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applicability of the last remark is evinced by the extraordinary number of quoted lines, with which Cato, even more than the other poems of Addison, has enriched our language; of this number are the following:
“The woman who deliberates is lost."
“Plant daggers in my heart."
But we'll do more, Sempronius, we'll deserve it."
“These and others of the fine thoughts and pointed expressions with which the piece abounds, still circulate among us like current coin, though often now passed, it may be feared, with little thought or knowledge of the mint which issued them.
“When Dr. Johnson remarks, that the success of Cato 'has introduced or confirmed among us the use of dialogue too declamatory, of unaffecting elegance and chill philosophy,' he overlooks, or possibly was unskilled to explore, a more probable origin of the faults which he indicates, and which he has himself exemplified. These are found in Philips, Rowe, Hughes, and other contemporaries, to at least as great a degree as in Addison, in whom they are palliated, if not entirely justified, by the nature of his subject: and they may surely be traced to imitation of the masters of French tragedy, whose genius, like the ambition of their monarch, had gone near to giving law to all Europe. With respect to Philip's Distressed Mother, this origin is unquestionable, and little less so with respect to Cato; since Addison always expressed himself concerning Corneille and Racine with marked esteem, and seems to have laid the plan and begun the execution of his tragedy during his long sojourn at Blois, while he was making the study of the French language his principal occupation. In the conduct of his plot he has made considerable sacrifices to a rigid observance of the unities of time and place, as laid down by Aristotle, and it can scarcely be doubted that this restraint, unknown to our earlier dramatists, was imposed upon him as an indispensable law by the précepts and practice of the French school of dramatic art.
“That the tragedy of Cato does not appeal strongly to the passions, may be frankly conceded; but whatever be said of its 'unaffecting elegance and chill philosophy, it is at least free from the error which Boileau so forcibly remarked to Addison himself in the manner of Corneille. The speakers run neither into description nor declamation unconnected with the business of the scene, or unsuited to the persons or the occasion. Severe correctness and good taste preside alike over the sentiments and the diction.
“The versification, though deficient in the richness and variety of pause which charms in our elder dramatists, and like all blank verse at this period, constructed with too much resemblance to the rhymed couplet, is yet easy and graceful; and certainly far preferable to that of Rowe, then the most popular tragic writer.”-AIKIN, Life of Addison, pp. 192–194.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE TRAGEDY OF CATO.
WHILE you the fierce divided Britons awe,
Tho' Cato shines in Virgil's epic song,
a Tender Husband, dedicated to Mr. Addison.
By thee we view the finish'd figure rise,
On Tiber's banks thy thought was first inspir'd;
'Tis done--the hero lives, and charms our age !
WHAT do we see! is Cato then become
, wrote before ?
All-Soul's College, Oxon.
'Tis nobly done thus to enrich the stage,