Page images
PDF
EPUB

rehearsal at Drury Lane. That circumstance made the Author's courage fail; he did not dare to come forward in oppofition to Mr. Cumberland. Yet we remember two tragedies, on the story of Appius and Virginia, acted in the fame feafon at Covent Garden and Drury Lane, and the theatrical history informs us that Shakespeare's King John and Colly Cibber's, were played on the fame night against each other. We do not difapprove of that kind of emulation it awakens criticifm, and the Public enjoy the pleasure of comparifon. It is to be regretted that the Manager of Covent Garden theatre did not know of this piece, for we think he might have grafped at it, and The Battle of Haftings, in our opinion, would not have had very great reafon to triumph. If our memory does not fail us, there was in the last-mentioned drama a very uninterefting love plot, in which one of the lovers, whining amid the horrors of war, fays, the hours, which he paffes with his miftrefs, are fo full of balmy blifs, that they ought to he wafted back to heaven on downy wings of love. What that means we do not know, but fure we are that fuch pompous nothings ought not to have fuperfeded the tragedy of HAROLD; the ftyle of which is generally fimple, yet dignified; manly, with elegance, and nervous, with harmony. The two following lines may ferve as a short specimen of the Author's manner:

And as the knee-worn flone grew wet with tears,
Still have I dried it with this wretched hair.'

As our limits will not allow us to fwell this article by quotations, let us obferve, in brief, that this author has the power of verfification; but for dialogue, he ufes it with a degree of uniformity that becomes monotonous. His fable is pleafing, but, confidering the importance of the battle that was to be fought, the incidents do not fufficiently tend to alarm the mind with terror, and make us, even at this hour, tremble for the event. Terror and pity, Doctor Young well fays, are the two pulfes of tragedy; and we hope Mr. Boyce will remember that maxim, when next he pays his court to the Tragic Mufe.

Art. 30. Ways and Means; or a Trip to Dover. A Comedy, in Three Acts, as it is performed at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Written by George Colman, Junior. 8vo. 1 s. 6d. Robinsons. 1788.

The Author of this piece feems more angry with newspaper critics, than his own fuperiority ought to have allowed him to be: but we cannot avoid giving him due applaufe for his spirit on the occafion. His Epilogue prefents to our view his portrait of the doer of a newfpaper; a man who fancies him felf hired to ftand at the door of the Temple of Fame, with a goofe-quill in his hand, and there to cry "Walk in," or "Go about your bufines," to whom he pleafes. Mr. Colman, junior, perhaps, knew the defigns of the tribe that write paragraphs, before his play was acted: if fo, he judged well in beginning the attack. He has, in this publication, brought up the rear with equal fpirit. He fays, and with good reafon, The calumny heaped on individuals, in daily prints, generally conveyed with art fufficient to elude the letter of the law, is notorious, and calls aloud for reform. The liberty of the prefs is prophaned by the

[ocr errors]

·

licentioufnefs of newfpapers. It becomes a fanctuary for the worst of all affaffins, the affaffins of private character; the manglers of reputation, and the dark murderers of the peace of families.' He, who talks in this ftyle, ferves the best interests of fociety. What he fays of himself is modeft, and perhaps too much fo: he treats his play with indifference; content with declaring, that laugh and whim were his objects, and the mirth and good humour of his audience, whatever malice and mifreprefentation may affirm to the contrary, have convinced him that his defign is accomplished.' We are willing to believe this; for his piece is one of the few modern productions that divert in the closet. The plot is fimple, but clear, lively, and free from violations of probability. The humours of an inn at Dover are given in lively yet natural colours: it is the painting of the Flemish school, without the excefs of caricature. Sir David Dunder is well imagined, and as well executed. The scene that opens the second A&, between Roundfee the attorney, and Quirk his clerk, is, to use Dryden's phrafe, the theft of a poet from human life. Add to all this, the Author feems to poffefs a very happy turn for dialogue; no quaint fentences in the ftyle of Romance; no feeble attempts to glitter, and be better than natural. Each perfon has his own peculiar language, fuited to his habits of thinking. In a word, this play abounds with wit, fometimes genuine, and always diverting. It feems to grow out of the occafion, yet has the effect of furprise.

Whenever this young gentleman feels the ambition to rife above himself, and to fix ferious attention by his ftory, we have no doubt that the Public will find in him the talents of a good comic writer.

Art. 31. The Prifoner at Large: a Comedy, in Two Acts. As performed at the Theatre Royal in the Haymarket, with univerfal Applaufe. Written by John O'Keeffe. 8vo. I s. Robin fons. 1788.

This piece ought not to have affumed the title of Comedy. It is a Farce, in the trueft fenfe of the word; a mere tiffue of improbabilities, or rather impoffibilities. It places the fcene in the weft of Ireland, but exhibits no Irish manners, and no course of action that ever did, or could happen in any part of the world. We have often faid, and we repeat it, that Comedy is an imitation of human life. The Author who gives any thing elfe, may divert the upper gallery with inexplicable noife, with buftle, bufinefs, and turns and counterturns of adventure; but he departs from his art, and is no poet. The fable before us is not worth the pains of analyfing it. It aims at perplexity, and fucceeds; but it has neither moral, nor truth of reprefentation; and what is worse for the writer, it is altogether uninteresting. It is dedicated to Mr. Edwin, to whofe comic abilities, the Author fays, he is much indebted. We believe this to be true, and in his line we think that Actor admirable; but we are forry to fee the Drama fo reduced, as to be under the neceffity of paying court to a performer, whofe excellence feems to confift in a very extraordinary knack of giving to nonfenfe a whimfical air of common fenfe. Mr. Edwin, when dealing in abfurdity, feems gravely in earneft, and who can refrain from laughing? The late Mr. Garrick had an expreffion that may ferve to convey our meaning: he would have called an Actor of that clafs, the horse-raddish round the dish, not the roast-beef in Bb 2

the

the middle. On the whole, we wonder that Mr. O'Keeffe did not interlard his dialogue with fongs. Edwin would have been more popular, and the piece, not afpiring to be Comedy, would have escaped criticism.

Art. 32. The Travellers. A Comedy, in Three Acts. As read with Applaufe at the English Readings. By Lieutenant Harrison, Marines. 8vo. is. 6d. Robinfons. 1788.

The fchemes of sharpers, and fortune-hunters, against young ladies of property, will always, we fuppofe, have their place in the tranfactions of life, and will, for that reafon, continue to be reprefented on the ftage. The fubject, however, feems too much hackneyed of late; we fee it in the comedy of Ways and Means, and many others. The play before us, we are told, was not intended for the public eye, and yet the Public has feen many of perhaps lefs merit. The rigour of criticifm is deprecated in the preface, but even that rigour, which we are not inclined to exert, must allow that there are, in this piece, fome happy touches of wit and humour: but our limits will not allow us to give a fpecimen of the Author's manner. The character of Foffil, the antiquarian, is highly but coarfely coloured, and the objects of ridicule are, fome of them, tolerably well felected. The rigour of criticism may add, as a hint to Mr. Harrifon, and not with fpleen, that Sir Dogberry Diddle, the Irish traveller, has little of his own country manners, and has imported as little from foreign parts. He talks the language of an Irish chairThe only novelty in the character, is his cowardice,—and that difgufts by its improbability. Quick and Sharply, the two fortune-hunters, neither forward their own bufinefs, nor retard that of others. The life of plays, founded on fchemes to carry off young Jadies, confifts in variety of adventure, with great embarraffment, and rapidity in the action. We mention thefe circumstances, not to deter a young author, but to point out the improvements that may be made in order to fit this piece for the public eye, or to fhew the errors that may be avoided in future. Since General Burgoyne has fet the example, we are glad to fee that young officers know how to fill up the languid hours of peace; and, as we think the Author by no means deftitute of comic abilities, we hope for the improvements of his Mufe, in fome future production.--But the idle fwearing expletives the damn its and the dammee-s, may as well be omitted: a polite audience would fcarcely endure them.

man.

NOVEL.

Art. 33. A Tour, fentimental and defcriptive, through the United Provinces, Auftrian Netherlands, and France. Interfperfed with Parifan and other Anecdotes. 12mo. 2 Vols. 5s. fewed. Lowndes. 1788.

To fay that this Shandyan performance is deftitute of merit, were to forfeit our pretenfions to candour; to that impartiality, which the Pabiic, by their continued favour, have confequently fuppofed us to poffefs; and yet to beftow on it an hearty and unconditional commendation, is wholly impoffible. The writer is a man of abilities, and lively in an uncommon degree :-but of his liveliness we have

reafon

reafon to complain. Throughout the whole of his production there is too great an affectation of appearing witty. He delivers, or at leaft attempts to deliver, almost every fentence with a point: and almoft every character is difmiffed with a joke. This, by being too frequently indulged, degenerates into pertnefs and infipidity. Levity is only warrantable where the object is trifling and infignificant. In fuch a cafe, nothing can be happier than to employ it; but in any other, it will indubitably awaken difguft. But we will allow this writer to speak for himself on the subject of ridicule.

6 RIDICULE

Is in France a ferious matter, in England a man may thrive under it; but to want efprit to retort, is there to be contemptible. In the common routine of converfation you would in vain oppofe the authority of Locke or Newton to-a good thing-have the smile on your fide, and you have every thing. What abilities will not ridicule depreciate? It fnatches the truncheon from the hand of the General, difrobes the fubtle advocate, and renders the lover defpifed: it is in vain to fhelter yourself under a dignified referve; not to refift is to confefs the triumph of your adverfary. One circumftance alone blunts the edge of their wit. In a country where fwords are in common ufe, a pointed antithefis might be parried in tierce, and a hit palpable in wit-tell out feebly against a fegoon through the lungs !'

The Author has here confounded the pleasant with the ridiculous; but there is a material difference in their characters.

It muft, in conclufion, be remarked of the prefent volumes, that they contain, amid a multiplicity of erroneous opinions, arifing from inconfideration and hafte,-fome juft and pertinent obfervations on men and things.

EAST

INDIES.

Art. 34. An Abstract of the Orders and Regulations of the Court of Directors of the Eaft India Company, and of other Documents relating to the Pains and Penalties the Commanders and Officers of Ships in the Company's Service are liable to, for Breach of Orders, illicit Trade, &c. &c. &c. By Charles Cartwright, Deputy Accomptant to the East India Company. 8vo. 5 s. bound. Woodmafon. 1788.

The Directors of the East India Company muft, on the prefent occafion, become Reviewers. In Mr. Cartwright's dedication to them, are the following words- You have been pleased to report fo favourably of the following fheets, as to ftate that they are very meritorious, and may be highly useful to the perfons for whofe information they are compiled."-A fufficient recommendation of the work. This publicatien will, indeed, be very ufeful to all young adven

*A vulgar error. Real abilities can never be depreciated by the power of ridicule. "It is urged (fays the judicious author of the Elements of Criticifm) that the graveft and moft ferious matters may be fet in a ridiculous light. Hardly fo; for where an object is neither rifible nor improper, it lies not open in any quarter to an attack from ridicule."

turers

Bb 3

turers in this commercial line, as it gives the full particulars of the allowances of private trade, outward and homeward, with the Company's duties and charges; and the mode by which the tonnage of the articles ufually brought from India and China is calculated. In the Appendix we have likewife a variety of the most material articles of neceffary information; fuch as the King's duties, and the drawbacks, &c. &c.

HISTORY.

Art. 35. Elements of Univerfal History, for Youth :-alfo a Chronological Table of the learned and ingenious Men, Events, Inventions, Difcoveries, &c. from the Creation to the Year 1786. By J. A. L. Montriou. 12mo. 2s. 6d. Marfh. 1788.

Mr. Montriou himfelf fpeaks fo handfomely of his work, that he leaves but little room for the applaufes of others. Befide the minute detail which is prefented in the title-page, and which it was not neceffary for us to infert, he farther expreffes, in the preface, a flattering expectation that from the extenfiveness of the plan, facility, correctnefs and utility of the prefent performance, it may ftimulate youth to the love of hiftory, promote its ftudy, facilitate its attainment, and diffuse a more univerfal knowledge of mankind, fo as to enlarge the mind, deftroy narrow prejudices, and create a liberal indulgence and tolerance for the faults and errors of other nations.' We cannot say that the book has captivated us in fo great a degree as it has the Author: however, fince almoft every work of this kind may have its ufe, we think this publication may prove beneficial to those who need, or wish for, this fort of information.

POLITICA L.

Art. 36. An Hiftorical Sketch of Prerogative and Influence; in a Letter to a Friend. 12mo. 2 S. Robinfons. 1788.

The variations of prerogative, from the earliest ages of the English history, down to the Revolution, and from that æra, the rife and progrefs of influence, are here briefly, but accurately, delineated. The Author's chief intention is to fhew, that the abuse of prerogative has been fucceeded by undue influence: and this he judiciously diftinguishes from that conftitutional influence, which arifes from the patronage of the crown, the collection and application of the revenues, and the power of beftowing penfions; and which is employed for the benefit of the community. The effay is written with precifion; and the Author takes an extenfive and mafterly view of the subject.

SLAVE TRADE.

Art. 37. A particular Examination of Mr. Harris's Scriptural Refearches on the Licitness of the Slave Trade. By Henry Dannet, M. A. Minifter of St. John's, Liverpool. 8vo. 2s. Payne, &c.

1788.

Mr. Dannet has given a very full anfwer to the elaborate performance of Mr. Harris: a performance which this Examiner fays, in his preface, naturally calls to mind the atheistical writings of Spinofa, of notorious memory; who lays down his lemmas, propofitions, &c. and perfectly obferves all the geometrical forms;

and

6

« PreviousContinue »