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what, in so short a production, is the less pardonable, some strikin faults-of bombast; as,
Panting time toiled after him in vain,'
-of conceit and pun; as,
For we that live to please must please to live:"
but it has also great beauties, and is, on the whole, a monument of his taste and powers, such as we find that
Not an hundred wits can raise,
Such wits as live in these degenerate days.'
All later pieces of this sort are already sunk in oblivion; indeed, except this, and two or three other prologues by Johnson, that of Pope to Cato, (the best piece of the kind ever written,) and a few, very few of Dryden's, it would do our poetical character but little injury if the whole species of theatrical addresses, grave and gay, were erased from our literature; nor can we find, in those recent efforts which have led us into this examination, any one which we should desire to save from the general doom.
It seems, the rebuilding of the theatre at Drury Lane, after its late destruction by fire, was managed by a certain committee, to whom also was confided, amidst other minor and mechanical arrangements, the care of procuring an occasional prologue. This committee, if it was wisely selected for its other duties, could not, we may well suppose, be greatly qualified for this, and, accordingly, with due modesty, and in the true spirit of tradesmen, they advertised for the best poetical address, to be sealed and delivered within a certain number of days, folded and directed in a given form,-in short, like the tender for a public contract.
The result has been just what we should have expected from so auspicious a beginning, in every respect but two; one is that, to our great astonishment, three and forty persons were found to contend for this prize; and the other, that amongst these are to be found two or three persons who appear to have some share of taste and genius.
The three and forty addresses, however, properly folded, sealed, marked, and directed, reached the committee: we can easily ima gine the modest dismay with which they viewed their increasing hoards; they began to think that it would have been easier and safer to trust to the reputation and taste of Mr. Scott or Mr. Southey, Mr. Campbell, or Mr. Rogers, than to have pledged themselves to the task of making a choice and selection in a mat ter of which what little they knew was worse than nothing.—
* Many of these compositions have the merit of preserving curious traces of manuers which would have been probably otherwise, lost.
The builders of the lofty pile were totally at a loss to know how to dispose of the builders of the lofty rhyme-the latter all spoke different languages, and all, to the former, equally unintelligible. The committee were alike confounded with the number of addresses and their own debates. No such confusion of tongues had accompanied any erection since the building of Babel. Nor could matters have been set to rights, (unless by a miracle,) if the convenient, though not very candid plan of rejecting all the addresses had not occurred, as a 6 mezzotermine' in which the whole committee might safely agree; and the addresses were rejected accordingly. We do not think that they deserved, in true poetical justice, a better fate; not one was excellent, two or three only were tolerable, and the rest so execrable that we wonder this committee of taste did not agree upon one of them. But as the several bards were induced to expend their precious time and more precious paper, by the implied engagement on the part of the committee, that the best bidder should have the contract, we think they have a right to protest against the injustice of this wholesale rejection. It was about as fair as it would be in Messrs. Bish and Carter, after they had disposed of all their lottery tickets, to acquaint the holders that there should be no drawing, but that they intended to transfer the £20,000 prize to an acquaintance of their own. The committee, we readily admit, made an absurd engagement; but surely they were bound to keep it.
In the dilemma to which, says the preface to the Genuine Addresses, that learned body was reduced by the rejection of all the biddings, they put themselves under the care of Lord Byron, who prescribed in their case a composition which bears the honour of his name, aud occupies the first place in the following collection.'
We have already had the pleasure of expressing our very favourable opinion of Lord Byron's poetical powers, and we shall, therefore, with the less hesitation, confess that it was not to a person distinguished only by a work so little critical or didactic in its thoughts or style, that we should have thought of applying in such an emergency. We were therefore not at all disappointed at finding his lordship's composition, marked indeed with brilliant touches of poetry, but, on the whole, if not unworthy of, at least very illsuited to the occasion.
We shall enter into little detail of criticism on this successful address; but a few observations will be expected from us; and, first, we must protest against the stale common-place of lamenting that Shakespeare has ceased to reign,' because, forsooth, a play-house is burned down. It does, we believe, so happen, that the late Drury Lane theatre exhibited, in its time, fewer of Shakespeare's plays than any of its predecessors or rivals; and yet Lord
Byron, and twenty-seven out of the forty-three rejected poets, have, to a bard, hailed, invoked, embodied, revived, enshrined, enthroned, and consecrated Shakespeare on the auspicious occasion of building a new theatre upon the site of an old one lately burned down.
The fire is, we think, somewhat too conspicuous in Lord Byron's address, and the comparison of it to Israel's pillar,' at once inju dicious and incorrect; the fiery pillar of the Israelites was a flame, not of devastation and ruin, but of guidance and security;-not a couflagration, but a beacon. How it resembles the Drury Lane fire, except in the common quality of being visible, we cannot conceive; and even in this particular, any other fire that ever blazed would have afforded, we think, a more appropriate allusion.
Upon the whole, we are almost inclined to think, that the committee was as wrong, in point of taste, as it was in point of fair dealing. Two or three of the rejected addresses appear quite as proper for the occasion, as that which has been adopted, and one of them, though not so brilliant, rather more so. Had his lordship's address been sent anonymously to the committee, we do not doubt that it would have experienced the same kind treatment which these excellent and truly impartial judges bestowed on all the rest.
We now arrive at the Rejected Addresses,' a jeu d'esprit which has had so much success as to oblige the others to advertize themselves as genuine; and declare, with great solemnity of assertion, that they are the real Simon Pures. This little work comprizes a number of imitations and parodies of our best and our worst living poets, executed with great humour, discrimination, and good taste, and exhibiting a most striking contrast to the gross ribaldry of the efforts to be comical which we noticed in a former article.*
The imitation of the noble author of the successful address is written in the stanza of Childe Harold, and is slyly entitled, Cui Bono' the pococurante style of the fastidious pilgrim is happily imitated.
'Sated with home, of wife, of children tired,
* Poetical Vagaries, by George Colman.
VOL. VIII. NO. XV.
Scorning to view fantastic Columbine,
Viewing with scorn and hate the nonsense of the Nine.'
Nothing in Childe Harold exceeds the sublimity of ennui and carelessness which the conclusion of the 8th stanza presents.
And nought is every thing, and every thing is nought.'
Our readers will be amused by the following parody on a beautiful passage of Southey's Kehama, which was quoted by us in our review of that work.*
Midnight, yet not a nose
From Tower-hill to Piccadilly snored!
From Indra drew the essence of repose.
By Indra fann'd, the god of fire ascends the walls of Drury;
Bend beneath the landlord's tread;
Grazier and brazier,
Thro' streets and alleys pour'd,
All, all abroad to gaze,
And wonder at the blaze.
As if the dismal view
Were but to them a mighty jubilee.'-pp. 29, 30.
Yamen, the god of fire, however, soon consumes old Drury, but he is in a dreadful anxiety lest the proprietors should agree to rescue his prey from him by rebuilding the theatre.
'The lawyers are met at the Crown and Anchor,
* Vol. V. Art. ii. page 45,
And, merit of merit!
Are fix'd at the foot of the deeds!'-pp. 35, 36.
From the parody of Walter Scott we know not what to select -it is all good; the effect of the fire on the town, and the descrip tion of a fire-man in his official apparel, may be quoted as amusing specimens of the, misapplication of the style and metre of Mr. Scott's admirable romances.
So London's sons in nightcap woke,
In bedgown woke her dames,
For shouts were heard mid fire and smoke
"The Playhouse is in flames."
And lo! where Catherine Street extends,
To every window pane:
Blushes each spout in Martlet Court,
A bright ensanguin'd drain;
"The summon'd firemen woke at call,
Then jacket thick of red or blue,
The engines thunder'd thro' the street,
• And one, the leader of the band,