« السابقةمتابعة »
more, this great book is made by a foreign gentleman, who writes and speaks clear another language from Mr. Addison ; surely he must be a dunce indeed, who is to be taught his mother tongue by a stranger ! I was apt to be tickled with some of our English poets, Dryden and Pope and Milton, and one Gray, that turns out to be a very contemptible fellow truly, for he has shewn me all their secret histories in print, written by a léarned man greater than them all put together, and now I would not give a rush for one of them; I could find in my heart to fend Bell and all his books to the devil. As for all the writers now living, my neighbour, who by the way has a hand in reviewing their works, affures me he can take nothing of them, and indeed I wonder that a man of his genius will have any thing to fay to them. It was my cuftom to read a chapter or two in the Bible on a Sunday night; but there I am wrong again ; I fhall not enter upon the subject here, but it won't do, that I am convinced of, Sir; it positively will not do.
The reason of my writing to you at all is only to let you know, that I received a volume of your Observer by the coach ; my friend has cast his eye over it, and I have 'returned it by the waggon, which he fays is the fittest conveyance
for waste paper.
I am, Sir,
I shall give no other answer to my correspons dent but to lament his loss of fo, innocent a refource as reading, which I suspect his new acquirements will hardly compensate. I still think that half an hour passed with Mr. Addison over a Spectator, notwithstanding all his false grammar, or even with one of the poets, notwithstanding their infirmities, might be as well employed as in weaving nets for the currant-bushes, or playing at all-fours with his housekeeper. No man has a right to complain of the critic, whose fagacity discovers inaccuracies in a favourite author, and some readers may probably be edified by such discoveries; but the bulk of them, like my correspondent Rusticus, will get nothing but disgust by the information : Every man's work is fair game for the critic; but let the critic beware that his own production is not open to retaliation. As for our late ingenious biographer of the poets, when I compare his life of Savage with that of Gray, I must own he has exalted the low, and brought down the lofty; with what justice he has done this the world must judge.. On the part of our authors now living, whom the learned gentleman in the letter condemns in the lump, I have only this to observe, that the worse they fare now, the better they will succeed with posterity; for the critics love the sport too well to hunt any but those, who can stand a good chace; and authors are the only objects in nature, which are magnified by distance and diminished by approach: Let the illustrious dead change places with the illustrious living, and they shall escape ho better than they have done who make room for them; the more merit they bring amongst us, the heavier the tax they shall pay for it.
Let us suppose for a moment that Shakespear was now an untried poet, and opened his career with any one of his best plays : The next morning ushers into the world the following, or something like the following, critique.
"Laft night was presented for the first time a s tragedy called Othello or the Moor of Venice, “avowedly the production of Mr. William . Shakespear, the actor. This gentleman's re
putation in his profeffion is of the mediocre “ fort, and we predict that his present tragedy “will not add much to it in any way.-Medi“ acribus elle. poetis--the reader, can supply the "rest-verb. fap. As we profefs ourselves to be “ friendly to the players in general, we shall re« serve our fuller critique of this piece, till • after its third night; for we hold it very stuff
of the conscience (to use Mr. Shakespear's own « words) not to war against the poet's purse; “ though we might apply the author's quaint « conceit to himfelf
“ Wbo feals his purse, fleals traje; "tis something;
a In this last reply we agree with Mr. Shake“ spear that 'tis nothing, and our philofophy tells « us ex nihilo nihil fit.
“For the plot of this tragedy the most we can · fay is, that it is certainly of the moving fort, “ for it is here and there and every where ; a « kind of theatrical hocus pocus; a creature of " the pye-ball breed, like Jacob's muttons, be
tween a black ram and a white ewe. It “ brought to our mind the children's game of “ I love my love with an A-with this difference 166 only, that the young lady in this play loves
« her love with a B, because he is black« Rifum teneatis?
“ There is one Iago, a bloody-minded fellow,
who stabs men in the dark behind their backs; « now this is a thing we hold to be most vile
« and ever-to-be abhorred. Othello fmothers “his white wife in bed; our readers may think “ this a shabby kind of an action for a general “ of his high calling; but we beg leave to ob« ferve that it fhews fome spirit at least in « Othello to attack the enemy in her strong
quarters at once. There was an incident of “a pocket-handkerchief, which Othello called out < for most lustily, and we were rather sorry that “ his lady could not produce it, as we might " then have seen one handkerchief at least “employed in the tragedy. There were some « vernacular phrases, which caught our ear, such
as where the black damns his wife twice in a « breath-Oh damn her, damn her!-which we “thought favoured more of the language spoken « at the doors, than within the doors of the " theatre ; but when we recollect that the author « used to amuse a leisure hour with calling up “ gentlemen's coaches after the play was over, “ before he was promoted to take a part in it,
could readily account for old habits. Tho' we have seen many gentlemen and ladies kill " themselves on the stage, yet we must give the “ author credit for the new way in which his “hero puts himself out of the world : Othello, “having smothered his wife, and being taken up by the officers of the state, prepares 'to dispatch VOL. III.