bids him return the other way.-L. S, and Emma.--Emma and Florival ;-fits, maid. --Emma fainting and sobbing:--- Death, don't expose me!'--enter maid , - will call ont—all come in with cards and smelling-bottles.”