A General History of the Stage

Source: William Rufus Chetwood, A General History of the Stage, from its origin in Greece down to the present time. With memoirs of most of the principal performers on the English and Irish stage for these last fifty years (London: W. Owen, 1749), pp. 43-44

Text: I remember, above twenty Years past, I was one of the Audience, at a new Play: Before me sat a Sea-Officer, with whom I had some Acquaintance-, on each Hand of him a Couple of Sparks, both prepar’d with their offensive Instruments vulgarly term’d Cat-calls, which they were often tuning, before the Play began. The Officer did not take any Notice of them till the Curtain drew up; but when they continued their Sow-gelder’s Music (as he unpolitely call’d it), he beg’d they would not prevent his hearing the Actors, tho’ they might not care whether they heard, or no; but they took little Notice of his civil Request, which he repeated again and again, to no Purpose: But, at last, one of them condescended to tell him, If he did not like it, be might let it alone. Why, really, reply’d the Sailor, I do not like it, and would have you let your Noise alone; I have paid my Money to see and hear the Play, and your ridiculous Noise not only hinders me, but a great many other People that are here, I believe, with the fame Design: Now if you prevent us, you rob us of our Money, and our Time; therefore I intreat you, as you look like Gentlemen, to behave as such. One of them seem’d mollified, and put his Whistle in his Pocket; but the other was incorrigible. The blunt Tar made him one Speech more. Sir, said he, I advise you, once more, to follow the Example of this Gentleman, and put up your Pipe. But the Piper sneer’d in his Face, and clap’d his troublesome Instrument to his Mouth, with Cheeks swell’d out like a Trumpeter, to give it a redoubled, and louder Noise but, like the broken Crow of a Cock in a Fright, the Squeak was stopt in the Middle by a Blow from the Officer, which he gave him with so strong a Will, that his Child’s Trumpet was struck thro’ his Cheek, and his Companion led him out to a Surgeon; so that we had more Room, and less Noise; and not one that saw or heard the Affair, but what were well pleased with his Treatment; and, notwithstanding his great Blustering, he never thought it worth his while to call upon the Officer, tho’ he knew where to find him.

Comments: William Rufus Chetwood (?-1766) was an English author, playwright and publisher, whose A General History of the Stage, published in 1749, is a valuable eyewitness account of fifty years of English and Irish theatre.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive

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