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The heroine of this drama possessed every grace ol person, every adornment of mind, the attraction of youth, and the dignity of royalty.—She was hurled from a throne to mount upon a scaffold; and this lamentable story is here told by one of our most pathetic dramatists; and yet neither reader nor auditor ever sheds a tear for the unhappy fate of Lady Jane Grey!
All surprise will cease, that tiiis illustrious female wants power to move the passions, when it is recollected, that she had no passions of her own with which to affect those of mankind.
The very virtues of Lady Jane seal up the heart against pity. Perfection must be admired, not undervalued by compassion.
Could the dramatic author have descended to paint Jane's childish years, before every tender sensation had been hardened by parental cruelty, and ere patient fortitude had elevated her above her sex's weakness, he then might have made his readers share in her sorrows; for at that early age she was alive to them herself.
The famous Roger Ascham, who was tutor to the Princess, afterwards Queen, Elizabeth, relates—that going to the Duke of Suffolk's country seat in Leicestershire, he found the Duke and Duchess, with all their household, gentlemen and gentlewomen, hunting in the park, whilst this, their blooming daughter Jane was shut up in her own chamber, reading "Phaado Platonis," in Greek: and that a conversation upon her love of books and retirement, drew from her the following words :—
"When I am in the presence of either my father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand, or go; eat, drink, be merry or sad; be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing any thing else, I must do it, as it were, in such weight, measure, and number, even so perfectly as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea, presently sometimes. with pinches, nips, and bobs, and other ways, which I will not name, for the honour I bear them, so without measure misordered, that I think myself in hell; and fall a weeping when 1 am called from my studies, because whatsoever I do else but learning, is full of grief, trouble, fear, and whole misliking unto me."
All this rigour was, no doubt, employed, to form her mind, and fashion her manners, to dignify a throne, which Suffolk and his Duchess had long formed the design to obtain for her. But in all those infantine griefs which the poor Lady Jane, from their ambition, experienced, Providence was, in mercy, fortifying her with strength to relinquish, not to enjoy, a crown ; and was preparing her to die with firmness as an usurper, instead of reigning with glory as a lawful sovereign.
Awed by her domestic tyrants, she accepted the title of a queen; and, weary of the slavery exacted by these her subjects, unmoved and undaunted, laid down her regal honours and her forfeited life.
The extreme youth of Lady Jane at the time of her death, her sober propensities, her erudition and philosophic mind, render her one of the most curious women in all history, though not the most interesting. In the similar catastrophe of Mary Queen of Scots, her failings, abating her supposed crimes, endear her to erroneous creatures like herself, and they weep for the misfortunes attending indiscretion, because they are ills which may probably fall upon themselves. But whilst it is scarcely possible to be heroical like Lady Jane, her calm contempt for either living or dying, places her above sympathy; and though she must ever be honoured, she will never be tenderly bewailed.
Rowe, who melted every heart at the sufferings of the low-born and guilty Shore, has not here even touched the strings of commiseration, notwithstanding he has softened the real character of I^ady Jane, in hopes of producing that effect.
The approvers, for there can be few admirers, of this Tragedy, prefer the scenes between Guillord and Pembroke, Gardiner's description of the illustrious prisoner on her trial, and her execution scene, to the rest. They also prefer the part of Pembroke to that of Guilford.
In comparing one scene and one character with another in this Tragedy, some will, of course, have superiority; but the whole drama, when opposed to any one of the author's present acting plays—sinks into a decided inferiority.
Duke Of Northumberland Mr. Hull.
Duke Of Suffolk Mr. Powell.
Lord Guilford Dudley Mr. Ho/man.
Earl Of Pembroke Mr. Farren.
Earl Of Sussex Mr. Thompson. Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester Mr. Harley.
Sir John Gates Mr. Davies.
Lieutenant Of The Tower Mr. Evatt.
Duchess Of Suffolk Mrs. Rock.
Lady Jane Grey Mrs. Merry.
Lords of the Council, Gentlemen, Guards, and Attendans.