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CATHARINE TROTTER, 'To Mr. Congreve, on his Tragedy, the Mourning Bride', 1697

CATHARINE TROTTER, 'To Mr. Congreve, on his Tragedy, the Mourning Bride', 1697

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WILLIAM CONGREVE



Has to its ancient beauty thus restor’d;

Where with amazement we at once may see

Nature preserv’d pure, unconstrain’d, and free,

And yet throughout, each beauty, ev’ry part,

Drest to the strictest forms of gracing art:

Thus perfected, on such a finish’d piece,

Where can my praise begin, or admiration cease!

Sublime thy thoughts, easy thy numbers flow,

Yet to comport with them, majestic too!

But to express how thou our souls do’st move,

How at thy will, we rage, we grieve, we love,

Requires a lofty, almost equal flight,

Nor dare I aim at such a dang’rous height,

A task, which well might Dryden’s muse engage,

Worthy the first, best poet of the age;

Whose long retreat that we might less bemoan,

He left us thee, his greatest darling son,

Possessor of the stage, once his alone.

Tho’ even he gain’d not thy height so soon,

And but the young great Macedonian, none;

Alike in youth you both sought early fame,

Both sure to vanquish too where’er you came;

But he by others aid his conquests gain’d,

By others too the fame of them remain’d;

Thou sov’reign o’er the vast poetic land,

Unaided, as unrival’d, do’st command,

And not oblig’d for fame, which records give,

In thy own works thou shalt for ever live.



}



19. Sir Richard Blackmore in the Preface

to King Arthur

1697



From King Arthur: An Heroic Poem (London: 1697), pp.

vii–viii.

The second of Blackmore’s Arthurian epics was entered in the

Term Catalogues for June 1697. The preface renews the general

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T H E C R I T I C A L H E R I TA G E



attack on the stage begun in its predecessor of two years before,

Prince Arthur, but singles out for praise The Mourning Bride,

first acted in February.



Since the writing of this, I have seen a Tragedy call’d the Mourning

Bride; which I think my self oblig’d to take notice of in this place.

This Poem has received, and in my Opinion very justly, Universal

Applause; being look’d on as the most perfect Tragedy that has been

wrote in this Age. The Fable, as far as I can judge at first sight, is a

very Artful and Masterly Contrivance. The Characters are well

chosen, and well delineated. That of Zara is admirable. The Passions

are well touch’d, and skillfully wrought up. The Diction is Proper,

Clear, Beautiful, Noble, and diversify’d agreeably to the variety of

the Subject. Vice, as it ought to be, is punish’d, and Opprest Innocence

at last Rewarded. Nature appears very happily imitated, excepting

one or two doubtful Instances, thro’ the whole Piece, in all which

there are no immodest Images or Expressions, no wild, unnatural

Rants, but some few Exceptions being allow’d, all things are Chast,

Just, and Decent. This Tragedy, as I said before, has mightily obtain’d;

and that without the unnatural and foolish mixture of Farce and

Buffoonry, without so much as a Song, or Dance to make it more

agreeable. By this it appears, that as a sufficient Genius can

recommend it self, and furnish out abundant matter of Pleasure and

Admiration without the paultry helps above nam’d, so likewise that

the Tast of the Nation is not so far deprav’d, but that a Regular and

Chast Play will not only be forgiven, but highly Applauded. And

now there is some reason to hope that our Poets will follow this

excellent Example, and that hereafter no slovenly Writer will be so

hardy as to offer to our Publick Audiences his obscene and prophane

Pollutions, to the great Offence of all Persons of Vertue and good

Sense. The common pretence that the Audience will not be otherwise

pleas’d, is now wholly remov’d; for here is a notorious Instance to

the contrary. And it must be look’d on hereafter as the Poet’s fault,

and not the People’s, if we have not better Performances. All men

must now conclude that ’tis for want of Wit and Judgment to support

them, that our Poets for the Stage apply themselves to such low and

unworthy ways to recommend their Writings; and therefore I cannot

but conceive Great Hopes that every good Genius for the future will

look on it self debas’d by condescending to Write in that leud Manner,

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WILLIAM CONGREVE



that has been of late years introduc’d, and too long Encourag’d. And

if this comes to pass the Writers in the late Reigns will be asham’d of

their own Works, and wish they had their Plays in again, as well as

their fulsome Dedications.



20. Charles Hopkins, dedication of

Boadicea, Queen of Britain

1697



From Boadicea, Queen of Britain. A Tragedy (London: 1697),

sig. A2r-A3r.

Boadicea was possibly given its first performance in November

and published soon after. It was the second of Hopkins’s three

tragedies, which were all performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields by

Betterton’s company. Congreve had written a prologue for

Hopkins’s first play, Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, acted in 1695.



TO

MR. CONGREVE.



Let other Poets other Patrons Chuse,

Get their best Price, and prostitute their Muse.

With flattering hopes, and fruitless labour wait,

And Court the slippery Friendship of the Great:

Some trifling Present by my Lord is made,

And then the Patron thinks the Poet paid.

On you, my surer, nobler Hopes depend,

For you are all I wish; you are a Friend.

From you, my Muse her Inspiration drew,

All she performs, I Consecrate to you.

You taught me first my Genius and my Power,

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T H E C R I T I C A L H E R I TA G E



Taught me to know my own, but gave me more,

Others may sparingly their Wealth impart,

But he gives Noblest, who bestows an Art.

Nature, and you alone, can that confer,

And I owe you, what you your self owe her.

O! Congreve, could I write in Verse like thine,

Then in each Page, in every Charming Line,

Should Gratitude, and Sacred Friendship shine.

Your Lines run all on easie, even Feet;

Clear is your Sense, and your Expression sweet.

Rich is your Fancy, and your Numbers go

Serene and smooth, as Crystal Waters flow.

Smooth as a peaceful Sea, which never rolls,

And soft, as kind, consenting Virgins Souls.

Nor does your Verse alone our Passions move,

Beyond the Poet, we the Person Love.

In you, and almost only you; we find

Sublimity of Wit, and Candour of the Mind.

Both have their Charms, and both give that delight,

’Tis pity that you should, or should not Write;

But your strong Genius Fortune’s power defies,

And in despight of Poetry, you rise.

To you the Favour of the World is shown;

Enough for any Merit, but your own.

Your Fortune rises equal with your Fame,

The best of Poets, but above the Name.

O! may you never miss deserv’d success,

But raise your Fortunes ’till I wish them less.

Here should I, not to tire your patience, end,

But who can part so soon, with such a Friend.

You know my Soul, like yours, without design,

You know me yours, and I too know you mine.

I owe you all I am, and needs must mourn,

My want of Power to make you some return.

Since you gave all, do not a part refuse,

But take this slender Offering of the Muse.

Friendship, from servile Interest free, secures

My Love, sincerely, and entirely, yours,

CHARLES HOPKINS



105



21. Anon. in The Justice of Peace

1697



From The Justice of Peace: Or a Vindication of Peace from

Several Late Pamphlets, Written by Mr. Congreve, Dennis, &c.

(London: 1697), pp. 1–4.

The following are the opening verse paragraphs of a poem on

the Peace of Ryswick, which was concluded in September 1697.

As its title page makes clear, it is a retort to poems by Congreve

and John Dennis, ‘The Birth of the Muse’ and ‘The Nuptials of

Britain’s Genius and Fame. A Pindaric Poem on the Peace’

respectively.



A

POEM

ON THE PEACE.



Dedicated to a Young LADY.

Assist me Muse, who oft has been

Kind Midwife to my Teeming Brain;

Who to its Pangs no sooner didst

Apply thy gentle Artful Fist,

But out came Bantling, Scan’d by Finger,

And soon as Born turn’d Ballad-singer;

And as ’twould crack its tender Weazon,

In Rhyme ’gan Squawling without Reason.

Assist me Muse in this last Issue;

For which may ever Gown of Tissue

Grace thy fair Corps, and double Nancy

Fill Helicon to Inspire thy Fancy:

And Thou, First-Cousin to the Nine,

In whom both Wit and Beauty shine,

Bright Nymph, my kind Inspiring Guide,

Oh, sit down gently by my Side;

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T H E C R I T I C A L H E R I TA G E



Make tuneful Crambo thy Pastime,

And help thy Slave to pump for Rhyme;

That in lewd Doggrel I may fall at

Making of Peace, so quaint a Ballad,

That may, as Simple as my Pen is,

Congreve out-Rhyme, and out Rage Dennis.

Instead of saying what we want,

Dennis.

One Banters us with rumbling Cant;

Talks of deep Pindar’s sounding Lyre,

Of Rapture, Fury, Flame and Fire:

As if no Peace cou’d e’er be had,

But Hairbrain’d Poet must run Mad.

Another writes such soothing Number,

Congreve.

’Twoud almost lull one to a Slumber;

In Frontispiece stands Birth of Muse,

A Porch too big for such a House:

In gentle Strains he tells a Tale

Of Heavenly Orb, and Earthly Ball,

By dint of Rhyme he proves it clear,

That the World hangs in Ambient Air;1

Sings of Creation, and rehearses

Good Prose of Moses in bad Verses.

But sure Transported Bard forgot,

Peace was the thing he shou’d be at;

For what is Genesis pray to it,

More than Religion to a Poet?

But I shan’t Moses filch, nor Pindar;

Since nought my honest Heart can hinder,

But in a plain unborrow’d Dress,

I’ll treat of nothing but meer Peace.



NOTE

1



cf. ‘The Birth of the Muse’, l. 272: ‘He launch’d the World to float in

ambient Air.’



107



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