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nicety, would fail of success on our theatre, and that for a very obvious reason. Actors (I speak of the troop collectively) must all learn to speak as well as act, in order to do justice to such a drama.

But let me hasten to give the reader what little insight I can into Mr. Gray's plan, as I find, and select it from two detached papers. The title and Dramatis Personæ are as follow:

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AGRIPPINA, the Empress mother.

NERO, the Emperor.

POPPAA, believed to be in love with OтHO.

Отно, a young man of quality, in love with POPPEA.

SENECA, the Emperor's preceptor.

ANICETUS, Captain of the guards.

DEMETRIUS, the Cynic, friend to SENECA.

SCENE, the Emperor's villa at BAIE.

The argument drawn out by him, in these two papers, under the idea of a plot and under-plot, I shall here unite; as it will tend to shew that the action itself was possest of sufficient unity.

The drama opens with the indignation of Agrippina, at receiving her son's orders from Anicetus to remove from Baiæ, and to have her guard taken from her. At this time Otho, having conveyed Poppea from the house of her husband Rufus Crispinus, brings her to Baiæ, where he means to conceal her among the crowd; or, if his fraud is discovered, to have recourse to the Emperor's authority; but knowing the lawless temper of Nero, he determines not to have recourse to that expedient, but on the utmost necessity. In the mean time he commits her to the care of Anicetus, whom he takes to be his friend, and in whose age he thinks he may safely confide. Nero is not yet come to Baiæ; but Seneca, whom he sends before him, informs Agrippina of the accusation concerning Rubellius Plancus, and desires

her to clear herself, which she does briefly; but demands to see her son, who, on his arrival, acquits her of all suspicion, and restores her to her honours. In the mean while Anicetus, to whose care Poppaa had been intrusted by Otho, contrives the following plot to ruin Agrippina he betrays his trust to Otho, and brings Nero, as it were by chance, to the sight of the beautiful Poppaa; the Emperor is immediately struck with her charms, and she, by a feigned resistance, increases his passion; though in reality, she is from the first dazzled with the prospect of empire, and forgets Otho: she therefore joins with Anicetus in his design of ruining Agrippina, soon perceiving that it will be for her interest. Otho hearing that the Emperor had seen Poppaa, is much enraged; but not knowing that this interview was obtained through the treachery of Anicetus, is readily persuaded by him to see Agrippina in secret, and acquaint her with his fears that her son Nero would marry Poppaa. Agrippina, to support her own power, and to wean the Emperor from the love of Poppaa, gives Otho encouragement, and promises to support him. Anicetus secretly introduces Nero to hear their discourse; who resolves immediately on his mother's death, and, by Anicetus's means, to destroy her by drowning. A solemn feast, in honour of their reconciliation, is to be made; after which she being to go by sea to Bauli, the ship is so contrived as to sink or crush her; she escapes by accident, and returns to Baiæ. In this interval, Otho has an interview with Poppaa, and being duped a second time by Anicetus and her, determines to fly with her into Greece, by means of a vessel which is to be furnished by Anicetus; but he, pretending to remove Poppea on board in the night, conveys her to Nero's apartment: she there encourages and determines Nero to banish Otho, and finish the horrid deed he had attempted on his mother. Anicetus under

takes to execute his resolves; and, under pretence of a plot upon the Emperor's life, is sent with a guard to murder Agrippina, who is still at Baiæ in imminent fear, and irresolute how to conduct herself. The account of her death, and the Emperor's horror and fruitless remorse, finishes the drama.

I refer the reader to the 13th and 14th books of the annals of Tacitus for the facts on which this story is founded by turning to that author, he will easily see how far the poet thought it necessary to deviate from the truth of history. I shall only further observe, that as such a fable could not possibly admit of any good character, it is terror only, and not pity that could be excited by this tragedy, had it been completed. Yet it was surely capable of exciting this passion in a supreme degree; if, what the critics tell us be true, that crimes, which illustrious persons commit, affect us from the very circumstance of their rank, because we unite with that our fears for the public weal.




'Tis well, begone! your errand is perform'd:
[Speaks as to Anicetus entering.
The message needs no comment. Tell your master,
His mother shall obey him. Say you saw her
Yielding due reverence to his high command
Alone, unguarded, and without a lictor,
As fits the daughter of Germanicus.
Say, she retired to Antium; there to tend
Her household cares, a woman's best employment.
What if you add, how she turn'd pale, and trembled;
You think, you spied a tear stand in her eye,

And would have drop'd, but that her pride restrain'd it?
(Go! you can paint it well) 'twill profit you,

And please the stripling. Yet 'twould dash his joy
To hear the spirit of Britannicus

Yet walks on earth; at least there are who know
Without a spell to raise, and bid it fire

A thousand haughty hearts, unus'd to shake
When a boy frowns, not to be lur'd with smiles
To taste of hollow kindness, or partake

His hospitable board: they are aware

Of th' unpledg'd bowl, they love not Aconite.


He's gone; and much I hope these walls alone,
And the mute air are privy to your passion.
Forgive your servant's fears, who sees the danger
Which fierce resentment cannot fail to raise
In haughty youth, and irritated power.


And dost thou talk to me, to me, of danger,
Of haughty youth, and irritated power,
To her that gave it being, her that arm'd
This painted Jove, and taught his novice hand
To aim the forked bolt; while he stood trembling,
Scar'd at the sound, and dazzled with its brightness?
'Tis like, thou hast forgot, when yet a stranger
To adoration, to the grateful steam

Of flattery's incense, and obsequious vows
From voluntary realms, a puny boy,

Deck'd with no other lustre, than the blood
Of Agrippina's race, he liv'd unknown

To fame or fortune; haply eyed at distance
Some edileship, ambitious of the power

To judge of weights, and measures; scarcely dar'd
On expectation's strongest wing to soar,

High as the consulate, that empty shade
Of long-forgotten liberty: when I

Oped his young eye to bear the blaze of greatness;
Shew'd him, where empire tower'd, and bade him strike
The noble quarry. Gods! then was the time

To shrink from danger; fear might then have worn

The mask of prudence: but a heart like mine,

A heart that glows with the pure Julian fire,

If bright ambition from her craggy seat
Display the radiant prize, will mount undaunted,
Gain the rough heights, and grasp the dangerous honour.


Thro' various life I have pursued your steps,

Have seen your soul, and wonder'd at its daring:
Hence rise my fears. Nor am I yet to learn
How vast the debt of gratitude, which Nero
To such a mother owes; the world, you gave him,
Suffices not to pay the obligation.

I well remember too (for I was present)
When in a secret and dead hour of night,
Due sacrifice perform'd with barb'rous rites
Of mutter'd charms, and solemn invocation,
You bade the Magi call the dreadful powers,
That read futurity, to know the fate
Impending o'er your son: their answer was,
If the son reign, the mother perishes.

Perish (you cry'd) the mother! reign the son!
He reigns, the rest is heav'n's; who oft has bade,
Ev'n when its will seem'd wrote in lines of blood,
Th' unthought event disclose a whiter meaning.
Think too how oft in weak and sickly minds
The sweets of kindness lavishly indulg'd
Rankle to gall; and benefits too great
To be repaid, sit heavy on the soul,

As unrequited wrongs. The willing homage
Of prostrate Rome, the senate's joint applause,
The riches of the earth, the train of pleasures,
That wait on youth, and arbitrary sway;
These were your gift, and with them you bestow'd
The very power he has to be ungrateful.


Thus ever grave and undisturb'd reflection
Pours its cool dictates in the madding ear
Of rage, and thinks to quench the fire it feels not.
Say'st thou I must be cautious, must be silent,
And tremble at the phantom I have rais'd?
Carry to him thy timid counsels. He
Perchance may heed 'em: tell him too, that one,
Who had such liberal power to give, may still
With equal power resume that gift, and raise
A tempest, that shall shake her own creation
To its original atoms-tell me! say
This mighty Emperor, this dreaded Hero,
Has he beheld the glittering front of war?
Knows his soft ear the trumpet's thrilling voice,
And outcry of the battle? Have his limbs
Sweat under iron harness? Is he not

The silken son of dalliance, nurs'd in Ease
And Pleasure's flowery lap ?-Rubellius lives,
And Sylla has his friends, tho' school'd by fear
To bow the supple knee, and court the times
With shows of fair obeisance; and a call,
Like mine, might serve belike to wake pretensions
Drowsier than theirs, who boast the genuine blood
Of our imperial house.


Did I not wish to check this dangerous passion,
I might remind my mistress that her nod
Can rouse eight hardy legions, wont to stem
With stubborn nerves the tide, and face the rigour
Of bleak Germania's snows. Four, not less brave,

That in Armenia quell the Parthian force
Under the warlike Corbulo, by you

Mark'd for their leader: these by ties confirm'd,
Of old respect and gratitude, are yours.
Surely the Masians too, and those of Egypt,
Have not forgot your sire: the eye of Rome
And the Prætorian camp have long rever'd,

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