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Nas, I reverence these raptures, and obey them.
[The scene closes.'
Nothing can so strikingly manifest the vast superiority of Jonson, as a comparison of this lively and interesting comedy with that of Decker, which was meant to rival and eclipse it. The plot is well arranged, and the dramatis personæ admirably supported. Augustus and the eminent men of his court main. tain, on all serious occasions, a dignity of thought and expression highly decorous, and in strict consonance with their established characters. Amidst all the encomiums bestowed on the poets, his friends, a perceptible advantage is adroitly given to Horace, which is farther heightened by the absurd malice of his perse. cutors. The comic part of the play is pleasantly conducted, and the conspirators happily set off the defects of one another. Mr. Davies, with whose perspicacity the reader is already acquainted, is pleased to affirm that the Poetaster is one of the lowest pro• ductions, and that Tucca is a wretched copy of Falstaff. This stuff would not be worth repeating, if the grovelling malice of the poet's enemies had not led them to stoop to it. We have seen that the author has interwoven an ingenious satire of Lu. cian in his scenes; but the chief object of his imitation was the Frogs of Aristophanes. That ancient comedy was the Rehearsal of Athens, as this undoubtedly was of the age of Jonson: and though much of the praise to which, perhaps, it is entitled, is lost from our imperfect knowledge of the precise objects of ri. dicule, we can still discover that its satire was at once ingenious and powerful, and its justice sufficiently obvious to some of those for whom it was meant. That Tucca is a wretched copy, or indeed any copy at all of Falstaff, could be maintained by none but Davies, or those who affirmed (as he tells us) “Sir Epicure Mammon also to be a copy of Falstaff;" and who, pero haps, were equally prepared to swear that captain Otter was stolen from the same inimitable personage. That this extraor. dinary character, this compound of impudence and artifice, of meanness and arrogance, this importunate beggar, who insults the charity which feeds him, and whose quaint versatility of style and manner is at once so repulsive and so amusing, is not original, must he granted; and Decker (though Davies was ig. norant of it) has pointed out the archetype : “I wonder," says he,“ what language Tucca would have spoken, if honest captain Hannam had been born without a tongue.” Decker, however, confesses that Tucca was received with decided approbation; anu ne expresses great anxiety to ensure to himself some portion of the popular favour. “ It cannot be much improper,” he adds, to set the same dog upon Horace, whom Horace had set to worry others ;” and the unfortunate captain, in consequence of this happy thought, is again brought forward. But Decker had over-rated his own powers. Tucca, in his hands, becomes absolutely disgusting; his impudent familiarity dege. nerates into low scurrility, and he is thrown into situations, which, from his utter unfitness for them, alternately subject bim to displeasure and contempt. Nor is this the only instance of Decker's want of judgment, in borrowing his characters from the Poetaster. lle ought to have considered that the demerits of Crispinus and Demetrius have been so universally acknowledged, and so strongly fixed in the mind of every reader, since Horace first recorded them, that no efforts can raise their names to respectability, or redeem their poetry from the ridicule under which it has so long suffered. But, indeed, the whole plot of the Satiromastir is absurd.
This, as Jonson says, was the only answer which he gave to his libellers. He was hourly growing in reputation with the wise and good; and in his three succeeding comedies soared to a height which his persecutors never reached, and where he consequently suffered but little molestation from their hostility. We hear no more of Decker; Marston probably acknowledged the justice of the poet's recrimination ; for he joined in the applause of his next piece: and the soldiers, lawyers, and players,” who, at first, took umbrage, seem to have discovered that their resentment was unjustifiable, and to have been cor. dially reconciled.
END OF VOL. II.
London: Printed by W. Bulmer and Co.
Cleveland Row, St.James's.