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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 1.djvu/458

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Must wear a head in want of Willis' skill;[1]
Aye, but Macheath's example—psha!—no more!
It formed no thieves—the thief was formed before;[2]
And spite of puritans and Collier's curse,[3]

Plays make mankind no better, and no worse.[4]370
  1. [The Rev. Dr. Francis Willis died in 1807, in the 90th year of his age. He attended George III. in his first attack of madness in 1788. The power of his eye on other persons is illustrated by a story related by Frederick Reynolds (Life and Times., ii. 23), who describes how Edmund Burke quailed under his look. His son, John Willis, was entrusted with the entire charge of the king in 1811. Compare Shelley's Peter Bell the Third, part vi.—

    "Let him shave his head:
    Where's Dr. Willis?"

    (See, too, Bland-Burges Papers (1885), pp. 113-115, and Life of George IV., by Percy Fitzgerald (1881), ii. 18.)]

  2. [Dr. Johnson was of the like opinion. "Highwaymen and housebreakers," he says, in his Life of Gay, "seldom frequent the playhouse, or mingle in any elegant diversion; nor is it possible for any one to imagine that he may rob with safety, because he sees Macheath reprieved upon the stage."—Lives of the Poets, by Samuel Johnson (1890), ii. 266. It was asserted, on the other hand, by Sir John Fielding, the Bow-street magistrate, that on every run of the piece, The Beggars 0pera, an increased number of highwaymen were brought to his office; and so strong was his conviction, that in 1772 he remonstrated against the performance with the managers of both the houses.]
  3. And spite of Methodism and Collier's curse.—[MS. M.]
    He who's seduced by plays must be a fool
    If boys want teaching let them stay at school.—[MS. L. (a).]

  4. Jerry Collier's controversy with Congreve, etc., on the subject of the drama, is too well known to require further comment.

    [Jeremy Collier (1650-1726), non-juring bishop and divine. The occasion of his controversy with Congreve was the publication of his Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1697-8). Congreve, who had been attacked by name, replied in a tract entitled Amendments upon Mr. Collier's false and imperfect citations from the Old Batcheleur, etc.]