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beason, and find that they also have spirit mores in the pridst of the great their place in the literary banquet ; current. In the history of this talent and that if they are not worth as much we shall find the history of the English as the substantial joints, the natural classical spirit, its structure, its gaps, and generous wines of the first course, and its powers, its formation and its at least they furnish the dessert. development.
The dessert over, we must leave the able. After Sheridan, we leave it
L. iorthwith. Henceforth comedy languishes, fails; there is nothing left but
The subject of the following lines is farce, such as Townley's High Life of smallpox at the age of nineteer :
a young man, Lord Hastings, who died Below Stairs, the burlesques of George Colman, a tutor, an old maid, country- “ His body was an orb, his sublime soul nen and their dialect; caricature suc. Did move on virtue's and on learning's fo.ci veeds painting; Punch raises a laugh
Come, learned Ptolemy, and trial maki
If thou this hero's altitude canst take. when the days of Reynolds and Gains- Blisters with pride swell’d, which borough are over. There is nowhere through's flesh did sprout in Europe, at the present time, a more
Like rose-buds, stuck i' the lily skin about.
Each little pimple had a tear in it, harren stage ; the higher classes aban
To wail the fault its rising did commit. don it to the people. This is because Or were these gems sent to adorn his skin, the form of society and of intellect
The cabinet of a richer soul within ? which had called it into being, have
No comet need foretel his change drew on
Whose corpse might seem a constellation." + disappeared. Vivacity, and the abundance of original conceptions, had With such a pretty morsel, Dryden, peopled the stage of the Renaissance the greatest poet of the classical age. in England,
,-a surfeit which, unable to makes his début. display itself in systematic argument,
Such enormities indicate the close or to express itself in philosophical of a literary age. Excess of folly in ideas, found its natural outlet only in poetry, as excess of injustice in politi. mimic action and talking characters. cal matters, lead up to and foretell The wants of polished society had revolutions. The Renaissance, unnourished the English comedy of the checked and original, abandoned the seventeenth century,-a society which, minds of men to the excitement and accustomed to the representations of caprice of imagination, the eccentricithe court and the displays of the worid, ties, curiosities, outbreaks of a fancy sought on the stage a copy of its con- which only cares to content itself, versation and its drawing-rooms. breaks out into singularities, has need With the decline of the court and the of novelties, and loves audacity and excheck of mimic invention, the genuine travagance, as reason loves justice and drama and the genuine comedy dis- truth. After the extinction of genius appeared; they passed from the stage folly remained ; after the removal of into books. The reason of it is, that inspiration nothing was left but absurd. people no longer live in public, like the ity. Formerly disorder and internal embroidered dukes of Louis XIV. and enthusiasm produced and excused com Charles II., but in their families, or at cetti and wild flights ; thenceforth mei the writing-table; the novel replaces threw them out in cold blood, ly cal the theatre at the same time that citi. culation and without excuse. Formerly zen life replaces the life of the court. they expressed the state of the mind
now they belie it. So are literary revolutions accomplished. The form,
no longer original or spontaneous, but CHAPTER II.
imitated and passed from hand to hand,
outlives the old spirit which had cre Pryden.
ated it, and is in opposition to the new
spirit which destroys it. This prelim COMEDY has led us a long way; we inary strife and progressive transfor must return on our steps and consid
* Dryden's Works, ed. Sir Walter Scott, ad er other kind of writings. A higter ed., 18 vols., 1831, xi. 94.
mation make up the life of Dryden, i thoughtfully, seldom fails to arrange and account for his impotence and his some good theory to justify each of his failures, his talent and his success. new works. He knew very well the lit
erature of his own country, though some II.
times not very accurately, gave to au. Dryden's beginnings are in striking thors their due rank, classifed the differcuntrast with those of the poets of the ent kinds of writing, went back as far as Renaissance, actors, vagabonds, sol- old Chaucer, whom he translated and diers, who were tossed about from the put into a modern dress. His mind thus is st in all the contrasts and miseries of filled, he would go in the afternoon to active 'fe. He was born in 1631, of a Will's coffee-house, the great literary good family; his grandfather and uncle rendezvous : young poets, students were baconets ; Sir Gilbert Pickering, fresh from the University, literary his first cousin, was created a baronet dilettante crowded round his chair, by Charles the First, was a member of carefully placed in summer on the bal. Parliament, chamberlain to the Pro- cony, in winter by the fire, thinking themtector, and one of his Peers. Dryden selves fortunate to listen to him, or to was brought up in an excellent school, extract a pinch of snuff respectfully from ander Dr. Busby, then in high repute; his learned snuff-box. For indeed he after which he passed four years at was the monarch of taste and the umpire Cambridge. Having inherited by his of letters; he criticised novelties—Ra. father's death a small estate, he used cine's last tragedy, Blackmore's heavy his liberty and fortune only to remain epic, Swift's first poems ; slightly vain, in his studious life, and continued in se praising his own writings, to the exclusion at the University for three years tent of saying that “no.one had ever more. These are the regular habits composed or will ever compose a finer of an honorable and well-to-do family, ode” than his own Alexander's Feast; the discipline of a connected and solid but full of information, fond of that ineducat:on, the taste for classical and terchange of ideas which discussion compleie studies. Such circumstan- never fails to produce, capable of en ces announce and prepare, not an artist, during contradiction, and admitting his but a man of letters.
adversary to be in the right. These I find the same inclination and the manners show that literature had be. same signs in the remainder of his life, come a matter of study rather than ei private or public. He regularly spends inspiration, an employment for taste his mornings in writing or reading, rather than for enthusiasm, a source of then dines with his family. His read amusement rather than of emotion. ing was that of a man of culture and a His audience, his friendship, his ac. critical mind, who does not think of tions, his quarrels, had the same tenamusing or exciting himself, but who dency. He lived amongst great men learns and judges. Virgil, Ovid, Hor. and courtiers, in a society of artificial ace, Juvenal, and Persius were his fa- manners and measured language. He vorite authors; he translated several; had married the daughter of Thomas, their names were always on his pen; Earl of Berkshire ; he was historiogra he discusses their opinions and their pher-royal and poet-laureate. He of merits, feeding himself on that reason- ten saw the king and the princes Ing which oratorical customs had im. He dedicated each of his works to printed on all the works of the Roman some lord, in a laudatory, funkeyish mind. He is familiar with the new preface, bearing witness to his intimate French literature, the heir of the Latin, acquaintance with the great. He re with Corneille and Racine, Boileau, ceived a purse of gold for each dedica. Rapin, and Bossu ; * he reasons with tion, went to return thanks ; introduces them, often in their spirit, writes some of these Lords under pseudo
* Rapin (1621-1687), a French Jesuit, a modnyms in his Essay on the Dramatic Art ern Latin poet and literary critic. Bossu, or wrote introductions for the works of properly Lebossu (7631-1680), wrote a Traité others, cailed them Mæcenas, Tibullus, stw Poème épique, which had a great success in its day. Both crities are now completely for.
or Pollio ; discussed with them literary gotten.-TR.
works and opinions. The re-establish
ment of the court had brought back the I ty, the heroic and Ronan spirit, an: art of conversation, vanity, the necessi- nounce a classic genius, the relative not ty for appearing to be a man of letters of Shakspeare, but of Corneille, capaand of possessing good taste, all the ble not of dramas, but of discussions. company manners which are the source of classical literature, and which teach
III. men the art of speaking well. * On
And yet, at first, he Levoted himself the other hand, literature, brought un- to the drama: he wrote twenty-seven der the influence of society, entered pieces, and signed an agreement with the into society's interests, and first of all actors of the King's Theatre to supply in petty private quarrels. Whilst men them witn three every year. The thea of letters learned etiquette, courtiers tre, forbidden under the Common learned how to write. They soon be wealth, had just re-opened with extraor. came jumbled together, and naturally dinary magnificence and success. The fell to blows. The Duke of Buckingham rich scenes made movable, the women's wrote a parody on Dryden, The Rehear- parts no longer played by boys, but by sal, and took infinite pains to teach the women, the novel and splendid wax. chief actor Dryden's tone and gestures. lights, the machinery, the recent popu Later, Rochester took up the cudgels larity of actors who had become heroes against the poet, supported a cabal in of fashion, the scandalous importance favor of Settle against him, and hired of the actresses, who were mistresses a band of ruffians to cudgel him. Be of the aristocracy and of the king, the sides this, Dryden had quarrels with example of the court and the imitation Shadwell and a crowd of others, and of France, drew spectators in crowds finally with Blackmore and Jeremy The thirst for pleasure, long repressed, Collier. To crown all, he entered into knew no bounds. Men indemnified the strife of political parties and relig; themselves for the long abstinence im. ious sects, fought for the Tories and posed by fanatical Puritans; eyes and Anglicans, then for the Roman Catho ear, disgusted with gloomy faces, nasal lics; wrote The Medal, Absalom and pronunciation, official ejaculations on Achitophel against the Whigs: Religio sin and damnation, satiated themselves Laici against Dissenters and Papists; with sweet singing, sparkling dress, the then The Hind and Panther for James seduction of voluptuous dances. They II., with the logic of controversy and wished to enjoy life, and that in a new the bitterness of party. It is a long fashion ; for a new world, that of the way from this combative and argumen- courtiers and the idle, had been formed. tative existence to the reveries and se- The abolition of feudal tenures, the clusion of the true poet. Such circum- vast increase of commerce and wealth, stances teach the art of writing clearly the concourse of landed proprietors, and soundly, methodical and connected who let their lands and came to Lon discussion, strong and exact style, ban- don to enjoy the pleasures of the town 'er and refutation, eloquence and sa- and to court the favors of the king, had ire; these gifts are necessary to make installed on the summit of society, in e man of letters heard or believed, and England as well as in France, rank, :he mind enters compulsorily upon a authority, the manners and tastes i track when it is the only one that can the world of fashion, of the idle, the conduct it to its goal. Dryden entered drawing-room frequenters, lovers of upon it spontaneously. In his second pleasure, conversation, wit, and polish, production, t the abundance of well- occupied with the piece in vogue, less ordered ideas, the energy and oratori- to amuse themselves than to criticise it cai harmony, the simplicity, the gravi. Thus was Dryden's drama built up;
* In his Defence of the Epilogue of the Sec- the poet, greedy of glory and pressed mnd Part of the Conquest of Granada, iv. for money, found here both money and 226, Dryden says: “Now, if they ask me, glory, and was half an innovator, with whence it is that our conversation is so much a large reinforcement of theories and refined ? I must freely, and without dattery, prefaces, diverging from the old English ascribe it to the court.
| Heroic stansas to the memory of Oliver drama, approaching the new French Cromwell.
tragedy, attempting a compromise be
your concernment. •
tween classical eloquence and romantic All
, in short, descend to quibbles, low truth, accommodating himself as well and common expressions : " In the age as he could to the new public, which wherein those poets lived, there was paid and applauded him.
less of gallantry than in ours.
Besides the want of education and “The language, wit, and conversation of our age, are improved and refined above the learning, they wanted the benefit of con last. ... Let us consider in what the refine- verse. .. Gentlemen will now be en: ment of a language prircipally consists; that tertained with the follies of each other ; is, either in rejecting such old words, op and, though they allow Cob and Tibb ph's ies, which are ill-sounding or improper ; or admirting new, which are more proper, to speak properly, yet they are noo more sounding, and more significant." much pleased with their tankard, o Ixt any man, who understands English, read with their rags.” * For these gentle di:igently the works of Shakspeare and Fletch
r, and I dare undertake, that he will find in men we must now write, and especially Frery page either some solecism of speech, or for“
" for it is not some notorious flaw in sense. ... Many of enough to have wit or to love tragedy, (their plots) were made up of some ridiculous in order to be a good critic: we must incoherent story, which in one play many times took up the business of an age. I sup possess sound knowledge and a lofty pose I nee l not name Pericles Prince of Tyre, reason, know Aristotle, Horace, Lon cor the historical plays of Shakspeare; besides ginus, and pronounce judgment accord: nany of the rest, as the Winter's Tale, Love's Labour's Lost, Measure for Measure, which ing to their rules. † These rules, based were either grounded on impossibilities, or at upon observation and logic, prescribe ieast so meanly written, that the comedy unity of action; that this action should neither caused your mirth, nor the serious part have a beginning, middle, and end
. . I could easily demon- that its parts should proceed naturally strate, that our admired Fletcher neither understood correct plotting, nor that which they one from the other; that it should ex. call the decorum of the stage. ::: . The reader cite terror and pity, so as to instruct will see Philaster wounding his mistress, and and improve us; that the characters afterwards his boy, to save himself. And for his shepherd he falls
twice into the former should be distinct, harmonious, conindecency of wounding women.'
formable with tradition or the design of Fletcher nowhere permits kings to re
the poet. Such, says Dryden, will be the new
tragedy, closely allied, it seems, tain a dignity suited to kings. More. over, the action of these authors' plays Bossu and Rapin, as if he took them
to the French, especially as he quotes is always barbarous. They introduce
for instructors. battles co the stage; they transport
Yet it differs from it, and Dryden the scene in a moinent to a distance of twenty years or five hundred leagues, blame on the French stage. He says:
enumerates all that an English pit can and a score of times consecutively in one act; they jumble together three “ The beauties of the French poesy are the or four different actions, especially in beauties of a statue, but not of a man, because the historical dramas. But they sin imitation of humour and passions.
not animated with the soul of poesy, which is most in style Dryden says of Shak, who will look upon their plays which have speare :-“ Many of his words, and been written till these last ten years, or thereinore of his phrases, are scarce intelli- abouts, will find it an hard matter to pick out
two or three passable humours amongst them. gible. And of those which we under-Gorneille himself, their arch-poet, what has he stand, some are ingrammatical, oth produced except the Liar? and you know how els coarse ; and his whole style is it was cried up in France ; but when it came 80 pestered with figurative expres- upon the English stage, though well translated
the most favourable to it would not put it sions, tha: it is as affected as it is ob- in competition with many of Fletcher's or Bev scure.” | Ben Jonson himself often Jonson's.. Their verses are to me the
their speeches has bad plots, redundancies, barbar. coldest I have ever read,
being so isms : “Well-placing of words, for the French stage came to be reformed by Cardina!
many declamations. When the sweetness of pronunciation, was not Richelieu, those long harangues were intru known till Mr. Waller introduced it.” duced, to comply with the gravity of a church
man. Look upon the Cinna and the Pompey; * Defence of the Epilogue of the Second Part they are not so properly to be called plays as of the Conquest of Granada, iv. 213.
long discourses of reasons of state ; and Po | Preface to Troilus and Cressida, vi. 239. Defence of the Epilogue of the Conquest
* Ibid. 225-228. of Granada, iv. 219
+ Preface to All
for Lover V. 306.
licucte, in matters of religion is as solemn as Though exaggerated, this c fticism the long stops upuu our organs. Since that is good; and because it is good. I mis. time it is grown into a custom, and their actors speak by the hour-glass, like our parsons. trust the works which the writer is to
I deny not but this may suit well enough produce. It is dangerous for ar. artist with the French ; for as we who are a more to be excellent in theory; the creative sullen people, come to be diverted at our plays, spirit is hardly consonant with the 80 they, who are of an airy and gay temper, come thither to make themselves more seri- criticizing spirit: he who, quietly seat.
ed on the shore, discusses and com: A3 for the tumults and combats which pares, is hardly capable of plunging the French relegate behind the scenes, straight and boldly into the stormy sea "natufe has so formed our countrymen of invention. Moreover, Dryden holds to fierceness, . they will scarcely himself too evenly poised betwixt the suffer combats and other objects of moods; original artists love exclusive horror to be taken from them.”+ Thusly and unjustly a certain idea and a the French, by fettering themselves certain world; the rest disappears with these scruples, I and confining from their eyes; confined to one re: themselves in their unities and their gion of art, they deny or scorn the rules, have reinoved action from their other ; it is because they are limited stage, and brought themselves down that they are strong. We see before. to unbearable monotony and dryness. hand that Dryden, pushed one way hy they lack originality, naturalness, vari- his English mind, will be drawn anothety, fulness.
er by his French rules; that he will Contented to be thinly regular : . .
alternately venture and partly restrain Their tongue, enfeebled, is refined too much, himself; that he will attain mediocrity And, like pure gold, it bends at every touch. that is, platitude ; that his faults will Our sturdy Teuton yet will art obey, More fit for manly, thought , and strength. All original
art is self-regulated, and no
be incongruities, that is, absurdities. ened with allay." $ let them laugh as much as they like original art can be regulated from at Fletcher and Shakspeare ; there is without: it carries its own counterin them" a more masculine fancy and poise, and does not receive it from
elsewhere; it constitutes an inviolable greater spirit in the writing than there is in any of the French."
whole ; it is an animated existence,
which lives on its own blood, and * An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, xv. 337- which languishes or dies if deprived of 't Ibid. 343.
some of its blood and supplied from In the preface of All for Love, v. 308, the veins of another. Shak
are's Dryden says: “In this nicety of manners
does imagination cannot be guided by the excellency of French poetry consist. Their hieroes are the most civil people breathing, but Racine's reason, nor Racine's reason their good breeding seldom extends to a word be exalted by Shakspeare's imagina. of sense ; all their wit is in their ceremony; tion; each is good in itself, and exchey want the genius which animates our stage. cludes its rival; to unite them would
Thus, their Hippolytus is so scrupulous be to produce a bastard, a weakling, in point of decency, that he will rather expose himself to death than accuse his step-mother and a monster. Disorder, violent and to bis father; and my critics, I am sure, will sudden action, harsh words, horror, commend him for it. But we of grosser appre depth, truth, exact imitation of reality,
think this generosity is not practicable but with fools and and the lawless outbursts of mad pas madmen. . . . But take Hippolytus out of his sions,—these features of Shakspeare ha poetic fit, and I suppose he would think it a
come each other. Order, measure, elowiser part to set the saddle on the right horse, and chuse rather to live with the reputation of quence, aristocratic refinement, world
plain-spoken honest man, than to die with ly urbanity, exquisite painting of delithe infamy of an incestuous villain. (The cacy and virtue, all Racine's features poet) has chosen to give him the turn of gəl- suit each other. It would destroy the lantry, sent him to travel from Athens to Paris, taught him to make love, and transformed the one to attenuate, the other to infame Hippolytus of Euripides into Monsieur Hippo him. Their whole being and beauty lite.
This criticism shows in a small compass consist in the agreement of their parts all the common sense and freedom of thought to mar this agreement would be to of Dryden; but, at the same time, all the abolish their being and their beauty coarseness of his education and of his age.
Epistle xiv., to Mr. Motteux, xi. 30. In order to produce, we must jovent a