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tants of a great kingdom as may fairly be called unanimity, and if there be, within conception, any means, in word, look, or action, by wbich that unanimity may be indicated, let the memories and the hearts of our readers tell them whether such an expression of such a sentiment was not exemplified in the conduct and demeanour of this nation on the first intelligence of the Spanish insurrection; a conduct and demeanour, which, on the part of the nation at large, have never at any moment, we will venture to affirm, been changed, or repented, or belied. Had the not unusual fictions of patriotic poetry been at that moment realized,—had the Genius of Albion been unveiled to mortal eyes, standing on the cliffs that fence his own channel, and, from the hollow of his mantle, shaking out, on the oppressor of Spain and of Europe, wrath, defiance, war, and death, -who could have read, even in such a personification, a clearer discovery of the national will, than in that concurrent burst of sympathy which arose from all ranks of the community,—that multiplied expression of a common feeling,—that voice like the sound of many waters, but those, the waters of one sea, and agitated by the same gale?
From Mr. Roscoe, however, we are, after all, willing to part in friendship ; and there is, at least, one portion of his public life, which must ever conciliate the regard, not only of those among his countrymen that love their country, but of those among mankind at large that love their brethren of the human race. We allude to his zealous co-operation in the extinction, so far as England was concerned, of the accursed traffic in slaves, the pest of Africa and disgrace of Europe. The praise of his conduct in that instance, it would cost him infinite trouble to write down; and, long after the world shall have ceased to hear of his perishable pamphlets on reform, and probably also, we add with reluctance, of the criticism which they have provoked, liis name will yet live, blazoned on the muster-roll of that noble army of philanthropists, who, at the memorable period in question, stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stayed.” Why does the generosity, then so tremblingly alive, sleep amidst the wreck of the western world? Or whence is it, that an amiable and benevolent man, expressly writing on political affairs, can count over, from common-place to common-place, from bead to bead, the miserable round of mewling complaints about peace, taxes, and corruption, without stealing, from the monotony of his ave's to Reform, a single thought for the sufferings and struggles of the most interesting people in Europe;-without stopping to shed ?
human tear,' either of indignation over the record of their cruel wrongs, or of sympathy, hope, and solicitude, over the yet unfinished history of their glorious efforts for deliverance ?
Art. III.-Biographia Drumatica; or a Companion to the
Play-House, containing Historical and Critical Memoirs, and original Anecdotes of British and Irish Dramatic Writers, from the Commencement of our Theatrical Exhibitions; among whom are some of the most celebrated Actors: also an Alphabetical Account, and Chronological Lists, of their Works, the Dates when printed, and Observations on their Merits: together with an introductory liew of the Rise and Progress of the British Stuge. Originally compiled, to the year 1764, by David Erskine Baker; continued thence to 1782 by Isaac Reed, F. S. A.; and brought down to the end of November, 1811, with very considerable Additions and Improvements throughout by Stephen Jones. 3 Vols. 8vo. London; Longman and Co.
1812. IF F a literary inhabitant of Madrid or Paris could be supposed to
know the estimation in which Shakspeare, Jonson, Fletcher, Marlow, Massinger, and so many others, are held in this island, he must naturally conclude that the British Biographia Dramatica was one of the most elaborate and splendid productions which the press could boast; and he would hardly be brought to believe that all which we possess on the subject is comprized in a meagre account of their births and burials, with catalogues of their plays compiled from the most obvious and unauthenticated sources. Theatres not laying claim to an earlier origin than our own, are far more fortunate in the respect paid to their native playwrights; and Italy, iv particular, always jealous of the honor of her literature, has shewn, by the contrast which her early and unremitted regard to her dramatic writers presents to our own neglect, how much we have to regrei of which we might have justly been proud. Scarcely had the sublime and pathetic genius of Tasso and Guarini matured the correct and frigid conceptions of Rucellai and Trissino, when Leone Alacci undertook to record the productions of the Italian stage.
Had some English Alacci, in the time of Charles the First, traced the progress of our stage from its origin to the close of that reign, accompanying his account with anecdotes of those to whom it was chiefly indebted for its reputation, who could now sufficiently appreciate the value of such a memorjal? But a long night of half a century was doomed to close on the golden age of English literature before an attempt was made to record its glories and revive its fame.
It has not, we believe, been remarked, that biography was of late growth in England; and it cannot but surprise chose who
have not hitherto considered the subject, to learn that the earliest collection of the kind appeared during the Usurpation. As this was the work of a divine, it will not be thought strange that it was not appropriated to the dramatic poets. But the example was a good one, and (being, fortunately, successful) lives,' out of number, were the natural and almost immediate consequence. The writers for tlie stage were noticed in their turn; but, as yet, all that was thought necessary in their behalf vas a barren list of plays, which was occasionally appended to some popular drama. One of the earliest of this kind, was · An exact and perfect Catalogue of all the Plays, with the Authors' Names, and what are Comedies, Tragedies, Historyes, Pastorals, Masks, and Interludes, more exactly printed than ever before. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that this exact and perfect list,' which is attached to the Old Law of Massinger, 1656, is any thing but what it professes to be. If the booksellers reaped any advantage from such meagre details, it was well; the history of poets and poetry certainly gained nothing.
When our early chroniclers proposed to write the history of their native country, they generally thought it necessary to begin from Adam. With an eye to these authorities, Edward Phillips, the nephew of Milton, projected an account of the poets,' particularly those of our own nation;' and, to make the work complete, began his Theatrum Poetarum (printed in 1675) with the most eminent among the ancients. The sterling sense which pervades his observations, and which there is no reason to attribute, with Warton, to his kinsman, makes it matter of regret that he did not restrict himself to an account of the vernacular poets, and search into the particulars of their history at a period when much information might have been obtained which has now irrecoverably perished. But though we cannot repress a wish that more bad been done, we yet think ourselves fortunate in possessing Phillips's account, brief and delective as it is, for chance might have driven him to some other class of writers; as he acknowledges, in his preface, that his preference of the poets was owing rather to accident than inclination. It is grateful to perceive the dictates of sound and unsophisticated judgment breaking through the foreign notions of taste, and the fondness for French fashions of all sorts, which Charles and his followers brought with them from the continent. • If,' says Phillips, their antiquated stile be no sufficient reason why the poets of former ages should be rejected, much less the pretence of their antiquated mode or fashion in poetry, which, whether it be altered for the better or not, I cannot but look upon it as a very pleasant humour, that we should be so compliant with the French custom, as to follow set fashions not only in garments but also in music TOL, VII. NO. XIV.
and poetry. These manly sentiments were uttered to unwilling ears; but, in proportion as the dramatic writers, for whose use they were intended, deviated from the antiquated' models to which Phillips refers, they wandered from the paths of truth and nature.
Availing himself of Fuller's Worthies and the Theatrum Poetarum, one Winstanley, a barber, published, in 1687, a volume, which, though full of inaccuracies, has yet the merit of being the first corpus poetarum pretending to a narrative of their respective lives. These, it must be granted, are very imperfectly recorded; but dates are sometimes introduced, which was not done before; and when an account is to be given of a writer, the time when he was born and when he died may be considered as circumstances not altogether indifferent. Winstanley's collection was one step in advance; but the fondness for bare catalogues was not extinct. Gerard Langbaine, superior law-beadle of Oxford, í being master of above nine hundred and fourscore English plays and masques, besides drolls and interludes, most of which he had read, thought himself able,' as he says, “to give some tolerable account of the greatest part of our dramatic writers and their productions. His collection of romances seems to have been equally copious and to have been read with equal care; but their joint perusal involved him in questions of conscience, such as required a ductor dubitantium to solve to his satisfaction. He found, what he does not appear to have suspected, that the dramatic writers borrowed, or rather, according to his own notions, (in which he was fortified with the authorities of Cicero and Pliny,) stole their plots from the novels of Bandello, Belleforest, and Gyraldi Cynthio. These momentous discoveries set him seriously about inquiring whether the precept of Synesius be strictly true, that it is more criminal to steal dead men's writings than their clothes. Having ascertained the point to his satisfaction, the conscientious beadle resolved to step forward and expose the weasel' playwrights, who, to the romancer's unguarded nests
• Came sneaking, and so suck'd their princely eggs.' Accordingly, in 1688, he published Momus Triumphans, or_tho Plagiaries of the English Stuge exposed, in-a catalogue of all the Comedies, Tragi-Comedies, &c. &c. with an account of the various originals, as well English, French, and Italian, as Greeke and Latine, from whence most of them have stole their plots. This catalogue is far more full and accurate than any of those which had preceded it, and exhibits abundant proofs of the extensive reading of the author, and the perseverance with which he traced bis nine hundred and odd plays' to their sources. As no biography accompanies the names of the authors, and their dramas are undistin
guished by dates, the work was less valuable than might have been expected from the possessor of so ample a collection; and of this the writer was soon aware.
His catalogue, however, became popular, and a second, impression appeared in the same year with the first. In 1691, he died, --but he had lived to revise and augment his book, which was published the same year in octavo, and has been the foundation of every thing that has since appeared on the subject, under whatever title. Langbaine's work was only once reprinted; but, from a copy which now lies before us with MS. insertions by Peck, we are inclined to think that a subsequent republication of it,
was meditated by that laborious compiler. In 1749, A General History of the Stage, from its origin in Greece, down to the present time,' was published by one Chetwood; little more however was produced under this sounding title, than a few fugitive memorials of the actors of his time, with occasional observations on the dramatic poets and their works. The work is contemptible in every respect, and it seems as if the writers for the stage were doomed to fall in perpetuity into the feeble hands of indexmakers and prompters. We pass by two or three insignificant publications, to come at Shiell's, or, as it is more commonly called, Cibber's lives of the poets, 1753,—and here we cannot but express our surprise at the silence with which this collection is passed over by Baker and Reed, in the volumes before us. could not arise from any conviction of the unworthiness of the publication; for notwithstanding all that has subsequently been contributed to this department of literature, it may yet be read with pleasure, and referred to with advantage. In an account of the first edition of the work before us, it is said that "Mr. Baker had the use of some manuscripts belonging to Mr. Coxeter, a person very diligent in collecting materials for the lives of the English poets;'-it might be so-but the very title-page of Cibber's volumes, mentions that the M S. notes of the late ingenious Mr. Coxeter' had been, ten years before, laid under contribution for his service. It is an undissembled truth, to which Goldsmith has somewhere borne witness, that, about this period, the consciences of our literary compilers were far from delicate: what they stole, however, they failed to improve; and the dramatic writers have, of all others, been least indebted to their biographers; for, excepting an accidental circumstance now and then forcing itself
upon their attention, it is inconceivable how little was added for nearly a century, to the information derived from Fuller, Langbaine, and Wood.
When Isaac Reed undertook to revise a prior edition of this work, he brought to the task an extent of bibliographical knowledge, and an acquaintance with editions and dates not possessed by U 2