The Rosciad "Not Without Art, But Yet To Nature True"

Charles Churchill

"Not Without Art, But Yet To Nature True"

Context: In 1728, Alexander Pope (1688–1744) published a satirical poem in rhymed couplets, called The Dunciad. It was an attack on literary charlatanism, originally aimed chiefly at a literary scholar, Lewis Theobald, who had been most uncomplimentary to Pope's edition of Shakespeare. In the 1743 revision, the target as Monarch of Dullness was the Poet Laureate, Colley Cibber (1671–1757), though many other authors, now forgotten, were also pilloried. In imitation of Pope's work, Charles Churchill directed his barbs at theatrical people of London in The Rosciad, deriving its title from the great Roman comic actor of the first century B.C., Quintus Roscius. With the death of Roscius, says Churchill, many actors sought to occupy his place. He describes a judging of them, one after another, by a tribune of Shakespeare and Dr. Johnson. About the men, the poet has little good to say; however, several of the actresses who appear to be judged, do get his approval. One, Mrs. Vincent (d. 1802), who starred as Polly Peachum in Gay's The Beggar's Opera in 1760, gets words of praise, perhaps because during Churchill's riotous youth he was on intimate terms with her. Catherine Clive (1711–1785) is highly praised, as is Jane Pope (1742–1818), who imitated Mrs. Clive and starred in plays by Colman, Garrick, and Farquhar. Finally, David Garrick (1717–1779) presents himself, and though snarling critics bring up objections to him, Churchill pays tribute to him as one who acts naturally. "Hence to thy praises, Garrick, I agree,/ And, pleased with Nature, must be pleased with thee." The judges also decide in his favor, and Shakespeare ends The Rosciad with the verdict: If Nature, linked with Art, and powers of acting vast and unconfined deserve the preference, "Garrick, take the chair;/ Nor quit it–'till thou place an Equal there." During the judging of Jane Pope, who, though twenty, acts like a sixteen-year-old, Churchill declares that, like Garrick, she combines art and nature. She will make a good successor to Kitty Clive.

With all the native vigor of sixteen,
Among the merry troop conspicuous seen,
See lively POPE advance in jig and trip,
Corinna, Cherry, Honeycomb, and Snip.
Not without Art, but yet to Nature true,
She charms the town with humor just, yet new.
Chear'd by her promise, we the less deplore
The fatal time when CLIVE shall be no more.