صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

assumed for his amusement. With these impressions we see him delivered over to mortification and disgrace, and bewail his punishment with a sensibility, that is only due to the sufferings of the virtuous.

As it is impossible to ascertain the limits of Shakespear's genius, I will not presume to say he could not have supported his humour, had he chosen to have prolonged his existence thro' the succeeding drama of Henry the Fifth; we may conclude, that no ready expedient presented itself to his fancy, and he was not apt to spend much pains in searching for such: He therefore put him to death, by which he fairly placed him out of the reach of his contemporaries, and got rid of the trouble and difficulty of keeping him up to his original pitch, if he had attempted to carry him through a third drama, after he had removed the Prince of Wales out of his company, and feated him on the throne. I cannot doubt but there were resources in Shakespear's genius, and a latitude of humour in the character of Falstaff, which might have furnished scenes of admirable comedy by exhibiting him in his disgrace, and both Shallow and Silence would have been accessaries to his pleasantry: Even the field of Agincourt, and the distress of the king's army before the action, had the poet thought proper to have produced Falstaff on the scene, might have been as fruitful in comic incidents as the battle of Shrewsbury; this we can readily believe from the humours of Fluellen and Pistol, which he has woven into his drama; the former of whom is made to remind us of Falstaff, in his dialogue with Captain Gower, when he tells him that - As Alexander is kill his friend Clytus, being in his ales and his cups, so alfo Harry Monmouth, being in his right wits and his goot judgeTizents, is turn away the fat Knight with the great felly-doublet: He was full of jefts and gypes and krauiries, and mocks; I am forget his name. Sir John Falstaff. That is he.-This paffuge has ever given me a pleasing fensation, as it marks a regret in the poct to part with a favourite character, and is a tender farewel to bis memory : It is also with particular propriety that these words are put into the mouth of Fluellen, who stands here as his substitute, and whose humour, as well as that of Nym, may be laid to have arisen out of the ashes of Falstaff,




Singula lætus Exquiritque, auditque, virûm monumenta priorum.


[ocr errors]

F all our dealers in second-hand wares,

few bring their goods to so bad a market, as those humble wits who retail other people's worn-out jokes. A man's good fayings are fo personally his own, and depend so much upon manner and circumstances, that they make a poor figure in other people's mouths, and suffer even more by printing than they do by repeating: It is also a very difficult thing to pen a witticism; for by the time we have adjusted all the descriptive arrangements of this man said, and t'other man replied, we have miserably blunted the edge of the repartee. These difficulties however have been happily overcome by Mr. Joseph Miller and other facetious compilers, whose works are in general circulation, and may

be heard of in most clubs and companies where gentlemen meet, who love to say a good thing without the trouble of inventing it. We are also in a fair train of knowing every thing that a late celebrated author faid, as well


as wrote, without an exception even of his most secret ejaculations. We may judge how valuable these diaries will be to pofterity, when we reflect how much we should now be edified, had any of the antients given us as minute a collectanea of their illustrious contemporaries.

We have, it is true, a few of Cicero's tablejokes; but how delightful would it be to know what he said, when nobody heard him! how piously he reproached himself when he laid in bed too late in a morning, or eat too heartily at Hortensius's or Cæfar's table. We are told indeed that Cato the Censor loved his jest, but we should have been doubly glad to have partaken of it: What a pity it is that nobody thought it worth their while to record some pleasanter specimen than Macrobius has given us of his retort upon 2: Albidius, a glutton and a spendthrift, when his house was on fire-What he could not eat, he has burnt, faid Cato; where the point of the jest lies in the allusion to a particular kind of facrifice, and the good-humour of it with himself. It was better said by P. Syrus the actor, when he saw one Mucius, a malevolent fellow, in a very melancholy mood Either fome ill fortune has befallen Mucius, or jcine good has happened to one of his acquaint

[ocr errors][merged small]

A man's fame shall be recorded to posterity by the trifling merit of a jest, when the great things he has done would else have been buried; in oblivion: Who would now have known that L. Mallius was once the best painter in Rome, if it was not for his repartee to Servilius Geminus ? --- You paint better than you model, says Geminus, pointing to Mallius's children, who were crooked and ill-favoured. Like enough, replied the artist ; I paint in the daylight, but I model, as you call it, in the dark.

Cicero it is well known was a great joker, and some of his good sayings have reached us; it does not appear as if his wit had been of the malicious fort, and yet Pompey, whose temper could not stand a jest, was so galled by him, that he is reported to have said with great bit-, terness—Oh! that Cicero would go over to my enemies, for then he would be afraid of me.If Cicero forgave this sarcasm, I should call him not only a better-tempered, but a braver man than Pompey.

But of all the antient wits Augustus seems to have had most point, and he was as remarkable for taking a jest, as for giving it. A country fellow came to Rome, who was so like the emperor, that all the city ran after him ; Augustus heard of it, and ordering the man into his pre


« السابقةمتابعة »