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the stage, in the feasts of the court. ter, is the last effort of the habit of This was an affair of small impor- servility, and the true sublime of tance ; but this scene, well con the spirit of a courtier. It is thus sidered, may afford much greater that Tacitus paints ; but Racine, lessons ; and for that which re- in a moment after, equals him lates to the politicks of courts, of again in those verses, which he owes which Corneille so often treats, not to imitation. and which Fontenelle, and so many others, pretend to be so superior. His crime alone is not the cause of my
despair ; ly treated in Otho, I think it is
His jealousy has been able to arm him here we are to look for it ; that against his brother. there are only a few general strokes But, nadam, if I must explain my grief, in the small number of verses,
Nero saw him expire, without changing
his countenance or colour. which are remembered of Otho, a
His unfeeling eyes have already the piece moreover, which is now so
steadiness little read; but that the whole pic. Of a tyrant, hardened in crimes from ture is to be found in the parts of
lis infancy. Agrippina, of Burrhus, and of Narcissus.
Son crime seul n'est pas ce qui me déses
pere ; I shall not speak of the beautiful Sa jalousie a pu l’armer contre son frere. recital of the death of Britanni. Mais, s'il vous faut, Madame, expliquer cus, but to observe, it is the only ma doulenr, place, in which Racine, equal to
Nero l'a vu mourir sans changer de couleur. Tacitus in all the rest, and we can
Ses yeux indifferens on déjà la constance
D'un tyran, dans le crime endurci dès l'en. say nothing greater in its favour,
fance. appears to have fallen below him. The design was to paint the dif- What nervous expressions! Such, ferent impressions made upon the in a hundred places, is the style of courtiers, at the moment when this man, to whom they would alBritannicus expires under the op
low any thing, but the talent of eration of poison.
One of the characters of genius, One half of them rush out with shrieks; and especially of dramatick genius, But those, who have been longer ha- is to pass from one subject to an.
bituated to the court, Compose their countenances by the eyes
other without being at a loss, and of Cæsar.
to be always the same, without resembling itself.
We have seen Perhaps we should not desire more, what an astonishing progress Raif we were not acquainted with the cine had made, when, notwithtext of Tacitus. At, quibus altior standing the success of Alexander, intellectus, resistunt defici, et Cæ- returning by his own energy to sarem intuentes. But those who nature and himself, he fixed at the saw further, remain unmoved, age of twenty-seven an epocha, with their eyes fixed on Cæsar. as glorious to Irance as himself,
Nothing is more striking than by offering in sindromache a new this absolute immobility, in an e- species of tragedy. vent of this nature. To remain It might have been then said, master of one's self, at a similar What a distance between Alexanspectacle, to such a degree as to der and Andromache! It might have no motion whatever, before have been said afterwards, What a observing the motions of the mas difference between Andromache
and Britannicus! We pass into a When the empire was to have accomnew world, and fable and history
panied my marriage.
But those very misfortunes, which have are not more remote from each
deprived him of it, other, than these two pieces. But His abolished ionours, his deserted how, among beauties of so severe palace, a kind, has he been able to place The train of a court, which his fall has the ingenuous and innocent ten
banished, derness of two young lovers, such
Are so many ties, which constrain Junia.
Every thing you see conspires to gratias Britannicus and Junia, and pre
fy your desires ; serve himself from those incqual. Your days, always bright, pass away in ities, which have so often wounded pleasures; us in Corneille? It is because the The empire is for you an inexhaustible fate of these two lovers, which in- Where, if'any chagrin interrupts the erests us, depends constantly on course of them, those imposing personages, who The whole world, solicitous to entermove around them; and it is, above all, by the art of interming- Is eager to divert your attention and ling shades, and by the insensible
memory from it.
Britannicus is alone ; whatever anxiety gradation of colour. Junia is only distresses him, tender with Britannicus; but when He sees no one but me,who is interestshe appears before Nero, who of ed in his lot, fers her the empire, she is not
And has for his only consolation those
tears, only a faithful lover, but she be
Which sometimes are sufficient, to comes noble. She refuses the of
make him forget his misfortunes. fers of Nero and the throne of the world without affectation, without -Il a su me toucher, an effort, and with an affecting mo Seigneur, et je n'ai pas pretendu m'en ca
cher. desty. She does not brave Nero,
Cette sincerité, sans doute, est peu discret ; as most other writers would not
Mais toujours de mon caur ma bouche est failed to have made her; she shews l'interprete. no pride in her refusal"; she ex Absente de la cour, je n'ai pas du penser, presses herself in a manner to gain Seigneur, qu'en l'art de feinere il fallit
m'exercer. the esteem of Nero, if Nero could esteem virtue, and to move him in J'aime Britannicus ; je lui fus destiné?,
Quand l’empire devait suivre son h mênée. favour of Britannicus, if he had
Mais ces même malheurs qui l'en ont been susceptible of any honest and ecarté, laudable sentiment. He exhorts Ses honneurs abolis, son palais desertí, her to come over to the empire, to
La suite d'une cour que sa chute a bannie, forget Britannicus, disinherited by
Sont autant de liens qui retiennent Junie. Claudius. She answers,
Tout ce que vous voyez,conspire à vos desirs,
Vos jours toujours sereins coulent dans les He has commanded my affections, plaisirs ; My lord, and I have not pretended to L'empire est pour vous l'inepuisable source, conceal them.
Ou, si quelque chagrin en interrompt la This sincerity no doubt is not very dis. creet ;
*Tout l'univers, soigneux de les entretenir, But my mouth is always the interpreter S'em presse à l'effacer de votre souvenir. of my heart.
Britannicus est seul ; quelque ennui qui lo Absent from court, I have not thought presee, it necessary,
Il ne voit à son sort que moi,qui s'interesse, My lord, to exercise myself in the art Et n'a pour tout plaisir, seigneur, que of dissimulation.
quelques pleurs I love Britannicus ; I was destined for Qui lui font quelque fois oublier ses mala him,
This firm and decent language, annicus, and the known character this generous disinterestedness, of Nero, exalt this situation ; and these tears, which console an un- the scene which results from it, fortunate prince for the throne he between the two rivals, is a model has lost, elevate the love of Junia of dramatick contrasts, in which to the dignity of tragedy. She is two opposite characters meet in not humiliated before the master of collision with violence, with one the world. This is not talking of being crushed by the other. The love for the sake of speaking of it ; dialogue is perfect ; 'we there see it is love, such as we feel it natu- with pleasure the free and dignirally mingled with great interests, fied vivacity of a young prince and and explaining itself in a tone con preferred lover, contend against formable to them. Such is the merit the ascendancy of supreme rank, of characteristicks, proper to the and the ferocious pride of a jealsubject. This love does not move ous tyrant. The character of Britforcibly, like that of Hermione ; annicus, and the advantage of but it pleases, it attaches, it inter- pleasing Junia, maintains him in a ests; and this is enough in a work state of equality before the empethat produces other effects. The rour, and the spectator is always essential thing was, that it should pleased to see unjust power hunot appear misplaced.
miliated. It is thus, in this piece, Britannicus, surprised by Nero that the interests of policy and of at the feet of his mistress, offers, love are balanced, without injury in truth, a situation which might to each other, and that colours so belong to comedy, as well as to different are tempered, without ap. tragedy. But the danger of Brit- pearing to obscure each other.
For the Anthology
No. 14. *Εντοι δοκούουν αίσχυντηλίαν μεν αναισχυντία φεύγειν αγροικίαν δε βωμολοχία.
PLUTARCA. IF that precept of ancient wis- Not indeed affectation, though they dom, which directs us to respect assume false appearances, for afpurselves, were properly attended fectation colours her cheeks and to, it would have almost as happy blackens her eye-brows, and would an influence upon our manners, as have it pass for nature; but the disupon morals.
Many of those, position, of which I am speaking, whom we every day meet with, intends not deception but conceal. seem to be so ashamed of their ment, and will be satisfied with any own characters, (though sometimes mask however ugly, provided that perhaps the shame may be a false it will only hide the real features one,) as to be willing to assume ale of character. most any mode of behaviour rather For myself, I am convinced, that than that, which would be sincere all the buffoonery and incivility, and natural. I refer to all those which these men commit, is not classes of men called wits, odd fel- from any preconcerted plan to be lows, poor creatures, and by other disagreeable, but merely because similar names, for one common they are afraid to act naturally disposition runs through them all. and to try to behave like gentle.
men. They believe, that they shall as they ought. Even as to these, fail, and therefore will not make however, there is most commonly the attempt ; and indeed most of in their countenance or manner us, when we do not do what we something, which might betray to ought, had much rather have it an observer that their understand. laid to the charge of our disincli- ings were not perfectly sound. nation, than of our inability. They Others discover themselves by a cannot make a handsome bow, and neglect of usual civilities, an astherefore walk into a room with sumed ignorance of common custheir hats on their heads; they are toms, an affected absence when in not able to turn a compliment company, and by other similar prettily, and so exercise themselves symptoms. Mad poets are comin saying rude things ; they have monly in the last stage of the disno talents to sit still in company ease, as was observable in the time with composed faces, and on that of Horace, who describes them (de account take the first opportunity Arte Poet. l. 455 et seq.) as being to distort their features with a avoided by decent people, vesanumi laugh ; they cannot help forward tetigisse timent, &c. troubled by conversation, and are therefore on boys, agitant pueri, followed after the watch to throw obstructions by imprudent persons incautique into its way, such as cavils, and sequuntur ; and having a propensilly speeches, and puns. As to sity to do strange things, such as disposition, indeed, these people walking into ditches, perhaps from are very different. Some of them, the love of singularity, Qui scis an notwithstanding their incivility, prudens hüc se projecerit ? all which have a great deal of broad good diagnosticks are for the most part nature, so that, as Beatrice says of to be remarked at the present day. Benedict, “ men laugh at them and I confess, I cannot help having beat them.” Others snap, and a regard for the ruins of human throw out sparks of fire at every nature and the fragments of valu. touch, so that it is quite unsafe to able qualities, which are sometimes come near them carelessly. The to be discovered in these unhappy first kind is sometimes amusing to persons. I view them with the persons, who have the taste of the same species of compassion, that times when jesters were kept for Ulysses looked upon his companthe king's use, and who conse- ions in the cave of Circe. Under quently relish the ridiculous, more their unpleasant and bristly exterithan they feel the disgusting our I discover something, which I These, therefore, though they are wish restored to its original dig. never welcomed with a smile, are nity, and clothed in the form, sometimes received with a laugh, which nature intended. That but are commonly dismissed with there is a charm, by which this may but a cold invitation to come again ; be done, that there are, as Horace for those, who make us smile, not (whom I love to quote) says verthose who make us laugh, are the ba et voces, quibus lenire dolorem, persons whom we wish to see often. I for my part do not doubt. Every
The minds of these people, how one has abilities to be inoffensive, ever, are affected in different de- and to be inoffensive, is all that grees. Some of them have lucid need at first be required of them. intervals of long continuance, when To treat others as we ought they talk and behave very much however it is necessary, to believe
well of one's self. If we do not night lamp, when he ventures input some value on our politeness to the noise and glare of an assemand on our good will and respect, bly, is confused and dazzled and we shall not think it worth while bewildered and glad to get back to exercise the former and disco- with as little notice as possible. ver the latter. There are many, But none of these people should who become impudent through distrust their abilities for the comwant of confidence, and ridiculous mon intercourse of liie; they from the dread of being laughed should remember, what every one at. Without proper assurance, a knows,that to be agreeable to others man may be impertinent or he little more is required than good may be bashsul, but is never mo sense and good nature, and that if dest. It may depend on chance, they will learn desijere in loco, to whether he will be one of those, smile and to be cheerful, they may whom we have been describing, in a little time acquire the art of who never blush only, as Shake. pleasing. Those to whom we speare says, “ extempore," or one, look up, as far above us in the fawhose cheeks shall burn and lips cuities of the mind, hare this more shall quiver, whenever he may al especially in their power; it is then tempt to speak ; whether he will little else than the art of condebe a person to pour forth words scension ; and we are charmed by with the most hardl-hearted loqua- their becoming our play-feliows, city, or one who shall have cour even though they should make a age to uiter only monosyllables, thousand mistakes in the game. and all whose intellectual weaith, When the light bands of decolike the money we read of in the rum are irritating, it is an easy Arabian Nights' Entertainments, thing to cast them off ; but it is shall vanish away, or turn into not so easy to assume them again leaves and stones in the very mo at pleasure. Manners, not decoment of use.
rous nor convenient to our characThere are certain classes of men, ter, by being frequently assumed who are particularly liable to bash- may become habitual, though not fulness ; but these, though they natural. We may trifle ourselves are ignorant and timid subjects of into habits of serious inconvenicustom, and sometimes suffer from ence, as children by aping in sport incurring her penalties, must not the bad tricks of their schoolselrebel against her laws. Men of lows, at last come to suffer from genius, who come into company to
them as their own. What at first observe everything and to feel every was only pettishness, which it thing, are troubled by a thousand seemed might at any time be laid trilles, which the rest of the world aside, will ripen perhaps into real do not notice. Persons of retire- illnature ; impertinence may harment too, observe and feel in the den into brutality ; and trifling besame manner, not so much that it is haviour sink into confirmed inanithe habit of their minds, as because ty. Indeed, I believe, that most every thing which presents itself is of our bad habits, even including new and strange. Men of profound vices, are taken upon us unawares, study and deep research often suffer and that we seldom believe ourvexation from their ignorance of selves under their dominion, till it that, which a child could have taught has a long time been apparent to them ; and the scholar, who loves others. to sit alone by the light of a mid Let no man think it of light