(372) now first published.
(373) Mr. Jephson’s tragedy of The Count of Narbonne, founded on Walpole’s Gothic story of the Castle of Otranto. It will be seen, that it was brought out, in the following year, With considerable success, at Covent Garden theatre. “On Friday evening” says Hannah More, in a letter to one of her sisters, “I went to Mr. Tighe’s to hear him read Jephson’s tragedy. ‘Praise,’ says Dr. Johnson, ’is a tribute which every man is expected to pay for the grant of perusing a manuscript;’ and indeed I could praise without hurting my Conscience, for The Count of Narbonne has considerable merit; the language is very Poetical, and parts of the fable very interesting; the plot managed with art, and the characters well drawn. The love scenes I think are the worst: they are prettily written, and full of flowers, but are rather cold; they have more poetry than passion. I do not mean to detract from Mr. Jephson’s merit by this remark; for it does not lessen a poet’s fame to say he excels more in Painting the terrible, than the tender passions."-Memoirs, vol. i, P, 206.-E.
I have returned Your tragedy, Sir, to Mr. Sheridan, after having read it again, and without wishing any more alterations than the few I hinted before. There may be some few incorrectnesses, but none of much consequence. I must -again applaud your art and judgment, Sir, in having made so rational a play out of my wild tale — and where you have changed the arrangement of the incidents, you have applied them to great advantage The Characters of the mother and daughter you have rendered more natural by giving jealousy to the mother, and more passion to the daughter. In short, you have both honoured and improved my outlines: my vanity is content, and truth enjoins me to do justice. Bishop Warburton, in his additional notes to Pope’s works, which I saw in print in his bookseller’s hands, though they have not yet been published, observed that the plan of The Castle of Otranto was regularly a drama(375) (an intention I am sure I do not pretend to have conceived; nor, indeed, can I venture to affirm that I had any intention at all but to amuse myself—no, not even a plan, till some pages were written). You, Sir, have realized his idea, and yet I believe the Bishop would be surprised to see how well you have succeeded. One cannot be quite ashamed of one’s follies, if genius condescends to adopt, and put them to a sensible use. Miss Aikin flattered me even by stooping to tread in my eccentric steps. Her " Fragment,” though but a specimen, showed her talent for imprinting terror. I cannot compliment the author of the " Old English Baron,” professedly written in imitation, but as a corrective of The Castle of Otranto. It was totally void of imagination and interest, had scarce ’any incidents, and, though it condemned the marvellous, admitted a ghost. I suppose the author thought a tame ghost might come within the laws of probability. You alone, Sir, have kept within nature, and made superstition supply the place of phenomenon, yet acting as the agent of divine justice—a beautiful use of bigotry.