In such an endless maze I rove,
Lost in the labyrinths of love,
My breast with hoarded vengeance burns,
While fear and rage
With hope engage,
And rule my wav’ring soul by turns—
then I do not see how the wig can have been useful. I feel that Addison must have left it on the bedpost and tied up his bald pate in a tricky bandana after the fashion of Mr. Prior or Mr. Gay, one of whom, if I remember rightly, did not disdain to sit for his picture in that frolic guise. The wig, which adds age and ensures dignity, would have been out of place there; nor is it possible that The Beggar’s Opera owes anything to it. To explain the Addison of Rosamond or The Drummer, my friend would have had to shave the head of his victim and clap a nightcap upon it.
The device was ingenious and happy. You yoke one art to serve another. It can be extended in either direction, working backwards from the Ramillies, or forwards, as I propose to show. Skip for a moment the Restoration and the perruque, skip the cropped polls of the Roundheads; with this you are in full Charles I.
Go, lovely Rose!
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
What vision of what singer does that evoke? What other than that of a young gallant in a lace collar, with lovelocks over his shoulders, pointed Vandyke fingers, possibly a peaked chin-beard? There is accomplishment enough, beauty enough, God knows; but there is impertinence too; it is de haut en bas—
Tell her that wastes her time and me!
Lovelocks and pointed fingers all over it. It is witty, but does not bite. If you bite you are serious, if you bite you are in love; but that is elegant make-believe. He will take himself off next minute, and encountering a friend, hear himself rallied:
Quit, quit, for shame I This will not
This cannot take her;
If of herself she will not love,
Nothing can her make:
The D——l take her!
Laughter and a shrug are the end of it. With the Carolines it was not music that was the food of love, but love that was a staple food of music. A man who lets his hair down over his shoulders may be as sentimental as you please, or as impudent. He cannot nourish both a passion and a head of hair. He won’t have time.
There, then, again, is a clear congruity established between your versifying and your clothes; they will both be in the mode, and the mode the same. One feels about the Cavalier fashion that it was not serious either one way or the other. It had not the Elizabethan swagger; it had not the Restoration cynicism; it had not the Augustan urbanity. Go back now to the Elizabethan, and avoiding Shakespeare as a law unto himself, which is the right of genius—for the sonnets have wit as well as passion (but a mordant wit), everything that real love-poetry must have, and much that no poetry but Shakespeare’s could possibly survive—avoiding Shakespeare, I say, take two snatches in order. Take first—