'Joseph Andrews,' Benjamin Martyn's 'Timoleon,' and the statue of surprize.
You have heard, Reader, Poets talk of the Statue of Surprize. . . . You have seen the Faces, in the Eighteen-penny Gallery, when through the Trap-Door, to soft or no Musick, Mr. Bridgewater, Mr. William Mills, or some other of ghostly Appearance, hath ascended with a Face all pale with Powder, and a Shirt all bloody with Ribbons; but from none of these . . . could you receive such an Idea of Surprize, as would have entered in at your Eyes, had they beheld the Lady Booby, when those last Words issued out from the Lips of Joseph.
Later it is Joseph's turn to be frozen, 'as the Tragedians call it, like the Statue of Surprize'.(1)
Pointedly italicized and repeated, the phrase has prompted extensive annotation. Martin C. Battestin notes analogous expressions in Cibber's version of Richard III ('each like statues fix'd, / Speechless and pale'), Theobald's The Persian Princess ('And turn me to a Statue with Confusion'), and a stage-direction in Young's Busiris ('they're the Statues of Despair'). Douglas Brooks cites acting manuals including Henry Siddons, Practical Illustrations of Rhetorical Gesture and Action (2nd edn, 1822): 'the man struck with sudden astonishment ought to remain fixed like a statue to his posture.'(2) The exact phrase, however, has remained elusive.
Probably Fielding was remembering a single poet and tragedian: Benjamin Martyn (1699-1763), whose Timoleon: A Tragedy (1730) has been identified by Christine Gerrard as one of the earliest Patriot dramas and by James Sambrook as the reason (on its successful Drury Lane run of fourteen nights) for the postponement of Thomson's Sophonisba.(3) Both Roger Bridgewater and William Mills took roles in the play, which opened on 26 January, was published on 7 February, and enjoyed a four-night revival at Goodman's Fields (with Fielding's The Mock Doctor as its afterpiece for the last three nights) in February 1733. Act IV.iii finds Bridgewater's character Timophanes petrified in the requisite manner by his father's ghost: 'Why are thy Eyes thus fix'd? What means this Posture? / Thou look'st a very Statue of Surprize, / As if a Lightning Blast had dry'd thee up, / And had not left thee Moisture for a Tear.' Although it has been thought that lines may have been contributed to Timoleon by Alexander Pope,(4) these are probably not the leading candidates.
Unlike Theobald, Young, and Thomson, Benjamin Martyn escaped identification (though not at least one instance of undeclared parody)(5) in Fielding's early burlesque of the language and conventions of heroic drama, The Tragedy of Tragedies (1731), which in its original version of Tom Thumb had opened a mere three months after Timoleon. He may have been grateful to have got away with it again in Joseph Andrews, and a year later his name appears among the subscribers to Fielding's Miscellanies.(6)
TOM KEYMER St Anne's College, Oxford
1 Joseph Andrews, ed. Martin C. Battestin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 40 (l.viii), 334 (IV.xiv). I am grateful to Professor Battestin for his generous advice on this note.
2 Joseph Andrews, ed. Battestin, 40; Joseph Andrews and Shamela, ed. Douglas Brooks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), 371.
3 Gerrard, The Patriot Opposition to Walpole: Politics, Poetry, and National Myth, 1725-1742 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 55, 211 n.; Sambrook, James Thomson 1700 1748: A Life (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 87. See also Arthur H. Scouten (ed.), The London Stage, 1660-1800, Part 3: 1729-1749 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1961), 33-8, 272-4.
4 Maynard Mack, Alexander Pope: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 925 n.
5 See The Tragedy of Tragedies, ed. James T. Hillhouse (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1918), 171 n. Hillhouse identifies the continuation of the well-known Sophonisba parody of II.v ('Oh Huncamunca, Huncamunca, oh, / Thy pouting Breasts, like Kettle-Drums of Brass, / Beat everlasting loud Alarms of Joy') as parodying Timoleon, V.iii ('Those heaving Breasts, / They beat Alarms to Joy'), but Fielding's note at this point targets Thomson alone.
6 Miscellanies, Volume Three, ed. Bertrand A. Goldgar and Hugh Amory (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 335.
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|Publication:||Notes and Queries|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1998|
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