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diences deprived themselves, by this lenity, of any tittle of that supremacy which audiences in all ages have thought themselves bound to maintain over such as have been candidates for their applause. On the contrary, by this method they seem to have had the author, as we should express it, completely under finger and thumb.
The provocations to which a dramatic genius is exposed from the public are so much the more vexatious, as they are removed from any possibility of retaliation, the hope of which sweetens most other injuries :-for the public never writes itself.-Not but something very like it took place at the time of the 0.-P. differences. The placards which were nightly exhibited, were, properly speaking, the composition of the public.- The public wrote them, the public applauded them, and precious morceaus of wit and eloquence they were; except some few, of a better quality, which it is well known were furnished by professed dra. matic writers. After this specimen of what the public can do for itself, it should be a little slow in condemning what others do for it.
As the degrees of malignancy vary in people according as they have more or less of the Old Serpent (the father of hisses) in their composition, I have sometimes amused myself with analyz. ing this many-headed hydra, which calls itself the public, into the component parts of which it is a complicated, head and tail," and seeing how many varieties of the snake kind it can afford.
First, there is the Common English Snake. This is that part of the auditory who are always the majority at damnations, but who, having no critical venom in themselves to sting them on, stay till they hear others hiss, and then join in for company.
The Blind Worm is a species very nearly allied to the fore. going. Some naturalists have doubted whether they are not the
The Rattle Snake.--These are your obstreporous talking critics, --the impertinent guides of the pit, who will not give a plain man leave to enjoy an evening's entertainment, but with their frothy jargon, and incessant finding of faults, either drown his pleasure quite, or force him in his own defence to join in their clamorous censure. The hiss always originates with these. When this creature springs his rattle, you would think, from the noise it makes, there was something in it; but you have only to examino the instrument from which the noise proceeds, and you will find it typical of a critic's tongue,ma shallow membrane, empty, voluble, and seated in the most contemptible part of the creature's body.
The Whip Snake. This is he that lashes the poor author the next day in the newspapers. The Deaf Adder, or Surda Echidna of Linnæus. Under this
head may be classed all that portion of the spectators (for audience they properly are not) who not finding the first act of a piece an. swer to their preconceived notions of what a first act should be, like Obstinate in John Bunyan, positively thrust their fingers in their ears, that they may not hear a word of what is coming, though perhaps the very next act may be composed in a style as different as possible, and be written quite to their own tastes. These Adders refuse to hear the voice of the charmer, because the tuning of his instrument gave them offence.
I should weary you and myself too, if I were to go through all the classes of the serpent kind. Two qualities are common to them all. They are creatures of remarkably cold digestions, and chiefly haunt pits and low grounds.
I proceed with more pleasure to give you an account of a Club to which I have the honour to belong. There are fourteen of us, who are all authors that have been once in our lives what is called damned. We meet on the anniversaries of our respective nights, and make ourselves merry at the expence of the public. 'The chief tenets which distinguish our society, and which every man among us is bound to hold for gospel, are,
That the public, or mob, in all ages, have been a set of blind, deaf, obstinate, senseless, illiterate savages. That no man of nius in his senses would be ambitious of pleasing such a capricious, ungrateful rabble. That the only legitimate end of writing for them is to pick their pockets, and, that failing, we are at full li. berty to vilify and abuse them as much as ever we think fit.
That authors, by their affected pretences to humility, which they made use of as a cloak to insinuate their writings into the callous senses of the multitude, obtuse to every thing but the grossest flattery, have by degrees made that great beast their master; as we may act submission to children till we are obliged to practise it in earnest. That authors are and ought to be considered the masters and preceptors of the public, and not vice versa. That it was so in the days of Orpheus, Linus, and Musæus, and would be so again, if it were not that writers prove traitors to themselves. That in particular, in the days of the first of those three great authors just mentioned, audiences ap. pear to have been perfect models of what audiences should be; for theugh along with the trees and the rocks and the wild creatures, which he drew after him to listen to his strains, some serpents doubtless came to hear his music, it does not appear that any one among them ever lifted up a dissentient voice. They knew what was due to authors in those days. Now every stock and stone turns into a serpent, and has a voice.
That the terms 6 Courteous Reader” and “ Candid Auditors," as having given rise to a false potion in those to whom they were
applied, applied, as if they conferred upon them some right, which they cannot have, of exercising their judgments, ought to be utterly banished and exploded. These are our distinguishing tenets. To keep up the
of the cause in which we suffered, as the ancients sacrificed a goat, a supposed unhealthy animal, to Æsculapius, on our feast-nights we cut up a goose, an animal typical of the popular voice, to the deities of Candour aud Patient Hearing. A zealous member of the society once proposed that we should revive the obsolete luxury of viper-broth; but the stomachs of some of the company rising at the proposition, we lost the benefit of that highly salutary and antidotal dish.
The privilege of admission to our club is strictly limited to such as have been fairly damned. A piece that has met with ever so little applause, that has but languished its night or two, and then gone out, will never entitle its author to a seat among us. An exception to our usual readiness in conferring this privilege is, in the case of a writer, who having been once condemned, writes again, and becomes candidate for'a second martyrdom. Simple damnation we hold to be a merit, but to be twice-damned we ad. judge infamous. Such a one we utterly reject, and black-ball without a hearing :
The common damn'd shun his society.
Hoping that your publication of our Regulations may be a means of inviting some more members into our society, I conclude this long letter.
I am, Sir, yours,
ART. XII.-Greek and English Tragedy.
That astonishing variety of incident and passion which is crowd. ed by Shakspeare into a comparatively short space of time in his noble tragedy of King Lear, it would be vain to look for in any single piece of the Greek drama; which was subject to such rigid restrictions of unities, both of time and place, as imposed shackles on the excursive imaginations of the writers, and tied them down to the narrow limits of twenty-four hours of natural time, and somewhat more than the same number of square feet of deal boards.- The Edipus of Sophocles, however, which occupies
two he is 66
two plays, and consequently a double portion of time and space, combines a greater variety of excellence than we are often treated with by the Greek tragedians : it involves a greater change of incident and passion than any other of the plays of Sophocles, change from royalty and prosperity, to blindness and banishment; from the active happiness of a patriot king to resentment, misanthropy, and resigned misery. Sophocles has embodied in it more feeling than in any other of his characters; and it is therefore more worthy than any other to be admitted to a comparison with the inimitable Lear of Shakspeare.
Of each of these dethroned monarchs the leading feature is resentment against his unnatural children : each of them wanders about in impotent wretchedness; and, though not forgetting that
every inch a king,” yet refined by his misfortunes into that complacent humility which imparts so amiable a charm to suffering and degraded royalty. Each of them derives from his own reflecting conscience that consolation which only can be a sufficient counterpoise for affliction :
Τα η έργα μου πεπονθότ' έστι μάλλον και δεδρακότα.”
Soph. ad. Colon, p. 266-7. ed. Brunck. My works are of sufferance, rather than of action : or, as Shakspeare has it,
I am a man More sinn'd against than sioning."-King Lear, Act 3. Sc.2,* The misfortunes of Lear were brought on him, in some degree, by his own ill-judged and capricious affection for his daughters : those of Edipus were the result of a complication of accidental crimes, ordained by an inevitable destiny, and punished by intole. rable calamities. Those who submit with implicit deference to the rules of Aristotle, will immediately decide, that the character
* That Shakspeare might have condescended to borrow from Sophocles, is a thing not at all improbable : but those laborious pioneers of literary rubbish, Messieurs Malone and Steevens, have not discovered that there was any translation of Sophocles extant in the time of Shakspeare. Shall we thence conclude, that Shakspeare was a man of profound learning ? - What signifies it? These ridiculous squabbles about his learning have had their day :-" He needed not," as Drydeu says, “the spectacles of books to read nature : he looked inwards, and found her there.”- It is much more probable, that his own feelings suggested to him the best consolation the old king could find in his misery; and, above all, the argument is decisive, that if these ebullitions of natural feeling were borrowed,--he who had borrowed so much, would have borrowed more.- Persons may very well talk about the learning, who are dead to the poetry, of the great bard: but they who can feel his poetry, need not be very solicitous about his learning,
of Edipus is much better adapted to tragedy than that of Lear; since it is quoted by the great critic himself as one—“MÚte ågeth" διαφέρων και δικαιοσύνη, μήτε διά κακίαν και μοχθηρίαν μεταβάλλων εις την δυστυχίαν, αλλά δι αμαρτίαν τινά.” (Περί Ποιητ. $ 25.).-But if Shakspeare is to be judged by rules of criticism, drawn from the practice of his rival, and rules too, which, it is probable, he himself knew and disdained, -all comparison is at an end, and he must retire disgraced and discomfited from every contest. But since it is probable that Sophocles himself represented the character of (Edipus, such as it is, merely because he found it such upon re. cord, and not from any predilection for doctrines so horrible, and errors so disgusting,-it remains for us, who are freed from the despotism of Aristotle, to appeal from his dictates to nature and to feeling; and nature and feeling will give a readier sanction, and sympathise with warmer interest in the self-inflicted sufferings of Lear, than in the predestinated monstrosities of (Edipus. Be. sides which, the moral , surely more awful, more instructive, more reasonable, which inculcates the mischiefs resulting from extravagant and ungoverned sensibility, than that which impresses upon us the mere tyranny of destiny, and the helplessness of inno. cence,—which exhibits to us a human being led on by a blind fatality to perpetrate crimes in the shape of virtues,--delivering his country, and rewarded for it with the privilege of committing incest;-in short, an unconscious personification of the Hippopo. tamus, which is fabled to “ kill his sire, and ravish his dam." Lear forces us to pity his miseries, and instructs us to avoid his faults : @dipus, too, demands our pity; but all the instruction he gives us is, that our life is over-ruled by oracles, and that it is useless to endeavour after innocence; that.
“ As flies to wanton boys, are we to th' gods,
They kill us for their sport." The former of the two beautiful tragedies which Sophocles has written on the subject of Edipus, comprehends just as much as is contained in the first two acts of King Lear :-it brings us to the point of the old monarch's leaving the city of Thebes, after hay. ing, with a desperate vengeance, torn out his eyes on the discovery of his unfortunate crimes. This drama is chiefly remarkable for its ingenious arrangement: it does not present the character of @dipus in any striking light, except as a lover of his country and of truth; but the discoveries of his various and complicated errors follow one another in so interesting a succession, and are unravelled with so pleasing an ingenuity, that the play is justly acknowledged to be a masterpiece of the model of Greek Tragedy. The model, indeed, is bad, but the performance is good; and those who censure its erroneous foundation, may yet pause with
VOL. II. NO. III.