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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 mopeings-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

-smouldering 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, Shakespear'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 excellences you mention. Every word in him is a picture. Pray put me the following lines into the tongue of our modern Dramatics:

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass:
I, that am rudely stampt, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph:

I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up— And what follows. To me they appear untranslatable; and if this be the case, our language is greatly degenerated. However, the affectation of imitating Shakespear may doubtless be carried too far; and is no sort of excuse for sentiments ill-suited, or speeches ill-timed, which I believe is a little the case with me. I guess the most faulty expressions may be these-silken son of dalliancedrowsier pretensions--wrinkled beldams-arched the hearer's brow and riveted his eyes in fearful extasie. These are easily altered or omitted: and indeed if the thoughts be wrong or superfluous, there is nothing easier than to leave out the whole. The first ten or twelve lines are, I believe, the best;* and as for the rest, I was betrayed into a good deal of it by Tacitus; only what he has said in five words, I imagine I have said in fifty lines. Such is the misfortune of imitating the inimitable. Now, if you are of my opinion, una litura may do the business better than a dozen; and you need not fear unravelling my web. I am a sort of spider; and have little else to do but spin it over

*The lines which he means here are from-thus ever grave and undistured reflection to Rubellius lives. For the part of the scene which he sent in his former letter began there. Mason.

again, or creep to some other place and spin there. Alas! for one who has nothing to do but amuse himself, I believe my amusements are as little amusing as most folks. But no matter; it makes

the hours pass; and is better than έv åμalíą kai ἀμεσίᾳ καταβιῶναι. Adieu.


You know

To begin with the conclusion of your letter which is Greek, I desire that you will quarrel no more with your manner of passing you time. In my opinion it is irreproachable, especially as it produces such excellent fruit; and if I, like a saucy bird, must be pecking at it, you ought to consider that it is because I like it. No una litura I beg you, no unravelling of your web, dear Sir! only pursue it a little further, and then one shall be able to judge of it a little better. the crisis of a play is in the first act; tion or salvation wholly rests there. first act is over, every body suspends his vote; so how do you think I can form, as yet, any just idea of the speeches in regard to their length or shortness? The connection and symmetry of such little parts with one another must naturally escape me, as not having the plan of the whole in my head; neither can I decide about the thoughts

its damnaBut till that

whether they are wrong or superfluous; they may have some future tendency which I perceive not. The style only was free to me, and there I find we are pretty much of the same sentiment: for you say the affectation of imitating Shakespear may doubtless be carried too far; I say as much and no more. For old words we know are old gold, provided they are well chosen. Whatever Ennius was, I do not consider Shakespear as a dunghill in the least: On the contrary, he is a mine of ancient ore, where all our great modern poets have found their advantage. I do not know how it is; but his old expressions* have more energy in them than ours, and are even more adapted to poetry; certainly, where they are judiciously and sparingly inserted, they add a certain grace to the composition; in the same manner as Poussin gave a beauty to his pictures by his knowledge in the ancient proportions: But should he, or any other painter, carry the imitation too far, and neglect that best of models Nature, I am afraid it would prove a very flat performance. To finish this long

* Shakespear's energy dees not arise so much from these old expressions, (most of which were not old in his time) but from his artificial management of them. This artifice in the great Poet is developed with much exactness by Dr. Hurd in his excellent note on this passage in Horace's Ep. ad Pisones.


Dixeris egregiè, notum si callida verbum
Reddiderit junctura novum."

See Hurd's Horace, Vol. 1st. Edit. 4th, p. 49.-Mason.

criticism: I have this further notion about old words revived, (is not this a pretty way of finishing?) I think them of excellent use in tales; they add a certain drollery to the comic, and a romantic gravity to the serious, which are both charming in their kind; and this way of charming, Dryden understood very well. One need only read Milton to acknowledge the dignity they give the Epic. But now comes my opinion that they ought to be used in Tragedy more sparingly, than in most kinds of poetry. Tragedy is designed for public representation, and what is designed for that should be certainly most intelligible. I believe half the audience that come to Shakespear's play do not understand the half of what they hear.-But finissons enfin.-Yet one word more.-You think the ten or twelve first lines the best, now I am for the fourteen last ;* add, that they contain not one word of antientry.

I rejoice you found amusement in Joseph Andrews. But then I think your conceptions of Paradise a little upon the Bergerac. Les Lettres du Seraphim R. à Madame la Cherubinesse de Q. What a piece of extravagance would there be !

And now you must know that my body con

* He means the conclusion of the first scene.-But here and throughout his criticism on old words, he is not so consistent as his correspondent; for he here insists that all antientry should be struck out, and in a former passage he admits it may be used sparingly.—Mason.

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