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to the humanity which rose in him at some irresistible touches of the imagined sorrow. We have seldom had any female distress on the stage, which did not, upon cool examination, appear to flow from the weakness, rather than the misfortune of the person represented: but in this tragedy you are not entertained with the ungoverned passions of such as are enamoured of each other, merely as they are men and women, but their regards are founded upon high conceptions of each other's virtue and merit; and the character which gives name to the play, is one who has behaved herself with heroic virtue in the most important circumstances of a female life, those of a wife, a widow, and a mother. If there be those whose minds have been too attentive

the affairs of life, to have any notion of the passion of love in such extremes as are known only to particular tempers, yet, in the above-mentioned considerations, the sorrow of the heroine will move even the generality of mankind. Domestic virtues concern all the world, and there is no one living who is not interested that Andromache should be an imitable character. The generous affection to the memory of her deceased husband, that tender care for her son, which is ever heightened with the consideration of his father, and these regards preserved in spite of being tempted with the possession of the highest greatness, are what cannot but be venerable even to such an audience as at present frequents the English theatre. My friend Will Honeycomb commended several tender things that were said, and told me they were very genteel; but whispered me, that he feared the piece was not busy enough for the present taste. To supply this, he recommended to the players to be very careful in their scenes, and, above all things, that every part should be perfectly new dressed. I was very glad to find that they did not neglect my friend's admonition, because there are a great many in this class of criticism who may be gained by it; but indeed the truth is, that as to the work itself, it is everywhere nature. The persons are of the highest quality in life, even that of princes; but their quality is not represented by the poet with directions that guards and waiters should follow them in every scene, but their grandeur appears in greatness of sentiments, flowing from minds worthy their condition. To make a character truly great, this author understands that it should have its foundation in superior thoughts, and maxims of conduct. It is very certain, that many an honest woman would make no difficulty, though she had been the wife of Hector, for the sake of a kingdom, to marry the enemy of her husband's family and country; and indeed who can deny but she might be still an honest woman, but no heroine? That may be defensible, nay laudable in one character, which would be in the highest degree exceptionable in another. When Cato Uticensis killed himself, Cottius, a Roman of ordinary quality and character, did the same thing; upon which one said, smiling, · Cottius might have lived, though Cæsar has seized the Roman liberty Cottius's condition might have been the same, let things at the upper end of the world pass as they would. What is further very extraordinary in this work, is, that the persons are all of them laudable, and their misfortunes arise rather from unguarded virtue, than propensity to vice. The town has an opportunity of doing itself justice in supporting the representations of passion, sorrow, indignation, even despair itself, within the rules of decency, honour, and good-breeding; and since there is no one can flatVOL, IV,



ter himself his life will be always fortunate, they may here see sorrow, as they would wish to bear it whenever it arrives.

MR. SPECTATOR, “I AM appointed to act a part in the new tragedy called The Distrest Mother. It is the celebrated grief of Orestes which I am to personate ; but I shall not act it as I ought, for I shall feel it too intimately to be able to utter it. I was last night repeating a paragraph to myself, which I took to be an expression of rage, and in the middle of the sentence there was a stroke of self-pity which quite unmanned me. Be pleased, Sir, to print this letter, that when I am oppressed in this manner at such an interval, a certain part of the audience may not think I am out; and I hope, with this allowance, to do it with satisfaction.

I am, SIR,
Your most humble servant,


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MR. SPECTATOR, * As I was walking the other day in the Park, I saw a gentleman with a very short face; I desire to know whether it was you. Pray inform me as soon as you can, lest I become the most heroic Hecatissa's rival. Your humble servant to command,


DEAR MADAM, . It is not me you are in love with, for I was very ill and kept my chamber all that day. - Your most humble servant,




N° 291. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1711-12.

Ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis
Offendor maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parum cavit natura.

HOR. Ars Poet. ver, 351.

But in a poem elegantly writ,
I will not quarrel with a slight mistake,
Such as our nature's frailty may excuse.


I HAVE now considered Milton's Paradise Lost under those four great heads, of the fable, the characters, the sentiments, and the language'; and have shewn that he excels in general, under each of these heads. I hope that I have made several discoveries which may appear new, even to those who are versed in critical learning. Were I indeed to choose my readers, by whose judgment I would stand or fall, they should not be such as are acquainted only with the French and Italian critics, but also with the ancient and modern who have written in either of the learned languages. Above all, I would have them well versed in the Greek and Latin poets, without which a man very often fancies that he understands a critic, when in reality he does not comprehend his meaning.

It is in criticism as in all other sciences and speculations; one who brings with him any implicit notions and observations, which he has made in his reading of the poets, will find his own reflections methodized and explained, and perhaps several little

I See N° 267, 273, 279, 285,

hints that had passed in his mind perfected and improved, in the works of a good critic; whereas one who has not these previous lights is very often an utter stranger to what he reads, and apt to put a wrong interpretation upon it.

Nor is it sufficient that a man, who sets up for a judge in criticism, should have perused the authors above-mentioned, unless he has also a clear and logical head. Without this talent he is perpetually puzzled and perplexed amidst his own blunders, mistakes the sense of those he would confute, or, if he chances to think right, does not know how to convey his thoughts to another with clearness and perspicuity

Aristotle, who was the best critic, was also one of the best logicians that ever appeared in the world.

Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding would be thought a very odd book for a man to make himself master of, who would get a reputation by critical writings; though at the same time it is very certain, that an author who has not learned the art of distinguishing between words and things, and of ranging his thoughts and setting them in proper lights, whatever notions he may have, will lose himself in confusion and obscurity. I might further observe, that there is not a Greek or Latin critic, who has not shewn, even in the stile of his criticisms, that he was a master of all the elegance and delicacy of his native tongue.

The truth of it is, there is nothing more absurd, than for a man to set up for a critic without a good insight into all the parts of learning; whereas many of those, who have endeavoured to signalize themselves by works of this nature, among our English writers, are not only defective in the above-mention

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