No. 341. Tuesday, April 1, 1712. Budgell. [1]

--Revocate animos moestumque timorem Mittite--

Having, to oblige my Correspondent Physibulus, printed his Letter last Friday, in relation to the new Epilogue, he cannot take it amiss, if I now publish another, which I have just received from a Gentleman who does not agree with him in his Sentiments upon that Matter.


I am amazed to find an Epilogue attacked in your last Fridays Paper, which has been so generally applauded by the Town, and receiv'd such Honours as were never before given to any in an English Theatre.

The Audience would not permit Mrs. Oldfield to go off the Stage the first Night, till she had repeated it twice; the second Night the Noise of Ancoras was as loud as before, and she was again obliged to speak it twice: the third Night it was still called for a second time; and, in short, contrary to all other Epilogues, which are dropt after the third Representation of the Play, this has already been repeated nine times.

I must own I am the more surprized to find this Censure in Opposition to the whole Town, in a Paper which has hitherto been famous for the Candour of its Criticisms.

I can by no means allow your melancholy Correspondent, that the new Epilogue is unnatural because it is gay. If I had a mind to be learned, I could tell him that the Prologue and Epilogue were real Parts of the ancient Tragedy; but every one knows that on the British Stage they are distinct Performances by themselves, Pieces entirely detached from the Play, and no way essential to it.

The moment the Play ends, Mrs. Oldfield is no more Andromache, but Mrs. Oldfield; and tho the Poet had left Andromache stone-dead upon the Stage, as your ingenious Correspondent phrases it, Mrs. Oldfield might still have spoke a merry Epilogue. We have an Instance of this in a Tragedy [2] where there is not only a Death but a Martyrdom. St. Catherine was there personated by Nell Gwin; she lies stone dead upon the Stage, but upon those Gentlemen's offering to remove her Body, whose Business it is to carry off the Slain in our English Tragedies, she breaks out into that abrupt Beginning of what was a very ludicrous, but at the same time thought a very good Epilogue.

Hold, are you mad? you damn'd confounded Dog,
I am to rise and speak the Epilogue.

This diverting Manner was always practised by Mr. Dryden, who if he was not the best Writer of Tragedies in his time, was allowed by every one to have the happiest Turn for a Prologue or an Epilogue. The Epilogues to Cleomenes, Don Sebastian, The Duke of Guise, Aurengzebe, and Love Triumphant, are all Precedents of this Nature.

I might further justify this Practice by that excellent Epilogue which was spoken a few Years since, after the Tragedy of Phædra and Hippolitus; with a great many others, in which the Authors have endeavour'd to make the Audience merry. If they have not all succeeded so well as the Writer of this, they have however shewn that it was not for want of Good-will.

I must further observe, that the Gaiety of it may be still the more proper, as it is at the end of a French Play; since every one knows that Nation, who are generally esteem'd to have as polite a Taste as any in Europe, always close their Tragick Entertainments with what they call a Petite Piece, which is purposely design'd to raise Mirth, and send away the Audience well pleased. The same Person who has supported the chief Character in the Tragedy, very often plays the principal Part in the Petite Piece; so that I have my self seen at Paris, Orestes and Lubin acted the same Night by the same Man.

Tragi-Comedy, indeed, you have your self in a former Speculation found fault with very justly, because it breaks the Tide of the Passions while they are yet flowing; but this is nothing at all to the present Case, where they have already had their full Course.

As the new Epilogue is written conformable to the Practice of our best Poets, so it is not such an one which, as the Duke of Buckingham says in his Rehearsal, might serve for any other Play; but wholly rises out of the Occurrences of the Piece it was composed for.

The only Reason your mournful Correspondent gives against this Facetious Epilogue, as he calls it, is, that he has mind to go home melancholy. I wish the Gentleman may not be more Grave than Wise. For my own part, I must confess I think it very sufficient to have the Anguish of a fictitious Piece remain upon me while it is representing, but I love to be sent home to bed in a good humour. If Physibulus is however resolv'd to be inconsolable, and not to have his Tears dried up, he need only continue his old Custom, and when he has had his half Crowns worth of Sorrow, slink out before the Epilogue begins.

It is pleasant enough to hear this Tragical Genius complaining of the great Mischief Andromache had done him: What was that? Why, she made him laugh. The poor Gentleman's Sufferings put me in mind of Harlequins Case, who was tickled to Death. He tells us soon after, thro a small Mistake of Sorrow for Rage, that during the whole Action he was so very sorry, that he thinks he could have attack'd half a score of the fiercest Mohocks in the Excess of his Grief. I cannot but look upon it as an happy Accident, that a Man who is so bloody-minded in his Affliction, was diverted from this Fit of outragious Melancholy. The Valour of this Gentleman in his Distress, brings to ones memory the Knight of the sorrowful Countenance, who lays about him at such an unmerciful rate in an old Romance. I shall readily grant him that his Soul, as he himself says, would have made a very ridiculous Figure, had it quitted the Body, and descended to the Poetical Shades, in such an Encounter.

As to his Conceit of tacking a Tragic Head with a Comic Tail, in order to refresh the Audience, it is such a piece of Jargon, that I don't know what to make of it.

The elegant Writer makes a very sudden Transition from the Play-house to the Church, and from thence, to the Gallows.

As for what relates to the Church, he is of Opinion, that these Epilogues have given occasion to those merry Jiggs from the Organ-Loft which have dissipated those good Thoughts, and Dispositions he has found in himself, and the rest of the Pew, upon the singing of two Staves cull'd out by the judicious and diligent Clark.

He fetches his next Thought from Tyburn; and seems very apprehensive lest there should happen any Innovations in the Tragedies of his Friend Paul Lorrain.

In the mean time, Sir, this gloomy Writer, who is so mightily scandaliz'd at a gay Epilogue after a serious Play, speaking of the Fate of those unhappy Wretches who are condemned to suffer an ignominious Death by the Justice of our Laws, endeavours to make the Reader merry on so improper an occasion, by those poor Burlesque Expressions of Tragical Dramas, and Monthly Performances.

I am, Sir, with great Respect, Your most obedient, most humble Servant,



[Footnote 1: Budgell here defends with bad temper the Epilogue which Addison ascribed to him. Probably it was of his writing, but transformed by Addison's corrections.]

[Footnote 2: Dryden's Maximin.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. i. 206.
'Resume your courage and dismiss your fear.'