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or deceit, shall be imputed to me as a merit. - Treachery! what treachery? Love cancels all the bonds of friendship, and sets men right upon their first foundations.
Act II. Sc. 8. In French plays, love, instead of being hid or disguised, is treated as a serious concern, and of greater importance than fortune, family, or dignity. I suspect the reason to be, that, in the capital of France, love, by the easiness of intercourse, has dwindled down from a real passion to be a connection that is regulated entirely by the mode or fashion.* This may in some measure excuse their writers, but will never make their plays be relished among foreigners:
Maxime. Quoi, trahir mon ami ?
Euphorbe. -L'amour rend tout permis,
Cinna, Act III. Sc. I.
Pompée, Act IV. Sc. 3. * A certain author says humorously, “ Les mots mêmes d'amour et d'amant sont bannis de l'intime société des deux sexes, et relegués avec ceux de chaine et de flame dans les Romans qu'on ne lit plus.” And where nature is once banished, a fair field is open to every fantastic imitation, even the most extravagant,
The last class comprehends sentiments that are unnatural, as being suited to no character nor passion. These may be subdivided into three branches: first, sentiments unsuitable to the constitution of man, and to the laws of his nature; second, inconsistent sentiments; third, sentiments that are pure rant and extravagance.
When the fable is of human affairs, every event, every incident, and every circumstance, ought to be natural, otherwise the imitation is imperfect. But an imperfect imitation is a venial fault, compared with that of running contrary to nature. In the Hippolytus of Euripides, * Hippolytus, wishing for another self in his own situation, How much (says he) should I be touched with his misfortune! as if it were natural to grieve more for the misfortunes of another than for one's own.
Osmyn. Yet I behold her-yet-and now no more.
Mourning Bride, Act II. Sc. 8. No man, in his senses, ever thought of applying his eyes to discover what passes in his mind; far less of blaming his eyes
for not seeing a thought or idea. In Moliere's L'Avaret Harpagon being robbed of his money, seizes himself by the arm, mistaking it for that of the robber. And again he expresses
himself as follows: Je veux aller querir la justice, et faire donner la question à toute ma maison; à servantes, à valets, à fils, a fille, et a moi aussi.
This is so absurd as scarcely to provoke a smile, if it be not at the author. Of this second branch the following are examples.
Now bid me run,
Julius Cæsar, Act II. Sc. 3.
Le Cid, Act V. Sc. last.
Esther, Act V. Sc. last.
Paradise Lost, Book IV.
+ Act IV. Sc. 7.
Of the third branch, take the following samples.
-Romanum nomen, et omne
Magne, metu nullas Nili calcemus arenas. L. 8. 1. 798.
Where there are seas, or air, or earth, or skies,
Fearful we violate the mighty dead. The following passages are pure rant. Coriolanus, speaking to his mother,
-What is this?
Coriolanus, Act V. Sc. 3.
-Danger knows full well,
Julius Cæsar, Act II. Sc. 4.
- This day
Almanzor. Good heaven, thy book of fate before me lay
Conquest of Grenada, Act III.
I'll hold it fast
Conquest of Grenada, Part 2. Act III.
Let not that ugly skeleton appear.
Dryden, All for Love, Act I. Not to talk of the impiety of this sentiment, it is ludicrous instead of being lofty.
The famous epitaph on Raphael is no less absurd than any of the foregoing passages:
Raphel, timuit, quo sospite, vinci
Rerum magna parens, et moriente mori.
Living, great nature fear'd he might outvie
Her works; and dying, fears herself might die. Such is the force of imitation; for Pope, of himself, would never have been guilty of a thought so extravagant.
So much upon sentiments; the language proper for expressing them, comes next in order.
LANGUAGE OF PASSION.
Man has a propensity to communicate his passions and emotions-Venting a
passion gives relief-Immoderate grief is silent, because it fills the mind-Immoderate love and revenge silent-Surprise and terror silent-They express in words, only the capital circumstances—Language should be adopted to the sentiment and passion-Elevated sentiments require elevated language-Tender sentiments, soft and flowing language-Figures give an agreeable character to sentiment-Gross errors, of passions expressed in flowing in an unequal course -The language of violent passion, interrupted and broken, soliloquies particularly-Authors apt to use language above their tone of mind—To use language too figurative for the dignity and importance of the subject, an error Language too light and airy for a serious passion-A thought that turns upon one expression instead of the subject-Expressions which have no distinct meaning
Among the particulars that compose the social part of our nature, . a propensity to communicate our opinions, our emotions, and every thing that affects us, is remarkable. Bad fortune and injustice affect us greatly; and of these we are so prone to complain, that if we have no friend nor acquaintance to take part in our sufferings, we sometimes utter our complaints aloud, even where there are none to listen.
But this propensity operates not in every state of mind. A man immoderately grieved, seeks to afflict himself, rejecting all consolation: immoderate grief accordingly is mute: complaining is struggling for consolation
It is the wretch's comfort still to have
Mourning Bride, Act I. Sc. 1. When grief subsides, it then and no sooner finds a tongue: we complain, because complaining is an effort to disburden the mind of its distress.*
Surprise and terror are silent passions for a different reason: they agitate the mind so violently as, for a time, to suspend the exercise of its faculties, and among others the faculty of speech.
Love and revenge, when immoderate, are not more loquacious than immoderate grief. But when these passions become moderate, they set the tongue free, and, like moderate grief, become loquacious: moderate love, when unsuccessful, is vented in complaints; when successful, is full of joy expressed by words and gestures.
As no passion has any long uninterrupted existence,t nor beats always with an equal pulse, the language suggested by passion is not only unequal, but frequently interrupted: and even during an uninterrupted fit of passion, we only express in words the more capital sentiments. In familiar conversation, one who vents every single thought is justly branded with the character of loquacity; because sensible people express no thoughts but what make some figure: in the same manner, we are only disposed to express the strongest pulses of passion, especially when it returns with impetuosity after interruption.
I formerly had occasion to observe, that the sentiments ought to be turned to the passion, and the language to both. Elevated sentiments require elevated language: tender sentiments ought to be clothed in words that are soft and flowing: when the mind is depressed with any passion, the sentiments must be expressed in words that are humble, not low. Words being intimately connected with the ideas
* This observation is finely illustrated by a story which Herodotus records, b. 3. Cambyses, when he conquered Egypt, made Psammenitus the king prisoner; and for trying his constancy, ordered his daughter to be dressed in the habit of a slave, and to be employed in bringing water from the river; his son also was led to execution with a halter about his neck. The Egyptians vented their sorrow in tears and lamentations; Psammenitus only, with a downcast eye, remained silent. Afterward meeting one of his companions, a man advanced in years, who, being plundered of all, was begging alms, he wept bitterly, calling him by his name. Cambyses, struck with wonder, demanded an answer to the following question: “Psammenitus, thy master, Cambyses, is desirous to know, why, after thou hadst seen thy daughter so ignominiously treated, and thy son led to execution, without exclaiming or weeping, thou shouldst be so highly concerned for a poor man, no way related to thee ?" Psammenitus returned the following answer: “ Son of Cyrus, the calamities of my family are too great to leave me the power of weep ing; but the misfortunes of a companion, reduced in his old age to want of bread, is a fit subject for lamentation.”
+ See Chap. 2. Part 3. • Chap 16.