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Mrs. Blandish. There it is, complete——
Adieu, my charming friend, my amiable, my all
Accomplished associate! conceive the ardour of
Your lovers united with your own sensibility—
Still will the compound be but faintly expressive
Of the truth and tenderness of your
There’s phrase—there’s a period—match it, if you can.
Blandish. Not I, indeed: I am working upon a quite different plan: but, in the name of the old father of adulation, to whom is that perfect phrase addressed?
Mrs. Blandish. To one worth the pains, I can tell you—Miss Alscrip.
Blandish. What, sensibility to Miss Alscrip! My dear sister, this is too much, even in your own way: had you run changes upon her fortune, stocks, bonds, and mortgages; upon Lord Gayville’s coronet at her feet, or forty other coronets, to make footballs of if she pleased,—it would have been plausible; but the quality you have selected——
Mrs. Blandish. Is one she has no pretensions to; therefore the flattery is more persuasive—that’s my maxim.
Blandish. And mine also, but I don’t try it quite so high—Sensibility to Miss Alscrip! you might as well have applied it to her uncle’s pig-iron, from which she derives her first fifty thousand; or the harder heart of the old usurer, her father, from which she expects the second. But come, [Rings.] to the business of the morning.—Opening to The Heiress, a play by General John Burgoyne
We often know someone because of an accomplishment or accomplishments in one field of endeavor. We know Michael Jordan for basketball, even though he also played baseball. Certainly, he was much more of a force in basketball, and his baseball career was worth forgetting. Occasionally, there are those who stand out and are known for accomplishment in multiple areas. Winston Churchill: politician and historian; Michaelangelo: painter, sculptor, and poet; Leonardo da Vinci: engineer, painter, sculptor, inventor, and, well, everything. But most people are generally known for only one thing, at least by the general public.
Case in point: General John “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne. We know him best as a general who lost in the American Revolution (defeated by Benedict Arnold, in truth). Perhaps those with a more historical bent might know of his other military contributions, such as in The Fantastic War. Others may know that he was a politician, as many British military men of the period were. But few know him for another accomplishment: He was a playwright. A year before the Revolution started, Burgoyne’s nephew-by-marriage married. As part of the festivities, Burgoyne arranged for some pretty nifty things to happen, and part was a short play. The event was such a hit that he and his friend David Garrick, whom he had pulled into the staging of the play, decided to expand it and produce it for a wider audience. That play was called The Maid of the Oaks. It was a huge success.
Gentleman Johnny’s career as a playwright was then interrupted as he was sent across the sea to take care of those persnickety rebels in the Colonies. When that failed, he was sent back to England, where eventually he continued his playwrighting career, being involved in at least a handful of works. The Heiress was one such.
He died on August 4, 1792, exactly 228 years ago today.
Do you know of any other famous people who are known for one thing, but had surprising sidelines?Published in