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'I am not so silly, Mr. Mirror, but I can understand the meaning of all this. My Lady, it seems, is contented to have some humble friends in the country, whom she does not think worthy of her notice in town: but I am determined to shew her, that I have a prouder spirit than she imagines, and shall not go near her, either in town or country. What is more, my father shan't vote for her friend at next election, if I can help it.
'What vexes me beyond every thing else is, that I had been often telling my aunt and her daughters of the intimate footing I was on with Lady
and what a violent friendship we had for each other; and so, from envy, perhaps, they used to nick-name me the Countess, and Lady Leonora. Now that they have got this story of the mantua-maker and the playhouse (for I was so angry I could not conceal it), I am ashamed to hear the name of a lady of quality mentioned, even if it be only in a book from the circulating library. Do write a paper, Sir, against pride and haughtiness, and people forgetting their country friends and acquaintance, and you will very much oblige, Yours, &c.
'P. S. My uncle's partner, the young gentleman I mentioned above, takes my part when my cousins joke upon intimates with great folks: I think he is a much genteeler and better-bred man than I took him for at first.-'Z.
N° 54. SATURDAY, JULY 31, 1779.
AMONG the letters of my correspondents, I have been favoured with several containing observations on the conduct and success of my paper. Of these, some recommend subjects of criticism as of a kind that has been extremely popular in similar periodical publications, and on which, according to them, I have dwelt too little. Others complain, that the critical papers I have published were written in a style and manner too abstruse and technical for the bulk of my readers, and desire me to remember, that in a performance addressed to the world, only the language of the world should be used.
I was last night in a company where a piece of conversation-criticism took place, which as the speakers were well-bred persons of both sexes, was necessarily of the familiar kind. As an endeavour, therefore, to please both the above-mentioned correspondents, I shall set down, as nearly as I can recollect, the discourse of the company. It turned on the tragedy of Zara, at the representation of which all of them had been present a few evenings ago.
'It is remarkable,' said Mr. — 'what an era of improvement in the French drama may be marked from the writings of M. de Voltaire. The cold and tedious declamation of the former French tragedians he had taste enough to see was not the language of passion, and genius enough to execute his pieces in a different manner. He retained the eloquence of Corneille, and the tenderness of Racine; but he never suffered the first to swell into bombast, nor the other to sink into languor. He accompanied them with the force and energy of our Shakspeare,
whom he had the boldness to follow-- And the meanness to decry,' said the lady of the house.— He has been unjust to Shakspeare, I confess,' replied Sir H (who had been a considerable time abroad, and has brought somewhat more than the language and dress of our neighbours); yet I think I have observed our partiality for that exalted poet carry us as unreasonable lengths on the other side. When we ascribe to Shakspeare innumerable beauties, we do him but justice; but, when we will not allow that he has faults, we give him a degree of praise to which no writer is entitled, and which he, of all men, expected the least. It was impossible that, writing in the situation he did, he should have escaped inaccuracies; suffice it to say, they always arose from the exuberance of fancy, not the sterility of dulness.'
There is much truth in what you say,' answered Mr. 'but Voltaire was unjust when, not satisfied with pointing out blemishes in Shakspeare, he censured a whole nation as barbarous for admiring his works. He must, himself, have felt the excellence of a poet, whom, in this very tragedy of Zara, he has not disdained to imitate, and to imitate very closely too. The speech of Orasmane (or Osman, as the English translation calls him), beginning,
J'aurois d'un oeil serene, d'un front inalterable,
is almost a literal copy of the complaint of Othello :
-Had it rain'd
All sorts of curses on me, &c.
which is, perhaps, the reason why our translator has omitted it.'' I do not pretend to justify Voltaire,’ returned Sir H ; yet, it must be remembered, in alleviation, that the French have formed a sort of national taste in their theatre, correct, perhaps, al
most to coldness. apt to err on the other side; to mistake rhapsody for fire, and to applaud a forced metaphor for a bold one. I do not cite Dryden, Lee, or the other poets of their age; for that might be thought unfair; but, even in the present state of the English stage, is not my idea warranted by the practice of poets, and the applause of the audience? A poet of this country, who, in other passages, has often touched the tender feelings with a masterly hand, gives to the hero of one of his latest tragedies, the following speech:
In Britain, I am afraid we are
Had I a voice like Etna when it roars,
For in my breast is pent as fierce a fire,
That a man, in the fervour and hurry of composition, should set down such an idea, is nothing; that it should be pardoned by the audience, is little; but that it should always produce a clap, is strange indeed!'
'And is there nothing like this in French tragedies?' said the lady of the house; for there is, I think, abundance of it in some of our late imitations of them.'-' Nay, in the translation of Zaïre, Madam,' returned the Baronet, Hill has sometimes departed from the original, to substitute a swelling and elaborate diction. He forgets the plain soldierly character of the Sultan's favourite Corasmin, when he makes him say,
-Silent and dark,
Th' unbreathing world is hush'd, as if it heard
The original is simple description;
Tout dort, tout est tranquille, et l'ombre de la nuit.
And when the slave, in the 4th act, brings the fatal letter to the Sultan, and mentions the circumstances
of its interception, the translator makes Osman stay to utter a sentiment, which is always applauded on the English stage, but is certainly, however noble in itself, very ill-placed here:
Approach me like a subject
That serves the Prince, yet not forgets the man.
Osman had no breath for words: Voltaire gives him but five hurried ones:
Donne qui la portait?—donne.
'I am quite of your opinion, Sir H
-,' said Mr. ; and I may add, that even Voltaire seems to me too profuse of sentiments in Zara, which, beautiful as they are, and though expressed with infinite delicacy, are yet somewhat foreign to that native language which feeling dictates, and by. which it is moved. I weep at a few simple words expressive of distress; I pause to admire a sentiment, and my pity is forgotten. The single line uttered by Lusignan, at the close of his description of the massacre of his wife and children,
Helas! et j'etais père, et je ne pas mourir,
moves me more than a thousand sentiments how just or eloquent soever.'
If we think of the noblest use of tragedy,' said Mrs. 'we shall perhaps, Sir, not be quite of your opinion. I, who am a mother, wish my children to learn some other virtues, beside compassion, at a play; it is certainly of greater consequence to improve the mind than to melt it.'- I am sure, Mamma,' said a young lady, her daughter, sentiments of tragedy affect me as much as the most piteous description. When I hear an exalted sentiment, I feel my heart, as it were, swell in my bosom, and it is always followed by a gush of tears from my