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was already mentioned, some considerations of this sort have been the cause of his errors. Indeed, the facts in this supposed defence are admitted. Persons of high rank, in the execution of great undertakings, may employ mercenary and vulgar engines; and may adapt their conversation to the meanest of their associates. Mighty men may be coarse and offensive; grave senators may, like some of those represented by Otway, be contemptibly sensual; and even an English Princess, agreeably to the representation of Shakespeare, addressed by a deformed and foathsome lover, may spit in his face, and call him" hedge-hog." A Roman matron, disputing with the tribunes of the people, who were persecuting her son to death, might with propriety enough have called them" cats," A senator of Rome, in the midst of much civil dissention, might have said of himself, that he was a "humourous patrician, and one that loved "a cup of hot wine without a drop of al"laying Tiber;" or in a debate with the above-mentioned tribunes, he might tell them, that they "racked Rome to make"
coals "cheap" or, with perfect consistency of character, and truth of description, while, in a deep tragedy, he is delineating the reserve of a discontented general, he might say of him, that "the tartness of his face "sours ripe grapes; that his hum is like a battery; and that he sits in his state like
a thing made for Alexander." All these things may have happened, and as they may happen again, they may be termed natural. Yet, I conceive that the solemn, in dramatical composition, should be kept apart from the ludicrous; that Shakespeare, by confounding them, has incurred merited censure; and that he probably fell into error by following the authority of inexplicit, or unexamined decrees.
There is a certain consistency or unity of passion, emotion, and sentiment, to be ob-. served in fine writing; not less important than unity of action, and of much greater consequence than the unities either of time or of place. The mind is not only pained by feelings disagreeable in themselves, but, independent of their particular character and effect, it is pained by being distracted
Now, this discomposure is
produced, if opposite feelings, though in themselves agreeable, are poured in upon us at once, or in immediate succession. As the tendency of these dissonant emotions is to destroy one another, the mind, during the contest, is in a state of distraction. Nor can either of the contending feelings accomplish their full effect; for the attention is too equally divided between them, or transferred so rapidly from one object to another, that the pleasure they would yield is imperfect. Add to this, that in cases of such disorder, the finer feeling is generally overpowered by the coarser and more tumultuous. A ludicrous character, or incident, introduced into a pathetic scene, will draw the chief attention to itself; and by ill-timed merriment, banish the softer pleasures. This subject will receive more illustration, if we attend to the success of those authors who have understood and availed themselves of
the foregoing maxim. From this proceeds the chief merit of Milton's L'Allegro and Il Pensoroso. Intending in his L'Allegro to excite cheerfulness, he deals solely in
cheerful objects: intending in his Il Pensoroso to promote a melancholy mood, he has recourse to those images only that are connected with solitude and gloomy silence. If you would make us weep with compassion, do not strive at the same instant to convulse us with laughter. Or if you mean to exalt your audience with solemn and sublime devotion, you will not address them with fantastic levity, nor amuse them with a merry tune. The propriety of adhering to one principal object, or in other words, of moving the mind by one particular set of feelings, has been attended to in other imitative arts. We find nothing in music or painting, so inconsistent as the dissonant mixture of sentiments and emotions so frequent in English tragedy. The improvers in gardening are attentive to the same obserThey tell us, with great justice, that in a solemn scene, every thing light and airy should be concealed and removed; that where sublimity constitutes the chief expression, every circumstance should be great or terrific; and, in general, that all subordinate incidents should be suited to
the reigning character*. Even Shakespeare himself, in many brilliant passages, where he follows the guidance of genius alone, or of unperverted sensibility, and, indeed, in all those detached passages that are usually mentioned as possessing singular excellence, acts in perfect consistency with these observations. Every circumstance in his description of departed spirits, in" Measure for Measure," without suggesting noisome, disgusting objects, is directly calculated to fill the mind with delightful awe.
Now, if consistency of feeling and sentiment is to be observed in fine writing, it will affect our imitations of nature. It will lead us to bring more fully into view, than in the original, those things that carry forward, or coincide with our purpose; and to conceal those circumstances which may be of an opposite or unsuitable tendency. If we would describe a cheerful landscape, we must avoid mentioning the gloomy forests, or deep morasses, which may actually exist in it. In like manner, if we would dispose our audience to entertain sentiments
* See Observations on Modern Gardening, Sec. 50