1801 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gen. John Burgoyne

Arthur Murphy, in Life of David Garrick (1801) 321-23



Garrick was glad to shift the scene from a dull tragedy to rural festivity, music, song, and dance. In this project he was assisted by General Burgoyne, who had seen a great deal of military service; and, when Mars no longer called him to the field, was willing to dedicate his leisure hours to the muses. He put into Garrick's hands a dramatic entertainment, called, The Maid of the Oaks. The General was known to be a polite scholar. To his taste for literature he added a pleasing elegance of manners. Garrick was glad of an opportunity to shew his respect for a writer of that class. He attended to the conduct of the plot, and, by the touches of his pen, gave new life and spirit to the dialogue. The piece owed its origin to the following circumstance; The Earl of Derby, whose sister was married to the General, had been lately joined in wedlock with Lady Betty Hamilton, and, to celebrate his nuptials, chose to give a Fete Champetre at the Oaks in Kent. The rural festival was for four or five days a most splendid exhibition, with a well imagined display of decorations, and various bands of vocal and instrumental music in groves and temples. General Burgoyne conceived the idea of making it a spectacle for the stage. With the manager's assistance he digested his plan in a manner that gratified the public for a number of nights in succession. The machinery and the music conspired to gratify the eye and the ear. A minute analysis of the piece is by no means necessary. To the honour of General Burgoyne, it is proper to mention, that some years after, when Garrick was no more, he produced a play, called The Heiress, which may be pronounced the best comedy that has appeared since The School for Scandal.