THE Impartial Critick:

OR, SOME OBSERVATIONS Upon a Late BOOK, Entituled, A Short View of TRAGEDY, Written by Mr. RYMER, AND Dedicated to the Right Honourable CHARLES Earl of DORSET, &c.

By Mr. DENNIS.

Hanc etiam Mecoenas aspice partem.
Virgil.

LONDON: Printed for R. Taylor, near Stationers-Hall. 1693.

A Letter to a friend: Sent with the Following DIALOGUES.

SIR,

UPon reading Mr. Rymer's late Book, I soon found that its Design was to make several Alterations in the Art of the Stage, which instead of reforming, would ruine the English Drama. For to set up the Grecian Method a­mongst us with success, it is absolutely necessa­ry to restore not only their Religion and their Polity, but to transport us to the same Cli­mate in which Sophocles and Euripides writ; or else by reason of those different Circum­stances, [Page] several things which were graceful and decent with them, must seem ridiculous and absurd to us, as several things which would have appear'd highly extravagant to them, must look proper and becoming with us.

For an Example of the first: The Chorus had a good effect with the Athenians, because it was adapted to the Religion and Temper of that People, as I have observ'd more at large in the Fourth Dialogue. But we having no­thing in our Religion or Manners, by which we may be able to defend it, it ought cer­tainly to be banished from our Stage. For Poetry in general, being an imitation of Na­ture, Tragedy must be so too. Now it is neither probable, nor natural, that the Cho­rus, who represent the Interested Spectators of a Tragioal Action, should Sing and Dance upon such terrible or moving Events, as ne­cessarily arrive in every Tragedy. And I wonder that Mr. Rymer should cry up a Cho­rus, in the very same Book in which he cries down the Opera: for no Man can give any Reason, why an Opera is an extravagant thing; but I will, by retorting the same Rea­son, prove a Chorus extravagant too. But [Page] to make the absurdity of it the more appa­rent, let me desire you, Sir, a little to look back to the Spanish Invasion, which Mr. R—fancies a proper Subject for a Tragedy: Sup­pose then, that an Express gives Notice to Queen Elizabeth, of the Landing of the Spa­niards upon our Coast, and of great Number of Subjects revolting and running in to them. The Queen upon the reception of this News, falls a lamenting her Condition, with an Air be­coming of a Sovereign Princess, in whom Sorrow and Majesty must be united: so far there is no offence to Nature or Decency; for this may be call'd Tragedy upon the Stage of the World. But then, Sir, suppose that as soon as the Queen has left off lamenting, the Ladies about her, in their Ruffs and Farthin­gals, fell a dancing a Saraband to a doleful Ditty: Do you think, Sir, that if this had really happened at White-Hall, it would have been possible to have beheld it without laugh­ing, tho' one had been never so much con­cerned for his Country? Now can any thing that is incongruous and absurd in the World, be proper and decent on the Tragick Stage.

[Page] I now beg leave, Sir, to give a particu­lar instance of something that must needs have been very moving with the Athenians, which yet would have been but ill receiv'd a­mongst us: And that is a passage in the An­tigone of Sophocles. That Story, as it is manag'd by that admirable Poet is one of the most moving that ever was: And there is no part of it that touohes me more, than the Complaints of Antigone, upon her Condemnation by Creon. But there is one thing peculiar in it, which must needs have exerted Compassion in the Athenians in an extraordinary manner; for other wise Sophocles, who perfectly under­stood his Audience, would never have made her repeat it, at least, four times in the same Act: For when she was condemn'd to the severest Punishment, which was to be bu­ried alive, the thing that lay most heavy up­on her Heart was, that she was to go to Hell with her Maiden-head. I think, Sir, I need not take pains to demonstrate, that this passage would have been laugh'd at with us. Now what reason can be gi­ven, why that should appear so contempti­ble [Page] to us, which mov'd the Athenians so much? The only Reason that can be assign'd, is the difference of Climate and Customs. The Athenians by using their Women, as the Modern Italians do theirs, plainly declared their Opinion of them; which was, that Passion was predominant over Reason in them; and that they were perpetually thinking, how they might make some Improvement of the Talent which NATURE had given their Sex. The Athenians therefore having these thoughts of their Women, the Complaint that Antigone made, could not appear pecu­liar and surprizing to them. Now it is evident, that every thing which is ridicu­lous must be both particular and surprizing; for nothing which is general and expected can excite a sensible Man to Laughter. But we having quite contrary thoughts of our Women; which is plain, by the Confi­dence which we so generously repose in them, a Maid who had said, what Antigone did, upon our Stage, would have said some­thing that would have appear'd a frailty [Page] particular and surprizing and would have been ridiculous.

Thus, Sir, have I given you two instan­ces of things which succeeded very well with the Ancients, and would yet be ve­ry ill receiv'd amongst us, upon the ac­count of the difference of our Religion, Cli­mate, and Customs. I shall now give you some account of a thing, which is very well receiv'd upon our Stage, but would have succeeded but ill with the Ancient Grecians, by reason of the same difference of Climate and Customs.

The thing that I mean, is Love; which could but rarely be brought upon the Gre­cian Stage, without the violation of proba­bility, considering that their Scene lay gene­rally in their own, or a warmer Country: For two People in a Tragedy cannot make Love without being together, and being alone. Now when Lovers came together in Greece, they found something else to do, than to talk. Their Women under so [Page] warmer Sun, melted much sooner than ours. Nor were they so fantastick as long to re­fuse what they eternally desire; or to pre­tend a mortal displeasure, for being offer'd to be oblig'd in the most sensible part of them. Therefore most of the Love that appear'd upon the Athenian Stage, was be­tween such People as their own Customs oblig'd to cohabit, as Admetus and Alcestis, who were Man and Wife; Hippolitus and Phedra, who were Son and Mother-in-Law, and with which last, the only Obstacle to Enjoyment, was the Horrour which so Criminal a Passion inspir'd. Had the A­thenian Poets introduc'd upon their Stage two passionate Lovers, who had not been related, and engag'd them in a Conversa­tion both tender and delicate, an Audi­ence would have been apt to ask, with the Spanish Lady, mentioned by Monsieur Sr. Euremont: Que d' esprit mal employe! A quoy bon tous ces beaux discours quand ils sont ensemble? You know, Sir, that this Lady made this Reflection, which St. Eu­remont commends so much, upon the Read­ing [Page] a Conversation in Cleopatra, between two passionate Lovers. Upon which that ingenious Gentleman, with his usual good Sence, takes occasion to condemn Calpre­nede, for making no distinction betwixt the Love of a Southern Climate, and that of England or France.

By what I have said, Sir, it may be easily guess'd that it is in vain to think of setting up a Chorus upon the English Stage, because it succeeded at Athens; or to think of expelling Love from our Thea­tres, because it was rarely in Grecian Tra­gedies.

But since I shall treat of this last hereafter, and I have already trespassed upon your Pa­tience, I shall only beg leave of you to make one Apology for my self, and so for the present take leave of you.

[Page] Let then the Admirers of Mr. Waller know, (that is, all the ingenious Men in the Kingdom) that if I have in the following Dialogue rigorously examin'd some Verses which were writ by that Great Man, I have been far from doing it out of a motive of Malice or Vanity, or so much with a design to attack Mr. Waller, as to vindicate Shakespear.

For Mr. Rymer, who pretends that this last is without Excellency, affirming, that the fore-mention'd Verses of the first are without Fault, it appears to me to be very plain, that the Man who overlookt Mr. Wal­ler's Faults, might overlook Shakespear's Ex­cellencies For it is much more easie to find Faults, than it is to discern Beauties To do the first requires but common Sence, but to do the last a Man must have Ge­nius.

There is no Man who has a greater Ve­neration for Mr. Wallen than I have: We [Page] have all of us reason to Honour the Man, who has been an Honour to England: And it is with an inexpressible pleasure, that I find his Death lamented by two great French Wits, viz. La Fontaine, and Monsieur St. Euremont. A Man may in many places of Mr. Waller's Works, see not only Wit, Spirit, good Sence, but a happy and deli­cate turn of Thought, with clearness, bold­ness, justness, sublimeness, and gallantry. For the last of these Qualities, I know not whither he has been surpass'd by any Wri­ter in any Language.

Voiture, indeed, is a very gallant Writer too; but his Gallantry is of such a different Character from our English Poets, that they will not admit of Comparison. Mr. Wal­ler's is more sprightly, more shining, more bold, and more admirable. The French-man's, by the Character of his Country, more supple, more soft, more insinuating, and more bewitching: But besides those rare Qualities which are to be found in that Admirable Man, there are Two [Page] for which we were in a peculiar manner oblig'd to him. For he not only improv'd the Language of our Verse considerably, but was the first who us'd our Ears to the Musick of a just Cadence. Yet if any one is of Opinion, that either his Language or Numbers are always perfect, he errs: For as there are sometimes Improprieties in his Expressions, so there is a great deal of Prose in his Verse. Mr. Dryden, who had the good luck to come after him, has the Honour to have finish'd what the other so happily begun. For as we have nothing to shew, ev'n in Prose, which has a greater pu­rity than some of his blank Verse, and parti­cularly that of the Spanish Fryar, (thô at the same time that it has the purity and easiness of Prose, it has the dignity and strength of Poetry) so I cannot imagine any thing more perfect than his Equal Numbers in Heroick Verse, where-ever he design'd them perfect; and in this he will never be ex­ceeded by any Man, unless length of Time makes some strange Alteration in the Tongue. I do not believe that any sensible Man can [Page] believe I say this to flatter him: For what can be got by flattering a Poet; especially a Poet in Mr. Dryden's Circumstances? But this we may be assur'd of, that as long as we are foolishly partial to the Dead, and unreasonably unjust to the Living, we must resolve to continue at a stand in Politer Learning, and must not think of making that Progress which the French have made. I know very well, that we have greater Geniuses than they, and that we can shew better Writers; but that they can shew more good Writers than we, no Man who knows them can doubt. Since our Poets want the solid Encouragement that theirs have; that is, the plentiful Pensions: It would be folly to deny them that fan­tastick Possession which they are contented and pleas'd with; since Fame is a sort of an Airy Revenue, which they who unjustly detain from the Owners, cannot themselves enjoy; it is a base Envy to put the Legal Owners off to a vain Reversion.

[Page] Thus, Sir, have I sent you my Thoughts, with a great deal more hast than ever I thought to have writ any thing which was design'd to be published I desire you there­fore to pardon the negligence of the expres­sion, if you find never so little good Sence to make some amends for it. I am,

SIR,
Yours, &c.

The First DIALOGUE.

BEAUMONT, FREEMAN.
Beaum.

JACK Freeman! This is an unexpected, and a surprizing Visit: with what Impatience have I long'd for this happy Hour, and how have I regretted this tedious Absence! Prithee, how long hast thou been in Town?

Freem.

But just time enough to shift me; yet time enough to receive two Assignations, the one from a Lawyer, and the other from a Wench, who, as the Devil would have it, saw me as I passed in the Stage-Coach thro' the Hay Market. But I resolv'd to visit neither, till I had seen thee.

Beaum.

Surprizingly kind! especially in this infa­mous Town, where 'tis almost scandalous to be so much a Friend; where Friendship is seen to give place, not only to Business and Pleasure, but sometimes too even to Vanity; where I have known an old grave Rogue, who has had nothing to do, disappoint three or four honest Fellows, purely that he might be thought a Raskal of Business: and where I have known a young Fop baulk a Drinking Appointment, out of a longing desire to be thought more leud, and diverted by some wicked Adventure. But, prithee, how do all our Friends in Hamp-shire?

Freem.
[Page 2]

Why, Faith, here of late, they have done something odly; but by the help of the Bottle, they have still made a hard shift: they have been as constantly wet, as the Weather in this obstinate Season, and being forbid by the perpetual Rains to follow the daily La­bour of their Country Sports, they have handed about their Brimmers within doors, as fast as if they had done it for Exercise. But I long to hear some News from thee. What say our Politick Grumblers now?

Beaum.

Dost not thou know, Jack, that I hate both Politicks and Politicians; every Politician who is not in a Publick Station is an Ass, and the feverest Satyr on so fantastick an Animal as Man; s'death! that a Crea­ture so very impotent, should yet be so very busie; he has seldom either Wisdom to fore-see, or Power to prevent the least Accidents that befal him, in his own little private Capacity, yet must be insolently enqui­ring into Secrets of State, and medling with mighty Kingdoms. For my part, I very often seek leud Com­pany a Nights, tho' I hate it, on purpose to escape the News-mongers, and Dyer is not at more expence and trouble to obtain his Intelligence, than I am to avoid the Clamour of it.

Freem.

Well! said moral Ned Beaumont, Philosc­phy and Whimsie, I see, are not inconsistent, howe­ver the Schools would impose upon us. This puts me in mind of a very odd Answer, from one whom I ask'd once, What a Clock it was by his Watch? he reply'd, That he had never been such a Sott, as to throw a­way his Money on Watches; that he, indeed, was as profuse as another; but that the very design of his Profusion, was to be ignorant how the time past away; that the very Sound of a Clock, or an Alarum, occa­sioned melancholy Reflections in him, and disturbed the [Page 3] Tranquility of his Mind. So that this Fellow had as firmly resolved not to perplex his Noddle with the Ap­prehensions of Hell and Futurity, as thou hast deter­min'd not to trouble thy Head with the Fear of a French Invasion. But, prithee, what News from the Commonwealth of Learning? You use to be more in­quisitive after what passes there, and able to inform a Friend of it: What New Books have you now a­broad.

Beaum.

I sent you down Two by the Carrier, the Juvenal, and the Account of Tragedy; and we have had none since in the Politer Studies, that deserve any con­sideration.

Freem.

I read them over with a great deal of plea­sure, and some application; Dear Ned! How have I long'd to talk with thee of the latter.

Beaum.

Aye, Jack, the latter: tell me truly, Hadst not thou discovered, tho' there had been no Name to it, that it was written by the same Gentleman, the same Judicious and Learned Gentleman, who writ the Ob­servations upon the Tragedie of the Last Age? Does not the same Spirit of Learning, and exquisite Sence, seem to be diffus'd throughout it?

Freem.

There is good Sence and Learning in both those Books; but if I may have liberty to speak my Mind, Ned, before you, who are the Author's Friend, there seems to be more Learning in the latter Book, and more good Sence in the former.

Beaum.

Pray, Sir, what Exceptions have you to the Sence of the latter?

Freem.

Why, to use plain dealing with one who is so much my Friend, I am neither satisfied with the Design of that Book, nor with the Method of carrying on that Design, nor with the Stile in which it was written.

Beaum.
[Page 4]

But sure you cannot find fault with the Stile, Jack; Canst thou have a Quarrel to Pleasantry?

Freem.

Pleasantry! you may call it what you please, Sir; but that pleasant way, is by no means fit for a Critick: a Critick, whose business it is to instruct, should keep to the Didactick Stile, as Aristotle, Lon­ginus, and the French Criticks have done: for if a Man is eternally Laughing, how can I possibly fall into his Opinion, who know not if he speaks in good earnest?

Beaum.

Why surely, Jack, one of your Apprehen­sion may easily discern when another rallies, and when he speaks what he means.

Freem.

Your Servant, good Mr. Beaumont: But suppo­sing that may be done, when a laughing Critick condemns an Author, how can I know whether he has convicted him by the advantage of his Wit, or the force of his Argu­mentation? The best thing in the World is as liable to be ridicul'd as the silliest. Has not Scarron impudently diverted all Europe at the Expence of Virgil, the best of Poets, and the justest of Writers? upon which an inge­nious French-man has made this Observation, That as all Human Grandeur is but Folly, so Sublimeness and the Ridiculum are very nearly related.

Beaum.

But what is it that you call the Didactick Stile, Jack? for I have read so little of Criticism, or of Rhetorick, since I have enjoy'd the leisure of a Country Life, that I have great need to be inform'd.

Freem.

The Didactick Stile, is a Stile that is fit for Instruction, and must be necessarily upon that account, pure, perspicuous, succinct, unaffected and grave.

Beaum.

Every Stile ought to have three of these qualities; for barbarity, obscurity, and affectation, must certainly be faults in all: But why, particularly, does the Didactick Stile demand succinctness and gravity.

Freem.
[Page 5]

It requires Succinctness, that its Precepts may be more readily comprehended, and more easily retain'd; and it requires Gravity to give it an Air of Authority, and cause it to make the deeper impression.

Beaum.

For my part, I thought Gravity had been long since laught out of the World.

Freem

The false and affected Gravity has been justly and deservedly laught at, but the true both is, and will always be venerable, being the genuine result of Wisdom and Vertue; that Gravity will be always laught at, that strives to impose a Fool upon the World for a Man of Sence, or a Raskal for a Man of Honour; for all Cheats, when they are found out, are despicable.

Beaum.

But have not I seen thee laughing at a Fel­low, only for looking gravely, tho' you never had heard him speak?

Freem.

Yes; but by that very Gravity I soon disco­ver'd the Blockhead in him; for to a Man who under­stands the World never so little, a Fool never looks so sillily, as when he attempts to look wisely; which But­ler had certainly in his Head, when he writ the follow­ing Couplet.

For Fools are known by looking wise,
As Men find Woodcocks by their Eyes.

'Tis, as it were, a Revenge which Nature takes of them, for forcing her by Affectation: for Gravity must be always affected, when it accompanies Vice or Folly; but it is natural to Wisdom and Vertue. Now Nature will always be held reverend, and Affectation contem­ptible.

Beaum.

Pray, what do you take Gravity to be? for I have never consider'd it yet with attention.

Freem.
[Page 6]

I think I may venture to describe it thus: Gravity is a compos'd and majestick assurance, which appears in a Man's looks, or his air or manner of ex­pression, and proceeds from the tranquility and great­ness of a Mind, that is guided by the Dictates of right Reason.

Beaum.

Very well: But are not we then as obnoxi­ous to be impos'd on by that Assurance, and that Air of Authority, which always go along with Gravity, as much as we are on the other side, by the Sophistication of Pleasantry, which stums, as it were, an Argument, if I may use that expression, to render it agreeable to the taste of those who are ignorant.

Freem.

Not one jot obnoxious on that score: for Gravity can no more make a silly Notion pass upon a Man of Sence, than it can set off a Blockhead. Plea­fantry, indeed, may make Sophistry pass upon us, be­cause it puts the Mind into agitation, and makes it un­fit for enquiry; but Gravity never fails to make it se­rene, and dispose it for the strictest Scrutiny.

Beaum.

Well, you have here said enough to make me wish, that Mr. R.—had made choice of another Stile. But you told me, that you dislik'd the Design of his Book.

Freem.

Yes; but I have neither eat nor drunk since I came to Town, and—

Beaum.

I have Wine in my Chamber.

Freem.

But I have not been in a Tavern this Month: Therefore prithee let's to the Old Devil, and talk the rest o're a Bottle.

Beaum.

Since it is your inclination, it shall be so.

The End of the First Dialogue.

DIALOGUE II.

Beaumont, Freeman, Drawer.
Beaum.

SO Sirrah! What need we have come so near Heaven to be wicked?

Draw.

I'll make you amends in your Wine, Master.

Beaum.

Look you do, Sir. Let me see, it must be your best Red, I think. Well, we have at least got this advantage by mounting, that we are not like to be interrupted; which is as great a Plague to Criticks, as it is to Poets; not so much as a Drawer will come near us, without half an hour's ringing for him: so that I am in no danger of getting drunk to Night, tho' I am in wicked Jack Freeman's Company.

Freem.

Sir, you do me too much Honour, tho' I dare swear, no body will take me for a Saint, who knows I have been thy Friend these ten Years. But prithee, what sort of Men were those two, whom you spoke to in coming up Stairs?

Beaum.

Why one of them was a Bookseller: Now pray guess what the other was.

Freem.

Why, Faith, an Author.

Beaum.

If ever thou art indicted for a Magician, I'll turn Evidence 'egad, it was an Author, Sir.

Freem.

I have been osten in terrible apprehension of Authors, but I never was afraid of my Carcase before, from one of them; but this indeed had like to have [Page 8] faln foul upon me; they were both in a sweet pic­kle.

Beaum.

I suppose that Morecraft has been treating his Author with the Generosity of a true Bookseller; that is, with intention to make him drunk, and so to cheat him of his Copy.

Freem.

If that was his design, the Author has turn'd the Dice upon him, I gad; for Morecraft is by much in the worse Condition of the two; and perhaps the Dog drank till he grew generous in earnest.

Beaum.

If it should prove so, to morrow he'll hang for his Vertue; for such a true bred Raskal can never forgive himself a good Action, especially if it has been costly to him.

Freem.

You seem to know him well, Sir: But see, here comes the Wine: Sirrah, fill to this Gentleman.

Beaum.

Come, Jack, remembring our Hamp shire Friends: Faith, 'tis good Wine; but a Pox of this Port, it is not so well tasted as Claret, and it intoxicates sooner.

Freem.

Why Faith, the intention was good; but I think in my Conscience, the Prohibition of Claret has mainly promoted Drunkenness. Come, here's the sore­said Health to you.

Beaum.

I thank you; and now to our business: but before we proceed to this Book again, I desire you to give me some satisfaction, in relation to a passage in the Dedication. For Mr. Rymer mentioning the Greek Oedipus, says afterwards of the French, and the Eng­lish, Quantum mutatus. Now I have always taken our English Oedipus to be an admirable Play.

Freem.

You have had a great deal of reason to do so; and it would certainly have been much better, if Mr. Dryden had had the sole management of it. If [Page 9] Mr. Rymer, by his Quantum mutatus, designs to fix any mark of disesteem upon Mr. Dryden's Tragedy, he is doubtless to blame; but if he only means, that Mr. Dryden has alter'd the Character of Oedipus, and made it less suitable to the design of Tragedy, according to Aristotle's Rules, then Mr. Rymer is in the right of it.

Beaum.

Pray shew me that.

Freem.

I shall do it as succinctly as I can: The Design of Tragedy, according to Aristotle, is to excite compassion and terrour: from whence it necessarily fol­lows, that we are not to make choice of a very vertu­ous Man, to involve him in misery; nor yet on the other side, of one who is very vicious.

Beaum.

I desire to know how you draw that Conse­quence.

Freem.

The Consequence is just: For the making a very good Man miserable, can neither move compas­sion nor terror; no, that must rather occasion hor­rour, and be detested by all the World. On the other side, by representing a very bad Man miserable, a Poet may please an Audience, but can neither move terrour nor pity in them: for terrour is caused in us by a view of the Calamities of our Equals; that is, of those who resembling us in their faults, make us, by seeing their Susferings, apprehensive of the like Misfortune. Now if at any time an Audience sees a very wicked Man punished, each Man who knows himself less guil­ty, is out of all fear of danger, and so there can be no terrour: nor can the calamity of a very wicked Man raise compassion, because he has his desert.

Beaum.

What sort of Person must be made choice of then?

Freem.
[Page 10]

Why one who is neither vertuous in a sove­reign degree, nor excessively vicious; but who keep­ing the middle between these extreams, is afflicted with some terrible calamity, for some involuntary fault.

Beaum.

Well, and just such a Man is Mr. Dryden's Oedipus, who cannot be said to be perfectly vertuous, when he is both Parricide and Incestuous; nor yet on the other side excessively vicious, when neither his Parricide nor Incest are voluntary, but caused by a fa­tal ignorance.

Freem.

Aye, but says Dacier, to punish a Man for Crimes, that are caused by invincible ignorance, is in some measure unjust, especially if that Man has other ways extraordinary Vertues. Now Mr. Dryden makes his Oedipus just, generous, sincere, and brave; and in­deed a Heroe, without any Vices, but the foremen­tion'd two, which were unavoidable both. Now So­phocles represents Oedipus after another manner, the di­stinguishing Qualities which he gives him, are only Courage, Wit, and Success, Qualities which make a Man neither good nor vitious. The extraordinary things that he pretends to have done in Sophocles, are only to have kill'd four Men in his Rage, and to have have explain'd the Riddle of Sphiux, which the worst Man in the World that had Wit, might have done as well as Oedipus.

Beaum.

Well, but does not Sophocles punish Oedipus for the very same Crimes that Mr. Dryden does, vid. for his Incest and Parricide? If not, for what invo­luntary faults, does the Sophoclean Oedipus suffer.

Freem.

Aristotle by those Osfences, which his Inter­preter Dacier calls involuntary, does not mean only such faults as are caus'd by invincible ignorance, but [Page 11] such to which we are strongly inclin'd, either by the bent of our Constitutions, or by the sorce of prevail­ing Passions. The faults for which Oedipus suffers in Sophocles, are his vain Curiosity, in consulting the O­racle about his Birth, his Pride in refusing to yield the way, in his return srom that Oracle, and his Fury and Violence in attacking four Men on the Road, the very day after he had been fore-warn'd by the Oracle, that he should kill his Father.

Beaum.

But, pray, how were those involuntary Faults?

Freem.

Dacier means here by involuntary faults, faults that have more of human frailty in them, than any thing of design, or of black malice. The Curio­sity of Oedipus proceeded from a Vanity, from which no Man is wholly exempt; and his Pride, and the Slaughter that it caused him to commit on the Road, were partly caused by his Constitution, and an unhap­py and violent Temper. These are faults that both Aristotle and Dacier suppose, that he might have pre­vented, if he would have used all his diligence; but being guilty of them thro' his neglect, they asterwards plunged him in those horrible Crimes, which were fol­low'd by his sinal Ruine. Thus you see the Character of the Athenean Oedipus, is according to these Rules of Aristotle, the fittest that can be imagin'd to give Com­passion and Terrour to an Audience: For how can an Audience choose but tremble, when it sees a Man in­volv'd in the most deplorable Miseries, only for indul­ging those Passions and Frailties, which they are but too conscious that they neglect in themselves? And how can they choose but melt with compassion, when they see a Man afslicted by the avenging Gods with utmost severity, for Faults that were without malice, [Page 12] and which being in some measure to be found in them­selves, may make them apprehénsive of like Catastro­phes? For all our Passions, as Dacier observes, are grounded upon the Love of ourselves, and that Pity which seems to espouse our Neighbor's Interest, is found­ed still on our own.

Beaum.

Why, will you perswade me, that because an Audience finds in itself the same vain Curiosity, and the same ungovern'd Passions, that drew Oedipus to Murder and Incest, that therefore each Spectator should be afraid of killing his Father, and committing Incest with his Mother?

Freem.

No, you cannot mistake me so far; but they may very well be afraid of being drawn in by the like neglected Passions to deplorable Crimes and horrid Mischiefs, which they never design'd.

Beaum.

Well then, now I begin to see the reason, why, according to the Sence of Aristotle, the Chara­cter of Mr. Dryden's Oedipus is alter'd for the worse: For he, you'll say, being represented by Mr. Dryden Soveraignly Vertuous, and guilty of Parricide only by a fatal invincible Ignorance, must by the severity of his Sufferings, instead of compassion create horrour in us, and a murmuring, as it were, at Providence. Nor can those Sufferings raise terrour in us, for his Crimes of fatal invincible Ignorance, not being prepar'd, as they are in Sophocles, by some less faults, which led him to those Crimes, as it were, by so many degrees. I do not conceive how we can be concern'd at this; for Terrour, you say, arises from the Sufferings of o­thers, upon the account of Faults which are common to us with them. Now what Man can be afraid, be­cause he sees Oedipus come down at two Leaps from the height of Vertue to Parricide, and to Incest, that [Page 13] therefore this may happen to him? For a Man who is himself in Security, cannot be terrified with the Suffer­ings of others, if he is not conscious to himself of the Faults that caus'd them: but every Man who is di­sturb'd by unruly Passions, when he sees, how the gi­ving way to the same Passions, drew Sophocles's Oedi­pus into Tragical Crimes, which were never design'd, must by reflection necessarily be struck with Terrour, and the apprehension of dire Calamities. This, I sup­pose, is your Sence.

Freem.

Exactly.

Beaum.

Well, but the Authority of Aristotle avails little with me, against irresutable Experience. I have seen our English Oedipus several times, and have con­stantly sound, that it hath caus'd both Terrour and Pity in me.

Freem.

I will not tell you, that possibly you may have mistaken Horrour for Terrour and Pity: for per­haps it is not absolutely true, that the Sufferings of those, who are Sovereignly Vertuous, cannot excite Compassion. But this is indubitable, that they cannot so effectually do it, as the Misfortunes of those, who having some Faults, do the more resemble ourselves: And I think, that I may venture to affirm two things: First, That if any one but so great a Master as Mr. Dry­den, had had the management of that Character, and had made the same mistake with it, his Play would have been hiss'd off the Stage. And Secondly—

Beaum.

I must beg leave to interrupt you: Why should you believe that another Man's Play upon the same Subject, would have miscarried upon that mi­stake, when I never heard it yet taken Norice of?

Freem.
[Page 14]

It would have miscarried, tho' the mistake had ne're been found out: For a common Author pro­ceeding upon such wrong Principles, could never have touch'd the Passions truly. But Mr. Dryden having done it by his extraordinary Address, the Minds of his Audience have been still troubled, and so the less able to find his Error.

Beaum.

But what was that second thing, which you were going to observe?

Freem.

It was this: That if Mr. Dryden had not al­ter'd the Character of Sophocles, the Terrour and Com­passion had been yet much stronger.

Beaum.

But how could so great a Man as Mr. Dry­den, make such a mistake in his own Art?

Freem.

How did Corneille do it before him, who was certainly a great Man too? And if you'll believe Da­cier, C'etoit le plus grand genie pour le Theatre qu'on avoit Jamais ven: Great Men have their Errors, or else they would not be Men. Nay, they are mistaken in several things, in which Men of a lower Order may be in the right. This has been wisely order'd by Pro­vidence, that they may not be exalted too much; for if it were not for this, they would look down upon the rest of Mankind, as upon Creatures of a lower Species.

Beaum.

Do you believe then, that Aristotle, if he could rise again, would condemn our English Oedi­pus?

Freem.

He would condemn it, or he would be forc'd to recede from his own Principles; but at the same time that he passed Sentence on it, he would find it so beautiful, that he could not choose but love the Crimi­nal; and he would certainly crown the Poet, before he would damn the Play.

Beaum.
[Page 15]

But 'tis high time to return to Mr. Ry­mer's Book; you were saying, you dislik'd the Design of it.

Freem.

Yes; but if you will come to morrow Morn­ing to my Lodgings, there I shall give you my Reasons for it. We have criticiz'd sufficiently for one time; besides, at my Chamber I have two or three Books, which I may have an occasion to cite.

Beaum.

Well then, let us drink a Glass and be mer­ry. Come, Jack, here's your Mistress to you.

Freem.

Nay, Faith, Ned, I am resolv'd to be sober to Night.

Beaum.

Prithee, canst thou be otherwise in my Com­pany? How many grave Lectures have I been forc'd to read to thee over a Bottle, in order to keep thee sober?

Freem.

But, as the Devil would have it, thou art seldom Philosophically given in Company, but at the same time thou art inclin'd to be damnable Drunk too. Have you forgot since you grew drunk in Hamp-shire, in extolling the Dogma's of Seneca? When the Com­pany laugh'd to see the Speculative Stoick, a Practical Epicurean.

Beaum.

However, 'tis something to speak for So­briety: I never heard you do that, unless when we were in Italy together, once at Florence, for want of leuder Employment, you declaim'd in praise of the Italian Temperance; but it was only in order to get a sober Seignior to sit out another Flask with you.

Freem.

Faith, Rallery apart, I always esteem'd Drunkenness the most odious of Vices. There is some­thing to be said for Whoring, Whoring is according to Nature, but Drunkenness is a Vice against Nature; we go always with the Stream to Letchery, but we [Page 16] often tug against it to arrive at Drunkenness. He who drinks five Brimmers in a hand, might certainly have perform'd a very good Action without half so much violence offer'd to his inclination. And he who out of his Love to Conversation, is often perswaded to drink hard, might, if he has but never so little deli­cacy, be vertuous with less reluctancy.

Beaum.

But since Drinking is so unnatural a Vice, how comes it so much in fashion amongst us?

Freem.

Why some witty Men, they say, intro­duced it upon the Restoration, and the Fools find­ing the imitation easie, immediately fell into the Dance.

Beaum.

The Wits were horribly o'reseen in begin­ning it, but the Fools were in the right in carrying it on.

Freem.

How can that be?

Beaum.

Because a Fool has as much reason to declare for Drunkenness, as a poor Dog has to declare for Levelling: for Death does not level Conditions more than Drunkenness equals Capacities. A Blockhead when he's drunk, may talk as well as a Man of Sence, if in the same Condition; nay, better perhaps: for that quantity of Wine will make a witty Man mad, which will but just be sufficient to animate the cold and flegmatick Mass of a Sot. They who have cause to be asham'd of themselves, have reason to be fond of Dis­guises; now Drunkenness is a very convenient Mask to make a Blockhead pass Incognito.

Freem.

Thou art in the right of it, and upon this Remonstrance I would have left it off, if I had been ne­ver so fond of it before. But 'tis now some time that I have had a mortal Quarrel to it.

Beaum.
[Page 17]

I shrewdly suspect, that Drunkenness began the Quarrel: for if that had not maul'd you with your Rheumatism, I suppose these Invectives might have been spar'd.

Freem.

Well, come, will you go? We'll pay at the Bar.

Beaum.

Thou art Seven Years older, and shalt be my Governour. But my Lodgings are nearest, will you go lie with me?

Freem.

No, Faith, Sir, I hope for a better Bedfel­low; but to Morrow at Eleven I expect you. Till then, Adieu.

Beaum.

Your Servant.

The End of the Second Dialogue.

DIALOGUE III.

Freeman in his Chamber, repeating,
Should Nature's Self invade the World again,
And o're the Center spread the Liquid Main,
Thy Power were safe—.
(Enter to him Beaumont.
Beaum.

WHY how now Jack? At the scandalous Exercise of repeating this Morning? Art thou in Debt?

Freem.

What makes you ask that?

Beaum.

Because if thou art, thou recitest to scare away Duns perhaps. But whose are those Verses? If they are thine, I scamper immediately.

Freem.

You are very merry, Sir.

Beaum.

'Sdeath! I had rather be lampoon'd this Morning, than stay to hear a Critick's Verfes.

Freem.

Well, they are Waller's, Sir.

Beaum.

Aye, now thou say'st something, Jack.

Waller by Nature for the Bays design'd,
Witb Spirit, Force, and Fancy unconfin'd
In Panegyricks is above Mankind.

At least Jack, thou canst not be so impudent as to dis­sent from Mr. Rymer, in his Judgment of those incom­perable Verses upon the Eleet.

Freem
[Page 19]

I am that impudent Dog, I gad.

Beaum.

Why, are not the Thoughts new there?

Freem.

Yes.

Beaum.

And Noble?

Freem.

Yes, very Noble; but a Pox they are not all of them true tho'.

Beaum.

You had best say too, that the Language is not clean and majestick.

Freem.

I need not say so, it says enough of itself.

Beaum.

This is down-right Spirit of Contradiction; I desire you to shew me three saults in those Verses, without being hypercritical.

Freem.

Here, take the Book and repeat them then.

Beaumont reads.
Where e're thy Navy spreads her Canvas Wings,
Homage to thee, and Peace to all she brings.

Have you any thing to say to that Couplet?

Freem.

Yes; if Mr. Waller had been to say that in Prose, he would have expressed himself otherwise: he would have said thus: Where e're thy Fleet goes, she carries Peace to all, and causes all to pay or do Homage to thee: For where e're she goes she brings Homage; would not be good English in Prose.

Beaum.

Why, will you allow nothing to be said in Verse, that may not be said in Prose too.

Freem.

Yes, an Expression may be too florid, or too bold for Prose, and yet be very becoming of Verse. But every Expression that is false English in Prose, is barbarous and absurd in Vorse too. But pray pro­ceed.

[Page 20] Beaumont reads.
The French and Spaniard, when thy Flags appear,
Forget their Hatred, and consent to Fear.
Freem.

I have nothing to say to that Couplet: Go on.

Beaumont reads.
So Jove from Ida, did both Hosts survey,
And when he pleas'd to Thunder, part the Fray.

Is not that a Noble Similitude?

Freem.

Yes; but the word Fray is altogether unworthy of the Greatness of the Thought, and the Dignity of He­roick Verse. Fray is fitter to express a Quarrel betwixt drunken Bullies, than between the Grecian and Trojan Heroes, and fitter to be parted by Stokes, than by thun­dring Jove. But go on.

Beaumont reads.
Ships heretofore on Seas, like Fishes sped,
The mightier still upon the smaller fed.
Freem.

That is to say, as a great Fish Breakfasts or Dines upon a small one, so a great Ship chops up a lit­tle one. I have known several, who, to their sorrows, have seen a Ship drink hard, but I never met with any who have seen one eat yet.

Beaum.

P'shaw, Pox, this is down-right Banter. This is to fall into the very same fault which you have con­demned in others.

Freem.
[Page 21]

I stand corrected, Sir, without rallery then, this Metaphor Feed, is too gross for a Ship, tho' I per­fectly know what Mr. Waller means by it. But what think you of the word Sped? Is that an Heroical word?

Beaum.

No, I must confess, that Sped is something too mean.

Freem.

Too mean! why it is fit for nothing but Burlesque, Man. Besides, the word heretofore seems too obsolete, nor is Fishes very Heroical.

Beaum.

Come, Jack, you had better let them two pass, it will be an Error on the Right-hand: for Good Nature makes some amends for Error; but Error and Ill Nature is the Devil and all.

Freem.

Let them pass then. In the second Verse of this Couplet, we have mightier oppos'd to smaller; whereas the word that is truly and naturally oppos'd to smaller is greater.

Beaum.

Methinks too, that should sooner have oc­cur'd to Mr. Waller.

Freem.

Doubtless it did so: But Mr. Waller could not make use of that; for if he had, he must directly and apparently have affirm'd a thing which is not true. For we know very well, that a small Privatier will take a Merchant man biggerthan itself. Tho' all that Mr Waller has got by avoiding that Rock, has been only to run himself on another: for by opposing mightier to smal­ler, he infers, that the mightier are still greater, which is to imply a false thought, if not to express one. But pray go on.

Beaumont reads.
Thou on the Deep imposest nobler Laws,
And by that Justice hast remov'd the Cause.
[Page 22] Of those rude Tempests, which for Rapine sent,
Too oft, alas, involv'd the Innocent.
Freem.

I see you have taken Notice yourself, of the want of a Pause at the end of the first Couplet, by pro­ceeding to the second. But, pray what is that Compa­rative Nobler referr'd to?, For Laws are neither men­tion'd before nor after. Now every Comparative, ac­cording to Grammar and good Sence, ought to be re­ferr'd to a Positive: Nobler Laws than what? Or then there were when?

Beaum.

Why then there were, when one Ship de­stroy'd another.

Freem.

That is as much as to say, Nobler Laws than there were when there were no Laws at all. But what do you understand by removing the Cause of those rude Tempests? for that seems to me to be some­thing obscure.

Beaum.

Thou art a pleasant Fellow, faith; What ac­cuse Mr. Waller of obscurity?

Freem.

I have always admir'd Mr. Waller, for a great Genius, and a gallant Man. Nor am I more pleas'd with any of his Excellencies, than with the clearness of his happy turns. But from his being ge­nerally clear, can you infer, that he was not once in his Life obscure? Pray what do you understand by remo­ving the Cause of those Tempests?

Beaum.

Why, I understand the Pyrates; for Mr. Waller could not think, that our Fleet could remove the Winds sure.

Freem.

No? we shall see that immediately. But what do you understand by involving the Innocent?

Beaum.

Why, involving them in Ruine, in Destru­ction.

Freem.
[Page 23]

To involve a Man in Ruine is intelligible e­nough, but barely to involve a Man cannot be good English, methinks, because it presents no clear Notion of any thing to my Mind. But tell me truly, Ned, If any one should talk to thee of a rude Tempest, which sent upon the Ocean for Rapine, sometimes involves a very honest Fellow, would'st not thou swear, that that Man banter'd thee? Are not these thoughts and words ill suited?—But I see you have nothing to re­ply, and therefore proceed.

Beaumont reads.
Now shall the Ocean, as thy Thames be free
From both those Fates of Storms and Pyracy.
Freem.

That is as much as to say, Now your Maje­sty's Fleet's at Sea, Boreas has blown his last. Hence­forward the poor Dog will not dare to peep out of his hole, for fear of being serv'd as the Persian serv'd his Brethren.

In Coramatque Eurum solitus sevire flagellis.

And as there never was a Storm yet upon the Thames, so there shall never be one hence forward upon the O­cean.

Beaum.

'Slife! thou banter'st me now indeed.

Freem.

Yet this is the down-right meaning of the Couplet, or there can be no meaning at all in it. But pray go on.

[Page 24] Beaumont reads.
But we most happy who need fear no Force,
But winged Troops, or Pegasean Horse.
Freem.

That winged should have been wing'd; but that was the fault of the Age, and not of Mr. Waller; who, to do him Justice, was the first who began to contract our Participles which end in ed; which be­ing not contracted, exceedihgly weaken a Verse.

Beaum.

But are all our Participles that end in ed, to be contracted?

Freem.

No, you must except wounded, confounded, boasted, wasted, and the like, because we cannot ex­press two d's, or td, without a Vowel between them; and consequently we should not be able to distinguish the fore-mention'd Participles from their Verbs, if they should be contracted.

Beaum.

But is not cursed to be excepted too?

Freem.

That may be sometimes excepted too: be­cause when that Participle is not contracted, it is not only liable to be mistaken for the Preterperfect Tense of its Verb, but for an Adjective of a different signifi­cation, vid. curst, which signifies the same with fierce.

No Tygress on Hyrcanian Mountains nurst.
No Lybian Lioness is half so curst.

Says Sir Richard Fanshaw in his Translation of Pastor Fido. But pray go on.

Beaumont reads.
'Tis not so hard for greedy Foes to spoil
Another Nation, as to touch our Soil.
Freem.
[Page 25]

There is nothing to say to that: Go on.

Beaumont reads.
Should, Nature's Self invade the World again,
And o're the Center spread the Liquid Man,
Thy Power were safe, and her destructive hand,
Would but enlarge the Bounds of thy Command.
Thy—
Freem.

Hold, you go on to fast, Mr. Beaumont.

Beaum.

Why, can any thing be more Noble than this?

Freem.

This is truly sublime indeed; but I have an exception to make to the second Verse. For what does Mr. Waller mean, by spreading the Liquid Main o're the Center? The Center is either taken for an imagi­nary Point, which is Mathematically in the midst of the Globe, and so to spread any thing over the Center cannot be good Sence; or the Center is taken for the whole Globe, consisting of Land and Sea, and then to spread the Main over the Center, is to spread the Cen­ter over itself.

Beaum.

This Criticism seems to be just enough.

Freem.

Nor am I satisfied with the Epithet Liquid; for every Epithet is to be look'd upon as a Botch, which does not add to the thought. Now it is impossible to think of the Sea, without thinking that it is Liquid at the same time. But go on.

Beaumont reads.
Thy Power were safe, and her destractive hand
Would but enlarge the Bounds of thy Command.
Freem.
[Page 26]

Well, go on.

Beaumont reads.
Thy dreadful Fleet would stile thee Lord of All,
And ride in Triumph o're the drowned Ball:
Those Towers of Oak o're fertile Plains might go,
And visit Mountains where they once did grow.
Freem.

This is a most noble passage indeed; but the word drowned is not sonorous, besides it should be contracted. Proceed.

Beaumont reads.
The World's Preserver never could endure,
That finish'd Babel should those Men secure,
Whose Pride design'd that Fabrick to have stood
Above the reach of any Second Flood.
Freem.

Come make an end.

Beaumont reads.
To thee his Chosen more indulgent, He
Dares trust such Pow'r, with so much Piety.
Freem.

That He seems to be a Botch. But methinks Mr. Rymer has a very odd Observation at the latter end of these Verses; for here, says he, is both Homer and Virgil; here is the pious AEneas, and the Fortis Achil­les: whereas Mr. Waller does not design to praise the King for his Valour here. There is a great deal of diffe­rence betwixt Power and Valour; the last is Personal, the other in the reach of Fortune.

Beaum.
[Page 27]

Well, but you declare then, that you are of too refin'd a tast to relish Waller?

Freem.

I thought I had declar'd the quite contrary. My design in making these Remarks on his Verses up­on the Fleet, was only to shew you, that Mr. Rymer has mistaken the most incorrect Copy of Verses that per­haps Mr. Waller has writ, for one of his rarest Master­pieces. Yet all incorrect as those Verses are, I have told you, that I perfectly admir'd some places in them; from whence any Man may reasonably conclude, that I have an Opinion of Mr. Waller in the main, which is answerable to the Merit of that extraordinary Man.

Beaum.

But methinks the very faults of a Great Man ought to be respected upon the account of his Excel­lencies.

Freem.

The very contrary of which is true: Upon that account they ought to be the rather expos'd. His Faults are the more dangerous on the account of his Ex­cellencies. For young Writers, before they have Judgment to distinguish, are sometimes so far mistaken, as to copy the very Faults of famous Poets for Beauties. One thing I will easily grant you, that to expose a Great Man's Faults, without owning his Excellencies, is altogether unjust and unworthy of an honest Man.

Beaum.

Well: But since you will not allow these Verses to be what Mr. Rymer assirms them to be, pray let me hear you name a Copy of Verses, whose Thoughts or Language you have no exception to. But a Pox, a Ca­viller can never esteem any thing perfect.

Freem

Then will I shew you, that I am no Cavil­ler.

Beaum.

Nay, I am certain, I can name one Author, whose Verses you can have no exception to.

Freem.

Pray, who may they be, Sir?

Beaum.
[Page 28]

Who may it be? why who the Devil should it be, but thy Self, Man? To whose Verses can a Cri­tick have no exception, but his own? Come, prithee, Jack, let us hear one of thy finish'd Pieces now. Come, do not I know, that thou wouldest not have taken all this pains to pull down the Reputation of another, if it were not to set up thy own.

Freem.

Curse of this unseasonable Rallery: Can any thing be more insipid than an untimely Jest?

Beaum.

Why are you so barbarous, as to rake into the Ashes of the Dead then? If Selfish and Haughty were but here, what d'ye think they would say?

Freem.

Those are two special Sparks indeed. Who will allow the Dead to have had no Faults, and the Li­ving to have no good Qualities. When Mr. Oldham was alive, those two Gentlemen would allow him to have neither Wit nor Genius, which none but Sots could deny him; and they have the impudence to be angry now, if a Man will not allow him to have had both Delicacy, and a good Ear, which none but Block­heads can grant him. In Horace's time, there were a sort of Gentlemen, who were just the Reverse of these two: they would allow none to be past Censure, but those who had been dead a hundred Years. Horace to expose them, made use of a pecaliar address. I may venture to shew the folly of our Spa [...]ks, by the very same address, with a contrary application: Ours will allow none to be liable to Criticism, but those who have been rotten long enough to have secur'd an Au­thor in Horace's time. You take it then for granted, that an Author who has been dead this hundred Years, is obnoxious to Censure?

Beaum.

Yes; or else it would be barbarity to attack Shakespear, who has not been dead so long.

Freem.
[Page 29]

Well then, suppose our Author has been dead a hundred Years, wanting one?

Beaum.

One Year can signifie nothing, and he is still obnoxious to Censure.

Freem.

Very good, Sir.

Vtor permisso, caud (que) pilos ut equine
Paulatim vello: & demo un [...]m, demo etiam unum
Dum cadat elusus ratione ruentis acervi
Qui redit ad fastos, &c.

That is to say, Sir, I will do as if I were to pull off a Horses Tail, I will one by one substract the Years, till you consess your Errors; for I will oblige you to one of these two things, either to consess that the Dead are not to be attack'd at all (and so there can be scarce a­ny Criticisin); or else to fix upon the particular Year when they begin to be liable. And I think you'll own, that to fix upon that would be ridiculous enough in all Conscience.

Beaum.

But pray, what should be the reason, that all Men exclaim so against arraigning those who have been lately dead, if they have any Opinion of them?

Freem.

One reason may be, that the shewing them Faults which they could not find out themselves, up­braids them with want of discernment, and disturbs their good Opinion of themselves: And another which is stronger is this; that they have a secret fear of being thus arraigned in their turns.

Beaum.

But People can with some Patience hear of the Faults of those who have been long since dead. What should be the meaning of that?

Freem.

The meaning is plain: For how few are those who think of being remembred a hundred Years after they are dead?

Beaum.
[Page 30]

Yet all this while you have for got to name a Copy of Verses, which may be allow'd to be more perfect than those which you have just condemn'd. Come name them, Sir.

Freem.

You must excuse me, Sir.

Beaum.

Nay, prithee let's hear.

Freem.
Then hear, O hear, in what exalted Strains
Sicilian Muses, thro' these happy Plains,
Proclaim Saturnian Times, our own Apollo Reigns.
Beaum.

So, Mr. Dryden, I perceive, is oblig'd to you.

Freem.

Not a jot oblig'd: For art thou such an Ass to think, that I commend another Man's Verses for the Author's sake?

Beaum.

For whose then pray?

Freem.

For my own most certainly, that I may pass for a Man of Judgment.

Beaum.

Well, tho' thou art a vain Dog, yet every vain Dog would not have made this honest Consession. But when shall we come to the Main Point? This has been a long Prelude: Faith, let us 'en Print this Con­ference, and give it the Title of The Preamble, as a worthy Author in King Charles the Second's time, en­tituled his Book, The Preface.

Freem.

However, Chance has not so unhappily thrown us upon this Method: for you being prepossess'd with the reasonableness of Mr. Rymer's Design, the shewing you his Errors in two or three things that are of less importance, may go some way towards the removing your prejudices, and the prepating you to hear Truth when we come to the principal matter.

[Page 31] Enter Freeman's Boy.
Boy.

Sir, a Gentleman below would speak with you.

Freem.

I beg your Pardon for a moment. There lies Dacier upon the Table, you may divert yourself with him, till I return.

The End of the Third Dialogue.

DIALOGUE IV.

BEAUMONT, FREEMAN.
Freem.

SO, I have now got loose, and have secur'd us against more interruption.

Beaum.

Now then, let me hear your Objections to Mr. Rymer's Design; for nothing can seem more com­mendable to me, than his intention, which is to restore Tragedy to its primitive purity, by re-establishing the Ancient Method, and reviving the Rules of Aristotle.

Freem.

I am for observing the Rules of Aristotle, as much as any Man living, as far as it can be done with­out re-establishing the Ancient Method. But because the Ancients Tragedies had little Love in them, that therefore ours must have little too; because the Anci­ent Tragedies had a Chorus, that therefore we must ridiculously ape them; this is what I cannot endure to hear of.

Beaum.
[Page 32]

But why ridiculously ape them? Mr. Rymer pretends that the Chorus is necessary; nay, that it is always the most necessary part of a Tragedy; that the French have lately seen the necessity of it, and that the success of their last Plays has sufficiently justified the Wisdom of their late Reformation.

Freem.

'Tis very inexcusable in a Man of Sence, to make any conclusion from success. The French before now have damn'd a very good Play, and consequently may like an ill one. J'ay veu (says St. Euremont) Cor­neille perdre sa Reputation (s'il est possible qu'il la per­dit) a la representation d'une de ses meilleurs pieces. I have seen, says he, Corneille lose his Reputation (if it had been possible for him to lose it) at the acting of own of his best Plays. Which he speaks to condemn the chan­gable Relish of the Parisians. Nor is it true, that the French saw any necessity for the restoring the Chorus. Monsieur Recine, in his Presace to Esther, which was the first Tragedy that has been lately writ with a Cho­rus, says, That he was put upon the handling that Sub­ject in that Method, by those who had the Superintenden­cy of the House of St. Cyr; that is, by Madam de Main­tenon. So thatwhat Mr. R—calls a necessity, was but at the best a conveniency.

Beaum.

A conveniency!

Freem.

Aye; for upon the Writing this Religious Play with a Chorus, the cloister'd Beauties of that blooming Society, had a favourable occasion of shew­ing their Parts in a Religious way, to the French Court.

Beaum.

Let me die, it thou hast not been reading the scandalous Chronicle.

Freem.

Many an honest well-meaning Text has met with a wicked Comment.

Beaum.

But what does it signifie, whether the French [Page 33] found the Chorus necessary, or only found it conve­nient. Mr. Rymer, whom all the World allows to be a competent Judge of these matters, not only affirms it to be necessary, but the most necessary part of a Tragedy.

Freem.

That it is not the most necessary part of a Tragedy, I shall prove by an Argument, which, if Mr. Rymer admits of Aristotle's Rules, will amount to a de­monstration. For Tragedy, according to Aristotle, is the imitation of an Important Action. Now an Acti­on may be imitated without the Chorus, but not with­out the Episode.

Beaum.

What is it that you call Episode?

Freem.

All that was between the singing of the Cho­rus, which is all our Modern Tragedy. But further, Fable is the very Soul of Tragedy, according to Mr. Rymer himself. Now nothing is more plain than this, that the Fable in Tragedy may subsist without the Chorus, but not without the Episode: From whence it necessarily follows, that the Episode is always the most necessary part of a Tragedy; for without it, Tragedy can have no Soul, and consequently can have no Being.

Beaum.

This, I must confess, is something.

Freem.

Something? Well, to compleat your Con­viction, I shall add the Authority of Dacier, who has these words in his Comment upon Aristotle's Treatise of Poetry, Chap. 12. Sect. 6.

Le Tragedie n'etoit dans son origine q'un choeur sans acteurs Ensuite on ajouta les acteurs, pour delasser le choeur, & tout ce que ces acteurs disoient entre deux chants du choeur, s'appelloit Episode, comme qui diroit parte ajouteé; parce que ces recits etoient pieces etran­geres [Page 34] & surajouteés à une ceremonie dont elles ne faiso­rent point partie; mais quand' la Tragedie eut commen­cé à se former, & que les recits qui n'etoient que les par­tie accessoine furent devenues les principal alors, &c.

So that it is plain, according to the Sence of Dacier, that tho' the Chorus was at first the Foundation of Tra­dy, it is now the least necessary part of it.

Beaum.

Well, you seem to have prov'd, that the Chorus is not the most necessary part of a Tragedy, however it may be necessary, and therefore ought to be restor'd. Mr. Rymer affirms particularly, that it is necessary to confine a Poet to unity of place.

Freem.

There he is so far mistaken, that Monsieur Racine, who in several of his former Tragedies, has with Religion, observ'd that unity, has not tied himself to it so scrupulously in the very first Tragedy which he writ with a Chorus, which he owns himself in his Preface to Esther, and is plain to any one who reads that Tragedy. And whereas Mr. R—affirms, that the Chorus is not to be lost out of sight, let him but consult the First Scene of the Second Act of Esther, and the Seventh Scene of the Third Act of Athaliah (which is the Second Play that Racine writ with a Chorus) and he will find, that in those Scenes the Stage is without a Chorus.

Beaum.

But has not Racine in that deviated from the ways of the Ancients?

Freem.

I must confess, I believe he has; for having lately read over the Oedipus and Antigone of Sophocles, I find, that in those two Plays, the Chorus is always in sight. However, this may serve as an Argument to prove two things: First, That if a Poet will be irregu­lar, he may as well break the unity of place with a Cho­rus, [Page 35] as without it. Secondly, It may prove, that Ra­cine undertook to write his Esther, purely out of com­pliance with Madam de Maint [...]nen. For if he had done it with a design of conforming to the Ancients, he would doubtless have conformed in every thing: but he has been so far from doing that, that his Esther, you know, has but Three Acts; which is directly contrary to the Precept of Horace,

Neve minor quinto neu fit productior actu
Fabula—

And to the Practice of the Ancients.

Beaum.

Why, as far as I can remember, Sophocles and Euripides never distinguish'd their Phys by Acts.

Freem.

They did not make use of the word Act, to denote their Distinctions, as the Romans afterwards did; but however, the Chorus sung four times in the intervals of the Episode, as the Musick plays four times in the Intervals of the Acts with us.

Beaum.

You affirm then, that the Chorus is necessa­ry upon no account.

Freem.

I cannot conceive how the Chorus can be necessary, if Tragedy can attain its end without it. Now the end of Tragedy, according to Aristotle, is to excite Compassion and Terrour, in order to the pur­ging of those, and the like Passions. And Terrour and Compassion may be excited without a Chorus, perhaps better than with it.

Beaum.

Pray, why so?

Freem.
[Page 36]

Because the Chorus in some measure must calm an Audience which the Episode disturb'd by its Sublimity, and by its Pathetick; and therefore he who makes use of a Chorus in Tragedy, seems to me, to do like a Physitian, who prescribing a Dose for the evacuation of Peccant Humors, should afterwards or­der Restringents to be taken in the midst of its kind Operation. The Song of the Chorus must be forreign from the matter, or pertinent: If forreign from the matter, it must not only calm the Mind in some measure, but take it off from the subject. But if it is never so pertinent, it must very much cool a Reader, if not a Spectator; tho' I make no question, but it must have the same effect upon both.

Beaum.

But you ought to prove, that it must have the same effect upon both.

Freem.

If it has not, it must be wholly unprofitable: for the design of the Chorus is to give good Advice, to preach up Morality, to extol Vertue, to praise or pray to the Gods.

Ille bonis faveat (que) & confilietur amici
Et regat eratos, & amet peccare timentes;
Ille dapes laudet mensoe brevis: ille salubrem
Justitiam leges (que) & apertis otia portis.
Ille tegat commissa, deos (que) precetur & oret
Vt redeat miseris abeat fortuna superbis.

Horat. Art. Poet.

Now I would fain know, how an Audience that is ex­treamly disturbed with Terrour, or with Compassion, can be capable of harkning to good Advice, of appre­hending the reasonableness of good Instruction, or of performing Religious Duties.

Beaum.
[Page 37]

But pray, if Terrour and Compassion must be rais'd to such a height without receiving any check, how can they be said to be purg'd?

Freem.

Dacier has given us a very sensible account of that. For as the Humors in some distemper'd Body are rais'd, in order to the evacuating that which is re­dundant or peccant in them; so Tragedy excites Com­passion and Terrour to the same end: For the Play be­ing over, an Audience becomes serene again, and is less apt to be mov'd at the common Accidents of Life, after it has seen the deplorable Calamities of Hero's and So­vereign Princes.

Beaum.

Now here have I an Objection to make, which must be confess'd to be of some importance. A­ristotle has given Rules for the Chorus, which he would not have done, unless he had believ'd it necessary. Horace has follow'd his steps. Dacier, who is Aristo­tle's best Interpreter, has endeavour'd its restoration: He has declar'd the necessity of it, for teaching Mora­lity to the People; he has told us, that Racine was con­vinc'd that there was a necessity for it; and he has commended him for reviving it in his last Trage­dies.

Freem.

But pray, Sir, how came you to know what Dacier says? I thought you had told me, you had not convers'd with the Criticks lately.

Beaum.

I read this in Dacier's Preface, but now, when you left me alone.

Freem.

Indeed, it must be confess'd, that Aristotle has mention'd the Chorus, and discours'd of the diffe­rent parts of it. But then, consider how large a space the Chorus took up in the ancient Tragedy, and how little Aristotle has said of it, and you will be oblig'd to own that he slighted it, and would have made no [Page 38] mention of it, if he could have avoided it; but he could not do that, being engaged to treat of the whole Art of the Stage. Nor could he in prudence condemn the use of it, if you consider that it was Religious in its Office and Institution. The same Answer will serve for Ho­race, because his Religion and Design were the same with Aristotle's Dacier shall answer himself: For if he declares a Chorus to be necessary in his Preface, he tells you in his Comment upon the Sixth Chapter of Aristotle, that he scarce believes it to be natural, and that having several times wonder'd, how so delicate and so ingenious a People as the Athenians must be al­low d to be, could think if agreeable to Nature, or Pro­bability, that a Chorus who represented the Spectators of a Tragical Action, should sing and dance upon such extraordinary and moving Events; he was oblig'd to attribute it to the Inclinations and Superstition of the Greeks; who, as they were the People of the World the most inclin'd to Singing and Dancing, (which na­tural bent of theirs was fortified by Education) so were they the most bigotted of all Nations; and Singing and Dancing, which help'd to constitute the Ceremonials of their Religion. were held as Sacred by them, and of Divine Institution: So that when Dacier, who tells us in his Comment upon the Sixth Chapter, that he could not have believ'd the Chorus natural, if it had not been so adapted to the Superstition and Musical Temper of the Greeks; declares it to be necessary in his Preface; he must do it out of belief, that his own Country-men were as airy Bigots as the Greeks.

Beaum.
[Page 39]

And, Faith, he was very much in the right of it. How many French-men have we seen, who be­tween the First and Second Courses have risen from Ta­ble, and danc'd to their own damn'd Voices? I must confess, they do not dance at Church, but they have several apish Gesticulations there, which one may easi­ly mistake for Dancing, and which are as entertaining to the full. But sor Singing, it is both their Diversion and Duty.

Freem.

Well then; all this considered, it is no won­der that Dacier should tell us, That Racine being to write upon a Religious Subject, saw a necessity for a Chorus; that is, for a great deal of Singing and Dan­cing: for without it there had been two inconvenien­ces: First, The Religion of the Stage had been more free from Superstition, than that of the Altar. And, Secondly, a Play had been more insipid than High Mass.

Beaum.

Yet Dacier has given us two Reasons for the necessity of a Chorus, that have nothing to do with Racine: For a Chorus, says he, is necessary, First, To deliver Moral Sentiments to the People. And, Second­ly, To reflect upon what is vicious and commendable in the Characters of the primary Actors; in which he is certainly in the right. Now the Chorus being re­trench'd from our Modern Tragedy, Morality must be retrench'd at the same time. For the principal A­ctors being shaken by violent Passions, cannot be made sentencious; for Sentences require Reflection, and that requires Serenity; at least some degree of Serenity. How then can our Theatre, the Chorus being re­trench'd, be said to be the School of Virtue? Or how can any one be the better for Modern Tragedy?

Freem.
[Page 40]

Our Theatre may be said to be the School of Vertue, upon two accounts. First, because it re­moves the greatest Obstructions to Vertue, by redu­cing the Passions to a just mediocrity, from their vio­lence and irregularity. And Secondly, because it tea­ches some Moral Doctrine by the Fable, which must always be allegorical and universal.

Beaum.

This Answer is something satisfactory. But what can you answer to the Second pretended necessity for restoring the Chorus? which is, that the Stage may be furnish'd with Persons, who may commend or blame any thing that may be vicious or excellent in the Cha­racters of the primary Actors? For there may be a necessity sometimes for their speaking prophanely and impiously; which may be of dangerous consequence, without the Reflections of the Chorus.

Freem.

Nothing that is said, can be of pernicious consequence in a Tragedy, if it is writ as it ought to be. That is, if it is what Horace calls, Fabula recte morata.

Beaum.

Pray what may that be?

Freem.

A Tragedy is Fabula recte morata, in which the Manners are well painted: So that every Actor discovers immediately by what he says, his Inclinations, his Designs, and the very Bottom of his Character; then if any thing is said impiously, an Audience not only knows that it is spoken by an implous Man, but by one that is upon the Point of being punish'd for his Impiety.

Beaum.
[Page 41]

This seems to be sensible enough: But now good Sence requires that we should think of our Din­ner: for a hungry Sophister, who disputes at the time he may eat, does but defraud his own Genius, to put a cheat upon another Man's Reason: Therefore, let's to the Cock, and I'll send for Jack Wild to make a third Man; who shall very dogmatically tell you, that there can be no Tragedy without a Chorus.

Freem.

But can he prove it?

Beaum.

That you shall judge when you have heard him.

Freem.

Well: I'll follow you.

The End of the Fourth Dialogue.

DIALOGUE V.

BEAUMONT, FREEMAN.
Scene, Freeman's Chamber, after Dinner.
Beaum.

WAS ever any Man mawl'd as thou hast been! Jack Wild has handled you as you deserv'd, l'faith: Thou wert quite bafled, quite run down, Man!

Freem.

Bafled and run down, Good! Are we in Bow-street, or on the Bank-side? Your Mr. Wild has an admirable Talent for running People down, I confess. But dost not thou know, that the silliest thing that a Man can do, is to speak Sence in some Company? Is it not a greater sign of Judgment to hold one's Tongue, than to talk Reason to People who cannot hear it?

Beaum.

Then you do not believe he was in the right, it seems?

Freem.

I am not quite so credulous. I must confess Mr. Wild had got Dacier without Book perfectly; nay, and that very place in Dacier which pleads most strong­ly for a Chorus. But then he would admit of no An­swer. I would advise Mr. Wild to take Orders; a [Page 43] Pulpit sure is the only place where Impertinence has priviledge to be tedious, without interruption. But thou wert as attentive as any Fanatical Bigot at a Con­venticle: therefore, if you can recollect his Reasons, I dare undertake, to convince you of their insuffici­ency.

Beaum.

Faith, I'll try; but then you shall engage, that if I happen to shew such a plaguy Memory, I shall not lose my Reputation of a Wit with you.

Freem.

That I do readily engage for, I'saith.

Beaum.

So then; his first Argument was this: Tra­gedy is the imitation of a Publick and Visible Action; therefore there ought to be a Chorus.

Freem

I must confess, Dacier affirms, That Trage­dy must be the Representation of a Publick and Visible Action; but Aristotle says no such thing, that I know of.

Beaum.

But common Sence tho' says so: For if an Action is not publickly visible, how can it be seen by such a numerous multitude?

Freem.

How can an Action, the Scene of which is in Greece, be seen by us here in England?

Beaum.

Nay, I will grant you, that there is an oc­casion for us to give way to a wholsome delusion, if we design to receive either delight or profit from the Dra­ma. But however, a Poet is still to endeavour, that his Representation be attended with as much probabi­lity as it is capable of; And it is much easier for a thousand Spectators to imagine themselves in some o­pen place, either at Mycenoe or Thebes, than to ima­gine themselves in a King's Oabinet, in either of those two places.

Freem.
[Page 44]

I must confess what you say appears to be reasonable, but how do you infer from hence, that there ought to be a Chorus?

Beaum.

The Action of a Tragedy being publickly visible, and acted by Persons of the most exasted Ranks, it is impossible but that there must be People besides the Actors, interested in the principal Action, upon which Action the Fortune of those People must in some measure depend.

Freem.

And these People you'll tell me, are to con­stitute the Chorus.

Beaum.

Right.

Freem.

This, I must confess, is according to Dacier; but his Doctrine is neither warranted by Aristotle, nor always by the Practice of the Ancients; for it does not appear to me, for example, what dependance, as to their Fortunes, the Chorus in the Electra of Sophocles, has upon the principal Actors. But suppose we had Charity to grant, that it is impossible for a grave and important Action to be acted in publick by great Men, but others must intermeddle in it: Can Dacier infer from hence, that these People thus concerned, ought to sing and dance at their Princes Sufferings? I will grant it probable, that at the Sufferings of Kings seve­ral should be concern'd; at the same time you must grant it absurd, that they should sing and dance at their Sufferings. Now would you have a Poet shew a thing that's absurd, to shew something else that is probable, when the probability may be suppos'd as well as shewn, or shewn without an absurdity.

Beaum.

How can that be?

Freem.

In our modern Tragedies, as well as the an­cient, there are several concern'd besides the Actors; [Page 45] I mean, besides the primary Actors (for the Chorus was an Actor in the old Tragedy, and spoke like a Jury by its Fore-man) but they have some better reason for their being concern'd, than purely their itch of med­ling; nor do they express their concern in a way which is contrary to all Decorum: But I could give you an example of a Chorus, where the singing is not only absurd and unnatural, but destructive of the Poet's design.

Beaum.

That example I should be glad to hear.

Freem.

'Tis the Chorus at the end of the First Act in the Electra of Sophocles.

Beaum.

How does that which is sung by the Chorus there, run counter to the design of the Poet?

Freem.

I will, in as few words as I can, give you the Fable of that Tragedy: Clytemnestra, with her A­dulterer AEgystus, assassinates her Husband Agamemnon; but her Son Orestes, by means of his Sister Electra, e­scapes: after a long absence from Mycenoe, he arrives secretly with Pylades and his Governour, surprizes Cly­temnestra and her Adulterer, and revenges the Death of his Father. The Scene opens with the Arrival of Orestes before the Royal Palace of Mycenoe, at Break of Day, where they find Electra lamenting her sad Con­dition. The Chorus advise her not to be so loud, least she should be heard by AEgystus: yet as soon as ever she is gone, they grow infinitely louder, and in a Con­sort of Fifteen Voices, threaten Ruine to Clytemnestra and her Adulterer. 'Tis true, they were told that AEgy­stus was not in the Palace; but they knew very well, that Clytemnestra was there, and that AEgystus would be with her that very day. Now this coming after an unlucky Dream, which Clytemnestra look'd on as omi­nous; [Page 46] which Dream is mentioned by this very Chorus: This Song must in all reason alarm Clytemnestra, and prevent the surprize which is design d by the Poet. Besides, how did this Chorus dare thus loudly and publickly to contemn Clytemnestra before her own Pa­lace, at the very time that she had the Sovereign Pow­er in her hands?

Beaum.

I must confess, I am not able to give any Answer to this.

Freem.

I could shew you another gross absurdity in that very Tragedy, which is purely occasion'd by the Chorus. But pray go on to the next Argument.

Beaum.

I would fain know first, what that other absurdity is: a digression sometimes is as much worth the while as the main matter; and I have always been pleas'd to hear of the Errors of any extraordinary Man, because it has still been the best support to me, under the mortifying Sence, which I have of my own Infir­mities.

Freem.

The absurdity which I speak of, is, the dis­covery that Orestes makes of himself and his design, to Electra, in the Fourth Act of that Tragedy (which he does in the presence of the Chorus); so that he en­rrusts a Secret upon which his Empire and Life depends, in the hands of Sixteen Women: For Orestes had no Friends on whose assistance he might rely, unless it were his Friend and his Governour, and consequently he had nothing to depend upon, but Secresie and Sur­prize, and a swilt Execution.

Beaum.

Has Dacier in his late Comment upon Ele­ctra, taken no notice of those two mistakes?

Freem.
[Page 47]

He has taken no notice at all of the first; which I was extremely surpriz'd at: For that Error seems to me apparently to shock common Sence, I must confess, he has taken notice of the last, because he thought he could make a defence for it. But he has done it after such a manner, that I am sorry that a Man of Monsieur Dacier's Merit should talk at so poor a rate.

Beaum.

At how poor a rate?

Freem.

I have considered that passage enough to give you the English of it Verbatim. There are seve­ral Persons, says he, of extraordinary Merit, who can­not endure to see Plots and Contrivances against the Lives of Princes, in the presence of a Chorus, pretend­ing that this cannot be probable; nay, that it cannot be natural. But these People, says he, ought to re­flect upon the Conditions that are necessary to qualifie a Chorus rightly. The Chorus ought to be interest­ed in the Action, as much as the principal Persons, they ought to be animated by the same Spirit, and all their Happiness ought to depend upon their Secrecy and their Fidelity. And when a Chorus is thus qua­lify'd, there is nothing which may not be said before it, without any violation to probability. And then it is as natural to see a Conspiracy concerted before it, as it is to behold a number of Conspirators closely consulting in some secure Retirement. The Chorus of Electra is of this nature, says he.

Beaum.

And is it?

Freem.

Monsieur Dacier may imagine what he pleases, but there is nothing that the Chorus or Ele­ctra says, that may induce a Man to believe, that the fortune of the first depends upon the success of the [Page 48] last. But supposing it did, can any Man who has common Sence believe, that a Prince, as dlscreet as Orestes is represented by Sophocles, should entrust a Secret, upon which his Empire and Life depended, with fifteen Women, only upon the recommendation of his Sister, whose discretion he had no reason to have any mighty Opinion of? But this has been a long di­gression, therefore pray proceed to the next Argu­ment, which Mr. Wild brought for a Chorus.

Beaum.

A Tragedy, said he, is the imitation of an Action, which must be one and entire; and therefore there must be a Chorus: For without it the Acts can never be joyn'd, there will be a solution of continuity, and Tragedy can never be one entire Body. Pray, what can you answer to this?

Freem.

This, I must confess, is the Bugbear Argu­ment; but we shall do well enough with it. Then Mr. Wild and you fancy, that the Action breaks off every time that the Musick plays between the Acts?

Beaum.

That is Mr. Wild's Opinion.

Freem.

But then I could tell you, that the Action is suppos'd to be continued behind the Scenes.

Beaum.

How can an Audience be sure of that? Or when the Stage is left empty upon the end of the First Act, what grounds has a Company to believe the A­ctors will return? What grounds, I say, can they have, but Custom, which is but a ridiculous Security at the best, and can be none at all, to one who sees a Tragedy acted the first time. Whereas a Chorus na­turally keeps the Company together, till the return of the principal Actors.

Freem.
[Page 49]

But sure, I should think, that an Audience between the Acts should have a much better Security for the return of the Actors than Custom, and that is from the nature of Tragedy, which is the imita­tion of an entire action; that is, of an Action which has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Now this be­ginning and middle, are, according to Aristotle, Things that necessarily suppose something to fol­low.

Beaum.

When you talk at this rate, you suppose that every one who sees a Tragedy, understands the Rules of Aristotle.

Freem.

The Rules of Aristotle are nothing but Na­ture and Good Sence reduc'd to a Method: I may ve­ry well suppose, that every one who goes to see a Tragedy acted, goes with a hope, that he shall not see something absurd, and that he has common Sence to know, that a Tragedy would be very absurd, which should conclude abruptly, before the just end of the Action; that is to say, before that part of it, which necessarily supposes nothing to follow it.

Beaum.

You say the Song of the Chorus is very ab­surd and unnatural; but are not the Fiddles between the Acts a great deal more absurd and unnatural. A Poet in a Tragick Imitation, is always to have an eye to probability. But is it probable, that Oedipus, or any other Prince, should four times in the height and fury of his Passion, leave the Scene of Action, purely to give leave to a Company of Musitians to divert the Spectators four times, least they should be too much shaken by the progress of the terrible Action? Would not such a one be a merry Monarch, a very complai­sant Wretch?

Freem.
[Page 50]

Has not Dacier reason to be asham'd of this empty Sophistry, which may so easily be retorted up­on himself? For would it not be as ridiculous to make a King leave the Scene of the Action four times, only to give way to the People who compose the Cho­rus? Any Man knows, that in Plays which have a Chorus, and in Plays which have none, 'tis the neces­sity of the Action, which makes the Actors leave the Stage. For an Actor never leaves the Stage in a Tra­gedy which is writ as it should be, but when he has business in another place. But suppose I should grant you, that the Fiddles are more absurd than a Chorus, we do not pretend that our Musick makes a part of Tragedy, as you pretend that the Chorus does, and if there must be an absurdity, it had better been in Or­nament than in Essentials.

Beaum.

But if your Musick does not make a part of the Modern Tragedy, how can it be said to be one body, when the parts of it are not united?

Freem.

'Tis not the tagging of the Acts with a Chorus, that properly makes a Tragedy one Body, but the Unity of the Action; and for my part, I can­not conceive, but that the Parts are sufficiently united, when the Action has a Beginning, a Middle, and an End, which have a mutual necessary and immediate dependance. But if it should be granted to Dacier, that the Fiddles between the Acts are absolutely de­structive of the Unity of the Poem, he could never infer from it, that there ought to be a Chorus, when the mischief may be prevented another way.

Beaum.

What way is that?

Freem.

Why, by not dividing Tragedy into Acts at all.

Beaum.
[Page 51]

But several Inconveniences would follow from thence.

Freem.

I will easily grant it; but any inconvenience ought to be admitted, rather than that grand absurdity a Chorus. For Poetry being an imitation of Nature, any thing which is unnatural strikes at the very Root and Being of it, and ought to be avoided like Ruine.

Beaum.

Well, thou hast here taken a great deal of pains to prove, that we ought not to re-establish the Chorus; but you promis'd to shew me, that we ought not to banish Love neither.

Freem.

I have now an appointment which I am ob­lig'd to keep touch with. But when we next meet, I will not only engage to demonstrate that to you, but to shew you, that contrary to Mr. Rymer's assertion, Shakespear was a great Genius.

Beaum.

I shall be very glad, if you perform what you say. But prithee tell me before we part, your Opinion of Mr. Rymer's Judgment of our English Co­medies.

Freem.

Never was there a more righteous Decree. We have particularly a Comedy which was writ by a Gentleman now living, that has more Wit and Spirit than Plautus, without any of his little contemptible Affectations; and which, with the Urbanity of Te­rence, has the Comick force which the Great Caesar re­quir'd in him.

Beaum.

What Comedy can that be?

Freem.

What indeed can it be, but the Plain Dealer?

Beaum.

I find then, that you do not dissent from Mr. R— in every thing.

Freem.
[Page 52]

No, I should be very sorry if I should do that; for his Censures of Shakespear in most of the par­ticulars, are very sensible and very just. But it does not follow, because Shakespear has Faults, that there­fore he has no Beauties, as the next time we meet I shall shew you.

Beaum.

Well, till then, your Servant.

Freem.

Honest Ned, Adieu.

THE END.

ERRATA.

In the LETTER to a Friend.

FOR exerted Compassion. read excited Compassion. for warmer Sun r. warm a Sun, for desire r. desired. for following Dialogue r. following Dialegues. for is a base Envy r. it shews a base Envy. for greater Geniuses than they r. greater Geniuses in England, than they have in France.

Dialogue the Third.

PAge. 18. for Punegyricks r. Panegyrick. p. 19. for I desire you r. I defie you. p. 22 for gallant Man r. gallant Writer. for Sevire r. Saevire. p. 29. for caud (que) &c. r. caudae (que) pilos ut equinae. Dialogue IV. p. 32. for Recine r. Racine. p. 34. for parties accessoine r. les parties accessoires furent devenues les principales. p. 36. for amici. r. amicis, for eratos r. iratos.

ADVERTISEMENT.

MIscellany Poems, &c. By Mr. Dennis, will be Publish'd this next Week. Printed for James Knapton, at the Crown in St. Paul's Church-yard.

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