صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

66

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{pear'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 some few others, “ which our stage does not attempt to re“ form, that critic must have had a very

singular 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

o in

2

[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 cri“tical age like this, who can be brought “ into any fair comparison with so bold and " eccentric a genius as Shakespear, of whom “ we may say with Horace

[ocr errors]

Tentavit quoque rem, fi digne vertere poffet,
Et placuit fibi, natura sublimis et acer :
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 Shakespear, I could name many “ dates, when it has been in hands far inferior to the prefent, and were it my pur

'pose

N 5

4

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 posterity, 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 than may

be said of the world in gene“ral, from the æra of Homer to that of Virgil

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

force

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

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

force of nature could no further go, he was at once a good authority and a strong example 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 inerit ; 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, “thofe 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 impoverislies 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

66

“ galled

« flect upon;

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 slovenly

husbandry ; it drove him also into a duplicity of character that is painful to re

it

put him ill at ease within « himself, and verified the fable of the

nightingale, finging with a thorn at it's « 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 strain more musical in it's

tones, but not so striking in its 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 »