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AS IT IS ACTED AT THE
THE A TRE-ROYAL
DRUR Y. LA N E.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A
OBSERVATIONS ON TRAGEDY.
DESCRIPTAS SERVARE VICES-
HOR. DE ART. POET
PRINTED BY W. RICHARDSON, IN THE STRAND;
FOR G. KEARSLY, N° 46, FLEET-STREET.
M DCC LXXX,
HE Tragedy here presented to the Public has no farther foundation on hiftory, than that Selim I. one of the Ottoman emperors, befieged, and fubdued Cairo; by that event reducing Egypt un. der his dominion. The reft is invention.
When its author confiders the combination of difficulties he has had to encounter, he must have an unpardonable share of vanity did he not feel, and were he not anxious to exprefs, how much he owes to the good offices of all who have had any
concern in the Piece.
To the Managers, therefore, for their care, judg ment, and liberality, in getting it up; to Mr. Linley, and Mr. Loutherbourg, for the display of their feveral well-known talents; and to all the performers, not only for their kind attention during the preparation of the Piece, but their exertions in reprefentation, particularly to the zeal and abilities of Mrs. Yates, he thus publickly returns his fincere acknowledgements. To their united efforts he principally attributes the uniform, and conftant applaufe, with which the Piece has been honoured in the theatre; for a bare enumeration of the variety of unfavourable circumstances which have attended its whole progrefs, will fufficiently prove that no Tragedy,
produced within the present century, has had to con tend with equal obstacles.
It is certain, whatever be the cause, that the current of public taste has of late run strongly in the channel of Comedy. Zoraida had not only, in common with other Tragedies, to oppose this cur rent, but was the first to ftem the torrent of ridicule with which the Critic has overwhelmed this portion of the drama; and that even while the impreffions conveyed by this favourite burlesque were fresh, and strong, upon the minds of the audience. The time when the Piece, through unavoidable delays, was produced, was alfo an additional difadvantage to it; a fortnight before, and after, the holidays, being always esteemed the worst part of the seafon; and this difadvantage was increased by the indifpofition of two of the principal performers; Mr. Palmer, and Mrs. Yates, being both fo ill, during the three first nights, as to be scarce able to tread the stage.
But these are not the only difficulties Zoraida has had to combat.
When it is confidered how many, profeffedly, form their judgments of theatrical performances from news-paper criticifms, and how many (who, if accused of it, would difdain the imputation, yet) are fecretly influenced by them, the injury they may do a writer is easy to be conceived: for, if his reputation is not already fufficiently established to burst through the cloud in which their decifions, almost universally unfavourable, for a time involve it, he
is inevitably precluded a fair hearing, at the tribunal of the Public, from the prejudices which, by this vehicle, are circulated, against his Piece. The author of Zoraida is far from difputing either the candour or abilities of feveral of the editors of the daily prints; but (without hinting at the variety of caufes which may influence and bias their judgment) when we know what difference of opinion, in matters of tafte, prevails among perfons of the most refined and improved judgment, even in works long fubmitted to the cool decifion of the closet, it surely is not too much to fay, that it is impoffible for any fet of men to decide fairly on the merits of any theatrical piece, merely from once hearing it; efpecially when the imperfection which neceffarily attends a first night's performance is taken into the account. Of the truth of this remark, the oppofite and irreconcileable criticisms which have been made upon Zoraida, are a most convincing proof,
In one print, the Piece has been described as an Oriental Rhapsody of forced, unnatural fituations, conveyed in the baldest numbers that ever difgraced the tragic Muse. In another, as being a cold, regular French play, depending more on fentiment, and diction, than action, yet of claffical purity. In one place, the plot has been reprefented as exhibiting various interesting changes of fortune; in another, as having a chilling fameness pervading every part of it. The language has been described as being flowery, incorrect, claffical, elegant, bloated, and puerile; while the fentiments were now faid to be