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or of incorrigible presumption. The introduction of a new play is generally an event of sufficient interest to fill our capacious theatres ; and on the 31st of Ja. nuary, 1805, the curtain rose to a numerous audience.
In the ordinary pains and pleasures of literary life, there is little to excite popular sympathy; but the situation of a dramatic author in presenting his first essay to the public, is such as awakens some degree of interest and curiosity in the most phlegmatic spectator. The enquiries respecting the author of The Honey-moon were, however, soon suspended, for the prologue announced the mournful truth, that he no longer existed, to deprecate censure, or exult in praise.
He, though your loftiest plaudits you should raise, He cannot thank you for the meed of praise. Rapture he cannot feel, nor fear, nor shame; Connected with his love of earthly fame,
He is no more.-Yet
spare the living – spare the sacred dead. *
In listening to these beautiful lines, an universal emotion of sympathy and regret was perceived in the audience; but how had their feelings of commiseration been heightened, could they have learned at the same moment, that the author, whose fate they deplored, had been condemned to a long and painful probation ! and that The Honey-moon was but the last of fourteen dramatic productions, twelve of which he had himself offered to be rejected.
* This elegant and appropriate little poem was written by Sir Humphrey Davy, who had lived in habits of intimacy with the author of The Honey-moon.
In the memoirs of literary men, little of variety or novelty is to be expected; but the singular fact already stated is without a parallel in the records of dramatic biography; and supposes in the dramatist a degree of fortitude, of patience, and perseverance, such is commonly conceived to be incompatible with the poetical character. It will appear from the following pages, that the identical pieces, on which is founded his posthumous reputation, were in his lifetime dismissed with contempt; it will be seen with surprise, that no portion of that favour so liberally showered on his literary remains, was permitted to invigorate his hopes, or to inspirit his exertions; the praise that should have refreshed his fainting spirit, — the success that might have called forth its latent energies, — has but embalmed his memory, or cast a romantic halo around his untimely grave.
The perusal of the poet's memoirs will sufficiently explain the motives to which the present volume owes its existence. Of the four dramas selected for publication, it is merely necessary to state, that two of them have been acted but not printed, and that the other two were not conceived to be eligible for representation. There still remain some minor pieces, which it may be hoped will, hereafter, take their trial on the stage.
The biographical part of this work is unquestionably that which most requires candour and indulgence. Whatever is mentioned respecting the poet's tastes, habits, and opinions, has been derived from those with whom he lived in the most unreserved intimacy and confidence, — from the asso. ciates of his childhood and the friends of his youth, -- above all, from the conversation of his brother, the late Mr. James Tobin *, and the inspection of the private papers and manuscripts in the possession of his widow, on whom have now devolved the duties attached to the poets, representative.
* The writer of these
became acquainted with Mr. James Tobin the year after the poet's death.
Allowing for the obvious and unavoidable deficiencies of the narrative, it is, perhaps, not presumptuous to indulge the hope, that, to the lovers and well-wishers of the drama, the Life of John Tobin, however barren of events, may not be wholly without interest. As none of those disappointments he was doomed to experience could be traced to the operation of prejudice or malignity, it is reasonable to conclude, that the same causes which retarded his progress, may have for ever arrested the efforts of men not inferior in talent, but not equally endowed with fortitude and perseverance.
This reflection more particularly demands attention at the present moment, when the degeneracy of dramatic talent is so often adduced as the sole cause of indifference or apathy for