« PreviousContinue »
The stars are forth, the moon above the tops
I learn'd the language of another world.
I do remember me, that in my youth,
Within a bowshot-where the Cæsars dwelt,
While Cæsar's chambers, and the Augustan halls,
"T was such a night! "Tis strange that I recall it at this time; But I have found our thoughts take wildest flight Even at the moment when they should array Themselves in pensive order.
Enter the ABBOT. Abbot. My good lord! I crave a second grace for this approach; But yet let not my humble zeal offend By its abruptness-all it hath of ill Recoils on me; its good in the effect May light upon your head-could I say heart— Could I touch that, with words or prayers, I should Recall a noble spirit which hath wander'd;
But is not yet all lost.
Abbot. Thou dost not mean to menace me?
I simply tell thee peril is at hand,
What dost mean?
What dost thou see?
With strange accompaniments and fearful signs —
[MANFRED having said this expires. Her. His eyes are fixed and lifeless. He is gone. Manuel. Close them. - - My old hand quivers. He departsWhither? I dread to think-but he is gone!]
[The opening of this scene is, perhaps, the finest passage in the drama; and its solemn, calm, and majestic character throws an air of grandeur over the catastrophe, which was in danger of appearing extravagant, and somewhat too much in the style of the " Devil and Dr. Faustus."— WILSON]
2 ["Drove at midnight to see the Coliseum by moonlight: but what can I say of the Coliseum ? It must be seen; to describe it I should have thought impossible, if I had not read Manfred To see it aright, as the Poet of the North tells us of the fair Melrose, one must see it by the pale moonlight. The stillness of night, the whispering echoes, the moonlight shadows, and the awful grandeur of the impending ruins, form a scene of romantic sublinity, such as Byron alone could describe as it deserves. His description is the very thing itself.” — MATTHEWs's Diary of an Invalid.]
Abbot. That which should shake me, it not
I see a dusk and awful figure rise,
Like an infernal god, from out the earth;
Man. Thou hast no cause- he shall not harm thee-but
His sight may shock thine old limbs into palsy.
And I reply-
Why-ay-what doth he here? I did not send for him, he is unbidden.
[these Abbot. Alas! lost mortal! what with guests like Hast thou to do? I tremble for thy sake : Why doth he gaze on thee, and thou on him? Ah! he unveils his aspect: on his brow The thunder-scars are graven; from his eye Glares forth the immortality of hellAvaunt!
what is thy mission?
Spirit. The genius of this mortal. - Come! 'tis time.
but I fear
Is this the magian who would so pervade
Mun. I am prepared for all things, but deny The power which summons me. Who sent thee here? Spirit. Thou 'lt know anon— Come! come! Mun. I have commanded Things of an essence greater far than thine, And striven with thy masters. Get thee hence! Spirit. Mortal! thine hour is come- -Away! I say.
Man. I knew, and know my hour is come, but not To render up my soul to such as thee: Away! I'll die as I have lived-alone.
Spirit. Then I must summon up my brethren. Rise! [Other Spirits rise up. Abbot. Avaunt! ye evil ones!-Avaunt! I say, Te have no power where piety hath power, And I do charge ye in the name
Man. I do defy ye,- though I feel my soul
[In the first edition, this line was accidentally left out. On discovering the omission, Lord Byron wrote to Mr. Murray-"You have destroyed the whole effect and moral of the poem, by omitting the last line of Manfred's speaking."]
2 [In June, 1820, Lord Byron thus writes to Mr. Murray: -Enclosed is something which will interest you; to wit, the opinion of the greatest man in Germany - - perhaps in Europe - upon one of the great men of your advertisements (all famous hands,' as Jacob Tonson used to say of his ragamuffins) — in short, a critique of Goethe's upon Manfred. There is the original, an English translation, and an Italian one: keep them all in your archives; for the opinions
Have made thee
But thy many crimes
And its own place and time - its innate sense,
I have not been thy dupe, nor am thy prey —
My own hereafter.- Back, ye baffled fiends!
Abbot. Alas! how pale thou art-thy lips are white
And thy breast heaves-and in thy gasping throat The accents rattle- Give thy prayers to HeavenPray-albeit but in thought, but die not thus.
Man. 'Tis over-my dull eyes can fix thee not; But all things swim around me, and the earth Heaves as it were beneath me. Fare thee wellGive me thy hand.
Cold-cold -even to the heartBut yet one prayer-Alas! how fares it with thee? Man. Old man! 'tis not so difficult to die.
[MANFRED expires. Abbot. He's gone. his soul hath ta'en his earthless flightWhither? I dread to think
but he is gone. 2
of such a man as Goethe, whether favourable or not, are always interesting and this is more so, as favourable. His Faust I never read, for I don't know German; but Matthew Monk Lewis, in 1816, at Coligny, translated most of it to me viva voce, and I was naturally much struck with it: but it was the Steinbach and the Jungfrau, and something else, much more than Faustus, that made me write Manfred. The first scene, however, and that of Faustus are very similar."
The following is the extract from Goethe's Kunst und Altherthum (i. e. Art and Antiquity) which the above letter enclosed:
"Byron's tragedy,' Manfred,' was to me a wonderful phe
nomenon, and one that closely touched me. This singularly intellectual poet has taken my Faustus to himself, and extracted from it the strongest nourishment for his hypochondriac humour. He has made use of the impelling principles in his own way, for his own purposes, so that no one of them remains the same; and it is particularly on this account that I cannot enough admire his genius. The whole is in this way so completely formed anew, that it would be an interesting task for the critic to point out, not only the alterations he has made, but their degree of resemblance with, or dissimilarity to, the original: in the course of which I cannot deny, that the gloomy heat of an unbounded and exuberant despair becomes at last oppressive to us. Yet is the dissatisfaction we feel always connected with esteem and admiration.
"We find thus, in this tragedy, the quintessence of the most astonishing talent born to be its own tormentor. The character of Lord Byron's life and poetry hardly permits a just and equitable appreciation. He has often enough confessed what it is that torments him. He has repeatedly por trayed it; and scarcely any one feels compassion for this intolerable suffering, over which he is ever laboriously ruminating. There are, properly speaking, two females whose phantoms for ever haunt him, and which, in this piece also, perform principal parts - one under the name of Astarte, the other without form or actual presence, and merely a voice. Of the horrid occurrence which took place with the former, the following is related: - When a bold and enterprising young man, he won the affections of a Florentine lady. * Her husband discovered the amour, and murdered his wife; but the murderer was the same night found dead in the street, and there was no one on whom any suspicion could be attached. Lord Byron removed from Florence, and these spirits haunted him all his life after.
"This romantic incident is rendered highly probable by innumerable allusions to it in his poems. As, for instance, when turning his sad contemplations inwards, he applies to himself the fatal history of the king of Sparta. It is as follows:Pausanias, a Lacedæmonian general, acquires glory by the important victory at Platæa, but afterwards forfeits the confidence of his countrymen through his arrogance, obstinacy, and secret intrigues with the enemies of his country. This man draws upon himself the heavy guilt of innocent blood, which attends him to his end; for, while commanding the fleet of the allied Greeks, in the Black Sea, he is inflamed with a violent passion for a Byzantine maiden. After long resistance, he at length obtains her from her parents, and she is to be delivered up to him at night. She modestly desires the servant to put out the lamp, and, while groping her way in the dark, she overturns it. Pausanias is awakened from his sleep apprehensive of an attack from murderers, he seizes his sword, and destroys his mistress. The horrid sight never leaves him. Her shade pursues him unceasingly, and he implores for aid in vain from the gods and the exorcising priests. "That poet must have a lacerated heart who selects such a scene from antiquity, appropriates it to himself, and burdens his tragic image with it. The following soliloquy, which is overladen with gloom and a weariness of life, is, by this remark, rendered intelligible. We recommend it as an exercise to all friends of declamation. Hamlet's soliloquy appears improved upon here."- Goethe here subjoins Manfred's soliloquy, beginning, "We are the fools of time and terror," in which the allusion to Pausanias occurs.
The reader will not be sorry to pass from this German criticism to that of the Edinburgh Review on Manfred." This is, undoubtedly, a work of great genius and originality. Its worst fault, perhaps, is that it fatigues and overawes us by the uni. formity of its terror and solemnity. Another, is the painful and offensive nature of the circumstance on which its distress is ultimately founded. The lyrical songs of the Spirits are too long, and not all excellent. There is something of pedantry in them now and then; and even Manfred deals in classical allusions a little too much. If we were to consider it as a
• ["The grave confidence with which the venerable critic traces the fancies of his brother poet to real persons and events, making no difficulty even of a double murder at Florence to furnish grounds for his theory, affords an amusing instance of the disposition so prevalent throughout Europe, to picture Byron as a man of marvels and mysteries, as well in his life as his poetry. To these exaggerated, or wholly false notions of him, the numerous fictions palmed upon the world of his romantic tours and wonderful adventures, in places he never saw, and with persons that never existed, have, no doubt, considerably contributed; and the conse quence is, so utterly out of truth and nature are the representations of his life and character long current upon the Continent, that it may be questioned whether the real flesh and blood hero of these pages,- the social, practical-minded, and, with all his faults and eccentricities, English Lord Byron, - may not, to the over-exalted imaginations of most of his foreign admirers, appear but an ordinary, unromantic, and prosaic personage."— MOORE.]
proper drama, or even as a finished poem, we should be obliged to add, that it is far too indistinct and unsatisfactory. But this we take to be according to the design and conception of the author. He contemplated but a dim and magnificent sketch of a subject which did not admit of more accurate drawing or more brilliant colouring. Its obscurity is a part of its grandeur; and the darkness that rests upon it, and the smoky distance in which it is lost, are all devices to increase its majesty, to stimulate our curiosity, and to impress us with deeper awe. It is suggested, in an ingenious paper in a late number of the Edinburgh Magazine, that the general conception of this piece, and inuch of what is excellent in the manner of its execution, have been borrowed from The Tra gical History of Dr. Faustus,' of Marlow +; and a variety of passages are quoted, which the author considers as similar, and, in many respects, superior to others in the poem before us. We cannot agree in the general terms of the conclusion; but there is no doubt a certain resemblance, both in some of the topics that are suggested, and in the cast of the diction in which they are expressed. Thus, to induce Faustus to persist in his unlawful studies, he is told that the Spirits of the Eloments will serve him,—
Sometimes like women, or unwedded maids,
Shadowing more beauty in their ayrie browes,
Than have the white breasts of the Queene of Love.' And again, when the amorous sorcerer commands Helen of Troy to revive again to be his paramour, he addresses her, on her first appearance, in these rapturous lines
Was this the face that launcht a thousand ships,
O! thou art fairer than the evening ayre,
The catastrophe, too, is bewailed in verses of great elegance and classical beauty
Cut is the branch that might have growne full straight,
That sometime grew within this learned man.
But these, and many other smooth and fanciful verses in this curious old drama, prove nothing, we think, against the originality of Manfred; for there is nothing to be found there of the pride, the abstraction, and the heart-rooted misery in which that originality consists. Faustus is a vulgar sorcerer, tempted to sell his soul to the devil for the ordinary price of sensual pleasure, and earthly power and glory, and who shrinks and shudders in agony when the forfeit comes to be exacted. The style, too, of Marlow, though elegant and scholarlike, is weak and childish compared with the depth and force of much of Lord Byron; and the disgusting huffoonery and low farce of which his piece is principally made up, place it more in contrast, than in any terms of comparison, with that of his noble successor. In the tone and pitch of the composition, as well as in the character of the diction in the more solemn parts, Manfred reminds us much more of the Prometheus' of Eschylus 1, than of any more modern performance. The tremendous solitude of the principal person the supernatural beings with whom aloue he holds communion - the guilt-the firmness - the misery are all points of resemblance, to which the grandeur of the poetic imagery only gives a more striking effect. The chief differences are, that the subject of the Greek poet was sanctified and exalted by the established belief of his country, and that his terrors are nowhere tempered with the sweetness which breathes from so many passages of his English rival."]
+ On reading this, Lord Byron wrote from Venice :"Jeffrey is very kind about Manfred, and defends its originality, which I did not know that any body had attacked. As to the germs of it, they may be found in the Journal which I sent to Mrs. Leigh, before I left Switzerland. I have the whole scene of Manfred before me, as if it was but yesterday, and could point it out, spot by spot, torrent and all'
["Of the Prometheus' of Eschylus I was passionately fond as a boy (it was one of the Greek plays we read thrice a year at Harrow); indeed, that and the Medea' were the only ones, except the Seven before Thebes,' which ever much pleased me. The Prometheus, if not exactly in my plan, has always been so much in my head, that I can easily conceive its influence over all or any thing that I have written; but I deny Marlow and his progeny, and beg that you will do the same."- Byron Letters, 1817.]
Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice:
AN HISTORICAL TRAGEDY,
IN FIVE ACTS. I
"Dux inquieti turbidus Adria."— HORACE.
THE Conspiracy of the Doge Marino Faliero is one of the most remarkable events in the annals of the
[On the original MS. sent from Ravenna, Lord Byron has written: Begun April 4th, 1820-completed July 16th, 1820-finished copying August 16th-17th, 1820; the which copying makes ten times the toil of composing, considering the weather-thermometer 90 in the shade-and my domestic duties." He at the time intended to keep it by him for six years before sending it to the press; but resolutions of this kind are, in modern days, very seldom adhered to. It was published in the end of the same year; and, to the poet's great disgust, and in spite of his urgent and repeated remonstrances, was produced on the stage of Drury Lane Theatre early in 1821. The extracts from his letters sufficiently explain his feelings on this occasion.
Marino Faliero was, greatly to his satisfaction, commended warmly for the truth of its adhesion to Venetian history and manners, as well as the antique severity of its structure and language, by that eminent master of Italian and classical literature, the late Ugo Foscolo. Mr. Gifford also delighted him by pronouncing it "English-genuine English." was, however, little favoured by the contemporary critics. There was, indeed, only one who spoke of it as quite worthy of Lord Byron's reputation. "Nothing," said he," has for a long time afforded us so much pleasure, as the rich promise of dramatic excellence unfolded in this production of Lord Byron. Without question, no such tragedy as Marino Faliero has appeared in English, since the day when Otway also was inspired to his masterpiece by the interests of a Venetian story and a Venetian conspiracy. The story of which Lord Byron has possessed himself is, we think, by far the finer of the two, and we say possessed, because we believe he has adhered almost to the letter of the transactions as they really took place."— The language of the Edinburgh and Quarterly Reviewers, Mr. Jeffrey and Bishop Heber, was in a far different strain. The former says
"Marino Faliero has undoubtedly considerable beauties, both dramatic and poetical; and might have made the fortune of any young aspirant for fame: but the name of Byron raises expectations which are not so easily satisfied; and, judging of it by the lofty standard which he himself has established, we are compelled to say, that we cannot but regard it as a failure, both as a poem and a play. This may be partly accounted for from the inherent difficulty of uniting these two sorts of excellence — of confining the daring and digressive genius of poetry within the forms and limits of a regular drama, and, at the same time, imparting its warm and vivifying spirit to the practical preparation and necessary details of a complete theatrical action. These, however, are difficulties with which dramatic adventurers have long had to struggle; and over which, though they are incomparably most formidable to the most powerful spirits, there is no reason to doubt that the powers of Lord Byron would have triumphed. The true history of his failure, therefore, we conceive, and the actual cause of his miscarriage on the present occasion, is to be found in the bad choice of his subject—his selection of a story which not only gives no scope to the peculiar and commanding graces of his genius, but runs continually counter to the master currents of his fancy. His great gifts are exquisite tenderness, and demoniacal sublimity; the power of conjuring up at pleasure those delicious visions of love and beauty, and pity and purity, which melt our hearts within us with a thrilling and etherial softness and of wielding, at the same time, that infernal fire which blasts and overthrows all things with the dark and capricious fulminations of its scorn, rancour, and revenge. With the consciousness of these great powers, and as if in wilful perversity to their suggestions, he has here chosen a story which, in a great measure, excludes the agency of either; and resolutely conducted it, so as to secure himself against their intrusion;-a story without love or hatred
most singular government, city, and people of modern history. It occurred in the year 1355. Every thing about Venice is, or was, extraordinary—her aspect is like a dream, and her history is like a romance.
misanthropy or pity-containing nothing voluptuous and nothing terrific but depending, for its grandeur, on the anger of a very old and irritable man; and, for its attraction, on the elaborate representations of conjugal dignity and domestic honour, the sober and austere triumphs of cold and untempted chastity, and the noble propriety of a pure and disciplined understanding. These, we think, are not the most promising themes for any writer whose business is to raise powerful emotions; nor very likely, in any hands, to redeem the modern drama from the imputation of want of spirit, interest, and excitement. But, for Lord Byron to select them for a grand dramatic effort, is as if a swift-footed racer were to tie his feet together at the starting, or a valiant knight to enter the lists without his arms. No mortal prowess could succeed under such disadvantages. The story, in so far as it is original in our drama, is extremely improbable, though, like most other very improbable stories, derived from authentic sources: but, in the main, it is original; being, indeed, merely another Venice Preserved,' and continually recalling, though certainly without eclipsing, the memory of the first. Except that Jaffer is driven to join the conspirators by the natural impulse of love and misery, and the Doge by a resentment so outrageous as to exclude all sympathy, and that the disclosure, which is produced by love in the old play, is here ascribed to mere friendship,-the general action and catastrophe of the two pieces are almost identical; while, with regard to the writing and management, it must be owned that, if Lord Byron has most sense and vigour, Otway has by far the most passion and pathos; and that though his conspirators are better orators and reasoners than the gang of Pierre and Reynault, the tenderness of Belvidere is as much more touching, as it is more natural, than the stoical and self-satisfied decorum of Angiolina."
After an elaborate disquisition on the Unities, Bishop Heber thus concludes:
"We cannot conceive a greater instance of the efficacy of system to blind the most acute perception, than the fact that Lord Byron, in works avowedly and exclusively intended for the closet, has piqued himself on the observance of rules, which (be their advantage on the stage what it may) are evidently, off the stage, a matter of perfect indifference. The only object of adhering to the unities is to preserve the illusion of the scene. To the reader they are obviously useless. It is true, that, in the closet, not only are their supposed advantages destroyed, but their inconveniences are also, in a great measure, neutralised and it is true also, that poetry so splendid has often accompanied them, as to make us wholly overlook, in the blaze of greater excellences, whatever inconveniences result from them, either in the closet or the theatre. But even diminished difficulties are not to be needlessly courted, and though, in the strength and dexterity of the combatant, we soon lose sight of the cumbrous trappings by which he has chosen to distinguish himself; yet, it those trappings are at once cumbersome and pedantic, not only will his difficulty of success be increased, but his failure, if he fails, will be rendered the more signal and ridiculous.
"Marino Faliero has, we believe, been pretty generally pronounced a failure by the public voice, and we see no reason to call for a revision of their sentence. It contains, beyond all doubt, many passages of commanding eloquence, and some of genuine poetry; and the scenes, more particularly, in which Lord Byron has neglected the absurd creed of his pseudoHellenic writers, are conceived and elaborated with great tragic effect and dexterity. But the subject is decidedly illchosen. In the main tissue of the plot, and in all the busiest and most interesting parts of it, it is, in fact, no more than another Venice Preserved,' in which the author has had to
The story of this Doge is to be found in all her Chronicles, and particularly detailed in the "Lives of the Doges," by Marin Sanuto, which is given in the Appendix. It is simply and clearly related, and is perhaps more dramatic in itself than any scenes which can be founded upon the subject.
Marino Faliero appears to have been a man of talents and of courage. I find him commander in chief of the land forces at the siege of Zara, where he beat the King of Hungary and his army of eighty thousand men, killing eight thousand men, and keeping the besieged at the same time in check; an exploit to which I know none similar in history,
contend (nor has he contended successfully) with our recollections of a former and deservedly popular play on the same subject. And the only respect in which it differs is, that the Jather of Lord Byron's plot is drawn in to join the conspirators, not by the natural and intelligible motives of poverty, aggravated by the sufferings of a beloved wife, and a deep and well-grounded resentment of oppression, but by his outrageous anger for a private wrong of no very atrocious nature. The Doge of Venice, to chastise the vulgar libel of a foolish boy, attempts to overturn that republic of which he is the first and most trusted servant; to massacre all his ancient friends and fellow soldiers, the magistracy and nobility of the land. With such a resentment as this, thus simply stated and taken singly, who ever sympathised, or who but Lord Byron would have expected in such a cause to be able to awaken sympathy? It is little to the purpose to say that this is all historically true. A thing may be true without being probable; and such a case of idiosyncrasy as is implied in a resentment so sudden and extravagant, is no more a fitting subject for the poet, than an animal with two heads would be for an artist of a different description.
"It is true that, when a long course of mutual bickering had preceded, when the mind of the prince had been prepared, by due degrees, to hate the oligarchy with which he was surrounded and over-ruled, and to feel or suspect, in every act of the senate, a studied and persevering design to wound and degrade him, a very slight addition of injury might make the cup of anger overflow; and the insufficient punishment of Steno (though to most men this punishment seems not unequal to the offence) might have opened the last floodgate to that torrent which had been long gathering strength from innumerable petty insults and aggressions.
"It is also possible that an old man, doatingly fond of a young and beautiful wife, yet not insensible to the ridicule of such an unequal alliance, might for months or years have been tormenting himself with the suspected suspicions of his countrymen; have smarted, though convinced of his consort's purity, under the idea that others were not equally candid, and have attached, at length, the greater importance to Steno's ribaldry, from apprehending this last to be no more than an overt demonstration of the secret thoughts of half the little world of Venice.
"And we cannot but believe that, if the story of Faliero (unpromising as we regard it in every way of telling) had fallen into the hands of the barbarian Shakspeare, the commencement of the play would have been placed considerably earlier; that time would have been given for the gradual developement of those strong lines of character which were to decide the fate of the hero, and for the working of those subtle but not instantaneous poisons which were to destroy the peace, and embitter the feelings, and confuse the under standing, of a brave and high-minded but proud and irritable
"But the misfortune is, (and it is in a great measure, as we conceive, to be ascribed to Lord Byron's passion for the unities,) that, instead of placing this accumulation of painful feelings before our eyes, even our ears are made very imperfectly acquainted with them. Of the previous encroachments of the oligarchy on the ducal power we see nothing. Nay, we only hear a very little of it, and that in general terms, and at the conclusion of the piece; in the form of an apology for the Doge's past conduct, not as the constant and painful feeling which we ought to have shared with him in the first instance, if we were to sympathise in his views and wish success to his enterprise. The fear that his wife might be an object of suspicion to his countrymen is, in like manner, scarcely hinted at; and no other reason for such a fear is named than that which, simply taken, could never have produced it a libel scribbled on the back of a chair. We are, therefore, through the whole tragedy, under feelings of surprise rather than of pity or sympathy, as persons witnessing portentous events from causes apparently inadequate. We see a man become a traitor for no other visible cause (how ever other causes are incidentally insinuated) than a single vulgar insult, which was more likely to recoil on the per
except that of Cæsar at Alesia, and of Prince Eugene at Belgrade. He was afterwards commander of the fleet in the same war. He took Capo d'Istria. He was ambassador at Genoa and Rome, at which last he received the news of his election to the dukedom; his absence being a proof that he sought it by no intrigue, since he was apprized of his predecessor's death and his own succession at the same moment. But he appears to have been of an ungovernable temper. A story is told by Sanuto, of his having, many years before, when podesta and captain at Treviso, boxed the ears of the bishop, who was somewhat tardy in bringing the Host. For this, honest
petrator than to wound the object; and we cannot pity a death incurred in such a quarrel."
The following extract from a letter of January, 1821, will show the author's own estimate of the piece thus criticised, After repeating his hope, that no manager would be so audacious as to trample on his feelings by producing it on the stage, he thus proceeds:
"It is too regular — the time, twenty-four hours - the change of place not frequent-nothing melo-dramatic — no surprises no starts, nor trap-doors, nor opportunities for tossing their heads and kicking their heels' and no lore, the grand ingredient of a modern play. I am persuaded that a great tragedy is not to be produced by following the old dramatists who are full of gross faults, pardoned only for the beauty of their language, but by writing naturally and regularly, and producing regular tragedies, like the Greeks; but not in imitation, merely the outline of their conduct, adapted to our own times and circumstances, and of course no chorus. You will laugh, and say. Why don't you do so?' I have, you see, tried a sketch in Marino Fallero; but many people think my talent essentially undramatic,' and I am not at all clear that they are not right. If Marino Faliero don't fail in the perusal I shall, perhaps, try again (but not for the stage); and as I think that love is not the principal passion for tragedy (and yet most of ours turn upon it), you will not find me a popular writer. Unless it is love furious, criminal, and hapless, it ought not to make a tragic subject. When it is melting and maudlin, it does, but it ought not to do; it is then for the gallery and second-price boxes. If you want to have a notion of what I am trying, take up a translation of any of the Greek tragedians. If I said the original, it would be an impudent presumption of mine but the translations are so inferior to the originals, that I think I may risk it. Then judge of the simplicity of plot,' and do not judge me by your old mad dramatists; which is like drinking usquebaugh, and then proving a fountain. Yet, after all, I suppose you do not mean that spirits is a nobler element than a clear spring bubbling up in the sun? and this I take to be the difference between the Greeks and those turbid mountebanks always excepting Ben Jonson, who was a scholar and a classic. Or, take up a translation of Alfieri, and try the interest, &c. of these my new attempts in the old line, by him in English; and then tell me fairly your opinion. But don't measure me by YOUR OWN old or new tailor's yard. Nothing so easy as intricate confusion of plot and rant. Mrs. Centlivre, in comedy, has ten times the bustle of Congreve; but are they to be compared? and yet she drove Congreve from the theatre."
Again, February 16., he thus writes,
"You say the Doge will not be popular: did I ever write for popularity? I defy you to show a work of mine (except a tale or two) of a popular style or complexion. It appears to me that there is room for a different style of the drama; neither a servile following of the old drama, which is a grossly erroneous one, nor yet too French, like those who succeeded the older writers. It appears to me that good English, and a severer approach to the rules, might combine something not dishonourable to our literature. I have also attempted to make a play without love; and there are neither rings, nor mistakes, nor starts, nor outrageous canting villains, nor melodrama in it. All this will prevent its popularity, but does not persuade me that it is therefore faulty. Whatever fault it has will arise from deficiency in the conduct, rather than in the conception, which is simple and severe.
"Reproach is useless always, and irritating- but my feelings were very much hurt, to be dragged like a gladiator to the fate of a gladiator by that retiarius,' Mr. Elliston. As to his defence and offers of compensation, what is all this to the purpose? It is like Louis XIV. who insisted upon buying at any price Algernon Sydney's horse, and, on his refusal, on taking it by force, Sydney shot his horse. I could not shoot my tragedy, but I would have flung it into the fire rather than have had it represented."