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panied with agreeable and inftructive notes, which ought not to have been omitted in this edition.
The Mafque of Peleus and Thetis has here and there a pretty line; but it is not always melodious, and the conclufion is wretched.
In his British Enchanters he has bidden defiance to all chronology, by confounding the inconfiftent manners of different ages; but the dialogue has often the air of Dryden's rhyming plays; and the fongs are lively, though not very correct. This is, I think, far the best of his works; for, if it has many faults, it has likewife paffages which are at least pretty, though they do not rife to any high degree of excellence.'
We come now to a more refpectable name. In the life of Rowe, the only part that can be expected to intereft us is that which relates to his literary character. The anecdotes that are known of him are few, and thofe few are fuch as give little fcope for amplification or embellishment.
His merits as a writer are estimated with judgment and can
Rowe is chiefly to be confidered as a tragic writer, and a tranflator. In his attempt at comedy he failed fo ignom niously, that his Riter is not inferted in his works; and his occafional poems and fhort compofitions are rarely worthy of either praife or cenfure; for they seem the cafual fports of a miad fecking rather to amufe its leisure than to exercife its powers.
In the construction of his dramas, there is not much art; he is not a nice obferver of the Unities. He extends time and varies place as his convenience requires. To vary the place is not, in my opinion, any violation of Nature, if the change be made between the atts; for it is no lefs eafy for the fpectator to fuppofe himself at Athens in the fecond act, than at Thebes in the firft; but to change the scene, as is done by Rowe in the middle of an act, is to add more acts to the play, fince an act is fo much of the business as is transacted without interruption. Rowe, by this licence, eanly extricates himfelf from difficulties; as in Jane Grey, when we have been terrified with all the dreadful pomp of public execution, and are wondering how the heroine or the poet will proceed, no fooner has Jane pronounced fome prophetic rhymes, than-pafs and be gone-the fcene clofes, and Pembroke and Gardiner are turned out upon the stage.
I know not that there can be found in his plays any deep fearch into nature, any accurate difcriminations of kindred qualities, or nice difplay of paffion in its progrefs; all is general and undefined. Nor does he much intereft or affect the auditor, except in Jane Shore, who is always feen and heard with pity. Alicia is a character of empty noife, with no refemblance to real forrow, or to natural madnefs.
Whence, then, has Rowe his reputation? From the reasonablenefs and propriety of fome of his fceres, from the elegance of his diction, and the fuavity of his verfe. He feldom moves either pity or terror, but he often elevates the fentiments; he feldom pierces the breaft, but he always delights the ear, and often improves the underftanding.
His tranflation of the Golden Verfes, and of the first book of Quillet's Poem, have nothing in them remarkable. The Golden Verjes are tedious. The verfion of Lucan is one of the greatest productions of English poetry; for there is, perhaps, none that fo completely exhibits the genius and fpirit of the original. Lucan is diftinguished by a kind of dictatorial or philofophic dignity, rather, as Quintilian obferves, declamatory than poetical; full of ambitious morality and pointed fentences, comprifed in vigorous and animated lines. This character Rowe has very diligently and fuccefsfully preferved. His verfification, which is fuch as his contemporaries practifed, without any attempt at innovation or improvement, feldom wants either melody or force. His author's fenfe is fometimes a little diluted by additional infufions, and fometimes weakened by too much expanfion. But fuch faults are to be expected in all tranflations, from the con ftraint of measures and diffimilitude of languages. The Pharfalia of Rowe deferves more notice than it obtains, and as it is more read will be more esteemed,'
To Tickel, the celebrated friend of Addifon, cannot be refufed, as Dr. Johnfon juftly obferves, a high place among the minor poets. From him, however, we must pass on to a more popular name.
Of the four firft dramas of Congreve it is observed, that whatever objections may be made either to his comic or tragic excellence, they are loft at once in the blaze of admiration, when it is remembered, that he had produced thefe four plays before he had paffed his twenty fifth year; before other men, even fuch as are fome time to shine in eminence, have paffed their probation of literature, or prefume to hope for any other notice than fuch as is bestowed on diligence and inquiry. Among all the efforts of early genius which literary history records, I doubt whether any one can be produced, that more furpaffes the common limits of nature than the plays of Congreve.'
In the course of this narrative, Dr. Johnfon introduces a lively and entertaining account of the celebrated controversy on the immorality and prophanenefs of the English ftage. If the merit of an action be estimated by the arduoufnefs of the attempt, or the importance of the object, the man who, in oppofition to wit, ridicule, and the depraved paffions of mankind, is able to reform one article of the national tafte, is certainly entitled to high praife. This praife is Collier's.
About this time began the long-continued controversy between Collier and the poets. In the reign of Charles the First the Puritans had raised a violent clamour against the drama, which they confi. dered as an entertainment not lawful to Chriftians, an opinion held by them in common with the church of Rome; and Prynne publifhed Hiftriomaflix, a huge volume, in which ftage-plays were cenfured. The outrages and crimes of the Puritans brought afterwards their whole fyftem of doctrine into difrepute, and from the Reftoration the poets and the players were left at quiet; for to have molefted them would have had the appearance of tendency to puritanical malignity.
This danger, however, was worn away by time; and Collier, a fierce and implacable Yonjuror, knew that an attack upon the theatre would never make him fufpected for a Puritan; he therefore (68) published Ahort View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, I believe with no other motive than religious zeal and honeft indignation. He was formed for a controvertit; with fufficient learning; with diction vehement and pointed, though often vulgar and incorrect; with unconquerable pertinacity; with wit in the higheft degree keen and farcastic; and with all thofe powers, exalted and invigorated by juft confidence in his caufe
Thus qualified, and thus incited, he walked out to battle, and affailed at once most of the living writers, from Dryden to Durfey. His onfet was violent; thofe paff ges, which while they flood fingle had paffed with little notice, when they were accumulated and expofed together, excited horror; the wife and the pious caught the alarm, and the nation wondered why it had fo long fuffered irreligion and licentioufrefs to be openly taught at the public charge.
Nothing now remained for the poets but to refift or fly. Dryden's confcience, or his prudence, angry as he was, withheld him from the conflict; Congreve and Vanbrugh attempted anfwers. Congreve, a very young man, elated with fuccefs, and impatient of cen fure, affumed an air of confidence and fecurity. His chief artifice of controversy is to retort upon his adverfary his own words: he is very angry, and hoping to conquer Collier with his own weapons, allows himself in the use of every term of contumely and contempt; but he has the fword without the arm of Scanderbeg; he has his antagonist's coarfeness, but not his ftrength. Collier replied; for conteft was his delight, he was not to be frighted from his purpofe or his prey.
The caufe of Congreve was not tenable: whatever gloffes he might ufe for the defence or palliation of fingle paffages, the gene al tenour and tendency of his plays muft always be condemned. It is acknowledged, with univerfal conviction, that the perufal of his works will make no man better; and that their ultimate effect is, to reprefent pleasure in alliance with vice, and to relax thofe obligations by which life ought to be regulated.
The ftage found other advocates, and the difpute was protracted through ten years; but at last Comedy grew more modeft, and Col lier lived to fee the reward of his labour in the reformation of the theatre.'
Time, that determines all things, has fettled the character of Congreve as a dramatift; and Dr. Johnfon concurs with the general opinion. But when he speaks of his mifcellaneous poetry, he obferves, that the powers of Congreve seem to desert him when he leaves the ftage, as Antæus was no longer ftrong than he could touch the ground. It cannot be obferved without wonder, that a mind fo vigorous and fertile in dramatic compofitions fhould on any other occafion discover nothing but impotence and poverty. He has in thefe little pieces neither elevation of fancy, felection of language, nor kill in verification: yet if I were required to felect from the whole mafs of English poetry the most poetical paragraph, I know not what I could prefer to an exclamation in The Mourning Bride:
Almeria. It was a fancy'd noife; for all is hush'd.
Almeria. It was thy fear, or else fome tranfient wind
Almeria. No, all is hush'd, and fill as death.—'Tis dreadful!
Whofe ancient pillars rear their marble heads,
Thy voice-my own affrights me with its echoes.
He who reads thofe lines enjoys for a moment the powers of a poet; he feels what he remembers to have felt before, but he feels it with great increase of fenfibility; he recognizes a familiar image, but meets it again amplified and expanded, embellished with beauty, and enlarged with majefty.
Yet could the author, who appears here to have enjoyed the confidence of Nature, lament the death of Queen Mary in lines like thefe :
The rocks are cleft, and new defcending rills
And each, with ftreaming eyes, fupplies his wanting urn,
In prickly brakes their tender limbs they tear,
And leave on thorns their locks of gol en hair.
With their sharp nails themfelves the Satyrs wound,
And tug their shaggy beards, and bite with grief the ground.
Dejected lies, his pipe in pieces broke.
The Queen of Love, all bath'd in flowing tears;
See how the wrings her hands, and beats her breaft,
For grief they figh, forgetful of their loves.
And many years after he gave no proof that time had improved his wisdom or his wit; for on the death of the Marquis of Blandford this was his fong:
And now the winds, which had fo long been still,
The water-nymphs, who motionless remain'd,
Now loos'd their ftreams; as when defcending rains
Nothing but groans and fighs were heard around,
In both thefe funeral poems, when he has yelled out many syllables of fen elefs dolour, he difmiffes his reader with fenfelefs confolation: from the grave of Paftora rifes a light that forms a ftar; and where Amaryllis wept for Amyntas, from every tear sprung up a violet.'—
While comedy, or while tragedy is regarded, his plays are likely to be read; but, except what relates to the ftage, I know not that he has ever written a flanza that is fung, or a couplet that is quoted. The general character of his Mifcellanies is, that they fhew little wit, and little virtue.
Yet to him it must be confeffed that we are indebted for the correction of a national error, and the cure of our Pindaric madness. He first taught the English writers that Pindar's odes were regular ; and though certainly he had not the fire requifite for the higher fpecies of lyric poetry, he has fhewn us that enthusiasm has it rules, and that in mere confufion there is neither grace nor greatness.'
We are next introduced to the amiable Fenton, one of the coadjutors of Pope in tranflating the Odyfley. The books which fell to Fenton's fhare were the firft, the fourth, the nineteenth, and the twentieth. How he and his affociate Broome performed their parts is, as this Biographer remarks, well known to the Readers of poetry, who have never been able to distinguish their books from thofe of Pope. From his fhare in this work, and his tragedy of Mariamne, he chiefly derives his poetical fame. He was an inoffenfive, indolent man; an excellent verfifier, and a good poet.
[To be continued.]
ART. V. Homer's Hymn to Ceres, tranflated into English Verfe, by Richard Hole, L.L. B. 8vo. 2 s. Dilly. 1781.
UR very ingenious Correfpondent, who furnished the learned and interefting Article on Homer's Hymn to Ceres, which appeared in the Appendix to our Sixty-third volume, has laid an additional obligation on the Public, in procuring the prefent tranflation of that curious and valuable poem; it being undertaken, as is acknowledged in the Preface, at his particular request.
After the ample and fatisfactory account of the original which is already before the Public, little remains but to confider the merit of the tranflation. The Tranflator's with is, and he has