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eyed urchin, just turned of sixteen, had written in your first volume, or in this very paper; and some copies of verses, in which discerning the versification throughout is, I believe, such judges could detect the promise of future emi- as nobody can be shocked at. The repeated nence. There was, indeed, as yet nothing very permission you give me of dealing freely with striking or original in the conceptions of the you, will, I hope, excuse what I have done; for, young poet. But he was already skilled in the if I have not spared you when I thought seveart of metrical composition. His diction and rity would do you a kindness, I have not manhis music were not those of the great old mas- gled you where I thought there was no absolute ters, but that which his ablest contemporaries need of amputation.” Wycherley continued were labouring to do, he already did best. His to return thanks for all this hacking and hew. style was not richly poetical, but it was always ing, which was, indeed, of inestimable service neat, compact, and pointed. His verse wanted to his compositions. But by degrees his thanks variety of pause, of swell, and of cadence; but began to sound very like reproaches. In priit never grated on the ear by a harsh turn, or vatc he is said to have described Pope as a disappointed it by a feeble close. The youth person who could not cut out a suit, but who was already free of the company of wits, and had some skill in turning old coats. In his was greatly elated at being introduced to the letter to Pope, while he acknowledged that the author of the “Plain Dealer” and the "Country versification of his poems had been greatly Wife.”

improved, he spoke of the whole art of versifi. It is curious to trace the history of the inter-cation with scorn, and sneered at those who course which took place between Wycherley preferred sound to sense. Pope revenged himand Pope-between the representative of the self for this outbreak of spleen by return of age that was going out, and the representative post. He had in his hands a volume of Wy. of the age that was coming in-between the cherley's rhymes, and he wrote to say that this friend of Rochester and Buckingham, and the volume was so full of faults that he could not friend of Lyttleton and Mansfield. At first the correct it without completely defacing the maboy was enchanted by the kindness and conde- nuscript. “I am,” he said, “ equally afraid of scension of his new friend, haunted his door, sparing you, and of offending you by too impuand followed him about like a spaniel, from dent a correction.” This was more than flesh coffee-house to coffee-house. Letters full of and blood could bear: Wycherley reclaimed affection, humility, and fulsome flattery, were his papers, in a letter in which resentment interchanged between the friends. But the shows itself plainly through the thin disguise first ardour of affection could not last. Pope, of civility. Pope, glad to be rid of a troublethough at no time scrupulously delicate in his some and inglorious task, sent back the depowritings, or fastidious as to the morals of his sit; and, by way of a parting courtesy, advised associates, was shocked by the indecency of a the old man to turn his poetry into prose, and rake who, at seventy, was still the representa- assured him that the public would like his tive of the monstrous profligacy of the Restora- thoughts much better without his versification. tion. As he grew older, as his mind expanded Thus ended this memorable correspondence. and his fame rose, he appreciated both himself Wycherley lived some years after the termiand Wycherley more justly. He felt a well- nation of the strange friendship which we have founded contempt for the old gentleman's described. The last scene of his life was verses, and was at no great pains to conceal perhaps, the most scandalous. Ten days before his opinion. Wycherley, on the other hand, his death, at seventy-five, he married a young though blinded by self-love to the imperfections girl, merely in order to injure his nephew; an of what he called his poetry, could not but see act which proves that neither years, nor adverthat there was an immense difference between sity, nor what he called his philosophy, nor his young companion's rhymes and his own. either of the religions which he had at different He was divided between two feelings. Hetimes professed, had taught him the rudiments wished to have the assistance of so skilful a of morality. He died in December, 1715, and hand to polish his lines; and yet he shrank lies in the vault under the church of St. Paul, from the humiliation of being beholden for in Covent-Garden. literary assistance to a lad who might have His bride soon after married a Captain been his grandson. Pope was willing to give Shrimpton, who thus became possessed of a assistance, but was by no means disposed to large collection of manuscripts. These were give assistance and flattery too. He took the sold to a bookseller. They were so full of trouble to retouch whole reams of feeble, stum- erasures and interlineations that no printer bling verses, and inserted many vigorous lines, could decipher them. It was necessary to call which the least skilful reader will distinguish in the aid of a professed critic; and Theobald, in an instant. But he thought that by these the editor of Shakspeare, and the hero of the services he acquired a right to express him- first Danciad, was employed to ascertain tho self in terms which would not, under ordinary true reading. In this way a volume of miscel. circumstances, become a youth when address- lanies in verse and prose was got up for the ing a man of four times his age. In one letter market. The collection derives all its value he tells Wycherley lhat “the worst pieces are from the traces of Pope's hand, which are every such as, to render them very good, would re- where discernible. quire almost the entire new writing of them.” of the moral character of Wycherley it can in another he gives the following account of hardly be necessary for us to say more. His his corrections :-“Though the whole be as fame as a writer rests wholly on his comedies, short again as at first, there is not one thought and chiefly on the last two. Even as a comie mitted but what is a repetition of something I writer, he was neither of the best school, nor

highest in his school. He was in truth a worse, have been hidden, and, as it might appear, de Congreve. His chief merit, like Congreve, stroyed by an education elaborately bad. But lies in the style of his dialogue. But the wit they are called forth into full energy by a virtuwhich lights up the “Plain Dealer” and the sous passion. Her lover, while he adores her “Country Wife” is pale and fickering, when beauty, is too honest a man to abuse the concompared with the gorgeous blaze which daz- fiding tenderness of a creature so charming zles us almost 10 blindness in “Love for Love" | and inexperienced. Wycherley takes this plot and the “Way of the World." Like Congreve into his hands; and forthwith this sweet and —and, indeed, even more than Congreve-graceful courtship becomes a licentious inWycherley is ready to sacrifice dramatic pro- trigue of the lowest and least sentimental kind, priety to the liveliness of his dialogue. The between an impudent London rake and the poet speaks out of the mouths of all his dunces idiot wife of a country squire. We will not and coxcombs, and makes them describe them- go into details. In truth, Wycherley's indecency selves with a good sense and acuteness which is protected against the critics as a skunk is puts them on a level with the wits and heroes. protected against the hunters. It is safe, be We will give two instances, the first which oc- cause it is too filthy to handle, and too noisomo cur to us, froin the “ Country Wife.” There even to approach. are to be found in the world fools who find the It is the same with the “Plain Dealer." How society of old friends insipid, and who are careful has Shakspeare been in “Twelfth always running after new companions. Such Night,” to preserve the dignity and delicacy of a character is a fair subject for comedy. But Viola, under her disguise! Even when wear. nothing can be more absurd than to introduce ing a page's doublei and hose, she is never a man of this sort saying to his comrade—“I mixed up with any transaction which the most can deny you nothing; for though I have fastidious mind could regard as leaving a stain known thee a great while, never go if I do not on her. She is employed by the Duke on an love thee as well as a new acquaintance." That embassy of love to Olivia; but on an embassy town wits, again, have always been rather a of the most honourable kind. Wycherley borheartless class, is true. But none of them, we rows Viola-and Viola forthwith becomes a will answer for it, ever said to a young lady to pander of the basest sort. But the character whom he was making love—“We wits rail and of Manly is the best illustration of our meanmake love often but to show our parts: as we ing. Molière exhibited in his misanthrope a have no affections, so we have no malice." pure and noble mind, which had been sorely

Wycherley's plays are said to have been the vexed by the sight of perfidy and malevolence, produce of long and patient labour. The epi- disguised under the forms of politeness. As ihet of "slow" was early given to him by Ro- every extreme naturally generates its contrary, chester, and was frequently repeated. In truth, Alceste adopts a standard of good and evil dihis mind, unless we are greatly mistaken, was rectly opposed to that of the society which surnaturally a very meager soil, and was forced rounds him. Courtesy seems to him a vice; only by great labour and outlay to bear fruit, and those stern virtues which are neglected by which, after all, was not of the highest flavour. the fops and coquettes of Paris become too He has scarcely more claim to originality than exclusively the objects of his veneration. He Terence. It is not too much to say, thai there is often to blame; he is often ridiculous; but is hardly any thing of the least value in his he is always a good man; and the feeling which plays, of which the hint is not to be found else-lhe inspires is regret that a person so estimable where. The best scenes in the “Gentleman should be so unamiable. Wycherley borrowed Dancing-Master," were suggested by Calderon's Alceste, and turned him-we quote the words Maestro de Danzar, not by any means one of the of so lenient a critic as Mr. Leigh Hunt-into happiest comedies of the great Castilian poet. a ferocious sensualist, who believed himself The “Country Wife" is borrowed from the as great a rascal as he thought everybody Ecole des Muris and the Ecole des Femmes. The else.” The surliness of Molière's hero is groundwork of the “Plain Dealer" is taken copied and caricatured. But the most nausefrom the Misanthrope of Molière. One whole ous libertinism and the most dastardly fraud scene is almost translated from the Critique de are substituted for the purity and integrity of l'Ecole des Fenimes; Fidelia is Shakspeare's the original. And, to make the whole com. Viola stolen, and marred in the stealing; and plete, Wycherley does not seem to have been the Widow Blackacre, beyond comparison aware that he was not drawing the portrait of Wycherley's best comic character, is the an eminently honest man. So depraved was Countess in Racine's Plaideurs, talking the his moral taste, that, while he firmly believed jargon of English instead of that of French he was producing a picture of virtue too exchicane.

alted for the commerce of this world, he was The only thing original about Wycherley— really delineating the greatest rascal that is to the only thing which he could furnish from his be found, even in his own writings. own mind in inexhaustible abundance-was We pass a very severe censure on Wycherprofligacy. It is curious to observe how every ley, when we say that it is a relief to turn from thing that he touched, however pure and noble, him to Congreve. Congreve's writings, intook in an instant the colour of his own mind. deed, are by no means pure, nor was he, as far Compare the Ecole des Femmes with the “Coun- as we are able to judge, a warm-hearted or lry Wife.” Agnes is a simple and amiable high-minded man. Yet, in coming to him, we girl, whose heart is indeed full of love, but of feel that the worst is over-that we are one rolove sanctioned by honour, morality, and remove farther from the Restoration—that we are ligluta. Her natural talents are great. They past the Nadir of national taste and morality


William CONGREVE was born in 1670,* at having written a good play, and shame at Bardsey, in the neighbourhood of Leeds. His having done an ungentlemanlike thing-pre father, a younger son of a very ancient Staf- tended that he had merely scribbled a few fordshire family, had distinguished himself scenes for his own amusement, and affected to among the Cavaliers in the Civil War, was set yield unwillingly to the importunities of those down after the Restoration for the Order of the who pressed him to try his fortune on the Royal Oak, and subsequently settled in Ire- stage. The “Old Bachelor” was seen in land, under the patronage of the Earl of Bur- manuscript by Dryden; one of whose best lington.

qualities was a hearty and generous admiraCongreve passed his childhood and youth tion for the talents of others. He declared that in Ireland. He was sent to school at Kilkenny, he had never seen such a first play; and lent and thence went to the University of Dublin. his services to bring it into a form fit for reHis learning does great honour to his instruct-presentation. Nothing was wanting to the ers. From his writings it appears, not only success of the piece. It was so cast as to bring that he was well acquainted with Latin litera- into play all the comic talent, and to exhibit on ture, but that his knowledge of the Greek poets the boards in one view all the beauty which was such as was not, in his time, common even Drury Lane Theatre, then the only theatre in in a college.

London, could assemble. The result was a When he had completed his academical stu- complete triumph; and the author was gratidies, he was sent to London to study the law, fied with rewards more substantial than the and was entered of the Middle Temple. He applauses of the pit. Montagu, then a Lord of troubled himseif, however, very little about the Treasury, immediately gave him a place, pleading or conveyancing; and gave himself and, in a short time, added the reversion of up to literature and society. Two kinds of another place of much greature value, which, ambition early took possession of his mind, however, did not become vacant till many and often pulled it in opposite directions. He years had elapsed. was conscious of great fertility of thought, and In 1694, Congreve brought out the “Doublepower of ingenious combination. His lively Dealer,” a comedy in which all the powers conversation, his polished manners, and his which had produced the “Old Bachelor show highly respectable connections had obtained themselves, matured by time and improred by for him ready access to the best company. He exercise. But the audience was shocked by longed to be a great writer. He longed to be a the characters of Maskwell and Lady Touchman of fashioa. Either object was within his wood. And, indeed, there is something strangely reach. But could he secure both? Was there revolting in the way in which a group that not something vulgar in letters--something seems to belong to the house of Laius or of inconsistent with the easy apathetic graces of a Pelops, is introduced into the midst of the man of the mode? Was it aristocratical to be Brisks, Froths, Carelesses, and Plyants. The confounded with creatures who lived in the play was unfavourably received. Yet, if the cocklofts of Grub Street, to bargain with pub- praise of distinguished men could compensate lishers, to hurry printers' devils, to squabble an author for the disapprobation of the multiwith managers, to be applauded or hissed by tude, Congreve had no reason to repine. Drypit, boxes, and galleries ? Could he forego the den, in one of the most ingenious, magnificent, renown of being the first wit of his age ? and pathetic pieces that he ever wrote, extolled Could he attain that renown without sullying the author of the “Double-Dealer” in terms what he valued quite as much-his character which now appear extravagantly hyperbolical. for gentility? The history of his life is the Till Congreve came forth-so ran this exquihistory of a conflict between these two im- site flattery-the superiority of the poets who pulses. In his youth the desire of literary preceded the civil wars was acknowledged. fame had the mastery ; but soon the meaner

“Theirs was the giant race before the flood." ambition overpowered the higher, and obtained supreme dominion over his mind.

Since the return of the royal house, much art His first work, a novel of no great value, he and ability had been exeried, bui the old mas. published under the assumed name of “Cleo-ters had been still unrivalled. phil." His second was the “Old Bachelor,"

“Our builders were with want of genins cost, acted in 1693, a play inferior indeed to his

The second temple was not like ille first.' other comedies, but, in its own line, inferior to them alone. The plot is equally destitute of At length a writer had arisen who, just emers interest and of probability. The characters ing from boyhood, had surpassed the authors are either not distinguishable, or are distin- of the “ Knight of the Burning Pestic," and the guished only by peculiarities of the most glar. “Silent Woman,” and who had only one riva! ing kind. But the dialogue is resplendent with lett to contend with. wit and eloquence-which indeed are so abun

“Ileaven, that but once was prodigal before, dant that the fools come in for an ample share To Shakspeare gave as much, he could noi give bina -and yet preserves a certain colloquial air, a certain indescribable ease, of which Wycher- Some lines near the end of the poem are sin ley had given no example, and which Sheridan gularly graceful and touching, and sank deep in vain attempted to imitate. The author, into the heart of Congreve. divided between pride and shame-pride at

“Already am I worn with cares and age,

And just abandoning the ungrateful stage; * Mr. Leigh Ilunt says 1669. But the Old Style has But you, whom every Muse and Grace adorn, misled him.

Whom I foresee to better fortune born, VOL. IV.--57

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Be kind to iny remains; and, oh, defend

many important points, we can never mention Against your judgment your departed friend;

without respect. Let not the insuling foe my fame pursue, But guard those laurels which descend to you." Jeremy Collier was a clergyman of the

Church of England, bred at Cambridge. His The crowd, as usual, gradually came over to talents and attainments were such as might de opinion of the men of note; and the “ Dou- have been expected to raise him to the highest ple-Dealer” was before long quite as much honours of his profession. He had an extenadmired, though perhaps never so much liked sive knowledge of books, and yet he had as the “Old Bachelor."

mingled with polite society, and is said not to In 1695 appeared “Love for Love,” superior have wanted either grace or vivacity in conboth in wit and in scenic effect to either of the versation. There were few branches of litepreceding plays. It was performed at a new rature to which he had not paid some attention. iheatre which Betterton and some other actors, But ecclesiastical antiquity was his favourite disgusted by the treatment which they received study. In religious opinions he belonged to in Drury Lane, just opened in a tennis-court that section of the Church of England which near Lincoln's Inn. Scarcely any comedy lies furthest from Geneva and nearest to Rome. within the memory of the oldest man had been His notions touching Episcopal government, equally successful. The actors were so elated holy orders, the efficacy of the sacraments, the that they gave Congreve a share in their authority of the Fathers, the guilt of schism, theatre, and he promised, in return, to furnish the importance of vestments, ceremonies, and them with a play every year, if his health solemn days, differed little from those which would permit. Two years passed, however, are now held by Dr. Pusey and Mr. Newman. before he produced the “Mourning Bride;" a Towards the close of his life, indeed, Collier play which, paltry as it is when compared, we took some steps which brought him still nearer do not say with Lear or Macbeth, but with the to Popery—mixed water with the wine in the best dramas of Massinger and Ford, stands Eucharist, made the sign of the cross in convery high among the tragedies of the age in firmation, employed oil in the visitation of the which it was written. To find any thing so sick, and offered up prayers for the dead. His good we must go twelve years back to “Venice politics were of a piece with his divinity. He Preserved” or six years forward to the “Fair was a Tory of the highest sort, such as in the Penitent.” The noble passage which Johnson, cant of that age was called a Tantivy. Not in writing and in conversation, extolled above even the tyranny of James, not even the perany other in the English drama, has suffered secution of the bishops and the spoliation of greatly in the public estimation from the ex- the universities, could shake that steady loytravagance of his praise. Had he contented alty. While the Convention was sitting, Colhimself with saying that it was finer than any lier wrote with vehemence in defence of the thing in the tragedies of Dryden, Otway, Lee, fugitive king, and was in consequence arrested. Rowe, Southern, Hughes, and Addison—than But his dauntless spirit was not to be so tamed. any thing, in short, that had been written for He refused to take the oaths, renounced all his the stage since the time of Charles the First-preferments, and, in a succession of pamphlets he would not have been in the wrong.

written with much violence and with some The success of the “Mourning Bride” was ability, attempted to excite the nation against even greater than that of “Love for Love." its new masters. In 1692, he was again arCongreve was now allowed to be the first tra- rested on suspicion of having been concerned gic, as well as the first comic dramatist of his in a treasonable plot. So unbending were his time; and all this at twenty-seven. We be- principles that his friends could hardly perlieve that no English writer, except Lord Byron, suade him to let them bail him ; and he alterhas, at so early an age, stood so high in the wards expressed his remorse for having been estimation of his contemporaries.

induced thus to acknowledge, by implication, At this time took place an event which de- the authority of a usurping government. He serves, in our opinion, a very different sort of was soon in trouble again. Sir John Friend notice from that which has been bestowed on and Sir William Parkins were tried and conit by Mr. Leigh Hunt. The nation had now victed of high treason for planning the murder nearly recovered from the demoralizing effect of King William. Collier administered skiof the Puritan austerity. The gloomy follies ritual consolation to them, attended them to of the reign of the Saints were but faintly re- Tyburn, and just before their execution laid membered. The evils produced by profane- his hands on their heads, and by the authority ness and debauchery were recent and glaring. which he derived from Christ, solemnly abThe court, since the Revolution, had ceased to solved them. This scene gave indescribable patronise licentiousness. Mary was strictly scandal. Tories joined with Whigs in blam. ricius; and the vices of the cold, stern, and ing the conduct of the daring priest. There silent William, were not obtruded on the pub are, it was said, some acts which fall under the lic eye. Discountenanced by the government, definition of treason into which a good man and falling in the favour of the people, the pro- may, in troubled times, be led even by his virfligacy of the Restoration still maintained its tues. It may be necessary for the protection ground in some parts of society. Its strong. of society to punish such a man. Buleven in holds were the places where men of wit and punishing him we consider him as legally fashion congregated, and above all, the thea- rather than morally guilty, and hope that his

At this conjuncture arose a great refor- honest error, though it cannot be pardoned mer, whom, widely as we differ from him in here, will not be counted to him for sin here



after. But such was not the case of Collier's | to wink at the excesses of a body of zealous penitents. They were concerned in a plot for and able allies, who covered Roundheads and waylaying and butchering, in an hour of secu- Presbyterians with ridicule. If a Whig raised rity, one who, whether he were or were not his voice against the impiety and licentioustheir king, was at all events their fellow-crea- ness of the fashionable writers, his mouth was ture. Whether the Jacobite theory about the instantly stopped by the retort-You are one rights of governments, and the duties of sub- of those who groan at a light quotation from jects, were or were not well founded, assassi. Scripture, and raise estates out of the plunder nation must always be considered as a great of the Church, -who shudder at a double encrime. It is condemned even by the maxims tendre, and chop off the heads of kings. A of worldly honour and morality. Much more Baxter, a Burnet, even a Tillotson, would have must it be an object of abhorrence to the pure done little to purify our literature. But when Spouse of Christ. The Church cannot surely, a man, fanatical in the cause of Episcopacy, without the saddest and most mournful fore- and actually under outlawry for his attachbodings, see one of her children who has been ment to hereditary right, came forward as the guilty of this great wickedness, pass into eter- champion of decency, the battle was already nity without any sign of repentance. That half won. these traitors had given any sign of repentance In 1698, Collier published his “ Short View was not alleged. It might be that they had of the Profaneness and Immorality of the privately declared their contrition; and, if so, English Stage," a book which threw the whole the minister of religion might be justified in literary world into commotion, but which is privately assuring them of the Divine forgive now much less read than it deserves. The

But a public remission ought to have faults of the work, indeed, are neither few nor been preceded by a public atonement. The small. The dissertations on the Greek and regret of these men, if expressed at all, had Latin Drama do not at all help the argument; been expressed in secret. The hands of Col- and, whatever may have been thought of them lier had been laid on them in the presence of by the generation which fancied that Christthousands. The inference which his enemies church had refuted Bentley, are such as in drew from his conduct was, that he did not the present day, a scholar of very humble preconsider the conspiracy against the life of tensions may venture to pronounce boyish, or William as sinful. But this inference he very rather babyish. The censures are not suffivehemently, and, we doubt not, very sincerely ciently discriminating. The authors whom denied.

Collier accused had been guilty of such gross The storm raged. The bishops put forth a sins against decency, that he was

ertain 10 solemn censure of the absolution. The At- weaken, instead of strengthening his case, by torney-General brought the matter before the introducing into his charge against them any Court of King's Bench. Collier had now matter about which there could be the smallest made up his mind not to give bail for his ap- dispute. He was, however, so injudicious as pearance before any court which derived its to place among the outrageous offences, which authority from the usurper. He accordingly he justly arraigned, some things which are absconded, and was outlawed. He survived really quite innocent; and some slight inthese events about thirty years. The prose- stances of levity, which, though not perhaps cution was not pressed, and he was soon suf- strictly correct, would easily be paralleled fered to resume his literary pursuits in quiet. from the works of writers who had rendered At a later period, many attempts were made 10 great services to morality and religion. Thus shake his perverse integrity by offers of wealth he blames Congreve, the number and gravity and dignity, but in vain. When he died, to- of whose real transgressions made it quite wards the end of the reign of George I., he was unnecessary to tax him with any that were not still under the ban of the law.

real, sor using the words “martyr” and “inWe shall not be suspected of regarding spiration” in a light sense: as if an archbishop either the politics or the theology of Collier might not say that a speech was inspired by with partiality; but we believe him to have claret, or that an alderman was a martyr io been as honest and courageous a man as ever the gout. Sometimes, again, Collier does not lived.

We will go further, and say that, sufficiently distinguish between the dramatist though passionate and often wrong-headed, he and the persons of the drama. Thus he was a singularly fair controversialist--candid, blames Vanbrugh for putting into Lord Fopgenerous, too high-spirited to take mean ad-pington's mouth some raillery on the Church vantages even in the most exciting disputes, service; though it is obvious that Vanbrugh and pure from all taint of personal malevo- could not better express reverence than by lence. It must also be admitted that his opi- making Lord Fopping on express contempt. nions on ecclesiastical and political affairs, There is also throughout the “Short View” though in themselves absurd and pernicious, 100 strong a display of professional feeling. eminently qualified him to be the reformer of Collier is not content with claiming for his our lighter literature. The libertinism of the order an immunity from insult and indiscri. press and of the stage, was, as we have said, minate scurrility; he will not allow that, in the effect of the reaction against the Puritan any case, any word or act of a divine can be strictness. Profligacy was, like the oak leaf a proper subject for ridicule. Nor does he on the twenty-ninth of May, the badze of a confine this benefit of clergy to the ministers Cavalier and a High Churchian. Decency of the Established Church; he extends the was associated with conventicles and calves privilege to Catholic 'priests, and, what in him head. Grave prelates were too much disposed is more surprising, to Dissen:ing prearners.

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