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Why then stays my sovereign,
A GR IPPIN A. Yes, I will be gone, But not to Antium—all shall be confess'd, Whate'er the frivolous tongue of giddy fame Has spread among the crowd; things, that but whisper'd Have arch'd the hearer's brow, and rivetted His eyes in fearful ecstacy: no matter What; so 't be strange, and dreadful.-Sorceries, Assassinations, poisonings—the deeper My guilt, the blacker his ingratitude. And you, ye manes of ambition's victim, Enshrined Claudius, with the pitied ghosts Of the Syllani, doom'd to early death, (Ye unavailing horrors, fruitless crimes!) If from the realms of night my voice ye hear, In lieu of penitence, and vain remorse, Accept my vengeance. Tho' by me ye bled, He was the cause. My love, my fears for him Dried the soft springs of pity in my heart, And froze them up with deadly cruelty. Yet if your injur'd shades demand my fate, If murder cries for murder, blood for blood, Let me not fall alone; but crush his pride, And sink the traitor in his mother's ruin. - Exeunt.
SCENE II. oTHo, POPPAEA.
Thus far we're safe. Thanks to the rosy queen
* * + + sk # *
III. M. R. W. EST TO M. R. G. R. A. Y. Popes, April 4, 1742. I own in general I think Agrippina's speech too long;* but how to retrench it, I know not: but I have something else to say, and that is in relation to the style, which appears to me too antiquated. Racine was of another opinion; he no where gives you the phrases of Ronsard: his language is the language of the times, and that of the purest sort; so that his French is reckoned a standard. I will not decide what style is fit for our English stage; but I should rather choose one that bordered upon Cato, than upon Shakspeare. One may imitate (if one can) Shakspeare's manner, his surprising strokes of true nature, his expressive force in painting characters, and all his other beauties; preserving at the same time our own language. Were Shakspeare alive now, he would write a different style from what he did. These are my sentiments upon these matters: perhaps I am wrong, for I am neither a Tarpa, nor am I quite an Aristarchus. You see I write freely both of you and Shakspeare; but it is as good as writing not freely, where you know it is acceptable. I have been tormented within this week with a most violent cough; for when once it sets up its note, it will go on, cough after cough, shaking and tearing me for half an hour together; and then it leaves me in a great sweat, as much fatigued as if I had been labouring at the plough. All this description of my cough in prose, is only to introduce another description of it in verse, perhaps not worth your perusal; but it is very * The editor has obviated this objection, not by retrenching, but by putting part of it into the mouth of Aceronia, and by breaking it in a few other places. Originally it was one continued speech from the line ‘Thus ever grave and undis
#. reflection’ to the end of the scene; which was undoubtedly too long for the lungs of any actress.
short, and besides has this remarkable in it, that it was the production of four o'clock in the morning, while I lay in my bed tossing and coughing, and all unable to sleep.–
Ante omnes morbos importunissima tussis,
Do not mistake me, I do not condemn Tacitus : I was then inclined to find him tedious: the German sedition sufficiently made up for it; and the speech of Germanicus, by which he reclaims his soldiers, is quite masterly. Your new Dunciad I have no conception of. I shall be too late for our dinner if I write any more.
- London, April, Thursday. You are the first who ever made a muse of a cough; to me it seems a much more easy task to versify in one's sleep (that indeed you were of old famous for”), than for want of it. Not the wakeful nightingale (when she had a cough) ever sung so sweetly. I give you thanks for your warble, and wish you could sing yourself to rest. These wicked remains of your illness will sure give way to warm weather and gentle exercise; which I hope you will not omit as the season advances. Whatever low spirits and indolence, the effect of them, may advise to the contrary, I pray you add five steps to your walk daily for my sake; by the help of which in a month's time, I propose to set you on horseback. I talked of the Dunciad as concluding you had seen it; if you have not, do you choose I should get and send it to you? I have myself, upon your recommendation, been reading Joseph Andrews. The incidents are ill laid and without invention; but the characters have a great deal of nature, which always pleases even in her lowest shapes. Parson Adams is perfectly well; so is Mrs. Slipslop, and the story of Wilson; and throughout he shews himself well read in stage-coaches, country squires, inns, and inns.of court. His reflections upon high people and low people, and misses and masters are very good. However the exaltedness of some minds (or rather as I shrewdly suspect their insipidity and want of feeling or observation) may make them insensible to these light things (I mean such as characterize and paint nature), yet surely they are as weighty and much more useful than your grave discourses upon the mind,” the passions, and what not. Now as the paradisaical pleasurest of the Mahometans consist in playing upon the flute and lying with Houris, be mine to read eternal new romances of Marivaux and Crebillon. You are very good in giving yourself the trouble to read and find fault with my long harangues. Your freedom (as you call it) has so little need of apologies, that I should scarce excuse your treating me any otherwise; which, whatever compliment it might be to my vanity, would be making a very ill one to my understanding. As to matter of style, I have this to say; the language
* * I suppose at Eton School.
* He seems here to glance at Hutchinson, the disciple of Shaftsbury; of whom he had not a much better opinion than of his master.
+Whimsically put.—But what shall we say of the present taste of the French, when a writer whom Mr. Gray so justly esteemed as M. Marivaux is now held in such contempt, that Marivauder is a fashionable phrase amongst them, and signifies neither more nor less, than our own fashionable phrase of prosing 2 As to Crebillon, 'twas his “Egaremens du Coeur et de l’Esprit” that our author chiefly esteemed; he had not, I believe, at this time published his more licentious pieces.
of the age” is never the language of poetry; except among the French, whose verse, where the thought or image does not support it, differs in nothing from prose. Our poetry, on the contrary, has a language peculiar to itself; to which almost every one, that has written has added something by enriching it with foreign idioms and derivatives; nay sometimes words of their own composition or invention. Shakspeare and Milton have been great creators this way; and no one more licentious than Pope or Dryden, who perpetually borrow expressions from the former. Let me give you some instances from Dryden, whom every body reckons a great master of our poetical tongue. Full of museful mopings—unlike the trim of love—a pleasant beverage—a roundelay of love—stood silent in his mood—with knots and knares deformed—his ireful mood—in proud array —his boon was granted—and disarray and shameful rout—wayward but wise—furbished for the field—the foiled dodderd oaks—disherited—smouldring flames— retchless of laws—crones old and ugly—the beldam at his side—the grandam-hag—villanize his father's fame. But they are infinite: and our language not being a settled thing (like the French) has an undoubted right to words of an hundred years old, provided antiquity have not rendered them unintelligible. In truth, Shakspeare's language is one of his principal beauties; and he has no less advantage over your Addisons and Rowes in this, than in those other great excellencies you mention. Every word in him is a picture. Pray put me the following lines into the tongue of our modern dra
* Nothing can be more just than this observation; and nothing more likely to preserve our poetry from falling into insipidity, than pursuing the rules here laid down for supporting the diction of it; particularly with respect to the drama.