صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


[ocr errors]

done, or, being done, would it be suffered “in the present age? How many of these

plays, if acted as they were originally writ

ten, would now be permitted to pass ? “ Can we have a stronger proof of the bar“ barous taste of those times, in which Ti“ tus Andronicus first appeared, than the “ favour which that horrid spectacle was “received with ? yet of this we are assured

by Ben Jonson. If this play was Shake“ fpear's, it was his first production, and some “ of his best commentators are of opinion “ it was actually written by him, whilst he “ resided at Stratford upon Avon. Had this “ production been followed by the three

parts of Henry the Sixth, by Love's La« bour Loft, the two Gentlemen of Verona, “the Comedy of Errors, or fome few others, “ which our stage does not attempt to re« form, that critic must have had a very

fingular degree of intuition, who had dif“ covered in those dramas a genius capable " of producing the Macbeth. How would

a young author be received in the present “ time, who was to make his first essay be“ fore the public with such a piece as Titus “ Andronicus ? Now if we are warranted


66 in


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

« in saying there are several of Shakespear's “ dramas, which could not live upon our

present stage at any rate, and few, if any, “ that would pass without just censure in

many parts, were they represented in their

original state, we must acknowledge it is “ with reason that our living authors, stand

ing in awe of their audiences, dare not « aim at those bold and irregular flights of

imagination, which carried our bard to " fuch a height of fame; and therefore it

was that I ventured awhile ago to say, “ there can be no poet in a polished and criutical age like this, who can be brought

any fair comparison with so bold and “ eccentric a genius as Shakespear, of whom

we may fay with Horace


w into


Tentavit quoque rem, fi digne vertere poffet,
Ez placuit fibi, natura sublimis.
Nam /pirat tragicum fatis, et feliciter audet:
Sed turpem putat, in fcriptis metuitque lituram.

« When I bring to my recollection the feve“ral periods of our English drama since the

age of Shakefpear, I could name many

dates, when it has been in hands far infe“rior to the present, and were it my purN 5

“pose pose to enter into particulars, I should not scruple to appeal to several dramatic pro“ductions within the compass of our own

times, but as the task of separating and selecting one from another amongst our

own contemporaries can never be a plea“ fant task, nor one I would willingly engage “in, I will content myself with referring to “ our stock of modern acting plays; many “ of which having passed the ordeal of critics,

(who speak the same language with what I “ have just now heard, and are continually

crying down those they live with) may

perhaps take their turn with pofterity, and « be hereafter as partially over-rated upon a “comparison with the productions of the

age to come, as they are now undervalued “ when compared with those of the ages past. « With regard to Milton, if we could not

name any one epic poet of our nation since “his time, it would be saying no more of

be faid of the world in gene“ral, from the æra of Homer to that of Vir

gil." Greece had one standard epic poet; “ Rome had no more; England has her “ Milton. If Dryden pronounced that the


than may

[ocr errors]

force of nature could no further go, he was “ at once a good authority and a strong ex

ample of the truth of the assertion : If his “ genius shrunk from the undertaking, can

we wonder that so few have taken it up? “ Yet we will not forget Leonidas; nor speak

slightly of it's merit ; and as death has “ removed the worthy author where he

cannot hear our praises, the world may “ now, as in the case of Milton heretofore, « be so much the more forward to bestow “ them. If the Sampson Agonistes is nearer “ to the simplicity of it's Grecian original “ than either our own Elfrida or Caractacus, “ those dramas have a tender interest, a pa“thetic delicacy, which in that are want,

ing; and though Comus has every charm of language, it has a vein of allegory that impoverishes the mine.

“ The variety of Dryden's genius was such " as to preclude comparison; were I disposed to attempt it. Of his dramatic produc“ tions he himself declares, that he never wrote any thing in that way to please himself but his All for Love. For ever under arms, “ he lived in a continual state of poetic war“fare with his contemporaries, galling and

N 6

“ galled galled by turns; he subsisted also by 'expe“ dients, and neceffity, which forced his genius into quicker growth than was na“ tural to it, made a rich harvest but flovenly

husbandry; it drove him also into a du

plicity of character that is painful to re“ flect upon; it put him ill at ease within « himself, and verified the fable of the

nightingale, finging with a thorn at it's 4 breast.

Pope's verfification gave the last and finishing polish to our English poetry : “ His lyre more sweet than Dryden's was « lefs fonorous; his touch more correct, but

not fo bold; his ftrain more musical in it's tones, but not so striking in it's effect :

, " Review him as a critic, and review him “ throughout, you will pronounce him the “ most perfect poet in our language; read “ him as an enthusiast and examine him in « detail, you cannot refuse him your appro

bation, but your rapture you will reserve “ for Dryden.

“ But you will tell me this does not ap

ply to the question in dispute, and that, « " instead of settling precedency between

your poets, it is time for me to produce

“ my

« السابقةمتابعة »