« PředchozíPokračovat »
rates. They whose friends are not able to pay the full
No. 37.] Thursday, April 12, 1711.
-Non illa colo calathisve Minervæ Femineas assueta manus
Virg. Æn. vii. 805. Unbred to spinning, in the loom unskill'd.
a little book. I found there were several other counterfeit books upon the upper shelves, which were carved in wood, and served only to fill up the numbers, like faggots in the muster of a regiment. I was wonderly pleased with such a mixed kind of furniture, as seemed very suitable both to the lady and the scholar, and did not know at first whether I should fancy myself in a grotto or in a library.
Upon my looking into the books, I found there were some few which the lady had bought for her own use, but that most of them had been got together, either because she had heard them praised, or because she had seen the authors of them. Among several that I examined, I very well remember these that follow:
Sir Isaac Newton's Works.
The Grand Cyrus; with a pin stuck in
A Spelling Book.
A Dictionary for the explanation of hard words.
Sherlock upon Death.
SOME months ago, my friend Sir Roger, being in the country, enclosed a letter to me, directed to a certain lady whom I shall here call by the name of Leonora, and as it contained matters of consequence, desired me to deliver it to her with my own hand. Accordingly I waited upon her ladyship pretty early in the morning, and was desired by her woman to walk into the lady's library, till such time as she was in readiness to receive me. The very sound of a lady's library gave me a great curiosity to see it; and as it was some time before the lady came to me, I had an opportunity of turning over a great many of her books, which were ranged together in a very beautiful order. At the end of the folios (which were finely bound and gilt) were great jars of china placed one above another in a very noble piece of architecture. The quartos were separated from the octavos by a pile of smaller vessels, which rose in a delightful pyramid. The octavos were bounded by tea-dishes of all shapes, colours, and sizes, which were so disposed on a wooden frame, that they looked like one continued pillar indented with the finest strokes of sculpture, and stained with the greatest variety of dies. That part of the library which was designed for the reception of plays and pamphlets, and other loose papers, was enclosed in a kind of I was taking a catalogue in my pocketsquare, consisting of one of the prettiest book of these, and several other authors, grotesque works that I ever saw, and made when Leonora entered, and upon my preup of scaramouches, lions, monkies, man-senting her with a letter from the knight, darines, trees, shells, and a thousand other told me, with an unspeakable grace, that odd figures in china ware. In the midst of she hoped Sir Roger was in good health: I the room was a small japan table with a answered Yes, for I hate long speeches, and quire of gilt paper upon it, and on the pa- after a bow or two retired. per a silver snuff-box made in the shape of
Leonora was formerly a celebrated beau
The fifteen comforts of Matrimony.
Tales in Verse, by Mr. Durfey; bound
Advice to a Daughter.
The New Atalantis, with a Key to it.
A Prayer-Book: with a bottle of Hun-
Taylor's Holy Living and Dying.
But as the No. 38.] Friday, April 13, 1711.
ty, and is still a very lovely woman. She has | the sex. And as this is a subject of a very
A LATE Conversation which I fell into,
When I think how oddly this lady is improved by learning, I look upon her with a mixture of admiration and pity. Amidst these innocent entertainments which she has formed to herself, how much more valuable does she appear than those of her sex, who employ themselves in diversions that are less reasonable though more in fashion? What improvements would a wo-in those whose consciousness goes no further man have made, who is so susceptible of than to direct them in the just progress of impressions from what she reads, had she their present state or action; but betrays been guided to such books as have a ten- an interruption in every second thought, dency to enlighten the understanding and when the consciousness is employed in too rectify the passions, as well as to those which fondly approving a man's own conceptions; are of a little more use than to divert the which sort of consciousness is what we call imagination? affectation.
The learned Dr. Burnet, in his 'Theory of the Earth,' takes occasion to observe, that every thought is attended with a consciousness and representativeness; the mind has nothing presented to it but what is immediately followed by a reflection of conscience, which tells you whether that which was so presented is graceful or unbecoming. This act of the mind discovers itself in the gesture, by a proper behaviour
But the manner of a lady's employing herself usefully in reading, shall be the subject of another paper, in which I design to recommend such particular books as may be proper for the improvement of
As the love of praise is implanted in our bosoms as a strong incentive to worthy actions, it is a very difficult task to get above a desire of it for things that should be wholly indifferent. Women whose hearts are
fixed upon the pleasure they have in the consciousness that they are the objects of love and admiration, are ever changing the air of their countenances, and altering the attitude of their bodies, to strike the hearts of their beholders with new sense of their beauty. The dressing part of our sex, whose minds are the same with the sillier part of the other, are exactly in the like uneasy condition to be regarded for a welltied cravat, a hat cocked with an uncommon briskness, a very well-chosen coat, or other instances of merit, which they are impatient to see unobserved.
This apparent affectation, arising from an ill-governed consciousness, is not so much to be wondered at in such loose and trivial minds as these: but when we see it reign in characters of worth and distinction, it is what we cannot but lament, not without some indignation. It creeps into the heart of the wise man as well as that of the coxcomb. When you see a man of sense look about for applause, and discover an itching inclination to be commended; lay traps for a little incense, even from those whose opinion he values in nothing but his own favour; who is safe against this weakness? or who knows whether he is guilty of it or not? The best way to get clear of such a light fondness for applause, is to take all possible care to throw off the love of it upon occasions that are not in themselves laudable, but as it appears we hope for no praise from them. Of this nature are all graces in men's persons, dress, and bodily deportment, which will naturally be winning and attractive if we think not of them, but lose their force in proportion to our endeavour to make them such. When our consciousness turns upon the main design of life, and our thoughts are employed upon the chief purpose either in business or pleasure, we shall never betray an affectation, for we cannot be guilty of it: but when we give the passion for praise an unbridled liberty, our pleasure in little perfections robs us of what is due to us for great virtues, and worthy qualities. How many excellent speeches and honest actions are lost, for want of being indifferent where we ought? Men are oppressed with regard to their way of speaking and acting, instead of having their thoughts bent upon what they should do or say; and by that means bury a capacity for great things, by their fear of failing in indifferent things. This, perhaps, cannot be called affectation; but it has some tincture of it, at least so far, as that their fear of erring in a thing of no consequence, argues they would be too much pleased in performing it.
It is only from a thorough disregard to himself in such particulars, that a man can act with a laudable sufficiency: his heart is fixed upon one point in view; and he commits no errors, because he thinks nothing an error but what deviates from that intention.
The wild havock affectation makes in that part of the world which should be most polite, is visible wherever we turn our eyes: it pushes men not only into impertinences in conversation, but also in their premeditated speeches. At the bar it torments the bench, whose business it is to cut off all superfluities in what is spoken before it by the practitioner, as well as several little pieces of injustice which arise from the law itself. I have seen it make a man run from the purpose before a judge, who was, when at the bar himself, so close and logical a pleader, that with all the pomp of eloquence in his power, he never spoke a word too much.*
It might be borne, even here; but it often ascends the pulpit itself; and the declaimer in that sacred place, is frequently so impertinently witty, speaks of the last day itself with so many quaint phrases, that there is no man who understands raillery but must resolve to sin no more. Nay, you may behold him sometimes in prayer, for a proper delivery of the great truths he is to utter, humble himself with so very-well turned phrases, and mention his own unworthiness in a way so very becoming, that the air of the pretty gentleman is preserved, under the lowliness of the preacher.
I shall end this with a short letter I writ the other day to a very witty man, overrun with the fault I am speaking of:
'DEAR SIR,-I spent some time with you the other day, and must take the liberty of a friend to tell you of the unsufferable affectation you are guilty of in all you say and do. When I gave you a hint of it, you asked me whether a man is to be cold to what his friends think of him? No, but praise is not to be the entertainment of every moment. He that hopes for it must be able to suspend the possession of it till proper periods of life, or death itself. If you would not rather be commended than be praise-worthy, contemn little merits; and allow no man to be so free with you, as to praise you to your face. Your vanity by this means will want its food. At the same time your passion for esteem will be be more fully gratified; men will praise you in their actions: where you now receive one compliment, you will then receive twenty civilities. Till then you will never have of either, further than, Sir, your humble servant. R.
No. 39.] Saturday, April 14, 1711.
Multa fero, ut placem genus irritabile vatum.
IMITATED. Much do I suffer, much, to keep in peace This jealous, waspish, wrong-headed rhyming race. Pope.
As a perfect tragedy is the noblest production of human nature, so it is capable
*This seems to be intended as a compliment to Chancellor Cowper.
of giving the mind one of the most delight- the person who speaks after it begins a ful and most improving entertainments. A new verse, without filling up the precedvirtuous man (says Seneca) struggling with ing one: nor with abrupt pauses and breakmisfortunes, is such a spectacle as gods ings off in the middle of a verse, when might look upon with pleasure; and such they humour any passion that is expressed a pleasure it is which one meets with in the by it. representation of a well-written tragedy. Diversions of this kind wear out of our thoughts every thing that is mean and little. They cherish and cultivate that humanity which is the ornament of our nature. They soften insolence, sooth affliction, and subdue the mind to the dispensations of Providence.
It is no wonder therefore that in all the polite nations of the world, this part of the drama has met with public encourage
The modern tragedy excels that of Greece and Rome, in the intricacy and disposition of the fable; but what a Christian writer would be ashamed to own, falls infinitely short of it in the moral part of the performance.
This I may show more at large hereafter: and in the mean time, that I may contribute something towards the improvement of the English tragedy, I shall take notice, in this and in other following papers, of some particular parts in it that seem liable to exception.
Aristotle observes, that the Iambic verse in the Greek tongue was the most proper for tragedy: because at the same time that it lifted up the discourse from prose, it was that which approached nearer to it than any other kind of verse. 'For,' says he, we may observe that men in ordinary discourse very often speak iambics, without taking notice of it.' We may make the same observation of our English blank verse, which often enters into our common discourse, though we do not attend to it, and is such a due medium between rhyme and prose, that it seems wonderfully adapted to tragedy. I am therefore very much offended when I see a play in rhyme; which is as absurd in English, as a tragedy of hexameters would have been in Greek or Latin. The solecism is, I think, still greater in those plays that have some scenes in rhyme and some in blank verse, which are to be looked upon as two several languages; or where we see some particular similes dignified with rhyme at the same time that every thing about them lies in blank verse. I would not however debar the poet from concluding his tragedy, or, if he pleases, every act of it, with two or three couplets, which may have the same effect as an air in the Italian opera after a long recitativo, and give the actor a graceful exit. Besides that, we see a diversity of numbers in some parts of the old tragedy, in order to hinder the ear from being tired with the same continued modulation of the voice. For the same reason I do not dislike the speeches in our English tragedy that close with an hemistich, or half verse, notwithstanding
Since I am upon this subject, I must observe that our English poets have succeeded much better in the style, than in the sentiments of their tragedies. Their language is very often noble and sonorous, but the sense either very trifling, or very common. On the contrary, in the ancient tragedies, and indeed in those of Corneille and Racine, though the expressions are very great, it is the thought that bears them up and swells them. For my own part, I prefer a noble sentiment that is depressed with homely language, infinitely before a vulgar one that is blown up with all the sound and energy of expression. Whether this defect in our tragedies may arise from want of genius, knowledge, or experience in the writers, or from their compliance with the vicious taste of their readers, who are better judges of the language than of the sentiments, and consequently relish the one more than the other, I cannot determine. But I believe it might rectify the conduct both of the one and of the other, if the writer laid down the whole contexture of his dialogue in plain English, before he turned it into blank verse; and if the reader, after the perusal of a scene, would consider the naked thought of every speech in it, when divested of all its tragic ornaments. By this means, without being imposed upon by words, we may judge impartially of the thought, and consider whether it be natural or great enough for the person that utters it, whether it deserves to shine in such a blaze of eloquence, or show itself in such a variety of lights as are generally made use of by the writers of our English tragedy.
I must in the next place observe, that when our thoughts are great and just, they are often obscured by the sounding phrases, hard metaphors, and forced expressions in which they are clothed. Shakspeare is often very faulty in this particular. There is a fine observation in Aristotle to this purpose, which I have never seen quoted. The expression, says he, ought to be very much laboured in the unactive parts of the fable, as in descriptions, similitudes, narrations, and the like; in which the opinions, manners, and passions of men are not represented; for these (namely, the opinions, manners, and passions,) are apt to be obscured by pompous phrases and elaborate expressions. Horace, who copied most of his criticisms from Aristotle, seems to have had his eye on the foregoing rule, in the following verses:
'Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri :
• Tragedians too lay by their state to grieve: Peleus and Telephus, exil'd and poor, Forget their swelling and gigantic words.'
No. 40.] Monday, April 16, 1711.
Ae ne forte putes, me, quæ facere ipse recusem,
Yet lest you think I rally more than teach,
THE English writers of tragedy are pos
volved in smoke that it does not appear in half its lustre. He frequently succeeds in the passionate parts of the tragedy, but more particularly where he slackens his efforts, and eases the style of those epithets and metaphors, in which he so much abounds. What can be more natural, more soft, or more passionate, than that line in Statira's speech where she describes the charms of Alexander's conversation?
Among our modern English poets, there is none who has a better turn for tragedy than Lee; if instead of favouring the impetuosity of his genius he had restrained it, and kept it within its proper bounds. His thoughts are wonderfully suited to tragedy, but frequently lost in such a cloud of words, that it is hard to see the beauty of them. There is an infinite fire in his works, but so in-sessed with a notion, that when they represent a virtuous or innocent person in distress, they ought not to leave him till they have delivered him out of his troubles, or made him triumph over his enemies. This error they have been led into by that they are obliged to an equal distribution of rewards and punishments, and an impartial execution of poetical justice. Who were the first that established this rule I know not; but I am sure it has no foundation in nature, in reason, or in the practice of the ancients. We find that good and evil happen alike to all men on this side of the grave; and as the principal design of tragedy is to raise commiseration and terror in the minds of the audience, we shall defeat this great end, if we always make virtue and innocence hap
a ridiculous doctrine in modern criticism,
"Then he would talk-Good gods! how he would talk!'
That unexpected break in the line, and turning the description of his manner of talking into admiration of it, is inexpressibly beautiful, and wonderfully suited to the fond character of the person that speaks it. There is a simplicity in the words, that outshines the utmost pride of expression. Otway has followed nature in the lan-py and successful. Whatever crosses and guage of his tragedy, and therefore shines disappointments a good man suffers in the in the passionate parts, more than any of body of the tragedy, they will make but a our English poets. As there is something small impression on our minds, when we familiar and domestic in the fable of his know that in the last act he is to arrive at tragedy, more than in those of any other the end of his wishes and desires. When poet, he has little pomp, but great force in we see him engaged in the depths of his his expressions. For which reason, though afflictions, we are apt to comfort ourselves, he has admirably succeeded in the tender because we are sure he will find his way
ported by the dignity of expression.
It has been observed by others, that this poet has founded his tragedy of Venice Preserved on so wrong a plot, that the greatest characters in it are those of rebels and traitors. Had the hero of this play discovered the same good qualities in the defence of his country that he showed for its ruin and subversion, the audience could not enough pity and admire him: but as he is now represented, we can only say of him what the Roman historian says of Cataline, that his fall would have been glorious (si fro patria sic concidisset) had he so fallen in the service of his country. C.
and melting part of his tragedies, he some-out of them; and that his grief, how great times falls into too great familiarity of soever it may be at present, will soon terphrase in those parts, which by Aristotle's minate in gladness. For this reason the rule, ought to have been raised and sup- their plays, as they are dealt with in the ancient writers of tragedy treated men in world, by making virtue sometimes happy and sometimes miserable, as they found it in the fable which they made choice of, or as it might affect their audience in the most agreeable manner. Aristotle considers the tragedies that were written in either of these kinds, and observes, that those which ended unhappily had always pleased the people, and carried away the prize in the public disputes of the stage, from those that ended happily. Terror and commiseration leave a pleasing anguish in the mind; and fix the audience in such a serious composure of thought, as is much more lasting and delightful than any little transient starts of joy and satisfaction. Accordingly we find, that more of our English tragedies have succeeded in which the favourites of the audience sink under their calamities, than those in which they recover themselves out of them. The best plays of this kind are The Orphan, Venice Preserved, Alexander the Great, Theodosius, All for Love, Edipus, Oroonoko,