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CORN EIL L E.
THOUGH it is an agreeable task, upon the whole, to attempt the vindication of an author's injured fame, the pleasure is much allayed, by its being attended with a necessity to lay open the unfairness and errors, in the proceedings of his antagonist. To defend is pleasant, 'to accuse is painful ; but we must prove the injustice of the aggressor's sentence, before we can demand to have it repealed. The editor of the late edition of Corneille's works, has given the following preface to the tragedy of Cinna: “ Having often heard Corneille and Shak" speare compared, I thought it proper to “ shew their different manner, in subjects “ that have a resemblance. I have therefore
“ chosen the first acts of the Death of Cæ“ sar, where there is a conspiracy, as in “ Cinna; and in which every thing is re“ lative to the conspiracy to the end of the " third act. The reader may compare the “ thoughts, the style, and the judgment of “ Shakspeare, with the thoughts, the style, " and the judgment of Corneille. It be“ longs to the readers of all nations to pro“ nounce between the one and the other. “ A Frenchman or an Englishman might “ perhaps be 'suspected of some partiality. “ To institute this process, it was necessary “ to make an exact translation : what was “ prose in the tragedy of Shakspeare, is ren“ dered into prose; what was in blankir verse, into blank-verse, and almost verse 56 by verse; what is low and familiar, is “ translated familiarly and in a low style. 66 The translator has endeavoured to rise 6 with the Author when he rises ; and when " he is turgid and bombast, not to be " more or less so than he. The translation " given here is the most faithful that can “ be, and the only faithful one in our lan“ guage, of any author ancient or modern. “ I have but a word to add, which is, “ that blank-verse costs nothing but the “ trouble of dictating: it is not more dif“ ficult to write, than a letter. If people “ should take it into their heads to write “ tragedies in blank-verse, and to act them “ on our theatre, tragedy is ruined : take “ away the difficulty, and you take away “ the merit.”
6 I have
An English reader will hardly forbear smiling at this bold assertion concerning the facility of writing blank-verse. It is indeed .no hard matter to write bad verse of any kind; but as so few of our poets have attained to that perfection in it, which Shakspeare and Milton have, we have reason to suppose the art to be difficult. Whatever is well done, in poetry or eloquence, appears easy to be done. In the theatrical dialogue, 'which is an imitation of discourse, our critics require the language of nature, and a just resemblance of the thing imitated, without the appearance of effort and labour. Possibly there is as much of difficulty in blank-verse to the poet, as