An Epilogue to the Tragedy of Jane Shore. To be spoken by Mrs Oldfield the night before the Poet's day.
No MS; 1741 Birch, X, 179* (perhaps from MS Additional 4457 copy, now lost).
The audience seems tonight so very kind,
I fancy I may freely speak my mind,
And tell you, when the author nam'd Jane Shore,
I all her glorious history run o'er,
And thought he would have shewn her on the stage,
In the first triumphs of her blooming age;
Edward in public at her feet a slave,
The jealous Queen in private left to rave;
Yet Jane supieror still in all the strife,
For sure that mistress leads a wretched life,
Who can't insult the Keeper and the wife.
This I concluded was his right design,
To make her lavish, careless, gay and fine;
Nor bring her here to mortify and whine.
I hate such parts as we have plaid to-day,
Before I promis'd, had I read the play,
I wou'd have staid at home, and drank my Tea.
Then why the husband shou'd at last be brought
To hear her own and aggravate her fault,
Puzzled as much my discontented thought.
For were I to transgress, for all the Poet
I'll swear no friend of mine should ever know it.
But you perhaps are pleas'd to see her mended,
And so should I; had all her charms been ended.
But whilst another lover might be had,
The woman or the Poet must be mad.
There is a season, which too fast approaches,
And every list'ning beauty nearly touches;
When handsome Ladies, falling to decay
Pass through new epithets to smooth the way:
From fair and young transportedly confessed,
Dwindle to fine, well-fashioned, and well-dressed.
Thence as their fortitudes extremest proof,
To well as yet; from well to well enough;
Till having in such weak foundations stood,
Deplorably at last, they sink to good.
Abandon'd then, 'tis time to be retir'd,
And seen no more, when not alas! admired.
By men indeed, a better fate is known,
The pretty fellow, that has youth out-grown,
Who nothing knew, but how his cloaths did fit,
Transforms to a Free-Thinker and a Wit.
At Operas becomes a skilled Musician;
Ends in a partyman and politician;
Maintains some figure, while he keeps his breath,
And is a fop of consequence till death.
And so would I have had our mistress Shore
To make a figure, till she pleas'd no more.
But if you better like her present sorrow,
Pray let me see you here again to-morrow,
And should the house be throng'd the Poet's day,
Whate'er he makes us women do or say,
You'll not believe, that he'll go fast and pray.
Rpt of 1741: 1903 Reynolds, 100-2; rpts of 1903 Reynolds: 1928 Murray, 111-2; 1930 Fausset, 51-2; 1979 Rogers AF, 80-1.
In MS Additional 2457, where we find another poem to Lady Hertford than the one Birch copied out, a poem which seems to be part of the Hertford Circle (from Anne Finch, perhaps to Elizabeth Rowe), there is a letter in which "Mrs Lucas sends Compliments to Dr Birch, along with the Verses he desired… the Epilogue [Jane Shore?]. From "Broad Street Buildings, May 15th 1755 (p63r). This does not help with the dating of the poem; it does suggest one of the places Birch could have gotten his texts from. See MS Additional 4457.
Finch says she had heard of Rowe's project sometime ago, and imagined something quite different; written for Anne Oldfield so should be dated around time of play's first performance with Mrs Oldfield as Jane Shore, February 2, 1714. There was a strong vital tradition of prologues in which the playwright commented self-reflexively on his art and the audience, and of mocking epilogues which satirized the central stances of tragedy. Among the most brilliant is that attributed to Budgell as epilogue to Ambrose Philips's The Distrest Mother,(1712, produced in Theatre-Royal, Drury Lane) an Anglicization and translation of Racine's Andromache, e.g.,
EPILOGUE. Written by Mr. Budgell of the Inner-Temple. Spoken by Mrs. Oldfield.
I hope you'll own that with becoming Art
I've play'd my Game, and topp'd the Widow's Part;
My Spouse, poor Man! could not live out the Play,
But dy'd commodiously on Wedding-Day,
While I his Relict made at one bold Fling
My self a Princess, and young Sty a King.
You Ladies who protract a Lover's Pain,
And hear your Servants sigh whole Years in vain;
Which of you all would not on Marriage venture,
Might she so soon upon her Jointure enter?
'Twas a strange Scape! had Pyrrhus liv'd till now
I had been finely hamper'd in my Vow.
To dye by ones own Hand, and fly the Charms
Of Love and Life in a young Monarch's Arms!
'Twere an hard Fate---e'er I had undergone it
I might have took one Night---to think upon it.
But why you'll say was all this Grief exprest
For a first Husband, laid long since at Rest?
Why so much Coldness to my kind Protector?
---Ah Ladies! had you known the good Man Hector!
Page Last Updated 8 January 2003