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Oh ! 'tis sweet!
E'en the mirth of feet.
But, Silvan ! say, why do you love
Only to frequent the grove?
When delight is innocent.
Come then, let's close, and end the song! That the moveable scenery of these Masques formed as perfect a scenical illusion as any that our own age, with all its perfection of decoration, has attained to, will not be denied by those who have read the few Masques which have been printed. They usually contrived a double division of the scene; one part was for some time concealed from the spectator, which produced surprise and variety. Thus in the Lord's Masque, at the marriage of the Palatine, the scene was divided into two parts, from the roof to the floor; the lower part being first discovered, there appeared a wood in perspective, the innermost part being of “releeve or whole round,” the rest painted. On the left a cave, and on the right a thicket, from which issued Orpheus. At the back part of the scene, at the sudden fall of a curtain, the upper part broke on the spectators, a heaven of clouds of all hues; the stars suddenly vanished, the clouds dispersed ; an element of artificial fire played about the house of Prometheus-a bright and transparent cloud, reaching from the heavens to the earth, whence the eight masquers descending with the music of a full song; and at the end of their descent the cloud broke in twain, and one part of it, as with a wind, was blown athwart the scene. While this cloud was vanishing, the wood, being the under part of the scene, was insensibly changing; a perspective view opened, with porticoes on each side, and female statues of silver, accompanied with ornaments of architecture, filling the end of the house of Prometheus, and seemed all of goldsmiths' work. The women of Pro.netheus descended from their niches, till the anger of Jupiter turned them again into statues. It is evident, too, that the size of the proscenium, or stage, accorded with the magnificence of the scene; for I find choruses described,
" and changeable conveyances of the song," in manner of an echo, performed by more than forty different voices and instruments in various parts of the scene. The architectural decorations were the pride of Inigo Jones; such could not be trivial.
“I suppose,” says the writer of this Masque, “few have ever seen more neat artifice than Master Inigo Jones showed in contriving their motion; who, as all the rest of the workmanship which belonged to the whole invention, showed extraordinary industry and skill, which if it be not as lively expressed in writing as it appeared in view, rob not him of his due, but lay the blame on my want of right apprehending his instructions, for the adoring of his art. Whether this strong expression should be only adorning does not appear in any errata; but the feeling of admiration was fervent among the spectators of that day, who were at least as much astonished as they were delighted. Ben Jonson's prose descriptions of scenes in his own exquisite Masques, as Gifford observes, “are singularly bold and beautiful.” letter which I discovered, the writer of which had been present at one of these Masques, and which Gifford has preserved,* the reader may see the great poet anxiously united with Inigo Jones in working the machinery. Jonson, before “a sacrifice could be performed, turned the globe of the earth, standing behind the altar." In this globe “the sea was expressed heightened with silver waves, which stood, or rather hung (for no axle was seen to support it), and turning softly, discovered the first Masque,”+ &c. This “turning softly” producing a very magical effect, the great poet would trust to no other hand but his own!
It seems, however, that as no Masque-writer equalled Jonson, so no machinist rivalled Inigo Jones. I have sometimes caught a groan from some unfortunate poet, whose beautiful fancies were spoilt by the bungling machinist. One says, “The order of this scene was carefully and ingeniously disposed, and as happily put in act (for the motions) by the king's master carpenter;" but he adds, "the painters, I must needs say (not to belie them), lent small colour to any, to attribute much of the spirit of these things to their
* Memoirs of Jonson, p. 88. + See Gifford's Jonson, vol. vii. p. 78. This performance was in the Masque of lymen, enacted at court in 1605, on the occasion of the marriage of the Earl of Essex to the daughter of the Earl of Suffolk.
pencil.” Campion, in one of his Masques, describing where the trees were gently to sink, &c., by an engine placed under the stage, and in sinking were to open, and the masquers appear out at their tops, &c., adds this vindictive marginal note : " Either by the simplicity, negligence, or conspiracy of the painter, the passing away of the trees was somewhat hazarded, though the same day they had been shown with much admiration, and were left together to the same night;" that is, they were worked right at the rehearsal, and failed in the representation, which must have perplexed the nine masquers on the tops of these nine trees. But such accidents were only vexations crossing the fancies of the poet : they did not essentially injure the magnificence, the pomp, and the fairy world opened to the spectators. So little was the character of these Masques known, that all our critics seemed to have fallen into repeated blunders, and used the Masques as Campion suspected his painters to have done, “either by simplicity, negligence, or conspiracy." Hurd, a cold systematic critic, thought he might safely prefer the Masque in the Tempest, as “ putting to shame all the Masques of Jonson, not only in its construction, but in the splendour of its show ;"_“which,” adds Gifford,“ danced and sung by the ordinary performers to a couple of fiddles, perhaps in the balcony of the stage.” Such is the fate of criticism without knowledge! And now, to close our Masques, let me apply the forcible style of Ben Jonson himself: " The glory of all these solemnities had perished like a blaze, and gone out in the beholder's eyes ; so short-lived are the bodies of all things in comparison of their souls !"*
OP DES MAIZEAUX, AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF
ANTHONY COLLINS'S MANUSCRIPTS.
Des MAIZEAUX was an active literary man of his day, whose connexions with Bayle, St. Evremond, Locke, and Toland, and his name being set off by an F.R.S., have occasioned the dictionary-biographers to place him prominently among their “hommes illustres.” Of his private history nothing seems known. Having something important to communicate respecting one of his friends, a far greater character, with whose fate he stands connected, even Des Maizeaux becomes an object of our inquiry.
* Splendour ultimately ruined these works ; they ended in gaudy dresses and expensive machinery, but poetry was not associated with them. The youthful days of Louis XIV. raised them to a height of costly luxuriance to sink them ever after in oblivion.
He was one of those French refugees whom political madness or despair of intolerance had driven to our shores. The proscription of Louis XIV., which supplied us with our skilful workers in silk, also produced a race of the unemployed, who proved not to be as exquisite in the handicraft of book-making ; such were Motteux, La Coste, Ozell, Durand, and others. Our author had come over in that tender state of youth, just in time to become half an Englishman : and he was so ambidextrous in the languages of the two great literary nations of Europe, that whenever he took up his pen, it is evident by his manuscripts, which I have examined, that it was mere accident which determined him to write in French or in English. Composing without genius, or even taste, without vivacity or force, the simplicity and fluency of his style were sufficient for the purposes of a ready dealer in all the minutiæ literariæ; literary anecdotes, curious quotations, notices of obscure books, and all that supellex which must enter into the history. of literature, without forming a history. These little things, which did so well of themselves, without any connexion with anything else, became trivial when they assumed the form of voluminous minuteness ; and Des Maizeaux at length imagined that nothing but anecdotes were necessary to compose the lives of men of genius! With this sort of talent he produced a copious life of Bayle, in which he told everything he possibly could ; and nothing can be more tedious, and more curious: for though it be a grievous fault to omit nothing, and marks the writer to be deficient in the development of character, and that sympathy which throws inspiration over the vivifying page of biography, yet, to admit everything, has this merit—that we are sure to find what we want ! Warburton poignantly describes our Des Maizeaux, in one of those letters to Dr. Birch which he wrote in the fervid age of study, and with the impatient vivacity of his genius. - Almost all the life-writers we have had before Toland and Des Maizeaux are indeed strange, insipid creatures; and yet I had rather read the worst of them, than be obliged to go through with this of Milton's, or the other's life of Boileau ; where there is such a dull, heavy succession of long quotations of uninteresting passages, that it makes their method quite nauseous. But the verbose, tasteless Frenchman seems to lay it down as a principle, that every life must be a book, -and, what is worse, it seems a book without a life ; for what do we know of Boileau after all his tedious stuff ?"
Des Maizeaux was much in the employ of the Dutch booksellers, then the great monopolisers in the literary mart of Europe. He supplied their “ nouvelles littéraires” from England ; but the work-sheet price was very mean in those days. I have seen annual accounts of Des Maizeaux settled to a line for four or five pounds; and yet he sent the “NoTelties” as fresh as the post could carry them! He held a confidential correspondence with these great Dutch booksellers, who consulted him in their distresses; and he seems rather to have relieved them than himself.
But if he got only a few florins at Rotterdam, the same “ nouvelles littéraires" sometimes secured him valuable friends at London ; for in those days, which perhaps are returning or us, an English author would often appeal to a foreign journal for the commendation he might fail in obtaining at home; and I have discovered, in more cases than one, that, like other smuggled commodities, the foreign article was often of home manufactory!
I give one of these curious bibliopolical distresses. Sauzet, a bookseller at Rotterdam, who judged too critically for the repose of his authors, seems to have been always fond of projecting a new “ Journal ;" tormented by the ideal excellence which he had conceived of such a work, it vexed him that he could never find the workmen! Once disappointed of the assistance he expected from a writer of talents, he was sain to put up with one he was ashamed of; but warily stipulated on very singular terms. He confided this precious literary secret to Des Maizeaux. I translate from his manuscript letter.
“I send you, my dear Sir, four sheets of the continuation of my journal, and I hope this second part will turn out better than the former. The author thinks himself a very able person ; but I must tell you frankly, that he is a man without erudition, and without any critical discrimination ; he writes pretty well, and turns passably what he says ; but tbat is all! Monsieur Van Effen having failed in his promises to realise my hopes on this occasion, necessity compelled me to have recourse to him ; but for six months only, and on