# BC_1766_EMONTAGU_EC_4

<Q A 1766 TC EC EMONTAGU>
<X ELIZABETH MONTAGU>
[}ELIZABETH MONTAGU TO ELIZABETH CARTER. 1766 OCTOBER 21. DENTON HALL. MO 3187}]
<P1>
Oct: y=e= 21 1766 My dear Friend,
I am quite of your opinion, that our last Commentator of Shakespear found the piddling trade of verbal criticism below his genius and I am much at a loss, when I would account for his persisting in it, through y=e= course of so many volumes. It has been lucky for my amusement, but unfortunate for the publick, that he did not consider his Author in a more extensive view. I have so much veneration for our Poet, & so much zeal for the honour of our Country, & I think the Theatrical entertainments capable of conveying so much instruction to, & of exciting such sentiments in the people, that if I am glad he left the task to my unable hand, I dare hardly own it to myself. Our rank in the (\Belles lettres\) depends a good deal on that degree of merit which is allow'd to Shakespear, who is more than any other writer read by foreigners. This consideration might excite the zeal of his Country man, but
<P2>
there remains yet another, which is common to the whole World. The dramatick art is ill understood. A cold dry logician is address'd to, is invok'd, as the Muse of Tragedy, from a few barren precepts the Poets are to produce the various, the strong, the affecting characters of dramatick poetry. I will allow y=r= friend Aristotle speaks like a man of Sense upon the Drama, but one might as well compose an Oration from half a dozen monosyllables as make a tragedy from his rules. Now & then, a learned man, who has read the Greek tragedians, takes [\it/] into his head to give us a Greek Tragedy in English, & Medea brews (\a la greque\) & calls on all the infernal powers to assist her [\WORDS INTO and\] & help her to gather a parcel of simples, which in her Country were reckon_d very potent in charms, but by the English Spectator are not esteem'd of such virtue as sage, rue, & dandelion. Another Poet brings you a Roman stoick [\WORD INTO cold\] & hard. Corneille having heard the Romans were the first people in the World, makes every individual Roman
<P3>
speak as if he was Rome; & his great business is [\to/] bully Kings, these Kings w=d= all fall at a Consuls feet, if some Virago with whom his Majesty is in love did not tell him she w=d= not give her hand to the slave of Rome, and all this stuff is to pass if there be nothing against the rules of Aristotle. Nature may be misrepresented, customs neglected, character violated, still ye work is not [\counterd\] and it has Aristotles permitt. It is strange that M=r= Johnson should so superficially examine the merits and faults of his Authors plays: he should have said more or have said nothing. If he had given attention to the dramatick genius of Shakespear he might have done him justice, & I wonder he did not enter with pleasure into a task that seem'd peculiarly suited to him, he has taste & learning, therefore is a capable critick; he wants invention, he wants strength & vigour of genius to go through a long original work. I will own he gives smart correction to former Commentators, but y=e= last Commentator
<P4>
deserves the least indulgence, as he had most opportunity of seeing the futility of the thing. I am entirely of y=r= opinion, & surely it cannot [CROSSED OVER all] be disputed, that Proteus means as yet he knows only the face of his mistress, [\WORD INTO to\] her [\WORD INTO other\] more commanding perfections he [\WORDS INTO is still\] a stranger. Do you agree with M=r= Johnson [\& Pope/] that ye style of the 2 Gentlemen of Verona is less affected than almost any [\play/] of Shakespear[\s ADDED\]? Johnson adds, it has [\as/] many fine lines & passages as any of his. Where are they? It is a little unlucky that ye note remarking y=e= pure & unaffecting style of this play should be placed under y=e= following words,
Wer't not, affection chains thy tender days to the sweet glances of thy honour_d love &c Affection chaining tender days to sweet glances of an honourd love is surely a very easy natural mode of expression! I am not yet able to fix the time when I shall go to London, having still so much business to do. I will endeavour to get D=r= Greys artificial memory for my young folks but I imagine they are yet too young & unlearned for it.