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" Hah! Dastards, do you tremble !
" But the guards still remaining restive, Sempronius himself attacks Juba, while each of the guards is representing Mr. Spectator's sign of the
Gaper, awed, it seems, and terrified by Sempronius's threats. Juba " kills Sempronius, and takes bis own army prisoners and carries them in
triumph away to Cato. Now I would fain know if any part of Mr. Bayes's tragedy is so full of absurdity as this?
Upon hearing the clash of swords, Lucia and Marcia come in. The question is, why no men come in upon hearing the noise of swords in the "governor's hall? Where was the governor himself? Where were his guards? " Where were his servants ? Such an attienpt as this, so near the person
of " a governor of a place of war was enough to alarm the whole garrison : " and yet, for almost half an hour after Sempronius was killed, we find
none of those appear, who were the likeliest in the world to be alarmed;
and the noise of swords is made to draw only two poor women thithe:, "who were most certain to run away from it. Upon Lucia and Marcia's
coming in, Lucia appears in all the symptoms of an lysterical gentlewoman:
" Luc. Sure 'twas the clash of swords ! my troubled heart
"And immediately her old whimsy returns apon her:
"O Marcia, should thy brothers, for my sake
"She fancies that there can be no cutting-of-throats, but it must be for her " If this is tragical, I would fain know what is comical. Well! upon this
they spy the body of Sempronius ; and Marcia, deluded by the habit, " it seems, takes him for Juba; for, says she,
“ The face is muffled up within the garment.
" Now, how a man could fight, and fall with his face muffled up in his
garment, is, I think, a little hard to conceive! Besides, Juba, before he
killed him knew hira to be Sempronius. It was not by his garment that " he knew this ; it was by his face then: his face therefore was not mufiled.
Upon seeing this man with his muffled face, Marcia falls a-raying ; and,
owning her passion for the supposed defanct, begins to make his funeral " oration. Upon which Juba enters listening, I suppose on tip-toes for I cannot imagine how any one can enter listening, in any other posture.
“ I would
“ I would fain know how it came to pass, that during all this time he had
sent nobody, no not so much as a candle-snuffer, to take away the dead " body of Sempronius. Well ! but let us regard him listening. Having • left his apprehension behind him, he, at first, applies what Marcia says to “ Sempronius. But finding at last, with much ado, that he himself is the
happy man, he quits his eve-dropping, and discovers himself just time « enough to prevent his being cuckolded by a dead man, of whom the “ moment before he had appeared so jealous ; and greedily intercepts the “ bliss, which was fondly designed for one who could not be the better for a it. But here I must ask a quession : how comes Juba to listen here, who « had not listened before throughout the play? Or, how comes he to be the
only person of this tragedy who listens, when love and treason were so of
ten talked in so públick a place as a hall? I am afraid the author was dri“ ven upon all these absurdities only to introduce this miserable mistake of « Marcia, which, after all, is much below the dignity of tragedy, as any < thing is which is the effect or result of trick.
" But iet us come to the scenery of the Fifth Act. Cato appears first
upon the scene, sitting in a thoughtful posture ; in his hand Plato's treatise “ on the Immortality of the Soul, a drawn sword on the table by him. “ Now let us consider the place in which this sight is presented to us. The
piace, forsooth, is a long hall. Let us suppose, that any one should
place himself in this posture, in the midst of one of our halls in Lon“ don; that he should appear solus, in a sullen posture, a drawn sword on " the table by him ; in his hand Plato's treatise on the Immortality of the “ Soul, translatediately by Bernard Lintot: I desire the reader to consider, “ whether such a person as this would pass with them who beheld him for a
great patriot, a great philosopher, or a general, or for some whimsical
person who fancied himself all these ; and whether the people, who be“ longed to the family, would think that such a person had a desiç ipon their « midriffs or his own? “ In short, that Cato should sit long enough in the aforesaid
in " the midst of this large hall, to read over Plato's treatise on the Immor“ tality of the Soul, which is a lecture of two long hours ; that he should s propose to bimself to be private there upon that occasion; that he should “ be angry with his son for intruding there ; then, that he should leave this “ hall upon the pretence of sleep, give himself the mortal wound in his “ bedchamber, and then be brought back into that hall to expire, surely
to shew his good-breeding and save his friends the trouble of coming up
to his bedchamber; all this appears to me to be improbable, incredible, " ja possible."
Buch is the censure of Dennis. There is, as Dryden expresses it, perhaps " too much horse play in his raillery;" but if his jests are coarse, his arguments are strong. Yet as we love better to be pleased than to be taughi, Cato is read, and the critick is neglected.
Flushed with consciousness of these detections of absurdity in the conduct, he afterwards attacked the sentiments of Cato; but he then amused himself with petty cavils and ininute objections.
Of Addison's smaller poems, no particular mention is necessary; they have little that can employ or require a critick. The parallel of the Princes and Gods, in his verses to Kneller, is often happy, but is too well knownie be quoted.
His translations, so far as I have compared them, want the exactness of á scholar. That he understood his authors cannot be doubted; but bis versions will not teach others to understand them, being too licentiously paraphrastical. They are however, for the most part, smooth and easy; and, what is the first excellence of a translator, such as may be read with pleasure by those who do not know the originals.
His poetry is polished and pure ; the product of a mind too judicious to commit faults, but not sufficiently vigorous to attain excellence. He has sometimes a striking line, or a shining paragraph ; but in the whole he is warm rather than fervid, and shews more dexterity than strength. He is however one of our earliest examples of correctness.
The versification which he had learned from Dryden he debased rather than refined. His rhymes are often dissonant; in his Georgick he adınits broken lines. He uses both triplets and alexandrines, but triplets more frequently in his translation than in his other works. The mere structure of verses seems never to have engaged inuch of his care. But his lines are very smooth in Rosamond, and too smooth in Cato.
Addison is now to be considered as a critick ; a name which the present generation is scarcely willing to allow him. His criticism is. condemned as tentative or experimental, rather than scientifick, and he is considered as deciding by taste rather than by principles.
It is not uncommon for those who have grown wise by the labour of others, to add a little of their own, and overlook their masters. Addison is now despised by some who perhaps would never have seen his defects, but by the lights which he afforded them. That he always wrote as he would think it necessary to write now, cannot be afhrmed; his instructions were such as the characters of his readers made proper. That general knowledge which
ñow circulates in common talk, was in his time rarely to be found. Men not professing learning were not ashamed of ignorance ; and in the female world, any acquaintance with books was distinguished only to be censured. His purpose fras to infuse literary curiosity, by gentle and unsuspected conveyance, into the gay, the idle, and the wealthy; he therefore presented knowledge in the most alluring form, not lofty and austere, but accessible and familiar. When he shewed them their defects, he shewed them likewise that they might be easily supplied. His attempt succeeded; enquiry was awakened, and comprehension expanded. An emulation of intellectual elegance was excited, and from this time to our own, ise has been gradually exalted, and conservation purified and enlarged.
Dryaen had, not many years before, scattered criticism over his Prefaces with very little parsimony; but, though he sometimes condescended to be somewhat familiar, his manner was in general too scholastick for those who had yet their rudiments to learn, and found it not easy to understand their master. His observations were framed rather for those that were learning to write, than for those that read only to talk.
An instructor like Addison was now wanting, whose remarks being super ficial might be easily understood, and being just might prepare the mind for more attainments. Had he presented Paradise Lost to the publick with all the pomp of system and severity of science, the criticism would perhaps have been admired, and the poem still have been neglected; but by the blandishments of gentleness and facility, he has made Milton an universal, favourite with whom readers of every class think it necessary to be pleased.
He descended now and then to lower disquisitions; and by a serious display of the beauties of Chevy Chase, exposed himself to the ridicule of Wagstaff, who bestowed a like pompous character on Tom Thumb; and to the contempt of Dennis, who considering the fundamental position of his criticism, that Chevy Chase pleases, and cught to please, because it is natural, observes, ** that there is a way of deviating from nature, by bombast or tumcur, which soars above nature, and enlarges images beyond their real bulk; by affectation, which forsakes nature in quest of something unsuitable; and by imbecillity, which degrades nature by faintness and diminution, by obscuring its appearances, and weakening its effects.” In Chevy Chase there is not much of either bombast or affectation ; but there is chill and lifeless imbecillity. The story cannot possibly be told in a manner that shall make less impression on the mind.
Before the profound observers of the present race repose too securely on thawnsciousness of their superiority to Addison, let them consider his Re
marks on Ovid, in which may be found specimens of criticism sufficiently subtle and refined ; let them peruse likewise his Essays on Wit, and on the Pleasures of Imagination, in which he founds art on the base of nature, and draws the principles of invention from dispositions inherent in the mind of man, with skill and elegance, such as his contemners will not easily attain.
As a describer of life and manners, he must be allowed to stand perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, as Steele observes, is peculiar to himself, is so happily diffused as to give the grace of novelty to domestick scenes and daily occurrences. He never “ outsteps the modesty of
nature," nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by, distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can be hardly said to invent : yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is dificult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.
As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in the enthusiastick or superstitious : he appears neither weakly credulous nor wantonly sceptical ; his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor impracticably rigid. All the enchantment of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, are employed to recommend to the reader bis rcal interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shewn sometimes as the phantom of a vision; sometimes appears half-veiled in an allegory i sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy; and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is pleasing.
Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet.
His prose is the model of the middle style ; on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not grovelling; pure without sci upulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration ; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. Addison never deviates from his track to snatch' a grace; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendour.
It was apparently his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness, and severity of diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connections, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation ; yet if his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost somerhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted, he TI