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THE BRITISH STAGE.
IMITATIO VITAE, SPECULUM CONSUETUDINIS, IMAGO VERITATIS.
MR. SEYMOUR'S NOTES UPON SHAKSPEARE.
K. HENRY IV. FIRST PART.
ACT I-SCENE I.
"No more the thirsty Erinnys of this soil
"Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood."
Those who are not too much frightened by this tremendous personage, which Mr. Monk Mason has conjured from the infernal shades, to assume a station in the text here, and whose grim right Mr. Steevens has commanded us to acknowledge, will very readily, I believe, be satisfied with the plain sense of the common reading. "No more the thirsty entrance of this soil," &c.
i. e. No more the gaping fissures, the lips, of this parched or thirsty soil, shall be bedaub'd with native blood. The ́personification, indeed, is a little harsh, but the very same thought is to be found in our author's 19th sonnet.
"Devouring time blunt thou the lion's paws,
"And make the earth devour her own sweet brood."
"If thou durst not stand for ten shillings."
Stand is contend, as in K. Hen. V. A& 3rd. "Stand for your
"Who then affrighted
"Ran fearfully among the trembling reeds,
Dr. Johnson has very fairly vindicated the propriety of this passage; though in doing so, he has furnished a conspicuous instance of the capriciousness sometimes of his critical decisions; for, if the Severn may justly be personified, and have a tutelary power, bearing his name, there can be no reason why the Thames should not have equal privilege; yet the Doctor has been very sarcastic upon Mr. Gray, for invoking "Father Thames" in his Ode on a distant Prospect of Eton College.
518. “Disdain'd contempt."
"Disdain'd," says Dr. Johnson, "is disdainful; but so it might as well have been disdainful disdain, or contemptuous contempt The sense, I believe, is contempt that is repelled with equal contempt, or disdain.
Methinks it were an easy leap
"To pluck bright honour from the pale-fac'd moon,
Dr. Johnson, I think, has well defended this sally of Hotspur; "but," says Mr. T. Warton, "it is probably a passage from some bombast play, and afterwards used as a common burlesque phrase for attempting impossibilities." I suppose the learned critic is singular in fancying a probability that the poet would designedly put into the mouth of the noble Percy, and at a time like this, a speech of boastful nonsense and burlesque.
I have always thought with Mr. Capel and Mr. Malone, that wasp-tongue," the reading of the 2d qu. is right. Had Hotspur himself been the speaker, he might naturally have said, in justifica. tion of his impatience, that he was wasp-stung," as he afterwards says he is "stung with pismires; and even if Northumberland had supposed his son to be so uncomfortably assailed, there would be no reason to wonder at his restlessness; but Hotspur is reproached for being irritated without any sufficient cause, and from the mere caprice and petulance of his temper: and thus he is called " wasptongue," as Brutus, in Julius Cæsar, says to Cassius,
"I'll use you
for my mirth, yea, for my laughter, "When you are waspish.”
78. "Such as will strike sooner than speak, and speak sooner than drink, and drink sooner than play."
This arrangement is certainly wrong; and Doctor Warburton has in vain attempted to rectify it. There is, indeed, but little humour in saying of this dissolute crew, that "they would speak sooner than drink :" as little is there, I believe, in the proposed emendation, that they would "speak sooner than think, and think sooner than pray." Doctor Johnson is obliged to leave the passage as he found it, and Mr. Malone appears to be not at all satisfactory
upon it. Perhaps we should read thus-"Such as will strike sooner than drink; and drink sooner than speak; and speak sooner than pray"-i. e. they are plain, blunt fellows, who would rather open their mouths to drink than to talk; yet would decline their lov'd potations sooner than omit an opportunity to plunder; and would be even loquacious rather than religious.
four foot by the square."
Falstaff humourously intimates that he is four feet in breadth, and cannot advance so far without describing the square surface of that measure.
"If I rob a foot farther."
Dr. Johnson would read "rub," but there is much more humour in the expression as it is, which implies that his whole career was ROBBERY, and that to check his motion would be to remit his plunder.
ARMIN THE PLAYER.
ROBERT ARMIN, was one of the original actors in Shakspeare's plays, and was alive in 1611. He was ranked the eighth after Sly, in the king's licence of 1603; was affectionately remembered by Augustine Phillips, in 1605; who left him a legacy of twenty shillings. Mr. Oldys, in his MS. notes on Langbaine, says that "Armin was an apprentice first to a goldsmith in Lombard-street, and the means of his becoming a player is recorded in Tarleton's jests, printed in 1611, where it appears this 'prentice going often to a tavern in Grace Church-Street, to dun the keeper thereof, who was a debtor to his master Tarleton, who, from being master of that tavern, was now only a lodger in it, saw some verses written by Armin on the wains cot, upon his maisters said debtor, whose name was Charles Tarleton, and liked them so well, that he wrote others under them, prophecying, that as he was, so Armin should be therefore calls him his adopted son, to wear the clowns suit after him. And so it fell out, for the boy was so pleased with what Tarleton had written of him, so respected his person, so frequented his plays, and so learned his humour and manners, that from his private practice he come to public playing his parts; that he was in great repute for the same at the Globe on the Bank-side, &c. all the former part of king James's reign."
He was an author as well as a player, and wrote a comedy called
The two Maids of More clacke, (Mortlake ;) a Nest of Ninnies ;* a book called Phantasm the Italian Taylor and his Boy, and a true discourse of the practices of Elizabeth Caldwell, Ma. Jeffrey Bownd, Isabell Hull, Widdow, and George Fernely, on the parson of Ma. Thomas Caldwell, in the county of Chester, to have murdered and poysoned him with divers others. The following curious dedication appears at the end of the copy, with which we have been favoured by a friend, which presents a pithy instance of epistolary cleverness. No other copy has been discovered with the addition of this letter.
To the right honourable, and his singular good lady, the lady Mary Chandois, R. A. wisheth health and everlasting happinesse. My honourable and very good lady, considering my dutie to your kind ladiship, and remembring the vertues of your prepared minde, I could doe no lesse but dedicate this strange worke to your view, being both matter of moment and truth. And to the whole world it may seeme strange, that a gentlewoman so well brought up in gods feare, so well married, so vertuous ever, so suddinly wrought to this act of murder; that when your ladiship doth read as well the letter as the booke, of her owne indighting, you will the more wonder that her vertues coulde so aptly tast the follies of vice and villanie. But so it was, and for the better proofe that it was so, I have placed my kinsman's name to it, who was present at all her troubles, at her comming to prison, her beeing in prison, and her going out of prison to execution. That those gentlemen to whom he dedicates his worke witnessed, may also be pertakers in that kind, for the proofe thereof, that your ladiship and the world so satisfied, may admire the deede, and hold it as strange as it is true.
We have many giddie pated poets, that coulde have published this report with more eloquence, but truth in plaine attire is the easier knowne : let fixion maske in Kendall greene. It is my qualitie, to adde to the truth, truth, and not leasings to lyes. Your
* An extremely rare and curious satire, a copy of which is now in the possession of a most respectable commentator, ISAAC REED, Esq. and for which he has been offered the sum of five guineas, by a literary gentleman of celebrity, RICHARD HEBER, Esq. whose valuable collection of books in every department of science, and his readiness to contribute his information in aid of any literary project, are undoubted proofs of the refinements of his taste, and the gentleness of his manners. LEYDEN the pride of the Scotish nation, has dedicated his invaluable edition of the Complaynt of Scotland, to this accomplished scholar.
good honor knawes Pincks, poore hart, who in all my services to your late deceased kind lord, never savoured of flattiree, or fixion: and therefore am now the bolder to present to your vertues, the view of this late truth, desiring you to so thinke of it, that you may be an honourable mourner at these obsequies, and you shall no more doe, than manie more have doone. So with my tendered dutie, my true ensuing storie, and my ever wishing well, I do humbly commit your ladiship to the prison of heaven, wherein is perfect freedome. Your ladiship's ever,
In duty and service,
THE VOICE OF NATURE.
A PLAY IN THREE ACTS,
BY JAMES BOADEN, ESQ.
THE original of this piece is French, and the play is now performing with infinite success in Paris; but Mr. BOADEN's pretensions are not those of a mere translator; he has adapted the subject to the English stage, adhering to, or deviating from, the French author, as best suited the purpose he had in view; and the skill with which he has executed his task will strikingly appear upon a comparison of the two performances.
We are not among the number of those who condemn the practice of borrowing from the literary labours of foreigners. It it justifiable by very high precedent, and the exercise of this freedom is reciprocally indulged by the several nations in Europe. Persons of the first genius in this country have thought the office altogether worthy of their talents. Mr. Sheridan, Mrs. Inchbald, Mr. Hoare, Mr. Cumberland, who, as well as Mr. Boaden, have proved themselves to possess strong original powers, have not disdained to owe an obligation to Kotzebue, and in the same mode and degree Mr. Boaden is indebted to the production of M. Craigneiz. No person of taste will deny the merits of Mr. Murphy, and yet some of his best dramas are derived from the French authors. Aaron Hill, Fielding, and others, have looked to the same school. Many of our stock comedies, particularly Mrs. Centlivre's, are Spanish, and Mr. Hoole, a gentleman of acknowledged poetical taste, has pro-' duced two or three tragedies from the Italian of Metastasio. In