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The approbation of Quintilian more than overbalances these derogatory strictures, and at the same time ratifies the general admiration of Antiquity for the elder Writers of the Attic Stage. This Critic declared that the elegancies of Atticism are to be found almost exclusively in the antient Comedy; that after Homer he knew of none so profitable for the study of every Oratour as Aristophanes, Eupolis, and Cratinus : “ Antiqua Come“ dia cum sinceram illam sermonis Attici gratiam
prope sola retinet, tum facundissimæ libertatis, “ etsi est in insectandis vitiis præcipua, plurimum “ tamen virium etiam in ceteris partibus habet. “ Nam et grandis, et elegans, et venusta, et nescio “ an ulla, post Homerum tamen, quem, ut “ Achillem, semper excipi par est, aut similior sit “ oratoribus, aut ad oratores faciendos aptior. “ Plures ejus auctores : Aristophanes tamen, et “ Eupolis Cratinusque præcipui.” Inst. Orator. Lib. X. Cap. 1. To this let me subjoin what Sir W. Jones has observed to the praise of Aristophanes' remains : “ Aristophanis, quæ supersunt, “ Comediæ sunt sanè omnium elegantiarum plenæ, “ et Græcarum literarum studiosis apprimè utiles.” Works ; II. 640. 4to. What our Authour called a scurrilous vehemence, these Critics would probably have denominated masculine and vigorous Atticism.--After such a concurrence of testimony to their merit on a literary consideration, and more of no small weight, if it were needful, might be offered, can we hesitate whether it were not one ground for Plato's choice, that they were the best calculated of any works he could select, to bring a Foreigner acquainted with the style cultivated at Athens? Ελλαδος Ελλας Αθηναι. In this he did nothing more than the Italian Ecclesiastic who sets the licentious Boccacio before a pupil to initiate him in the most approved Tuscan; or, than the University of Oxford, when they not long ago reprinted Chaucer's Canterbury Tales; commendably disregarding the ribaldry which defaces too many of his pages, for the sake of the numerous beauties in the Father of English Poetry.
« The Prince but studies his companions,
The Tale of a Tub is unhappily debased with impiety as well as stained with flagrant indecency; yet does it stand so high in reputation that any Englishman who engaged to transmit to a Foreigner a selection of our national works most worthy attention might be justly reproached with not fulfilling his office, if he were to leave out Swift's fine specimen of genuine English, and of politicoreligious Satire.
The Athenians were not revolted at the “ gross
“ infamy" in the old Comedy. It must degrade in our eyes the Audience who could endure it. But while Women were excluded the Theatre, it were idle to expect, that the Stage would not exhibit Scenes vile in Taste and vitious in Morals.
Perhaps the superlative excellence of the Attic style, would of itself have been a sufficient inducement: there was, I must further remark, an additional propriety in sending these contemporary Comedies to the King of a neighbouring Country. By their means he placed before his view a picture of the living manners in the Capital of the most eminent among the Grecian Republics; the acknowleged seat of Grecian Letters and Philosophy. However the rust of time has obscured many places beyond the industry of the Scholiasts of later ages to restore them to their pristine brightness; still, enough is ascertained for us to discern that they are replete with allusions, personal and political, and without any doubt much of the personal character of individuals was to be gathered from the abusive reflections which abound in these dramatic satires. The Ogudes is interpreted to have been a latent attack on the mal-administrations of the State, while the mimic Cleon in the 'Inreis is known to represent that turbulent Demagogue, and is drawn, we may readily believe, if not truer to the life, not with more aggravated features than the coarse caricature of Lord Shaftesbury with which Otway disparaged his noble Tragedy.
In commenting on the oversight in my text, I have run into some length. The deference which every thing demands that comes from Milton's pen, rendered it unavoidable. He who enters the lists to maintain a point of scholarship against him ought to bring conclusive evidence, if he be solicitous to shield himself against the charge of presumption.
(Referred to in p. 84.)
After all, the last division of the sentence “ these are the countryman's Arcadias and his « Monte-mayors” — leaves it in doubt, whether
our Authour did not through the whole speak of the same strolling minstrelsy which Puttenham describes as “ blind harpers or such like Tauerne “ minstrels that give a fit of mirth for a groat, and “ their matters being for the most part stories of “old time, as the tale of Sir Topas, the reports of “ Beuis of Southampton, Guy of Warwicke, Adam “ Bell, and Clymme of the Clough, and such other “ old Romances or historicall Rhymes, made pur
posely for recreation of the common people at « Christmasse diners and brideals, and in tauernes “ and ale-houses and such other places of base
“ resort.” The Arte of English Poesie ; p. 69. ed. 1811.
The Diana of George of Monte-mayor was rendered into English from the Spanish, by Bartholomew Yong ; 1598 fol. : one of the minor Poets of Elizabeth's time. Some of the copies of Verses in it had been translated by Sydney and inserted in the Arcadia.
Now the fashion of these pastoral Romances has passed away, we are apt to be astonished at the determined perseverance of Readers who could toil out their way through such wearisome stories ; for which they were repaid by little more than affected sentiments and turgid language; the modes of a feudal Court given to the inmates of a Sheepcote. Such feigned narratives of chivalrous rusticity, while they are too far removed from real life to please by any picture of natural manners, are destitute of the marvellous exploits, the perils and enchantments which once excited a high interest in the adventures of the heroes and agents who people the regions of preternatural fiction ; wonders which have not yet lost all attraction for the imagination. If elegiac Pastoral deserve the reprobation a great Critic has bestowed on it, be.
no just imitation of things really existing,” these pastoral stories in gorgeous prose cannot but be thought still more unnatural and reprehensible than Monodies founded, like Lycidas, on bucolic imagery,