A Lesson in Life

Cibber's School

The school attended by Cibber.

Snippets 109.  Colley Cibber (1671-1757) is a name that will be unfamiliar to many today, but in his day he was very well known as a playwright. Unfortunately, despite being Poet Laureate, his reputation was for being a particularly bad playwright! He is now best remembered for being one of the first ever actor-managers in the theatre, and also for his very entertaining autobiography, amusingly titled An Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber (1740). The following quote, from that book, offers an interesting lesson from his school days, concerning friendly teasing, and how offence can be taken without the knowledge of the teaser. Cibber’s advice is as relevant today as it was nearly 300 years ago.

A great boy, nearly the head taller than myself, in some wrangle at play had insulted me; upon which I was foolhardy enough to give him a box on the ear; the blow was soon returned with another that brought me under him, and at his mercy. Another lad, whom I really loved, and thought a good-natured one, cried out, with some warmth, to my antagonist, while I was down, “Beat him, beat him soundly.”. This so amazed me, that I lost all my spirits to resist, and burst into tears. When the fray was over, I took my friend aside, and asked him how he came to be so earnestly against me? To which, with some gloating confusion, he replied, ”Because you are always jeering, and making a jest of me to every boy in the school.” Many a mischief have I brought upon myself by the same folly in riper life. Whatever reason I had to reproach my companion’s declaring against me, I had none to wonder at it, while 1 was so often hurting him: thus I deserved his enmity by my not having sense enough to know I had hurt him; and he hated me, because he had not sense enough to know that I never intended to hurt him.

As this is the first remarkable error of my life I can recollect, I cannot pass it by without throwing out some further reflections upon it…

The inward wounds that are given by the inconsiderate insults of wit, to those that want it, are as dangerous as those given by oppression to inferiors; as long in healing, and perhaps never forgiven. There is besides (and little worse than this) a mutual grossness in raillery, that sometimes is more painful to the hearers that are not concerned in it than to the persons engaged. I have seen a couple of these clumsy combatants drub one another with as little manners or mercy as if they had two flails in their hands; children at play with case-knives could not give you more apprehension of their doing one another a mischief; and yet, when the contest has been over, the boobies have looked round them for approbation, and upon being told they were admirably well matched, have sat down bedaubed as they were, contented at making it a drawn battle. After all that I have said, there is no clearer way of giving rules for raillery, than by example.

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About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in 18th Century, Books, Education, History, Inspiration, Memoirs, School, Snippets and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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