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came to be pitched upon I cannot tell, but it is certain that this was a rule 1700 years ago, as you will see in Roscommon's translation of Horace's Art of Poetry. In the first act, the principal characters only just make their appearance upon the stage, and shew themselves to the audience, In the second, the design of the piece just unfolds itself; and in the third it seems near a conclusion; but in the fourth an unlucky train of accidents conspire to embroil the action and throw every thing into confusion. This is called the plot, and is the principal thing to be regarded in a play, and is the better the deeper it is laid. In the last act the clouds are again dispelled, and the intricacies of the plot unfolded, and the whole brought to a conclusion, which is all that is meant by that hard word catastrophe. And now it might be expected that I should say something relating to that question, whether a tragedy should end happily or not? But I think it modester to suspend my judgment upon so nice a case. We have both sorts in our language, and both held in esteem. But, I must confess, I am rather inclined to think it should not. There is another thing which is much talked of, and that is poetical justice; they think the good man should always be rewarded at last, and the wicked profligate be disappointed and punished. But this the ancients were utterly unacquainted with, who, I believe I may say, always leave him overborne by the wave of fortune. Could we frame to ourselves the notion of a perfectly good man, there might be some pretence for this; but since the best of us are but weak and frail beings, continually subject to transgress, there is nothing that we can suffer here but what our sins may justly deserve. But I must force myself to break off here, lest from writing of plays I should insensibly begin to preach; but this I must add, that I hope that whenever the comedy of courtship is over, you will observe this piece of poetical justice, and yield your hand to the most deserving it, under penalty of making your whole life after a continued tragedy.
What I have here sent you are only a few loose suggestions, just as they occurred to my mind, without consulting any one author upon the subject. You stand in so near a relation to me that I cannot but be affected with every wrong choice you make. It is a misfortune that we have not more
a of these things purposely adapted to women's use; but at present their education and instruction are monstrously neglected. And if they prefer to their beds fops, fools,
, , and madmen, it is owing to mothers, nurses, and dancingschools. Of this I am satisfied, that, were their younger years but more taken care of, we should not have so many complaints of their baseness, levity, and indiscretion. 'I believe I may by this time grow sufficiently tiresome, and shall only adů, ihat however I mav be in my reinarks, I am sure I am not mistaken when I say, I am, with the tenderest concern for your good, your most obliged, most affectionate brother, 1783, Oct.
XXXIV. Two Letters froin the Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Lancaster.
MR. URBAN, I SEND you abstracts of two letters written about thirty years since, by the late Doctor Nathaniel Lancaster, à clergyman and Justice of the Peace, who resided at Stamford Rivers, near Chipping Ongar, in Essex. He was author of several valuable Tracts, but I believe never put his name to any, except an “ Essay on Delicacy*,” which
, was much admired, and has been reprinted in Dodsley's “Fugitive Pieces."
These letters were addressed to Mr. Jacob Robinson, a bookseller in London ; the publisher and sole editor of a periodical work, called “ The Works of the Learned," which has since his death been continued under the title of “ The Monthly Review.”
Mr. Robinson, in consequence of editing the above work, was honoured with the correspondence of Pope, Warburton, Watts, Middleton, Lord Orrery, and several other eminent literary characters of that time.
June 11, 1753. You say that you will write often to your friend at Stamford Rivers. It is indeed a kind declaration : perforin your promise, and you will give me genuine satisfaction. What an admirable invention was that of painting our thoughts upon paper! Tell me, if you can, to whom this honour is ascribed, that I may pay due reverence to the manes of him, who is the cause of that noble pleasure I
* And to a single sermon,
See the Anecdotes of Bowyér, p. 335.
receive in corresponding, at a distance, with a man of sense and virtue.
Though you are not a divine, according to the established forms of ordination, yet I ask your permission to appoint you my casuist and confessor. In the execution of my judicial office, I must own, that I sometimes feel a struggle between two different principles even in cases where the law has given the magistrate no choice. The statute commands me to punish, and a kind of softness in my nature inclines me to pardon the offender. An overseer this morning brought a woman before me, for a crime which I must allow to be very heinous—It is no less than that of having obeyed the call of nature, without having first obtained the sanction of the national law. The unrelenting officer demands the rigorous punishment of a statute of James the First*, which is 12 months imprisonment, hard labour, and constant correction. What say you to that, my good friend ? Holy would you act in this situation? Let me have your opinion, which in all probability will determine my resolution.
1 forgot to tell you, in my last, that, since I came hither, I have had a fit of the gout. It is true, I am a Stoic in profession. But, alas ! my dear Jacob, what is profession? All my philosophy, this idle speculative philosophy, was not able to suppress a single groan or sigh. I roared out in the extremity of pain, and bore the torture with as little patience, as if I had never been initiated in the principles and doctrine of the Porch. What a poor creature is your friend! help him if you can, and help him by some prescription of your own, which I shall esteem more than any which are to be found in the schools of Zeno, Plato, or Aristotle.
As our intimacy rises higher and higher, I must now take a liberty of giving you a piece of advice. Why do you condescend to that custom of ending your letter to a friend with the declaration of being what you really are not? You are not, and you shall not hereafter profess yourself to be,
My most obedient humble servant.” This custom was unknown to the Greeks and Romans, those truly polite people. They had too high a notion of liberty to subscribe themselves slaves to any man; and they had better sentiments of friendship, than to imagine that union could be supported without a perfect equality. Be assured, this paltry submissive phrase is of Gothic original. Your sincere friend,
NAT. LANCASTER. .
* 7 J. c. 4.
June 27, 1753. The continuance of your correspondence will always yield me fresh delight: nor can the communication of your sentiments ever bring satiety along with them. No apology can ever be needful to accompany your letters. Whenever therefore you are in the humour of writing, impart your thoughts without reserve : when you are not so disposed, I shall not blame your forbearance, but silently wish that the liberality of your genius may not be long dormant.
The poor whore's fate was undetermined when your letter arrived: and the softness of your nature has influenced that of your friend. By your favour, she walks at large, enjoying freedom and sunshine : the putative father is gone into exile, and the parish maintains the child.
You are really too modest in disclaiming the merits of an Atticus, at the time when you would make a Cicero of your friend. You have indeed neither the rank nor fortune of that Roman; but I will aver, that you have as clear an understanding as he could boast, and some better endowments than were attributed to bim. Had you been in his circumstances and situation, you would have been a more useful man. A proper distribution of his immense wealth might have prevented the fall of Rome. I think that I am able to support this assertion.
Since I made the inquiry about the invention of writing, I was informed in a dream that Moses (whom the heathens called Cadmus) was the man, into whose head that glorious art was first inspired. I confess no arguments were suggested to confirm that declaration ; but what need is there of reasoning, when the authority is divine? For dreams are undoubtedly from heaven. So said Homer*; and so say all the orthodox, sacred and profane.
The gout has left me, and I enjoy perfect health. The writers upon Natural Evil you have rallied with a spirit that is no less judicious than it is pleasant and facetious. I have never met with any of them that have contributed to remove my perplexities. But I remember a conversation with a certain acquaintance of mine upon Blackheath, that gave me more satisfaction than all the volumes I had perused. “ Pain,” said he,“ is a natural consequence of imperfection,
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and imperfection there must be, if there be a gradation of beings. But if there had not been such a scale of existences, there would have been a great void left, which would have been an argument of less benevolence in the deity, than to have created beings only in high perfection. This system then could not be without pain and distress: they are necessary defects in a constitution which is good upon the whole." I think, this is the substance of what you then said, and it operated with great force upon my mind.
Yours most affectionately, 1784, May.
XXXV. Mr. Rogers to Dean Milles, on two ancient Pictures.
MR. URBAN, YOU receive herewith a letter from the late Charles Rogers, Esq. to the Rev. Dr. Milles, Dean of Exeter, and late President of the Society of Antiquaries; read at a meeting of that learned body, Feb. 18, 1779; but not inserted in any of their publications.
May 17, 1778. I TAKE the liberty to lay before you two small pictures of an old Greek master, which I purchased in 1765, at the sale of some of the valuable effects of Ebenezer Mussell, Esq. a fellow of this Society, and which may merit some regard on account of their antiquity.
They were accompanied with a memorandum of their being supposed to have been painted about the tenth century, of having been brought from Smyrna, and been part of the collection of Edward Earl of Oxford, out of which Mr. Mussell acquired them in 1741-2.
Their outward appearance is of a book 64 inches high, 4 wide, and if thick. The covers in which they are painted are of wood, with their edges and corners of brass; they are opened on hinges, fastened together with a clasp; and bad two rings on the upper edges, by which they might be hung up. This shape gives us reason to conjecture, that they were intended for a portable or pocket altar-piece.