AN EPISTLE To the Right Honourable PHILIP, Earl of Chesterfield, &c.
1 O CHESTERFIELD! My Patron and my Pride,
2 In whom does all that's Great and Good reside;
3 Noble by Birth, by Liberal Arts refin'd;
4 Delight of Heav'n, and Darling of Mankind!
5 The publick Patriot, and the private Friend;
6 To curb th' Oppressor, and th' Oppress'd defend. [Page 2]
7 To hated Indolence no more impute
8 The Muse's Silence, if, hereafter mute,
9 She quits her former Toils for future Ease;
10 And checks that Genius which (perhaps) might please.
11 'Tis Time my fruitless Labours to decline,
12 When all Men's Works can climb the Stage, but mine:
13 When, in my stead, behold! a motley Herd
14 Of upstart Witlings to my self preferr'd.
15 Not so when Booth, Wilks, Cibber, rul'd the Stage,
16 Dramatick Ornaments of this our Age:
17 My small Attempts to please were then approv'd,
18 And not for ev'ry trifling Farce remov'd.
19 Booth ever shew'd me Friendship and Respect,
20 And Wilks wou'd rather forward than reject.
21 Ev'n Cibber, Terror to the Scribbling Crew!
22 Would oft Sollicit me for something New.
23 Now, Younger Rulers Younger Authors take,
24 Not for their Merit, but for Cheapness sake. [Page 3]
25 These handy Hirelings can, in half a Day,
26 Steal a new Ballad FARCE from some old PLAY;
27 To mangled Scraps of many an Ancient Tune
28 Tagg Feetless Jingle, Jarring and Jejune;
29 The jaded Play'rs with equal haste rehearse,
30 'Till Sing Song limps, to Horrid! Hobbling Verse.
31 Tho' Blunder follows Blunder, Line by Line,
32 The 'Squire is taught to think 'tis wond'rous Fine!
33 It suits his Taste, he gives his plaudit Voice,
34 And shews his Understanding in his Choice.
35 Framing Conceptions both of Men and Things,
36 Just as Sir Figg directs his Leading-Strings:
37 Sir Figg, grand Master of the double Sneer,
38 Who, when He most deceives, seems most Sincere;
39 Dissembler Born, but much improv'd by Art,
40 A Friendly Aspect, an Infernal Heart:
41 The Mischievous, the Busy Go between
42 Easy 'Squire Amb's-Ace, and sly Harlequin;
43 Who, like two wrangling Counsellors at Bar,
44 In Publick, seem to contradict and jar;[Page 4]
45 But yet, in Private, like dear Friends caress,
46 And form Designs, poor Players to distress.
47 Woe to the Stage! if once their Schemes Succeed;
48 Actors will then be Abject Slaves indeed:
49 Poets had better lay their Pens aside,
50 Than tamely truckle to Stage Tyrant's Pride;
51 Who, Vain and Partial, keep Old Authors down,
52 To force their own Low Trump'ry on the Town.
53 Why to such Wretches should I yeild my Cause,
54 So lately honour'd with so much Applause?
55 My little Ballads still on ev'ry Tongue,
56 Are in politest Conversation Sung:
57 Nor can severest Censure trace one Line.
58 That tends to Vice, in any Verse of mine.
59 To please and yet instruct is all my Aim,
60 Let Venal Poetasters boast the same;
61 Whose utmost Views are to corrupt the Taste,
62 To sooth the Vicious, and to shock the Chaste;[Page 5]
63 And, quite estrang'd to any Sense of Shame,
64 Make Women speak what Rakes wou'd blush to name;
65 Then, in Excuse, plead Nothing else goes down;
66 A wretched Compliment upon the Town!
67 Wretched as false — The Town's not so deprav'd,
68 Were Authors and were Actors less enslav'd:
69 Could one good Piece be suffer'd to appear,
70 The Town wou'd gladly lend a candid Ear;
71 Prefer pure Nature and the simple SCENE,
72 To all the Monkey Tricks of Harlequin:
73 The Man of Taste proves this Assertion true,
74 We want what's rational as well as New.
75 But, this Declension of the British Stage,
76 BOOTH, Britain's Roscius, justly did presage;
77 That Rules Dramatic, Humour, Taste and Wit,
78 Must to that Monster Pantomime submit:
79 Yet Pantomime, in all its Grandeur drest,
80 Is but a pompous Puppet-Shew at best.
81 Then, farewell Stage! be Bus'ness now my Boast,
82 With what was Irksome once Delighted most;
83 Pleas'd and contented with my little Store,
84 I scorn to prostitute my Muse for more.
85 Alas! What Fame, what Gain can I propose,
86 When others Father fast as I compose?
87 To such a pitch is pert Presumption grown,
88 'Tis well if this Poor Piece be thought my own.
89 So when, long since, in simple Sonnet Lays,
90 I made the 'Prentice Sing his Sally's Praise,
91 Tho' rude the Numbers, yet the Subject mov'd;
92 Immortal ADDISON the Song approv'd;
93 Then Prejudice with Envy did combine,
94 Because 'twas Good, 'twas thought too Good for mine.
95 So common Fame did various Authors chuse
96 To Namby Pamby, Offspring of my Muse;
97 Till POPE, who ever prov'd to Truth a Friend,
98 With Gen'rous Ardour did my Cause defend;[Page 7]
99 Trac'd me obscure and in Detraction's Spite
100 Display'd me in a more conspicuous Light.
101 To mention more wou'd prove a needless Task,
102 Why shou'd they not be mine? That's all I ask:
103 Because I'm Chearful, Unreserv'd and Free,
104 Can nothing Good or New proceed from me?
105 What have I done, injurious to Mankind,
106 My Works must be to other Men assign'd?
107 Well! let 'em go, I all my Right resign,
108 Entirely Easy, had they ne'er been mine:
109 Yet, this Reflection consolates my Fate,
110 I see my Error e'er it proves too late.
111 No more half Maz'd I hurry thro' the Town,
112 With Magazines of Projects in my Crown:
113 While Pyrate Printers rob me of my Gain,
114 And reap the labour'd Harvest of my Brain.
115 Like other Men, I walk a common Pace,
116 Nor run through London one continued Race;
117 But know When, Where and What I am to do,
118 You'll think tis strange, My Lord! but yet 'tis true.
119 Thrice welcome, Sweet Tranquillity of Mind!
120 I now a Treasure in Contentment find;
121 Can labour or relax when e'er I please,
122 And boast I've once enjoy'd a moment's Ease;
123 Of all a Moderate Man can wish possest,
124 But most in such a Godlike Patron blest.
125 Beneath the Sacred Sanction of whose Name,
126 I build my present Peace, my future Fame.