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only to know what they have to say. Cato is a being above our solici tude; a man of whom the gods take care, and whom we leave to their care with heedless confidence. To the rest neither gods nor men can have much attention; for there is not one amongst them that strongly attracts either affection or esteem. But they are made the vehicles of such sentiments and such expression, that there is scarcely a scene in the play which the reader does not wish to impress upon his memory.
"When Cato was shewn to Pope,1 he advised the author to print it, without any theatrical exhibition; supposing that it would be read more favourably than heard. Addison declared himself of the same opinion; but urged the importunity of his friends for its appearance on the stage. The emulation of parties made it successful beyond expectation; and its success has introduced or confirmed among us the use of dialogue too declamatory, of unaffecting elegance, and chill philosophy.
"The universality of applause, however it might quell the censure of common mortals, had no other effect than to harden Dennis in fixed dislike; but his dislike was not merely capricious. He found and shewed many faults; he shewed them indeed with anger, but he found them with acuteness, such as ought to rescue his criticism from oblivion; though, at last, it will have no other life than it derives from the work which it endeavours to oppress."-Id. pp. 110, 111.
"The first four acts of this drama had been lying in his desk since his return from Italy. His modest and sensitive nature shrank from the risk of a public and shameful failure; and, though all who saw the manuscript were loud in praise, some thought it possible that an audience might become impatient even of very good rhetoric; and advised Addison to print the play without hazarding a representation. At length, after many fits of apprehension, the poet yielded to the urgency of his political friends, who hoped that the public would discover some analogy between the followers of Cæsar and the tories; between Sempronius and the apostate whigs; between Cato, struggling to the last for the liberties of Rome, and the band of patriots who still stood firm round Halifax and Wharton.
"Addison gave the play to the managers of Drury-lane theatre, without stipulating for any advantage to himself. They, therefore, thought themselves bound to spare no cost in scenery and dresses. The decorations, it is true, would not have pleased the skilful eye of Mr. Macready. Juba's waistcoat blazed with gold lace; Marcia's hoop was worthy of duchess on the birthday; and Cato wore a wig worth fifty guineas. The prologue was written by Pope, and is undoubtedly a dignified and spirited composition. The part of the hero was excellently played by Booth. Steele undertook to pack a house. The boxes were in a blaze with the stars of the peers in opposition. The pit was crowded with attentive and friendly listeners from the inns of court and the literary coffee-houses. Sir Gilbert
Heathcote, governor of the Bank of England, was at the head of a powerful body of auxiliaries from the city: warm men and true whigs, but better known at Jonathan's and Garroway's than in the haunts of wits and critics.
"These precautions were quite superfluous. The tories, as a body, regarded Addison with no unkind feelings. Nor was it for their interestprofessing, as they did, profound reverence for law and prescription, and abhorrence both of popular insurrections and of standing armies—to appropriate to themselves reflections thrown on the great military chief and demagogue, who, with the support of the legions and of the common people, subverted all the ancient institutions of his country. Accordingly, every shout that was raised by the members of the Kit-Cat was re-echoed by the high churchmen of the October; and the curtain at length fell amidst thunders of unanimous applause.
VOL. J. -10*
"The delight and admiration of the town were described by the Guardian in terms which we might attribute to partiality, were it not that the Examiner, the organ of the ministry, held similar language. The tories, indeed, found much to sneer at in the conduct of their opponents. Steele had on this, as on other occasions, shown more zeal than taste or judgment. The honest citizens who marched under the orders of Sir Gibby, as he was facetiously called, probably knew better when to buy and when to sell stock than when to clap and when to hiss at a play; and incurred some ridicule by making the hypocritical Sempronius their favourite, and by giving to his insincere rants louder plaudits than they bestowed on the temperate eloquence of Cato. Wharton, too, who had the incredible effrontery to applaud the lines about flying from prosperous vice and from the power of impious men to a private station, did not escape the sarcasms of those who justly thought that he could fly from nothing more vicious or impious than himself. The epilogue, which was written by Garth, a zealous whig, was severely and not unreasonably censured as ignoble and out of place. But Addison was described, even by the bitterest tory writers, as a gentleman of wit and virtue, in whose friendship many persons of both parties were happy, and whose name ought not to be mixed up with factious squabbles.
"Of the jests by which the triumph of the whig party was disturbed, he most severe and happy was Bolingbroke's. Between two acts, he sent for Booth to his box, and presented him, before the whole theatre, with a purse of fifty guineas, for defending the cause of liberty so well against a perpetual Dictator.1
1 "The long sway of the Duke of Marlborough," says Miss Aikin, "was here glanced at.” Under favour, if Bolingbroke had meant no more than this, his sarcasm would have been pointless. The allusion was to the attempt which Marlborough had made to convert the captain-generalship into a patent office, to be held by himself for life. The patent was stopped by Lord Cowper.
"It was April;* and in April, a hundred and thirty years ago, the London season was thought to be far advanced. During a whole month, however, Cato was performed to overflowing houses, and brought into the treasury of the theatre twice the gains of an ordinary spring. In the summer, the Drury-lane company went down to the act at Oxford, and there, before an audience which retained an affectionate remembrance of Addison's accomplishments and virtues, his tragedy was acted during several days. The gownsmen began to besiege the theatre in the forenoon, and by one in the afternoon all the seats were filled.
"About the merits of the piece which had so extraordinary an effect, the public, we suppose, has made up its mind. To compare it with the masterpieces of the Attic stage, with the great English dramas of the time of Elizabeth, or even with the productions of Schiller's manhood, would be absurd indeed. Yet it contains excellent dialogue and declamation; and, among plays fashioned on the French model, must be allowed to rank high; not indeed with Athalie, Zaire, or Saul, but, we think, not below Cinna; and certainly above any other English tragedy of the same school .—above many of the plays of Corneille-above many of the plays of Voltaire and Alfieri--and above some plays of Racine. Be this as it may, we have little doubt that Cato did as much as the Tatlers, Spectators, and Freeholders united, to raise Addison's fame among his contemporaries.
"The modesty and good nature of the successful dramatist had tamed even the malignity of faction. But literary envy, it should seem, is a fiercer passion than party spirit. It was by a zealous whig that the fiercest attack on the whig tragedy was made. John Dennis published Remarks on Cato, which were written with some acuteness, and with much coarseness and asperity. But Addison neither defended himself nor retaliated.”—MACAULAY, Essays (Addison), pp. 153–156.
"It may not be a matter of great importance to ascertain when and where this tragedy was written; but as the accounts are conflicting, and place the veracity of some of the parties in jeopardy, it may be as well, notwithstanding the point has been touched on, to endeavour to reconcile these contradictory assertions.
"Tickell assures us, that 'he took up the design of writing a play upon this subject when he was very young at the university, and even attempted something in it there, though not a line as it now stands.' Tonson affirms, that he wrote 'the four first acts abroad.' Doctor Young says 'He wrote them all five at Oxford, and sent them from thence to Dryden, to my knowledge.' Pope reports, that 'the love part was flung in after, to comply with the popular taste; and that the last act was not written till six or seven years after, when he came home.' Johnson informs us, that Addison being unwilling to resume his work, 'desired Mr. Hughes to add a fifth act. Hughes supposed him to be serious; and, undertaking the supplement, brought in a few days some scenes for his examination :
but he had in the mean time gone to work himself, and produced half an act, which he afterwards completed.
"Tickell's account of four acts being written at the university is strongly supported by the nature of the testimony afforded by all the other accounts, excepting Dr. Young's: for Tonson, Pope, Johnson, and Hughes, only speak of four acts. It is highly probable that Addison remitted his juvenile effort at tragedy to Dryden; and it is not unlikely that Dr. Young, who mentions this circumstance, might have mistaken the number of acts, or hastily concluded that an imperfect work would not have been remitted to Dryden. Tickell's incidental observation of there not being of that effort 'a line as it now stands,' and that he performed the work abroad, and retouched it in England, supports the declaration of Tonson, that four acts were seen by him at Rotterdam; and shows that Pope had some foundation for his report, 'that the love-scenes were thrown in after.' Johnson says, 'Such an authority it is hard to reject; yet the love is so intimately mingled with the whole action, that it cannot easily be thought extrinsic and adventitious; for, if it were taken away, what would be left? or how were the four acts filled in the first draught?' The remark is, in my opinion, true; and he who has ever woven the contexture of a dramatic plot must know, that it would be next to impossible to introduce and completely infuse into the web one of the most important and uniting threads with every varying shade, harmonizing with the previously finished portion. The two interrogations seem to imply the same question, and therefore require this one answer,-a barren outline which could lead to no dramatic climax; an unformed mass, unfit either for the closet or the stage.
"I will propose, with humility, a solution of the enigma. Addison wrote four acts of a tragedy when at the university, and sent them to Dryden. After his judgment had become riper, and his taste more formed, he became displeased with his performance, yet remained satisfied with the subject. He erased all that his better judgment pointed out to him as unfit to stand, and retained all those thoughts he approved. With these materials, he, while abroad, may be said to have rewritten the four first acts, and to have added the fifth in England, when Hughes was composing the supplementary act. This solution at least removes the dilemma in which the various accounts had placed the authors of them, and shows that there was not more variation in their accounts than is seen every day in the details of occurrences in which all the witnesses intend to tell the truth."-OGLE, Life of Addison, pp. 56–60.
The reader may be pleased to see Pope's account of the first representation. It is in a letter to Sir William Turnbull.1
1 For fair specimens of the art of puffing in Queen Ann's day, see Nos. 39, 49, and 59 of the Guardian.-G.
"As to poetical affairs, I am content at present to be a bare looker-on, and from a practitioner turn an admirer, which is (as the world goes) not very usual. Cato was not so much the wonder of Rome in his days, as he is of Britain in ours; and though all the foolish industry possible has been used to make it thought a party play, yet what the author once said of another may the most properly in the world be applied to him on this occasion,
'Envy itself is dumb, in wonder lost,
And factions strive who shall applaud him most.'
The numerous and violent claps of the whig party on the one side of the theatre, were echoed back by the tories on the other; while the author sweated behind the scenes with concern to find their applause proceeding more from the hand than the head. This was the case too of the prologue writer, who was clapped into a staunch whig at almost every two lines. I believe you have heard, that after all the applause of the opposite faction, my lord Bolingbroke sent for Booth, who played Cato, into the box, between one of the acts, and presented him with fifty guineas; in acknowledgment (as he expressed it) for defending the cause of liberty so well against a Perpetual Dictator. The whigs are unwilling to be distanced this way, and therefore design a present to the same Cato very speedily; in the mean time they are getting ready as good a sentence as the former on their side: so betwixt them it is probable that Cato (as Dr. Garth express'd it) may have something to live upon after he dies.-POPE's works.
'When this triumphant performance had been continued, as it should seem, during a greater number of nights than any play had before been suffered to run, the publication was of course the next step. This ordeal, which has proved too severe for many of the best acting plays, had in it nothing formidable for Cato. If the wise man of the Stoics, with his solemn dignity and impassive virtue, had been invested by the poet in his last tragic scene with enough of human interest to engage the sympathies of an audience, there could be little doubt of his conciliating the admiration and esteem of the reader. In effect, the experience of more than a century has now shown, that although this noble work may occasionally be restored to the stage with success during some particular states of political feeling, and when aided by the powers of an actor distinguished by the talent of impressive declamation, and endowed with sufficient dignity of figure and carriage fitly to impersonate the noble Roman, it is scarcely to be reckoned in the ordinary list of stock plays; but so long as English literature exists, it can scarcely lose its rank among closet pieces. Thus Dr. Johnson, after remarking with much more than enough of severity, on the failure of all the subordinate characters strongly to attract affection or esteem, adds, that "they are made the vehicles of such sentiments and such expression, that there is scarcely a scene in the play which the reader does not wish to impress upon his memory." The eminent