The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 713 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2.

[Footnote 4:  Clown. What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild fowl?

Mal. That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird.

Clown. What thinkest thou of his opinion?

Mal. I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve of his opinion.]

[Footnote 5:  Dodd was a man of reading, and left at his death a choice collection of old English literature.  I should judge him to have been a man of wit.  I know one instance of an impromptu which no length of study could have bettered.  My merry friend, Jem White, had seen him one evening in Aguecheek, and recognizing Dodd the next day in Fleet Street, was irresistibly impelled to take off his hat and salute him as the identical Knight of the preceding evening with a “Save you, Sir Andrew.”  Dodd, not at all disconcerted at this unusual address from a stranger, with a courteous half-rebuking wave of the hand, put him off with an “Away, Fool.”]

[Footnote 6:  High Life Below Stairs.]


(London Magazine, April, 1822)

The artificial Comedy, or Comedy of manners, is quite extinct on our stage.  Congreve and Farquhar show their heads once in seven years only to be exploded and put down instantly.  The times cannot bear them.  Is it for a few wild speeches, an occasional licence of dialogue?  I think not altogether.  The business of their dramatic characters will not stand the moral test.  We screw every thing up to that.  Idle gallantry in a fiction, a dream, the passing pageant of an evening, startles us in the same way as the alarming indications of profligacy in a son or ward in real life should startle a parent or guardian.  We have no such middle emotions as dramatic interests left.  We see a stage libertine playing his loose pranks of two hours’ duration, and of no after consequence, with the severe eyes which inspect real vices with their bearings upon two worlds.  We are spectators to a plot or intrigue (not reducible in life to the point of strict morality) and take it all for truth.  We substitute a real for a dramatic person, and judge him accordingly.  We try him in our courts, from which there is no appeal to the dramatis personae, his peers.  We have been spoiled with—­not sentimental comedy—­but a tyrant far more pernicious to our pleasures which has succeeded to it, the exclusive and all-devouring drama of common life; where the moral point is everything; where, instead of the fictitious half-believed personages of the stage (the phantoms of old comedy) we recognise ourselves, our brothers, aunts, kinsfolk, allies, patrons, enemies,—­the same as in life,—­with an interest in what is going on so hearty and substantial, that we cannot afford our moral judgment, in its deepest and most vital results, to compromise or slumber for a moment.  What is there transacting, by no modification

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