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ANON. in An Epistle to Lord Viscount Cobham, 1730

ANON. in An Epistle to Lord Viscount Cobham, 1730

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WILLIAM CONGREVE



served under Marlborough during the War of the Spanish

Succession, and whose circle included Pope and James Thomson

as well as Congreve. Cobham was a staunch Whig, but in the

1730s he became a leader of the anti-Walpole faction within

that party. As the notes make clear, there is close reference to

Congreve’s ‘A Pindarique Ode, Humbly Offer’d to the Queen,

On the Victorious Progress of Her Majesty’s Arms, under the

Conduct of the Duke of Marlborough’ and his own poems

addressed to Cobham.



(i)

TO

LORD VISCOUNT COBHAM

IN MEMORY OF HIS FRIEND

THE LATE MR. CONGREVE.



Primâ dicte mihi, summâ dicende Camoenâ. Hor.

[‘You of whom my first Muse told, and of whom my last must tell.’

Ep. I.i.l]

SINCE my weak Voice in Congreve’s Praise preferr’d,

Will, thro’ a Virgil, be by Pollio heard;«

Low Rhimes made sacred, to his name I join,

Fix’d to such Fame they’ll make great Glories mine;

Such humblest Swains deserve for saying Hymns divine.†

His Soul sprung, glad, to Immortality!

Far from these Lines, all low-Lamentings be!

That, first from Heav’n commission’d, for our sake,

Men happier, wiser, better, came to make.

This Task long try’d, in each divinest Strain,

Call’d Home, It Heav’nwards took its flight again;

But first his Dirge he makes, and Fun’ral Rites,‡

And, just at Death, as all thro’ Life, Delights:

To Dust gives Dust, his Corps, pale Ashy-Pile!

Then upwards flies the Phoenix of our Isle.

Now what vain Poet, what poor Rhiming Elf,

Shall mend what Congreve sung upon himself;

Sung in sweet Notes, o’er dying Swans, admir’d,

Which he, like them, just ended, and expir’d?

When they can drop such Tears upon the Dead

As Amaryllis for Amintas shed,§



}



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



Or with Alexis’¶ mourning Muse can vye,

Then, nor till then, let vainest Voices try,

To tune in Verse, a Congreve’s Elegy—

No, let us rather decent Feasts prepare,

And Off’rings on his annual Day, now near,||,

Sing round his Shrine his Songs, and mend the British Ear:

Nor mend their Ear alone, but, thro’ that part,

Sound, in good Sense, each Soul, and honest make each Heart.««

Might, ’mong these sweet memorials so prepar’d

By Nymphs and Heroes, my mean Voice be heard;

While Nymphs to sing his fair Cecilia chuse,

Heroes the Birth immortal of his Muse;

To whom were my Memorial justly due,

But you alone, O Cobham, only you?

Thee early, and thee last his tuneful Breath,««

Addrest with grateful Notes—till stopt by Death.

Your Art of Pleasing,†† in his earlier days

He writ and gain’d, as you gain’d, all Men’s praise:

That hardest Art he paints with greatest ease,

In Lines so proper, that they’ll ever please.

By Friendship more, tho’ vastly much by Wit,

That Art of pleasing, oft I’ve thought was writ;

From Him it’s Master, to it’s Master You,

By Sympathy‡‡ the charming Poem grew.

Your Ways were One; Wits of congenial Parts!

That sure had Consanguinity of Hearts;

Both, of Delighting all Mankind, could boast,

But, knowing best that Art, each other most.

’Twas fit it should be so—what other Two

Could be by Nature match’d more near than you?

A Bard that Sieges, Battles, Conquests writes,

And a young Hero fam’d at fifty Fights,§§

That of his Marlbro’s Toils had Sharer been,

And War’s whole Art as much as Julius seen.

Thus Horace lov’d Augustus, thus was lov’d,¶¶

Wit rais’d War’s Glory, Glory Wit improv’d.

In all Heroic Times ’tis Wit’s Reward,

That War’s chief Champions love the noblest Bard.||,||,

That this was, is, and will, nay must be so,

Witness the Bard your Friend, and your Friend Marlborough.«««

(pp. 3–7)



}



207



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WILLIAM CONGREVE



(ii)

Say, Cobham, now,††† where’s now thy Hero’s Soul?

Can he his Passions for true Fame controul?

Does he not read, rise raptur’d, sit again,

Then read, till fir’d afresh by some new Strain,

He makes, with well-pleas’d Mind, each past Campaign?

So, when his Harp divine‡‡‡ Timotheus strung,

And play’d, by Dryden’s Mouth, what Phoebus sung,

Warm’d into Flights of War young Ammon flew,

And fought, in Thought, his Battles o’er a-new.

He read; new Life felt rising, while he read,

His Deeds compar’d, with those most mighty Dead,

Whose Names, in Fame’s immortal List, enroll’d,

Their Glories date from Years, by thousands told.

And found in Congreve’s like Prophetic Song,

His soar’d as high, and sure to last as long.

But when to those warm well-judg’d Lines he came,

That Churchill’s justly fix’d o’er§§§ Caesar’s Fame;

Able no longer to contain, he said,

‘I own my Toils and Hazards all repaid.

How short the Verse, that so great Truths displays!

They, like collected¶¶¶ } Beams thro’ Crystals blaze!

He, with the Lustre, gives the Fire of Praise!

Matchless as Pindar’s is my Congreve’s Rage,

That can contract an Iliad to a Page;

Yet so judicious, while he sings with Flame,

That where he heightens most, he most secures my Fame,

Caesar’s Pharsalia (true!) made Slaves,||,||,||, but I

Fought at Ramillia’s Plain for precious Liberty.

Perish that mean-born Pride, that Bastard State,

Which aims to grow, by Men’s Misfortunes, Great.

Sooner might I be beat,—myself made Slave,

Than subdue Realms, to ruin, not to save.

More Curses on such Chiefs than Blessings wait,

Those that their Triumphs love, the Traytors hate.

The Laurels Congreve brings me, I approve,

Sprung from, and nourish’d by my Country’s Love.

My End, Man’s Freedom gain’d; to crown the Scene

The Muse applauds me, and the World’s best Queen.’

(pp. 16–18)



}



}



(iii)

Yet this«««« Moeonian, and the Mantuan Flame,

And Congreve’s Modern Fire are all the same;

All from one Source, in diff’rent Ages came.

208



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



’Twas hard, indeed, thus coming last, to climb,

Against their advantageous Hill of Time;

Yet still we find Priority of Days

No Birth-right to Priority of Praise.

Change but each Age, when these three Poets shone,

Their Persons, to impartial Eyes, are ONE.

Congreve had Homer been, in Homer’s Time;

Homer been Congreve, now, and wrote such British Rhime.

Both could, with Magic Arts of Verse, alike,

Rouze Souls to Arms, and warlike Passions strike.

Cobham, if Poesy’s Persuasive Parts,

Thus move (best Martial†††† Musick!) Heroes Hearts;

’Tis hard to say, we, rather of the two,

To You owe Poets, or to Poets You.

If your brave Acts make their bright Numbers shine,

They fire you to those Acts by Verse divine.

Pleas’d with both Song and Subject, Thus we know,

Arms and the Man (like Virgil’s sung) we owe,

Alike to Congreve and to Marlborough.



}



When his brave Stilicho‡‡‡ bright Claudian sung,

Rome with the Poet’s Praise and Hero’s, rung:

Senates and Emperors, by Statutes wise,

Bad to their Claudian Bay-crown’d Statues rise.

Greater our Chief, sublimer was our Bard;

And shall more Merit meet with less Reward?

Shall it in Britain be the Poet’s Doom,

To fall neglected for excelling Rome?

Forbid That Monarchs, Senates, Heroes, all,

Whom we can Brave, Great, Wise, and Noble call:

All, whose Deeds claim that Verse, which never dies,

Those Deeds, their Glories to immortalize;

Else, may those Poems cease, they cease to prize!

(pp. 27–8)



}



NOTES

«







Intimating that the same Friendship subsisting between Lord Cobham

and Mr. Congreve, as there was between the Noble Pollio and Virgil;

any thing in the Praise of such a Poet, must be acceptable to such a

Nobleman’s Ear.

These Hymns (as they are called by the Ancients) were usually sung,

but sometimes only recited; and as I pretend not to write of these

sublime Poems in a Style, beyond that, which consists of Rhimes,

that are Sermoni propiora, I pretend to call it only saying a Hymn;

209



WILLIAM CONGREVE



to which Pliny, in the beginning of his Panegyric to the Emperor

Trajan gives, methinks, sufficient Commendation for a less modest

Man than myself, that is but an Epistolary Writer, to be contented

with. He represents these bare Reciters as acceptable to the Gods as

the sublimest Poets; they were reckoned by many of the Ancients as

much inspired as the Poets themselves, whose Works they recited,

as Spondanus tells us.

Alluding to the last Poem Mr. Congreve wrote not long before he

died to the Lord Cobham, on the Improvement of Time, in which

are these Preparatory remarkable Lines on Death, in Imitation of

Horace’s Epistle to Alb. Tibullus.







Still think the present Day the last of Life.

Who thus can think, and who such Thoughts pursues,

Content may keep his Life, or calmly lose.

All Proofs of this thou mayst thy self receive:

When Leisure from Affairs will give thee leave,

Come see thy Friend, &c.

Đả



||,



ôô







ĐĐ



ảả||,||,ôôô











ĐĐĐ



ảảả



These two Verses refer to those two Patterns for Elegy Writing, Mr.

Congreve’s Pastorals on the Death of Q.Mary, and the Marquis of

Blandford.

Alludes to the Custom of the Ancients, by Annual Celebrations of

their Poets and Heroes.

Alludes to Mr. Congreve’s Art of Pleasing, and his last Copy of

Verses, both address’d to Lord Cobham.

The Sympathy here mentioned, and in some following Verses,

representing the Friendships Great Personages naturally take to one

another, makes a fine Chapter in Gracian’s Hero, and is delicately

handled by several eminent Writers, quoted in the Notes upon that

Chapter.

Fifty Fights, &c. meaning a great Number, or near the Number,

which is true.

This is manifest by many Parts of Horace’s Works, particularly from

the Esteem Augustus had for him. Herein also the Friendship of Mr.

Congreve, Lord Cobham and the Duke of Marlborough are

represented.

This appeal to Lord Cobham is to shew the Power of Poetry, and

refers still to Mr. Congreve’s Ode, on the Success of the Victorious

Duke of Marlborough’s Arms.

Mr. Dryden, in his Alexander’s Feast, very finely describes the Power

of Music and Poetry over the Passions.

All this Passage shews, that, in this Praise attributed to the Duke by

Mr. Congreve, the principal Regard is, that the highest Parts of it

are carried no farther, than what are truly, exactly, and religiously

just.

Alluding to Mr. Congreve’s Ode, ut supra.

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

||,||,||,



««««



Here is given a very just Reason for preferring the Victories of

Marlborough to those of Caesar.

Refers to the beginning of Mr. Congreve’s Ode, &c. viz.

O well-known Sounds! O Melody the same,

That kindled Mantuan Fire, and rais’d Moeonian Flame.



††††



‡‡‡‡



Poesy best Martial Musick, &c. Many are the fine Descriptions of

the Power of Music; such is that with which Mr. Congreve opens his

Tragedy of the Mourning Bride.

See Claudian’s Praise of Stilico. [In the panegyric De Consolatu

Stilichonis.]



52. Alexander Pope, miscellaneous

comments

From (a) Joseph Spence, Observations, Anecdotes, and

Characters of Books and Men, ed. James M.Osborn, 2 vols

(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), I, p. 207; (b) ibid., I, p. 208;

(c) Alexander Pope, Imitations of Horace, ed. John Butt

(London: Methuen, 1939, rev. 1961), p. 219; (d) Owen

Ruffhead, The Life of Alexander Pope, Esq. (London: 1769),

p. 493 n.

Pope’s comments on his friend Congreve are disappointingly

sparse. The following are the more substantial of those

recorded.



(a) From Spence’s Anecdotes 486

Corneille, Racine, and Molière better than any of ours. [The] Careless

Husband not our best comedy; Congreve has one or two better: [The]

Silent Woman our best.

(1733 or 1734)



211



WILLIAM CONGREVE



(b) ibid. 488

Aye, Mr. Tonson, he was Ultimus Romanorum! (with a sigh, speaking

of poor Mr. Congreve, who died a year or two before).

(28 or 29 November 1730)

(c) From Pope’s Epistle To Augustus (l. 287)

Tell me if Congreve’s Fools are Fools indeed?

(d) From Owen Ruffhead’s Life of Alexander Pope, Esq.

Mr. POPE esteemed Congreve for the manners of a gentleman and

a man of honour, and the sagest of the poetic tribe. He thought

nothing wanting in his Comedies but the simplicity and truth of

nature.



53. Franỗois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire in

Letters Concerning the English Nation

1733



From Letters Concerning the English Nation (London: 1733),

pp. 188–9.

Voltaire’s Lettres philosophiques were the product of his sojourn

in England between 1726 and 1729. An English version,

translated by John Lockman, actually preceded the French into

print by a year. The following extract is taken from Letter XIX,

‘On Comedy’.

THE late Mr. Congreve rais’d the Glory of Comedy to a greater

Height than any English Writer before or since his Time. He wrote

only a few Plays, but they are all excellent in their kind. The Laws of

the Drama are strictly observ’d in them; they abound with Characters

all which are shadow’d with the utmost Delicacy, and we don’t meet

with so much as one low, or coarse Jest. The Language is every where

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



that of Men of Honour, but their Actions are those of Knaves; a

Proof that he was perfectly well acquainted with human Nature,

and frequented what we call polite Company. He was infirm, and

come to the Verge of Life when I knew him. Mr. Congreve had one

Defect, which was, his entertaining too mean an Idea of his first

Profession, (that of a Writer) tho’ ’twas to this he ow’d his Fame and

Fortune. He spoke of his Works as of Trifles that were beneath him;

and hinted to me in our first Conversation, that I should visit him

upon no other Foot than that of a Gentleman, who led a Life of

Plainness and Simplicity. I answer’d, that had he been so unfortunate

as to be a mere Gentleman I should never have come to see him; and

I was very much disgusted at so unseasonable a Piece of Vanity.

MR. Congreve’s Comedies are the most witty and regular, those of

Sir John Vanbrugh most gay and humourous, and those of Mr.

Wycherley have the greatest Force and Spirit. It may be proper to

observe, that these fine Genius’s never spoke disadvantageously of

Moliere; and that none but the contemptible Writers among the English

have endeavour’d to lessen the Character of that great comic Poet.



54. William Popple in The Prompter

1735



From The Prompter, 11 November 1735.

William Popple (1701–64) was author of two comedies and a

translation of Horace’s Ars Poetica. He became governor of

the Bermudas in 1745. His discussion of The Double-Dealer,

occasioned by a revival at Drury Lane, appeared in No. 105 of

The Prompter, a theatrical periodical written by Aaron Hill

with Popple’s assistance.



I SHALL now take a cursory View of a Comedy revived at the other

Theatre.

213



WILLIAM CONGREVE



THE Double Dealer, like all Congreve’s Plays, abounds in Wit: It

has, besides, the Advantage of a Plot, which, tho’ very intricate, is

not in the least confused, and is conducted in so masterly a Manner,

that it thickens naturally from the Circumstances in which the

Characters of the Drama are placed, and is unravelled by the same

happy Intervention of probable and expected Incidents. Each Light

Character has likewise a pleasing Vein of Humour running through

it, strongly distinguished, yet theatrically PLAYING into each other.

NEVERTHELESS, with all this Merit, the Play is fundamentally

bad, because its Fable, like that of Alexander,1 is ill-chosen; and a

Play, where the Fable is ill-chosen, can never be good.

THE principal Character, that of Maskwell, or the Double Dealer,

is out of the Province of Comedy: No Vice can be introduced there,

that does not result from some Passion—A cold, deliberate, thinking

Villain, that preponderates every Stroke, and consults his

Understanding, how best to perpetrate it, and laughs at the very Notion

of Virtue, is only to be corrected by TYBURN.—Maskwell is the most

consummate Villain that can be painted, without one single Passion

that might soften his original Deformity.—‘He is kept by his Patron’s

Wife, whom he loves not—Not content with receiving, each Day, fresh

Proofs of his increasing Friendship, and aggravating his Villainy by

fresh Wrongs, in Proportion as his Patron’s Confidence in him

administers fresh Occasions to do it, he is under-hand at work to

make him disinherit his Nephew, (who is his Bosom-Friend, and by

whom he is employed, as a trusty Agent, for very contrary Purposes)

and settle his Estate upon him, with his Niece, whom his Friend is in

love with.—He sticks at nothing, and is so base-principled, that the

very Woman that maintains him is not only deceived in her Turn, but

by him who was privy to her Passion for her Husband’s Nephew (a

fine Character for Comedy, by the bye, that of a Woman who wrongs

her Husband with one Man, at the same time that she is in love with

another,) put upon endeavouring to gratify that Passion, and, in case

of Disappointment, presented with a Dagger to MURTHER him!’ In

short, these two Characters are so deformed and diabolical, and the

Whole such a Complication of Villainy, and the lighter Characters so

obscene, that Comedy blushes to have received, with a Stain not to be

washed out, a mortal stab from one of her favourite Sons. To sum up

the Contents of the principal Characters—in a few Words—

IN Maskwell we have, (besides his Proneness to Murther) Adultery,

Ingratitude to his Patron, Treachery to his Bosom-Friend, Deceit to

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



the Woman who (in the Grossness of his Ideas) keeps him, and to the

young Lady whom he proposes to marry;—with (not a bare Want,

but) an argumented Rejection of all the Principles of common Honour

and Honesty, as well as Humanity.

IN Lady Touchwood, (but in her Vice is made an Effect of strong

Passions) the same murtherous Disposition, together with the actual

Commission of Adultery with one Man through Intemperance, and

a strong Desire to commit it with another, through (what she calls)

Love.

OF Four Ladies in the Drama, Two more treat the Audience with

Adultery; but their Characters are so drawn, that their Adultery seems

less than Simple Fornication in another, not being of Weight enough

to give any of their Actions the Stamp of Virtue or Vice.—But there

may be some Alleviation to their Case, for the Poet claims a Right of

Prescription in behalf of Cuckoldom, where-ever he introduces a

Coxcomb, a Fool, or an Old Man, Married.

WHAT then could justify the Revival of this Comedy? Nothing

critically or morally. What apologize for it? The infinite Humour

that shoots, like a Porcupine’s Quills, from every Part of every one

of the Comick Characters! Lord and Lady Froth, Sir Paul Plyant

and his Lady, together with Mr. Brisk, are Characters (abstracted

from their moral and obscene Failings) such as Comedy derives,

with Beauty and Propriety, its greatest Power of Pleasing from. In

favour therefore of the TRULY COMICK Genius of the Play, we’ll

suppose the Manager that revived it rather weighing in his Judgment,

whether the Bad might not be tolerated on account of the Good,

than ignorant of the Bad, and led into the Mistake of Reviving it,

from the Approbation given too commonly to loose and immoral

Scenes by the Generality of Audiences, when heightened by Wit,

Humour, or Action.

THE Word therefore to be given him, is, henceforward not to

represent Vicious Characters because they may be indulged by the

Corruption of the Times, but to reform the Corruption of the Times

by Scenes adapted to that Purpose. Now the Stage is not to punish

such Vices as are cognizable by Course of Law, and punitively

terminable at Tyburn: Poetical Justice extends only to such as the

Law cannot lay hold off, such as are to be tried in FORO

CONSCIEENTIAE, where the Delinquent, being strongly touched

by a Resemblance of Himself, may amend.

215



WILLIAM CONGREVE



NOTE

1



Nathaniel Lee’s tragedy, The Rival Queens, which had just been revived

at Covent Garden and is discussed in the first half of Popple’s review.



55. Anon. in The Daily Gazetteer

1737



From The Daily Gazetteer, Saturday 16 July 1737.

The following attack upon The Way of the World occurs in the

pro-Walpole paper’s defence of the Licensing Act, introduced

in May 1737 to muzzle dramatic satire upon the government.

‘Caleb D’Anvers’, the pseudonymous conductor of The

Craftsman, the journal run by Bolingbroke, had opposed the

Act and asserted that the English drama was less licentious

than the Old Comedy of ancient Greece.

As a Proof of Mr. D’Anvers’s singular Honesty and Judgment, where

he says, that no such Liberties have been taken on the British Stage,

as in the Old Comedy of the Greeks, I have made an Examen of the

Way of the World. I chose that Play for two Reasons, the one, because

the author wrote it after he had been disciplined by Mr. Collier for

former Transgressions against Religion, Morality and Modesty; the

other, because it has lately been play’d several Times, and the Ladies

have not forborn shewing themselves in the Front-Boxes, while Mrs.

Fainall and Mrs. Marwood, two of the Top Characters, two Women

living and glorying in Adultery, were inculcating the Practice of it on

the Stage. All the Characters in that Play are immoral, immodest,

and shocking in Sobriety of Thinking, as is proved in the Examen,

which shall be forth coming when this Assertion is call’d in Question,

together with a Word or two on the Wit of it, which perhaps is not

so marvellous as it is said to be by the smaller Judges. The Traps laid

for Jests in it, are like the Traps laid for Claps in Tragedy, Rants and

216



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