« ZurückWeiter »
pretendeth to virtues we have not; but the laudable ambition of being gazed at for glorying in those vices which every body knows we have.
" The world may ask (says hie) why I make my follies public? Why not? I have passed my time very pleasantly with them *.” In short, there is no sort of vanity such a hero would scruple to exult in, but that which might go near to degrade him from bis high station in iliis our Dunciad; namely, 66 \Vhether it would not be vanity in him to take shame to himself for not being a wise mant?”
Bravery, the second attribute of the true hero, is courage manifesting itself in every limb; wbile its correspondent virtue in the muck hero is that same courage all collected into the face: and as power, when drawn together, must needs have more force and spirit than when dispersed, we generally find this kind of courage in so high and heroic a degree, that it insults not only men but gods. Mezentins is, without doubt, the bravest character in all the fÆneis: but how? his bravery, we know, was an high couraye of blasphemy.. And can we say less of this brave man?-? who having told us that he placed mum bonum in those follies which he was not content barely to possess, but would likewise glory in,” adds, “ If I am misguided, 'tis Nature's fault, and I follow hers.” Nor can we be mistaken in making this happy quality a species of courage, when we consider those illustrious marks of it which made his face“ more known (as he justly boasteth) than most in the kingdom;" and his language to consist of what we must allow to be the most daring figure of speech, that which is taken from the name of God.
Gentle love, the next ingredient in the true hero's composition, is a mere bird of passage, or (as Shakspcare calls it)
“ Summer-teeming lust," and evaporates in the beat of youth; doubtless by that refine
6 liis sum
• Life of C. Cibber, p. 2. 8vo, edit, Ibid. p. 23.
ment it suffers in passing through those certain strainers which our poet somewhere speaketh of*; but when it is let alone to work upon the lees, it acquireth strength by old age, and becometh a lasting ornament to the little epic. It is true, indeed, there is one objection to its fitness for such an use; for not only the ignorant may think it common, but it is admitted to be so even by him who best knoweth its value. 6 Don't you think (argueth he) to say only a man has his whore t, ought to go for little or nothing? Because, defendit numerus, take the first ten thousand men you meet, and, I believe, you would be no loser if you betted ten to one that every single sinner of them, one with another, had been guilty of the same frailty 1.” But here he seemeth not to have done justice to himself: the man is sure enough a hero who hath his lady at fourscore: How doth his modesty herein lessen the merit of a whole well-spent life? not taking to himself the commendation (which Horace accounted the greatest in a theatrical character) of continuing to the very dregs the same he was from the beginning,
------ Servetur ad imum
Qualis ab incepto processerat. But here, in justice both to the poet and the hero, let us farther remark, that the calling her his whore, implieth she was his own, and not his neighbour's. Truly a commendable continence! and such as Scipio bimself must have applauded: for how inuch selfdenial was exerted not to covet his neighbour's whore! and what disorders must the coreting her have occasioned in that society, where (according to this political calculator) nine in ten of all ages have their concubines!
* Lust, through some certain strainers well refind,
Is gentle love, and charms all womankind.
Alluding to these lines in the Epist. to Dr. Arbuthnot:
His butchers Henley, his free-masons Moore?"
We have now, as briefly as we could devise, gone through the three constituent qualities of either hero: but it is not in any, nor in all of these, that heroism properly or essentially resideth. It is a lucky result rather from the collision of these lively qualities against one another. Thus, as from wisdom, bravery, and love, ariseth magnanimity, the object of admiration, which is the aim of the greater epic; so from vanity, impudence, and debauchery, springeth buffoonery, the source of ridicule, that " laughing ornament,” as the owner well termeth it*, of the little epic.
He is not ashamed (God forbid he ever should be ashamed !) of this character, who deeineth that not reason, but risibility distinguisheth the human species from the brutal. “ As nature (saith this profound philosopher) distinguished our species from the mute creation by our risibility, her design must have been by that faculty as evidently to raise our liappiness, as by our os sublime (our erected faces) to lift the dignity of our form above them f.” All this considered, how complete a hero must he be, as well as how happý a man, whose risibility lieth not barely in his muscles, as in the common sort, but (as himself intorineth us) in his very spirits! and whose os sublime is not simply an erect face, but a brazen head; as should seem by his preferring it to one of iron, said to belong to the late king of Sweden
But whatever personal qualities a hero may have, the examples of Achilles and Æncas show us that all these are of small avail without the constant assistance of the gods; for the subversion and erection of einpires have never been adjudged the work of man. How greatly soever then we may esteem of his high talents, we can hardly conceive his personal prowess alone sufficient to restore the decayed empire of Dulness. So weighty an atchievement must require the particular favour and protection of the great,
C. Cibber's Letter to Mr. P. * Ibid. p. 23, 24.
who, being the natural patrons and supporters of letters, as the ancient gods were of Troy, must first be drawn off, and engaged in another interest, before the total subversion of them can be accomplished. To surmount, therefore, this last and greatest difficulty, we have, in this excellent man, a professed fayourite and intimado of the great. And look of what force ancient piety was to draw the gods into the party of Æneas; that, and much stronger, is modern incense to engage the great in the party of Dulness.
Thus have we essayed to pourtray or shadow out this noble imp of fame. But now the impatient reader will be apt to say, if so many and various graces go to the making up a hero, what mortal shall suffice to bear his character? Ill hath he read who seeth not, in every trace of this picture, that indi. vidual all-accomplished person, in whom these rare virtues and lucky circumstances have agreed to meet and concentre, with the strongest lustre and fullest harmony.
The good Scriblerus, indeed, nay, the world itself might be imposed on, in the late spurious editions, by I cannot tell what sham-hero or phantom; but it was not so easy to impose on him whom this egregious error most of all concerned: for no sooner had the fourth Book laid open the high and swelling scene, but he recognised his own heroic acts; and when he came to the words,
“ Soft on her lap her laureat son reclines," (though laureat imply no more than one crowned with laurel, as befitteth any associate or consort in empire) he loudly, resenteth this indignity to violated majestý. Indeed not without cause, he being there represented as fast asleep; so misbeseeming the eye of empire, which, like that of Jove, should never doze nor slumber.
“ Ha! (saith he) fast asleep it seems ! that is a little too strong. Pert and dull at least you might have allowed me, but as seldom asleep
as any fool*”. However, the injured laureat may comfort himself with this reflection, that though it be a sleep, yet it is not the sleep of death, but of immortality. Here be will + live at least, though not awake, and in no worse condition than many an enchanted warrior before him. The famous Durandarte, for instance, was, like him, cast into a long slumber by Merlin the British bard and necromancer; and his example, for submitting to it with a good grace, might be of use to our hero: for that disastrous knight, being sorely pressed or driven to make his answer by several persons of quality, t, only replied with a sigh, “ Patience, and shuffle the cards ll."
But now, as nothing in this world, no, not the most sacred and perfect things either of religion or government, can escape the stings of envy, methinks I already hear these carpers objecting to the clearness of our hero's title.
It would never (say they) have been esteemed sufficient to make an hero for the Iliad or /Eneis, that Achilles was brave enough to overturn one empire, or Æneas pious enough to raise another, had they not been goddess-born, and princes-bred. What then did this author mean by erecting a player instead of one of his patrons, (a person“ never a hero even on the stage ”to this dignity of colleague in the empire of Dulness, and achiever of a work that neither old Omar, Attila, nor John of Leyden, could entirely bring to pass ?
To all this we have, as we conceive, a sufficient answer from the Roman historian, Fabrum esse sua quemque fortuna : “ that every man is the carver of his own fortune." The politic Florentine, Nicholas Machiavel, goeth still further, and affirmeth, that a man needeth but to believe himself a hero to be one of the worthiest that ever breathed. “Let him (saith * C. Cibber's Letter, p. 53.
+ Ibid. p. 1.
|| Don Quixote, Part II, 9 See Cibber's Life, p. 148.
See Cibber's Letter to Mr. P. Book ii. ch. 22.