Imagens da página

and commonly were read, by the student in that department-on the contrary, many books will occur in our selection, which neither are read in the whole, nor deserve to be read, but from which we hope to extract the valuable part, and exhaust them, as it were, of their vitality, in a receiver - Had this work been continued, it would, in all probability, have contained an accurate and important account of a very curious and valuable collection of English books: it ceased, however, at the end of the sixth monthly number; when Mr. Oldys could neither be persuaded by the entreaty of his friends, nor the demands of the public, to continue the labour. Some extracts from the preface to this work we shall here transcribe, by way of conclusion, because they are as applicable to our design, as to that to which they were prefixed, and because they are well worthy of being read, for their intrinsic merit:

" For through the defect of such intelligence, in its proper extent, how many authors have we, who are consuming their time, their quiet, and their wits, in searching after what is past finding, or already found ? Or admiring at the penetrations which themselves have made, though to the rind only, in those very branches of science which their forefathers have pierced to the pith? And how many who would be authors, as excellent as ever appeared, had they but such plans or models laid before them, as might induce them to marshal their thoughts into a regular order; or did they but know where to meet with concurrence of opinion, with arguments, authorities or examples, to corroborate and open their teeming conceptions.”—Page 1.

[ocr errors]

Lastly : Again, how many readers, who would not be glad of attaining to knowledge the shortest way, seeing the orb thereof is swollen to such a magnitude, and life but such a span to grasp it! How many who have not some curiosity to know the foundations of those tenets upon which they so se. curely trust their understandings? or where the footsteps of those opinions and precedents may be found, which have given direction to so many modern performances : Who would not embrace the most likely means to detect the vile grievance of plagiarism, and deter so many disadvantageous repetitions of the same thing? What reader would not think it convenient to be apprised of the worth of authors, before he gave them place in his study or esteem, by some previous character, or little analysis of what is comprised in them? and who would not find it commodious to have the opportunity of revising the library of which he has been or may be possessed, in faithful portraits thereof, at such times and places, and in which he cannot come at the originals? In a word, if he be ignorant, who would not covet to enlarge his knowledge ? If he be knowing, who would not willingly refresh his memory? And yet all the expedients we have to accommodate the curious with so many desiderata are only some superficial catalogues, either of authors rather than their works, or of the works of authors only, in some one peculiar place of education, or in some single science; or else those which have been most cursorily taken of some particular libraries, and also a few extracts, limited to the recommendation only of some modern writers.”--P. ii. The following quotation will clearly exhibit the difference between our work and that of Oldys :

« Our business therefore cannot be so much to delight Readers with the flowers of books, or satisfy them with a smooth contexture of all the reasons and arguments in them, as to point out those heads or topics which, like so many streams and rivulets that severally arise in the provinces of literature, may best direct them to the fountains themselves, where every reader will extract those parts and those proportions, which no epitomist can do for him :-So that by this compendium of hints and advertisements concerning the most observable persons and places, times and things, which have been spoken of in the writings of men, is intended a promptuary only to the search of those writings, as the best means to expedite the attainment of what every one is seeking; for, as the excellent Lord Bacon complains, • learned men want such inventories of every thing in nature and art, as rich men have of their estates.'”


[blocks in formation]

Art.I. The Tragedies of the last Age, considered and examined

by the Practice of the Ancients, and by the Common Sense of all Ages, in a Letter to Fleetwood Shepheard, Esq. by Mr. Rymer, Servant to their Majesties, Part I. London,

1692. Second Edition. A short View of Tragedy; its original Excellency, and Corruption, with some Reflections on Shakespear, and other Practitioners for the Štage. By Mr. Rymer, Servant to their Majesties. London, 1693.

These are very curious and edifying works. The author (who was the compiler of the Fædera) appears to have been a man of considerable acuteness, maddened by a furious zeal for the honour of tragedy. He lays down the most fantastical rules for the composition which he chiefly reveres, and argues on them as “ truths of holy writ.” He criticizes Shakespear as one invested with authority to sit in judgment on his powers, and passes on him as decisive a sentence of condemnation, as ever was awarded against a friendless poet by a Reviewer. We will select a few passages from his work, which may be consolatory to modern authors, and useful to modern critics.

The chief weight of Mr. Rymer's critical vengeance is wreaked on Othello. After a slight sketch of the plot, he proceeds at once to speak of the moral, which he seems to regard as of the first importance in tragedy.

“ Whatever rubs or difficulty may stick on the bark, the moral use of this fable is very instructive. First, this may be a caution to all maidens of quality, how, without their parents' consent, they run away with blackamoors. Secondly, this may be a warning to all good

« AnteriorContinuar »