« AnteriorContinuar »
discreditable infatuation-the parallel of that of Queen Titania for Bottom the weaver, with his ass's head –
I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again:
Mine ear is much enamoured of thy notemight have lasted considerably longer, and even spread farther than it did, had it not been checked by Gifford's vigorous exposure and castigation. He himself intimates, in the Preface to the Mæviad, that he had been charged with breaking butterflies upon a wheel; but
many a man,” he adds, “who now affects to pity me for wasting my strength upon unresisting imbecility, would, not long since, have heard their poems with applause, and their praises with delight.” On the other hand, their great patron, Bell, the printer, accused him of “bespattering nearly all the poetical eminence of the day.” “But, on the whole,” he says, “ the clamour against me was not loud ; and was lost by insensible degrees in the applause of such as I was truly ambitious to please. Thus supported, the good effects of the satire (gloriose loquor) were not long in manifesting themselves. Della Crusca appeared no more in the Oracle, and, if any of bis followers ventured to treat the town with a soft sonnet, it was not, as before, introduced by a pompous preface. Pope and Milton resumed their superiority; and Este and his coadjutors silently acquiesced in the growing opinion of their incompetency, and showed some sense of shame.”
THE SHAKSPEARE PAPERS,
Of the forgeries of William Henry Ireland it is only necessary to record that, after the pretended old parchments had been exhibited for some months in Norfolk
street, where they were beheld and perused with vast reverence and admiration by sundry eminent scholars and critics, their contents were printed in December, 1795, in a magnificent two-guinea folio, published by subscription among the believers, with the title of Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments, under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare, including the Tragedy of King Lear, and a small fragment of Hamlet, from the original MSS. ;' that the professed editor was Samuel Ireland, the father of the fabricator ; that the tragedy of Kynge Vorrtygerne,' an additional piece of manufacture from the same workshop, was brought out at Drury Lane in March following ; that Malone's conclusive ‘Inquiry into the Authenticity of the papers appeared just in time to herald that performance ; that young Ireland himself the same year acknowledged the imposition (at the same time acquitting his father of all share in it) in his · Authentic Account of the Shakspeare Manuscripts' (afterwards extended in his “ Confessions relative to the Shakspeare Forgery,' published in 1805); and that, notwithstanding all this, George Chalmers came out in 1797, with “An Apology for the Believers,' which he followed up with another thick octavo, entitled 'A Supplemental Apology,' two years after.
Malone's exposure, founded entirely on evidence external to the merits of the poetry thus impudently attributed to Shakspeare, was, as we have said, demonstrative enough ; but it ought not to have been required : the wretched rubbish should have been its own sufficient refutation. Vortigern, indeed, was damned, after Malone had sounded his catcall ; but that persons occupying such positions in the literary world as Pye, the poet laureate,
Boswell, John Pinkerton, George Chalmers, Dr. Parr, &c., should have mistaken, as they did, the poetry of Ireland for that of Shakspeare, could only have happened in a time in which there was very little true feeling generally diffused, even among persons to whom the public naturally looked up for guidance in such matters, either of Shakspeare or of poetry. The Shakspeare papers were a very proper and natural sequel to the Della Cruscan poetry.
THE PURSUITS OF LITERATURE.
Contemporaneously with Gifford's • Baviad and Mæviad' appeared another remarkable satirical poem, “The Pursuits of Literature,' now known to have been written by the late Thomas James Mathias, the author of many other pieces both in verse and prose (among the rest, of a number of poetical compositions in Italian, published in the latter part of his life), although, we believe, it never was publicly acknowledged by him. The First Part, or Dialogue, of the Pursuits of Literature came out in May, 1794 ; the Second and Third together, in May, 1796; the Fourth and last in July, 1797. The Four Dialogues were collected and republished together in January, 1798 : this is called the fifth edition; before the end of the same year two more editions had been called for; and that before us, dated 1805, is numbered the thirteenth. The poem, which consists in all of only between 1500 and 1600 lines, spread over a volume of 450 pages, takes a general survey both of the literature and politics of its day ; but the interest of the work lies chiefly in the prose prefaces and notes, the quantity of
which amounts to about ten times that of the verse. And, in truth, the prose is in every way the cleverest and most meritorious part of the performance. Mathias's gift of song was not of a high order ; his poetry is of the same school with Gifford's, but the verse of the Pursuits of Literature has neither the terseness and pungency nor the occasional dignity and elegance which make that of the · Baviad and Mæviad' so successful an echo of Pope-the common master of both writers. The notes, however, though splenetic, and informed by a spirit of uncompromising partisanship, are written with a sharp pen, as well as in a scholarly style, and, in addition to much Greek and Latin learning, contain a good deal of curious disquisition and anecdote. Most of the literary and political notorieties, great and small, of that day, are noticed by the author-himself not excepted ;* and it is interesting and amusing to look back from this distance, and to remark how time has dealt with the several names introduced, and what final judgments she has passed on his likings and dislikings.
OTHER SATIRICAL POETRY.-MASON.-THE ROLLIAD.
PROBATIONARY ODES. - PETER PINDAR.
This may be said to have been especially the age of literary and political satire in England. Most of it, however, was in a lighter style than the “Pursuits of Literature' or the · Baviad and Mæviad.' These poems were the energetic invectives of Juvenal and Persius after the more airy ridicule of Horace. Perhaps the
* See a note on line 151 of Dialogue First, where mention is made of Mr. Mathias's candid and comprehensive Essay' on Rowley's poems (written in defence of their authenticity). liveliest and happiest of all the quick succession of similar jeux d'esprit that appeared from the first unsettlement of the power and supremacy of Lord North to the termination of the war of parties by the firm establishment of the premiership of Pitt, was Richard Tickell’s ‘Anticipation, published a few days before the meeting of parliament in November, 1778. It was an anticipation of the king's speech and the coming debates on it in the two Houses ; and so much to the life was each noble lord and honourable member hit off, that, it is said, they one after another, to the infinite amusement of their hearers, fell in their actual orations into the forms of expression and modes of argument and illustration that had been assigned to them, only drifting the faster and the farther in that direction the more they strove to take another course. Poor Tickell, the grandson of Addison's friend, Thomas Tickell, after making the town merry by other sportive effusions both in prose and verse, put an end to his life by throwing himself from his bedroom window at Hampton Court Palace in November, 1793. The “Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers, with its · Heroic Postscript,' and the • Odes' to Dr. Shebbeare, to Sir Fletcher Norton, &c., which appeared in 1782 under the name of Malcolm MacGregor, of Knightsbridge, Esq., and are now known to have been the productions of the poet Mason, have been already noticed. A fortunate subject did as much perhaps for the first and most famous of these pieces as