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Author; hoping that the extracts we have made from the more early part of the hiftory will prove acceptable to our readers. Mr. O'Halloran has ufed great application, and he displays much learning in endeavouring to establish the high antiquity of his country, and vindicate its honour. His English is fometimes rather defective; but his work, on the whole, is entertaining and inftructive.
ART. IV. The Law of Lombardy; a Tragedy. As it is performed at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Written by Robert Jephfon, Efq; Author of Braganza. 8vo. 1 s. 6 d. Evans. 1779.
T was needlefs to inform us in the title-page, that this Tragedy is written by the Author of Braganza; not only because the name of Robert Jephfon, Efq; ftands prefixed to both plays, but because the ftyle and manner, the beauties and blemishes of both are fo extremely timilar. The fecond however is unequal to the firft; the merit even of which, in our eftimation, fell fhort of its tranfient popularity.
The Law of Lombardy, like Braganza, betrays more fymptoms of labour than genius. In Braganza however the labour was more amply rewarded; for we cannot discover in the Law of Lombardy any dialogue at all comparable to the scene between Velasquez and the Monk in our Author's first tragedy. The diction is, if poffible, ftill more laboured; and it would be easy to point out fervile imitations of Shakespeare in almost every page. Dryden fays of Milton or Ben Johnson, that you may every where "trace them in the fnow of the ancients." The fnow of Shakespeare would be too cold a phrase; unless we were to determine that the prototype (like the falfe Florimel in the Fairy Queen) became fnow in the imitation.
Mr. Jephfon is an acknowledged mimic. His tragedies are confeffedly pieces of literary mimickry; wherein the Author, like other mimics, multiplies the defects, and aggravates the beauties of his original. Tropes, metaphors, fimiles, and fentiments, are thick fown in every scene; but, in our opinion, affected language, and fentimental dialogue, are as reprehenfible in tragedy as in comedy. Paffion fhould be the prime mover of the firft, Humour of the laft, and Nature should govern both.
The characters in the tragedy of the Law of Lombardy, are but poorly difcriminated. King, Duke, Princess, Lover, Hero, Villain, Shepherd, Forefter, Squire, &c. all converse in the fame unnatural dialect. The fable also, after the third Act, takes an unfortunate turn; the fourth creating horror and difguft rather than a pleafing intereft: and two-thirds of the fifth being made up of circumftances evidently introduced for the purpose of protracting the piece, which of course becomes proportionably languid. We have felected the conclufion of
the third Act as the most favourable fpecimen of the performance. The Princefs, convicted on the perjury of Bireno,
breaks out thus:
If e'er thy interpofing Providence
The man, my foul adores, traduc'd, and wrong'd:
A love fo pure,
What bofom might not feel, what tongue not own?
What can I think? His abfence-Yet thy truth, Thy nature's modefty plead strongly for theeAway with doubt-Oh, thou obdurate heart! Bireno. We trifle time-The lifts must be prepar'd, The heralds found defiance
Hold a moment
I'll tell thee how to arm thee for the combat:
With fcaffolds, wheels, and engines, virgin's heads
Brac'd by my wrongs to more than mortal ftrength, Fix on thy throat, and bare thy treacherous heart. Bireno. Old man, I go--Compaffion for thy grief, Forbids me to retort thefe outrages.
Let frenzy take its courfe-When next we meet, Summon thy fortitude; and learn, mean time, Crowns cannot fave the wearer from affliction, But kings, like meaner men, were born to fuffer. [Exeunt Bireno, Afcanio, Senators. SCENE VII. KING, PRINCESS. King. Morality from thee! He braves high heaven, And well may scorn my anger. Oh, my child! This little hour, while I can call thee mine, Ciofe let me ftrain thee to my bursting heart: Alas! thy aged father can no more
Than thus to fold thee; pour thefe fcalding tears,
To fee that reverend frame thus torn with anguish;
And go to death like fleep, did no foft forrow
The Princefs to a guard's clofe cuftody,
Draw forth thy fword, and ftrike it through my heart.
Meet fate as firmly, and tranfcend their daring. [Exeunt. The Prologue and Epilogue are both written by the Author of the piece: the firft heavy and phlegmatic, and the laft aiming at levity, and the manner of the late Mr. Garrick, but with far lefs pleafantry than the much lamented original.
ART. V. A Vindication of fome Paffages in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of the Hiftory of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. By the Author. 8vo. 2s. 6d. Cadell. 1779.
N our Review for September laft, we gave an account of Mr. Davis's Examination of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of Mr. Gibbon's Hiftory, wherein he charges the Hiftorian with perverting the ancients, and tranfcribing the moderns,
with grofs ignorance, and wilful falfehood; with betraying the confidence, and feducing the faith of those Readers, who may heedlessly ftray in the flowery paths of his diction, without perceiving the po fonous fnake that lurks concealed in the grafs.
These weighty charges have prevailed over Mr. Gibbon's averfion to controverfy, and have given rife to the elegant, fprightly, and fpirited Vindication now before us.
He fets out with telling his Readers that Mr. Davis's titlepage is a declaration of war; that in the profecution of his religious crufade, he affumes a privilege of difregarding the ordinary laws which are refpected in the moft hoftile tranfactions between civilized men, or civilized nations; that fome of the harfheft epithets in the English language, are repeatedly applied to the Hiftorian, a part of whofe work Mr. Davis has chofe for the object of his criticism.
He goes on to tell us, that when he delivered to the world the firft Volume of an important Hiftory, in which he had been obliged to connect the progrefs of Christianity with the civil ftate and revolutions of the Roman empire, he could not be ignorant that the result of his enquiries might offend the interest of some, and the opinions of others; that if the whole work was favourably received by the Public, he had the more reafon to expect that this obnoxious part would provoke the zeal of those who confider themselves as the watchmen of the holy city; that his expectations were not difappointed, and that a fruitful crop of Answers, Apologies, Remarks, Examinations, &c. fprung up with all convenient speed.
He read with attention, he fays, feveral criticifms which were published against the two laft Chapters of his Hiftory, and, unless he much deceives himself, weighed them in his own mind. without prejudice, and without refentment. After he had clearly fatisfied himself that their principal objections were founded on mifrepresentation or mistake, he declined with fincere and difinterested reluctance the odious task of controverfy, and almost formed a tacit refolution of committing his intentions, his writings, and his adverfaries to the judgment of the Public, of whofe favourable difpofition he had received the moft flattering proofs.
'I should have confulted my own cafe, continues he, and perhaps I should have acted in ftricter conformity to the rules of prudence, if I had ftill perfevered in patient filence, but Mr. Davis may, if he pleafes, affume the merit of extorting from me the notice which I had refused to more honourable foes. I had declined the confideration of their literary objections, but he has compelled me to give an anfwer to his criminal accufations. Had he confined himself to the ordinary, and indeed obfolete charges of impious principles, and mifchievous intentions, I fhould have acknowledged with readiness and pleasure that the religion of Mr. Davis appeared to be very different
from mine. Had he contented himself with the ufe of that ftyle which decency and politenefs have banished from the more liberal part of mankind, I fhould have fmiled, perhaps with fome contempt, but without the leaft mixture of anger or refentment. Every animal employs the note, or cry, or howl, which is peculiar to its fpecies; every man expreffes himself in the dialect the most congenial to his temper and inclination, the most familiar to the company in which he has lived, and to the authors with whom he is converfant; and while I was difpofed to allow that Mr. Davis had made fome proficiency in Ecclefiaftical ftudies, I fhould have confidered the difference of our language and manners as an unfurmountable bar of feparation between us. Mr. Davis has overleaped that bar, and forces me to contend with him on the very dirty ground which he has chofen for the fcene of our combat. He has judged, I know not with how much propriety, that the fupport of a caufe, which would difclaim fuch unworthy affiftance, depended on the ruin of my moral and literary character. The different mifreprefentations, of which he has drawn out the ignominious catalogue, would materially affect my credit as an hiftorian, my reputation as a fcholar, and even my honour and veracity as a gentleman. If I am indeed incapable of understanding what I read, I can no longer claim a place among thofe writers who merit the esteem and confidence of the Public. If I am capable of wilfully perverting what I understand, I no longer deferve to live in the fociety of thofe men, who confider a ftrict and inviolable adherence to truth, as the foundation of every thing that is virtuous or honourable in human nature. At the fame time, I am not infenfible that his mode of attack has given a tranfient pleasure. to my enemies, and a tranfient uneafinefs to my friends. The fize of his volume, the boldness of his affertions, the acrimony of his ftyle, are contrived with tolerable fkill to confound the ignorance and candour of his readers. There are few who will examine the truth or juftice of his accufations; and of those perfons who have been directed by their education to the ftudy of ecclefiaftical antiquity, many will believe, or will affect to believe, that the fuccefs of their champion has been equal to his zeal, and that the Serpent pierced with an hundred wounds lies expiring at his feet. Mr. Davis's book will ceafe to be read (perhaps the grammarians may already reproach me for the use of an improper tenfe); but the oblivion towards which it feems to be haftening, will afford the more ample scope for the artful practice of thofe, who may not fcruple to affirm, or rather to infinuate, that Mr. Gibbon was publickly convicted of falsehood and mifrepresentation; that the evidence produced against him was unanswerable; and that his filence was the effect and the proof of confcious guilt. Under the hands of a malicious furgeon, the fting of a wafp may continue to fefter and inflame, long after the vexatious little infect has left its venom and its life in the wound.
• The defence of my own honour is undoubtedly the first and prevailing motive which urges me to repel with vigour an unjust and un. provoked attack; and to undertake a tedious vindication, which, after the perpetual repetition of the vainest and most difgufting of the pronouns, will only prove that I am innocent; and that Mr. Davis, in his charge, has very frequently fubfcribed his own condemnation.