1783 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Cumberland

Anonymous, "An Apology for Sir Fretful Plagiary, the reputed Author of Theatrical Intelligence in a certain Morning Paper" St. James's Chronicle (27 September 1783).



When first on Drury's Stage expos'd to Scorn,
Sir Fretful curs'd the Moment he was born;
In bitt'rest Agonies of fell Disgrace
He wrung that dirty Dishclout call'd his Face,
And scarce his Pride repress'd the genuine Tear,
While vex'd by Dangle, crucify'd by Sneer,
His Mimick (acting what no Words can say)
Wip'd from his Cheek the Felon Drops away,
But Time, at Length (slow Medicine) brought Relief,
And hop'd Revenge supply'd the Balm of Grief.
"Shall then (he cry'd) Sir Fretful weep alone?
Shall Ridicule and Shame be all my own?
Malice forbid! Each Torture shall be shar'd,
And Actors levell'd with their suff'ring Bard.
The graceful Abington my Rage shall know,
And manly Aickin dread an ambush'd Foe.
Kemble! in vain thy Youth, thy Beauty pleads,
When Aruns lifts the Spear Camilla bleeds.
Did Brereton's Worth my Plaudit seem to raise?
I meant to damn him with Excess of Praise.
Yet Henderson my Thanks sincere attend;
Though half asham'd to call himself my Friend,
Long has he carryed on his patient Head
My pilfer'd Heaps of tragi-comick Lead:
As long may critick Tribes his Patrons be,
Nor judge him hardly — though he's prais'd by me.
Siddons alone, of all our Drama's Fair,
(So Prudence bids) my hungry Pen shall spare.
Interest to Mercy shall its Course incline,
Through Hope she'll act in some dull Stuff of mine.
To vilest Patchwork she'll Success insure—
The Woman's popular, and I am poor."

He spoke; throughout his Veins new Venom flows,
His wriggling Features in a Smile repose,
(A Smile more hateful than that envious Frown*
That drew young Congreve's weighty Vengeance down)
Instant he gluts on helpless Crowds his Rage,
The Convict once, now Hangman of the Stage.

* When Mr. Sheridan's School for Scandal was first acted, Sir Fretful expressed his Wonder that the Audience could find any Thing in it to laugh at. He himself exhibited the same lowering Brow from Beginning to End of the Performance.