[Page] A LICK at a LIAR: OR, Calumny Detected.

BEING An Occasional Letter TO A FRIEND FROM Theophilus Cibber, Comedian.

——'Tis SLANDER,
Whose Edge is sharper than the Sword; whose Tongue
Outvenoms all the Worms of Nile; whose Breath
Rides on the Posting Winds, and doth belye
All Corners of the World; Kings, Queens, and States,
Maids, Matrons: Nay, the Secrets of the Grave
This viperous Slander enters.——
Shakespear's Cymbeline.
Sine me—Ibis in Urbem,
Hei mihi quod Domino non licet ire tuo.
OVID.

LONDON: Printed for R. GRIFFITES in St Paul's Church-Yard. Price Six-pence.

THE PREFACE.

OF how small Concern soe­ver the Writer of the fol­lowing Letter may be to the Pub­lic, yet, as their kind Opinion is of the utmost Importance to him; and, as some scandalous As­persions, and malicious Represen­tations of him, are herein confut­ed, or set in a right Light; His Name being prefixed to it, may possibly raise Curiosity enough to occasion its being read—These [Page 4] Reasons, 'tis suggested, will prove a sufficient Apology for publish­ing what was first intended only for the private Perusal of a few particular Friends.

A LETTER, &c

I GUESS Business has prevented your calling on me, for some time past, as I know you do not want good Nature; besides, I am certain you had me in your Mind, having been in­formed you were kind enough to speak in my behalf, when my Character was attacked by a low Fellow, who unworthi­ly bears the Name of a Comedian, because during a Dearth of decent Performers, he is suffered unnoticed to murder many a Part, to the Reproach of our present ste­rile Stage, while he modestly misconstrues the Forbearance of the Town into an Ap­probation: [Page 6] This Slanderer, whose Soul is darker than his dusky Countenance, which often dingily degrades a genteel Comedy, by his disgraceful Appearance, has, as I am well informed, been very bu­sy in propagating some Falshoods to my Prejudice, at this most unpardonable Juncture, when I can't come Abroad to give him an Answer, if he were worthy one.

If his Mind had the least Tincture of a Gentleman, (a Name which, indeed, neither his Birth, Education, or Morals give him the least Pretensions to) he would know, that now to utter even a severe Truth, were an Act of Inhumanity; and that to indulge Spleen against the Unfortu­nate, is as base as cowardly striking the Prostate. What he may be pleas­ed to say of me as an Actor, is de­lightfully despicable; I have too proper a Contempt for his Mock-Judgment, not to consider his Disapprobation as a Com­pliment; and must imagine any one of True Taste would regard his Praise as the severest Satire.

Were I disposed to throw away my Time in Drawing this Notorious Man at full Length, and Paint him in his [Page 7] proper Colours (which I may possibly be provoked to, if he does not learn to restrain his Fibbing Tongue) I could exhibit to View a Monster, which every one but his scurvy self would start at: I should have held him quite beneath my Notice, as is all he utters, but that the Appetite of Slander, in many, is too pre­dominant; and, 'tis possible, when the filthiest Fellow throws a Profusion of Dirt, some may chance to stick, if not timely thrown off; I shall endeavour therefore, to wipe away the sooty Smears of this Chimney-sweeper, by relating a simple Fact, which will, I flatter my­self, amply confute the malicious Tales of this unprovoked, rancorous Mortal:—I say unprovoked, for I am not conscious I was ever guilty of an Injury towards him in Thought, Word, or Deed; and as this Viperous Gnatho has ever, to my Face, affected to be my Friend, his Back­biting appears the more surprisingly inju­rious and shocking. Why this bad Man has thus endeavoured to blacken me I should not readily have been able to ac­count for, had not the entertaining In­spector furnished me with the following Paragraph, in his Essay on Detraction, &c.

[Page 8] ‘One would imagine by the Spirit and eager Pleasure with which Calum­nies are raised and propagated, that Men supposed they obtained into their own Possession all those good Qualities, of the Credit of which they robbed another: With those who are warm­est in the Practice, something like this is perhaps the Case. Virtue they place in no Esteem farther than as an Article of Reputation; and in this they see it only as owing its Lustre to Compa­rison: They feel a thousand Obstacles to raising themselves up to the Level of those whom they envy; but they see the same End is to be answered by bringing them down to theirs: If they cannot add to the Merchandise in one Scale, they will steal away the Weights from the other, and the Balance will this Way also appear equal.’

Let me add a Line or two more from that Writer, which seem apropos.

‘He who is himself abandoned, and has not Virtue to inspire a Resolution of reclaiming, will snatch at every Op­portunity of Scandal in another, and [Page 9] he will urge it as a Proof, that all Mankind are like him, only that they are Hypocrites.’

While I am expressing my Contempt and Detestation of this Detractor, let me confess my Obligation to Mr. MACK­LIN, who, I understand, was candid e­nough, in my Absence, to contradict, on his own Knowledge, some of the Slan­der uttered against me; This he is the more praise-worthy for, and the Act more particularly merits my Regard as there was not any strong Intimacy sub­sisting between us:—Be so good, to make my Compliments to him, and let him know, I have a grateful Sense of his Behaviour to me.

There are other Chatterers in a Cof­fee-House, I am told, "who, like to Vil­lage-Curs, bark when their Fellows do," The most of these are the mere Fag­gots of a Theatre, who just serve to fill up the Muster-Roll of a Company; NAMES that now and then clutter up a Play-Bill, with as little Significancy as ROE and DOE in a Writ, or JOHN A­NOKES and TOM A-STILES in a Law Case: When you hear any of 'em [Page 10] mentioned, you no more annex the I­dea of an Actor to the Names of the former, than you do to the latter the I­dea of any one Breathing: Might not one cry out, with FALSTAEF, when they are seen or mentioned—I am a Rogue if I am not ashamed of my Company!—These are a Kind of Parrots, who fancy they entertain, while their Prating is but the Pest of the Public Society; yet they will be heard, though they are more disturbing to a rational Conversation, than the pert and noisy Chirpings of caged Birds in a small Room, on a sun-shiny Day.—Among these may be one or two, perhaps, who, by a lucky Hit in some farcical Extravaganza, with Buffoon­ery and Impudence, (which with the Million, too frequently pass for Humour and Spirit) sans Judgment, or Genius, gain the Applause of a Day, and then deem themselves Actors; much as some modern Metre-mongers, from the Suc­cess of a slight Sonnet (sung with univer­sal Applause, forsooth, at Sadlers-Wells) assume the Character of Poets.

These choice Brethren of the Buskin and Sock (with which our present Thea­tres too much abound) are a sort of [Page 11] Things, who have no Chance for being Conspicuous but by the Removal or Abuse of Actors to whom the Encouragement and continued Approbation of the Town, may have given an established Reputa­tion: their little malicious Envy is easily accounted for, and their cobweb Arts pre­sently seen through—Pour ces Petits Hommes du Jour je me mocque de ceux. But now to answer the two particular LIES this Bad Man has told of me, viz. That I ran away from Ireland in Debt, and left my Bail to pay a Debt for me in Liverpool.

How I succeeded in Dublin, as an Ac­tor you may have heard, and a Gentle­man, a Well-wisher of mine, having published an Account of the Irish Theatre in a Letter from Dublin to a Friend in London, printed in the Inspector, or Lon­don Daily Advertiser, last Summer, which I send you inclosed; * to that I refer you, as far as relates to Stage Affairs:—As to my Conduct off the Stage: I may affirm I lived reputably, and de­cently; and my Mind being more at Ease while I was there for three Years, than it had been for a long time before, I know of No Irregularities I gave way [Page 12] to there, that could either bring Shame to myself, or cause my Friends to blush for me.

I remained in Dublin a Fortnight af­ter the Theatre was closed, and my Contract with the Manager was deter­mined: I always openly declared I in­tended for London in the Summer—But some private Business calling me hi­ther sooner than I expected, I com­mission'd a Friend to pay any Debts I might accidentally have forgot; and immediately after my Sailing, an Adver­tisement was published, and continued to that Effect, for several Days, in ES­DAL's NEWS LETTER, of which I have some in Possession to produce, if requisite: And now, I think, I may fairly aver, there is No one Person there has any Demand upon me.

But now to return to Liverpool:—That I was, two Years since, arrested at Liverpool, is certain;—A Gen­tleman there passed his Word for my Appearance;—This he was the more inclineable to do, as He knew the o­riginal Plaintiff was not the Best of Men; and had Reason to believe the [Page 13] Debt was honestly disputable:—I yielded myself to the Attorney the next Day:—The Gentleman knowing how much the Benefits (for I was then acting in a Company there) depended on my Performance (and a fa­voured friend of his having one come­ing on) continued his Security to the Attorney:—Some Time after, I came Post to London, in order to set­tle a Bill in Chancery, which I was preparing to justify myself. And the Opening of the Theatre in Dublin, to which I was engaged, was so near at Hand, being pinched in Time, I was under a Necessity of getting thither as fast as possible.

In the Interim a Responsible Friend of mine gave the Gentleman at Liverpool a Satisfactory Counter Security.

Had Things turned out ever so Bad (as who can answer for Law Proceed­ings) the Gentleman at Liverpool could not suffer: But the Plaintiff dying, the Affair was at an End—And nei­ther one, nor t'other of the Securities ever did, or can sustain any Damage.

[Page 14] "Somewhat too much of this."

And now I have only to add my Request, that you would make my Com­pliments to all good natured Friends that enquire after me;—As the Way from Westminster hither is Now A­BRIDG'D, and the Road clean and plea­sant, I am in Hopes (having given Se­curity for the Rules) to see some of 'em at my Habitation, in Falcon Court, where (oh strange to tell!) I lodge op­posite to No less a Person than my Half Name - sake THEO—, K—g of C—CA.

Thus sport the Fates with all sublunar Things,
And Prisoners make of Players and of Kings.

When the Term comes, (Diu mul­tumque Desiderat.) I may with the Con­venience of a Day - Rule, contrive to break from this Retirement (if properly called on) and, like the ROMAN CIN­CINNATUS from the Plough, once more enter on a Scene of PUBLIC ACTION.

[Page 15] Don't you smile at the extravagant Modesty of the Comparison?—Laugh and welcome—You know I was always odd.—However, is it not a laudable Ambition to be seen in good Company? I confess, I should not be unwilling, once more, to tread the Stage, were no other Ad­vantage to accrue to me from it, but the Satisfaction of Entertaining a Town, to whom I have formerly been greatly obliged;—yet I can't pretend to say (in my present Circumstances) I should Only do it, pro Bono Publico,—as our Daily Advertisers, &c. have it:

So modern Quacks would have it under­stood,
They vend their Nostrums for the Pub­lic Good.

No, Let my Motto be PRODESSE ET DELECTARE;—which explain'd as follows, shews, it belongs to the Ac­tors as well as the Poets:

[Page 16]
When from a Candid Audience we ex­cite
Applause and Laughter on a Crowded Night,
We have our Profit; They have their Delight.

I shall not now trouble you with the Epistle I design'd for my Lord—I had the Happiness to meet him as he was going to B—H—th. He did me the Honour to stop his Coach to talk with me near Half an Hour:—You know His condescend­ing Affability, His Good Humour, and His many other amiable Qualities, which make even His Inferiours Happy, and endear Him as much to Mankind, in His private Life, as His Great Talents make Him Esteem'd and Honour'd in His publick Station:—You'll not wonder, therefore, when I tell you, He said many Good-natur'd Things to me; and made me some Compliments on my Theatrical Capacity, which, though my Gratitude can't forget 'em, it will better become me silently to Pride my self thereon, than vainly to repeat 'em. He confirm'd what you had informed [Page 17] me, That I was not unenquired after among some of the First Distinction;—and from what He farther said, I have Reason to flater myself, whenever I play agen, I shall be honour'd with a Noble Appearance.—Are not you tired with reading? I am of writing this long Let­ter.—Perhaps, you'll say, 'tis somewhat like my Life:—Light, Loose, Negligent, and unconnected:—What­ever may have been my Faults or In­discretions, I can honesty say with King Lear,—"I have been a Man more sinn'd against than sinful."

That I may tire you no farther—"Fare thee well at once.

I am, SIR,
Your Sincere Obliged Friend, And most Obedient, &c. THE. CIBBER.

APPENDIX.
A Letter sent, last June, from a Gentleman in Dublin, to his Friend in London:—Refer­red to in the foregoing Epistle, Page 11.

SIR,

AS I have some Business that de­tains me here longer than I ex­expected; I shall now give you an Epistolary Account of the Irish Thea­tre, which I proposed to have reserved as a Topic of Conversation.

[Page 19] Know then, I have still continued a constant Play-Hunter, and have found my Time not mis-employed; I ever thought Plays the most rational, as well as the most agreeable Amusement; and the Company of the Theatre Royal in Dub­lin, is well worthy of Encouragement: The numerous and polite Audiences they have had this Season, shew the whole Town are of my Mind. We have two Theatres here, but they are both rented by one Person. That in Aungier-street, has the largest and loftiest Stage; but not being so conveniently situated for the Town in general, is rarely used, unless for Assemblies, a Dramatic Opera, or now and then a Play. That in Smock-Alley is chiefly for Plays. It is a compleat pretty House, not so large as those of Lon­don, consequently the Decorations cannot be so magnificent; but the Scenes are ve­ry decent, and the Habits, &c. extremely handsome.

The Performances are various, and re­gularly conducted (no Person whatever be­ing admitted behind the Scenes) Mr. SHERIDAN is the chief Director, and me­rits the Encouragement of the Public for [Page 20] his Abilities as an Actor; particularly in the Characters of HORATIO in the Fair Penitent, MACBETH, HAMLET, and CO­RIOLANUS. They perform near twice the Number of Plays here, to what they do in London; and act near as many Nights, tho' their Company is not near so large in Number. Some Plays have been re­peated a dozen Times in the Season to very crowded Audiences, particularly the Provoked Husband, the Trip to the Jubilee, and the Nonjuror; the Relapse, Sir Fop­ling Flutter, the Careless Husband, the Double Dealer, the Distrest Mother, King John, Jane Shore, the Mourning Bride, and Henry the 8th, have been often acted, which is greatly owing to the inimitable Performance of Mrs. WOFFINGTON, who charms all (but chiefly the Judicious) in the Characters of Lady Townly, Sir H. Wildair, and Maria; this last mention­ed Part is, I think, one of the highest drawn Characters in Comedy, and she does the excellent Author Justice; nor is the Success of the Nonjuror a little owing to the masterly Performance of Mr. CIB­BER, who supports the Character of Dr. Wolf throughout, with a drole Dignity, a priestly Pride, insinuating Cunning, and affected Humility, as marks the Character [Page 21] with true Humour, Spirit, and Propriety; and shews him a just Comedian. These two Comedians in most of their Parts ex­cel others; but in these they may be said to excel themselves.—I always esteemed him a good Actor, but had not seen him act since the Beginning of 1749, when he appeared not in such perfect Health as he seems now to enjoy, with a happy Flow of Spirits. He has this last Winter given great Delight in the several Charac­ters of Lord Foppington, Sir Fopling Flutter, Sir Francis Wronghead, Beau Clincher, Po­lonius, Scrub, Sir Paul Pliant, Clodio, Don Manuel, Barnaby Brittle, Gomez, Abel Drug­ger, &c. in all which he shew'd a thorough Knowledge of Life, and an unconfined Genius; he pursues Nature, and plays them with admirable Variety.

Were I to expatiate on the various Me­rits of the three before-mentioned Perfor­mers, I should send you a Pamphlet in­stead of an Epistle, so shall only add, that the Contention here concerning WOF­FINGTON has been wherein she shone most; whether in Tragedy or Comedy. She's great in both, but the latter gives her an Opportunity of shewing the great­er Variety; and she's so much a Mistress of [Page 22] her Profession, 'tis scarce easy to determine what Cast of Parts most properly belong to her; since I have beheld her with un­common Admiration, as a Jane Shore, an Hermione, and Andromache, a Constance, a Lady Betty Modish, and a Lady Pliant, in the Space of a few Weeks. Mr. SHERI­DAN is excellent in Maskwell, and CIB­BER and WOFFINGTON are highly enter­taining in the drole Characters of Sir Paul and Lady Phant. Tho' my Paper is al­most full, and your Patience, I doubt not, well nigh tired, I must mention her ex­traordinary Performance in Phoedra. Her Attitudes were gracefully picturesque, just­ly adapted to her various Descriptions and Passions; None seem'd forced or studied: Her Countenance was equally expressive, and she so well managed her Voice, she neither wanted Power or Variety through the whole Part. Her Queen Catherine al­so in Henry the 8th, and Volumnia in Co­riolanus were fine Performances. Nor can I decline giving Praise to CIBBER in the Character of Wolsey, which he performed at his second Benefit (the principal Actors here have two each, in one Season) to a vast Audience, with deserved Applause.

[Page 23] To conclude: Of the three Performers I have here mention'd, I think, may be justly said, (what a late celebrated Writer observed of one of them) ‘Judiciously considered in their various Lights, they are but barely received as they deserve, when the Audience appears most fa­vourable to them.’

I am, Sir, &c.

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