Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

'Love refines a man's behaviour, but makes a woman's ridiculous.

'Love is generally accompanied with good-will in the young, interest in the middle-aged, and a passion too gross to name in the old.

• The endeavours to revive a decaying passion generally extinguish the remains of it.

'A woman who from being a slattern becomes over-neat, or from being over-neat becomes a slattern, is most certainly in love.'

I shall make use of this gentleman's skill as I see occasion; and, since I am got upon the subject of love, shall conclude this paper with a copy of verses which were lately sent me by an unknown hand, as I look upon them to be above the ordinary run of sonneteers.

The author tells me they were written in one of his despairing fits; and I find entertains some hope that his mistress may pity such a passion as he has described, before she knows that she herself is Corinna.

'Conceal, fond man, conceal the mighty smart,
Nor tell Corinna she has fir'd thy heart.
In vain wouldst thou complain, in vain pretend
To ask a pity which she must not lend.
She's too much thy superior to comply,
And too, too fair to let thy passion die.
Languish in secret, and with dumb surprise
Drink the resistless glances of her eyes.
At awful distance entertain thy grief,
Be still in pain, but never ask relief.
Ne'er tempt her scorn of thy consuming state,
Be any way undone, but fly her hate.
Thou must submit to see thy charmer bless
Some happier youth that shall admire her less;
Who in that lovely form, that heavenly mind,
Shall miss ten thousand beauties thou couldst find;
Who with low fancy shall approach her charms,
While half enjoy'd she sinks into his arms.
She knows not, must not know, thy nobler fire,
Whom she and whom the muses do inspire;

[ocr errors]

Her image only shall thy breast employ,
And fill thy captive soul with shades of joy;
Direct thy dreams by night, thy thoughts by day,
And never, never from thy bosom stray."*

No. 592. FRIDAY, SEPT. 10, 1714.

Studium sine divite vena.

Art without a vein.

HOR. Ars Poet. ver. 409.

ROSCOMMON.

I LOOK upon the playhouse as a world within itself. They have lately furnished the middle region of it with a new set of meteors, in order to give the sublime to many modern tragedies. I was there last winter at the first rehearsal of the new thunder,† which is much more deep and sonorous than any hitherto made use of. They have a Salmoneus behind the scenes who plays it off with great success. Their lightnings are made to pass more briskly than heretofore; their clouds are also better furbelowed, and more voluminous; not to mention a violent storm locked up in a great chest, that is designed for the tempest. They are also provided with above a dozen showers of snow, which, as I am informed, are the plays of many unsuccessful poets, artificially cut and shredded for that use. Mr. Rymer's Edgar is to fall in snow at the next acting of King Lear, in order to heighten, or rather to alleviate, the dis

*The author of these verses was Gilbert, the second brother of Eustace Budgell, Esq.

Apparently an allusion to Mr. Dennis's new and improved method of making thunder; at whom several oblique strokes In this paper seem to have been aimed.

tress of that unfortunate prince; and to serve by way of decoration to a piece which that great critic has written against.

I do not indeed wonder that the actors should be such professed enemies to those among our nation who are commonly known by the name of critics, since it is a rule among these gentlemen to fall upon a play, not because it is ill written, but because it takes. Several of them lay it down as a maxim, that whatever dramatic performance has a long run must of necessity be good for nothing as though the first precept in poetry were 'not to please. Whether this rule holds good or not, I shall leave to the determination of those who are better judges than myself: if it does, I am sure it tends very much to the honour of those gentlemen who have established it; few of their pieces having been disgraced by a run of three days, and most of them being so exquisitely written, that the town would never give them more than one night's hearing.

I have a great esteem for a true critic, such as Aristotle and Longinus among the Greeks; Horace and Quintilian among the Romans, Boileau and Dacier among the French. But it is our mkfortune that some, who set up for professed critics among us, are so stupid, that they do not know how to put ten words together with elegance or common propriety; and withal so illiterate, that they have no taste of the learned languages, and therefore criticize upon old authors only at second-hand. They judge of them by what others have written, and not by any notions they have of the authors themselves. The words unity, action, sentiment, and diction, pronounced with an air of authority, give them a figure among unlearned readers, who are apt to believe they are

very deep because they are unintelligible. The ancient critics are full of the praises of their contemporaries; they discover beauties which escaped the observation of the vulgar, and very often find out reasons for palliating and exercising such little slips and oversights as were committed in the writings of eminent authors. On the contrary, most of the smatterers in criticism, who appear among us, make it their business to vilify and depreciate every new production that gains applause, to decry imaginary blemishes, and to prove, by far-fetched arguments, that what pass for beauties in any celebrated piece are faults and errors. In short, the writings of these critics, compared with those of the ancients, are like the works of the sophists compared with those of the old philosophers.

Envy and cavil are the natural fruits of laziness and ignorance; which was probably the reason that in the heathen mythology Momus is said to be the son of Nox, and Somnus of darkness and sleep. Idle men, who have not been at the pains to accomplish or distinguish themselves, are very apt to detract from others; as ignorant men are very subject to decry those beauties in a celebrated work which they have not eyes to discover. Many of our sons of Momus, who dignify themselves by the name of critics, are the genuine descendants of these two illustrious ancestors. They are often led into those numerous absurdities in which they daily instruct the people, by not considering that, first, there is sometimes a greater judgment shown in deviating from the rules of art than in adhering to them; and, 2dly, that there is more beauty in the works of a great genius, who is ignorant of all the rules of art, than

in the works of a little genius, who not only knows but scrupulously observes them.

First, We may often take notice of men who are perfectly acquainted with all the rules of good writing, and notwithstanding choose to depart from them on extraordinary occasions. I could give instances out of all the tragic writers of antiquity who have shown their judgment in this particular; and purposely receded from an established rule of the drama, when it has made way for a much higher beauty than the observation of such a rule would have been. Those who have surveyed the noblest pieces of architecture and statuary, both ancient and modern, know very well that there are frequent deviations from art in the works of the greatest masters, which have produced a much nobler effect than a more accurate and exact way of proceeding could have done. This often arises from what the Italians call the gusto grande in these arts, which is what we call the sub me in writing.

In the next place, our critics do not seem sensible that there is more beauty in the works of a great genius, who is ignorant of the rules of art, than in those of a little genius who knows and observes them. It is of these men of genius that Terence speaks, in opposition to the little artificial cavillers of his time;

• Quorum æmulari exoptat negligentiam
Potius quàm istorum obscuram diligentiam.

Whose negligence he would rather imitate than these
men's obscure diligence.'

A critic may have the same consolation in the ill success of his play as Dr. South tells us a physician has at the death of a patient, that he was killed secundum artem. Our inimitable Shak

« FöregåendeFortsätt »