I doubt a little, whether it would not be dangerous to open the piece with a song that must be totally incomprehensible to at least almost all the audience. It is safer to engage their prejudices by something captivating. I have the same objection to Julia’s mistaking deposit for posset, which may give an ill turn: besides, those mistakes have been too often produced on the stage: so has the character of Mrs. Winter, a romantic old maid; nor does she contribute to the plot or catastrophe. I am afraid that even Mrs. Vernon’s aversion to’ the country is far from novel; and Mr. Colman, more accustomed to the stage than I am, would certainly think so. Nebuchadnezer’s repartees of “Very well, thank you!” and bringing in Philip, when bidden to go for a rascal, are printed in the Terrce Filius, and, I believe, in other jest-books; and therefore had better be omitted.
I flatter myself, Sir, you will excuse these remarks; as they are intended kindly, both for your reputation and interest, and to prevent them being made by the manager, or audience, or your friends the reviewers. I am ready to propose your piece to Mr. Colman at any time; but, as I have sincerely an opinion of your parts and talents, it is the part of a friend to wish you to be very correct, especially in a first piece; for, such is the ill-nature of mankind, and their want of judgment too, that, if a new author does not succeed in a first attempt on the stage, a prejudice is contracted against him, and may be fatal to others of his productions, which might have prospered, had that bias not been taken. An established writer for the stage may venture almost any idleness; but a first essay is very different.
Shall I send you your piece, Sir; and how? As Mr. Colman’s theatre will not open till next summer, you will have full time to make any alterations you please. I mean, if you should think any of my observations well founded, and which, perhaps, are very trifling. I have little opinion of my own sagacity as a critic, nor love to make objections; nor should have taken so much liberty with you, if you had not pressed it. I am sure in me it is a mark of regard, and which I never pay to an indifferent author: my admiration of your essay on medals was natural, uninvited, and certainly unaffected. My acquaintance with you since, Sir, has Confirmed my opinion of your good sense, and interested me In behalf of’ your works; and, having lived so long in the world myself, if My experience can be of any service to you, I cannot withhold it when you ask it; at the same time leaving you perfectly at liberty to reject it, if not adopted by your own judgment. The experience of old age Is very likely to be balanced by the weaknesses incident to that age. I have not, however, its positiveness yet; and willingly abandon my criticism to the vigour of your judgment.
(532) Now first collected.