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The bare name of the dramatic unities is apt to excite revolting ideas of pedantry, arts of poetry, and French criticism. With none of these do I wish to annoy the reader. I conceive that it may be said of those unities as of fire and water, that they are good servants but bad masters. In perfect rigour they were never imposed by the Greeks, and they would be still heavier shackles if they were closely riveted on our own drama. It would be worse than useless to confine dramatic action literally and immoveably to one spot, or its imaginary time to the time in which it is represented. On the other hand, dramatic time and place cannot surely admit of indefinite expansion. It would be better, for the sake of illusion and probability*, to change the scene from Windsor to London, than from London to Pekin; it would look more like reality if a messenger, who went and returned in the course of the play, told us of having performed a journey of ten or twenty, rather than of a thousand miles; and if the spectator had neither that nor any other circumstance to make him ask how so much could be performed in so short a time.

In an abstract view of dramatic art, its principles must appear to lie nearer to unity than to the opposite extreme of disunion, in our conceptions of time and place. Giving | up the law of unity in its literal rigour, there is still a latitude of its application which may preserve proportion and harmony in the drama +.

The brilliant and able Schlegel has traced the principles of what he denominates the ro

An eye like Mars to threaten and command; A station like the herald Mercury, New lighted on a heaven-kissing hillWho can read these lines without perceiving that Shakspeare had imbibed a deeper feeling of the beauty of Pagan mythology than a thousand pedants could have imbibed in their whole lives?"-Life of Shakspeare, p. xvi.]

* Dr. Johnson has said, with regard to local unity in the drama, that we can as easily imagine ourselves in one place as another. So we can, at the beginning of a play; but having taken our imaginary station with the poet in one country, I do not believe with Dr. Johnson, that we change into a different one with perfect facility to the imagination. Lay the first act in Europe, and we surely do not naturally expect to find the second in America.

[ For some admirable remarks on dramatic unities, see Scott's Essay on the Drama (Misc. Pr. Works, vol. vi. p. 298-321). Dr. Johnson has numerous obligations to an excellent paper of Farquhar's; a fact not generally enough known.]

mantic, in opposition to the classical drama; and conceives that Shakspeare's theatre, when tried by those principles, will be found not to have violated any of the unities, if they are largely and liberally understood. I have no doubt that Mr. Schlegel's criticism will be found to have proved this point in a considerable number of the works of our mighty poet. There are traits, however, in Shakspeare, which, I must own, appear to my humble judgment incapable of being illustrated by any system or principles of art. I do not allude to his historical plays, which, expressly from being historical, may be called a privileged class. But in those of purer fiction, it strikes me that there are licences conceded indeed to imagination's "chartered libertine," but anomalous with regard to anything which can be recognised as principles in dramatic art. When Perdita, for instance, grows from the cradle to the marriage altar in the course of the play, I can perceive no unity in the design of the piece, and take refuge in the supposition of Shakspeare's genius triumphing and trampling over art. Yet Mr. Schlegel, as far as I have observed, makes no exception to this breach of temporal unity; nor, in proving Shakspeare a regular artist on a mighty scale, does he deign to notice this circumstance, even as the ultima Thule of his licence ‡. If a man contends that dramatic laws are all idle restrictions, I can understand him; or if he says that Perdita's growth on the stage is a trespass on art, but that Shakspeare's fascination over and over again redeems it, I can both understand and agree with him. But when I am left to infer that all this is right on romantic principles, I confess that those principles become too romantic for my conception. If Perdita may be born and married on the stage, why may not

[ Mitis. How comes it that in some one play we see so many seas, countries, and kingdoms, passed over with such admirable dexterity?

Cordatus. O, that but shows how well the authors can travel in their vocation, and outrun the apprehension of their auditory.-Every Man out of his Humour.

This was said in 1599, and at The Globe when Shakspeare, that very year, perhaps the performance before, had crossed the seas in his chorus from England to France and from France to England, with admirable dexterity. Jonson wrote to recommend his own unities, and to instruct his audience; not,as the Shakspeare commentators would have us believe, to abuse Shakspeare, if not in his own house, in the very theatre in which he was a large sharer, and unquestionably the main-stay.]

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Webster's Duchess of Malfi lie-in between the against the too abstract conception of his chaacts, and produce a fine family of tragic chil-racters, pronouncing them rather personified dren! Her Grace actually does so in Web- humours than natural beings, did him, neverster's drama, and he is a poet of some genius, theless, the justice to quote one short and though it is not quite so sufficient as Shak- lovely passage from one of his masques, and [speare's, to give a "sweet oblivious antidote" the beauty of that passage probably turned the to such perilous stuff." It is not, however, attention of many readers to his then neglected either in favour of Shakspeare's or of Web- compositions +. It is indeed but one of the ster's genius that we shall be called on to make many beauties which justify all that has been allowance, if we justify in the drama the lapse said of Jonson's lyrical powers. In that fanof such a number of years as may change the ciful region of the drama (the Masque) he apparent identity of an individual. If roman- stands as pre-eminent as in comedy; or if he tic unity is to be so largely interpreted, the can be said to be rivalled, it is only by Milton. old Spanish dramas, where youths grow grey- And our surprise at the wildness and sweetbeards upon the stage, the mysteries and ness of his fancy in one walk of composition is moralities, and productions teeming with the increased by the stern and rigid (sometimes wildest anachronism, might all come in with rugged) air of truth which he preserves in their grave or laughable claims to romantic the other. In the regular drama he certainly legitimacy. holds up no romantic mirror to nature. His object was to exhibit human characters at once strongly comic and severely and instructively true; to nourish the understanding, while he feasted the sense of ridicule. He is more anxious for verisimilitude than even for comic effect. He understood the humours and peculiarities of his species scientifically, and brought them forward in their greatest contrasts and subtlest modifications. If Shakspeare carelessly scattered illusion, Jonson skilfully prepared it. This is speaking of Jonson in his happiest manner. There is a great deal of harsh and sour fruit in his miscellaneous poetry. It is acknowledged that in the drama he frequently overlabours his delineation of character, and wastes it tediously upon uninteresting humours and peculiarities. He their own, Jonson would not have a rag to cover his nakedness:" a remark that called a taunting reply from Gifford

Nam sic

Et Laberi mimos ut pulchra poemata mirer.—HOR. On a general view, I conceive it may be said, that Shakspeare nobly and legitimately enlarged the boundaries of time and place in the drama; but in extreme cases, I would rather agree with Cumberland, to waive all mention of his name in speaking of dramatic laws, than accept of those licences for art which are not art, and designate irregularity by the name of order.

There were other poets who started nearly coeval with Ben Jonson in the attempt to give a classical form to our drama. Daniel, for instance, brought out his tragedy of Cleopatra in 1594; but his elegant genius wanted the 1 strength requisite for great dramatic efforts. Still more unequal to the task was the Earl of Sterline, who published his cold "monarchic tragedies," in 1604. The triumph of founding English classical comedy belonged exclusively to Jonson. In his tragedies it is remarkable that he freely dispenses with the unities, though in those tragedies he brings classical antiquity in the most distinct and learnedly authenticated traits before our eyes. The vindication of his great poetic memory forms an agreeable contrast in modern criticism with the bold bad things which used to be said of him in a former period; as when Young compared him to a bind Samson, who pulled down the ruins of antiquity on his head and buried his genius 1 beneath them. Hurd, though he inveighed

If the ancients," says Headley, "were to reclaim

in one of his most bitter moods. Dryden has beautifully

said of Jonson that you may track him everywhere in the snow of the ancients.]

Namely, the song of Night, in the masque of "The Vision of Delight."

"Break, Phant'sie, from thy cave of cloud,"-p. 117.

[His lyrical poetry forms, perhaps, the most delightful part of his poetical character. In songs and masques, and interludes, his fancy has a wildness and a sweetness that we should not expect from the severity of his dramatic taste. It cannot be said, indeed, that he is always free from metaphysical conceit, but his language is weighty with thought, and polished with elegance. Upon the whole, his merits, after every fair deduction, leave him in possession of a high niche in our literature, and entitle him to be ranked (next to Shakspeare) as the most important benefactor of our early drama.-CAMPBELL, article Jonson in Brewster's Encyclopædia.]

is a moral painter, who delights over much to show his knowledge of moral anatomy. Beyond the pale of his three great dramas, "The Fox," "The Epicene, or Silent Woman," and "The Alchemist," it would not be difficult to find many striking exceptions to that love of truth and probability, which, in a general view, may be regarded as one of his best characteristics. Even within that pale, namely, in his masterly character of Volpone, one is struck with what, if it be not an absolute breach, is at least a very bold stretch, of probability. It is true that Volpone is altogether a being daringly conceived; and those who think that art spoiled the originality of Jonson, may well rectify their opinion by considering the force of imagination which it required to concentrate the traits of such a character as "The Fox;" not to speak of his Mosca, who is the phoenix of all parasites. Volpone himself is not like the common misers of comedy, a mere money-loving dotard-a hard shrivelled old mummy, with no other spice than his avarice to preserve him; he is a happy villain, a jolly misanthrope-a little god in his own selfishness, and Mosca is his priest and prophet. Vigorous and healthy, though past the prime of life, he hugs himself in his arch humour, his successful knavery and imposture, his sensuality and his wealth, with an unhallowed relish of selfish existence. His passion for wealth seems not to be so great as his delight in gulling the human “vultures and gorecrows" who flock round him at the imagined approach of his dissolution; the speculators who put their gold, as they conceive, into his dying gripe, to be returned to them a thousand-fold in his will. Yet still, after this exquisite rogue has stood his trial in a sweat of agony at the scrutineum, and blest his stars at having narrowly escaped being put to the torture, there is something (one would think) a little too strong for probability, in that mischievous mirth and love of tormenting his own dupes, which bring him, by his own folly, a second time within the fangs of justice. "The Fox" and "The Alchemist" seem to have divided Jonson's admirers as to which of them may be considered his masterpiece. In confessing my partiality to the prose comedy of "The Silent Woman," considered merely as a comedy, I am by no means forgetful of the

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rich eloquence which poetry imparts to the two others. But "The Epicene," in my humble apprehension, exhibits Jonson's humour in the most exhilarating perfection*. With due admiration for "The Alchemist," I cannot help thinking the jargon of the chemical jugglers, though it displays the learning of the author, to be tediously profuse. "The Fox" rises to something higher than comic effect. It is morally impressive. It detains us at particular points in serious terror and suspense. But "The Epicene" is purely facetious. I know not, indeed, why we should laugh more at the sufferings of Morose than at those of the sensualist Sir Epicure Mammon, who deserves his miseries much better than the rueful and pitiable Morose. Yet so it is, that, though the feelings of pathos and ridicule seem so widely different, a certain tincture of the pitiable makes comic distress more irresistible. Poor Morose suffers what the fancy of Dante could not have surpassed in description, if he had sketched out a ludicrous Purgatory. A lover of quieta man exquisitely impatient of rude sounds and loquacity, who lived in a retired streetwho barricadoed his doors with mattresses to prevent disturbance to his ears, and who married a wife because he could with difficulty prevail upon her to speak to him-has hardly tied the fatal knot when his house is tempested by female eloquence, and the marriage of him who had pensioned the city-wakes to keep away from his neighbourhood, is celebrated by a concert of trumpets. He repairs to a court of justice to get his marriage if possible dissolved, but is driven back in despair by the intolerable noise of the court. For this marriage how exquisitely we are prepared by the scene of courtship! When Morose questions his intended bride about her likings and habits of life, she plays her part so hypocritically, that he seems for a moment impatient of her reserve, and with the most ludicrous cross feel

[* The plot of The Fox is admirably conceived; and that of The Alchemist, though faulty in the conclusion, is nearly equal to it. In the two comedies of Every Man in his Humour, and Every Man out of his Humour, the plot deserves much less praise, and is deficient at once in interest and unity of action; but in that of The Silent Woman, nothing can exceed the art with which the circumstance upon which the conclusion turns is, until the very last scene, concealed from the knowledge of the reader, while he is tempted to suppose it constantly within his reach.-SIR WALTER SCOTT, Misc. Prose Works, vol. vi. p. 341.]

ings wishes her to speak more loudly, that he may have a proof of her taciturnity from her [ own lips; but, recollecting himself, he gives way to the rapturous satisfaction of having found a silent woman, and exclaims to Cutbeard, "Go thy ways and get me a clergyman presently, with a soft low voice, to marry us, and pray him he will not be impertinent, but

brief as he can."

The art of Jonson was not confined to the cold observation of the unities of place and time, but appears in the whole adaptation of his incidents and characters to the support of each other. Beneath his learning and art he I moves with an activity which may be compared to the strength of a man who can leap and bound under the heaviest armour*.

The works of Jonson bring us into the seventeenth century; and early in that century, our language, besides the great names already mentioned, contains many other poets I whose works may be read with a pleasure independent of the interest which we take in their antiquity.

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Drayton and Daniel, though the most opposite in the cast of their genius, are pre-eminent in the second poetical class of their age, for their common merit of clear and harmonious diction. Drayton is prone to Ovidian conceits, but he plays with them so gaily, that they almost seem to become him as if natural. His feeling is neither deep, nor is the happiness of his fancy of long continuance, but its short April gleams are very beautiful. His Legend of the Duke of Buckingham opens with a fine description. Unfortunately, his descriptions in long poems are, like many fine mornings, succeeded by a cloudy day.

- The lark, that holds observance to the sun,
Quaver'd her clear notes in the quiet air,
And on the river's murmuring base did run,
Whilst the pleased heavens her fairest livery wear;
The place such pleasure gently did prepare,

[ He (Jonson) was deeply conversant in the ancients, both Greek and Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them; there is scarce a poet or historian among the Roman authors of those times whom he has not translated in Sejanus and Catiline. But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch, and what would be theft in other poets is only victory in him. With the spoils of these writers he so represented old Rome to us in its rites, ceremonies, and customs, that if one of their poets had written either of his tragedies we had seen less of it than in him-DRYDEN.]

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Daniel is "somewhat a-flat," as one of his contemporaries said of him†, but he had more sensibility than Drayton, and his moral reflection rises to higher dignity. The lyrical poetry of Elizabeth's age runs often into pastoral insipidity and fantastic carelessness, though there may be found in some of the pieces of Sir Philip Sydney, Lodge, Marlowe, and Breton, not only a sweet wild spirit but an exquisite finish of expression. Of these combined beauties Marlowe's song, "Come live with me, and be my love," is an example. The "Soul's Errand," by whomsoever it was written, is a burst of genuine poetry‡. I know not how that short production has ever affected other readers, but it carries to my imagination an appeal which I cannot easily account for from

[† Bolton in his Hypercritica, 1622.]
+ Vide these Selections, p. 57.

a few simple rhymes. It places the last and
inexpressibly awful hour of existence before
my view, and sounds like a sentence of vanity
on the things of this world, pronounced by a
dying man, whose eye glares on eternity, and
whose voice is raised by strength from another
world. Raleigh, also (according to Putten-
ham), had a "lofty and passionate" vein. It
is difficult, however, to authenticate his poeti-
cal relics. Of the numerous sonnetteers of❘
that time (keeping Shakspeare and Spenser
apart), Drummond and Daniel are certainly the
best. Hall was the master satirist of the age;
obscure and quaint at times, but full of nerve
and picturesque illustration. No contempo-
rary satirist has given equal grace and dignity
to moral censure. Very unequal to him in
style, though often as original in thought, and
as graphic in exhibiting manners, is Donne,
some of whose satires have been modernized
by Popet. Corbet has left some humorous
pieces of raillery on the Puritans. Wither, all
fierce and fanatic on the opposite side, has
nothing more to recommend him in invective,
than the sincerity of that zeal for God's house,
which ate him up. Marston, better known in
the drama than in satire, was characterised by
his contemporaries for his ruffian style. He
has more will than skill in invective.
puts in his blows with love," as the pugilists say of
a hard but artless fighter; a degrading image,
but on that account not the less applicable to
a coarse satirist.

Donne was the "best good-natured man, with the worst-natured Muse." A romantic and uxorious lover, he addresses the object of his real tenderness with ideas that outrage decorum. He begins his own epithalamium with a most indelicate invocation to his bride. His ruggedness and whim are almost proverbially known ‡. Yet there is a beauty of

*Is not the Soul's Errand the same poem with the Soul's Knell, which is always ascribed to Richard Edwards?—If so, why has it been inserted in Raleigh's poems by Sir Egerton Brydges? They are distinct poems.]

[t Would not Donne's satires, which abound with so much wit, appear more charming if he had taken care of his words and his numbers? ** ** I may safely say of this present age, that if we are not so great wits as Donne, yet certainly we are better poets.-DRYDEN.]

[Nothing could have made Donne a poet, unless as great a change had been worked in the internal structure of his ears, as was wrought in elongating those of Midas.SOUTHEY, Specimens, p. xxiv.]

thought which at intervals rises from his chaotic imagination, like the form of Venus smiling on the waters. Giles and Phineas Fletcher possessed harmony and fancy. The simple Warner has left, in his "Argentile and Curan," perhaps the finest pastoral episode in our language.

Browne was an elegant describer of rural scenes, though incompetent to fill them with life and manners. Chalkhill § is a writer of pastoral romance, from whose work of Thealma and Clearchus a specimen should have been given in the body of these Selections, but was omitted by an accidental oversight. Chalkhill's numbers are as musical as those of any of his contemporaries, who employ the same form of versification. It was common with the writers of the heroic couplet of that age to bring the sense to a full and frequent pause in the middle of the line. This break, by relieving the uniformity of the couplet measure, sometimes produces a graceful effect and a varied harmony which we miss in the exact and unbroken tune of our later rhyme; a beauty of which the reader will probably be sensible, in perusing such lines of Chalkhill's

as these:

"And ever and anon he might well hear
A sound of music steal in at his car,

As the wind gave it being. So sweet an air
Would strike a siren mute."

This relief, however, is used rather too liber-
ally by the elder rhymists, and is perhaps as
often the result of their carelessness as of their
good taste. Nor is it at all times obtained by

them without the sacrifice of one of the most important uses of rhyme; namely, the distinctness of its effect in marking the measure. The chief source of the gratification which the ear finds in rhyme is our perceiving the emphasis of sound coincide with that of sense. In other words, the rhyme is best placed on the most emphatic word in the sentence. But it is nothing unusual with the ancient couplet writers, by laying the rhyme on unimportant words, to disappoint the ear of this pleasure, and to exhibit the restraint of rhyme without its emphasis.

§ Chalkhill was a gentleman and a scholar, the friend of Spenser. He died before he could finish the fable of his "Thealma and Clearchus," which was published, long after his death, by Isaak Walton. [And has been since reprinted; one of Mr. Singer's numerous contributions to our literature.]

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