LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

My Friends and Acquaintance
R & T Sheridan V

Vol I Contents
Charles Lamb I
Charles Lamb II
Charles Lamb III
Charles Lamb IV
Charles Lamb V
Charles Lamb VI
Charles Lamb VII
Charles Lamb VIII
Charles Lamb IX
Charles Lamb X
Thomas Campbell I
Thomas Campbell II
Thomas Campbell III
Thomas Campbell IV
Thomas Campbell V
Thomas Campbell VI
Thomas Campbell VII
Lady Blessington I
Lady Blessington II
Lady Blessington III
Lady Blessington IV
Lady Blessington V
R. Plumer Ward I
R. Plumer Ward II
R. Plumer Ward III
R. Plumer Ward IV
R. Plumer Ward V
R. Plumer Ward VI
Appendix vol I
Vol II Contents
R. Plumer Ward VII
R. Plumer Ward VIII
R. Plumer Ward IX
R. Plumer Ward X
R. Plumer Ward XI
R. Plumer Ward XII
R. Plumer Ward XIII
R. Plumer Ward XIV
R. Plumer Ward XV
R. Plumer Ward XVI
R. Plumer Ward XVII
R. Plumer Ward XVIII
R. Plumer Ward XIX
R. Plumer Ward XX
R. Plumer Ward XXI
R. Plumer Ward XXII
R. Plumer Ward XXIII
Horace & James Smith I
Horace & James Smith II
William Hazlitt I
William Hazlitt II
William Hazlitt III
William Hazlitt IV
William Hazlitt V
William Hazlitt VI
William Hazlitt VII
William Hazlitt VIII
Appendix vol II
Vol III Contents
William Hazlitt IX
William Hazlitt X
William Hazlitt XI
William Hazlitt XII
William Hazlitt XIII
William Hazlitt XIV
William Hazlitt XV
William Hazlitt XVI
William Hazlitt XVII
William Hazlitt XVIII
William Hazlitt XIX
William Hazlitt XX
William Hazlitt XXI
William Hazlitt XXII
William Hazlitt XXIII
William Hazlitt XXIV
William Hazlitt XXV
William Hazlitt XXVI
Laman Blanchard I
Laman Blanchard II
Laman Blanchard III
Laman Blanchard IV
Laman Blanchard V
Laman Blanchard VI
Laman Blanchard VII
Laman Blanchard VIII
R & T Sheridan I
R & T Sheridan II
R & T Sheridan III
R & T Sheridan IV
‣ R & T Sheridan V
R & T Sheridan VI
R & T Sheridan VII
R & T Sheridan VIII
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The drama of “Ixion” opens in a “parlour” in the palace of Jupiter, on Mount Olympus, the persons present being Jupiter, with Mercury in attendance, at a respectful distance. Jupiter opens the scene with a song, which, like almost every passage of this singular composition, conveys practical lessons on the savoir vivre that are certainly not the less instructive for the fun in which they are clothed. It also lets us at once into the gist of what is to follow:—


“Of state intrigues, and feuds, and leagues,
The fuss and worry is hard;
Dominion cuts me to the guts,
And frets my very gizzard.
On earth they quaff, live, love, and laugh,
Without this rout and pother;
So I’ll lay by my bolts, and try
A little of one with t’other.
“Early and late, my hopeful mate,
With nuptial din does fright one;
We rate and swear—fight dog, fight bear;
She snaps enough to bite one.
If I’ll submit to her, a chit,
I’ll make a maid o’ my mother.
With earth’s kind fair I’ll try my share;
A little of one with t’other.”

In pursuance of the resolution thus announced, Jupiter calls Mercury forward, and dispatches him at once to earth, for the purpose of stealing a suit of Amphitryon’s regimentals, that distinguished captain being absent in command of his sovereign’s army, and Jove having already concerted with Mercury a visit to Alcmena in the guise of her liege lord. Jove concludes his directions as follows:—
“When you’ve the clothes in limbo—d’ye mind me?
At our old rendezvous on earth you’ll find me.”

He does not indicate the exact locality of this rendezvous; but it was doubtless either the “Cyder Cellar” or “Coal Hole,” or some similar establishment, of the Simpson of Mycenæ, where the palace of Amphitryon was situated.

Mercury having departed on his errand,
Jupiter, in the exuberant jollity of his heart at the pleasures that await him, indulges somewhat too vociferously in his anti-connubial anticipations, especially in the moral with which his godship always contrives to “justify his deeds unto himself,” and which moral is, in this instance, overheard by the good lady to whom it so irreverently relates.

This contretemps gives rise to a scene than which the “Doctors’ Commons” to which the lady threatens to appeal never witnessed anything more characteristic of that particular phase of “double-blessedness” of which it is the appointed guardian. With the exception of about a dozen lines, the whole of this scene is conducted in the characteristic form of a duet—a duet of discords; at the close of which the singers make their exit in different directions, and Ixion, the hero of the piece, enters.

Ixion is a prophetic anticipation of the “fast young man” of our own day, or rather, he is “three gentlemen in one:” the “fast man,” the “gent,” and the cockney; a happy combination of conceit, vulgarity, and gullibility, expressing themselves alternately in
slang, super-finery, bad English, and bastard French.

Ixion has come to make a morning call on Juno, and overhearing the conclusion of the quarrel that has been described above, thinks it presents a good occasion for one of those bonnes fortunes which such gentry as he represents are ever affecting. But the singular anticipations noticed above are not the only ones belonging to this character. He is an antetype of Brother Jonathan himself, and in a diction that has hitherto been thought to be exclusively of Yankee invention. Here is an example. While considering how he shall prosecute his ambitious design of making love to the Queen of Heaven, he gets a sight of himself in a mirror.

“Let’s see—my face?—toll loll! I’ll work upon her.
My person?—Oh—immense—upon my honour.
My eyes? Oh fie!—the naughty glass—it flatters.
Courage! Ixion flogs the world to tatters!

The scene now changes to a servants’ hall in the same palace, and Mercury is discovered taking a quiet carouse by himself, preparatory to starting for earth on Jove’s errand, as before described. The porter-pot by his side
seems to have furnished the inspiration of the following effusion:—

“Jove may live as he likes—rant, hector, and swear,
With his bolts shake Olympus and Pindus;
Juno drives him about with a flea in his ear,
And flings the whole house out of windows.
“He sneaks like a dog that has burnt off his tail,
After all his parading and boasting;
While she jobs like a fish-wife, and sooner than fail,
Will threaten her lord a rib-roasting.
“Now I’ve my full swing; care for no one a jot;
No wife with night-lectures to dun me;
I snap up my luncheon, and quaff off my pot;
And the black ox ne’er sets his foot on me.”

Nubilis, Juno’s waiting-maid, enters at the conclusion of this song, and, on learning that her lover is about to depart for Earth, a scene of recrimination ensues, which, after a little cajolery on the part of the gentleman, closes happily with the extraordinary duet that has been given at the opening of this description: “The Sun at Tyburn,” &c.

The next scene, which has wonderful spirit and humour, takes place in the dressing-room of Juno, into which Ixion impudently forces his way, in pursuance of the design announced in the scene preceding that just described.
It appears, however, that the flirtation had, in fact, commenced on the preceding evening, when they had taken a quiet stroll together, and been caught in the rain, the sinister result of which accident the lady describes in a couplet that is itself indescribable:—
“My body politic’s quite out of tune—
Indeed I scarce can speak without a spoon.”

This scene closes with an assignation on the part of the lady to meet Ixion after dark in the painted gallery of the palace. We are led to understand, however, that she intends to have the grace to substitute for her own celestial person that of Nubilis, her maid. But we are also led to doubt whether she would have felt it necessary to practise this ruse, if she had not discovered, in the course of their last interview, that the gentleman is anything but a gentleman.

This scene closes the first act.

The second act opens on Earth, at the palace of Amphitryon. Jupiter, under the guise of Amphitryon, is sitting with Alcmena, and they are surrounded by a body of Amphitryon’s friends and retainers, who form a chorus after the fashion of the ancient
Greek drama, and hail the return of their supposed leader from the wars.

Jupiter finds all this feting somewhat slow work, especially as he has not dined since his arrival on earth. He therefore dismisses all his admirers with an invitation to a jolly carouse to-morrow, himself crying, “Hey for the pantry!” while Alcmena retires to her dressing-room, to await his coming and quarrel with her maid, who seems to have some inkling of the new arrival not being exactly “le vrai Amphitryon”—a notion which the lady utterly discountenances. It is true, she admits that “My husband’s face is somewhat out at elbows;” but this, she insists, is no concern of the suivante’s; and the latter, having the wit to see that the case is one in which it is not safe to be too sharp-sighted, all goes well again.

In the meantime Jupiter, having satisfied those vulgar cravings which the atmosphere of Earth seems to have imposed on him, is in the act of congratulating himself on the brilliant success of his enterprise, when a little contretemps, occurs, which gives a new face to the affair. As this scene may be detached
without injury to its completeness, I will give it entire, as a specimen of the dramatic character of this remarkable production.

Scene—A Parlour.—Jupiter discovered, having just finished eating. The Servants, coming in to remove the things, overhear the last part of his song, which Jupiter, not observing them, still keeps singing.
Jupiter (sings).
Now I’ve humbugg’d the whole house,—
Now I’m snug settled within,
Need I regard it a louse,
My wife going mad with the spleen?

She may accuse me, abuse me;
Her words are idle I promise ’em;
Here will I flaunt it and rant it,
And keep the gentleman from his home.
For the lady I’m ready, and she’s all the quarry that
I try on:
I shall be happy to cap ye with horns, good Master
Both Servants.
A bite! a bite!
1st Servant.
Let’s seize him.
2nd Servant.
No. ’T were unstable
Without authority;—lets get a constable.
We’ll teach him how to quibble and to quirk.
Jupiter (aside).
So—here’s a pretty job of journey-work!
2nd Servant.
T’ insult us here before his plot was riper!
A hang-gallows! I’ll make him pay the piper!

DUET (by the two Servants).
1st Serv.   Zooks! d’ye take us both for asses,
Not to see your scurvy sham?
2nd Serv.   Doctor, here your tricks won’t pass us;
We’re too knowing for a flam.

1st Serv.   Never think to get the upper
Hand of us by hook or crook.
2nd Serv.   With a salt eel for your supper,
We’ll dismiss you, knavish rook.

1st Serv.   Scarce my fingers can I keep in—
They so itch to rub him down.
2nd Serv.   Oh! the dog shall pay for peeping.
How I’d like to crack his crown!

1st Serv.   So the rake-shame here was willing
To be sowing his wild oats!
2nd Serv.   Burn me, not for twenty shilling
I’d be taken in his coats.

1st Servant to Jupiter.
Nay—don’t stand winking there all day, and beck’ning—
You’re out, and that most widely, in your reck’ning.
2nd Servant.
No mercy to such horrid crimes we may grant;
Down on your marrowbones, you sturdy vagrant.
1st Servant.
Come, sir, dispatch—we wait for your confessions:
We’ll have you ‘dieted for a witch, at sessions.
Peace there, ye ragamuffins!—hold your gabble—
You skippernells—you scummings of the rabble!

You dogs, I’m Jupiter imperial,
King, emperor, and pope ethereal;
Master o’ th’ ordnance in the sky;—
Famous for hurling bolts of thunder.
Bastards! I’ll make ye both knock under,
Or know the reason why.

D’ye think your blust’ring puffs and vapours
Can browbeat me, ye whipper-snappers?
I’ll soon make ye cry ’cavi!—Zouns!
Make the least mutt’ring, growling, or fuss,
You both to rats I’ll metamorphose,
Or shake you to half-crowns.

1st Servant.
Great Sir, your royal word there is no doubting—
Oh—mercy! mercy!—sure my tail is sprouting!
2nd Servant.
Tremendous Jove!—I own your bolts and quality—
Oh—I abhor the thought of bestiality.*

DUET (by the two Servants, kneeling). Both.
O forgive us for rebelling!
Pardon! pardon! cloud-compelling!

i.e., of being turned into rats.

1st Serv.   By our weight of passion loaded,
Little did we smoke your godhead.
2nd Serv.   Blinded by our senses awkward,
In our baisemains we were backward.
Both.   All you ask, we’ll serve you well in—
Pardon! pardon! cloud-compelling!

Rise, suppliant sinners, rise—and for the future
How to behave, ourself will be your tutor.
As god we will reverse what we as man did:
We were to blame in coming empty-handed.
Now to our party firmly to convert ye—
Behold!—for each of ye a six-and-thirty—
Here—as an earnest that our godship by no
Foul means will trick you—pocket up the rhino.

Both (singing as before).
All you ask, we’ll serve you well in—

Know that ourself both like Alcmena well,
And here design awhile to take a spell.
If your assistance back our royal counsel,
Trust me, Amphitryon shall not pass the grouncill.
Stickle but you with might and main to aid us—
A fig for all his blust’rings and bravadoes.
For instance—should he sneak in here upon us,
And be for domineering in—his own house—
Seem you to take his part—but make his chin go
From night to morn with bumbo, flip, and stingo.
You know, altho’ his head is weak by nature,
He loves a cheering cup of the good creature.
So mind your eye, and by contrivance handy,
Give him this powder, in a dram of brandy.
(Gives a paper.)
Here’s his quietus, you but ply him close—
He’ll make no bones on’t—gulp—and down it goes.
He’ll snore, I’ll warrant him, with this in’s pate,
A fortnight, without stopping once to bait.

Both Servants (singing).
All you ask, we’ll serve you well in—
Mighty, mighty, cloud-compelling!

I thank you, bucks—I thank you—not to mention
For you a peerage, and for you a pension.

Jupiter. Now I’m out of doubt my plan will do.
Standing to me true.
To 1st Ser.   I will.
You will?
To 2nd Ser.   You man, too, will.
Both Servs.   Sir, we’ll stick as firm to you as glue.
Jupiter.   Poor Amphitryon’s forehead; how ’twill
With the horns I’ll make!

* This is the trio to which the author affixes the private note alluded to at p. 279, viz.,—“This I call my noun-substantive song.”

1st Serv.   Chouse him—
2nd Serv.   Douse him—
Both.   Sir, we’ll souse him.
All three taking hands.   All in the common cause
our measures to take.

The next scene is occupied with the sudden return of the vrai Amphitryon, and the as sudden evasion of the supposititious one—who fairly runs for it, followed by his victim in full cry. As, however, the imperial intruder cannot stomach the injurious imputations implied in “Stop thief!” “Jail bird!” and the like, which the true Amphitryon flings after him, he turns on his pursuer, trips up his heels, and leaves him bellowing on the ground—where he literally “sings out” his grievances till his own servants come to his aid. But as they are now (as we know) in the pay of Jupiter, their advent does not mend the matter for Amphitryon; on the contrary, their master’s helpless condition affords them a good opportunity of administering the hocussing potion entrusted to them in the preceding scene; and the poor gentleman is carried off, still singing his doleful ditty.


Meanwhile, Jupiter returns to the side scene, to watch what is going on; and Alcmena, alarmed by the cries of her husband, arrives at the spot, only again to be deceived into the belief that Jupiter is her legitimate lord and master, and that the hubbub she had heard was nothing but a chance rencontre between himself and some “sorry fellow” who had obtruded on his privacy. The lady is easily reassured; though her alarm has (as she eloquently describes it) made her feel “light-headed quite in all her limbs;” and the second act concludes by their walking off together, to set all right over a dish of coffee.

I am sorely tempted to enrich my pages by some further extracts from this capital production; but I stay my hand, on the consideration that, in doing so, I should be treating unfairly a drama that may, at no distant period, see the light in its integrity.