1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Smith of Covent Garden

Richard Cumberland, in Memoirs (1806-07, 1856) 133.



One day as I was leaving the theatre after a rehearsal of the Summer's Tale, I was met by Mr. Smith, then engaged at Covent Garden, and whom I had known at the University, as an under graduate of St. John's College. We had of course some conversation, during which he had the kindness to remonstrate with me upon the business I was engaged in, politely saying, that I ought to turn my talents to compositions of a more independent and a higher character; predicting to me, that I should reap neither fame nor satisfaction in the operatic department, and demanding of me, in a tone of encouragement, why I would not rather aim at writing a good comedy, than dabbling in these sing-song pieces. The animating spirit of this friendly remonstrance, and the full persuasion that he predicted truly of the character and consequences of my undertaking then on foot, made a sensible impression on my mind, and in the warmth of the moment I formed my resolution to attempt the arduous project he had pointed out. If my old friend and contemporary ever reads this page, perhaps he can call to mind the conversation I allude to; though he has not the same reasons to keep in his remembrance this circumstance, as I have, who was the party favoured and obliged, yet I hope he will at all events believe that I record it truly as to the fact, and gratefully as to the effects of it. As his friend, I have lived with him, and shared his gentlemanly hospitality; as his author, I have witnessed his abilities, and profited by his support; and though I have lost sight of him ever since his retirement from the stage, yet I have ever retained at heart an interest in his welfare, and as he and I are too nearly of an age to flatter ourselves that we have any very long continuance to come upon the stage of this life, I beg leave to make this public profession of my sincere regard for him, and to pay the tribute of my plaudits now, before he makes his final exit, and the curtain drops.