[ William Harrison Ainsworth, novelist. ] Autograph Letter Signed ('Wm Ainsworth') asking his friend John Aston to write the epilogue for Sheridan Knowles's play 'William Tell', with references to Charles Lamb and William Charles Macready.

William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882), English historical novelist [ John Partington Aston (1805-1882); James Sheridan Knowles (1784-1862), Irish playwright; Charles Lamb; William Charles Macready ]
Publication details: 
London ('Send the letter by Abot directed to Milne and Parry'). 30 April 1825 [aged 20].
SKU: 17608

4pp., 4to. Bifolium. In good condition, on lightly-aged paper. Addressed, with postmark, to 'John P. Aston, Esqre | Messrs. Ainsworth & Co | Solrs | Essex Street | Manchester'. Aston was Ainsworth's father's law clerk. The year after this letter was written the novel 'Sir John Chiverton', on which Ainsworth and Aston collaborated, was published to great success (and endorsement by Sir Walter Scott). The fact that Aston and Ainsworth are known to have fallen out over the attribution of the novel adds to the piquancy of the hitherto-unknown information contained in the present letter: that previous to the publication of 'Sir John Chiverton' Ainsworth had got Aston to write an intended epilogue to James Sheridan Knowles's play 'William Tell' (which opened at Drury Lane on 11 March 1825). No epilogue features in the first edition of the play, published by Thomas Dolby, but it is likely that if one was written it was, or was intended to be, passed off by Ainsworth as his own work. The present letter is written to 'My dear John' and headed 'I have glorious news in <?>'. He begins by explaining that that he has 'a particular favour to beg', which may be of 'real advantage' to Aston. 'I believe I told you that Knowles the Author of Virginius was bringing out a new Play - to wit William Tell - which is looked forward to with some expectation here and upon whom C[harles]. L[amb]. sported the punning wish "I hope it Will Tell." I have meet Knowles once or twice at Charles' and he has asked me to write the "Epilogue" to his Tragedy, which (relying upon your kindness) ventured to promise.' He explains that his 'chief object' in agreeing to write the epilogue 'was to lay the first stone for a projected undertaking' which he will communicate to Aston in his following letter. Regarding Knowles's play he writes that 'Macready is the Hero and also superintended the whole stage business', and that he is to give the epilogue to him, 'and consult him as we say "thereon"'. He has just returned 'from the rehearsal and Green Room reading at Drury Lane, a very curious and interesting exhibition the which space compels to leave undescribed until my next'. He is 'shocked' to trouble Aston so much, but feels that he can 'accomplish it, if not detained at the beastly office': 'The Tragedy is performed on Wednesday week and they must have five days study. I trust you will receive this on Monday morning late, you dispatch the thing on Tuesday night - if so you will confer an inestimable favour'. He proceeds to give a 'Word on the play', writing that it is 'quite histor', and that 'little Clara Fisher is very admirable as the Son'. What Aston writes 'should be jocose, and if possible contain some . What think you of quizzing the present rage for Spectacle and Webers Musick the Freischutz and Abon Hassan'. The 'quizzing' must be 'done goodhumouredly', as the last piece is being performed at the same theatre. He suggests that 'present Events [...] may be sported', including 'Miss Foote Hayne [a notable 'crim. con.'] Stock Companies &c', in fact anything apart from 'the Catterick Election'. He claims that the 'Beneficial Result of all this' will be 'that an introduction and foundation will be laid for any future attempt of one [sic] own and if the thing take and Knowles is the most popular tragedian of the day may be decidedly acknowledged'. He suggests that '[f]or length' Aston 'just look at the Epilogue to Bertram or any play you may have by you. They are but short.' He recommends the epilogue to 'Pride shall have a Fall' (by George Croly) as 'the best I know.'?>