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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,
Examine me. Scan me from head to foot
And round about, and say how fits my dress,
And as you love me, Robert, use your skill.
Lie the seams fair? Sits any part awry?
Observe the buttons their due distances?
The slashes their proportions and their places?
The skirts their lengths and uniformity?
Lurks anywhere a wrinkle or a crease?
Find me a fault, dear Robert, if you can.
Robert. The suit, methinks, is perfect.
Sir Philip. Look again,

And jealously! Find me a fault, I'll find
A crown for you.

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

My eyes

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,
And, therefore, doubt'st it! What is it?

Robert. Alas!

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
In length.

Sir Philip. Were it the tenth without the rest
It spoils the suit-off with't! It shall go back!


It much becomes you! Well the colour sorts

With your complexion !—and the pattern flogs
All past achievements of the shaping art!
And 'tis a dress of excellent proportions,
Sets off your person to unmatched advantage.
Look at the sleeve alone!-How plain it shows
The tailor tax'd his brains!

Sir Philip. Where lies the wrinkle ?


Here, near the seam of the left shoulder.
Sir Philip. That's

A place a wrinkle may have leave to come!

Cans't help the wrinkle? There's the piece I promised
If thou canst help it, now,

For finding it.

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;

Now put it down again-Upon my life
'Tis growing less.

Sir Philip. Well done, good Robert.
Robert. 'Tis

Almost away!

Sir Philip. Say it is quite away,
I'll give thee the third piece.

Robert. I would I could;

No hope of that, I fear! A wrinkle is

A stubborn thing! Eh?-What?-I must be blind!
Why, where is it?

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!

Robert. Indeed I don't.

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,
Carried too far! Thou art too honest, Robert.

Robert. Nay, hear me, sir!

Sir Philip. I won't! There was a wrinkle!
Did I not set me on my perfect poise?
Stood I not motionless as block of stone?
Then at thy bidding raised I not my arm,

VOL. III. (1841.) No. III.

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And lower'd it again, while thou didst jerk

My skirts to take the wrinkle out?—and now

Persuade me there was none ! There was a wrinkle!

I will not hear thee!-Peace!"

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 :

"What say they to my gait? I made my gait

Myself! There's matter in men's gait, good Robert!
Therein you have the impress of their callings;
There is the clerk's.gait, which implies obedience;
The shopkeeper's, half service, half command;
The merchant's, o'er revolving speculations;
The lawyer's, quick and keen at quirks and flaws;
The student's, ponderous as piles of folios;

The courtier's, supple, prompt for courtesies;

The soldier's keeping time with drums and trumpets ;
And twenty others—all most common-place!
But there's one gait that's paramount of all-
The gentleman's, that speaks not any calling;
Shows him at liberty to please himself;
And while it meditates offence to none,
Observes a proper negligence towards all,
And imperturbable complacency!"

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 When women know themselves and know to treat him;

The knave when left to his own practices!

Is there a husband you can name, who bears

His course of wooing out?-who does not prove it

A trade of common snaring?--who resembles

The man he was before the honey-moon?

A woman's life, my friend, from girlhood onwards
Has melancholy progress! She begins
A goddess; then declines into a bride-
Which means a young wife keeping holiday,
As children sent to school go not at once
To tasks-next sinks into a housekeeper-
Her wedding ring her badge of office !-thence
Haply into a nurse!-When matters not
How soon she settles into grandmamma,

To tell her offspring of her second stock,

The story of her cozening!

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.

Oh, how I dote upon a staunch old maid!

I'll die one!-She stands up for liberty;

Talk of the rights of men! The rights that want
Upholding are the rights of women!-Men

Are tyrants! have too many rights! We know it!

Ours are the rights want champions! We should be lost
Without old maids-Oh, the delicious crabs!

The faces men make at them when they find them

Their masters!

Lady Anne. Women have more soul than men."

Again :

"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!
What's sway for sway, but mere equality
Wherein the party least deserves to rule-
And that, past all dispute, is man, the lord!-
Ne'er rests till he disturbs the perfect poise,
Into his own scale throws his might-that good
Wherein the brute hath mastery o'er him-
And to the beam heaves up the counter one,
To hang there at his will!-Had women but
The thews of men! My very girlhood solved
The riddle of their sovereignty!-Brought up
With two male cubs of cousins, was not I

A likely one the relative deserts

Of women and of men to put to proof?

And didn't I?-I beat them to a stand!

We started all together! Where were they

When I could read? Why, in the spelling-book!
When I was in subtraction, where were they?

A cudgelling their brains to cast a sum

Of ten lines in addition! I could rhyme

My tables backwards, while they fought with pounds,
Shillings and pence, that kept the upper hand
And laugh'd at them for masters! I could parse,
While they on footing of most shy acquaintance
Kept with their parts of speech! In one thing only

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