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Yes, Andrews' doggrel, Greathead's idiot line,
And LEEDS at length enjoy his fool in peace.
P. Come then, around their works a circle draw,
And near it plant the dragons of the law,
P. What! not deride? not laugh? Well! thought at least is free
F. O yet forbear.
Thou think'st, perhaps, this way ward fancy strange;
And heaven and earth hang trembling on a hair:
Who Anna's bedlam rant for sense can take, And over* Edwin's mewlings keep awake;
*Edwin's meilings, &c.--We come now to a character of high respect, the profound Mr. T. Vaughan, who, under the alluring signature of Edwin, favours us from time to time with a melancholy poem on the death of a bug, the flight of an earwig, the miscarriage of a cockchaffer, or some other event of equal importance.
His last work was an Enraptov. (blessings on his learning!) which, I take for granted, means an epitaph, on a mouse that broke her heart: and, as it was a matter of great consequence, he very properly made the introduction as long as the poem itself. Hear how gravely he prologiseth.
"On a tame mouse, which belonged to a lady who saved its life, constantly fed it, and even wept, (poor lady () at its approaching death. The mouse's eyes actually dropped out of its heal (poor mouse!) THE DAY BEFORE
"This feeling mouse, whose heart was warm'd
Because her mistress dropt a tear,
"By sympathy deprived of light,
She one day darkness tried;
The debt with interest pay-
Mr. T. Vaughan has asserted that he is not the author of this matchless Extraptor with such spirit, and retorted upon one Baviad (whom the learned gentleman takes to be a man) with such strength of argument and elegance of diction, that it would wrong both him and the reader to give it in any words but his own.
"Well said, Baviad the correct!--And so the PROFOUND Mr. T. Vaughan, as you politely style him, writes under the alluring signature of Edwin, does he 1 and therefore a very proper subject for your satiric malignity!-But suppose for a moment, as the truth and the fact is, that this gentleman never did use that signature upon any occasion, in whatever he may have written: Do not you, the identical Baviad, in that case, for your unprovoked abuse of him, immediately fall under your own character
of that nightman of literature you so liberally assign
Weston? And like him, too, if there is any truth in what you say or write, do you not
"Swell like a filthy toad with secret spite?' "The ayes have it. And should you not be as well versed in your favourite author's fourth satire, as you are in the first, with your leave, I will quote from it two emphatic lines:
"Into themselves how few, how few descend,
And act, at home, the free, impartial friend!
"Oracle, 12th Jan." And to whose name should they be tacked, but the author's? Let not the reader, however, imagine the absurdity to proceed from Persius, or his ingenious translator. "The truth and the fact is," that our learned brother, having a small change to make in the last two lines, blundered them, with his usual acuteness, into nonsense. He is not much more happy when he accuses me of call ing WESTON "the nightman of literature."-But when a gentleman does not know what he writes, it is a little hard to expect him to know what he reads. After all, Edwin or not, our egregious friend is still the PROFOUND Mr. T. Vaughan.
Yes, far from me, whate'er their birth or place,
Qui BAVIUM non odit, amet tua carmina, MÆVI.
lists by the reappearance of some of the scattered enemy.
It was not enough that the stream of folly flowed more sparingly in the Oracle than before; I was determined
"To have the current in that place damm'd up;"
and accordingly began the present poem-for which, indeed, I had by this time other reasons. I had been told that there were still a few admirers of the Cruscan school, who thought the contempt expressed for it was not sufficiently justified by the few passages produced in the Baviad. I thought it best, therefore, to exhibit the tribe of Bell once more; and, as they passed in review before me, to make such additional extractst from their works, as should put their demerits beyond the power of future question.
I remembered that this great critic, in his excel
with "bespattering nearly all the poetical eminence of the day." Anxious, therefore, to do impartial justice, I ran for the ALBUM, to discover who had been spared. Here I read, "In this collection are names whom genius will ever look upon as its best supporters! Sheridan”—what, is Saul also among the prophets!" Sheridan, Merry, Parsons, Cowley, Andrews, Jerningham, Greathead, Topham, Robinson," &c.
In the INTRODUCTION to the preceding pages, a brief account is given of the rise and progress of that spurious species of poetry which lately infest-lent remarks on the Baviad, had charged the author ed this metropolis, and gave occasion to the BAVIAD. I was not ignorant of what I exposed myself to by the publication of that work. If abuse could have affected me, I should not probably have made a set of people my enemies, habituated to ill language, and possessed of such convenient vehicles* for its dissemination. But I never regarded it from such hands, and, indeed, deprecated nothing but their praise. I respect, in common with every man of sense, the censure of the wise and good; but the angry ebullitions of folly unmasked, and vanity mortified, pass by me "like the idle wind," or, if noticed, serve merely to grace succeeding editions of the Baviad.
I confess, however, that the work was received more favourably than I expected. Bell, indeed, and a few others, whose craft was touched, vented their indignation in prose and verse; but, on the whole, the clamour against me was not loud, and was lost by insensible degrees in the applauses of such as I was truly ambitious to please.
Thus furnished with "ALL the poetical eminence of the day," I proceeded, as Mr. Bell says, to bespatter it; taking, for the vehicle of my design, a satire of Horace-to which I was led by its supplyiug me (amid many happy allusions) with an opportunity of briefly noticing the wretched state of dramatic poetry among us.‡
* I hope no one will do me the injustice to suppose that I imagine myself another Hercules contending with hydras, &c. Far from it. My enemies cannot well have an humbler opinion of me than I have of myself; and yet, (glo-"if I am not ashamed of them, I am a soused gurnet." Mere pecora inertia! The contest is without danger, and the victory without glory. At the same time, I declare against any undue advantage being taken of these concessions. Though I knew the impotence of these literary Askaparts, the town did not; and many a man, 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.
Thus supported, the good effects of the satire riose loquor) were not long in manifesting themselves. Della Crusca appeared no more in the Oracle, and, if any of his 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.
With this I was satisfied. I had taken up my pen for no other end, and was quietly retiring, with the idea that I had "done the state some service," and purposing to abandon for ever the cæstus, which a respectable critic fancies I wielded" with too much severity," when I was once more called into the
* Most of these fashionable writers were connected with the public prints. Della Crusca was a worthy coadjutor of the mad and malignant idiot who conducted the World. Arno and Lorenzo were either proprietors or editors of another paper. Edwin and Anna Matilda were favoured contributors to several; and Laura Maria, from the sums squandered on puffs, could command a corner in all. This wretched woman, indeed, in the wane of her beauty, fell into merited poverty, exchanged poetry for politics, and wrote abusive trash against the government, at the rate of two guineas a week, for the Morning Post.
It will now be said that I have done it usque ad nauI confess it; and for the reason given above. And yet I can honestly assure the reader, that most, if not all, of the trash here quoted, passed with the authors for superlative beauties, every second word being printed either in italics or capitals.
I know not if the stage has been so low, since the days of Gammer Gurton, as at this hour. It seems as if all the blockheads in the kingdom had started up, and exclaimed, with one voice, Come! let us write for the theatres. In this there is nothing, perhaps, altogether new; the strik ing and peculiar novelty of the times seems to be, that ALL they write is received. Of the three parties concerned in this business, the writers and the managers seem the least culpable. If the town will feed on husks, extraordinary pains need not be taken to find them any thing more palatable. But what shall we say of the people? The lower orders are so brutified by the lamenta
1 I recollect but two exceptions. Merry's idiotical opera, and Mrs. Robinson's more idiotical farce. To have failed where Miles Andrews suc
ceeded, argues a degree of stupidity scarcely credible. Surely "ignorance
When the MAVIAD, so I call the present poem, was nearly brought to a conclusion, I laid it aside. The times seemed unfavourable to such productions. Events of real importance were momentarily claiming the attention of the public, and the still voice of the muses was not likely to be listened to amid the din of arms. After an interval of two years, however, circumstances, which it is not material to mention, have induced me to finish, and trust it, without more preface, to the candour to which I am already so highly indebted for the kind reception of the Baviad.
YES, I DID say that Crusca's* "true sublime" Lack'd taste, and sense, and every thing but rhyme ; ble follies of O'Keefe, and Cobbe, and Pilon, and I know not who-Sardi venales, each worse than the otherthat they have lost all relish for simplicity and genuine humour; nay, ignorance itself, unless it be gross and glaring, cannot hope for "their most sweet voices." And the higher ranks are so mawkishly mild, that they take with a placid simper whatever comes before them; or, if they now and then experience a slight fit of disgust, have not resolution enough to express it, but sit yawning and gaping in each other's faces for a little encouragement in their culpable forbearance.
When this was written, I thought the town had "sounded," as Shakspeare says, "the very bass string of humility;" but it has since appeared, that the lowest point of degradation had not then been reached. The force of English folly, indeed, could go no farther, and so far I was right; but the auxiliary supplies of Germany were at hand, and the taste, vitiated by the lively nonsense of O'Keefe and Co., was destined to be utterly destroyed by successive importations of the heavy, lumbering, monotonous stupidity of Kotzebue and Schiller.
The object of these writers has been detailed with such force and precision in the introduction to "THE ROVERS," that nothing remains to be said on that head-indeed the simple perusal of "The Rovers" would supersede the necessity of any critique on the merits of the German drama in general; since there is not a folly, however gross, an absurdity, however monstrous, to be found in that charming jeu d'esprit, that I would not undertake to parallel from one or other of the most admired works of the German Shakspeares. Why it has not been produced on the stage is to me a matter of astonishment, since it unites the beauties of "The Stranger" and "Pizarro;" and, though perfectly German in its sentiments, is Eng lish in its language-intelligible English; which is infinitely more than can be said of the translation from Kotzebue, so maliciously attributed to Mr. Sheridan.
In a word, if you take from the German dramas their horrid blasphemies, their wanton invocations of the sacred Name, and their minute and ridiculous stage directions, which seem calculated to turn the whole into a pantomime, nothing will remain but a caput mortuum, a vapid and gloomy mass of matter, unenlightened by a single ray of genius or nature. If you leave them their blasphemies, &c., you have then a nameless something, insipid though immoral, tedious though impious, and stupid though extravagant!-so much so, that, as a judicious writer well observes," it becomes a doubt which are the greatest objects of contempt and scorn, those who conceived and wrote them, or those who have the effrontery to praise them." Yet" these be thy gods, O Israel!" and to these are sacrificed our taste, our sense, and our national honour.
That Arno's " easy strains" were coarse and rough,
man in the present instances, yet I observe such acuteness of perception in his general criticism, that I should have styled him the "profound" instead of the "gentle" Bell, if I had not previously applied the epithet to a still greater man, (absit invidia dicto,) to-Mr. T. Vaughan. I trust that this incidental preference will create no jealousy-for though, as Virgil properly remarks, “an oaken staff EACH merits," yet I need not inform a gentle. man, who, like Mr. Bell, reads Shakspeare every day after dinner, that "if two men ride upon a horse, one of them must ride behind."
*St. John, &c. Having already observed in the Introduction, that the Mæviad was nearly finished two years since, and consequently before the death of this gentleman, I have only to add here, that though I should not have introduced any of the heroes of the Baviad, quorum Flaminia tegitur cinis, atque Latina, yet I scarcely think it necessary to make any changes for the sake of omitting such as have passed ad plures, in the interval between writing and publishing.
The reader will find, p. 181, another instance of my small pretensions to prophecy, and probably regret it more than the present.
Greathead's Regent.-Of this tragedy, which was "recommended to the world" by the monthly reviewers and others, as "the work of a SCHOLAR," I want words to express my just contempt. The plot of it is childish, he conduct absurd, the language unintelligible, the thoughts false and unnatural, the metaphors incongruous, the general style grovelling and base; and, to sum up all in a word, the whole piece the most execrable abortion of stupidity that ever disgraced the stage.
It is to be wished that critics by profession, sensible of the influence which their opinions necessarily have on the public taste, would divest themselves of their partialities when they sit down to the execution of, what I hope they consider as, a solemn duty. We should not then find them, as in the present instance, prostituting their applause on works that call for universal reprobation. It is but fair, however, to observe, that Mr. Parsons has added his all-sufficient suffrage to that of the reviewers, in favour of Mr. Greathead.
"O bard! to whom belongs
* Crusca's "true sublime." The words between inverted commas in this and the following verses, are Mr. Bell's. They contain, as the reader sees, a short character of the works to which they are respectively affixed. Though I have the misfortune to differ from this gentle-When I first read these, and other high sounding praises, scattered over reviews, magazines, newspapers, and 1
1 So Kotzebue and Schiller are styled by the critical reviewers.
Bid me my censure, as I may, deplore,
know not what, I was naturally led to conclude that Mr. G. had succeeded better in his smaller pieces than in his tragedy, and thus justified in some degree the cry of his "learning," &c. &c. But no-all was a blank!
Here are a few samples of the "Ilyssean dews infused by Mr. Greathead into his own Avon"-muddied, I suppose, and debased by the home-bred streamlet of one Shakspeare.
"In fuller presence we descry, 'Mid mountain rocks-a deity Than eye of man shall e'er behold In living grace of sculptured gold." More matter for a May morning!
"ODE ON APATHY.
"Accursed be dull lethargic Apathy,
She feebly throws on all her withering sight,
While too observant of her sway,
I hope the reader understands it.
"ODE TO DUEL.
"Never didst thou appear
While Tiber's sons gave law to all the world;
To glut their sanguinary rage,
Not citizens but gladiators fall.
And savage broils 'twixt nobles are no more.
And these are ODES, good heavens! "After the manner of Pindar," I take for granted.
Enough of Mr. Greathead. I have only to add, that I am actuated by no personal dislike; for I can say with truth, (what, indeed, I can of all the heroes of the Mæviad,) that I have not the slightest knowledge of him. But the daws have strutted too long: it is more than time to strip them of their adventitious plumage; and if, in doing it, I should pluck off any feathers which originally belonged to them, they have only to thank their own vanity, or the forwardness of their injudicious friends.
And more, perhaps, than Jerningham can do. No; Mr. Jerningham has lately written a tragedy and a farce; both extremely well spoken of by the reviewers, and both -gone to the "pastry-cooks."
I once thought that I understood something of faces, but I must read my Lavater again, I find. That a gentleman with the "physiognomie d'un mouton qui rêve" should suddenly start forth a new Tyrtæus, and pour a dreadful note through a cracked war-trump, amazes me.-Well, FRONTI NULLA FIDES shall henceforth be my motto.
In the pride of his heart Mr. Jerningham has taken the instrument from his mouth, and given me a smart stroke on the head with it: this is fair,
"Cædimus, inque vicem præbemus crura sagittis." He has also levelled a deadly blow at a gentleman who, most assuredly, never dreamed of having our Drawcansir for an antagonist: this, though not quite so fair, is not altogether unprecedented;
"An eagle, towering in his pride of place, Was by a mousing owl hawk'd at !"
I "These lines (Mr. Parsons says) are not Greathead's." But they are published with his name in the Album; which, exclusive of their stupidity, is rufficient authority for me. If our doughty critic chooses to take them to humself, I can have no objection; for, after all, pugna est de paupere regno!
"Tis not enough to dole out Ahs! and Ohs! Through Kemble's thorax, or through Bensley's
To crowd our stage with scaffolds, or to fright
When Mason leads Elfrida forth to view,
I stop not to inquire if all be just,
But take her goodness, as her grief, on trust,
Then, then I hate the magic that deceived,
There is a trait of scholarship in Mr. Jerningham's last poem, which should not be overlooked; more especially as it is the only one. Having occasion to mention "Agave and her infant," he subjoins the following explanation: "Alluding to Agave, who in a delirium slew her child. See Ovid." No, I'll take Mr. Jerningham's word for it, though I had twenty Ovids before me.
* When this was written, which was while the Opera House was used for plays, the "learned justices" here enumerated, together with the others not yet taken, were accustomed to flock nightly to this BENCH, from which the unlettered vulgar were always scornfully repelled with an ovdεis apovoos.
I have not heard whether the New Theatre be possessed of such a one; I think not; for critics are no more gregarious than spiders. Like them, they might do great things in concert; but, like them too, they usually end with devouring one another.
† Arno.-The dreams of this gentleman, which continue to make their appearance in the Oracle, under the name of Thespis, are not always of Nereids. He dreamed one, night that Mr. Pope played Posthumus with less spirit than usual, and it was Mr. Johnston singing Grammachree! Another night, that the Mourning Bride might have been better cast, and lo! it was the Comedy of Errors that was played.
This was rather unfortunate; but the reader must have already reflected, from the strange occupations of these self-created judges," (here faithfully described,) that sleeping or waking, they were attentive to every thing but what passed before their eyes.
Pauper videri cotta vult, et est pauper!
§ Mr. Parsons' note on this passage is-"Did you BELIEVE? could you possibly be so ignorant ?"-Even so. But I humbly conceive that Mr. Mason, who seduced my unsuspecting youth, is equally culpable with myself
1 See his "Peace, Ignominy, and Destruction," p. 15.
Not so, when Edgar,* made, in some strange plot,
Where not one grace, one elegance of style,
Let this, ye Cruscans,† if your heads be made
With a wild waste of words; sound without sense,
There is also one William Shakspeare, who, I am ready to take my oath, is a notorious offender in this way; having led not only me, but divers others, into the most gross and ridiculous errors; making us laugh, cry, &c., for persons whom we ought to have known to be mere nonentities.
But Mr. Parsons has happily obtained an obdurate and impassable head: let him, therefore, "give God thanks, and make no boast of it." He is a wise and a wary reader, and follows the most judicious Bottom, who having, like himself, too much sagacity to be imposed upon by a feigned character, was laudably anxious to undeceive the world. "No," quoth he, "let him thrust his face through the lion's neck, and say, if you think I come hither as a lion, it were pity of my life-no, I am no such thing: I am a man, as other men are;-and then, indeed, let him name his name, and tell them plainly he is SNUG the joiner."
Edgar Atheling.-See the "Battle of Hastings," a tragedy by Mr. Cumberland.
† Ye Cruscans!
O voi, che della Crusca vi chiamate,
Di quella a tutto pasto vi saziate! Lorenzo." A lamentable tragedy by Della Crusca, mixed full of pleasant mirth." The house laughed a-good at it, but Mr. Harris cried sadly. Here is another instance, if it were wanted, of the bad effects of prostitute applause. Could Mr. Harris, if his mind had not been previously warped by the eternal puffs of Bell and his followers, have supposed, for a moment, that a knack of stringing together "hoar hills," and "rippling rills," and "red skies glare," and "thin, thin air," qualified a man for writing tragedy }
Forbid it, inspiration! Thus your pain
Is void, and ye have lived, for them, in vain;
* Laura's tinkling trash, &c.-I had amassed a world of this "tinkling trash" for the behoof of the reader, but having, fortunately for him, mislaid it, and not being disposed to undertake again the drudgery of wading through Mr. Bell's collections, I can only offer the little which occurs to my memory. Of this little, the merits must be principally shared among Mrs. Robinson, Mrs. Cowley, and Mr. Merry;
"Et vos, O Lauri, carpam, et te, proxima Myrte,
Where Greenland darkness drinks the beamy sky;"
Thy hot pulse o'er the quivering string!"
The yelling demons of the deep,
The bosom of the welkin sweep."
The envious stars withdraw their gleams of gold,
The sapphire cup that fairy zephyrs bring!" On considering these and the preceding lines, I was tempted to indulge a wish that the Blue Stocking club would issue an immediate order to Mr. Bell to examine the cells of Bedlam. Certainly, if an accurate transcript were made from the "darkened walls" once or twice a quarter, an Album might be presented to the fashionable world, more poetical, and far more rational, than any which they have lately honoured with their applause. "Why does thy stream of sweetest song
Foam on the mountain's aurmuring side,
This is an admirable reason for his crying-but what! Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire. Mr. Bell is in raptures with it, and very properly recommends it to the admiration of Della Crusca, as being the production of "a congenial soul." There is also another judicious critic, one Dr. Tasker, (should it not be Dr. Trus ler?) who has given a decided opinion, it seems, in favour of the writer's abilities; which may console her for the sneers of fifty such envious scribblers as the author of the Baviad.
And first you shall hear what Mrs. Robinson says of Dr. Tasker."The learned and ingenious Dr. Tasker, in the third volume of his elegant and critical works, has PRONOUNCED some of Mrs. Robinson's poems superior to those of Milton on the same subject, particularly her Address to the Nightingale. The praises of so competent and disinterested a judge, STAMPS celebrity that neither time nor envy can obliterate."-Oracle, Dec. 10.
Next you shall hear what Dr. Tasker says of Mrs. Robinson.
"In ancient Greece by two fair forms were seen
"This lady,equally celebrated in the polite and literary circles, has honoured Mr."-Lo! the Dr. has dwindled