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more than three times unsuccessfully in the lottery. All incorrigible sots. All men who, having the means of an honourable livelihood, submit to the degradation of a patron. All men going in debt without a certainty of being able to pay. All young tradesmen beginning life, attorneys' clerks, &c. &c. who keep a dog-cart, or go more than once a week to the half-price at the theatre. All quarrelsome persons and professional duellists, without discrimination. All persons given to practical jokes. All private actors above () years of age. All persons going to law, who can settle their case by arbitration. All persons convicted of admiring's hexameters, 's tragedies, 's speeches in parliament or at the bar-(the blanks to be filled by a jury of critics.)
CHUCKLING Over some black-letter jest in the British Museum the other day, I looked round for a sympathetic phiz, to which I might communicate my mirth:-in vain-every eye was fixed to the page, and desperately poring. "Twas impossible for me, brimming over with some of the gooduns of George Peele, to betake myself again to his right merry and 'conceitede jestes,' till my risible impulses had somewhat subsided; so leaving my eyes to themselves, they involuntarily began to study the physiognomy, or as Lavater would have it, the pathognomy of my mute companions. The first glance distinguished them in two classes, but what were the differences and characteristics of each, I could not discover for some time, till after a long and eager gaze a kind of film, the αχλυς ός πρὶν επηεν seemed to depart and leave my vision free. I could then clearly perceive the fluid, which, according to the Cartesian doctrine, conveys the impressions from the page to the brain. From some of the volumes, which I discovered to be in the old and the black letter, it arose, rich like incense, exhilarating the features and enlivening the eye; every thought that it communicated seemed to generate associations ad infinitum, while around the mouth of the reader there played a happy and dimpling consciousness, that he imbibed the genuine nectar-the bottled Falernian of old days. From those, which I found to be the moderns, and which were comparatively few, it was a pale and unsubstantial vapour, in which hung the hebetated aspect of the reader, like a rake in his good behaviour over some hot tea, anxious to sip and finish, and with the appearance of weariness almost amounting to slumber: scarcely an idea was borne up by the fluid; and it seemed to be rather an opiate to relieve from thought, than any thing calculated to excite it.
When I recollected myself, however, and perceived that George Peele was evaporating to no purpose, being too much.
taken up with my discovery to pay him any attention, I closed up his spirit, and delivered him to the porter, that he might be laid with his fellows.
After arriving at home, I doubted that all this might have been a deception,-a lusus somewhat akin to Ferriar's ingenious theory of apparitions. Subsequent trials have convinced me of its reality, and experience has enabled me to distinguish, at the first glance, the reader of Caxton, or De Worde, from him that enjoys the felicity of using a paper knife as he proceeds. I have since perceived, that the worthy Mr. Crayon met a similar adventure in the same place; 'tis to be hoped his story of the vision is true, as such can be his only excuse for falling foul of that industrious company of quoters. Geoffrey, however, is lethargic by nature, and not improbably slumbered, even in the Harleian.
Could the famous legend of Munchausen be relied on as authentic, we might find a solution of this phenomenon in the similar one of the trumpeter, whose melody became frozen in the horn, but afterwards thawed in the genial atmosphere of the chimney corner, to the no small astonishment and delight of the auditors. It has been thus with the old authors; they have been long frozen up and unheard of, but now the congealment melts apace, their essence is in the ears and nostrils of all, and redeems with its mellow and racy spirit the vapid atmosphere of the day. What aëroscopic can measure the density and extent of vis literaria drawn for these twenty years past from the remains of Burton alone, from Browne, or the old dramatists, in whose steam millions of ephemeral fry are daily engendered, or Montaigne, who was broached before any of them, and is still inexhausted. Indeed the classification is incorrect, as Montaigne was never in oblivion and unpillaged; witness the Lady in Volpone:
Lad. Here's Pastor Fido.
Profess obstinate silence,
That's now my safest.
Not a day passes but some long-buried treasure is tumbled into view; and it is the astonishment of the present age how such could have so long lain neglected.
The literati of the intervening centuries were too much occupied in admiring and advancing themselves, to trouble their heads much about the merits of their predecessors. Into the few eminent they dipped and formed, or at least pretended to form, an acquaintance; all the rest passed sub silentio. In
eager pursuit after petty gains and coffee-house ascendancy, they scorned the fatiguing path of learning, and supplied with arrogance their deficiency in erudition,-they studied externals, —the fashions and whimsies of their contemporaries,-read men more than books,-forgot their character of authors,-talked what they should have written, and wrote what had better been spoken.
These were the days of the aristocracy of literature, and we must condemn the government, however we may admire the powers of its upholders. From the irascible Dryden, the mild Addison, and the profound Johnson, alike may be adduced examples of bold ignorance and arrogant decisions, scarcely redeemable by the genius that pronounced them. If the primates of modern criticism are severe, they are at least learned; and it requires, at the present day, more than a mere misstatement of facts to support the character of a critic.
During this unfavourable dynasty the treasures of eld lay hid; and 'twas lucky for them,-else, dragged to the bar of such crooked justice, and condemned as unworthy, we might have been awed by great names into a neglect of them, and not have had the courage to reverse the decision and judge for ourselves. But adversity wore for them, as for all," the precious jewel in its head;"-the sum of their fame is repaid, and with interest, -they have arisen, reverend with age and fresh with new birth, -they unite the superlative attractions of being at once both new and old, and gratify the curiosity of the light bas-bleu as well as the adora vis of the virtuoso. They have been uncovered like the remains of Herculaneum or Pompeii, and found, just as they were buried, with their youth all redolent upon them; and not only afford pleasure as beautiful specimens of genius, but have gained from the rust of oblivion the supererogatory character of being a marvel and a show.
"'Tis very beautiful for three hundred years back," is an involuntary sentiment, which will arise notwithstanding the pointblank contradiction of all experience;-with the unlettered and the novice it has its full weight, and even with the more versed it creates a strong and unconscious prepossession in favour of antiquity. One black-letter beauty is worth a dozen in Davison's or in Ballantyne's types; and when transported into the latter, how do the quotations from Old Play' outshine the lesser lights of modern composition! Compare the most popular couplets of Pope with the simple and diffuse passages from which they are borrowed and condensed, and see if the piquante simplicity and quaintness of 'auncientrie' will not outbalance the art and mellifluence of the Twit'nam bard,
"Love, free as air, at sight of human ties,
"Love will not be constrein'd by maistrie;
Or the more famed exclamation of Heloise
"Not Cæsar's empress would I deign to prove,
with the original, put into the mouth of the same personage by Jean de Meun, in the Roman de la Rose
"Se l'Empereur qui est à Romme,
Qu'estre Emperiere couronneé."-Line 9232.
Meeting such anticipations, as we may tenderly call them, is a terrible shock to the esteem in which we held the favourites of our schoolboy-days. The taste feels a reaction, and places its former lords somewhat below even their merited standard, thus taking revenge of what it justly deems a deception; and, like a thing that is impelled up one height by the impetus acquired in descending another, gives itself to the admiration of all that bears the stamp of antiquity, with an ardour indescribable to those who have never experienced it.
Supreme felicity consists in zeal and excitement: if the object of pursuit be altogether ideal, and the pleasure all anticipation, oppression of mind, or the dull realities of life, are ever apt to interfere, and dissipate the agreeable illusion;-there is nothing tangible, no hold for the mind to cling to, in the hours of dullness and apathy, and thought's dead low-water.' If the object be worldly and substantial, it is only calculated to fill the longing of the heavy and unexcited soul; to such it affords pleasure, because it gives employment, and, by establishing a habit, relieves it from the fatigue of uncertainty and choice. But where the ideal and substantial are united-where there is room for the fancy to play, as well as the judgment to be satisfiedand where the pursuit is in that medium between the serious and the light, that it may be deemed either an occupation or amusement-then is the goal to be sought by those possessed of wisdom and leisure, and who have too much warm blood in their veins to rest contented with the sage but unpoetical precept of 'nil admirari.'
If this union is to be found in any occupation, it is in the study of antiquity, in which one may either dip or dive, be profound or trifling, be zealous without being anxious-or, what is the most difficult of all, be vain without becoming unamiable.
FRENCH AND ENGLISH TRAGEDY.*—NO. II.
A HOST of dramatic writers started up in the interval between Jodelle, the inventor of the art, and Hardy, the contemporary of Shakspeare and Lopes de Vega. The principal were La Peruse, Grevin, the younger Baif, the two La Tailles, and Garnier. A considerable improvement was soon made upon the style and manner of Jodelle. The dramatic career was greatly enlarged-the whole of the Greek theatre, and the tragedies of Seneca were translated-some of the most memorable incidents in ancient history, scriptural and profane, were dramatized. The romantic poets of modern Italy also began to furnish subjects and personages to the drama. The first piece worth notice is the "Medea" of La Peruse, closely imitated from Seneca. Every body is acquainted with the story of Medea, and consequently with the fable of this play. The subjoined passage, in which this terrific heroine respires her vengeance in curses upon the faithless Jason, shows a great improvement already in the language. This merit, however, appears not to have wholly belonged to the author. His play is said to have been retouched by a distinguished contemporary, Scevole de St. Marthe, the most accomplished scholar, the most learned magistrate, the most virtuous citizen of his time; who, by his eloquence, public services, and patriotism, obtained, like Cicero, the precious title of father of his country.
† Dieux qui avez le soin des lois du mariage;
Dieu, vengeur des forfaicts, qui roydement desserres,
The Editor begs to remind his readers, that he does not consider himself pledged to support all the various opinions expressed by his contributors on subjects of literature.
Ye Gods who vindicate the marriage-vow-You, too, who bridle the wind's and tempest's rage, or at your will loose them upon the waters, let wave on wave foam hideously! Thou God, avenger of guilty deeds, who dost, relentless, dart thy lightning on the chief of the wicked-Thou God, who with thy diffused rays dost dispel night from the universe-Thou God of the dark deep regions, and thou, his dear rapt bride, Proserpine, cause of my calamities-You, O gods, invoked by perjured Jason, whom I, wicked one, made lord of the Fleece: I attest, I invoke you all to the spectacle of my piteous wrongs! And you, shades of hell, you who are in the secret of my sorceries, hear my sad voice, hear my hard repentance! Furies, hither! and, in your blood-stained hands, bear horribly
VOL. II. No. 8.-1821.