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A Bold Stroke for a Wife, .

130 The Irish Widow,

605

.

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FATAL CURIOSITY:

A TRAGEDY,

IN THREE ACTS.

BY GEORGE LILLO.

REMARKS.

The story of this piece is very simple and affecting, and is said to have been founded on a fact which happened on the western coast of England. The circumstance of a son, long absent from his parents, keeping himself, on his return to visit them, for some time unknown, is unforced; while at the same time their inducement, from the depth of distress and penury, to perpetrate his murder, for the sake of the treasures he had shown them, is pro. ductive of some very fine scenes of intermingled horror and tenderness. Mr. Lillo rendered the distresses of common and domestic life as interesting to the audience, as those of kings and heroes; and the ruin brought on pri. Fale families by an indulgence of avarice, lust, &c. as the havoc made in states and empires by ambition, cruelty, e tyranny. His George Barnwell, Fatal Curiosity, and Arden of Feversham, are all planned on common and well-known stories; yet they have always drawn tears from the audience, and even the critics have laid down thrit peng to take out the handkerchief.

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SUD

ACT I.

Enjoys the sad prerogative above him, KENE I.A Room in Old Wilmot's House. To him that's born to die! or what that wisdom,

To think, and to be wretched.-What is life, Enter OLD WILMOT.

Whose perfection ends in knowing we know 0. Wil. The day is far advanc'd; the cheerful nothing!

Mere contradiction all! a tragic farce, Pursues with vigour his repeated course ; Tedious though short, and without art elab'rabo. No labour lessens, nor no time decays

Ridiculously sadHis strength or splendour : evermore the same,

Enter RANDAL. From age to age his influence sustains Dependent worlds, bestows both life and motion Where hast been, Randal ? On the dull mass that forms their dusky orbs, Ran. Not out of Penryn, Sir; but to the strand, Cheers them with heat, and gilds them with To hear what news from Falmouth since the brightness.

storm Yet man, of jarring elements compos’d,

Of wind last night. Who posts from change to change, from the first O. Wil. It was a dreadful one. hour

Ran. Some found it so. A noble ship from Of his frail being till his dissolution,

India

5

Ent’ring in the harbour, run upon a rock, Shall I forsake you in your worst necessity ? And there was lost.

Believe me, Sir, my honest soul abhors 0. Wil. What 'came of those on board her ? The barb'rous thought. Ran. Some few are sav'd; but much the 0. Wil. What! canst thou feed on air? greater part,

I have have not left wherewith to purchase food 'Tis thought, are perished,

For one meal more. 0. Wil. They are past the fear

Ran. Rather than leave you thus, Of future tempests or a wreck on shore; I'll beg my bread and live on others' bounty Those who escap'd are still expos'd to both.

While I serve you. Where's your mistress ?

O. Wil. Down, down my swelling heart, Ran. I saw her pass the High-street, towards Or burst in silence : 'tis thy cruel fate the Minster.

Insults thee by his kindness. He is innocent 0. Wil. She's gone to visit Charlotte She Of all the pain it gives thee. Go thy ways, doth well.

I will no more suppress thy youthful hopes In the soft bosom of that gentle maid,

Of rising

in the world. There dwells more goodness than the rigid race Ran. "Tis true; I'm young, Of moral pedants e'er believ'd or taught. And never tried my fortune, or my genius; With what amazing constancy and truth Which may, perhaps, find out some happy means Doth she sustain the absence of our son,

As yet unthought of, to supply your wants. Whom more than life she loves! How shun for O. Wil. Thou tortur'st me I hate ali obliga him,

tions Whom we shall ne'er see more, the rich and great; Which I can ne'er return. And who art thou, Who own her charms, and sigh to make her That I should stoop to take 'em from thy hand? happy.

Care for thyself, but take no thought for me; Since our misfortunes, we have found no friend, I will not want thee-- rouble me no more. None who regarded our distress, but her;

Ran. Be not offended, Sir, and I will go: And she, by what I have observ'd of late, I ne'er repin'd at your commands before ; Is tir'd, or exhausted—curs'd condition!

But, heaven's my witness, I obey you now To live a burden to one only friend,

With strong reluctance and a heavy heart. And blast her youth with our contagious woe! Farewell, my worthy master !

(Going Who that had reason, soul, or sense, would bear it 0. Wil. Farewell—StayA moment longer!—Then, this honest wretch!- As thou art yet a stranger to the world, I must dismiss him—Why should I detain Of which, alas! I've had too much experience, A grateful, gen'rous youth to perish with me? ( should, methinks, before we part, bestow His service may procure him bread elsewhere. A little counsel on thee. Dry thy eyesThough I have none to give him. Pr’ythee If thou weep'st thus, I shall proceed no farther. Randal,

Dost thou aspire to greatness, or to wealth, How long hast thou been with me?

Quit books and the unprofitable search Ran. Fifteen years.

Of wisdom there, and study human kind: I was a very child when first you took me, No science will avail thee without that; To wait upon your son, my dear young master ! But, that obtain'd, thou need'st not any other. I oft have wish'd I'd gone to India with him; This will instruct thee to conceal thy views, Though wu, desponding, give him o'er for lost. And wear the face of probity and honour, I am to blame.-This talk revives your sorrow 'Till thou hast gain'd thy end; which must be For his absence. 0. Wil. That cannot be reviv'd,

Thy own advantage, at that man's expense Which never died.

Who shall be weak enough to think thee honest. Ran. The whole of my intent

Ran. You mock me, sure. Was to confess your bounty, that supplied

0. Wil. I never was more serious. The loss of both my parents: I was long

Ran. Why should you counsel what you The object of your charitable care.

scorn'd to practise? 0. Wil. No more of that.-Thou'st serv'd me 0. Wil. Because that foolish scorn has been

longer since Without reward; so that account is balanc'd, I've been an idiot, but would have thee wiser, Or, rather l’m thy debtor. I remember,

And treat mankind, as they would treat thee, When poverty began to show her face

Randal; Within these walls, and all my other servants, As they deserve, and I've been treated by 'em. Like pamper'd vermin from a falling house, Thou'st seen, by me, and those who now despise Retreated with the plunder they had gain'd,

me, And left me, too indulgent and remiss

How men of fortune fall, and beggars rise ; For such ungrateful wretches, to be crush'd Shun my example; treasure up my precepts ; Beneath the ruin they had help'd to make,

The world's before thee—be a knave and prosper. That you, more good than wise, refused to leave What, art thou dumb? (After a long pause.

Ran. Amazement ties my tongue. Ran. Nay, I beseech you, Sir!

Where are your former principles ? 0. Wil. With my distress,

0. Wil. No matter; In perfect contradiction to the world,

Suppose I have renounc'd 'em: I have passions, Thy love, respect, and diligence increased ; And love thee still; therefore would have thee Now all the recompense within my power,

think, Is to discharge thee, Randal, from my hard, The world is all a scene of deep deceit, Unprofitable service.

(And he who deals with mankind on the square, Ran. Heaven forbid !

Is his own bubble, and undoes himself. (Erit

ever

my ruin.

me.

Ran. Is this the man I thought so wise and Patience shall cherish hope, nor wrong his honont just ?

By unjust suspicion. I know his truth, What! teach and counsel me to be a villain! And will prese ve my own. But to prevent Sure grief has made him frantic, or some fiend All future, vain, officious importunity, Assumed his shape-I shall suspect my senses. Know, thou incessant foe of my repose, High-minded he was ever, and improvident; Whether he sleeps, secure from mortal cares, But pitiful and generous to a fault:

In the deep bosom of the boist'rous main, Pleasure he loved, but honour was his idol. Or, tossed with tempests, still endures its rage, O, fatal change! 0, horrid transformation ! No second choice shall violate my vows; So a majestic temple, sunk to ruin,

High heaven, which heard them, and abhors the Becomes the loathsome shelter and abode

perjured, Of lurking serpents, toads, and beasts of prey; Can witness, they were made without reserve; And scaly dragons biss, and lions roar,

Never to be retracted, ne'er dissolved Where wisdom taught, and music charmed be- By accidents or absence, time or death. fore.

(Exit. Mar. And did your vows oblige you to support SCENE II.-A Parlour in Charlotte's House. His haughty parents, to your utter ruin ?

Well may you weep to think on what you've Enter CHARLOTTE and Maria,

done. Char. What terror and amazement must they For their support. What will become of 'em

Char. I weep to think that I can do no more Who die by shipwreck ?

[feel Mar. 'Tis a dreadful thought!

The hoary, helpless, miserable pair ! Char. Ay; is it not, Maria ? to descend,

Mar. What I can't praise, you force me to Living and conscious, to that wat’ry tomb!

admire, Alas! had we no sorrows of our own,

And mourn for you, as you lament for them. The frequent instances of others' woe

Your patience, constancy, and resignation, Must give a gen'rous mind a world of pain.

Merit a better fate. But you forget you promised me to sing.

Char. So pride would tell me, Though cheerfulness and I have long been stran-) And vain self-love ; but I believe them not: gers,

And if, by wanting pleasure, I have gained Harmonious sounds are still delightful to me.

Humility, I'm richer for my loss. There's sure no passion in the human soul,

Mar. You have the heavenly art, still to imBut finds its food in music I would hear

prove The song composed by that unhappy maid,

Your mind by all events.

But here comes one, Whose faithful lover 'scap'd a thousand perils

Whose pride seems to increase with her misforFrom rocks, and sands, and the devouring deep: As ill conceals her poverty, as that

Her faded dress, unfashionably fine, [tunes. And after all, being arrived at home, Passing a narrow brook, was drowned there,

Strained complaisance her haughty, swelling And perished in her sight.

heart.

Though perishing with want, so far from asking, Mar. Cease, cease, heart-easing tears ;

She ne'er receives a favour uncompelled;
Adieu, you flutt'ring fears,

And while she ruins, scorns to be obliged :
Which seven long tedious years Let me depart, I know she loves me not.
Taught me to bear.

(Exit Maria,
Tears are for lighter woes ;
Fear, no such danger knows,

Enter AGNES.
As Fate remorseless shoros,

Char. This visit 's kind.
Endless despair.

Agn. Few else would think it so ;
Dear cause of all my pain,

Those who would once have thought themselves
On the wide stormy main,

much honoured Thou wast preserved in vain,

By the least favour, though 'twere but a look, Though still ador'd;

I could have shown them, now refuse to see me. Hadst thou died there unseen.

'Tis misery enough to be reduced
My wounded eyes had been

To the low level of the common herd,
Sao'd from the direst scene

Who, born to begg'ry, envy all above them;
Maid e'er deplor'd.

But 'tis the curse of curses, to endure (Charlotte finds a letter. The insolent contempt of those we scorn. Char. What's this ?-A letter, superscribed Char. By scorning, we provoke them to conto me!

tempt;
None could convey it here but you, Maria : And thus offend, and suffer in our turns:
Ungen'rous, cruel maid ! to use me thus! We must have patience.
To join with flatt'ring men to break my peace, Agn. No, I scorn them yet.
And persecute me to the last retreat!

But there's no end of suff'ring : who can say Mar. Why should it break your peace, to hear Their sorrows are complete ? My wretched hus. the sighs

band, Of honourable love? This letter is

Tired with our woes, and hopeless of relief, Char. No matter whence-return it back un- Grows sick of life. opened.

And, urged by indignation and despair, I have no love, no charms, but for my Wilmot, Would plunge into eternity at once, Nor would have any.

By foul self-murder. Mar. Alas! Wilmot's dead;

Char. Gracious heaven, support him ! Or, living, dead to you.

Agn. His fixed love for me, Char. I'U not despair,

Whom he would fain persuade to share bis fare,

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