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madam, let me- (To Mrs. Fainall) before these witnesses restore to you this deed of trust: it may be a means, wellmanaged, to make you live easily together. From hence let those be warned, who
mean to wed; Lest mutual falsehood stain the bridal
bed; For each deceiver to his cost may find That marriage-frauds too oft are paid in kind.
Spoken by Mrs. Bracegirdle. After our Epilogue this crowd dismisses, I'm thinking how this play 'll be pulled
to pieces. But pray consider, ere you doom its fall, How hard a thing 't would be to please
Since when, they by their own offences
taught, Set up for spies on plays, and finding
fault. Others there are whose malice we'd pre
vent; Such who watch plays with scurrilous in
tent To mark out who by characters are
meant. And though no perfect likeness they can
trace, Yet each pretends to know the copied
face. These with false glosses feed their own
ill nature, And turn to libel what was meant a
satire. May such malicious fops this fortune
find, To think themselves alone the fools de
signed: If any are so arrogantly vain, To think they singly can support a scene, And furnish fool enough to entertain. For well the learn'd and the judicious
know That satire scorns to stoop so meanly
low, As any one abstracted fop to show, For, as when painters form a matchless
face, They from each fair one catch some dif
ferent grace; And shining features in one portrait
blend, To which no single beauty must pretend; So poets oft do in one piece expose Whole belles-assemblees of coquettes and
There are some critics so with spleen dis
eased, They scarcely come inclining to be
pleased : And sure he must have more than mortal
skill, Who pleases any one against his will. Then all bad poets we are sure are foes, And how their number's swelled, the
town well knows: In shoals I've marked 'em judging in the
pit; Though they're, on no pretence, for
judgment fit, But that they have been damned for want
IV. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
Joseph Addison (1672–1719), distinguished less zealous in its behalf. The Duke of Marlhimself at Oxford for “elegant scholarship," boroughi’s attempt to gain the oslice of Capknowledge of Latin poetry, and skill in com- tain General for life was felt to give point posing it. He first to prominence to Cato's denunciation of Cæsar the military through his poem, The Campaign (1704), dictator. Though .some critics felt the play, which celebrated Marlborough's victory at as we do, to be undramatic, its success at the Blenheim, and for which the Whigs gave him time passed into permanent appreciation; a government office. He was in Parliament Voltaire praised it as the first regular Engfrom 1708 till his death, and became a Secre- lish tragedy, because it followed French rules tary of State. In a literary way he is best (an outward and visible sign of which is its known, of course, for his essays, of a some- observance of the French practice of beginwhat fresh type, the short familiar essay, ning a new scene on an important exit or encontributed especially to The Tatler and The trance); and its popularity in the past is Spectator (1709-12).
shown by numerous bits which have become The eighteenth century, though not highly proverbial, such as distinguished in drama, was notably an era
The woman that deliberates is lost, of comedy. Its best work followed the ex.
and ample less of the Elizabethan than of the Res. toration comic writers, but raised their moral
Plato, thou reason'st well. tone. The chief new feature in comedy was But taste has changed; the play in our time the taste for the superficially ethical and would be impossible to put on the stage, and emotional, generally known as sentimental- is read chiefly because Addison wrote it. ism. In tragedy the age did not excel. Addison was looked up to in his own age as Addison's Cato is the most celebrated a man of high character, perfect taste, and tragedy, and as representative as any. highly developed sense of propriety, but
Cato, mostly written as early as 1703, was lacked the spontaneity and warmth for the finished, performed in London twenty times love of which some men will readily forgive and published in eight editions, in 1713. As lapses from propriety, taste, and even virtue. a curious illustration of the lack of historical It would excite an unfair prejudice against knowledge and imagination in that day, it is him to compare him to a Pharisee or the interesting to know that (in Macaulay's Prodigal Son's elder brother, for his caution words) “Juba's waistcoat blazed with gold and moderation were due to his modesty and lace; Marcia's hoop was worthy of a Duchess diffidence, and all testify to his personal on the birthday; and Cato wore a wig worth charm; but he was more akin to them than fifty guineas.' The play was based on Plu- to the Publican or the Prodigal himself. He tarch’s life of Cato, and perhaps on reminis- had another side, which expressed itself in cences of a poor tragedy which Addison had the grace, the gentle irony, the human nature, in Venice. Its great success with
But he was well fitted to deboth spectators and readers was partly due termine and express the more ambitious literto Addison's prestige and the loyalty of his ary orthodoxy of the age of Queen Anne, a friends, partly to its merits, partly to cir- classicism Latin and critical rather than cumstances. Though he disclaimed partizan Greek and original, uninterested in feeling, intentions, the play was timely. The end of restrained, dignified. The more formal literQueen Anne's reign was approaching (she ary ideals of the age, and the personality of died in 1714), there was no direct heir, and Addison, are not unfairly represented by the prospective coming of the Hanoverian Cato. dynasty involved danger to English liberty No criticism of it has oftener been made through insurrections in favor of the tyran- than that it is emotionally frigid, and the nical Stuarts, such as actually followed in charge is true. None of the characters ex1715. A play exciting sympathy for old cites vivid interest, none except Cato excites Roman liberty was sure of attention. The much sympathy. Hardest of all is for us to Whigs, Dr. Johnson said, applauded all refer- give ourselves up to the love-episodes. A ences to freedom, and the Tories applauded man whose first known love-affair was at the just as loudly lest they should be thought age of forty-four with an elderly widowed
of his essays.
peeress was perhaps not likely to excel in portraying passion. When Sempronius, Juba, and Marcia, Portius, Marcus, and Lucia talk, and even when they rant, we have to take their word for it that they are in love. There is not one of those simple natural phrases which show a poet's insight, not one syllable which speaks the language of the heart. The language of emotion in poetry of course is not always necessarily that of emotion in real life; Romeo speaks not as a lover would, but as a romantic lover would if he could. But no lover would wish to speak as Addison's do. The polished style, faultily faultless some call it, indirect and highly literary, heightens the sense of coolness, but the feeling throughout is one of detachment.
The composition of the play is what we might expect of the early eighteenth century, and of Addison. More than at any other time men felt then that literary art might be produced by rule rather than by inspiration. Addison had no innate dramatic gift, and little dramatic experience. The creator of Sir Roger de Coverley might have done well in comedy, especially in a delicate and subtle kind such as was scarcely written in the eighteenth century. His literary convictions, rather than his genius, drew him to tragedy. Even in his day the play was censured as not well constructed. The lovestories have little to do with the main action, yet most of what suspense and surprise exists is in them. The strict observance of the unities of time and place leads to an artificiality. Yet throughout we scientious and well-informed workmanship, according to classical taste. The characters may not be vividly human or individual, but still they are clearly and broadly distinguished from each other. Portius is cool and reflective, Marcus is emotional. Juba the Numidian has the fiery impulsiveness commonly associated with the south. The treachery of Sempronius and Syphax are well motivated. Addison follows the convention of giving his various characters confidantes, by conversation with whom their feelings are disclosed to the audience without excessive use of the artificial soliloquy. He also complied in this play with the preference of the modern classicists for dealing out strict poetic justice, so that all shall end as nearly as possible in complete satisfaction. This they esteemed more than the crash of ruin, involving guilty and innocent alike, with which
Elizabethan tragedy ends, and from which the spectator almost feels that he himself has barely escaped, alive but shaken. In Cato the traitors meet their deserved harsh end, which we relish the more for Sempronius be cause of his carelessness and stupidity. The good Marcus by a heroic death escapes the pain he could not have avoided receiving and giving, had he lived to learn that his brother was his favored rival. Cato's willing death was his only way out of a situation impossible for him. Nothing better than this play could illustrate the fundamental optimism of the eighteenth century, the most optimistic because the most theoretical period in history.
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right, announced its greatest English poet; and people expected literary art to support their faith that this was a truth.
The most pernranently valuable thing in the play, which enables us still to read it with esteem if not with admiration, is the stately pathos of the central situation — the grand old man of Rome at the end of the strait and narrow path whence he had nerer deviated, and finding an impassable wall; and his calm acceptance of the only way out; though Addison makes a concession to Christian morals at the end, where Cato regrets his suicide when it is too late, and there is a tragic irony in the summons to him as he is dying to lead the forces of Pompey against Cæsar. In portraying Cato Addison had not to make the effort which he could not conceal in the love-scenes. And here his calm style is not out of place. Cato is hardly a dramatic hero, for he has no struggle, and the emotions he excites are hardly those that warm; the average playgoer is unfortunately but little stirred by “ inward greatness, unaffected wisdom, and sanctity of manners. But Addison's tribute is no less sincere and worthy than Dante's. In the Purgatorio the greatest of Christian poets, who has just witnessed the pains of suicides and pagans in hell, places this pagan suicide as the director of righteous souls upon the path of complete purification; this he did because he regarded Cato as the type of perfect freedom of the will, which Dante exalts throughout his poem. Addison's Cato, though the world and the future may be against him, is firm in his convictions. As a late Roman poet says,
Victrix causa deis placuit, sed victa Catoni.
By Mr. Pope. To wake the soul by tender strokes of art, To raise the genius and to mend the heart, To make mankind in conscious virtue bold, Live o'er each scene, and be what they be
hold;For this the tragic muse first trod the stage, Commanding tears to stream through every
age; Tyrants no more their savage nature kept, And foes to virtue wondered how they wept. Our author shuns by vulgar springs to
move The hero's glory, or the virgin's love, In pitying love, we but our weakness show, And wild ambition well deserves its woe. Here tears shall flow from a more generous
cause, Such tears as patriots shed for dying laws. He bids your breasts with ancient ardor
rise, And calls forth Roman drops from British
eyes. Virtue confessed in human shape he draws, What Plato thought, and godlike Cato was: No common object to your sight displays, But, what with pleasure heaven itself sur
veys, A brave man struggling in the storms of
fate, And greatly falling with a falling state! While Cato gives his little senate laws, What bosom beats not in his country's
Who sees him act, but envies every deed? Who hears him groan, and does not wish to
bleed? Ev’n when proud Cæsar, 'midst triumphal
cars, The spoils of nations, and the pomp of
wars, Ignobly vain, and impotently great, Showed Rome her Cato's figure drawn in
state; As her dead father's reverend image past, The pomp was darkened, and the day o'er
cast, The triumph ceased-tears gushed from
every eye, The world's great victor passed unheeded
by; Her last good man dejected Rome adored, And honored Cæsar's less than Cato's
sword. Britons, attend: be worth like this ap
proved, And show you have the virtue to be moved. With honest scorn the first famed Cato
viewed Rome learning arts from Greece, whom she
subdued. Our scene precariously subsists too long On French translation, and Italian song: Dare to have sense yourselves; assert the
stage, Be justly warmed with your own native
rage. Such plays alone should please a British
ear, As Cato's self had not disdained to hear.
DECIUS, Ambassador from Cæsar.
Mutineers, Guards, etc.
MEN CATO. LUCIUS, a Senator. SEMPRONIUS, a Senator. JUBA, Prince of Numidia. SYPHAX, General of the Numidians. PORTIUS,
Sons of CATO. MARCUS,
WOMEN MARCIA, Daughter to Cato. LUCIA, Daughter to LUCIUS SCENE.—A Large Hall in the Governor's
Palace of Utica.
His sufferings shine, and spread a glory
around him; SCENE 1.
Greatly unfortunate, he fights the cause
Of honor, virtue, liberty, and Rome. (Portius, Marcus.)
His sword ne'er fell but on the guilty Por. The dawn is overcast, the morning
Oppression, tyranny, and power usurped, And heavily in clouds brings on the day, Draw all the vengeance of his arm upon The great, the important day, big with
'em. the fate
Mar. Who knows not this? But what Of Cato and of Rome. Our father's
can Cato do death
Against a world, a base, degenerate Would fill up all the guilt of civil war,
world, And close the scene of blood. Already That courts the yoke, and bows the neck Cæsar
to Cæsar? Has ravaged more than half the globe, Pent up in Utica he vainly forms and sees
A poor epitome of Roman greatness, Mankind grown thin by his destructive And, covered with Numidian guards, disword:
rects Should he go further, numbers would be A feeble army, and an empty senate, wanting
Remnants of mighty battles fought in To form new battles, and support his
By heavens, such virtues, joined with Ye gods, what havoc does ambition make
such success, Among your works!
Distract my very soul: our father's forMar. Thy steady temper, Portius,
tune Can look on guilt, rebellion, fraud, and Would almost tempt us to renounce his Cæsar,
precepts. In the calm lights of mild philosophy; Por. Remember what our father oft has I'm tortured ev'n to madness, when I
told us: think
The ways of heaven are dark and intriOn the proud victor: every time he's
Puzzled in mazes, and perplexed with Pharsalia rises to my view !-I see
errors; The insulting tyrant, prancing o'er the Our understanding traces 'em in vain, field
Lost and bewildered in the fruitless Strowed with Rome's citizens, and
search; drenched in slaughter,
Nor sees with how much art the windHis horse's hoofs wet with patrician
ings run, blood.
Nor where the regular confusion ends. Oh, Portius! is there not some chosen Mar. These are suggestions of a mind at
curse, Some hidden thunder in the stores of Oh, Portius ! didst thou taste but half the heaven,
griefs Red with uncommon wrath, to blast the That wring my soul, thou couldst not talk
thus coldly. Who owes his greatness to his country's Passion unpitied, and successless love, ruin?
Plant daggers in my heart, and aggraPor. Believe me, Marcus, 't is an impious
My other griefs. Were but my Lucia And mixed with too much horror to be
Por. Thou seest not that thy brother is How does the luster of our father's ac
thy rival; tions,
But I must hide it, for I know thy temThrough the dark cloud of ills that cover
(Aside.) Break out, and burn with more tri- Now, Marcus, now, thy virtue's on the umphant brightness !
proof: 1 Battalions.