Slike strani


was quite as pronounced. False sentiment, springing partly from the French stage, partly from the hysterical tearfulness of the second-rate tragic writers in the previous century, made Hugh KELLY (1739-1777)—an Irishman who, on his first appearance as a man of letters, took care to inform the public that he was a staymaker--exceedingly popular. Later in the century RICHARD CUMBERLAND, the author of The West Indian (1771)

and other dramas, carried on this sickly tradition with considerably more power, sense of construction,

and vivacity of dialogue. He was a great-grandson (1732-1811).

and namesake of the laborious Bishop Cumberland of Peterborough. Of course there were numerous other writers who, in their time, achieved some ephemeral distinction. But, apart from Sheridan, the only important comic writer at the end of the century, when Mrs. Inchbald was the chief representative of sentiment and artificial pathos, was GEORGE COLMAS (1762-1836), the younger, whose Heir-at-Law, following the lines pursued by his father and Goldsmith, and acted first in 1797, is an excellent farce, full of absurd incidents, In this and in The Poor Gentleman (1801), which unfortunately borrowed its pathos from Tristram Shandy, there is a constant buoyancy reminding us of the greater genius of Farquhar,

RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN came of a famous Irish stock, and of a mother to whom we have already referred

as a novelist. Johnson's criticism of his father, the actor, is well known. “Why, sir, Sherry is dull,

naturally dull ; but it must have taken him a great (1751-1816).

deal of pains to become what we now see him. Such an excess of stupidity, sir, is not in nature.” However, this paragon's son was a far brighter person. He was educated at Harrow, and, when he was only twenty-two, distinguished himself by eloping with Miss Elizabeth Linley, a charming young lady of Bath, who had a wonderful voice. Two years later he wrote The Rivals (1775), which was quickly followed by a series of comic pieces and small farces. In most of these Sheridan used materials derived from Vanbrugh or Wycherley ; for example, Lord Foppington, in A Trip to Scarborough (1777). was simply a transfer from Vanbrugh's Relapse, and the whole play was a free adaptation of the older piece; or again, the famous gossiping scenes in The School for Scandal are rather more than an echo of similar passages in Wycherley's Plain Dealer. In fact Sheridan used the great post-Restoration comedies as their authors had used Molière. The School for Scandal itself belongs to 1777, and, in 1779, Sheridan closed his illustrious dramatic career with The Critic. Long after (1799) he produced another kind of play, Pizarro, at Drury Lane; but this adds nothing to his reputation. In 1780 he exchanged the drama for politics, and became a famous Whig orator. In the Warren Hastings impeachment he joined with Burke, but, on the outbreak of the French Revolution, Sheridan


His comedies.

went in the opposite direction from Burke, and supported the Radical movement. While he was making his name in politics he also became a power in society. In 1777 Johnson himself had proposed him for election to the Literary Club; and his extraordinary wit and humour made him popular all his life. In later years he became a boon companion of the Prince Regent, and gave himself overmuch to conviviality. He was terribly extravagant and always in debt; and eventually, when he died, there were bailiffs in his house. He was buried in princely pomp, amid the applause of an admiring country.

Byron said of Sheridan that he had made the best speech, and written the best comedy, the best opera, and the best farce. The greater fame of Burke has obscured his brilliant rhetoric. The speech on the Begums of Oude still lives, but merely as a surprising tour de force of a clever orator. The Duenna (1775) is doubtless an excellent opera, and compares favourably with its predecessors and successors in that kind of writing ; but there is absolutely no doubt that the merits of The School for Scandal and The Critic have, so far as nine-tenths of English readers are concerned, quite thrown into the shade the splendours of the Stewart and Orange comedy and the extravagant humour of The Rehearsal. The old dramatists, for their neglect of decency, paid the ultimate penalty by suffering neglect from posterity; an ingenious successor like Sheridan, who appropriated their best qualities without their licentiousness, held the stage to their exclusion, and holds it to-day. The School for Scandal is a brilliant comedy of manners, rich in satiric humour and “The School polished dialogue, and displaying a command of

for Scandal

(1777). dramatic situation which is by no means the crowning merit of Congreve or Wycherley ; but, as a literary masterpiece, it is not for one moment to be campared with The Way of the World or Love for Love ; to compare it with any of Wycherley's plays is to set a brilliant and accurate copy side by side with its original. Sheridan, with all his quickness of apprehension and his faculty of training his own style to something of the same refinement, missed the fine and perfect subtlety of his models, failed to catch their discriminating delicacy of touch. In The School for Scandal we have the one work in which he approached perfection, in which he shows us the best of his genius. There is a great deal in The Critic that is extravagant and amusing, and is almost unsurpassed in the literature of burlesque; it is a great jeu d'esprit, which by itself would have given Sheridan an irregular niche in literature like that of Buckingham. His earliest comedy, The Rivals, with its immortal “The

Rivals" characters, excellent scenes, and finished dialogue, is

(1775). nevertheless, compared with The School for Scandal, a very disjointed and unequal production, and the scenes between those fastidious lovers, Falkland and Julia, could not well be more tedious. But, if the accidental taste of the contemporary playgoer, and its generous endorsement by an even more civilised posterity, have raised Sheridan to a too exalted pinnacle among comic writers, and have chosen to forget or degrade those masters of whose system of borrowing he so liberally availed himself, those dramatists themselves are at least something to blame for their own deposition ; while Sheridan, in any case, remains the greatest of those who succeeded to their laurels, and The School for Scandal divides the honours of the later stage with She Stoops to Conquer,


debted to the Jacobean dramatists. MINOR POETS OF THE From time to time his verse falls into EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.

a succession of hendecasyllabic lines A.-FROM 1700 TO 1750.

with weak endings and interjectional

pauses, which exactly recall the JOHN ARMSTRONG (1709-1779), a scansion of Massinger; and the fellow-countryman, friend, and imi. morbid spirit of the poem is thotator of Thomson, was a physician roughly in tune with the spirit of in London, and devoted himself to the later school of playwrights. Blair celebrating his art in Thomsonian may be compared with Young ; but blank verse.

His poem bears the he wrote with more freedom and less unpromising title of The Art of dulness. Preserving Health ; but he brought HENRY BROOKE (1703 ?-1783), an to it an easy faculty of verse, and the Irish country gentleman from county result is not nearly so bald and pom- Cavan, is now remembered as the pous as we might expect. This was in author of the curious romance called 1744, and was not Armstrong's first The Fool of Quality, or The Advenexperiment. However, after the death tures of Henry, Earl of Moreland, of his friend and master, he became which came out in the same year more prolific, wrote epistles and, in as The Vicar of Wakefield (1706). 1754, a tragedy, The Forced Marriage | Thirty-one years before (1735) this (published 1770), and, under the nom eccentric gentleman had published a de plume of Lancelot Temple, pub- long poem in six serial parts, bearlished a book of essays (1758). Arm- ing the portentous title of Universal strong was fond of outlandish words

Beauty. It was in the heroic couplet, and phrases, and anticipated the and showed a wonderful acquaint. extravagance of Erasmus Darwin ; ance with the philosophical side of but he was

a much better poet, science. Like all the metaphysical and was one of the most distin- poetry of the age, it was much in guished members of the Thomsonian the debt of the accomplished Shaftesschool.

bury. Brooke's style was very hy. ROBERT BLAIR (1699-1746), parish brid, and he affected the same minister of Athelstaneford in East Græco-Latinisms as Armstrong in Lothian, published in 1743 a remark- the next decade and Erasmus Dar. able poem called The Grave, which, win forty-four years later ; but he during the next half century, ac- constantly reminds us, as they very cording to Boswell, "passed through seldom do, of Lucretius; and, al. many editions, and is still much read though this reminiscence is rather by people of a serious cast of mind." distant, it supplies a good test of Blair was not exactly Thomsonian, his success in dealing with a difficult although he wrote in blank verse subject. In 1739 Brooke brought which often approaches the man- a tragedy, Gustavus Visa, ner of The Seasons. It has been which, owing to political allusions, pointed out that he was much in- was suppressed by the Lord Cham.


berlain; this not only brought the born at Aberglasney in Carmarthenauthor into controversy, but pro- shire and educated at Westminster. voked an ironical Complete Vindica- He began life as a painter and tion of the Licensers of the Stage from student of the picturesque, travelled Samuel Johnson, then struggling for much in Wales, and went to study a livelihood in London.

his art in Italy. Eventually he ISAAC HAWKINS BROWNE (1706- wrote poetry and took Holy Orders. 1760) of Trinity College, Cambridge, Grongar Hill, a descriptive poem in one of the first wits of this country, a sing-song metre and rhyme which "got into Parliament" for Much is often slovenly, was published in Wenlock "and never opened his 1726 : and thus Dyer, by a happy mouth." He wrote a Latin poem accident of temperament, became (1754) in imitation of Lucretius, one of the first poets who showed and published (1736) A Pipe of the way to nature. Another short Tobacco, a series of six parodies, poem, The Country Walk, followed aimed at Cibber, Ambrose Philips, the same lines; but, in his later Thomson, Young, Pope, and Swift. life, Dyer allowed himself to become

JOHN BYROM (1692-1763) was an didactic, and wrote The Ruins of eccentric man of letters.

He went

Rome (1740) and The Fleece (1757). to Trinity College, Cambridge, got “The subject, sir," said Johnson, his fellowship, fell in love with cannot be made poetical. How Joan Bentley, who, in those days can a man write poetically of serges of strife, was the one bond of affec- and druggets !" But Wordsworth, tion between the Master's Lodge at the beginning of the next century, and the College, and wrote in her praised Dyer's imagination and style ; honour the well-known pastoral in and Gray, who saw in the poet a the Spectator "My time, Oye kindred spirit, wrote to Walpole, muses, was happily spent." Later" Dyer has more of poetry in his on he retired to his native place, imagination than any of our num. Manchester, where he became a ber, but rough and injudicious." physician, and patented a system Posterity has more or less consented of shorthand. During the '45, in to forget the author of The Fleece, which Manchester played a but Grongar Hill may be still respicuous part, he was a strong

membered. but cautious Jacobite. His views RICHARD GLOVER (1712-1785), a and attitude are well expressed in London merchant and member of his famous epigram-

Parliament for Weymouth, was, in

poetry, a follower of Thomson, and, God bless the King, God bless our faith's in politics, an opponent of Walpole. defender,

In the length of Leonidas (1737) God bless--no harm in blessing-the Pre

and its posthumous sequel The tender; But who Pretender is, and who is King,

Athenaid (1787), which are full of God bless us all ! that's quite another

political allusions, Glover almost thing.

rivalled the father of epic poetry ;

but his best thing is the political At the close of his life he fell ballad called Admiral Hosier's under the influence of William Law's Ghost (1739). mystical treatises, and in a poem MATTHEW GREEN (1696-7737), a called Enthusiasm (1751) versified clerk in the Customs, who had his master's thoughts in the heroic quietly admired nature all his life, couplet much as Brooke and the became posthumously known by others had versified Shaftesbury, The Spleen (1737), a poem in octoHis very miscellaneous works, in- syllables, to which his friend Glover cluding his journals, have been pre- contributed a preface. Green is a served by the local patriotism of the delightful poet, touching his subject Chetham Society in Manchester, in that spirit of compromise bewho, at long intervals, have pub- tween the dying classicism and the lished the whole body.

coming romanticism which we see JOHN DYER (17007-1758) was at its best in Collins. He was B.–FROM 1750 TO 1800. special pleading and the interest which attaches itself to all dissipated CHRISTOPHER ANSTEY (1724 poets have overcharged Savage's 1805), author of the well-known Na memory with importance; as a Bath Guide (1766), was the father of matter of fact, although he is allied English vers de société. This series to Thomson, he is by no means in of fifteen letters in verse, making fun the van of the battalion, but is a of the well-known habitués of Bath, prominent skirmisher on its flanks. was the most popular work of its He is buried in St. Peter's church- day. The impression which it made yard at Bristol.


a cheerful, contented bachelor, find always be one of the most popular ing in his charming groves with hymns in English--a spontaneous their nymphs and dryads an admir- lyric, which goes straight to the able remedy for melancholy; and heart and finds its echo in every thus his poem has something of the generation. Moreover, these hymns gay, irresponsible idleness of a garden emphasise the importance of the scene by Watteau.

Evangelical movement on its less AARON HILL (1685-1750) is best special side, as part and parcel of known through the conflict with the contemporary revolution in manPope, on which he ventured after ners, politics, and literature. being satirised in The Dunciad. WILLIAM WHITEHEAD (1715Seventeen plays are attributed to 1785) was made Poet Laureate in him, besides some other writings 1757, when Cibber died, and after now altogether forgotten; and his Gray had declined the office. He one claim to remembrance is his wrote seven dramas, of which the part in the introduction of Thomson most important are The Roman to the public. His style was correct Father (1750) and Creilsa, Queen of and cold, fashioned on the model of Athens (1754). the French classical writers.

SIR CHARLES HANBURY WIL. RICHARD SAVAGE (d. 1743), to LIAMS (1708-1759) was one of the whose memory Johnson, his early chief satirists of George II's reign. companion in tribulation, paid a Sir Robert Walpole was his chief splendid and partial tribute, was a patron and friend, and found his notoriously dissipated person, and pen of no small use in the support advertised himself well by his claim of his own policy. Williams sat in to be the son of Lord Rivers and Parliament for some years, and was Lady Macclesfield.

This was the afterwards sent on embassies to subject of his first successful poem, Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, and St. The Bastard (1728). He had, how- | Petersburg. His poems, consisting ever,

been writing poems and for the most part of fugitive pieces, comedies for more than ten years were imperfectly collected in 1822; before. In 1729 a long descriptive but their coarse savagery has now poem, The Wanderer, and, in 1730, lost its personal interest, as they set of Verses

Viscountess refer almost entirely to the events of Tyrconnel's Recovery, complete the that age. tale of any work of Savage's that can be called memorable. Johnson's

may be seen from a letter of Horace CHARLES WESLEY (1707 - 1788) Walpole to George Montague (June was the poet of the movement whose 20, 1766): 'What pleasure have apostle was his great brother, and you to come! . . . It is called the wrote an enormous number of hymns New Bath Guide. It stole into the and sacred lyrics. Although their world, and for a fortnight no soul subjective fervour and consequent looked into it, concluding its name want of restraint are serious literary was its true name. No such thing. drawbacks and involve temptations to It is a set of letters in verse, in all bathos, many are very perfect and, kind of verses, describing the life while appealing to all classes alike, at Bath, and incidentally everything have a music and charm of their else; but so much wit, so much own. “Jesus, lover of my soul," will humour, fun, and poetry, so much



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