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When bis bard creditors,
youth to faves, who ne'er knew mercy. It is not however within the reach of this, or ang other description, to place Altamont in that inte. resting and amiable light, as circumstances have already placed Charalois; the happy and exulting bridegroom may be an object of our congratulation, but the virtuous and suffering Charalois engages our pity, love and admiration. If Rowe would have his audience credit Altamont for that filial piety, which marks the character he copied from, it was a small oversight to put the following expression into his mouth
Oh, great Sciolto! Oh, my more than father!
A closer attention to character would have reminded him that it was possible for Altamont to express his gratitude to Sciolto without setting him above a father, to whose memory he had paid such devotion.
From this contraction of his plot, by the defalcation of so many pathetic incidents, it became II
impoffible impoffible for the author of the Fair Penitent to make his Altamont the hero of his tragedy, and the leading part is taken from him by Horatia, and even by Lothario, throughout the drama. There are several other reasons, which concur to sink Altamont upon the comparison with Charalois, the chief of which arises from the captivating colours in whici Rowe has painted his libertine: On the contrary, Maffinger gives a contemptible picture of his young Novall; he makes him not only vicious, but ridiculous ; in foppery and impertinence he is the counterpart of Shakespear's Ofrick; vain-glorious, purseproud, and overbearing amongst his dependants ; a fpiritless poltroon in his interview with Romont. Lothario (as Johnson observes) with gaiety which cannot be hated, and bravery which cannot be despised, retains too much of the spectator's kindness. His high spirit, brilliant qualities and fine person are so described, as to put us in danger of false impressions in his favour, and to set the passions in opposition to the moral of the piece: I suspect that the gallantry of Lothario makes more advocates for Califta than she ought to have. There is another consideration, which operates against Altamont, and it is an indelicacy in his character, which the poet should have provided against : He marries Calista with the full
persuasion persuasion of her being averse to the match; in his first meeting with Sciolto he says
Ob! could I bope there was one thought of Allamont,
-I found her cold
I am aware that Sciolto attempts to parry these facts by an interpretation too gross and unbecoming for a father's character, and only fit for the lips of a Lothario; but yet it is not in nature to suppose that Altamont could mistake such symptoms, and it fixes a meanness upon him, which prevails against his character throughout the play. Nothing of this sort could be discovered by Massinger's bridegroom, for the ceremony was agreed upon and performed at the very first interview of the parties; Beaumelle gave a full and unreserved assent, and though her character fuffers on the score of hypocrify on that account, yet Charalois is saved by it: Less
hypocrisy hypocrisy appears in Calista, but hers is the deeper guilt, because she was already dishonoured by Lothario, and Beaumelle's coquetry with Novall had not yet reached the length of criminality. Add to this, that Altamont appears in the contemptible light of a suitor, whom Calista had apprized of her averfion, and to whom she had done a deliberate act of dishonour, though his person and character must have been long known to her. The case is far otherwise between Charalois and Beaumelle, who never met before, and every care is taken by the poet to save his hero from such a deliberate injury, as might convey contempt; with this view the marriage is precipitated; nothing is allowed to pass, that might open the character of Charalois to Beaumelle : She is hurried into an assignation with Novall immediately upon her marriage ; every artifice of seduction is employed by her confi. dante Bellaperte, and Aymer the parasite of No. vall, to make this meeting criminal; The falls the victim of passion, and when detection brings her to a sense of her guilt, she makes this penitent and pathetic appeal to Charalois-
Ob my fate!
Before I lost you; and my misery made
With justice therefore you may cut me off,
-Yet you fall find,
Compare this with the conduct of Califta, and then decide which frail fair-one has the better title to the appellation of a Penitent, and which drama conveys the better moral by its catastrophe.
There is indeed a grossness in the older poet, which his more modern imitator has refined; but he has only fweetened the poison, not removed its venom; nay, by how much more palatable he has made it, so much more pernicious it is become in his tempting sparkling cup, than in the coarse deterring dose of Maffinger.
Rowe has no doubt greatly outstepped his wriginal in the Atriking character of Lothario,