Слике страница

force of expression, both which the best of our his friends, which always happens when a man succeeding dramatic poets thought proper to take distinguishes himself in party; but there is in it nofor their models. Rowe, in particular, seems to thing extraordinary. Even the speech which be have caught that manner, though in all other re- made for himself at the bar of the House of Lords, spects inferior. The other poets of that reign con- before he was sent into exile, is void of eloquence, tributed but little towards improving the English though it has been cried up by his friends to such tongue, and it is not certain whether they did not a degree that his enemies have suffered it to pass injure rather than improve it. Immorality has its uncensured. cant as well as party, and many shocking expres- The philosophical manner of Lord Shaftesbury's sions now crept into the language, and became the writing is nearer to that of Cicero than any Eng. transient fashion of the day. The upper galleries, lish author has yet arrived at; but perhaps had by the prevalence of party-spirit, were courted with Cicero written in English, his composition would great assiduity, and a horse-laugh following ribaldry have greatly exceeded that of our countryman. was the highest instance of applause, the chastity The diction of the latter is beautiful, but such as.well as energy of diction being overlooked or beauty as, upon nearer inspection, carries with it neglected.

evident symptoms of affectation. This has been Virtuous sentiment was recovered, but energy attended with very disagreeable consequences. No of style never was. This, though disregarded in thing is so easy to copy as affectation, and his lordplays and party writings, still prevailed amongst ship’s rank and fame have procured him more imimen of character and business. The dispatches of tators in Britain than any other writer I know; all Sir Richard Fanshaw, Sir William Godolphin, faithfully preserving his blemishes, but unhappily Lord Arlington, and many other ministers of state, not one of his beauties. are all of them, with respect to diction, manly, bold, Mr. Trenchard and Mr. Davenant were politiand nervous. Sir William Temple, though a man cal writers of great abilities in diction, and their of no learning, had great knowledge and experience. pamphlets are now standards in that way of writing. He wrote always like a man of sense and a gentle. They were followed by Dean Swist, who, though man; and his style is the model by which the best in other respects far their superior, never could rise prose writers in the reign of Queen Anne formed to that manliness and clearness of diction in polititheirs. The beauties of Mr. Locke's style, though cal writing for which they were so justly famous, not so much celebrated, are as striking as that of They were all of them exceeded by the late Lord his understanding. He never says more nor less Bolingbroke, whose strength lay in that province; than he ought, and never makes use of a word that for as a philosopher and a critic he was ill qualified, he could have changed for a better. The same ob- being destitute of virtue for the one, and of learnservation holds good of Dr. Samuel Clarke. ing for the other. His writings against Sir Robert

Mr. Locke was a philosopher; his antagonist, Walpole are incomparably the best part of his Stillingfleet, bishop of Worcester, was a man of works. The personal and perpetual antipathy he learning; and therefore the contest between them had for that family, to whose places he thought his was unequal. The clearness of Mr. Locke's head own abilities had a right, gave a glow to his style, renders his language perspicuous, the learning of and an edge to his manner, that never yet have Stillingfleet's clouds his. This is an instance of the been equalled in political writing. His misfortunes superiority of good sense over learning towards the and disappointments gave his mind a turn which his improvement of every language.

friends mistook for philosophy, and at one time of There is nothing peculiar to the language of his life he had the art to impose the same belief up Archbishop Tillotson, but his manner of writing on some of his enemies. His idea of a Patriot is inimitable ; for one who reads him, wonders why King, which I reckon (as indeed it was) amongst he himself did not think and speak in that very his writings against Sir Robert Walpole, is a manner. The turn of his periods is agreeable, masterpiece of diction. Even in his other works though artless, and every thing he says seems to his style is excellent ; but where a man either does flow spontaneously from inward conviction. Bar- not, or will not understand the subject he writes row, though greatly his superior in learning, falls on, there must always be a deficiency. In politics short of him in other respects.

he was generally master of what he undertook, in The time seems to be at hand when justice will morals never. be done to Mr. Cowley's prose, as well as poetical, Mr. Addison, for a happy and natural style, writings; and though his friend Dr. Sprat, bishop will be always an honour to British literature. His of Rochester, in his diction falls far short of the diction indeed wants strength, but it is equal to all abilities for which he has been celebrated, yet there the subjects he undertakes to handle, as he nevet is sometimes a happy flow in his periods, something (at least in his finished works) attempts any thing that looks like eloquence. The style of his suc- either in the argumentative or demonstrative way. cessor, Atterbury, has been much commended by Though Sir Richard Steele's reputation as a


public writer was owing to his connexions with herst, were possessed of great abilities, yet they
Mr. Addison, yet after their intimacy was formed, were suffered to feel all the miseries that usually
Steele sunk in his merit as an author. This was attend the ingenious and the imprudent, that at-
not owing so much to the evident superiority on tend men of strong passions, and no phlegmatic re-
the part of Addison, as to the unnatural efforts serve in their command.
which Steele made to equal or eclipse him. This At present, were a man to attempt to improve
emulation destroyed that genuine flow of diction his fortune, or increase his friendship, by poetry,
which is discoverable in all his former composi- he would soon feel the anxiety of disappointment.


lies open, and is a benefactor to every Whilst their writings engaged attention and the sort of literature but that alone. favour of the public, reiterated but unsuccessful en- I am at a loss whether to ascribe this falling off deavours were made towards forming a grammar of the public to a vicious taste in the poet, or in of the English language. The authors of those them. Perhaps both are to be reprehended. The efforts went upon wrong principles. Instead of poet, either drily didactive, gives us rules which endeavouring to retrench the absurdities of our lan- might appear abstruse even in a system of ethics, guage, and bringing it to a certain criterion, their or triflingly volatile, writes upon the most unworthy grammars were no other than a collection of rules subjects; content, if he can give music instead of attempting to naturalize those absurdities, and sense; content, if he can paint to the imagination bring them under a regular system.

without any desires or endeavours to affect: the Somewhat effectual, however, might have been public, therefore, with justice, discard such empty done towards fixing the standard of the English sound, which has nothing but a jingle, or, what is language, had it not been for the spirit of party. worse, the unmusical flow of blank verse to recomFor both whigs and tories being ambitious to stand mend it. The late method, also, into which our at the head of so great a design, the Queen's death newspapers have fallen, of giving an epitome of happened before any plan of an academy could be every new publication, must greatly damp the resolved on.

writer's genius. He finds himself, in this case, at Meanwhile the necessity of such an institution the mercy of men who have neither abilities nor became every day more apparent. The periodical learning to distinguish his merit. He finds his and political writers, who then swarmed, adopted own composition mixed with the sordid trash of the very worst manner of L'Estrange, till not only every daily scribbler. There is a sufficient speciall decency, but all propriety of language, was lost men given of his work to abate curiosity, and yet in the nation. Leslie, a pert writer, with some wit so mutilated as to render him contemptible. His and learning, insulted the government every week first

, and perhaps his second work, by these means with the grossest abase. His style and manner, sink, among the crudities of the age, into oblivion. both of which were illiberal, were imitated by Rid- Fame he finds begins to turn her back: he therepath, De Foe, Dunton, and others of the opposite fore flies to profit which invites him, and he enparty, and Toland pleaded the cause of atheism rols himself in the lists of dulness and of avarice and immorality in much the same strain; his sub- for life. ject seemed to debase his diction, and he ever Yet there are still among us men of the greatest failed most in one when he grew most licentious in abilities, and who in some parts of learning have the other.

surpassed their predecessors : justice and friendship Towards the end of Queen Anne's reign, some might here impel me to speak of names which will of the greatest men in England devoted their time shine out to all posterity, but prudence restrains to party, and then a much better manner obtained me from what I should otherwise eagerly embrace. in political writing. Mr. Walpole, Mr. Addison, Envy might rise against every honoured name I Mr. Mainwaring, Mr. Steele, and many members should mention, since scarcely one of them has not of both houses of parliament, drew their pens for those who are his enemies, or those who despise the whigs; but they seem to have been overmatch- him, etc. ed, though not in argument yet in writing, by Bolingbroke, Prior, Swift, Arbuthnot, and the other friends of the opposite party. They who oppose a OF THE OPERA IN ENGLAND. ministry have always a better field for ridicule ard reproof than they who defend it.

The rise and fall of our amusements pretty Since that period, our writers have either been much resemble that of empire. They this day encouraged above their merits or below them. flourish without any visible cause for such vigour; Some who were possessed of the meanest abilities the next, they decay without any reason that can acquired the highest preferments, while others who be assigned for their downfal. Some years ago the seemed born to reflect a lustre upon the age, perish- Italian opera was the only fashionable amusement ed by want and neglect. More, Savage, and Am-!among our nobility. The managers of the play

[ocr errors]

houses dreaded it as a mortal enemy, and our very |ther Corelli nor Pergolesi ever permitted them, and poets listed themselves in the opposition: at present they even begin to be discontinued in Italy, where the house seems deserted, the castrati sing to empty they first had their rise. benches, even Prince Vologese himself, a youth of And now I am upon the subject: our composers great expectations, sings himself out of breath, and also should affect greater simplicity; let their bass rattles his chain to no purpose.

cliff have all the variety they can give it; let the To say the truth, the opera as it is conducted body of the music (if I may so express it) be as vaamong us, is but a very humdrum amusement : in rious as they please; but let them avoid ornamentother countries, the decorations are entirely magnifi- ing a barren ground-work; let them not attempt cent, the singers all excellent, and the burlettas or by flourishing to cheat us of solid harmony. interludes quite entertaining; the best poets com- The works of Mr. Rameau are never heard pose the words, and the best masters the music, but without a surprising effect. I can attribute it only with us it is otherwise; the decorations are but tri- to the simplicity he every where observes, insomuch fling and cheap; the singers, Matei only excepted, that some of his finest harmonies are only octave but indifferent. Instead of interlude, we have those and unison. This simple manner has greater sorts of skipping dances, which are calculated for powers than is generally imagined ; and were not the galleries of the theatre. Every performer sings such a demonstration misplaced, I think, from the his favourite song, and the music is only a medley of principles of music it might be proved to be most old Italian airs, or some meagre modern Capriccio. agreeable.

When such is the case, it is not much to be But to leave general reflection. With the present wondered if the opera is pretty much neglected; set of performers, the operas, if the conductor thinks the lower orders of people have neither taste nor proper, may be carried on with some success, since fortune to relish such an entertainment; they they have all some merit, if not as actors, at least as would find more satisfaction in the Roast Beef singers. Signora Matei is at once both a perfect of Old England than in the finest closes of a eu- actress and a very fine singer. She is possessed nuch; they sleep amidst all the agony of recita- of a fine sensibility in her manner, and seldom intive; on the other hand, people of fortune or taste dulges those extravagant and unmusical flights of can hardly be pleased, where there is a visible voice complained of before. Cornacini, on the other poverty in the decorations, and an entire want of hand, is a very indifferent actor, has a most untaste in the composition.

meaning face, seems not to feel his part, is infected Would it not surprise one, that when Metasta- with a passion of showing his compass; but to resio is so well known in England, and so universal- compense all these defects, his voice is melodious, ly admired, the manager or the composer should he has vast compass and great volubility, his swell have recourse to any other operas than those writ- and shake are perfectly fine, unless that he conten by him? I might venture to say, that written tinues the latter too long. In short, whatever the by Metastasio, put up in the bills of the day, would defects of his action may be, they are amply recomalone be sufficient to fill a house, since thus the pensed by his excellency as a singer; nor can I admirers of sense as well as sound might find enter- avoid fancying that he might make a much greattainment.

er figure in an oratorio than upon the stage. The performers also should be entreated to sing| However, upon the whole, I know not whether only their parts without clapping in any of their ever operas can be kept up in England; they seem own favourite airs. I must own, that such songs to be entirely exotic, and require the nicest manage are generally to me the most disagreeable in the ment and care. Instead of this, the care of them is world. Every singer generally chooses a favourite assigned to men unacquainted with the genius and air, not from the excellency of the music, but from disposition of the people they would amuse, and difficulty; such songs are generally chosen as sur-whose only motives are immediate gain. Whether prise rather than please, where the performer may a discontinuance of such entertainments would be show his compass, his breath, and his volubility. more to the loss or advantage of the nation, I will

Hence proceed those unnatural startings, those not take upon me to determine, since it is as much unmusical closings, and shakes lengthened out to our interest to induce foreigners of taste among us a painful continuance; such indeed may show a on the one hand, as it is to discourage those trifling voice, but it must give a truly delicate ear the ut- members of society who generally compose the most uneasiness, Sueh tricks are not music; nei-loperatical dramatis persone on the other.





have been objected to the following Essays, and it

must be owned in some measure that the charge The following Essays have already appeared at is true. However, I could have made them more different times, and in different publications. The metaphysical had I thought fit ; but I would ask, pamphlets in which they were inserted being gen. whether, in a short Essay, it is not necessary to be erally unsuccessful, these shared the common fate, superficial ? Before we have prepared to enter without assisting the bookseller's aims, or extend- into the depths of a subject in the usual forms, we ing the writer's reputation. The public were too have arrived at the bottom of our scanty page, and strenuously employed with their own follies to be thus lose the honours of a victory by too tedious a assiduous in estimating mine ; so that many of my preparation for the combat. best attempts in this way have fallen victims to the

There is another fault in this collection of tritransient topic of the times—the Ghost in Cock- files, which, I fear, will not be so easily pardoned. lane, or the siege of Ticonderoga.

It will be alleged, that the humour of them (if any But though they have passed pretty silently in- be found) is stale and hackneyed. This may be to the world, I can by no means complain of their true enough, as matters now stand; but I may circulation. · The magazines and papers of the with great truth assert, that the humour was new day have indeed been liberal enough in this re- when I wrote it. Since that time, indeed, many spect. Most of these essays have been regularly of the topics, which were first stated here, have reprinted twice or thrice a year, and conveyed to been hunted down, and many of the thoughts the public through the kennel of some engaging blown upon. In fact, these Essays were considercompilation. If there be a pride in multiplied edi- ed as quietly laid in the grave of oblivion ; and our tions, I have seen - some of my labours sixteen modern compilers, like sextons and executioners, times reprinted, and claimed by different parents think it their undoubted right to pillage the dead. as their own. I have seen them flourished at the

However, whatever right I have to complain of beginning with praise, and signed at the end with the public, they can, as yet, have no just reason to the names of Philautos, Philalethis, Phileleutheros, complain of me. If I have written dull Essays, and Philanthropos. These gentlemen have kindly they have hitherto treated them as dull Essays. stood sponsors to my productions, and, to flatter Thus far we are at least upon par, and until they

have always passed them as their own. think fit to make me their humble debtor by praise, It is time, however, at last to vindicate my I am resolved not to lose a single inch of my selfclaims ; and as these entertainers of the public, as

importance. Instead, therefore, of attempting to they call themselves, have partly lived upon me for establish a credit amongst them, it will perhaps be some years, let me now try if I can not live a little wiser to apply to some more distant correspondent; upon myself

. I would desire, in this case, to imi- and as my drafts are in some danger of being protate that fat man whom I have somewhere heard tested at home, it may not be imprudent, upon this of in a shipwreck, who, when the sailors, pressed occasion, to draw my bills upon Posterity. by famine, were taking slices from his posteriors to satisfy their hunger, insisted, with great justice, on MR. POSTERITY, baving the first cut for himself. Yet, after all, I can not be angry with any who have

SIR, taken it into their heads, to think that whatever I

Nine hundred and ninety-nine years write is worth reprinting, particularly when I consid- after sight hereof, pay the bearer, or order, a thouer how great a majority will think it scarcely worth sand pounds worth of praise, free from all deducreading. Trifling and superficial are terms of re- tions whatsoever, it being a commodity that will proach that are easily objected, and that carry an then be very serviceable to him, and place it to the air of penetration in the observer. These faults' account of, etc.

me more,



something touched off to a nicety, for Mr. Sprig. ESSAY I.

gins was going to give us Mad Tom in all its glo

ry. Mr. Spriggins endeavoured to excuse hinsell; I REMEMBER to have read in some philosopher for as he was to act a madman and a king, it was (I believe in Tom Brown's works), that, let a impossible to go through the part properly without man's character, sentiments, or complexion be a crown and chains. His excuses were overruled what they will, he can find company in London to by a great majority, and with much vociferation. match them. If he be splenetic, he may every The president ordered up the jack-chain, and inday meet companions on the seats in St. James's stead of a crown, our performer covered his brows Park, with whose groans he may mix his own, with an inverted jorden. After he had rattled his and pathetically talk of the weather. If he be pas-chain, and shook his head, to the great delight of sionate, he may vent his rage among the old ora- the whole company, he began his song. As ! tors at Slaughter's Coffee-house, and damn the have heard few young fellows offer to sing in com. nation because it keeps him from starving. If he pany, that did not expose themselves, it was no be phlegmatic, he may sit in silence at the hum- great disappointment to me to find Mr. Spriggins drum club in Ivy-lane ; and, if actually mad, he among the number ; however, not to seem an odd may find very good company in Moorfields, either fish, I rose from my seat in rapture, cried out, at Bedlam or the Foundry, ready to cultivate a bravo! encore! and slapped the table as loud as nearer acquaintance.

any of the rest. But, although such as have a knowledge of the The gentleman who sat next me seemed highly town may easily class themselves with tempers pleased with my taste and the ardour of my apcongenial to their own, a countryman, who comes probation; and whispering told me that I had sufto live in London, finds nothing more difficult. fered an immense loss, for had I come a few miWith regard to myself, none ever tried with more nutes sooner, I might have heard Gee ho Dobbin assiduity, or came off with such indifferent suc- sung in a tip-top manner by the pimple-nosed spicess. I spent a whole season in the search, dur- rit at the president's right elbow; but he was evaping which time my name has been enrolled in so- orated before I came. cieties, lodges, convocations, and meetings, with- As I was expressing my uneasiness at this disout number. To some I was introduced by a appointment, I found the attention of the compafriend, to others invited by an advertisement; to ny employed upon a fat figure, who, with a voice these I introduced myself, and to those I changed more rough than the Staffordshire giants, was my name to gain admittance. In short, no co- giving us the Softly Sweet in Lydian Measure of quette was ever more solicitous to match her ri- Alexander's Feast. After a short pause of adbands to her complexion, than I to suit my club to miration, to this succeeded a Welsh dialogue, my temper; for I was too obstinate to bring my with the humours of Teague and Taffy : after that temper to conform to it.

came on Old Jackson, with a story between every The first club I entered upon coming to town stanza ; next was sung the Dustcart, and then was that of the Choice Spirits. The name was Solomon's Song. The glass began now to circuentirely suited to my taste; I was a lover of mirth, late pretty freely : those who were silent when sogood-humour, and even sometimes of fun, from ber would now be heard in their turn; every man my childhood.

had his song, and he saw no reason why he should As no other passport was requisite but the pay- not be heard as well as any of the rest ; one begged to ment of two shillings at the door, I introduced my- be heard while he gave Death and the Lady in high self without further ceremony to the members, who taste; another sung to a plate which he kept were already assembled, and had for some time trundling on the edges ; nothing was now heard begun upon business. The Grand, with a mallet but singing; voice rose above voice; and the whole in his hand, presided at the head of the table. I became one universal shout, when the landlord could not avoid, upon my entrance, making use of came to acquaint the company that the reckoning all my skill in physiognomy, in order to discover was drank out. Rabelais calls the moment in that superiority of genius in men, who had taken which a reckoning is mentioned the most melana title so superior to the rest of mankind. I ex- choly of our lives; never was so much noise so pected to see the lines of every face marked with quickly quelled as by this short but pathetic orastrong thinking; but though I had some skill in tion of our landlord : drank out! was echoed in a this science, I could for my life discover nothing tone of discontent round the table : drank out albut a pert simper, fat or profound stupidity. ready! that was very odd! that so much punch

My speculations were soon interrupted by the could be drank already-impossible! The landGrand, who had knocked down Mr. Spriggins for lord, however, seeming resolved not to retreat from a song. I was upon this whispered by one of the his first assurances, the company was dissolved, company who sat next me, that I should now see and a president chosen for the night ensuing.

[ocr errors]


« ПретходнаНастави »