James Sheridan Knowles.

Virginius; a tragedy in five acts online

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My Dear Sir,

What can I do less than dedicate this Tragedy to you?
This is a question which you cannot answer; but I can — I can-
not do less; and if I could do more, I ought, and would.

I was a perfect stranger to you : You read my play and g,t
once committed yourself respecting its merits. This, perhaps,
is not saying much for your head — ^but it says a great deal for
your heart; and that is the consideration, which, above all oth-
ers, makes me feel happy, and proud, in subscribing myself.

Your grateful Freind, and Servant,

James Sheridan Knmules.
London, May 20, 1820.

This Play was written in gi-eat haste, and, no doubt,
abounds in defects — but it is a question, whether it would have
been less imperfect, had I taken a year to compose it. It was
revolved and executed in about three months, in the midst of ve-
ry numerous and arduous avocations* To a distinguished indi-
vidual who suggested to me the idea of writing it, I shall ever
feel giateful.

I owe the public an apology for the last act; and this is my
apology — History gives two accounts of the manner of Appius's
death t one, that he committed suicide ; the other, that he was
destroyed privately by the Tribunes. Had I selected for my
catastrophe, the former incident, the character of the tyrant had
stood too prominent ; by adopting the latter, I should have vio-
lated the respect due to a Christian audience. After having ex-
cited such an interest for Virginius, it would have been inde-
cent to represent him in the attitude of taking the law into his
own hands. I therefore adopted the idea of his destroying Ap-
piua in a fit of temporary insanity.

I am most sensible of the very great degree in which I am
indebted to the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Theatre Royal,
Covent-Garden ; and I beg them to believe that I feel more than
I can veiy readily express. To forget what I owe to the Thea-
tre where my Play was first performed, would be ungrateful;
and, imder any circumstances, to omit the acknowledgment of
it would be unprincipled and mean. I take, therefore, this op-
portunity of thanking also, the Company of the Glasgow Theatre.


AppiusClaudius.! TMr. Abbott.

Spurius Oppius. > Decemvirs -J Mr. White.

Vibulanus. ) (Mr. Jefferies.

Honorius \ p^,^-.^^, j Mr. Norris.

Valerius ^ ratncmns ^^^ ^^^^^

Caius Claudius..! r^i-^* * a • (Mr. Connor.

Marcus ) ^''^ '" ^PP"^ \ Mr. Claremont.

Dentatus A Veteran. Mr. Terry.

Virginius A Centurion Mr. Macready.

Numitorius His Brother-in-law Mr. Egerton.

Icilius... In love with Virginia Mr. C. Kemble.

Lucius Brother of Icilius Mr. Comer.

Publius ) TMr. Mears.

Decius > Soldiers -J Mr. Treby.

Sextus 3 (^Mr. Crumpton.

Titus 1 ("Mr. Faucit.

Sei-vius > Citizens.. -J Mr. Atkins.

Cneius 1 I Mr. King.

Virginia Daughter of Virginius Miss Foote.

Servia Her Nurse Mrs. Faucit.

Female Slave Mrs. Chipp.

Citizens, Male and Female. — Soldiers, Lictors, &c.

SCENE, chiefly Rome.

The passages marked with inverted commas are omitted in the


Spoken by Miss Booth,

[Speaking behind.'] Nay, Mr. Fawcett, give me leave, I pray.

The audience wait, and I must have my way. {^Enters. ]
What! curb a woman's tongue!— As I'm alive,
The wretch would mar our old prerogative !
Ladies ! by very dint of pertinacity.
Have I preserv'd the glory of loquacity.

Oh! could you gaze, as I am gazing now.
And see each man behind, with gather'd brow.
And clenched hand, (tho' nought my spirit damps).
Beckoning, with threats, my presence, from the lamps :
Each, as I broke my way, declared how well.
His art could woo you— to be peaceable !
One is well robed — a second greatly shines.
In the nice balance, oi cast-iron lines;
A third can sing — a fourth can touch your tears—
A fifth — " I'll see no more!" — a fifth appears.
Who hath been once in Italy, and seen Rome;
In short — there's quite a hubbub in the Green Room.
But I — a very woman — careless — light —
Fleet idly to your presence, this fair night ;
And, craving your sweet pardon, fain would say
A kind word, for the poet, and his play.

To-night, no idle nondescript, lays waste.
The fairy, and yet placid bower of taste :
No story, piled M'ith dark and cumbrous fate.
And words that stagger, under their own weight.
But one of silent grandeur — simply said,
As tho' it were awaken'd from the dead !
It is a tale — made beautiful by years; —
Of pure, old, Roman sorrow — old in tears !
And those, you shed o'er it in childhood, may, ♦
Still fall — and fall — for sweet Virginia!

Nor doth a crowned poet of the age,
Call the sweet spirits, from the historic page !
No old familiar dramatist, hath spun,
This tragic, antique web, to-night— but one.
An unknown author, in a sister land.
Waits, in young fear, the fiat of your hand.


A stujeet in home.

Enter Servius and Cneius.

Ser, Carbo denied a hearing!

Cne. Ay, and Marcellus cast into prison, because he
sued a friend of one of the Decemvirs for a sum of
money he had lent him.

Ser. And Appius resisted not? Appius ! that in the
first Decemvirate was a god to the people.

Cne. Resisted not ! Nay, was most loud in favour of
the decree; but hither comes Virginius, who interested
himself so much in Carbo's affair. He looks a little
heated. Is not that Titus he is speaking to? Stand
aside, Master, and listen.

Mfiter Vi«iteiN#us atid Titus.

Vir. Why did you make him Decemvir, and first De-
cemvir tbo?

Tit. We had tried him, and found him honest.

Fir. And could you not have remained content? Why
try him again to find him dishonest? Knew ye not he
was a Patrician, and of the Claudian family?


Tit. He laid down the Consulate —

Vir. Ha ' ha ! ha ! to be elected into the Decemvir-
ate, and he was so; and he laid down his office of De-
cemvir to be re-elected into the Decemvirate, and he is
so; ay, by Jupiter ! and to the exclusion of his late col-
leagues ! Did not Titus Genutius lay down the Consu-

Tit. He did.

Vir. Was he not next to Appius in the Decemvirate?

Tit. He was.

Vir. Did you not find him honest?

Tit. We did find him honest.

Vir. As honest as Appius Claudius?

Tit, Quite as honest.

Vir. Quite as honest! And why not re-elect him
Decemvir? Most sapient people ! You re-elect Appi-
us into the Decemvirate for his honesty, and j-ou thurst
Titus out of the Decemvirate — I suppose for his honesty
also! Why, Appius was sick of the Decemvirate!

Ser. I never heard him say so.

Vir. But he did say so — say so in my hearing; in pre-
sence of the senators, Valerius and Caius Claudius, and
I don't know how many others. 'Twas known to the
whole body of the Senate — not that he was sick, but that
he said so. Yes ! yes ! he and his colleagues, he said,
had done the work of the Republic for a whole year,
and it was now but just to grant them a little repose,
and appoint others to succeed them.

Tit. Well, well, we can only say he changed his

Vir. No, no, we needn't say that neither; as he
had laboured in the Decemvirate, perhaps he thought
he might as well repose in the Decemvirate.

Tit. I know not what he thought. He is Decem-
vir, and we made him so, and cannot help ourselves.


Fare you well, Virginius. Come, let's to the Forum.
{Exeunt Titus, Servius, and Cneius.
Vir, You cannot help yourselves ! Indeed, you cannot.
You help'd to put your masters on your backs;
They like their seat, and make you show your paces ;
They ride you — sweat you — curb you — lash you — and
You cannot throw them off with all your mettle !
But here comes one, whose share in giving you
To such unsparing riders, touches me
More nearly, for that Fve an interest
In proving him a man of fair, and most
Erect integrity. Good day, Icilius.

Enter Icilius.

Icil, Worthy Virginius! 'tis an evil day
For Rome, that gives her more convincing proof,
The thing she took for hope, is but a base
And wretched counterfeit! Our new Decemvirs
Are any thing but friends to justice and
Their country.

Vir. You, Icilius, had a hand
In their election. You applied to me
To aid you with my vote, in the Comitia ;
I told you tlien, and tell you now again,
I am not pleased when a Patrician bends
His head to a Plebeian's girdle I Mark me !
Fd rather he should stand aloof, and wear
His shoulder high— especially the nephew
Of Caius Claudius.

Icil, I would have pledged my life —

Vir, 'Twas a high gage, and men have staked a
On grounds as poor as yours— their honour, boy !
Icilius, I have heard it all— -your plans —
The understanding 'twixt the heads of the people —


Of whom, Icilius, you are reckoned one, and
Worthily — and Appius Claudius — all —
'Twas every jot disclosed to me.

Icil, By whom?

Vir. Siccius Dentatus.

Icil, He disclosed it to you;
Siccius Dentatus is a crabbed man.

Vir, Siccius Dentatus is an honest man !
There's not a worthier in Rome ! How now?
Has he deceived me ? Do you call him liar ?
My friend ! my comrade ! honest Siccius,
That has fought in six score battles?

Icil, Good Virginius,
Siccius Dentatus is my friend — the friend
Of every honest man in Rome — a brave man —
A most brave man. Except yourself, Virginius,
I do not know a man I prize above
Siccius Dentatus — yet he's a crabbed man.

Vir, Yes, yes; he is a crabbed man.

Icil, A man
Who loves too much to wear a jealous eye.

Vir, No, not a whit ! — where there is double dealing.
You are the best judge of your own concerns ;
Yet, if it please you to communicate
With me upon this subject, come and see me.
I told you, boy, I favoured not this stealing
And winding into place. What he deserves.
An honest man dares challenge 'gainst the world —
But come and see me. Appius Claudius chosen
Decemvir, and his former colleagues, that
Were quite as honest as himself, not chosen —
No, not so much as named by him — who named
Himself, and his new associates ! Well, 'tis true.
Dog fights with dog, but honesty is not
A cur, doth bait his fellow — and e'en dogs,


By habit of companionship, abide
In terms of faith and cordiality —
But come and see me.

IciL Appius comes !
The people still throng after him with shouts,
Unwilling to believe their Jupiter
Has mark'd them for his thunder. Will you stay.
And see the homage that they render him ?

Vir, Not I ! Stay you ; and, as you made him, hail
And shout, and wave your hand, and cry, long live
Our first and last Decemvir, Appius Claudius !
For he is first, and last, and every one !
Rome owes you much, Icilius — Fare you well—
I shall be glad to see you at my house.


Enter Appius Claudius, Claudius, Siccius Den-
TATUS, Lucius, Titus, Servius, Marcus, and Citi-
zens shouting.
Tit, Long live our first Decemvir !

Long live Appius Claudius !

Most noble Appius I Appius and the Decemvirate for
ever? (Citizens sAom#.)
App. My countrymen and Fellow citizens,

We will deserve your favour.
Tit. You have deserved it.

And will deserve it.

App. For that end, we named

Ourself Decemvir.

Tit. You could not have named a better man.
Den. For his own purpose. (Aside.)
App. Be assured, we hold

Our power but for your good. Your gift it was ;

And gifts make surest debtors. Fare you well —

And, for your salutations, pardon me.


If 1 repay you only with an echo —
Long live the worthy citizens of Rome !'

[Exit Appius, ^c, the people shouting.

Den, That was a very pretty echo ! — a most soft echo
I never thought your voices were half so sweet 1 a most
melodious echo ! I*d have you ever after make your music
before the Patricians' palaces ; they give most exquisite
responses ! — especially that of Appius Claudius ! a most
delicate echo 1

Tit, What means Dentatus ?

Serv, He*s ever carping — nothing pleases him.

Den, Oh ! yes, you please me, please me mightily, I
assure you. — You are noble legislators, take most espe-
cial care of your own interests, bestow your votes most
wisely too — on him who has the wit to get you into tlie
humour; and, withal, have most musical voices — most
musical — if one may judge by their echo.

Tit, Why, what quarrel have you with our choice ?
Could we have chosen better ? — I say they are ten honest
Decemvirs we have chosen.

Den, I pray you, name them me.

Tit, There's Appius Claudius, first Decemvir.

Den, Ay, call him the head ; you are right. Appius
Claudius, the head. Go on !

Tit, And Quintus Fabius Vibulanus.

Den, The body, that eats and drinks while the head
thinks. Call him Appius's stomach. Fill him, and keep
him from cold and indisgestion, and he'll never give
Appius the head-ach ! Well ? — There's excellent com-
fort in having a good stomach ! — Well ?

Tit, There's Cornelius, Marcus Servilius, Minucius,
and Titus Antonius.

Den, Arms, legs, and thighs !

Tit, And Marcus Rabuleius.

Den, He'll do for a hand, and as he's a senator, we'll


call him the right-hand. We could'nt do less, you know,
for a Senator ! Well ?

Luc, At least, you'll say we did well in electing Quin-
tius Petilius, Caius Duellius, and Spurius Oppius, men
of our order ! sound men ! " known sticklers for the
people" — at least you'll say well in that !

Den, And who dares say otherwise? " Well!" one
might as well say " ill" as « well" Well is the very
skirt of commendation; next neighbour to that mire and
gutter, " ill." " Well," indeed ! you acted like your-
selves I Nay, e'en yourselves could not have acted bet-
ter ! Why had you not elected them. — Appius would
have gone without his left-hand, and each of his two feet.

Serv, Out ! you are dishonest !

Den. Ha!

Serv, What would content you?

Den, A post in a hot battle ! Out, you cur ! Do you
prate to me ?

Citizen, [^from behind,']

Down with him, he does nothing but insult the people.
(The Crowd approach Dentatus, threateningly/, J

Ml, Stand back ! Who'st that says down with Sic-
cius Dentatus ? Down with him ! 'Tis what the ene-
my could never do ; and shall we do it for them ? Who
uttered that dishonest word ? Who uttered it, I say ?
Let him answer a fitter, though less worthy mate, Lu-
cius Icilius !

Citizens, Stand back, and hear Icilius !

Ml, What ! hav'n't I voted for the Decemvirs, and
do I snarl at his jests? Has he not a right to jest? the
good, honest Siccius Dentatus, that, alone, at the head
-of the veterans, vanquished the CEqui for you. Has he
not a right to jest? For shame ! get to your houses !
The worthy Dentatus ! Cheer for him, if you are Ro-


mans ! Cheer for him before you go ! Cheer for him, I
say ! [Exeunt Citizens, shouting.

Den, And now, what thanks do you expect from me,
Icilius ?

Icil, None.

Den* By Jupiter, young man, had you thus stepped
before me in the heat of battle, I would have cloven you
down — but I'm obliged to you, Icilius — and hark you !
There's a piece of furniture in the house of a friend of
mine, that's called Virginius, I think you've set your
heart upon — dainty enough — yet not amiss for a young
man to covet. Ne'er lose your hopes ! He may be
brought into the mind to part with it. As to these curs,
I question which I value more, their fawnings, or their
snarlings — 1 thank you, boy ! Do you walk this way ?
— I am glad of it! Come — 'Tis a noble Decemvirate
you have chosen for us ! Come ! [Exeunt,


Enter Virginius and Servia.

Vir, And is this all you have observed ? I think
There's nothing strange in that. An L and an I
Twined with a V. Three very innocent letters
To have bred such mischief in thy brain, good Servia !
Come, read this riddle to me.

Servia, You may laugh,
Virginius ; but I'll read the riddle right,
The L doth stand for Lucius ; and the I,
Icilius; which, I take it, will compose
Lucius Icilius.


Vir, So it will, good Servia.

Servia, Then, for the V; why, that is plain Virginia.

Vir, And now, what conjuration find you here ?

Servia, What should I find but love? The maid's in
And it is with Icilius. Look, the wreath
Is made of roses, that entwines the letters.

Vir, And this is all?

Servia, And is it not enough?
You'll find this figuring where'er you look :
There's not a piece of dainty work she does —
Embroidery, or painting — not a task
She finishes, but on the skirt, or border.
In needle-work, or pencil, this, her secret.
The silly wench betrays.

Vir, Go, send her to me —
Stay ! Have you spoken to her of it ?

Servia, I!
Not I, indeed ; I lefl that task to you —
Though once I ask'd her what the letters meant.
She laugh'd, and drew a scratch across them ; but
Had scarce done so, ere her fair visage fell.
For grief that she had spoil'd the cyphers — " and
A sigh came out, and then almost a tear ;
And she did look, as piteous on the harm
That she had done, as she had done it to
A thing, had sense to feel it." Never after
She let me note her at her work again.
She had good reason !

Vir, Send her to me Servia. \Eocit Servia.

There's something here, that looks as it would bring me
Anticipation of my wish. I think
icilius loves my daughter — nay, I know it;
And such a man I'd challenge for her husband ; —
And only waited, till her forward spring,


Put on, a little more, the genial likeness
Of colouring into summer, ere I sought
To nurse a flower, which, blossoming too early.
Too early often dies ; " but if it springs
Spontaneous, and, unlooked for, wooes our hand
To tend and cherish it, the growth is healthful ;
And 'twere untimely, as unkind, to check it."
I'll ascertain it shortly — soft, she comes.

Enter Virginia.

Virginia^ Well, Father, what's your will?

Vir, I wish'd to see you,
To ask you of your tasks — how they go on—
And what your masters say of you — what last
You did. I hope you never play
The truant ?

Virginia. The truant ! No, indeed, Virginius.

Vir. I am sure you do not — kiss me !

Virginia. Ol my Father
I am so happy, when you're kind to me !

Vir. You are so happy when I'm kind to you !
Am I not always kind ? I never spoke
An angry word to you in all my life,
Virginia ! You are happy when I'm kind !
That's strange; and makes me think you have some

To fear I may be otherwise than kind —
Is't so, my girl ?

Virginia. Indeed I did not know
What I was saying to you !

Vir. Why, that's worse
And worse ! What ! when you said your father's kind-
Made you so happy, am I to believe
You were not thinking of him ?


Virginia, I (greatly confused,)

Vir, Go, fetch me
The latest task you did. ^Exit Virginia.

It is enough.

Her artless speech, like crystal, shows the thing
'Twould hide, but only covers. 'Tis enough !
She loves, and fears her father may condemn.

Virginia, (re-entering with a painting.)
Here, Sir.

Vir. What's this ?

Virginia, 'Tis Homer's history
Of great Achilles parting from Brisei's.

Vir, You have done it well. The colouring is good,
The figures well designed'. 'Tis very well ! —
Whose face is this you've given to Achilles ?

Virginia, Whose face?

Vir, I've seen this face ! Tut ! Tut ! I know it
As well as I do my own, yet can't bethink me
Whose face it is ! /> [

Virginia. You mean Achilles's face?

Vir. Did I not say so ! 'Tis the very face
Of — No ! No ! Not of him. There's too much youth
And comeliness; and too much fire, to suit
The face of Siccius Dentatus.

Virginia, O!
You surely never took it for his face!

Vir, Why, no; for now I look again, I'd swear
You lost the copy ere you drew the head.
And, to requite Achilles for the want
Of his own face, contrived to borrow one
From Lucius Icilius. {Enter Dentatus.) My Dentatus,
I am glad to see you !

Den. 'Tis not for my news, then.

Vir. Your news ! What news?


Den, More violence and wrong from these new mas-
ters of ours, our noble Decemvirs — these demi-gods of
the good people of Rome ! No man's property is safe
from them. Nay, it appears we hold our wives and
daughters but by the tenure of their will. Their liking
is the law. The Senators themselves, scared at their
audacious rule, withdraw themselves to their villas and
leave us to our fate. There are rumours, also, of new
incursions by the Sabines.

Vir. Rome never saw such days.

Den. And she'll see worse, unless I fail in my reck-
oning. Is that Virginia? I saw her not before. How
does the fair Virginia? Why, she is quite a woman. I
was just now wishing for a daughter.

Vir. A plague, you mean.

Den, I am sure you should not say so.

Virginia, Indeed he should not; and he does not say
Dentatus — not that I am not a plague.
But that he does not think me one, for all
I do to weary him. I am sure, Dentatus,
If to be thought to do well, is to do well,
There's nothing I do ill ; But, it is far
From that ! for few things do I as I ought —
Yet every thing is well done with my father,

Vir, That's well done, is it not my friend? (Aside.)
But if you had a daughter, what would you do with her?

Den, I'd give her to Icilius. I should have been
just now torn to pieces, but for his good offices. The
gentle citizens, that are driven about by the Decemvirs'
Lictors, like a herd of tame oxen, and with most beast-
like docility, only low applauses to them in return, would
have done me the kindness to knock my brains out; but
the noble Icilius bearded them singly, and railed them


into temper. Had I a daughter worthy of such a hus-
band, he should have such a wife, and a patrician's dower
along with her.

Vir, I wish to speak with you, Dentatus. Icilius is
a young man whom I honour, but so far only as his
conduct gives me warrant. He has had, as thou know-
est, a principal hand in helping us to our Decemvirs.
It may be that he is what I would gladly think him;
but 1 must see him clearly, clearly, Dentatus. "If he
has acted with the remotest understanding, touching the
views of these new tyrants that we are cursed withal, I
disclaim him as my friend! I cast him off for ever!"

\_Exeunt Vir. and Dentatus.

Virginia, How is it with my heart? I feel as one
That has lost every thing, and just before
Had nothing left to wish for ! He will cast
Icilius off! — I never told it yet;
But take of me, thou gentle air, the secret —
And ever after breathe more balmy sweet —
I love Icilius ! " Yes, although to thee
I fear to tell it, that hast neither eye
To scan my looks, nor voice to echo me.
Nor e*en an o'er-apt ear to catch my words;
Yet, sweet invisible confidant, my secret
Once being thine — I tell thee, and I tell thee
Again — and yet again." I love Icilius !
He'll cast Icilius off! — not if Icilius
Approve his honour. That he'll ever do;
He speaks and looks, and moves a man of honour,
Or honour never yet spoke, look'd, or mov'd.
Or was a thing of earth. O, come, Icilius;
Do but appear, and thou art vindicated.

Icilius, (entering,)
\ Virginia! sweet Virginia! sure I heard


My name pronounc'd. Was it by thee, Virginia?
Thou dost not answer? Then it was by thee —
O! wouldst thou tell me why thou nam'dst Icilius !

Virginia. My father is incens'd with thee. Dentatus
Has told him of the new Decemvirate,
How they abuse their office. You, he knows.
Have favoured their election, and he fears
May have some understanding of their plans.

IciL He wrongs me, then !

Virginia. I thank the gods !

IciL For me !
Virginia? Do you thank the gods for me?
Your eye is moist — yet that may be for pity;
Your hand doth tremble — that may be for fearf
Your cheek is covered o'er with blushes ! What,
Oh what can that be for?

Virginia. Icilius, leave me!

IciL Leave thee, Virginia? Oh ! a word — a word
Trembles upon my tongue, which, if it match
The thought that moves thee now, and thou wilt let me
Pronounce that word, to speak that thought for thee,

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