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canoræ, to which the language and the manners of France seem to be peculiarly adapted. He knew mankind : "
Quiconque est sans honneur & sans humeur, (said he frequently,) est un courtisan parfaite.” Crebillon, the father, a writer far superior to his son, during this profligate and debauched regent's administration, wrote a set of odes against him, of wonderful energy and keenness, and almost in the spirit of Alceus; if it be not a kind of profanation to speak thus of any production of a poet that writes under a despotic government.
7. Alas! in truth, the man but chang’d his mind;
Perhaps was sick, in love, or had not din'd.*
For the destruction of a kingdom, said a man of wit, nothing more is sometimes requisite than a bad digestion of the prime minister. The Grand Seignior offered to assist Henry IV. against his rebellious subjects, not for any deep political reason, but only because he hated the word League. It is a fault in Davila, as well as Ta
* Ver. 127.
citus, never to ascribe great events to whim, caprice, private passions, and petty causes.
8. Judge we by nature? Habit can efface,
Interest o'ercome, or policy take place :
We find here, in the compass of eight lines, an anatomy of human nature ; more sense and observation cannot well be compressed and concluded in a narrower space. This passage might be drawn out into a voluminous commentary, and be worked up into a system concerning the knowledge of the world. There seems to be an inaccuracy in the use of the last verb; the natural temperament is by no means suddenly changed, or turned with a change of climate, though undoubtedly the humours are originally formed by it: influenced by, would be a more proper expression than turn with, if the metre would admit it.
9. His passion still, to covet gen'ral praise ;
His life, to forfeit it a thousand ways;
This character of the Duke of Wharton is finished with much force and expressiveness ;t the contradictions that were in it are strongly contrasted. In an entertaining work lately published, which, it is hoped, will diffuse a relish for biography, we have a remarkable anecdote relating to this nobleman's speech in favour of the Bishop of Rochester. His Grace, then in opposition to the Court, went to Chelsea the day before the last debate on that prelate's affair, where acting contrition, he professed being determined to work out his pardon at Court by. speaking
* Ver. 195.
t Compare it with that of Zimri, the Duke of Buckingham, in Absalom and Achitophel; in which Dryden has excelled our author.
against the bishop, in order to which he begged some hints.
The minister was deceived, and went through the whole cause with him, pointing out where the strength of the argument lay, and where its weakness. The Duke was very thankful, returned to town, passed the night in drinking, and, without going to bed, went to the House of Lords, where he spoke for the bishop, recapitulating, in the most masterly manner, and answering all that had been urged against him. *
10. When Catiline by rapine swell'd his store;
When Cæsar made a noble dame a whore ;
The same passion excited Richlieu to throw
up the dyke at Rochelle, and to dispute the prize of poetry with Corneille ; whom to traduce was the surest method of gaining the affection of this ambitious minister, who aspired equally to excel K 3
Catalogue of the Royal and Noble Authors of England, vol. ii. p. 133.
+ Ver. 211.
in all things; nay, who formed a design to be canonized as a saint. A perfect contrast to the character of Cardinal Fleury, who shewed that it was possible to govern a great state with moderate abilities, and a mild temper. His ministry is impartially represented by Voltaire in the age of Louis XIV.
11. Lucullus, when frugality could charm,
Had roasted turnips in the Sabine farm.*
Few writers of his country have displayed a greater energy of sentiment than Crebillon ;f in his Catiline we have a noble one that may illustrate this doctrine of POPE: “ If (says this fierce and inflexible conspirator) I had only Lentuluses of my party, and if it was filled only with men of virtue, I should easily assume that cha
* Ver. 217. See Considerations on Lucullus, in the second vol. of L'Abbé de St. Real, p. 1.
+ The creditors of Crebillon would have stopped the profits of this tragedy; but the spirited old bard appealed to the king in council, and procured an honourable decree in his favour, setting forth, that works of genius should not be deemed effects that were capable of being seized. This writer's works were lately printed in a magnificent manner at the Louvre, in two volumes quarto, at the expence of Madame Pompadour.