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it strange, if a tale in dance were announced, and the actors did not dance at all;—and yet such is modern comedy.
But Jonson was soon sensible, how inconsistent this medley of names and manners was in reason and nature; and with llow little propriety it could ever have a place in a legitimate and just picture of real life.
UT did Jonson reflect that the very essence
of a play, the very language in which it is wriiten, is a fiction to which all the parts must conforin? Surels, Greek mammers in English should be a still grosser improbability than a (irock name transferred to English manners. are too often not characters, but derangements; the hopeless patients of a mad-doctor rather,— exhibitions of folls betraying itself in spite of existing reason and prudence. He not poetically, , but painfully exaggerates every trait; that is, not by the drollery of the circumstance, but by the excess of the originating feeling.
But to this we might reply, that far from being thought to build his characters upon abstract ideas, he was really accused of representing particular persons then existing; and that even those characters which appear to be the most exaggerated, are said to have had their respective archetypes in nature and lite.
This degrades Jonson into a libeller, instead of justifying him as a dramatic poet. Non quod verum est, sed quod verisimile, is the dramatist's rule. At all events, the poet who chooses transitory manners, ought to content himself with transitory praise. If his object be reputation, he ought not to expect fame. The utmost he can look forwards to, is to be quoted by, and to enliven the writings of, an antiquarian. Pistol, Nym and il genus omne, do not please us as characters, but are endured as fantastic creations, foils to the native wit of Falstaff. - I say wit emphatically; for this character so often extolled as the masterpiece of humour, neither contains, nor was meant to contain, any humour at all.
WHALLEY'S LIFE OF JONSON.
It is to the honour of Jonson's judgment, that the greatest poet of our nation had the same opinion of Donne's genius and wit; and hath preserved part of him from perishing, by putting his thoughts and satire into modern verse.
Videlicet Pope ! He said further to Drummond, Shakspeare wanted art, and sometimes sense ; for in one of his plays he brought in a number of men, saying they had suffered shipwreck in Bohemia, where is no sea near by a hundred miles.
HAVE often thought Shakspeare justified in
this seeming anachronism. In Pagan times a single name of a German kingdom might well be
supposed to comprise a hundred miles more than at present. The truth is, these notes of Drummond's are more disgraceful to himself than to Jonson. It would be easy to conjecture how grossly Jonson must have been misunderstood, and what he had said in jest, as of Ilippocrates, interpreted in earnest. But this is characteristic of a Scotchman; he has no notion of a jest, unless you tell him - This is a joke!'-and still less of that finer shade of feeling, the half-and-half, in which Englishmen naturally delight.
EVERY VAN OUT OF HIIS IIUMOUR.
The throat of war be stopt within her land,
About her court.
very pretty word : pray, what does it mean? Doves, I presume, are not dancers; and the other sort of turtle, land or sea, green-fat or hawksbill, would, I should suppose, succeed better in slow minuets than in the brisk rondillo. In one sense, to be sure, pigeons and ring-dores could not dance but with eclat-a claw?
Light! I salute thee, but with wounded nerves,
THERE is no reason to suppose Satan's address
to the mere coincidence with these lines; but were it otherwise, it would be a fine instance, what usurious interest a great genius pays in borrowing. It would not be dificult to give a detailed psychological proof from these constant outbursts of anxious selfassertion, that Jonson was not a genius, a creative power.
Subtract that one thing, and you may safely accumulate on his name all other excellences of a capacious, vigorous, agile, and richly-stored intellect.
Act i. sc. 1.
Orid. While slaves be false, fathers hard, and bawds be whorish
The roughness noticed by Theobald and Whalley, may be cured by a simple transposition :
While fathers hard, slaves false, and bawds be whorish.
Act iv. sc. 3.
()--conscious. It would form an interesting essay, or rather series of essays, in a periodical work, were all the
attempts to ridicule new phrases brought together, the proportion observed of words ridiculed which have been adopted, and are now common, such as strenuous, conscious, &c., and a trial made how far any grounds can be detected, so that one might determine beforehand whether a word was invented under the conditions of assimilability to our language or not.
Thus much is certain, that the ridiculers were as often wrong as right; and Shakspeare himself could not prevent the naturalization of accommodation, remuneration, &c.; or Swift the gross abuse even of the word idea.
FALL OF SEJ:IVUS.
Arruntius. The name Tiberius,
Silius. Sure, while he lives.
Arr. And dead, it comes to Drusus. Should he fail,
Sil. I do not know
Arr. By the gods,
the Roman republican, to whom Tiberius must have appeared as much a tyrant as Sejanus