A sage, or rakish youngster wild from school,
A wandering Peregrine, or plain John Bull;
All persons please when Nature's voice prevails,
Scottish or Irish, born in Wilts or Wales.
Or follow common fame, or forge a plot;
Who cares if mimic heroes lived or not!170
One precept serves to regulate the scene:
Make it appear as if it might have been.
And freely wander from the beaten way,180
If some Drawcansir you aspire to draw,
Present him raving, and above all law:
If female furies in your scheme are planned,
Macbeth's fierce dame is ready to your hand;
For tears and treachery, for good and evil,
Constance, King Richard, Hamlet, and the Devil!
But if a new design you dare essay,
- —— or form a plot.—[Proof b, British Museum.]
- ["Johnson. Pray, Mr. Bayes, who is that Drawcansir?
Bayes. Why, Sir, a great [fierce] hero, that frights his mistress, snubs up kings, baffles armies, and does what he will, without regard to numbers, good sense, or justice [good manners, justice, or numbers]."—The Rehearsal, act iv. sc. 1.
The Rehearsal, by George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham (1627-1688), appeared in 1671. Sprat and others are said to have shared the authorship. So popular was the play that "Drawcansir" passed into a synonime for a braggadocio. It is believed that "Bayes" (that is, of course, "laureate") was meant for a caricature of Dryden: "he himself complains bitterly that it was so." (See Lives of the Poets (1890), i. 386; and Boswell's Life of Johnson (1876), p. 235, and note.)]