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of other times and other countries. Why should the experience, which has been accumulating since the world began, and which history has cart fully recorded for our instruction, be accumulated and recorded in vain?
It has been at all times a favourite topic with philosophers to lay open the workings of the human mind in “ Dialogues of the Dead ;” and it would be a curious speculation (if the idea of such meetings were not connected with a feeling of too much awe to allow of any speculation in the remotest degree approaching to the ludicrous) to conceive an Englishman, upon just crossing the Stygian lake after dying in the deadly expedition to Flushing or the glorious battle of Albuera, meeting with an Athenian who had perished 2149 years ago in that battle of Chæronæa in which Philip of Macedon crushed the liberties of Greece. The mutual compassion and mutual complaints would to them be vain : but to us, the surviving generation, the very conception of them ought to speak a lesson pregnant with instruction : it should teach us that, as the same causes operate with the same effects, we are not secure that we shall not fall as Athens fell, a prey to the ambition of a foreign conqueror; and above all, it should teach us to guard against the fate of that unfortunate republic, by a timely removal of its worst defects,-by the renovation of public spirit and public virtue, and the consolidation of every rank in one fixed and patriotic interest, by that single popular and mighty act,-a Constitutional Reform.
Art. XXII.-Retrospect of the Theatre.
Though the latter half of the year 1811 has produced little actual improvement in the state of the Drama, yet upon the whole, appearances have continued favourable, and something lik thinking begins to be discernible in that chaos of commonpl: ce. It is true, we have been presented with some miserable farces, the ideas of which are as hacknied, as badly drawn, as fantastic and as unmeaning, as the pictures upon a China dish; and what is worse, the authors of them are young men, who in thus copying the lowest of their cotemporaries, shew us how little we have to hop from their advancing years :—but still the nonsense has been contined to melodrama and afterpiece; and it seems to be understood, both by young and old, that the time for what was called comedy, that is to say, for larger farces unas.'
sisted by music and spectacle, exists no longer. A sort of despe. rate attempt to revive it was made by Mr. Thomas Dibdin in October last at the “ classical” theatre of Covent-Garden; but though his long interval of silence might have led the town to suppose that he had been really studying a little grammar and sense, and though the piece itself, Up to Town, actually bore out the supposition, comparatively speaking, yet audiences are not what they were, and the piece was resolutely damned.
Mr. Dibdin therefore drew back again into the more congenial house, which he had latterly taken on his shoulders--the Circus or Surrey Theatre; and as Mr. Cherry has long bera rusticated in Wales, and Mr. Reynolds betakın himself to the fastnesses of melodrama, the better part of the Stage is beginning to make room for better endeavour. Even Mr. Morton, in losing his little ground of superiority and declining to the mere level of his con. temporaries, has at the same time grown judiciously idle :-the Siddonses, Allinghams, Eyres, and other small infesters of the theatre,—the bats of our stage darkness,—begin, as the phrase is, to drop off;---and the critics have at least the consolation of being assured, tiat if dulness and buffoonery shonid regain their old possession, they must do it under some other shape; for the tricks of punning, of loyal clap-traps, and of maudlin sentiment, are well nigh exhausted, and what the town used to applaud from inexperience, it has now learnt to despise from knowledge and to shun from weariness and disgust. Yet the unwillingness with which these gentlemen make room for others, is inconceivable, though some of them have absolutely grown rich upon our goodnature, and all of them are superannuaied in point of joking. It is curious to observe with what little comprehension they enter into the real causes of the change they experience. Mr. Reynolds and his friends consider it, I understand, as a sort of visitation upon the drama in general, and talk of the “ hard times” as they would of a scarcity or a frust; and a letter absolutely appeared the other day in one of the papers complaining in Mr. Dibdin's behalf of the pitiless severity of modern audiences,-a severity, it informed us, which would have been equally astonishing and fatal to the writers of former days. Thus Dryden, Congreve, and others, luckily escaped the fate of the modern dramatists, because audiences were formerly better natured ; and we are of course to understand, that if Mr. Dibdin had lived in the times of those congenial wits, his merits would have been more justly appreciated. Such is the modesty of indulged ignorance! And such the just though appalling retribution with which the long indulgence of the town is visited! But unfortunately, these worthies and their advocates never come before us without exposing their want of common information. The truth is, that if the singular
and foolish goodnature of modern audiences had not been sufficiently established by the long success of the very persons who now complain of them, nothing could have shewn it in a stronger light than a comparison with the audiences of former times. Ben Jonson was exa-perated more than once by the failure of an ela. borate piece; Dryden had at least four dramas condemned; out of as many comedies of Congreve, which are all indeed that he wrote, two were so ill received, that it is well known he gave up the stage in disgust. Something too much perhaps might appear to be thus made out against the taste of our ancestors; but in truth there was generally a sufficient quantity of objectionable matter in the pieces which they condemned; and if they were sometimes led astray into an illegitimate favouritisin, as in the cases of Settle, d’Urfey, and others, the fault was only momentary, and well retrieved by a due and lasting appreciation of better writers. The critical spirit was too lively among them to put up with such entire nonsense as latterly has engrossed the stage: Dryden laments somewhere that his own precepts had made them too knowing for him; and our dramatists should be told that even the Settles and d'Urfeys, the bye-words and buffoons of our elder stage, were men infinitely their superiors in all that constitutes a claim to be heard, for they really had read books and collected ideas : there was some kind of thinking about them; they could handle an image and a thought with something like a consciousness of possession, and did not exhibit that wretched imbecility of hand, which shews an utter want of acquaintance with shapes and substances and which ventures upon nothing but the merest surfaces of life, it's cant, and it's common-place.
So far then, the months under consideration have not been unpromising in a negative point of view; and if the smallest advance towards a better taste, or even towards the recommendation of a better taste, is to be valued as it ought, the reader will agree that a comedy written in imitation of Beaumont and Fletcher, and another in which there are touches of genuine wit and portry, are some indications of improvement on the positive side. Tallude to the Kiss of Mr. Stephen Clarke, and M. P. or the Blue Stocking, by Thomas Moore. The Kiss, it is true, had little or nothing to recommend it but where it directly borrowed from the old bards ; but there was a taste absolutely new to living dramatists in thus resorting to the treasures of sterling comedy; and if the example of the late Mr. Tobin has been the means of diverting the atten:ion of succeeding writers from the cant of the day to the language of reflexion and poetry, our obligations to his elegant mind are incalculable. The benefit to be derived from Mr. Moore's comedy is of a different description, and certainly of
no such extent, though coming from a more original and gifted source; but it is still no contemptible one, if rightly appreciated. M. P. or the Blue Stocking, is of a character directly the reverse of that of the Kiss ;-what belongs strictly to the author is the best part of it; what he has imitated is from wretched originals and infinitely beneath him. Unluckily, the best part of it is by far the smallest; and a few elegant songs,- -a few pointed sentences,-a few elaborate witticisms,-make us no amends in the abstract for a plot from Leadenhall-street and a profusion of puns, clap-traps, and farcicalities. A voluntary descent of this kind from the upper ranks of literature into the profound of the modern stage would have left nothing wanting to the regret of the critics in the extreme perniciousness of it's example, had not the author himself, in contradicting some supposed allusions to circumstances in high life, taken a public opportunity of expressing his own sense of the unworthiness of his production. Nor is this confession, though explained by Mr. Arnold the Manager in a counter-epistle to be a mere ebullition of modesty, disproved and defeated by the unusual success of the piece itself, for there is still enough of the author's spirit in it to have scattered for a time a preserving salt over the performance; and from all these circumstances put together, the dramatic student may derive three excellent lessons:-he may see, in the first place, what an immes diate and striking superiority to the Dibdins and Reynoldses is observable in the commonest and most perverted efforts of a man of genius, even when he condescends to their level; secondly, he may be convinced how assuredly a man of genius is humiliated in his own eyes as well as those of the critics by so doing; and thirdly, in regarding the piece and it's effect with a general eye, he will be enabled to discern, that whatever momentary advantages the author may have proposed to himself from begging the question like his inferiors with puns and clap-traps, he has upon the whole done an immediate as well as lasting injury to the suc. cess of his production, and might have secured continued houses and a better reputation in proportion as he had added to his own efforts on the occasion and taken away from the vices he chose to employ in their stead. After all however, it is not to be concluded, that the genius of Mr. Moore, thongh it owed us a better endeavour in this respect, would ever appear to advantage in the dramatic walk;—it is much more allied to description and fancy than passion and character; and I cannot forbear repeating in this place, what I have hinted in another work, that the public have now an additional demand on bim to put his ta ents to their proper account. The union of the lighter ethics with fanciful rhetoric and an air of accomplishment is still a desideratum in English poetry; the task seems peculiarly fitted to Mr. Moore;
and his best friends would willingly see him occupied in embel. Jishing that cause of morality, which has suffered till lately under the warmth of his hand, but which there is no writer, I am persuaded, who, with some restraint on his floridness and a little more on his learning, would adorn with greater elegance of thought or felicity of recommendation.
Art. XXIII.—The Good Clerk, a Character; with some account
of “ The Complete English Tradesman.”
The Good CLERK.—He writeth a fair and swift hand, and is competently versed in the Four First Rules of Arithmetic, in the Rule of Three (which is sometimes called the Golden Rule) and in Practice. We mention these things, that we may leave no room for cavillers to say, that any thing essential hath been omitted in our definition; else, to speak the truth, these are but ordinary accomplishments, and such as every understrapper at a desk is commonly furnished with. The character we treat of soareth higher
He is clean and neat in his person; not from a vain-glorious desire of setting himself forth to advantage in the eyes of the other sex (with which vanity too many of our young Sparks now.adays are infected) but to do credit (as we say) to the office. For this reason he evermore taketh care that his desk or his books re. ceive no soil; the which things he is commonly as solicitous to have fair and unblemished, as the owner of a fine horse is to have him appear in good keep.
He riseth early in the morning; not because early rising condluceth to health (though he doth not altogether despise that consideration) but chiefly to the intent that he may be first at the desk. There is his post, there he delighteth to be, unless when his meals, or necessity, calleth him away; which time he alway esteemeth as lost, and maketh as short as possible.
Ile is temperate in eating and drinking, that he may preserve a clear head and steady hand for his master's service. He is also partly induced to this observation of the rules of temperance by his respect for religion and the laws of his country ; which things (it may once for all be noted) do add special assistances to his actions, but do not and cannot furnish the main spring or motive thereto. Ilis first ambition (as appeareth all along) is to be a good Clerk, his next a good Christian, a good Patriot, &c.