1778 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Cumberland

Frances Burney, 1778; Diary and Letters of the Author of Madam D'Arblay, ed. Austin Dobson (1904-05) 1:69-70.



The Cumberland family was discussed. Mrs. Thrale said that Mr. Cumberland was a very amiable man in his own house; but as a father mighty simple; which accounts for the ridiculous conduct and manners of his daughters, concerning whom we had much talk, and were all of a mind; for it seems they used the same rude stare to Mrs. Thrale that so much disgusted us at Mrs. Ord's: she says that she really concluded something was wrong, and that, in getting out of the coach, she had given her cap some unlucky cuff, — by their merciless staring.

I told her that I had not any doubt, when I had met with the same attention from them, but that they were calculating the exact cost of all my dress. Mrs. Thrale then told me that, about two years ago, they were actually hissed out of the playhouse, on account of the extreme height of their feathers!

Dr. Johnson instantly composed an extempore dialogue between himself and Mr. Cumberland upon this subject, in which he was to act the part of a provoking condoler:

"Mr. Cumberland (I should say), how monstrously ill-bred is a playhouse mob! How I pitied poor Miss Cumberlands about that affair!"

"What affair?" cries he, for he has tried to forget it.

"Why," says I, "that unlucky accident they met with some time ago."

"Accident? what accident, sir?"

"Why, you know, when they were hissed out of the playhouse — you remember the time — oh, the English mob is most insufferable! they are boors, and have no manner of taste!"

Mrs. Thrale accompanied me to my room, and stayed chatting with me for more than an hour.