Imatges de pÓgina
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farce.-Ridiculously has our poet, and ridiculously has our taste been represented, by a writer of univerfal fame; and through the medium of an almost univerfal language. Superficial criticisms hit the level of shallow minds, to whom a Bon Mot will appear Reason, and an epigrammatic Turn, Argument; fo that many of our countrymen have haftily adopted this lively writer's opinion of the extravagance, and total want of defign in Shakespear's dramas. With the more learned, deep, and fober critics, however, he lies under one confiderable disadvantage. For copying nature, as he found it, in the busy walks of human life, he drew from an original, with which the Literati are seldom well acquainted. They perceive his portraits are not of the Grecian or of the Roman school; fo that after finding them unlike to the dignified characters preserved in learned museums, they do not deign to enquire, whether they resemble the living perfons, they were intended to reprefent. Among these connoiffeurs, whofe acquaintance with man

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kind is formed in the library, not in the street, the camp, or village, whatever is unpolished and uncouth paffes for fantastic and abfurd, though, in fact, it is a faithful reprefentation of a really exifting cha

racter.

But it must be acknowledged, that, when this objection is obviated, there will yet remain another caufe of cenfure; for though our author, from want of delicacy or from a defire to please the popular tafte, thought he had done well, when he faithfully copied nature, or represented customs, it will appear to politer times, the error of an untutored mind, which the example of judicious artifts, and the admonitions of delicate connoiffeurs had not taught, that only graceful nature and decent customs give proper subjects for imitation. It may be said in mitigation of his fault, that the vulgar here had not, as at Athens, been used to behold,

Gorgeous

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Gorgeous tragedy

In fcepter'd pall come sweeping by,
Presenting Thebes or Pelops' line,
Or the tale of Troy divíne.

Homer's works alone were fufficient to teach the Greek poets how to write, and their audience how to judge. The fongs fung by our bards at feafts and merry-makings were of a very coarse kind: as the people were totally illiterate, and the better fort alone could read even their mother tongue, their tafte was formed on these compofitions. As yet our stage had exhibited only those palpable allegories, by which rude unlettered moralists inftruct and please the grofs and ignorant multitude. Nothing can more plainly evince the opinion, the poets of those times had of the ignorance of the people, than the condefcenfion fhewn to it by the learned Earl of Dorfet, in his tragedy of Gorboduc; in which the moral of each act is represented on the stage in dumb fhew. It is therefore strange that Mr. de Voltaire, B 2 who

who affects an impartial and philosophic fpirit, should not rather speak with admiration, than contempt, of an author, who by the force of genius rofe fo much above the age and circumstances in which he was born,, and who, even when he deviates most from rules, can rife to faults true critics dare not mend. In delineating characters he must be allowed very far to furpafs all dramatic writers, and even Homer himself; he gives an air of reality to every thing, and, in spite of many and great faults, effects, better than any one has ever done, the chief purposes of theatrical reprefentation. It avails little to prove, that the means by which he effects them are not those prescribed in any Art of Poetry. While we feel the power and energy of his predominant genius, fhall we not be apt to treat the cold formal precepts of the Critic, with the fame peevish contempt, that the good lady in the Guardian, fmarting in the anguish of a burn, does her fon's pedantic intrusion of Mr. Lock's doctrine, to prove that there is no heat in fire? Nature and

and fentiment will pronounce our Shakespear a mighty Genius; judgment and taste will confefs, that as a Writer he is far from being faultlefs,

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