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opinions of Fox had found votaries and proselytes, were now receiving with

applause the wit of Rochester, the revived comedies of Fletcher, and the more disgusting and naked obscenities of Buckingham, Dryden, and Wycherley. Indeed I believe it may justly be remarked, that our comedy at this period touched it's lowest point of degradation. It was blotted with all the faults of it's great originators, while it retained but little of their feeling, their character, their truth, or their poetry. So intolerable was the indelicacy, that ladies either absented themselves entirely from the first performance of a play, or else appeared in masks—a custom which Cibber, in his life published in 1740, says, that he remembered. The “ Rehearsal” is too well known to require any criticism. Equally famous for it's indelicacy and it's wit, it is now chiefly to be admired as having led the way and marked out a plan for an author of our own time, in whose praise all men must concur, as having exhibited one of the most perfect models of dramatic dialogue this or any other country can boast. In Dryden's tragic-comedy of the “Spanish Fryar," with which he himself is so satisfied, the comic parts are far too distinct

from the tragic. They are certainly amusing, but no delineation of character is even attempted in them, nor is the wit good enough to overcome the disgust the reader feels at their extreme grossness, which is set in a disastrous relief by the solemn inflated scenes of the tragedy. His “Love in a Nunnery,” is formed upon a more regular plan, being purely a comedy. For his age it may be pronounced a chaste and delicate play, as it is marked by few instances of grossness, and perhaps, for this more than any other reason, was unsuccessful in the representation. I just hint at his comedy of Limberham, only to observe, that this illustrious poet seems to have formed an idea of comedy equally erroneous and disparaging. The epic, the lyric, and the tragic muses have certainly great obligations to Dryden-he gave

them an encrease, a large encrease, of beauty, dignity, and empire. If the comic muse ventures to join the

ain, it must be with blushes and accusations. Wycherley's “ Country Girl," purified by the criticism of Garrick, and embellished by most felicitous and exquisite acting, still retains the public applause. It is a light amusing production, but the incidents are improbable and the characters

unnatural. It bears a close resemblance to “ l'Ecole de Femmes," of Moliere. Moody is Arnolphe, Belville is Horace, Peggy is Agnes. The imposition upon the guardian by making him the bearer of a letter to the lover is from “ l'Ecole de Maris." In hinting this comparison it is impossible not to observe, though unfavorably for our country, that at the time when the English stage was disgraced by an obscenity, frequently as devoid of passion as of wit, Moliere was at once delighting and refining our more polished neighbours, by compositions in which genuine wit neither requires nor seeks the aid of the

feelings, in which a pure and elegant dialogue exhibits in description all but what ought to be concealed, and in morality whatever does not belong to the pulpit. The last dramatic writer I shall mention as belonging to this period is the celebrated Cowley. The comedy of the “Guardian,” which he wrote in early life, he adapted to the stage at this period under the name of “The Cutter of Coleman-street.” It is a play altogether unworthy the author's great name, yet notwithstanding it's slender wit, it's coarse incidents, and the character of Aurelia, it may be read with some degree of interest as affording a curious picture of the times.


Dryden died in 1701—not before the appearance of four of Congreve's plays, all written before he was five and twenty, had afforded the most astonishing instance of early talents, perhaps ever exhibited. Southern in lines of very considerable merit and beauty, thus invokes the rising splendor.

Dryden has long extended his command
By right divine, quite through the muses' land
Absolute lord : and holding now from none,
But great Apollo, his undoubted crown,
(That empire settled and grown old in power)
Can wish for nothing, but a successor :
Not to enlarge his limits but maintain
Those provinces, which he alone could gain :
His eldest Wycherley, in wise retreat,
Thought it not worth his quiet to be great:
Loose, wand’ring Etherege, in wild pleasures tost,
And foreign interests, to his hopes long lost :
Poor Lee and Otway dead! Congreve appears
The darling and last comfort of his years :
May'st thou live long in thy great master's smiles,
And growing under him adorn these isles ;
But when—when part of him (be that but late)
His body yielding must submit to fate,
Leaving his deathless works and thee bebind,
(The natural successor of his mind)
Then mayst thou finish what he has begun;
Heir to his merit, be in fame his son :
What thou hast done shews all is in thy power:
And to write better, only must write more.”

These lines evidently allude to Congreve's tragic, as well as his comic powers, the former of which he had exhibited in his

Mourning Bride." The latter however are here under consideration exclusively. The fair and rich promise of his youth, thus splendidly coloured by the hand of poetry and friendship was not kept. Congreve wrote but one play more, entitled “ The Way of the World,” which was not very successful, and which indeed cannot be allowed to surpass in force and exuberance of wit, his “ Love for Love," while its grossness and its intricacy of plot, prove that he had not corrected his early errors. Johnson's criticism upon Congreve is in his best manner. “ Congreve has merit of the highest kind; he is an original writer, who borrowed neither the models of his plot, nor the manner of his dialogue. Of his plays I cannot speak distinctly; for since I inspected them, many years have passed; but what remains upon my memory is, that his characters are commonly fictitious and artificial, with very little of nature, and not much of life. He formed a peculiar idea of comic excellence, which he supposed to consist in gay remarks and unexpected answers; but that which he

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