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ANON. in The Justice of Peace, 1697
T H E C R I T I C A L H E R I TA G E
Make tuneful Crambo thy Pastime,
And help thy Slave to pump for Rhyme;
That in lewd Doggrel I may fall at
Making of Peace, so quaint a Ballad,
That may, as Simple as my Pen is,
Congreve out-Rhyme, and out Rage Dennis.
Instead of saying what we want,
One Banters us with rumbling Cant;
Talks of deep Pindar’s sounding Lyre,
Of Rapture, Fury, Flame and Fire:
As if no Peace cou’d e’er be had,
But Hairbrain’d Poet must run Mad.
Another writes such soothing Number,
’Twoud almost lull one to a Slumber;
In Frontispiece stands Birth of Muse,
A Porch too big for such a House:
In gentle Strains he tells a Tale
Of Heavenly Orb, and Earthly Ball,
By dint of Rhyme he proves it clear,
That the World hangs in Ambient Air;1
Sings of Creation, and rehearses
Good Prose of Moses in bad Verses.
But sure Transported Bard forgot,
Peace was the thing he shou’d be at;
For what is Genesis pray to it,
More than Religion to a Poet?
But I shan’t Moses filch, nor Pindar;
Since nought my honest Heart can hinder,
But in a plain unborrow’d Dress,
I’ll treat of nothing but meer Peace.
cf. ‘The Birth of the Muse’, l. 272: ‘He launch’d the World to float in
22. Jeremy Collier in A Short View of the
Immorality, and Profaneness of the English
From A Short View of the Immorality, and Profaneness of the
English Stage (London: 1698).
On Jeremy Collier, see the introduction, pp. 11–21. The preface
to A Short View is dated 5 March, and it was advertised in The
Post Boy for 16 to 18 April, and in The Flying Post for 19 to
(i) From Chapter 1, ‘The Immodesty of the Stage’ (Collier has been
Menelaus and Helen after a long Absence manage the surprize of their
good Fortune handsomly. The Most tender Expression stands clear of
ill Meaning. Had Osmin parted with Almeria as civilly as these Two
met, it had been much better. That Rant of smut and profainness might
have been spared. The Reader shall have some of it.
O my Almeria;
What do the Damn’d endure but to despair,
But knowing Heaven, to know it lost for ever.
[III, i, 364–6]
Were it not for the Creed, these Poets would be crampt in their
Courtship, and Mightily at a loss for a Simile! But Osmin is in a
wonderful Passion. And truly I think his Wits, are in some danger, as
well as his Patience. You shall hear.
What are all Wracks, and Whips, and Wheels to this;
Are they not soothing softness, sinking Ease,
And wasting Air to this?
[ibid., ll. 362–4]
Sinking Ease, and Wasting Air, I confess are strange comforts; This
Comparison is somewhat oddly equip’d, but Lovers like sick People
T H E C R I T I C A L H E R I TA G E
may say what they please! Almeria takes this Speech for a Pattern,
and suits it exactly in her return.
O I am struck, thy words are Bolts of Ice?
Which shot into my Breast now melt and chill me.
[ibid., ll. 367–8]
Bolts of Ice? Yes most certainly! For the Cold is struck up into her
Head, as you may perceive by what follows.
I chatter, shake, and faint with thrilling Fears.
[ibid., l. 369]
By the way ’tis a mighty wonder to hear a Woman Chatter! But
there is no jesting, for the Lady is very bad. She won’t be held up by
any Means, but Crys out.
——lower yet, down down;
One would think she was learning a Spanel to Sett. But there’s
——no more we’ll lift our Eyes,
But prone and dumb, Rot the firm Face of Earth,
With Rivers of incessant scalding Rain.
[ibid., ll. 372–4]
These Figures are some of them as stiff as Statues, and put me in
mind of Sylvesters Dubartas.1
Now when the Winters keener breath began
To Crystallize, the Baltick Ocean,
To glaze the Lakes, to bridle up the Floods,
And periwig with Snow the bald pate woods.
I take it, the other Verses are somewhat of Kin to These, and shall
leave them to Mr. Dryden’s Reflection. But then as for Soothing
Softness, Sinking Ease, Wasting Air, thrilling Fears, and incessant
scalding Rain; It puts me to another stand. For to talk a little in the
way of the Stage. This Litter of Epithetes makes the Poem look like
a Bitch overstock’d with Puppies, and sucks the Sence almost to skin
and Bone. But all this may pass in a Play-house: False Rhetorick and
false Jewells, do well together.
(ii) From Chapter 2, ‘The Profaness of the Stage’
In the Old Batchelour, Vain-love asks Belmour, could you be content
to go to Heaven?
Bell. Hum, not immediatly in my Conscence, not heartily—[III, i,
105–8]. This is playing I take it with Edge-Tools. To go to Heaven in
jeast, is the way to go to Hell in earnest. In the Fourth Act, Lewdness
is represented with that Gaity, as if the Crime was purely imaginary,
and lay only in ignorance and preciseness. Have you throughly
consider’d (says Fondlewife) how detestable, how Heinous, and how
crying a Sin the Sin of Adultery is? have you weighed I say? For it is
a very weighty Sin: and altho’ it may lie—yet thy Husband must also
bear his part; For thy iniquity will fall on his Head [IV, i, 67–72]. I
suppose this fit of Buffoonry and profaness, was to settle the
Conscience of young Beginners, and to make the Terrors of Religion
insignificant. Bellmour desires Lætitia to give him leave to swear by
her Eyes and her Lips: He kisses the Strumpet, and tells her, Eternity
was in that Moment [IV, ii, 72 ff.]. Lætitia is horibly profane in her
Apology to her Husband; but having the Stage-Protection of Smut
for her Guard, we must let her alone. Fondlewife stalks under the
same shelter, and abuses a plain Text of Scripture to an impudent
Meaning. A little before, Lætitia when her Intrigue with Bellmour
was almost discovered, supports her self with this Consideration.
All my comfort lies in his impudence, and Heaven be prais’d, he has
a Considerable Portion [IV, iv, 202–4]. This is the Play-house Grace,
and thus Lewdness is made a part of Devotion! Ther’s another
Instance still behind: ’Tis that of Sharper to Vain-Love, and lies thus.
I have been a kind of God Father to you, yonder: I have promis’d
and vow’d something in your Name, which I think you are bound to
Perform [V, ii, 81–3]. For Christians to droll upon their Baptism is
somewhat extraordinary. But since the Bible can’t escape, ’tis the
less wonder to make bold with the Catechisme.
In the Double Dealer, Lady Plyant cries out Jesu and talks Smut
in the same Sentence. Sr. Paul Plyant whom the Poet dub’d a Fool
when he made him a Knight, talks very Piously! Blessed be
Providence, a Poor unworthy Sinner, I am mightily beholden to
Providence [III, i, 413–15]: And the same word is thrice repeated
upon an odd occasion. The meaning must be that Providence is a
ridiculous supposition, and that none but Blockheads pretend to
Religion. But the Poet can discover himself farther if need be. Lady
Froth is pleas’d to call Jehu a Hackney Coachman. Upon this, Brisk
T H E C R I T I C A L H E R I TA G E
replies, If Jehu was a Hackney Coachman, I am answer’d—you may
put that into the Marginal Notes tho’, to prevent Criticisms—only
mark it with a small Asterisme and say,—Jehu was formerly a
Hackney Coachman [III, i, 549–53]. This for a heavy Piece of
Profaness, is no doubt thought a lucky one, because it burlesques the
Text, and the Comment, all under one. I could go on with the Double
Dealer but he’ll come in my way afterwards, and so I shall part with
him at present.
Love for Love has a Strain like this, and therefore I shall put them
together: Scandal solicits Mrs. Foresight; She threatens to tell her
Husband. He replys, He will die a Martyr rather then disclaim his
Passion [III, i, 595–6]. Here we have Adultery dignified with the
stile of Martyrdom: As if ’twas as Honourable to perish in Defence
of Whoring, as to dye for the Faith of Christianity. But these Martyrs
will be a great while in burning, And therefore let no body strive to
grace the Adventure, or encrease the Number. And now I am in this
Play the Reader shall have more. Jeremy who was bred at the
University, calls the Natural Inclinations to Eating and Drinking,
Whoreson Appetites. This is strange Language! The Manicheans who
made Creation the work of the Devil, could scarcely have been thus
Coarse. But the Poet was Jeremy’s Tutor, and so that Mystery is at
an end. Sr. Samson carries on the Expostulation, rails at the Structure
of Human Bodies, and says, Nature has been Provident only to Bears,
and Spiders [II, i, 391–2]; This is the Authors Paraphrase on the 139
Psalm; And thus he gives God thanks for the Advantage of his Being!
The Play advances from one wickedness to another, from the Works
of God, to the Abuse of his Word. Foresight confesses ’tis Natural
for Men to mistake. Scandal replies, You say true, Man will err, meer
Man will err—but you are something more——There have been wise
Men; but they were such as you—Men who consulted the Stars, and
were observers of Omens— Solomon was wise but how?—by his
Judgment in Astrology [III, i, 524–31]. ’Tis very well! Solomon and
Foresight had their Understandings qualified alike. And pray what
was Foresight? Why an Illiterate Fellow. A pretender to Dreams,
Astrology, Palmistry &c. This is the Poets account of Solomon’s
Supernatural Knowledge! Thus the wisest Prince is dwindled into a
Gypsie! And the Glorious Miracle resolved into Dotage, and Figure111
flinging! Scandal continues his Banter, and says, the wise Men of the
East owed their Instruction to a Star; which is rightly observ’d by
Gregory the Great in favour of Astrology [ibid., ll. 535–7]. This was
the Star which shone at our Saviour’s Birth. Now who could imagine
by the Levity of the occasion, that the Author thought it any better
than an Ignis Fatuus, or Sydrophel’s Kite in Hudibras? Sr. Sampson
and the fine Angelica, after some lewd raillery continue the Allegory,
and drive it up into Profaness. For this reason the Citation must be
Sr. Samps. Sampson’s a very good Name for—your Sampsons were
strong Dogs from the Beginning.
Angel. Have a care——If you remember the strongest Sampson
of your Name, pull’d an old House over his Head at last [V, i, 155–
9]. Here you have the Sacred History burlesqu’d, and Sampson once
more brought into the House of Dagon, to make sport for the
Philistines! To draw towards an end of this Play. Tattle would have
carried off Valentine’s Mistress. This later, expresses his Resentment
in a most Divine manner! Tattle I thank you, you would have
interposed between me and Heaven, but Providence has laid
Purgatory in your way [V, i, 595–7]. Thus Heaven is debas’d into an
Amour, and Providence brought in to direct the Paultry concerns of
the Stage! Angelica concludes much in the same strain. Men are
generally Hypocrites and Infidels, they pretend to Worship, but have
neither Zeal, nor Faith; How few like Valentine would persevere
unto Martyrdom? &c. [ibid., l. 634ff.]. Here you have the Language
of the Scriptures, and the most solemn Instances of Religion,
prostituted to Courtship and Romance! Here you have a Mistress
made God Almighty, Ador’d with Zeal and Faith, and Worship’d up
to Martyrdom! This if ’twere only for the Modesty, is strange stuff
for a Lady to say of her self. And had it not been for the profane
Allusion, would have been cold enough in all Conscience.
The Double Dealer to say the least of him, follows his Master in this
Road, Passibus æquis. Sr. Paul Plyant one would think had done his
part: But the ridiculing Providence won’t satisfie all People: And
therefore the next attempt is somewhat bolder.
Sr. Paul. Hold your self contented my Lady Plyant,—I find Passion
coming upon me by Inspiration [II, i, 206–7]. In Love Triumphant,
T H E C R I T I C A L H E R I TA G E
Carlos is by the Constitution of the Play a Christian; and therefore
must be construed in the sense of his Religion. This Man blunders
out this horrible expression. Nature has given me my Portion in
Sense with a P——to her. &c. The Reader may see the Hellish Syllable
at Length if he pleases. This Curse is borrow’d for Young Fashion in
the Relapse. The Double Dealer is not yet exhausted. Cynthia the
Top Lady grows Thoughtful. Upon the question she relates her
Contemplation. Cynth. I am thinking (says she) that tho’ Marriage
makes Man and Wife one Flesh, it leaves them two Fools [ibid., ll.
155–6]. This Jest is made upon a Text in Genesis, and afterwards
applyed by our Saviour to the case of Divorse (Gen. 2. St Math. 19.).
Love for Love will give us a farther account of this Authors
Proficiency in the Scriptures. Our Blessed Saviour affirms himself to
be the Way, the Truth, and the Light, that he came to bear witness to
the Truth, and that his Word is Truth. These expressions were
remembred to good purpose. For Valentine in his pretended Madness
tells Buckram the Lawyer; I am Truth,—I am Truth.—Who’s that,
that’s out of his way, I am Truth, and can set him right [IV, i, 251–2].
Now a Poet that had not been smitten with the pleasure of Blasphemy,
would never have furnish’d Frensy with Inspiration; nor put our
Saviours Words in the Mouth of a Madman.
(v) From Chapter 3, ‘The Clergy Abused by the Stage’ The Old
Batchelour has a Throw at the Dissenting Ministers. The Pimp Setter
provides their Habit for Bellmour to Debauch Lætitia. The Dialogue
Bell. And hast thou Provided Necessaries?
Setter. All, all Sir, the large Sanctified Hat, and the little precise
Band, with a Swingeing long Spiritual Cloak, to cover Carnal
Knavery,—not forgetting the black Patch which Tribulation Spintext
wears as I’m inform’d upon one Eye, as a penal Mourning for the—
Offences of his Youth &c. [III, i, 122–8].
Barnaby calls another of that Character Mr. Prig, and Fondlewife
carrys on the Humour lewdly in Play-house Cant; And to hook the
Church of England into the Abuse, he tacks a Chaplain to the End of
Lucy gives an other Proof of the Poets good Will, but all little
Scurilities are not worth repeating.
In the Double Dealer the discourse between Maskwell and
Saygrace is very notable. Maskwell had a design to cheat Mellifont
of his Mistress, and engages the Chaplain in the Intrigue: There must
be a Levite in the case; For without one of them have a finger in’t, no
Plot publick, or private, can expect to prosper.
To go on in the order of the Play.
Maskwell calls out at Saygraces door, Mr. Saygrace Mr. Saygrace.
The other answers, Sweet sir I will but pen the last line of an
Acrostick, and be with you in the twingling of an Ejaculation, in the
pronouncing of an Amen. &c.
Mask. Nay good Mr. Saygrace do not prolong the time, &c.
Saygrace. You shall prevail, I would break off in the middle of a
Sermon to do you Pleasure.
Mask. You could not do me a greater—except—the business in
hand—have you provided a Habit for Mellifont?
Saygr. I have, &c.
Mask, have you stich’d the Gownsleeve, that he may be puzled
and wast time in putting it on?
Saygr. I have; the Gown will not be indued without Perplexity [V,
i, 267ff.]. There is a little more profane, and abusive stuff behind,
but let that pass.
From The Divine Weeks and Works of Guillaume de Saluste, sieur du
Bartas, translated by Joshua Sylvester, first printed 1605–6. This
particular passage from the III Part of the I Day of the II Week, ll. 173–
6, had been cited by Dryden in his dedication of The Spanish Friar
(1681) as an example of ‘abominable fustian’ (see Of Dramatic Poesy
and other Critical Essays, ed. George Watson, 2 vols (London: Dent,
1962), I, p. 277). The inaccuracy of the quotation shows that Collier
has taken it from Dryden rather than the original.
23. Elkanah Settle in A Defence of
From A Defence of Dramatick Poetry (London: 1698), pp. 88–9.
For much of his life Elkanah Settle (1648–1724) was indeed, in
Samuel Johnson’s phrase, ‘the Rival and Antagonist of Dryden’.
In the years of the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Bill crisis
Settle initially took the Whig side, answering Dryden’s Absalom
and Achitophel with Absalom Senior, or Achitophel Transpros’d
(1682). But their rivalry went back nearly fifteen years, when
Dryden was writing heroic plays for the King’s Company, and
Settle likewise for the Duke’s Company. A Defence of
Dramatick Poetry was one of the earliest replies to Collier, and
Settle’s authorship was established comparatively recently; its
publication was announced for 31 May/2 June, and A Farther
Defence…followed on 23 June.
Nay, I dare be so bold, as to tell this angry Gentleman, as highly as
he Resents the Cuckolding of Aldermen and Quality in our Comedies,
that I could find him Matter of very good Instruction, from a
Character of this kind, in a very Ingenious Author, though not much
in Mr. Colliers Favour. For Example, If the Reverend Gentlemen of
the Fur would be but half as kind to a Play-house as a Pin-makersHall, and step for Edification, but so far towards Westminster, as to
see the Old Batchelor; I doubt not but an Isaac Fondlewife would be
a very seasonable Monitor to Reverend City Sixty, to warn against
the Marrying to Sixteen. Nor can I think it such a scandalous part of
the Dramatick Poet; but rather a true Poetick Justice, to expose the
unreasonableness of such Superannuated Dotage, that can blindly
think or hope, that a bare Chain of Gold has Magick enough in the
Circle to bind the Fidelity of so unequal a Match, a Match so contrary
to the Holy Ordinance of Matrimony; and an Itch at those Years
that deserves the severest Lash of the Stage. And if an Author would
pick out such a Character for a little Stage Satyr, where can he meet
with it but amongst the City or Court Quality? Such Inequality of
Marriages are rarely to be found, but under the Roofs of Honour,
for so Antiquated a Lover, (the least he can do) must bring a Coach
and Six, to carry off such a Young Bride.
One thing mightily offends this Divine Author, viz. That our
Modern Plays make our Libertines of both Sexes, Persons of Figure
and Quality, Fine Gentlemen and Ladies of Fashion, a fault utterly
unpractis’d by the Ancient Poets: For Terence and Plautus his
Strumpets are little People.
Now this is so far from a fault in our Comedies, that there’s a
necessity of those Characters, and a Vertue in that Choice. For as the
greatest and best part of our Audience are Quality, if we would make
our Comedies Instructive in the exposing of Vice, we must not lash
the Vices at Wapping to mend the Faults at Westminster.
24. William Congreve in Amendments of
Mr. Collier’s False and Imperfect Citations
From Amendments of Mr. Collier’s False and Imperfect
Citations (London: 1698).
Congreve’s reply to Collier was prompt, in spite of the show of
reluctance and indifference in its opening pages. It was
advertised in The Post Man for 9 to 12 July.
(i) Congreve’s Postulata
Before I proceed, for methods sake, I must premise some few things
to the Reader, which if he thinks in his Conscience are too much to
be granted me, I desire he would proceed no further in his Perusal of
these Animadversions, but return to Mr. Collier’s Short View, &c.
T H E C R I T I C A L H E R I TA G E
First, I desire that I may lay down Aristotle’s Definition of Comedy;
which has been the Compass by which all the Comick Poets, since
his time, have steer’d their Course. I mean them whom Mr. Collier
so very frequently calls Comedians; for the Distinction between
Comicus and Comædus, and Tragicus and Tragædus is what he has
not met with in the long Progress of his Reading.
Comedy (says Aristotle) is an Imitation of the worst sort of
People. , imitatio pejorum. He does not mean the worse sort of
People in respect to their Quality, but in respect to their Manners.
This is plain, from his telling you immediately after, that he does
not mean relating to all kinds of Vice: there are Crimes too daring
and too horrid for Comedy. But the Vices most frequent, and
which are the common Practice of the looser sort of Livers, are
the subject Matter of Comedy. He tells us farther, that they must
be exposed after a ridiculous manner: For Men are to be laugh’d
out of their Vices in Comedy; the Business of Comedy is to
delight, as well as to instruct: And as vicious People are made
asham’d of their Follies or Faults, by seeing them expos’d in a
ridiculous manner, so are good People at once both warn’d and
diverted at their Expence.
Thus much I thought necessary to premise, that by shewing the
Nature and End of Comedy, we may be prepared to expect Characters
agreeable to it.
Secondly, Since Comick Poets are oblig’d by the Laws of Comedy,
and to the intent that Comedy may answer its true end and purpose
above-mentioned, to represent vicious and foolish Characters: In
Consideration of this, I desire that it may not be imputed to the
Perswasion or private Sentiments of the Author, if at any time one of
these vicious Characters in any of his Plays shall behave himself
foolishly, or immorally in Word or Deed. I hope I am not yet
unreasonable; it were very hard that a Painter should be believ’d to
resemble all the ugly Faces that he draws.
Thirdly, I must desire the impartial Reader, not to consider any
Expression or Passage cited from any Play, as it appears in Mr.
Collier’s Book; nor to pass any Sentence or Censure upon it, out of
its proper Scene, or alienated from the Character by which it is spoken;
for in that place alone, and in his Mouth alone, can it have its proper
and true Signification.
I cannot think it reasonable, because Mr. Collier is pleas’d to write
one Chapter of Immodesty, and another of Profaneness, that therefore