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avail himself of numberless circum curately known by any other than a stances incompatible with the strictness of his rules, not only interesting in themselves, but which would have been productive of the best effect in giving variety and relief to his fable, and dispelling the monotony so strongly felt long before his catastrophe.
I shall enter into an examination of some of his most celebrated pieces. The first play I shall notice is Polinice, the subject of which is the same with the Ezra em enbare of Aschylus and J. B. the para of Euripides. Edinburgh, May 29, 1808.
Upon the whole, Alfieri will hardly ever be a favourite poet; and it is astonishing to me how he has acquired the very high reputation he at present maintains. With a few ex ceptions, he is almost totally destitute of pathos; and though someIn the delineation of character, he times sublime, the sublimity is buried has, in my opinion, completely failed. in a profusion of inflation and turHe abounds in tyrants, monsters, and gidity. His characters have few or unrelenting politicians, openly and none of the illusions of reality. He avowedly wicked without a motive; has studied the rules of the theatre, with generous and exalted visionaries; indeed, with much and unwearied but with the true springs of human attention; but he has neglected to conduct he seems to have been almost study them in the noblest of all wholly unacquainted. The extremes schools, the school of human nature. of good and evil are rarely to be met with in this world; and he who places before us unmasked villainy, without at the same time exposing the circumstances and situations which imperceptibly and almost unavoidably lead to its perpetration, can never captivate our minds by the illusion of reality. We must see virtue and vice blended together as they really exist in life. We must see our fellow creatures actuated by all the variety of contending inclinations and passions which reign in our own breast. He whose penetration into human nature has enabled him successfully to unravel the mazes of character, has attained the highest dramatic excellence: and without this qualification, every other talent will be unavailing. In the possession of this excellence. Shakspeare and Schiller with all their faults will command the esteem and admiration of every
[To be concluded in our next.]
Mr. BREWER'S REPLY to "STRIC-
VOUR correspondent X, in the
presents us with some remarks on that vindication of the Modern Drama, which I attempted in the Universal Magazine for the mouth of March. He writes with so much liberality, as far as regards my personal feelings, that I should not have troubled you with a rejoinder on the subject, did it not appear to me that the remarks The language of the drama should of X do by no means warrant that debe exactly suited to the personage and cisive air with which he appears, in to the occasion. From a continual the latter part of his observations, to attempt at dignity, however, and a put the argument down as a matter so contempt for the effeminate strains entirely settled, that "a fact is not of Metastasio, Alfieri has written in needed" to add weight to his side of a language often unnatural and tur- the question. The probable good gid in a very high degree. He is said sense of X needs scarcely be remindto have contenined the existing lan- ed, that declamation and argument guage of his country, and to have are widely dissimilar. I stated what, travelled back to the age of Dante. in my humble opinion, were the de On this subject it is impossible for a fects of the old schools of the English foreigner to speak with any thing like
precision. What part of a language By an error of the press, Mr. is spoken by the inhabitants of any Brewer's signature to his "Vindicacountry, and what is confined to their tion" in our number for March, was earlier authors, can never be ac- printed J. A. instead of J. N.
3 N 2
drama. Considering the improve- from modern dramatists, by saying ment of manners as the legitimate that the age would not tolerate an and original aim of comedy, I noticed immodest expression, and therefore to (what, it may be said, was sufficiently the progress of general refinement, obvious without such a notation) the not to the taste of the dramatist, immorality of fable generally preferred must be ascribed the decorousness of by Congreve, Wycherley, &c. and the modern stage. Sir, the audience applauded by their auditors. I like of our times would tolerate expresSome of wise ventured to remark a deficiency sions more than equivocal. in humour as observable in many our poets, with a most illaudable cu"good old writers," whose very riosity, have (though rarely) tried the names are now sufficient to inspire experiment, and the result is to be the ideas of wit and dramatic excel- seen in the printed copies of their lence, among whole crowds of those productions. It was, however, the who echo the voice of fashion, and improved morality of fable for which who "follow in the chace, not like a I commended modern bards; and on hound that hunts, but one that fills up that head X does not say a word. the cry. To observations like these, That sophism of X which would however trifling they may be deemed, describe the palm of delicacy (in reit became X to make a regular an- gard to purity of expression) as due swer before, in summing up his co- to the audience, not to the author, is rollary, he stated the disputo as en- entirely. nugatory. Wherever may tirely ended, and himself the con- be the merit, that it does exist, is queror. I really cannot perceive one enough for our purpose. I did not argument fairly met, and brought to attempt to write an analytical disserissue, in the "Strictures" which X tation on the origin of excellence. has made on my attempt at vindicating hopes that I will not venture the drama of our own period. X says to assert that our writers equal the that I endeavour to elevate the flippant ancients in wit, humour, or genius; inanity of "Reynolds, Dibdin, &c." or that the single merit of being less over the humour, wit, and so forth, indecorous is sufficient to counterof Congreve, Farquhar, and their balance vulgarity of language, abschools. I would beg permission to surdity of plot, and inanity of idea.” remind X that my communication in Considering the stage as a great pubMarch asserted (and the assertion lic shcool of moral correction, I do must certainly be allowed correct) think that the merit of being decorous that it is from a selection of the best is sufficient to counter-balance the writers, that the pretensions of every brightest ascendancy of wit, when existing period of the stage must be that wit is employed in the ridicule censidered. In the days of each of of all that is dear to the domestic inthose celebrated writers enumerated terest of society;-especially when by X, a vast preponderancy of " flip- my opponent declines an attempt at pant inanity" sank and was forgotten, proving that we are not equal to our while the phoenix-like production of predecessors in humour, the great esthe master-genius, was chronicled as sential of dramatic composition. For the boast of the age. vulgarity of language the dramatist is X, therefore, should not have de- not responsible. His business is to scribed me as elevating (or endea- hold the mirror up to the times; and vouring to elevate) "flippant inanity," if the fashionable language of the day till he had perused my selection. be vulgar (as it indubitably is) he And I venture to assure X that a se- would fail to sustain a just reflector, if lection likely to survive the present his language were that of the polished era by much more than the poet's gentleman of the old school. Inanity hope-his golden century-might rea- of idea seems (in the present case) dily be made. His own candour will included in deficiency of wit. convince him that it might, if he give The concluding blow of X is not the subject due consideration. particularly happy. He affirms that Mistaking perpetually the nature the inability of recent writers is esta of my observations, X strives to take blished by the circumstance of their all the merit of moral propriety away plays passing to oblivion after the
Act II.-Sc. I.
novelty of ten nights; while those
If the merit of any man's virtues can be diminished by those faults which are distinct from them, and form a separate trait in his character." The distinction is just human Nature is but too apt to overlook the merits of an intimate from a studious contemplation of his frailties. Act IV. Sc. II.
his usual mistake. A selection of 66 modern productions is treasured at both theatres as stock-plays; the majority only has been thrown aside as lumber, and forgotten. But even if the assertion of X were corret, it would not crush my arguments, since several of those very pieces by Jonson, Massinger, &c. which please at present, were treated with indifference when first written, and neglected for more than a century after
Blood, thou art but blood! Let's write, good angel, on the devil's horn, 'Tis not the devil's crest.
The essence of inherent depravity is still the same, however it may be qualified by the external attributes of dignity or reputation.
Sir, he hath never fed on the dainties. that are bred in a book; he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink; he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts.
Expressions somewhat similar are observable in Valentine, in the first scene of Congreve's Love for Love:
Thy eye Jove's lightning bears, thy voice his dreadful thunder."
This line has been made the subject of a ludicrous epigram.
Act IV.-Sc. III.
On this passage, we have had many comments: Des mots, encore des mots, et toujours des mots!" Yet something must he attempted; Heaven is elsewhere used for God, and here for the chief deity, Jupiter. "The Gods unite in chorus with Loce, and render Jupiter drowsy (or entranced) with the harmony."
Act V. c. I.
This is most likely!
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST.
Well, sit you out.
Act V.-Sc. II.
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
Stay, or remain, exempted from our Demetrius loves your fair.
oath. Sit is from the Latin sisto, to Your beauty: the adjectice for the substand still, or remain. The outlaws so address Valentine in the Two Gentlemen of Verona:
Give us what you have about you,
If not, we'll make you sit, and rifle you.
stantive: as in King John:
Whose private with me, of the Dauphin's
Was much more general than these lines import.
Act IV.-Sc. I.
Fair Helena, in fancy, following me. Owing to the partiality she had conceived for me. The word is still used in familiar colloquy.
Act V.-Sc. I.
From the modesty of fearful duty,
Spesso, in un dir confuso,
MERCHANT OF VENICE.
Look on beauty,
And you shall see 'tis purchas'd by the weight.
"The reputation of beauty may be acquired in proportion to the riches by I which flattery is attracted." The Revisal thinks that paint and patches are meant; with which Mr. Steevens coincides.
As You LIKE IT.
Act I.-Sc. I.
The old man, their father, making such pitiful dole over them.
It appears that dole may signify either our lot or portion; as, Happy man be his dole!" (Winter's Tale), or, as in the present instance, lamentation.
a character which bears some resem• blance to Jaques." He is as free as air; he blows over every man." (Act L. Sc. III.)
Act III.-Sc. I.
Like a medlar, rotten ere ripe.
Thus, in the Midsummer Night's
The green corn
Hath rotted, ere his youth attained a
"A careless desolation." A negligent
Hate him not for my sake. Cel. Why should I not? doth he not deserve well?
Celia intends to ask, why she should not like him. The double negative has this effect. So, in Twelfth Night, "Are you not mad indeed?" for Are you
in your senses?"
Hereafter in a better world than this. Futurity is not herc alluded to; but better times, as it would be now expressed.
Act II.-Sc. VII.
I must have liberty
Thus, in the Malcontent, (by Marston)
A cover'd goblet.
Perhaps an inverted goblet, whose contents have been drunk, and which still retains the appearance of being full or solid.
Act V.-Sc. I.
I will bandy with thee in faction.
sometimes do believe, and sometimes do As those that fear they hope and know they fear.
Spe que timor dubiâ, spes que timore cadit.
Lord Chedworth does not comprehend the difference between the countercheck quarrelsome, the lie circumstantial, and the lie direct. The second may mean, sending the lie by a positive message: and the direct, a personal affirmation of the adversary's falsehood during an interview.
According to the fool's bolt, Sir, and such dulcet diseases."
Dulcet disease is one that ends quickly;
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
So in approof lives not his epitaph,
His deeds, which are represented on his
"Is it not meant damnable in us, to be the trumpeters of our own unlawful intents?" Misfortunes arising from any crime are still observed to be a judgment. "The indiscretion by which our follies are betrayed is a punishment decreed by Providence on the culpability that accompa
Act V. Sc. III.
Oh it came on my ear like the sweet south,
"Of Poets and Poetrie.
"Surely he was a little wanton with his leisure, that first invented Poetrie. "Tis but a Play, which makes Words dance, in the evennesse of a Cadencie: yet without doubt, being a Harmony, it is neerer to the minde than Prose: But the Words being rather the drossie for that it selfe is a Harmony in height. part, Conceit I take to be the Principall. And here, though it digresseth from Truth, it flies above her, making her more rare, by giving curious rayment to her nakednesse. The Nome the Grecians gave the men that wrote thus, shew'd how much they honour'd it: They call'd them Makers. And had some of them had power to put they have come to Deity? And for the their Conceits in Act, how neere would certues of men; they rest not on the bare demeanour, but slide into imagination: so proposing things above us, they kindle the Reader to wonder and imitation. And certainely, Poets that write thus, Plato never meant to banish. His owne practice shewes, hee excluded not all. He was content to heare Antimachus recite his Poem,
when all the Herd had left him: and hee himselfe wrote both Tragedies and other pieces. Perhaps he found them a little too busie with his gods: and he being the first that made Philosophy Dicine, and Rationall, was modest in his owne beginnings. Another Name Vates. Nor know I how to distinguish they had of honour too, and that was betweene the Prophets and Poets of Israel. What is Ieremics Lamentation, but a kinde of Saphicke Elegie? Davids Psalmes are not onely Poems; but Songs, Snatches, and Raptures of a Paming spirit. And this indeed I observe, to the honour of Poets; I never Those balmy spoils. found them covetous, or scrapinglyErratum in the introductory re- base. The Jewes had not two such marks:-for" benefit of the pleasure," read "or."
Imitated by Milton, P. L. 4, 156:
[To be continued.]
Kings in all their Catalogue, as Salomon and his Father; Poets both. There is a largenesse in their Soules, beyond the narrownesse of other men: and why may we not then thinke, this may imbrace more, both of Heaven and God? I caunot but conjecture this to bee the reason, that they, most of them, are poore: They finde their mindes so solaced with their owne flights, that they neglect the study of growing rich and this, I confesse W. P. againe, I thinke, turnes them to vice
Sir, WITHOUT any preface, I send you for your next Magazine an ingenious and a highly interesting excerpt from honest Owen: he writes with the discrimination and the feeling of a scholar. I remain, &c. Oxford, June 2.