1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Benjamin Victor

Isaac Reed, in Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1782) 1:456-57.



BENJAMIN VICTOR. This gentleman rose to the dignity of Irish laureate, from an outset in life which should seem to have promised him no such advancement. He was brought up a peruke-maker, or rather a barber; but quitted that inglorious and starving profession, to engage in the sale of Norwich stuffs. From this second function he likewise derived but inconsiderable gains; and, what he thought a still more mortifying circumstance, the memory of his original trade was occasionally unpropitious to his third and most hazardous undertaking, that of dramatic poetry. When he offered one of his plays to Mr. Rich (a man apt to treasure up sarcastic images to assist him in keeping writers for the stage at a distance), poor Ben received the usual laconic answer, that his piece "would not do." The bard, however, desiring to be furnished with more particular reasons for this unfavourable determination, was dismissed by the manager with the following short remark — "Mr, there is too much horse-hair in your tragedy." Our author then became under-manager at Smock-Alley, Dublin. At last, after having produced many literary commodities which were chiefly returned upon his hands, he accepted the treasurership of Drury Lane Theatre, a post in which he acquitted himself with the most scrupulous exactness and fidelity. During this period he collected his works in three volumes 8vo. and published them by subscription, omitting only his pamphlet entitled The Widow of the Wood (a narrative which in its time had afforded no small gratification to malignant curiosity), and his History of the Stage. This gentleman's singularities (for some he had) were of quite an innocent nature. He regarded the proper arrangement of a playhouse as the greatest and most important task proposed to human abilities. He was therefore solemnly and tediously circumstantial in his accounts of entrances and exits P.S. and O.P.; described to an inch the height of every plume, and the length of every train, he had seen upon the stage; and dwelt much on the advantages received by many authors, as well as actors, from his experiences and his admonitions. He likewise contrived to prolong these his narratives by repeated summonses to attention, such as "Sir, sir, sir; observe, observe, observe;" and was the most faithful chronologer of a jest, a riot, or any other incident attending the representation of a new play; always beginning his story in nearly the following words: — "I remember, once in the year 1735, when I was at the head of a merry party in the pit—" The disgusting pronoun I being also too lavishly employed in his History of the Stage, our late satirist, Mr. Churchill, observed that "Victor ego" should have been its motto. Mr. Victor died about three years ago, at an advanced age, and without previous sickness or pain, at his lodgings in Charles Street, Covent Garden. He was author of the dramatic pieces now to be enumerated.

1. The Two Gentlemen of Verona, C. altered 8vo. 1763.
2. Altemira. T. 8vo. 1776.
3. The Fatal Error. T. 8vo. 1776.
4. The Fortunate Peasant, or Nature will prevail. C. 8vo. 1776.
5. The Sacrifice, or Cupid's Vagaries. 8vo. 1776.