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• Dag. Then it had better be laid aside.
Hog. An old foldier and yield!
• Hog. Thou revive me, gond Dagran; we'll rally our forces; they shall ye: see I can do something.
. Dag. A great deal.
• Dag. Once gain a little advantage, and we may do what we please.
• Hog. I don't know that.
'Dag. Lord, your honour, there's the enemy reconnoitering us in yonder gallery; therefore, your honour, pluck up a good healt; the first froke is half the baille.
· Hg Stan.' to your arms then.
[Exeunt.' The lovers, Franzel and Cecil, are not very delicately drawn; the Dutch Mynheer and his frow are intentionally coarse ; and the Baron himself is a caricature. On the whole, however, comparing this piece with some others which have passed to the press from the stage, as their authors have announced, with universal applause, we are inclined to think chat its treatment in the theatre has been rather severe : and we are sorry that a perusal will not warrant our recommending any great degree of mitiga. tion in the sentence, though perhaps more capriciously thin judiciously pafled.
The Prologue, written by Mr. Pilon, bas much more merit than any we ever before received fri m the same hand; and the Epilogue, by Edward Topham, Ely; is tolerable..
ART. VI. Johnson's Biographical Prefaces CONTINUED. See Re,
view for Auguit. TN characterising the poetry of Matthew Prior, Dr. Johnson,
I in more instances than one, deviates from the general opinion of its excellence. Many circumstances, indeed, concurred to elevate Prior's poetical character higher than its intrinfie merit alone would possibly have raised it. The single circumstance of his exaltation which was always confidered, as in fact it was, the consequence of literary attainments), by speedy gradations from the station of a tavern-boy to the rank of an ambassador, would naturally impress the world with an idea of very uncomRev. Nov. 1781.
mon superiority. Prior's works are considered as composing Tales, Love-verses, Occasional Poems, Alma, and Solomon. • His Tales are written with great familiarity and great spriteliness : the language is easy, but seldom gross, and the numbers are smooth, without the appearance of care. But it is a doubt with Dr. Johnson, whether he be the original author of any tále which he has given us.
On his Love-verses the critic is particularly severe ; and, if one or two pieces be excepted, juftly so. And even in those, it is wit and gallantry, rather than pafsion, that entitles them to notice. A man, like Prior, connecting himself with drabs of the lowest species, must be incapable of feeling either the warmth of a true passion, or the refinements of an elegant one.
• In his Amorous Effusions he is less happy; for they are not dictated by nature or by passion, and have neither gallantry nor tenderness. They have the coldness of Cowley, without his wit; the doll exercises of a kilful verlifyer, resolved at all adventures to write some. thing about Chloe, and trying to be amorous by dina of Audy. His fi&tions therefore are mychological. Venus, after the example of the Greek Epigram, alks when she was seen naked and bathing. Then Cupid is mistaken; then Cupid is disarmed; then he loses his darts to Ganymede; then Jupiter sends him a summons by Mercury. Then Chloe goes a-hunting, with an ivory quiver graceful at her fide; Di. ana mistakes her for one of her nymphs, and Cupid laughs at the blunder. All this is surely despicable ; and even when he cries to act the lover, without the help of gods or goddesses, his thoughts are upaffecting or remote, He talks not like a man of this world.
• The greatest of all his amorous essays is Henry and Emma; a dull and tedious dialogue, which excites neither esteem for the man, oor tenderness for the woman. The example of Emma, who refolves to follow an outlawed murderer wherever fear and guilt shall drive him, deserves no imitation; and the experiment by which Henry tries the lady's conftancy, is such as muft end either in infamy to her, or in disappointment to himself.'
That Dr. Johnson's objections to the scope and tendency of the last mentioned poem are juft, no one will, we presume, be hardy enough to dispute ; but it is at the same time much to be doubted whether many will agree with him in thinking it a dull and tedious dialogue. Were the question to be asked, which of Prior's poems has been moft generally read ? we are of opinion, it would be determined in favour of Henry and Emma. What every one reads can hardly be thought tedious and dull.
Dr. Johnson is of opinion, that all that is valuable in this writer is owing to his diligence and judgment. • His diligence,' says he, has justly placed him amongit the most correct of the English poeis; and he was one of the first that resolutely endeavoured at correctness. He never sacrifices accuracy to haite, nor indulges himself in contemptuous negligence, or impatient idlenefs; he has no careless lines, or entangled fentiments; his words are nicely selected,
and his thoughts fully expanded. If this part of his character fuffers any abatement, it muit be froin the disproportion of his shymes, which have not always sufficient consonance, and from the admiflion of broken lines into his Solomon; but perhaps he thought, like Cowley, that hemiftichs ought to be admitted into heroic poetry.
• He had apparently such recticude of judgment as secured him from every thing that approached to the ridiculous or absurd; but as Jaws operate in civil agency not to the excitement of virtue, but the represlion of wickedneis ; so judgment, in the operations of intellect, can hinder faults, but not produce excellence. Prior is never low, noi very often sublime. It is said by Longinus of Euripides, that he forces himself sometimes into grandeur by violence of effort, as the lion kindles his fury by the lashes of his own cail. Whatever Prior obiains above mediocrisy seems the effort of Itruggle and of toil. He has many vigorous, but few happy lines; he has every thing by purchase, and nothing by gift; he had no nigbily vifitations of the Mure, no infu. fions of sentiment or felicities of tancy.
• His diction, however, is more bis own than that of any among the fucceffors of Dryden; he borrows no lucky curns, or commodious modes of language, from his predecessors. His phrases are original, but they are sometimes harth; as he ioberited no elegances, none has he bequeached. His expreslion has every mark of laborious Rudy ; the line feldom seems to have been formed at once; the words did not come till they were called, and were then put by constraint into their places, where they do their duty, but do it rullenly. In his greater compofitions there may be found more rigid Itaceliness than graceful dignity,'
The concluding observation is striking and just:
• A survey of the life and writings of Prior may exemplify a fertence which he doubllofs onderstood well, when he read Hurace at his uncle's; the vellel long retains the scent which it fir receives. In his private relaxation he revived the tavern, and in his amorous pedantry he exhibited the college. But on higher occalions, and nobler fubjects, when habit was overpowered by the necesity of reflection, he wanted not wisdom as a fatesman, nor elegance as a poet.'
We are now arrived at a character, which, as a poet, Dr. Johnson seems to have contemplared with fingular complacency. As it comes not within the compass or design of this Article to attend the Biographer through all the minutiæ of Pope's life, with which, indeed, the Public is sufficiently acquainted, we Thall only touch upon those parts which are connected with his literary history. Perhaps the most interesting part is that where he commences his Translation of Homer.
The next year (1713) produced a bolder attempt, by which profit was sought as well as praise. The poems which he had hitherio written, however they might have diffused his pame, had made very lircle addition to his forcone. The allowance which his father made him, though, proportioned to what he had, it might be liberal, could not be large; his religion hindered him from the occupation of any civil employmens, and he complained shar ke wanted even money to buy books. A 2 2
• He therefore resolved to try how far the favour of the Public ex. tended, by soliciting a subscription to a version of the Iliad, with large notes.'
Pope, having now emitted his proposals, and engaged not only his own reputation, but in some degree that of his friends who pa. tronised his subscription, began to be frighted at his own undertaking; and finding himself at first embarrassed with difficulties, which retarded and opprefled him, he was for a time timorous and uncary; had his nights difturbed by dreams of long journeys through unknown ways, and wished, as he said, that somebody would hang hin.
• This misery, however, was not of long continuance ; he grew by degrees more acquainted with Homer's images and expreffions, and practice increased his facility of versification. lo a short time he represents himself as dispatching regularly fifty verses a day, which would shew him, by an easy computation, the termination of his labour.
• His own diffidence was not his only vexation. He that aks a subscription foon finds that he has enemies. All who do not encou. rage him defame him. He that wants money will rather be thought angry than poor; and he that withes to save his money, conceals his avarice by his malice. Addison had hinced his fufpicion that Pope was too much a Tory; and some of the Tories suspected his principles, because he had contribuied to the Guardian, which was carried on by Steele.
"To those who censured his politics were added enemies yet more dangerous, who called in question his knowledge of Greek, and his qualifications for a translator of Homer. To these he made no public oppofition; but in one of his Letters escapes from them as well as he can. At an age like his, for he was not more than twenty-hve, with an irregular education, and a course of life of which much lecms to have passed in conversation, it is not very likely tha: he overflowed with Greek. But when he felt himielf deticient he fought allillance, and what man of learning would refuse to help him? Minure enquiries into the force of words are less necessary in translating Homer than other poets, because his positions are general, and his representations natural, with very little dependence on local or temporary cui toms, on those changeable scenes of artificial life, which by mingling original with accidental notions, and crowding the mind with images which time effaces, produce ambiguity in diction, and obscurity in books. To this open display of unadulterated nature it must be ascribed that Homer has fewer passages of doubtful meaning than any other poet either in the learned or in modern languages. I have read of a man, who being, by his ignorance of Greek, compelled to gratify his curiosity with the Latin printed on the opposite page, declared, that from the rude fimplicity of the lines literally rendered, he formed nobler ideas of the Homeric majesty, than from the laboured elegance of polished versions.
Those literal translations were always at hand, and from them he could always obrain his author's fense wiib lufficient certainty; and among the readers of Homer, the number is very small of those who find much in the Greek more than in the Latin, except the mulic of the numbers.
• If more help was wanting, he had the poetical translation of Eobanus Heljus, an unwearied writer of Latin verses; he had the French Homers of La Valterie and Dacier, and the English of Chapman, Hobbes, and Ogylby. With Chapman, whole work, though now totally neglected, seems to have been popular almost to the end of the last century, he had very frequent consultations, and perhaps never translated any passage vill he had read his version, which indeed he has been sumeiimes suspegled of using instead of the original.
• No:es were likewife to be provided ; for the fix volumes would have been very litile more than fix pamphlets without them. What The mere perural of the text could suggelt, Pope wanted no affiftance to collect or methodize; but more was necessary; many pages were to be filled, and learning must supply materials to wit and judgment. Something might be gathered from Davier; but no man loves to be inde bied to his contemporaries, and Dacier was accesible to common readers. Eufa:hius was therefore necessarily consulied. To read Euftahius, of whole work there was then no Larin version, I suspect Pope, if he had been willing, not to have been able; some other was therefore to be found, who had leisure as well as abilities, and he was doubtless most readily employed who would do much work for lit:le moncy.
"The hillory of the notes has never been traced. Broome, in his Preface to his Poems, declares himself the commentator in part upon the liad; and it appears from Fenton's Letter, preserved in the Museum, tha: Broome was at fort engaged in consulting Eustathius; but that alter a time, whatever was the reason, he desitled : another man of Cambridge was then employed, who foon grew weary of the work ; and a third was recommended by Tbirlby, who is now discovered to have been Joriin, a man fince well known to the learned world, who complained that Pope, having accepted and approved his performance, never lettihed any curioasy to see him. The terms which Fenton uses are very morcantile: I think at first fight that his performance is very commendable, and have fint word for him to finish the 17th book, and to find it with his demands for bis trouble. I have here enclosed the Specimin; if the rest come before the return, I will keep them till I receive your order.
• Broome then offered his service a second time, which was probably accepted, as they had afterwards a cloler correspondence. Parnell contributed the Life of Homer, which Pope found so harsh, that he took great pains in correcting it; and by his own diligence, with such help as kindness or money could procure him, in somewhat more than five years he completed his version of the Iliad with the Notes. He begun ic in 1712, his twenty-fifth year, and concluded it in 1718, his thirtieth year.'
At the conclusion of this account, which contains many circumstances we were not able to make room for, the Doctor adds, • It cannot be unwelcome to literary curiosity, that I deduce thus minutely the history of the Englith Iliad. It is certainly che noblest verion of poetry which the world has ever seen; and its publication muft therefore be considered as one of the great events in the annals of Learning.'
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