Imágenes de página

powerfully drawn among them are. George Farquhar, the author of The Constant Couple and The Beaux Stratagem, and of five or six other comedies, was a native of Ireiand, in which country Congreve also spent his childhood and boyhood. Farquhar's first play, his Love in a Bottle, was brought out with great success at Drury Lane in 1698; The Beaux Stratagem, his last, was in the midst of its run when the illness during which it had been written terminated in the poor author's early death. The thoughtless and volatile, but goodnatured and generous, character of Farquhar is reflected in his comedies, which, with less sparkle, have more natural life and airiness, and are animated by a finer spirit of whim, than those of either Vanbrugh or Congreve. His morality, like theirs, is abundantly free and easy; but there is much more heart about his profligacy than in theirs, as well as much less grossness or hardness. To these names may be added that of Colley Cibber, who has, however, scarcely any pretensions to be ranked as one of our classic dramatists, although, of about two dozen comedies, tragedies, and other pieces of which he is the author, his Careless Husband and one or two others may be admitted to be lively and agreeable. Cibber, who was born in 1671, produced his first play, the comedy of Love's Last Shift, in 1696, and was still an occasional writer for the stage after the commencement of the reign of George II. ; one of his productions, indeed, his tragedy entitled Papal Tyranny, was brought out so late as the year 1745, when he himself performed one of the principal characters; and he lived till 1757. His well-known account of his own life, or his Apology for his Life, as he modestly or affectedly calls it, is an

amusing piece of something higher than gossip; the sketches he gives of the various celebrated actors of his time are many of them executed, not perhaps with the deepest insight, but yet with much graphic skill in so far as regards those mere superficial characteristics that meet the ordinary eye. The chief tragic writer of this age was Nicholas Rowe, the author of The Fair Penitent and Jane Shore, of five other tragedies, one comedy, and a translation in rhyme of Lucan's Pharsalia. Rowe, who was born in 1673, and died in 1718, was esteemed in his own day a great master of the pathetic, but is now regarded as little more than a smooth and occasionally sounding versifier.


The age of the first two Georges, if we put aside what was done by Pope, or consider him as belonging properly to the preceding reign of Anne, was not very prolific of poetry of a high order; but there are several minor poets belonging to this time whose names live in our literature, and some of whose productions are still read. Matthew Green's poem entitled The Spleen originally appeared, we believe, in his life-time in the first volume of Dodsley's Collection-although his other pieces, which are few in number and of little note, were only published by his friend Glover after the death of the author in 1737, at the age of forty-one. The Spleen, a reflective effusion in octo-syllabic verse, is somewhat striking from an air of originality in the vein of thought, and from the laboured concentration and epigrammatic point of the language : but, although it was much cried up when it first appeared, and the laudation has continued to be duly echoed by succeeding criticism, it may be doubted if many readers could now make their way through it without considerable fatigue, or if it be much read in fact at all. With all its ingenious or energetic rhetorical posture-making, it has nearly as little real play of fancy as charm of numbers, and may be more properly characterised as a piece of bastard or perverted Hudibrastic—an imitation of the manner of Butler to the very dance of his verse, only without the comedy—the same antics, only solemnized or made to carry a moral and serious meaning. The Grongar Hill of Dyer was published in 1726, when its author was in his twenty-seventh year; and was followed by The Ruins of Rome in 1740, and the author's most elaborate performance, The Fleece, in 1757, the year before his death. Dyer's is a natural and true note, though not one of much power or compass.

What he has written is his own; not borrowed from or suggested by “others' books,” but what he has himself seen, thought, and felt. He sees, too, with an artistic eye-while at the same time his pictures are full of the moral inspiration which alone makes description poetry. There is also considerable descriptive power in Somervile's blank verse poem of The Chase, in four Books, which was first published in 1735. Somervile, who was a Warwickshire squire, and the intimate friend of Shenstone, and who, besides his Chase, wrote various other pieces, now for the most part forgotten, died in 1742. Tickell, Addison's friend, who was born in 1686 and lived till 1740, is the author of a number of compositions, of which his Elegy on Addison and his ballad of Colin and Lucy are the best known. The ballad Gray has called “the prettiest in the world”—and if prettiness,

easy sim

by which Gray here probably means a certain plicity and trimness, were the soul of ballad poetry, it might carry away a high prize. Nobody writes better grammar than Tickell. His style is always remarkably clear and exact, and the mere appropriateness and judicious collocation of the words, aided by the swell of the verse in his more elaborate or solemn passages, have sometimes an imposing effect. Of his famous elegy, the most opposite opinions have been expressed. Goldsmith has called it “one of the finest in our language ;” and Johnson has declared that “a more sublime or elegant funeral poem is not to be found in the whole compass of English literature.” Steele on the other hand has denounced it as being nothing more than “prose in rhyme.” And it must be admitted that it is neither very tender nor very imaginative; yet rhyme too is part and parcel of poetry, and solemn thoughts, vigorously expressed and melodiously enough versified, which surely we have here, cannot reasonably be refused that name, even though the informing power of passion or imagination may not be present in any very high degree. One of Tickell's most spirited performances is perhaps his imitation or parody of Horace's Prophecy of Nereus (Book i. Ode 15), which he thus applied at the time to the Jacobite outbreak of 1715:

As Mar his round one morning took
(Whom some call Earl and some call Duke),
And his new brethren of the blade,
Shivering with fear and frost, surveyed,
On Ferth’s bleak hills he chanced to spy
An aged wizard six feet high,

bristled hair and visage blighted,
Wall-eyed, bare-haunched, and second sighted.

The grisly sage in thought profound
Beheld the chief with back so round,
Then rolled his eye-balls to and fro
O'er his paternal hills of snow;
And into these tremendous speeches
Broke forth the prophet without breeches :-

“ Into what ills betrayed by thee
This ancient kingdom do I see !
Her realms unpeopled and forlorn!
Woe's me! that ever thou wert born;
Proud English loons (our clans o'ercome)
On Scottish pads shall amble home:
I see them drest in bonnets blue
(The spoils of thy rebellious crew);
I see the target cast away,
And checkered plaid, become their prey-
The checkered plaid to make a gown
For many a lass in London town.

“In vain thy hungry mountaineers
Come forth in all their warlike geers,
The shield, the pistol, dirk and dagger,
In which they daily wont to swagger,
And oft have sallied out to pillage
The hen-roosts of some peaceful village,
Or, while their neighbours were asleep,
Have carried off a lowland sheep.

“What boots thy highborn host of beggars,
Macleans, Mackenzies, and Macgregors,
With popish cut-throats, perjured ruffians,
And Foster's troop of raggamuffins ?

“ In vain thy lads around thee bandy,
Inflamed with bag-pipe and with brandy.
Doth not bold Sutherland the trusty,
With heart so true, and voice so rusty,
(A loyal soul) thy troops affright,
While hoarsely he demands the fight?
Dost thou not generous Ilay dread,
The bravest hand, the wisest head ?
Undaunted dost thou hear the alarms
Of hoary Athol sheathed in arms ?

“Douglas, who draws his lineage down From thanes and peers of high renown, Fiery, and young, and uncontrolled,

« AnteriorContinuar »