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manners and characters, when he brought Menander's plays upon the Roman stage? 'Tis the bumours and customs of their own times, that people love to see represented ; not being over follicitous or interested in what is transacted in other countries. Hence 'twas wisely judged by Steele, in his imitation of the Andria, to work it into an English ftory. And 'twas barrenness of invention that made the Latin ftage-writers meerly tranfiators. Indeed the Romans had few authors that can be called originals. Their government was military, and the soldier had the chief praise; the scholar stood only in a fecond rank. And just as Virgil and Horace began to flourish, a young tyrant sprung up, and riveted on the Romans by degrees such shackles of servitude, that they have never even to this day been able to shake them off. And should it ever be the misfortune of this island to feel the effects of tyranny, we must bid farewell to our Miltons and Shakespeares, and take up contentedly again with popish mysteries and moralities.
SECT. SE C T. XV.
T was finely and truly observed by a certain
philosopher, whom the rhetorician' Longinus praises, that popular government (where the publick good alone, in contradistinction to all private interest and selfish systems, prevails) is the only nurse of great genius's. For while the laws, which know no foolish compassion, correct the greater vices, men are left to be either perfuaded or laughed out of their lesser follies. Hence will necessarily arise orators, poets, philosophers, critics, &c. Wit will polish and refine wit ; and he, whom nature has marked for a Nave, will ever continue in his proper sphere. In tyrannic forms of government, the whole is reversed; the people are well dealt with, if they are amused with even mock-virtues and mocksciences. This is visible in a neighbouring nation, where modern honour is substituted in the room of ancient honesty ; hypocritical address, instead of morals and manners; flattery and fubordinate homage is introduced, and easily swallowed, that every one in his turn might play the petty tyrant on his inferior.
In such a state, where nature is so distorted and debased, what poet, if he dared, can imitate naturally men and manners ? And should accidentally a genius arise, yet he'll soon find it necessary to Aatter despotic power. For perfect writers we must therefore go to Athens ; not even to Rome; nor seek it in Virgil or Horace. For who, I would ask, can bear the reading such a blasphemous piece of flattery as this?
O Melibaee, Deus nobis baec otia fecit.
Namque erit ille mihi · semper-deus. All the beautiful lines in that eclogue, cannot atone for the vileness of these. Or what can we think of the following ?
Sive mutata juvenem figura
3 tus, and all the doctrines he learnt at Athens,
patron · Bru
2 Semper-deus, a perpetual deity : vpis, as the grammarians Say. So Callimachus in his hymn to Jupiter,
Θεόν αυτόν, αεί μέ[αν, αεί-άνα κα ;
For so the verse is to be written.
3 Horace was early patronized by Brutus. When he was at Athens he imbibed the principles of the Stoic phi
when he praised this young tyrant for his bloody prosecutions of the Romans, who attempted the recovery of their ancient liberties and free constitution. But you have none of these abandoned principles in the Athenian writers ; none in old Homer, or in our modern Milton. One could with that Shakespeare was as free from flattery, as Sophocles and Euripides. But our liberty was then in it's dawn ; so that some pieces of flattery, which we find in Shakespeare, must be ascribed to the times. To omit some of his rants about kings, which border on + blasphemy ;
losophy : at the breaking out of the civil wars he joined himself to Brutus, who gave him the command of a Roman legion. His fortune being ruin'd, he went to the court of Auguftus, turned rake, atheist, and poet. Afterwards he grew sober, and a Stoic philosopher again.-Virgil had not those private obligations to Brutus : his ruin'd circumstances sent him to court. An Emperor, and such a minifer as Maecenas could easily debauch a poor poet. But at length Virgil, as well as Horace, was willing to retreat : and at last he ordered his divine poem to be burnt, not because it wanted perfection as an epic poem, but because it flattered the subverter of the constitution.
4 In Macbeth Act II.
Macd. Mof facrilegious murther hath broke ope
The Lord's anointed temple, and stole thence
how abruptly has he introduced, in his Macbeth, a physician giving Malcolm an account of Edward's touching for the king's evil ? And this, to pay a servile homage to king James, who highly valued himself for a miraculous power, (as he and his credulous subjects really believed,) of curing a kind of scrophulous humours, which frequently are known to go away of themselves in either sex, when they arrive at a certain age. In his K. Henry VIII. the story which Mould have ended at the marriage of Anna Bullen, is lengthened out on purpofe to make a christening of Elizabeth ; and to introduce by way of prophecy a complement to her royal person and dig. nity: and what is still worse, when the play was fome time after acted before K. James, another prophetical patch of flattery was tacked to it. If a subject is taken from the Roman history, he seems afraid to do justice to the citizens.
In K. John A& V. Hubert is speaking of the monk who poison'd K. John.
A refolved villain
So 'tis written of Judas, Acts I, 18. He fell headlong and burst afunder : erárnos pécc. You see he has Christ in view whenever he speaks of kings, and this was the courtlanguage :- I wish it never went farther.