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are to be used as the poet's common-places : and a general concernment for the principal actors is to be raised, by making them appear such in their characters, their words, and actions, as will interest the audience in their fortunes.
“ And if, after all, in a larger sense, pity compreliends this concernment for the good, and terrour includes detestation for the bad, then let us consider, whether the English have not answered this end of tragedy as well as the ancients, or perhaps better.
“ And here Mr. Rymer's objections against these plays are to be impartially weighed, that we may see, whether they are of weight enough to turn the balance against our countrymen.
“ Tis evident those plays, which he arraigns, have moved both those passions in a high degree upon the stage.
“ To give the glory of this away from the poet, and to place it upon the actors, seems unjust.
“One reason is, because whatever actors they have found, the event has been the same; that is, the same passions have been always moved; which shows, that there is something of force and merit in the plays themselves, conducing to the design of raising these two passions : and suppose them ever to have been excellently acted, yet action only adds grace, vigour, and more life upon the stage ; but cannot give it wholly where it is not first. But, secondly, I dare appeal to those who have never seen them acted, if they have not found these two passions moved within them: and if the general voice will carry it, Mr. Rymer's prejudice will take off his single testimony.
“ This, being matter of fact, is reasonably to be established by this appeal; as, if one man says it is night, when the rest of the world conclude it to be day, there needs no further argument against him, that it is so.
“ If he urge, that the general taste is depraved, his arguments to prove this can at best but evince, that our poets took not the best way to raise those passions; but experience proves against him, that those means, which they have used, have been successful, and liave produced them.
“ And one reason of that success is, in my opinion, this; that Shakspeare and Fletcher have written to the genius of the age and nation in which they lived; for though nature, as he objects, is the same in all places, and reason too the same : yet the climate, the age, the disposition, 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 truer reason to please the Athenians, than Shakspeare and Fletcher to please the English, it only shows, that the Athenians were a more judicious people; but the poet's business is certainly to please the audience.
“ Whether our English audience have been pleased hitherto with acorns, as he calls it, or with bread, is the next question ; that is, whether the means which Shakspeare and Fletcher have used, in their plays, to raise those passions before named, be better applied to the ends by the Greek poets than by them. And perhaps we shall not grant him this wholly; let it be yielded that a writer is not to run down with the stream, or to please the people by their usual methods, but rather to reform their judgments, it still remains to prove, that our theatre needs this total reformation.
“ The faults, which he has found in their design, are rather wittily aggravated in many places than reasonably urged; and as much may be returned on the Greeks by one who were as witty as himself.
“They destroy not, if they are granted, the foundation of the fabric ; only take away from the beauty of the symmetry; for example, the faults in the character of the King, in King and No-king, are not, as he calls them, such as render him detestable, but only imperfections which accompany human nature, and are for the most part excused by the violence of his love; so that they destroy not our pity or concemment for him : this answer may be applied to most of his objections of that kind.
“And Rollo committing many murders, when he is answerable but for one, is too severely arraigned by him ; for it adds to our horrour and detestation of the criminal; and poetic justice is not neglected neither; for we stab him in our minds for every offence which he commits; and the point, which the poet is to gain on the audience, is not so much in the death of an offender, as the raising an horrour of his crimes.
“That the criminal should neither be wholly guilty, nor wholly innocent, but so participating of both as to move both pity and terrour, is certainly a good rule, but not perpetually to be observed; for that were to make all tragedies too much alike; which objection he foresaw, but has not fully answered.
“ To conclude, therefore ; if the plays of the ancients are more correctly plotted, ours are more beautifully written. And, if we can raise passions as high on worse foundations, it shows our genius in tragedy is greater; for in all other parts of it the English have manifestly excelled them."
The original of the following letter is preserved in the library at Lambeth, and was kindly imparted to the public by the reverend Dr. Vyse.
Copy of an original Letter from John Dryden, esq. to his sons in Italy, from
a MS. in the Lambeth Library, marked No. 933, p. 56. (Superscribed)
« Al illustrissimo Sigre Carlo Dryden Camariere
d'Honore A.S.S. “ Franca per Mantoua.
Sept. the 3d. our style. “ Dear sons, “ Being now at sir William Bowyer's in the country, I cannot write at large, because I find myself somewhat indisposed with a cold, and am thick of hearing, rather worse than I was in town. I am glad to find, by your letter of July 26th, your style, that you are both in health; but wonder you should think me so negligent as to forget to give you an account of the ship in which your parcel is to come.
I have written to you two or three letters concerning it, which I have sent by safe hands, as I told you, and doubt not but you have them before this can arrive to you. Being out of town, I have forgotten the ship's name, which your mother will inquire, and put it into her letter, which is joined with mine. But the master's name I remember; he is called Mr. Ralph Thorp: the ship is bound to Leghorn, consigned to Mr. Peter and Mr. Thomas Ball, merchants. I am of your opinion, that by Tonson's means almost all our letters have miscarried for this last year. But, however, he has missed of his design in the Dedication, though he had prepared the book for it; for, in every figure of Eneas he has caused him to be drawn like king William, with a hooked nose. After my return to town, I intend to alter a play of sir Robert Howard's, written long since, and lately put into my hands; 'tis called The Conquest of China by the Tartars. It will cost me six weeks study, with the probable benetit of an hundred pounds.
In tlie mean time I am writing a song, for St. Cecilia's Feast, who, you know, is the patroness of music. This is troublesome, and no way beneficial; but I could not deny the stewards of the feast, who came in a body to me to desire that kindness, one of them being Mr. Bridgeman, whose parents are your mother's friends. I hope to send you thirty guineas between Michaelmas and Christmas, of which I will give you an account when I come to town. I remember the counsel you give me in your letter ; but dissembling, though lawful in some cases, is not my talent; yet, for your sake, I will struggle with the plain openness of my nature, and keep in my just resentments against that degenerate order. In the mean time, I flatter not myself with any manner of hopes, but do my duty, and suffer for God's sake; being assured, before hand, never to be rewarded, though the times should alter. Towards the latter end of this month, September, Charles will begin to recover his perfect health, according to his nativity, which, casting it myself, I am sure is true, and all things hitherto have happened accordingly to the very time that I predicted them: I hope at the same time to recover more health, according to my age. Remember me to poor Harry, whose prayers I earnestly desire. My Virgil succeeds in the world beyond its desert or my expectation, You know the profits might have been more; but neither my conscience nor my honour would suffer me to take them: but I never can repent of my constancy, since I am thoroughly persuaded of the justice of the cause for which I suffer. It has pleased God to raise up many friends to me amongst my enemies, though they who ought to have been my
friends are negligent of me. I am called to dinner, and cannot go on with this letter, which I desire you to excuse; and am
“your most affectionate father,
VERSES IN PRAISE
BY THE EARL OF ROSCOMMON.
TAE ANCIENT POETS.
Will damn the goats for their ill-natur'd faults, ON DRYDEN'S RELIGIO LAICI. And save the sheep for actions, not for thoughts,
Hath too much mercy to send men to Hell,
For humble charity, and hoping well. BEGONE, you slaves, you idle vermin go, To what stupidity are zealots grown,
Fly from the scourges, and your master know; Whose inhumanity, profusely shown Let free, impartial men, froin Dryden learn
In damning crowds of souls, may damn their own. Mysterious secrets, of a high concern,
I'll err at least on the securer side,
TO MY FRIEND, MR. JOHN DRYDEN, Must be an angel; but what 's that to you?
While mighty Lewis finds the pope too great, ON HIS SEVERAL EXCELLENT TRANSLATIONS OF and dreads the yoke of his imposing seat, Our sects a more tyrannic power assume,
BY G. GRANVILLE, LORD LANSDOWNE.
As flowers transplanted from a southern sky,
Nor can th’Egyptian patriarch blame thy Muse, Thus ancient wit, in modern numbers taught, Which for his firmness does his heat excuse; Wanting the warmth with which its author wrote, Whatever councils have approv'd his creed, Is a dead image, and a senseless draught. The preface sure was his own act and deed. While we transfuse, the niinble spirit flies, Our church will have that preface read, you 'll say: Fscapes unseen, evaporates, and dies. "Tis true: but so she will th' Apocrypha;
Who then to copy Roman wit desire, And such as can believe them, freely may.
Must imitate with Ronian force and fire, But did that God, (so little understood)
In elegance of style and phrase the same, Whose darling attribute is being good,
And in the sparkling genius, and the flame. From the darki womb of the rude Chaos bring Whence we conclude from thy translated song, Such various creatures, and make man their king, So just, so smooth, so soft, and yet so strong, Yet leave his favourite man, his chiefest care, Celestial poet! soul of harmony ! More wretched than the vilest insects are?
That every genius was reviv'd in thee. O! how much happier and more safe are they? Thy trumpet sounds, the dead are rais'd to light, If helpless millions must be doom'd a prey
Never to die, and take to Heaven their fight; To yelling furies, and for ever burn
Deck'd in thy verse, as clad with rays they shine, In that sad place from whence is no return, All glorified, immortal, and divine. For unbelief in one they never knew,
As Britain in rich soil abounding wide,
Furnish'd for use, for luxury, and pride,
For foreign wealth, insatiate still of more ;
For better ends our kind Redeemer dy'd, So Dryden, not contented with the fame
That Christ, who at the great deciding day To lands remote sends forth his learned Muse, (For he declares what he resolves to say)
The noblest seeds of foreign wit to choose: