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bits, and a dancing tree, even the Ludgate audience had forsaken it. *
After this ill success, one would have thought the poet should have been sufficiently mortified; and though he were not naturally modest, should at least have deferred the showing of his impudence till a fitter season: but instead of this, he has written before his play the most arrogant, calumniating, ill-mannered, and senseless Preface I ever saw. This upstart illiterate scribbler, who lies more open to censure than any writer of the age, comes amongst the poets, like one of the earth-born brethren; and his first business in the world is to attack and murder all his fellows. This, I confess, raised a little indignation in me, as much as I was capable of for so contemptible a wretch, and made me think it somewhat necessary that he should be made an example, to the discouragement of all such petulant ill writers; and that he should be dragged out of that obscurity to which his own poetry would for ever have condemned him. I knew, indeed, that to write against him was to do him too great an honour; but I considered Ben Jonson had done it before to Dekker, our author's predecessor, whom he chastised in his "Poetaster," under the character of Crispinus; and brought him in vomiting up his fustian and nonsense. † Should
* There was a royal theatre at Whitehall, where this play was twice acted. This playhouse was burned in 1697. The dancing tree, refers to this stage direction in the second act: "A Moorish dance is presented by Moors in several habits, who bring in an artificial palm-tree, about which they dance to several antique instruments of music."
+ For Ben Jonson's controversy with Dekker, See Vol. X. p. 451. Dekker was as far superior to Settle, as Dryden was to Jonson.
our poet have been introduced in the same manner, he must have disgorged his whole play, ere he had been cleansed. Never did I see such a confused heap of false grammar, improper English, strained hyperboles, and downright bulls. His plot is incoherent, and full of absurdities, and the characters of his persons so ill chosen, that they are all either knaves or fools; only his knaves are fools into the bargain, and so must be of necessity, while they are in his management. They all speak alike, and without distinction of character; that is, every one rants, and swaggers, and talks nonsense abundantly. He steals notoriously from his contemporaries, but he so alters the property, by disguising his theft in ill English and bad applications, that he makes the child his own by deforming it:-male dum recitas, incipit esse tuus. A poet, when he sees his thoughts in so ill a dress, is ashamed to confess they ever belonged to him. For the Latin and Greek authors, he had certainly done them the same injury he has done the English, but that he has the excuse of Aretine for not railing against God; he steals not from them, because he never knew them. In short, he is an animal of a most deplored understanding, without reading and conversation his being is in a twilight of sense, and some glimmering of thought, which he can never fashion either into wit or English. His style is boisterous and rough-hewn; his rhyme incorrigibly lewd, and his numbers perpetually harsh and ill sounding. That little talent which he has, is fancy. He sometimes labours with a thought, but with the pudder he makes to bring it into the world, it is commonly still-born; so that, for want of learning and elocution, he will never be able to express any thing either naturally or justly. This subjects him on all occasions to false allusions, and
mistaken points of wit. As for judgment, he has not the least grain of it; and therefore all his plays will be a mere confusion. What a beastly pattern of a king, whom he intends virtuous, has he shewn in his Muly Labas? Yet he is the only person who is kept to his character; for he is a perpetual fool; and I dare undertake, that if he were played by Nokes, who acted just such another monarch in "Macbeth," ," it would give new life to the play, and do it more good than all its devils. But of all women, the Lord bless us from his Laula! nobody can be safe from her: she is so naturally mischievous, that she kills without the least occasion, for the mere lechery of bloodshed. I suspect he took her character from the poisoning-woman, who, they say, makes almost as little ceremony of a murder as that Queen.
It were endless to run over the rest; but they are all of the same stamp. He has a heavy hand at fools, and a great felicity in writing nonsense for them. Fools they will be in spite of him. His king, his two empresses, his villain, and his sub-villain, nay his hero, have all a certain natural cast of the father; one turn of the countenance goes through all his children. Their folly was born and bred in them; and something of the Elkanah will be visible. Our poet, in writing fools, has very much in him of that sign-post painter, who was famous only for drawing roses: when a vintner desired him to paint a lion, he answered, he would do it to content him,
*This seems, as conjectured by Mr Malone, to have been some parody on Macbeth, which, strange to tell! had been converted into a sort of opera by D'Avenant. Such burlesque performances were fashionable about this time.
but he was sure it would be like a rose. the common audience are much of his level, and both the great vulgar and the small (as Mr Cowley calls them) are apt to admire what they do not understand, (omne ignotum habent pro magnifico,) and think all which rumbles is heroic, it will be no wonder if he pass for a great author amongst town fools and city wits. With these men, they who laugh at him will be thought envious; for they will be sure to rise up in arms for nonsense, and violently defend a cause in which they are engaged by the ties of nature and education. But it will be for the benefit of mankind hereafter to observe what kind of people they are who frequent this play, that men of common sense may know whom to shun. Yet I dare assure the reader, that one half of the faults and absurdities are not shewn; what is here is only selected fustian, impertinence, and false grammar. There is as much behind, as would reasonably damn as many plays as there are acts; for I am sure there are no four lines together, which are free from some error, and commonly a gross one. But here is enough to take a taste of him; to have observed all, were to have swelled a volume, and have made you pay as dear for a fool's picture, as you have done for his tragedy with sculptures.
"As men in incense send up vows to heaven."
Empress of Morocco, Act II. As if incense could carry up thoughts, or a thought go up in smoke: he may as well say, he will roast or bake thoughts, as smoke them. And the allusion too is very agreeable and natural: he compares thunder, lightning, and roaring of guns, to
incense; and says thus,-he expresses his loud joys in a concert of thundering guns, as men send up silent vows in gentle incense. If this description is not plentifully supplied with nonsense, I will refer myself to the reader. No doubt it was worth our poet's pains to cut a river up to Morocco, for the sake of such a description of ships as this. A rare and studied piece it is. The poet has employed his art about every line. that it may be esteemed a curiosity in its kind, and himself a person endowed with a peculiar talent in writing new and exact nonsense. And for this no doubt it was, that our poet was so much courted, sent for from place to place, that you could hardly cross a street but you met him puffing and blowing, with his fardel of nonsense under his arm, driving his bulls in haste to some great person or other to shew them, as if he had lately come out of Asia or Africa with strange kinds of dromedaries, rhinoceroses, or a new Cambyses, a beast more monstrous than any of the former. Nay, both the playhouses contended for him, as if he had found out some new way of eating fire. No doubt their design was to entertain the town with a rarity. People had been long weary of good sense that looked like nonsense, and now they would treat them with nonsense which yet looked very like sense. But as he that pretended he would shew a beast which was very like a horse, and was no horse, set people much admiring what strange animal it should be, but when they came in, and found it was nothing but a plain grey mare, laughed a while at the conceit, but were ready after to stone the fellow for his impudence; so it must needs fare with our poet, when his upper-gallery fools discover they have tricks put upon them, and all that they have so ignorantly clapped is downright nonsense. And for my part, I cannot but ad