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claiming; not free, natural, and easy, as conversation should be, but precise, fet, formal argumenting, pro and con, like disputants in a school. In writing, like dress, is it not poisible to be too exact, too starched, and too formal ? Pleasing negligence I have seen: who ever saw pleasing formality?
In a word, all extremes are to be avoided. To be a French Puritan in the drama, or an English Latitudinarian, is taking different paths to be both out of the road. If the British Muse is too unruly, the French is too tamc: one wants a curb, the other a spur.
By pleading for some little relaxation from the utmost feverity of the rules, where the subject may seem to require it, I am not bespeaking any such indulgence for the present performance: though the Ancients have left us no pattern to follow of this species of tragedy, I perceive, upon examination, 'that I have been attentive to their strictest lessons.
The unities are religiously observed; the place is the same, varied only into different prospects by the power of enchantment; all the inci. dents fall naturally within the very time of representation ; the plot is one principal action, and of that kind which introduces variety of turns and changes, all tending to the same point; the ornaments and decorations are of a piece with it, so that one could not well subfist without the other ; every act concludes with some unexpected revolution; and, in the end, vice is punished, virtue rewarded, and the moral is instructive.
Rhyme, which I would by no means admit into the dialogue of graver tragedy, seems to me the most proper style for representations of this heroic romantic kind, and best adapted to accompany music. The solemn language of a haughty tyrant will by no means become a pasfionate lover, and tender sentiments require the softest colouring.
The theme must govern the style; every thought, every character, every subject of a different nature, must speak a different language. An humble lover's gentle address to his mistress would rumble strangely in the Miltonic diale&t; and the soft harmony of Mr. Waller's numbers would as ill become the mouths of Lucifer and Belzebub. The terrible and the tender muit be set to different notes of music.
To conclude. This dramatic attempt was the first essay of a very infant Muse, rather as a talk at fuch hours as were free from other exercises, than any way meant for public entertainment: bit Mr. Betterton, having had a casual light of it many years after it was written, begged it for the stage, where it found to favourable a reception as to have an uninterrupted run of at least forty days. The feparation of the principal actors, which foon followed, and the introduction of the Italian opera, put a stop to its farther appearance,
Had it been composed at a riper time of life the faults might have been fewer : how ever, upon revising it now, at so great a diftance of time, with a cooler judgement than the first conceptions of youth will allow, I cannot absolutely say Scripfile pudet.
A L Ε Τ Τ Ε R
MR. WYCHERLEY being the only living author eminent for his writings, with whom it is your misfortune to have no personal acquaintance, you desire me to give you some idea of him, in order to perfect a design you are about of celebrating such of the poets of the present age as you think have deserved any notice.
My partiality to him as a friend might render what I say of him suspected, if his merit was not so well and fo publickly established as to set him above flattery. To do him barely justice, is an undertaking beyond my skill: however, since you desire it, I will do my beft, though under the disadvantage of a painter, who, in drawing a lady Sunderland, or a lady * Monthermer,
* Dutchess of Montagu. C 3