THO HOUGH it is an agreeable task, upon the whole, to attempt the vindication of injured fame, the pleasure is much allayed by its being combined with a neceffity to lay open the unfairness and errors in the proceedings of which we complain. To defend is pleasant, to accufe is painful; but we must prove the injuftice of the sentence, before we can demand to have it repealed. The editor of the late edition of Corneille's works, has given the following preface to the tragedy of Cinna: "Having often heard "Corneille and Shakefpear compared, I thought it proper to fhew their different



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manner in subjects that have a resem→ "blance. I have therefore chosen the first "acts of the Death of Cæfar, where there " is a confpiracy, as in Cinna, and in which every thing is relative to the conspiracy "to the end of the third act. The reader may compare the thoughts, the style, " and the judgment of Shakespear, with "the thoughts, the ftyle, and the judg"ment of Corneille. It belongs to the "readers of all nations to pronounce be"tween the one and the other. A French"man or an Englishman might perhaps be fufpected of fome partiality. To institute "this process, it was neceffary to make an “exact translation; what was profe in the tragedy of Shakespear is rendered into profe; what was in blank verfe into "blank verse, and almost verse by verse; "what is low and familiar is tranflated

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familiarly and low. The tranflator has "endeavoured to rife with the author when "he rises; and when he is turgid and bom"baft, not to be more or lefs fo than he. "The tranflation given here is the most "faithful

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"faithful that can be, and the only faithful one in our language of any author ancient "or modern. I have but a word to add, "which is, that blank verse costs nothing "but the trouble of dictating; it is not "more difficult to write than a letter. If people should take it into their heads to "write tragedies in blank verse, and to act "them on our theatre, tragedy is ruined; "take away the difficulty and you take away


"the merit."


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An English reader will hardly forbear smiling at this bold affertion concerning the facility of writing blank verfe. It is indeed no hard matter to write bad verfe of any kind; but, as fo few of our poets have attained to that perfection in it which Shakespear and Milton have done, we have reason to suppose the art to be difficult. Whatever is well done in poetry or eloquence appears easy to do. Theatrical dialogue being an imitation of difcourfe, our critics do not require the appearance of effort and labour, but, on the contrary, the O


language of nature, and a just resemblance to the thing imitated. Poffibly there is as much of difficulty in blank verfe to the poet, as there appears of eafe in it to the reader. Like the ceftus of Venus, formed by the happy skill of the Graces, it best exerts its charms while the artifice of the texture is partly concealed. Dryden, who brought the art of rhyme to great excellence, endeavoured to introduce it on our stage; but nature and tafte revolted against an imitation of dialogue in a mode fo entirely different from that in which, men difcourfe. The verfe Mr. de Voltaire thus condemns is perhaps not lefs happily adapted than the iambic to the dramatic offices. It rifes gracefully into the fublime; it can flide happily into the familiar; haften its career, if impelled by vehemence of paffion; pause in the hesitation of doubt; appear lingering and languid in dejection and forrow ; capable of varying its accent, and adapting its harmony, to the fentiment it should convey, and the paffion it would excite, with all the power of musical expreffion. Even


Even a perfon who did not understand our language would find himself very differently affected by the following fpeeches in that



Vengeance! plague! death! confufion !—
Fiery? what fiery quality? why, Glo’ster,

I'd speak with the Duke of Cornwall, and his wife: The king would fpeak with Cornwall. The dear father

Would with his daughter speak, commands her fervice:

Are they inform'd of this? my breath and blood!
Fiery the fiery duke? tell the hot duke that--

I have lived long enough: my way of life
Is fall'n into the fear, the yellow leaf:
And that which fhould accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but in their stead,
Curfes not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dares not,

The charm arifing from the tones of English blank verfe cannot be felt by a O 2 foreigner,

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