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any rate; and if a straw can tickle a man, it is an instrument of happiness. Beasts can weep when they suffer, but they cannot laugh. And as Sir William D'Avenant observes in his Preface to "Gondibert," "It is the wisdom of a government to permit plays, (he might have added-farces,) as it is the prudence of a carter to put bells upon his horses, to make them carry their burdens cheerfully.
I have already shown, that one main end of poetry and painting is to please, and have said something of the kinds of both, and of their subjects, in which they bear a great resemblance to each other. I must now consider them as they are great and noble arts; and as they are arts, they must have rules, which may direct them to their common end.
To all arts and sciences, but more particularly to these, may be applied what Hippocrates says of physic, as I find him cited by an eminent French critic: "Medicine has long subsisted in the world. The principles of it are certain, and it has a certain way; by both which there has been found, in the course of many ages, an infinite number of things, the experience of which has confirmed its usefulness and goodness. All that is wanting to the perfection of this art will undoubtedly be found, if able men, and such as are instructed in the ancient rules, will make a farther inquiry into it; and endeavour to arrive at that which is hitherto unknown, by that which is already known. But all who, having rejected the ancient rules, and taken the opposite ways, yet boast themselves to be masters of this art, do but deceive others, and are themselves deceived; for that is absolutely impossible."
painting in these last ages, that we have still the remaining examples both of the Greek and Latin poets; whereas the painters have nothing left them from Apelles, Protogenes, Parrhasius, Zeuxis, and the rest, but only the testimonies which are given of their incomparable works. But instead of this they have some of their best statues, bass-relievos, columns, obelisks, &c. which were saved out of the common ruin, and are still preserved in Italy; and by well distinguishing what is proper to sculpture, and what to painting, and what is common to them both, they have judiciously repaired that loss. And the great genius of Raffaelle, and others, having succeeded to the times of barbarism and ignorance, the knowledge of painting is now arrived to a supremne perfection, though the performance of it is much declined in the present age. The greatest age for poetry amongst the Romans was certainly that of Augustus Cæsar: and yet we are told that painting was then at its lowest ebb; and perhaps sculpture was also declining at the same time. In the reign of Domitian, and some who succeeded him, poetry was but meanly cultivated, but painting eminently flourished. I am not here to give the history of the two arts; how they were both in a manner extinguished by the irruption of the barbarous nations, and both restored about the times of Leo the Tenth, Charles the Fifth, and Francis the First; though I might observe, that neither Ariosto, nor any of his contemporary poets, ever arrived at the excellency of Raffaelle, Titian, and the rest, in painting. But in revenge, at this time, or lately, in many countries, poetry is better practised than her sister art. To what height the magnificence and encouragement of the present king of France may carry painting and sculpture, is uncertain; but by what he has done before the war in which he is engaged, we may expect what he will do after the happy conclusion of a peace, which is the prayer and wish of all those who have not an interest to prolong the miseries of Europe. For it is most certain, as our author, amongst others, has observed, that reward is the spur of virtue, as well in all good arts as in all laudable attempts; and emulation, which is the other spur, will never be wanting, either amongst poets or painters, when particular rewards and prizes are proposed to the best deservers.
This is notoriously true in these two arts; for the way to please being to imitate nature, both the poets and the painters in ancient times, and in the best ages, have studied her; and from the practice of both these arts the rules have been drawn, by which we are instructed how to please, and to compass that end which they obtained, by following their example; for nature is still the same in all ages, and can never be contrary to herself. Thus, from the practice of schylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, Aristotle drew his rules for tragedy, and Philostratus for painting. Thus, amongst the moderns, the Italian and French critics, by studying the precepts of Aristotle and Horace, and having the example of the Grecian poets before their eyes, have given us the rules of modern tragedy; and thus the critics of the same countries in the art of painting, have given the precepts of perfecting that art.
It is true that poetry has one advantage over
But to return from this digression, though it was almost necessary. All the rules of painting are methodically, concisely, and yet clearly delivered in this present treaties, which I have translated. Bossu has not given more exact rules for the epic poem, nor Dacier for tragedy,
in his late excellent translation of Aristotle, and his notes upon him, than our Fresnoy has made for painting; with the parallel of which I must resume my discourse, following my author's text, though with more brevity than I intended, because Virgil calls me.
The principal and most important part of painting is, to know what is most beautiful in nature, and most proper for that art. That which is the most beautiful is the most noble subject: so in poetry, tragedy is more beautiful than comedy; because, as I said, the persons are greater whom the poet instructs, and consequently the instructions of more benefit to mankind: the action is likewise greater and more noble, and thence is derived the greater and more noble pleasure.
To imitate nature well in whatsoever subject, is the perfection of both arts; and that picture, and that poem, which comes nearest to the resemblance of nature, is the best. But it follows not, that what pleases most in either kind is therefore good, but what ought to please. Our depraved appetites, and ignorance of the arts, mislead our judgments, and cause us often to take that for true imitation of nature, which has no resemblance of nature in it. To inform our judgments, and to reform our tastes, rules were invented, that by them we might discern when nature was imitated, and how nearly. I have been forced to recapitulate these things, because mankind is not more liable to deceit, than it is willing to continue in a pleasing error, strengthened by a long habitude. The imita tion of nature is therefore justly constituted as the general, and indeed the only rule of pleasing, both in poetry and painting. Aristotle tells us, that imitation pleases, because it affords matter for a reasoner to inquire into the truth or false hood of imitation,* by comparing its likeness,
• The passage alluded to is in Aristotle's "Treatise on Poetry," in which he accounts for the pleasure afforded by the imitative arts, by observing, that "to learn is a natural pleasure." "To the same purpose (says Mr. Twining,) in his 'Rhetoric,' lib. i. cap. xi. p. 537, edit. Duval. Ena de Tо pavlavav, K. T. A. And as it is by nature delightful to learn, to admire, and the like, hence we necessarily receive pleasure from imitative arts, as Painting, Sculpture, and Poetry, and from whatever is well imitated, even though the original may be disa greeable; but our pleasure does not arise from the beauty of the thing itself, but from the inference, the discovery that this is that, &c. so that we seem to learn something.'
"Mavdavuv-to learn, to know, i. e. merely to recognize, discover," &c. See Harris, On Music, Painting, &c. ch. iv. note (b). The meaning is suffi ciently explained by what follows.
"Dryden, who scarce ever mentions Aristotle without discovering that he had looked only at the wrong side of the tapestry, (a translation,) says, !Aristotle tells us, that imitation pleases, because it affords matter for a reasoner to inquire into the
or unlikeness, with the original; but by this rule, every speculation in nature, whose truth falls under the inquiry of a philosopher, must produce the same delight, which is not true. I should rather assign another reason. Truth is the object of our understanding, as good is of our will; and the understanding can no more be delighted with a lie, than the will can choose an apparent evil. As truth is the end of all our speculations, so the discovery of it is the pleasure of them; and since a true knowledge of nature gives us pleasure, a lively imitation of it, either in poetry or painting, must of necessity produce a much greater: for both these arts, as I said before, are not only true imitations of nature, but of the best nature, of that which is wrought up to a nobler pitch. They present us with images more perfect than the life in any individual; and we have the pleasure to see all the scattered beauties of nature united by a happy chymistry, without its deformities or faults. They are imitations of the passions, which always move, and therefore consequently please; for without motion there can be no delight, which cannot be considered but as an active passion. When we view these elevated ideas of nature, the result of that view is admiration, which is always the cause of pleasure.
This foregoing remark, which gives the reason why imitation pleases, was sent me by Mr. Walter Moyle, a most ingenious young gentleman, conversant in all the studies of humanity much above his years. He had also furnished me, according to my request, with all the particular passages in Aristotle and Horace, which are used by them to explain the art of poetry by that of painting; which, if ever I have time to retouch this Essay, shall be inserted in their places.
Having thus shown that imitation pleases,
truth or falsehood of imitation,' &c. But Aristotle is not here speaking of reasoners, or inquiry, but, on the contrary, of the vulgar, the generality of mankind, whom he expressly opposes to philosophers, or reasoners. and his σvλλoyiŽεσ☺al is no more than that rapid, habitual, and imperceptible act of the mind that raisonnement aussi prompt que le coup d'œil,' (as it is well paraphrased by M. Batteaux,) by which we collect or infer, from a comparison of the picture with the image of the original in our minds, that it was intended to represent that original.
"The fullest illustration of this passage is to be found in another work of Aristotle, his 'Rhetoric,' lib. iii. cap. x., where he applies the same principle to metaphorical language, and resolves the pleasure we receive from such language, into that which arises from the painois TAXEIA, the exercise of our understandings in discovering the meaning by a quick and easy perception of some quality, or qual ities, common to the thing expressed, and the thing intended; to a mirror, for example, and to the theatre, when the latter is called metaphorically, the mirror of human life.
and why it pleases in both these arts, it follows, that some rules of imitation are necessary to obtain the end; for without rules there can be no art, any more than there can be a house without a door to conduct you into it.
The principal parts of painting and poetry next follow. Invention is the first part, and absolutely necessary to them both; yet no rule ever was or ever can be given, how to compass it. A happy genius is the gift of nature: it depends on the influence of the stars, say the astrologers; on the organs of the body, say the naturalists; it is the particular gift of heaven, say the divines, both Christians and heathens. How to improve it, many books can teach us; how to obtain it, none; that nothing can be done without it, all agree:
Tu nihil invita dices faciesve Minerva. Without invention, a painter is but a copier, and a poet but a plagiary of others. Both are allowed sometimes to copy and translate; but, as our author tells you, that is not the best part of their reputation. "Imitators are but a servile kind of cattle," says the poet; or at best the keepers of cattle for other men; they have nothing which is properly their own: that is a sufficient mortification for me, while I am translating Virgil. But to copy the best author, is a kind of praise, if I perform it as I ought; as a copy after Raffaelle is more to be commended than an original of any indifferent painter.
Under this head of Invention is placed the disposition of the work,-to put all things in a beautiful order and harmony, that the whole may be of a piece. The compositions of the painter
should be conformable to the text of ancient authors, to the customs, and the times. And this is exactly the same in poetry: Homer and Virgil are to be our guides in the epic; Sophocles and Euripides in tragedy: in all things we are to imitate the customs and the times of those persons and things which we represent; not to make new rules of the drama, as Lopez de Vega has attempted unsuccessfully to do, but to be content to follow our masters, who understood nature better than we. But if the story which we treat be modern, we are to vary the customs,
"Dryden (Mr. Twining further observes) seems to have taken his idea from Dacier's note on this place, (in the Treatise on Poetry,') which is extremely confused, and so expressed, as to leave it doubtful whether he misunderstood the original, or only explained himself awkwardly. The use that Dryden made of French critics and translators is well known." Aristotle's Treatise on Poetry, translated, with Notes, &c.by Thomas Twining, A. M. 4to, 1789, p. 186.-Malone.
This is hardly accurate, Lopez de Vega did indeed despise the rules laid down by others, but he made no new regulations.
according to the time and the country where the scene of action lies; for this is still to imitate nature, which is always the same, though in a different dress.
As in the composition of a picture the painter is to take care that nothing enter into it which is not proper or convenient to the subject, so likewise is the poet to reject all incidents which are foreign to his poem, and are naturally no parts of it; they are wens, and other excrescences, which belong not to the body, but deform it. No person, no incident, in the piece, or in the play, but must be of use to carry on the main design. All things else are like six fingers to the hand, when nature, which is superfluous in nothing, can do her work with five. A painter must reject all trifling ornaments; so must a poet refuse all tedious and unnecessary descriptions. A robe which is too heavy is less an ornament than a burden.
In poetry Horace calls these things-versus inopes rerum, nugæque canora; there are also the lucus et ara Diana, which he mentions in the same "Art of Poetry." But since there must be ornaments both in painting and poetry, if they are not necessary, they must at least be decent; that is, in their due place, and but moderately used. The painter is not to take so much pains about the drapery, as about the face, where the principal resemblance lies; neither is the poet, who is working up a passion, to make similes, which will certainly make it languish. My Montezuma dies with a fine one in his mouth; but it is ambitious, and out of season. When there are more figures in a picture than are necessary, or at least ornamental, our author calls them "figures to be let ;" because the picture has no use of them. So I have seen in some modern plays about twenty actors, when the action has not required half the number. In the principal figures of a pic
O Powers divine, Take my last thanks! no longer I repine. I might have lived my own mishaps to mourn, While some would pity me, but more would scorn; For pity only on fresh objects stays, But with the tedious sight of woes decays. Still less and less my boiling spirits flow, And I grow stiff, as cooling metals do.Farewell, Almeria.
+ Nothing can be more hazardous for a dramatist than the introduction of many inferior characters. In proportion to the numbers of the Dramatis Persona, the difficulty of getting up a piece is increased in a tremendous ratio; since even the awkwardness of a domestic, or the ridiculous gait of a guard, may throw the audience into a tone of feeling very inconsistent with tragic effect. Undoubtedly, could the expense be supported, something might be gained by drilling underlings to such inferior characters, and teaching even the mutes to look, as if they took some interest in what is going forward; but, at present, the entrance and exit of a hero, cum suis, has
ture, the painter is to employ the sinews of his art; for in them consists the principal beauty of his work. Our author saves me the comparison with tragedy; for he says, that herein he is to imitate the tragic poet, who employs his utmost force in those places, wherein consists the height and beauty of the action.
Du Fresnoy, whom I follow, makes design, or drawing, the second part of painting; but the rules which he gives concerning the posture of the figures, are almost wholly proper to that art, and admit not any comparison, that I know, with poetry. The posture of a poetic figure is, as I conceive, the description of his heroes in the performance of such or such an action; as of Achilles, just in the act of killing Hector, or of Æneas, who has Turnus under him. Both the poet and the painter vary the posture, according to the action or passion which they represent, of the same person; but all must be great and graceful in them. The same Eneas must be drawn a suppliant to Dido, with respect in his gestures, and humility in his eyes; but when he is forced, in his own defence, to kill Lausus, the poet shows him compassionate, and tempering the severity of his looks with a reluctance to the action which he is going to perform. He has pity on his beauty and his youth, and is loth to destroy such a masterpiece of nature. He considers Lausus rescuing his father at the hazard of his own life, as an image of himself, when he took Anchises on his shoulders, and bore him safe through the rage of the fire, and the opposition of his enemies; and therefore, in the posture of a retiring man, who avoids the combat, he stretches out his arm in sign of peace, with his right foot drawn a little back, and his breast bending inward, more like an orator than a soldier; and seems to dissuade the young man from pulling on his destiny, by attempting more than he was able to perform. Take the passage as I have thus translated it:
Shouts of applause ran ringing through the field, To see the son the vanquish'd father shield: All, fired with noble emulation, strive, And with a shower of darts to distance drive The Trojan chief; who, held at bay, from far On his Vulcanian orb sustain'd the war. Æneas, thus o'erwhelm'd on every side, Their first assault undaunted did abide, [cried : And thus to Lausus, loud with friendly threat'ning Why wilt thou rush to certain death, and rage, In rash attempts, beyond thy tender age, Betray'd by pious love?
something in it irresistibly ludicrous. Here the painter has a decisive advantage over the dramatist, since it costs him nothing to finish his inferior personages in a style as correspondent to truth as the principal:
He grieved, he wept; the sight an image brought Of his own filial love; a sadly pleasing thought.
But beside the outlines of the posture, the design of the picture comprehends, in the next place, the forms of faces, which are to be different; and so in a poem or a play must the several characters of the persons be distinguished from each other. I knew a poet, whom out of respect I will not name, who, being too witty himself, could draw nothing but wits in a comedy of his; even his fools were infected with the disease of their author. They overflowed with smart repartees, and were only distinguished from the intended wits by being called coxcombs, though they deserved not so scandalous a name. Another, who had a great genius for tragedy, following the fury of his natural temper, made every man, and woman too, in his plays, stark raging mad; there was not a sober person to be had for love or money. All was tempestuous and blustering; heaven and earth were coming together at every word; a mere hurricane from the beginning to the end, -and every actor seemed to be hastening on the day of judgment.‡
"Let every member be made for its own head," says our author; not a withered hand to a young face. So, in the persons of a play, whatsoever is said or done by any of them, must be consistent with the manners which the poet has given them di tinctly; and even the habits must be proper to the degrees and humours of
* I retain Mr. Malone's excellent note. "This description seems at the first view to be intended for Congreve, to whom it is certainly sufficiently applicable, and who had produced his Double Dealer' in the preceding year, and his 'Love for Love' in 1695. But beside that Dryden's high admiration of Congreve, which he had so strongly manifested in the admirable verses addressed to
that poet on the former play, will not admit of such an application, the words-'I knew,' clearly denote a dead poet, and consequently will exclude Wycherley also. The person meant therefore, I think, was Sir George Etherege, who died a few years before. In Dryden's Epilogue to that author's Man of Mode,' he says,
"Sir Fopling is a fool so nicely writ,
Most ladies would mistake him for a wit." + Nat. Lee.
Dryden probably recollected, particularly, Lee's famous rant at the conclusion of the fourth act of Edipus:
Fall darkness then, and everlasting night
the persons, as well as in a picture. He who entered in the first act a young man, like Pericles, Prince of Tyre,* must not be in danger, in the fifth act, of committing incest with his daughter; nor an usurer, without great probability and causes of repentance, be turned into a cutting Morecraft.t
I am not satisfied, that the comparison betwixt the two arts in the last paragraph is altogether so just as it might have been; but I am sure of this which follows:
"The principal figure of the subject must appear in the midst of the picture, under the principal light, to distinguish it from the rest, which are only its attendants." Thus, in a tragedy, or an epic poem, the hero of the piece must be advanced foremost to the view of the reader or spectator: he must outshine the rest of all the characters; he must appear the prince of them, like the sun in the Copernican system, encompassed with the less noble planets: because the hero is the centre of the main action; all the lines from the circumference tend to him alone: he is the chief object of pity in the drama, and of admiration in the epic poem.
As in a picture, besides the principal figures which compose it, and are placed in the midst of it, there are less groups or knots of figures disposed at proper distances, which are parts of the piece, and seem to carry on the same design in a more inferior manner; so, in epic poetry there are episodes, and a chorus in tragedy, which are members of the action, as growing out of it, not inserted into it. Such in the ninth book of the "Eneids" is the episode of Nisus and Euryalus. The adventure belongs to them alone; they alone are the objects of compassion and admiration; but their business which they carry on, is the general concernment of the Trojan camp, then beleagured by Turnus and the Latins, as the Christians were lately by the
Turks. They were to advertise the chief hero of the distresses of his subjects occasioned by his absence, to crave his succour, and solicit him to hasten his return.
+ Morecraft is an usurer in Beaumont and Fletcher's comedy of the "Scornful Lady," who, having been cheated and discomfited, as usurers commonly are in the drama, (I suppose to compensate their success in real life,) at the end of the play suddenly changes his character for that of an extravagant gallant, and assumes the denomination of cutting, or as we would now say dashing, Morecraft.
The Grecian tragedy was at first nothing but a chorus of singers; afterwards one actor was introduced, which was the poet himself, who entertained the people with a discourse in verse, betwixt the pauses of the singing. This succeeding with the people, more actors were added, to make the variety the greater; and, in process of time, the chorus only sung betwixt the acts, and the Coryphæus, or chief of them, spoke for the rest, as an actor concerned in the business of the play.
Thus tragedy was perfected by degrees; and being arrived at that perfection, the painters might probably take the hint from thence of adding groups to their pictures. But as a good picture may be without a group, so a good tragedy may subsist without a chorus, notwithstanding any reasons which have been given by Dacier to the contrary.
Monsieur Racine has, indeed, used it in his "Esther;" but not that he found any necessity of it, as the French critic would insinuate. The chorus at St. Cyr was only to give the young ladies an occasion of entertaining the king with vocal music, and of commending their own voices. The play itself was never intended for the public stage, nor, without disparagement to the learned author, could possibly have succeeded there; and much less the translation of it here. Mr. Wycherley, when we read it together, was of my opinion in this, or rather I of his; for it becomes me so to speak of so excellent a poet, and so great a judge. But since I am in this place, as Virgil says, spatiis exclusus iniquis, that is, shortened in my time, I will give no other reason, than that it is impracticable on our stage. A new theatre, much more ample and much deeper, must be made for that purpose, besides the cost of sometimes forty or fifty habits, which is an expense too large to be supplied by a company of actors. It is true, I should not be sorry to see a chorus on a theatre more than as large and as deep again as ours, built and adorned at a king's charges; and on that condition, and another, which is, that my hands were not bound behind me, as now they are, I should not despair of making
Mr. Malone thinks this alludes to the translation of Virgil, in which Dryden was now engaged. But I conceive it has a general reference to his situation as a suspected and discountenanced person; restrained from free exertion of his genius, by the necessity of considering that he was exposed to misconstruction. He must have recollected the suppression of "Cleomenes," and the offence taken by government at the prologue to the "Prophetess."