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First Player. I warrant, your honour.

Hamlet. Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor; suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first, and now, was, and is, to hold, as 'twere the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure. Now this, overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of which one must, in your allowance, o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be players, that I have seen play,—and heard others praise, and that highly,-not to speak it profanely, that neither having the accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christians, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed, that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made man, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

Hamlet, Act III.

THE business of plays is to recommend virtue and discountenance vice. To shew the uncertainty of human greatness, the sudden turns of fate, and the unhappy conclusions of violence and injustice. "Tis to expose the singularities of pride and fancy, to make folly and falsehood contemptible, and to bring everything that is ill under infamy and neglect. COLLIER. On the Stage.


OR Sweetest Shakspeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.


AND he the man whom Nature's self hath made

To mock herself, and Truth to imitate;

With kindly counter under mimick shade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! is dead of late:
With whom all joy and jolly merriment
Is also deaded, and in dolour drent.

SPENSER. Tears of the Muses.

He was not for an age, but for all time!
And all the Muses still were in their prime,
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm!

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Nature herself was proud of his designs,

And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines!
Which were so richly spun, and woven to fit,
As since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.



FAR from the sun and summer-gale
In thy green lap was Nature's darling laid,
What time, where lucid Avon stray'd,

To him the mighty Mother did unveil
Her awful face: the dauntless child
Stretched forth his little arms and smiled.
This pencil take (she said), whose colours clear
Richly paint the vernal year;

Thine, too, these golden keys, immortal boy!
This can unlock the gates of Joy;

Of Horror that, and thrilling Fears,


ope the sacred source of sympathetic Tears.

Nor second He, that rode sublime

Upon the seraph-wings of Ecstasy

The secrets of the abyss to spy:

He pass'd the flaming bounds of Space and Time The living throne, the sapphire-blaze,

Where angels tremble while they gaze,

He saw; but, blasted with excess of light,

Closed his eyes in endless night.

GRAY. The Progress of Poesy.


ONCE more to distant ages of the world
Let us revert, and place before our thoughts
The face which rural solitude might wear
To the unenlightened swains of pagan Greece.
In that fair clime the lowly herdsman stretched
On the soft grass through half a summer's day,
With music lull'd his indolent repose :

And, in some fit of weariness, if he,

When his own breath was silent, chanced to hear
A distant strain, far sweeter than the sounds
Which his poor skill could make, his fancy fetched,
Even from the blazing chariot of the sun,

A beardless youth, who touched a golden lute,
And filled the illumined groves with ravishment.
The mighty hunter, lifting up his eyes

Towards the crescent moon, with grateful heart
Called on the lovely wanderer who bestowed
That timely light, to share his joyous sport.
And hence a beaming goddess with her nymphs,
Across the lawn and through the darksome grove,
(Not unaccompanied with tuneful notes

By echo multiplied from rock or cave)

Swept in the storm of chase; as moon or stars
Glance rapidly along the clouded heavens,

When winds are blowing strong. The traveller slaked
His thirst from rill or gushing fount, and thanked
The Naiad. Sunbeams upon distant hills

Gliding apace, with shadows in their train,

Might, with small help from fancy, be transformed
Into fleet Oreads sporting visibly.

The zephyrs fanning, as they passed, their wings
Lacked not, for love, fair objects whom they woed
With gentle whisper; withered boughs grotesque,
Stripped of their leaves and twigs by hoary age
From depth of shaggy covert peeping forth
In a low vale, or on steep mountain's side;
And, sometimes intermixed with shining horns
Of the live deer, or goat's impending beard,
These were the lurking Satyrs, a wild brood
Of gamesome deities; or Pan himself
The simple shepherd's awe-inspiring God.

WORDSWORTH. The Excursion. Book IV.


PERHAPS in this neglected spot is laid


Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.

But knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;

Chill penury repress'd their noble rage,

And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest rays serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain, and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind.



GRAY. Elegy.

ANOTHER partiality may be observed in some to vulgar, and in others to heterodox tenets. Some are apt to conclude that which is the common opinion cannot but be true; so many men's understandings of all sorts cannot be deceived; and therefore will not venture to look beyond the notions of the place and age, nor have so presumptuous a thought as to be wiser than their neighbours. They are content to go with the crowd, and so go easily, which they think is going right or at least serves them as well. On the other hand some fly all common opinions as either false or frivolous. The little many-headed beast is a sufficient reason to them to conclude, that no truths of weight or consequence can be lodged there. Vulgar opinions are suited to vulgar capacities, and adapted to the ends of those that govern. He that will learn the truth of things must leave the common and beaten track, which none but weak and servile minds are satisfied to trudge along continually. But common or uncommon are not the marks to distinguish truth or falsehood; and therefore should not be any bias to us in our

It was a saying of Theognis that, "Vice is covered by wealth, and virtue by poverty," or among men there are some who have their vices covered by wealth, and others who have their virtues concealed by poverty. Quoted, Spectator, No. 464.

inquiries. We should not judge of things by men's opinions, but of opinions by things. Truth, whether in or out of fashion, is the measure of knowledge, and the business of the understanding; whatsoever is besides that, however authorized by consent or recommended by rarity, is nothing but ignorance or something worse.

LOCKE. Conduct of the Understanding.

To have right conceptions about them, we must bring our understandings to the inflexible natures, and unalterable relations of things, and not endeavour to bring things to any preconceived notions of our own.


LOCKE. Ibid.


WHAT are these

So wither'd, and so wild in their attire,

That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth

And yet are on 't. Live you? Or are you aught

That man may question? You seem to understand me,
By each at once her choppy finger laying

Upon her skinny lips. You should be women,

And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are so.


Macbeth, Act I.

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STORY-TELLING is not an act, but what we call a "knack; it doth not so much subsist upon wit, as upon humour; and I add that it is not perfect without proper gesticulations of the body, which naturally attend such merry emotions of the mind. I know very well that a certain gravity of countenance sets some stories off to advantage, where the hearer is to be surprised in the end; but this is by no means a general rule; for it is frequently convenient to aid and assist by cheerful looks and whimsical gesticulations. I will yet go further and affirm that the success of a story very often depends upon the make of the body, and the formation of the features of him who relates it.* SWIFT.

* Nor, I'll venture to say, without scrutiny could he
Pronounce her, off-handed, a Punch or a Judy.

Ingoldsby Legends.

You ask why Roome diverts you with his jokes,
Yet, if he print, is dull as other folks?

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