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of malice, with which the Gullivers of the world of literature are assailed by the Lilliputians around them.
The chief thought which pervades this poem, -namely, the fleeting nature of the actor's art and fame,-had already been more simply expressed by Garrick himself in his Prologue to The Clandestine Marriage :
“ The painter's dead, yet still he charms the eye,
While England lives, his fame can never die ;
Colley Cibber, too, in his portrait (if I remember right) of Betterton, breaks off into the same reflection, in the following graceful passage, which is one of those instances, where prose could not be exchanged for poetry without loss :“ Pity it is that the momentary beauties, flowing from an harmonious elocution, cannot, like those of poetry, be their own record; that the animated graces of the player can live no longer than the instant breath and motion that presents them, or, at best, can but faintly glimmer through the memory of a few surviving spectators.”
With respect to the style and versification of the Monody, the heroic couplet in which it is written has long been a sort of Ulysses' bow, at which Poetry tries her suitors, and at which they almost all fail. Redundancy of epithet and monotony of cadence are the inseparable companions of this metre in ordinary hands; nor could all the taste and skill of Sheridan keep it wholly free from these defects in his own.
To the subject of metre, he had, nevertheless, paid great attention.
There are among his papers some frag. ments of an Essay* which he had commenced on the na
• Or rather memorandums collected, as was his custom, with a view to the composition of such an Essay. He had been reading the writings of Dr. Foster, Webb, &c. on this subject, with the intention, apparently, of publishing an answer to them. The following (which is one of the few consecutive passages I can find in these notes) will show how little rever
cadence might be expected, than we find throughout the versification of this poem. The taste of the time, however, was not prepared for any great variations in the music of the couplet. The regular foot-fall, established so long, had yet been but little disturbed ; and the only licence of this kind hazarded through the poem—“All perishable” —was objected to by some of the author's critical friends, who suggested, that it would be better thus : “ All doom'd to perish."
Whatever in more important points may be the inferiority of the present school of poetry to that which preceded it, in the music of versification there can be but little doubt of its improvement; nor has criticism, perhaps, ever rendered a greater service to the art, than in helping to unseal the ears
of its worshippers to that true spheric harmony of the elders i of song, which, during a long period of our literature, was as unheard as if it never existed.
The Monody does not seem to have kept the stage more than five or six nights :-nor is this surprising. The recitation of a long, serious address must always be, to a certain degree, ineffective on the stage ; and, though this subject contained within it many strong sources of interest, as well personal as dramatic, they were not, perhaps, turned to account by the poet with sufficient warmth and earnestness on his own part, to excite a very ready response of sympathy in others. Feeling never wanders into generalities, it is only by concentrating his rays upon one point that even Genius can kindle strong emotion; and, in order to produce any such effect in the present instance upon the audience, Garrick himself ought to have been kept prominently and individually before their eyes in almost every line. Instead of this, however, the man is soon forgotten in his Art, which is then deliberately compared with other Arts, and the attention, through the greater part of the poem, is diffused over the transitoriness of actors in general, instead of being brought strongly to a focus upon the particular loss just sustained. Even in those parts, which apply most directly to Garrick, the feeling is a good deal diluted by this tendency to the
abstract; and, sometimes, by a false taste of personification, like that in the very first line,
“ If dying excellence deserves a tear,"
where the substitution of a quality of the man for the man himself* puts the mind, as it were, one remove farther from the substantial object of its interest, and disturbs that sense of reality, on which the operations even of Fancy itself ought to be founded.
But it is very easy to play the critic—so easy as to be a task of but little glory. For one person who could produce such a poem as this, how many thousands exist and have existed, who could shine in the exposition of its faults! Though insufficient, perhaps, in itself, to create a reputation for an author, yet, as a “ stella Coronæ,"—one of the stars in that various crown, which marks the place of Sheridan in the firmament of Fame,-it not only well sustains its own part in the lustre, but draws new light from the host of brilliancy around it.
It was in the course of this same year that he produced the entertainment of the Critic-his last legitimate offering on the shrine of the Dramatic Muse. In this admirable farce we have a striking instance of that privilege which, as I have already said, Genius assumes, of taking up subjects that had passed through other hands, and giving them a new value and currency by his stamp. The plan of a Rehearsal was first adopted, for the purpose of ridiculing Dryden, by the Duke of Buckingham ; but, though there is much laughable humour in some of the dialogue between Bayes and his friends, the salt of the satire altogether was not of a very
Another instance of this fault occurs in his song “When sable Night:"
"As some fond mother, o'er her babe deploring,
Wakes its beauty with a tear;"
where the clearners and reality of the picture are spoiled by the affectatation of representing the beauty of the child as waked, instead of the child itself.
conservative nature, and the piece continued to be served up to the public long after it had lost its relish. Fielding tried the same plan in a variety of pieces—in his Pasquin, his Historical Register, his Author's Farce, his Eurydice, &c., -but without much success, except in the comedy of Pasquin, which had, I believe, at first a prosperous career, though it has since, except with the few that still read it for its fine tone of pleasantry, fallen into oblivion. It was reserved for Sheridan to give vitality to this form of dramatic humour, and to invest even his satirical portraits--as in the instance of Sir Fretful Plagiary, which, it is well known, was designed for Cumberland—with a generic character, which, without weakening the particular resemblance, makes them representatives for ever of the whole class to which the original belonged. Bayes, on the contrary, is a caricature-made up of little more than personal peculiarities, which may amuse as long as reference can be had to the prototype, but, like those supplemental features furnished from the living subject by Taliacotius, fall lifeless the moment the individual that supplied them is defunct.
It is evident, however, that Bayes was not forgotten in the composition of The Critic. His speech, where the two Kings of Brentford are singing in the clouds, may be considered as the exemplar which Sheridan had before him in writing some of the rehearsal scenes of Puff :
“Smith. Well, but methinks the sense of this song is not very plain.
" Bayes. Plain! why did you ever hear any people in the clouds sing plain? They must be all for flight of fancy at its fullest range, without the least check or controul upon it. When once you tie up spirits and people in clouds to speak plain, you spoil all."
There are particular instances of imitation still more direct. Thus, in The Critic:
“ Enter Sın WALTER RALEIGUI and Sia CARISTOPHER HATTox. “ Sir Christ. II. True, gallant Raleigh.“ Dangle. What, had they been talking before ! “Puff Oh yes, all the way as they came along."