June 8, 1732
See and Seem Blind:
Or, A Critical
Publick DIVERSIONS, &c.
Of Persons and Things, and
Things and Persons, and what not.
In a Letter from the Right Honourable the
Lord B----- to A--- H--- Esq;
Risum Teneatis Amici?
Printed for H. WHITRIDGE, the Corner of
Castle-Alley, near the Royal-Exchange.
A LETTER from the
Right Hon. the Lord B--
to A---- H--, Esq;
I AM pleased to hear you make your voluntary Exile so agreeable to your self, but am sure it is far otherwise to your Friends, for the whole Town laments the Loss of you; there is something wanting in our Pleasures, which seems owing to your Absence. It is  inexpressible with what Extremity of Eagerness your Friends languish to see you once more, shining in the Circle of Pleasure, the very Life and Spirit of Wit, Gayety, and good Humour.
By your last Request, I perceive you still retain a Hankering after this blessed Place; still anxious to know the present State of Pleasure in this sweet Metropolis: In Compliance to which I draw you here a slight Winter Sketch of the Town, for your Summer’s Amusement.
To answer your Enquiry after the Old House, I assure you they have made a very good Winter, have pleas’d the Town, and enrich’d themselves; and as for Benefits never were greater known. 
The Town has been in a Humour to encourage any thing offer’d with an Intent to please; and Charles B----n’s Play excepted, which by the bye met with very ill usage, every thing else has gone glib down. The Tragedy of Ethelwold brought very little Money, nay I am told it run the Managers somewhat out of Pocket; but yet it went off Genteely like a thing too solid for the present Taste: It was usher’d out with respect, as if the Publick would say, bring it on when we’re more serious and we’ll give it better Attention. For indeed it was finely Conducted and the Diction extreamly Noble and Pathetick. Fielding has had very good and very bad Success, a Farce of his call’d the Lottery And a Comedy intituled the Modern Husband, have both  met with extraordinary Success; and, between both, he has made little less than a thousand Pounds, but the poor Author has fall’n into the Jaws of Rattle-snakes, His Elbows have destroy’d the Off-spring of his Brain; and in Spight of all his good Sense he has been stript at Play by Sharpers.
We have had likewise, a Tragedy call’d, Injur’d Innocence; but as I said before, this is too merry an Age for Tragedy.
But sure nothing has had a greater Run, than a little Farce called, the Devil to Pay, taken from The Comical Transformation, or the Devil of a Wife; but so cleverly alter’d and adapted to the present Taste, that it has been perform’d almost every  Night this Season; your little Favourite Miss Raftor appears a Prodigy in this Piece, it has render’d her the Darling of the whole Town. In a Word, the Old House has gain’d Ground, while the New has lost, Mr. Lun being too much engross’d by his Seraglio of Ladies, Studd of Racers to mind Business; too much given up to his innate Indolence, and Ill Nature; for let me tell you (with all that affable Appearance to his Superiors) he is the most over-bearing Animal breathing, to those who are so unfortunate to depend upon or apply to him; he will keep an Author in suspence Year after Year, and bamboozle him at last; in a Word, he is a Curb to every growing Genius, and would have every Thing that succeeds pass for his own: Never did any Man more blind the World,  or abuse the Publick Indulgence; in short, he is a Medley of Inconsistencies, a meer Original of Self-sufficiency; were Pope to write he’d not scruple to alter, were Handel or Bononcini to Compose, he’d presume to prescribe Amendment.
To play all that is brought him were endless indeed, but ’tis equally absur’d to refuse every thing Offer’d; what has he produc’d this Season? the Married Philosopher! ev’n that at the very fagg End of the Season, to his own and the Author’s no small Detriment; had he suffer’d it to come on sooner, they both had got tenfold more, the Comedy being, in my Opinion, an exceeding good one; but the poor Author has no doubt gone through an Ordeal Tryal, to get it exhibited to the Publick. 
And indeed, the Reason of so few good Pieces appearing, is the Difficulty of their Introduction; by far exceeding the Labour of Composition.
The English Opera of Amelia was proffer’d him above two Years ago; which had he taken he had not only done Justice to the Composer in particular, but given Pleasure to the Town in general; nay, I am very confident, had made considerable Profit of it himself: But his over Fondness of himself, and mean Opinion of all the rest of Mankind, will not suffer him to hear Reason, tho’ it be tack’d to his own Interest.
This Opera was set to Musick by one Lampe a German, who  has resided here some Years in a private Capacity, and apply’d himself very close to the Study of Composition, of which this is a pretty Exemplar: The Drama is, like Banks’s Earl of Essex, well conducted but ill told; being a most misearble piece of Poetry; there are indeed some tolerable good Songs, but the Diction of the Recitative is most Execrable, Mean and Prosaic, notwithstanding which the Musick is most Excellent and Masterly, and gives us room to hope for better Productions from the same hand.
In this Opera, Miss Arne, an Undertaker’s Daughter near Covent-Garden, appear’d in a most amiable Light, to the great Delight and Surprize of the whole Town, she  is very young, and very pretty; and has made innumerable Conquests, her Voice is exceeding small, but exceeding sweet; she Sings perfectly in Tune, and her manner is entirely modern; she has such a Warble, such a je ne scay quoy, as tickles my very Soul; and yet there are some Brutes, that because she is English, are angry with themselves for liking her in spite of Prejudice.
Her great Excellence tho’ it supported the Opera, eclipsed the other Performers; in short, it was a thousand pities it had not been done at one of the other Houses; it would have appear’d in a much better Light; but notwithstanding all the Difficulties it labour’d under, it made its way and was it not a bold Stroke to set up an English Opera, in direct Opposition to the Italian? Was supported  by the Royal Patronage; the Subscription and Interest of the Gentry, and the best Voices Italy could produce; and it was as odd, as bold, for my self saw it, both Opera’s being perform’d the same Night; I left the Italian Opera, the House was so thin, and cross’d over the way to the English one, which was so full I was forc’d to croud in upon the Stage, and even that was throng’d: Is not this odd, I say, for an English Tradesman’s Daughter to spring up all of a suddain, and rival the selected Singers of Italy?
This alarm’d H—l, and out he brings an Oratorio, or Religious Farce, for the duce take me if I can make any other Construction of the Word, but he has made a very good Farce of it, and  put near 4000 l. in his Pocket, of which I am very glad, for I love the Man for his Musick’s sake.
This being a new Thing set the whole World a Madding; Han’t you been at the Oratorio, says one? Oh! If you don’t see the Oratorio you see nothing, says t’other; so away goes I to the Oratorio, where I saw indeed the finest Assembly of People I ever beheld in my Life, but, to my great Surprize, found this Sacred Drama a mere Consort, no Scenary, Dress or Action, so necessary to a Drama; but H—l, was plac’d in a Pulpit, I suppose they call that (their Oratory) by him sate Senesino[,] Strada[,] Bertolli, and Turner[,] Robinson, in their own Habits; before him stood sundry sweet Singers of this our Israel, and Strada gave  us a Hallelujah of half an Hour long; Senesino and Bertolli made rare work with the English Tongue you would have sworn it had been Welch; I would have wish’d it Italian, that they might have sang with more ease to themselves, since, but for the Name of English, it might as well have been Hebrew.
I had like to have forgot your old Friend Hurlothrumbo, who has blaz’d afresh in a most extraordinary Performance, call’d the Blazing Comet, but having exhausted the very Quintessence of his Genius, in his first Performance, this latter piece appears but like Fragments of the other; it has indeed the same Flow of Nonsense and Bombast, but too much of it; there is one very odd and withal  very novel Whim, which is the Author’s coming on the Stage in Stilts, or false Legs about eight Foot high, which makes the whole Figure appear to be fourteen Foot in stature; and withal so perfectly whimsical you cannot see it without Laughter.
As for the Greek Tragedy you so particularly metnion, I am told the Author (after having made vast Improvements, and gain’d the private Approbation of a Friend of ours near Brentford, with many others of that Taste) had, first the Folly to offer it Harlequin, secondly the Mortification to have it flatly refus’d, and lastly the Madness to burn, not only that, but all his unpublish’d Pieces; with a fixt Resolution never to write more; for which his Friends blame  him very much, but he is grown peevish and inflexible; speak of Poets or Poetry, and he quits the Company; you are best sensible what a Loss this is to the Publick.
The Play-house at Goodman’s-Fields has met with extraordinary Encouragement under the Management of Mr. Giffard, who came hither from Ireland, about three Years ago, he is a very careful Man and a good Actor, his Wife is a charm-<?ing> Performer. One Mr. Delane from the University of Dublin, a Gentleman of good Family, Sense and Behaviour, has taken a fancy to acting, performs at this Theatre with prodigious Applause; and is universally esteem’d. Mr. Miller, and Mrs. Roberts from the Old-House, are no small Support to the Company, which is indeed a  tollerable good one, and an excellent Nursery to the other Theatres. They are now building a new Play-house, much more, by far, Commodious, which is in great forwardness, and upwards of 4000 l. is actually deposited for that purpose.
We have likewise had two Operas, Etius and Sosarmes, the first most Masterly, the last most pleasing, and in my mind exceeding pretty: There are two Duetto’s which Ravish me, and indeed the whole is vastly Genteel; (I am sorry I am so wicked) but I like one good Opera better than Twenty Oratorio’s: Were they indeed to make a regular Drama of a good Scripture Story, and perform it with proper Decorations, which may be done with as much Preverence in proper  Habits, as in their own common Apparrel; (I am sure with more Grandeur and Solemnity,and at least equal Decency) then should I change my Mind, then would the Stage appear in its full Lustre, and Musick Answer [sic] its original Design.
A thing of this Nature must consequently have a very fine Effect, but Affectation and Hypocrisy seem to prevail too much to give us hope of such a Reformation of the Stage. Pray let me know if you proceed in that Comedy, Part of which gave us so much Pleasure in the Reading last Winter? May we hope to see it on the Stage, or are you too impatient to go through so long a Process? I am charm’d with the Character I hear of your fair Pupil, whom you are training up for the  Stage, what a Happiness to the Publick! what an Honour for her to have so great a Man for her Tutor? Your condescention, in this Case, carries such a Demonstrance of Generosity to the young Gentlewoman, (not to mention the great Obligations you will lay on the Publick) as must, if possible, endear you more to all who are happy in your Friendship. I am told she is a Miracle in Beauty, Size, Voice, and Action. I am sensible you are too well acquainted with Women and Things, to make Choice of one not perfectly qualified for your Purpose; but, for Heaven’s sake, don’t throw away all your Labour and her Perfections on **** think on our Friend’s ill Usage, and if a Man of his Merit and Character is treated with such Impertinence, what  can any one else expect from that quarter?
Next Winter promises mighty Matters: The English Opera, seems to make a shew of Revival; Lampe is preparing a new one, and reviving Amelia with great Additions and Amendments; for which purpose the whole Drama, is new writing in Heroick Verse, by a very Eminent hand, who has taken a fancy to the Subject, several other English Operas are likewise Composing by very eminent hands, and great Interest making for Subscriptions.
For now Lampe has broken the Ice, the rest follow more readily; and who knows but a Year or two may produce an Opera entirely English? but that this is owing to  the Italian Operas, the Compositions of Handel, Bononcini, and Attilio, the Performances of Senesino, Faustina, Cuzzoni, and Strada, which have even Inculcated the Italian Taste among us, no one will be so ungrateful to deny.
Let therefore the Italians share the Praise of Promulgation, and the English, of Improvement, but how great will the general Satisfaction, at least to Rational Creatures, when Sense and Sound shall be United?
The Managers of the Old-House, seem very little alarm’d at the new One now Building so near ’em; they have several good Pieces ready. Booth will certainly appear in his wonted  Splendour, and then, who dares oppose him? I could wish your Pupil at that House, for none else (now Mrs. Porter is unhappily prevented from Charming the Town) can be fit to bear him Company.
As for the new Theatre above-mention’d I can give no Account of it, because, I believe in my Conscience, the Master himself has yet thought nothing of the Matter; some of the Sharers at Lincolns-Inn-Fields, are Malecontent, and Law is like to be the Upshot; they thinking it very unreasonable to follow his fancy with their Purses; for (say they) if we Humour him, and feed him with Money, he may take it into his Head to build a Play-house, in every Parish in London. 
I hear with a great deal of Pleasure, that a Number of Gentlemen of Taste and Fortune, are going to Establish a Theatre under their own Direction, and that considerable Sums are Subscribed for that purpose; if this be true, Authors and Actors may expect better Encouragement, and the Town greater Variety of Diversion. A thing of this Nature has been long wanted, and wish’d for it cannot fail of Success, the very Credit and Interest of the Gentlemen Concern’d, being sufficient to support the Design. As for Lincolns-Inn Play-house, I am inform’d her Grace the D——ss of M———h, has advanc’d very largely towards a new Subscription for Italian Opera’s, to be there under the direction of  Bononcini and Arrigoni; and a new set of Singers, are to be sent for from Italy, for that purpose.
Poor Italy is like to be drain’d of all its Singers; for Geminiani, after having got very handsomely by a weekly Consort at Hickford’s, during the Season; is gone to Italy to procure new Voices for the next. So that we are like to swim in Diversion. Here is just brought forth a new Opera called Lucius Papirius, the Dictator composed by —— some body abroad, but it wants the Dignity, and Sublimity of Handel’s Stile; but may pass very well for Variety sake.
The Votes can best inform you of the Proceedings in Parliament, and I can assure you, you have been very much miss’d this  Sessions; on my Word, it has been a busy one, some of the false Brethren have gone to Pot; and the Backsides of many others begin to make Buttons; in short, the Gentlemen Representatives, have exerted themselves in a laudable Manner, and brought many iniquities to Light; not sparing even the Members of their own Body, if found Culpable.
And next Year the South-Sea-Company, may come under Inspection, and ’tis well for ’em they have so much time to prepare themselves; but, I fear, had they twice the time, they would find it impossible to wash the Black-more White: There is no ripping of Gutts, if the Money has been finger’d, there are some who live so voluptuously  they cannot, if they would, make restitution.
After all, what a Damn’d villainous combination is this Affair? Of the charitable Corporation? What immense Sums of Money are entirely sunk? what Numbers of good Families utterly ruin’d? and what Men (once) of Reputation have (notwithstanding their being Masters of ample Fortunes of their own) wickedly, conspir’d to decoy and plunder even their very bosome Friends? How near this bears Similitude to the Year 1720, needs not much Study, how near other Companies may have resemblance. Time will best discover: For Companies have it in their Power (if they please) to be very pernicious. The burning of Bellonis Letter, has occasioned much  Speculation: but in Matters of Church and State, you know, I am perfectly indifferent, pleasure is my Province, Titles, Forms and Traditions carry no weight with me. The common Formalities tho’ supported with all the Gravity imaginable, appear, to me, but like Children’s Play; or a kind of Serious Masquerade. In Matters of Religion, I neither contradict or affirm, nor shall any Provocation or Allurement, engage me in a Controversy, I leave ev’ry Man to his Opinion, and follow my own by the same rule.
In Matters of State, I had rather be govern’d than Govern, and don’t care what kind of Government is in Fashion, so I have my quiet. Let but my Pocket  and Conscience alone, ’tis all one to me who rules the Roast.
A Ridotto in Fresco is to be perform’d at Vaux-Hall; of which you shall hear more in my next, as also how the young Company go on this latter Season, under the Direction of young Cibber, who improves prodigiously, is in high favour with the Town, and has introduced several pretty things in his Summer Management, which have given the Town much Pleasure in their Winter Entertainments; of which The Devil to Pay, is a convincing Instance.
I doubt not but by this time you are as weary of Reading as I am of Writing, and therefore beg leave to conclude without farther Ceremony, and am
Yours Affectionately, &c.
 Advertised in The Daily Journal, no. 3566, Thursday 8 June 1732, ; excerpts repr., Flower, 200; facs. repr. ed. Robert D. Hume (Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles, 1986).