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women were by no means inordinately frequent or mere matters of course; and that the standard of personal honour was much higher than would appear from the comedies. We may be assisted to comprehend the real state of the matter by observing the condition of the French literature of fiction at this very moment. Any

who should form his opinion of French people entirely from their novels could come to no other conclu. sion than that they were entirely given up to the pursuit of illicit love, and deemed nothing else worthy of the attention of a rational creature. Yet we know that as a matter of fact the French nation does think of very different things; that a ridiculously small corner of actual life is conventionally made to stand for the whole of it; that the novels which profess to depict manners, while accurate in their delineation of certain characters and certain phases, would entirely mislead those whose notions should be solely derived from them. It would be nearer the truth, though still erroneous, to take the reverse view, and maintain that works composed for the sake of amusement are more likely to usher the reader into an ideal world than to weary him with familiar scenes and incidents. So far as this is the case, the English society of the seventeenth century must be acquitted at the expense of the dramatists, who incur the obloquy of missing both the two great ends of comedy, for they neither delineate nor correct it. Possibly the unsatisfactory position which writers of so much wit and sense thus came to occupy may be partly accounted for by the influence of Ben Jonson. We have seen Dryden almost hesitating to avow his preference for Shakespeare to Jonson, we shall see that Butler has no hesitation in asserting the superiority of Jonson to Shakespeare as an obvious thing ; nor could it well be otherwise in so essentially prosaic an age. This implies the triumph of the

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comedy of types over the comedy of nature. Jonson, like Menander, impersonates particular characteristics, or situations in life; Shakespeare paints human nature as large as it really is. We have seen how the exhibition of these so-called 'humours' forms the staple of the comedy of Shadwell. The handling of Congreve and his associates, who had the example of Molière before them, is far superior, but the principle is at bottom the same. A characteristic is incarnated in a personage, and often indicated by his very name.

Instead of the names bestowed by fancy, or borrowed from romance, the Benedicts, Rosalinds, Imogens, Mirandas, we have Witwoulds, Maskwells, Millamants, and Gibbets. Each character being thus more or less conventional, the tout ensemble is necessarily conventional too; and to this extent the world of these dramatists may be fairly regarded as ideal; while it is not true that they had any definite purpose of creating such a world, or that it was so dissimilar to actual society as to interfere with the appreciation of the audience. Their works may be compared to the novels of Mr. George Meredith, who would have been a great comic writer if he had lived in the days of Congreve. No one would call Mr. Meredith's novels unnatural; yet his works will convey but little notion of the English society of the nineteenth century to posterity, who will only need to turn to George Eliot and Anthony Trollope to realize it as no bygone age was ever realized before.

Wycherley has been characterized by Professor Ward as the Timon of his stage, and the description is excellent, if not understood of one animated by moral indignation at its immorality, but of one impelled by temperament to insist upon and exaggerate its most disagreeable features. The two most important of his plays, The Country Wife and The Plain Dealer, are rather tragi-comedies than comedies, especially the latter, of which Professor Ward justly observes, Working within the limits of his own horizon, with nothing perceptible to him but a vicious world hateful on account of the palpable grossness of its outward pretences, Wycherley must be allowed to have worked with vigour and effect, and to have produced what is indisputably one of the most powerful dramas of its age.' Its unpardonable sin is to be to a great extent an adaptation of Molière's Misanthrope, and to pervert and brutalize whatever is most admirable in that masterpiece. Love in a Wood and The Gentleman Dancing Master are comparatively slight performances, but there is great humour in the representation in the latter of the disguised lover helped out of all his scrapes by the self-complacent credulity of the young lady's father and his own rival, whose business it is to detect him. The delineation of the father as a merchant returned from long residence in Spain, enamoured of Spanish manners, and quoting the language at every second sentence, is one of those which justify Aubrey's remark that the dramatists of his age would be soon forgotten, because their ephemeral 'humours' would have ceased to be intelligible. The character, if still possible in Wycherley's time, ceased to be so very soon afterwards. It must, however, have been popular if it gave or helped to give the nickname of Don Diego to the Spaniards, which survives to this day in .dago,' the familiar appellation of South Americans in the United States. One characteristic of all Wycherley's comedies should be mentioned, their length, which confirms the impression that he composed with slowness. When,' says Hazlitt,' he got hold of a good thing, or sometimes even of a bad one, he was determined to make the most of it, and might have said with Dogberry, “Had I the tediousness of a king, I could find it in my heart to bestow it all upon your worships.”'

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If Wycherley is the satirist of Restoration comedy, Congreve is its wit; but at the same time he betrays a vein of much deeper feeling than Wycherley, and, notwithstanding the contrary opinion of Hazlitt, his characters appear to us more easily appreciated and more readily remembered. His insight into women in particular is so considerable that it is a real loss that he never attempted to paint a noble one, who would indeed have looked strangely amid the crowd of his heartless, or frivolous, or absurd people, but whom he might have rendered a true dramatic success. Both The Double Dealer and The Way of the World border upon tragedy, and suggest how much finer things Congreve might have written had the taste of his time allowed of tragedy in prose; or if, by treating ordinary domestic life in a serious spirit, even though in verse, he could have taken the step that was afterwards taken by Lillo. He evidently felt conscious of innate tragic power, and essayed heroic tragedy in The Mourning Bride, where, hampered by the conventionalities he dared not transgress, he broke down with a romantic plot, romantic characters, and stilted blank verse, all things most repugnant to his genius. Johnson's praise of a passage in this play as 'the most poetical paragraph in the whole mass of English poetry,' and which is actually fine enough to survive such extravagant laudation, is well known. It will be instructive to set it side by side with a still finer passage in a modern tragedy, as examples of the classic and romantic schools of composition. It is the strength and weakness of Congreve that his thoughts are such as would naturally have occurred to any one in the situation of his personages, and that his sole part is to afford them dignified expression; while Beddoes' thoughts are the thoughts of a poet, and as such might well appear fantastic and overstrained to an average audience:

'Almeria. It is a fancied noise, for all is hushed.
Leonora. It bore the accent of a human voice.

Almeria. It was thy fear, or else some transient wind
Whistling through hollows of this vaulted aisle.
We'll listen.

Leonora. Hark !

Almeria. No, all is hushed and still as death. 'Tis dreadful. How reverend is the face of this tall pile, Whose ancient pillars rear their marble heads To bear aloft its arched and ponderous roof, By its own weight made steadfast and immovable, Looking tranquillity! It strikes an awe And terror on my aching sight; the tombs And monumental caves of death look cold, And shoot a chillness to my trembling heart. Give me thy hand ! Oh, speak to me! nay, speak ! and let me hear Thy voice; my own affrights me with its echoes.'

Mourning Bride, act ii., sc. 3.


'Duke. Deceived and disappointed vain desires !
Why laugh I not, and ridicule myself?
'Tis still, and cold, and nothing in the air
But an old grey twilight, or of eve or morn
I know not which, dim as futurity,
And sad and hoary as the ghostly past
Fills up the space.

Hush! not a wind is there,
Not a cloud sails over the battlements,
Not a bell tolls the hour. Is there an hour ?
Or is not all gone by which here did hive
Of men and their life's ways ? Could I but hear
The ticking of a clock, or someone breathing,
Or e'en a cricket's chirping, or the grating
Of the old gates amid the marble tombs,
I should be sure that this was still the world.
Hark! Hark! Doth nothing stir ?
No light, and still no light, besides this ghost
That mocks the dawn, unaltered ? Still no sound ?
No voice of man? No cry of beast? No rustle

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