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saying, “ Good God! what a part would Betterton make of Cato!' This was seven years before Betterton died, and when Booth (who afterwards made his fortune by acting it) was in his theatrical minority. In the latter end of Queen Anne's reign, when our national politics bad changed hands, the friends of Mr. Addison then thought it a proper time to animate the public with the sentiments of Cato: in a word, their importunities were too warm to be resisted; and it was no sooner finished than hurried to the stage, in April, 1712, and was acted every day (Mondays excepted) for a month, to constantly crowded houses. As the author had made us a present of whatever profits he might have claimed from it, we thought ourselves obliged to spare no cost in the proper decorations of it.”
PUBLIC RECEPTION OF CATO.
As the night which was to seal the fate of Cato approached, the anxiety and timidity of Addison increased. During the representation he was so agitated between hope and fear that, while he remained retired in the green-room, he kept a person continually going backwards and forwards, from the stage to the place where he was, to inform him how it succeeded; and till the whole was over, and the success confirmed, he never ventured to move. Its reception compensated the sufferings of the author; and a successive representation of five-and-thirty nights was an unprecedented proof of the admiration of the public.
“Cato being the flower of a plant raised in that learned garden, (for there Mr. Addison had his education,) what favour may we not suppose due to him from an audience of brethren, who, from that local relation to him, might naturally have a warmer pleasure in their benevolence to his fame. But not to give more weight to this imaginary circumstance than it may bear, the fact was, that on our first day of acting it our house was, in a manner, invested, and entrance demanded, by twelve o'clock at noon; and before one it was not wide enough for many who came too late for their places. The same crowds continued for three days together, an uncommon curiosity in that place ; and the death of Cato tri. umphed over the injuries of Cæsar everywhere."
Colley Cibber. QUEEN ANNE'S PRAISE OF CATO. QUEEN Anne bestowed great praise on Addison's Cato, and intimated a wish that the tragedy should be dedicated to her. The author had proposed to inscribe it to another personage, (it is said the Duchess of Marlborough,) but at length published it without any dedication, and by that means, as Tickell says, neither offended his duty nor his honour.
LORD Egmont, in his manuscript collections, has related an instance of Mr. Addison's jealousy with regard to his reputation. Having heard that a gentleman had, for his diversion, turned eight lines of Cato into burlesque, he could not rest, till by the interposition of a friend he prevailed upon the author to burn them.
** There have since been various Parodies on Cato's Soc' liloquy; we give one from an old manuscript volume in the hand-writing of Joseph Gulston, the celebrated book-collector.
A PARODY ON CATO's SOLILOQUY.
WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY ASSEMBLY-ROOM WHILE WAITING FOR
It must be so—music, thou charmest well-
Inrough all her alehouses he must delight to play ;
DR. YOUNG'S CRITICISM ON CATO. Among the brightest of the moderns Mr. Addison must take his place. He had what Dryden and Ben Jonson wanted for the composition of tragedy-a warm and feeling heart, but concealed it through a philosophic reserve and moral prudery. At his celebrated Cato few tears are shed, except by the noble few who love their country better than themselves; the bulk of mankind want virtue enough to be touched. His strength of genius has reared up one glorious image ; but terror and pity, to excite which is the object of tragedy, are neglected through the whole. The poet, like his hero, becomes a sort of suicide, and the drama dies; the charms of his poetry are but as rich spices to embalm the tragedy deceased. Pathos is the life and soul of tragedy, and charms us through a thousand faults; but Addison is himself, as he says of Cato, ambitiously sententious; his beauties sparkle but do not warm : there is indeed a constellation of these in his play ; there is the philosopher, patriot, orator, and poet; but where is the tragedian ? Dryden seems to have been of the same opinion ; for when this play was sent to him to recommend it to the theatre, he returned it with many commendations, but with his opinion that on the stage it would not meet with its deserved success. There is this similitude between the poet and the play; the latter was fitter for the closet than the stage, and the former shone brighter in private conversation than public life.
He who sees not much beauty in Cato has no taste for poetry; he who sees nothing else has no taste for the stage: whilst it justifies censure it extorts applause ; it is much to be admired, but little to be felt. Had it not been a tragedy, it had been immortal ; as it is a tragedy, its uncommon fate somewhat resembles his, who for conquering gloriously was ondemned to die. Both shone; but shone fatally, because in breach of their respective laws, the laws of drama and the laws of arms. But how rich in reputation must that author be who can spare a Cato and not feel the loss !
Cato, in many views, is an exquisite piece; but there is so much more of art than nature in it that we can scarce forbear calling it an exquisite piece of statuary: in Addison's own words,
Where the smooth chisel all its skill has shown,
To soften into flesh the rugged stone. That is, where art has taken great pains to labour undramatic matter into dramatic life; which is impossible. However, as it is, like Pygmalion, we cannot but fall in love with it, and wish it was alive.
VOLTAIRE'S OPINION OF ADDISON'S CATO. “The first English writer," says Voltaire," who composed a regular tragedy, and infused a spirit of elegance through every part of it, was the illustrious Mr. Addison. His Cato is a master-piece, both with regard to the diction and the harmony and beauty of the numbers. The character of Cato is, in my opinion, greatly superior to that of Cornelia in the Pompey of Corneille: for Cato is great without anything of fustian ; and Cornelia, who besides is not a necessary character, tends sometimes to bombast.—Mr. Addison's Cato appears to me to be the greatest character that ever was brought upon any stage : but then the rest of them do not correspond to the dignity of this; and this dramatic piece, so excellently well written, is disfigured by a dull love-plot,' which spreads a certain languor over the whole, that destroys the beauty of it.” He proceeds afterwards to say, that the custom of
“ introducing love at random, and at any rate, into the drama, passed from Paris to London about 1660, with our ribbons and our perruques. The ladies, who adorn the theatrical circle there in the same manner as in this city, (Paris,) will suffer love only to be the theme of every conversation. The judicious Mr. Addison had the effeminate complaisance to soften the severity of his dramatic character so as to adapt it to the manners of the age; and, from an endeavour to please, quite ruined a master-piece in its kind.”
1 It has been assumed by critics that Addison originally wrote his Cato without the love-plot, and inserted it afterwards in compliance with the taste of the stage. Pope (in Spence) says that the rigid love scenes which now form so considerable a portion of the tragedy were not in Addison's first draught, but were introduced in compliance with the popular practice of the stage.
The honours to which Mr. Addison was raised and the wealth he obtained by his literary pursuits made M. Voltaire observe, “ That had he been in France he would have been elected a member of one of the Academies; and, by the credit of some women, might have obtained a yearly pension of twelve hundred livres; or else might have been imprisoned in the Bastille, upon pretence that certain strokes in his tragedy of Cato had been discovered to have glanced at the porter of some man in power.
STEELE'S JUDGMENT OF THE LOVE-PLOT IN CATO. STEELE's opinion of the love-plot in “ Cato” is very opposite to Voltaire's.
“ In our degenerate age,” says Steele," the poet must have more than ordinary skill to raise the admiration of the audience so high, in the great and public parts of his drama, as to make a loose people attend to a passion which they never, or very faintly, felt in their own bosoms. That perfect piece, called Cato, which has done so great honour to our nation and language, excels as much in the passions of its lovers as in the sublime sentiments of its hero; their generous love, which is more heroic than any concern in the chief characters of most dramas, makes but subordinate characters in this.”
JOHN DENNIS'S REVIEW OF CATO, By what may be termed a contretemps in literature, Dennis became a furious antagonist of Addison. It appears
that Sir Richard Steele had promised our critic to take some opportunity of mentioning his works in public with advantage, and thereby of promoting his reputation. It, however, unfortunately happened, that Mr. Addison, who, probably, knew nothing of Sir Richard's engagement, quoted, in his paper upon Laughter, the two following lines, which he calls humorous and well-expressed, from Mr. Dennis's translation of one of Boileau's satires :
“ Thus one fool lolls his tongue out at another,
And shakes his empty noddle at his brother." Mistaking this quotation for the performance of Sir Richard