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ancient tragedy always represents its chief person such) as it is for an innocent man; and the suffering of innocence and punishment of the offender is of the nature of English tragedy: contrarily, in the Greek, innocence is unhappy often, and the offender escapes. Then we are not touched with the sufferings of any sort of men so much as of lovers; and this was almost unknown to the ancients: so that they neither administered poetical justice, of which Mr. Rymer boasts, so well as we; neither knew they the best commonplace of pity, which is love.
"He therefore unjustly blames us for not building on what the ancients left us; for it seems, upon consideration of the premises, that we have wholly finished what they began.
"My judgment on this piece is this: that it is extremely learned, but that the author of it is better read in the Greek than in the English poets; that all writers ought to study this critique, as the best account I have ever seen of the ancients; that the model of tragedy, he has here given, is excellent, and extremely correct; but that it is not the only model of all tragedy, because it is too much circumscribed in plot, characters, &c.; and, lastly, that we may be taught here justly to admire and imitate the ancients, without giving them the preference with this author, in prejudice to our own country.
"Want of method in this excellent treatise makes the thoughts of the author sometimes obscure.
"His meaning, that pity and terror are to be moved, is, that they are to be moved as the means conducing to the ends of tragedy, which are pleasure and instruction.
"And these two ends may be thus distin guished. The chief end of the poet is to please; for his immediate reputation depends on it.
"The great end of a poem is to instruct, which is performed by making pleasure the vehicle of that instruction; for poesy is an art, and all arts are made to profit.-Rapin.
"The pity, which the poet is to labour for, is for the criminal, not for those or him whom he has murdered, or who have been the occasion of the tragedy. The terror is likewise in the punishment of the same criminal; who, if he be represented too great an offender, will not be pitied; if altogether innocent, his punishment will be unjust.
"Another obscurity is, where he says, Sophocles perfected tragedy by introducing the third actor: that is, he meant three kinds of action: one company singing, or speaking; another playing on the music; a third dancing.
"To make a true judgment in this competition between the Greek poets and the English, in tragedy: "Consider, First, How Aristotle has defined a tragedy. Secondly, What he assigns the end of it to be. Thirdly, What he thinks the beauties of it. Fourthly, The means to attain the end proposed.
"Compare the Greek and English tragic poets justly, and without partiality, according to those
of Sophocles, Euripides, &c. had or truly could determine what all the excellencies of tragedy are, and wherein they consist.
"Next, show in what ancient tragedy was deficient; for example, in the narrowness of its plots, and fewness of persons; and try whether that be not a fault in the Greek poets; and whether their excellency was so great, when the variety was visibly so little; or whether what they did was not very easy to do.
"Then make a judgment on what the English have added to their beauties: as, for example, not only more plot, but also new passions: as, namely, that of love, scarcely touched on by the ancients, except in this one example of Phædra, cited by Mr. Rymer: and in that how short they were of Fletcher!
"Prove also that love, being an heroic passion, is fit for tragedy, which cannot be denied, because of the example alleged of Phædra: and how far Shakspeare has outdone them in friendship, &c.
it is not first. But, secondly, I dare appeal to those who have never seen them acted, if they have not found these two passions moved within them; and if the general voice will carry it, Mr. Rymer's prejudice will take off his single testimony.
“This, being matter of fact, is reasonably to be established by this appeal; as, if one man says it is night, when the rest of the world conclude it to be day, there needs no farther argument against him that it is so.
"If he urge that the general taste is depraved, his arguments to prove this can at best but evince that our poets took not the best way to raise those passions: but experience proves against him, that those means, which they have used, have been successful, and have produced them.
"And one reason of that success is, in my opinion, this; that Shakspeare and Fletcher have written to the genius of the age and nation in which they lived; for though nature, as he objects, is the same in all places, and reason too the same; yet the climate, the age, the disposition of the people, to whom a poet writes, may be so different, that what pleased the Greeks would not satisfy an English audience.
"To return to the beginning of this inquiry; consider if pity and terror be enough for tragedy to move; and I believe, upon a true definition of tragedy, it will be found that its work extends farther, and that it is to reform manners, by a delightful representation of human life in great "And if they proceed upon a foundation of persons, by way of dialogue. If this be true, truer reason to please the Athenians than Shakthen not only pity and terror are to be moved, as speare and Fletcher to please the English, it the only means to bring us to virtue, but gene- only shows that the Athenians were a more rally love to virtue, and hatred to vice; by judicious people; but the poet's business is cershowing the rewards of one, and punishments|tainly to please the audience. of the other; at least by rendering virtue always amiable, though it be shown unfortunate; and vice detestable, though it be shown triumphant.
"If, then, the encouragement of virtue and discouragement of vice be the proper ends of poetry in tragedy, pity and terror, though good means, are not the only. For all the passions, in their turns, are to be set in a ferment; as joy, anger, love, fear, are to be used as the poet's commonplaces; and a general concernment for the principal actors is to be raised, by making them appear such in their characters, their words, and actions, as will interest the audience in their fortunes.
"And if, after all, in a larger sense, pity comprehends this concernment for the good, and terror includes detestation for the pad, then let us consider whether the English have not answered this end of tragedy as well as the ancients, or perhaps better.
And here Mr. Rymer's objections against these plays are to be impartially weighed, that we may see whether they are of weight enough to turn the balance against our countrymen.
"It is evident those plays, which he arraigns, have moved both those passions in a high degree upon the stage.
"To give the glory of this away from the poet, and to place it upon the actors, seems unjust.
"One reason is, because whatever actors they have found, the event has been the same; that is, the same passions have been always moved; which shows that there is something of force and merit in the plays themselves, conducing to the design of raising these two passions; and suppose them ever to have been excellently acted, yet action only adds grace, vigour, and more life, upon the stage; but cannot give it wholly where I
"Whether our English audience have been pleased hitherto with acorns, as he calls it, or with bread, is the next question; that is, whether the means which Shakspeare and Fletcher have used, in their plays, to raise those passions beforenamed, be better applied to the ends by the Greek poets than by them And perhaps we shall not grant him this wholly: let it be yielded that a writer is not to run down with the stream, or to please the people by their usual methods, but rather to reform their judg ments, it still remains to prove that our theatre needs this total reformation.
"The faults which he has found in their design, are rather wittily aggravated in many places than reasonably urged; and as much may be returned on the Greeks by one who was as witty as himself.
They destroy not, if they are granted, the foundation of the fabric; only take away from the beauty of the symmetry: for example, the faults in the character of the King, in 'King and No-king,' are not, as he calls them, such as render him detestable, but only imperfections which accompany human nature, and are for the most part excused by the violence of his love; so that they destroy not our pity or concernment for him: this answer may be applied to most of his objections of that kind.
"And Rolla committing many murders, when he is answerable but for one, is too severely arraigned by him; for, it adds to our horror and detestation of the criminal; and poetic justice is not neglected neither; for we stab him in our minds for every offence which he commits, and the point which the poet is to gain on the audience, is not so much in the death of an offender as the raising a horror of his crimes.
"That the criminal should neither be wholly guilty, nor wholly innocent, but so participating of both as to move both pity and terror, is certainly a good rule, but not perpetually to be observed; for that were to make all tragedies too much alike; which objection he foresaw, but has not fully answered.
"To conclude, therefore; if the plays of the ancients are more correctly plotted, ours are more beautifully written. And, if we can raise passions as high on worse foundations, it shows our genius in tragedy is greater; for in all other parts of it the English have manifestly excelled
"Being now at Sir William Bowyer's in the country, I cannot write at large, because I find myself somewhat indisposed with a cold, and am thick of hearing, rather worse than I was in town. I am glad to find, by your letter of July 26th, your style, that you are both in health, but wonder you should think me so negligent as to forget to give you an account of the ship in which your parcel is to come. I have written to you two or three letters concerning it, which I have sent by safe hands, as I told you, and doubt not but you have them before this can arrive to you. Being out of town, I have forgotten the ship's name, which your mother will inquire, and put it into her letter, which is joined with mine. But the master's name I remember: he is called Mr. Ralph Thorp; the ship is bound to Leghorn, consigned to Mr. Peter and Mr. Thomas Ball, merchants. I am of your opinion, that by Tonson's means almost all our letters |
have miscarried for this last year. But, however, he has missed of his design in the dedication, though he had prepared the book for it; for, in every figure of Eneas he has caused him to be drawn like King William, with a hooked nose. After my return to town, I intend to alter a play of Sir Robert Howard's, written long since, and lately put into my hands; it is called "The Conquest of China by the Tartars." It will cost me six weeks' study, with the probable benefit of a hundred pounds. In the mean time I am writing a song for St. Cecilia's Feast, who, you know, is the patroness of music. This is troublesome, and no way beneficial; but I could not deny the stewards of the feast, who came in a body to me to desire that kindness, one of them being Mr. Bridgeman, whose parents are your mother's friends. I hope to send you thirty guineas between Michaelmas and Christmas, of which I will give you an account when I come to town. I remember the counsel you give me in your letter; but dissembling, though lawful in some cases, is not my talent; yet, for your sake, I will struggle with the plain openness of my nature, and keep in my just resentments against that degenerate order. In the mean time, I flatter not myself with any manner of hopes, but do my duty, and suffer for God's sake; being assured, before hand, never to be rewarded, though the times should alter. Towards the latter end of this month, September, Charles will begin to recover his perfect health, according to his nativity, which, casting it myself, I am sure is true, and all things hitherto have happened accordingly to the very time that I predicted them: I hope at the same time to recover more health, according to my age. Remember me to poor Harry, whose prayers I earnestly desire. My Virgil succeeds in the world beyond its desert or my expectation. You know the profits might have been more; but neither my conscience nor my honour would suffer me to take them; but I can never repent of my constancy, since I am thoroughly persuaded of the justice of the cause for which I suffer. It has pleased God to raise up many friends to me among my enemies, though they who ought to have been my friends are negli gent of me. I am called to dinner, and cannot go on with this letter, which I desire you to excuse; and am
"Your most affectionate father,
⚫ EDMUND SMITH is one of those lucky writers, lectual excellence seldom employed to any vitwho have, without much labour, attained high|tuous purpose. His character, as given by Mr. reputation, and who are mentioned with reverence rather for the possession than the exertion of uncommon abilities.
Of his life little is known; and that little claims no praise but what can be given to intel
Oldisworth with all the partiality of friendship, which is said by Dr. Burton to show "what fine things one man of parts can say of another," and which, however, comprises great part of what can be known of Mr. Smith, it is better to
transcribe at once than to take by pieces. Ilege, and that college the ornament of the most shall subjoin such little memorials as accident has enabled me to collect.
Mr. EDMUND SMITH was the only son of an eminent merchant, one Mr. Neale, by a daughter of the famous Baron Lechmere. Some misfortunes of his father, which were soon followed by his death, were the occasion of the son's being left very young in the hands of a near relation (one who married Mr. Neale's sister) whose name was Smith.
learned and polite University; and it was his happiness to have several contemporaries and fellow-students who exercised and excited this virtue in themselves, and others, thereby becom ing so deservedly in favour with this age, and so good a proof of its nice discernment. His judgexquisite fineness and distinguishing sagacity, ment, naturally good, soon ripened into an which, as it was active and busy, so it was vigorous and manly, keeping even paces with a rich and strong imagination, always upon the This gentleman and his lady treated him as wing, and never tired with aspiring. Hence it their own child, and put him to Westminster was, that, though he writ as young as Cowley, School, under the care of Dr. Busby; whence, he had no puerilities; and his earliest producafter the loss of his faithful and generous guar- tions were so far from having any thing in them dian (whose name he assumed and retained) he mean and trifling, that, like the junior composi was removed to Christchurch, in Oxford, and tions of Mr. Stepney, they may make gray authere by his aunt handsomely maintained till thors blush. There are many of his first essays her death; after which he continued a member in oratory, in epigram, elegy, and epic, still of that learned and ingenious society till within handed about the University in manuscript, five years of his own; though, some time before which show a masterly hand; and though his leaving Christchurch, he was sent for by maimed and injured by frequent transcribing, his mother to Worcester, and owned and ac- make their way into our most celebrated miscelknowledged as her legitimate son; which had lanies, where they shine with uncommon lustre. not been mentioned, but to wipe off the asper- Besides those verses in the Oxford books which sions that were ignorantly cast by some on his he could not help setting his name to, several of birth. It is to be remembered, for our Author's his compositions came abroad under other names, honour, that, when at Westminster election he which his own singular modesty and faithful stood a candidate for one of the universities, he silence strove in vain to conceal. The Encænia so signally distinguished himself by his con- and public Collections of the University upon spicuous performances, that there arose no small State Subjects were never in such esteem, either contention between the representative electors for elegy and congratulation, as when he conof Trinity College, in Cambridge, and Christ-tributed most largely to them; and it was natural church, in Oxon, which of those two royal societies should adopt him as their own. But the electors of Trinity College having the preference of choice that year, they resolutely elected him; who yet, being invited at the same time to Christchurch, chose to accept of a studentship there. Mr. Smith's perfections, as well natural as acquired, seem to have been formed upon Horace's plan, who says, in his "Art of Po
-Ego nec studium sine divite vena,
Nec rude quid profit video ingenium; alterius sic
He was endowed by nature with all those excellent and necessary qualifications which are previous to the accomplishment of a great man. His memory was large and tenacious, yet by a curious felicity chiefly susceptible of the finest impressions it received from the best authors he read, which it always preserved in their primitive strength and amiable order.
for those who knew his peculiar way of writing to turn to his share in the work, as by far the most relishing part of the entertainment. As his parts were extraordinary, so he well knew how to improve them; and not only to polish the diamond, but enchase it in the most solid and durable metal. Though he was an academic the greatest part of his life, yet he contracted no sourness of temper, no spice of pedantry, no itch of disputation, or obstinate contention for the old or new philosophy, no assuming way of dictating to others, which are faults (though excusable) which some are insensibly led into who are constrained to dwell long, within the walls of a private college. His conversation was pleasant and instructive; and what Horace said of Plotius, Varius, and Virgil, might justly be applied to him:
NU ego contulerim jucundo sanus Amico.
Sat, v. 1. 1
As correct a writer as he was in his most elabo
rate pieces, he read the works of others with candour, and reserved his greatest severity for his own compositions; being readier to cherish and advance than damp or depress a rising genius, and as patient of being excelled himself (if any could excel him) as industrious to excel others.
He had a quickness of apprehension and vivacity of understanding which easily took in and surmounted the most subtle and knotty parts of mathematics and metaphysics. His wit was prompt and flowing, yet solid and piercing; his taste delicate, his head clear, and his way of expressing his thoughts perspicuous and engaging, I shall say nothing of his person, which was yet so well turned, that no neglect of himself in his dress could render it disagreeable; insomuch that the fair sex, who observed and esteemed him, at once commended and reproved him by the name of the handsome sloven. An eager but generous He passed through the exercises of the Col and noble emulation grew up with him; which lege and University with unusual applause; and (as it were a rational sort of instinct) pushed though he often suffered his friends to call him him upon striving to excel in every art and off from his retirements, and to lengthen out science that could make him a credit to his Col-I those jovial avocations, yet his return to his
It were to be wished he had confined himself to a particular profession who was capable of surpassing in any; but, in this, his want of application was in a great measure owing to his want of due encouragement.
or detraction. If he did not always commend
-Verses as smooth and soft as cream,
for some men's overbearing vanity made him
stood Horace better, especially as to his happy
studies was so much the more passionate, and his intention upon those refined pleasures of reading and thinking so vehement, (to which his facetious and unbended intervals bore no proportion,) that the habit grew upon him, and the series of meditation and reflection being kept up whole weeks together, he could better sort his ideas, and take in the sundry parts of a science at one view, without interruption or confusion. Some indeed of his acquaintance, who were pleased to distinguish between the wit and the scholar, extol led him altogether on the account of these titles; but others, who knew him better, could not forbear doing him justice as a prodigy in both kinds. He had signalized himself, in the schools, as a philosopher and polemic of extensive know ledge and deep penetration; and went through all the courses with a wise regard to the dignity and importance of each science. I remember him in the Divinity-school responding and disputing with a perspicuous energy, a ready exactness, and commanding force of argument, when Dr. Jane worthily presided in the chair; whose condescending and disinterested commendation of him gave him such a reputation as silenced the envious malice of his enemies, who durst not contradict the approbation of so profound a master in theology. None of those self-sufficient creatures who have either trifled with philosophy, by attempting to ridicule it, or have encumbered it with novel terms and burdensome explanations, understood its real weightings upon Oliver Cromwell, it wants not the most and purity half so well as Mr. Smith. He was delicate and surprising turns peculiar to the too discerning to allow of the character of unprofitable, rugged, and abstruse, which some person praised. I do not remember to have seen superficial sciolists (so very smooth and polite as any thing like it in Dr. Bathurst,* who had made to admit of no impression) either out of an unsome attempts this way with applause. He was thinking indolence or an ill-grounded prejudice an excellent judge of humanity; and so good an had affixed to this sort of studies. He knew the historian, that in familiar discourse he would talk thorny terms of philosophy served well to fence over the most memorable facts in antiquity, the in the true doctrines of religion; and looked lives, actions, and characters of celebrated men, upon school-divinity as upon a rough but well-with amazing facility and accuracy. As he had wrought armour, which might at once adorn and so he was able to copy after him; and his talent thoroughly read and digested Thuanus's works, defend the Christian hero, and equip him for in this kind was so well known and allowed, the combat. to write a history which it was their interest to that he had been singled out by some great men have done with the utmost art and dexterity. I shall not mention for what reasons this design Mr. Smith's honour. The truth is, and I speak was dropped, though they are very much to it before living witnesses, whilst an agreeable literature nobody shone to greater advantage; he company could fix him upon a subject of useful seemed to be that Memmius whom Lucretius speaks of:
Mr. Smith had a long and perfect intimacy with all the Greek and Latin classics; with which he had carefully compared whatever was worth perusing in the French, Spanish, and Italian, (to which languages he was no stranger,) and in all the celebrated writers of his own country. But then, according to the curious observation of the late Earl of Shaftesbury, he kept the poet in awe by regular criticism; and, as it were, married the two arts for their mutual support and improvement. There was not a tract of credit upon that subject which he had not diligently examined, from Aristotle down to Hedelin and Bossu; so that, having each rule constantly His works are not many, and those scattered before him, he could carry the art through every up and down in miscellanies and collections, bepoem, and at once point out the graces and defor-ing wrested from him by his friends with great mities. By this means he seemed to read with a design to correct as well as imitate.
Being thus prepared, he could not but taste every little delicacy that was set before him; though it was impossible for him at the same time to be fed and nourished with any thing but what was substantial and lasting. He considered the ancients and moderns not as parties or rivals for fame, but as architects upon one and the same plan, the Art of Poetry; according to which he judged, approved, and blamed without flattery
-Quem tu, Dea, tempore in omni
Omnibus ornatum voluisti excellere rebus.
difficulty and reluctance. All of them together make but a small part of that much greater body which lies dispersed in the possession of numerous acquaintance; and cannot perhaps be made entire, without great injustice to him, because few of them had his last hand, and the transcriber was often obliged to take the liberties of a friend. His condolence for the death of Mr.
* Dr. Ralph Bathurst, whose Life and Literary Remains were published in 1761, by Mr. Thomas Warton.-C.