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But let them not mistake my patron's part,
Vol. XII. p. 46. Rymer was an useful antiquary, as his edition of the Fadera bears witness; but he was a miserable critic, and a worse poet. His tragedy of " Edgar" is probably alluded to in the Epistle as one of the productions of his reign. It was printed in 1678; but appeared under the new title of "The English Monarch," in 1691.
* It was augured by Southerne and by Higgons, that Congreve would succeed to the literary empire exercised by Dryden. The former has these lines addressed to the future monarch:
Dryden has long extended his command,
By right divine, quite through the Muses' land,
Then may'st thou finish what he has begun;
In the same strain, Bevill Higgons:
What may'n't we then, great youth, of thee presage
Thy first attempt an early promise made;
Maintain your post; that's all the fame
Congreve discharged the sacred duty thus feelingly imposed. See his Preface to Dryden's Plays, Vol. II. p. 7.
EPISTLE THE THIRTEENTH.
ON HIS EXCELLENT TRAGEDY,,
GEORGE GRANVILLE, afterwards Lord Lansdowne of Biddiford, was distinguished, by the friendship of Dryden and Pope, from the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease. He copied Waller, a model perhaps chosen from a judicious consideration of his own powers. His best piece is his " Essay on unnatural Flights in Poetry," in which he elegantly apologizes for Dryden having suffered his judgment to be swayed by a wild audience. Granville's play of the "Heroic Love, or the cruel Separation," was acted in 1698 with great applause. It is a mythological drama on the love of Agamemnon and Briseis; and this being said, it is hardly necessary to add, that it now scarcely bears reading. Granville's unshaken attachment to Tory principles, as well as his excellent private character, probably gained him favour in our poet's eyes. Lord Lansdowne (for such became Granville's title when Queen Anne created twelve peers to secure a majority to ministry in the House of Lords) died on the 30th January, 1735.
EPISTLE THE THIRTEENTH.
USPICIOUS poet, wert thou not my friend, How could I envy, what I must commend! But since 'tis nature's law, in love and wit, That youth should reign, and withering age submit, With less regret those laurels I resign, Which, dying on my brows, revive on thine. With better grace an ancient chief may yield The long contended honours of the field, Than venture all his fortune at a cast, And fight, like Hannibal, to lose at last. Young princes, obstinate to win the prize, Though yearly beaten, yearly yet they rise: Old monarchs, though successful, still in doubt, Catch at a peace, and wisely turn devout. Thine be the laurel, then; thy blooming age Can best, if any can, support the stage; Which so declines, that shortly we may see Players and plays reduced to second infancy : Sharp to the world, but thoughtless of renown, They plot not on the stage, but on the town, And, in despair their empty pit to fill, Set up some foreign monster in a bill.
Thus they jog on, still tricking, never thriving, And murdering plays, which they miscal reviving. Our sense is nonsense, through their pipes conveyed; Scarce can a poet know the play he made,
*These sarcasms are levelled at the players; one of whom, George Powel, took it upon him to retort in the following very singular strain of effrontery, which Mr Malone transfers from the preface of a tragedy, called "The Fatal Discovery, or Love in Ruins," published in 4to, 1698.
"Here I am afraid he makes but a coarse compliment, when this great wit, with his treacherous memory, forgets, that he had given away his laurels upon record twice before, viz. once to Mr Congreve, and another time to Mr Southerne. Pr'ythee, old Edipus, expound this mystery! Dost thou set up thy transubstantiation miracle in the donation of thy idol bays, that thou hast them fresh, new, and whole, to give them three times over?
"For the most mortal stroke at us, he charges us with downright murdering of plays, which we call reviving. I will not derogate from the merit of those senior actors of both sexes, of the other house, that shine in their several perfections, in whose lavish praises he is so highly transported; but, at the same time, he makes himself but an arbitrary judge on our side, to condemn unheard, and that under no less a conviction than murder, when I cannot learn, for a fair judgment upon us, that his reverend crutches have ever brought him within our doors since the division of the companies . "Tis true, I think, we have revived some pieces of Dryden, as his "Sebastian," "Maiden Queen," Marriage A-la-Mode," "King Arthur," &c. But here let us be tried by a Christian jury, the audience, and not receive the bow-string from his Mahometan Grand Signiorship. "Tis true, his more particular pique against us, as he has declared himself, is in relation to our reviving his "Almanzor." There, indeed, he has reason to be angry for our waking that sleepy dowdy, and exposing his nonsense, not ours; and if that dish did not please him, we have a Scotch proverb for our justification, viz. 'twas rotten roasted, because, &c. and the world must expect, 'twas very hard crutching up what Hart and Mohun before us could not prop. I confess, he is a little severe, when he will allow our best performance to bear no better fruit than a crab vintage. Indeed, if we young actors spoke but half as sourly as his old gall scribbles, we should be crab all over."