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The silence of Bishop Percy regarding not only the Captivity but other works, is to be attributed to forgetfulness, or the displacement of his papers, as it appears he was fully informed on the subject by Mr. George Steevens. When directing the miscellaneous works to be prepared for the press, doubts had arisen in his mind, without reasonable cause as it proved, of the authenticity of one of the epilogues, although it had been put into his hands by the Poet himself, and under this impression he wrote to that gentleman to apply to Mrs. Bulkley, the actress, for whom it was written, to inquire whether she remembered the lines and the occasion for which they were intended, but that lady had long been dead. The Bishop likewise omits to notice the other productions mentioned in the reply of Steevens; as if having once finished the memoir, he was indisposed to make additions which might branch out into more extensive inquiries, and be productive of more labour than his plan, or leisure, or time of life permitted.
Another of his omissions, or what seems like such, is more unaccountable. In writing to Steevens, it will be observed, he says, “ I have another unprinted poem of Dr. G.'s, in his own handwriting, that is undoubtedly his, which is of more consequence.” No such additional poem appears in the edition of the works with which he was connected, except the quarrelling epilogue, intended at one time for She Stoops to Conquer, and to be spoken in dialogue by Mrs. Bulkley and Miss Catley. Had
he meant this epilogue by the “ unprinted poem of more consequence,” some allusion would probably have been made to its nature when inquiring respecting the origin of a similar composition from the same hands. But the subject of it is not mentioned, nor can an explanation be obtained now, the nearest relative* of the Prelate declaring to the writer that nothing respecting Goldsmith either in letters or manuscript pieces exists among his papers; but had such a production been by accident omitted by him in the first edition of the works, it is not probable, from the unfortunate irritation which existed between him and the publishers, he would have given it in a second. The application to Mr. Steevens and his reply are dated September 1797.
The Bishop writes
“ Your obliging letter was received this morning and merits my best thanks, which I could not defer presenting a moment. Yet I fear
will have reason to repent of your readiness to serve your friends, when you find it has encouraged me to trouble you again.
The epilogue of which I sent the exordium and conclusion I find (by an endorsement which escaped me when I copied them for you) was intended to be spoken by Mrs. Bulkley. I wish she could by some means be asked if she remembers for what play it was intended. It may possibly, after all, be not written by Goldsmith but only given for him to correct, though I think he would scarce have adopted the four lines in his epilogue to his printed comedy from it, had it not been his
* Mrs. Isted of Ecton, Northamptonshire, surviving daughter of Dr. Percy. — Since this was written her death has been announced.
“ He gave it me among a parcel of letters and papers some written by himself and some addressed to him without much explanation. But I have always considered it as his. Yet it would be awkward if after being inserted in his works, some other author should prove his claim to it, and therefore before I close with the booksellers who are impatiently pressing, I wish if possible to ascertain this point.
“ I have another unprinted Poem of Dr. G.'s, in his own handwriting that is undoubtedly his, which is of more consequence, together with many original and some very curious letters; so that I shall not abate of my terms with the booksellers even if this should be withdrawn. However, neither to them nor to the actress would I in the present stage of the business, excite any doubt concerning that epilogue of which I suppose the lines I sent you are sufficient to awake any recol. lection which she may have on the subject.” *
The answer, much of which is omitted, though very characteristic of the satire and point of the writer, runs thus :
MS. correspondence in the possession of Mr. Mason.
“ Since I received your favour, I have spent some hours in a fruitless inquiry about the epilogue you have quoted, but even the accurate Mr. Reed can supply no information on the subject. As there is nothing appropriate in this composition, perhaps the author produced it as a piece of sale work for the service of a chance customer, or for his own future use.
Finding, however, no commodious vent or employment for his ware, he might afterwards have worked up some of its materials into another fabric. I may add, that several of his lines glance at the sentimental pieces of his dramatic rivals Kelly and Cumberland, and therefore on mature consideration might have been suppressed.
“ In the meantime it is fit you should learn that any present attempt to throw a ring-fence round the poetical demesnes of Goldsmith, will be ineffectual, as a late discovery has been made of a dramatic piece in his own handwriting; it turned up among
the papers of the late Mr. Dodsley. The Oratorio in question entitled Captivity, was sold by the Doctor to Dodsley, Oct. 31st, 1764, for ten guineas, and Newbery was to have the option of a share in it. It is now setting to music by an eminent composer, and great expectations are formed of its success. One of the songs belonging to it has been already published in former editions of our little Poet's works. *
“ But a word or two more about them; for per
* It has been already noticed that two songs had been printed from the Oratorio.
haps you are unacquainted with a metrical production of his on the death of the Princess Dowager of Wales ; it was spoken and sung at the celebrated public rooms of Mrs. Cornelys in Soho Square, and was afterwards printed.
“ Several other pieces of the Doctor's are still in MSS. in the hands of various people. The late Mr. Wright the printer who had been apprenticed to or in the service of Mr. Hamilton at a time when Goldsmith composed numerous essays for magazines, articles for reviews, &c. preserved a list of these fugitive pieces which are now reprinting, and will make their appearance in the course of next winter. Goldsmith likewise began a periodical paper, which being unsuccessful was laid aside after a few numbers of it had been issued
The design intimated here of having the Oratorio set to music had been previously and has been since contemplated by the possessors of the MS., though hitherto without being carried into effect. By a letter from the late Mr. Francis Newbery to Isaac Reed, to whose possession it was consigned by the late Mr. Nicol of Pall Mall, who received it from Dodsley, it appears that in consequence of a conversation with Mr. Nicol, he wished to borrow the MS., having appointed a meeting for that morning (the letter was written in the spring of 1787) to submit it to the opinion of Mr.
* From correspondence in the hands of Mr. Mason.