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Sir Hans Sloane called this fruit vegetable marrow; and a very proper appellation it was: but how does our Author deprave the idea, by larding it with a word of grofer implication !
In imitation of our younger brethren of the magazines, who frequently entertain the public with an ænigma, a rebus, cr an acrostic, we shall here oblige our ingenious Readers with a mysterious couplet, for the exercise of their imaginations:
Thus freedom cheers, 'midit indigence of woc, Nor feels the happy wretch one sharp luxurious throw.' p. ii., Those who can develope the meaning of these luxurious throws, have, we frecly confels, greatly the advantage of us, unlefs the throes of an Author in labour, bc the species of agonizing pleasure here alluded to.
We have observed that we think more highly of our Author's humanity than of his poetry; but even virtue is not always free from error: especially when it runs to excess. In the overflow of his benevolence toward the poor negro llaves (who doubtless, are very proper objects of human conmiseration), the young moralizer indiscriminately involves the Jamaica planters in a severity of condemnation, which strict justice will not warrant. Here, 'then, let the voice of impartiality be heard; and, perhaps, it will appear, that Jamaica is not a littlement only for flaves and task-masters, but that a confiderable degree of felicity may be found with the one, and of humanity with the other. Let us take a comparative view of the labourer in London, and the flave in Jamaica:
The hod-man in London works beyond all comparison harder than the plantation negro in Jamaica, viihout the confolatory reflection of having a fingle friend who has an interest in his preservation. The London labourer has scarcely a room to Thelter himself from inclemencies unknown in Jamaica; the negro has a comfortable cabin for himicif and his family; befide his peculium, or parcel of land, which he cultivates for his own profit: and fo liberal is this allotmont, that the tender, affezionate, industrious negro, will save as much money from the sale of the produce, as will purchase the freedom of his children. And, further, we have been informel, by a very senlible speculator, that the current cathi, circulating among the negroes, did pot amount to 'a sum less than twenty thousand pounts! It may perhaps, not unrealonably be quettivned whether all the hedgers and ditchers in the three kingdums, with all their advantages of liberty, can raise luch a fum.
As the Englith labourer enjoys his nine-pins, and, generally, his mischievous frolics, when he has finished his day's work; 10 the negro-slaves, when the toil of the day is over, have ti uir festive dance, accompanied with the national music of their respective countries; in which, as in a state of nature, they ex.
hibit, it is true, those attitudes and gestures which are exceedingly obnoxious to our ideas of delicacy; but which, in them are void of all wicked intention, and are perhaps, more consiste ent with innocence and finplicity than our refined imaginations may be able to comprehend.
The negroes have the Saturday afternoon, and Sunday, for their own amusements; with their breakings up at Christmas and Whitsuntide.—When they are disased in bedy, they have a doctor and a nurse to attend them; and when they are idle and refractory, the whip is the usual remedy for the disorders of the mind: have not we, too, our Bridewells and our whipping posts ? And is not society the better for them ?
But the negroes who live in towns, and partake of the vices peculiar to them, are frequently, we are told, exposed in the îtrects, the bloody victims to a severe but neceffary police: but is this peculiar to our settlements in the West Indies? Do we noc frequently see men, and even women, flogged, in the like manner, through the streets of London, without any reproach to our civil government ? And have we not known Brownriggs, and others, exercising barbarities never heard of in Jamaica, on poor, innocent, deserted children, their indented servants, without any impeachment of the humanity of the nation ? Monsters of cruelty may, no doubt, be found in all climates; but, in gene al, the English, and their descendants, are characteristically the same in every country,—whether distinguished by the pame of Britons, or Creoles.
Alter all, while we are honestly defending a people against the injuries of misrepresentation, we would not, on any account, be deemed advocates for the flave-trade, of which we have of ten expressed our warın disapprobation; nor do we wilh to have it thought that we are desirous of palliating, or excusing, in any deyree, the dreadful punishments sometimes, from notives of state-neceflity, and self-preservation, inflicted on the flaves in pur colonies, for the suppression of infurrections, &c. Both the irade and the severities are so interwoven in the very conftitution of the colonies in question, that reformations, in these re1pects, can only, perhaps, be effected by those total REVOLUTIONs in human affairs, which Time, sooner or later, pro: duces in every habitable part of the globe. D. BQ, ART. XII. Alfred; a Tragedy. As performed at the TheatreRoyal in Covent Garden. 8vo. i s. 6 d. Becket. 1778.
HIS tragedy, though published anonymously, is well
known to be written by the celcbreted author of Douglas, From the motto, and prefatory advertisement, it appears that the poet expects more candour from the gentle reader, than he met with from the spectator. He appeals, therefore, from the
representatives of the people, collected in the theatre, to the people at large. His advertisement, which contains much sound doctrine, runs thus :
• The success of a dramatic piece on the stage, depends, says Voltaire, upon accidental circumstances, but the day of publication decides its fate.
• Persuaded of the truth of this remark, the author of the tragedy of Alfred would have submitted his performance to the final judgment of the reader, without preface or apology, if he had not been advised, and indeed urged, to make a reply to fome hoftile criticisms, which appear to have been founded upon prejudice and opinion, rather than reason and argument.
It has been alledged, that the character of Alfred, in the tragedy, does not agree with the character of Alfred in history: " That the hero, the legislator, is degraded to a lover, who enters the Danish camp, from a private, not a public, motive, and acts the part of an impostor."
• In tragedy, if the subject be historical, an author is not permitted to introduce events, contrary to the great established facts of history; for instance, in the tragedy of Alfred, the hero must not be killed, nor driven out of England by the Danes ; but preserving those ancient foundations, as the piers of his bridge, the Author may bend his arches, and finish the fabric, according to his taste and fancy, for the poet is at liberty, and it is the essence of his art, to invent such intermediate circumstances, and incidents, as he thinks will produce the most affecting situations. In this department, the poet's fancy is controuled by nothing, but probability and consistence of character, the barriers of dramatic truth. Let us apply this principle to the point in dispute.
• Alfred was a young man, when he fought the battle of Ethendunc. The victory, which gave him poffeffion of the kingdom, must have been gained before he begun to model the state. Is it improbable to suppose, that a young hero was in love? Is it inconsistent to represent the person, who was a legislator, when advanced in years, as a lover in his youth! Does it degrade the character of a hero to suppose, that he was in love with the princess, whom he afterwards married ? Is it not rather injurious to his heroism to conclude, that he chose a confort whom he did not love? If this reasoning is just, there will be no difficulty in vindicating the subsequent conduct of the hero. The dramatic and the real Alfred, are both involved in the charge of imposture ; both enter the Danish camp in disguise; the previous events, as narrated in the tragedy, are nearly the same with those mentioned in history. Alfred, for almost two years, had wandered through England, concealing himself under feigned names and characters. He lived in the midst of his enemies, by being supposed to be dead. Emerging from this obfcurity, he appears in the tragedy, and is informed of the alarming, ambiguous situation of Ethdlswida ; his usual stratayems present themselves, one would think, naturally to his mind, extremely agitated, and prone both by temper and babit, to the mot daring and romantic enterprizes. He resolves to enter the Danis camp, to learn the fate of Ethelswida, and observe the frength and order of the enemy's army, before he ventures a decisive engagement.
• The continued artifice is inevitable. The conduct of Alfred, in the camp of Hinguar; the manner in which he deceives the Dane, is extremely fimilar to the conduct of Orestes in the Electra of Sophocles, which no critic hitherto has blained. Orestes enters the palace of Ægisthus, as the messenger of his own death, carrying an urn, which contains (he says) the ashes of Orelles, whose untimely fate he most circumstantially relates. The Grecian hero practises the deceit with an intention to kill the persons whom he deceives. The English hero deceives Hinguar only to gain access to Ethelswida, without meaning to hurt the person of his enemy. To praise Sophocles, and blame the author of Alfred, for the same conduct, seems a direct contradiction, which can only be accounted for, in one way; an imaginary idea has been formed of the character of Alfred as an old mortified, ascetic fage, of spirit too subline and æthereal to descend to human pallions or human actions. But the real as well as the dramatic Alfred was a young hero, a bard, a winner of battles, brave and magnanimous, but compellej by the pressure of those desperate times, in which he lived, to praélite a thousand arts, to exist by fioulation and difsimulation. Whoever recoilects and weighs theie circumstances, will, it is prelumed, readily pardon the artifice of Alfr d, in tlie tragedy, and acknowledge that the feigned incidents of the piece ari altogether consistent with'the true. If not, the author must be contented to labour under the imputation of an erroncous julg.nent, for he meant nothing lets than to degrade the character of Alfred; on the contrary, finding in the records of a remote and barbaro!is age, a hero of great renown, but from the defect of his historians, involved in clouds and darkness :
Qui caput inter nulila condit, he was tempted to seize his name, and display his character in new fituations connected with the old and well known events of his live and fortune. The play is printed as it was performed. An alteration has been made, in one scene, and sent to the theatre, which, if the tragedy should be refumed or revived, my perhaps contribute to hưighton its effect.'
Among the feigned incidents of the piece,' the counterfeit madness of Alfred's bride, Ethelswida (by the bye, we do not admire the name, Ethelswida) is not the least beautiful. It is, we think, happily imagined as the means of shielding the captive princess from the amorous importunities of the victor Hinguar; and gives full scope to the fancy of a poetical dramatist. We have selected this paffage, therefore, as a specimen not unworthy the Author of Douglas : (Enter Ethelswida, with two women attenaing, fantastically dreft.) Alfred. How beautiful Me is ! O, piteous light !
Her frenzy's high.
Did ere thine aged eyes
(Ethelswida passes them, and advan:es to the front.) Et belswida.
Eagles of the rock,
To bear me to my love.
A fad lamenting strain ;
Descended to the main.
Her roving words tend to one point so long. Alfred. Sorrow and rage exceflive, both are madness.
Time always cures them, if the frame is found.
She speaks again.
My heart swells in my breast,
Then I fall smile and thank thee.
Queen of beauty !
And shall attend thy call.
I will not call him.
Hate not him,