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By the School for Scandal the style of Congreve was again brought into fashion; and sentiment made
way for wit, and delicate humour. That piece has indeed the beauties of Congreve's comedies, without their faults: its plot is deeply enough perplexed, without forsing one to labour to unravel it; its incidents fofficient, without being too numerous; its wit pure; its situations truly dramatice. The characters however are not quite fo strong as Con. greve's; which may be regarded as the princi . pal fault of this excellent piece. Lesser faults are Charles's sometimes blundering upon sentiments ; nay sometimes upon what are the worst of all sentiments, such as are of daue gerous tendency, as when Rowley advises him to pay his debts, before he makes a very liberal present, and fo to act as an honest man ere he acts as a generous one.
Rowley. Ah, Sir, I wish you would remember the proverb
Charles. Be just before you are generous. Why so I would if I could, but Justice is an old lame hobbling beldame, and I can't get her to keep pace with Generosity for the soul of me.
This sentiment, than which nothing can be more false and immoral, is always received by the silly audience with loud applause, whereas no reprobation can be too severe for it. A leffer blemish lies in the verses tagged to the end of the play, in which one of the characters addrefles the audience. The verses are an absurdity, the address a still greater; for the audience is by no good actor supposed to be present: and any circumstance that contributes to destroy the apparent reality of theatrical representation, cannot meet with too sharp censure. But it gives me pain to remark any faults in a piece that in general so well merits the applause it constantly receives. I shall only observe that the sentiment put into Charles's mouth in the last scene, tho not liable 'to the objections brought against the former, is yet incompatible with the character, which is set in strongest opposition to the sentimental one of Joseph. The words I mean are · If I 6 don't appear mortified at the exposure of
my « follies, it is because I feel at this moment the • warmest satisfaction at seeing you my liberal 6 benefactor.'
It may be observed that every thing like a sentiment is sure to meet with applause on our theatre; which the actors well express by calling sentiments clap-traps. This trick of securing applause by sentiments lately proved the salvation of the very worst tragedy that ever appeared on any stage: for the audience had so much applauded the two first acts, from the number of those clap-traps, that they were ashamed to retract, so that the piece took a little run very quietly, to the disgrace of our taste, it being one of those very farragos of nonsense that The Rehearsal was written to expose to due scorn: and, had it been fabricated before the era of that witty performance, it would certainly have had the honour of being placed in the first helf of absurdity.
H much contempt Tho I agree with
OW can you treat Petrarch with lo
you that there is a tedious fameness in most of his compositions, yet I by no means think bim without his merit. The very idea indeed of reading upwards of three hundred sonnets gives pain; the stated form and measure of that kind of poetry being so disgustingly similar, that I believe no man of genius would now write twenty in a life time. Yet it has its beauties : and tho your comparison of a desert of sand, where the same objects always meet the eye, were allowed in speaking of Petrarch; nevertheless in travelling that desert you will now and then, at great intervals, I confess, light on a spring surrounded with verdure and flowers. In his own country, I suppose, the purity of his language, and his antiquity, secure his fame, independent of his poetical beauties, which are
I ALSO grant you that he abounds with false beauties; among which the most gross and disgusting is his playing on the name of his mistress, which unhappily signified a laurel tree, in every other line: but I cannot affent to your proposition, that a writer of real genius may be in a fault, but can never happen on a false beauty. Shakspere has many false beauties; and so has Milton.
It is amazing that a writer, who in some passages discovers great force of mind, should so utterly lose himself in the unnatural metaphysics of love. Yet, by a singular fate, it is to his weakness that he owes his fame; for his platonic passion threw such a fairy light round himself and his writings, as rendered them very conspicuous in these dark times. But in some of his Odes, or Canzoni, he proves himtelf not wholly undeserving of his fame at this day; witness the Vth, in which there are beauties of the highest kind, as in this stanza:
Una parte del mondo è che si giace