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Wesley, we may be sure, would have found him strange company. Sceptic and misanthrope, Swift fell back upon saeva indignatio and the established religion of his country.
Yet Swift's view of man, as Wesley perceived, and as Professor Bernbaum 51 has pointed out in our own time, is essentially the view of the classical and Christian tradition. Almost any fair definition of that tradition would absolve Gulliver's Travels from the charge of being an isolated example of misanthropy. I can, in truth, find no better closing comment on Gulliver's Travels than a passage from Sainte-Beuve's Port Royal.52 It is a definition of Christianity, written by one who was not himself a Christian, who throughout his sympathetic study of seventeenth century mysticism preserved the calm detachment of the critic.
"One of the most direct ways to conceive the essence of Christianity is to accept the view of human nature as a fallen human nature, exactly as do Hobbes, La Rochefoucauld, and Machiavelli [and Sainte Beuve might surely have added Swift], those great positive observers of life. The more such a view arouses a feeling of sadness, either in a soul not too hardened, or in a soul which, in spite of being hardened, is capable of compassion and which yearns for happiness, the more it disposes and provokes such a soul to accept the extreme remedy, the remedy of hope. Such a soul will ask itself if this is the true and final view of life, and will seek a way of escape beyond this earth and this state of misery, even in the vastnesses of heaven, in the awful infinite silences. This entering by the narrow gate, this unhoped-for way of escape to safety, this is Christianity. And I speak of that which is verifiable."
51 Gulliver's Travels, ed. Bernbaum, New York, 1920, pp. x-xii.
52 Sainte-Beuve, Port-Royal, Paris, 1878, III, 238.
ANOTHER BURLESQUE OF ADDISON'S BALLAD
BY ROGER P. MCCUTCHEON
Addison's papers on Chevy Chase and The Children in the Wood, it is scarcely necessary to iterate, called forth both serious and humorous protests against dignified criticisms of material which the age was unwilling to admit as literature.1 Among the humorous attacks, Dr. William Wagstaffe's A Comment upon the History of Tom Thumb, which appeared within a year after the Spectator papers which it burlesqued, has enjoyed the most attention. As late as 1721, ten years after the Spectator papers themselves, another burlesque, by an unknown writer, was published in the form of a letter to the editor of Mist's Weekly Journal, and considers critically the "ballad" of the Dragon of Wantley.2
Mist's Weekly Journal was one of the better Tory newspapers of the early eighteenth century. Its connection with Defoe, who had a considerable influence on its editor, and who was probably an extensive contributor himself, has kept it in prominence. The paper did not confine itself to political articles and news, but published a fair amount of semi-literary material.*
The "ballad " which is the subject of this burlesque had been printed in 1685.5 In the modern editions there is given an elaborate explanation of the original political significance of the ballad, a significance which seems to have disappeared for the time
1 See E. K. Broadus, "Addison's Influence on the Development of Interest in Folk-Poetry in the Eighteenth Century," Modern Philology, VIII, 123, and Sigurd Hustvedt, Ballad Criticism in Scandinavia and Great Britain, New York, 1916, chap. iii.
Mist's Weekly Journal, No. 144, for Saturday, 2 September, 1721.
See William Lee, Daniel Defoe, His Life and Recently Discovered Writings, 3 vols., London, 1869, and D. H. Stevens, Party Politics and English Journalism, 1702-1742, The Collegiate Press, 1916, pp. 108-9.
For example, in No. 291, for 23 May 1724, there is an interesting appreciative review of The History of the Pirates.
It may be found in the Ballad Society edition of the Roxburghe Ballads, Vol. VIII. It is printed as No. 13, in book the third, series the third, of Percy's Reliques.
For opposing views as to this political interpretation, see Notes and Queries, 3rd series, Vol. IX, pp. 29, 143, 158, 266, 380.
in 1721. The writer of the burlesque was naturally untroubled by our modern distinctions, which put the "Dragon of Wantley" outside the category of the popular ballad.
The writer has escaped identification. From the Cambridge address, one is tempted to infer that the letter is the work of some university wit. His writing shows him to have been familiar with the methods and vocabulary of the neo-classic critics, as well as with the Spectator.
Obviously, the interest in the ballad criticisms of the Spectator must have been still alive in 1721. To be entirely effective, a burlesque demands from its readers some acquaintance with the original itself. On account of its spirited tone and phrasing, however, this one might well attract readers virtually ignorant of the Spectator, or even of Wagstaffe.
The letter was reprinted in America shortly after its publication in England,' but as it has not received much attention it is here given in full, except for such omissions, indicated by dots, as the frank vulgarity of the original necessitates.
"Mist's Weekly Journal, no. 144, Saturday, 2 Sept. 1721.
Mr. Mist, Cambridge, Aug. 2, 1721.
MEETING the other Day with the excellent Ballad of Moor of MooreHall, and the Dragon of Wantley, and reading it over attentively, I wonder❜d the Spectator had never oblig'd the World with a Criticism of it, as well as of Chevy-Chase; for, in my Opinion, it may boast of as peculiar Flights as that ancient Song, nor is the Heroe of it at all inferior to Percy or Douglass. But since it has been so shamefully neglected, I beg this Criticism of it may, in some Measure, by being admitted into your Paper, shew the World some of its Beauties, and acquaint a great Part of Mankind with a Piece of Poetry which hitherto
Nec Jovis ira, nec ignis,
Nec potuit ferrum nec edax abolere vetustas.
See Elizabeth C. Cook, Literary Influences in Colonial Newspapers, New York, 1912, p. 19. Miss Cook states that "The Courant of Dec. 16, 1723, number 24, transfers entire a very readable bit of fun from Mist's weekly Journal of Sept. 2, 1723."
As 'tis one of the great Excellencies of Writing to raise the Reader's Expectation, so our Author, at the very Entrance of his Poem, gives us noble Ideas of his Heroe, and in a very convincing Stanza makes him superior to Hercules; for tho' he slew the Dragon of Lerna, yet 'twas with Arms:
But he had a Club,
This Dragon to drub,
Or he'd ne'er don't, I warrant ye:
But Moor of Moore-Hall,
With nothing at all,
He slew the Dragon of Wantley.
And as our Poet makes his Champion Hercules's Better, so the Description of his Dragon is more terrible than any of Ovid's, as you may see,
-Crista linguisq; tribus praesignis & incis
This Dragon had two furious Wings,
Each one upon each Shoulder,
With a Sting in his Tail
As long as a Flail,
Which made him bolder and bolder.
Which last is a bolder Line than any of the Classicks; and then the mentioning the Flail is an enlivening Simily, and worthy the Author. But to pass by his Claws and Iron Teeth, as too admirable not to be taken Notice of by every Reader, the Childrens Death affects us extreamly, as this following Stanza,
And at one sup,
He eat them up,
As one wou'd eat an Apple.
is in the true Spirit of Virgil, who was never enough to be admired for his low Similies; but here, by the Fault of the Library, is a Dispute about
And at one sup
He eat them up;
For B. Manusc. has it
And at one Bite
He eat them quite,
As one wou'l eat an Apple.
But as they are both good, the Reader may please himself.
are led, with a great Deal of Solemnity into the Scene of Action.
In Yorkshire, near fair Rotheram.
So Virgil. Urbs antiqua fuit Tyrii tenuere Colini.
But the following Lines are superior to the next Verses of the Latin Poet's.
The Place I know it well,
Some two or three Miles, or thereabouts,
I vow I cannot tell.
Which is a mighty honest Line, and shews 'tis possible for a Poet to tell Truth.
But there is a Hedge
Just on the Hill edge,
And Mathew's House hard by it.
And Mathew's House hard by it! Nothing can be more simple and natural; nor is any thing wanting but to see Mathew's House to give us a more exact Idea of it. The Conjecture if this Dragon was a Witch or no, is a Thought entirely new, but the burning Snivel he cast into the Well,
Which made it look
Just like a Brook
Running with burning Brandy.
is a Comparison very just and dreadful, and the Ancients never bringing it in their Descriptions of this Nature, make Lambinus and other Criticks believe they were ignorant of Snap-Dragon.
But after the Description of the Beast, we have the Conqueror's, among whose excellent Qualities, we find that peculiar to our North-Country Champions, of calling People Sons of Whores, which is truly great, and what none of the ancient Heroes but Ajax was endued with. His swinging a Horse to Death, and eating him, made the Country, who had with Christian Patience suffer'd their Churches to be eaten up, have great Hopes of his Stomach, and thinking no Person so proper, address'd him; whose Address is so perfect a Piece of Oratory, that I can't but set it down.