The pleasure this gave the men was equally barbarous and insulting; all turning to the boxes, pit, and galleries, where ladies were, to see how they looked, and stood an emphatical and too-well pronounced ridicule, not only upon the play in general, but upon the part of Andromache in particular, which had been so well sustained by an excellent actress; and I was extremely mortified to see my favourite (and the only perfect) character debased and despoiled, and the widow of Hector, prince of Troy, talking nastiness to an audience, and setting it out with all the wicked graces of action, and affected archness of look, attitude, and emphasis.
I stood up—“Dear Sir!—Dear Miss!” said I.
“What’s the matter, my love?” said Mr. B. smiling.
“Why have I wept the distresses of the injured Hermione?” whispered I: “why have I been moved by the murder of the brave Pyrrhus, and shocked by the madness of Orestes! Is it for this? See you not Hector’s widow, the noble Andromache, inverting the design of the whole play, satirizing her own sex, but indeed most of all ridiculing and shaming, in my mind, that part of the audience, who can be delighted with this vile epilogue, after such scenes of horror and distress?”
He was pleased to say, smiling, “I expected, my dear, that your delicacy, and Miss Darnford’s too, would be shocked on this preposterous occasion. I never saw this play, rake as I was, but the impropriety of the epilogue sent me away dissatisfied with it, and with human nature too: and you only see, by this one instance, what a character that of an actor or actress is, and how capable they are to personate any thing for a sorry subsistence.”
“Well, but, Sir,” said I, “are there not, think you, extravagant scenes and characters enough in most plays to justify the censures of the virtuous upon them, that the wicked friend of the author must crown the work in an epilogue, for fear the audience should go away improved by the representation? It is not, I see, always narrowness of spirit, as I have heard some say, that opens the mouths of good people against these diversions.”
In this wild way talked I; for I was quite out of patience at this unnatural and unexpected piece of ridicule, tacked to so serious a play, and coming after such a moral.
Here is a specimen, my dear lady, of my observations on the first play I saw. How just or how impertinent, I must leave to your better judgment. I very probably expose my ignorance and folly in them, but I will not say presumption, because you have put me upon the task, which otherwise I should hardly have attempted. I have very little reason therefore to blame myself on this score; but, on the contrary, if I can escape your ladyship’s censure, have cause to pride myself in the opportunity you have thereby given me to shew my readiness to obey you; and the rather, since I am sure of your kindest indulgence, now you have given me leave to style myself your ladyship’s obliged sister, and humble servant,