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No. 341 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 341
Tuesday, April 1, 1712. Budgell. [1]

–Revocate animos moestumque timorem Mittite–

Virg.

Having, to oblige my Correspondent Physibulus, printed his Letter last Friday, in relation to the new Epilogue, he cannot take it amiss, if I now publish another, which I have just received from a Gentleman who does not agree with him in his Sentiments upon that Matter.

SIR,

I am amazed to find an Epilogue attacked in your last Fridays Paper, which has been so generally applauded by the Town, and receiv’d such Honours as were never before given to any in an English Theatre.

The Audience would not permit Mrs. Oldfield to go off the Stage the first Night, till she had repeated it twice; the second Night the Noise of Ancoras was as loud as before, and she was again obliged to speak it twice: the third Night it was still called for a second time; and, in short, contrary to all other Epilogues, which are dropt after the third Representation of the Play, this has already been repeated nine times.

I must own I am the more surprized to find this Censure in Opposition to the whole Town, in a Paper which has hitherto been famous for the Candour of its Criticisms.

I can by no means allow your melancholy Correspondent, that the new Epilogue is unnatural because it is gay. If I had a mind to be learned, I could tell him that the Prologue and Epilogue were real Parts of the ancient Tragedy; but every one knows that on the British Stage they are distinct Performances by themselves, Pieces entirely detached from the Play, and no way essential to it.

The moment the Play ends, Mrs. Oldfield is no more Andromache, but Mrs. Oldfield; and tho the Poet had left Andromache stone-dead upon the Stage, as your ingenious Correspondent phrases it, Mrs. Oldfield might still have spoke a merry Epilogue. We have an Instance of this in a Tragedy [2] where there is not only a Death but a Martyrdom. St. Catherine was there personated by Nell Gwin; she lies stone dead upon the Stage, but upon those Gentlemen’s offering to remove her Body, whose Business it is to carry off the Slain in our English Tragedies, she breaks out into that abrupt Beginning of what was a very ludicrous, but at the same time thought a very good Epilogue.

Hold, are you mad? you damn’d confounded Dog,
I am to rise and speak the Epilogue.

This diverting Manner was always practised by Mr. Dryden, who if he was not the best Writer of Tragedies in his time, was allowed by every one to have the happiest Turn for a Prologue or an Epilogue. The Epilogues to Cleomenes, Don Sebastian, The Duke of Guise, Aurengzebe, and Love Triumphant, are all Precedents of this Nature.

I might further justify this Practice by that excellent Epilogue which was spoken a few Years since, after the Tragedy of Phaedra and Hippolitus; with a great many others, in which the Authors have endeavour’d to make the Audience merry. If they have not all succeeded so well as the Writer of this, they have however shewn that it was not for want of Good-will.

I must further observe, that the Gaiety of it may be still the more proper, as it is at the end of a French Play; since every one knows that Nation, who are generally esteem’d to have as polite a Taste as any in Europe, always close their Tragick Entertainments with what they call a Petite Piece, which is purposely design’d to raise Mirth, and send away the Audience well pleased. The same Person who has supported the chief Character in the Tragedy, very often plays the principal Part in the Petite Piece; so that I have my self seen at Paris, Orestes and Lubin acted the same Night by the same Man.