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he speaks, who has great interest in the cause he defends, or is warmly attached to his party, must be an orator.
This is the reason that the most barbarous nations speak in a style more affecting and figurative than others; they feel with passions unabated by judgment, and tropes and figures are the natural result of their sensations. These strong and vigorous emotions, therefore, can be nowhere taught, but they may be extinguished by rule; and this we find actually to have been the case: we find no Grecian orator truly sublime after the precepts of Aristotle, nor Roman after the lectures of Quintilian. cepts might have guarded their successors from falling into faults, but at the same time they deterred them from rising into beauty. Cool, dispassionate, and even, they never forfeited their title to good sense; they incurred no disgust, and they raised no admiration.
But if rules in general of this kind are of such inutility, how much more must they lead us astray, when we cite the precepts given to the orators of one country to direct the pleadings of another; rules drawn from the ancients to direct a modern barrister, would make him thoroughly ridiculous; and yet this custom prevailed in Europe till about a century ago. A lawyer, who even then perceived the absurdity of the custom, hearing his adversary talk of the war of Troy, the beauteous Helen, and the river Scamander, entreated the court to observe, that his client was christened, not Scamander, but Simon.
In fact, those men who have taken so much pains to reduce what is properly a talent to an art, have but very little advanced the interests of learning: by their means, the mind, attentive to her own operations, mixes judgment with all her enthusiasms; and like a man who is ever reflecting on the danger of every hazardous enterprise, at last is satisfied with the advantages of safety, unconcerned about the rewards attending success.
XVIII.-MURPHY'S ORPHAN OF CHINA.
[From the Critical Review, 1759. “ The Orphan of China; a
Tragedy. By Arthur Murphy, Esq.”] When luxury has exhausted every mode of enjoyment, and is palled by an iteration of the same pursuits, it often has recourse even to absurdity for redress, and vainly expects from novelty those satisfactions it has ceased to find in nature. Like the Asiatic tyrant of antiquity, wearied of the old pleasures, it proposes immense rewards, and eagerly seeks amusement in the new. From the prevalence of a taste like this, or rather from this perversion of taste, the refined European has, of late, had recourse even to China, in order to diversify the amusements of the day. We have seen gardens laid out in the eastern manner; houses ornamented in front by zig-zag lines; and rooms stuck round with Chinese vases and Indian pagodas. If such whimsies prevail among those who conduct the pleasures of the times, and consequently lead the fashion, is it to be wondered, if even poetry itself should conform, and the public be presented with a piece formed upon Chinese manners ?—manners which, though the poet should happen to mistake, he has the consolation left, that few readers are able to detect the imposture. Voltaire, than whoni no author better adapts his productions to the color of the times, was sensible of this prevalence of fashion in favor of all that came from China, and resolved to indulge its extravagance. He has accordingly embroidered a Chinese plot with all the coloring of French poetry; but his advances to excellence are only in proportion to his deviating from the calm insipidity of his eastern original. Of all nations that ever felt the influence of the inspiring goddess, perhaps the Chinese are to be placed in the lowest class: their productions are the most phlegmatic that can be VOL. IV.
imagined. In those pieces of poetry, or novel, translations, some of which we have seen, and which probably may soon be made public,* there is not a single attempt to address the imagination, or influence the passions; such therefore are very improper models for imitation: and Voltaire, who was perhaps sensible of this, has made very considerable deviations from the original plan.
Our English poet has deviated still further, and, in proportion as the plot has become more European, it has become more perfect. By omitting many of the circumstances of the original story, and adding several of his own, Mr. Murphy has given us a play, if not truly Chinese, at least entirely poetical. Perhaps it was the intention of this ingenious writer, to show the strength of his imagination in embellishing a barren plot, and, like the artist we have sometimes heard of, who was famous for dressing a pair of shoes into a fricassee, chose rather to have us admire his manner than his materials.
* A specimen of this kind will probably appear next season at Mr. Dodsley's, as we are informed. (In 1761, Goldsmith's friend, Dr. Percy, published his translation of “Han Kiou Choaan, or the Pleasing History," a Chinese novel, containing a faithful picture of the domestic manners, habits, and characters of that extraordinary people.)
+ [" The first specimen of a Chinese play was translated into French by the Jesuit Prémaire. Voltaire made his translation of the “Orphan of Chaou' the groundwork of one of his best tragedies, ' L'Orphelin de la Chine :' it is founded on an event which occurred about a hundred years before the birth of Confucius. A military leader having usurped the lands of the house of Chaou, is determined on exterminating the whole race. A faithful dependent of the family saves the life of the orphan and male heir, by concealing him, and passing off his own child in his stead. The orphan is brought up in ignorance of his real condition, until he reaches man's estate, when the whole subject being revealed to him by his tutor and guardian he revenges the fate of his family on the usurper, and recovers his rights. In this plot, Dr. Hurd remarked a near resemblance, in many points, to the Electra of Sophocles, where the young Orestes is reared by his pedagogus, or tutor, until he is old enough to enact summary justice on the murderers of his father Agamemnon.”—Davis, Chinese, vol. ii. p. 191.)
The first error in the plot of this piece is, that the pathos begins without a proper preparation of incident. The most poignant anguish begins in the second act, where Mandane, the only woman of the play, feels all the distress of passion conflicting between a subject's duty and a mother's tenderness. When the poet thus attempts to move us before his time, the most he can do is to raise an equally moderate degree of pity through the whole, which all his art cannot raise into that fine agony
of distress, so common among the great masters of his art. All enthusiasms are of short continuance; nor is it in the genius to keep our sorrows alive through five acts, unless it diversifies the object, or, in every act ēxcites some new and unforeseen distress; but neither of these the Chinese plot in view admits of.
Shakspeare, Otway, and Rowe, seemed to have been perfect economists of their distress (if we may use the expression); they were so sensible of a necessary gradation in this respect, that. their characters frequently make their first appearance in circumstances of joy and triumph. They well knew that we are apt to pity the sufferings of mankind, in proportion as they have fallen from former happiness. Othello, therefore, meets the mistress he must soon kill, in all the ecstasy of a happy lover. Acasto surveys the felicity of his family with the most unreserved degree of rapture; and the father of the Fair Penitent, who so soon is to be wretched indeed, begins in a strain of exaltation, that forces us almost to envy his felicity.
We have been led into these reflections, from observing the effect the ingenious performance before us had upon the audience the first night of its representation. The whole house seemed pleased, highly and justly pleased; but it was not with the luxury of woe they seemed affected: the nervous sentiment, the glowing imagery, the well-conducted scenery, seemed the sources
of their pleasure ; their judgment could not avoid approving the conduct of the drama, yet few of the situations were capable of getting within the soul, or exciting a single tear; in short, it was quickly seen, that all the faults of the performance proceeded from vicious imitation, and all its beauties were the poet's own.
And now we are mentioning faults (faults which a single quotation from the play will happily expunge from the reader's memory), the author has, perhaps, too frequently mentioned the word virtue. This expression should, in the mouth of a philosopher, be husbanded, and only used on great occasions; if repeated too often, it loses its cabalistic power, and at last degenerates into contempt. This was actually the case at Athens, so that their lov gullern åpetń, as it was called, became contemptible even among the most stupid of their neighboring nations; and towards the latter end of their government they grew ashamed of it themselves. But, to do the writer ample justice, we will lay one scene against all his defects, and we are convinced that this alone will turn the balance in his favor. Works of genius are not to be judged from the faults to be met with in them, but by the beauties in which they abound.
Zamti, the Chinese high-priest, is informed, that his own son is going to be offered up as the orphan-heir of China ; after a short conflict, his duty gains complete victory over paternal affection; he is willing his son should die, in order to secure his king; but the difficulty remains to persuade his wife, Mandane, to forego a mother's fondness, and conspire also in the deceit.
Mandane. And can it then be true?
Zamti. Lov'd Mandane,