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with his James-and-Charles-the-First zeal for legi-
tiinacy of descent in this passage, is amusing. Of
our great names Milton was, I think, the first who
could properly be called a republican. My recol-
lections of Buchanan's works are too faint to enable
me to judge whether the historian is not a fair ex-
ception.
Act ii. Speech of Sejanus :

Adultery! it is the lightest ill
I will commit. A race of wicked acts
Shall flow out of my anger, and o'erspread
The world's wide face, which no posterity

Shall e'er approre, nor yet keep silent, &c. The more we reflect and examine, examine and reflect, the more astonished shall we be at the immense superiority of Shakspeare over his contenporaries : - and yet what contemporaries ! - giant minds indeed! Think of Jonson's crudition, and the force of learned authority in that age;

and yet in no genuine part of Shakspeare's works is there to be found such an absurd rant and ventriloquism as ! this, and too, too many

other passages ferruminated by Jonson from Seneca's tragedies and the writings of the later Romans. I call it ventriloquism, because Sejanus is a puppet, out of which the poet makes his own voice appear to come.

Act v. Scene of the sacrifice to Fortune. This scene is unspeakably irrational. To believe, and yet to scoff at, a present miracle is little less than impossible. Sejanus should have been made to suspect priestcraft and a secret conspiracy against him.

VOLPONE.

THIS

'HIS admirable, indeed, but yet more wonder

ful than admirable, play is from the fertility and vigour of invention, character, language, and sentiment the strongest proof, how impossible it is to keep up any pleasurable interest in a tale, in which there is no goodness of heart in any of the prominent characters. After the third act, this play becomes not a dead, but a painful, weight on the feelings. Zeluco is an instance of the same truth. Bonario and Celia should have been made in some way or other principals in the plot; which they might have been, and the objects of interest, without having been made characters. In novels, the person, in whose fate you are most interested, is often the least marked character of the whole. If it were possible to lessen the paramountcy of Volpone himself, a most delightful comedy might be produced, by making Celia the ward or niece of Corvino, instead of his wife, and Bonario her lover.

EPICÆVE.

THI

HIS is to my feelings the most entertaining of

old Ben's comedies, and, more than any other, would admit of being brought out anew, if under the management of a judicious and stage-under

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standing playwright; and an actor, who had studied Morose, might make his fortune.

Act i. sc. 1. Clerimont's speech :

He would have hanged a pewterer's 'prentice once on a Shrove Tuesday's riot, for being o' that trade, when the rest were quiet.

The old copies read quit, i.e.discharged from working, and gone to divert themselves. Whailey's note.

It should be quit, no doubt; but not meaning • discharged from working,' &c.—but quit, that is, acquitted. The pewterer was at his holiday diversion as well as the other apprentices, and they as forward in the riot as he. But he alone was punished under pretext of the riot, but in fact for his trade.

Act ii. sc. I.

Jorose. Cannot I, yet, find out a more compendious method, than by this truudi to sare my serrants the labour of speech, and mine ears the discord of sounds?

What does trunk' mean here and in the lst scene of the 1st act? Is it a large ear-trumpet ?or rather a tube, such as passes from parlour to kitchen, instead of a bell ?

Whalley's note at the end. Some critics of the last age imagined the character of Dlorose to be wbolly out of nature. But to vindicate our poet, Mr. Dryden tells us from tradition, and we may venture to take his word, that Jonson was really acquainted with a person of this whimsical turn of mind : and as bumour is a personal quality, the poet is acquitted from the charge of exhibiting a monster, or an extravagant unnatural carica

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If Dryden had not made all additional proof superfluous by his own plays, this very vindication would evince that he had formed a false and vulgar conception of the nature and conditions of the drama and dramatic personation. Ben Jonson would himself have rejected such a plea :

For he knew, poet nerer credit gain'd

By writing truths, but things, like truths, well feign’u. By “truths' he means.facts.' Caricatures are not less so, because they are found existing in real life. Comedy demands characters, and leaves caricatures to farce. The satest and truest defence of old Ben would be to call the Epicæne the best of farces. The defect in Vorose, as in other of Jonson's dramatis persone, lies in this; — that the accident is not a prominence growing out of, and nourished by, the character which still circulates in it, but that the character, such as it is, rises out of, or, rather, consists in, the accident. Shakspeare's comic personages have exquisitely characteristic features; however awry, disproportionate, and laughable they may be, still, like Bardolph's nose, they are features. But Jonson's are either a man with a huge wen, having a circulation of its own, and which we might conceive amputated, and the patient thereby losing all his character; or they are mere wens themselves instead of men,-wens personified, or with eyes, nose, and mouth cut out, mandrake-fashion.

Nota bene. All the above, and much more,

will have justly been said, if, and whenever, the drama of Jonson is brought into comparisons of rivalry with the Shakspearian. But this should not be. Let its inferiority to the Shakspearian be at once fairly owned,but at the same time as the inferiority of an altogether different genus of the drama. On this ground, old Ben would still maintain his proud height. Hc, no less than Shakspeare, stands on the summit of his hill, and looks round him like a master,—though his be Lattrig and Shakspeare's Skiddaw.

THE ALCHEMIST.

A A

Act. I. sc. 2. Face's speech :

Will take his oath oʻthe Greek Xenophon,
If need be, in his pocket.
NOTHER reading is · Testament.'

Probably, the meaning is—that intending to give false evidence, he carried a Greek Xenophon to pass it off for a Greek Testament, and so avoid perjury-as the Irish do, by contriving to kiss their thumb-nails instead of the book. Act ii. sc. 2. Mammon's speech :I will have all my beds blown up; not stuft: Down is too hard. Thus the air-cushions, though perhaps only lately brought into use, were invented in idea in the seventeenth century !

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