“ Doubtless you wonder what gave rise to this resolution, and suspect Brennan's comedy rejected; but 't is not so; they promise to play it next March, but for fear it should be then neglected, or that the lateness of the season should prevent its taking, we resolve to bring it on immediately, vi et armis, against Sheridan's will; which is to be thus effected.

“ There is one Dr. Hiffernan, a poet, philosopher, and play-wright in this town, who stirred up by hatred to Sheridan as manager, and as we suspect by the rejection of a play he offered to the stage, is purposed to oppose and pull down that tyrant's pride. By his acquaintance with Victor* this Hiffernan got the reading of the Lawsuit t, and was told Burke was the author, which is implicitly believed by Sally Cotterf to whom he told it, and by whose means we came to know him.

“Ned (Edmund) Burke some time since wrote a paper called Punch’s Petition to Mr. Sheridan for admission into the theatre, which coming into Cotter's hands he showed it to Hiffernan who

persuaded him to publish it, telling him he thought it a humorous, sharp piece. The notion of its going to the press alarmed us for fear it might hurt Brennan if there were any suspicion of

* Afterwards author of the History of the Theatres of London and Dublin; and then, it is believed, prompter of the Dublin Theatre.

† The play no doubt of Brennan's, previously alluded to. I See page 81. vol. i.


Burke's being the author. This sent us to Cotter's to delay its publication, where I met Hiffer

After some chat Sally Cotter attacks me about the · Lawsuit,' which I deny any knowledge of. Then Hiffernan began his opinion of it, which was most extravagant. He said it was one of the best pieces he ever read, and had the true vis comica, with other particulars too tedious to recite, and that with such warmth, as made me confess in the gladness of my heart, that I had read it. Then we talked about bringing it on the stage (without mention of the author) and he fancied it was practicable, and warrants the effecting it first by making a party of friends which he has secured already, which he calls an association in defence of Irish wit; then charging the town with a heap of papers on Sheridan, proving him an arrogant ass, and displaying his faults in the management of the theatre till having weakened his party so as not to fear opposition. Those friends in the mean time may spread a favourable report of the play to prepare the town for its reception when they call for it in the play-house, which desire of the audience to see it we hope to make general, so that Sheridan can't refuse bringing it on.

“ Will not this scheme do?'T is partly our contrivance and partly Hiffernan's and mine, for (he) knows not either Burke or Brennan. Burke's paper has paved the way; three hundred were sold yesterday. On Monday Hiffernan in an expostulation from Punch displays Mr. Sheridan in a ridiculous but true light, which will take three papers. Next comes Brennan with a grave inquiry into the behaviour of the manager, which will be backed by Ned and I ; and thus will we persecute him daily from different printers till the plot is ripe, and we have established liberty on the stage, and taste among the people.

“ You must throw some hints together likewise immediately for the press and send them up. Talk how trivial it is to keep a stage well swept and painted, and the candles well snuffed, when teaching the actors and choosing good plays should be his employment, and hint at his indifferent performance.

And prove with us that you sincerely hate
The mighty Tom *, and all his mimic state.”

« Feb. 4th, 1747. “I send you enclosed the second number of the Reformert, with this comfort that the generality of the town likes it I believe, by the sale which was about 500 to-day. The first number the town bought near 1000 of; we have set out bonis ominibus, and I hope shall continue the same. Hiffernan who was heretofore a friend of Victor's, has lost his acquaintance on the suspicion of being the author. Sheridan is much piqued, and his friends

* Thomas Sheridan - the Manager.

† A periodical paper, carried on chiefly by Burke, in order to correct what he and his young friends considered irregular or improper in the management of the Dublin Theatre.

among whom is Sappho who admires him as a player, vigorously oppose it, and damn it as earnestly as they do taste every night at the playhouse in the applause they bestow upon dulness.

“ Ned (Edmund Burke) is writing for his de


In the celebrated contest of Dr. Lucas the Irish patriot as he was called, with the authorities of Dublin, and afterwards even with the Irish House of Commons, by which he was compelled to seek a retreat in England, Hiffernan took part in a periodical paper called the Tickler, which being in support of authority, found admirers among the opponents of the popular idol.

He required however the means to live, which being found difficult in Dublin, he removed to London where a wider sphere offered for the indulgence of his dramatic tastes. All classes of society then evinced a degree of interest in stage affairs which few in the present day think it necessary to display, or indeed feel ; men of all professions and pursuits conceived themselves to be critics, and many frequenters of the theatre appeared to think they had a right to become its directors; authors of all descriptions, unoccupied physicians, lawyers, and even merchants, prescribed rules to dramatists, actors, and managers; and those who could, and many who could not, write on other subjects, felt fully qualified to decide upon all that was necessary for the stage. Among these was Hiffernan. He began a paper connected with this topic called the “ Tuner," in 1754, assumed in time the character of arbiter in histrionic excellence, became acquainted with actors who were laid under contribution either to secure his praise or silence his censure in the newspapers, and was constantly found in the lower taverns near the theatres delivering his decisions on such matters with an air of authority. Here likewise he was seen exacting fees from such candidates for the stage as believed he had the skill to instruct, or influence to recommend them for an engagement. His attachment to the drama made him known to Garrick, who ever careful of guarding against attacks upon his professional reputation, thought it prudent to conciliate many whom he despised; also to Foote, Murphy, Bickerstaffe, and others, from whom and a few physicians, booksellers, and casual acquaintance he drew occasional assistance in the shape of subscriptions for books, some of which were never written, and some that were written probably never read. These consisted of translations from the Latin and French ; “Miscellanies in Prose and Verse;" “ The Ladies' Choice," a dramatic petite piece; “ The Wishes of a free People ;” “ The New Hippocrates,” a farce; “ The Earl of Warwick,” a tragedy taken from the French ; “Dramatic Genius ;” “Philosophic Whim ;” “ Heroine of the Cave,” finished from the “ Cave of Idra,” a tragedy left by Henry Jones, author of the Earl of Essex, and probably others that are unknown. None it appears had sufficient merit to survive the occa

« VorigeDoorgaan »