Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

and extraordinary incidents, that make the this he has offered at, in some measure; but, I
beauty of a tragedy: 'tis the discourses, when think, a little partially to the ancients.
they are natural and passionate : so are Shak “ For the fuble itself, 'tis in the English more
speare's.'

adorned with episodes, and larger than in the “ The parts of a poem, tragic or heroic, are, Greek poets; consequently more diverting. For, “ 1. The fable itself.

if the action be but one, and that plain, with“ 2. The order or manner of its contrivance, out any counterturn of design or episode, i. e. in relation of the parts to the whole.

under plot, how can it be so pleasing as the “ 3. The manners, or decency of the charac- English, which have both underplot and a ters, in speaking or acting what is proper for turned design, which keeps the audience in exthem, and proper to be shown by the poet. pectation of the catastrophe? whereas in the

“ 4. The thoughts which express the manners. Greek poets we see through the whole design 5. The words which express those thoughts. at first,

“ In the last of these, Homer excels Virgil : “ For the characters, they are neither so many Virgil all the other ancient poets; and Shak- nor so various in Sophocles and Euripides, as speare all modern poets.

in Shakspeare and Fletcher : only they are “ For the second of these, the order : the more adapted to those ends of tragedy which meaning is, that a fable ought to have a begin- | Aristotle commends to us, pity and terror. ning, middle, and an end, all just and natural ; The manners flow from the characters, and 80 that that part, e. g. which is the middle, consequently must partake of their advantages could not naturally be the beginning or end, and disadvantages. and so of the rest : all depend on one another, “ The thoughts and words, which are the like the links of a curious chain. If terror and fourth and fifth beauties of tragedy, are cerpity are only to be raised, certainly this author tainly more noble and more poetical in the Engfollows Aristotle's rules, and Sophocles and lish than in the Greek, which must be proved Euripides' example; but joy may be raised too, by comparing them somewhat more equitably and that doubly, either by seeing a wicked man than Mr. Rymer has done. punished, or a good man at last fortunate; or “ After all, we need not yield that the Engperhaps indignation, to see wickedness prosper- lish way is less conducing to move pity and terous, and goodness depressed : both these may be ror, because they often show virtue oppressed profitable to the end of a tragedy, reformation and vice punished : where they do not both, or of manners; but the last improperly, only as either, they are not to be defended. it begets pity in the audience; though Aristotle, “ And if we should grant that the Greeks I confess, places tragedies of this kind in the performed this better, perhaps it may admit of second form.

dispute, whether pity and terror are either the “ He who undertakes to answer this excel prime, or at least the only ends of tragedy. lent critique of Mr. Rymer, in bebalf of our “ 'Tis not enough that Aristotle had said so; English poets against the Greek, ought to do it for Aristotle drew his models of tragedy from in this manner: either by yielding to him the Sophocles and Euripides; and if he had seen greatest part of what he contends for, which ours, might have changed his mind, And consists in this, that the reúdos, i. e. the design chiefly we have to say (what I hinted on pity and conduct of it, is more conducing in the and terror, in the last paragraph save one), that Greeks to those ends of tragedy, which Aristotle the punishment of vice, and reward of virtue, and he propose, namely, to cause terror and are the most adequate ends of tragedy, because pity; yet the granting this does not set the most conducing to good example of life. Now, Greeks above the English poets.

pity is not so easily raised for a criminal (and But the answerer ought to prove two the ancient tragedy always represents its chief things: First, That the fable is not the greatest person such) as it is for an innocent man; and masterpiece of a tragedy, though it be the foun- the suffering of innocence and punishment of dation of it.

the offender is of the nature of English tragedy: “ Secondly, That other ends as suitable to the contrarily, in the Greek, innocence is unhappy nature of tragedy may be found in the English, often, and the offender escapes. Then we are which were not in the Greek.

not touched with the sufferings of any sort of “ Aristotle places the fable first; not quoad men so much as of lovers; and this was almost dignitatem, sed quoad fundamentum : for a fable unknown to the anc nts : so that they neither never so movingly contrived to those ends of administered poetical justice, of which Mr. Ryhis, pity and terror, will operate nothing on our mer boasts, so well as we; neither knew they affections, except the characters, manners, the best common-place of pity, which is love. thoughts, and words are suitable.

“ He therefore unjustly blames us for not “ So that it remains for Mr. Rymer to prove, building on what the ancients left us ; for it that in all those, or the greatest part of them, seems, upon consideration of the premises, that we are interior to Sophocles and Euripides; and we have wholly finished what they began.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

scure.

“ My judgment on this piece is this: that it that be not a fault in the Greek poets; and is extremely learned, but that the author of it whether their excellency was so great, when the s better read in the Greek than in the English variety was visibly so little; or whether what poets; that all writers ought to study this cri- they did was not very easy to do. tique, as the best account I have ever seen of “ Then make a judgment on what the Engthe ancients ; that the model of tragedy, he has lish have added to their beauties : as, for examhere given, is excellent, and extremely correct; ple, not only more plot, but also new passions : but that it is not the only mode of all tragedy, as, namely, that of love, scarcely touched on by because it is too much circumscribed in plot, the ancients, except in this one example of characters, &c. ; and, lastly, that we may be Phædra, cited by Mr. Rymer: and in that how taught here justly to admire and imitate the short they were of Fletcher! ancients, without giving them the preference “ Prove also that love, being a heroic passion, with this author, in prejudice to our own is fit for tragedy, which cannot be denied, becountry.

cause of the example alleged of Phædra: and “ Want of method in this excellent treatise how far Shakspeare has outdone them in friend. makes the thoughts of the author sometimes ob- ship, &c.

“ To return to the beginning of this inquiry; “ His meaning, that pity and terror are to consider if pity and terror be enough for trabe moved, is, that they are to be moved as the gedy to move; and I believe, upon a true demeans conducing to the ends of tragedy, which finition of tragedy, it will be found that its are pleasure and instruction.

work extends farther, and that it is to reform “ And these two ends may be thus distin- manners, by a delightful representation of huguished. The chief end of the poet is to please; man life in great persons, by way of dialogue. for his immediate reputation depends on it. If this be true, then not only pity and terror

“ The great end of a poem is to instruct, are to be moved, as the only means to bring us which is performed by making pleasure the to virtue, but generally love to virtue, and havehicle of that instruction; for poesy is an art, tred to vice; by showing the rewards of one, and all arts are made to profit. - Rapin. and punishments of the other; at least by ren

“ The pity, which the poet is to labour for, dering virtue always amiable, though it be is for the criminal, not for those or him whom shown unfortunate; and vice detestable, though he has murdered, or who have been the occasion it be shown triumphant. of the tragedy. The terror is likewise in the “ If, then, the encouragement of virtue and punishment of the same criminal ; who, if he discouragement of vice be the proper ends of be represented too great an offender, will not be poetry in tragedy, pity and terror, though good pitied; if altogether innocent, his punishment means are not the only. For all the passions, will be unjust.

in their turns, are to be set in a ferment; as joy, “ Another obscurity is, where he says, Sopho- anger, love, fear, are to be used as the poet's cles perfected tragedy by introducing the third common-places; and a general concernment for actor: that is, he meant three kinds of action : the principal actors is to be raised, by making one company singing, or speaking; another them appear such in their characters, their playing on the music; a third dancing.

words, and actions, as will interest the audience “ To make a true judgment in this competi- in their fortunes. tion betwixt the Greek poets and the English, “ And if, after all, in a larger sense, pity in tragedy:

comprehends this concernment for the good, and “ Consider, First, How Aristotle has defined terror includes detestation for the bad, then let a tragedy. Secondly, What he assigns the end us consider whether the English have not anof it to be. Thirdly, What he thinks the beau- swered this end of tragedy as well as the an. ties of it. Fourthly, The means to attain the cients, or perhaps better. end proposed.

“ And here Mr. Rymer's objections against Compare the Greek and English tragic these plays are to be impartially weighed, that poets justly, and without partiality, according we may see whether they are of weight enough to those rules.

to turn the balance against our countrymen. “ Then, Secondly, Consider whether Aristo It is evident those plays, which he arraigns, tle has made a just definition of tragedy, of its have moved both those passions in a high degree parts, of its ends, and of its beauties; and whe- upon the stage. ther he, having not seen any others but those To give the glory of this away from the of Sophocles, Euripides, &c. had or truly could poet, and to place it upon the actors, seems undetermine what all the excellences of tragedy just. are, and wherein they consist.

One reason is, because whatever actors they " Next, show in what ancient tragedy was have found, the event has been the same; that Jeficient; for example, in the narrowness of its is, the same passions have been always moved ; plots, and fewness of persons; and try whether which shows that there is something of force

and merit in the plays themselves, conducing to which accompany human nature, and are toe the design of raising these two passions: and the most part excused by the violence of his suppose them ever to have been excellently act- love; so that they destroy not our pity or con ed, yet action only adds grace, vigour, and more cernment for him: this answer may be applied life, upon the stage; but cannot give it wholly to most of his objections of that kind. where it is not first. But, secondly, I dare And Rolla committing many murders, appeal to those who have never seen them acted, when he is answerable but for one, is too seif they have not found these two passions moved verely arraigned by him; for, it adds to our within them: and if the general voice will carry horror and detestation of the criminal; and it, Mr. Rymer's prejudice will take off bis poetic justice is not neglected neither; for we single testimony.

stab him in our minds for every offence which “ This, being matter of fact, is reasonably to he commits; and the point, which the poet is to be established by this appeal ; as, if one man gain on the audience, is not so much in the says it is night, when the rest of the world con death of an offender as the raising a horror of clude it to be day, there needs no farther argu- bis crimés. ment against him that it is so.

“ That the criminal should neither be wholly “ If he urge that the general taste is deprav- guilty, nor wholly innocent, but so participating ed, his arguments to prove this can at best but of both as to move both pity and terror, is cerevince that our poets took not the best way to tainly a good rule, but not perpetually to be obraise those passions : but experience proves served; for that were to make all tragedies too against him, that those means, which they have much alike; which objection he foresaw, but used, have been successful, and have produced has not fully answered. them.

6 To conclude, therefore ; if the plays of the “ And one reason of that success is, in my ancients are more correctly plotted, ours are opinion, this; that Shakspeare and Fletcher more beautifully written. And, if we can raise have written to the genius of the age and nation passions as high on worse foundations, it shows in which they lived; for though nature, as he our genius in tragedy is greater; for in all other objects, is the same in all places, and reason too parts of it the English have manifestly excelled the same; yet the climate, the age, the disposi- them.” tion of the people, to whom a poet writes, may be so different, that what pleased the Greeks would not satisfy an English audience.

And if they proceed upon a foundation of The original of the following letter is pretruer reason to please the Athenians than Shak- served in the Library at Lambeth, and was speare and Fletcher to please the English, it kindly imparted to the public by the reverend only shows that the Athenians were a more ju- Dr. Vyse. dicious people; but the poet's business is certainly to please the audience.

Copy of an original letter from John Dryden, " Whether our English audience have been Esq. to his sons in Italy, from a MS. in pleased hitherto with acorns, as he calls it, or the Lambeth Library, marked No. 933, with bread, is the next question; that is, whe p. 56. ther the means which Shakspeare and Fletcher (Superscribed) have used, in their plays, to raise those passions

“ Al illustrissimo Sigre. beforenamed, be better applied to the ends by

“ Carlo Dryden Camariere the Greek poets than by them. And perhaps

« d'Honore A.S.S. we shall not grant him this wholly : let it be

« In Roma. yielded that a writer is not to run down with Franca per Mantoua. the stream, or to please the people by their usual

“ Sept. the 3d, our style. methods, but rather to reform their judgments, “ Dear Sons, it still remains to prove that our theatre needs “ Being now at Sir William Bowyer's in the this total reformation.

country, I cannot write at large, because I find 66 The faults, which he has found in their de- myself somewhat indisposed with a cold, and sign, are rather wittily aggravated in many am thick of hearing, rather worse than I was places than reasonably urged; and as much may in town. I am glad to find, by your letter of be returned on the Greeks by one who were as July 26th, your style, that you are both in witty as himself.

health, but wonder you should think me so They destroy not if they are granted, the negligent as to forget to give you an account of foundation of the fabric; only take away from the ship in which your parcel is to come. 1 the beauty of the symmetry; for example, the have written to you two or three letters confaults in the character of the King, in · King cerning it, which I have sent by safe hands, us and No-king,' are not, as he calls them, such as I told you, and doubt not but you have them render him detestable, but only imperfections before this can arrive to you. Being out of

S

town, I have forgotten the ship's name, which your sake, I will struggle with the plain open. your mother will inquire and put it into her ness of my nature, and keep in my just resentletter, which is joined with mine. But the ments against that degenerate order. In the master's name I remember: he is called Mr. mean time, I flatter not myself with any manRalph Thorp; the ship is bound to Leghorn, ner of hopes, but do my co *v, and suffer for consigned to Mr. Peter and Mr. Thomas Ball, God's sake; being assured, before-hand, never merchants. I am of your opinion, that by Ton- to be rewarded, though the times should alter. son's means almost all our letters have miscar- Towards the latter end of this month, Septemried for this last year. But, however, he has ber, Charles will begin to recover his perfect missed of his design in the dedication, though health, according to his nativity, which, casting he had prepared the book for it; for, in every it myself, I am sure is true, and all things hithfigure of Æneas he has caused him to be drawn erto have happened accordingly to the very time like King William, with a hooked nose. After that I predicted them: I hope at the same time my return to town, I intend to alter a play of to recover more health, according to my age. Sir Robert Howard's, written long since, and Remember me to poor Harry, whose prayers I lately put into my hands; it is called “ The earnestly desire. My Virgil succeeds in the Conquest of Chica by the Tartars.” It will world beyond its desert or my expectation. You cost me six weeks study, with the probable know the profits might have been more; but benefit of a hundred pounds. In the mean time neither my conscience nor my honour would I am writing a song for St. Cecilia's Feast, who, suffer me to take them ; but I can never repent you know, is the patroness of music. This is of my constancy, since I am thoroughly pertroublesome, and no way beneficial; but I could suaded of the justice of the cause for which I not deny the stewards of the feast, who came in suffer. It has pleased God to raise up many a body to me to desire that kindness, one of friends to me amongst my enemies, though they them being Mr. Bridgeman, whose parents are who ought to have been my friends are negliyour mother's friends. I hope to send you gent of me. I am called to dinner, and cannot thirty guineas between Michaelmas and Christ- go on with this letter, which I desire you to exmas, of which I will give you an account when cuse; and am I come to town. I remember the counsel you

66 Your most affectionate father, give me in your letter; but dissembling, though

" John DRYDEN." lawful in some cases, is not my talent; yet, for

SMITH.

EDMUND Smith is one of those lucky writers | ter of the famous Baron Lechmere. Some mish who have, without much labour, attained high unes of his father, which were soon followreputation, and who are mentioned with revered by his death, were the occasion of the son's ence rather for the possession than the exertion being left very young in the hands of a near reof uncommon abilities.

lation (one who married Mr. Neale's sister) Of his life little is known; and that little whose name was Smith. claims no praise but what can be given to intel This gentleman and his lady treated him as lectual excellence seldom employed to any vir- their own child, and put him to Westminster tuous purpose. His character, as given by Mr. School, under the care of Dr. Busby; whence, Oldisworth with all the partiality of friendship, after the loss of his faithful and generous guardwhich is said by Dr. Burton to show “ what ian (whose name he assumed and retained) he fine things one man of parts can say of another,” was removed to Christ-church, in Oxford, and and which, however, comprises great part of there by his aunt handsomely maintained till what can be known of Mr. Smith, it is better her death ; after which he continued a member to transcribe at once than to take by pieces. I of that learned and ingenious society till within shall subjoin such little memorials as accident five years of his own; though, some time behas enabled me to collect.

fore bis leaving Christ-church, he was sent for

by his mother to Worcester, and owned and acMr. EDMUND Smith was the only son of an knowledged as her legitimate son; which had eminent merchant, one Mr. Neale, by a daugh- | not been mentioned, but to wipe off the asper

sions that were ignorantly cast by some on his as young as Cowley, he had no puerilities; and birth. It is to be remembered, for our Au- his earliest productions were so far from havthor's honour, that, when at Westminster elec- ing any thing in them mean and trifling, that, tion he stood a candidate for one of the univer- like the junior compositions of Mr. Stepney, sities, he so signally distinguished himself by they may make gray authors blush. There are nis conspicuous performances, that there arose many of his first essays in oratory, in epigram, no small contention between the representative elegy, and epique, still handed about the Unielectors of Trinity College, in Cambridge, and versity in manuscript, which show a masterly Christ-church, in Oxon, which of those two band; and though maimed and injured by freroyal societies should adopt him as their own. quent transcribing, make their way into our But the electors of Trinity College having the most celebrated miscellanies, where they shine preference of choice that year, they resolutely with uncommon lustre. Besides those verses elected him; who yet, being invited at the same in the Oxford books which he could not help time to Christ-church, chose to accept of a stu- setting his name to, several of his compositions dentship there. Mr. Smith's perfections, as came abroad under other names, which his own well natural as acquired, seem to have been singular modesty and faithful silence strove in formed upon Horace's plan, who says, in his vain to conceal. The Encænia and public Col “ Art of Poetry,”

lections of the University upon State Subjects

were never in such esteem, either for elegy and -Ego nec studium sine divite vena,

congratulation, as when he contributed most Nec rude quid profit video ingenium; alterius sic largely to them; and it was natural for those Altera poscit opem res, et conjurat amice.

who knew his peculiar way of writing to turn

to his share in the work, as by far the most reHe was endowed by nature with all those ex- lishing part of the entertainment. As his parts cellent and necessary qualifications which are were extraordinary, so he well knew how to previous to the accomplishment of a great man. improve them; and not only to polish the diaHis memory was large and tenacious, yet by a mond, but enchase it in the most solid and durcurious felicity chiefly susceptible of the finest able metal. Though he was an academic the impressions it received from the best authors he greatest part of his life, yet he contracted no read, which it always preserved in their primi- sourness of temper, no spice of pedantry, no itch tive strength and amiable order.

of disputation, or obstinate contention for the He had a quickness of apprehension and vi- old or new philosophy, no assuming way of dicvacity of understanding which easily took in tating to others, which are faults (though exand surmounted the most subtle and knotty cusable) which some are insensibly led into who parts of mathematics and metaphysics. His are constrained to dwell long within the walls wit was prompt and flowing, yet solid and of a private college. His conversation was pleapiercing; his taste delicate, his head clear, and sant and instructive; and what Horace said of his

way of expressing his thoughts perspicuous Plotius, Varius, and Virgil, might justly be apand engaging. I shall say nothing of his per- plied to him: son, which was yet so well turned, that no neglect of himself in his dress could render it dis

Nil ego contulerim jucundo sapus Amico, agreeable; insomuch that the fair sex, who ob

Sat. v.1.1. served and esteemed him, at once commended and reproved him by the name of the handsome As correct a writer as he was in his most sloven. An eager but generous and noble emu- elaborate pieces, he read the works of others lation grew up with him; which (as it were a with candour, and reserved his greatest severity rational sort of instinct) pushed him upon striv- for his own compositions ; being readier to chering to excel in every art and science that could ish and advance than damp or depress a rising make him a credit to his College, and that col- genius, and as patient of being excelled himself lege the ornament of the most learned and polite (if any could excel him) as industrious to excel University; and it was his happiness to have others. several contemporaries and fellow-students who It were to be wished he had confined himself exercised and excited this virtue in themselves, to a particular profession who was capable or and others thereby becoming so deservedly in surpassing in any; but, in this, his want of apfavour with this age, and so good a proof of its plication was in a great measure owing to his nice discernment. His judgment, naturally good, want of due encouragement. soon ripened into an exquisite finetfass and dis He passed through the exercises of the Coltinguishing sagacity, which, as it was active and lege and University with unusual applause; and busy, so it was vigorous and manly, keeping though he often suffered his friends to call hima even paces with a rich and strong imagination, off from his retirements, and to lengthen out always upon the wing, and never tired with those jovial avocations, yet his return to his sspiring. Hence it was, that, though he writ studies was so much the more passionate, ani

!

« VorigeDoorgaan »