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enrich its imaginations for ever. Yet have the sweetest and most profound — whose we, in the youngest of the Kemble line, at bursts of passion almost transport us into anonce an artist of antique grace in comedy, and other order of being, and whose flashes of a tragedian of look the most chivalrous and genius cast a new light on the darkest caverns heroic-of " form and moving most express of the soul. If we have few names to boast and admirable"-of enthusiasm to give vivid in elegant comedy, we enjoy a crowd of the expression to the highest and the most ho- richest and most original humourists, with nourable of human emotions. -Still, in Ma- Munden-that actor of a myriad unforgotten cready, can we boast of one, whose rich and faces at their head. But our theme has en. poble voice is adapted to all the most exquisite ticed us beyond our proper domain of the varieties of tenderness and passion-one, past; and we must retire. Let us hope for whose genius leads him to imbody characters some Cibber, to catch the graces of our living the most imaginative and romantic—and who actors before they perish, that our successors throws over his grandest pictures tints so mel may fix on them their retrospective eyes unlow and so nicely blended, that, with all their blamed, and enrich with a review of their inimitable variety, they sink in perfect harmony merits some number of our work, which will into the soul.--Still, in Kean, have we a per. appear, in due course, in the twenty-second former of intensity never equalled—of pathos I century!
REVIEW OF JOHN DENNIS'S WORKS.
(RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW, No. 2.]
Joan DENNIS, the terror or the scorn of|ciples of the revolution, detesting the French, that age, which is sometimes honoured with the abominating the Italian opera, and deprecattitle of Augustan, has attained a lasting noto- ing as heartily the triumph of the Pretender, riety, to which the reviewers of our times can as the success of a rival's tragedy. His poscarcely aspire. His name is immortalized litical treatises, though not very elegantly in the Dunciad; his best essay is preserved in finished, are made of sturdy materials. He Johnson's Lives of the Poets; and his works appears, from some passages in his letters, to yet keep their state in two substantial vo- have cherished a genuine love of nature, and lumes, which are now before us. But the in- to have turned, with eager delight, to deep and terest of the most poignant abuse and the quiet solitudes, for refreshment from the feseverest criticism quickly perishes. We con- verish excitements, the vexatious defeats, and template the sarcasms and the invectives the barren triumphs of his critical career. He which once stung into rage the irritable ge- admired Shakspeare, after the fashion of his neration of poets, with as cold a curiosity as age, as a wild, irregular genius, who would we look on the rusty javelins or stuffed reptiles have been inconceivably greater, had he known in the glass cases of the curious. The works and copied the ancients. The following is a of Dennis will, however, assist us in forming part of his general criticism on this subject, a judgment of the criticism of his age, as and a fair specimen of his best style: compared with that of our own, and will afford Shakspeare was one of the greatest geus an opportunity of investigating the in- niuses that the world ever saw, for the tragic fluences of that popular art on literature and stage. Though he lay under greater disadon manners.
vantages than any of his successors, yet had But we must not forget that Mr. Dennis laid he greater and more genuine beauties than the claims to public esteem, not only as a critic, best and greatest of them. And what makes but as a wit, a politician, and a poet. In the the brightest glory of his character, those first and the last of these characters, he can beauties were entirely his own, and owing to receive but little praise. His attempts at the force of his own nature; whereas, his gayety and humour are weighty and awkward, faults were owing to his education, and to the almost without example. His poetry can only age he lived in. One may say of him, as they be described by negatives; it is not inharmo- did of Homer, that he had none to imitate, and nious, nor irregular, nor often turgid-for the is himself inimitable. His imaginations were author, too nice to sink into the mean, and often as just as they were bold and strong, too timid to rise into the bombastic, dwells in He had a natural discretion which never could elaborate “decencies for ever.” The climax have been taught him, and his judgment was of his admiration for Queen Mary—“Mankind strong and penetrating. He seems to have extols the king-the king admires the queen" wanted nothing but time and leisure for —will give a fair specimen of his architectural thought, to have found out those rules of which eulogies. He is entitled to more respect as an he appears so ignorant. His characters are honest patriot. He was, indeed, a true-hearted always drawn justly, exactly, graphically, ex. Englishman-with the legititmate prejudices cept where he failed by not knowing history of bis country-warmly attached to the prin-1 or the poetical art. He had, for the most part,
more fairly distinguished them than any of his his Country, or the Fatal Resentment." In successors have done, who have falsified the catastrophe, Coriolanus kills Aufidius, and them, or confounded them, by making love is himself afterwards slain, to satisfy the rethe predominant quality in all. He had so fine quisitions of poetical justice ; which, to Mr. a talent for touching the passions, and they are Dennis's great distress, Shakspeare so often so lively in him, and so truly in nature, that violates. It is quite amusing to observe, with they often touch us more, without their due how perverted an ingenuity all the gaps in preparations, than those of other tragic poets, Shakspeare's verses are filled up, the irreguwho have all the beauty of design and all the larities smoothed away, and the colloquial exadvantage of incidents. His master passion ressions anged for stately phrases. Thus, was terror, which he has often moved so power- for example, the noble wish of Coriolanus on fully and so wonderfully, that we may justly entering the forume conclude, that if he had bad the advantage of
“The honoured gods art and learning, he would have surpassed the Keep Rome in safety, and the chairs of justice very best and strongest of the ancients. His Supplied with worthy men! plant love among us! paintings are often so beautiful and so lively, Throng our large temples with the shows of peace,
And not our streets with war"so graceful and so powerful, especially where he uses them in order to move terror, that is thus elegantly translated into classical lanthere is nothing, perhaps, more accomplished guage : in our English poetry. His sentiments for the most part, in his best tragedies, are noble, ge
"The great and tutelary gods of Rome
Keep Rome in safety, and the chairs of justice nerous, easy, and natural, and adapted to the Supplied with worthy men: plant love among you: persons who use them. His expression is, in
Adorn our temples with the pomp of peace,
And, from our streets drive horrid war away." many places, good and pure, after a hundred years; simple though elevated, graceful though The conclusion of the hero's last speech on bold, easy though strong. He seems to have leaving Romebeen the very original of our English tragical
“ Thus I turn my back: there is a world elsewhere." harmony; that is, the harmony of blank verse, diversified often by dissyllable and trissyllable is elevated into the following heroic lines : terminations. For that diversity distinguishes “For me, thus, thus, I turn my back upon you, it from heroic harmony, and, bringing it nearer And make a better world where'er I go." to common use, makes it more proper to gain His fond expression of constancy to his attention, and more fit for action and dialogue wifeSuch verse we make when we are writing
"That kiss prose; we make such verse in common con
I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip versation.
Hath virgined it e'er since," “ If Shakspeare had these great qualities by is thus refined: nature, what would he not have been, if he
« That kiss had joined to so happy a genius learning and
I carried from my love, and my true lip the poetical art. For want of the latter, our Hath ever since preserved it like a virgin." author has sometimes made gross mistakes in
The icicle which was wont to hang on the characters which he has drawn from history, against the equality and conveniency of Dian's temple,” here more gracefully “hangs manners of his dramatical persons. Witness upon the temple of Diana." The burst of minMenenius in the following tragedy, whom he gled pride, and triumph of Coriolanus, when has made an arrant buffoon, which is a great to tragic dignity. Our readers have, doubtless,
taunted with the word “boy,” is here exalted absurdity. For he
ght as well have ima ignorantly admired the original. gined a grave majestic Jack Pudding as a buffoon in a Roman senator. Aufidius, the
Boy! False hound!
If you have writ your annals true, 'tis there, general of the Volscians, is shown a base and
That like an eagle in a dove cote, I a profligate villain. He has offended against “Fluttered your Volsces in Corioli. the equality of the manners even in the hero
Alone I did it-Boy. himself. For Coriolanus, who in the first part The following is the improved version : of the tragedy is shown so open, so frank, so
"This boy, that like an eagle in a dove court, violent, and so magnanimous, is represented Flutter'd a thousand Volsces in Corioli, in the latter part by Aufidius, which is contra
And did it without second or acquittance, dicted by no one, a flattering, fawning, cringing,
Thus sends their mighty chief to mourn in hell!" insinuating traitor.”
Who does not now appreciate the sad lot Mr. Dennis proceeds very generously to of Shakspeare-so feelingly bewailed by Mr. apologize for Shakspeare's faults, by observing Dennis that he had not a critic, of the age of that he had neither friends to consult, nor time King William, by his side, to refine his style to make corrections. He, also, attributes his and elevate his conceptions ! lines “utterly void of celestial fire,” and pas. It is edifying to observe, how the canons of sages “ harsh and unmusical,” to the want of Mr. Dennis's criticism, which he regarded as leisure to wait for felicitous hours and mo- the imperishable laws of genius, are ments of choicest inspiration. To remedy either exploded, or considered as matters of these defects—to mend the harmony and to subordinate importance, wholly unaffecting put life into the dulness of Shakspeare-Mr. the inward soul of poetry. No one now re. Dennis has assayed, and brought his own ge- gards the merits of an Epic poem, as decided nius to the alteration of Coriolanus for the by the subservience of the fable and the ac. Blage, under the lofty title of the “Invader of tion to the moral—by the presence or the ab
sence of an allegory-by the fortunate or un- | hend the nature of it, to lay before him that fortunate fate of the hero-or by any other universal moral, which is the foundation of rules of artificial decorum, which the critics all morals, both epic and dramatic, and is inof former times thought fit to incalcate. We clusive of them all, and that is, That he who learn from their essays, whether the works does good, and perseveres in it, shall always which they examine are constructed, in exter- be rewarded; and he who does ill, and persenals, according to certain fantastic rules; but, veres in it, shall always be punished! Should whether they are frigid or impassioned, har- we not desire him to observe, that the foresaid monious or prosaic, filled with glorious ima reward must al ys attend and crown good nations, or replete with low common-places : actions, not sometimes only, for then it would whether, in short, they are works of genius or follow, that sometimes a perseverance in good of mere toil—are questions entirely beneath actions has no reward, which would take away their concern. The critic on the tragedy of all poetical instruction, and, indeed, every sort Cato, ingenious and just as it is, omits one ma- of moral instruction, resolving Providence into serial objection to that celebrated piece—that chance or fate. Should we not, sir, farther it is good for nothing, and would be so if all put him in mind, that since whoever persethe faults selected for censure could be, in an veres in good actions, is sure to be rewarded instant, correcied. There is a French essay at the last, it follows, that a poet does not ason Telemachus, framed on the same superfi- sert by his moral, that he is always sure to be cial principles of criticism, which, after a rewarded in this world, because that would mipute examination of the moral, fable, cha- be false, as you have very justly observed, p. racters, allegory, and other like requisites of 60; and, therefore, never can be the moral of excellence, triumphantly proves its claim to an epic poem, because what is false may be ranked with, if not above, the great poems delude, but only truth can instruct. Should of Homer and of Virgil. Mr. Dendis seems, we not let him know, sir, that this, universal in general, to have applied the rules of criti- moral only teaches us, that whoever perseveres cism, extant in his day, to the compositions on in good actions, shall be always sure to be rewhich he passed judgment; but there was warded either here or hereafter; and that the one position respecting which his contempo- truth of this moral is proved by the poet, by raries were not agreed, and on which he com- making the principal character of his poem, bated with the spirit of a martyr. This dis- like all the rest of his characters, and like the puted point, the necessity of observing poetical poetical action, at the bottom, universal and justice in works of fiction, we shall briefly ex- allegorical, even after distinguishing it by a amine, because we think that it involves one particular name, by making this principal of those mistakes in humanity, which it is als character, at the bottom, a mere political phanways desirable to expose. But first we must, tom of a very short duration, through the in fairness, lay one of our author's many ar- whole extent of which duration we can see at guments, on this subject, before our readers. once, which continues no longer than the read
“ The principal character of an epic poeming of the poem, and that being over, the must be either morally good or morally vicious; phantom is to us nothing, so that unless our if he is morally good, the making him end un- sense is satisfied of the reward that is given to fortunately will destroy all poetical justice, this poetical phantom, whose whole duration and, consequently, all instruction: such a we see through from the very beginning to the poem can have no moral, and, consequently, end; instead of a wholesome moral, there no sable, no just and regular poetical action, would be a pernicious instruction, viz: That but must be a vain fiction and an empty a man may persevere in good actions, and not amusement. Oh, but there is a retribution in be rewarded for it through the whole extent of futurity! But I thought that the reader of an his duration, that is, neither in this world nor epic poem was to owe his instruction to the in the world to come.” poet, and not to himself: well then, the poet It may be sufficient to answer to all this, may tell him so at the latter end of his poem: and to much more of the same kind which our ay, would to God I could see such a latter end author has adduced—that little good can be of an epic poem, where the poet should tell the attained by representations which are perpetureader, that he has cut an honest man's throat, ally at variance with our ordinary perceptions. only that he may have an opportunity to send The poet may represent humanity as mightier him to heaven: and that, though this would and fairer than it appears to a common be but an indifferent plea upon an indictment observer. In the mirror which he “holds up for murder at the Old Bailey, yet that he hopes to nature," the forms of might and of beauty the good-natured reader will have compassion may look more august, more lovely, or more on him, as the gods have on his hero. But harmonious, than they appear, in the “light saillery apart, sir, what occasion is there for of common day," lo eyes which are ungifted having recourse to an epic poet to tell our with poetic vision. But if the world of imagiselves by the bye, and by the occasional reflec- nation is directly opposed to that of reality, it tion, that there will be a retribution in futurity, will become a cold abstraction, a baseless when the Christian has this in his heart con- dream, a splendid mockery. We shall strive stantly and directly, and the Atheist and Free-in vain to make men sympathize with beings thinker will make no such reflection ? Tell me of a sphere purely ideal, where might shall be truly, sir, would not such a poet appear to you always right, and virtue its own present as or me, not to have sufficiently considered what well as exceeding great reward." Happily, a poetical moral is?. And should not you or I, the exhibition is as needless for any moral sir, be obliged, in order to make him compre- purposes, as it would be inadequate to attain
them. Though the poet cannot make us wit-time, and their living successors. The men nesses of the future recompense of that virtue, who first exercised the art of criticism, imbued which here struggles and suffers, he can cause with personal veneration for the loftiest works us to feel, in the midst of its very struggles of genius, sought to deduce rules from them, and sufferings, that it is eternal. He makes which future poets should observe. They did the principle of immortality manifest in the not assume the right of passing individual meek submission, in the deadly wrestle with judgments on their contemporaries—nor did fate, and even in the mortal agonies of his they aim at deciding even abstract questions noblest characters. What, in true dignity, of taste on their own personal authority-but does virtue lose by the pangs which its clay attempted, by fixing the laws of composition, tenement endures, if we are made conscious to mark out the legitimate channels in which of its high prerogatives, though we do not the streams of thought, passion, and sentiment, actually behold the immunities which shall should be bounded through all ages. Their ultimately be its portion ? Hereafter it may dogmas, therefore, whether they contained be rewarded; but now it is triumphant. We more or less of truth, carried with them no exrequire no dull epilogue to tell us, that it shall trinsic weight, were influenced by no personal be crowned in another and happier state of feelings, excited no personal animosities, but being; for our souls gush with admiration and simply appealed, like poetry itself, to those sympathy with it, amidst its sorrows. We minds which alone could give them sanction. love it, and burn to imitate it, for its own love- In the first critical days of England—those of liness, not for its gains. Surely it is a higher the Rymers and the Dennises-the professors aim of the poet to awaken this emotion—10 of the art began to regard themselves as inspire us with the awe of goodness, amidst judges, not merely of the principles of poetry, its deepest external debasements, and to make but of their application by living authors. us almost desire to share in them, than to in- Then commenced the arrogance on the side vite us to partake in her rewards, and to win of the supervisors, and the impatience and reus by a calculating sympathy. The hovel or sentment on that of their subjects, which conthe dungeon does not, in the pictures of a temporary criticism necessarily inspires. The genuine poet, give the colouring to the soul worst passions of man are brought into exerwhich inhabits it, but receives from its ma- cise in reference to those pure and ennobling jesty a consecration beyond that of temples, themes, which should be sacred from all low and a dignity statelier than that of palaces. contentions of "the ignorant present time.” For it is his high prerogative to exhibit the But the battle was, at least, fair and open. spiritual part of man triumphant over that The critic still appealed to principl however about him, which is mortal--to show, in his fallacious or imperfect, which all the world far-reaching hope, his moveless constancy, his might examine. His decrees had no weight, deep and disinterested affections, that there is independent of his reasons, nor was his name, a spirit within him, which death cannot destroy. or his want of one, esteemed of magical virtue. Low, indeed, is the morality which aspires to He attacked the poets on equal terms-someaffect men by nothing beyond the poor and times, indeed, with derision and personal childish lesson, that io be virtuous is to be slander-but always as a foe to subdue, not happy. Virtue is no dependant on earthly ex. as a judge to pass sentence on them. Critipediencies for its excellence. It has a beauty cism, in our own times, has first assumed the to be loved, as vice has a deformity to be air of “sovereign sway and masterdom" over abhorred, which are unaffected by the conse- the regions of fantasy. Its professors enforce, quences experienced by their votaries. Do not established laws, contend no longer for we admire the triumph of vice, and scoff principles, attack poets no more with chivalat goodness, when we think on the divine rous zeal, as violating the cause of poetic Clarissa, violated, imprisoned, heart-broken, morals, or sinning against the regularities of dying ? Must Parson Adams receive a mitre, their art. They pronounce the works, of which to assure us that we should love him? Oar they take cognisance, to be good or bad-often best feelings and highest aspirations are not without professing to give any reason for their yet of so mercantile a cast as those who con- decision--or referring to any standard, more tend for “poetical justice" would imagine. fixed or definite than their own taste, partiality, The mere result, in respect of our sympathies, or prejudice. And the public, without any is as nothing. The only real violation of knowledge of their fitness for their office poetical justice is in the violation of nature in without even knowing their names-receive the clothing. When, for example, a wretch, them as the censors of literature, the privileged whose trade is murder, is represented as cher- inspectors of genius! This strange suishing the purest and the deepest love for an premacy of criticism, in our own age, gives innocent being—when chivalrous delicacy or interest to the investigation of the claims sentiment is conferred on a pirate, tainted with which the art itself possesses to the respect a thousand crimes—the effect is immoral, and gratitude of the people. If it is, on the whatever doom may, at last, await him. If whole, beneficial to the world, it must either the barriers of virtue and of evil are melted be essential to the awakening of genius-or down by the current of spurious sympathy, necessary to direct its exertions-or useful in there is no catastrophe which can remove the repressing abortive and mistaken efforts-or mischief; and while these are preserved in our conducive to the keeping alive and fitly feelings, there is none which can truly harm us. guiding admiration to the good and great. On
The critics of the age of Dennis held a mid- each of these grounds, we shall now very dle course between their predecessors of old briefly examine its value.
1. It is evident, that the art of criticism is As criticism had no share in producing the not requisite to the development of genius, be- Homeric poems, so also did it contribute nocause, in the golden ages of poetry it has had thing to the perfection of the Greek tragedies. no portion. Its professors have never even For those works-the most complete and constructed the scaffolding to aid the erection highly finished, if not the most profound, of all of the cloud-capped towers and solemn tem- human creations—there was no more previous ples of the bard. By his facile magic he has warrant, than for the wildest dream of fantasy. called them into existence, like the palace of No critic fashioned the moulds in which those Aladdin, as complete in the minutest graces exquisite groups were cast, or inspired them of finishing as noble in design. Long before with Promethean life. They were struck off the art of criticism was known in Greece, her in the heat of inspiration—the offspring of rhapsodists had attained the highest excellen- moments teeming for immortality—though the cies of poetry. No fear of a critic's scorn, no slightest limb of each of the figures is finished desire of a critic's praise, influenced these as though it had been the labour of a life. consecrated wanderers. Nature alone was These eternal works were complete—the spirit their model, their inspirer, and their guide. which inspired their authors was extinct From her did they drink in the feeling, not only when Aristotle began to criticise. The deveof permanence and of grandeur, but of aërial lopment of the art of poetry, by that great grace and roseate beauty. The rocks and philosopher, wholly failed to inspire any bard, hills gave them the visible images of lasting whose productions might break the descent might—the golden clouds of even," sailing on from the mighty relics of the preceding years. the bosom of the air,” sent a feeling of eva- After him, his disciples amused themselves in nescent loveliness into their souls-and the refining on his laws-in cold disputations and delicate branchings of the grove, reflected in profitless scrutinies. The soil, late so fertile the calm waters, imbued them with a percep- with the stateliest productions of nature, was tion of elegance beyond the reach of art. No overgrown with a low and creeping underpampered audiences thought themselves enti- wood, which, if any delicate flower struggled iled to judge them: to analyze their powers; into day, oppressed and concealed it from to descant on their imperfections; to lament view beneath its briary and tangled thickets. their failures; or to eulogize their sublimities, 2. The instances already given refute not as those who had authority to praise. Their only the notion that criticism is requisite to hearers dwelt on their accents with rapturous prepare the way for genius, but also the opiwonder, as nature's living oracles. They nion that it is necessary to give it a right diwandered through the everywhere commu- rection and a perfect form. True imagination nicating joy, and everywhere receiving reve- is in itself “all compact." The term irregu. rence-exciting in youth its first tearful ecsta- lar, as absolutely applied to genius, is absurd, sy, and kindling fresh enthusiasm amidst the and applied relatively, it means nothing but withered affections of age. They were revered that it is original in its career. There is as the inspired chroniclers of heroic deeds— properly no such thing as irregular genius. A the inspirers of national glory and virtue—the man endowed with “ the vision and the faculty depositories of the mysteries and the philoso- divine,” may choose modes of composition phic wisdom of times which even then were unsuited to the most appropriate display of his old. They trusted not to paper or the press powers ;-his images may not be disposed in for the preservation of their fame. They were the happiest arrangement, or may be clustered contented, that each tree beneath which they around subjects, in themselves, dreary or had poured forth their effusions, should be mean, but these fantasies must be in themselves loved for their sake-that the forked promon- harmonious, or they would not be beauteous, tory should bear witness of them—and the would not be imaginations. Genius is a law “ brave o'erhanging firmament, fretted with unto itself. Its germs have, within them, not golden fire," tell of those who had first awaken- only the principles of beauty, but the very form ed within the soul a sense of its glories. Their which the flower in its maturity must expand. works were treasured up nowhere but in the As a wavy gleam of fire rises from the spark, soul-spread abroad only by the enthusiasm in its own exquisite shape, so does imagina. of kindred reciters—and transmitted to the chil- tion send forth its glories, perfect by the felicidren of other generations, while they listened tous necessity of their nature, exquisite in form with serious faces to the wondrous tales of by the same impulse which gives them brighttheir fathers. Yet these poems, so produced, ness and fervour. But how can the critic, in so received, so preserved, were not only in- reality, acquire any jurisdiction over the gestinct with heavenly fire, but regular as the nuine poet? Where are the lines by which he elaborale efforts of the most polished ages. In can fathom the depths of the soul; where the these products of an era of barbarism, have instrument by which he can take the altitude future bards not only found an exhaustless of the highest heaven of invention ?" How treasury of golden imaginations, but critics can he judge of thoughts which penetrate the have discovered all those principles of order mysteries of humanity, of fancies which “in which they would establish as unalterable the colours of the rainbow live, and play in the laws. The very instances of error and haste plighted clouds," of anticipations and foretastes in their authors have been converted into by which the bard already“ breathes in worlds, figures of rhetoric, by those men, who represent to which the heaven of heavens is but a veil ?" Dalure herself as irregular and feeble, and a Can he measure a sunbeam, or constrain a minute attention to rules as essential to the cloud, or count the steps of the bounding stag perfection of genius.
of the forest, to judge whether they are grace