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cate. There he will feldom or ever find that Tuinour of Blank Verse, to which he has been so much accuitomed. He will be surprized with a familiar Dignity, which, though it rises fomewhat above ordinary Conversation, is rather an Improvement than Perversion of it. He will soon be convinced that Blank Verse is by no Means appropriated solely to the Buskin, but that the Hand of a Master may mould it to whatever Purposes he pleafes ; and that in Comedy it will not only admit Humour, but heighten and embellish it. Instances might be produced without Number. It must however be lamented, that the modern Tragick Stile, free, indeed, from the mad Flights of Dryden, and his cotemporaries, yet departs equally from Nature. I am apt to think it is in great Measure owing to the almost total Exclusion of Blank Verse from all modern Compositions, Tragedy excepted. The common Use of an elevated Diction in Comedy, where the Writer was often, of Necessity, put upon expreffing the most ordinary Matters, and where the Subject demanded him to paint the most ridiculous Emotions of the Mind, was perhaps one of the chief Causes of that caly Vigour, fo conspicuous in the Stile of the old Tragedies. Habituated to poetical Dialogue in thofe Compositions, wherein they were obliged to adhere more ftri&ly to the Simplicity of the Language of Nature, the Poets learnt, in those of a more raised Species, not to depart from it too wantonly. They were well acquainted alfo with the Force as well as Elegance of their Mother-Tongue, and chose to use such Words as may be called Natives of tbe Language, rather than to barmonize their Verses, and agonize the Audience with Latin Terminations. Whether the refined Stile of Addifon's Cato, and the foting Versification of Rowe, first occationed this Departure from ancient Simplicity, it is dificult to determine: But it is too true, that Southern was the
lart of our Dramatic Writers, who was, in any Degree, pofleft of that magnificent Plainness, which is the genuine Dress of Nature ; chough indeed the Plays even of Rowe are more simple in their Stile, than those which have been produced by his Succeffors. It must not, however, be diffembled in this Place, that the Stile of our old Writers is not without Faults; that they were apt to give too much into Conceits; that they often pursued an allegorical Train of Thought too far; and were sometimes betrayed into forced, unnatural, quaint, or gigantick Expressions. In the Works of Shakespeare himself, every one of these Errors may be found ; yet it may be safely asserted, that no other Author, antient or modern, has expressed himself on such a variety of Subjects with more Ease, and in a Vein more truly poetical, unless, perhaps, we
erhaps, we should except Homer: Of which, by the bye, the deepest Critick, most conversant with Idioms and Dialects, is not quite a competent Judge.
I would not be understood, by what I have here said of Poetical Dialogue, to object to the Use of Profe, or to insinuate that our modern Comedies are the worse for being written - in that Stile. It is enough for me, to have vindicated the Use of a more elevated Manner among our old Writers. I am well aware that most Parts of Falstaff, Fordy Benedick, Malvolio, &c. are written in Profe ; nor indeed would I counsel a modern Writer to attempt the Use of Poetical Dialogue in a mere Comedy: A Dramatick Tale, indeed, chequered, like Life itself, with various Incidents, ludicrous and affecting, if written by a masterly Hand, and somewhat more feverely than those abovementioned, would, I doubt not, ftill be received with Candour and Applause. The Publick would be agreeably surprised with the Revival of Poetry on the Theatre, and the Oppor. tunity of employing all the best Performers, serious
as well as comick, in one Piece, would render it still more likely to make a favourable Impresfion on the Audience. There is a Gentleman, not unequal to such a Task, who was once tempted to begin a Piece of this Sort; but, I fear, he has too much Love of Eafe and Indolence, and too little Ambi, tion of literary Fame, ever to complete it.
But to conclude:
Have I, Sir, been wasting all this Ink and Time in vain? Or may it be hoped that you will extend fome of that Care to the rest of our old Authors, which you have so long bestowed on Shakespeare, and which you have so often lavished on many a worse Writer, than the most inferior of those here recommended to you? It is certainly your Interest to give Variety to the Publick Tafte, and to diverlify the Colour of our Dramatick Entertainments, Encourage new Attempts ; but do Justice to the Old! The Theatre is a wide Field. Let not one or two Walks of it alone be beaten, but lay open the Whole to the Excursions of Genius! This, perhaps, might kindle a Spirit of Originality in our modern Writers for the Stage; who might be tempted to aim at more Novelty in their Compositions, when the Liberality of the popular Taste rendered it less hazardous. That the Narrowness of Theatrical Criticism might be enlarged, I have no Doubt. Reflect, for a Moment, on the uncommon Success of Romeo and Juliet, and Every Man in his Humour ! and then tell me, whether there are not many other Pieces of as antient a Date, which, with the like proper Curtailments and Alterations, would produce the same Effect? Has an industrious Hand been at the Pains to scratch up the Dunghill of Dryden's Amphitryon for the few Pearls that are buried in it, and Thall the rich Treasures of Beaumont and Fletcher, Jonfon and Maffinger, lie (as it were) in the Ore, antouched and disregarded? Reform your List of
Plays! Plays! In the Name of Burbage, Taylor, and Betterton, I conjure you to it! Let the veteran Criticks once more have the Satisfaction of seeing The Maid's Tragedy, Philaster, King and no King, &c. on the Stage !--Restore Fletcher's Elder Brother to the Rank unjuftly usurped by Cibber's Love Makes a Man! and fince you have wisely defifted from giving an annual Affront to the City by acting The London Cuckolds on Lord-Mayor's Day, why will you not pay them a Compliment, by exhibiting The City Madam of Maffinger on the same Occasion?
If after all, Sir, thefe Remonstrances should prove without Effect, and the Merit of these great Authors should plead with you in vain, I will here fairly turn my Back upon you, and address myself to the Lovers of Dramatick Compositions in general. They, I am sure, will peruse those Works with Pleasure in the Closet, though they lose the Satisfaction of seeing them represented on the Stage: Nay, fhould they, together with you, concur in determining that such Pieces are unfit to be acted, you, as well as they, will, I am confident, agree, that such Pieces are, at least, very worthy to be read. There are many modern Compositions, seen with Delight at the Theatre, which ficken on the Taste in the Perusal ; and the honest Country Gentleman, who has not been present at the Representation, wonders with what his London Friends have been fo híghly entertained, and is as much perplexed at the Town-manner of Writing as Mr. Smith in The Rehearsal." The Excellencies of our old Writers are, on the contrary, not confined to Time and Place, but always bear about them the Evidences of true Genius.
Maffinger is perhaps the least known, but not the least meritorious of any of the old Class of Writers., His Works declare him to be no mean Proficient in the same School. He posseffes all the Beauties and
Blemishes common to the Writers of that Age. He has, like the rest of them, in Compliance with the Custom of the Times, admitted Scenes of a low and gross Nature, which might be admitted with no more Prejudice to the Fable, than the Buffoonry in Venice Preserved. For his few Faults he makes ample Atonement. His Fables are, most of them, affecting; his Characters well conceived, and strongly fupported; and his Diction, flowing, various, ele gant, and manly. His two Plays, revived by Bete terton, The Bondman, and The Roman Aator, are not, I think, among the Number of his beft. The Duke of Milan, The Renegado, The Picture, The Fatal Dowry, The Maid of Honour, A New Way to pay Old Debts, The Unnatural Combat, The Guardian, The City Madam, are each of them, in my Mind, more excellent. He was a very popular Writer in his own Times, but fo unaccountably, as well as unjustly, neglected at present, that the accurate Com. pilers of a Work, called, The Lives of the Poets, pub. lished under the learned Name of the late Mr. Theophilus Cibber, have not fo much as mentioned him. He is, however, take him for all in all, an Author, whose Works the intelligent Reader will peruse with Admiration : And that I may not be supposed to withdraw my Plea for his Ajinillion to the modern Stage, I shall conclude these Reflections with one more Specimen of his Abilities; submitting it to all Judges of Theatrical Exhibitions, whether the most masterly Actor would not here have an opportuity of displaying his Powers to Advantage.
The Extract I mean to fubjoin is from the last Scene of the first Act of The Duke of Milan. Sforza, having espoused the Cause of the King of France against the Emperor, on the King's Defeat, is advised by a friend, to yield himfelf up to the Emperor's Discretion. He consents to this Mea