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ters of these political Condottieri, but it is im- He may ramble as far as he is itclined, ár.d possible to examine the system of their tactics siop as soon as he is tired. No one takes the without being amazed at its perfection. trouble to recollect his contradictory opinions
I had intended to proceed to this examination, or his unredeemed pledges. He may be as and to consider separately the remains of Ly- superficial, as inconsistent, and as careless as sias, of Æschines, of Demosthenes, and of Iso- he chooses. Magazines resemble those little crates, who thongh, s:rictly speaking, he was angels, who, according to the pretty Rabinical rather a pamphleteer than an orator, deserves, tradition, are generated every morning by the on many accounts, a place in such a disquisi- brook which rolls over the flowers of Paradise, tion. The length of my prolegomena and di
--whose life is a song,—who warbie till sunset, gressions compels ine to postpone this part of and then sink back without regret into nothing. the subject to another occasion. A magazine ness. Such spirits have nothing to do with the is certainly a delightful invention for a very detecting spear of Ithuriel or the victorious idle or a very busy man. He is not compelled sword of Michael. It is enough for them to to complete his plan or to adhere to his subject. I please and be forgotten.
COMIC DRAMATISTS OF THE RESTORATION.*
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, JANUARY, 1841.] Wo have a kindness for Mr. Leigh Hunt. and which illustrates the character of an im. We form our judgment of him, indeed, only portant epoch in letters, politics, and morals, from events of universal notoriety-from his should disappear from the world. If we err in own works, and from the works of other wri- this matter, we err with the gravest men and ters, who have generally abused him in the bodies of men in the empire, and especially . most rancorous manner. But, unless we are with the Church of England, and with the greatly mistaken, he is a very clever, a very great schools of learning which are connected honest, and a very good-natured man. We with her. The whole liberal education of our can clearly discern, together with many merits, countrymen is conducted on the principle, that many serious faults, both in his writings and no book which is valuable, either by reason of in his conduct. But we really think that there the excellence of its style, or by reason of the is hardly a man living whose merits have light which it throws on the history, polity, been so grudgingly allowed, and whose faults and manners of nations, should be withheld have been so cruelly expiated.
from the student on account of its impurity, In some respects, Mr. Leigh Hunt is excel- The Athenian Comedies, in which there are lently qualified for the task which he has now scarcely a hundred lines together without undertaken. His style, in spite of its manner- some passage of which Rochester would have ism-nay, partly by reason of its mannerism been ashamed, have been reprinted at the Pitt -is well suited for light, garrulous, desultory Press and the Clarendon Press, under the di. ana, half critical, half biographical. We do rection of syndics and delegates appointed by not always agree with his literary judgments; the Universities; and have been illustrated but we find in him what is very rare in our with notes by reverend, very reverend, and time--the power of justly appreciating and right reverend commentators. heartily enjoying good things of very different Every year the most distinguished young kinds. He can adore Shakspeare and Spenser men in the kingdom are examined by bishops without denying poetical genius to the author and professors of divinity in the Lysistrata of of “ Alexander's Feast;" or fine observation, Aristophanes and the Sixth Satire of Juvenal. rich fancy, and exquisite humour to him who There is certainly something a little ludicrous imagined “Will Honeycomb" and "Sir Roger in the idea of a conclave of venerable fathers de Coverley." He has paid particular atten- of the church rewarding a lad for his intimate tion to the history of the English drama, from acquaintance with writings, compared with the age of Elizabeth down to our own time, which the loosest tale in Prior is modest. and has every right to be heard with respect But for our own part we have no doubt that on that subject.
the great societies which direct the education The plays to which he now acts as intro- of the English gentry have herein judged ducer are, with few exceptions, such as, in the wisely. It is unquestionable that an extensive opinion of many very respectable people, acquaintance with ancient literature enlarges ought not to be reprinted. In this opinion we and enriches the mind. It is unquestionable can ivy no means concur. We cannot wish that a man whose mind has been thus en. that any work or class of works which has ex-larged and enriched, is åkely to be far mora rrcised a great influence on the human mind, useful to the state and to the church, than one
who is unskilled, or little skilled in classical The Dramatic Works of WYCNERLEY, CONGREVE, cult to believe that, in a world so full of tempta
learning. On the other hand, we find it diffiCritical Notices. By LELOR HUNT. 8vo. London. 1840. I tion as this, any gentleman, whose life would
have been virtuous if he had not read Aristo- various periods been fashionable. We are
for the charge of immorality so often brought
It is clever, indeed, and very entertaining; but But we should be justly chargeable with it is, in the most emphatic sense of the words, gross inconsistency, if, while we defend the earthly, sensual, devilish." Its indecency, policy which invites the youth of our country though perpetually such as is condemned, not to study such writers as Theocritus and Catul- less by ihe rules of good taste than by those of lus, we were to set up a cry against a new morality, is not, in our opinion, so disgraceful edition of the “Country Wife," or the “ Way a fault as its singularly inhuman spirit. We of the World." The immoral English writers have here Belial, not as when he inspired Ovid of the seventeenth century are indeed much and Ariosto, "graceful and humane, but with less excusable than those of Greece and Rome. the iron eye and cruel sneer of Mephistopheles. But the worst English writings of the seven- We find ourselves in a world, in which the teenth century are decent, compared with much ladies are like very profligate, impudent and that has been bequeathed to us by Greece and unfeeling men, and in which the men are too Rome. Plato, we have little doubt, was a much bad for any place but Pandæmonium or Norbetter man than Sir George Etherege. But Plato folk Island. We are surrounded by foreheads has written things at which Sir George Etherege of bronze, hearts like the nether millstone, and would have shuddered. Buckhurst and Sed- tongues set on fire of hell. ley, even in those wild orgies at the Cock in Dryden defended or excused his own of Bow Street, for which they were pelted by the fences, and those of his contemporaries, by rabble and fined by the Court of King's Bench, pleading the example of the earlier English would never have dared to hold such discourse dramatists: and Mr. Leigh Hunt seems to as passed between Socrates and Phædrus on think that there is force in the plea. We althat fine summer day, under the plane-tree, together differ from this opinion. The crime while the fountain warbled at their feet, and charged is not mere coarseness of expression. the cicadas chirped overhead. If it be, as we The terms which are delicate in one age be. think it is, desirable that an English gentle come gross in the next. The diction of the man should be well informed touching the English version of the Pentateuch, is some. government and the manners of little common- times such as Addison would not have venture wealths, which both in place and time are fared to imitate; and Addison, the standard of removed from us-whose independence has purity in his own age, used many phrases been more than two thousand years extinguish- which are now proscribed. Whether a thing ed, whose language has not been spoken for shall be designated by a plain noun-substanages, and whose ancient magnificence is attest- tive, or by a circumlocution, is mere matter of ed only by a few broken columns and friezes- fashion. Morality is not at all interested in much more must it be desirable that he should the question. But morality is deeply interested be intimately acquainted with the history of in this-that what is immoral shall not be prethe public mind of his own country; and with sented to the imagination of the young and the causes, the nature, and the extent of those susceptible in constant connection with what revolutions of opinion and feeling, which, is attractive. For every person who nas obe during the last two centuries, have alternately served the operation of the law of association raised and depressed the standard of our national morality. And knowledge of this sort is * Mr. Moxon, its publisher, is well entitled to com to be very sparingly gleaned from parliament- mendation and support for having, by a series of corresary debates, from state papers, and from the Dramatists, xecnted in a compendious but very come. works of grave historians. It must either not y form, and accompanied with useful prolegomena-put be acquired at all
, or it must be acquired by tinn to procure, at a comparatively small cost, the no the perusal of the light literature which has at I blest Dramatic Library in the world
in his own mind, and in the minds of others, Careless with Sir Paul Plyant, of Scandal with
, with all his wit and knowledge pure comedy, where no cold moral reignsof the world. Such is the fate of Brisac in when we are amongst them we are amongst a Fletcher's “Elder Brother"-and of Ricardo chaotic people. We are not to judge them by and Ubaldo, in Massinger's “Picture.” Some our usages. No reverend institutions are intimes, as in the “Fatal Dowry," and "Love's sulted by their proceedings, for they have none Cruelty," the outraged honour of families is among them. No peace of families is violated, repaired by a bloody revenge. If now and for no family ties exist among them. There then the lover is represented as an accom is neither right or wrong-gratitude or its opplished man, and the husband as a person of posite-claim or duty-paternity or sonship." weak or odious character, this only makes "This is, we believe, a fair summary of Mr. the triumph of female virtue the more signal; Lamb's doctrine. We are sure that we do not as in Jonson's Celia and Mrs. Fitzdottrel, and wish to represent him unfairly. For we adin Fletcher's Maria. In general we will ven- mire his genius; we love the kind nature ture to say, that the dramatists of the age of which appears in all his writings: and we Elizabeth and James the First, either treat the cherish his memory as much as if we had breach of the marriage-vow as a serious crime known him personally. But we must plainly -or, if they treat it as a matter for laughter, say that his argument, though ingenious, is turn the laugh against the gallant.
altogether sophistical. On the contrary, during the forty years Of course we perfectly understand that it is which followed the Restoration, the whole body possible for a writer to create a conventional of the dramatists invariably represent adultery world in which things forbidden by the Deca-we do not say as a peccadillo-we do not logue and the Statute Book shall be lawful, say as an error which the violence of passion and yet that the exhibition may be harmless, or may excuse-but as the calling of a fine gen- even edifying. For example, we suppose that tleman-as a grace without which his cha- the most austere critics would not accuse l'eracter would be imperfect. It is as essential nelon of impiety and immorality, on account to his breeding and to his place in society that of his Telemachus and his Dialogues of the he should make love to the wives of his neigh- Dead. In Telemachus and the Dialogues of bours, as that he should know French, or that the Dead, we have a false religion, and consehe should have a sword at his side. In all this quently a morality which is in some points there is no passion, and scarcely any thing incorrect, We have a right and a wrong, that can be called preference. The hero in- differing from the right and the wrong of real trigues, just as he wears a wig; because, if life. It is represented as the first daty of men he did not, he would be a queer fellow, a city to pay honour to Jove and Minerva. Philoprig, perhaps a Puritana All the agreeable cles, who employes his leisure in making qualities are always given to the gallant. All graven images of these deities, is extolled for the contempt and aversion are the portion of his piety in a way which contrasts singularly the unfortunate husband. Take Dryden for with the expressions of Isaiah on the same example; and compare Woodall with Brain-subject. The dead are judged by Minos, and alck, or Lorenzo with Gomez. Take Wycher- rewarded with lasting happiness for actions ley, and compare Horner with Pinchwise, which Fenelon would have been the first to Take Vanbrugh, and compare Constant with pronounce splendid sins. The same may be Sir John Brute. Take Farquhar, and com- said of Mr. Southey's Mohammedan and Hin: pare Archer with Squire Sullen. Take Con- doo heroes and heroines. In Thalaba, to speak greve, and compare Belmour with Foudlewife, in derogation of the Arabian Imposter is blas
Dhemy-to drink wine is a crime-to perform derided, associated with every thing mean and ablutions, and to pay honour
to the holy cities, hateful; the unsound morality to be set off to are works of merit. In the Curse of Kehama, every advantage, and inculcated by all me Kailyal is commended for her devotion to the thods direct and indirect. It is not the fact, statae of Mariataly, the goddess of the poor. that none of the inhabitants of this convenBut certainly no person will accuse Mr. Southey tional world feel reverence for sacred instituof having promoted or intended to promote tions, and family ties. Fondlewife, Pinchwife, either Islamism or Brahminism.
every person in short of narrow understandIt is easy to see why the conventional worlds ing and disgusting manners, expresses that of Fenelon and Mr. Southey are unobjectiona- reverence strongly. The heroes and heroines ble. In the first place, they are utterly unlike too, have a moral code of their own, an ex. the real world in which we live. The state of ceedingly bad one; but not, as Mr. Charles society, the laws even of the physical world, Lamb seems to think, a code existing only in are so different from those with which we are the imagination of dramatists. It is; on the familiar, that we cannot be shocked at finding contrary, a code actually received, and obeyed the morality also very different. But in truth, by great numbers of people We need not go the morality of these conventional worlds dif- to Utopia or Fairiland to find them. They are fers from the morality of the real world, only near at hand. Every night some of them play .in points where there is no danger that the at the “hells” in the Quadrant, and others pace real worlds will ever go wrong. The gene the piazza in Covent-garden. Without flying rosity and docility of Telemachus, the forti- to Nephelococcygia, or to the Court of Queen tude, the modesty, the filial tenderness of Kail. Mab, we can meet with sharpers, bullies, hardyal, are virtues of all ages and nations. And hearted impudent debauchees, and women there was very little danger that the Dauphin worthy of such paramours. The morality of would worship Minerva, or that an English the "Country Wife" and the “Old Bachelor," damsel would dance with a bucket on her head is the morality, not, as Mr. Charles Lamb before the statue of Mariataly.
maintains, of an unreal world, but of a world The case is widely different with what Mr. which is a great deal too real. It is the moCharles Lamb calls the conventional world of rality, not of a chaotic people, but of low Wycherley and Congreve. Here the costume, town-rakes, and of those ladies whom the and manners, the topics of conversation, are newspapers call “dashing Cyprians.” And those of the real town, and of the passing day. the question is simply, whether a man of The hero is in all superficial accomplishments genius, who constantly and systematically enexactly the fine gentleman, whom every youth deavours to make this sort of character attracin the pit would gladly resemble. The heroine tive, by uniting it with beauty, grace, dignity, is the fine lady, whom every youth in the pit spirit, a high social position, popularity, literawould gladly marry. The scene is laid in some ture, wit, taste, knowledge of the world, brilliant place which is as well known to the audience success in every undertaking, does or does not as their own houses, in St. James's Park, or make an ill use of his powers. We own that Hyde Park, or Westminster Hall. The lawyer we are unable to understand how this question bustles about with his bag, between the Com- can be answered in any way but one. mon Pleas and the Exchequer. The Peer calls It must, indeed, be acknowledged, in justice for his carriage to go to the House of Lords on to the writers of whom we have spoken thus a private bill. A hundred little touches are severely, that they were, to a great extent, the employed to make the fictitious world appear creatures of their age. And if it be asked like the actual world. And the immorality is why that age encouraged 'immorality which no of a sort which never can be out of date, and other age would have tolerated, we have no which all the force of religion, law, and public hesitation in answering that this grrat depraopinion united can but imperfectly restrain. vation of the national taste was the effect of
In the name of art, as well as in the name the prevalence of Puritanism under the Comof virtue, we protest against the principle that monwealth. the world of pure comedy is one into which no To punish public outrages on inorals and moral enters. If comedy be an imitation, un- religion is unquestionably within the compeder whatever conventions, of real life, how is tence of rulers. But when a government, not it possible that it can have no reference to the content with requiring decency, requires sancgreat rule which directs life, and to feelings tity, it oversteps the bounds which mark its which are called forth by every incident of functions. And it may be laid down as a unilife? If what Mr. Charles Lamb says were versal rule, that a government which attempts correct, the inference would be, that these dra- more than it ought will perform less. A law. matists did not in the least understand the very giver who, in order to protect distressed bor. first principles of their craft. • Pure landscape rowers, limits the rate of interest, either makes painting into which no light or shade enters, it impossible for the objects of his care to bor. pure portrait painting into which no expres- row at all, or places them at the mercy of the sion enters, are phrases less at variance with worst class of usurers. A lawgiver who, sound criticism than pure comedy into which from tenderness for labouring men, fixes the no moral enters.
hours of their work and the amount of their But it is not the fact, that the world of these wages, is certain to make them far more dramatists is a world into which no moral wretched than he found them. And so a go "enters. Morality constantly enters into that vernment which, not content with repressing world, a sound murality, and an unsound scandalous ercesses, demands from its submorality; the sound morality to be insulted, Ijects fervent an1 austere piety, will soon dis
cover that, while attempting to render ansame persons who, a few months before, with impossible service to the cause of virtue, it meek voices and demure looks, had consulted' has in truth only promoted vice.
divines about the state of their souls, now sur For what are the means by which a govern-rounded the midnight table, where, amidst the ment can effect its ends ? Two only, rewards bounding of champagne corks, a drunken and punishments;--powerful means, indeed, prince, enthroned between Dubois and Madame for influencing the exterior act, but altogether de Parabère, hiccoughed out atheistical argaimpotent for the purpose of touching the heart. ments and obscene jests. The early part of A public functionary who is told that he will the reign of Louis the Fourteenth had been a be advanced if he is a devout Catholic, and time of license; but the most dissolute men of turned out of his place if he is not, will proba- that generation would have blushed at the bly go to mass every morning, exclude meat orgies of the Regency. from his table on Fridays, shrive himself regu It was the same with our fathers in the time larly, and perhaps let his superiors know that of the Great Civil War. We are by no mearts he wears a hair shirt next to his skin. Under unmindful of the great debt which mankind a Puritan government, a person who is apprized owes to the Puritans of that time, the deliverers that piety is essential to thriving in the world, of England, the founders of the great American will be strict in the observance of the Sunday, Commonwealths. But in the day of their or, as he will call it, Sabbath, and will avoid a power they committed one great fault, which theatre as if it were plague-stricken. Such a left deep and lasting traces in the national show of religion as this, the hope of gain and character and manners. They mistook the end the fear of loss will produce, at a week's and overrated the force of government. They notice, in any abundance which a government determined not merely to protect religion and may require. But under this show, sensuality, public morals from insult--an object for which ambition, avarice, and hatred retain unimpaired the civil sword, in discreet hands, may be benepower; and the seeming convert has only added ficially employed--but to make the people to the vices of a man of the world all the still committed to their rule truly devout. Yet if darker vices which are engendered by the con- they had only teflected on events which they stant practice of dissimulation. The truth had themselves witnessed, and in which they cannot be long concealed. The public dis-had themselves borne a great part, they would covers that the grave persons who are proposed have seen what was likely to be the result of to.it as patterns, are more utterly destitute of their enterprise. They had lived under a go moral principle and of moral sensibility than vernment which, during a long course of avowed libertines. It sees that these Pharisees years, did all that could be done, by lavish are further removed from real goodness than bounty and rigorous punishment, to enforce publicans and harlots. And, as usual, it rushes conformity to the doctrine and discipline of the to the extreme opposite to that which it quits. Church of England. No person suspected of It considers a high religious profession as a hostility to that church had the smallest chance sure mark of meanness and depravity. On of obtaining favour at the court of Charles. the very first day on which the restraints of Avowed dissent was punished by imprisonfear is taken away, and on which men can ment, by ignominious exposure, by cruel mu. venture to say what they feel, a frightful peal tilations, and by ruinous fines. And the event of blasphemy and ribaldry proclaims that the bad been, that the Church had fallen, and had, short-sighted policy which aims at making a in its fall, dragged down with it a monarchy nation of saints has made a nation of scoffers. which had stood six hundred years. The Paritan
It was thus in France about the beginning might have learned, if from nothing else, yet of the eighteenth century. Louis the Four- from his own recent victory, that governments teenth in his old age became religious, and de- which attempt things beyond their reach are termined that his subjects should be religious likely not merely to fail, but to produce an 100-shrugged his shoulders and knitted his effect directly the opposite of that which they brows if he observed at his levee or near his contemplate as desirable. dinner-table any gentleman who neglected the All this was overlooked. The saints were duties enjoined by the Church--and rewarded to inherit the earth. The theatres were closed. piety with blue ribands, invitations to Marli, The fine arts were placed under absurd regovernments, pensions, and regiments. Forth- straints. Vices which had never before been with Versailles became, in every thing but even misdemeanours were made capital felo dress, a convent. The pulpits and confession- nies. And it was solemnly resolved by Parliaals were surrounded by swords and embroidery. ment, “that no person should be cmployed bu The marshals of France were much in prayer; such as the House shall be satisfied of his real and there was hardly one among the dukes godliness." The pious assembly had a Bible and peers who did not carry good little books lying on the table for reference. If they had in his pocket, fast daring Lent, and communi- consulted it they might have learned that the cate at Easter. Madame de Maintenon, who wheat and the tares grow together inseparably, had a great share in the blessed work, boasted and must either be spared together, or rooled that uevotion had become quite the fashion up together. To know whether a man was A fashion indeed it was; and like a fashion really godly was impossible. But it was easy it passed away. No sooner had the old king to know whether he had a plain dress, iank been carried to St. Denis, than the whole court hair, no starch in his linen, no gay furniture in pomasked. Every man hastened to indemnify his house ; whether he talked through his nose, fumself, by the excess of licentiousness and and showed the whites of his eyes;
whether he impudence, for years of morufication. The named his children, Assurance, Tribulation game