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of dramatists and modern fictionists. This writer never lisps, nor is betrayed into mere glitter or brilliancy. He has the sort of stoutness of the Elizabethan masters, and the blunt honesty of the Bull family. His designs are genuine efforts, and much of the execution, even in his least successful productions, bear the stamp of sterling coinage. Woman's heart he loves to read; and he reads it like a scholar who has traced it in all its passionate waywardness, its perversities, and disguises; as well as when she is most gentle, artless, arch, or rompish. In several of the male characters of the present comedy, he gives you men of right stamina, in spite of their outward fashions; even when the person is tricked out in the garb of a fop, and lends himself to the frivolities of a gay world, or affects the cold airs of a modish age. But while such are some of the characteristic excellences of Sheridan Knowles's plays, and which cannot escape the observation of the reader of "Old Maids," it must be admitted that his infirmities as the constructor of a plot, a coiner of phrases, a blender of quaint metaphors, and a sporter with blank verse, are apparently with rapid pace making inroads upon his powers and his style. He indeed seems, in the present instance, to have ransacked his former productions in search of many of their objectionable peculiarities, and to have thus given that piebald character which detracts so fatally from the beauties of some boldly conceived thoughts and otherwise finely written passages.
"Old Maids" is a title which is not intended to inform by anticipation; for the Lady Blanche and the Lady Anne are young and mischievous; yet specimens of true womanhood after all. They are also beautiful and resolved to get married; archly, and with a spirited sort of malice, that is enchanting, instructing their several suitors how to make love to them. The manner in which they conduct their schemes is often by disguising their noble rank, and sometimes their persons. A coxcomb, who talks with his servant through some four or five pages about a wrinkle in his dress, but who is neither devoid of brain nor of courage, becomes the victim of one of these fair perversities; while a goldsmith's son, who with marvellous speed obtains the colonelcy of a regiment, is ensnared by the other. The probabilities, however, are clumsily violated in the course of these conquests; the progress of the piece consisting, besides, rather in long dialogues than in life and action. All speak much alike; there is want of onward purpose in many of the scenes. Persons walk in and out contrary to expectation, and without doing much to connect themselves with what is to follow; and at the close of all no strong impression is left becoming the effect of a forcible, polished, and home-thrusting comedy, where smart humour and brilliant truths combine to please and to teach.
Were we to go minutely into the construction of the plot of this piece, a number of incongruities might be detected; or were we
inclined severely to expose the absurdities of separate scenes, and the quaint or vicious peculiarities of the style of single passages, our remarks would necessarily be much extended. But considering that Knowles's merits as well as characteristic faults and failures. are sufficiently known, we shall without further preface quote some illustrations from this his latest production.
Our first extract from "Old Maids" affords a specimen of trifling and a play of words all about a wrinkle that is not even farcical:
"Sir Philip. Now, Robert, for I know you have an eye,
And jealously! Find me a fault, I'll find
Robert. Sooner I'd miss the fault
Than get the crown.
Sir Philip. I know thy honesty.
But find the fault although thou get'st the crown.
Robert. What's that?
Sir Philip. What, Robert ?
Robert. If I may believe
Sir Philip. Be sure thou mayst, if 'tis a fault
Thou think'st thou seest.
Robert. 'Tis a fault I see!
Sir Philip. What is it?
Robert. Yet, perhaps, 'tis not a fault.
Sir Philip. It must be one! Thou'rt not inclined to see it,
It is a fault.
Sir Philip. A great or little one?
Don't keep me in suspense; I'm on the rack!
Well, Robert, well!
Robert. It is a little fault;
A very little fault-a wrinkle only
About an inch, a quarter, and a tenth
Sir Philip. Were it the tenth without the rest
It much becomes you! Well the colour sorts
Sir Philip. Where lies the wrinkle?
Robert. Here, near the seam of the left shoulder.
A place a wrinkle may have leave to come!
Cans't help the wrinkle? There's the piece I promised
That piece will find a fellow.
Robert. I will try.
I will not promise you I shall succeed.
Stand straight and still. Now, please you, raise your arm;
Sir Philip. Well done, good Robert.
Sir Philip. Say it is quite away,
I'll give thee the third piece.
I would I could;
No hope of that, I fear! A wrinkle is
A stubborn thing! Eh?-What?—I must be blind!
Sir Philip. Is't gone?
Robert. I am bewitched!
Is aught the matter, think you, with my sight?
Or that is gone, or else the wrinkle's gone;
So gone, I swear I cannot find the place!
I can't believe there ever was a wrinkle!
Sir Philip. Good Robert, there are the two crowns.
Robert. Dear sir,
I don't deserve them.
Sir Philip. Nay!-
Sir Philip. I'll not believe thee.
Robert. Nay, I swear I don't.
I must have fancied that there was a wrinkle.
Sir Philip. Robert, a virtue may become a vice,
Robert. Nay, hear me, sir!
Sir Philip. I won't! There was a wrinkle!
And lower'd it again, while thou didst jerk
My skirts to take the wrinkle out?—and now
But happy thoughts, poetically clothed, are scattered throughout the play. We string together samples of these better parts, as well as of some striking conceptions of character. Sir Philip thus inquires and comments :
66 What say they to my gait? I made my gait
Myself! There's matter in men's gait, good Robert!
Knowles is always most at home when he dramatizes woman and love. Take examples of some things almost original in his endless varieties of fancy respecting the fair, and the archness of their estimate of themselves and also of the lords of the creation :
"Lady Blanche. Man!-man!-the paragon!—the fool he is
Is there husband you can name, who bears
His course of wooing out?-who does not prove it
To tell her offspring of her second stock,
Lady Anne. How I love you
When thus you talk! Would all our sex were like you!
And, yet, you suffer men, while I repel them!
Lady Blanche. I suffer them to plague them, and I do so. You are an old maid by anticipation,
And make the arch dissemblers stand aloof.
We know it!
The faces men make at them when they find them
Lady Anne. Women have more soul than men."
"Lady Anne. He thrives beyond my hopes! Leave an old maid Alone to make a man, reforming him After the fashion likes her. Women prate
Who talk of conquest, while they stoop to love!
Of women and of men to put to proof?
My tables backwards, while they fought with pounds,