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as it is the cant of this, to hold them up as proofs of loyalty and staunch monarchical principles. Religion and morality are, in either case, equally made subservient to the spirit of party, and a stalking-horse to the love of power. Finally, there is a want of pathos and humour, but no want of interest in Hudibras. It is difficult to lay it down. One thought is inserted into another; the links in the chain of reasoning are so closely rivetted, that the attention seldom flags, but is kept alive (without any other assistance) by the mere force of writing. There are occasional indications of poetical fancy, and an eye for natural beauty; but these are kept under or soon discarded, judiciously enough, but it should seem, not for lack of power, for they are certainly as masterly as they are rare. Such are the burlesque description of the stocks, or allegorical prison, in which first Crowdero, and then Hudibras, is confined: the passage beginning
“ As when an owl that's in a barn,
As if he slept,” &c. And the description of the moon going down in the early morning, which is as pure, original, and picturesque as possible:
of night, whose large command Rules all the sea and half the land,
And over moist and crazy brains
Butler is sometimes scholastic, but he makes his learning tell to good account; and for the purposes of burlesque, nothing can be better fitted than the scholastic style.
Butler's Remains are nearly as good and full of sterling genius as his principal poem. Take the following ridicule of the plan of the Greek tragedies as an instance.
“Reduce all tragedy, by rules of art,
Whence only such as are of middling sizes,
His ridicule of Milton's Latin style is equally severe, but not so well founded.
I have only to add a few words respecting the dramatic writers about this time, before we arrive at the golden period of our comedy. Those of Etherege* are good for nothing, except The Man of Mode, or Sir Fopling Flutter, which is, I think, a more exquisite and airy picture of the manners of that age than any other extant. Sir Fopling himself is an inimitable coxcomb, but pleasant withal. He is a suit of clothes personified. Dorimant (supposed to be Lord Rochester) is the genius of grace, gallantry, and gaiety. The women in this courtly play have very much the look and air (but something more demure and significant) of Sir Peter Lely's beauties. Harriet, thę mistress of Dorimant, who “ tames his wild heart to her loving hand,” is the flower of the piece. Her natural, untutored grace and spirit, her meeting with Dorimant in the Park, bowing and mimicking him, and the luxuriant description
* Love in a Tub, and She Would if She Could.
which is given of her fine person, altogether form one of the chef-d'đuvres of dramatic painting. I should think this comedy would bear reviving ; and if Mr. Liston were to play Sir Fopling, the part would shine out with double lustre, “ like the morn risen on mid-noon.”—Dryden's comedies have all the point that there is in ribaldry, and all the humour that there is in extravagance. I am sorry I can say nothing better of them. He was not at home in this kind of writing, of which he was himself conscious. His play was horseplay. His wit (what there is of it) is ingenious and scholar-like, rather than natural and dramatic. Thus Burr, in the Wild Gallant, says to Failer,
She shall sooner cut an atom than part us.”—His plots are pure voluntaries in absurdity, that bend and shift to his purpose without any previous notice or reason, and are governed by final causes. Sir Martin Mar-all, which was taken from the Duchess of Newcastle, is the best of his plays, and the origin of the Busy Body. Otway's comedies do no sort of credit to him : on the contrary, they are as desperate as his fortunes. The Duke of Buckingham's famous Rehearsal, which has made, and deservedly, so much noise in the world, is in a great measure taken from Beaumont and Fletcher's Knight of the Burning Pestle, which was written in ridicule of the London ap
prentices in the reign of Elizabeth, who had a great hand in the critical decisions of that age. There were other dramatic writers of this period, noble and plebeian. I shall only mention one other piece, the Committee, I believe by Sir Robert Howard, which has of late been cut down into the farce called Honest Thieves, and which I remember reading with a great deal of pleasure many years ago.
One cause of the difference between the immediate reception and lasting success of dramatic works at this period may be, that after the court took the play-houses under its particular protection, every thing became very much an affair of private patronage. If an author could get a learned lord or a countess-dowager to bespeak a box at his play, and applaud the doubtful passages, he considered his business as done. On the other hand, there was a reciprocity between men of letters and their patrons ; critics were “ mitigated into courtiers, and submitted," as Mr. Burke has it, “ to the softcollar of social esteem," in pronouncing sentence on the works of lords and ladies. How ridiculous this seems now? What a hubbub it would create, if it were known that a particular person of fashion and title had taken a front-box in order to decide on the fate of a first play! How the newspaper