Page images

and, in Alonzo, Alberto's valour still nearer approaches to that of the Bethlehemitish youth, being tried in a single combat with a Moorish Giant.

“ If this gigantic champion of the Moors,
“ Clad in the glory of his battles woil,
" Dazzles the Warriors, and confounds their valour;
“ Let me, tho' yonng in arms, the combat claim,
“ On me his fame has no iinpression made.
" I'l! meet the giant with a fearless heart.
“ It beats for battle now. Oft have I kill'd
" The wolf, the boar, and the wild mountain bull,
" For sport and pastime. Shall this Moorish dog
“ Resisi me fighting in my country's cause ?"

A. II. At the beginning of the third act the following false view of things, an arraigning of Nature, which is in fact a murmuring against Providence, is suffered to remai without contradiction or explanation :

" Why, nature, why!
« Art thou so watchful o'er the brutal tribes,
" And yet so careless of the human race ?
“ By certain instinct beasts and birds discern
“ Their proper food : for them the fairest fruit
“ Untouch'd, if pois’nous, withers on the bough:
“ But man, by a fair outside still deceiv'd,
" And by his boasted reason more betray'd,
" Gives the affection of his soul to beauty,

“ Devours the deadly bave. It is not that reason is inferior to instinct; but that man, through indolence or passion, makes a wrong use of reason, and then charges it with his own folly. The same character afterwards talks of himself as

“ Born and destin'd to perditione"

A. v.

In five years more (1778) Mr. H. produced his Tragedy of Alfred at Covent Garden. This play is not founded upon any incident in the life of that Prince brought down to us by history; but is the invention of the poet; or is rather formed by analogy from Alfred's entering into the Danish camp in the disguise of a minstrel to find out the state of the enemy. Mr. H. supposes the wife of Alfred, whom he calls Ethelswida, to have been taken prisoner by the Danishi King, and Alfred enters his camp in disguise to find her. He is discoveres;



and, after several changes of fortune, the piece ends with their restoration to their people and throne. Ethelswida, however, when meditating deceit and suicide, says,

" Yes, I am iospir’d. Ileaven, that suggests the thought, will give me strength “ To act the generous deed."

A.UI. and yet she talks of her holy faith, which is christian; and in the fifth act she addresses a prayer to angels and saints.

The author of the Biographia Dramatica, speaking of Mr. H. says,

whether through an eagerness to prove 6 still farther his inclination to deserve the favour he

has met with, he has not allowed himself a suffi“ cient time for the planning, digesting, reconsidering, " and correcting his works, or that in his first play the “ diffidence of a young author might make him more C ready to ask and to pursue the judgment of others, or from

any other cause I know not, but Douglas seems s still to stand as Mr. Home's master-piece in dramatic 56 writing.”

If we consider the age and the education of Mr. H. till he produced his Douglas : that at the age of twentythree he was in the army, that he then turned his mind to the church, and, at thirty-four produced this play; the nationality of the Scotch character, his military ardour, and his after studies as a clergyman, will all concur to account for the interest, the chivalric character, and the great portion of piety, (though mixed with poetic error), which prevail in the piece; and it should seem, as if, in this, the poet had exhausted his mind, and that he never afterwards replenished it. The sameness so evident in his other pieces, and the one almost constant tenor of his female characters, sufficiently prove this.

His other plays were produced at a sufficient distance of time from each other to have allowed for the expansion of genius, had genius existed. Kad Mr. H. never produced any other play than Douglas, his fame would have stood higher in the annals of the Drama than it does now; though for the sake of that, it still ranks very high.


66 In

Mr. Home was a member of the Consistory Court in Scotland, from which situation, however, he derived little or no emolument.

In the year 1802 he published, in one vol. 4to., his History of the Rebellion in the year 17 45. In the Dedication To The King, he adverts to his Majesty's former patronage, and says, 66 the first book I published

was dedicated to your Majesty, then Prince of Wales: “ and when his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland 6 presented my petition, for leave to dedicate this His.

tory to your Majesty, the petition was granted, in “ terms that I shall be proud of as long as I live.”

In the first chapter of this work the author says, " those days, I carried arms, (though not a military “ man by profession,) and, serving with the king's

troops, underwent part of their adverse fortune; for 65 I was taken prisoner at the battle of Falkirk, and “ during my captivity was an eye-witness of some me“ morable events, an account of which I committed to “ writing, whilst the facts were recent, and fresh in my

memory; and have taken no small pains for many

years, to procure authentic information of what I did • not see, visiting every place which was the scene of

any remarkable occurrence, and examining the ac66 counts which I had collected of each battle, upon the " field where it was fought, accompanied and assisted " by persons, who had been present upon every occa

sion, and sometimes principally concerned.” p. 2.

Mr. Home died at Merchieston-bank near Edinburgh, September the 4th. 1808, in the 86th year of his age.

The Tragedy of Douglas is founded

the incident of a mother finding her son whom she had lost for many years. The Tragedies of Merope (acted in 1749) and of Barbarossa, (acted in 1754) produced prior to this, and Cyrus, subsequent to it, (in 1768) all turn upon the same incident; but the palm must be allowed to Mr. Home for simplicity of plot, and the excitement of the tender feelings, and for the beauties of bis poetry: Douglas abounds in scenes and passages which may be selected as excellencies independent of the general tenor of the piece. The great fault appears to be in the catastrophe, in which the lives of Douglas and of Lady Randolph are unnecessarily taken off. The author of The Dramatic Censor says, The young hero's situation " is interesting, and his fall claiins pity, but we wish it


had been effected by some other means, or rather that 6 he had been saved; as his death is a violent breach of “ poetical justice, and might have been avoided, even to

an amendment of the plot.” (Vol. 11. p. 134.) and the author of the Biographia Dramatica observes, that " Dr. Johnson blames Mr. Gray for concluding his celebrated Ode with Suicide, a circumstance borrowed “ perhaps from Douglas, in which Lady Randolph, “ otherwise a blameless character, precipitates her“ self, like the Bard, from a cliff into eternity.” (Vol. 11.

p. 93.)

The catastrophe, however, as far as relates to Douglas, is the same with that in the Scotch Ballad of Child Maurice* whence it is taken; and, perhaps, the author thought himself in some degree forced into this measure from the two former plays above-mentioned ending happily, for I have been informed, on good authority, that Mr. H. himself, after the publication of the piece, wished that he had given it a different termination. When the play was performed at Lady De Crespigny's Private Theatre at Camberwell, in the year 1790, she altered it to save the lives of Lady Randolph and her son.

On the subject of Poetical Justice it may not be improper to say a few words in this place. By this term is commonly understood, that, in every play, the good characters should be rewarded, and the bad punished. But, as a play is, or should be, a representation of nature; and, as it is not always agreeable to the dispensations of Providence that the good should be pros

* This Ballad is to be met with in Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry, Vol.111. It is also prefixed to the Play of Douglas in Bell's British Theatre, 1791 ; and in Cooke's British Drama.


of sorrow,

perous in this world, and that the wicked should be punished, but rather that He frequently tries the good by afflictions and the wicked by prosperity,—so it may justly be done in representations on the stage. But, then, the moral should be made clear; it should be pointed out that prosperity and adversity merely different means of trial in the hands of Providence, and that there is a world to come after this, in which all tears will be wiped from the eye

all seemingly unequal dispensations will be shewn to be, or will be made, equal, the wicked must account and be punished, and the good, purified by afflictions, will receive an ample recompence. With respect to the characters in question, Lady Randolph and Douglas are both so interesting, and have so much to be admired, that we wish to see them restored to each other and happy in the conclusion. But, as the author had drawn them, both have a very considerable share of alloy) Lady R., besides her clandestine marriage and equivocation with her father, is not represented as acquiescing in the dispensations of Providence with a pious resignation. And Douglas is faulty, in leaving his supposed paternal roof without the consent of his foster father, and is of a disposition too enterprizing and ambitious of false honour. Had it not been for these circumstances, we should have wished, that Lady Randolph, after having suffered for twenty years on account of her improper marriage and duplicity, might be restored to her son; but, as the author originally drew them, neither, even setting aside a future retribution, would have just cause for complaint. The author of the Biographia Dramatica, indeed calls Douglas a play " in which the principles of virtue, of morality, “ of filial duty, of patriotic zeal, and of reverence for an “ over-ruling power,"_" are in the strongest manner “ inculcated and enjoined". And Mr. Styles, in his Essay on the Stage, (p. 92.) points out a gross instance of Lady R. murmuring against Providence. Both these are right, for, while under affliction, Lady R. is certainly guilty of murmuring; but, on finding her son, she is ready to acknowledge the protecting band of Heaven;

« PreviousContinue »