Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

General Baptit Denomination. By James Walder. 8vo. 68. Buckland, 1779

There is a pleasing fimplicity and plainness of speech in this dira course. The truths it recommends are of the greatest importance, and they are recommended in a manner which appears to indicate the integrity, piety, and benevolence, of the man who pleads in their favour. His text is 2 Cor. xiii. 11. In his advertisement prefixed, he asserts the right which every man has to make choice of and profess what religion he pleases, and to worship the fupreme Father Almighty in what way and manner he thinks moft acceptable to him, without the controul or inserruption of any civil power whatever. “Yet, says he, I cannot omit this opportunity of expreffing my lincere gratitude and thanks to the worthy members of the Britilh Parliament, for the Telief granted to Diflenting Minifters by the late aft, which I rejoice in as a great enlargement of religious liberty. The deciaration, annexed to the bill, I can readily subscribe, not as believing or acknowJedging the magiftra:e's right to demand it, but as believing the matter and substance of the declaration to be true.' X. Preached in the Parilh Church of Richmond in Surrey, Feb. 4,

178c, being the Day appointed for a General Faft. By Thomas Wakefield, A.B. Minister of Richmond. 410. is. Davenbill.

This is tolerably well written, and appears to be the production of a mind that is impressed with pious and patriotic principles, and 'wishes to extend the good influence of them amongst his parishioners, to whom this discourse is inscribed, and who honoured it with their approbation.

CORRESPONDENCE.

The letter from Mr. C. G. of Penrith is acknowledged. We would not have the Writer give himself the trouble to send the book mentioned in his letter ; when we fee is advertised for sale, it will fall into our bands in course.

+ The Gentleman who sent his • Proposals for printing by Subscription, a volume of Elays, Letters, &c.' did not, perhaps, know, that all advertisements printed on the Covers of the Review, are to be paid for; and that they are subjected to the duty, in the same manner with those that are inserted in the news-papers.

+1+ We are obliged to G. H. for his information concerning the first edition of the “ Essay towards attaining a true Idea of the Character, &c. of King Charles I." of which an account was given in our last. We had recollected the original publication, in 1748, before the receipt of our Correspondent's letter; and we can, in return for bis favoor, inform G. H. that the Eguy, &c. is generally fupposed to have been the work of a celebrated writer among the Disenters at Exeter.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

ART. I. The Dramatic Works of Beaumont and Fletcher.; collated

with all the former Editions, and corrected, with Notes critical and explanatory, by various Commentators : and adorned with Fifty-four original Engravings.' In Ten Volumes. 8vo. 31. in Boards. Printed by Sherlock, and fold by Evans.

N our remarks on the tragedy of Bonduca, we hinted our appromore particular examination of its merit, we are by no means disposa ed, either from a sense of justice, or from a less worthy motive, to retract the opinion we have formerly given of it. That opinion, indeed, was only delivered in a transient way, and in very general terms. We shall now attempt to justify it by a more particular investiga. țion of the genius and writings of the Authors, and of the respective merits of their several Editors.

The rank which Beaumont and Fletcher ought to hold in the dramatic line hath been long adjusted. The decifion hath been made by time itself, which never fails to settle all claims, by an impartiality which cannot be questioned, and by an authority from which there lies no appeal. Friendship that was unwilling, or ignorance that was unable, to see objects in their true light, exalted these bards to the very summit of poetic excellence, and, by a partiality that was equally absurd and invidious, placed even Shakespear himself below them. Their poetical encomiatts lavished on them more applause than the fublimelt genius ever merited : and, in the rage of panegy. ric, exhausted their invention for hyperbole. One of Fletcher's panegyrists says, that

• His scenes were acts, and every act a play.' If this hyperbole had been carried as far as it would go, the author might with equal propriety have said, that each sentence was a scene, and every word a sentence!

Beaumont and Fletcher, though reduced from the rank to which they had been exalted by the partiality of their injudicious friends, or the envy of Shakespear's enemies, must be considered as writers Voi. LXII, Ee

of

of diftinguished merit, and will probably continue to be models ta succeeding dramatists, while wit and good sense shall be held in any estimation on the English theatre. Their productions have been copied with abundant freedom by many writers whose works are confidered as no mean acquisition to the stage. The obligation hath been frankly acknowledged by fome: while others have left the more curious Reader to make the discovery for himself. This avowal or concealment of an obligation hath frequently been the effect of pride operating different ways: for we cannot avoid remarking, that it is often as decisive a characteristic of pride to point out the fource of our ideas when we can sew a superior dexterity in the application and management of them, as it is an evidence of the same principle to endeavour at other times to conceal it with ingenious care, in order to make the whole pass for a creation of our own fancy.

With respect to our dramatic bards, it is but juftice to acknowledge, that, in general, their plots are regular. Their characters are on the whole well drawn, and properly marked and fupported. Their language is easy and elegant; clear and perspicuous. Their plays abound with a variety of beautiful passages; and a selection might be made out of them to illustrate every species of composition, and delineate every emotion of pallion.

Mr. Seward, the former Editor, devotes a large part of his preface to a comparison between the language and characters of Beaumont and Fletcher and chose of Shakespear. The grand characteristic of Shakespear's language is energy-an energy which attonishes the imagination! That of our Authors is elegance-a diffusive elegance, which pleases the fancy and soothes the heart. Shakespear will frequently give more expression by a word than Beaumont and Fletcher are capable of affording by many lines. A thoufand intances might be given of this, if it were necessary, to prove Shakespear's superiority to his contemporary poets in that which is the very first excellence of dramatic compofition-an irresitible force of language. Mr. Seward hath produced several passages to prove, that in many places Beaumont and Fletcher are fuperior in language, descrip. tion and sentiment to Shakespear. We think, however, that he might have fupported his comparison by instances that would have better served his purpose. The passage quoted from the Maid's Tragedy, is indeed exquisitely beautiful, and a painter might well copy from the poet : but in long descriptions it is not easy to see the whole at once. The impression grows languid and faint, and the principal effect is either weakened or totally loft. An energetic, comprehensive expression gives the whole at one glance, and produces a more powerful, because a more immediate effect. The rainbow is an object the more beautiful, because its imprefion is instantaneously felt. Divided into fruitrums of a circle, and seen only in small parts, its principal effect would be entirely loft.

We shall present our Readers with a specimen of Mr. Seward's tafle and fagacity in the line of comparison, by a quotation of the passages compared, at full length, with the critic's remarks on them.

• At the letter end of King John, the King has received a burning poison : and being ask'd

-How

How fares your Majesty ?
K. John. Poison'd! ill fare! dead, forlook, cal off:
And none of you will bid the Win:er come
To thrust his icy fingers in my maw;
Nor let my kingdom's rivers take their course
Thro' my burni bosom: nor entreat the North
To make his bleak winds kiss my parched lips
And comfort me with cold. I do not ak you much,

I beg cold comfort. * The first and last lines are to be ranged among the faults that fo much disgrace Shakespear, which he committed to please the corrupt taste of the age he lived in : but to which Beaumont and Fletcher's learning and fortune made them fuperior. The intermediate lines are extremely beautiful, and marked as such by the late great editor [Mr. Pope) but yet are much improved in two plays of our Authors; The first in Valentinian, where the Emperor, poisoned in the same manner, dies with more violence, fury and horror, than King John. But the passage that I Mall quote is from A Wife for a Month ; a play which doch not upon the whole equal the poetic sublimity of Valentinian, though it rather excels is in the poisoning scene. The Prince Alphonso, who had been long in a phrenzy of melancholy, is poison'a with a hot, fiery potion, under the agonies of which he saves :

Give me more air, more air, air : blow, blow, blow,
Open, thou eastern gate! and blow upon me:
Distil thy cold dews, oh, thou icy moon,
And rivers run thro' my afflicted fpirit.
I am all fire, fire, fire; the raging Dog-star
Reigns in my blood; oh! which way shall I turn me?
Ætna and all her flames burn in my head,
Fling me into the ocean, or I perish.
Dig, dig, dig, dig, until the Springs fly up-
The cold, cold springs, that I may leap into them
And bathe my scorch'd limbs in their purling pleasures:
Or Thoot me into the higher region,
Where treasures of delicious snow are nourishd,
And banquets of sweet bail.
Rug.

Hold him faft, friar.
Oh! how he burns!
Alph.

What, will

ye

sacrifice me?
Upon the altar lay my willing body,
And pile your wood up, fling your holy incense :
And as I turo me, you shall see all flame,
Consuming flame. Stand off me, or you're alhes.

Mart. To bed, good Sir.
Alpb.

My bed will burn about me.
Like Phaeton, in all-consuming flashes
Am I inclos's : let me fly, let me fly, give room ;
'Twixt the cold Bears, far from the raging Lion,
Lies my safe way: oh, for a cake of ice now
To clap into my heart to comfort me.
Decrepit Winter hang upon my shoulders

E e 2

And

And let me wear thy frozen icicles,
Like jewels round about my head, to cool me.
My eyes burn out, and sink into their sockets,
And my infected brain like brimstone boils.
I live in hell, and several furies vex me.
Oh! carry me where never sun e'er shew'd yet
A face of comfort, where the earth is chrystal
Never to be diffolved, where nought inhabits
But night, and cold, and nipping frosts and winds,
That cut the stubborn rocks, and make them shiver;

Set me there, friends.
Every man of taste will see how superior this is to the quotation from
Shakespear. The images are vally more numerous, more judicious,
more nervous, and the passions are wrought up to the higheit pitch.'

The images, indeed, are, as this critic observes, vastly more numerous; and on that very account the whole description becomes, in our estimation, lefs judicious and lefs nervous. Fletcher, or whoever was the writer, discovers an exuberant fertility of invention. But in the prodigality of metaphors, allusions and images, the description loses much of the beautiful fimplicity of nature, and looks too much like the gaudy picture of art. Ice-water, and cold air, easily suggest themselves to a person who (to use Seward's words) hach been

poisoned with a hot, fiery potion.' But the Dog-Itar, Mount Ætna, and the different regions of the atmosphere; Phaeton, the cold Bears, and the raging Lion (or the constellations to which astronomy hath fancifully applied these terms); and above all, a fine, but artificial and highly metaphorical description of a country' where sųn ne'er thew'd yet a face of comfort,' is entirely inconsistent with that intoxication of agony and distress under which Alphonso is supposed to labour at the moment when these expressions are uttered.

In the tragedy of Philafter there is a beautiful description of rural melancholy:

I have a boy,
Sent by the Gods I hope to this intent,
Not yet seen in the court. Hunting the buck,
I found him fitting by a fountain fide,
Of which he borrow'd some to quench his thirst.
And paid the nymph again as much in tears,
A garland lay by him, made by himself
Of many several flowers, bred in the bay,
Stuck in that myftic order that the rareness
Delighted me: but ever when he curn'd
His tender eyes upon them, he would weep
As if he meant to make them grow again.
Seeing such pretty, helpless innocence
Dwell in his face, I ask'd him all bis story ;
He told me that his parents gentle died,
Leaving him to the mercy of the fields
Which gave him roots, and of the chryftal springs
Which did not ftop their courses; and the sun
Which ftill, he thank'd him, yielded him his light:
Then up he took his garland, and did shew
What every flower, as country people hold,

« AnteriorContinuar »