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and those who are guilty of so boyish an ambition in so grave a subject, are so far from being considered as heroic poets, that they ought to be turned down from Homer to Anthologia, from Virgil to Martial and Owen's epigrams, and from Spenser to Flecno, that is, from the top to the bottom of all poetry. But to return to Tasso; he borrows from the invention of Boyr.rdo, and in his alteration of his poem, which is infinitely the worst, imitates Homer so very servilely, that (for example) he gives the king of Jerusalem fifty sons, only because Homer had bestowed the like number on king Priam; he kills the youngest in the fame manner, and has provided his hero with a Patroclus, under another name, only to bring him back to the wars, when his friend was killed. The French have performed nothing in this kind, which is not below those two Italians, and subject to a thousand more reflections, without examining their St. Louis, their Pucelle, or their Alarique. The English have only to boast of Spenser and Milton, who neither of them wanted either genius or learning to have been perfect poets, and yet both of them are liable to many censures. For there is no uniformity in the design of Spenser; he aims at the accomplishment of no one action; he raises up 4 hero for every one of his adventures, and endows each of them with some particular moral virtue, which renders them all equal, without subordination or preference. Every one is most valiant in his own legend; only we must do them the justice to observe, that magnanimity, which is the character of Prince Arthur, shines through the whole poem, and succours the rest, when they are in distress. The original of every knight was then living in the court of queen Elizabeth; and he attributed to each of them that virtue which he thought most conspicuous in them: an ingenious piece of flattery, though it turned not much to his account. Had he lived to finish his poem, in the six remaining legends, it had certainly been more of a piece; but could not liave been perfect, because the model
was not true. But Prince Arthur, or his chief patron, Sir Philip Sidney, whom he intended to make happy by the marriage of his Gloriana, dying before him, deprived the poet both of means and spirit to accomplish his design. For the rest, his obsolete language, and ill choice of his stanza, are faults but of the second magnitude; for, notwithstanding the first, he is still intelligible, at least after a little practice; and for the last, he is the more to be admired, that, labouring under such a difficulty, his verses are so numerous, so various, and so harmonious, that only Virgil, whom he professedly imitated, has surpassed him among the Romans, and only Mr. WalW among the English. Dryden.
§ 81. Remarks on some of the best Englijb dramatic Poets.
Shakespeare was the man who, of all modern and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive foul. All the images of nature were stils present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily: when he describes any thing, you more than fee it, you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation ; he was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there. I cannot fay he is every where alike e, were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat and insi~ pid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches; his serious, swelling into bombast. But he is always great, when some great occasion is presented to him: no man can say he ever had a sit subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of Poets,
Quantum lenta (blent inter viburna cuprefli.
The consideration of this made Mr. Hales of Eaton fay, that there was no subject os which any poet ever writ, but he would produce it much better treated in Shakespeare; and, however others are now generally preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him
3 A 4 Fletcher
Fletcher and Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem. And in the last king's court, when Ben's reputation was at the highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakespeare far above him.
Beaumont and Fletcher, of whom I am next to speak, had, with the advantage of Shakespeare's wit, which was their precedent, great natural gifts, improved by study; Beaumont especially being so accurate a judgeof players, that Ben Jonson, while he lived, submitted all his writings to his censure, and, 'tis thought, used his judgment in correcting, if not contriving, all his plots. What value he had for him, appears by the verses he writ to him, and therefore I need speak no fartherof it. The first play which brought Fletcher and him in esteem was their Philaster; for before that, they had written two or three very unsuccessfully: and the like is reported of Ben Jonson, before he writ Every Man in his Humour. Their plots were generally more regular than Shakespeare's, especially those which were made before Beaumont's death; and they understood and imitated the conversation of gentlemen much better, whose wild debaucheries, and quickness of repartees, no poet can ever paint as they have done. That humour which Ben Jonson derived from particular persons, they made it not their business to describe: they represented all the passions very lively, but above all, love, I am apt to believe the Engliih language in them arrived to its highest perfection : whatwords have been taken in since, are rather superfluous than necessary. Their plays are now the most pleasant and frequent entertainments of the stage; two of theirs being acted through the year for one of Shakespeare's or Jons n's: the reason is, because there is a certain gaiety in their comeJies, and pathos in their more serious pl.T)", which suits generally wi;h all men's hurnour. Shakespeare's language is likewise a _little obsolete, and Ben Junson's wit comes short of theirs.
As for Jonson, to whose character
I am now arrived, is we look upon him while he was himself (for his last plays were but his dotages), I think him the most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had. He was a most severe judge of himself as well as others. One cannot fay he wanted wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works you find little to retrench or alter. Wit and language, and humour also in some measure, we had before him ; but something of art was wanting to the drama till he came. He managed his strength to more advantage than any who preceded him. You seldom find him mak-' ing love in any of his scenes, or endeavouring to move the passions; his genius was too sullen and saturnine to do it gracefully, especially when he knew he came after those who had performed both to such an height. Hu« mour was his proper sphere, and in that he delighted most to represent mechanic people. He was deeply conversant in the ancients, both Greek and Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them: there is not a poet or historian among the Roman authors of those times, whom he has not translated in Sejanus and Catiline. But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may fee he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch, and what would be these in other poets, is only victory in him. With the spoils of those writers he so represents old Rome to us, in its rites, ceremonies, and customs, that if one of their poets had written either of his trage. dies, we had seen less of it than in him. If there was any fault in his language, 'twas that he weav'd it too clolely and laboriously in his. serious plays: perhaps, too, he did a little too much romunize our tongue, leaving the words which he trarcdated almost as much Latin as he found them ; wherein, though he learnedly followed the idiom of their language, he did not enough comply with ours. If I would compare with him Shakespeare, I must acknowledge him the more coirect poet, but Shakespeare the greater wit. Shakespeare was the Homer, or father of our draT matic poets, Jonson was the Virgil,
th.C the pattern of elaborate writing; I admire him, but I love Shakespeare. To conclude of him: as he has given us the most correct plays, so, in the precepts which he has- laid down in his discoveries, we have as many and as profitable rules for perfecting the stage as any wherewith the French can furnish U3. Dryden's EJsays.
§ 82. The Origin and Right ofexclusive Property explained. There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property; or that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in a total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe. And yet there are very sew that will give themselves the trouble to consider the original and foundation of this right. Pleased as we are with the possession, we seem afraid to look back to the means by which it was acquired, as if fearful of some defect in our title; or at best we rest satisfied with the decision of the laws in our savour, without examining the reason or authority upon which those laws have been built. We think it enough that our title is derived by the grant of the former proprietor, by descent from our ancestors, or by the last will and testament of the dying owner ; not caring to reflect that (accurately and strictly speaking) there is no foundation in nature or in natural law, why a set of words upon parchment should convey the dominion of land; why the son should have a right to exclude his fellow-creatures from a determinate spot of ground, because his father had done so before him; or why the occupier of a particular fieid or of a jewel, when lying on his death-bed, and no longer able to maintain possession, fliould be entitled to tell the rest of the world, whichof them should enjoyit after him. These enquiries, it must be owned, would be useless and even troublesome in common life. It is well if the mass of mankind will obey the laws when made, without scrutinizing too nicely jnto the reasons of making them. But, when !gw j$ to be considered not cn!y
as matter of practice, but also as a rational science, it cannot be improper or useless to examine more deeply the rudiments and grounds of these positive constitutions of society.
In the beginning of the world, we are informed by holy writ, the allbountiful Creator gave to man, "dominion over all the earth ; and over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth *." This is the only true and solid foundation of man's dominion over external things, whatever airy metaphysical notions may hav« been started by fanciful writers upon, this subject. The earth therefore, and all things therein, are the general property of all mankind, exclusive of other beings, from the immediate gift of the Creator. And, while the earth continued bare of inhabitants, it is reasonable to suppose that all was in common among them, and that every one took from the public stock to his own use such things as his immediate necessities required.
These general notions of property were then sufficient to answer all the purposes of human life; and might perhaps still have answered them, hail it been possible for mankind to have remained in a state of primæval simplicity: as may be collected from the manners of many American nations when first discovered by the Europeans; and from the ancient method of living among the first Europeans themselves, if we may credit either the memorials of them preserved in the golden age of the poets, or the uniform accounts given by historians of those times wherein er ant omnia communia et indivija omnibus, <veluti umtm cuneiis patiimonium ejjct f. Not that this communion of gOods seems ever to have been applicable, even in the earliest ages, to aught but the substance of the thing; nor could be extended to the use of it. For, by the law of nature and reason, he who first began to use it acquired therein a kind of transient property, that lasted so long as he was using it, and no longer J: or, to speak with greater
• Otn. i. iS. f Justin. I, 43, c. 1.
J Bjib:yr. l'nff, 1.4. c. 4.
precilioo. precision, the right os possession continued for the some time only that the aft of possession lasted. Thus the ground was in common, and no part of it was the permanent property of any man in particular: yet whoever was in the occupation of any determinate spot of it, for rest, for (hade, or the like, acquired for the time a sort of ownership, from which it would have been unjust, and contrary to the law of nature, to have driven him by force; but the instant that he quitted the use or occupation of it, another might seize it without injustice. Thus also a vine or other tree might be said to be in common, as all men were equally entitled to its produce; and yet any private individual might gain the sole property of the fruit, which he had gathered for his own repast. A doctrine well illustrated by Cicero, who compares the world to a great theatre, which is common to the public, and yet the place which any man has taken is for the time his own *.
But when mankind increased in number,^raft, and ambition, it became necessary to entertain conceptions of more permanent dominion: and to appropriate to individuals not the immediate use only, but the very substance of the thing to be used. Otherwise innumerable tumults must have arisen, and the good order of the world been continually broken and disturbed, while a variety of persons were striving who should get the first occupation of the same thing, or disputing which of them had actually gained it. As human life also grew more and more refined, abundance of conveniences were devised to render it more easy, commodious, and agreeable; as, habitations for shelter and safety, and raiment for warmth and decency. But no man would be at the trouble to provide cither, so long as he had only an usufructuary property in them, which was to cease the instant that he quitted possession ;—if, as soon as he walked out of his tent, or pulled off his garment, the next stranger who came •by would
* Quemadmodum theatrum, cum commune, fit rests, <amcn dici prteft, cius csse cum locum Cjuera quilque occuparit. DeFin. 1. 3. c,20.
have a right to inhabit the one, and ter wear the other. In the case of habitations, in particular, it was natural to observe, that even the brute creation, to whom every thing else was in common, maintained a kind of permanent property in their dwellings, especially for the protection of their young; that the birds of the air had nests, and the beasts of the field had caverns, the invasion of which they esteemed a very flagrant injustice, and would sacrifice their lives to preserve them. Hence a property was soon established in every man's house and homestall; which seem to have been originally mere temporary huts or moveable cabins, suited to the design os Providence ior more speedily peopling the earth, and suited to the wandering life of their owners, before any • extensive property in the soil or ground was established. And there can be no doubt, but that moveables of every kind became sooner appropriated than the permanent substantial soil; partly because they were more susceptible of a long occupanre, which might be continued for months together without any sensible interruption, and at length by usage ripen into an established right; but principally because few of them could be sit for use, till improved and meliorated by the bodily labour of the occupant: which bodily labour, bestowed upon any subject which before lay in common to all men, is universally allowed to give the fairest and moll reasonable title 10 an exclusive property therein.
The article of food was a more immediate call, and therefore a more early consideration. Such as were not contented with the spontaneous product of the earth, sought for a more solid refreshment in the flesh of beasts which they obtained by hunting. But the frequent disappointments, incident to that method of provision, induced them to gather together such animals as were of a more tame and sequacious nature; and to establish a permanent property in their flocks and herds, in order to sustain themselves in a less precarious manner, partly by the milk of the dams, and partly by the flesh of the young. The support of ihese their cattle made
the the article os water also a very important point. And therefore thc"book os Genesis (the most venerable monument of antiquity, considered merely with a view to hiitory) will furnish us with frequent instances of violent contentions concerning wells; the exclusive property of which appears to have been established in the first digger or occupant, even in such places where the ground and herbage remained yet in common. Thus we find Abraham, who was but a sojourner, asserting his right to a well in the country of Abimelech, and exacting an oath for his security, "because he had digged that well *." And I(<<ac, about ninety years afterwards, reclaimed this his father's property; and, after much contention with the Philistines, was suffered to enjoy it in peaces.
All this while ihe soil and pasture of the earth remained still in common as before, and open to every occupant: except perhaps in the neighbourhood oi towns, where the necessity of a sole and exclusive property in lands (for the fake of agriculture) was earlier felt, and therefore more readily complied with. Otherwise, when the multitude of men and cattle had consumed every convenience on one spot of ground, it was deemed a natural right to seize upon and occupy such other land? as would more easily supply their necessities. This practice is still retained among the wild and uncultivated nations that have never been formed into civil states, like the Tartars and others in the East; where the climate itself, and the boundless extent of their territory, conspire to retain them stjll in the same savage state of vagrant liberty, which was universal in the earliest ages, and which Tacitus informs us continued among the Germans till the decline of the Roman empire J. We have also a striking example of the fame kind in the history of Abraham and his nephew Lot ||. When their joint substance became so great, that pasture and other conveniencies grew
* Gen. xxi. 30. f Gen. xxvi. 15, 18, &c. J Colunt discreti et diversi ; ut sons, ut camf us, ut nemus placuit. Ds mar. Germ. 16, J] Gen. xiii.
scarce, the natural consequence was, that a strife arose between their servants; so that it was no longer practicable to dwell together. This contention Abrr.ham thus endeavoured to compose: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between thee and me. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou wilt take the left hand, then will I go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then will I go to the left." This plainly implies an acknowledged right in either to occupy whatever ground he pleased, that was not preoccupied by other tribes. "And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, even as the garden of the Lord. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan, and journeyed east, and Abraham dwelt in the land of Canaan."
Upon the same principle was sounded the right of migration, or sending colonies to find out new habitations, when the mother-country was overcharged with inhabitants; which was practised as well by the Phœnicians and Greeks, as the Germans, Scythians, and other northern people. And so long as it was confined to the stocking and cultivation of desart uninhabited countries, it kept strictly within the limits of the law of nature. But how far the seizing on countries already peopled, and driving out or massacring the innocent and defenceless natives, mere'ly because they differed from their invaders in language, in religion, in customs, in government, or in colour; how far such a conduct was consonant to nature, to reason, or to Christianity, deserved well to be considered by those who have rendered their names immortal by thus civilizing mankind.
As the world by degrees grew more populous, it daily became more difficult to find out new spots to inhabit, without encroaching upon former occui pants; and, by constantly occupying the fame individual spot, the fruits of the earth were consumed, and its spontaneous produce destroyed, without any provision for a future supply or succession. It therefore became necessary to