Rejected Addresses

Author: James Smith

Preface to First Edition

On the 14th of August, 1812, the following advertisement appeared in most of the daily papers:-

"Rebuilding of Drury Lane Theatre.

"The Committee are desirous of promoting a free and fair competition for an Address to be spoken upon the opening of the Theatre, which will take place on the 10th of October next. They have, therefore,
thought fit to announce to the public, that they will be glad to receive any such compositions, addressed to their Secretary, at the
Treasury-office, in Drury Lane, on or before the 10th of September,
sealed up, with a distinguishing word, number, or motto, on the cover, corresponding with the inscription on a separate sealed paper,
containing the name of the author, which will not be opened unless containing the name of the successful candidate."

Upon the propriety of this plan men’s minds were, as they usually are upon matters of moment, much divided. Some thought it a fair promise of the future intention of the Committee to abolish that phalanx of authors who usurp the stage, to the exclusion of a large assortment of dramatic talent blushing unseen in the background; while others contended that the scheme would prevent men of real eminence from descending into an amphitheatre in which all Grub Street (that is to say, all London and Westminster) would be arrayed against them. The event has proved both parties to be in a degree right, and in a degree wrong. One hundred and twelve Addresses have been sent in,
each sealed and signed, and mottoed, "as per order," some written by men of great, some by men of little, and some by men of no talent.

Many of the public prints have censured the taste of the Committee,
in thus contracting for Addresses as they would for nails—by the gross; but it is surprising that none should have censured their
TEMERITY. One hundred and eleven of the Addresses must, of course,
be unsuccessful: to each of the authors, thus infallibly classed with the genus irritabile, it would be very hard to deny six stanch friends, who consider his the best of all possible Addresses, and whose tongues will be as ready to laud him as to hiss his adversary.
These, with the potent aid of the bard himself, make seven foes per address; and thus will be created seven hundred and seventy-seven implacable auditors, prepared to condemn the strains of Apollo himself—a band of adversaries which no prudent manager would think of exasperating.

But, leaving the Committee to encounter the responsibility they have incurred, the public have at least to thank them for ascertaining and establishing one point, which might otherwise have admitted of controversy. When it is considered that many amateur writers have been discouraged from becoming competitors, and that few, if any, of the professional authors can afford to write for nothing, and, of course, have not been candidates for the honorary prize at Drury
Lane, we may confidently pronounce that, as far as regards NUMBER,
the present is undoubtedly the Augustan age of English poetry.
Whether or not this distinction will be extended to the QUALITY of its productions, must be decided at the tribunal of posterity; though the natural anxiety of our authors on this score ought to be considerably diminished when they reflect how few will, in all probability, be had up for judgment.

It is not necessary for the Editor to mention the manner in which he became possessed of this "fair sample of the present state of poetry in Great Britain." It was his first intention to publish the whole;
but a little reflection convinced him that, by so doing, he might depress the good, without elevating the bad. He has therefore culled what had the appearance of flowers, from what possessed the reality of weeds, and is extremely sorry that, in so doing, he has diminished his collection to twenty-one. Those which he has rejected may possibly make their appearance in a separate volume, or they may be admitted as volunteers in the files of some of the newspapers; or, at all events, they are sure of being received among the awkward squad of the Magazines. In general, they bear a close resemblance to each other; thirty of them contain extravagant compliments to the immortal
Wellington and the indefatigable Whitbread; and, as the last-
mentioned gentleman is said to dislike praise in the exact proportion in which he deserves it, these laudatory writers have probably been only building a wall against which they might run their own heads.

The Editor here begs leave to advance a few words in behalf of that useful and much abused bird the Phoenix; and in so doing he is biassed by no partiality, as he assures the reader he not only never saw one, but (mirabile dictu!) never caged one, in a simile, in the whole course of his life. Not less than sixty-nine of the competitors have invoked the aid of this native of Arabia; but as,
from their manner of using him after they had caught him, he does not by any means appear to have been a native of Arabia Felix, the Editor has left the proprietors to treat with Mr. Polito, and refused to receive this rara avis, or black swan, into the present collection.
One exception occurs, in which the admirable treatment of this feathered incombustible entitles the author to great praise: that
Address has been preserved, and in the ensuing pages takes the lead,
to which its dignity entitles it.

Perhaps the reason why several of the subjoined productions of the
MUSAE LONDINENSES have failed of selection, may he discovered in their being penned in a metre unusual upon occasions of this sort,
and in their not being written with that attention to stage effect,
the want of which, like want of manners in the concerns of life, is more prejudicial than a deficiency of talent. There is an art of writing for the Theatre, technically called TOUCH and GO, which is indispensable when we consider the small quantum of patience which so motley an assemblage as a London audience can be expected to afford.
All the contributors have been very exact in sending their initials and mottoes. Those belonging to the present collection have been carefully preserved, and each has been affixed to its respective poem. The letters that accompanied the Addresses having been honourably destroyed unopened, it is impossible to state the real authors with any certainty; but the ingenious reader, after comparing the initials with the motto, and both with the poem, may form his own conclusions.

The Editor does not anticipate any disapprobation from thus giving publicity to a small portion of the Rejected Addresses; for unless he is widely mistaken in assigning the respective authors, the fame of each individual is established on much too firm a basis to be shaken by so trifling and evanescent a publication as the present:

- neque ego illi detrahere ausim
Haerentem capiti multa cum laude ceronam.

Of the numerous pieces already sent to the Committee for performance,
he has only availed himself of three vocal Travesties, which he has selected, not for their merit, but simply for their brevity. Above one hundred spectacles, melodramas, operas, and pantomimes have been transmitted, besides the two first acts of one legitimate comedy.
Some of these evince considerable smartness of manual dialogue, and several brilliant repartees of chairs, tables, and other inanimate wits; but the authors seem to have forgotten that in the new Drury
Lane the audience can hear as well as see. Of late our theatres have been so constructed, that John Bull has been compelled to have very long ears, or none at all; to keep them dangling about his skull like discarded servants, while his eyes were gazing at pieballs and elephants, or else to stretch them out to an asinine length to catch the congenial sound of braying trumpets. An auricular revolution is,
we trust, about to take place; and as many people have been much puzzled to define the meaning of the new era, of which we have heard so much, we venture to pronounce that, as far as regards Drury Lane
Theatre, the new era means the reign of ears. If the past affords any pledge for the future, we may confidently expect from the
Committee of that House every thing that can be accomplished by the union of taste and assiduity. {0}


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Chicago: James Smith, "Preface to First Edition," Rejected Addresses, ed. Sutherland, Alexander, 1853-1902 and trans. Seaton, R. C. in Rejected Addresses (New York: George E. Wood, ""Death-bed"" edition, 1892), Original Sources, accessed May 26, 2024,

MLA: Smith, James. "Preface to First Edition." Rejected Addresses, edited by Sutherland, Alexander, 1853-1902, and translated by Seaton, R. C., in Rejected Addresses, New York, George E. Wood, ""Death-bed"" edition, 1892, Original Sources. 26 May. 2024.

Harvard: Smith, J, 'Preface to First Edition' in Rejected Addresses, ed. and trans. . cited in ""Death-bed"" edition, 1892, Rejected Addresses, George E. Wood, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 26 May 2024, from