Adventures in Criticism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 306 pages of information about Adventures in Criticism.
in Class 2 is largely imitative.  Virgil was imitative, Keats was imitative—­to name but a couple of sufficiently striking examples.  And Daniel, who belongs to this class, was also imitative.  But for a poet of this class to reach the heights of song, there must come a time when out of imitation he forms a genuine style of his own, and loses no mental fertility in the transformation.  This, if I may use the metaphor, is the mauvais pas in the ascent of Parnassus:  and here Daniel broke down.  He did indeed acquire a style of his own; but the effort exhausted him.  He was no longer prolific; his ardor had gone:  and his innate self-distrustfulness made him quick to recognize his sterility.

Soon after the accession of James I., Daniel, at the recommendation of his brother-in-law, John Florio, possibly furthered by the interest of the Earl of Pembroke, was given a post as gentleman extraordinary and groom of the privy chamber to Anne of Denmark; and a few months after was appointed to take the oversight of the plays and shows that were performed by the children of the Queen’s revels, or children of the Chapel, as they were called under Elizabeth.  He had thus a snug position at Court, and might have been happy, had it been another Court.  But in nothing was the accession of James more apparent than in the almost instantaneous blasting of the taste, manners, and serious grace that had marked the Court of Elizabeth.  The Court of James was a Court of bad taste, bad manners, and no grace whatever:  and Daniel—­“the remnant of another time,” as he calls himself—­looked wistfully back upon the days of Elizabeth.

    “But whereas he came planted in the spring,
     And had the sun before him of respect;
     We, set in th’ autumn, in the withering
     And sullen season of a cold defect,
     Must taste those sour distastes the times do bring
     Upon the fulness of a cloy’d neglect. 
     Although the stronger constitutions shall
     Wear out th’ infection of distemper’d days ...”

And so he stood dejected, while the young men of “stronger constitutions” passed him by.

In this way it happened that Daniel, whom at the outset his contemporaries had praised with wide consent, and who never wrote a loose or unscholarly line, came to pen, in the dedicatory epistle prefixed to his tragedy of “Philotas,” these words—­perhaps the most pathetic ever uttered by an artist upon his work: 

    “And therefore since I have outlived the date
     Of former grace, acceptance and delight. 
     I would my lines, late born beyond the fate
     Of her[A] spent line, had never come to light;
     So had I not been tax’d for wishing well,
     Nor now mistaken by the censuring Stage,
     Nor in my fame and reputation fell,
     Which I esteem more than what all the age
     Or the earth can give. But years hath done this wrong,
     To make me write too much, and live too long

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Adventures in Criticism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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