38 Pages

James Eyre Weeks, A Rhapsody on the Stage; or, The Art of Playing

James Eyre Weeks, A Rhapsody on the Stage In Imitation of Horace’s Art of Poetry (Dublin: Printed for the Author, 1746). By permission of the Royal Irish Academy © RIA, Pamphlet 193, no. 5.

According to Patrick Fagan (whose chapter ‘Were ere Two James Eyre Weekeses?’ in A Georgian Celebration: Irish Poets of the Eighteenth Century is at this point our best source of information about the identity of the author of A Rhapsody), James Eyre Weeks was born in Cork and must have been a student in Trinity College from 1735 to 1739 (which coincided with omas Sheridan’s tenure as a student there). His other published works include e Resurrection, e Amazon or Female Courage Vindicated and Rebellion (both c. 1745), e Cobbler’s Poem, e Gentleman’s Hourglass or an Introduction to Chronology (1750), A New Geography of Ireland (1752), and e Young Grammarian’s Magazine of Words (1753). We further learn from Fagan that:

James Eyre Weeks appears to have been for a time a teacher or tutor, for e Gentleman’s Hourglass is dedicated to a former pupil and is date-lined Tralee 1750. It is likely that he was one and the same person as James Weekes who appears under a separate entry in Alumni Dublinenses as having graduated B. A. in Trinity College in 1751. It is also likely that he was James Weeks who was ordained in the Established Church, married a lady named Mary Hughes, was a curate in Holy Trinity Church, Cork in 1769, was later rector of Ballinadee, Country Cork and died in December 1775.1

A Rhapsody on the Stage focuses on the styles of Booth, Betterton, Quin, Garrick, Wilkes and Milward, as well as Sheridan, whom he praises unabashedly. e poem might have been inspired by, among other works, Hill’s the Prompter (e.g., ‘ en let Rehearsal be your chiefest care’),2 and it repeats some of the favourite points of the contemporary writing on the stage, condemning ‘rant’ (‘Mouthing was once the Darling of the Age, / and Rant, and Strut, were call’d – to ll the Stage’)3 and dwelling on the attractiveness of contrasting emotions

(‘ e Emphasis in Contrasts shou’d be nice, / Whose Beauty in the Opposition lies’).4