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moved to herself and children was destructive to that which I reserved for Antony and Cleopatra ; whose mutual love being founded upon vice, must lessen the favour of the audience to them, when virtue and innocence were oppressed by it. And though I justified Antony in some measure, by making Octavia's departure to proceed wholly from herself, yet the force of the first machine still remained ; and the dividing of pity, like the cutting of a river into many channels, abated the strength of the natural stream. But this is an objection which none of my criticks have urged against me; and therefore I might have let it

pass, if I could have resolved to have been partial to myself. The faults my enemies have found are rather cavils concerning little and not essential decencies, which a Master of the Ceremonies may decide betwixt us. The French poets, I confess, are strict observers of these punctilios : they would not, for example, have suffered Cleopatra and Octavia to have met; or if they had met, there must only have passed betwixt them some cold civilities, but no eagerness or repartee, for fear of offending against the greatness of their characters, and the modesty of their sex. This objection 1 foresaw, and at the same time contemned; for I judged it both natural and probable that Octavia, proud of her new-gained conquest, would search out Cleopatra to triumph over her, and that Cleopatra, thus attacked, was not of a spirit to shun the encounter; and it is not unlikely that two


exasperated rivals should use such satire as I have put

into their mouths; for after all, though the one were a Roman, and the other a queen, they were both women.

It is true, some actions, though natural, are not fit to be represented, and broad obscenities in words ought in good manners to be avoided; expressions therefore are a modest clothing of our thoughts, as breeches and petticoats are of our bodies. If I have kept myself within the bounds of modesty, all beyond it is but nicety and affectation, which is no more but modesty depraved into a vice : they betray themselves who are too quick of apprehension in such cases, and leave all reasonable men to imagine worse of them than of

the poet.

Honest Montagne goes yet farther : “ Nous ne sommes que ceremonie ; la ceremonie nous emporte, et

, laissons la substance des choses; nous tenons aux branches, et abandonnons le tronc et le corps. Nous avons appris aux Dames de

aux Dames de rougir, oyans seulement nommer ce qu'elles ne craignent aucunement a faire. nous n'osons appeller a droict nos membres, et ne craignons par de les employer a toute sorte de debauche. La ceremonie nous defend d'exprimer par paroles les choses licites et naturelles, et nous l'en croyons ; la raison nous defend de n'en faire point d'illicites et mauvaises, et personne ne l'en croid.My comfort is, that by this opinion my enemies are but sucking criticks, who would fain be nibbling ere their teeth are come.

Yet in this nicety of manners does the excel


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17 lency of French poetry consist. Their heroes are the most civil people breathing, but their goodbreeding seldom extends to a word of sense; all their wit is in their ceremony. They want the genius which animates our stage ; and therefore it is but necessary when they cannot please, that they should take care not to offend. But as the civilest man in the company is commonly the dullest,“ so these authors, while they are afraid to make you laugh or cry, out of pure good manners make you sleep. They are so careful not to exasperate a critick, that they never leave him any work ;' so busy with the broom, and make so clean a riddance, that there is little left either for censure or for praise : for no part of a poem is worth our discommending, where the whole is insipid ; as when we have once tasted of palled wine, we stay not to examine it glass by glass. But while they affect to shine in trifles, they are often careless in essentials. Thus their Hippolitus is so scrupulous in point of decency, that he will rather expose himself to death than accuse his step-mother to his father; and my criticks, I am sure, will commend him for it; but we of grosser apprehensions are apt to think that this excess of generosity is not practicable but with fools and madmen. This


6 The witty Lord Dorset agreed with our author in this opinion." He used to say of a very goodnatured dull fellow, 'tis a thousand pities that man is not illnatured, that we might kick him out of company.” Spence's ANECDOTES.


was good manners with a vengeance ; and the audience is like to be much concerned at the misfortunes of this admirable hero. But take Hippolitus out of his poetick fit, and I suppose

he would think it a wiser part to set the saddle on the right horse, and choose rather to live with the reputation of a plain-spoken honest man, than to die with the infamy of an incestuous villain. In the mean time we may take notice, that where the poet' ought to have preserved the character as it was delivered to us by antiquity; when he should have given us the picture of a rough young man of the Amazonian strain,.. a jolly huntsman, and both by his profession and his early rising a mortal enemy to love, he has chosen to give him the turn of gallantry, sent him to travel from Athens to Paris, taught him to make love, and transformed the Hippolitus of Euripides into Monsieur Hippolite. I should not have troubled myself thus far with French poets, but that I find our Chedreux criticks wholly form their judgments by them. But, for my part, I desire to be tried by the laws of my own country; for it seems unjust to me, that the French should prescribe here, till they have conquered. Our little sonnetteers who follow them, have too narrow souls to judge of poetry; poets themselves are the most proper, though I conclude not the only criticks. But till some genius as universal as Aristotle shall arise, who can penetrate into all arts and sciences without the practice of them, I shall think it reasonable that the judgment of an artificer in his own art should be preferable to the opinion of another man ; at least where he is not bribed by interest, or prejudiced by malice. And this, I suppose,

9 Racine.

8 The criticks are thus denominated from the kind of wig they wore. A particular kind of peruke was called a Chedreux, or Chadreux, probably from the name of the maker. I remember (says a writer who lived in those times) old John Dryden, before he paid his court with success to the great, in one uniform cloathing of Norwich drugget. I have eat tarts with him and Madam Reeve at the MULBERRY GARDEN, when he advanced to a sword, and Chadreux wig.” GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE, Xv.99.


is manifest by plain induction : for, first, the crowd cannot be presumed to have more than a gross instinct of what pleases or displeases them : every man will grant me this ; but then, by a particular kindness to himself, he draws his own stake first, and will be distinguished from the multitude, of which other men may think him one. But if I come closer to those who are allowed for witty men, either by the advantage of their quality, or by common fame, and affirm that neither are they qualified to decide sovereignly concerning poetry, I shall yet have a strong party of my opinion ; for most of them severally will exclude the rest, either from the number of witty men, or at least of able judges. But here again they are all indulgent to themselves; and every one who believes himself a wit, that is, every man, will pretend at the same

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