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Author; hoping that the extracts we have made from the more early part of the history will prove acceptable to our readers. Mr. O'Halloran has used great application, and he displays much learning in endeavouring to establish the high antiquity of his country, and vindicate its honour. His English is some times rather defective; but his work, on the whole, is entertaining and instructive.
Art. IV. The Law of Lombardy; a Tragedy. As it is performed
at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Written by Robert Jephson, Esq; Author of Braganza. 8vo. 13. 6 d. Évans, 1779. Twas needless to inform us in the title-page, that this
Tragedy is written by the Author of Braganza; not only because the name of Robert Jephson, Efq; itands prefixed 10 both plays, but because the style and manner, the beauties and blemishes of both are so extremely timilar. The second howe ever is unequal to the first; the merit even of which, in our estimation, fell sort of its transient popularity.
The Law of Lombardy, like Braganza, betrays more fymptoms of labour than genius. In Braganza however the labour was more amply rewarded ; for we cannot discover in the Law of Lombardy any dialogue at all comparable to the scene between Velasquez and the Monk in our Author's first tragedy. The diction is, if poffible, still more laboured, and it would be easy to point out servile imitations of Shakespeare in almost every page. Dryden says of Milton or Ben Johnson, that you may every where “ trace them in the snow of the ancients.” The snow of Shakespeare would be too cold a phrase; upless we were to determine that the prototype (like the false Florimel in the Fairy Queen) became snow in the imitation.
Mr. Jephfon is an acknowledged mimic. His tragedies are confessedly pieces of literary mimickry; wherein the Author, like other mimics, multiplies the defects, and aygravates the beauties of his original. Tropes, metaphors, fimiles, and sentiments, are thick sown in every scene; but, in our opinion, affected language, and sentimental dialogue, are as reprehensible in tragedy as in comedy. Passion should be the prime mover of th first, Humour of the last, and Nature should govern both.
The characters in the tragedy of the Law of Lombardy, are but poorly discriminated. King, Duke, Princess, Lover, Hero, Villain, Shepherd, Forester, Squire, &c. all converse in the -fame unnatural dialect. The fable also, after the third Act, takes an unfortunate turn; the fourth creating horror and disguft rather than a pleasing interest: and two-thirds of the fifth being made up of circumstances evidently introduced for the purpose of protracting the piece, which of course becomes proportionably languid. We have selected the conclusion of
the A love so pure,
the third Act as the most favourable specimen of the performance. The Princess, convicted on the perjury of Bireno, breaks out thus :
PRINCESS. [Kneeling. ]
All-feeing Heaven !
And, unrebuk’d, perlifts to blast my virtue.
Yes, glory in it
To curses on thy head-Dar'lt thou confirm
Thy doubtful infamy?
What bosom might not feel, what tongue not own?
May the full malice of that villain reach me.
Thy nature's modesty plead strongly for thee
Away with doubt-Oh, thou obdurate heart ! Bireno. We trifle time-The lists must be prepar'd,
The heralds found defiance
Hold a momentin
And write in bloody letters, hell and falsehood.
Shame is walh'd out by forrow, not by anger. King. Hence, from my sight, detested parricide! Aflasin! butcher ! left these feeble hands,
Brae'd by my wrongs to more than mortal strength,
Fix on thy throat, and bare thy treacherous heart.
Forbids me to retort these outrages.
Exeunt Bireno, Ascanio, Senators.
And drench thy tender borom with his sorrows.
To fee that reverend frame thus torn with anguish ;
SCENE VIII. To them, LUCIO.
I have the council's order to commit
The Princess to a guard's close custody,
Do thy unhappy mailer one last service;
Draw forth thy sword, and strike-it through my heart.
Let them not see, and triumph in our tears.
Meet fate as firmly, and transcend their daring. Exeunt. The Prologue and Epilogue are both written by the Author of the piece: the first heavy and phlegmatic, and the last aiming at levity, and the manner of the late Mr. Garrick, but with far less pleasantry than the much lamented original.
Art. V. A Vindication of fome Papages in the Fifteenth and Six:
teenth Chapters of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. By the Author. 8vo. 25. 6 d. Cadell. 1779. N our Review for September last, we gave an account of
Mr. Davis's Examination of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of Mr. Gibbon's History, wherein he charges the Historian with perverting the ancients, and transcribing the moderns, with gross ignorance, and wilful falsehood; with betraying the confidence, and seducing the faith of those Readers, who may heedlessly stray in the Aowery paths of his diction, without pera ceiving the po fonous snake that lurks concealed in the grass.
These weighty charges have prevailed over Mr. Gibbon's aversion to controversy, and have given rise to the elegant, sprightly, and spirited Vindication now before us.
He sets out with telling his Readers that Mr. Davis's titlepage is a declaration of war; that in the prosecution of his religious crusade, he assumes a privilege of disregarding the ordinary laws which are respected in the most hostile transactions between civilized-men, or civilized nations; that some of the harshest epithets in the English language, are repeatedly applied to the Historian, a part of whole work Mr. Davis has chose for the object of his criticism.
He goes on to tell us, that when he delivered to the world the first Volume of an important History, in which he had been obliged to connect the progress of Christianity with the civil ftate and revolutions of the Roman empire, he could not be ignorant that the result of his enquiries might offend the interest of fome, and the opinions of others; that if the whole work was favourably received by the Public, he had the more reason to expect that this obnoxious part would provoke the zeal of those who consider themselves as the watchmen of the holy city; that his expectations were not disappointed, and that a fruitful crop of Answers, Apologies, Remarks, Examinations, &c. sprung up with all convenient speed.
He read with attention, he says, several criticisins which were published against the two last Chapters of his History, and, unless he much deceives himself, weighed them in his own mind without prejudice, and without resentment. After he had clearly fatisfied himself that their principal objections were founded on misrepresentation or mistake, he declined with fincere and disinterested reluctance the odious task of controversy, and almost formed a tacit resolution of committing his intentions, his writings, and his adversaries to the judgment of the Public, of whose favourable disposition he had received the most flattering proofs.
• I should have consulted my own ease, continues he, and perhaps I lould have acted in stricter conformity to the rules of prudence, if I had ftill persevered in patient filence, but Mr. Davis may, if he pleases, assume the merit of extorting from me the notice which I had refused to more honourable foes. I had declined the considera. tion of their literary objections, but he has compelled me to give an answer to his criminal accusations. Had be confined himself to the ora dinary, and indeed obsolete charges of impious principles, and mischievous intentions, I should have acknowledged with readiness and pleasure that the religion of Mr. Davis appeared to be very different from mine. Had he contented himself with the use of that style which decency and politenefs have 'banished from the more liberal part of mankind, I fould have smiled, perhaps with some contempt, but without the least mixture of anger or resentment. Every animal em. ploys the note, or cry, or howl, which is peculiar to its species;. every man expresses himself in the dialect the most congenial to his temper and inclination, the moit familiar to the company in which he has lived, and the authors with whom he is conversant; and while I was disposed to allow that Mr. Davis had made some proficiency in Ecclesiastical studies, I should have considered the difference of our language and manners as an unsurmountable bar of separation between us. Mr. Davis has overleaped that bar, and forces me to contend with him on the very dirty ground which he has chosen for the scene of our combat. He has judged, I know not with how much propriety, that the support of a cause, which would disclaim such unworthy aslistance, depended on the ruin of my moral and literary character. The different misrepresentations, of which he has drawn out the ignominious catalogue, would materially affect my credit as an historian, my reputation as a scholar, and even my honour and veracity as a gentleman. If I am indeed incapable of understanding what I read, I can no longer claim a place among those writers who merit the esteem and confidence of the Public. If I am capable of wilfully perverting what I understand, I no longer de. serve to live in the society of chose men, who confider a strict and in. violable adherence to truth, as the foundation of every thing that is virtuous or honourable in human nature. At the same time, I am not insensible that his mode of attack has given a tranfient pleasure. to my enemies, and a transient uneasiness to my friends. The fize of his vo ne, the boldness of his assertions, the acrimony of his style, are contrived with tolerable skill to confound the ignorance and candour of his readers. There are few who will examine the truth or justice of his accusations; and of those persons who have been directed by their education to the study of ecclesiastical antiquity, many will believe, or will affect to believe, that the success of their champion has been equal to his zeal, and that the serpent pierced with an hundred wounds lies expiring at his feet. Mr. Davis's book will cease to be read (perhaps the grammarians may already reproach me for the use of an improper tense); but the oblivion towards which it seems to be haftening, will afford the more ample scope for the artful practice of those, who may not scruple to affirm, or rather to insinuate, that Mr. Gibbon was publickly convicted of falsehood and misrepresentation ; that the evidence produced against him was unanswerable; and that his filence was the effect and the proof of con.. scious guilt. Under the hands of a malicious surgeon, the ting of a wasp may continue to fester and infame, long after che vexatious little insect has left its venom and its life in the wound.
• The defence of my own honour is undoubtedly the first and prevailing motive which urges me te repel with vigour an unjust and un. provoked attack; and to undertake a tedious vindicacion, which, after the perpetual repetition of the vainest and most disgusting of the pronouns, will only prove that I am innocent; and that Mr. Davis, in his charge, has very frequently subscribed his own condemnation.