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appeared so jealous; and greedily intercepts the bliss which was fondly de. signed for one who could not be the better for it. But here I must ask a question how comes Juba to listen here, who had not listened before throughout the play? Or how comes he to be the only person of this tragedy who listens, when love and treason were so often talked in so public a place as a hall? I am afraid the author was driven upon all these absurdities only to introduce this miserable mistake of Marcia, which, after all, is much below the dignity of tragedy, as anything is which is the effect or result of trick.
"But let us come to the scenery of the fifth act. Cato appears first upon the scene, sitting in a thoughtful posture; in his hand Plato's Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, a drawn sword on the table by him. Now let us consider the place in which this sight is presented to us. The place, forsooth, is a long hall. Let us suppose, that any one should place himself in this posture, in the midst of one of our halls in London; that he should appear solus, in a sullen posture, a drawn sword on the table by him; in his hand Plato's Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, translated lately by Bernard Lintot: I desire the reader to consider, whether such a person as this would pass with them who beheld him for a great patriot, a great philosopher, or a general, or some whimsical person, who fancied himself all these? and whether the people who belonged to the family would think that such a person had a design upon their midriffs or his own?
"In short, that Cato should sit long enough in the aforesaid posture, in the midst of this large hall to read over Plato's Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, which is a lecture of two long hours; that he should propose to himself to be private there upon that occasion; that he should be angry with his son for intruding there; then, that he should leave this hall upon the pretence of sleep, give himself the mortal wound in his bedchamber, and then be brought back into that hall to expire, purely to show his good breeding, and save his friends the trouble of coming up to his bedchamber; all this appears to me to be improbable, incredible, impossible."
Such is the censure of Dennis. There is, as Dryden expresses it, perhaps "too much horse-play in his railleries;" but if his jests are coarse, his arguments are strong. Yet, as we love better to be pleased than be taught, Cato is read; and the critic is neglected. Flushed with consciousness of these detections of absurdity in the conduct, he afterwards attacked the sentiments of Cato; but he then amused himself with petty cavils and minute objections.
Of Addison's smaller poems, no particular mention is necessary; they have little that can employ or require a critic. The parallel of the princes and gods in his Verses to Kneller, is often happy, but is too well known' to be quoted. His translations, so far as I have compared them, want the exactness of a scholar. That he understood his authors cannot be doubted; but his versions will not teach others to understand them, being too licentiously paraphrastical. They are, however, for the most part, smooth and easy; and, what is the first excellence of a translator, such as may be read with pleasure by those who do not know the originals. His poetry is polished and pure; the product of a mind too judicious to commit faults, but not sufficiently vigorous to attain excellence. He has sometimes a striking line, or a shining paragraph; but in the whole he is warm rather than fervid, and shows more dexterity than strength. He was however one of our earliest examples of correctness. The versification which he had learned from Dryden he debased rather than refined. His rhymes are often dissonant; in his Georgic he admits broken lines. He uses both triplets and alexandrines, but triplets more frequently in his translation than his
other works. The mere structure of verses seems never to have engaged much of his care. But his lines are very smooth in Rosamond, and too smooth in Cato.
Addison is now to be considered as a critic; a name which the present generation is scarcely willing to allow him. His criticism is condemned as tentative or experimental, rather than scientific; and he is considered as deciding by taste rather than by principles.
It is not uncommon for those who have grown wise by the labour of others to add a little of their own, and overlook their masters. Addison is now despised by some who perhaps would never have seen his defects, but by the lights which he afforded them. That he always wrote as he would think it necessary to write now, cannot be affirmed; his instructions were such as the characters of his readers made proper. That general knowledge which now circulates in common talk was in his time rarely to be found. Men not professing learning were not ashamed of ignorance; and, in the female world, any acquaintance with books was distinguished only to be censured. His purpose was to infuse literary curiosity by gentle and unsuspected conveyance, into the gay, the idle, and the wealthy: he therefore presented knowledge in the most alluring form, not lofty and austere, but accessible and familiar. When he showed them their defects, he showed them likewise that they might be easily supplied. His attempt succeeded inquiry was awakened, and comprehension expanded. emulation of intellectual elegance was excited, and from this time to our own life has been gradually exalted, and conversation purified and enlarged. Dryden had, not many years before, scattered criticism over his prefaces with very little parsimony; but though he sometimes condescended to be somewhat familiar, his manner was in general too scholastic for those who had yet their rudiments to learn, and found it not easy to understand their master. His observations were framed rather for those that were learning to write, than for those that read only to talk.
An instructor like Addison was now wanting, whose remarks, being superficial, might be easily understood, and being just, might prepare the mind for more attainments. Had he presented Paradise Lost to the public with all the pomp of system and severity of science, the criticism would perhaps have been admired, and the poem still have been neglected; but by the blandishments of gentleness and facility he has made Milton an universal favourite, with whom readers of every class think it necessary to be pleased. He descended now and then to lower disquisitions; and by a serious display of the beauties of Chevy Chase exposed himself to the ridicule of Wagstaff, who bestowed a like pompous character on Tom Thumb; and to the contempt of Dennis, who, considering the fundamental position of his criticism, that Chevy Chase pleases, and ought to please, because it is natural, observes, "that there is a way of deviating from nature, by bombast or tumour, which soars above nature, and enlarges images beyond their real bulk; by affectation, which forsakes nature in quest of something unsuitable; and by imbecility, which degrades nature by faintness and diminution, by obscuring its appearances, and weakening its effects." In Chevy Chase there is not much of either bombast or affectation; but there is chill and lifeless imbecility. The story cannot possibly be told in a manner that shall make less impression on the mind.
Before the profound observers of the present race repose too securely on the consciousness of their superiority to Addison, let them consider his Remarks on Ovid, in which may be found specimens of criticism sufficiently subtle and refined: let them peruse likewise his Essays on Wit, and on the Pleasures of Imagination, in which he founds art on the base of nature, and
draws the principles of invention from dispositions inherent in the mind of man with skill and elegance, such as his contemners will not easily attain. As a describer of life and manners, he must be allowed to stand perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, as Steele observes, is peculiar to himself, is so happily diffused as to give the grace of novelty to domestic scenes and daily occurrences. He never "o'ersteps the modesty of nature," nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can be hardly said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.
As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious: he appears neither weakly credulous, nor wantonly sceptical; his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor impracticably rigid. All the enchantment of fancy, and all the cogency of argument are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shown sometimes as the phantom of a vision; sometimes appears half-veiled in an allegory; sometimes attracts regard in the robes of fancy; and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is pleasing.
Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet.
His prose is the model of the middle style; on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not grovelling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. Addison never deviates from his track to snatch a grace; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and tries no hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendour.
It was apparently his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and severity of diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connexions, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation; yet if his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted, he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied amplitude, nor affected brevity; his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar, but not coarse, and elegant, but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.
JOHN HUGHES, the son of a citizen in London, and of Anne Burgess, of an ancient family in Wiltshire, was born at Marlborough, July 29, 1677. He was educated at a private school; and though his advances in literature are, in the Biographia, very ostentatiously displayed, the name of his master is somewhat
ungratefully concealed.* At nineteen he drew the plan of a tragedy; and paraphrased, rather too
He was educated in a dissenting academy, of which the Rev. Mr. Thomas Rowe was tutor; and was fellow-student there with Dr. Isaac Watts, Mr. Samuel Say, and other persons of eminence. In the Horse Lyrice of Dr. Watts is a poem to the memory of Mr. Rowe.
profusely, the ode of Horace which begins "Integer Vitæ." To poetry he added the science of music, in which he seems to have attained considerable skill, together with the practice of design, or rudiments of painting. His studies did not withdraw him wholly from business, nor did business hinder him from study. He had a place in the office of ordnance; and was secretary to several commissions for purchasing lands necessary to secure the royal docks at Chatham and Portsmouth; yet found time to acquaint himself with modern languages.
In 1697 he published a poem on the Peace of Ryswick; and 1699 another piece called The Court of Neptune, on the return of King William, which he addressed to Mr. Montague, the general patron of the followers of the Muses. The same year he produced a song on the Duke of Gloucester's birthday. He did not confine himself to poetry, but cultivated other kinds of writing with great success; and about this time showed his knowledge of human nature by an Essay on the Pleasure of being deceived. In 1702 he published, on the death of King William, a Pindaric ode, called The House of Nassau; and wrote another paraphrase on the Otium Divos of Horace.
In 1703 his ode on music was performed at Stationers' Hall; and he wrote afterwards six cantatas, which were set to music by the greatest master of that time, and seem intended to oppose or exclude the Italian opera, an exotic and irrational entertainment, which has been always combated, and always has prevailed. His reputation was now so far advanced, that the public began to pay reverence to his name; and he was solicited to prefix a preface to the translation of Boccalini, a writer whose satirical vein cost him his life in Italy, and who never, I believe, found many readers in this country, even though introduced by such powerful recommendation. He translated Fontenelle's Dialogues of the Dead; and his version was perhaps read at that time, but is now neglected; for by a book not necessary, and owing its reputation wholly to its turn of diction, little notice can be gained but from those who can enjoy the graces of the original. To the dialogues of Fontenelle he added two composed by himself; and, though not only an honest but a pious man, dedicated his work to the Earl of Wharton. He judged skilfully enough of his own interest; for Wharton, when he went lord lieutenant to Ireland, offered to take Hughes with him, and establish him; but Hughes, having hopes or promises, from another man in power, of some provision more suitable to his inclination, declined Wharton's offer, and obtained nothing from the other. He translated the Miser of Molière, which he never offered to the stage; and occasionally amused himself with making versions of favourite scenes in other plays.
Being now received as a wit among the wits, he paid his contributions to literary undertakings, and assisted both the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian. In 1712 he translated Vertot's History of the Revolution of Portugal; produced an Ode to the Creator of the World, from the Fragments of Orpheus; and brought upon the stage an opera called Calypso and Telemachus, intended to show that the English language might be very happily adapted to music. This was impudently opposed by those who were employed in the Italian opera; and what cannot be told without indignation, the intruders had such interest with the Duke of Shrewsbury, then lord chamberlain, who had married an Italian, as to obtain an obstruction of the profits, though not an inhibition of the performance.
There was at this time a project formed by Tonson for a translation of the Pharsalia by several hands; and Hughes Englished the tenth book. But this design, as must often happen when the concurrence of many is necessary, fell to the ground; and the whole work was afterwards performed by Rowe.
His acquaintance with the great writers of his time appears to have been very general; but of his intimacy with Addison there is a remarkable proof. It is told on good authority, that Cato was finished and played by his persuasion. It had long wanted the last act, which he was desired by Addison to supply. If the request was sincere, it proceeded from an opinion, whatever it was, that did not last long; for, when Hughes came in a week to show him his first attempt, he found half an act written by Addison himself. He afterwards published the works of Spenser, with his Life, a Glossary, and a Discourse on Allegorical Poetry; a work for which he was well qualified as a judge of the beauties of writing, but perhaps wanted an antiquary's knowledge of the obsolete words. He did not much revive the curiosity of the public; for near thirty years elapsed before his edition was reprinted. The same year produced his Apollo and Daphne, of which the success was very earnestly promoted by Steele, who, when the rage of party did not misguide him, seems to have been a man of boundless benevolence.
Hughes had hitherto suffered the mortifications of a narrow fortune; but in 1717 the lord chancellor Cowper set him at ease, by making him secretary to the commissions of the peace; in which he afterwards, by a particular request, desired his successor Lord Parker to continue him. He had now affluence; but such is human life, that he had it when his declining health could neither allow him long possession, nor quiet enjoyment. His last work was his tragedy, The Siege of Damascus, after which a Siege became a popular title. This play, which still continues on the stage, and of which it is unnecessary to add a private voice to such continuance of approbation, is not acted or printed according to the author's original draught, or his settled intention. He had made Phocyas apostatize from his religion; after which the abhorrence of Eudocia would have been reasonable, his misery would have been just, and the horrors of his repentance exemplary. The players, however, required that the guilt of Phocyas should terminate in desertion to the enemy; and Hughes, unwilling that his relations should lose the benefit of his work, complied with the alteration. He was now weak with a lingering consumption, and not able to attend the rehearsal, yet was so vigorous in his faculties that only ten days before his death he wrote the dedication to his patron Lord Cowper. On February 17, 1719-20, the play was represented, and the author died. He lived to hear that it was well received; but paid no regard to the intelligence, being then wholly employed in the meditations of a departing Christian.
A man of his character was undoubtedly regretted; and Steele devoted an essay, in a paper called The Theatre, to the memory of his virtues. His life is written in the Biographia with some degree of favourable partiality; and an account of him is prefixed to his works by his relation the late Mr. Duncombe, a man whose blameless elegance deserved the same respect. The character of his genius I shall transcribe from the correspondence of Swift and Pope.
"A month ago," says Swift, "was sent me over, by a friend of mine, the works of John Hughes, Esquire. They are in prose and verse. I never heard of the man in my life, yet I find your name as a subscriber. He is too grave a poet for me; and I think among the mediocrists in prose as well as
To this Pope returns: "To answer your question as to Mr. Hughes; what he wanted in genius, he made up as an honest man; but he was of the class you think him.'
In Spence's Collections Pope is made to speak of him with still less respect, as having no claim to poetical reputation but from his tragedy.