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to The Prince of Wales, his present Majesty. It opens with the following lines :
“ Or CULTURE, and the various fruits of earth;
“ That'sings of Public VIRTUE, lend an ear." It is not impossible, nor improbable, but that this Poem may have had some influence in directing the attention of his Royal Patron to the objects here recommended to his particular care.
The Poem is a very pleasing production for any one who may be fond of rural affairs. Of its value as a treatise on Agriculture I am not competent to speak. Probably the improvements i which have of late years taken place in that art may have superseded many of the precepts. The language and imagery frequently remind me of Thomson, though it never rises to the sublimity of his happiest flights.
It contains many examples of that confusion of ideas which arise to an author from an early and too great attention to the heathen authors, and which I have so often noticed, and censured, under the term of heathenism. A few specimens shall be given.
" Genius of Britain! Pure intelligence !
O wake the breast of her aspiring son,
Canto 1. live 19. Here, to take the passage in its most favourablelight, by the Genius of Britain, it is supposed that a Guardian Angel is appointed by The Deity to take care of the nation, then it is wrong to address a prayer to that ungel to assist
him. If by the Genius is meant one of the heathen Genii,
“ O Muse, in notes familiar, teach the swain" &c. The only sense in which, as it appears to me, the term Muse can be admitted with propriety, is when the vein of poetry, or faculty of writing in the author is personifieil (as Wisdom is in the Book of Proverbs,) and addressed; but, if any request or prayer be made, or if a heathen Muse be intended, then I conceive it to be wrong. After
wards he says:
" Yet sure some sacred impulse stirs my breast !
“ The pleasing task which he inspires, pursue." C. 11. 1. 325. This is a very solemn and difficult passage. If, by the ruling God and his inspiration, he means the true Deity, I consider it as too positive and presumptuous.
If he does not intend that, then I consider it as profane and heathenish.
In 1758, Dodsley began publishing The Annual Register, a work of great repute, and to which men of the first abilities have contributed. The Historical part was for some years written by Edmund Burke.
In 1758 his Tragedy of Cleone was performed at Covent-garden, having been first refused by Garrick, for which he has been much censured, and is accused of having played a new character (Marplot) on the nights of its first performance, with a view to draw off the audience and prejudice the piece. (Davies's Life of Garrick, vol. I. p. 224.) Two reasons, however, have been assigned for Garrick's refusal of this play; the one, that there was no character in it suited to his
and the other, that he considered it as “ a cruel, bloody, and
unnatural, play.” (Do. p. 223.) And in this opi. nion I very much agree with Garrick; it is too horrid and harrowing from the beginning to the end ; there is no relief, none of those passages which Sir Joshua Reynolds compares to repose in painting. See a Note by
him on Macbeth, A. I. S. VI. the beginning. (Malone, Vol. IV. p. 300.) Yet the play has certainly very considerable merit. The conduct of it is interesting, and the language is in general natural and chaste. The moral, however, is not sufficiently brought out. I shall here transcribe a passage from Boswell's Life of Johnson, (4th Edn. Vol. IV. p. 19) shewing that critic's opinion of the piece: 66 Mr. Langton, when a very young man,
read " Dodsley's Cleone a Tragedy,' to him, not aware of " his extreme impatience to be read to. As it went on 16 he turned his face to the back of his chair, and put 66 himself into various attitudes, which marked his unea66 siness.
At the end of an act, however, he said, " Come, let's have some more,
into the slaughster-house again, Lanky. But I am afraid there is 66 more blood than brains. Yet he afterwards said, 66 6 When I heard you read it, I thought higher of its
power of language: when I read it myself, I was more sensible of its pathetic effect;' and then he paid
it a compliment which many will think very extrava“ gant, Sir (said he) if Otway had written this play,
no other of his pieces would have been remembered.' “ Dodsley himself, upon this being repeated to him, 66 said, " It was too much :' it must be remembered, " that Johnson always appeared, not to be sufliciently 6 sensible of the merit of Otway." *
This tragedy was revived by Mrs. Siddons some time before the year 1788, or in that season ; but so strong were the feelings which her performance of the character of Cleone excited on the first night of acting, that the house was thin on the second night, and the play was laid aside. The minds of the audience were affected with such real distress, that it overpowered the pleasure
*“ [This assertion concerning Johnson's insensibility to the pa “ thetic powers of Otway, is too round. I once asked hiin, w berher “ he did not think Olway frequently tender : when he answered, “ Sir, he is all teoderness." B.]”
Cleone went through four editions in less than a year, two thousapd copies of it were sold on the first day of publication,
arising from dramatic fiction, and theatric representation.
At the end of this play is printed Melpomene, or the régions of Terror and Pity. An Ode, which is considered by some as one of his happiest efforts. I cannot say that it is conformable to my own taste.
In 1761 Dodsley published Select Fables of Esop and other Fabulists, In Three Books. The first Book consists of Fables from the Ancients, The second of Fa. bles from the Moderns, and the third of Fables newly invented. Of this book Dodsley says in the Preface, that " he offers it to the public with all the diffidence which
ought to accompany every modern production, when it appears in conjunction with writings of established reputation. Indeed, whatever hopes he has, that the
present work may be favourably received, arise chiefly 6 from the consideration, that he has been assisted in it
by gentlemen of the most distinguished abilities; and " that several, both of the old and the new Fables, are 6 not written by himself, but hy authors, with whom it 5 is an honour to be connected ; and who having conde“ scended to favour him with their assistance, have
given him an opportunity of making some atonement 56 for his own defects." P. ii.
To this volume is prefixed Mons. De Meziriac's Life of Esop, Translated into English, with Notes. And an Essay on Fable by the Editor. In this he was assisted by Shenstone.
Dodsley's Essay on Fable (says the Writer of his Life in the Biographia Britannica) “ will be a durable monu“ment of his ingenuity.”. (Vol. V. p. 319.) In this, (he says in another place,) “ rules are delivered for this
species of composition, drawn from nature; and by 56 which these small and pleasing kind of productions, “ that were thought to have little other standard than the
fancy, are brought under the jurisdiction of the judg“ ment. The Essay considers the Fable regularly; first, “ with relation to the moral; secondly, the action and " incidents ; thirdly, the persons, characters and sen"timents; and, lastly, the language. This is one of " the first pieces which has attempted to introduce a re“gular criticism concerning the subject; and Mr. “ Dodsley has been so eminently successful in his design, " that we recollect only a single instance in which the
propriety of his remarks has been disputed.” (p. 318.) This instance is in the fable of The Fox and the Grapes, on which Dodsley says, that foxes are not fond of them; in reply to which a passage is produced from Hasselquist's Travels, and from Canticles 11. 15.
These fables are in general very good; but, where they turn upon the heathen mythology, and upon the *superstitions and errors of later times, there I think them objectionable; and from the impression which they made upon my own mind when young, I certainly think that they did it hurt. In some iustances, too, the fables appear to me to deviate from nature and truth; as, for instance, in that of The Satyr and The Traveller. I do not see what cause the Traveller gave to the Satyr to turn him out of doors. In first blowing his fingers to warm them, and then his mess to cool it, the Traveller was not guilty of any thing unnatural, absurd, or immoral; there was no double-deuling, no, what we call, blowing hot und cold with the same breath. It appears to me that the story is inapplicable to the purpose, or else that we misapply it. Is the ignorance of the Satyr the moral, who accused the Traveller of a want of consistency, when it was himself who was ignorant of the laws of nature ?
This book was printed at Birmingham by Baskerville, with engravings executed in a remarkably neat manner, and it is altogether a most beautiful book of its kind. Though published at five shillings, I am informed that it now sells for a guinea.
It is hoped that the Reader will excuse the Editor'in dwelling upon such a book; but it has been with peculiar pleasure that he has just now been reading it, after an interval of between thirty and forty years. It was, to the best of his recollection, the second book of any consequence that he ever possessed; having been sent him with some other things by one of his God-Fathers, who resided at Mansfield, the birth-place of Dodsley; and it